1st Parliament · 1st Session
The Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
DEATH OF PRESIDENT McKINLEY.
Mr. SPEAKER.- I have to inform the House that I have received the following letter fromHis Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -
Melbourne, 17th January, 1902.
Sir, - With reference to your letter of the18th September last, I have now the honour to inform you that I have received a despatch from the Secretary of State for the Coloniesintimating that a note has been received by His Majesty’s Government From the United States Charge d’ Affaires in London, stating that the President and people of the United States have been deeply touched by the many kind expressions of condolence at the death of President McKinley which have been sent through the British Government from all parts of Australia and Now Zealand, carrying with them a most welcome assurance of friendship and good-will.
Mr. White, the Charge d’ Affaires, was instructed by his Government to ask that on expression of the sincere and heartfelt gratitude, with which these messages have been received by the President of the United States, should be conveyed to the House of Representatives.
Mr. White explains, on behalf of his Government, that pressure of public business, attendant upon the death of President McKinley, has alone, prevented on earlier message of appreciation of these evidences of friendship and deep feeling.
Mr. HIGGINS presented a petition from certain residents in the. States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, praying for the withdrawal of Australian soldiers from South Africa, and that the Australian Commonwealth should plead for peace to be offered to the people of the South African Republics on terms consistent with the national traditions of a brave and gifted foe.
– With the indulgence of the House, I should like to make a short statement for the information of honorable members. Honorable gentlemen will remember that, the other day resolutions were passed by the House giving an indignant denial to the baseless charges made abroad against the people and the army of the Empire, and affirming the readiness of Australia to give all requisite aid to His Majesty’s Government with a view to the speedier termination of the war. Yesterday I received from HisExcellency the GovernorGeneral, a copy of a telegram which he had received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is in these words -
In view of splendid response of Australia to recent request for more troops, His Majesty’s Government would gladly accept another contingent of 1,000 men if your Government are prepared to raise it.
Terms and conditions same as for contingent now in preparation. Transport will be arranged by War-office.
I propose to send a reply to the effect that this Government will, without delay, provide the desired number of men as a second contingent, in addition to the number now being raised.
Honorable Members. - Hear,hear.
– Will the Government see that men having some knowledge of the bush, and not mere townmen, are selected as officers ? This will be an irregular force, and ought to be in charge of men with knowledge of the country.
– Direct instructions were given to the commandants that, in all cases, their recommendations of officers for service should be upon the grounds of military, service and merit. While I had the direction of this matter, which has now reverted into the hands of the Minister for Defence, I let it be understood in all cases that officers who had had previous service in South Africa would be preferred. A number of officers having previous service in South Africa have not applied for commissions in this contingent.
– They are not bushmen.
– I know that. The matter is coloured by a representation from Lord Kitchener to the effect that he would like to have in the force a number of trained trekkers. Being doubtful as to which of two significations that word would cover, I caused a telegram to be sent to the Waroffice, and found that what were wanted were bush trackers. I have said that they would be preferred and should be preferred as officers ; but not many officers of bush experience are volunteering.
– Are many men volunteering?
– In New South Wales there have been over 2,000 volunteers, in Victoria over 1,500, and in the other States a large number.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to do what was done by the Government of New Zealand in reply to a similar communication - that is, to state that we are prepared to supply our own transport ?
– I do not know what the effect of such a communication would be. I believe that New Zealand has all along provided her own transport. If we urged that we should pay for our own transport-
– I do not mean that ; I mean, provide our own transport at our own expense.
– It was suggested before that we could supply our own transport if the Imperial Government preferred it j but the Imperial Government preferred to provide transport for themselves.
– Why should we not do what was done in New Zealand 1
– We were prepared if necessary to provide our own transport, and the answer we received - and it has been reiterated in this case - was that the Imperial authorities would provide their own transport.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to send nurses and doctors with the contingent ?
– I have already informed the House that Lord Kitchener, having asked for the services of Surgeon-Colonel Williams, CB., an inquiry was made as to whether the Imperial Government desired to have a field hospital and personnel complete. The answer, came back, rather late, that that offer was accepted, and every effort is being made to see that the field hospital and its proper personnel complete is sent to South Africa. . In view of the short time now to elapse, it may not be possible to draw the proper proportion from each State, but the instructions are that, as far as possible, it should be drawn from all the States, although that consideration would not stand in the way of having the equipment perfectly ready in time.
– Some time ago the Attorney-General promised to make some arrangements for the distribution of Federal Gazettes and Acts of Parliament through the Government Printing-offices of the States. I have been recently informed that this has not yet been done. When is the arrangement likely to be made ?
– Immediately upon the request being made by the honorable and learned member, either directly or through the Prime Minister, communication was entered into, I understood, with all the States, and arrangements were made to have a certain number of all publications sent to the Governments of the States for distribution.
– That is so.
– These publications cannot be bought at the Government Printingoffice at Adelaide.
– The Adelaide Government Printing-office may not have them, but I believe that the South Australian Government has been supplied to the full extent of its requirements. However, I shall have inquiry made into the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been called to the anomaly in the Tariff in thefact that, whereas linotypes and other printing machinery are placed on the free list, monolines have been omitted 1 Will the right honorable and learned gentleman take steps to remedy this ob viously inadvertent omission at an early date ?
– We have seen the omission, and we propose to discuss it very early. It is included in the division of the Tariff which is now under consideration in Committee of Ways and Means.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Australia, and not fully prepaid at the rate charged, are, in accordance with the provisions of the Postal Union, marked in the United Kingdom with the amount deficient, and, in accordance with the same provisions, double the amount deficient is charged in the Commonwealth before delivery.
asked the Prime
Minister, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions of the honorable member are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answers : - 1 and 2. Owing to a misunderstanding in Sydney, three men who were last year employed making bags by piece-work have not been so employed sincethe 1st January. They will be re-employed immediatly.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made as to the cases referred to.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Why carbonate of soda is not placed under alkalies, alkaloids and salts, and chemical compounds, on the free list ; under what heading of the Tariff is it chargeable at1s. per cwt. ; and why is it differentiated from bi-carbonate of soda ?
– The answers to the questions of the honorable member are as follow : - 1 and 2. Carbonate of soda or washing soda is soda crystal, dutiable as such at1s. per cwt., as per line 101, soda crystal. Large quantities of soda crystal are manufactured in Australia.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Referring to the answers given by him on Wednesday,15th inst., in regard to Mr. Victor Cohen -
Will he kindly furnish the same particulars in regard to the employment of Mr. George Lewis?
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
Re Mr. Lewis -
Consideration resumed from 17th January (vide page8953) -
Item 74. - Manufactures of metals -
N.E.I., including engines, boilers, pumps, machines and machinery, n.e.i., also screws, n.e.i., axles, springs, and plated and mixed metalware, including plated cutlery, ad valorem, 25 per cent.
– In view of the decisions arrived at by the committee, I think we should be acting consistently in fixing the duty, n.e.i., at 20 per cent. I therefore move -
That the words “25 per cent., and on and after 22nd Jan., 1902, 20 per cent.” be inserted after the letters n.e.i.” first occurring.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).When we were dealing with this item previously, certain questions were raised with regard to mixed metalware, and I desire to know whether the Minister intends to define that class of article more distinctly than it is described in the item, or whether he intends to apply a general interpretation. He gave the committee to understand that mixed metalware was metal consisting of a fusion of several metals, and if that is correct considerable confusion will arise in the collection of these duties. Fifteen per cent, has been fixed as the rate of duty to be levied on mixed metalware, and we are now asked to decide that 20 per cent, shall be charged on other descriptions of metalware not named in the item. These articles will be practically the same, except that metals, n.e.i., will consist of one metal only, whereas mixed metalware will be a blending of two or three metals. If different rates of duty are fixed, as the Minister now proposes, it will be necessary to prove the constituent parts of the articles, and there will be nothing but confusion and overlapping. Unless there is to be a definition of mixed metalware, excluding any articles of the- like nature to those which would otherwise come under n.e.i., the rates for mixed metalware, and for articles n.e.i., should be the same.
– I understood when this item was last under discussion that the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that mixed metalware would be subject to a duty of 15 per cent., and platedware to 20 per cent.
– That was disposed of, and we are now dealing with metals n.e.i.
– When we were discussing plated and mixed metalware we were referring to platedware and to mixed metalware, which is a cheap imitation of platedware. It was not intended to include everything made of mixed metal under that head. The mixed metalware and the platedware previously dealt with were of the one class, but of two different qualities, and the idea was that there should be a distinction drawn between the more valuable and the cheaper kinds of goods. We were not then dealing with metalware of a genera] character, but simply with such ware as could be generally grouped under either the head of plated or of mixed metalware.
– Are the plated and mixed metalware goods confined to domestic articles ‘?
– It is intended that the definition should be very limited.
– Let us have a definition.
– There are teapots which are plated and teapots which are of mixed metalware.
– Would gas meters come under this head ?
– I do not think so.
– They will if rigidly interpreted.
– When we were discussing the duties on plated and mixed metalware we were not placing that interpretation upon them. J would ask the committee to pass the duty for the present, and if it is found that there is any necessity for a definition I shall take steps to introduce one, or afford honorable members an opportunity of further discussing the matter.
– It would be -best to fix the duty on metalware, n.e.i., at 15 per cent., the same rate as has been decided upon for mixed metalware, as otherwise there will be a strong tendency on the part of Customs-house officers to require the payment of the higher rate wherever possible. Further than that, if the articles which the Minister describes as being a cheap imitation of platedware are subject to a duty of 1 5 per cent., the same rate ought to be sufficiently high for metalware, N.E.I., which will be used in all the industries of the country
– What is the Minister’s definition of “plated ware?” I understand that the duty on “plated ware” has been fixed at 20 per cent., and the duty on “mixed metal ware” at 15 per cent. What is plated ware ? “
– Plated ware.
– That is easily said, but is it a trade or technical definition, or a general definition 1
– Plated ware has been dealt with.
– That is so, but “plated ware” may be included under “N.E.I.” The Minister says that “platedware” has a strictly limited meaning, and I want to know what the meaning is 1
– The committee have previously decided to place a duty of 15 per cent, on “ mixed metal ware,” and a duty of 20 per cent, on “ plated ware,” and neither of these items come under the definition of “ N.E.I.”
– I take it that what the Minister is trying to press on the committee is that this section is particularly limited in its application ; but in my opinion “mixed metal ware” and “plated ware” are not limited at all. It would be quite competent for a metal ink stand to be treated either as “plated ware,” or “mixed ware,” or placed under “ N.E.I.” If the definition is confined to cutlery or tea-pots, then I think we should be told so. We ought to postpone the consideration of “N.E.I.” until we thoroughly understand what “ mixed metal ware “ and “ plated ware “ are.
– In winding up the debate on the item of mining machinery, the Treasurer said that the Government were prepared to do three things - to reduce the duty from 25 per cent, to 20 per cent.; to take into consideration on their merits any separate items which the members of the committee might mention as impossible to manufacture in the Commonwealth ; and also to introduce a clause which would deal with anything arising in the future. I know that three honorable members voted for 20 per cent, rather than for 15 per cent, in view of what was termed the exemption clause - that they were prepared to accept 20 per cent, with that clause if it were satisfactory, but failing its being satisfactory, they were in favour of 15 per cent, all round. It is only fair that we should know definitely whether the Government intend proceeding upon the lines indicated. If the exemption clause is not acceptable to the majority of the committee, there will be no other course but to move the recommittal of the whole item ; and, if the Government have abandoned the idea of the Treasurer, we can only vote for “N.E.I,” at 15 per cent., as an indication of what we propose doing with the whole of the item. When the division was taken, there was a majority of only one or two, and, as I have said, there are at least three honorable members who prefer a duty of 15 per cent, all round, though, with a big exemption clause, they were prepared to agree to 20 per cent. The vote about to be taken should be a test vote, not merely as to “N.E.I.,” but also as to the whole item.
– I can confirm what has been said by the honorable member for Barrier to the effect that at least three members voted with the idea that there was to be a very extensive free list, including all patented machinery. Since that vote was taken, I have given a great deal of serious consideration to the question, and I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, at this stage, he is prepared to consider the advisability of accepting a duty of 15 per cent, on all machinery, without any special qualification in regard to patented machinery 1 The more one goes into the question, the more apparent becomes the difficulty to those who are interested, and who understand what is involved in laying down a sufficiently complete list, which would be satisfactory from a revenue point of view, hereafter. I am informed that if the Minister will adopt the suggestion which I have made, his action will be agreeable all round, and will certainly result in more revenue. The suggestion deserves consideration, in order that there may be a removal of the difficulties which will inevitably arise in the Customhouse in determining what is patented machinery. I suggest that the Minister should give this point his serious consideration at this stage, and avoid a lot of representations which will be made to him on individual items, by agreeing to accept a duty of 15 per cent, all round.
– All round, on what ?
– On all machinery - on the whole item ; and honorable members would then surrender the right of proposing individual exceptions as to patented articles. That would be the fairest course to the importer and to the manufacturer, and would prevent complications in the collection of the revenue.
– I was one who some time ago indicated to a number of honorable members that in the absence of a large free list, in reference to machinery which cannot well be manufactured in the Commonwealth, I should prefer a duty of 15 per cent, all round. In view of the indication of the Government that an exemption clause of that character would be made, I was prepared to vote for a’ duty of 20 per cent, on those articles in common use which can easily be manufactured in Australia. I hardly think it would be wise to make the amendment now moved a test question as to the advisability of having 15 per cent, all round. Before I face that situation, I desire to see what class of machinery it is proposed to exempt, and I am not certain that it is possible to get a satisfactory list. It is difficult, because some classes of machinery, which are properly in the exemption list, may compete with other classes of machinery which are not in the list, and which can be manufactured here. I admit that the whole matter is full of difficulty ; but if the Government, as indicated by the honorable member for Barrier, has abandoned the idea of drawing out some such list of machinery which it is impossible or difficult to manufacture here, I shall be prepared to vote on this amendment as a test question. I should prefer that we waited until we saw what class of machinery the Government propose to exempt. I do not think that, intrinsically, it is good to vote for the amendment. We shall have the more important classes of machinery. such as, for instance, are useful to the mining community, rated at 20 per cent, under this proposal, while machinery “ N.E.I.” which is made up of a vast number of miscellaneous articles, will be charged at a lower rate. I think it would be wise for those who previously voted in favour of the imposition of a 20 per cent, duty, to Vote for a similar rate in this instance, and to await the proposal which the Government intend to make. If the Government do not come forward with a proposal which is satisfactory to a majority of the committee in connexion with the exemptions, I take it that some honorable members will be at liberty to change their attitude in regard to a 20 per cent. rate.
– I do not know why the honorable member for Bland assumes that the Government have in any way changed their opinions, or that they desire to deal with this item in a particular manne”. In attempting to meet the fair and legitimate demands made on behalf of mining machinery great difficulties arose, looking at the matter from the point of view of those who had to use that machinery, and also from the stand-point of the very large number of people engaged in its manufacture in the various States. We therefore suggested that a certain duty should be imposed, and intimated that where articles could not reasonably be manufactured within the Commonwealth, we should be prepared to place them upon the free list absolutely. We asked honorable members who have had a larger experience in regard to some of these articles than we could possibly have had to supply us with lists of them. Up to the present time, however, only two or three articles have been mentioned. We asked that lists should be given to us. We stated that we would examine any lists supplied to us, and ascertain whether the articles which they contained ought to be placed upon the schedule of exemptions. We also declared that, in order to meet the difficulty that would arise in regard to new patented articles, we were prepared to insert words which would give the Minister power, subject to the con trol of Parliament, to put those articles upon the free list from time to time. That, I think, was a very fair proposal, and it appeared to me to meet with the approval of the committee. To urge now that we should impose a 15 per cent, rate upon everything, irrespective of whether it is made within the Commonwealth or not, is not fair to the manufacturers or to those employed by them, and can scarcely be said to be in the interests of the mining companies, whom we desire to assist as much as possible. We see no reason why we should go back upon the articles which have already been dealt with. They were discussed very fully for two or three days, and the committee arrived at certain decisions. We shall presently deal with the exemption list, and if honorable members will supply us with the information in their possession in regard to articles, or portions thereof, which they desire to see admitted free, we shall be glad to meet them in every way that we possibly can. But we cannot consent to the proposition that all patented articles shall be admitted either at 1 5 per cent, or free. That would be injurious to the importers. They import patented articles and articles which are not patented, whilst the manufacturers make a large number of articles locally which are not patented, and compete with those which are. There is no doubt that if we attempted to say that all patented mining machinery should be admitted at a lower rate or free, we should be doing something which would be injurious to those whom we desire to protect. The Government have no intention of receding from the position which they took up upon a previous occasion.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I cordially support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for North Sydney. We have already decided that “springs” shall be admitted at 15 per cent., and that mixed metalware shall come in at the same rate. Yet it is now proposed to charge 20 per cent, upon articles “ N.E.I.,” which includes a number that we would be more justified in admitting at 15 per cent, than many others which we have already decided should bear that duty. I think that the committee should be placed in possession of a list of the articles which will come under the heading of “N.E.I.” At present we are working very much in the dark. Then, again, we have decided to admit screws free, although I am thoroughly satisfied that if we had a list of the articles covered by “N.E.I.” we should find many which might be admitted free with more justification than exists in the case of screws. I fancy that there will be a great difficulty in enumerating all the machinery which should be included in the schedule of exemptions. The Minister for Trade and Customs should, I think, place the committee in possession of the fullest information in connexion with this item. Many honorable members voted upon. Friday last under an altogether wrong impression. Had they been aware of the class of machinery included under “ N.E.I.,” I feel sure that a very different vote would have been recorded. I recognise that there is a difficulty in particularizing the various articles which should be included in the schedule of exemptions. Let us take electrical machinery as an example. I have no doubt that there are 60 or 70 different parts of these machines alone, all of: which should be specified under the free list. How are we to particularize every article? I think it would be far better if the Government could see their way to postpone dealing with the items included under “N.E.I.,” or accept the proposed duty of 15 per cent, until the exemption list comes to be dealt with by the committee. If that is not done a number, of inconsistencies: will be found to exist, because while the original proposal of the Government was to have the duty upon all these articles fixed at 25 per cent., after the information supplied by honorable members respecting the various items under discussion, we had some put upon the free list, others fixed at 15 per. cent., and then the Government camedown with a proposal to include the whole of the remainder at 20 per. cent. Honorable members were told that they should fix the duty at 25 per cent. on. the items of mixed metalware, and plated cutlery, because they were luxuries ; but it has been pointed out that many of the articles included in these lines are used by the poorest people in the community. That has been admitted by the Government. If we had a list of the articles included under “ n.e.i.,” and upon which the Government propose that the duty should be 20 per cent., we should find that there are a. number of them which ought to be on the free list, as being used by numbers of the poorer classes of the people. Those are the people to whom we should give every consideration, as they are the least able to bear the burden of taxation, and we should have a list of these articles so that the committee may be able to deal with the matter in an intelligent way.
– I hope the Minister will see the advisableness of accepting the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney. It would save the members of his staff a great deal of trouble in discriminating between articles which are patented, and should therefore come in free, and articles which are not patented. I remember that when this matter was before the committee last week I was under the impression when I spoke to the Minister on the question that he was prepared to admit all patented articles free, as well as those articles which could not be manufactured here.
– I said clearly, when the matter was mentioned from the other side, that I could not agree to the proposition that all patented machinery should be admitted free.
– I think the right honorable gentleman did say that, and that he would discriminate between articles which should be admitted free, and those which should not. It would save a great deal of. trouble to the department, and a great deal more revenue would be raised under this particular heading, if. the Government accepted the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney, and reduced the duty upon the remainder of these articles to 15 per cent.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I desire to disabuse the minds of Ministers, and of the honorable member for Bland; of some wrong impressions as to the intention of my suggested amendment. I neither desire to reverse what we have already decided, nor to make it a test question as to whether the whole of these items should be put upon the 15 per cent. list. We have already decided that the duty upon engines, boilers, pumps, . machines, and machinery should be fixed at 20 per cent., and that platedware also should be subject to a duty of 20 per cent. Thoseare the only items which we have so far decided to place under the 20 per cent, list under this heading. I point out that engines, pumps, boilers, machines, and machinery are completed machines, and I now ask honorable members on the other side whether, even, from a protectionist standpoint, this item “ N.E.I,” which will include many manufactures of metalware used in the production of those machines, should not come in at a lower rate of duty, as we have decided shall be the case in connexion with axles and springs.
– They can be exempt, as articles used in manufactures.
– But they are not exempt. We are dealing with the item as it stands, and I say it is quite reasonable, even from that stand-point, that they should be fixed at a lower rate of duty than the completed machines. They will be used in making up those machines, and will form a portion of many of them. In addition to that, my proposal will avoid a great deal of inconvenience and confusion, which is otherwise bound to arise, between mixed metalware and “ N.E.I.,” because if the same duty is imposed upon both, there will be no necessity for the distinction. Under the circumstances, I think the Minister should be able to see his way to accept my proposal. I do not think he will lose any revenue by the proposed reduction of. duty, and from the stand-point of. honorable members on the other side, these items, which are not completed machines, but which are largely used in making up completed machines, should be admitted at a lower import rate than the completed article. Those are my reasons for suggesting that the duty should be 15 per cent., and I have no wish to upset any previous decision, or to submit a test proposal for boilers, engines, pumps, machines, and machinery, which we have already dealt with.
– I can bear out what has been, said by the honorable member for Barrier as to the motive which influenced certain honorable members in voting for a 20 per cent, duty on mining machinery. Two or three of them told, me, before the vote came on, that; they would vote for 15 per cent., and when I spoke to them about the matter after the division had been taken, they told, me they had been influenced in their action by reason of the concessions promised by the Government. I think that in the opinion of the committee those concessions included a promise that all patented machinery used in connexion with mining should be placed upon the free list. We are now asked to supply a list of that patented machinery.
– We were told it was easy to do that.
– I do not know who said it was easy to supply such a list, but if it was said, it was said, I believe, under a misapprehension, and the honorable member who said it will find that it is not so easy to supply that list. I am satisfied that the honorable and learned member for Indi readily sees that it would be impossible to supply a list of patented machinery that would meet the views of the Ministry, when they agreed that all patented machinery which cannot be produced in the Commonwealth should be admitted free. In the first place the number of patented articles is very considerable, and in addition to that we could not have a complete list, because so far as mining in Western Australia is concerned the treatment of ores there is still really in the experimental stage. There are several problems in connexion with the treatment of ores which have not yet been solved ; almost every week something new arises, and those having the management of some of the big, mines in Western Australia endeavour to solve these problems, by the introduction of .the latest machinery. Another point is that the machinery in connexion with those mines is continually being improved. Fresh patents are being taken out every day. What would; be the position of those who require machinery patented subsequently to the passage of this Tariff? It would be very, unfair to allow machinery patented up to the present time to be admitted free and to compel the most recent type of patented machinery to pay a duty of 20 per cent. In connexion with mining, the most up-to-date machinery is absolutely essential, and if the Government persist in their proposal that patented machinery used in mining shall be placed upon the free list,, there is only one way in which it can be carried out, namely, by putting on the exemption list all patented machinery used in connexion with the industry.
– The honorable member can move to that effect when we come to the exemption list, but we cannot agree to such a- proposal. jj
– It is the only way in which the- intention of. the- Government, as expressed at the time, that patented machinery used in connexion with mining should be admitted free, can be carried out.
– We did not say that.
– That was the impression created in the minds of honorable members, although I would not for a moment accuse the Treasurer of intentionally conveying a false impression.
– The Minister went further.
– I should like the honorable member to quote anything from Hansard that will support that statement. My statement was clearly the other way.
– At any rate, what was believed at the time to be the intention of the Government can only be carried out by the means I propose. It is impossible to supply a list of patented machinery that would be in any way complete. The reduction of ores in Western Australia is still in an experimental stage, and the course I have suggested is the only one by which patented machinery used in connexion with the industry, and needed very much in the West, may be placed upon the free list. The only way in which the benefits which it was believed would be derived from the Government proposal when honorable members voted against the reduction of the duty to 15 per cent., will be by a general statement that all patented machinery used in connexion with mining shall be placed upon the free list.
– One would think, from what the honorable member has said, that patented machinery of all classes was exempted under the Tariff in the State from which he comes. So far as I recollect, however,, they have only a small duty on mining machinery of a certain kind, but as regards machinery repairs which they are capable of effecting - and no doubt they will be able to manufacture mining machinery generally as well as the manufacturers in any other State - there is double the rate on them, and no exemption of the character to which the honorable member refers.
– I was referring to the promise of the Government.
– The allegation is, I understand, that a promise was made by us to exempt all patented machinery ?
– Used in connexion with mining.
– We did not promise anything of the sort.
– I do not think the Minister went as far as that. He promised that the Government would consider what patented mining machinery should be exempted.
– In a matter of this kind I would like to quote what I actually said, and to fortify my observations from Hansard. At page 8847 of Hansard it will be found that I said -
If the honorable member for Barrier can specify any machine which cannot be produced in Australia, I promise him the fullest inquiry into the subject. I will place an officer at his disposal to assist him in exploring all sources of information. I venture to suggest that in matters of this sort honorable members should freely, accept the statement of the Government of what their wishes are, and the means which they have taken to ascertain the facts. Then they should assist us in regard to the facts. Those honorable members who say we cannot manufacture some of these machines should tell us what they are.
Tell us what they are, and we shall be only too glad to add them to the list ! I believe our capacity to manufacture mining machinery is equal to that of most British peoples. I note with delight, by the way, that a firm contemplates starting manufacturing machinery away up on the goldfields of Western Australia. No doubt their success will be equal to that which has attended similar undertakings in other States. I went on to state, further -
If they can show that a machine cannot be made here, then we will put it on the free list.
Then the honorable and learned member for Werriwa led me right up to the point now involved -
– All patented machinery.
-Patented machinery? I cannot be caught with chaff of that sort ! If we were to accept a broad definition of that kind, we might, by the patenting of some small matter in connexion with mining machinery, have to permit the free admission of all the mining machinery in the world into Australia, and destroy the benefits which are intended to be conveyed by protection in connexion with these manufactures. I venture to think I have made a fair offer. Can any honorable member suggest a fairer one ? Are we agreed that it is a reasonable thing to protect machinery which can be manufactured here at a reasonable price?
There we parted company. In view of this quotation I am sure that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie-
– I said that the impression made in the minds of honorable members was that all patented machinery used in connexion with mining was to be exempt.
– What did the Treasurer say 1
– No one else cut down in any way the strength of the statement I made in that particular. If we had no duty on patented machinery or anything that has a patent attached to it, honorable members must see the advantage, in addition to his patent rights, which that would confer on the patentee. He would be the only one who could manufacture the machinery here, and if he did not choose to exercise that right he could send in the machinery at . 20 per cent. - or whatever the duty might be - lower than the price charged by any other competitor. What I put to honorable members is this, and it is the basis upon, winch we dealt with the question of agricultural machinery, and upon which we are proceeding right through : We ought to know, and we do know, the nature of the machinery that can be constructed here, and which cannot be made here. We have been able to deal with the matter on these very lines so far as agricultural machinery is concerned, and, I believe, to deal with it satisfactorily. But the difficulty which arises is that there are very few machines which cannot be manufactured here, and so it would be impossible for honorable members generally to put a list of them on the file, as we have asked them time and again to do. “ Tell us what you consider we cannot manufacture, and we will have the matter investigated and bring down a report on the subject, to enable you’ to deal with it.” That is what we said last week. When I made inquiries this morning, and found that little or nothing had been sent in, I could_ hardly believe it ; but I am informed by the Treasurer that the honorable member for Kooyong supplied a list a few minutes ago. If I remember aright, I suggested that honorable members should send in their lists. We do not want to do anything to the disadvantage of the country, and, while we believe in protection, we do not believe in exacting an exorbitant rate for the importation of machinery, when no machinery of the kind, or similar in character, can be constructed here. It may be, that where protection is not required, a revenue duty may, under the special circumstances of the Commonwealth, fairly be asked for ; but, however that may be, we should differentiate between the two things. Honorable members opposite say that >
Australians cannot make these things. We say that they can make them as well as any one else can do so. At the very least, honorable members opposite should prove, or attempt to prove, their assertions. Let them tell us in respect to what machinery they make their allegation, so that we can investigate their ‘ statements. I ask them not to continue to indulge in these vague assertions against the capability of Australians to do what the members of other industrial communities can do. When honorable members state their special cases, those cases will be given the fullest consideration, and they will be advised of the result. There has been no departure from the course which we originally intimated that we intended to follow ; and I trust’ that the Government, in dealing with the committee, will never alter its attitude so as to place any honorable member in a false position. We stick to the ‘ offer that we made. Tell us what articles cannot be made here. Let us have an opportunity to investigate the facts, and, over and above that investigation, we will give the matter the benefit of the advice tendered by our expert advisors as to any machinery or manufacture of metal which requires specially lenient treatment. We shall apply the information we receive, whether it comes from honorable members or from sources specially at our command.
-Indi).- The chief question with which the Chamber is concerning itself is, I apprehend, what was the promise of the Government. We are not in a position now, even if we desired to do so, to consider the reversal of the vote which we have already given ; that is a matter for future consideration, if it is to be entered upon at all. It seems to me that the position is this : - We desired, and the Government acquiesced in the view, that patented mining machinery which could not reasonably be made in the Commonwealth should not be taxed, because to tax it would really be to tax and hamper the mining industry. It was recognised that there are exceptional circumstances connected with the prosecution of the mining industry in Australia, and that the conditions are not the same in every part of the continent, so that we cannot make one rigid rule which will meet all cases. The Government seem to me prepared to reasonably meet the position reasonably stated by honorable
I members. But it would be to go to an illogical and improper extreme to say that, because in certain exceptional cases it is right in the interests of mining to allow machinery to be imported free of duty, although it could ‘be manufactured here - since, as the Minister says, it is conceivable that we could manufacture it all here - all patented machinery should be imported free. If honorable members were able to enumerateatthe present moment every piece of machinery which should properly be exempted, it would not be proper to confine the exemptions to the list so made up, because every day new inventions are made. It is necessary, therefore, to provide a description rather than an enumeration ; to lay down a principle which will embrace all cases as they arise. In doing that we must trust largely to the proper administration of the Customs department, and we might lay down the rule in this way : that articles which are patented and cannot reasonably be made in Australia shall come in free. Even that description may be too large under circumstances which we have not now in view ; but, applying it to mining machinery it appears to cover the ground. Honorable members are aware that there is an enormous difference between a patented invention which may consist of a bearing or valve used in connexion with machinery which otherwise is not patented at all, and could be, and should be, profitably made in Australia, and a complicated, heavy, expensive piece of patented machinery, the demand for which is so small and the cost of making so large, that we could not reasonably expect any one to set up a foundry in Australia to make it. In the first case I do not think the machinery should be exempt, but I think that in the second case it should. It seems to me that the Government made a very fair promise, and that they are adhering to it. The time for the reconsideration of the matter will be, I apprehend, when the Government submit their list of exemptions, which may be extended or amended. It is too late and too early to consider the question now. It is too late in view of the vote which has been given in regard to mining machinery.
– That is not the business before the committee.
– I do not think it is, and I do not think the honorable member intended to introduce the subject. It has been introduced because of a misconception of his proposal, and therefore I think we should come to an understanding in regard to it. I think that the matter should be left over for the present. The Government are standing by then- original promise. Whether that promise will satisfy the committee is a matter for future consideration. I think honorable gentlemen will see that, although we have been told that it would not be difficult to enumerate the machinery which should be exempt, no enumeration will cover the ground, and that the rigid rule that all patented machinery should be admitted free would not be fair, because of the great difference between various kinds of patented machinery. By way of emphasis, I desire to say that this matter shows how important it is that in considering our patent laws we shall not fetter ourselves as we are fettered at present - that we shall not grant a monopoly to any person who chooses to obtain a patent, and allow him to obtain a grasp of the community from which we cannot rid ourselves without paying any price that he likes to ask.
– We are under no compulsion to pay for a patented article unless we think it worth its price.
– When we grant a patent monopoly we grant it, it may be, to some person who has made an invention abroad, and obtains a patent for it here at small cost, without the slightest intention of making the patented article here, and in order to levy a tax upon the community.
– We get some return for what we give.
– We grant a monopoly.
– There is reciprocity-.
– We ought to be very careful how we grant these monopolies. In many cases it would be better if we did not grant a patent at all. An inventor cannot demand of us that we patent his invention. It is not a right which he has acquired - it is a right which we voluntarily give him in return for a small fee. We should see that in the future we are not landed in the difficulty which apparently we are in now. It is a matter for very grave consideration. At present we have to deal with things as they are. I think we should proceed with the consideration of the particular proposal before the Chair, independently of the promise which the Government made the other day, and which I have no doubt they will honorably abide by, and if they do not the remedy is in the hands of the State.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I do hot propose to go into the merits or demerits of our patent laws. The mining industry has distinctly been advantaged by very useful patents which have been introduced. My suggestion that a duty of 15 per cent, all round would save a great deal of trouble will, I think, force itself more on the minds of honorable members when they come to consider the individual items, and I claim to be as distinctly desirous of seeing as much of our mining machinery manufactured within the Commonwealth as is any honorable member. Where deep sinking is carried on, all mines that use air require compressors. A large number of mining companies use what is known as the Reidler Compressor. Its whole merit consists in the application of a certain valve for forcing in the air or keeping it in. It would be an injustice to manufacturers of machinery in Victoria alone, not to speak of those in the other States, to say that they cannot build an ordinary air compressor. They can do it satisfactorily, and are doing it every day. Would it be just to say that a compressor which had a special Reidler valve attached should be introduced free? It would be an injustice to the local manufacturers, and that is where the difficulties arise. You will find that it is a very small portion of the machinery which cannot be satisfactorily manufactured here.
– The patentee has a prohibitory duty in his favour if he chooses to exercise it, and now honorable members wish to give him a percentage.
– Why should the local manufacturer have the disadvantage which the Minister is suggesting - that an air compressor, with patent appliances attached, should be imported free ? I think it would be altogether wrong.
– We do not propose to allow the whole article to come in free, but only ‘the portion which is patented, and then the article can be made here.
– Then the intention of the Government was not stated clearly. It would be difficult here to determine what part is affected by the duty. The whole object of honorable members on this side is not to interfere with local industry, but to help it in every possible way.
– This question can be looked at from three points of view. First, from the free-trade point of view, all the free-traders are desirous of having the duty taken away. Secondly, from the point of view of the revenue tariffists, I think it will be generally admitted that a duty of from 10 to 12½ per cent, would yield the maximum of revenue with the minimum of inconvenience. Now we have the Government going still further, and asking us to impose a protective duty. They say that they will make a concession’ to us if we will state what articles we desire to be placed on the free list. What a subversion of the ordinary way of doing things ! Surely, if they wish to see that an article is protected, they ought to name it. They ought to be the very first to bring forward a list of the articles which are being manufactured here, and say - “ We want a duty imposed, and we can show that the industry is already established.” No list of that sort has been brought forward by them, but they ask us to enumerate not only the articles which are used at the present time, but those which will be used in thefuture, as if in fact we could pry into minds of inventors and tell exactly what is likely to be invented. Because we do not happen to know what has been invented this year, or what will be invented next year, it all has to pay 20 per cent, duty ; but all articles which can be named Ministers will allow to come in free. If the Ministry will consider the matter, they will see what a curious position they are placing themselves in. They are making this assertion, that all the knowledge concerning machinery is known to them, and ought to be known to us, and we ought to be able to supply them with a list. I hope that the Ministry will reconsider the matter and see that they have taken up an utterly indefensible position, and one which certainly from a protectionist point of view they cannot defend. If, as they say, a duty is absolutely necessary in Victoria for some of these articles, and at the same time the articles are being manufactured in New South Wales, it is perfectly clear that the Victorian manufacturer cannot exist at all now that the Inter-State duties have been swept away.
– The Victorian beats the New South Wales man in neutral markets by five to one.
– Yes, with strippers and binders in the market of Riverina, with regard to which the Minister gave us a quotation. Does he know that it amounted to only 4,000 strippers in all? When he mentioned the sum of £200,000 as coming in, was he aware that the great bulk of that sum was for machinery of that type? Surely, if the Ministry are willing to accept 15 per cent, duty on other articles they ought to be willing to accept the same rate on these articles ? I would remind the Minister that very many of these smaller articles will be absolutely necessary. Of course, I do not believe in the exemptions. If we are to be taxed, I believe we should be all taxed alike. I do not think that merely for the reason that an article is required by the manufacturer he should be allowed to get it duty free, because he can come here and make his representations, while the unfortunate farmer or miner has to pay a duty. Why should the representations of a well-to-do man have effect, while the representations of the farmer and the miner are to be of no avail ? Until the Ministry are able, to enumerate the articles which are to be specially favoured or to show why that special favour should be extended, the committee should not agree to their proposal. I should have liked to abolish the duty upon all the articles included in this item or to have at least reduced them to 10 per cent., but as the committee are not in favour of going to that length I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I am sorry the committee has decided against the free admission of mining machinery. Mining and agriculture may be regarded as the main primary industries of the Commonwealth, and as we have already fixed the duty on agricultural machinery at 15 per cent., it will be reasonable to place the mining industry upon the same footing with regard to machinery. In the case of mining and agricultural machinery, great improvements are being made daily. The Ministry have intimated their readiness to make some concession in the direction of admitting patented machinery free of duty if it can be shown that such machinery cannot be manufactured here, but it will be very difficult to give that proof. Almost anything can be produced here if the question of cost is not taken into account, but the expense involved in the local manufacture of machinery should receive the fullest consideration. I agree to some extent with the honorable and learned member for Indi that some concession should be given to local - as distinguished from foreign - inventors, but we should not give to any individual a complete monopoly with respect to an invention. Inventors should reap every reasonable reward, but when their inventions become important factors, in production, the State should step in and by a fair system of compensation make them available for the benefit of the whole community. That, however, is a question that we shall have to consider when we deal with the patent laws. I hope the Ministry will agree to the suggestion that the duty should be reduced to 15 per cent.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).The Government will act wisely and facilitate business if they suspend the consideration of the duty upon articles, N.E.I., until the exemptions are dealt with. We can hardly be expected to enter into the details of the proposal before us until we know what articles are to be placed upon the free list. Although a good case has been made out for the special exemption of patent mining machinery, I hold that other interests are worthy of consideration equally with the mining community. The manufacturers of Victoria would stand in a far better position to-day if patented machinery had been admitted free of duty from the beginning. I have seen many instances in which the want of up-to-date machinery has retarded manufacturers in Victoria, and we should make a general exemption of machinery or impose only a low rate of duty. I shall be strongly opposed to any special legislation in favour of the mining industry. The country generally will benefit from the admission of the latest forms of machinery at as low a rate of duty as possible, consistently with the collection of sufficient revenue to carry on the Government, but until we know what articles are to be placed upon the free list we cannot very well deal with the proposal now before us.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomson) proposed -
That the words “25 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 15 per cent.” be inserted after the letters “ n.e.i.,” first occurring.
– Of course, “N.E.I:” will be qualified by every item that is placed on the free list.
– That will force us to vote for the lowest duty we can get under “N.E.I.”
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).A great injustice will be done to the mining community if the Tariff is fixed at the rate proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs. That proposal offers a premium on the use of old machinery and the retention of obsolete methods. Unless we are able to prepare a list of machinery to be placed amongst the exemptions, all must be included in those articles which have to pay a duty of of 20 per cent.
– No one asks the honorable member to be confined to that list.
– By Act of Parliament, only certain articles will be included in the free list, and the Minister will deal with the Tariff as the Act prescribes, while the Customs authorities will carry out the law as strictly as possible, stretching a point to levy the higher rate in order to get as much revenue as possible.
– The law will not be stretched either way.
– I shall be able to show that, at all events, a liberal interpretation, from the Government’ point of view, has been placed on some of the decisions of the committee.
– The honorable member assumes that we shall always have a protectionist Government in office.
– I was speaking of the interpretation which will be made by those who have the administration of the law ; and if certain articles and none others are prescribed in the free list, all others will, under “N.E.I.,” be charged 20 per cent., notwithstanding that there may be amongst . them new inventions which it is important should be admitted free. Inventions are being made every day to lessen the cost of production in mining, and, as a result, many mines formerly neglected are now being worked.
– As I understand, it is not “not otherwise enumerated,” but “not elsewhere included.”
– Is that not the same? “N.E.I.” means that unless the articles are mentioned, it is impossible to admit them free.
– It all depends on the proper framing of the exemption clauso.
– I am showing the difficulty of framing an exemption clause. Can the honorable and learned member put into an exemption clause articles of machinery which are not known* or which are not in existence to-day ?
– By description.
– How can they be described ?
– How do we tax articles not yet invented ?
– The Government do that by providing that if “not elsewhere included “ articles shall be taxed. Will the honorable and learned member go so far as to vote for a clause which will enable all machinery patented or invented after this date to be placed on the free list ?
– No ; not in these terms
– That shows the honorable and learned member is noli correct in his interpretation.
– I stand by what I said.
– I know the honorable and learned member’s ability as » pleader in the law courts ; but he will have some difficulty in convincing the committee that new inventions which are not mentioned in the free list will not be included under “N.E.I.” This item applies to machinery used in all classes of industries^ and the proposal of the Government is a tax on improvements. It has been pointed out by several honorable members on the Government side, that many industrial enterprises in Victoria have failed to result) in satisfactory balance-sheets owing to the want of up - to - date machinery; the absence of which, I have no doubt, islargely owing to the heavy duties on machinery which cannot be made in the State. Without the most modern appliances we cannot keep pace with the rapid march of events in other countries. We should not depend on our own markets for the progress of this community, but largely on our export trade ; and to create and retain thats, trade we must have the advantage of the latest inventions. In many cases, thamanufacturer of woollens and other pro ducts has a natural protection in the dis1tance which separates London from A us tralia:. . They admit that they cannot profitably ex<port any of their goods to the old country when they ask for a heavy protective doty to prevent the imported article from competing with them. But what is a natural protection to, say, a woollen-mill constitutes a natural drawback to many of our primary industries, which depend for their success upon an export trade. Our producers have to deliver their produce in London, and to compete with all the other nations of the world, and therefore we must make the cost of production as low as possible. If we impose a heavy tax upon all the machinery which is used in production, we shall be placing our farmers, our miners, and our stock-owners, who depend for their success upon an export trade, under a serious disability. Take for example the dairying industry. If we had to supply only the requirements of the Commonwealth, what would become of all our dairy farmers ? Their success depends upon their export trade with the old country, just as Denmark depends upon a similar trade in butter. To enable these people to successfully carry on their operations, we must allow them to obtain the machinery used in production as cheaply as possible. The same remark is applicable to the case of the miners. “We know very well that the requirements of the Commonwealth in regard to lead, copper, tin, Ac, constitute a mere bagatelle. The success of our mines depends upon the price of metals at home. One of the chief reasons for the stagnation of the mining industry to-day is the drop in the price of metals, and yet it is now proposed to place a heavy impost upon nearly all classes of mining machinery. By adopting such a course we shall be unduly taxing this great industry and rendering it less able to produce at anything like a remunerative price. Is that a fair course to pursue in view of “what has been done in the case of other industries 1 . The committee have already decided that the machinery employed in many other industries which do not depend for their success upon an export trade shall be admitted free. They have also imposed a duty of 15 or 20 per cent, upon the articles produced in those industries. Despite these facts, however, it is now proposed to still further handicap the agriculturalist by compelling him to pay an additional 1 5 per cent, upon all the machinery which he requires. I hope that the committee will not sanction this injustice. Even if those who think with me are not successful on the present occasion, I hope that a straight-out vote will be taken to determine whether mining machinery generally is to be included under the heading of “ N.E.I.” Personally, I should like all this machinery placed on the free list. The Government urged that all the articles mentioned- in this item should be dutiable at 25 per cent., and yet after discussion they reduced the rate to 20 per cent. They also put screws upon the free list.
– The Government did not do that.
– The committee have done it. . The Minister for Trade and Customs himself indirectly charges the committee with being inconsistent by placing screws upon the free list, and levying a tax. of 15 or 20 per cent, upon machinery. I know of a flour mill in New South “Wales which was burnt down a few months ago, and as a result the miller had to import new machinery. He kept that machinery in bond for weeks in the belief that a decision would be arrived at to place it upon the free list. He has, however, now taken it out under protest. In my own district large cement works were started a couple of years ago for which the machinery had to be imported, because it could not be manufactured locally. This industry is a new one, and yet the Government have imposed a duty of 25 per cent, upon the machinery employed in it. Upon one shipment alone I know that the duty amounted to over £900. Is that the way to encourage new industries t I dare say that before all the machinery is imported for this particular establishment the amount paid in duty will represent three or four times the sum mentioned. That it a heavy handicap, because interest has to be paid upon this additional amount required for capital expenditure. People have to find the money in the first instance, and that is not always easy to do, and then they have to pay interest upon the capital expended, which is a serious handicap upon them. I believe that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro presented a petition in favour of the reduction of the duty upon mining machinery.
– Yes, but it was not signed by working miners.
– Is not every working miner in the country interested in the production of wealth from the bowels of the earth ? If we so arrange that those who take up mines can carry them on in a profitable way they will be able to give employment to miners, and add to the success of the industry.
– Are we putting dredging machinery upon the free list?
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa knows that they have manufactured some dredging machinery in the free-trade State of New South Wales without any protection. One of the first dredging machines built in New South Wales was constructed by an enterprising firm in that State for Mr. Garland, and sent to theMacquarie. If the amendment is not agreed to, a very serious injustice will be done not only to the mining industry, but to several of the industries of the Commonwealth.
– I have no wish to appear in the role of lecturer to the committee, but I desire to impress upon honorable members the necessity of trying to get along with the business. The discussion upon this subject has been fairly thrashed out two or three times. While I admit that the attitude of the Government, in including so many things under the expression “N.E.I.,” has necessitated more talk than would otherwise have been necessary, it should not be forgotten that if each member of the committee speaks upon two occasions, or speaks once upon every subject, it will be hard to say when we shall get the business done. I say this in no offensive way, but because we have a. considerable amount of work to do yet, and no further talk upon this question will influence a vote one way or the other.
Question, - That the words “ 25 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 15 per cent.” be inserted after the letters “n.e.i.” first occurring - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the words “25 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 20 percent.” be inserted after the letters “ n.e.i.” first occurring.
Item 75 - Rails, fish-plates, tie-plates, switches, points, crossings, and intersections for railways and tramways, ad valorem, 15 per cent.
– Honorable members will note that we did not expect to receive any revenue from this particular line. The idea was that rails were used chiefly by the Governments of the variousStates ; and, therefore, that we were not likely to collect much revenue from this source, or, that if we did so, it would have to be refunded. In the circumstances, we propose to strike out the item with a view of dealing with it subsequently under the heading of Division 6a. I move -
That the words “and on and after 22nd January, 1902, free,” be added.
– I presume that this proposal on the part of the Government will assist the few syndicate railways in Queensland to a very large extent?
– A great number of lines in Queensland are owned by syndicates.
– I think that there are about 1,000 miles of railway to be constructed by syndicates, and one syndicate has 650 milesof railway in one district. It controls practically one-sixth of Queensland by the construction of that line, and is exempt practically from all taxation for 50 years. I think that a fair duty for revenue purposes should be placed on this item.
– Honorable members will observe that we did not expect to derive any revenue from this item, and that was why we proposed just now that it should be placed on the free list. But the circumstances that have just been brought under our’ notice by honorable members from Queensland have entirely placed another aspect upon the matter. £ do not hesitate to say that, in view of that aspect, we propose to adopt a course different from that which we indicated just now. We propose to make further inquiry into the matter before we decide to place the item on the free list. If it is a fact that a great many miles of railway have to be constructed by syndicates in Queensland - and honorable members possess considerable special knowledge regarding the particular States from which they come - I think it is reasonable that we should have some revenue from the item. I will ask leave, therefore, to withdraw my amendment.
– The trams and railways to which the honorable member for Kennedy refers are already constructed, are they not ?
– -Why attempt to deceive the people in that way ?
– The difference of opinion between the honorable member for Melbourne and honorable members from Queensland supports the view I have taken that further information is necessary before we place this item on the free list. With the assistance of both sides we shall get at the facts. In the meantime we do not propose to allow the articles mentioned in this item to come in free.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
–I should like to state that, whether this proposal is withdrawn or not, the syndicate railways in Queensland will not be affected as long as the present State Government remain in power. If the duty is imposed, the State Government will simply buy the rails and give them to the syndicates at cost price. Unless the Commonwealth Government propose to prevent the State Government from doing this the syndicates will avoid the duty, do not know whether that is not being done now. No revenue will be derived from the syndicate railways in this respect unless the Government pin down the State and demand that rails brought in free shall be used only on their own lines, and that any rails used outside the State-owned lines shall be dutiable.
– I wish to point out that rails are not sol el y used for the construction of railway lines in the sense referred to by the honorable member for Wide Bay. They are largely used in the mining industry, lines being put down in order that the trucks of ore or mullock may be conveyed a short distance from the mouth of a mine or underground. Rails used in this connexion are not in any sense to be described as employed for private railway purposes, and I would ask that that aspect of the question be taken into consideration before the Government decide not to put rails on the free list. This particular item has been on the free list in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.
– That remark applies to many things upon which we have placed revenue duties.
– Nevertheless, the fact should be taken into consideration before the Government fall in with the views of certain honorable members from Queensland. I sympathize with those honorable members in the desire that syndicate railways should not be allowed. 1 think that most honorable members are strongly opposed to the making of private railways, but surely it is not right to try to prevent their construction by imposing a duty upon rails. I do not see why those who use rails for tramways for the carriage of ore should be penalized because there are certain syndicate railways in Queensland. I trust that the Government will take these aspects of the case into consideration before finally withdrawing their proposal to put rails on the free list.
– I think that the cost of rails to a mining company is comparatively small in proportion to their other expenses. The best 60-lb. steel rails are obtainable for about £5 a ton. About eighteen months ago such rails used to cost the New South Wales Government £7 10s. a ton, but latterly they have been landed at a little over £5 a ton. The rails used by mining companies are much lighter.
– But the lighter makes of rail would be dearer than the heavier makes.
– Not very much dearer. The extra drawing of the bars would not make a great deal of difference in the cost. I think, however, that a revenue duty of 10 per cent, would be quite sufficient. There are more than the syndicate railway companies to be considered, because tramway extensions in several of our cities will require large quantities of rails during the next few years ; but when we are casting about in all sorts of unheardof directions in order to obtain revenue, we should be unwise to lose the opportunity to place a small duty upon rails.
– When the Minister tells us that he has reconsidered his determination in regard to the duty upon rails, because rails are used by private railway companies, we are being called upon to consider a very dangerous expedient. If it is considered that rails should be admitted free, they should he just as free for private enterprises as for State enterprises. I am not sure - and I referred to the matter during the debate on the financial statement - that a certain provision in the Constitution must be construed to mean that we are prohibited from imposing duties upon goods imported by the Governments of the States, and I should like to have an interpretation of that provision by the highest legal lights, so that we may know how we stand ; but if the Constitution does not force us to allow the State Governments to import goods free of duty, I think we should require them to pay the same taxation as we impose upon private individuals. Otherwise, I do not see how we can prevent the Governments of the States from importing large quantities of rails, cement, and a hundred other things, and selling them to private individuals at a profit.
– I am somewhat surprised at the decision of the Government to withdraw their proposal in regard to rails. It was contended that rails should be admitted free under the provisions of Division 6a. The quantity of rails used by all the mining companies in Australia is, in the aggregate, a very large one indeed. These rails are not made here, and, therefore, to place a duty upon rails will be to directly tax the mining community.
– They are made in the Commonwealth.
– They are made at Lithgow.
– I know that the Victorian Tariff allowed rails to come in free. I am surprised that the Government should take this action because of the existence of syndicate railways in Queensland. Railways open up the country, whether they are privately owned or State owned, and I imagine that any arrangement which has been made for the construction of private railways has been made upon the understanding that the rails will be admitted free of duty. If these railways benefit the country, we should assist them rather than hamper their construction. I am speaking to-night more particularly for the honorable member for Bendigo, who represents a mining district, and who is unable to be present. He was under the impression that rails would be admitted free of duty. The tramways in Bendigo have recently been taken over by acompany, under an arrangement with the municipal authorities, and orders were sent home for a large supply of rails, which it was thought would come in free of duty, but, to their surprise, those who are connected with the company have been called upon to pay a heavy duty. As these lines, although constructed by private companies for their own profit, are largely for the benefit of the public, we should consider the matter in that light.
– The same remark would apply to every line in the Tariff.
– Not in the same way. Whatever action the Government may take, I intend to move that rails used by mining companies be admitted free.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of honorable members opposite. The miners are expected to pay duty upon boilers, pumps, and all other mining machinery that can be made at Ballarat and in other Victorian foundries, but when the question of rails conies up, it is desired to import them free of duty, although these railsare made very largely in New South Wales.
– Are rails being made there in any quantity ?
– If the people there got the orders, they could supply all the rails required for Australasia. Although I represent a district where more rails are used in connexion with mining railways and tramways than are used for similar purposes in other parts of the Commonwealth, I desire to be consistent, and to give assistance to an industry which is already established. Then, too, I do not see why a certain amount of revenue should not be obtained from this particular line.
– The honorable member for Newcastle seems to occupy a more consistent position in this matter than does the honorable member for Echuca. Of course I do not appreciate the generous self-sacrificing spirit expressed by the honorable member for Newcastle. It will not be the miners but the mine-owners who will pay for the rails ; so that I have a very large discount to take off his generosity in that respect.
– That is the class they referred to as being the miners here.
– That was a fair answer to them, no doubt. But with reference to my honorable friend we have to remember that it is a tax which falls on one or two individuals, and not on the great body of the consumers in his electorate ; and if his courage was great enough to ally himself with our protectionist friends to put as heavy taxes as possible on the necessaries of life, I do not see much courage or self-sacrifice on his part in putting another duty on the mine-owner. The honorable member for Echuca was rather at variance with some of us who fought such a stubborn fight last week, showing that the articles we wished to have put on the free list or subjected to a moderate duty were used in the producing industries of the country, and I think our appeal to him last week was in vain. Why should a particular line of producing industry which he is anxious to favour have the benefit of a moderate policy when other lines of industry do not have the benefit of it 1 I think he is a courageous man in expressing the opinions he has done, and I am very glad to have his support, too. I do not believe in syndicate ‘railways. I never encouraged them in any shape or form, so far as lines of railway or tramway of an ordinary character are concerned. But there are a number of lines which are intended to develop a mine or an industry in a particular part of the country.
– Such as the Chillagoe mine?
– I do not know anything of that mine, or of any other mine personally, but I do know that a large number of industries are developed by means of special Acts of Parliament, which allow the construction of one or two miles of line from a mine to a public railway. Of course, these are feeders of public railways, not competitors with them, and they develop a property and an industry. These are mines which I think no one wishes to specially handicap.
– In every New South Wales Act there is a section enabling the Government. to purchase the line whenever they like.
– That is so ; and strong as I am in reference to ordinary railways and tramways, I am not fanatical enough to go so far as to desire the State to own a line of a mile from a particular mine to a Government railway. I do not push it to that extreme.
– Nor do we.
– I am glad to hear that, because my honorable friend’s remark tended in that direction.
– No ; but still there is the provision in the private Acts.
– I am quite aware of that, but I am not dealing with that question at present. I am dealing with the fact that we do pass such Acts allowing the promoters to work the lines, and that those lines are not competitors with public railways but feeders of them, and are developing industries, and therefore are not to be penalized. The question about syndicate lines has confused the issue to some extent. Of course the rails- to which the honorable member for Newcastle referred cannot be made of native ore.
– Of scrap-iron.
– They are made of a very large quantity of scrap iron - which would otherwise be useless - mixed with some pig iron.
– Of course every one must be glad to hear that. Is it Mr. Sandford’s works that my honorable friend refers to ?
– He makes some, butthey are made in various parts of the State of New South Wales.
- Mr. ‘ Sandford is a man who has shown a great deal of enterprise in connexion with works of that sort. For many years he has had from the Railway department a wonderful concession which explains a good deal of his position.
– It is equal to a fair protective duty.
– I know that he has had for many years the benefit of some engagement with their predecessor which the present Railway Commissioners were bound to carry out. There he is, and I wish him no harm. He got this concession, and instead of sleeping on it or forming a syndicate, he has worked it honestly. I believe that no one bears him any ill-will. He has made so much money that at the elections he ran the honorable member for Parramatta not a close race, but a very anxious one. I do not know how much money he spent over it. That is clone in a free-trade country. One honorable member has pointed out that in Victoria, New .South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia these rails are duty free. It is evident that for very sound reasons they have been considered worthy of a place on the free list. These matters must have been considered.
– They were nearly all Government imports.
– AVith reference to the taxation of rails for the Commonwealth, I do not at present see how it is possible to get out of the words of the 114th section of the Constitution. It looks to me as if that section were equivalent to putting in every Customs Act a special clause that the property of the States shall not be taxed under that law.
– I doubt if it refers to that at all.
-“ Property of any kind “ is a very large expression. If the Commonwealth buys 1,000 tons of steel rails in London, surely they are the property of the Commonwealth when they arrive at an Australian port. I think the section has the effect of putting in every Customs Act a provision to exempt the property of a State from taxation. It is at least as strong as that I think, but of course I do not venture to say that that opinion is a final one. It would be very hard to get away from it. I look upon rails as the raw material for carrying out industrial enterprise, and I should like to sec them duty free, just as I should wish to see mining or agricultural machinery come in free. The rails will be used in works which will facilitate the production and the transport of raw material to a market. That seems to be one of the particular functions of rails, and from that point of view, I am sorry that the Minister has withdrawn his proposal ; because if we have any iron works established in the Commonwealth the Government propose to deal with them - not in the ordinary Tariff, but in a special Tariff.
– But at the same time here is the industry properly established.
– In New South Wales, this industry has been carried out without the imposition of any duty.
– By State aid.
– Are the rails referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle made at Sandford’s works 1
– Tes ; they make them there.
– Are not rails also being made at Newcastle ?
– Yes, I think so, but I am not certain about it.
– If the honorable member is not certain about it, the industry cannot, at Newcastle, have assumed any great proportions, and, therefore, the question resolves itself into this : That because Mr. Sandford happens to have an old arrangewith the Railway department of New South Wales, all the industries of the Commonwealth are to be injured. I think this is too large a question to be decided by any consideration for Mr. Sandford’s interests. It would be unfair to the interests of Australia generally to place them under a burden for the benefit of any man on this continent.
– If it is certain that rails will come under 6a division the duty might be reduced.
– But the duties under that division may not come into operation for some considerable time.
– I am in favour of admitting these rails free, but unless there is some prospect of carrying a proposal in that direction, I do not regard the matter of as such importance as to call for a long debate.
– Compromise the matter.
– I do not believe in compromises. I prefer to be beaten, if I cannot win. I should certainly propose the admission of rails free of duty if I did not recognise the hopelessness of submitting such a proposal. We shall save time, however, by proposing that the duty be reduced to 10 per cent. It may then be looked upon as a revenue duty.
– If we had proposed 10 per cent., the right honorable gentleman would have suggested 5 per cent. ; 15 per cent, is low enough, and the committee have already refused to adopt 10 per cent, in regard to other items.
– If some honorable member will move a reduction of the duty to 10 per cent., I shall certainly support him.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The position taken up by the Ministry and their supporters shows the absolute selfishness of the protectionists. They cannot look beyond their own horizon, and they believe that nothing can be made in Australia except it is manufactured in Victoria. If the honorable and learned member for Bendigo were here, he would probably ask that rails should be placed on the free list, because a few mines happen to be in his electorate. The honorable and learned member, however, has already taxed everything that the miners use, and if rails are to be placed on the free list why should not mining machinery, winding gear, axles, the candles the miners use, and the soap with which they wash themselves also be admitted free of duty? Why should any distinction be made between rails and other articles ? Rails are now being made at the Eskbank Iron Works from scrap iron, without the slightest difficulty, and there is no excuse for any protectionist seeking to exclude the manufacturers from the benefit of a duty.I move -
That the words “and on and after 22nd Janu ary, 1902, 10 per cent.” be added.
Mr. McCOLL (Echuca). - I have never proposed that a duty should be imposed on any article that could not be manufactured here, and when I advocated the free admission of rails I was not aware that they were being made in Australia to any extent. If articles can be made here they should be subject to a duty, but if they cannot be locally manufactured they should be admitted free, except so far as the necessities for revenue might suggest the imposition of a duty. My position is a perfectly clear and logical one. I was surprised at the sudden change of mind on the part of the Government, and I can only conclude that Ministers were unaware that rails were being made here. If it can be shown that rails can be made here, I am prepared to support the encouragement of the industry to a reasonable extent. It has been stated that the rails are being made from scrap iron, but that is not developing our natural industries.
– They are made of scrap and pig-iron.
– If it can be shown that rails can be made from our own ores, we should impose a protective duty, but not otherwise.
– If the Government, acting under a misapprehension, placed rails on thefree list surely they are doing right in acknowledging their mistake and proposing a duty of 15 per cent. I intend to vote for a 15 per cent, duty, because I regard the manufacture of rails as a national industry that can be carried on not only at Eskbank, but at various other places in the Commonwealth where we have supplies of iron ore. The honorable member for Echuca seems to think that if the rails are made from scrap iron the industry is of no importance, but it is better for us to use up our scrap iron in that way rather than allow it to be collected by Chinamen and sent to foreign countries to be made up there. I think that the protectionists of Victoria should be a little more consistent, and do their best to support industries which can be carried on in other States than Victoria.
– We have had three proposals from the Ministry within as many minutes, and I should like to know what course they have finally determined upon.
– We propose a duty of 15 per cent.
– This opens up an important constitutional question. The rails and the bulk of the goods in question are used almost entirely by the State Governments. Where railways have not been constructed by the States themselves, we must assume that, as the sanction of the Parliaments is necessary, those Parliaments, having approved, would, if they had had the means, have constructed the great majority of the so-called syndicate lines, such as we find in Northern Queensland. I am not now referring to cases of lines of only a mile in length. We must presume that almost the whole of these articles will be required by the States themselves, and, if so, the important question arises under section 114 of the Constitution, whether property of any kind belonging to a State can be taxed. The Ministry seem to have thought that such property cannot be taxed j and there is a great deal to support that view, which, if it be correct, means that no revenue can be expected from this proposed duty of 15 per cent. The concluding words of the section are -
Noi shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
It is pretty clear that if the local Government care to say that the rails belong to the State, we cannot impose a tax. If some States go further in the direction of State socialism, we may find them import-‘ ing tea and other articles and vending them to the public; and under these circumstances the Federal Government would cease to derive any revenue. For instance, in New South Wales, at the present time, some deviating and new lines are being constructed wholly by day labour, and the whole of the material required is State property. The question here raised might well be considered before these articles are placed upon the free list ; otherwise the Federal Government may find their powers of raising money very seriously limited. The first part of section 114 reads : -
A State shall not, without the consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth.
These words have been read to mean that the incomes derived by honorable members from the Commonwealth may. not be taxed by the States ; but if the Federal Parliament are in a position to impose a tax on State property, then, conversely, the State may be in a position to impose a tax on our incomes. This matter might be postponed until the Government have consulted the Attorney-General and decided what course shall be adopted. Every railway constructed opens .up and develops the country, and to place any hindrance in the way of railway extension will do an injury to the whole of the Commonwealth. To impose a tax of 15 per cent, on the material required for the . proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta would considerably increase the cost of that work ; and I suggest that the Ministry take the second course which they indicated and withdraw their proposal, in order that further time may be allowed for consideration.
– I suggest that the Government should in the
Tariff leave out all- reference to the Constitution in relation to the exemption of State property. The matter ought really to be tested ; although, looking at the question roughly, I am inclined to agree with the opinion given by the leader of the Opposition as to the comprehensive character of section 114 of the Constitution. I do not know whether in America goods come under the category of “property,” but the reason that the decisions are there in favour of the exemption of State property is that by imposing a very heavy tax on such property the federation is given power to destroy the efficacy of the State Governments by taking away the instruments of Government. Of course that cannot possibly apply to goods of thi3 class.
– The prohibition is reciprocal.
– I am aware of that, but we seem to have copied American decisions without adequate consideration. The matter was not discussed very much in the convention. The basis of the decisions in America was that if power were given to the Federation to tax State property, the Federation could really paralyze the States by confiscating their property. Of course that does not apply to the placing under a general Customs law of the States as States. If it would paralyze the States to pay a duty upon imported goods it would similarly paralyze an individual or a company Consequently the logic of American decisions ought not to apply to the case of ordinary importations. It is quite open to consideration whether the words of section 114 of the Constitution are equivalent to declaring that State goods or State property shall be exempt from the general law. I say that it may not mean that. It may simply mean that no special law is to be passed whereby State property is subject to taxation. Of course there are considerations which tell even against this construction, because section 51 prevents special taxation of State property. On the whole I am inclined to agree with the opinion offered by the leader of the Opposition, that the section means that no taxation is to be imposed upon State property - that it does not only mean that a special Act should not be passed in respect to State property. Nevertheless, as the matter is so doubtful and so important, we ought not, by our Customs regulations and Act, to exempt State property from taxation, but ought to leave the
Constitution to operate in respect to State property. Then, if Customs duties are collected in respect of the imports of a particular State, and that State objects, it can appeal to the High Court of Australia to test the question.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie).- I should like to draw the attention of the committee to the extraordinary action of the Government in connexion -with this .particular item. In the first place, they proposed that rails should be placed upon the free list. Then, because two honorable members representing Queensland got up and talked about certain syndicate railways in that State - the existence of which we all regret - the Government have calmly gone back upon their original proposal and have agreed that a duty of 15 per cent, should be imposed. That simply means that all the mines in Australia which use these rails for ore tramways, not only on the surface but underground, are to be penalized because of certain syndicate railways in Queensland. The action of the Government is a most extraordinary one, and I feel so strongly upon this matter that I intend to move that rails shall be included in the list of exemptions. I agree with what has been said by one or two honorable members upon this side of the House, namely, that rails might very well be regarded as a commodity which should be taxed for revenue purposes. But in considering this Tariff, we have to consider each item in relation to every other item. When, therefore, mining machinery is taxed at the rate of 20 per cent., we may reasonably ask that rails should be placed on the free list. That is a perfectly consistent attitude for a revenue tariffist to adopt, and, under the circumstances, I trust that the honorable member for Parramatta will withdraw his amendment, so that I may move in the direction I have indicated.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - Before that is done, I should like to mention for the information of the committee, that the Attorney-General has informed the Municipal Corporation of Sydney that under section 114 of the Constitution Act it is impossible for the municipal authorities to impose even municipal rates upon Commonwealth buildings in that city. The section reads -
A State shall not, without the consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, raise or maintain any naval or military force, or impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth ; nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
To arrive at the opinion which he has formed, the Attorney-General must have given a very wide meaning to the expression “ a State” . He lias interpreted that to include any municipal body within a State.
– Does not “State” include duly delegated agents 1
– I am merely mentioning what is the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral. He must have read the expression “ a’ State,” as wide enough to include even local taxation within a given area.
– Where do they derive their powers of taxation but from the States ?
– I am not offering any opinion or asking for instruction. I am merely mentioning a fact. It would be impossible for the Attorney-General to give such an opinion, and hold a narrow view of the construction of the latter part of the section, because the expression “property of any kind” is used in both portions of it.
– I hope that the -committee will agree to the imposition of a duty of 15 per cent, upon rails. At the same time I should like to know if the various State Governments will have to pay this tax ?
– They will under the Tariff as it at present stands.
– That should not be, because the various State Governments are really the only users of rails in Australia.
– What about the mining companies ?
– The Blyth mine in Tasmania will turn out more steel rails in a week than all the other States will use within a very considerable time. It seems to me very important that we should encourage such an industry, because its establishment means the employment of 5,000 or 6,000 men. It also means that ships will be employed in carrying the provisions requisite for -these people from State to State. No place will gain more from its encouragement than will Sydney. I hope that we shall impose a duty of 15 per cent.
– If there is any industry which in my opinion needs incidental assistance ifc is that for the production of iron rails. Unless the States aregoing to contribute to some extent, which is a matter to be debated when we come to consider the exemption list, there will not be very much revenue under this head, nor will there be very much assistance granted if we put a duty of 10 or 15 per cent, upon this item. My feeling is that this is an item from which the Government are justified in expecting a considerable revenue, and they can secure it if they adhere to what I am advised is their legal position. I favour the amendment to the effect that the duty should be 10 per cent, and not 15 per cent. I believe that under that duty works for the production of iron rails can be incidentally assisted in their birth, and that they will be established immediately. It is in contemplation to establish ‘ large iron works, one in particular in Tasmania, to which the last speaker has alluded, and another for which I understand the necessary capital is already available. The honorable member for Kennedy referred to “ syndicate railways.” Let me assure him that many of the syndicate railways are of great public convenience.
– We must suppose so, as the Parliaments of the States approved of them. We cannot say anything against them.
– The Parliaments of the States certainly approved of them; but I wish to indicate that, so far as I am aware, there is not one of these railways which is not at the present time paying handsomely and justifying its construction.
– Is the Chillagoe line paying?
– Yes, so far as I am aware the Chillagoe line is at present paying interest upon the cost of construction.
– That will be very handy for the elections. Mr. Philp says it is not.
– I understand that if the present rate of traffic is maintained, that statement may be relied upon as perfectly accurate. I should like the honorable member, who opposed the construction of some of these lines-
– All of them.
– I should like the honorable member to understand that, personally, I believe it would have been preferable if in many of these instances the State Governments had constructed these railways themselves. But the Government in power in Queensland when the honorable member was in the State Parliament there declined to construct these railways, and I contend that, when a State Government are not prepared to construct a line themselves, they should not interfere with private enterprise when private investors are prepared to take the risks attending such undertakings. What I have said applies to New South Wales in connexion with the railway constructed there to connect Broken Hill with the South Australian border. It applies to the railway in Tasmania which connects the Mount Lyell mine with the port, and it applies also to another line recently approved of by the South Australian State Parliament, and which has been rapidly constructed. These lines are proving of public convenience, and of the greatest benefit to the States in which they are constructed, as well as to the enterprises with whichthey are connected. I make this statement in order that there may be no misapprehension on the part of any honorable member that the question as to whether these rails are going to be supplied to the owners of syndicate railways or not does not affect the question now under discussion in the least degree. In my judgment, the question before us is whether the Commonwealth revenue may be benefited by the imposition of the duty proposed, and, incidentally, whether it may not lead to a benefit to the Commonwealth through the establishment of new works within it. I believe that, with the incidental assistance’ of a 10 per cent, duty, large works of this kind will be established, and successfully carried on, to the benefit of this great community.
– It appears to me that this constitutional question is the most important feature of the whole debate, because upon it depends the question whether the Commonwealth, under the guise of a revenue duty, will obtain an enormous contribution from the different States, or whether it is going to confine itself to the imports of the comparatively short railways which have been stigmatised as “ syndicate railways.” All I can say upon that point is that I have no sympathy with the tendency to condemn private enterprise, when it happens to take the form of a railway, because it happens to be started in its initial form by a syndicate. We know very well that the word “ syndicate,” like the word “ capital,” has terrors for a certain class of politicians. Every one of us knows, however, that the promoters of every company in the world may fairly be called a “ syndicate,” and in that way stigmatized as an undesirable body. They are merely a group of nien coming together in the preliminary stage of a great enterprise before it can be brought under a Companies Act. The point I wish to bring before the committee is this : It is proposed under the exemption clause to allow the States to import all their railway iron without paying any duty upon it. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs, backed, I believe, by the Attorney-General, has expressed the opinion that under the section of the Constitution referred to, the States would be entitled to have this commodity introduced free. I may be wrong, but I did understand from one honorable, member that the Minister for Trade and Customs had expressed the opinion that there was so much doubt about it that it was better to put it in the Tariff in this form.
– That is not quite so.
– Then I have understood the right honorable gentleman in another wa)’. I, of course, accept his state- ment that he has not expressed even that opinion, but he has, at all events, expressed doubt as to the effect of this section of the Constitution. But I do wish to impress upon the committee that so long as there is a doubt whether the States are ontitled to have their railway ‘iron admitted free under the Constitution, and if we are bent upon getting revenue, there is no possible reason why this item should not be taken out of the exemption clause, leaving it to the Federal Court hereafter to determine whether or not the Federal Government has the right to take duty from the States. That raises the much broader question as to whether it is advisable that the Commonwealth should take duty from the States, and I am bound to say that, in my private opinion, there is no reason why the Commonwealth should not be paid duty by them in the same way as by any other corporation. I think we should, above all things, require all the entities, whether constitutional or legal, connected with the Commonwealth, to stand upon their own feet. There is a very old-fashioned practice of allowing one particular department of State to set off some favour against another, in return for some favour from it.
For instance, in the past, it has been the habit of the States to carry members of Parliament free over the railways, merely because they are members of Parliament ; but I am quite sure we have all been very glad to see that since the Commonwealth has come into existence, a more businesslike practice has been adopted, and that the Commonwealth is now going to pay for having its members carried over the State railways.
– The railway departments of the States used to get credit.
– They used to get credit, but the right honorable gentleman knows that members of Parliament had and exercised many privileges which were not paid for. We know also that according to the form which the Property Acquisition Bill has taken it is provided that when under the Constitution the Commonwealth takes over any public buildings, the property of a State, it shall pay the State out-right for them. I should like to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that not only in New South Wales, but in all the States it was the custom to allow the departments to modify their accounts in some way or other when dealing with the State. For instance, water and sewerage boards were not allowed to charge the Government departments for water supplied to them, although it was recognised as essential that as water and sewerage board should stand upon its own footing, and show, in an accurate form, -at the end of each year, how much it had paid away and how much it had earned. The particular question is whether the Commonwealth, the States, and the municipalities throughout the Commonwealth ought not to pay their way-. Ought they not to charge one another whenever they afford some benefit to some other of these local or Constitutional entities 1 If we are going to make this unmeaning exception in favour of the States, shall we not be entering upon a loose system of conducting our political business ? Even if we admit that the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the States, are identical, is it not better that the States should pay their way? If we are bent on obtaining revenue under this Tariff, is. it not better that we should supplement our revenue in a legitimate way by calling upon the States to pay duty on railway iron according to the quantities they import ? Under a particular clause in the Constitution, the Commonwealth will be called upon, probably in a few years time, to purchase the railways of the different States. That may or may not be. My own opinion is that within the next quarter of a century at least, the whole of the railways of Australia will be under the Commonwealth. If that is the case, the Commonwealth will have to pay for these railways. If they are to be paid for according to a valuation, there is no reason why the States should not, at this period, pay the market value for their commodities, and pay the duties upon them just as every other corporation is required to do. Again, if a State at the present time called for tenders for railway material from a local agent, he would have to add to the cost of the article itself the duty which he would be required to pay before he could deliver it to the State. But if the State happened to call for tenders in England for the same commodity the tender could be minus duty, because the State would be able to say - “We have no duty to pay on this article, because it is State property.’ “ The result of this would be that no local manufacturer, no local importer, would have the same opportunity of tendering for an article for a State in competition with any manufacturer in America, or in England, because in the one case the duty would have to be paid, while in the other it would not.
– The honorable and learned member would assume that the local importer would keep on hand huge quantities of this material for use when a State required it?
– When the local agent undertook to deliver any article in the State he would have to pay duty on it before he delivered it. It is only one of the anomalies that would be brought about. My principal contention is this : I have no hesitation in saying that if we were to submit a question of this kind to a mercantile man, versed in mercantile practice, he would certainly say, if his business were a well-managed one, “ Each department should stand upon its own merits. One department should credit or debit another as the case may be, in order to keep itself straight in the books.” The Commonwealth is a huge corporation, and we have in the States a number of sub - corporations. There is no reason why, in dealing with the States, we should not pursue what is the practice amongst men experienced and accomplished in business. I do not see, therefore, any reason why the States should not pay this duty. If the clause remains in the exemptions there will be no opportunity for the question to be remitted to the Federal High Court, in order that it may be determined whether or not the Constitution precludes it. It will be settled by us.During the afternoon a great many legal opinions have been given on this question by honorable members. I am bound to say that I do not attach much value to the opinion of any one unless there is a fee attached to the giving of it ; because my experience is that, however eminent counsel may be, he does not apply himself to a question of this kind with the same close scrutiny that he would give to it if the matter came before him in a professional way. Are we anxious to settle this legal question for ourselves ?
– Against ourselves.
– Against ourselves ! Assume for a moment that we came to the conclusion that it is desirable that the States should pay this duty. Then, by inserting these words in the exemption list, we are precluding the chance of having the clause settled in our favour”.
– What is the doubt in the Constitution ?
– The doubt is as to the meaning of the word “ property.”
– It says “property of any kind.”
– Are not rails property?
– I think it is a very arguable question, because the word “ property,” as the honorable and learned member for Indi knows, has connotations, with which the lay mind is not acquainted. Although the words “any kind” of property are used in the Constitution, the honorable and learned member knows also of the doctrine ejusdem generis, by which a court might very well determine that, if we take the connotations of the word “property “ in the sense in which they are generally understood by the legal mind, and then read the phrase “of any kind,” in the ejusdem generis sense as referring to “property” in the legal sense - no matter whether it be land or buildingsthere may be two views.
– Still the honorable and learned member admits that an opinion of this kind is worth nothing.
– I do not say that ; but I say that the committee should not determine this matter for itself in a haphazard way. It should be left for the court to determine. Suppose for example that the committee were in the mood that, if it could get the duty, it would get it. If we think that the States ought to pay this duty, provided that the Constitution will admit of the Commonwealth imposing it, I submit to the Minister for Trade and Customs that the clause should be taken out of the exemption list, and the matter left to the Federal High Court to determine.
– Had not we better discuss that question when we come to the exemptions ?
– No. It has this bearing : that if the committee has made up its mind that the clause is not to be taken out of the exemption list, and that the States should be excused from the payment of duties, there is nothing left. According to the Treasurer himself, he does not expect to derive any revenue from this duty.
– It has since been pointed out that the Treasurer will receive some revenue from this source.
– The honorable member for Kennedy pointed out that there were something like 850 miles of “ syndicate “ railways in Queensland.
– I meant that Bills to permit of the construction of these railways had been passed by the State Parliament.
– I heard what the honorable member said. I heard the honorable member say that there were about 850 miles of railway still to be earned out.
– 650 miles.
– Over 1,000 miles.
– The honorable member said there was one line of 650 miles and another of 200 miles, making 850” in all. Then the honorable member for Melbourne, who was seated on the opposite benches at the time, said - “ They have been constructed.” Those were the only statements made in regard to these railways, and upon those two contradictory statements the Minister for Trade and Customs has altered the whole scheme of his Tariff upon this particular question. That is an absurdity. Even assuming that these lines had not been carried out, the whole of this discussion would be over the question of 850 miles of railways still to be constructed. A good deal has been said about rails which are used, in short lengths, in connexion with mining operations. If honorable members are bent on revenue, I do not see why even these short lengths of line, and even the railways which are run by private enterprise - without stigmatizing them in any way - should not be made to pay. I think that a duty of 15 per cent, would be too high ; but I should be glad to see a duty of 10 per cent, all round, and in connexion with that duty to see this portion of the exemption removed, so that we may have a chance of obtaining a decision of the High Court in favour of the Commonwealth, and so, if duty is imposed, ‘ recover a very large amount of revenue from the States.
Mr. O’MALLEY (Tasmania). - The honorable and learned member for Parkes has enabled me to look at this matter from a new stand-point, and I am satisfied now that the State Governments should not be treated differently from private individuals. The States are simply large syndicates, which have been formed for political convenience.
– The States Governments represent the people of the States.
– Exactly ; but if the New South Wales Government, for instance, is constructing a railway, it can import all its material from Europe or America without paying duty, whereas if the railway is being made by a contractor he has to pay duty upon everything he imports. The exemption of the States offers them a direct incentive to take business out of the hands of Australians, and give it to outsiders; and as collections of individuals, they should not be given any rights which are not given to individuals themselves. The Commonwealth has to pay the States for every service it requires of them. The other day, when we were making arrangements for the granting of railway passes to honorable members, we had to guarantee the State Governments payment for the sendees to be performed, and why should we give them better terms than they give us?
– The Constitution requires us to do so.
– I cannot find it stated in the Constitution that the States are to have more consideration than individuals.
– Read section 114.
– Section 114 provides that -
A Slate shall not, without the consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth …. impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth ; nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
That does not mean that a State must be allowed to import goods without paying duty upon them. If I understand it aright, it means that the Commonwealth shall not have power to impose discriminating taxes upon the settled property of any State.
– The honorable member’s opinion is worth nothing, because no fee attaches to its delivery.
– It is worth as much as, if not a little more than, that of any other honorable member, becauseI am a practical federalist, while other honorable gentlemen are only theoretical federalists. I am the only man in the committee who has had federal experience in a federal country. These points have all been discussed in the United States of America, and in Canada, and it has been decided that they are unconstitutional. I shall be prepared to maintain it against every legal member of the committee that the Commonwealth has power to levy duties upon all articles imported by the States.
– We hope so.
– I know if. The Commonwealth Supreme Court will be guided by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.
– If they take the decisions of the United States court I am afraid we shall lose.
– I think a similar case arose in connexion with the State of Tennessee, and the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the federal power was paramount, and that the State power was subordinate to it. Several of our States have given syndicates the right to construct railways, and now it is proposed to discriminate between these syndicates, because they are corporations, and the States. But as the syndicates are corporations of citizens and the States are also corporations of citizens, the proposal is a proposal to discriminate between citizens, which is unconstitutional, and gives a preference to the strong against the weak. We do not want to vote for expediency ; we want to vote for justice, and to put all on an equality. If the honorable and learned member for Parkes will move the omission of these exemptions I shall vote with him.
Mr. W ATKINS (Newcastle).- While I should like to see a duty of 10 per cent, imposed upon rails, I should like to see a duty of 15 per cent, imposed upon switches, crossings, points, and intersections, and I therefore ask that the question may be put in such a way that honorable members may make a distinction between the two. If the lower duty is put upon rails it will be an advantage to mining companies, who, I understand, do not use the other things to any great extent.
– They have all to be imported.
– No ; they are making them in New South Wales.
– And in Victoria.
– Not only are they making them, but I understand that further machinery is being constructed to increase the output.
– The Government have no objection to the question being put in such a way that honorable members will be able to vote as they please, and I have no doubt that the mover of the amendment will withdraw it to enable that to be done. At the same time, I trust that in these matters of protection and free-trade, especially in matters of protection, we shall consider and deal with the item as far as we possibly can on general principles, and not have any regard to how it affects a particular district or State. Ithink I have only to mention that matter to induce honorable members to give it the fullest recognition. It is a matter which any one of us may forget at the moment in consideration for a particular State, but when an honorable member is asked to think of it he will come to the conclusion that whatever State is concerned the principle is. the same, and wherever it is possible to apply it it should be applied. We should have been ashamed, indeed, to apply a. principle to Victorian industries and not to New South Wales industries, or to natural resources of Western Australia and not to. natural resources of Queensland. We ought to do all we can on the principle for the various States in an equal degree, finding out those cases in which it can properly be applied, and there applying it within reason. On the subject of this proposal for a 10 per cent, duty on rails, what do we find ? We find that rails are being manufactured in New South Wales already. Some one suggests that they are, or shortly will be, manufactured in Victoria, and we have from various quarters of the Chamber an assurance that the supply will be equal to the demand. Under these circumstances, rails are undoubtedly entitled to a protective duty. What has been considered by the committee a protective duty in this connexion? Ten per cent, has never been considered a protective duty. I remember that we selected cotton goods for revenue duties of the lightest description, and even as regards the exceptions it was not suggested that they were not sufficiently low, and there was an arrangement made whereby there was no duty placed on a certain portion of those goods. What is there about the iron industry, which is in existence and can be fairly encouraged, to necessitate that we should deny to the people of New South Wales that protection which we have accorded hitherto to a number of the States ? Ten per cent, is not a protective duty ; it is purely a revenue duty. As regards those who are undoubtedly free-traders, well and good. But as regards those who are protectionists, and who have voted on protectionist principles in this connexion, let us at least apply our principles to the consideration of this industry, and do what we can for the purpose of encouraging it.We are not doing that. We are not applying the same principle if we give as protection only a 10 per cent, duty, when we know perfectly well that it is a revenue duty pure and simple.
– Is the Minister aware that the people who manufacture these rails say that 10 per cent, duty is enough, that they do not want any more?
– Perhaps they say that 10 per cent, is enough, because they fear that a higher duty would induce greater competition, and they are afraid of competition. There is no doubt that the higher the duty - of course within certain limits - the more people are tempted to embark in an industry on account of the advantages for profitable employment which it affords. As regards the right of the States to import goods duty free, I think the honorable and learned member for Parkes will admit that the point is not altogether clear. I confess that I cannot avoid noticing that our sole power of levying Customs duties is contained in the second sub-section of section 51 of the Constitution. Then we find a prohibition in the 114th section.
Nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
Taxation in one instance does undoubtedly include customs duties ; does it not also include it in the 114th section ?
– I agree with the Minister that it is uncertain, therefore it should be left open.
– Of course it might be held that that was intended to prevent any tax being levied on any particular property of a State, and was not intended to give to all State goods imported into the Commonwealth an absolute freedom from the duty generally imposed. The two things would stand on very different grounds. As regards a special tax made against property we can contemplate an attempt at confiscation. As regards customs taxation, no such thing is possible, because, of course, the taxes have to be uniform, and you could not confiscate a State property without similarly affecting property belonging to every one else.
– It was notorious to the framers of the Constitution that the States did import large quantities of iron rails.
– They could not well have forgotten that fact. I am inclined to think that it may very fairly be argued that that does give the exemption suggested. But honorable members have pointed out that by the particular specification of goods imported by and for the use of a State we are hardly leaving the point open, and they suggest that we should remove the special exemption which is conveyed by the later words in the Tariff, and leave the matter to be interpreted by the federal courts. There is a good deal to be said in favour of that course. It will come up for discussion when we come to that part of the Tariff. Honorable members will notice that it does not make much difference what we do in this respect, at least during the bookkeeping period; for every penny that we collect, whether it is on the goods of private people or on the goods of a State will be accounted for, and, less certain deductions, returned to the State. Later on there may be different principles provided for. Without expressing any definite opinion I would say that this matter has troubled us a good deal, and we shall ask the House to give its best consideration to the question of whether or not the matter should be finally decided, so far as we can do it by ourselves, in a free gift to the States in the Tariff, or left to the construction of the Constitution. We are more deeply impressed with the importance of a question of this sort since we introduced the Tariff, because in a number of little matters brought under our notice attempts are being made to stretch the interpretation of the provision we inserted in a degree we hardly believe in, and there is a strong argument undoubtedly in favour of some alteration of it. There is also the argument that we should not provide for many exemptions, and it is hardly desirable to provide for exemptions that have nothing to do with questions of national policy, but which might well be left to the States to decide for themselves after the receipt of the money. If we provide in a national Tariff for a number of matters of State concern which are generally decided by the States themselves, we shall be making a mistake, and there is no doubt also that the less complicated we make the exemptions in favour of a particular class the better it will be for the simplicity of administration, and the less liable we shall be to abuses. I have made this statement to indicate how we. feel at this particular moment regarding the exemption of States, classes, or bodies, and I do not propose to go any further just now. I hope we shall deal with this New South Wales industry in the same liberal manner as we have treated other matters which have come under our consideration.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney) Referring to the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs as to whether the Commonwealth has the right to tax the imported property of a State, I think that this is not the right stage at which to discuss the matter, except incidentally. The Minister has not yet sounded by any means the loss of revenue that this provision is going to cause to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. In New South Wales goods consumed by the Government have been practically free of duty, and the Treasurer cannot know and has not reckoned the value of the goods which have come into New South Wales free in the past, but which will not come in free under the new conditions when the State Government adopts to the fullest extent the practice of carrying out its own work and of importing the goods required for that work. Prior to federation it made no great difference to the State’ Government if they had to pay duty, because if they bought, say, cement or similar goods in the open market at a price which included the duty added to the cost, they knew that they got the duty back in the form of revenue. If the section in the Constitution to which reference has been made was meant to cover what some honorable members seem to think it was designed to embrace a mistake was made, because its application under the new conditions will be very different from its effect under the operation of State laws. If the State paid duty on imported goods, they received that duty back. If the State has to pay the the duty now, it will not under the possible future distribution of Customs receipts get back the full amount that it has paid. The Minister for Trade and Customs stated that it would not make very much difference to the States during the bookkeeping period, but I think it will make a great difference, because the Treasurers of the States will look to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to provide the revenue that they were previously in receipt of, although in that revenue there was included a considerable amount of duty which the State Government actually paid by buying goods duty paid in the open market instead of importing direct for themselves.
– How does it make any difference when they both pay and receive ?
– It does not make any difference in one way. It is not a difference of £ s. d. so far as taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other is concerned, but it is the difference that it will make to the Treasurers of the States, who will look for the full amount of revenue they have previously been receiving. There will be a tendency on the part of the States’ Governments to import their goods direct, and thus save the amount that would otherwise be paid in duty, and thereby be able to spend the saving. The State Treasurers will, at the same time, resist any reduction in the amount of duty returned to them by the Commonwealth Treasurer. I should like to direct attention to what the Ministry have, done in connexion with this item. First of all, the committee were requested to consent to rails being placed on the free list. The Government must have been perfectly aware that rails were being manufactured within the Commonwealth. Then when representations were made with reference to the rails required by syndicates, the Ministry at once stated that a duty ought to be imposed and afterwards they pointed out that a 10 per cent, duty would not afford sufficient protection to the local manufacturer, absolutely overlooking the fact that the manufacture of these rails which they were anxious to protect had proceeded for ten or twelve years without any duty whatever. Surely a 10 per cent, duty is the most the Ministry could ask for, and certainly the most the manufacturer would require. How can it be argued that a 10 per cent, duty will be absolutely insufficient where it has been shown that the industry can be carried on without any protection ? If the committee, cannot agree to admit these rails free, I hope that in the interest of the various industries in which rails are used they will agree to the reduction of the impost to 10 per cent.
– The honorable member for Parramatta desires to alter his amendment so as to make it apply to rails and fishplates only.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– We ought to have some definite line on which to take a division, if we hope to get through the Tariff within the next three months. I have listened to the debate from all sides, and I should like to have some indication as to what articles are likely to be placed on the free list. Having regard to the Tariff as a whole, I think the most useful vote the committee could record would be one in favour of a duty of 15 per cent, all round on machinery, unless there be some special case wherein it is shown that the machinery cannot be made within the Commonwealth. But, so far as I can gather, a great deal’ of machinery is going to be made in Australia ; stud under the circumstances, a duty of 15 per cent., which is the duty we fixed on agricultural machinery, is not exceptionally high. We have since re-assembling, been debating at great length what the duties are to be, and we have had from fifteen to twenty divisions, but it appears to me that we arenot one iota nearer completing the Tariff than we were this day week, and it is time there was some finality. The honorable member for Barrier said he had gone very carefully into this matter, and, having received promises from the Minister for Trade and Customs, he thought a definite under-, standing had been come to as to what the Tariff should be. Desiring to get some idea as to what we are likely to arrive at, I asked the honorable member what the understanding was, and he replied - “ If we fix on a duty of 20 per cent., the Government will decide, when proposals are made to introduce certain machinery, whether or not that machinery can be made here.” Fancy leaving such a question as that to the decision of any Government ! We should be in a constant state of argument with manufacturers in regard to every item of machinery ic was proposed to introduce. I pointed this out to a friend of mine in Sydney the other day, who had expressed much anxiety as to the Tariff on machinery, because he and others who desired to import, were in a state of uncertainty as to what to do. I told him that I had voted for a. duty of 1 5 per cent, on mining, machinery, as well as on agricultural machinery, and I went so far as to say that I should like to see machinery which could not be made here, under reasonable conditions placed on the free list-. That gentleman wrote me a letter to-day, in which he states that about fif teen months ago he was instrumental in forming the Federal Coke Company Limited, at Wollongong, with a capital of £13,000, and that the works were designed after a principle used in America and Wales. The letter goes on to say that in order to carry out this design, it was necessary to get a coke ram and pusher -
– The honorable member is perhaps not clearly aware that the question now before the Chair is that of rails and fishplates.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Gwydir was brought under my notice by the honorable member for Illawarra.
– I apologize for having got away from the question in my anxiety to bring this matter before the committee. I am glad, however, that inadvertently I have been allowed to get so far, because I hope now to- have some inti.mation as to what the real position is. As to rails and- fishplates, I understand there is an agreement between this Government and the States by which we are bound to allow such articles to come in free, if they are the property of a State Government.
– There is no Customs arrangement. There is a proposal at the end of the Tariff that goods imported for the use of the States Governments shall come in free. That, however, is a matter for consideration.
– I was rather struck by the speech of the honorable member for Parkes, and I desire to see the Federal Government act on distinct lines in their relations with the different States.
– The matter will be considered in the final free classification.
– It is evident that the States are trying to get as much as they possibly can from the Federal Government.
– That is their desire.
– Any service we get from the States we shall have to pay for ; and although we may be divided bn fiscal questions, we as a Parliament, should work together and not ‘lose sight of the fact that we must have a certain amount of revenue. If Queensland or any other State likes to negotiate with syndicates for the construction of railways, and to undertake, under the agreement with the Commonwealth Government, to get the rails in free of duty, it will not matter what Tariff we arrange. That being the case, it is the duty of this Parliament to protect the Treasury as much as possible. Personally, I see no reason why we should be parties to any agreement that happens to be made between a State Legislature and large contractors in that particular State. At the present time I feel that we are somewhat in a maze. I should like to see an understanding arrived at between the Opposition and the Government as to the sources from which we are to derive our revenue. I know that the honorable member for Robertson was elected as a revenue tariffist, but I have never yet seen him vote for the raising of revenue in any shape or form. Other members of the Opposition have acted similarly, although the leader of that party when speaking in Sydney claimed that he could raise all the money required for the purposes of governmentsome £8,500,000 or £9,000,000 - by adopting two rates of duty only, namely, 7£ per cent, and 15 per cent. To my mind, however, if members of the Opposition had their way, we should not receive more than £3,000,000 annually, because apart from stimulants and narcotics, I have never seen them vote in favour of any revenue duties. Indeed, they are not revenue tariffists at all. In reality they are single taxers. How they would raise £8,500,000 by pursuing the course of action which they have hitherto followed is to me inexplicable. I appeal to honorable members opposite to recall their hustings pledges and to remember that they have some share of responsibility.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - There may be something in what the honorable member for Gwydir has said, but if so, both sides of the House are culpable. The Government have placed the Opposition in such a position that its members do not know what course they ought to follow in regard to some of the items. A decision as to the duty to be imposed upon tea has been deferred, and as a result honorable members are in doubt as to what duties should be imposed upon machinery. So far as the duty upon rails is concerned, I should be willing to vote for 10 per cent, or 15 per cent., but I would point out that less than half-an-hour ago the Government themselves proposed to admit this particular, article free. So far as the Opposition are concerned, they have all along been under the great responsibility of seeing how revenue is to be obtained, and I believe that in connexion with many of the items, the ultimate effect of the reduction of the duties will be to increase rather than to decrease the revenue. With regard to, this particular item, I cannot see the slightest reason in the world why it should be allowed to pass as free, seeing - to use the argument of the other side - that these are industries which exist, and that, in the light of the Maitland speech, we were promised revenue, with incidental protection. Though I should be the last’ in the world to advocate protection, we need revenue, and a certain amount of revenue can be obtained from this item, and a very large amount, if it is ultimately decided to tax State importations. For these reasons, from whatever side of the committee the proposal comes, I am prepared to vote for a duty of 10 per cent, upon this item.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Gwydir made a long speech in which he was good enough to refer to rae as one who had not voted in favour of a revenue Tariff. In that the honorable member was quite wrong, because the right honorable the Treasurer has repeatedly twitted me for having voted for a duty of 20 per cent.
– Yes; but the honorable member voted that the articles should be admitted free, first of all.
– I have always voted first that they should be admitted free. I would like to say to the honorable member for Gwydir that I went on the hustings as a revenue tariffist, and I told my constituents that from stimulants and narcotics there should be a revenue of something like £4,000,000; that we should have a free list of something like £6,000,000 ; and that on the balance, by a duty of not more than 15 per cent., we could raise all the money required for Commonwealth purposes. That is the policy upon which the free-traders went before their constituents. I have voted upon every opportunity for placing articles upon the free list that should be on the free list.
– How often has the honorable member voted to reduce duties from 15 per cent, to 10 per cent.
– I have voted with my party, and the honorable member will find me one of the strongest party men. As soon as honorable members opposite are tired of governing the country, and place the leader of the Opposition in power, they will find that I shall support that right honorable gentleman in a policy that will be revenue-producing, and that will be far more beneficial to the Commonwealth than the Tariff submitted by the present Government.
– The honorable member supports his party, and not his pledges.
– I support my pledges because my party’s pledges were the same, and were before the country when I was stumping my constituency. I claim to be as consistent in my votes as any member of the committee. I am thoroughly in favour of free-trade, and would go very much further in that direction than my party propose to go, if I were a leader, and would throw upon the States the responsibility of making good any shortage that might result, according to the estimates which have been repeatedly brought before us I am a free-trader, and make no attempt to hide the fact. I thoroughly believe in free-trade, and will vote for it on every opportunity.
– And the honorable member represents a country constituency.
– As the right honorable gentleman says, I represent a country constituency and a neighbouring constituency to Gwydir. My constituents approve of every vote I have given in this House, and if honorable members will read the papers circulating in my district they will see that I am regarded as a white headed boy. If Ministers will look into the matter they will find that only two of the six States represented in the Commonwealth imposed a duty upon these articles ; 25 per cent, in one case, and 10 per cent, in the other. It would not be reasonable on the part of the committee to impose a duty of more than 10 per cent, on this particular line of goods, because in four States out of the six these articles have hitherto been absolutely free.
– I cannot for the life of me understand why men who recognise that the national policy of Australia is protection can cavil at such a moderate duty as 15 per cent, upon articles which are now being made in this country. Personally, I have been strongly opposed to revenue duties. I believe with Henry George that we want a Tariff to protect, or we want no Tariff at all. This 15 per cent, proposed on such articles as are mentioned here - rails, fish plates,- tie plates, switches, points, crossings and intersections - is an absurdly small protection, because these industries are in existence and are able to do all we require. I think that it is gross inconsistency on the part of the States, and especially of States which profess to believe in the principle of protection, to ask to have material of this kind brought in free. Look at the gigantic workshops which have been established under the policy of protection in Victoria. When we in Victoria were constructing railways we borrowed the money from home, we got all the raw material, fittings, and rolling stock and other requisites for the making of the railway from home, and all we had to do was to put them down and pay interest. We did not make a bolt, a bar, a rail, a switch, or a point. I say that for a State or country which believes in protection to adopt a policy which gives the foreign trader the advantage in connexion with material which we 1 largely use, and which we can make ourselves, is gross and flagrant inconsistency. In regard to iron working, when we - look back to the history of the old country, to the early thirties, we find that there was great railway construction going on, and the iron ship-building trade was then in its infancy. Scotland started these works and foundries when there was protection, and took full advantage of it, and during the ten or twenty years preceding the advent of free-trade in the old country the greatest industrial activity existed and the most marvellous progress was made. The old country is now living on the impetus which manufacturing received at that period. Australia is in a far better position now than Scotland was then to establish an extensive iron industry. We have any amount of iron in this country, and we have any number of’ skilled workmen.
– Why does Victoria send to Germany for springs ?
– Wo do not send to Germany for springs ; the Germans send them to us, and we are fools enough to let them in. That is the difference.
– Why does a Victorian protectionist Government send for them 1
– We can make them here, as well as all kinds of ironwork. The descendants of Tubal Cain are not an extinct species. We have ironworks here which can manufacture anything. We have recently placed our honorable friends, the free-traders, in a cul-de-sac, so to speak, out of which they cannot escape. We challenged them, while dealing with mining machinery, to tell us of any machines which cannot be made here, and said that we were prepared - that even the most thorough-going protectionist was prepared - to let them in free. We may apply that challenge to all things. The free-traders come down now, and say that they cannot name anything which we are unable to make, but they plead - “ Please let them all in free, lest by any chance there should be something which cannot be made here.”
– Fire-engines cannot be made here.
– We can make those.
– I would refer the honorable member to the item before the Chair, which is “rails, fish-plates.”
– I was drawn aside, I am sorry to say, by the interjections of the honorable member. Beyond all doubt I am prepared on every occasion to vote against a revenue Tariff, and -I am prepared also to stand up for a protectionist duty. This I maintain is a protectionist duty. It is a very -moderate one, but still amply sufficient for the needs of the industry here ; and if we are going to have a protectionist Tariff, it is certainly high time that we made a stand, and stood up for the workmen in these branches of industry. They are in a state even more deplorable than that of the workers in Ireland. The industrial world is in such a condition of unrest - the manufacturers not knowing what the Tariff is going to be - that many men are refusing to employ their hands, and it is impossible to get men on to these works. It is high time that the manufacturing portion of Australia made it perfectly plain that they mean to stand by those privileges which they have enjoyed hitherto in this State. The workmen can see, and it must be patent to all, that, unless they have some protection against the sweated cheap slave labour of the foreign world, we must cease to manufacture many of the things which hitherto we have been enabled to make for our own people. These articles are much in demand. The day may come when the railways of this continent will be taken over by the Commonwealth Parliament, and I suppose every ardent federalist looks forward to that event. Then we shall be great users of these rails. If we refuse this moderate, reasonable duty of 15 per cent, upon them now, we shall be face to face with the glaring inconsistency of refusing to deal with our own people, even if it were a little cheaper to do so, preferring always the foreign trader. I should like to point out that this proposal for a 15 per cent. duty is somewhat like that which was made under the drag-net policy. We have had to-day a proposal from an out-and-out free-trader that all machinery should be placed under one comprehensive duty of 15 per cent., and that there should be no exemptions. I maintain that that duty would be far too high in relation to some articles, and far too low in regard to others. It would be far too high as a revenue duty on any part of machinery which is indispensable to the manufacturing industry, and it would be far too low for those things which we can with great facility I manufacture here. It is high time that wo made a stand for this moderate proposal. It seems to me that the more moderate we become in our proposals to those who stand at the opposite extreme, and demand free-trade on every occasion, the less likely are we to carry those proposals. This j.s an extremely moderate duty. I can understand revenue Tariftists cavilling at some things, but I cannot understand - and I am sure .the country will fail to see why - revenue Tariftists have cavilled at u moderate duty of 15 per cent, on such things as these which can be made here, and the manufacture of which forms a considerable part of the industries of Australia. I sincerely hope that the proposal will be carried without any diminution, not as a revenue duty, but as a protectionist duty, for such it is, save that it might be higher. Certainly it could not be lower.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - It is quite refreshing to see how thoroughly the honorable member for Southern Melbourne has responded to the slight castigation that he received last week. On this item of iron rails he has vindicated his orthodoxy by a brilliant and rapid review of all the protectionist features of the whole fiscal question during the last 100 years. The honorable member has spoken of the manufacture of iron rails as a great Australian industry. I guarantee that he could not have mentioned one single spot where iron rails are produced if he had not happened to know Mr. Sandford’s works at Lithgow. It shows how loosely honorable members talk of great national industries. The honorable member calls upon free-traders to vote for what he himself calls a protective duty. That is rather a cool thing to do. He must not think that we can imitate his example so easily. We are face to face with the extraordinary fact that the only man in Australia who manufactures iron rails, and who has done so for years, has expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied with a 10 per cent., duty. I wish that fact to be impressed upon the minds of the public, as well as on the minds of honorable members.
– We make these rails in Victoria.
– The honorable member might mention one place in Victoria where they are made.
– How many are there in New South Wales?
– There- is an attempt to escape! The honorable member does not know one single place in Victoria where these rails are made.
– I am assured that they are made in Victoria, but I cannot say where.
– It must be a mammoth industry if the honorable member cannot tell us off his own bat where, these rails are made in Victoria. However, for once during the course of this somewhat tedious Tariff struggle we have had a manufacturer sitting outside the ring of this House, actually announcing his willingness to take a lower protection than the Government are determined to force upon him.’ That manufacturer ought to be exhibited. He is the first of the kind of whom I have ever heard.
– He is afraid of competition.
– I wonder why the Victorian manufacturers clamour for 50 per cent, duties ? Why are they not afraid of competition ?
– Who says they ‘clamour for 50 per cent, duties ?
– On hats and caps,, and boots and shoes, to which it would not be in order to refer at any length at this stage, demands have been made for duties ranging up to 100 per cent. There has teen no question about fear of competition in regard to them. Honorable members who make these demands are a -wonderful tribe. I would prefer to see this item free, but the honorable member for Parramatta has moved that the duty be 10 per cent., which seems to me to be; at any rate, a fair thing. It may have the advantage of being both a revenue and, incidentally, a protective duty. I admit that it is not a matter of great importance whether the rails used by the State Governments pay duty or not.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has stated that a duty of less than 15 per cent, would be of no use, and that it was absurd to impose a duty of 10 per cent, in order to give protection. I would point out, however, that in the next division, he himself proposes a duty of only 10 per cent, upon iron and steel,- bar, rod, angle, tee, sheet, and plate iron. I should like him to give the committee a reason for this difference.
– Is there not to be a bonus in addition to the duty?
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). It is very amusing to hear the Victorian protectionists answering to the call of the Age. The speeches which some of them have made tonight remind me of the old times when I was fighting in South Africa, and the cry was - “ Rally, boys, rally.” For the information of Victorians, I should like to point out that rails have been made at the Victorian Iron Rolling Mills and at Forman’s South Melbourne Mills, in the electorate of the honorable member for Southern Melbourne. Rails are also made in New South Wales at the Eskbank works, where 250 tons were manufactured last year, and at Brown and Brown’s mills at Pyrmont. I think that some protection should be given to this industry, but I believe with the leader of the Opposition, that a fair thing is enough, and that if the manufacturers are satisfied with a duty of 10 per cent., that is all they should have. If the man to whom the leader of the Opposition referred was a Victorian he would not have been satisfied with 50 per cent. I think that Victorians should put their own house in order before they condemn their neighbours. But I find that under the present Minister, Mr. Trenwith - whom I always looked upon as the champion protectionist of Victoria - the Victorian Government are getting . their railway supplies, not from Commonwealth manufacturers, but from other parts of the world. They buy in the cheapest market, but the Victorian representatives want us, who have to sell our products in themarkets of the world, to spend our money in the Commonwealth, so that they may fleece us. Everything we eat, drink, wear, and use in Western Queensland is taxed. I should like to see them consistent.
– The Victorian Government have no control over the Railways Commissioner.
– We have some control over our Railways Commissioner. He would not send to Germany for anything we could make in Queensland. If the manufacturers of rails are satisfied with a duty of 10 per cent., I do not see why the Government should make them a present of a higher duty.
– They are giving away the money of the people,not their own money.
– No doubt if the Opposition were inpower we should have complaints to make against them, too. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has spoken against the New South Wales system of building up industries, but I wish that in Victoria they had done as wellin that matter. We should not then have had the battling to do which we have had. To draw a. concession of a few per cent, out of the Government is like drawing a tooth out of an old man of 60 - you cannot find the stumps. This item will bring in a certain amount of revenue. As the honorable and learned member for Parkes said, there is a certain section in the Chamber that is always opposed to syndicates. I am opposed to syndicates or monopolies all the time, and if I get a chance to have a dig at them I shall, free-trade or protection. I see a chance of having a go at syndicates now, and that is the reason why I intend to vote for this duty. For the next 50 years the Queensland Governmenthas given the syndicates a present of all the material they require for telegraph and telephone lines and for railways, duty free. The only chance we have of getting at them is to make them pay a fair percentage on their material, and I shall vote for the imposition of a duty on rails.
– The honorable member for Flinders asks why we propose to have a duty of 15 per cent, on rails, whilst as regards a similar item under division 6a, there is a provision for a 10 per cent. duty. Honorable members know perfectly well that protectionists generally differentiate between the raw material and the manufactured article. We are dealing here, not with the raw material, but with the manufactured article, and we propose a duty of 15 per cent. In division 6a we are dealing with the raw material, and there we impose a duty of 10 per cent., but on the manufactured articles we propose a 15 per cent, duty. So I venture to put it to honorable members that applying the very principle which generally regulates protectionist proceedings in making the difference, we are only doing that which is absolutely necessary in giving a 5 per cent, difference between the raw material and the manufactured article. What is attempted on the other side is to tax the raw material and the manufactured article at the same rate, which is utterly indefensible. The thing has only to be mentioned,I am sure, to enable honorable members to see the fallacy of it.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I wish to point out to the Minister for Trade and Customs that he arrives at a fallacious conclusion, by supposing that we are guided by the same principles as he is. From his own point of view it seems an extraordinary thing that there should be a difference of only 5 per cent, between the duty on the raw material, out of which a man here has to make the finished article, and the duty on the imported finished article. Instead of his remarks being at all happy they are most unhappy, because he directs the attention of the committee to this fact, that whilst he proposes a duty of only 15 per cent, on finished rails, he intends to put a duty on the user of the raw material, pigiron. Will any one say that a difference of only 5 per cent, will be enough to help the colonial producer of iron rails against the importer of iron rails ? In this Tariff there are a number of instances where there has been a singular disproportion which has excited a great deal of dissatisfaction, I believe, amongst the manufacturers. There are a number of duties on the raw materials they use, which practically make the duties on the finished article of no good to them, and of no good probably to any one else. Here is a flagrant instance of the same fault, but I understand that the Ministry have withdrawn division 6a for the present.
– I understood so ; but since it is not withdrawn, that only points more strongly to the remark I have made. My right honorable friend’s complacency in referring to the admirable adjustment which has been made between the maker here and the importer shows that the thing has not been studied at all, because the slightest study of it from a protectionist point of view would demonstrate that to put 10 per cent, on pig iron, and only 15 per cent on the imported finished article, is, if there is anything in protection, altogether absurd.
Question - That the words “ 15 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 10 per cent.” be inserted after the words “ rails, fish-plates “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Rolled iron or steel beams, channels, joists, girders, columns, trough and bridge iron or steel, not drilledor further manufactured ; shafting, cold rolled, turned, or planished ; also bolts and nuts and barbed wire, ad aalorem, 20 per cent.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) put -
That the words “20 per cent., and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 15 per cent.,” be inserted after the word “ columns.”
The committee divided.
Majority … …. 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– We propose to accept the decision of the committee, and to make the duty 15 per cent, on the other articles mentioned in the item, down to “shafting, cold, rolled, turned, or planished.”
– Under this heading a good many items, which employ a large amount of labour, have been left Out, although they are, in my opinion, entitled to the same consideration as those which are included. I should, therefore, like to include after the words “ iron or steel “ the following articles : - “ Angle, tee, in all sections ; also, rolled iron or steel in bar, rod, sheet, plate, and hoop.”
– If a duty is placed on these articles they will have to be removed from the operation of the bonus. There cannot be both a duty and a bonus on the same article.
– What I desire to do is to give the industries I have indicated the same protection as is given to others. We understand that the nextsection will not come into force for two or three years, and, if so, it would be unfair not to have some such amendment as I have indicated.
– The bonus will come into operation as soon as it is passed, but protection will not operate until the industries are established, which will probably take two or three years.
– What about industries already established?
– If they are already established I do not see that a bonus is required.
– Do I understand that industries at present in existence are to be assisted by the State with an additional bonus ?
– That is the interpretation of what the Treasurer has stated to the committee.
– We do not understand these industries to be established so far as our information goes ; otherwise we should not propose to give a bonus to establish them.
– At the present time thearticles which I have mentioned are being made to a large extent within the Commonwealth, not from native ores, but from scrap-iron and imported pig-iron, which, I suppose, are combined.
– These are the raw material of the manufacturers.
– But they are manufactured articles. When a sheet of iron is rolled out, it surely has reached a fair stage of manufacture, and it employs a lot of labour.
– The desire of the Government in giving a bonus is to encourage the iron industry. At the same time we know that iron plays a very leading part in many of our manufactures, and therefore it would not be wise to impose a duty upon it, unless we are thoroughly satisfied that it can be manufactured locally. Our object in offering a bonus is to assist in the establishment of the industry. When once it has been established, we consider that it ought to be placed upon the same footing as any other industry. If the articles mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle are being made locally at the present time, a bonus is not required for the encouragement of the industry. Of course, it is impossible to give the industry the benefit of a protective duty in addition to a bonus. The better plan is, to grant the bonus until we are thoroughly satisfied that these articles can be locally manufactured in sufficient quantities so as to avoid putting a tax upon those who have to use them in connexion with other industries. When once we are convinced that they can be manufactured here, we shall have no objection to allowing the duty of 10 per cent, to come into operation. If we find that these articles are not being locally manufactured, we shall not continue paying the bonus longer than is necessary. I, therefore, ask the honorable member for Newcastle not to press his amendment.
– I would point out to the committee that at the present time rolled iron is being manufactured at Lithgow in New South Wales.
– It is also being made in Victoria from scrap iron.
– Not to any great extent, but at Lithgow there are from 150 to 200 men engaged in the manufacture of this particular iron. They take the scrap iron as the basis of the manufacture of - the rolled iron. The proposal of the Government in connexion with the granting of a bonus, is to encourage the production of pig-iron from the native ores of the States. I know that at Lithgow old rails are purchased from the Government, and that these form the material which is melted, rerolled, and made into the iron mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle.
– I do not think it would be wise to complicate matters by introducing the amendment which has been suggested at the present stage. I would, therefore, urge the honorable member for Newcastle to endeavour to gain his object by moving his proposal in the form of a separate item. As regards the granting of a bonus, I desire to see a great deal of discussion before that proposal is allowed to pass. I am altogether opposed to it unless under conditions which are very clearly defined, and unless we are to receive a quid pro quo. The effect of granting a bonus, if the Canadian system is to be followed, will be that we shall pay for the works about one and a half times over, and shall then have neither the money nor the works. I do not wish to discuss the matter at the present stage. I merely desire to point out that it is not wise to. calculate too much upon the granting of a bonus until we see what is the temper of the committee after full discussion. I agree with’ the honorable member for Newcastle as to the desirability of giving some little consideration to industries such as that which has been established at Lithgow. I believe that about 20,000 tons of this class of iron is annually turned out in the Commonwealth, and even from a revenue stand-point, therefore, I think that a 15 per cent, duty would be a fair thing. I therefore move -
That the words “ 20 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 15 per cent.,” be inserted after the word “ planished.”
– I understand that “ trough and bridge iron or steel, not drilled or further manufactured “ comprises iron which is simply in a semiprepared state, the same as are the articles which I wish to have inserted. If the former are to be charged duty at the rate of 20 per cent, it will be an inconsistency to afterwards tax the articles which I have mentioned at 10 per cent. I desire to insert after the word “ steel “ the words - “Angle, tee, in all sections, also rolled iron or steel in bar, rod, sheet, plate, or hoop.” I may say that the information I have is absolute that at the present time from 18,000 tons to 20,000 tons of these materials are made in Australia.
– I would ask the honorable member not to complicate this question, but to put his amendment separately, because this bar iron is used by different classes of people altogether.
– The honorable member can move the words he refers to as a new item after this item is dealt with, and I would suggest that he should add the words - “not drilled or further manu1factured.”
– It seems’ to me that in dealing with this Tariff it would be most misleading to bring this division VIa into the question, because it is a matter of uncertainty whether it will evercome into operation. It can only come into operation if we manage to establish ironworks for the treatment of iron ores.
– There’ is no doubt we. shall be able to do that.
– I used to think so, but we tried in New South Wales for several years unsuccessfully to give the thing a start. It will be one of the most difficult things we can think of to establish, as honorable members will find when they come to deal with the practical phases of it. I have had a number of positive assurances of the practicability of the thing, but when the sticking point came they vanished into thin air. We must not treat this Tariff on a supposititiousbasis, such as the possibility of DivisionVIa coming into force. I do not think Victorian manufacturers will be satisfied with a basis of that sort for their protection. Since protectionists are having so much to do with the framing of this Tariff; I am glad to see that the New South Wales protectionists are looking after these matters, and it is really time that New South Wales industries were looked at as carefully as any others. It is really a remarkable thing that these articles, which have been referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle as being largely made in New South Wales, should have been left out of this Tariff. They are obviously important, and represent recognised articles of Australian manufacture. We do not expect Ministers to know everything, but their officers should know something about these things.
– We cannot get everything.
– I admit that, but I think that pretty well everything Victorian is in this Tariff. Of course there is some advantage in the Parliament sitting here, where it is more convenient of access, and information can be got more easily. I hope that the Government have some specialists who advise them in these matters, because the collectors of customs cannot be expected to know all these things. If the matter is to be attended to at all, it should certainly be dealt with in the Tariff, as honorable members will not get any help out of Division VIa.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. WATKINS (Newcastle). - I think this is the proper place in which to propose the amendment I have already referred to, and I move -
That the words, “ Angle, tee, in all sections, also rolled iron or steel in bar, rod, sheet, plate, and hoopiron. 20 percent., and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 10 per cent.,” be inserted after the words “15 per cent.”
– I regret that the honorable member did not place his proposed amendment on the list, sothatwemight have had some opportunity of inquiring into the matter, and thus have been in a position to advise the committee exactly as to what we considered ought to be done. I understand that the honorable member gives us his assurance that these things are being made to a considerable extent within the Commonwealth, and that the honorable member for Parramatta, and I think the right honorable leader of the Opposition, give the same assurance.
– Oh, no; do not take my authority for it. Now that I have heard the items read by the honorable member, I find that some vitally important questions arise upon this.
– I understood honorable members to say that these things are being made within the Commonwealth. Our own proposal was that, as soon as we were satisfied that the industry had been sufficiently established within the Commonwealth, a duty of 10 per cent, should come into operation.
– No. What the right honorable gentleman proposes that the Government should be satisfied of is the manufacture of iron.
– It applies to the whole of these things, and to items that the honorable member for Newcastle has mentioned.
– Some of these things are of the utmost importance to manufacturing industries of all kinds.
– I am quite aware that a number of these items are of the utmost importance to manufacturing industries, and unless they are being made here in considerable quantities, we should be doing an injustice to other iron industries if we made them dutiable. I should be glad if the honorable member for Newcastle could see his way to give us an opportunity of considering the matter. I do not feel at the present time in a position to give the committee advice as to what we think ought to be done. If the honorable member will allow the matter to remain in abeyance until honorable members and the Government have an opportunity of making inquiries, he will assist the Government out of a dilemma, and I shall take care that he shall have another opportunity of making the proposal.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- The policy of the Government, as shown in this Tariff, with its Division TrIA, seems to have been that, -until we had established ironworks in Australia., iron should be admitted free. That was a broad principle, though I do not say it was a consistent one. It. is obvious to every honorable member that iron enters into not only the manufacturing industries, but into all the industries of the Commonwealth, and, until we do make iron in the country, there is a basis upon which both protectionists and free-traders can unite to make that raw material as cheap as possible. There is just the difficulty that complicates the matter, which the honorable member has very fairly brought under our notice, namely, that in one manufactory established in New South Wales they have been making these articles.
– They are made in every State.
– Two iron-mills in Victoria are making them.
– Not to any large extent.
– I am assured that they are.
– If they are being made in New South Wales to any extent that is a very good proof of the wonders which can be accomplished under a free-trade policy.
– With railway concessions.
– Still, the duty proposed is perhaps, after all, the best thing. In spite of railway concessions the industry is, no doubt, a wonderful one, considering that it is planted on the other side of the mountains, 100 miles away from the seaport. The difficulty which comes up over and over again is that there is a national advantage in pursuing a certain course ; but that there are a number of individuals whom people desire to protect. We cannot do both. W e cannot admit the things free for the benefit of all the manufacturing industries, and yet give a protection upon them. Even this artificial policy practically leaves nothing to the protected manufacturer in the end, because he gets protection on the thing he makes, but has to pay artificial prices on 100 articles that he uses. Many of the manufacturers in Sydney put it that way. They say - “ If we could get protection for our own industries, and if nobody who manufactured the things which we require were protected, it would be a good thing for us, but by the time that every one is protected on the material used in producing our article there is nothing left for us.” On this side of the committee we all feel that when protection is going to so many people in Australia it is very hard that we should not get some of it for our own people - men of industry and enterprise, who have established a number of industrial departures. On the other hand, it is very difficult for us to sacrifice our principles even in view of this state of things, and especially serious does it become when the duty will handicap every conceivable industry, whether manufacturing or producing, in Australia. These articles enter into the construction of an inconceivable number of things that are required in the development . of our own industries and manufactures, and in promoting the comfort of our people in their homes. Consequently, there is a great difficulty in the matter, and I should be very glad if it could be put off for a little while in order to give the Government time to consider what can can be done.
Mr. WATKINS (Newcastle).- I have no desire to harass the Government or any honorable member in considering this matter. So far as the complaint is concerned that I failed to give the Government notice of my intention to move this amendment, I can say, like other honorable members, that possibly there are other industries such as this that have not been approached in this matter. It was only when the Tariff came along that these manufacturers found that they had been left out. I do not say that that has been done intentionally, but that is the real position. As to the information that I have supplied, I can only say that I have been informed by men in the business that last year there were from 18,000 to 20,000 tons of this material produced within the Commonwealth. This production was not confined to New South Wales, but portion of it was produced in other States. If I have a clear opportunity to move my- amendment later on, I shall be glad to postpone it, but I wish it to be understood that that opportunity will be given to me before the Tariff is passed. I should like the Minister, if he will, to indicate, by a reference to the schedule, the stage at which my proposal can be reconsidered.
– I am sure the honorable member for Newcastle will not require me to indicate the precise place at which he can take the action mentioned by him, but I promise him that, before the Tariff leaves this House, he shall have an opportunity to move his amendment. As to the suggestion that this matter has not been brought under our notice, either specially or generally, I would say that the importance of the iron industry was naturally forced upon our consideration in the early stages of the preparation of the Tariff. I can asssure the honorable member further that the people of New South Wales, so far as they were concerned in this industry, did not hesitate to place their views before us in the usual way by correspondence.
– This is much too serious a question to be settled in an offhand way. I regret that the honorable member for Newcastle did not fall in with the proposal of the Government, and allow the matter to be dealt with in Division VIa, under which it would be included. It must be remembered that the duties on metal-work under the old Victorian and Queensland Tariffs have been reduced from 35 per cent, to 10 and 15 per cent. In the other States, the duty has been 20 per cent. To put a duty of 10 per cent, on the raw material after this reduction has been made will be to take away the whole of the protection given to metal-workers, and bring on the committee the execration of every metal-worker in this continent. It seems to me that the articles -
Boiled iron, or steel in bar, rod, sheet, plate, and hoop - are really the raw material of all the metal workers, and the practice has been to allow them to come in free. Seeing that the duties on metal-ware have been cut down so low, I think we should be inflicting a great injustice on manufacturers of metal ware if we were to place a duty on these articles. I should like to encourage the industries mentioned by the honorable member, but we will have to encourage them in some other way than by putting a duty on the raw material.
– This is one of those duties which happily indicate the difference between free-traders and protectionists. We free-traders find no difficulty in asserting that these articles should be placed on the free list; but the moment they are manufactured in the Commonwealth protectionists find themselves in a. difficulty. All the machinery manufacturers using these articles say that the placing of a duty on their machinery makes, it very much cheaper to the consumer. Thus, if we place a duty of 10 or 15 per cent, on pig iron, which from their point of view is raw material, although from the point of view of the manufacturer of it, it is a manufactured article, pig iron will be very much cheaper. Therefore every manufacturer of machinery should be very glad to have a duty on pig iron, because it will make the article very much cheaper to him ; that is to say, if the argument put before the committee some little time ago is a true one. Of course if honorable members on the other side humbly confess that they have been in error in the past, and that what they have said is mere talk, we shall be very glad to find that they have “seen the error of their ways and that they are going to repent. I am very glad to see - the first signs of repentance coming frontamongst honorable members sitting behind! the Government, and to hear them declare that although there are manufacturers of: pig-iron in this community it happens to bethe raw material of any number of manufacturers, and that for once they will join hands with the free-traders in seeing that no duty is imposed.
– It is most amusing to hear honorable members on the other side of the committee railing against protection when it does not favorably affect themselves. Many honorable members on theGovernment side have told us repeatedly that protection makes things cheaper. If “ they will only apply that principle to this . industry in New South Wales I am sure?that the iron-workers there will demonstrate its correctness to them in every way, that is if it be correct. They are afraid to tackle it, however, because it happens to relate to an industry outside Victoria. An admission which I was very sorry to hear the Minister make was that he did not know that there was such an industry in New South Wales. We have already heard the admission on the part of theMinister for Trade and Customs that hedid not know that there, was a timberindustry in Queensland otherwise he would! have protected it.
– I did not say that* That is overstating it a bit.
– Now the Treasurer comes forward and says that he did not know there was such an industry as this in New South Wales, otherwise the Government would have protected it.
– We cannot be expected to know all about every industry in every State.
– Then how can individual members be expected to furnish complete lists of the machinery that cannot be manufactured within the Commonwealth? Ministers have all the experts in the various States at their beck and call, and cannot supply the information, and yet they challenge us to give it to them. Honorable members opposite do not know of many of the industries in their own electorate.
– There are three New South Wales Ministers in the Cabinet.
– If they do not know about the industries in their own State, the sooner they are kicked out, so that we may get into office, the better. I have no objection to the amendment, because I think New South Wales should obtain a share of protection together with the other States.
– She should obtain her share of the spoil.
– I can recall a speech delivered by the honorable member for Dalley in the town where these iron works are, in which he stated than when the time came New South Wales would get her share of the spoils of protection, and now that the time has come I want to know whether he. is going to help his State. A great deal of hoop-iron is used in my electorate in securing bales of wool, and to charge a duty of 10 per cent, on it will seriously injure my constituents. At the present time the Government allow hoop-iron to come in free if it is quite plain, but if two holes are punched in it so that it can be fastened with rivets, it is considered a manufactured article, and a duty of 25 per cent, is imposed on it. I should like to know whether the punching of holes in hoop-iron is another Victorian industry. If it is, it is something like the nail industry, in which two men and a boy can supply the requirements of the whole Commonwealth, One boy could punch all the hoop-iron required by the Commonwealth, and the machine would cost about £3 10s. This is another native industry - the hole-punching industry. I shall be prepared to vote for the amendment if the honorable member for Newcastle will exempt hoop-iron.
– I thought the honorable member considered protection a bad thing.
– According to honorable gentlemen opposite, protection makes things cheaper and better, and if the honorable member for Newcastle carried his protectionist theories into effect, he would move for a duty of 25 per cent. In Victoria protection is run mad, and the Minister for Trade and Customs has taken the disease very badly. By the time we have finished with the Tariff, it will be a very different child from the baby which the Minister introduced, and he himself will hardly know it.
– It will have been in committee long enough to have grown up.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I am informed that in the manufacture of the best class of buggies American bolts of a special manufacture are required, and that they are at least four times as expensive as the ordinary English bolt. I think they should be put on the free list.
– The honorable and learned member should ask the committee to deal with them when we are discussing the exemptions.
– I understand that the charge of importing these bolts amounts to 37 per cent., and that the industry here is of exceedingly small importance.
– How would the honorable and learned member define the bolts ? If he calls them simply American bolts, he will, by putting them on the free list, be giving a preference to American manufacturers.
– In my opinion, the best thing to do would be strike out the word “bolts.” I think the difficulty to which the Minister refers could be met by defining the size of the bolts.
– What is the size?
– I am informed that it is under half-an-inch. To test the feeling of the committee as to the duty which ought to be imposed on the whole line, leaving the matter of special exemptions for after consideration, I move -
That after the words “bolts and nuts” the words “20 per cent., and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 10 per cent.” be inserted.
Mr. McCOLL (Echuca). - I believe that there are a great number of bolts and nuts made in the Commonwealth, but the special class, which the honorable and learned member for South Australia has mentioned should come in duty free, are properly described as carriage bolts, 3-8th inch in diameter by 4 inches in length. They are different from the ordinary common bolt and nut in that they have a square thread. An attempt has been made to makethem here, but the local ones are of a very inferior sort. These bolts were specially exempted from duty in the Victorian Tariff. I think that this amendment to make the duty on all bolts and nuts 10 percent, is far too sweeping. There are a number of firms making these articles very well.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I shall strongly support the proposal for a 10 per cent, duty, because there is a good natural protection. Bolts and nuts are used in all sorts of industries in Australia, and I do not think that the proposal of my honorable and learned friend is an unfair one. If there is any special bolt and nut which cannot be made here in any circumstances, it can be placed on the free list.
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).These bolts and nuts are made in Victoria to a very large extent, and are good enough for anything. If honorable members are going to, contend that Australia cannot make bolts and nuts for carriages, what can we do?
– There are some which cannot be made.
– There is not a single specimen which we cannot make. They are all being made here.
– The Victorian Parliament put them on the free list.
– They have been on the free list, and the manufacturers want protection in order to make them in still larger quantities. We have the machinery and the skill, and we can make every kind of bolt and nut required. At any rate the furthest I would urge the committee to go is, if there is any special kind which must be used - I do not know of it and I do not admit it - to put it on the free list. There has been a very substantial reduction of the duty which was formerly imposed, and if honorable members reduce the duty to 10 per. cent, they will do what is decidedly unfair. Even the leader of the
Opposition will admit that 10 per. cent, is only a revenue duty.
– I would not admit anything of the sort.
– The right honorable and learned member has admitted it during the evening.
– Never !
– If 10 per. cent, is not a revenue duty what is ?
– That is what the honorable member must find out.
– I know that it is a revenue duty. I sincerely hope that the committee will pause before it makes the proposed reduction. If the honorable and learned member for South Australia can show me that there is an article which cannot conveniently be made here, and is a requisite for a particular class of manufacture, I shall admit that his proposal is a, reasonable one. Under the Government proposal we are making a reduction to 20 per cent.
– It will still leave 47½- per cent, protection.
– About 12½ per cent, is the natural protection, and the manufacturers have to import to a very large extent the raw material. The natural protection is largely exaggerated, and it becomes less and less as times go on.
– What raw material have they to import ?
– A very large percentage of the raw material is imported. In view of the reduction contained in the proposal of the Government, which is very radical and far-reaching, I would urge that the committee should impose a 20 per cent, duty.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).Surely the committee are not going to knock out every portion of the iron industry ! Nut and bolt making is a crude manufacture. It is. not a complicated work by any means. No special skill is required, and the work is nearly all done by machinery. It would be a pity to bring the duty down to 10 per cent., and to have boats carrying nuts and bolts to these States. I do not think there is very much in the contention of the honorable and learned member for South Australia about American bolts. Square thread bolts could be made here just as easily as the others. I should like to get some more information before I agree to place these special bolts on the free list.
I fail to see anything special about the carriage bolts referred to by the honorable member for Echuca, unless it can be shown that they are made of some special material, and it would be far better to adhere to the Government proposal.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I may inform the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, that tons of nuts and bolts are manufactured in New South Wales, and that the raw material is not imported, but is locally produced. As far as I am aware the manufacturers would be satisfied with a 10 per cent, duty, and I shall therefore support the amendment.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I fail to see any evidence of that unremitting attention which the Ministry claim to have bestowed upon this Tariff, because they have changed their attitude several times in view of knowledge which has come to light during the discussion. When I remember that the Prime Minister at Maitland alleged that so much care, thought, and attention had been bestowed by the Ministers on the Tariff that some of them were seriously ill from overwork, and now observe Ministers varying their proposals as they are doing, I am reminded of a quotation from Phaedrus - Gratis anhelans, multa agendo, nihil agens which means’ that they have, in fact, been “ Out of breath to no purpose ; very busy doing nothing.” I recognise that our industries are placed under a great disability when duties are levied upon such articles as nuts and bolts, which are used in the carriage building and other important industries, and I should, therefore, like to see them admitted free.
– The Government proposal might appeal to those who believe that the mere imposition of a duty makes an article cheaper, but it does not appeal to me. We have in New South Wales extensive works in which nuts and bolts are manufactured from the raw material, which is locally produced, and the manufacturers ask that they should be allowed to share in the benefits of a protective Tariff. If the committee consider that certain industries should be protected, why should the bolt and nut industry be denied the same advantage 1 I cannot understand the position taken up by some of the leading Victorian protectionists, who contend that a duty should be imposed upon certain goods, and then decline to similarly protect another manufactured article because it forms part of the raw material used’ in certain protected industries. I have every sympathy with the gentleman who is carrying on the Esk Bank works. I know, from the conversations I have had with his workmen, that he is one of the few employers who believe in giving labour a fair return for its energies. I wish to see the iron industry encouraged as much as possible, because it is a natural one, and with a little assistance at the initial stages it can be placed upon a basis which will enable it to defy the competition of the outside world. Although the founder of the bolt and nut industry in New South Wales has had considerable difficulties to contend with, he will no doubt be prepared to accept the amendment, which is a reasonable one, in view of the duties which we havealreadyagreed to impose. One of the difficulties in considering the amount of protection to be given is that in protecting one industry to a certain extent, other industries are placed at a disadvantage, as was shown in connexion with the manufacture of agricultural implements. It was stated in a circular that while the manufacturer of a complicated piece of agricultural machinery received protection to the extent of something like 15 percent., a quantity of his raw material was protected up to 25 per cent., and he was thus penalized. These bolts and nuts are the manufactured article of the big iron industry at Lithgow, but they are the raw material of a number of other manufactures. That is the great trouble protectionists have in trying to frame a comprehensive policy - that in protecting one industry they protect the raw material of another just as important to the community. I should prefer to see the whole of these articles free, because they are the very basis of manufacturing. Industries, in my opinion, ought to be established and encouraged in some other direction, but we have got away from that point ; and I trust the reasonable suggestion which has been made by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, will prove acceptable to the committee.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to compromise by accepting a duty of 15 per cent.
– The leader of the Opposition says that he is not in favour of any compromise.
Question - That the words “ 20 per cent., and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 10 per cent.” be inserted after the words “bolts and nuts” - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Majority … … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment by (Mr. O’Malley), put -
That the words “ 20 per cent, and on and after 22nd January, 1902, 15 per cent.” be inserted after the words “ bolts and nuts.”
The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I have a proposal to submit in reference to barbed wire. For a considerable time past the minds of legislators, especially in South Australia, have been very much exercised in endeavouring to determine what are the best methods to adopt for the reclamation of the vast areas of pastoral lands which of late years have gone out of occupation. One of the chief reasons for this abandonment of leases has been the rapid spread of vermin. The rabbits and wild dogs have multiplied to such an extent that hundreds of miles of country which at one time was profitably occupied, thus giving employment to a large number of hands, have become absolutely deserted. Of so much importance do the Government of South Australia consider this matter that they have actually gone to the length of advancing loans to pastoral lessees to enable them to enclose their holdings with verminproof fencing. Those who are familiar with the habits of the wild dog know that he will not jump. Experience has shown that a fence which is from 4 feet to 4ft. 6in. high, which has two barbed wires on top and one at the bottom, and to which is attached 3ft.6in. of wire netting, is one within which pastoralists can keep lambing flocks and obtain good percentages. The advances which have been made in the State which I represent are repayable in twenty annual instalments, and carry interest at the rate of5 per cent. Under the proposal which we are now discussing, the cost of every mile of vermin-proof fencing erected in South Australia will be enhanced by £3 4s. 6d. Having made a special study of the pastoral question, I have no hesitation in saying that the country to which I refer cannot be successfully occupied unless it is enclosed by vermin-proof fencing. No State of the Union has done more in this connexion than has South Australia. So much has been done in this respect that at the present time Ayre’s Peninsula is practically partitioned into 600-mile blocks, and it is by this means that the pastoralists are grappling with this terrible pest. The most successful dog -proof fences are those in which three barbed wires are used in connexion with wire netting. I find that wire netting, which is a much more complicated thing to make, is on the free list, and wire netting is made in New South Wales, whilst this barbed wire, which is made in Victoria, has a duty of 20 per cent, imposed upon it. I have some particulars, taken from a recent report of the inspector of factories in Victoria, showing that thereare engaged in this industry in Melbourne sixteen boys and sixteen men.
– How many?
– I find the statement made on the 3rd November, 1900, that the Age, after canvassing the factories, found that 38 persons were employed in making barbed wire in Victoria. If we speak of the wire industry in Victoria, it will be found that there are something like 70 persons employed, but that includes the manufacture of wire nails, rasps, and other articles. I find that in November of this year the price quoted for American imported barbed wire was £16 10s. per ton for No. 12 gauge, and the price of the colonial-made wire was also £16 10s. It may be argued that, because colonial-made wire is quoted at the same price as imported wire, we have no reason to complain, but I desire to show how we are handicapped in the use of the colonial wire. I have here a sample of No. 12 gauge colonial wire, and I ask any honorable member who knows anything about barbed wire to compare it with the sample I have here of No. 12 gauge imported barbed wire. One of the virtues of barbed wire is the number of barbs upon it, and in that respect the colonial wire signally fails, because it has not as many barbs as the imported wire. That, however, is not its worst feature, because a ton of the colonial barbed wire, which is quoted at the same price as the imported article, does not go so far as the imported wire by 1 mile and 29 chains. When it is remembered that we are erecting, and must continue to erect, not hundreds, but thousands of miles of this class of fencing, it will be seen how important this matter really is, and it affects a large part of New South Wales and Queensland, as well as South Australia. The actual distance which a ton of the imported wire will cover is 6 miles 27 chains, and the actual distance which is covered by a ton of the colonial wire is 5 miles 18 chains, showing a difference of 1 mile 29 chains. Taking the next size, No. 14 gauge, honorable members will find that the difference is 1 mile 39 chains in favour of the imported wire. The difference is brought about because of the clumsy wire used in the colonial-made article. Some honorable members will understand what I mean when I say that the wire used is almost as clumsy as No. 8 wire, or No. 6 plain wire, which was used in older times.
– Where does the honorable member get these statistics?
– From various sources. Some, as to the numbers employed, from Victorian Government reports, and information as to prices from quotations published at different times.
– Yes, but the statistics as to the difference in the distance covered by a ton of wire. Is there any objection to saying who made these calculations ?
– Honorable members have only to look at the samples to account for the difference. I could give the information to the right honorable gentleman privately.
– It would be of great assistance to the committee.
– I got the information and the samples from merchants. The information has been advertised, and I do not know that there is any secret about it. I am prepared to stake my reputation that what I say is correct. I say that the colonial-made barbed wire is almost on a par with No. 8 to No. 6 plain wire. I do not wish to occupy any further time in dealing with the matter. It is a matter of the greatest importance to us, because persons engaged in the pastoral industry in dog-infested portions of the country must have barbed wire. It is of considerably more importance to the Commonwealth that this barbed wire should be admitted free than that there should be some 30-odd men or boys employed in the industry in Victoria, because the average wage paid amounts to only 28s. 3d. per week. I say that it would pay the pastoralists concerned in dog-proof fencing better to build houses for the persons engaged in this industry in Melbourne, and pension them off at £2 per week for their life-time, than to have to pay this duty. I move. -
That after the words “and barbed wire, ad valorem, 20 per cent.,” the words “and on and after 22nd January, 1902, free “ be added.
– The little history which the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, has given us in regard to the efforts of the Government of that State to get rid of the dingoes, may be very interesting, but it is not very apropos of the point under discussion.
– Is it not ?
– It is not, for the reason that the question before the committee is whether it is more advantageous for the consumer to have this wire made in the Commonwealth, or to be able to import it free. I am going to prove, I think, that it is to the advantage of the consumer to have the industry established in Australia, and to keep it in existence. The honorable member made the assertion that barbed wire was £16 per ton. He did not name the State in which that price was ruling. He referred, however, to South Australia. The price of barbed wire is £16 per ton in New South “Wales, £17 in Queensland - it was £17 10s. a ton there a little while ago - and £15 12s. 6d. per ton in Victoria, where it is manufactured. That is to say, it is 7s. 6d. per ton cheaper in this State than in any other State, and it is made in this, and not in any other State.
– Do the prices relate to the same kind of wire ?
– I am quoting the wholesale rates for exactly the same kind of wire. A little more than a month ago barbed wire was £17 10s. a ton in Queensland, but the Victorian manufacturers have been sending their wire into Queensland since then with the result that there is already a reduction of 10s. per ton. If the duty is carried, and the manufacturers are assured that it will remain, they will be prepared at once to lay down machinery sufficient to enable them to supply the needs of the Commonwealth. One manufacturer,, of whom I know, Ls prepared to expend £2,000 on colonially-made machinery as soon as this duty is fixed, and he calculates that this will enable him to manufacture an output sufficient to supply the requirements of at least two of the States. There are at present five manufacturers of barbed wire’ in Victoria. If they all increase their output in the same way it is clear that in a very short space of time the whole of the Commonwealth can be supplied by local manufacturers. I am inclined to think that the probability is that they will begin the manufacture of barbed wire in each State. One of the Victorian firms to which I have referred contemplates starting in South Australia, at any rate, for the reason that the Government there have by their legislation induced such an enormous consumption of barbed wire that it would probably pay the company better to establish its manufactory in South Australia rather than to send the wire there from Victoria. However, I make the assertion that in all the other States the price of barbed wire to-day is greater than it is in Victoria, and that the Victorian price is 7s. 6d. per ton lower than the next best price in the Commonwealth. That is due to the fact that the article is made here, and not in the other States, and because the manufacturer comes into competition more closely and more keenly here with the importer than he does in the other States.
– Is it to reduce the price that the honorable member desires to put on this duty?
– -As to the price of the wire prior to the duty, it will be found on consulting price lists that in Victoria, where there was a duty of £3 per ton, and in New
South Wales, where barbed wire came in free, there was practically no difference in the price ; that as a matter of fact the price in Victoria was .not increased because of the duty, but, that with the discounts, it was a little less than the price demanded in free-trade New South Wales. This can be proved by reference to price lists issued by firms who deal in this commodity. I wish to follow one or two of the statements made by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. In the first place, I should like to say, in regard to his exhibits of wire, that while I do not wish to doubt his belief, I am very much afraid that he has not been supplied with colonially-made wire. My own view is that the barbed wire which he has exhibited to us was made in Germany, for the reason that he asserts, that . it does not contain so many barbs to the mile as does the imported article. I am prepared to stake my reputation on the statement that there are exactly the same number of barbs in a mile of colo.niallymade barbed wire as there is in a mile of American wire, which is the next best in this market. Further than that, the honorable member asserts that a ton of wire made in the Commonwealth will not cover the same extent of ground as a ton of American wire. The only answer I have to make to that assertion is that if he can prove that it will not, I will vote with him to put this item on the free list. But I want to make this bargain with him, that, if I can prove that the Victorian wire will go further than the American wire, he will vote with me in placing this article on the 20 per cent. list. I am prepared to prove, by any test the honorable member likes to make, that in fencing the Victorian wire will actually go further than the American wire. Then the honorable member made the astounding assertion that this duty means an impost of £3 4s. 6d. per mile. At the very outside computation the impost will not amount to more than lis. 6d. I believe that the exact computation is lis. 4d. per mile. I do not know where the honorable member obtained his figures.
– What is the weight to the mile ?
– I have not got the exact figures, but I can obtain them. Then the honorable member said that the colonial article was rubbishy wire.
– Is that No. 8 gauge?
– No; 12 gaugethe gauge quoted by the honorable member for South Australia. I am in a position to state that the question of quality can also be put to the proof. The very best quality of steel and iron wire is used in the manufacture of this product. The colonial article is equal, and, we think, in some respects superior, to the imported wire.
– And consequently cheaper.
– If the honorable and learned member would not interrupt me I should be a little better able to proceed with my argument. I made the assertion a few minutes ago that because of the competition between the manufacturers in Victoria and the importers, the price of barbed wire in this State was lower than in any other State where there were no manufacturers to compete with the importers.
– Prior to this Tariff the price of the wire was not as low in Victoria as it was in New South Wales. It was £15 10s. per ton in New South Wales.
– It was £16 per ton and £15 10s. per ton in large lots. In Victoria it was £15 13s. 6d., less the percentages, which made it somewhat less, so that as a matter of fact as the result of the competition which the manufacturers set up in Victoria people using barbed wire could obtain it cheaper here than in the free-trade State of New South Wales.
– How far would a ton of Victorian wire go t
– I will give the honorable member the exact difference between the colonial and imported wires presently. In the meantime I make the assertion on the authority of those who are prepared to stand by it that they are ready to put this matter to the test. If it will not go further than the imported wire I am authorized to vote for placing this item on the free list. It is perfectly correct that the number of persons employed in the manufacture of barbed wire is somewhere about 38, but the assertion of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that they get only an average wage of 2Ss. 3d. per week is not correct.
– It is correct, according to the statement of the Inspector of Factories.
– In that statement the wages paid for nail-making are included, and the average rate is given, taking into account the wages paid to boys as well as to men. Skilled nail-makers, however, get from £2 10s. to £4 10s. a week, and barbed-wire makers from £2 8s. to £3 10s. per week. My argument is that the consumer gets a cheaper article by reason of the competition created by the local manufacture, and I challenge the disproof of that statement. According to the Australian Ironmonger the prices of barbed wire in November, 1901, were, for American rnakes, £16 in Sydney, £17 10s. in Melbourne, £18 in Adelaide, and £16 10s. in Brisbane; and, for colonial-made wire, £16 10s. in Melbourne, there being no quotations in the other States. To-day, however, the price in Melbourne is £15 12s. 6d., in Sydney, £16, and in South Australia and Queensland, £17.
-Cooke. - Are the users of barbed wire asking for a duty ?
– The locally made wire is regular rubbish.
– I am sorry that the Victorian farmer who is a large user of this wire is not present. He would be very glad to back up my arguments if he were here. The prices [ have given will be considerably reduced if the present duty is allowed to continue, .and the Victorian manufacturers are enabled to increase their output, and thereby to enter more largely into competition with the importers throughout Australia. If the duty is reduced there will be less competition, and prices will increase.
– This seems to me a duty which cannot be justified. It cannot be justified on the facts submitted by the honorable member for Bourke, and it cannot be justified by the action of tire Ministry in connexion with the manufacture of a similar article in another State. I pay very little attention to stray figures, which are often culled in the interests of those who supply them, for, as every one knows, prices fluctuate in the markets of the different States according to circumstances; but, taking the figures submitted by the honorable member, do they not show that if the duty was removed the wire could easily be quoted at so much less than the figures given ?
– Then, why was not the wire £3 per ton less in New South Wales when there was a duty of £3 per ton in Victoria? °
– As a rule it was ; but there are conditions in every market which, at times, upset the ordinary current prices. How is it that now there is a duty of 20 per cent, there is a difference of only 7s. 6d. between the prices of the locally made and the imported article. Duties are put on to give manufacturers the opportunity to obtain better prices. But what sort of an industry is the local barbed wire industry ? The honorable member says that there are five factories in Victoria, and that they employ about 40 hands. What sort of industry can that be, and what is it 1 Is that wire made here ? No. Is it not simply stopping the article on its progress up country to where it is needed, so that the boys and youths in Melbourne may have an opportunity of inserting the barbs ? Surely an industry of that sort would require a much stronger justification than the honorable member has produced for it ! And if the proposed duty can be justified, will the Ministry explain why, when there was an industry in New South Wales of which they knew, because they had representations about it - a more important industry, which imports the wire, and converts it into wirenetting
– I am going to propose a duty - will the honorable member support it?
– I shall not support it because it is against my principles, but I am right in calling attention to this marked discrepancy, and to the fact that the Ministry, in allowing that industry to be without a duty, do not support the argument of the honorable member for Bourke. How could they do so ? If they believed that it would make the wire-netting cheaper, as he says the duty has made barbed wire cheaper, why is a duty not proposed ? Surely it is not a matter as between State and State - I refuse to believe that.. The Ministry did not propose a duty because they recognised that it would lead to an increase in the price, and that it was undesirable to increase the price of an article such as wire-netting used in the back districts of our States, where vermin is causing serious trouble to the pastoralists and even to the agriculturists, and used under those unfavorable conditions against which the settlers have to struggle all the time. They recognised that they ought to deal leniently with those settlers who are struggling under hard conditions, and that for that reason they should not put a duty on wire-netting. It was not overlooked. Why was it specially exempted if it was _ not done for that very good reason ? That being so, why has a very considerable duty, 20 per cent., been placed on barbed wire, used practically under similar conditions t It cannot be justified.- If there was a justification for that duty there is an infinitely greater justification for a duty in the case of the more difficult process of wire-netting. I believe it is desirable to leave both articles free - to encourage in every way we can that fight with the foes of the agriculturists and the pastoralists, and not try to handicap the settlers in difficult country by imposing duties on either of the articles. I am quite sure that if the Minister will think over the facts which the honorable member for Rourke has laid before the committee, he will not support an industry of this sort, seeing that he has already declined to protect the produce of a much more extensive and difficult industry in another State. In only two States before federation was there a duty levied on barbed-wire. In Victoria and Tasmania, in which latter State barbed- wire is not made, and is of much less importance to the settlers than it is in some parts of our extensive pastoral territory.
– Is barbed wire very important to them ?
– I consider that it is.
– I should like to see a lot of it abolished. I have seen stock cut and knocked about with it.
– We may be assured that the settlers will not use an article of that sort, which costs them more than the ordinary wire, unless they see good reason for so doing.
– They are ceasing to use it.
– That may be, but the honorable member for South Australia has given evidence of the great importance of the article to that State. Will the honorable member for Bland tell me why there should be a duty on barbed wire because it is made in the Commonwealth, and no duty on wire netting, used very much in the same direction, which is much more extensively made in the Commonwealth ?
– It is impossible to do without wire netting in the greater part of New South Wales.
– Consequently it is a much more important industry. Thus the bigger industry is not to be protected to the extent of one penny; but this trifling industry which the honorable member does not think much of, which in five factories can produce only 40 hands, is to be protected by the imposition of a duty on all the barbed wire used throughout Australia. Surely that is indefensible. It is useless to say that it will not affect the price. If they can compete like the wire net makers have done, they can compete without the duty. Has wire netting increased in price because there was no duty t
– If you do not give the industry the duty it will be shut down.
– The honorable member is always a greater authority on other peoples’ industries, no matter what part of the State they are in. I shall vote for both of those articles to go on the free list ; but if one industry gets a duty the other is entitled to it.
– Will the honorable member vote accordingly 1
– No, because I am not responsible for the policy which puts a duty on one article and riot on the other.
– If the industry is entitled to a duty, the honorable member ought not to deny its right to the duty.
– Impressed by the. magnificence of the industry, which can employ 50 men in five factories, the Ministry propose a duty on barbed wire, but they pay no attention to that much greater industry in another State the product of which is used for somewhat similar purposes, which employs a great many more hands and has a vastly greater output. The honorable member for Bourke shows that under a 20 per cent, duty the imported article is being sold at within 7s. 6d. of the price of the Australian production. Does not that show that the price is raised? The Australian production ought to be from £2 10s. to £3 less, but it is only 7s. 6d. less. Where is the difference % It must be an additional price secured to the manufacturer. I shall support the amendment, because I think that if there is one class which we should not hamper with unnecessary charges it is the class which has to fight against the vermin and other difficulties of pastoral and agricultural life in some of our worst country.
House adjourned a? 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 January 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020121_reps_1_7/>.