1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BARTON laid on the table, by command -
A copy ofa despatch from His Majesty’s Minister at Buonos Ayres, to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, respecting immigration into Paraguay from Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following information has been supplied to me.: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
South Wales Post and Telegraph department by the heads of branches ?
– The following information has been supplied to me : - 1 and2. The Postmaster-General is not aware that any special inquiry is being conducted into the Post and Telegraph department in New South Wales.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Inquiries have been made into this matter, but no answer has yet been received. I caused a telegram to be sent at once.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
It cannot be admitted that the officers referred to are under a permanentdisability. As in the case of all civil servants, salaries are reviewed each year, and the salaries of these officers will be considered indue course by the Public Service Commissioner, when appointed. I pointed out yesterday, in answer to the honorable member, that salaries payable to the Commonwealth officers could not be varied according to the fluctuations in similar payments under the Governments of the several States. The task of attaining something like consistency in the salaries paid by a great department extending over the whole continent is difficult enough, without being further complicated by such a consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2 and 3. As the department for lighthouses has not yet been taken over by the Commonwealth, it remains within the jurisdiction of the States, and the Federal Government are not in a position to deal with the matter.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs,upon notice -
– Theanswers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Consideration resumed from 21st January (vide page 9006).
Item 76. Rolled iron or steel beams, channels, joists, girders, columns, trough and bridge iron or steel, not drilled or further manufactured ; shafting, cold rolled, turned, or planished ; also bolts and nuts and barbed wire, ad valorem, 20 per cent.
Upon which Mr. Poynton had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the words “and barbed wire, ad valorem, 20 per cent. “ the words “and on and after 23rd January, 1902, free,” be added.
– The item which we are now being called upon to discuss affords a glaring instance of the fact that the Ministry, in framing the Tariff, were concerned more with the Victorian industries than with other Commonwealth industries. In the division of the spoils, the interests of New South Wales have been altogether neglected, but wherever there has been a Victorian industry to consider, or a Victorian interest to protect, the Minister for Trade and Customs has always been ready to lend himself to the work. To such an extent has this studious regard for Victorian industries, and disregard of New South Wales industries been carried, that we are forced to believe that the Tariff has been framed under the guidance of the
Treasurer and the Attorney-General. The honorable member for Bourke told us last night that in the making of barbed wire in Victoria something like 38 men are empleyed in five factories. The plant used in the industry is composed of imported machinery, imported wire being fed into one machine and traversed by wire of another gauge from another machine. That is the important industry which the consumers of Australia are to be taxed to support. But no regard is paid to a kindred industry in New South Wales for the manufacture of wire netting. As a freetrader I cannot advocate that the public of Australia should be penalized to benefit that industry, but it is only right that the committee should know that Messrs Lysaght Bros., Limited, at their works at Chiswick, on the Parramatta River, pay over £20,000 per annum in wages, and employ upwards of 300 men.
– Will the honorable member support a duty upon wire netting 1
– In the electorate which I represent are produced nearly all the articles which are dealt with in the division which we are now considering and in division VI.a ; but I have not done what some free-traders have done - voted for protection where industries in my own electorate wore concerned, nor as some protectionists have done - voted for free-trade where an article was largely consumed by my constituents. I have remained true to my principles, and have voted consistently for free-trade throughout. Although I knew that the duties even as reduced would give a’ fortune to some of the manufacturers in my district, and be a distinct gain to thousands of employes there, no appeal has been made to the Chamber by me for the taxation of the consumers of the Commonwealth on their account. Surely the New South Wales wire-netting industry, which employs more than 300 men, is at least as important as the Victorian barbed wire industry, which employs only 38 men, and deserves as much consideration.
– But Messrs Lysaght’s factory is in New South Wales.
– Exactly. That is the point I wish tq emphasize. Every consideration is paid to Victorian industries, but when New South Wales industries are mentioned, a lamentable ignorance in regard to them is displayed by Ministers, who tell us that the)’ were not aware of their existence. Whenever it is necessary to call for funds to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth, New South Wales occupies a place in the front rank; but it is a remarkable thing that although there are three representatives from New South Wales in the Ministry, and all are avowed protectionists, no provision has been made in the Tariff for New South Wales industries. The protectionists express a great dislike for German importations, and the greatest competitor of Messrs. Lysaght Brothers in the wire-netting industry is the bounty-fed wire which is imported from Germany. I am prepared to see wire netting placed upon the free list in the general interests of the consumers and of the Commonwealth generally, and the manufacturers of barbed wire, who use imported machinery and wire, should not be selected for special encouragement.
– Perhaps the manufacturer of barbed wire is a good log-roller.
– That interjection reminds me of the remark of the Prime Minister, at Maitland, that whilst the Federal Parliament was sitting in Melbourne, honorable members were surrounded by a provincial atmosphere. The right honorable gentleman was probably referring to the facilities which were afforded to Victorian manufacturers for approaching Members of Parliament, and it certainly appears that whilst the Federal Parliament is sitting here the industries which receive the first consideration, as well ‘as the second and the last, are those carried on in Victoria, whilst industries in the other States are neglected. Messrs. Lysaght Brothers have established their industry on a solid basis, and have carried it on successfully for about six been years without any assistance whatever, and their experience affords the best proof that there is no necessity for protection to enable an .industry to be built up. The honorable member for Bourke stated last evening that if a ton of colonial barbed wire would not go further than a ton of imported wire, he had been authorized to vote against the imposition of a duty. I should like to know who authorized the honorable member, and whom he regarded himself as representing. It seems to me that a very undesirable element is being introduced into federal politics when honorable members think fit to speak in that way, and state that they are authorized to vote in one way or another if certain conditions are not carried out. It might be perfectly right for the State Government of Victoria to do anything it thought desirable to coddle up an industry within its own borders ; but a different complexion is placed upon the matter when the rest of Australia is asked to continue the coddling process at the expense of the Commonwealth. If the barbed - wire industry is to be protected, the wire-netting industry of New South Wales should also receive assistance ; in fact, the wire-netting industry has far greater claims than the other, because of its extent and its value to the community as a whole. I do not hold a brief for Messrs. Lysaght Brothers, but I think it is reasonable to ask that they should receive the same liberal treatment as has been meted out to those engaged in other industries, especially when it is considered that their operations are of such a character that they cannot be very great gainers from the imposition “of the duty. I see no reason why barbed wire should be placed in any position of advantage over wire netting.
– It is unfortunate that we should accuse each other of showing undue preference for industries in our respective States.
– Is it true? That is the point.
– I do not think that any such imputation should be made against the Government or any section of the committee. I am perfectly sure no honorable members here would do anything of the kind. Last night a number of country members, including myself, were prepared to place iron rails on the free list, until a representative of New South Wales showed that the article was being manufactured in New South Wales. We then voted for a 15 per cent, duty, whilst the honorable member from New South Wales, to whom I have referred, voted for only 10 per cent. I am perfectly sure that the claims of any other industry in New South Wales, or any other State would receive the same consideration from the protectionists in the Chamber - at any rate from the Victorian protectionists.
– Was it not remarkable that it was left to a member of the House to unearth the matter?
– I admit that it was remarkable, and it cannot be denied that the information afforded to the committee with reference to the Tariff has been extremely meagre. We must, however, be fair to the Government, because we know they had not time to fully inform themselves upon the details of the Tariff. I think they committed » grave error of judgment in touching the Tariff in the first session of this Parliament, because it was utterly impossible for them to get the whole of the information that was necessary to enable us to deal intelligently with every item brought before- us. “We are to a large extent groping in the dark, and getting information as we go along, but having commenced the consideration of the Tariff we must make the best of the facts we have before us, and finish it. Under ordinary circumstances 20 per cent, is a moderately protective duty, but in this case I regard it as rather high. A coil of barbed wire takes up a great deal more space than one of plain wire, and therefore the cost of carriage on the former is much greater in proportion. Fifteen per cent, duty would represent as great a duty on this article as would 20 per cent, on most other items, and I shall not be prepared to vote for anything beyond that.
– But the duty makes the article cheaper, does it -not 1
– I consider that a duty tends to cheapen an article when an industry has been successfully established, provided that the duty is not high enough to give a monopoly to the manufacturer. The imposition of a duty cheapens the article when there is healthy competition between the importer and the manufacturer. I am prepared on every occasion to give protection to any industry that can be successfully established within the Commonwealth, but not to grant a monopoly. I must take exception to the statements that have been made to the effect that the duty on barbed wire has largely increased the cost of the- article. E know of my own knowledge that the wire has been cheapened ‘ owing to its having been locally manufactured, and in consequence of the competition which has arisen between the manufacturers and the importers.
– Why object to the high duty ?
– I must use my own judgment. I have- stated that I am not in favour of duties that would shut out imports altogether, but I am prepared, and have been- prepared all through,, to-support duties- to the extent of keeping up reasonable competition between the imported and the locally produced article. I am not in favour of abolishing duties and giving a monopoly to the importer, because we know it is more easy to form rings amongst importers than amongst manufacturers, and that a great - many more importers than manufacturers become wealthy. In Tasmania., barbed wire was admitted free of duty, and was sold for 30s. per ton more than was realized in Victoria for the locally produced article ; and in view of this knowledge I would not abolish the duty, and thus once more give the importer a monopoly. On the other hand, I do not believe in imposing a duty high enough to give a monopoly to the manufacturer, and I shall therefore support the imposition of 15 per cent.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable member- for Gippsland has stated that he will not support a duty high enough to give a monopoly to the manufacturers. Last night, in discussing the duty on steel rails, an interjection was made by the honorable member for ‘Laanecoorie that the reason why only a 10 per cent, duty was required was that it would give a monopoly to the manufacturers who were afraid of a high duty, because it would induce competition.
– That is perfectly true.
– The statements made by the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Laanecoorie are utterly inconsistent, and both of them cannot be right. One honorable member says that a high duty produces a monoply, and the other says that it does not.
– No, I did not. I said that a low duty might lead to- monopoly.
– I will leave the honorable members to wriggle off the horns of the dilemma on which they have been placed in the best way they can. Both honorable members cannot be right - one must be wrong.
– Both may be right, to a certain extent.
– I should be much obliged if the honorable member could tell me under what peculiar circumstances both can be right.
– If a duty is high enough to shut out importations altogether, - a monopoly is given to the manufacturer, whereas, if a duty is too low, it gives a monopoly t’o the importer. .
– But the honorable member has said more than once that, as soon as barriers are put up, competition is induced inside, and prices are brought down below those of the imported article. This is a favorite fiscal doctrine which was enunciated by the honorable member for Bourke last night, and it is difficult to harmonize these constantly conflicting statements made every day by Victorian protectionists. First of all, we have an honorable member telling us that we have only to make the duty high enough to shut out importations, in order to create competition among manufacturers here, and bring prices down.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie, amongst others.
– I never said anything of the sort.
– The honorable member practically told us last night, and half-a-dozen times before, that that is the inevitable effect of a protective duty. To-day we have the contrary doctrine that if we put the duty sufficiently high to shut out the imported article, and induce manufactures here, we create a monopoly ; and in that view I agree.
– Is the honorable member f or Parramatta justified in carrying on a general discussion ?
– A general discussion is certainly not in order. A certain amount of latitude - I am afraid rather undue latitude - has been given to honorable members, whom I now ask to confine themselves to the item.
– I am not indulging in a general discussion, but dealing with the subject of barbed wire. I am merely replying to what seemed to me a proper statement by the honorable member for Gippsland, but a statement which in my opinion is in direct conflict with others made from time to time as to the bearing of duties on local manufactures. These contradictory doctrines lead to endless trouble and’ debate, because the conflict between the statements must be pointed out. It is said that the Ministers have not had time to get information regarding the industries within the Commonwealth. But what strikes members of the Opposition is the completeness of the Ministerial information regarding all industries thatare Victorian, and the absolute dearth of information respecting the industries of, say, New South Wales.
– There was plenty of information given regarding the Lithgow industries.
– I am trying to do what the honorable member never does - stand up for his own State. If the honorable member would tell the committee what industries are carried on in New SouthWales, he would do better service to his constituents than by interfering with members who are performing that duty. Last night I tried to furnish the Ministers with some information regarding the manufacture of steel rails, and I am now urging that there are other industries in New South Wales. There are three Ministers from New South Wales in the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister at Maitland the other night said that all the members of the Government were ill from overwork.
– What has this to do with barbed wire?
– We are told that the anomalies in the Tariff, such as the one under discussion, are the result of the ignorance of Ministers regarding industries. Last night the Minister for Trade and Customs proposed to put steel rails on the free list, in sheer ignorance that the manufacture of these rails is carried on in the Commonwealth ; and it is startling to find his colleagues expressing the same ignorance: What were the New South Wales representatives doing when the Tariff was being considered in Cabinet, particularly those whose life-long boast has been that they want to help the industries of the- State, and who at the last election told the people how urgent it was to return Ministers who would look after their interests ?
– The honorable member is certainly not now discussing the item before the committee.
– I submit I should be in order if I were allowed to finish my sentence. There was not a ghost of a show for a free-trader from New South Wales to get into the Cabinet, and we now see this absolute ignorance all along the line on the part of Ministers.
– The honorable member must himself see that he is not now discussing the item. The conduct of
Ministers, or their ignorance or education, is not now before the Chair.
– We are told that the reason for the distinction which has been made between wire netting and barbed wire, is that Ministers were unaware of the existence of the large industry of wire-netting manufacture in New South Wales.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of dealing with wire netting when we arrive at that article.
– I have a right to point out the anomaly that exists in imposing a duty on barbed wire, while wire netting is allowed in free ; and the ignorance referred to must be put down to the three New South Wales Ministers, who presumably sat at the Cabinet table and discussed the Tariff item by item to such an extent that they have made themselves ill from overwork. It is a pity the Ministers from New South Wales did not display a little more sympathy with and knowledge of the industries of that State. Barbed wire is on the same footing, I take it, as wire netting : if one is entitled to a dutv so is the other. In Victoria, 40 men are employed in five factories in making barbed wire ; and if a duty of 20 per cent, is required in that case, and the people of the whole Commonwealth are to be compelled to put their hands into their pockets and subscribe specially to keep those .men going, surely, by a parity of reasoning, a similar contribution, at least, ought to be made to keep going the 300 men engaged in a similar occupation in New South Wales. Yet, strange to say, Federal Ministers, who are not supposed to have regard to particular States, but to sit on a coign of vantage, and look over the whole of the industrial activities of the Commonwealth, have only seen the State of Victoria, and, in connexion with this item, are only aware of the little factories in which 40 men are employed. It is our duty to point out these anomalies ; and it ill becomes honorable members from New South Wales to gird at their co-delegates when the latter are engaged in supplying information which ought to have been abundantly at our disposal through the channel of the responsible Minister specially charged with the framing of the Tariff.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - The honorable member for Parramatta has referred to an interjection which I made last night. The honorable member attributed to me a statement which I have never made - a statement which, although it may be true, was not made by me, either in this House or outside of it - and (I trust that when I have concluded my remarks, he will see fit to withdraw such an unwarrantable accusatio .
– If the honorable member can show me where I have misrepresented him I shall be glad to do so.
– The honorable member put it that I stated last night that the higher the duty upon an article until absolute prohibition is reached, the greater is the competition which results. I said nothing of the sort. The position was that a New South Wales manufacturer had declared that he would be satisfied with a maximum of 10 per cent, from which statement honorable members upon the other side of the chamber proceeded to argue that no need existed for the imposition of a higher duty. Thereupon I pointed out that the manufacturer in question might desire to stifle competition, and if the honorable member for Parramatta is a student of economics - and I believe he is a very careful and earnest student - he will recognise that a duty which is low enough to limit importation may not be sufficient to encourage manufacturers to embark in any particular industry. Thus, it sometimes happens that an advantage is given to those who are already engaged in that industry. That is all I said, and I am prepared to stand by it. The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Gippsland is, to my mind, in perfect accord with that adopted by a very large number of honorable members professing protectionist principles. Just as a low duty may stifle local competition, so a high duty may prevent outside competition. Just as when this House met there was not a single freetrader in it, so at the present time I do not think it contains one prohibitionist. There is not one honorable member who wishes to see such a high duty imposed as will absolutely stifle outside competition. The honorable member for Gippsland is perfectly consistent in desiring that the consumer in the Commonwealth shall not be placed at a disadvantage by the imposition of such a tax as will altogether prevent importations, thus putting him entirely at the mercy of the manufacturer. There is no duty which has been advocated by this side of the House which can be regarded as prohibitive. It is. certainly not my own desire that we should have a complete cessation of importations. The Ministry propose that £8, 500, 000 shall be collected by means of customs and excise duties, and surely this fact evidences their belief that the duties which they propose will not be prohibitive in their incidence. Under these circumstances the- jibes which have from time to time been hurled against honorable members professing moderate views upon this question are utterly undeserved. I very much regret - and I trust that the honorable member for Parramatta will not think that I am lecturing him - to see imported into this Chamber any individual State feeling. I believe that every honorable member represents not merely his own particular State, but the whole of the Commonwealth. I am not going to ascribe, even to the honorable member who calls himself a delegate from New South Wales - and I was sorry to hear him use that word - a State feeling, which it would be discreditable’ for any honorable member of a great national Parliament such as this to entertain. I trust that when we are discussing questions which have a national bearing, we shall lose sight altogether of any State differences that may exist. Although I admit that the position of Victoria as a great manufacturing State may excite more envy than admiration in the other States, it is not a fair thing that its manufacturers should be penalized on that account by the action of honorable members from other States. I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to note the different attitude evinced in this Parliament by the representatives of Victoria. There are representatives of this State upon both sides of the House, and I challenge him to give an instance in which a Victorian supporter of the Government has attempted to belittle the efforts of his fellow representatives who happen to differ from him upon this particular question. I sincerely hope that honorable members will not consider that I am endeavouring to adopt a superior attitude. I speak from a deep conviction that the well-being of the Commonwealth depends very materially upon the attitude adopted by this Parliament, and my only desire is to see all State differences which may exist swept away and utterly obliterated. 26 d
– I listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland with a considerable amount of interest. There is no doubt that there is a very great deal of truth in the statement that “ we have not been able to give to the committee all the information we should like to give upon a variety of subjects. We had not the time at our disposal, and I am sure that honorable members will entirely sympathize with us in the difficult position in which we found ourselves. We had either to postpone the introduction of the Tariff and the establishment of Inter-State free-trade or bike upon ourselves the Herculean task of framing the Tariff as best we could in time for the first session of Parliament in order that InterState free-trade should be brought into operation at the earliest possible moment. We were faced with the difficulty that we could not do all that we should have liked in the way of obtaining information.. But we believed that the right thing to do’ was to attempt it, and I am inclined to think that if we were, placed in the same position again honorable members would say that we ought to take, the same course, and bring in the Tariff.
– It was absolutely necessaryto bring it in.
– I am obliged by thefrank admission of the leader of the Opposition. But I do not hesitate to say, knowing something about the practical work of the preparation of a Tariff, and of a number of machinery Bills, that we were so pressed for time–
– The preparation of the Tariff alone would require the greater part of a recess.
– Why did the Minister ask honorable members for information if he himself could not obtain it ?
– We contribute our; fair share generally. No doubt there are. some honorable members who have a special’ knowledge of certain subjects, and I imagine that they would be only too glad to place, it at the disposal of the Government. We should welcome it, and I believe that from public spirit even the hottest member of the Opposition would be disposed to act similarly. It is not unnatural, under the circumstances, that we were not able to give all the information that we desired. Our proposal last night up’on the subject of rails was not to admit them free for all’ time. Nothing of the sort ! What I said was that we were content to strike out the item here and to include it under Division VIa - which is the portion of the Tariff providing for the granting of a bonus - and after the industry was fully established we were willing that a duty should come into operation upon the issue of a proclamation, and I venture to think there was a good deal to render that course well advised. At the same time, upon balancing the various considerations, we decided to retain the item in the form in which it stood. But the suggestion that we were proposing a course which would have the effect of taking away from a New South Wales industry the support to which it is fairly entitled is altogether unjustified by the facts.
– That was not suggested.
– That is the sting of the allegation.
– The Minister did not know of the existence of the industry.
-I did not know it was established to the extent that it is. Of course the honorable member for Parramatta possessed special knowledge upon the subject, because the industry is located in his district. But even if we had been possessed of that information it would not have been by any means extraordinary to submit a proposal to transfer the item into the division known as VIa. There is one matter to whichI must take the strongest exception. I refer to the suggestion that the Government havenot been so careful of New South Wales industries as they have been of Victorian - that they look at an industry belonging to one particular State in a different way from that in which they look at an industry belonging to another State. That is amonstrous charge, and if it were justified I should not sit here for amoment. If honorable members believe that we are capable of doing anything of that sort, it is their duty to turn us out of office, and to do so at the earliest possible moment.
– If we could.
– Honorable members know very well that, in the opinion of a majority, there is not the slightest foundation for the charge which has been made against us. I could not think so lowly of any honorable member as to suggest that he would favour one State against the fair interests of other States.
– I would not suggest that either.
– I venture to consider that that is the charge brought against us by some of the right honorable member’s supporters.
– We are not blaming the Minister.
– The Government is one.
– That is whywe are blaming the whole of the Government.
– We delight in the corporate responsibility of the Government. What one of its members does, all do, and we stand or fall by it. We want, and will have, no distinctions as regards our Ministerial responsibility. The Government are one.
– The Minister should have added “ and that one is Kingston.”.
– That is exactly what I should not say. I will prove up to the hilt that there is no foundation in fact for the suggestion that in imposing a duty in the case of barbed wire, whilst admitting wire-netting free, we are favouring a Victorian industry. It has been said that the wire-netting industry is purely a New South Wales industry.I will tell honorable members that it is nothing of the sort. The wire-netting industry has been established in Victoria by the very same firm that established it in New South Wales - by the Messrs. Lysaght. It may not be carried on to the same extent.
– It is more of an agency here.
– Nothing of the sort.
– It is alocal branch.
– It is the same industry. It was established in 1900 in view of the imposition of the Federal Tariff. Then a wire-netting factory belonging to a man named Macintosh was established in Richmond, Victoria, 25 years ago. I have here a Catalogue giving the price of locallymade galvanized wire netting for the year 1877.
-Howmany men does that factory employ ?
– I cannot tell the honorable member. When it is suggested that, by not providing for a duty upon wire netting, we are not giving attention to an industry because that industry is established in New South Wales and not in Victoria, the facts show that there is not a tittle of evidence in support of the suggestion. In reply to the assertion that in framing the Tariff we have forgotten the New South Wales industries, I would call attention to the fact that the provisions of Division VIa are devoted to giving the most liberal treatment and encouragement to the greatest of all manufacturing industries - the iron industry - which must be essentially a New South Wales industry, because of the iron and coal supplies there.
– Under what conditions ?
– The honorable member can read the conditions for himself. Special encouragement is there given for the establishment of an industry in New South Wales which is worthy of all encouragement, and which, when established, will be of the greatest advantage to the whole Commonwealth. Before the introduction of the Federal Tariff, Victoria charged a duty of £3 a ton upon imported barbed wire, while New South Wales admitted barbed wirefree, but the price of No. 1 2 gauge barbed wire was then £15 10s. per ton in Sydney, and only £15 13s. 6d. a ton in Melbourne.
– Imported wire cost £17 10s. a ton in Melbourne at that time.
– I do not know what the price of imported wire was in Melbourne then, but the price quoted by the honorable member shows a difference of only £2 a ton between the locally-made Victorian barbed wire and the barbed wire imported into Victoria, which proves that the local manufacturers did not increase their prices by the amount of the duty.
– The locally-manufactured barbed wire does not go so far as the imported article.
– At the present time No. 12 gauge barbed wire costs £16 10s. in New South Wales, while the locallymanufactured barbed wire costs only £15 13s. 6d. in Melbourne. I venture to think that the barbed wire industry has ‘been fairly and properly stimulated in Victoria, with good results to those engaged in its manufacture, and without disadvantage to the consumers, and that that fact affords a justification for the course which we now propose. There is no doubt a difficulty in making a distinction between wire netting and barbed wire, but the Government thought that wire netting was in the nature of a necessary in the povertystricken districts of the interior.
– Why should those districts be considered more than any others?
– We are of opinion that people who are poor are entitled to more consideration than those who are able to pay. I understood that that was a view which the honorable member for Maranoa was always ready to uphold.
– People who can afford to fence theirproperties with wire netting cannot be described as very poor.
– No doubt there is room for a difference of opinion as to the wisdom of our proposal. We are willing, in view of the reduction in the duties upon other articles in the item, to accept a duty of 15 per cent. upon barbed wire; and the imposition of such a duty will strengthen the case for the imposition of a similar duty upon wire-netting. I have explained the reasons which have induced us to propose this duty, and whether they be acceptable to the committee or not, I am sure that no honorable member will give credence to the suggestion that in any proposal we have made in the Tariff we have been influenced by the fact that one State is affected more than another.We believe that we have treated each and all the States with equal fairness, and, as we have acted in the past, we shall continue to act in the future.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs did well to recognise the importance of the issues which are now before us, but I do not think we can let him off upon the copy-book phrase that “just as in the past we have done our best, so in the future we hope to do the same.” I am afraid that we shall have to go a little deeper into the matter than that. Our blame must fall upon the right honorable gentleman, because of the theory of Ministerial responsibility. The right honorable gentleman knew all about the industries of South Australia, and forgot none of them. We remember the battle royal which was fought in regard to the proposed duty on salt - a necessary of life. The Minister knew all about the South Australian industries because he had means of knowing all about them, and he made a proper use of his knowledge. But our chief complaint is that, although three of the Ministers come from New South Wales, and have known of the New South Wales industries for years past, they seem to forget their existence now that New South Wales is exposed to the burdens of this policy, though they pleaded for them in their own State for many years. Sandford’s works are well known to the Minister for Home Affairs.
– It is much more possible that I forgot than that my colleagues forgot to tell me anything that they should have told me.
– If my right honorable friend wishes that statement to be taken to mean that his colleagues told him about Sandford’s works and Lysaght’s works, we are willing to accept it. But in the absence of some such statement, we must judge the Ministry by what we know of their acts. If the New South Wales Ministers pleaded in the Cabinet for these industries, and their appeal was not regarded, a very serious charge lies at the door of the Cabinet. There has been either a neglect of duty on the part of the New South Wales Ministers, or conduct on the part of a well-informed Cabinet which justifies very serious charges being made against it. If the Cabinet knew that the wire-netting industry employed a great number of men in New South Wales, how in the name of common political decency could they, when putting a protective duty upon barbed wire to support a Victorian industry employing only a few hands, refuse to put a protective duty upon wire netting ? The New South Wales wire-netting industry employs 300 hands, and is equal to half-a-dozen or even 30 of some of the Victorian industries which have been fought for by the day. Ministers and members supporting the Government tell us that the imposition of protective duties makes articles cheaper to the consumer ; and then the Minister for Trade and Customs informs us that he has not put a duty upon wire netting because it is used in poverty-stricken districts, where people cannot afford to pay very highly for what they require. New South Wales is asked to bear the burden of taxation, but no attempt is made to give her any of the socalled benefits of this policy of protection. If the wire-netting industry werescar cely known, I should have had nothing to say ; but Messrs. Lysaght’s factory has been in existence within 7 miles of Sydney for a number of years.
– We knew of that factory.
– If the Ministry knew of that factory, and would not give it encouragement and protection, how can they justify themselves before the people of Australia in proposing a duty of 20 per cent, upon barbed wire. The Minister for Trade and Customs made the ad misrecordiam appeal that the Ministry had not time when framing this Tariff to get the necessary information.
– The right honorable member is mixing up rails with barbed wire.
– Where was the necessity for stating that there was no time to get the proper information, in view of the statement now made that the Ministry know all about the wire-netting industry ? Three op four months have elapsed since this Tariff was made known, and during that period the Ministry must have been overwhelmed with information on all subjects. By this time Ministers might be supposed to know something of the large industries with which they were dealing. What is the problem that the Ministry and this committee are trying to solve? The adoption of a policy which will deal fairly with all the industries of Australia. Surely there is an indication of some sort of censurable act when large industries employing hundreds of men are altogether forgotten. How can the sincere protectionists, who have so honestly battled for very small industries, and who are battling now for an industry in which a few men are engaged in placing a little piece of twisted wire in the shape of a tag on miles of imported wire with imported machines - how can these protectionists vote for a 15 per cent, duty for the encouragement of such an industry, and stand by while an enterprise employing 300 hands in New South Wales is left totally destitute of encouragement?
– I have given notice that I intend to move that a duty be placed on barbed wire.
– Here is an extraordinary state of things. Here is an honorable member who certainly has no responsible position in connexion with the Tariff, although he is a gentleman of great importance in the suburbs of- Melbourne, to whom New South Wales has to trust to come forward and do it justice, after three New South Wales Ministers- in the Cabinet have sat at the Cabinet table for the last eight or nine months while the whole of this matter was discussed. The Minister for Trade and Customs has told us that the Cabinet knew about the wire-netting industry, so that the plea of ignorance is withdrawn and a plea of guilty has been substituted, and the Minister for Trade and Customs can only say a few halting words to the effect that the Ministry had some vague idea that wire netting was used by povertystricken people in poverty-stricken districts. As a matter of fact it is used - thousands and thousands of miles of it - by some of the wealthiest corporations in Australia. Not that that is a reason why they should be taxed ; because they are developing some of our industries, under some of the most irksome conditions. Our position in this matter is perfectly clear. We say that in the interests of our great rural industries no duties should be placed upon these articles. The Ministry say that in the name of protection we should put a duty of 20 per cent, on barbed wire, but in the name of what do they put wire netting on the free list ? The Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that he cannot reconcile the absurdity of making a distinction between barbed wire and wire netting. So far as the poverty of the users of wire netting is concerned, do not some of our poorer settlers also use wire netting ? If they do not, are we going to make a distinction between the bank balances of one consumer and another ? Do we not know that some of the men who own the largest estates are infinitely poorer than are the selectors who have only small holdings 1 This last plea of poverty in connexion with wire netting is really very amusing. There was no talk of poverty when the Ministry placed a duty of 150 per cent, on hats and boots and shoes. -
– The honorable member is not in order, nor will any honorable member be in order in making anything more than an incidental reference to wire netting.
– I would suggest that the Minister has referred to every matter upon which I am now speaking, and surely, in my position, I should be entitled to make some sort of reply.
– It is because of the position occupied by the right honorable member that I have given him an opportunity of reply ; but I must ask him nob to pursue the matter further.
– I would remind you, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister roamed over a great deal of ground, and excused the action of the Ministry upon a matter that was not before the committee, and it was because my right honorable friend mentioned the poverty-stricken districts that I am now referring to them. Our position as free-traders is perfectly clear. We are in favour of a moderate Tariff based on revenue principles, but our friends opposite favour a protective Tariff - protective for Victoria, but free- trade so far as the industries of New South Wales are concerned. A private member, whose consistency as a protectionist we all respect, has actually had to come to the rescue of 300 wire-netting workers in New South Wales when the Ministers representing New South Wales, although they brought the matter before the Cabinet, were not strong enough to prevail. We have now to put our trust in the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The men who preached protection in New South Wales for so many years ought; - now that protection has got a chance in Australia - to have remembered New South Wales industries better than they seem to have done, and if they found the Cabinet determined to neglect the big New South Wales industries, they had influence that would have been sufficient to compel the Cabinet to do what was right. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs, and the Vice.President of the Executive Council had only to insist upon having wire netting treated at least as well as barbed wire, and their colleagues would have given way.- We, as free-traders, who do not believe in these duties, are placed in an awkward position when we have to complain that they are not put on for the benefit of our own factories, but the distinction we make is fi perfectly fair one. We say - “ If you will administer this policy of protection, in the name of all that is fair, act fairly by the absent men who have to bear one-third of the taxation of the Commonwealth. If you will have protection, why leave these 300 men employed in the wire-netting factory out of consideration 1 We do not want the duties, but if you will have wire netting free, why not have barbed wire free? What possible consistency is there in taxing one article and leaving the other alone ? Is there any great revenue to be derived from barbed wire?” The Minister has been careful to say that the duty makes no difference in the price, but there are practical men who know the difference between the imported and the locallymanufactured wire, and although I do not wish to speak in favour of the imported article, I believe its superiority is notorious. If the Ministry will put 15 per cent, duty on barbed wire, an equivalent duty should be put on the wire netting for the benefit of the workmen at the Parramatta River works. I shall have to oppose both duties because of my principles, and surely Ministers will not sneer at men because they adhere to their principles, even though they may act contrary to the desires of some people in their own community.
– Either the right honorable gentleman wants the duty, or he does not.
– I do not want the duty. I do not want the right honorable gentleman, but I have to put up with him, and I am sure that I do it with a certain amount of good humour. It makes one indignant to find that men who should be within the range of the protectionist policy of the Government have been altogether neglected. When all these gifts are being showered about it is singular that the shower of fairy benefits should fall so thickly upon one little spot in Australia and so sparsely upon other parts. I have , not previously referred to this matter, but it is one that is attracting attention, and it has reached a point at which it is necessary to speak of it. There is another singular thing in connexion with this wire netting. The moment it was stated that iron rails could be made in this country the Ministry withdrew their proposal to put them on the free list.
– Not on the free list.
– To put them out of the Tariff into Division VIa, which is in the clouds.
– No; to give them a bonus and a duty with it.
– When ?
– If the Minister looks at his own Tariff he will find that it is provided that the bonuses are to be given under some mysterious Act which may never be passed, but that the duties are to come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot discuss that now.
– My right honorable friend has drawn me on to it. I am, however, glad, Mr. Chairman, that you are drawing the line so tightly. What I wish to point out is that the Ministry, knowing that there was a big wire-netting industry in Australia, have treated it differently from any other industry in Australia. The Ministry occupy a singular position. Would they have dared to take up their present position if 300 men had been engaged in the wire-netting industry in Melbourne ? If they had done so all the whips the Age could wield would have been cracked. Because, however, these men are 500 or 600 miles away they are neglected. It was claimed that a duty was necessary to save the workers in the horse-shoe and wirenail industry from being thrown into the streets through the pressure of competition with the pauper labour of Europe ; but I would ask why we should expose the workers in wire netting to the same risk. This is a disgraceful state of things, and it will have to be reckoned with. I should have thought that the Minister for Trade and Customs would at any rate have acted in this as he did in regard to the other matter. The moment he heard that iron rails were manufactured in the Commonwealth, he said, “ Oh ! well, I withdraw ; we must have a duty.” Does the Minister intend to propose a duty on wire netting, now that he knows the industry employs 300 hands in New South Wales? To be consistent he ought to indicate such an intention, but he now tells us that he knew about the industry at the time he placed wire .netting on the free list, and urging that there are some povertystricken districts for the benefit of which this commodity must be admitted free. The honorable member for Gippsland seems to claim a degree of exact science ki this matter of protection that no other honorable member can pretend to’. The honorable member points out that if a duty is too low it may give a colonial manufacture a monopoly.
– No ; I said that if a duty is too high it may give a monopoly.
– I thought that the honorable member adopted the other view also. However, we will take it that the honorable member thinks that if a duty is too high there is danger of monopoly.
– If the duty shuts out imports altogether.
– That is one of the admissions we have been anxious to get from protectionists for many years.
– It is an admission I have made for many years.
– One of the arguments always used in connexion with the policy of protection is that if high duties are imposed, there is immediate clanger of internal rings. The argument of the honorable member condemns the protective policy of the United States that he has praised so highly, and is absolutely fatal to that policy. In America the duties go as high as 150 per cent.; and, in a larger number of lines, are absolutely prohibitive. Where does the honorable member think the danger of monopoly begins ? Does he not think 60 percent, or 50 percent, rather a high fence behind which to work monopolistic designs ? The honorable member has hit the happy medium between the one extreme of the honorable member for Laanecoorie and his own, and favours 15 per cent. If the honorable member, will be consistent as to 15 per cent., we ought to have his assistance on this side.
– In this case I give a reason - namely, that the carriage is so high on account of the great bulk.
– Again, that is a piece of discrimination with which we are delighted, and we hope to have the assistance of the honorable member in fixing 15 per cent, duties on some other occasion. We are told about the monopoly of importers, and I suppose the assertion is about one of the strongest that could be made. If there were 5, 6, or 50 importers of an article in Melbourne who formed a ring, there is not a single’ merchant in Melbourne who could not, unless prevented by the Tariff, bring that ring down. What is the use of talking about any importers’ monopoly in New South Wales? If all the soft-goodsmen in that State attempted to establish a monopoly, with free ports,- any man of brains and capital here or in Germany, the United States, or Great Britain, could come and smash that monopoly.
– The whole of the United States have been trying for nearly twenty years to break down the monopoly in connexion with reapers and binders, and cannot.
– The idea of monopoly existing under absolutely free conditions in a great country, with ports open to the exporters of the whole world, is just as absurd as to suppose that there could be some mysterious sort of close atmosphere in the free air of Heaven.
– What I have stated is a fact in regard to reapers and binders.
– Surely the honorable member knows that a patented article affords the biggest monopoly in the world, because only one man can sell that article. Surely the honorable member does not argue from one monopoly to another. If this . particular reaper and binder could have been made at the sametime by Victorians and by the patenteesin the United States or here, we should have heard none of this extraordinary history. It is absurd to found such an argument on the biggest monopoly of all - the right of one man to make and sell a certain article and prevent every other man from doing so. We free-traders are in this dilemma that, on our principles, we cannot come to the rescue of an industry which is not getting protection. But the position of the protectionists is one we must criticise, and the action of the New South Wales Ministers in allowing their colleagues to put this wire netting on the free list, whilst leaving barbed wire taxable, demands explanation. If the Government had put both articles on the free list, we could not have said a word, the two being so closely intertwined. Just as I believe in placing agricultural machinery on the free list, I believe in dealing with these other articles in precisely the same way, in the interests of our struggling pioneer industries in the interior. I cannot argue for this duty ; but I am entitled to contend that the Government must either take barbed wire off the taxable list or put wire netting on, and in accordance with my principles I shall vote for making both free.
– My excuse for offering a few words on this item is that practically a personal attack has been made on the Prime Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and myself. Remarks have been made by the leader of the Opposition with a view of trying to get distorted facts placed before the public, and telegraphed to the Sydney newspapers.
-What an absurd thing to say !
– That is the object, and will probably be the eftect, of the remarks of the right honorable gentleman, and I cannot allow his statements to pass without laying the true facts before honorable members. The right honorable gentleman should know, and does know in his heart, that I should be the last member of the Cabinet to put an item of this kind on the free list if I had my own way. Does the right honorable member not know that on many occasions, when he was the head of a Cabinet, he had to give way instead of carrying out his own desires ? I could very quickly mention two or three instances, if the right honorable member desired me to do so, when he has had to give way altogether, although he was Prime Minister, and was proposing a Tariff. I have been, perhaps, the main supporter in New South Wales, not only of this industry, but of other industries, and, in Government contracts in that State, I was I think the first Minister to enforce the condition that colonial articles must be used. To that condition must be attributed to some extent the fact that this particular industry, and the iron industry altogether, did not “ go under “ years ago. What did the honorable member for Parramatta, who attacked me, say last night that I did in connexion with the iron industry in the electorate he represents? It is the height of absurdity for honorable members to speak as the honorable member for Parramatta did, and as the leader of the Opposition has done to-day, regarding the protection of industries in New South Wales. The honorable member for Parramatta had not the courage to vote when it came to the test ; and there are honorable members listening to me who know his true sentiments. I told the honorable member before the division that the iron industry at Lithgow was going to be crushed, and that if he wanted to support that industry he had better vote for the duty.
– What has this to do with barbed wire ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta says that it is very improper and unfair to put a duty on barbed wire and not on wire netting.
– Quite right, too.
– The leader of the Opposition must know that barbed wire is scarcely used in some of the inland districts of Australia.
– The Minister is quite wrong.
– I know as much about this matter as does the honorable member, and perhaps a little more. Wire netting is used on every selection throughout the centre of Australia, but barbed wire is not. I fought foryears for a duty on wire netting, and I think that under the Dibbs Tariff there was a duty.
– Thirty shillings.
– That duty, which started the industry, was taken off by the leader of the Opposition, with the result that the industry was nearly crushed. The leader of the Opposition, in his plausible way, now asks the committee - “ What are you going to do with the 300 men ; are you going to turn them adrift from their employment?” Yet it was the leader of the Opposition who drove the dagger into the industry from which those men derived their living; and every other industry in New South Wales. Every one knows, fortunately, that though the right honorable gentleman’s tongue speaks thus, his heart beats in the opposite direction.
– The honorable member is admitting that I carry out my policy.
– The leader of the Opposition attempted to destroy every industry in New South Wales, and the reason that that State is not so selfcontained as Victoria and some other States, is because of the policy carried out by him and those who sit behind him.
– The honorable gentleman ought to come to the rescue of some of these industries now, after what he has said.
– The leader of the Opposition knows well that an individual member of the Cabinet cannot have his own way in every matter.
– What about the Prime Minister ?
– A Prime Minister may perhaps, like the leader of the Opposition, not always have his own way.
– That is two - what about the Vice-President ?
– The leader of the Opposition, when Premier of New South Wales,was obliged to give up his proposed tea duties?
– Not by my colleagues.
– I do not know by whom the’ right honorable member was compelled.
– There are three New South Wales Ministers in the Cabinet.
– Let those who are sitting in opposition, and who are doing all they can to destroy the industries and wage-earners of New South Wales, not attempt to cast stones at those who are doing all they can to develop the industries and resources of that State. Were it not for her great natural resources, New South Wales would have been very much lower in the scale than she is at present. The leader of the Opposition says that there can be no combinations in connexion with importers. But how is it that there are, or were until the present Tariff, stronger combinations in New South Wales to keep up prices than in any of the Australian States? Up to the introduction of the Commonwealth Tariff the cost of necessaries, and of - living generally, was higher in New South Wales than in Victoria. I have resided in both Victoria find New South Wales, and I say that as far as the necessaries of life are concerned, they were cheaper in the former than in the latter State,’ where the prices were kept up by local importing rings. What did a number of these importers do 1
– I rise to a point of order. The Chairman called the leader of the Opposition to order three or four times for irrelevant discussion, and I should like to know what relevancy the remarks of the Minister for Home Affairs have to the question at issue ?
– I claim that the question of price is undoubtedly relevant to the matter under discussion. Whether there is a duty upon wire netting or upon barbed wire, and whether a combination of importers can keep up the prices of those articles is unquestionably pertinent to the subject.
– I intimated some little time ago, when the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney was speaking, that he was then dealing with a question which was not strictly before the committee. I asked him to confine himself to that question, and to a certain extent he did, but as a Minister had made certain statements regarding him, I did not deny him the right of replying to them. The point is now taken as to whether the
Minister for Home Affairs is in order in dealing with the question of the establishment of importers’ rings, and whether there is any connexion between that matter and the amount of duty to be imposed. I rule that the Minister is in order, but I take this opportunity of asking the leader of the Opposition, as well as Ministers and honorable members generally, to observe their own standing orders. In this connexion I may mention that it is my intention to be stricter in the future than I have been in the past. I find that if I allow any departure from the rules of debate too much is made of it, and my generosity in this direction is taken advantage of. If honorable members wish me to pursue a similar course in the future they must observe their own standing orders.
– I was about to remark that a number of New South Wales importers recently imported a- large quantity of material, including, amongst other tilings, wire netting and barbed wire. They raised the prices six or eight weeks ago - since the introduction of this Tariff - and refused to sell under a certain figure. The result was that Victoria sent over to that State some of its commercial agents who have temporarily captured the market there for many articles. To-day these people are purchasing barbed wire as cheaply as they were able to do under free-trade.
– The Minister would not go to the Svdney Town-hall and say that.
– I will go to the Town-hall soon enough to refute some of the statements of the right honorable member - statements that will not hold water.
– After how many years ?
– I shall be at the Town-hall soon enough for the honorable member, and shall probably bump up against him as I did once before. ‘
– It was not the Minister who did that ; he was only a tool.
– The right honorable member has accused the Prime Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and myself with having neglected the interests of New South Wales, in that we have not placed a duty upon wire netting. That is a nice sort of doctrine to emanate from a free-trader. If the right honorable member will only look at the. Tariff, he will see that New South
Wales, from the stand-point of a protectionist, has been very well looked after. Certainly none of the other States have been better looked after. What other State is likely to witness such a development in the iron industry in every channel?
– No thanks to the Minister.
– The right honorable member blames’ me when a thing is not done, and he blames me when it is done.
– Nature gave us those resources.
– But Nature did not give us the Tariff.
– That came from down below.
– No, it descended from above.
– The Minister has been in two Governments, and he never gave us a Tariff yet.
– I was a member of a Government which gave a Tariff to New South Wales, and the honorable member for Parramatta helped to knock it out. I assisted in the framing of a Tariff for that State, and the honorable member and his party repealed it.
– The Minister knows the result of the former Tariff in New South Wales.
-I know that those who cried out so much about it are very sorry. The right honorable member for East Sydney has said that division VIa of the Tariff, to which it was proposed to transfer the item under consideration, was in the clouds. But he knows that the proposal in the New South Wales Tariff was that a duty should be placed upon pig-iron twelve months after the introduction of that Tariff, the object being to defer the imposition of the tax until the industry had become established. The industry was not established, and at the end of the period specified the duty became operative upon the raw material. The recollection of this fact has prompted the Ministry to introduce the division to which I have referred, which will make it impossible for the tax to fall upon the raw material at a time when we are not likely to produce it in our midst. The proposal of the Government is a very good one, and I know that the public regard it as such. Before concluding I wish it to be clearly understood by my constituents and the public generally, that the reason I do not speak oftener upon the Tariff is that it would not be right for me to unduly occupy the time of the House, and thus interfere with the duties of the two Ministers who are directly in charge of this business. I make this explanation because an attempt is insidiously being made in New South Wales, and especially in Sydney, to discredit me as the head of the protectionists in that State on the ground that I do not evince that interest in the Tariff which I ought to exhibit. The fact is that I am not called upon, save under very exceptional circumstances, to debate any item when it comes before the committee. I hope that the attempt to discredit my two colleagues and myself in New South Wales will not be repeated. It is a contemptible thing when it is well known that we had no hand–
– What, no hand ?
– I repeat that it isa contemptible thing, when it is well known that we had no desire to admit wire netting free. I had not, and if I had the opportunity, I should be delighted to place a duty upon it.
– A tug-of-war in the Cabinet?
– We know how to conduct the Cabinet, which is something that the right honorable member never knew. The reason the wire-netting industry has existed in New South Wales as long as it has is because several of the largest commercial men along the Great Western railway line prefer the local to the imported article. It is distributed throughout the whole of the western and southern districts of New South Wales. I know that a large firm in Orange purchase as much of it as they can obtain, and distribute it amongst their customers in the western division. That, however, is no reason why a duty of 15 per cent, should not be imposed upon it. I venture to think that if the history of New South Wales and Victoria is examined, it will be found that where the importers have been able, by means of rings, to raise the prices of articles, those prices have been reduced when a local industry has become thoroughly established, and in this connexion I will undertake to say that the price of barbed wire will be reduced as soon as there is a larger output. If there is a small output only, it stands to reason that the price of any article must be higher than if there were a large output. The effect of the Government proposal will be to decrease the pride of this wire to the whole of Australia, and thus good will be done both to the manufacturers and the users of the article throughout the length and breadth of the continent.
– One would naturally imagine that such a simple item as barbed wire would be discussed without unnecessary heat. I do not feel myself in full sympathy with the Government upon this item, but I did not anticipate that “the time of Parliament would be wasted, as it has been, in an all-round discussion on the Tariff. I throw the responsibility for this waste of time upon the members of the Opposition. I am not so new a chum in politics as not to understand that this matter was arranged outside the Chamber, because the debate was opened by the honorable member for Dalley, who was followed by the honorable member for Parramatta, and then supported by their honored chief. There was evidently a conspiracy to disparage the Government by raising the cry of State against State, in order that certain honorable members might get their opinions reported in the Sydney papers, and make the people of New South Wales imagine–
– I rise to order. I ask the Chairman to rule whether the honorable member’s references to public opinion in Sydney have any relevance to the item under discussion ?
– As far as the honorable member has gone I have not noticed that he is out of order.
– It is generally the biggest sinner who attempts to reprove sin. The intention of the speeches which have been made by members of the Opposition was to show that what they call a great New South Wales industry has been neglected, and they have endeavoured to make capital out of the fact by inflaming New South Wales feeling against the Government, under the impression that, while Victorian industries, have been coddled, New South Wales industries have been neglected.
– We never gave a thought to it.
– That is a very curious remark in view of the statements which have been made, and which looked as much like a conspiracy hatched outside this Chamber as anything could look. The making of wire netting is in no sense an industry peculiar to New South Wales. I have the assurance of the honorable member for Mernda and of the Minister for Trade and Customs that there are two factories in Victoria. Would honorable members opposite support the imposition of a duty on wire netting ?
– How can we? Would the honorable member do so ?
– I am opposed to the proposed duty.
– The honorable member could not vote for a duty on rock salt, sheep dip, wire netting, or anything of that kind.
– I shall refer to the right honorable member’s insulting remark later on. A duty upon wire netting has not been proved to be necessary, because, without the assistance of a duty, in New South Wales the making of wire netting has been carried on in a factory employing 300 hands.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of dealing with wire netting when we come to consider the proposed exemptions.
– It is a pity that you, sir, did not draw attention to that fact earlier in the debate. I have equal rights with other honorable members.
– The honorable member has equal rights with other honorable members, and I look to Ministers and to the leader of the Opposition to support the Chair. It has been the wish of the committee that I should not hold the reins too tightly in this case ; but when I find advantage being taken of my leniency by those who ought to support the Chair, I must put a stop to such conduct. Standing Order 173 provides that discussion must be* confined to the clause or amendment before the committee. Then Standing Order 226 says that in committee, when an amendment has been proposed, honorable members shall confine themselves to it, while it is laid down in Standing Order 274 that -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion,, nor anticipate a discussion o£ any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
As the question of a duty upon wire netting can be dealt with when the exemptions come before the committee, I rule that the honorable member is not in order in referring to it now. Although I allowed the Minister to exercise an inherent right, and permitted the leader of the Opposition to reply to him, I do not think I should extend the same privilege to every honorable member.
– I am very much obliged to you, sir, for laying down the rules of debate just when I, who so seldom speak, happen to be occupying the floor. It will be my endeavour in future to assist you in preserving order in the conduct of discussion, and I shall take care that no Minister or leader of the Opposition is given greater privilege than is an ordinary member of the committee. Three members of the Opposition - the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Dalley, and the leader of the Opposition - were permitted to discuss the question of wire netting. If in future I find you a little blind, I shall at once call attention to what I regard as an infringement of the ruling you have just delivered. If you will allow me to make one reference to the question, I should like to point out that it will be necessary within a few years to erect something like 50,000 or 100,000 miles of wire netting fences in Australia. Is this, then, the time to talk of putting a duty upon it ?
– This ought to be a grand opportunity for protectionists to foster the local wire-netting industry, and thus make wire netting cheaper to the consumers.
– With reference to the proposed duty upon barbed wire, it is with reluctance that I vote against the Ministerial proposal. I am always willing to give the Ministry the benefit of any doubt, and I am not fond of finding myself in the bad company of honorable members opposite, because our fiscal beliefs are as wide asunder as the poles. But J am bound to remember my electoral pledges, and to adhere to my principles. Though I announced myself as a protectionist, I believe that the application of protectionist doctrines should be regulated by wisdom and moderation. Who is it that uses barbed wire? The farmers and the settlers of the country.
– The backbone of the Commonwealth.
– Ought these people to be taxed by a duty which will raise the price of barbed wired by 30s. or 32s. per ton ? I have hundreds of farmers in my district who will suffer if this duty is imposed, and there are thousands of others throughout the Commonwealth. Should we do this injustice to them to benefit an industry that employs only 38 hands ?
– The honorable member is coming round !
– No, I am not. I am a protectionist, and if an industry is worth protecting, and can be protected without unduly hurting the great mass of those who use its productions, I am ready to protect it : but when I have to take my choice between increasing the price of barbed wire to the farmers by 30s. or 32s. a ton, and fostering an industry which does not seem to have prospered in Victoria even under a protective duty of 40 per cent., I must vote in favour of the producers of the.country. This does not appear to me to be worth calling a national industry. We produce neither the wire nor the barbs here.
– Nor the machinery.
– Yes, we do. Barbed wire is 7s. 6d. a ton less in Victoria than in any other State.
– Very few will benefit, and many will suffer by the imposition of this duty, and where the many will suffer the few must go to the wall. I prefer to benefit the many rather than to benefit the few. But although I think that barbed wire should be put upon the free list, I am ready to strain a point to assist to maintain an existing industry, and therefore I shall support a duty of 10 per cent., though I am. somewhat inconsistent in doing so. It is very difficult to always give a consistent vote, but one must do his best according to his beliefs at the time. In reference to the sneer of the leader of the Opposition, that, although I am a protectionist, I want free salt, free sheep dip, and free wire netting, I wish to say that the imposition of a duty upon sheep dip would not affect me to the extent of £1 a year, while, as for a duty upon salt, I never use imported salt. I was using Adelaide salt before there was any duty upon the importation of salt info New South Wales.
– Because as a commonsense mau I found it cheaper than any other.
– That is free-trade.
– It is common sense.
– Hear, hear ; the two things are synonomous.
– When two articles which I find equally good for my purpose are offered to me, I, as a common-sense man, take the cheaper. With reference to barbed wire, I have never used a yard of it, though I have pub up hundreds of miles of fencing. Therefore, the sneers of the leader of the Opposition were unfair. I do not suppose they were seriously meant. While, in my opinion, protection is a sound principle when wisely and prudently applied, I have always agreed with the free-traders that a duty of 100 to 1 50 per cent, establishes a monopoly, and I am of opinion that to impose high duties which unduly tax hundreds and thousands of our best settlers, in order to build up such small industries as the barbed wire industry, is calculated to bring discredit upon the protectionist cause. I will nob go one step further than to support a duty of 10 per cent., and then only with the object of maintaining an existing industry. If I were perfectly logical I should refuse to support any duty whatever.
Mr. WINTER, COOKE (Wannon).Being a free-trader, I should object to this duty being imposed under any circumstances, but I desire to point out that the reason given by the Government for admitting wire netting free of duty applies equally to barbed wire. Barbed wire is very often used in conjunction with wire netting, and if wire netting is to be admitted free out of consideration for the poverty-stricken settlers of the poorer districts, barbed wire should also be admitted without the payment of duty. If barbed wire is not placed along the top of the wire-netting fences, the cattle rub and knock against it, and damage it so as to very soon render it useless, and it is for this reason, amongst others, that I would ask the committee to vote in favour of placing barbed wire on the free list. I cannot admit for one moment that the user of barbed wire is able to obtain it any more cheaply because of the duty. Figures may be quoted in this Chamber with the view to proving such a proposition, but they will never convince me. We do not find the galleries thronged by the users of any material who ask that a duty may be placed upon it in order to make it cheaper, but the manufacturers are in daily attendance with the object of bringing pressure to bear in favour of the imposition of duties. In regard to this particular article I have good reason to know that the manufacturers have been present here with a view to inducing honorable members to retain the duty.’ The honorable member for
South Australia, Mr. Poynton, has told us that barbed wire is very largely used in South Australia, but I am sure that the South Australian Government have not come to Victoria for barbed wire in any large quantities. If the South Australian Government knew that barbed wire was cheaper in Victoria than in their own State, they would doubtless have purchased it from the local manufacturers.
– Large quantities of barbed, wire have been sent from Victoria to Western Australia and Queensland.
– I am speaking of South Australia, where the Government encourage the use of barbed wire. I know, from my own experience, that in the purchase of protected articles I have had to pay more on account of the duties imposed, and I hope that the members of the committee will consider the interests of the users of barbed wire and place it on the free list.
– The honorable member for Bourke made a statement last night that the Victorian barbed wire was equal in length to the imported article, but if the honorable member had handled as much wire as I have, he would know that there is no comparison between the two kinds. Every one knows that in each coil of barbed wire there is a certain weight, and that the smaller the gauge of the wire the greater the distance it will cover. Of the two samples that were submitted to us, one was double the gauge of the other, and, therefore, a coil of the smaller gauge wire must have been capable of extending over almost double the distance that would have been covered by the larger gauge wire.
– We compared gauge for gauge.
– Even taking gauge for gauge the imported wire shows a margin of over a mile per ton to the good as compared with the Victorian wire. I have here a circular issued by Messrs. McLean Brothers and .Rigg showing the weights of the various gauges and the distances covered by them, and this affords conclusive evidence of the superiority of the imported wire. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that wire netting was to be admitted free so as to help the poverty-stricken settlers scattered over the poorer districts of the Commonwealth, but if the Minister went to Queensland he would see some of the richest land in the world enclosed with wire netting. Wire netting should be free of duty, because it is used extensively by those engaged in pastoral pursuits all over the continent. We have very nearly the whole of Queensland enclosed with a double fence of wire netting in order to keep out the rabbits which originally migrated from Victoria. The rabbit industry is one peculiar to Victoria, and we wish it to remain so. The Prime Minister, in his Maitland speech, said he wished to preserve the national industries of the Commonwealth, and I would ask what greater national industry there is than the pastoral industry. It is the backbone of the Commonwealth, and yet it is proposed to heavily tax all the goods used in connexion with it. Hitherto barbed /wire has been admitted into New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and New Zealand free of duty, whereas in Victoria it has been subject to a duty of £-3 per ton, and in Tasmania to a duty of 20 per cent. I do not understand the principle by which the Ministry have been guided in imposing this duty, unless they were anxious to protect a Victorian industry at the expense of the whole of the Commonwealth. Is it fair or reasonable that the whole of the people engaged in the pastoral industry of the Commonwealth should be taxed for the sake of 40 men in Victoria ? I say it is monstrous. If the manufacture of barbed wire is a national industry, why has it not been carried on in the other States instead of being confined to Victoria ?
– Because Victoria was the only State that imposed the duty.
– It was the only State that had a prohibitive duty. The revenue derived from barbed wire in Victoria in 1 900 was £588 - an amount which would be realized in Queensland in one week if a £3 per ton duty were imposed there. A constituent of mine told me, when I was last in Queensland, that he had just paid £140 in the way of duty for barbed wire, and the article is used throughout hundreds of miles of open country in the cattle districts of Queensland. The Minister for Customs has told us that he believes in helping the oppressed, but is the imposition of a duty on barbed wire calculated to help the oppressed people of Queensland ? We have just passed through a four years drought, and there are many men who were worth thousands four years ago who are now working for 15s a week and rations. Yet the Minister proposes to further tax them by imposing a duty on barbed wire.
– What - tax men who are only earning 15s. a week and their rations ?
– These men have no immediate use for barbed wire, it is true, but the duty will make it all the more difficult for them to start again. Thank goodness Queensland is a place in which a man has a chance to make a fresh start. When a man meets with a reverse he does not fly to the factories in the big cities as they do in Victoria. Such a man goes out into the wilds, and, in pioneering work, perhaps gets another start in life, and yet the incentive now offered to him is the imposition of a duty of £3 per ton on the barbed wire he may require. If protection, as claimed, makes the article cheaper, how does it come that at Townsville in September last the price was £15 10s. per ton, while to-day it is £17 15s.?
– Because barbed wire is not manufactured in Queensland.
– Does it cost the. difference to carry the barbed wire to Townsville? If so, the steamship-owners are the robbers, and the sooner we have an Inter-State Commission the better.
– The barbed wire costs £15 13s. 6d. in Victoria.
– But if it could be sold for £15 10S., with only the natural protection of freight and distance, surely local makers can compete without the addition of a 20 per cent. duty.
– The honorable member’s prices are all wrong.
– Of course, the prices do not suit the honorable member for Melbourne ; but my information was obtained from the man who bought the wire and paid for it.
– According to the British Trade Review, the pi-ice in Brisbane in August last was £16 10s. per ton for 12-gauge barbed wire of the best brand.
– I shall take the word of a man who paid the cash for the wire, though where he bought it I do not know. This man asked me what he should do in regard to this wire, which was lying in bond ; and I advised him to leave it there until the Tariff was passed. I consider duties of this kind are the worst feature of the Tariff, and I wonder that the Minister for Trade and Customs has the effrontery to countenance a proposal to tax the whole of the Commonwealth for the sake of 40 men. If the right honorable gentleman was the owner of a barbed wire factory* he could not “ barrack “ more strongly for the duty ; but I am, certain that the Minister is not of his own free will advocating a duty which will bear most heavily on the pioneers throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly in Queensland; where more barbed wire is used than in any of the other States. Every honorable member for Queensland,’ whether protectionist or free-trade, should vote against this impost, which affects most prejudicially what is truly a national industry in that State. Even a most consistent supporter of the Government, like the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, must on this occasion give some support to those who are opposing this duty. The pastoral industry is just as national in Queensland as the salt industry in South Australia, and I wish I were in a position to make an appeal on behalf of the former such as was made for the latter by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Those engaged in the pastoral industry in Queensland have in the last four years been going through ohe of the most trying times ever experienced iii the State, and this duty means saddling them with still greater disadvantages and disabilities.
– It is always amusing to hear the honorable member for Maranoa make his free-trade speeches, when we recollect how strenuously he appealed for a duty on bananas. The honorable member tells us that the price of barbed wire at Townsville is £17 13s. 6d., and I shall not dispute his figures, because Townsville is one of the most northern ports but if we take the prices in the more central cities, which is perhaps the fairest way, the price in Brisbane to-day is £17, as against £16 10s. some time ago, for 1 2-gauge imported American wire. It has been said that American wire goes further than Australian wire, and in support of that statement there was produced a circular issued by Messrs. McLean Brothers and Rigg. It is perfectly true that one class of American wire in this market does go further than the ordinary wire. This wire, which was that referred to in the circular, is known in the trade as having an oval barb, and it is a lighter wire than that ordinarily used, and is not in great favour, because it does not exactly carry out the purpose for which it is intended. But, when this wire was referred to, the fact was not stated that an extra price is charged for it simply because it goes a little further than that in .more general use.
– What is the price?
– I am not in a position to say.
– Then how does the honorable member know that the American wire is dearer ?
– I am told by those who know best about prices that this particular wire is somewhat dearer.
– It is 30s. per ton more.
– Will the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, assert that this American wire is not dearer ?
– I never said anything about it. If I had an importer acquaintance in the gallery I could get information.
– My authorities are the makers of Australian wire, and the)’’ assert that this particular wire is somewhat dearer. As to the average kind of wire used by farmers generally, I made the assertion last night, and repeat it now, that Australian wire will go as far, and, in fact, a little further than the average American imported wire. I offered last night, and repeat the offer now, to vote with those who are asking that this item should be placed on the free list, if my statements in regard to this particular kind of wire can be disproved. We had some samples of barbed wire, said to be colonial and American, placed before the committee, and I ventured to assert my belief that one of the samples was not American, but German. Since then, I have taken from coils of wire two samples, one American and the other Australian. The American sample is made of one straight wire, with the other wire curled round, while the barbs are placed on one wire, and the result of this form of construction is, that the quality is not equal to that of wire both strands of which are twisted.
– Does the honorable member not think that sheep-owners know which is best?
– No doubt they do, and I shall give the testimony of a man who has used some miles of this wire. In the Australian samples, both wires are twisted, and there is a barb on each wire. Here are two samples of each, representing 12- gauge and 14-gaugc wire.
– There is a different sample in the possession of the Treasurer.
– The Australian samples I produce are made in Victorian factories and sold in Australia.
– The Treasurer has the proper sample.
– There cannot be a more proper sample than one taken from an ordinary coil in the shop.
– I should rather take the Treasurer’s sample than that of the honorable member.
– Another statement was made that the wire and the machines are imported. As a matter of fact the machines are not imported, but made in the Commonwealth, and the probabilities are that, with the duty which has been placed on iron, New South Wales manufacturers of crude iron will, before long, be making wire, and thus do away with the necessity for the importation of that article. Hitherto no wire has been made in the Commonwealth. They cannot buy colonial wire if they wish to, but we hope they will soon be in a position to purchase it at as low a price as the imported article. Coming to the position in South Australia we are asked why, if barbed wire is cheaper in Melbourne than it is in the other States, the South Australian Government do not buy their wire here ! The reason is that up to the present time the freightage from Melbourne to South Australia has exceeded the margin of difference between the prices in those States. But there is such a large market for barbed wire in South Australia that one Melbourne manufacturer is about to establish the industry there, and the South Australian consumer will then be able to purchase his wire at the same low price as does the Victorian consumer. What are the facts in this connexion? In spite of all the statements which have been made in reference to the establishment of rings, combines, etc., the price of barbed wire in Victoria is 7s. 6d. per ton cheaper than that which obtains in any other State. I challenge any honorable member opposite to disprove my statement.
– But in Victoria, there was a duty of £3 per ton upon wire, which prohibited importation, and gave the local manufacturer a monopoly.
– If it gave him a monopoly; he ought to have raised his price by the amount of the duty less a shilling or two. But, as a matter of fact, the price of barbed wire in New South Wales, prior to the imposition of this duty, was £15 10s. per ton, whilst in Victoria it was £15 13s. 6d. per ton, less the discount, so that the Victorian price was just a shade under that which obtained in New South Wales, where there was no duty operative.
– That cannot be true. The wire cannot bc of the same quality. How is it possible to pay higher wages, incur more expense in production, and yet sell the wire cheaper ?
– Because in Victoria the competition between the manufacturer and the importer compelled them to take a less profit than was received in New South Wales. If the argument of the right honorable member for East Sydney be a sound one, the price in New South Wales should have been £12 10s. per ton, because there was no duty operative there, whereas in Victoria there was a duty of £3 per ton. The honorable member for North Sydney in replying to my statements last evening, declared that if a duty was wanted, it was wanted to enable the manufacturers to increase their profits. He also affirmed that the price of wire in Victoria had been raised by nearly the amount of the duty. Such an argument ought surely to apply both ways? If there is a duty of £3 per ton operative in Victoria: whereas no duty exists in New South Wales, then by a parity of reasoning the price in the latter State should be £3 per ton less than it is in the former. But as a matter of fact it was not 3s. per ton less.
– We doubt the honorable member’s statement as to the facts.
– It is very easy for the honorable member to doubt them, when he cannot disprove them.
– I will tell the honorable member that a gentleman in this Chamber declares that he can never buy any wire like the samples which the honorable member has in his possession.
– I can tell the honorable member of a practical farmer who has used many miles of it.
– And my statement is from a man who has used miles of it.
– Has the honorable member used any of it ?
– And the honorable member is being used now.
– I have not a pennyworth of interest either in any importing house or in any manufactory in this country. The only business in which I am interested is one which ought to make me a free-trader. I am, however, a protectionist from conviction, and not because I have an interest one way or the other.
– The honorable member is being used, and properly used.
– That is an exceedingly improper remark to make, and one that I should not make to the right honorable member.
– What I mean is that the company, to which the honorable member is referring, has put all these things into his hand.
– Just as a circular from McLean Bros. and Rigg has been put into the hands of the free-trade representatives. We are here to endeavour to ascertain from the two sets of statements what is best for the consumer. His is the only interest which I have at heart. We are told that this is not a national industry, and that only 40 men are engaged in it. That is perfectly true.
– There are not 40 men employed in it. Half of the hands are boys.
– It would not matter to me ifthere were only two men and a boy engaged in it. There are, however, some 40 hands employed in making barbed wire for a portionof the consumers of only one State of the group, and if we manufactured barbed wire for. all the States we could multiply the number by six, and there would be nearly 300 men employed. But if we are to manufacture for the Commonwealth all that the Commonwealth requires, probably 500 hands will be engaged in the industry. I stated last night that if this duty is imposed at least one manufacturer is prepared to spend £2,000 in colonial-made machines in order to begin satisfying the needs of the other States. We cannot expect men to invest their capital while a matter of this kind is in dispute, and when the duty may be swept away, thus rendering it impossible for them to make a living. Concerning what some of the other States think of the quality of this barbed wire, I may mention that Ihave in my possession a letter from a Brisbane merchant, Mr. David McLean. This is what he says in regard to the quality of our wares : -
I had two gentlemen at the wharf comparing wire with American, and they admitted that they could see no difference, and as for the German it was nowhere beside it.
– That letter is probably from an agent of the company to which the honorable member has been referring.
– It is from a Brisbane merchant, who, prior to the introduction of this Tariff, was selling only American wire. I understand that the Government intend to ask the committee to accept a duty of 15 per cent. instead of 20 per cent. I am very sorry to learn this. I consider that I can have no better authority than is the honorable member for Parkes as to what constitutes a revenue duty, and he has assured the electors of New South Wales that 15 per cent. is a revenue duty, whilst I believe that no duty short of 20 per cent. can be protective in its incidence. If we impose a rate of only 15 per cent. it will be a great struggle to continue the manufacture of this article within the Commonwealth. With the extra output the manufacturers may be able to live in competition with the importers, but it would be much better to allow the duty to remain at 20 per cent. I will conclude my remarks by asking whether the Opposition can disprove my statement that the cost of barbed wire is 7s. 6d. per ton less in Victoria than it is in any other State ? If they cannot disprove that it is evident that the consumer is getting an advantage by reason of the manufacturers’ competition. I would also ask if they can disprove my contention that the quality of the locally-manufactured article is equal, if not superior, to that of the American?
– I can disprove that.
– Can any honorable member disprove the statement that quality for quality and gauge for gauge the Australian wire goes further than does the imported article? No honorable member has yet attempted to combat these statements, and unless they can be refuted the duty ought to stand.
– I am afraid that if I returned to South Australia, and repeated the arguments of the honorable member for Bourke as an excuse for voting for the imposition of a duty of 20 per cent., the people would think that I had lost my reason since I last stood upon the hustings. The honorable member says that if this duty be imposed a factory will be established in South Australia, and the consumer will be able to purchase wire there cheaper than he can at present. What was the object of starting there ‘! To get rid of the freight. The honorable member for Bourke has told us - though I am not prepared to accept his statement - that barbed wire is cheaper in Victoria than in the other States. He said that it was cheaper in Victoria than in South Australia, and that the difference in price was caused by the freight to South Australia ; and he tells us that since the imposition of this duty a branch of the local industry is to be established in South Australia. Is that branch to be established there “for the benefit of the consumer? Will the honorable member contend that those who establish that factory are philanthropists who go there, not in their own interests, but to benefit the consumers of South Australia by ridding them of the freight charges ? The argument is too thin. It is as thin as another argument which we have heard from him ad nauseam during the Tariff discussion - that the way to promote competition is to prevent, or, at all ‘events, to reduce importation. He tells us that owing to the competition between manufacturers and importers in Victoria, things have been cheaper here than elsewhere, but I have never been able to see how the imposition of a duty and the diminution of imports could increase Competition between the local manufacturers and the importers, and statistics do not bear out the contention. We find that in Victoria only 77 persons are employed in the wireworking industry, while in New South Wales 212 persons are so employed, and in New South Wales from 1894 until the imposition of the present Tariff barbed wire was admitted free. The Minister for Home Affairs prided -himself in his speech upon having done so much for the metal workers of New South Wales, but I cannot see from my reading of statistics what his policy did for them. In the year 1893 there were 6,430 persons employed in the metal and machinery works of New South Wales, while in 1S94 the number of persons so employed was 6,969. But when the leader of the Opposition applied to the industry that freedom upon which he has so often and so effectively spoken, the result, instead of being decadence and increased prices to the consumer, which would have been in accordance with protectionist ideas, was that the number of persons employed had increased by 1900 to 12,306, or 2,000 more than were similarly employed in Victoria. The honorable member for Bourke has made certain assertions in regard to prices which it would be difficult to refute, but I know that in July .of last year, before the imposition of the present Tariff, American barbed wire cost £15 10s. a ton in Sydney and £17 10s. a ton in Melbourne, while the locally-made wire cost £16 10s. a ton in Melbourne. If the locally-made wire was as good as the American wire, I wonder that squatters were foolish enough to pay £1 per ton more for the American wire. I would point out, too, that although the local manufacturer was protected to the extent of a duty of £3 per ton, he conceded only £1 per ton to the consumer, and took the benefit of the remaining £2 a ton himself. Those facts refute the assertion of the honorable member for Bourke that the quality of the Victorianmade wire is on a par with that of the imported wire. I should like to know to what extent the proposed duty will affect the consumers of barbed wire 1 In South Australia we are to -a great extent a pastoral people, and since 1879, when we passed our first Vermin and Rabbit Destruction Act -having in, I think, one year prior to that time spent over £90,000 in payment for scalps - we have passed many measures in the attempt to prevent the continual surrender of pastoral leases through the presence of vermin upon them. Within the last three or four years, however, hope has begun to dawn with us, because of the application of the system of fencing upon which my honorable colleague, Mr. Poynton, is an expert, and which he has advocated so often in the South Australian Parliament. But this Government now propose to impose a duty of 20 per cent., or something like £3” 10s. per ton, upon the wire which our squatters have to use for fencing purposes. I cannot understand such a monstrous proposition coming from the Minister of Trade and Customs. The Ministry do not seem to have given us any estimate of the probable returns from this duty, but, according to the Victorian figures for last year, the importation into this State was 196 tons and theconsumption of locally-manufactured wire 1,400 tons. The revenue, therefore, collected by the Government under a duty of £3 per ton was, therefore, £588 ; but, in addition to that, the consumerspaid an equal rate upon the locally manufactured wire, so that the total charge to the consumers really amounted to £4,788. One has only to apply similar figures to the total Australasian consumption to see what a huge burden the passing of the proposed duty would impose upon the pastoral industry.
– It would appear from the remarks of some honorable members that the proposal now before the committee is to impose a serious burden upon a class of the community who have already innumerable difficulties to contend with ; but it is evident, when honorable members talk about ruin being inflicted upon the squatters through having to pay duty on the barbed wire they require to fence in sheep, and to keep out rabbits, that they do not know much about their subject. No doubt it prolongs the life of a fence to stretch a barbed wire along the top of it.
– We use the barbed wire chiefly to keep out dogs.
– All who have had any experience in this matter know that it is absurd to try to keep out dogs with a barbed-wire fence. There is a verminproof fence on the borders of South Australia and Victoria which has wire netting at the bottom, and then a plain wire, and above it a barbed wire ; but I have seen native dogs go over it by the score. An ordinary collie dog will go over a 4ft. capped barbedwire fence as readily as over a railed fence, and that is not much obstruction to him when he wants to get past it.
– Then all the squatters in South Australia mustbe born idiots, because they have been spending their money on barbed wire for years past.
– Unless you make a complete entanglement with barbed wire to a height of about 6 feet, you cannot keep out dogs with it. If you put 7 wires into a fence6 feet high, it might prevent dogs from going through in numbers, but the honorable member cannot point to a case where barbed wire is used in that way.
– As a rule only one wire is used.
– There are never fewer than two barbed wires used. The honorable member is talking about sheep fences.
– I have seen a good many sheep fences, but I have not seen fences of that kind. Two barbed wires, used with 3ft. or 3ft. 6in. of wire netting, would provean obstruction to some extent. What does this duty amount to as a tax upon the consumers ? Six months after a duty was first imposed upon barbed wire in Victoria, in September, 1889, the price of the article went down £4 a ton, and although the Victorian duty remained in force until the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff last October, at no time during that period was barbed wire of any class cheaper in New South Wales than in Victoria. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, stated last night that a ton of imported wire covered a distance of 6 miles 47 chains, whereas a ton of colonial wire covered a length only of 5 miles 18 chains, but what the honorable member really compared were two entirely different classes of wire, and I defy him to prove his statement.
– I compared No. 12 gauge in both cases.
– What the honorable member compared was what is known as “ Waukegan “ wire with ordinary wire. Waukegan is a special class of wire which can be made in Australia, as well as the ordinary wire, and both classes of wire are imported. Ordinary wire of No. 1 2 gauge is imported as well as Waukegan wire. TheWaukegan wire to which the honorable member referred covers the distance stated, but the honorable member’s statement was misleading.
– What I stated was a fact.
– I will take the honorable member’s own statement. He said that the imported wire covered a distance of 6 miles 47 chains ; but what he referred to as imported wire was really Waukegan wire, and the honorable member failed to classify it as the special wire thai it is. That is the whole distinction.
Ordinary wire, which is also imported, covers a length of 5 miles 18 chains per ton, making a difference between the imported wires - both No. 12 gauge - of 1 mile 29 chains. Ordinary wire is made in Victoria, and Waukegan wire can also be made there, and the difference in the distance covered by the two classes of wire is accounted for by the special character of the Waukegan wire. The honorable member for South Australia carefully refrained from referring to the imported wire as Waukegan wire.
– I referred to it as imported wire.
– The honorable member refrained from referring to it as a special class of wire. I may explain that the economy resulting from the use of Waukegan wire is effected by the use for the barbs of oval wire, which is equally strong and more efficient, because it takes a sharper point ; it clasps the main strand more firmly, and is less than half the weight of ordinary round wire. That is to say, the wire that is used for the barbs only in Waukegan is half the weight of the material used for barbing purposes in the ordinary wire.
– Is not that an advantage?
– It is an advantage, but I may inform the honorable member that Waukegan wire is made in Victoria.
– It is not made in Australia.
– Certainly it is, and I will give the honorable member the fullest information upon that point. Since the imposition of the duty in Victoria in 1889, we have been able to buy all classes of barbed wire at rates not one cent higher than have been charged in New South Wales. As a matter of fact, during the whole of these eleven years, we have been able to buy for a shade less per ton than have the consumers in New South Wales.
– The Victorian consumers have paid £17 10s. per ton, as against £15 10s. in New South Wales.
– That is not true. The prices I intend to quote are furnished by Messrs. McLean Brothers and Rigg upon my own personal inquiry. Messrs. McLean Brothers and Rigg deal directly with farmers, and the quotations they have given me are for different classes of wire during the second week after the federal duties were imposed. I have also quotations from Lassetter and Co., Sydney, who occupy a position somewhat similar to that held by McLean Brothers and Rigg in the Melbourne trade. Between the 20th and 24th October, Waukegan wire of No. 12 gauge was quoted by Messrs. McLean Brothers and Bigg in Melbourne at £19 per ton, and Messrs. Lassetter and Co’s. quotation of the same wire in Sydney was £22 iOs. per ton. For No. 14 gauge, McLean Brothers and Rigg quoted £21 per ton, and Lassetter and Co., £24 per ton. For the ordinary wire, of No. 12 gauge, Messrs. McLean Brothers quoted £17 per ton. I have mislaid Messrs. Lassetters quotation, but I know that there was a difference of £2 in favour of the Melbourne price. The protective duty on barbed wire has not’ increased the cost of the wire to the Victorian consumer, owing to the fact that competition amongst the local manufacturers has kept the price down. As for the contention that imported wire extends for a greater length than locally manufactured wire of the same gauge, it is absurd, and I do not think the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, was justified in withholding some of the facts when he was making his statement.
– Does not the imported wire go further ?
– No, it does not. Locally manufactured wire is made of exactly the same gauge as is the imported article, and the same number of barbs are put in. As a matter of fact the same wire is used -in both cases, and the wire is twisted and barbed with the same machines, which work so correctly that it is impossible to put any additional length of wire in the barbs beyond that inserted by the same machines in Germany and America. The duty in Victoria has not operated as a tax upon the consumers of wire, because they have been able to buy it at a slightly lower rate than that obtaining in New South Wales. I will admit that since the federal duty was imposed the merchants in Sydney have increased the price of wire by an amount equivalent to the rate of duty, but no evidence has been brought before the committee to show that the duty has in any way increased the cost of the wire to the consumer, from six months after the date the duty was imposed in Victoria - September, 1889 - up to the imposition of the federal duty. I know of a case in which a Victorian farmer took up some country a little to the west of Peak Hill, in
New South Wales, and purchased his wire in Melbourne, because, after having made full inquiries as to prices in the respective markets, he found he could purchase cheaper in Melbourne than in Sydney. I have had considerable experience in fencing contracts in New South Wales and Victoria, and I know that for many years past, at no time has the same class of barbed wire been cheaper in Sydney than in Melbourne ; on the contrary, prices have always been in favour of Melbourne. There is no evidence that this duty, which is protective in its incidence, will be a tax on the consumer. It is true that immediately the Federal Tariff was imposed the merchants put up prices in Sydney.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the particular wire, which goes so far, will be cheaper because of the duty ?
– How is it that at the time I mentioned the wire was £3 10s. per ton cheaper in Melbourne than in Sydney ? I shall be only too glad if the honorable member will make inquiries as to the correctness of my figures. The Minister for Home Affairs has stated that when” the prices went up in Sydney the Melbourne merchants went there and got the market, but that the New South Wales merchants soon woke up to the necessities of the situation, and rightly fought for their own.
– Does the honorable member mean that the price of the imported article will come down ?
– We have proof that, in order to get a footing, merchants are prepared to sell at a less price than in New South Wales. I have here quotations obtained on a Tuesday in Melbourne and on a Wednesday in Sydney in the same week, for the same class of wire, and we find that Waukegan wire was £19 in Melbourne and £22 10s. in Sydney.
– The wire can be obtained * for a lot less. The honorable member is talking rubbish !
– These were the prices at the particular date I mentioned, and I challenge the honorable member to accompany me to the head of the firm from whom I got my statement, because I know that firm are above misleading me or anybody else.
– Does the honorable member challenge me to prove that I cannot get the wire for less than £22 10s per ton? What is the price to-day for Waukegan ?
– I am not in a position to say.
– The honorable member is going back to ancient history.
– It is not ancient history ; we are dealing with a measure before the House.
Mr. - Isaacs. - How can prices to-day in Melbourne and Sydney show any difference between protection and free-trade 1
– It has been complained that consideration is not given to the wire-netting industry in New South Wales, but those who make that complaint seem to forget that the Federal Tariff affects people equally all over Australia. This particular industry was established by a firm who have an agency here, and wish to meet their own requirements. There has been no duty on wire netting in “Victoria up to the present time, and in this State there has been a small factory established. I am confident that the duty will not add Id. to the cost of barbed wire. Although there may not be a great many people employed in the industry, still there are some, and where there is a chance of giving employment without enhancing the cost to the consumer, I shall support such a duty as will preserve the industry from extinction.
– It seems to me that the Ministry have made a decided tactical blunder in introducing this proposed duty of 20 per cent, on barbed wire. If they had first placed a duty of 20 per cent, on wire netting, wire cloth and wire gauze, we should have had no difficulty in carrying a similar duty on barbed wire. I need not traverse the many and varied arguments which have been advanced, but I would urge that this industry, as carried on in Victoria, deserves all the benefits it may have received from the State. Those who carry on the industry have not used the duty in order to raise prices, and have certainly not used it to make fortunes for themselves, seeing that they pay liberal wages. The boys and young men employed receive £2 15s. per week, and the older and more expert men £4 10s. per week ; and an industry which pays good wages, and does not increase the cost to the consumer, always has a good claim on the consideration of this committee, so far as maintaining the duty is concerned. We must remember that our fixed principle is, “Revenue without .destruction.” In Victoria this industry has enjoyed a protective duty of £3 per ton, or something like 25 per cent. The offer of the Ministry to accept 15 per cent, is a drop of 10 percent., and if we are going to reduce duties we should reduce them slowly. We have all through been moving in that direction, but a sudden drop from 25 per cent, to 15 per cent, would be disastrous to the industry. I make no ad misericordiam appeal for the industry, but I plead for the workers engaged in it. .The larger demand for wire in the future will increase the number of hands employed, and if eaCh State employs 30 or 40 men at the same wages as in Victoria, we shall have a very considerable industry throughout Australia. That is what will take place ; and this article affords concrete proof that protection does not increase the price to the consumer, while it affords employment to our workmen. I hope that we shall proceed without further delay to a division, and comply with the very modest demand made by the Minister. I regret exceedingly that the proposed duty is not 20 per cent., but seeing that other items have been reduced in proportion, I think the Government offer a fair compromise. The local article is as good as that imported, and is sold at a considerably reduced price ; and when we know that the industry is capable of expansion, weshould.be foolish to place any hindrance in its way. Wire netting is almost absolutely certain to receive the same treatment as barbed wire. There is a large consumption of wire-work generally, in wire doors, blinds, and such like, and no doubt this will lead to the establishment of. a very important industry. As to the oversight of the Ministry in not including one firm, it ought to be pointed out that this is a Victorian as well as a New South Wales firm, so that there could be no local prejudice, or any idea of offering a slight to. a co-ordinate industry. A large number of men are employed in making wire netting, wire gauze, and wire cloth, and the oversight cannot have been actuated by any desire to favour Victoria. It was ill-timed to insinuate that there was any such prejudice or intention. Between barbed wire and wire netting there is- parity of principle, and I am sure that the consideration given to one will be given to the other.
– It is very evident that the honorable member for Moira knows nothing about what is going on in South Australia. When he said that men were mad who put up barbed wire to keep out dogs, it was a reflection on the whole of the pastoralists in South Aus- . tralia, who have spent thousands of pounds in such work, and with undoubted success. The erection of wire netting to preserve sheep from the wild dogs has extended for thousands of miles, with 3-ft. 6-in. netting, and, in some instances, two and three barbed wires, making a fence as high as 4 ft. 6 in. I said last night that 20 per cent, meant an additional cost of £3 4s. 6d. per ton, and that the wire imported would go further, to the extent of 1 mile 29 chains. That statement has been substantiated by the honorable member for Moira.
– That is Waukegan wire.
– I also said that I could get this imported wire for £16 per ton if it were not for the duty ; and I have the circular of Messrs. McLean Brothers and Rigg to show that that is so. Does the duty make the wire cheaper ?
– It does not make it a cent dearer.
– Did one ever hear such a statement? But. for the duty I could get the wire I have described at £16 per ton, whereas the duty raises the price to £19 4s.
– In order that we may test the matter, what is the name of that wire ?
– The same gauge ?
– The same gauge. The secret is that the barbs are not so heavy.
– - There is no secret; anybody can make the wire who has a machine.
– But nobody has done so, and surely there has been opportunity. They have practically enjoyed prohibition* in Victoria for many years. When we are asked to saddle the whole of the pastoral lessees of the Commonwealth with an additional burden of £3 per ton, upon the theory that the imposition of high duties will make things cheaper, I think that we are being asked too much. It has been urged that barbed wire was never cheaper in New South Wales than it was in Victoria. I have in my hand, however, figures which prove that in July last American wire was being sold in Sydney at £15 10s. per ton, whilst the price of the same wire in Melbourne was £17 10s. per ton.
– Whose price list is that?
M r. POYNTON- I have not the name of the firm, but that is the wholesale price. In August of the same year the cost of the wire in Sydney was £15 per ton, thus evidencing a slight fluctuation. But there was no fluctuation in Victoria, where its value still remained at £17 10s. per ton. In September, the price in Sydney had once more advanced to £15 10s. per ton, but it continued stationary in Melbourne. After the Tariff had been introduced the price of barbed wire in New South Wales rose to £16 10s. per ton.
– Was there a difference of £1 per ton between the price in Sydney and that in Melbourne after the imposition of the Tariff?
– Yes, because Victoria had enjoyed a duty of £3 per ton all through. The Tariff has not increased the price of barbed wire in Victoria.
– r-Does the honorable member say that I cannot buy imported wire in New South Wales as cheaply now as I could before the Tariff was introduced?
– -]3ut I can assure the honorable member that I have bought it.
-r-That is an assertion. It was impossible to obtain in Victoria the particular brand of wire of which I am speaking without paying the duty. As a rule, when a duty is imposed upon any article its price is enhanced by the amount of that duty. Only the other day the honorable member for the Gwydir said that the duty upon salt increased its price, and consequently he voted against the Government proposal. Yet to-day he makes the assertion that the duty upon barbed wire has not increased its price in New South Wales. Such statements are certainly “very inconsistent.
– The price of wire in New South Wales went up in anticipation of the Tariff.
– I am quite satisfied with the admission. The very fact that South Australia has passed legislation sanctioning advances to pastoral lessees, which are repayable in annual instalments extending over twenty years, and carrying interest at 4 per cent., is evidence of the earnestness of that State upon this question. I know that it is an absolute impossibility to keep sheep upon thousands of square miles of country in that State unless the holdings are enclosed by verminproof fencing. The “same remark is also applicable to Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales. Within the three years prior to 1901, the South Australian Government, out of a fund provided by the squatters themselves, but administered by the Government - a fund which was created by ‘ the imposition of a rate of 6d. per mile - paid for the destruction of 59,000 dogs. But as fast as they were destroyed, others swarmed in from the unoccupied Crown lands immediately adjacent. Since then, however, the lessees have adopted vermin-proof fencing with most successful results. The imposition of the proposed duty will increase the troubles of pastoralists by enhancing the cost of this fencing. I would also point out that, if adequately encouraged, the pastoral industry will give employment to thousands of people, as compared with the few who will find an occupation in the barbed-wire industry. I. challenge any one to show me that there are even 40 adults engaged in the latter. It would even pay the pastoralists to provide these 40 hands with- a pension for life, in preference to allowing the grazing industry to be saddled with this duty. The barbed-wire industry is not a national one in any respect, and yet in order to preserve it, thousands of pastoralists are to be penalized. I appeal to honorable members to support my proposal to place barbed wire upon the free list.
– The item under discussion is an important one so far as the western parts of New South Wales are concerned. I am disposed to think that we have very much the same difficulties to contend with there as have the people in South Australia. The pastoral country in the western district of New South Wales has been practically abandoned, and is now overrun with wild dogs and other noxious animals. Experience has proved that the only way in which the settlers can make their holdings remunerative is to enclose them with a substantial vermin-proof fence. A considerable area has already been thus protected, but if our pastoral lands are to . be brought into profitable occupation, this method must be adopted much more extensively than it has hitherto been. It will be a very serious thing to our Crown lessees if the price of wire netting or barbed wire is increased. I know that protectionists contend that the imposition of a duty upon any article does not necessarily make that article dearer. It is a matter of the greatest importance that the large areas of country in the Central and Western portions of New South Wales, in South Australia, in Queensland, and in Western Australia, which are now practically waste lands, should be brought into profitable occupation ; but those who are engaged in developing the resources of that country express themselves as certain that, unless some means can be successfully employed to cope with- the vermin which now infest it, that is imposible. It has been contended by some of the speakers on the protectionist side of the argument, that the effect of the proposed duty will be to reduce the cost of barbed wire to those who have to purchase it, and, if that were so, the wisest policy to pursue would be to put on a heavy duty, so as to make the price as low as possible. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, however, has quoted figures which m show that over a considerable period during which barbed wire was admitted free into New South Wales, it was cheaper there than it was in Victoria, where there was a duty of something like £3 a ton. It has been stated that barbed wire has been imported into New South Wales from Victoria because it could be obtained more cheaply here than in New South Wales, and Peak Hill was named as the district to which it had been sent .from Victoria. I had the honour of representing Peak Hill in the New South Wales Parliament for something like seven years, and I have lived in its vicinity for nearly the whole of my lifetime, so that I think that, if there had been any large importation of barbed wire into that district from Victoria, I should have heard of it. I do not say that no such importation was made, but whatever importation took place was very small. Possibly the wire was imported by one or two settlers who came to New South Wales from Victoria, and who had opportunities of obtaining it to advantage which were not open to consumers generally. I know that if it had been possible to purchase barbed wire in Melbourne more cheaply than elsewhere, the New South Wales farmers would have bought large quantities of it here. But Mr. Coghlan, in his statistics for 1900, which are the latest available, shows that in that year New South Wales imported only 226 cwt. of barbed wire from any other State, and that that came from South Australia, and was no doubt used in that part of New South Wales which adjoins the South Australian border. These figures disclose the fact that almost all the barbed wire imported into New South Wales came from the United States of America, the total amount so imported being 36,181 cwt., and the quantity imported from South Australia, the United Kingdom, and all other places except the United States of America, amounted to only 256 cwt. Not one cwt. of wire was imported from Victoria during that year. New South Wales, however, exported to Victoria 1,667 cwt. of barbed wire, and sent 12,808 cwt. to Queensland, 200 cwt. to South Australia, 680 cwt. to Western Australia, 1,012 cwt. to Tasmania, and 1,2S3 cwt. to New Zealand, besides exporting to New Guinea, Norfolk Island, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, and other places in the South Seas. In all, New South Wales in that year exported to the neighbouring States 16,367 cwt. of barbed wire, valued at £11,608, her total export of barbed wire to all places being 18,963 cwt., valued at £13,409. Therefore, in spite of Tariff disadvantages, the barbed wire came from New South Wales to Victoria, and not from Victoria to New South Wales. Not only is this wire largely required in the central and western parts of New South Wales, as well as in the other States, to prevent the spread of vermin, but large quantities of it are used in the more settled districts to control the movements of animals. Barbed wire is being used for this purpose more and more each year by the farmers and graziers. A great deal has been said about the need to encourage the barbed-wire making industry in Victoria, but, in view of the contention that the imposition of this duty will cheapen the price of the article, I fail to see how the manufacturers can benefit by its imposition. As a matter of fact, neither the wire used for the barbs nor that used for the main strands is manufactured here ; it is all imported. The manufacturing consists in attaching the barbs to the wire and in twisting the wire, which is almost wholly the work of machines. I visited .. two or three of these factories, and I found that the machines were invariably under the control of youths, and that the men employed were engaged in looking after the steam power which drove the machinery. If the duty adds to the cost of the article it will inflict a serious injury upon the pastoral and farming industries of New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland, and possibly of other States, and it would be to the interest of those engaged in these industries to combine and pension off all those who are engaged in barbed- wire making. I hope that at least a substantial reduction will be made on the duty proposed by the Government.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The Government have not adopted, in connexion with this item, the practice followed in many other cases of fixing the duty at something like an average of the rates hitherto prevailing throughout the States. Except in “Victoria and Tasmania, wire netting was admitted free of duty prior to the introduction of the Tariff, but the Government in the first instance adopted the maximum rate of 20 per cent., and have now modified it to 15 per cent. Notwithstanding the fact that Victoria had the markets of the other States to operate upon, and her home market protected to the extent of 20 percent., the barbed-wire industry has not assumed any large proportions, and we cannot look for any great results from a protective duty operating throughout the whole of the States against the outside world. Only 40 persons are employed in the industry now, and it is not likely that that number would be increased more than fourfold. We should not, therefore, be. justified in imposing a duty of 15 per cent, upon this article - which is absolutely necessary for those who have to live under the very hardest conditions - for the purpose of protecting a small and unimportant industry. We should relieve our farmers and pastoralists as far as we possibly can, and when we know that barbed wire has to be used for enclosing almost every acre of cultivated land we should not subject it to a duty. The ultimate injury resulting from the imposition of a duty would not, perhaps, be very great, but it must be admitted that barbed wire would be dearer for some considerable time. ‘ If I were satisfied that a large and profitable industry would be established as the result of imposing a duty I would support it, even though the consumers of the wire might have to pay a little more for a time; but I do not feel justified in taking that course when I consider that the manufacturing process consists of twisting the wire and attaching the barbs. Probably I may be regarded as inconsistent in this matter, but ‘I stated in the first place that I would vote for the protection of all industries which appeared to me to be worth preserving. I do not regard the industry as an important one. There was nothing to prevent Victorian barbed wire from being sent into the markets of the other States if there was such a wide difference in price as has been stated here. I am very doubtful regarding the correctness of some of the figures which have been shown to me bearing upon the difference in price in Victoria and South Australia, because the divergences are greater than would be accounted for by the cost of freight between the States. It has been stated that barbed wire is not so much an absolute necessity for farmers and pastoralists as is wire netting, but its use is very largely resorted to for the protection of flocks against the ravages of wild dogs, and also in connexion with vermin-proof fencing generally. Further than that, barbed wire is very largely taking the place of ordinary fencing wire. It has been suggested that a 10 per cent, duty should be imposed upon this article, but on the other hand we are told that that rate of duty would be of no value as a means of protection. In that case 10 per cent, would be simply a revenue duty, and would add to that extent to the cost of every ton of barbed wire used in the Commonwealth. I do not favour the imposition of a merely revenue duty in this case, and as I do not consider a highlyprotective duty would be justified, I shall vote for placing barbed wire on the free list.
– I think the leader of the Opposition has been allowed to make too much use of the complaint that a protective duty has not been placed on wire netting. We did not come into this House as free-traders and protectionists bound down by hard-and-fast principles. It was distinctly stated by the Prime Minister at Maitland that, it would be impracticable to follow out either a purely protectionist or a purely free-trade line of policy in framing the Tariff, and those who support the Government came into the House with a view to framing a Federal Tariff in the best interests of Australia as a whole, and we must be guided by our own instincts to that end. So far as the operation of this duty is concerned, we can obtain wire-fencing material in New South Wales as cheaply to-day as before the imposition of the Tariff. For some reason or other wirefencing material of every kind increased in price considerably about nine months ago, but I was told by my manager when I was last at home that I could procure it just as cheaply as before the Tariff was imposed. Competition may have brought prices down or stocks may Iia ve got in before the duties were imposed. I have my own opinion, quite independent of the party I support, in regard to barbed wire, which I know is largely used by farmers for their cows, and by settlement lessees, where dogs are troublesome. In many instances barbed wire has to be placed on top of wire netting to prevent dogs jumping over. I shall vote for, and, if it be not moved, shall myself move for a reduction of the proposed # duty to 10 per cent. This is an article a duty on which I do not like voting for, but I realize that we must have some revenue. The making of barbed wire does not in my opinion employ sufficient hands to justify a protective duty, and while I intend to vote for a revenue duty, I feel that as the article is so largely used, it would be much better to pension off the people now employed, and let them go elsewhere. The arguments used by the mover of the amendment would have been more effective if they had been directed to the question whether this is really a native industry. If it is a native industry, I take it the product will become cheaper, but if it is not, it will naturally become dearer to the extent of the duty we impose. I do not want to discuss the question of wire netting, but incidentally I express the hope that it will be placed on. the same footing as barbed wire. At present no one knows to what extent articles, the property of State Governments, are to be admitted free, or how far these duties will affect those who have to use wire netting for fencing on old settlement lease runs. In my opinion, within two years after the passing of the Rabbit Bill in New South Wales, a million miles will not cover the quantity of wire fencing required. If every one in . that State became manufacturers, they could not make wire netting enough, and such would be no time to impose a duty.
– The question arises, is it right to impose any duty 1 The question is not whether only a few men are employed in the industry, but whether we are imposing these duties for the purpose of revenue, or to save the few who are employed, or for the purpose of employing more. I hold that the honorable member for Gwydir is guilty of fiscal schism when he contends that because there are only 30 or 40 men employed there should be no duty. If there was only one man employed. a duty ought to be imposed. We have capital punishment, not because the whole of the population are murderers, but because there should be a wholesome preventive. I shall vote for a duty of 15 per cent, on barbed wire, and also for a duty on wire netting, and thus encourage the latter in”dustry in New South Wales, from which State we get the largest portion of the revenue. I am sorry to think that Victorian members are a bit selfish on these questions. There is too much’ of Victoria, *and it is bad for honorable members representing that State to refuse to help others, because such a course of conduct may eventually create combinations against themselves. I do not care if all the newspapers on earth attack me.
– Not even the Age.
– Not even fifty Ages. Every newspaper in Tasmania, with one or two exceptions, fought me, and I beat them. All I desire is to justify my action to my conscience, and not to be dictated to by newspaper individuals or combinations. If it be right to vote in any particular direction, King O’Malley will vote according to his conscience. If 50,000,000 jumped on my chest, it would make no difference. AVe want a duty on barbed wire, not because the industry will give a great deal of employment, but because the duty will help to build up an Australian industry, and help Australians to be self-sustaining and independent against the whole world.
– I should like to say a word in explanation on a point on which the leader of the Opposition evidently misunderstood me. I never at any time said, or thought of saying, that I had not been informed as to the position of the wirenetting industry in New South Wales. On the contrary, I have the fullest information on the subject, and the right honorable member is entirely in error in suggesting the contrary. I did speak about not being fully informed as to the extent of the iron industry with reference to the manufacture of rails, and said that that had induced me to suggest that that item should be provided for by bonus, and a subsequent duty.
– Then the right honorable gentleman deliberately put wire netting on the free list, knowing of the industry in New South Wales ?
– Yes. According to some honorable members the manufactured article under discussion is largely wanted in the Commonwealth, and therefore it ought not to be protected. I venture to consider that the proper subject of a protective duty is an article which is likely to be largely used in the Commonwealth. What are we to protect ] Are we to protect industries which are not wanted in the Commonwealth? What are we likely to gain from such a course as that ? Surely the statements made by a number of honorable members as to the necessity of having wire netting and barbed wire for use in the Commonwealth points in the direction of encouragement being given to the establishment of these industries rather than to the reverse. It would be simply idle to provide for the encouragement of industries for which there is no use whatever. Something has been said about the addition to the cost of fencing. We protectionists hold, that in the long run, there is certainly no permanent increase in the price of the manufactured article.
– What does the Minister call “ the long run “ ?
– It may be a very short date. Does the honorable member for Parkes think it possible to name a specific time in each case ? I have shown that the duty in existence in Victoria in this connexion has enabled manufacturers in that State to place as good an article on the market at as low a price as the manufacturers of New South Wales, with all their free-trade fallacies, have been able to do.
– Is the Minister speaking of wire netting ?
– I am speaking of the item under discussion. I have previously intimated that the arguments in favour of treating barbed wire and wire netting alike were recognised by’ the Government, and were to be taken into consideration as soon as we had decided in regard to the first item. There is no doubt that much of the argument in favour of barbed wire applies with equal force to wire netting, and honorable members know the reason that induced the Government to treat them differently. I deny that there will be any increased price, but taking the free-trade argument that there will be an increase to the extent of 15 per cent., what* does that amount to? What is the life of a wire fence ?
– It all depends on the part of Australia.
– It all depends on the stress to which the fence is subjected.
Mr. Page : Tommy rot !
– The honorable member evidently believes that he’ knows more on this subject than those who are accustomed to use such fences. I felt that in a matter of this sort it was just as well to fortify myself by applying to various honorable members with special knowledge as to what is the ordinary life of a wire fence. I have it from one honorable member that with reasonable repairs the period is 25 years. What does the honorable member for Maranoa say ?
– I have seen a wire fence last only twelve months. A wire fence may last 25 years in South Australia, but not in Queensland.
– Another honorable member places the period at fifteen or twenty years.
– It is about fifteen years.
– We will take it at fifteen years, and say that the difference -in price is 15 per cent. That difference distributed over the 15 years amounts to 1 per cent., even allowing for interest on the 15 per cent. Yet we have all this crying and howling as to the imposition of a duty which is almost simply a revenue duty, on goods which are required to be renewed only once in 15 years. How does that contrast with the application of free- trade principles to other matters - to the duty on tea, for instance ?
– Is the right honorable gentle- man in order ?
– Undoubtedly I am in order. I am contrasting the proposal now made with a proposal already before us, and I have a right to show that the former is based on generally accepted principles, and’ is infinitely less to.be condemned than the second proposal to which I have referred.
The duty on tea is 3d. in the £, or 50 per cent.
An Honorable Member. - That is the Minister’s own proposal.
– Just so; but how does it lie in the mouths of those who favour the proposal, as revenue tariffists do, to find fault with a proposal which amounts to only 1 per cent, on the cost of a wire fence 1 I venture to consider that as regards this particular item the charge is moderate. The industry is of a character which ought to be encouraged. We are told that the manufactured article is wanted. We want the industry and we want the article. What can we do to get them ? Why, give the industry encouragement! The proposed duty represents only about 1 per cent, on the life of a fence, and under all the circumstances it ought to be conceded without demur.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs should have been satisfied with the pretty long ‘iddress which he made at an earlier part of the evening. I can assure him that if he will indulge in a protectionist speech at the end of a long discussion on a particular article, I shall simply follow his example. If the Minister in charge of a Tariff of this sort thinks that it is a proper consumption of time to air these protectionist generalities, I am surely not expected to have a keener sense of the value of time. I feel that I shall have to answer the right honorable gentleman at some length. In the first place he says that in the long run protective duties will reduce any locally made article to a price as low as - if not lower than - that of the imported article. The right honorable gentleman quite believed that statement the moment he made it ; but he has not believed it half the time that he has been engaged in framing this Tariff, because there are thousands of items contained therein which give the lie direct to his statement. If the right honorable gentleman really believed it, I should never have received a schedule like the one which was handed to me this afternoon. It is full of exemptions. Those exemptions include tools of trade of a thousand different kinds, which are used in protected industries. Surely it would be a grand native industry to make our own tools of trade for the industries of Australia. Of course I recognise that the Minister believed the statement which he made at the moment he spoke. He is nothing if not sincere, and he can be sincere in a hundred different ways in the course of a hundred minutes. What do we find in this very division ? The side columns are crowded with free items. Why should rabbit traps be admitted free 1 Is not the great manufacturing industry of Australia equal to the task of making rabbit traps ? What a boon it would be for the rabbit infested districts to have better and cheaper rabbit traps than they can get under a free-trade Tariff. Surely it is quite time that these generalities - which are all right upon the public platform, but which will not do when addressed to this committee which has such an enormous schedule before it - were abandoned. There is not a page here which is not full of exemptions. Several schedules were handed to honorable members to-day, containing further exemptions. There is no sense in these exemptions if by charging duty we should secure a better and cheaper article than is the imported. Why should we offer premiums to importers to introduce rubbish at a dearer rate than we can manufacture the articles for ourselves 1 The right honorable gentleman is not consistent in the generalities which he utters. Then there is his calculation that the duty represents about 1 per cent, per year upon the cost of a vermin-proof fence. Unfortunately the Customs department does not collect its duties in that way. It collects the whole lot at once. A man has to be out of pocket the full amount for which he is liable, before he can put one inch of fencing around his holding. When we consider the distressed state of the people in the interior of the countrywho are battling with vermin and droughts, and contrast it with the comparatively comfortable situation of those resident in the big cities, it seems an outrage that whilst the tools of trade used in snuglyprotected industries are placed upon the free list, the barbed wire which is vital to the self-preservation of the pioneer and his industries does not receive the same treatment. If, as the result of the imposition of duties, we get better and cheaper articles, why not include all these things in the schedule of exemptions ? Cannot we make them ? I am sorry that the Minister for Trade and Customs has obtruded a protectionist speech upon the committee at this unseasonable hour. He has tempted me to continue for another hour, but I will have mercy upon the committee. I hope that in future he will pay more attention to the representations of his colleagues from New South Wales, when they bring New South Wales industries under his notice. It is all very well for the Minister to smile, but there is not an industry which employs a boy in South Australia that is not protected. We want men like the right honorable gentleman to represent New South Wales in the Cabinet. The revelation of to-day shows who are the live men of the Ministry, and that what has been so repeatedly stated is true.
Question - That the words “and on and after the 23rd January, 1902, free” be added - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the words “and on and after the 23rd January, 1902, 10 per cent.” be added.
– The Government recognise, in view of the division which has just taken place, that it would be a pity to waste the time of the committee; and, therefore, we will not divide against the amendment which the honorable member for South Australia has just proposed, although, of course, our opinions remain unchanged.
Amendment agreed to.
– We have now come to the end of the articles in division V. which the Government propose to make dutiable, and this is the proper time for any honorable member who desires to add to the list to do so.
– I move -
That the words ‘ ‘ wire netting, on and after 23rd January, 1902, 10 per cent.” be added.
I shall not go over the ground which has been so extensively traversed this afternoon. It has been urged that in New South Wales 300 men are employed in the manufacture of wire netting, and that the industry has been established there without the aid of protection. I would like to point out, however, that it was established under the Dibbs Tariff.
– No ; years before.
– It is sixteen years old.
– Those who are connected with the industry ought to know what the facts are, and they are my authority for the statement. But there are other forms of protection besides protection through the Custom-house, and the wirenetting industry in New South W ales has benefited very largely by the fact that the Queensland Government hare passed regulations to the effect that loose rolled wire may be used in connexion with the farming industry there. Nearly the whole of the wire netting used in Queensland under those regulations has been made in New South Wales. As a reason for proposing this duty I would remind honorable members of the fact that nearly the whole of the wire that has been imported into the Commonwealth during the past two or three years has been imported from Germany, where a bounty amounting to from 15s. to 20s. per ton, or at the rate of 7 per cent., is paid for every ton exported, and the netting is brought out here by German steam ships, which are subsidized by the German Government. We hear a great deal about loyalty to the Empire and to our country, but are we loyal if we permit our workmen to fight against competition like that ?
– How long has the honorable member known these facts
– I do not see what that has to do with the truth of what I am saying.
– I thought that perhaps the honorable member’s recentlyacquired knowledge had altered his opinion that wire netting should be on the free list.
– I am not in the confidence of the Government. If I had been, the Tariff would have been very differently framed. When I stated last night that this industry has been losing heavily during the last two or three years, my statement was challenged, but I repeat it. The New South Wales manufacturers are prepared to submit their books to an independent tribunal, and can show conclusively that unless they are given some protection they will have to shut down.
– That is the tale the honorable member tells about everything.
– We do not believe it.
– Would the honorable member believe it if he saw the overdraft account 1 I can assure him that it is an absolute fact that the firm is involved so seriously through losses incurred in trying to compete with the imported article under the conditions I have mentioned, that unless they are given a reasonable amount of protection, they must shut down. I think I have shown that I am as anxious to protect New South. Wales industries as to protect Victorian industries.
– The New South Wales industries do not want it.
– They do want it. It has been pointed out to me and to other honorable members that protection is required by the New South Wales manufacturers to save their industrial lives.
– What does the Minister say to the proposal?
– The interjection of the honorablemember for Parramatta is a very fair one. If every private member is allowed to suggest additions to the Tariff, we shall occupy the whole time of this Parliament in discussing it, and it will probably be incomplete when we go before the electors again. Before honorable members on this side pointed out that there was a marked difference between the way in which the barbed-wire industry and the wirenetting industry have been treated, Ministers and honorable members opposite seemed to know nothing whatever of the New South Wales factories, though I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs pressed for a duty upon wire netting, but that his representation did not have the effect with the Cabinet that it should have had. The wirenetting industry has been in existence in New South Wales for fifteen years, and was started there long before the Dibbs Tariff came into operation. Messrs. Lysaght Bros. have not asked one New South Wales representative to fight for their interests in this chamber, because they are satisfied with the result of their enterprise. I hold in my hand a document from one of the leading employés of the firm, which draws attention to the fact that their great competitor is the bounty-fed German manufacturer. I could understand the Treasurer proposing a revenue duty of 10 per cent. upon wire netting; it is only upon these lines that the imposition of a duty would be justified. As a free-trader I could not vote for a protective duty, even to benefit certain of my constituents.
– I think that whoever the proprietors of this factory are, they will not be grateful to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for his declaration to the committee that they are in an insolvent position.
– He did notsay that.
– He said that unless a duty were imposed they would have to close down, that they could not carry on their industry in the face of the present competition. I can conceive of no statement which could be more damaging to the credit of a firm, and the honorable member had no right to make it. This is not the first time that he has played the part of a croaker. He told us that we should ruin the Victorian hat-making industry if we reduced the duty upon hats to 30 per cent., but in spite of his prognostications thehat makers of Victoria ha ve extended their operations into New South Wales. That does not look much like closing down. “We have heard all these tales before ad nauseam while this Tariff has been under discussion. At a recent meeting in Melbourne one manufacturer said that the manufacturers were getting ready to die, and yet I am afraid these firms are going along merrily in spite of all statements to the contrary. “Naturally they want to get as much as they can out of this Parliament and out of the pockets of the people, and they pull a long face in order to secure a higher rate of duty. More power to them if they can do so, but the firm to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has referred will not thank him for stating that they will have to close their doors unless Parliament comes to their assistance. In. spite Of the honorable member’s statement regarding bounty-fed German competition, the industry in New South Wales has gone on increasing in volume, until to-day it employs 300 hands, and this is the first time we have heard anything as to the necessity of a duty for the protection of the industry. I am curious to know what attitude the Government propose to take with regard to wire netting. It has been stated time and time again by those who profess to have some sympathy with the primary producers of Australia that wire netting, above all things, should be placed on the free list in the interests of those who live in the back blocks. It is essentially one cif their raw materials, and its use is necessary for their existence, and if we impose a duty upon it we shall add considerably to the very heavy burdens which this section of the community already have to bear. These people are already struggling hard for existence against the various pests which have to be fought down by them, and as we cannot protect their products we should certainly not add to their burdens. We cannot insure them any higher prices for their sheep or farm produce, which are open to the free breezes of competition all over the world, and it is desirable that we should afford them every facility in carrying on the straggle against the adverse conditions with which they have to contend. Wire netting is an article which must be used extensively for the preservation from vermin of the Crown lands of the Commonwealth, ‘and as it is no function of this Parliament to hamper those who are engaged in developing our resources under the most arduous conditions, I hope that the committee will vote against the duty.
– I hardly expected that the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would find acceptance with honorable members opposite, notwithstanding the fact that Germany is the principal competitor of those engaged in the wire-netting industry. Every ton of wire netting exported from that country is subsidized to the extent of 15s. or £1 per ton, and the steamers which convey the netting to this country also receive high bonuses. The wire-netting industry has been in existence in New South Wales for some time, but I am informed by those who are managing it that it has not been paying; that there has been an actual loss on the working” of it, and that but for the slight assistance it received during the operation of the Dibbs Tariff it would have been closed down long ago. The number of hands employed is 300, including 50 boys, whilst the number of employes in the branch establishment recently opened in “Victoria is 40. The amount of wages paid in New South Wales is about £400 per week.
– Those are very low wages.
– Perhaps so; and that may be taken to indicate that the industry is in need of some assistance. Protectionists argue that where a duty is imposed and an industry is established in consequence, the price of the article produced will eventually be cheapened, and therefore I cannot understand . professing protectionists being opposed to the imposition of this duty. I have some figures here which show that Our importations df wire netting from foreign countries for 1901 were as follow: - “From Great Britain, 7,000 rolls, valued .at £5,000 ; from Belgium, 4,000 rolls, valued at £2,620 : and from Germany, 13,000 rolls, valued at £9,640. It will thus be seen that the largest importations come from Germany. As illustrating how the German manufacturers or importers compete with the local manufacturers, I may mention that a short time:ago tenders were called for the supply of 1,000 miles of wire netting, and that the German importers or agents tendered at £3 per ton below the actual cost of manufacturing the wire ‘netting here. That is to say, they quoted a price which was £3 below the actual cost of manufacture here, without allowing anything for profit. We have just imposed a 10 per cent, duty on barbed wire for the benefit of an industry which employs about 40 hands in Victoria. I believe that although there are five factories they are all owned by the one firm. I would ask if honorable members are going to be so inconsistent as to support the barbed-wire industry in Victoria and to refuse to recognise the claims of the wirenetting industry in New South “Wales to the same extent. I am not, of course, referring to those who voted for placing barbed wire on the free list, but to those honorable members who favoured a 10 per cent. duty. The Government have placed wire netting on the free list, for some reason of which I am not aware, and I think they would have been better’ advised if they had made it dutiable. I will not say that the firm of Lysaght Bros, will close down if a duty is not imposed on wire netting, but as they have been losing money they cannot go on in the the same, way for ever, and I hope the committee will favorably consider the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I do not see that there is anything inconsistent in standing by the original proposal of the Government to leave wire netting on the free list, notwithstanding the fact that a duty of 10 per cent, has been placed on barbed wire. The quantity of barbed wire used . in Australia is comparatively limited. No farmer or pastoralist ever puts up a six-wire fence entirely of barbed wire. It is used for placing at the foot of dog-proof fences, or along the top of wire netting fences, whereas wire netting is used entirely for the whole length of a fence. Thousands of tons of wire netting is used for every few tons of barbed wire. I wish to impress upon the committee that we have a great national enemy to cope with. Although the rabbit is a very insignificant animal so far as size is concerned, he threatens to almost destroy the pastoral and farming industries. It is estimated that one pair of rabbits will in three years produce 13,000,000, and it would be interesting to calculate what that 13,000,000 would produce within the following three years. Rabbits are threatening to destroy the country, and I estimate that we shall require at least 50,000 to 100,000 miles of rabbit netting within the next few years. I do not suppose I should be much beyond the mark if I said 100,000 miles. Every pastoralist will find it necessary to rabbit-proof his run, and every farmer will have to similarly enclose his farm, so that it can easily be seen that my estimate is not an extravagant one. Putting the cost of this fencing at the modest amount of £20 per mile, 50,000 miles would involve an expenditure of £1,000,000, and 100,000 miles would necessitate double that outlay. I hold country which I am seriously considering the advisability of abandoning within the next few years, owing to the depredations of the rabbits. The wire netting industry is carried on chiefly in Sydney, where the ordinary galvanized wire is imported and woven into netting. This industry, which employs about 300 men, has not asked for any special consideration, and has been carried on apparently at paying rates, during the free-trade period in. New South Wales. But even if special consideration were asked for, should that stand in the way of the great primary industry which is now having a life and death struggle with the rabbits ? Would it be possible for any manufacturer in the country to produce the 50,000 to 100,000 miles of wire-netting which will be needed in the immediate future ? The New South Wales Parliament recently passed a Rabbit Act, by which fencing is almost compulsory, provision being made to advance money for the purchase of the netting, and boards being appointed to see that the law is carried out. But the rabbit trouble is all over Australia, and it is our first duty to consider the primary industries. I cannot imagine that this National Parliament will for a mere whim or for the sake of carrying out a certain policy, enhance the price of wire netting, and I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will withdraw his proposal.
– I quite agree that from the point of view of the principle of protection it seems hard to subject the makers of wire netting to open competition while giving to makers of barbed wire and similar commodities some degree of protection. But we must consider that in New South Wales - and I dare say in almost as great a degree in other States - there- is now going on, and is likely to continue for some time, an almost life-and-death struggle between, not only the pastoralists, but also the smallest of the farmers in the central division, and the rabbits.
– I mentioned the farmers.
– The New South Wales Government have been constrained, after two or three years of agitation, to pass a lawallowingmoney to be advanced on lengthy terms of repayment for the erection of wire fencing, in order to. cope with the rabbit scourge. There have been brought into existence local bodies charged with the duty of eradicating the rabbits, and of collecting the rates from land-owners and stock-owners for this purpose. I know from my own experience that in the central division it will take every penny the land-owners can scrape together for a year or two to fight the rabbit scourge ; and at a time like this, when it is of such vital importance to have cheap netting it would be altogether wrong to put an impost on the importation of this article. I admit that Lysaght Brothers have been carrying on a fight for a good while, and it is hard for them to continue the fight without any encouragement ; but as against their interests, or those of the one or two other similar firms, we have to consider a matter of national importance. I am convinced that without wire netting it is impossible to deal with the rabbits satisfactorily. There are other, necessary methods, but netting is the primary necessity, because once the rabbits are enclosed they can be dealt with in an effective way. Therefore, I hope that the committee, in view of the special circumstances, will reject the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).- As it is quite evident that the feeling of the committee is not in favour of the proposal
– Surely this is not a sham !
– The sham is on the part of those who pleaded for such a proposal on behalf of New South Wales, and will not now vote for it. With the consent of the committee, I shall withdraw my proposal.
– I object most indignantly.
– We ought to have a vote. The making of wire fencing ought to be a Commonwealth national industry. Rabbits are a national industry, and as wire netting is an antidote, we certainly should not refuse to give the New South Wales manufacturers protection. If I have to vote alone, I shall vote for those men who have stood out like heroes for years, fighting against the infamous free-trade system.
– The honorable member gives free-traders a vote occasionally.
– I do not give the votes for free-trade, but in favour of a revenue Tariff. I hope the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will not be seduced from his proper moorings, because we desire to create industries in Australia. Suppose the country happened to be surrounded by those fleets from the East, of which honorable members sometimes speak, we should be overrun with rabbits owing to our inability to get fencing from abroad.
– Wire netting is not made in some States now.
– That is because there has been no protection ; but when we get the mines going in Tasmania we shall make every portion of those wire goods here.
– I certainly do not wish to be offensive to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but, from a protectionist point of view, he made out such an honest and straightforward case for his own amendment, that his request to be allowed to withdraw is not like the usual intrepidity with which he votes for his principles. The honorable member must do the Opposition the justice of acknowledging that although we cannot, on our principles, vote for a proposal of this sort,we still think it strange that men whose principles should call on them to support the honorable member, now stand so staunchly by the industry with 40 men, and desert the industry employing 300 men. We were told that so marvellous is the benefit of the policy of protection, that some people in Victoria can actually make a better article than can be imported, and at a lower price. Those persons who perform such prodigies with barbed wire can perform equal prodigies with wire netting, and produce the latter better and cheaper than that imported. Just look at the great boon which will be conferred on Australia by the barbed wire magicians ! We have heard the probable enormous expenditure estimated at £2,000,000 for wire netting, and I have no doubt that those heroes of barbed wire will make that netting for £1,500,000, and give the distressed struggling settlers of New South Wales a better article: Why should protectionists shrink from conferring this untold blessing on the struggling settlers of New South Wales ? If they are determined to confer on the struggling settlers of Australia cheap barbed wire by the natural process of imposing a duty, how simple, easy, direct, and expeditious is that process ! Why have protectionists not the courage of their own principles? I honour a man like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who goes straight as a die for his principles. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, believes in himself always, and under that benign influence, he, too, often goes straight. But what shall we say of the Ministers of New South Wales, who allowed barbed wire to have the benefit of protection, and will not extend a helping hand when a Victorian member in a chivalrous spirit proposes to help a distressed New South Wales industry ? If this wire-netting industry had been situated in Adelaide, or Gawler, the manly Minister for Trade and Customs would be determined that it should have.fair play ; he would not allow any South Australian to go without a meal under this “great national policy.” The only regret that Lysaght Bros, can have is that the three New South Wales Ministers have not stood up for the “ great national policy,” as the Minister for Customs has stood up for it in connexion’ with South Australia. There must have been a Cabinet fight over this matter. Surely, the New South Wales Ministers would make a fight for a New South Wales industry? Here we have a Tariff which proposes to tax the people right and left, on every article they eat and wear, and these articles are almost as important as wire netting to people with small wages and large families. A policy placing duties of 100 per cent, on hats, boots, and shoes, was agreed to by the Cabinet, but they cannot afford to put 1 per cent, on wire netting in order to keep afloat a “great industry “in New South Wales. So far as the protectionists of New South Wales are concerned, they have been badly served ; but our protectionist friends have, I admit, served the free-trader of New South Wales and the national interests of that State. I know it is a sham to talk about malling things cheaper by imposing a tax. The Ministry know it is a sham in regard to wire netting, and hence we find wire netting on the’ free list.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- As to some remarks from the leader of the Opposition, I may say I refrained from debating the general subject of free-trade and protection, because if that course be taken on every item, we shall never get through the Tariff with a reasonable degree of celerity. So far as I am concerned, I have never attempted to persuade the people that the imposition of protective duties will make things cheaper, at any rate not for a very considerable time. I believe the result, especially in regard to those industries not established in a large way, is to make articles, dearer until the industry is sufficiently established to serve the whole of the needs of the consumers in the Commonwealth. There has been no equivocation so far as I am concerned in this connexion. If there is sufficient internal production, we can frequently in specific cases, get the article cheaper than the article that is imported. But I do not wish to discuss the question of free-trade and protection.
– This is a very inconvenient stage to do it.
– It is not at all an inconvenient stage so far as I am personally concerned, because I have all along made my position perfectly clear. But it is exceedingly inconvenient to open up the whole question from an argumentative stand-point upon almost every item of the Tariff. _ Of course the leader of the Opposition is not aware of the extent to which the general debating power of the Chamber has been carried in this connexion. I think that we ought to confine ourselves for the most part to the question immediately at issue.
– In connexion with this matter, I have previously explained why the Government originally intended to place _ wire netting upon the free list. We have already disposed of the idea that there was any foundation in fact for the suggestion that we desired to accord to theindustries of one State different treatment from that meted out to the industries of another. But in view of what has been said as regards the necessity for protecting this particular industry as it exists in New South Wales, and the peculiar form of competition to which it is subjected, the Government propose to vote for the amendment submitted by the honorable member forMelbourne Ports.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- I really feel that we have arrived at a stage when the attention of the committee should be directed to the position in which we find ourselves. It now appears that the influence of the three Cabinet Ministers representing New South Wales was not sufficient to secure straight treatment for this industry. The influence’ of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, it is apparent, is greater than that of the three Ministers representing Mew South Wales. I have nothing more to say. Imerely wish to point to the extraordinary fact that a private member can do more in this committee for a great Mew South Wales industry than can the three Ministers representing that State.
– The right honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– I desire to state the reasons why I shall not support the Government upon the item under discussion. I consider that if we place wire netting upon the free list, we shall be doing a very great injustice to those who require it, and we know that a very large quantity of it will be required in the near future. We have also the statement that the Lysaghts themselves do not require the aid of this duty. I do not believe that they need it. The firm started here at a time when large orders for wire netting were being placed upon the market by Queensland. They must have made large profits then, and I have strong doubt as to whether they are losing now. The industry is one which can stand by itself, and I will not support the imposition of a duty in cases where it is not required.
– I think that the Government occupy a very peculiar position in regard to this item. When it is plainly stated that there is no other purpose in view than that of protecting an industry, irrespective of the revenue to be derived from the tax imposed, it is quite clear that there is nothing else to do but to vote against the proposal of the Government. To my mind the result which has been arrived at is a clear victory for the free-trade party.
– It appears to me very plain, from the statements made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and from the speech of the Minister for Home Affairs, that this matter was not pressed upon the Cabinet by those gentlemen.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– Never mind, the honorable member got his remark in.
– I wish to take exception to that observation. I hope that honorable members will consider the dignity of the committee and will not endeavour to introduce any remark which is disorderly.
– I would point out that other honorable members traversed more ground than I have done without being stopped by the Chairman.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. I checked the Minister for Trade and Customs, and also the leader of the Opposition, when they were pursuing a similar course.
– It was the Minister for Home Affairs and not I who took it upon himself to explain that the Cabinet were not a happy family. It is a standing disgrace to the delegation from New South Wales that it has been left to an honorable member representing another State to press this matter upon the attention of the Government.
– The honorable member is breaking another rule. He must not reflect upon the motives of any honorable member of the committee.
– It does seem extraordinary that the only way in which the proprietors of the wire-netting industry in New South Wales can secure the imposition of the duty they want is by inducing a supporter of the Government, who is in good odour in protectionists’ headquarters, to press this amendment upon the committee. The Chairman has already ruled that we cannot refer to the attitude of members of the Cabinet representing New South Wales, but I do not think that he will object to my saying that at least it appears that they did not possess sufficient influence in the Cabinet to secure the inclusion of this duty in the Tariff before it was submitted to the House. At any rate, it appears from what has resulted that they did not possess sufficient influence to induce their colleagues–
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to the action of Ministers in Cabinet. The item before the Chair is “Wire-netting, 10 per cent.’’
– Surely I am in order in referring to what may have taken place in the counsels of government. Are those counsels so secret and so sacred that we cannot discuss them?
– The honorable member should know - and I am of opinion does know - that in Committee of Ways and Means, our own rules provide, and it is the practice of every other Parliament, that the discussion shall be confined to the item before the Chair, more particularly when an amendment has been moved. Any action of Ministers in Cabinet has nothing whatever to do with the proposal to impose a 10 per cent. duty on wire netting.
– I am not arguing that it has. I am rather surprised that you, sir, have not followed what I was saying. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has moved an amendment that a certain duty shall be placed upon wire netting, and surely it is fair for me to express surprise that sufficient influence was not exerted by New South Wales Ministers to place this article upon the dutiable list without the assistance of the honorable member.
– They made a fight for it, but were wiped out.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- The gentlemen who are chiefly interested in this industry evidently knew their business when they intrusted it to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and it is with reference tohis statement of their case particularly that I wish to address myself. The honorable member has stated that this industry was established during the operation of the Dibbs Tariff in New South Wales - a statement which has been contradicted by other honorable members who have definite information that it was started fifteen years ago, or four years prior to the introduction of the Dibbs Tariff. Then again that Tariff was operative for only three years, so that the industry had existed in New South Wales under a free-trade policy for twelve years. Yet we are now asked to believe that it has been languishing during the whole of that period, and that its proprietors have been making a heavy loss.
– Its proprietors say that they have.
– I do not impugn the authority of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but I know how very easy it is for a person to look at things with a personal bias, and to make himself believe that he is losing money. Commercial men do not usually admit that they are making fortunes by leaps and bounds. It is generally the other way about. They say that they are continuing the industry in which they are engaged only with the benevolent idea of employing a certain number of men. They do not go upon the housetops and proclaim the profits which they are making. I am not prepared to say that the manufacturers in question have not had a very hard struggle owing to German competition. I am not prepared to say that they have not valiantly held the fort against long odds, but I am scarcely ‘ready to believe the ex parte statement that they have been losing money all the time, and will have to close their works if this duty is not imposed. Before we accepted such a statement it would be our duty to probe the matter still further. Some definite information ought to be in the possession of the committee before they rush to the rescue of an industry such as this. I do not think that the Minister for Trade and Customs would be willing to give anybody who chose to come along and say that the industry in which he was engaged would have to be closed unless he received some assistance, the advantage of a duty of 10 per cent. or 15 per cent.
– But suppose that an offer were made to satisfy commercial experts of the real position?
– Such information is not in the possession of the committee, and I do not see how it could come into our possession.
– I can assure the honorable member that, in connexion with other proposals in the Tariff, balance-sheets and affirmations have been submitted to show losses and gains, and the same thing could be done in connexion with this industry.
– I know that the honorable member would nob make a statement winch he did not believe to be true, and we understand that when honorable members make statements of this kind, it is upon information which they have accepted in good faith. But it is necessary for the committee to have further information before consentingtoany proposal of the kind now beforeus. Although the Opposition have criticised the Government for their action in putting wire netting on the free list, they are not, therefore, bound to vote for a duty upon it.
– Then does ail the pleading which we have had. on behalf of the industry count for nothing ?
– I have not heard any honorable members on this side asb for the imposition of a duty on wire netting, though I have heard a good deal of comment upon the fact that the Government, while giving protection to one industry, denied it to another. We, on this side, have a perfect right, while objecting to a proposed duty, ‘to point out that it would have been more fitting if the proposal had emanated from the Government instead of from a private member.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has accused honorable members’ on t this side of the chamber with inconsistency because they are not prepared to vote for a duty on wire netting.
– They are inconsistent in view of their urgent requests for a duty.
– No such urgent requests were made by honorable members on this side. What was claimed was that, as wire netting and barbed wire are made under similar circumstances, and are used for similar purposes, the two industries stand .practically on the same footing, and should receive equal treatment. The equal treatment which we on this side would give would be to put both articles on the free list.
– Then we should get no revenue at all from them.
– What the honorable member wants is protection, not revenue. Honorable members opposite, to have been consistent, should have insisted upOn the imposition of similar duties upon both commodities. We cannot be expected to follow the discrepancies and inconsistencies of the Ministry. If we did, we should steer a very zig-zag course. Honorable members have no light to introduce into the discussion of these questions the standing and success of private individuals engaged in particular industries. Are we to have balance-sheets submitted and examined by experts, as the Minister for Trade and Customs has suggested?
– I did not suggest it. I said, in effect, that if a man offered to satisfy one by an examination of his financial position by experts, he would be making something more than a mere statement.
– We have no right to consider statements of that kind. Our duty is to decide what it is best to do in the interests of the country, not what is necessary in order to make certain industries pay. If we undertake to transfer balances from the wrong side to the right side of the ledger, we shall have a nice task before us. I do not know what authority honorable mem-, bers have for doing it, but it is not right for them to bandy the names and positions of firms about the Chamber. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has given away his protectionist position by what he has said to-night. He has stated time and again that when an industry has been protected for a sufficient length of time prices become lower ; but if a duty is required to help the particular industry now under consideration it must make prices higher, otherwise those engaged in the industry cannot make any additional, profit.
– They could make larger profits if their output were increased, even though their prices remained the same.
Mr.- THOMSON. - -The larger output could be obtained without the duty, because there is likely to be a very large consumption of wire netting in New South Wales very shortly.
– They cannot supply their orders now.
– I do not know anything about that. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has stated that since the German Government give a bounty on the exportation of wire netting, and subsidize the steamers which bring it here, that should be a reason for putting a duty upon it. But if there were no wire-netting factory in Australia, should we not consider it a very good thing, seeing that we are about to spend some £2,000,000 on this article in New South Wales alone, that the Germans are prepared to reduce its price in this way ? I admit, however, that the existence of the industry here alters the position to a certain extent. Protectionists who supported a duty upon barbed wire are bound for the sake ‘ of consistency to support a duty upon wire netting, but free-traders are consistent in voting for the placing of wire netting upon the free list.
– I ask honorable members to vote against the amendment. For eight years I represented 1 a district having 500 miles of .coast-line, where not an acre could be used for wheatgrowing until the land had been fenced with vermin-proof netting. That state of things exists nearly all over the northern portion of South Australia, and the cost of this fencing is equal to an increase of rental of from 2d. to 3d. per acre. A great deal of the netting used iri South Australia has been imported from New South Wales,* but we have frequently been unable to obtain all we require from that State, and on two occasions the Government had to import wire netting from England, so that the selectors might be able to obtain profitable crops.
– I wish to point out the very serious effect of doing anything to increase the price of wire netting. Honorable members who have not followed closely the politics of New South Wales may, perhaps, not be aware that the rabbit pest has spread through the western pastoral division of that State into the more settled districts of the central division, which two or three years ago were considered to be too thickly populated to admit of the rabbits ever becoming a pest there. During last year, however, the farmers in many parts of the country have lost very heavily through the depredation of rabbits. Experience shows that the only solution of the difficulty is to fence in the individual holdings, and to enforce the general and compulsory destruction of rabbits. In its efforts to deal with this question, the New South Wales Government has leased scrub lands infested with rabbits for long terms, on condition that the holdings shall be enclosed with vermin-proof fences within a specified time, and that the rabbits shall be exterminated. It has been found, however, that some special assistance must be given to residents in the older settled districts, because many of them are not in a position to protect themselves. During the last session of the State Parliament an Act was passed empowering the Government to establish boards, and to place funds at their disposal for the purpose of advancing money to settlers on easy terms, to enable them to enclose their holdings. It is a primary necessity that wire netting should be supplied as cheaply as possible, and if the cost of fencing is increased, a great injury, which will assume national proportions, will be done to the settlers of New South Wales. I trust that the committee will reject this proposal.
– This is another duty which will impose a heavy tax upon. Queensland. It would almost seem as if the honorable member for Melbourne Ports had Singled Queensland out for special attention, but I can assure him that we do not need his favours. Our people are not protectionists run mad, as the residents of Victoria seem to be. Rabbit boards have been formed in Queensland, and have been granted large sums of money by the Government in order to secure the erection of rabbitproof fences along the borders of the State, and if a duty is imposed on wire-netting, the cost of carrying out this work will be greatly increased, and the burdens of the people will be added to. Furthermore, there are many selections which have been taken up in Western and Central Western Queensland, on the condition that they shall be enclosed with rabbit-proof fencing, and the holders of these leases will feel the proposed tax very severely. Some honorable members have claimed that the imposition of a duty will lead to an increased production of wire netting within the Commonwealth. We could not get all the wire netting that we required from New South Wales, and had to go to England and Germany for additional supplies. In New South Wales, I understand that the local supply is by no means equal to the daily increasing demand in thai State alone.
– Not to one-tenth part of it.
-r-Under these circumstances, and if the wire netting cannot be produced within the Commonwealth, the duty must increase the cost of the netting. I hope every representative of Queensland will join with me in resisting this attempt to impose a cruel and unjust tax upon the people of that State.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the fact that, according to the laws of South Australia, and, I believe, those of other States, Crown lessees are compelled to destroy vermin on their holdings, and that the only way in which they can effectually do that is by using wire netting and barbed wire. Further than that, the Minister himself succeeded in passing an Act under which, in certain vermin-infested districts, the landowners are not only compelled to destroy the vermin, but to erect vermin-proof fences.
– That is for their own good.
– Whether it is for their own good or not, they are compelled to use the wire netting, and we should not compel them to contribute to the revenue in the shape of a duty upon what they are obliged to use.
– In Western Australia, as in other States, the necessity for the use of wre netting is growing. ‘ There was a report recently that rabbits had made their appearance on our borders, and that it was necessary to at once take measures to prevent their encroaching upon our territory. The Government now have to face a large expenditure in that direction, and the imposition of a duty on wire netting will prove to be a serious matter to settlers generally. I know from my short experience in Victoria, that the necessity for the use of wire netting is becoming greater every day, and we should be inflicting a great injustice on the community generally, and particularly on settlers, if we imposed this dutv.
– I think the arguments used in support of the claims of the consumers of wire netting have been sufficiently strong to show that the article should be retained on the free list, and I shall, certainly oppose the amendment.
– Unless some honorable member desires to propose a new duty, we shall ask the committee to proceed to the consideration of the exemptions.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the machines which are intended to take the place of hand type-setting. It is rather a misnomer to call them type-setting machines, because they do not set type, neither do they cast it in the ordinary sense. The linotype, the monoline, and the monotype, are three of the machines at present in use, and they are of a similar character, as far as their effect is concerned ; but the linotope and the monotype are on the free list. Type for ordinary hand composition is subject to a duty of 20 per cent., as it is included under “N.E.I.,” whilst machines, which come into competition with the ordinary type for hand composition are to be admitted free. That does not seem to give a fair chance to hand typesetting against machines. I do not wish to see any particular favour shown to the compositors who work by hand, but there certainly should be no handicap placed upon them.
– Is the item of type passed ?
– Unless it is placed amongst the exemptions it will be subject to a duty.
– There is a proposal to put type amongst the exemptions.
– I want to draw attention to the necessity of having something like an equitable arrangement as between type and machines which take the place of type. Further, I should like to direct attention to a difficulty which presents itself if a tax, or, at any rate, a high tax, is placed on the various things which printers are compelled to use. It is apparent that for many years, or, at any rate, for some years, very few of these things can be locally manufactured in sufficient quantities to bring the price down to a parity with that obtaining outside the Commonwealth. ‘ Local printers, when tendering or quoting for the publication of books within the Commonwealth, will be at a disadvantage as compared with German or American printers, who are willing to quote for works which come into the Commonwealth free, and which none of us desire to see taxed in any shape. These are, it may be, medical works, scientific works, or ordinary works of fiction. At present a considerable and increasing number of these are published locally, and it would not be fair to offer a premium to any person requiring the publication of such works to go to America or Germany. I know that in Sydney travellers and representatives of firms in those countries are quoting for all classes of printing, and in quite a number of instances large jobs of ordinary book work and advertisements have gone abroad. I admit the Government have made some attempt to assist local manufacturers so far as advertising matter is concerned, but that attempt, I take it, will be comparatively ineffective. There are magazines, such as the Strand and Pearson’s, and quite a number of others, which come in ostensibly as literature, but which are sometimes loaded with advertisements to the extent of two-thirds of their total contents. The Treasurer shakes his head, but as a purchaser of such books every month, I am certain that a good deal more than half is made up of advertisements. The point I should like the Government to consider is whether it would not be practicable, if they want revenue, to put a small all-round duty on the things which printers use. If they impose a revenue duty of, say, 5 per cent., I shall not object. But I could not agree to a duty of 10 per cent. or more on the things which printers use, and the using of which will place them at a disadvantage with foreign competitors. In addition to that, it would be improper to make any distinction in the rate of taxation between machines and the type which is necessary to hand composition. The two ought to be at least on a parity. While in our present civilization we do not desire to put machinery at a disadvantage, it should not be placed at an advantage as compared with those who are compelled to use manual labour in the various processes of industry. Without submitting any amendment at present, I trust that the Government will give some indication of their general attitude towards this class of importation.
Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN (Melbourne). - I move -
That the words “washers and rivets on and after 23rd January, 1902, 15 per cent.” be added.
It is provided that there shall be a duty upon bolts and nuts, and as washers and rivets are manufactured in the same works, those in the trade think that the latter should be included amongst the dutiable articles. I ask the Minister of Customs to accept the amendment, or explain why washers and rivets were placed amongst the exemptions. One manufacturer has expended over£500 for one machine in order to make these articles.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I trust we have now heard the last of proposals from private members to place such articles as these upon the dutiable list. . The Government no doubt gave a good deal of attention to the subject, and thought fit to place washers and rivets amongst the exemptions, and a strong case will have to be made out from a protectionist’s point of view before the amendment can be accepted. Is it the intention of the Government to accept the amendment ?
– Yes; to treat washers and rivets similarly to bolts and nuts.
– I hope the Ministry will reconsider their decision, seeing that this amendment re-opens the whole discussion.
– I think washers and rivets were placed in the exemption list by mistake.
– They were specially singled out, and no doubt men in the trade know the reason. This is an illustration of the disadvantage of allowing private members to propose increases in the duties. The proposal is sprung on the House when no one isprepared to consider it ; and we proceed to teach men how to conduct their business when we do not even understand the terms used in the . trade. Even the Ministers, with all the means at their disposal, are not able to supply the House with a list of commodities manufactured in Australia. The free list is already sufficiently small.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - There may be a good deal to be said in favour of placing these articles on an equal footing, but I should like to have some information as to the effect of the amendment. Rivets are largely used in the manufacture of boilers, and in the building and repairing of iron vessels, and I should be glad to know how the imposition of a duty may affect these industries. We should be told something of the extent of the present importations, and it would be also be interesting to know whether washers and rivets were exempt under the Victorian Tariff.
– The Victorian, Tariff exempted rivets and copper washers.
– Since then these articles have been manufactured in Australia.
– But we do not know whether the local manufacturers are able to supply the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth, and I do not want the committee to vote in the dark for imposing a duty which may mean a considerable tax upon the boilermaking and shipbuilding industries.
– I dissent from the view that private members should not as far as possible assist the Government in remedying any inconsistencies in the Tariff, because there are inconsistencies which must be remedied. With that view I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he had any particular object in placing washers and rivets on the exempt list. My own feeling is that it would be consistent to place these articles in the same category as bolts and nuts, but the information I haveasked for would be of great assistance to the committee in coming to a decision.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney). - I should like to ask whether plate iron suitable for making washers is upon the dutiable list?
– No, it is upon the free list.
– So far as I am aware, there is a copper rivet and washer and a black iron rivet and washer which are used in connexion with big work, besides smaller tin or galvanized washers which are used for tin and galvanized-iron work. But I do not know to what washer the honorable member for Melbourne refers.
– I mean them all.
– I do not see what justification exists for making all of them dutiable. They are entirely different in character. The copper washers can be locally manufactured easily enough.
– Iron washers would not be free under division 6a.
– If the black iron washer is to be admitted free I do not see any excuse for imposing duties upon other washers. Further, there is absolutely no justification for levying a tax upon lead rivets and washers.
Sir MALCOLM MCEACHARN (Mel* bourne). - -perhaps it would be advisable to limit my amendment to iron and copper washers, and I ask leave to amend it accordingly.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– At the time “we were framing the Tariff, it was thought that washers and rivets occupied a different position from that of bolts and nuts. I knew that the latter were being manufactured largely in the Commonwealth, and I was under the impression that rivets and washers were not being locally manufactured. Further inquiries, however, have satisfied us that these articles are being made to a considerable extent within the Commonwealth, and hence we are quite prepared to rectify our mistake.
– The Minister is always admitting mistakes.
– I am prepared to admit a mistake whenever I make one. The charges levied against Ministers by the honorable member are very unfair. If we had done the right thing in our own interests, we should not have attempted whilst the House was in session, and whilst we were administering new departments, the task of framing a Tariff. I repeat that whenever, as the result of further information, Ministers ascertain that they have made a mistake, they intend to frankly acknowledge it and ask the committee to rectify it. I care not who criticises our action, because it is the proper course to adopt in the interests of the Commonwealth.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (Sydney).- It is quite plain that if we are going to imposea duty upon bolts and nuts, we ought also to levy one upon washers, which can bemanufactured much more easily. It seems extraordinary that the Government did not recognise this fact if they intended toimpose a duty upon any of these articles. I should like the Government to put a revenue duty of 10 per cent, upon bolts, nuts, washers, and rivets. I am aware that a duty of 15 per cent, has been placed upon bolts and nuts, but I think that that is too heavy a duty to place upon washers and rivets. In placing a duty upon thesearticles, we must take care that they are adequately described, because they enter into the manufacture of all sorts of other articles, and it may happen that in assisting the very small factories which are engaged in making them, we may hamper very much larger industries. Rivets are used in the making of waterproof clothing, in themaking of boots, and in the making of a great number of other things. It seems to me that we should give more consideration to the question of obtaining revenue, and solong as a duty is light and will not hamper the industry upon which it is imposed, I shall be ready to vote for it. If the honorablemember for Melbourne will alter his amendment so as to make the proposed duty upon rivets and washers 10 per cent., I shall be ready to support it.
– As. we have had no information as to theamount of revenue likely to be returned by a duty of 10, 15, or 20 per cent, upon these articles, we must regard the amendment as a proposal to impose a protective duty. I think, however, that I am right in stating that in the Victorian Tariff there was no duty upon washers or rivets, whether made of iron or copper, and that, notwithstanding that fact, they have been made here successfully. No doubt the industry will continue to thrive without assistance, and I shall, therefore, oppose the amendment.
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports). - I would point out that although washers and rivets have been made in Victoria without a duty, the industry would have been much more successful if there had been a duty, and it will be exceedingly inconsistent for the committee, having put a duty of 15 per cent, on bolts and nuts, to place rivets and washers upon the free list.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney is a very good one. I had intended when item 75 was under discussion to move the insertion, after the word “fishplates,” of the words “ fishbolts, washers, and dogspikes” to make the item complete, and for the same reason I think that a duty ought to be placed upon rivets and washers. I would suggest that there should be a 10 per cent, duty all round upon these things.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- “We have had too much of this going out of the chamber to consult with persons outside, and then coming in and speaking upon the information they have given.
– I have not been out of the chamber to consult with any one, bu1 1 have a perfect right to do so if I like.
– 1 did not mention the honorable member’s name, but we have had too much of this lobbying. I. am surprised that some of the Victorians have not had a little more decency with regard to the matter. The honorable member for Melbourne has a friend who has spent £500 upon a machine for making washers and rivets, and in order that this friend may obtain interest or something more upon his investment, the honorable member wants us to allow him to levy a toll of 15 per cent, upon the users of washers and rivets, instead of forcing him to make his living by his own exertions, as other citizens have -to do. When is this kind of thing going to stop ? I wish that the electors could hear the discussions that take place ir, this chamber.
– A number of honorable members would not be returned again if they did.
– I agree with the honorable member. A number of Victorian representatives will not be returned after the next election. I was a schoolboy in Victoria, and I know what a change of feeling has come about during the last ten or twelve years. The more reasonable the arguments addressed to the protectionists from this side of the House, the less inhelmed they seem to be to pay attention to them, so that it is no * wonder that sometimes honorable members on this side, in despair, use arguments that are not quite sound- One never knows how stupids may be caught. Is not this committee going to ask some reason for this rapid change of front, in the imposition of a duty upon washers and riverts, which we were given to understand received the careful attention of Ministers for many long days and nights 1 Is there to be no reason for it being brought forward except that the honorable member for Melbourne has a friend who has spent £500 upon a machine, and wishes to get his money back and interest upon it? I am not surprised at the rapid change of front on the part of Ministers, because we have had such changes in the last two or three days upon almost every item. The course followed by members on the other side leaves one with but a very poor opinion of the motives from which they act. We have had an honorable member saying that he was authorized to vote for putting barbed wire on the free list if certain statements made to him were not found to be correct. It seems to be quite sufficient for members on the other side to have a manufacturer come along and say, “ You have my permission to vote this way or the other way.”
– We have heard this before.
– It is necessary to repeat things many times to children, and honorable members opposite are children in their knowledge of these subjects. I cannot help protesting against the rapid change of front on the part of Ministers, and I cannot help regretting that I belong to a House, certain members of which show so much subserviency that they are prepared to change their opinions because a friend of the honorable member for Melbourne has spent £500 upon a machine.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I cannot help supporting the protest of the honorable member for Werriwa against the inordinate amount of lobbying which has been going on of late. I noticed that for three weeks prior to the adjournment, and since our reassembling, the representatives of the freetrade papers in Sydney have been living in the Federal Parliament House, in order that they may get the 10 per cent, duty off paper. I say this lobbying ought to be put a stop to.
– Are there no others besides free-traders here ?
– Oh, yes ; there are representatives of both sides.
– Then why does the honorable member single out our side ?
– I single them out because all the protests against lobbying have come from the free-trade side, and I think it is about time the public should understand that the lobbying is not confined to the manufacturers alone.
– Those on one side seek to gain money to put into their own pockets at the expense of others.
– These gentlemen to whom I refer are anxious about their own pockets to the extent of £15,000 or £20,000.
– But they do not wish to impose a tax upon the rest of the community.
– No ; but they desire that a tax shall be taken off themselves at the expense of the rest of the community. We propose to put a duty of 10 per cent, on that particular article, to avoid the necessity of taxing something else to a greater degree.
– I rise to a point of order. I believe the item we are dealing with now has something to do with rivets. The honorable member for Bland is discussing something about free - trade newspapers lobbying to prevent the imposition of a duty upon paper. I wish to know what the action of the managers of free-trade newspapers has to do with the imposition of this duty upon rivets, and whether an honorable member is in order in straying so far from the question before the committee ?
– I give in at once. Coming back to the main question, I do not feel any particular interest in rivets, and I am not particular how the vote goes.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).It is a strange thing that the honorable member for Bland can protest against the lobbying of only free-traders.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. V. L. Solomon). - I must ask the honorable member not to continue this discussion, but to confine himself to the item before the committee.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - The honorable member has declined my suggestion to make the duty upon rivets and washers 10 per cent., with a view of getting the Government to recommit bolts and nuts and make them 10 per cent.
An Honorable Member. - That would never do.
– Then .1 shall move it as an amendment. I move -
That the amendment be amended by .the omission of the word “ fifteen,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ten.”
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I do not see why there should be a 10 per cent, duty upon these articles. From a protectionist’s stand-point, the reason given by the Ministry for the imposition of a duty upon these articles is about the most extraordinary one that any one could listen to. The right honorable the Treasurer said that when he was preparing the Tariff he put rivets and washers on the free list because he did not know they were manufactured here ; but one would have thought that a protectionist would have put a duty upon these articles so that they might be manufactured here. Now the right honorable gentleman rushes forward at the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne, and proposes to put a duty upon them, because he is told that they are manufactured here without the assist:ance of a duty. I shall vote against the proposition.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to follow the usual course, and withdraw his amendment temporarily in order to allow the amendment moved by the honorable member for South Sydney to be put.
– I have no objection to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– On a point of order I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne’s amendment was moved as a substantive motion, and is before us as such, while the proposal put forward by the honorable member for South Sydney is an amendment on that motion.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - The same point is arrived at by following the course we have adopted of putting the proposal for the lower duty first. In order to allow that to be clone the honorable member for Melbourne has withdrawn his amendment, and the amendment of the honorable member for South Sydney is now before the Chair.
– I doubt whether the honorable member for South Sydney desires to movehis amendment as a substantive motion. If the substantive motion is withdrawn I take it that the honorable member will also withdraw his amendment, and vote on the question whether there shall be a 20 per cent. duty.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- It is only temporarily withdrawn, in order that the honorable member for South Sydney may move his amendment.
– But the honorable member does not want to move it as a substantive motion.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member has not intimated anything of the kind.
Mr. G.B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I am placed in a dilemma. As I stated in the first instance, I would agree to a 10 per cent. duty on rivets and washers if the Government would undertake to recommit the item and reduce the duty on nuts and bolts to 10 per cent. Without an intimation from the Government that they will recommit the item so far as it relates to these two articles, I certainly would not move as a substantive motion that the duty on rivets and washers be 10 per cent.
– We cannot give that assurance.
– Then I would rather vote against the proposed duty being 15 per cent.
Amendment (Mr. G. B. Edwards’), by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir Malcolm McEacharn) proposed -
That the words “ washers and rivets, iron and copper, on and after 23rd January, 1902, 15 per cent.” he added.
– We have always looked upon rivets more particularly as raw material for all iron-work, rind metal plates are regarded in the same way.
– So are bolts and nuts.
– On a mere verbal motion we have no right at the last moment to impose a duty on what have hitherto been looked upon as raw material, unless we have sufficient reason for believing that they can be made here in quantities sufficient to supply the requirements of the States. I desire to do what is fair to all industries, but we must make some distinctions. If honorable members are to be allowed to propose additional taxation in this way just as we are passing the last item of a division, when shall we pass the Tariff? We are only half way through now ; and we ought not to consider proposals for additional duties unless they are submitted in time to enable us to make inquiries in regard to them. I do not think the statement made to-night that persons are making these rivets here is a sufficient reason for imposing upon all the metal-workers on the continent such a tax as this. If there is an industry to be encouraged let it be placed under Division VIa, and when it is proved that it is worthy of encouragement let it have the benefit of a duty. I shall vote against this proposal.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).-We have been told by the Ministry that agreat deal of consideration has been given to this matter in Cabinet. There have been only two Ministers present whilst the debate on this matter has proceeded, and are those right honorable gentlemen going to call on their colleagues to vote with them now, without holding another Cabinet meeting ?
– The honorable and learned member is not in order.
– Why does not the honorable and learned member call attention to those who are absent from his own side ?
– I am merely calling attention to the fact, as I thought I had a right to do.
– The honorable and learned member knows that this is neither the time nor the place to do so.
– I think I am entitled to call attention to the fact that the Cabinet decided that there should be no duty on this particular line, but that Ministers are now to be asked to change their opinions in this committee because two members of the Ministry sitting here have changed their views on the question. At the least, I think the two members of the Ministry present should withdraw this duty and consult their colleagues to-morrow morning, or else it will go forth to the country that they have overruled the majority of the Cabinet.
Amendment (by Mr. Bamford) proposed -
That the words “washers and rivets, iron and copper, on and after 23rd January, 1902, 10 percent.,” be added.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - If we had an assurance that the
Government would recommit the duty on bolts and nutswe might allow this amendment to pass.
– We cannot give that.
– Then shall vole against the amendment.
– This cannot be regarded as a straight out question of free-trade and protection.
– It is being regarded as such.
– I give the honorable member for Melbourne every credit for moving his amendment with the best of intentions, but I require more information upon this subject before I can, as a protectionist, support the imposition of a duty. In all the States rivets andwashers have hitherto been on the free list, and we hare had no information as to the possibility of much development in their manufacture here. The view I take is that, like many other industries connected with the manufacture of iron and steel, it would be much more judicious to allow them to stand as they have been until such timeas we can establish the manufacture of ironand steel within the Commonwealth. They can then be dealt with in a comprehensive and effective way and with much greater advantage than in the haphazard manner necessarily adopted when proposals are sprung upon the committee at a moment’s notice.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Order of the day discharged.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 January 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020122_reps_1_7/>.