1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
In Committee of Ways and Means -
Consideration resumed from 23rd January(vide page 9201).
Division VI. - Metals and Machinery.
The following exemption was agreed to:-
Apparatus - Diving
– As I understand that it has been decided that all crucibles, whether made of metal or of any other material, are to be permitted to come in free, I suggest that it will be better to insert after the word “crucibles” thewords “ metal or other.”
– In this division we are dealing only with metals and manufactures of metal, but I will make a note of the honorable member’s suggestion, and, if necessary, have the matter dealt with when the “miscellaneous” division is under discussion.
Exemption agreed to.
Mr.REID (East Sydney). - Are we to understand that the Ministry despair of establishing a native industry for the manufacture of fire engine? Does the manufacture of these engines present insuperable difficulties in the way of the establishment of an industry here, which Australian industry and genius cannotsurmount, or are fire engines placedupon the free list as a wise concession to those whose endeavour itis to save property from destruction ? I believe that the latter is the intelligent and benevolent reason for the proposed exemption, but it seems strange that the Government should admit that fire engines cannot be manufactured here, when they are placing heavy duties upon most intricate electrical and othermachinery, with a view to compelling its manufacture within the Commonwealth.
– The reasons for placing fire engines upon the free list are various. The manufacture of fire engines is an industry which has not yet been established in the Commonwealth, and is not likely to be established here shortly.
Mr.R. EDWARDS (Oxley).- In the States, plant and appliances used in connexion with theprevention of fires are placed upon the free list.
-I do not think that the appliances to which the honorable member refers come under the head of “manufactures of metal.” The better plan will be to deal with them when we are considering the “miscellaneous” division.
Exemption agreed to.
Cream separators and testers.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That, after the word “testers,” the word “ pasteurizers “ be inserted.
– I think the words “ and milking machines “ should also be inserted. The use of milking machines will be of great assistance to our dairymen; but, as they are patented and manufactured abroad - most of the recent developments in connexion with dairying having taken place in Denmark - they will be altogether too expensive if a duty is placed upon them.
– Would it not be better for Ministers as well as private members to wait until we have dealt with all the exemptions now appearing in this part of the Tariff before proposing additions to the list ?
– I think it will be better for honorable members to propose exemptions as we come to deal with kindred subjects. For instance, now that we have the question of testers and pasteurizers before us it would be well for honorable members to propose any exemptions that they think should be made in connexion with dairying machinery or implements. I think that every encouragement should be given to the use of milking machines thoughout the Commonwealth. Without labour-saving machinery of that kind, the future of the rising generation in our dairying districts should be abhorrent to all of us. At the present time, we find children growing up without education, because they have to rise early in the morning to bring in and to milk the cows, and when they go to school they are not able to learn anything, because they are too exhausted. In my opinion it would be well to offer bonuses for the introduction of suitable milking machinery.
– A number of honorable members have given notice of amendments which they intend to propose, and the Government thought it would be fairer to allow these honorable members to move them rather than take matters out of their hands. The Government will indicate their intentions when the amendments are moved. We are in favour of milking machines being admitted freely.
Mr.REID (East Sydney).- I think it would be better for the Government to pursue the course outlined last night, namely, to take the exemptions as they stand, and to deal with the supplementary suggestions after the printed matter has been disposed of. That would save time, by preventing unnecessary repetition of discussion, and would prove more satisfactory to the committee generally.
– I have no objection to adopting that course.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Exemption agreed to.
The following exemptions were agreed to : -
Machinery (not including motive power, engine combinations, or power connexions, if any), viz. : -
Linotype and monotype.
Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing the manufacture of fibrous materials.
Mr.REID (East Sydney). - I must confess my ignorance as to what “ fibrous materials “ embrace. Does wool come under the head of “fibrous materials”?
Mr.REID. - I was told by a very wellinformed member of this committee that “ fibrous materials “ would not include wool.
– In the opinion of our experts “ fibrous materials “ include wool ; but if, on further investigation, we find there is any room for doubt, we shall not hesitate to make the necessary alteration.
– I think “fibrous materials” would include wool.
Exemption agreed to.
Machinery for the manufacture of paper and for felting.
– I think that the proprietor of a certain protectionist newspaper is interested in the manufacture of paper and felting, and when we consider that the protectionists hold the view that the imposition of a duty cheapens the article, it is rather remarkable that he should be agreeable to having the machinery necessary for his manufacturing operations placed on the free list. It is very gratifying to find that in this matter, at any rate, we are at one in desiring that an article should be placed on the free list.
– I always understood that there were local manufacturers who made the machinery used in paper mills.
– There are . paper mills here, but they do not manufacture much printing paper.
– I remember that when I recently referred to the local manufacture of printing paper, a certain newspaper derided me for my ignorance, and stated that Victoria did not produce the raw material necessary for the manufacture of printing paper, I find, however, that the late Baron von Mueller has shown that the bark of at least 30 different kinds of trees growing in Victoria is suitable for the manufacture of printing paper, and that Victoria has actually a larger supply of raw material than has Great Britain. It is a most ignorant mistake to suppose that there is no raw material in Victoria for the manufacture of printing paper, and that the foreign pulp must be used. I do not like to see the resources of Victoria underestimated in that way, and I am glad to have had an opportunity of making this statement.
– I do not intend to object to this machinery being contained in the list of exemptions, but I desire to show the inconsistency of the Government in dealing with machinery. Whereas heavy burdens have been placed upon complicated electrical appliances, it is here proposed to exempt from duty the machinery used in the manufacture of paper. I am not aware whether this machinery is of a very complicated character, but I am prepared to say that it is not so intricate and difficult, and does not require such skilled knowledge and information as the manufacture of electrical appliances.
Exemption agreed to.
Printing machines and presses, and machinery used exclusively for and in the actual process of electrotyping and stereotyping.
– I move -
That the words “ printing machines and presses” and “electrotyping and stereotyping” be omitted.
My object is to have the machines themselves dealt with in detail.
– I do not see that much will be gained by that.
– I felt very much interested in the information given to us by the leader of the Opposition with reference to the supplies of raw material available in Victoria for the manufacture of paper.
– I have the late Baron von Mueller for my authority.
– Did he say anything about the economic conditions?
– I understood that it was impracticable to carry on the manufacture of printing paper in Victoria for the simple reason that the raw material was not available in the shape of suitable tree-bark. If it is true, as represented by the leader of the Opposition, that paper pulp can be produced here, that will be a strong reason for imposing a duty on printing paper, which I was strongly inclined to admit free of duty, because it could not be manufactured here.
– I trust the committee will not accept the amendment.We have just passed linotypes and monotypes without comment, and, under the amendment, the proprietor of a little country newspaper who now desires to purchase a small machine will do so at the risk of the item being made dutiable a little later on. It appears that, all through, the big newspaper proprietor is favoured as against the proprietor of the small country newspaper.
– To save time, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Exemption agreed to.
– I move -
That the word “heads” be omitted.
My object is to provide that all sewing machines shall come in free.
– In the present temper of the House, I see no good in opposing this amendment ; but I know that sewing machines can be and are made in Australia. Does the honorable member for South Australia (Mr. Poynton) mean that we cannot make a sewing-machine stand? All iron and wood work in this connexion is made of the very best quality in Australian factories ; but I suppose it will be argued that a duty would make sewing machines dearer, and press heavily on the poor seamstress, and all that sort of nonsense. I simply enter my protest against the idea that we cannot make sewing-machine stands.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).- I am rather astonished at the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The Melbourne Age, which is the newspaper in which the honorable member believes, has very strongly condemned this duty. A few years ago that newspaper dealt with this question, and it appeared that, out of 1,000 machines, 37 per cent, were used by the seamstresses and sewing girls of Melbourne.
– How long ago was that ?
– In 1892, when there was a proposal for a 10 per cent. duty.We allow machines for manufactories to come in free, but it is now suggested that the sewing girls and the housewives should pay duty on the machines they use.
– I am very glad that the Government are not opposing the amendment, because if there is any article which should be free it is an article of this kind.
Amendment agreed to.
Exemption, as amended, agreed to.
The following exemption was agreed to : -
Typewriters, not including stands or cases.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the words “not including stands or cases “ be omitted.
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).Cannot we make stands or cases for typewriters ? I shall not divide the committee; but it is utter nonsense to contend that stands for typewriters cannot be made in Australia.
Amendment agreed to.
Exemption, as amended, agreed to.
Machine tools used in the following industries and specified in departmental by-laws : - Apparel and attire making, bookbinding, bootmaking, brushmaking, glassmaking and working, hatmaking, indiarubber working, leather dressing, metal working, paper cutting, finishing, and folding, stone working, tile, pipe, and brick making, wood working.
– We are dealing, with these matters rather fully ; and, having before us a detailed list which is capable of being enlarged, I do not think it is a fair thing to leave the interpretation or the fixing of a duty to departmental by-laws. This committee is the proper authority to decide as to duties. If the question of admitting free of duty certain machine tools has to be left entirely to the Minister and officers of the department, why not leave the whole Tariff to them ? I move -
That the words “and specified in departmental by-laws “ be omitted.
– Judging from the wayin which we are going, itwould hardly be equitable to have any duty on machinery. We are proposing to make so many exemptions that by far the greater number of importers, or those who desire to use these machines, will get them free, while the poor minority will have to pay pretty heavily.
– Miners and agriculturists, for example.
– Agriculturists will not have to pay under a 15 per cent, duty except on one or two isolated implements.
– This exemption, deals with “ machine tools.”
– There is no machine that is not a tool for somebody. Rather than make large exemptions it would be better to strike out the whole and put a lower Tariff on all machinery and tools. I do not see why we should differentiate between individuals to the extent proposed. I know that it is impracticable to make some of the machines here, but a great number can be made just as easily as miningand other machinery. I should like to know whether the Government have an estimate of the annual revenue value of the machinery involved in the list of exemptions which have been suggested.
– To give that information involves a calculation which has not yet been made. We have to look into a great variety of items, but we shall be able, before this part of the Tariff leaves the committee, to give honorable members the fullest information. In certain industries, the machine tools of which can be made here, we propose to give power to the Minister to deal with the cases as from time to time necessity arises. That will no doubt include a power to meet some of the difficulties previously pointed out in respect to other machinery, which, so far as we know at the present moment, may be invented, and require to be treated in a very liberal manner. I do not like the amendment, which proposes, in general terms, to strike out all reference to departmental regulations. The result of the amendment will be that whatever tools happen to be used will be admitted free. The Government think that the principle upon which the committee desire to act is to provide one line of treatment for tools which can fairly be made here at a reasonable price, and another and more liberal line of treatment in regard to tools which cannot be made here. The exemption, as submitted by the Government, will enable whatever is necessary to be done from time to time, and the provision is specially useful while the Tariff is undergoing the consideration of Parliament. It is simply proposed to give a power, as regards tools used in particular industries, to allow a relaxation in favour of free admission. I recognise as fully as any one that, as a general rule, it is desirable that the Tariff should be fixed, and that within its four corners there should be set out all the information necessary for a person contemplating importations to form a reliable opinion as to the duty to which he will be subjected, and in what respect he may import free. The proposal is based on principles which have been embodied in former Tariffs’, notably that of “Victoria, under which, in regard to minor articles used in particular trades and industries, this power of relaxation was given to the Minister when it was shown that the articles could not be produced here, and that it was not worth while to harass the trade by imposing a duty.
If objection is taken to the proposal, I trust that it will not be met by sticking out the regulating power of the Minister, and leaving the exemption in the broadest and widest sense to embrace all tools employed in particular industries. To leave the exemption in that vague form would kill the possibility of any industry being established in connexion with the manufacture of these particular tools, and we abandon the principle, which I am sure we favour, that we ought to distinguish between tools which can fairly be made here and those which cannot. There are two alternatives to the amendment. One is to specify, and the Government have been at great pains to bring down, for the consideration of honorable members, a full list of machine tools to which we think this exemption should apply. The objection to that list seems to me to be that unless we prescribe some relaxing power in regard to new inventions, there will not be that elasticity which is necessary to the satisfactory administration of a provision of this sort. There is another way in which the matter could be met, namely, by departmental regulation, under which the House would retain control of all that is done. Departmental regulation is a Ministerial act published in the Gazette, and this House may secure the repeal of a regulation, or generally direct its application. Honorable members may possibly say that there is not, under departmental regulation, sufficient security for parliamentary control ; and, therefore, if honorable members so desire, the Government are willing, instead of providing for this relaxation by departmental regulation, to provide for its exercise by regulation under the Customs Act, of the procedure under which honorable members are aware. Regulations under the Customs Act have to be made by the Governor-General, and laid before both Houses, either of which has power to disallow within fifteen sitting days; and I think that if we were to provide for this being done by Customs regulation rather than by departmental by-law-
– I will not consent to giving any power of taxation to any authority outside the Parliament itself.
– This does not give any power of taxation. The very reverse is the case. It simply gives the power of remitting taxation, and of furthering that creed which the honorable and learned member so fervently and frequently advocates by extending free-trade to articles to which at present it does not apply. I say, “ Let us provide now for what we want in so many well-set terms.” We have put before honorable members what are our proposals in this respect, and we have supplied them with all the information at our command, so as to enable them to arrive at a conclusion as to what articles shall be exempt. I think it would be well to give the Government of the day, subject to parliamentary control in the way I have indicated, the power of making further relaxations. However opinions may differ as to which of the two courses I have suggested is the better, I think that honorable members will agree that it is not well to insert a provision in the general terms suggested by the honorable member for South Australia without imposing any limitation for the free admission of all tools used in these industries. I am sure that the committee will much prefer a specification of the articles. We have given honorable members the material at our command, und we also suggest very strongly that it would be well to add a power of making further relaxations by Customs regulation. This will provide a facile means of extending the provision to the free admission of goods of which we know nothing at the present time. It is very desirable that we should have this power, in order to avoid the necessity for fresh legislation, and, of course, the executive act will be subject to the control of both Houses of Parliament in the fullest sense of the term.
– The amendment raises one of the most important questions which the committee will have to consider in connexion with the Tariff, and, therefore, I make no apology for offering a few observations upon it, having regard’ to the fact that, sooner or later, we must have this discussion. The Minister for Trade and Customs has thrown out a few hints from the Government point of view, and it just as well that I should offer a few suggestions from the opposite stand-point. . In the first place, we all agree iis a matter of principle that, as far as possible, the taxation and the exemptions should be specified by Parliament. I am sure that the Ministry agree with that as a principle, but they come forward and say that there is a difficulty about matters of this sort, and couple with the exemptions two conditions, one of which is that the machine tools must be used in certain industries. Supposing that we stop there. Surely the Customs administration has a pretty good control over persons who wish to evade that, because it is not to be a question of importing tools, but a question of the “ machine tools “ used. That expression, if preserved in the Tariff, will give the Customs authorities a strong control over abuses, because the tools to be exempt must be “ machine tools “ used in certain industries, and in the interpretation of that expression the Customs officials will be supreme. If they say that tools imported are not machine tools used in these particular industries they will certainly have the best end of the argument, because they occupy a position far higher than that of &ny importer. But the Minister for Trade and Customs has declared that this provision is intended to enlarge the power to dispense with taxation, and urges that from that stand-point it is a free-trade suggestion. I beg to point out that it can be used in two absolutely opposite ways. What is the difficulty which the Minister suggests 1 He says that there are some tools which it may be fairly considered might be made in Australia, and which therefore should not be admitted free, whilst there are others which it might be fair])’ considered could not be locally manufactured, and therefore they should be free. But two different Ministers might arrive at opposite conclusions upon this very test. The Minister for Trade and Customs, being a protectionist, would probably take a very sanguine view of what tools can be made within the Commonwealth, while his freetrade successor might take a widely different view. Therefore we should really have taxation administered according to the political views of a Minister, because there is no stretch of imagination involved in the declaration that a provision of this kind would be administered by a free-trader very differently from the way in which it would be administered by a protectionist, seeing that it involves the whole fiscal controversy. But my right honorable friend suggests a safeguard, namely, that the provision might be administered under the Customs Act, and that any act of a Minister could be repealed b)’ a resolution within fifteen sitting days of the House. But what chance has any honorable member of moving a resolution within fifteen sitting days of the House 1 A private member cannot move a resolution at all. Then, again,when my honorable friend says that the Ministry are the breath of the nostrils of this House, I do not know what the Senate might have to say to that statement.
– A man cannot have two noses.
– I want to point out that the Senate has a constitutional right to be a party to taxation, although I quite admit that the Ministry cannot be responsible to two Houses. Still, I think the Prime Minister will agree that, when we come to impose taxation upon the people, the other Chamber is not altogether a nonentity. But let us look at what the proposal of the Government means. It may mean practically a vote of censure upon the Ministry. An honorable member may complain of something which has been done by the Minister for Trade and Cusstoms, and the Minister may thus get a dozen or twenty votes behind him entirely irrespective of the merits of the position. That is not the way in which the taxation of the country ought to be handled. “We must keep the power of imposing or relieving taxation as far removed as we can from the varying currents of politics. The more clearly the line is drawn, and the more it stands upon the face of the law, the better for all parties - the better even for the Minister, because we put him in a ‘very invidious position if we make him an authority upon matters of trade, and ask him to discriminate between one importer’s instruments and another’s. Then I would point out that the Ministry themselves are pursuing two inconsistent courses. The proposal now before the committee is in general terms. It does not specify any particular machine under particular headings. The proposal before the committee does not contemplate the insertion of any particular definition under this general head, but contemplates a departmental bylaw. But we have a schedule upon these very lines - “book-binding “-
– It is not proposed to include those in these exemptions.
– I am obliged to my fight honorable friend for that information. The Ministry intend that what is before us shall stand, but they say “ That is our present idea of what it will mean.” But I would point out that that idea may be changed a hundred times by somebody else in the department; I say that we cannot put the principle of taxation upon such a basis. It may be inconvenient to endeavour to discriminate, but I claim that there is noroom for discrimination in a taxation act of this vague character. Let us discriminate in the Act, and not leave it to any individual to discriminate in his office. That is a vicious principle. Of course I admit that we ought to clothe the Minister with power to prevent fraud upon the Customs. If anything is imported which is so contrived that it seems to be outside the definition of the Customs Act, and yet is practically an article which is described therein, the Minister ought to have power to prevent a fraud upon the Customs law. But I do not go one inch beyond that. I say that any act in the nature of imposing taxation or of dispensing with taxation shouldbe performed by both Houses of Parliament. It is a power which used to be exercised by the Stuarts centuries ago, but it is not allowed now by any sound constitutional authority or law. If the Ministry really intend to give an advantage to these industries it will be much better to use the general words “ Machine tools used in the following industries.” That would prevent abuses and would insure that a particular machine introduced must be one which is then used in one of these industries.
– Whether it can be made in the Commonwealth or not ?
– Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that that is not a subject for the discretion of Parliament in fixing the taxes ?
– Certainly it is.
– I am sure that the honorable member will admit that when these discriminations, either in the direction of imposing taxation or of relieving certain goods from taxation have to be made, they should be made by this Parliament. If we are to transfer the power of making them to the room of a Minister, we shall involve Parliament in a very dangerous position. The remedy suggested, namely, that we can disapprove of a regulation by a vote of this House is a visionary one, seeing that no chance exists for a private member to move a motion either this month, next month, or the month after. Even if he did move it, let us look at the position in which the House would be placed. Instead of being a free judicial tribunal to decide the matter upon fair grounds, there would be the complicated issue of confidence in the Ministry, and a desire to uphold them in preference to dislocating the course of public business by effecting a change of Government. What sort of tribunal would that be to settle a matter of this kind 1 Upon principle, I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member. Either we must use a general expression or specify in the Act. No end of trouble will be created elsewhere unless the Minister puts the matter upon some such footing. On the ground of broad principle, and in the interests of those who have to administer the department in the future, I suggest that, however troublesome it may be, the Ministry should arrive at some determination as to the particular articles they wish to exempt, as has been done in other cases. What they propose now is no doubt a very convenient arrangement at the present time, but it is worse than useless for them to try to put us off the track in this way in regard to the sound principles of taxation. I can accept the Minister’s proposal as security for what the department may do to-morrow, but not as security for what it may do the next day or the day after. If the proposal of the Government is carried, Ministers will be pestered by applications to have some things put upon the free list and other things put upon the dutiable list. A man will come to the department and say - “ I bought a certain machine in Sydney or in Adelaide some time ago, but I can make such machines now; and I want to have a duty placed upon them.” In the interests not only of pure, government and sound constitutional law, but for the benefit of Ministers who may come after him, I think we should take steps to prevent it being necessary to leave these industrial and political points in the administration of the Customs department to the Minister at the head of it. I suggest to the Minister that he should move an amendment, or that the item should be withdrawn, and dealt with at some later time.
– All we could do would be to insert the list which we have already prepared in lieu of this item. We could not exempt all tools. Nothing will be gained by postponing the item.
– There is sure to be another discussion on the subject later on, and it would be better to have one discussion than two.
– We can ascertain now whether the committee is prepared to give this power to the Minister. If it is not, we can insert the list that has been prepared.
– The matter is a very important one, and I should have liked honorable members to know that it was coming on ; but I am satisfied to deal with it now.
– I do not think the committee could agree to the sweeping course suggested by the leader of the Opposition to exempt all machine tools used in these industries, regardless of whether they could be reasonably produced within the Commonwealth or not. Let us consider what the position is. The committee has laid down the rule that metals and manufactures of metals must bear a certain duty ; but, with a view to exempt from taxation machine tools which cannot reasonably be manufactured in the Commonwealth, an .exemption list has been framed. It is impossible, however, as it is impossible in the case of patented mining machinery, to enumerate all the tools that ought to be exempted from taxation, and it is certainly impossible to foresee what new tools may be invented and manufactured from day to day. Merely to place an enumeration of the tools to be exempted in the Tariff would work injustice both ways. I agree that if we can arrive at a consensus of opinion as to what tools should be exempt, we should do it; but there would be an enormous amount of labour and discussion involved in the task. Whether we make an enumeration or not, we must, to avoid taxing tools which we do not wish to tax, allow some elasticity in the administration of the department. I believe that whether the Minister in charge of the department happens tobe a free-trader or a protectionist, he will be loyal to the Act which he is called upon to administer. We must have elasticity of administration to enable the varying circumstances of the hour to be met. I think, however, that if we adopt the suggestion of the leader of the Opposition, and lay down the hard-and fast rule that all machine tools used in these industries shall be admitted free, we shall do a great deal of injury to other industries that have a right to our consideration whilewe are engaged in framing the Tariff. On the other hand, I see that there is in the Tariff as it stands no indication as to what is to guide the Minister in specifying exemptions, though impliedly there is such a rule. I shall be glad if the Ministry can see their way to indicate the principle upon which the Minister in charge of the department, whatever his fiscal views may be, should act.
– A provision similar to that which we have had circulated in regard to machinery !
– Yes. I suggest that some words should be inserted indicating that the tools specified by the Minister should be tools which cannot reasonably be made in the Commonwealth. That, I think, would take the matter out of the reach of political controversy. The Minister, whatever might be his political or fiscal views, would see before him a law which, until it was altered by Parliament, should be loyally carried into effect. I think that it can be said of our Australian Ministries hitherto that they have loyally administered the Acts which they have been called upon to administer, and I believe that future Ministries will be as loyal. There should be some such clause as that, and it would be safer than many of the provisions which we are passing. In regard to some of these items I am without information, and am trusting to those who have the leadership of the committee, and who I am sure are trying their best to do what is right, though there is always an element of doubt as to what will be the actual operation of any proposal. I think the Ministry should be supported in their desire for elasticity of administration, but that some principle or rule should be laid down to guide the Minister in charge of the department, so that he may not be left without a compass upon what may be, perhaps, a difficult sea.
– Will the honorable and learned member define a “machine tool”?
– I am not an expert in that sort of thing, and, as in law one cannot give a definition of fraud, but can generally detect a fraudulent device, so I take it that any one connected with the commercial or manufacturing world will have no difficulty in recognising a machine tool when it is shown to him. It is quite another thing to give a definition which will cover all tools now in existence, and all tools which may be manufactured in the future.
I think that to pass the item with the reservation I have stated will be the best course for the committee to take.
– I think that the power which we are asked to give to the Government, to define by departmental by-laws what things shall or shall not be dutiable, is a dangerous power. Side by side with the framing of the Tariff in this committee there has been going on the framing of a Tariff by departmental decisions, which are not always quite in accord with the wishes of honor able members. I think that the committee should retain to itself the power to impose taxation as definitely as possible. I admit that there are cases when description must be allowed for the prevention of fraud, and the carrying out of the law, but that description should be limited as much as possible. Wherever it is possible to make a thing definite, I think it is wise to do so, and honorable members who have any acquaintance with the subject should insist upon the definition being placed in the Tariff itself. A great deal of trouble will arise, which can be settled only by depart mental decisions as to what are machine tools. The honorable and learned memberfor Indi, who has, perhaps, one of the best minds in the Chamber to which we could appeal on a question like this, hesitated to define a machine tool, and said that it was a matter for experts ; it is not, however, a matter for experts at all. The best mechanical experts in the world would be as much at sea in stating the difference between a machine tool and a machine as any one else. We have a duty upon machinery, but I have never seen any machinery, with the exception of that supplying motive power, which could not be legitimately described as a machine tool. From the large and complicated machinery, which costs many thousands of pounds, down to the tiny and simple piece of mechanism which every one would describe as a tool, there are many gradations; but it would be impossible to obtain safety by passing the item in theloose way that the Governmentpropose. It appears to me that the contention of the honorable member for Bland that we are going in the wrong direction is correct. It would be very hard for any one to speak of the Tariff now as a scientific Tariff. Tools to be used by hand, which probably could be most easily manufactured in the country, are altogether exempt from duty ; tools which are a little more complicated, and come under the designation of machine tools, may be dutiable or may not ; but the most complicated tools - intricate and patented machinery - have imposed upon them the highest rate of duties. That is the reverse of a scientific arrangement. If we wish to encourage manufactures, surely it is right to protect the most easily established manufactures first. The present system, so far from being scientific, imposes a penalty upon every man who wishes to use a better class of tool than he has been in the habit of using in order to improve the character of his productions or to increase his output. The Minister’s defence of this provision exhibited the native imbecility of protection. He admitted that the reason for giving the department power to define machinetools was that in putting a duty upon some tool, we might find that we were hampering another manufacture, and that what we could not manufacture to-day we might be able to manufacture next year. The difficulty with protection is that you cannotobtaina principle which will be true for all time ; that you can get only temporary expedients. I think that it will be better to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland, and abolish this futile and impossible distinction. Let us put a fairly low revenue duty upon all kinds of machinery, and thus give the incidental protection which was promised in the Maitland speech.
– A good deal of what I desire to say has already been expressed by the honorable and learned member for Indi. I could not agree to exempt all tools of trade, without regard to whether they could be manufactured here at a moderate price or not. Such a provision would be eminently unfair to those engaged in rural industries.We have agreed to impose a duty upon the implements and machinery which are the tools of trade of the farmer and the dairyman and others, provided they can be manufactured here at a cost something equivalent to the price at which they can be imported.
– There is no provision of that sort.
– We dealt with the specific articles in the case of agricultural implements because they were known, but here we are asked to exempt from duty all the tools of trade of certain industries which derive the greatest benefit from our protective policy, and I do not think the proposal is fair. There is no denying the truth of what the leader of the Opposition has stated, namely, that this division of the Tariff couldbeadministered by a protectionist on protectionist lines, or by a free-trader on free-trade lines, with equal consistency. There is not a single word to indicate that only those tools which cannot be successfully manufactured here are to be included in the list of exemptions. The matter is an extremely difficult one to deal with, and as the Government have not had time to procure the necessary information to guide us to a proper conclusion, it would be better to postpone these exemptions until we have dealt with the whole of the duty. We shall then be able to deal with the exemptions with a full knowledge of the duties thathave been imposed.
– That would hamper trade enormously.
– The desire of the committee was that we should deal with the duties in each division, and then with the exemptions relating to each division in turn.
– I do not see how it would be unfair to those engaged in trade, because the duties are now being collected in accordance with the Tariff, and present conditions will continue until a final decision is arrived at.
– Yes, but there are a number of other exemptions which honorable members desire to include in our list, and the delay in dealing with them will affect trade in the meantime.
– What I desire is that the Government should have an opportunity of procuring information which will enable us to deal intelligently with the proposals before us.
– We have embodied the result of our investigations in our by-laws.
– Still, the information is not complete, and, as a matter of fact, no calculation can be made as to the revenue involved in the proposals we are now discussing. Seeing that we have dealt in a specific way with the tools used in rural industries, we should treat the tools of trade of other industries upon the same principle. We should not give the manufacturer an advantage over the rural producer, because the former derives a great deal more benefit from the Tariff than does the latter.
– Why should the duty be restricted to these particular manufacturers ?
– I know of no reason why it should be.
– Not a single manufacturer of foodstuffs has his tools of trade included among these exemptions.
– All tools of trade should be dealt with on the same basis. The committee have agreed that the Tariff shall be framed on protectionist lines, but that the protection shall be of a moderate character, and confined to those articles which can be successfully produced here at a reasonable price. Division after division has settled that point.
– Not in all cases.
– Exceptin those cases where it has been considered necessary to impose revenue duties. I think the Government should postpone the consideration of these exemptions until we have further information which will enable us to follow out the principle upon which we have hitherto proceeded.
– I agree with the last speaker that this question should be reconsidered by the Government. It will be recollected that at the time machinerywas being discussed several honorable members voted for a 20 per cent, duty, on the clear understanding that machinery which could not be made here, and was not likely to be made here; was to be placed in a specific form upon the list of exemptions. In the case of agricultural machinery, that which could not be readily made here was distinguished from the rest, and placed on the free list ; but so far as mining machinery is concerned, the exemptions are left in doubt by the Ministry. If it is possible to distinguish agricultural machinery which can be made here from that which cannot be locally manufactured, it should be as easy to make a similar distinction in the case of mining machinery. It must be admitted that certain machines which are to be placed on the free list can be far more easily made than can some of the complicated appliances used in connexion with mining.Take printing machines, for instance.
– Printing machines are very complex.
– That may be ; but if the right honorable gentleman saw some of the machines used for treating ores nowadays he would agree that they are far more costly and complicated than are any printing machines. We voted in favour of a duty on machinery on the distinct understanding that it was intended to help the industries in existence in Australia to-day, and that in the case of articles that could not be made here exemptions would be made. We were promised that the mining industry would be relieved of taxation to that extent. I think that the power which the Minister seeks, to enable him to exempt machinery from duty, would be a very dangerous one to grant. No one would suggest anything in the way of corruption, but it is just possible that, owing to want of information, a Minister might commit a mistake which would prove to be very awkward for the Commonwealth and for every one else concerned.
– The Minister’s action would be guided by the regulations, which would not come into force before being submitted to the House.
-It mighthappen, ashas occurred recently, that thousands and thousands of pounds worth of machinery would be allowed to come in free at great loss to the revenue, and although the Minister might be brought to book about it afterwards his mistake could not be remedied.
– The regulation would have to be brought before the House before it could be enforced.
– Suppose the House was in recess for six months.
– Then the regulation would not come into force.
– We should probably have a fiscal debate arising out of every regulation brought before the House, and I am sure we do not wish to see a recurrence of the debates which have been proceeding here for several months past. Under all the circumstances, it would be far better for the Government to withdraw their present proposal, and either bring down a list of exemptions that would be equitable to all, or agree to recommit the item of machinery, so that honorable members may have an opportunity of reconsidering their votes in view of all the conditions.
– No doubt the proposal to give the Minister the power now sought for has been brought forward with the best of motives, but I am not inclined to support it. In the first place, it would not be wise to confer on the
Minister legislative power - a power which, by the Constitution, is vested in Parliament - and it is quite possible that an important constitutional question might be raised hereafter as to the power of Parliament to delegate its legislative functions. In the United States there is the very highest authority for saying that Congress has no power to delegate its legislative functions. This is a proposal to delegate to the Minister the powers of taxation vested in the Legislature. We have no reason to suppose- that such a power would be corruptly exercised by the Minister, but this committee ought to be very jealous indeed about parting with its power of taxation to any Minister, however high may be our opinion of his capacity and his honour. It would be far better if we clearly specified in the Tariff, in black and white, the exemptions that are to be made. We should not leave it to the discretion of any Minister, because when it comes to a matter of discretion it is impossible to exercise control over any Minister. With regard to the suggestion that the House would have the power of review, I would point out that that power may be exercised too late, or it may be very difficult to bring it into operation, and therefore we should hold fast to our powers of taxation, and not part with them to any Minister. Then, again, I fail to see why this power should be exercised exclusively in regard to machinery and tools of trade. It is certainly suggestive of the idea that there is not sufficient information available as to machine tools to enable the Government to bring down a specification of the proposed exemptions.
– A specification has been brought down.
– It would be better to leave out the exemptions rather than submit them in so vague a form. The proposed power may be exercised in some cases wisely, and with discretion ; but in other cases it may lead to the whittling away of our Tariff, and to that I strongly object.
– Thecommittee will, I think, quite agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. There does appear to be something in what the Minister for Trade and Customs said about the advantage of departmental regulation, and if that regulation were confined merely to the power to add to a list which the committee has approved, I fancy half the objection urged by the leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo would be done away with. But the list brought under our notice is notoriously incomplete on the face of it. It does not provide for half of the machines that properly ought to be included, and it would appear that the Government have really not had the necessary information at their disposal. I have here a list of metal-workers’ tools, and I do not profess to be able to speak with any authority in regard to others. I notice that the Government have, apart from arbor or mandrel presses, cutter-making machines, and machine tools for electrotyping, stereotyping and photo-engraving, exempted about fourteen other machine tools. Of these only one, the facing tool, has ever been imported into the Commonwealth, so that it is obviously quite unnecessary to put an article of that sort on the free list. Then there are nail-making machines, only three of which have ever been imported, and of profiling, cutter-making, welding, and wire-net machines, not one has ever been imported. The list is really made up for the most part of machines, one or two of which would do the whole work of the Commonwealth. As to washer-making machines, which are among the exemptions, I have the authority of one of the largest merchants in Australia for saying that one could supply the whole demand in Australia. When we consider, as the honorable member for Gippsland has said, that it is for the benefit of the manufacturers that the Tariff is imposed, I say that protectionists are acting entirely against their principles, if they do not give every facility to the manufacturers to get the very best tools which the world can provide, in order to enable them to compete against the world. By this list the Government give permission to ‘the manufacturer to get free only machines which practically have never been required in the history of Australia ; and this is done in the face of the request of the department for information. Until our population is immensely increased there is no probability of manufacturers commencing tool-making, for the simple reason that there is not for any particular tool or machine tool such a demand as would justify the laying down of an expensive plant. There would be a market, and an uncertain market, for half-a-dozen, twenty, or 40 machines at the outside, and such a demand would not pay a manufacturer. We are now dealing not with one trade, but with all the multifarious trades of the Commonwealth, and it certainly would not pay a tool-maker to lay down such a plant as would turn out the more complicated tools. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney, that there should be a clear line of demarcation between the simple hand tool, the more expensive machine tool, and the machine itself. I know that while some hammers are free, others are taxed, and, obviously, a position of that sort is ridiculous. There is nothing to prevent a man in Australia making sledge-hammers, and if he can make those he can make hand-hammers, the manufacture of which does not require very extraordinary machinery. But there must be a market, and the market here is not sufficient to enable a manufacturer of these commodities to compete with the older countries. From the temper of the committee, I take it that the proposal of the Government will not pass, and we must endeavourtopersuadethemtoaccept some other suggestion. The proposal that the words referring to departmental by-laws be struck out, and, as suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, that a list be made in “ black and white “ will be very effective, providing the list be of such a character as to really represent the schedule of machines which are necessary for the successful carrying on of industries, protected and otherwise. Unless there be such a list it is almost better to allow the department to have optional power. There may be a constitutional question as to whether we should delegate our powers to a Minister, but the first essential is to give all the manufacturers the opportunity of getting the latest up-to-date machinery. I suggest to the committee that what might easily be done would be to supply a complete up-to-date list, and while giving the department power to add to that list, give them no power to remove any article.
– That is our intention.
– That is not the intention as shown in the proposal. If the Government have power to take anything out of the exemption list, they have power to impose a tax, but if there be no power to remove an article, but only to add new inventions and necessaries of trade, the power of taxation is not delegated. What is required is as complete a specification of machine-tools as can be obtained, and to give the department power to add to that specification as occasion may demand. If the Government approve of the suggestion I have made, I shall be prepared to support them, but there must be a complete schedule, such as we have not yet obtained. For instance, of metal-working tools there are omitted many which men of experience realize are absolutely necessary. Amongst these are drilling machines, slotting machines, punching machines, shearing machines, bending machines, sawing machines, key-seating machines - all of which are those mostly in use. There are also barbed-wire machines, which certainlyought to be included on the exemption list, and then come centering lathes, blowers, chucks for lathes, and hammers, steam and pneumatic. All thesemach ine tool s are needed in every up-to-date engineering shop ; without them no engineer can compete against the manufacturer abroad. I am not speaking now from the stand-point of free-trade, but from the stand-point of a mechanic, and in regard to wood-working precisely similar objections can be urged. There is no provision in the exemption list for machine tools for sawing, joining, planing, moulding, surfacing, tonguing and grooving, tying up, sandpapering, dovetailing, mortising and tenoning, and so on. The amount of duty may be a matter for consideration, but, after all, we have exempted other machines which certainly would bring in a larger amount. We have exempted certain classes of agricultural machinery, and it is in the last degree foolish to impose a tax for the benefit of tool-makera, when we consider that, to make a sawing machine, a plant has to be laid down for the particular kind of saw. The man who makes circular saws cannot with the same plant make a frame saw, and to make a planing machine involves a plant such as would never be erected here, because the cost is from £1,500 to £2,000, and I suppose a dozen or half-a-dozen machines would represent a good turn-out in the year. I hope the Government will agree to some reasonable exemptions, and prepare a specific list to which they may add, but from which they may remove nothing without the consent of this Chamber.
– Honorable members realize that this is a very difficult and intricate matter with which we have to deal. I can assure the committee that it was never the desire of the Government to give the Minister any power of taxation. Our only desire was to do w(hat was mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney - to give power to add to the exemption list. When the Tariff was being framed it was impossible, in the time at our disposal, to get a complete, or anything like a complete, list of the tools which ought to be admitted ires. I quite agree with the honorable member for West Sydney, that we should assist all these industries as far as we possibly can in respect- of giving them opportunities of obtaining the latest machinery tools which they require. We know that the market for machine tools is so limited that they could not be made here profitably to the manufacturer and at a reasonable cost to the consumer. That being so, the Government had no desire whatever to fix a duty which in reality would be merely a revenue duty. We were faced with the difficulty that we could not, - with the information at our disposal, make out such a list as would be fairly complete, and we thought there was no strong objection to giving the Minister power to exempt from taxation in cases which might arise from time to time. We have prepared a list, so far as the information at our disposal at the present time enables us, and it may be that, as time goes on, other articles will come into use, or it will be discovered that articles at present in use have been omitted. We have to face one of two courses. We have cither to say we will have a fixed list of exemptions which cannot under any circumstances be altered except by Act of Parliament, or we must give some reasonable power to the Ministry of the day to make exemptions as necessity arises from time to time.
– That is, to make additions ?
– Yes ; to make additional exemptions. We have shown the position we desire to take up with regard to mining machinery, by asking honorable members to give particulars of all machinery or parts of machines which, in their opinion, ought to be exempt. This was the proposal circulated by the Government : -
Any mining machinery, or part thereof, which shall be prescribed to be free by regulation under 26 q the Customs Act because it is certified by the Minister that it cannot reasonably be made within the Commonwealth, and that it ought, in the opinion of the Minister, to be prescribed to be free.
– That is not the present proposal.
– That proposal was prepared some months ago, but further information and further consideration leads us to the belief that the proposal circulated in the last few days is an improvement on the original. Our later suggestion is one which carries out the original intention. Honorable members* will realize that no one would dream of giving the Minister the power to tax. It is one tiling to give power to tax, and another to give power to relieve taxation, so long as Parliament has some control over that relief. That is very different from giving the Minister power to impose taxation, which was a course of action never in contemplation, even though the words employed might perhaps be regarded as sufficiently wide to cover such a power. As the position stands, it will never do to go the full length of the course suggested, and declare that all machine tools used in specified industries, or in all industries, shall be exempt- from taxation. The industries which we have specified are those in which it is known that the tools of trade cannot be locally manufactured. However, I see no objection to widening the power which it is proposed to confer so as to make it cover all industries. We have specified the various industries so far as our knowledge enables us to do so, and I believe that we have covered most of those to which tins power ought to beapplied. However, we recognise that we may have omitted some industries to which it should fairly be applicable, and therefore we raise no objection to making it cover all industries. But we cannot agree to a- proposal to exempt all tools’ of trade. Therefore we are faced with the difficulty of deciding what is the best course to pursue under the circumstances. Are we to specify a list of articles which we consider should be exempt, to add to that list from time to time such articles as honorable members may convince us ought to be so added, and then to leave this schedule to stand until it is altered by an Act of Parliament ? That would not be a wise course to adopt. We must devise a more elastic means for altering the list of exemptions as occasion demands. Personally I see no danger in giving to the Governmentthepower which we suggest. A similar power has been operating in Victoria for many years with regard to minor articles. We are simply extending that power somewhat to machine tools and to mining machinery. I know of no other means by which we can overcome the difficulty, and the only question is whether a power of this kind can fairly be intrusted to the Government of the day, subject to the control of Parliament.From my experience, I think it can. Whatever Government happens to be in authority will administer such a power in the spirit in which Parliament intended it to be administered. The regulation when framed will have to lie before Parliament for a certain time, and it will be within the power of any honorable member to raise an objection to it. It has been suggested that honorable members would not have the opportunity ; hut is it to be credited that any Government, upon being notified by an honorable member that he desired to challenge its action in exempting certain articles from duty, and with the knowledge that at the end of a certain number of days the regulation effecting such an exemption would become absolute, would deny to the House the earliest possible opportunity of dealing with the question ?
– It would be in the nature of a vote of censure.
– I know of no Government which would accept such a resolution as a vote of censure.
– It would be if it were carried.
– If I were the head of a Government I certainly should not accept it as a vote of censure. Neither should I deprive any honorable member of the fullest opportunity of discussing and voting upon such a Ministerial action.
Mr.F. E. McLean. - But what if there were a question of policy involved ?
– There could not be a question of policy involved. It would simply be a criticism of the action of the Minister in deciding whether or not a particular article could be manufactured within the Commonwealth.
– Does the Treasurer propose to add words of that kind ?
– As the matter now stands the words employed are too wide. What we propose is to follow a similar course to that which we adopted in regard to mining machinery which cannot be locally manufactured. We purpose specifying certain articles, so far as our knowledge will enableus to do so, in a schedule of exemptions, and adding to that list such others as honorable members can satisfy us ought to be included - articles which are not likely to be made within the Commonwealth. Then we propose that the Government of the day shall have power to add further exemptions to the list from time to time under certain specified conditions, those conditions being that the articles in question cannot reasonably be made within the Commonwealth, and that in the opinion of the Ministry they ought to be free.
– That would be a great improvement.
– Undoubtedly. Honorable members will recognise that, as further information is given, Ministers obtain a better idea as to what words ought to be inserted. I think it is clear that it would not be light to exempt all articles, irrespective of whether they are locally manufactured or not. On the other hand, the committee do not desire to impose a protective duty upon articles used in various industries which cannot bemade within the Commonwealth. The wiser course therefore is to specify those articles with which we are familiar, and to confer upon the Government the additional power which they now seek. I think it is a power which might very well be given to the Government of the day, and it is certainly one which will never be improperly exercised. Moreover, the regulation would not come into operation till Parliament had had an opportunity of expressing an opinion whether the action taken by the Government was a wise one or not. Such a provision would not give the Government power to impose extra taxation. But upon the same ground that we take power to exempt further articles, I think it would be well not to tie the hands of the Government to any specified industries. I have already mentioned that a similar power to exempt minor articles existed in Victoria, and I find, also, that in Queensland the Government have power -
To exempt certain articles set out, and articles, and materials as may from time to time be specified by the Treasurer, which are suited only for, and are to be used and applied solely in, the fabrication of goods within the colony. All decisions of the Treasurer in reference to articles so admitted free to be published from time to time in the Government Gazette.
– Could the specified list or the departmental list be amended 1
– The specified list could not be amended by excising articles which are included therein, but it could be amended by the addition of fresh articles from time to time. No power exists for excising articles which have already been declared to be free, unless such a power is embodied in an Act of Parliament. I hope that the committee will allow the proposals of the Government to be carried in the form which I have suggested.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The proposal of the Treasurer seems to me about the best that we can adopt. We shall experience a very great difficulty in framing a schedule which will not contain most absurd anomalies. Indeed, I am convinced that when we have concluded our deliberations, the list of exemptions will be full of absurdities. It is quite impossible for the committee to be seized of full information with reference to all the small tools of trade. No honorable member can determine whether an immense number of the articles contained in the list are generally used in these industries, or whether they are being manufactured in the States, because if we inquire from one individual, we shall be told that they are being locally manufactured, whilst another individual will declare that they are not.
– It is necessary to know the manufactures of six States.
– Yes, and it is also necessary to have a knowledge of a very large majority of trades and occupations. The honorable member for West Sydney mentioned several tools in the metal working industry, which certainly ought to be exempt from duty if we are going to lay down the principle that tools of trade, which cannot be manufactured within the States, shall be free. If we lay down that principle we shall include almost all the tools referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney, though a fair amount of revenue could be obtained from them if they were made dutiable. The larger slotting, planing, and drilling machines could not, however, be profitably made in Australia, because of the comparatively small demand for them. here. On the other hand,
26 Q 2
the demand for such things as lathes is so great as to justify the imposition of a protective duty to establish their manufacture in this country.
– Some lathes could not be manufactured here.
– Probably that is so ; but would it not be better that duty should be paid upon such lathes than that all lathes should be admitted free 1 Anions the list of exemptions are many tools of the simplest manufacture - tools that every apprentice makes for himself, such as calipers, which engineers use for measuring, and which consist merely of two pieces of steel, fastened together by a rivet which forms a joint.
– Why not put all tools upon the free list ?
– Because a majority of the committee has decided to adopt the principle of protection, and while we are establishing industries here, why should we not establish the tool-making industry 1 Although there may be some tools for which there is not a sufficiently large demand to justify their manufacture here, if we exempted all machine tools, the exemption would cover a great many tools which could be profitably manufactured here.
– Has not the mechanic in most cases to find his own tools ?
– In most cases the mechanic finds his own hand tools. Any list which the Government propose must be subjected to the closest scrutiny. I am not prepared to vote for exemptions unless I know something about the nature of the tools which it is proposed to exempt. As a general rule I think it would be safer to vote against proposed exemptions.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- The Treasurer omitted to tell the committee what attitude the Government propose to take in regard to the striking out of these words.
– I thought I made it clear that we could not agree to it.
– A little consideration will, I think, show my right honorable friend that he will be compelled to vote for their omission. He assured the committee that the Government have no desire to exercise a taxing power, that all they want to do is to. exercise a power of dispensation by being able to add to the list of exemptions. I think I can show him, however, that by retaining the words in the item, the Government reserve to themselves a power which is equivalent to a power of taxation. Departmental by-laws can be made one day and repealed the next. Section 3 of the Commonwealth Acts Interpretation Act, which is one of the few measures we have passed this session, provides, as the State Interpretation Acts provide, that where an Act confers the power to make rules, regulations, or by-laws, it shall be taken that that power implies an equal power to amend or rescind them. Therefore, if this matter is left to the making of departmental bylaws, the Treasurer could to-morrow put 100 articles on the list of exemptions, and the day after he, or the Minister who succeeded him, might make any or all of those articles liable to duty by amending or rescinding the by-law. I understand that what the Government propose to’ do is to place in the Tariff as many of the articles which they wish to exempt as they can specify, and to take a power to add to the list ; but the provision now in the Tariff goes further than that.
– I agree with the right honorable member that it is too wide.
– I think that my original suggestion to postponethe consideration of this matter was a wise one, because it is impossible to deal with it absolutely at the present time, and whatever decision we may come to now, we shall havea similar discussion when we come to the exemptions in regard to mining machinery. It would be better, instead of having two or three discussions, to have one discussion upon a general comprehensive provision.
– Whatever decision the committee comes to now will guide us in dealing with future cases of the kind. We propose to omit the whole of this item, and to substitute for it a list of exemptions, and some additional words.
– That will satisfy me. As it is intended that the whole provision shall be omitted, there will be no further necessity for the amendment proposed by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, and I have no doubt he will withdraw it. The course now proposed by the Government will give honorable members a better opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– In view of the discussion which has taken place, we propose to retain the words “machine tools,” and omit the rest of the words in that particular portion of the exemptions. It will then read “ machine tools, as follows.” Then we can set out the list which we have circulated, and any additional machine tools which honorable members may be in a position to suggest as suitable for exemption. Then we shall take the printed document which I circulated last night and insert the words -
And any machine tools which shall be prescribed to be free by regulation under the Customs Act because it is certified by the Minister that they cannot reasonably be made within the Commonwealth, and that they ought, in the opinion of the Minister, to be prescribed to be free.
That gives power only to prescribe that certain goods shall be free. Then the regulations under that particular Act will be required under the provisions of the Tariff Act to be laid before both Houses, for this particular purpose, for 15 or 30 days before they can come into operation. By that means we shall carry out the general wish of the committee, and safeguard the position as far as possible.
– I have already circulated an amendment, on page 2 of the list of amendments, to the effect that the words “ and specified in departmental bylaws “ be omitted.
– The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, had already given notice of that amendment.
– Personally, I do not care who moves it, but I shall certainly support any action that may be taken in that direction.
– But the honorable member does not propose to make that apply to all machine tools, including those that are made here ?
– I do not see why it should not. I have some information which has been supplied to me by a number of ironworkers in all parts of the State. A circular has been sent round to honorable members by Mr. Gideon James, of the Avon Tool and Engineering Works, who is the only tool manufacturer for metal working in Australia, and as I suppose this circular has reached all honorable members, I do not propose to read it. In reply to that circular, the ironworkers who have to use these tools to make other tools which are of far more importance to their industry, have sent out a circular, in which they say -
Mr. James (in a circular letter issued to the members of the Federal Parliament) states he started this industry 44 years ago.
For the past 30 years he has been protected by the Tariff, with a duty of from 20 to 35 per cent.
For the past five (probably ten) years, not five men have found constant employment in the trade.
At present Mr. James and his son are alone employed in the industry.
The duty paid in Victoria on machine tools during the past five years is as follows : - 1896, £1,973 ; .1897, £3,287: 1898, £4,167; 1899, £4,470 ; 1900,, £5,689. Total, £19,586.
Taking the same average for 30 years, that means £587,580 (say, £500,000).
The reason these tools cannot profitably be made here is, the description of machine tools is so varied, *and the range of sizes in each particular kind so large, Unit the demand for any one particular kind and. size is comparatively small. Also the outlay involved for plant, &c. , would be so great that there would be no inducement for any firm to establish a business for making all classes of machine tools, as the income derived from same would not pay interest on the ‘large outlay incurred. There is no Australian competition, and the failure to establish a tool-making industry after all these years, proves that the fostering of such a trade is unworthy of serious consideration.
– These are the men who know what they are talking about.
– That is a very interesting letter, and I am sorry I did not receive it.
– Another gentleman who is an engineer and millwright writes -
Enclosed you will find a circular I. want you to bring under the notice of the Minister for Customs. I may say I purchased a lathe in Melbourne for £125, duty free, a month ago, and now I find the proposed duty of. 25 per cent, makes it £.18 more. It is still in bond pending the decision of the Tariff.
– Then the duty does not make the machine any cheaper.
– If I were asked to meet that argument I could very easily do so. In my opinion, protection does make things cheaper, if we have the raw material in the country.
– Order ; the honorable member will not be in order in pursuing that matter.
– I have no doubt that under certain conditions - in the vast majority of cases- protection does cheapen goods. I have another circular here from Messrs. A. Roberts and Sons, of Bendigo, who say*-
We are in receipt of yours of the 25th inst., enclosing copy of Mr. Humble:s letter re duty on machine tools, and we are very pleased to have had a copy of it for perusal. We have evidently been labouring under a mistake, as we were under the impression that the duty on machine tools had been considerably reduced, and we consider his letter in every way satisfactory, and as we find that we are mistaken we intend to show it to Sir John Quick. Again thanking you for bringing the matter under our notice, and with kind regards.
– That is a bit of daylight.
– Because of the provision that articles are only to be placed on the free list if specified under departmental regulations, I find that the honorable member for M.elbourne has a large number of machine tools to add’ to the list of exemptions, and anticipating that the committee might reject my amendment, I have also submitted the following list of tools which I propose to add to the free list :-
Engine lathes, turret lathes, drilling, slotting, punching, shaping, sawing, straightening, grinding, milling, profiling, facing, keyseating, nut-furnishing, tapping, screwing, planing, tooth-wheel or gear-cutting, forging, nut-making, riveting, centering, punching and shearing, wire-nail making, wire-netting making, barbed wire, washer and measuring machines for metal working, chucks for lathes, blowers used for foundry and mining purposes, pneumatic hammers and riveters, steam hammers, milling machine cutters. And wood-working machine tools as follows : - sewing, joining, planing, moulding, surfacing, tenoning, tonguing and grooving, trying up, sand papering, dovetailing, mortising, boring, saw-sharpening, rounding, saw-brazing, spoke-making, wheel-making lathes, and com’ing lathes.
In order to show the committee how slightly the new list of tools circulated by the Government meets the case, I may say that not more than nine of the articles mentioned by me are included in the Government list, and these are of such an unimportant nature that the main part of the trade would still be handicapped by the duties in order to keep two men employed in the tool-making industry. Much to my regret I should have to vote against the Government unless thev give way on this point
– I quite agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and if any evidence had been wanting of the chaos into which the procedure of the Government would lead us, I think we have it in the position at which we have arrived. In the first place, the Government exempted machine tools for certain trades - some thirteen or fourteen - but why should these trades have been selected for special treatment ? They are nearly all highly-protected trades, whilst other industries not protected, or only protected to a small extent, have been entirely overlooked. Surely this is a chaotic state of affairs to begin with, and surely it displays the incompetency of that tribunal to which we are asked to remit the question of levying duties or exempting goods by departmental by-law.
– We are not asked to do that.
– Yes, we are.
– There is the control of Parliament behind it.
– What is the competency of Parliament to deal with such exemptions? If anything were needed to show the incompetency of this tribunal, consisting of the Minister and his officers, to which we are asked to delegate this power, it is the list of exemptions which, after three months, has resulted from the labour of these authorities. Now, what do these exemptions include? They are supposed to include the tools of trade used in certain occupations only - tools of trade which cannot be reasonably made within the Commonwealth. Cannot cutting machines for bookbinding, or eyeletting machines, embossing machines, perforating machines, or punching machines be made within the Commonwealth ?
– They can, at a price, but not at a reasonable price.
– They can be made at a cost equivalent to the price of an imported article more easily than can scores of tools and machines which have been made dutiable. These are only a few of the many illustrations which I could give.
– If those machines could have been made here at a reasonable price they would have been made before now.
– They have made some of them.
– Then we ought not to have them on the list.
– I am not responsible for the list. So far as I can see, no provision is made in the new list of exemptions whichhas just been given to us for placing on the free list the tools which are included under three of the headings in the original list. No provision is made for the machine tools used in apparel and attire making for instance, and leather dressing machine tools and woodworking tools and machine tools are omitted. This is the sort of thing that we have to submit to after three months exertion on the part of Ministers and their officers in collecting information which they knew was necessary to place before the committee. I recognise that the Minister for Trade and Customs cannot do everything, and I am only speaking of him as being responsible for his officers.
– We will take all the responsibility for what our officers do and for what they do not do.
– It does not follow that simply because a list is not prepared, the Government are not able to supply a list.
– Does the honorable member impute to the Ministry such carelessness that, being able to supply a list, they have not done so?
– I impute to the Ministry a great amount of skill and patience.
– The interjection of the honorable member does not do so. It is proposed that this system of regulation - of which we see the initiation, and which is so far a failure - is to continue to fix. the duties payable on machine tools. A proposition has been made by the Treasurer that the Minister is to judge of what machine tools shall be exempt, by the test whether they can reasonably be made within the Commonwealth. What a task is that for the Minister or his officer ! He has first to ascertain that the machine tools can be made here, and then that they can be made at a cost equivalent to that of the imported article. That will not be the landing cost, but the cost of the imported article after 20 per cent, has been paid. The Minister has then to ascertain whether the hardened steel and other material in the machine is equal to that in the imported article, and whether the machine itself will live as long. Then he has to ascertain whether the machine can turn out articles with the same rapidity as can the imported machine tool. All these conditions have to be considered by the Minister or his officer, if he is properly to interpret such a provision.
– What is the honorable member’s definition of “machine tools” in contradistinction to “ tools of trade “ ?
– There will be the further difficulty of deciding what are machine tools.
– The Government propose to define machine tools.
-I am pointing out that in defining they must decide how far they are going to be carried in the interpretation of the present proposal.
– There will be a specific list.
– But the Minister must define before he can make a list.
– The Minister has agreed to do that.
– Is the Minister capable of doing so ?
– I think the Minister is capable of doing anything.
– The Minister is capable of doing a good many things, but if he is capable of doing that, why is the definition not put in the Tariff ? Why not get rid of all these schedules 1 If there is a definition of machine tools and tools of trade, why should we not have it in the Tariff, and decide that certain articles which come under that definition shall be exempt ? If the Minister cannot define - and on that point I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - he cannot distinguish, and if he cannot distinguish, is it right that Parliament, which has to decide this matter, should make the distinction? With a definition there would be no justification for relegating any extraordinary power to the Minister.
– There are contingencies always arising.
– But these would come under a definition. It we take tools of trade to be hand tools, and decide that machine tools are substitutes for hand tools drivenby a machine, honorable members, if they take that as the definition, or take anything else the Minister has in his mind, will know what they are doing. But to meet an objection which is raised, an extraordinary proposal is made that under no definition tools of trade or machine tools, which can be reasonably made in the Commonwealth, shall be admitted free.
– Surely there is a difference between the two.
– There is a difference which ought to be, but which is not defined by the Minister. I agree with the honorable member for Corio, that considering the trifling industry in connexion with the manufacture of machine tools, or tools of trade, it is very desirable that these should be admitted free for all industries. Surely protectionist members of the House, who desire the establishment and success of industries, must see that it is to the benefit of those industries in their competition with the outside world, that they should be encouraged to obtain the very latest machine tools.
– That principle is not at issue ; we agree as to that.
– If by imposing a duty on the tools of any trade we increase the cost, we hamper the ready importation of new inventions from the large manufacturing centres of the world, and are doing a serious injustice to local industries by preventing their entering into competition with the imported article, and that larger competition we hope to see entered on in the supply of machines to other countries of the world.
– I take it that the only question at issue is the best way to carry out that idea.
– I am objecting to the taxation of any machine tools. If one industry is entitled to have its machine tools free, so are all other industries, whether or not the tools can be made in the States or whether or not the Minister thinks they can. Surely the loss of the manufacture of these machine tools, the consumption of which for many years will be very limited, will not be so serious as the hampering of industries by the duties which may be imposed. Before the manufacture of machine tools, or tools of trade, is encouraged by protection, it should be shown that the article produced in the Commonwealth is as lasting, as rapidly working, and as cheap as the imported article. Immediately a duty is imposed there is no security that these conditions are fulfilled.
– Should all that be shown whether the foreign manufacturer is subsidized or not ?
– The honorable member has a “ bee in his bonnet “ in connexion with subsidies. I say that if there were subsidies by foreigners even to the extent of 50 per cent, on articles of that nature which come to Australia, it would be a good thing, indeed, for the industries of this country, because it would allow the product of those industries to compete more successfully in our own markets and other markets adjacent to our coast. As I have said, if the Minister in this connexion cannot define, he has no right to distinguish.
If he can define, and he gives a definition, it will be a simple thing to say that all tools of trade and machine tools coming within the definition shall be free. No injury to speak of would be done to any industry in Australia, while an immense benefit would result to the manufacturing industry. I understand that the Government propose that lists of these exemptions shall be laid on the table of Parliament.
– We have already laid a list of exemptions on the table.
– I mean that in the future lists of exemptions will be placed on the table.
– Yes, under regulation.
– It has been suggested, and I indorse the suggestion, that as Parliament consists of two Houses these exemptions will have to be laid on the table of both. If so, are we not creating another source of difference between the two Houses?
– Suppose one House agrees and the other House rejects the regulation?
– One House may agree to some items or all, and the other may agree to certain items and reject others ; and in my opinion we shall create a difficulty, especially as the exemptions will be largely founded, if the Minister’s proposal is carried, on the fiscal question - that is, the question of protection or free-trade. I object to outside bodies influencing our legislation, because that practically means legislating for us.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ outside bodies “?
– We have had enough illustration of the influences brought to bear in connexion with any proposed alteration of the Tariff. We have seen the lobbying which has been done here. I am not going to say it has all been on the protectionists’ side, though it was largely done by manufacturers. There has been some lobbying done also on the free-trade side, and I say that all such lobbying would by his proposal simply be transferred to the Minister’s room.
– They cannot “get at” the Minister.
– To whom are people to make representations ? Is this Minister to be a permanent Minister ? If so, we might deal with this legislation in a different manner. Suppose the present Minister possesses all the virtues - and I am willing to admit he possesses many -his successor may not; and there must be representations . to either the Minister or his officers. The Minister’s proposal simply means that when a question comes up for consideration reference will be made by a protectionist Minister to the Chamber of Manufactures, and by a free-trade Minister, possibly to the Chambers of Commerce, and these bodies will be asked to express their opinion as to whether articles should be free or dutiable.
– Surely the honorable member knows that administration often involves decisions of that kind, and of a more far-reaching character than the present proposal.
– That depends upon whether we give such a power, and the power proposed is very far-reaching. The definition of machine, tools might be applied to the largest and most expensive machine, and the Minister has the power, without any definition being placed before Parliament, of saying whether he will admit that article free, or cause duty to be paid.
– The honorable member does not follow me. In an ordinary way definitions as to what is dutiable, and the amount of duty to be paid, involve more than the power now proposed.
– They do nothing of the sort. I admit that there has been left a margin of doubt which might readily have been removed in the Tariff itself, and that differences of opinion are likely to arise as to whether an article is under a certain duty, or under some other duty. These differences might exist, but so long as the article is defined with sufficient clearness there ought not to be any necessity for officers to refer to outside bodies and to accept their decision upon the matter. In my opinion we ought not to give this extraordinary power to the Minister. It would be infinitely better to let Ministers define what they mean by “tools of trade” and “machine tools.” They will have to make a definition for themselves, and they ought to provide one for Parliament. Having framed a definition, let it apply to all tools of trade and machine tools. Then these differences will not arise, inequality of treatment will not occur, there will be no insinuation of favoritism, and the consent of the two Houses will not be needed. If the Government frame such a definition the position will be much simplified. I shall certainly not consent to an extension of tins power to the Minister. It is a power which in his own interests ought not to be in his hands, and it is one which is not necessary if proper steps are taken to define the meaning of “ tools of trade “ and “ machine tools,” and if that description is applied to all such tools.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).The discussion which has taken place seems chiefly to have been directed towards arriving at a definition of the terms “ machine tools” and “tools of trade.” To me there is as much difference between the two sets of implements as there is between day and night. I take it that machine tools apply only to those which are used in the manufacture of machinery. But in the case of tools of trade the position is very different. I will give a case in point. The tools of trade of a dentist are those which he requires in his professional practice. The tools of trade of a barber are those which he employs in his daily avocation, whilst those of the miner comprise a number of articles which are dutiable. The tools of trade of the agriculturist consist of a variety of lines about which we have had a good deal of fighting. This definition is an important one. The more discussion we have in reference to the exemptions, the more apparent must the necessity become for having a low duty upon a great number of these lines. To me it is perfectly clear that, if all the tools of trade of the manufacturer are to be placed upon the free list, there must be a great shrinkage in the revenue, and the revenue which is collected must be derived from tlie tools of trade of the primary producer. When I first heard of the drag-net proposal, I did not regard it as a very wise one. But it must now be patent to all that from a revenue standpoint, and from the stand-point of dealing fairly alike with the primary and secondary producer, it would have been much better to have a low duty upon a number of these lines. I agree that we should have a very clear understanding as to the definition of the power which we are asked to grant to the Minister. I believe that ite ought to clothe him with a discretionary power, because at the present time the wisest man cannot possibly know all the articles which should be included in the list of exemptions, Let us first agree upon the definition, and afterwards we must have sufficient confidence in the Minister to allow him to rectify’ anomalies as they reveal themselves from day to day.
– -We have all read the book Darkest Africa, and the Way Out. We have also read of Darkest England, and the Way Out, but it seems to me that this is darkest Australian fiscal confusion, and the way in. It appears to me that we need to be very careful not to allow this Parliament to be deprived of its powers. If we hand over to the Ministry the power which they now seek, things will be all right, but the only possible way in which we can retain any power ourselves is by having frequent changes of Ministry. In’ America they have what is known as government by injunction, but in Australia we have government by regulation. I say that we ought not to allow the foundation of tyranny to be established in this country, and honorable members should recollect that the moment too much power is conferred upon a Government they will seek to clothe themselves with more, and thus an autocracy will arise upon the neck of a democracy. It does seem to me that we ought not towaste days and days over the discussion of this simple matter. Let us impose taxation all round without the intervention of any regulations, or wipe it out all round. We continually hear about corruption through administration in Canada, Newfoundland, and America. Why 1 Because they put too much power into the hands of Ministers, and the human soul is prone to evil. What will be the result ? As the right honorable the leader of the Opposition has pointed out, Ministers may be as pure and sanctified as theangels in heaven, but when great issues, involving thousands of pounds, are at stake, some one will go out and start the little fly of scandal, with the result that the Australian Parliament will, perhaps, descend to the same level that the American Parliament has occupied for years. I have lived in Washington, and I say that one can no more buy an American than hecan an Australian or a Britisher. Yet theAmerican Parliament enjoys an evil reputation because it put too much power intothe hands of the “ authorities that be.” I say by all means let us retain these powers,. and give the Government nothing beyond what is absolutely necessary.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - As I understand it is the desire of the Government to omit the whole of this exemption, and to give honorable members a further opportunity of discussing the articles which it is proposed to exempt upon, a specific list in addition to the existing list, I am content to withdraw my amendment. I do so, however, upon the distinct understanding that the Government intend to specify what items are to be included in the schedule of “ machine tools “ and “ tools of trade.” I wish also to say one or two words in support of the suggestion which has been made by the honorable member for North Sydney, and the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. It seems to me that the definition of “ tools of trade “ in contradistinction to “ machine tools “ is somewhat vague. We have a list of tools of trade, but no list of machine tools. What do the words “ machine tools “ mean 1 Do they mean only tools to be used in conjunction with machinery, or tools which are necessary for the erection and use of machinery ?
– They refer to machines used for doing work with minor tools.
– That does not appear quite clear to me. There must be some distinction between the two sets of tools. We have a list of “ tools of trade “ which are the simplest tools used by handworkers of every kind, from the common awl, gimlet, or bradawl upwards, but when the Government speak of “ machine tools “ what do they mean t Do they refer to adjustments to be used in conjunction with machinery or for making machinery or are the tools to be used in conjunction with machinery for certain manufactures. What is the expression “ machine tools ‘.’ intended to cover “! If the term is intended to cover merely tools used in conjunction with machinery - adjustable parts for different kinds of work done in connexion with any one trade - it seems to me that it will be a simple matter to specify what tools are to be admitted free, and what shall be dutiable. But, if it means anything else, I foresee a tremendous amount of complication in connexion with our future work.
– The honorable member appears to define a machine tool as a tool used in conjunction with machinery.
– Yes ; an adjustable tool used in connexion with certain machinery. I concur with the suggestion of the Government that the item now before the committee might well be omitted to allow of the insertion of a much more definite list of exemptions. If I rightly interpret the remarks of the Treasurer, he proposes to strike out the item now before us, provided that my amendment is withdrawn, and to move later on the insertion of a list of exemptions. I think that that course would conserve the time of the committee, and, therefore, I am willing to withdraw my amendment.
– I think that what the committee desire is that there should be a specification, so far as that is possible at the present moment, of the tools we propose to exempt. Therefore, what the Government propose to do is to move the omission of the whole of the item, with the exception of the first two words - “ machine tools “; and then to move the insertion of the words “ as follows.” If that amendment is agreed to, we shall take it to mean that the committee agree to a specification of the tools that are to be exempt, and we shall move the insertion^ of a list which we have had prepared. Following that will come another amendment, providing for the making of further exemptions under proclamation.
– Will the Minister allow honorable members on this side to suggest additions to his list ?
– It will be open to every honorable member to suggest additions to or omissions from the Government list, but we do not pledge ourselves to accept any suggestions before we know what they are. I confess that there is a difficulty in defining machine tools. We have consulted authorities for the purpose of obtaining the best definition possible, and the result of our researches in various lexicons amounts to this, that the term “ tools of trade” can be applied to simple mechanisms used in working, moving, or transforming material, and that a “ machine tool” is a machine for doing work with minor tools, or for utilizing them. A machine tool is really machinery applied to give greater utility to minor tools.
– What is a steam hammer?
– I venture to think that a steam hammer is a machine, not a machine tool.
– The hammer itself is a fixture . I asked the question in order to show the difficulty of making a satisfactory definition.
– No doubt our best course is to state as specifically as we can what machine tools we propose to exempt, and then to take power to add to the list of exemptions. No means for obtaining the fullest information on the subject have been neglected ; our inquiries have not been confined to any particular State or to any industry; and we have come to the conclusion that we can recommend for exemption the tools which are included in the list which we have circulated amongst honorable members, and of which, I trust, they will approve.
– There are three trades the tools of which are omitted from the list.
– In those cases, investigation has probably shown that they can. be manufactured in Australia at a price which is reasonable under the circumstances, hut the matter will be one for discussion when we come to deal with the list. When we have the list before us, I shall be glad to consider any proposed additions. It is not the desire of the Government to obtain excessive power in connexion with the administration of the Customs department. I have no doubt that, whether the Minister in power be a protectionist or a free-trader, he will administer the Act in the spirit in which it is framed. The opinion has been expressed, however - and we recognise the reasonableness of it - that we cannot provide by any specification for the possibilities of the future, so that unless we take power to add to the list tools which may be hereafter invented, the Tariff may work considerable hardship. The course which we are now proposing will get rid of the objection which has been taken to the proposal now in the Tariff, because it will lay down a principle by which the Minister must be governed in making tools exempt - they must be such tools as cannot reasonably be produced within the Commonwealth. With such a provision in the Tariff, no Minister will have any difficulty in coming to a conclusion as to what is the proper course to pursue. As it substitutes for the departmental by-law an Executive regulation whichwill be subject to parliamentarycontrol, our proposal will, I feel sure, be acceptable to honorable members. In minor matters of this sort theoretical objections to the exercise of power by a Minister are often raised, when very much greater power in other matters is granted. For instance, under the Customs Act it would be competent for the Executive to issue a proclamation to prohibit the importation of any article it saw fit to prohibit. Of course, that power is intended to be exercised only for the protection of the Commonwealth against the importation of articles such as are specified in section 52 of the Customs Act, and there, is no possibility of abuse in connexion with it. Neither do I think that the power now proposed to be given to the Minister will be abused.
– I think that the debate which has taken place upon the proposal in the Tariff is sufficient to show the absurdity of the position which the Government have taken up all through. When the question of putting a duty upon mining machinery was before the Chamber a few nights ago it was urged that the duty proposed by the Government should be reduced ; but the Government thought that they would lose such an enormous amount of revenue if a reduction took place, that they induced the committee to accept, as a compromise, the exemption of patented machinery which could not be made in the Commonwealth, and the retention of a duty of 20 per cent, upon all other mining machinery. It was pointed out then, however, that it would be almost impossible for the Government to perform the task they had undertaken of declaring what machinery could not be manufactured in the country. It was also pointed out that although the Government might bring down a list of articles which could not be made in the State to day, the necessity might arise for making additions to that list within a month, owing to the introduction of new patents. The Government, however, still adhere to their 20 per cent, duty, and they have now been forced to admit their inability to carry out the undertaking they entered into. I was rather surprised to hear expressions of righteous indignation on the part of some honorable members at the proposal that the Minister should have power to deal with these exemptions by regulation. Within the past fortnight the same honorable members cheerfully agreed to give the Prime Minister far greater powers than those now asked for. I refer to the authority which was given in connexion with the despatch of the last contingent to South Africa. The Prime Minister had authority given to him to send away 50,000 men if he thought fit, and although his action may be subject to the review of Parliament afterwards, that does not affect my contention, because we know that all the acts of Ministers are subject to the review of Parliament.
– That applied to only a matter of great national emergency.
– I am not going into that question, except to say that we know very well that the Empire was not in danger, and that there was no such great national emergency as the honorable and learned member represents. I object altogether to delegate to Ministers the powers that rightly belong to the Legislature. The House should guard as far as itpossibly can, the powers vested in it. There has been too much disposition in the past, in all the States, to carry on the work of Government by regulation ; and I think the principle is an extremely bad one. It is all very well for the Minister to say that everything would have to be approved by Parliament, and that power should be given to him to deal with cases of emergency ; but we do not give the Judges power to deal with cases of emergency arising out of defects in the laws. When any necessity arises for correcting an error of legislation, a Bill is brought down, and Parliament is asked toremedy the defect ; and a similar course should be pursued in connexion with the administration of the Customs department. If, after the free list has been passed, it is found that certain articles should be added to it, the matter should again be submitted to Parliament. If the question of exempting certain articles from the payment of duty were left in the hands of Ministers, there might be too much disposition on the one hand to consider the revenue rather than the interests of the particular trade or industry affected, or, in the case of a free-trade Minister, he might be too prone to make additions to the free list. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to have the whole question of machinery brought up for our reconsideration, and fix the duties upon a 10 or 12½ per cent, basis. If we go on as we are now going, we shall find ourselves in all sorts of difficulties.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- The course the Government now suggest will tend to bring all these matters before us in a better form, and I shall have nothing more to say on that subject, as I can reserve my remarks on the principle of the matter till the further amendment to which Ministers have alluded is brought forward. The honorable and learned member for Corio made a remarkable statement to the House, which I believe is thoroughly well founded. It is really an important one to remember. . I believe every honorable member on this side of the House is anxious to give the industries which the protectionists desire to assist every, legitimate encouragement we can, consistently with our principles, and I shall help the honorable and learned member for Corio, or any other protectionist who wishes to give the ironworkers the best and cheapest machinery. One of the great difficulties connected with a protective policy is that colonial industries have conflicting interests, and very often the protection that is given to one colonial industry is nullified by the assistance which is afforded to other industries which make the articles used in the first-mentioned. Manufacturers, especially in Sydney, have been known to say, that if they had to pay heavy duties on the hundred-and-one things they use in making their finished article, they would be better off without any protection. To have free raw materialis in some instances better than to have protection on the finished article. I think that we, as free-traders, can unite with the . protectionists in giving the great industries existing here the benefit of as cheap and good tools as possible. This is one of the vital essentials to success ; and when the honorable and learned member for Corio says that after 30 years of high duties the tool-making industry of Victoria was reduced to a father and son concern, notwithstanding that duties have been paid to the amount of £600,000, we begin to see how some of the protected industries of Victoria have been struggling under the protection supposed to have been given to kindred industries. Thesupposed protective duties have really been revenue prod ucing, and that £600,000 has been a burden upon many of the protected industries of Victoria, without helping any other. I am prepared to make the tools required by any of our industries as cheap as possible, and I think we should be studying the interests of colonial industry more fully by adopting a liberal policy of that kind. The Minister for Trade and Customs endeavoured to define what machine tools were, but his definition leaves us more in the dark than ever. I have a list before me of machine tools which the Government think ought to be placed on the free list, and I can see scores of these which do not answer the definition given by the Minister for Trade and Customs. They are certainly not machines which have to be used in conjunction with other machines. The embossing or folding machines used in connexion with bookbinding are machines in themselves. Boring machines used in brushmaking are also in the same category. A nail-making tool is a complete thing in itself, namely, a machine tool that makes nails. An envelope-making machine is clearly a machine in itself for a certain purpose. In view of these examples any attempt at definition of machine tools had better be left alone.
– I was asked to give a definition.
– Then the right honorable gentleman “fell in” with unaccustomed simplicity.
– The Minister must define before he can decide.
– That is where the advantage comes in, of doing things by regulation, away from Parliament, because whatever the Minister then says is law.
– But he must have a definition.
– I do not know where he is going to get it. It will be a curiosity.
– I think the Ministry should define what are machine tools, and what are tools of trade. They should put under one head all the tools of trade, and state which tools it is proposed to admit free of duty, and also if necessary, which it is proposed to include in Division VIa, provided that is passed. A similar list of machine tools should be brought down. Then the committee would have the whole thing before them, and would know what they were doing. I do not suppose that any honorable member can call mind everything relating to tools of trade, and if we attempt to deal with the matter in a haphazard manner, some tools will be omitted from the free list, and will therefore become dutiable, although there may be special reasons for exempting them. With regard to the powers sought by the Minister for Trade and Customs, it would be an advantage if the Minister were to lay on the table copies of the regulations prepared in connexion with the Tariff as far as we have gone, and also the decisions which have been arrived at by the departmental officers. We should then be able to see what the Minister has been doing, and thus obtain an idea as to how far we can trust him in the future.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - This question has been fairly debated, and, as the Government are satisfied to withdraw the line and to give us a specification of what they intend to come under the headings of tools of trade and machine tools, I, with the permission of the committee, desire to withdraw my amendment.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).Before the amendment is withdrawn I may be pardoned for making a few remarks in reference to the statement made by the honorable and learned member for Corio. There is sufficient evidence in the letter which the honorable and learned member quoted, and which he, knowing the manufacturer well, vouches for, to show that although this industry has been protected to the extent of thousands of pounds, the tools turned out by these three or four men are of such a quality and are so much out of date as to be useless. The manufacturer who wrote that letter states that if he is compelled to use the tools made by this firm, it will be impossible for him to carry on his business.
– That is said about everything manufactured here.
– It is a protectionist who makes these statements about the tools.
– And this protectionist says that for the past 30 years this maker of tools has been protected with duties ranging from 20 per cent, to 35 per cent., and that for the past five years, or probably ten, not more than five men have found constant employment in the trade, Mr. James and his son alone being employed in the industry at the present time.
That manufacturers are compelled to use imported tools is shown by the figures quoted by the honorable and learned member for Corio as to the amount collected in revenue in this connexion. It appears that, notwithstanding the hea vy protection, this maker of tools has not been able to increase his business, and manufacturers have been compelled to supply their requirements from abroad. Time after time the Opposition have pointed out the unfairness with which farmers and miners are treated under this Tariff.
– Miners especially.
– Miners especially, but agriculturists as well. Both carry on important industries, but I admit that the agriculturist has to submit to only 15 per cent., while the miner is called on to pay 20 per cent, in duties. I do not see why there should be this difference in treatment.
– Nobody else, can see why.
– The committee have already determined that all machines required for the manufacture of fibrous material into cloth of various descriptions are to be admitted free.
– Is it wrong to do that 1
– I voted in favour of these machines being admitted free; but heavy taxes are placed on the miner and the agriculturist, while the manufacturer is allowed his machines and tools of trade free, whether these tools and machines can or cannot be made in the Commonwealth . Manufacturers here admit that the only market they have is the market of the Commonwealth, because they cannot compete abroad with those who desire to send goods to our market, and in addition to cheap machinery, they say that they require a duty of from 15 to 20 per cent. There is the natural protection afforded by the freights and charges between London and Australia, and in the case of wool we must remember that that commodity has to be sent home and brought back as a manufactured article. In addition to all that protection, it is now proposed to go a step further, and give the manufacturer free machinery and free tools, while the taxes are allowed to remain on the ‘farmer and the miner. If it is right that the manufacturer should be allowed to have his machines free, there are still stronger arguments for the same privilege being extended to the farmer and the miner, both of whom, if they had to depend on the trade of the= Commonwealth, would be insolvent in a. very short time. They have to compete in the markets of the world against otherswho have the advantage of being in closer communication with London.
– The honorable member is not in order ; the question before thecommittee is the omission of certain words.
– I am endeavouring to show the importance of putting a number of articles on the free list, and discussing whether the Minister should have the power to include other itemsbesides those which appear there. I am endeavouring to show further that proper attention has not been given in the past to the great industries of agriculture and. mining, which depend on the export trade foi’ their success.
– The honorable member must himself see that he is not in order. The question is as to whether certain words- shall be omitted, and the honorable member is traversing the whole fiscal question.
– Am I not in order in showing the importance of putting: certain articles on the free list, and how, if that be not done, miners and agriculturistswill be harassed ? The honorable member for Corio was not called to order when heshowed what had been done in the case of the man nf actu rer. Miners and agriculturists, by reason of the fact that prices are so low–
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed. I have given my ruling, and if the honorable member dissents be knows what course to take.
– Do I understand you, Mr. Chairman, to rule that it is impossible for me to refer in any way to the hardships inflicted on miners and agriculturists by reason of their machines and tools of trade not being included in the free list 1 .
– I have given my ruling. If the honorable member will refer to the standing order, which he knows as well as I and other honorable members do, he will see that the debate must be strictly confined to the amendment, which’ iswhether certain words shall be omitted. The question before the committee hasnothing to do with mining or farming machinery, but with machine tools used in certain trades.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs was not called to order when he stated that he was going to propose to have full power, and honorable members have over and over again referred to that proposal. The Minister in reply to a contention put forward by an honorable member, said he would amend the proposal so as to include all tools.
– The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, moved that the words “and specified in departmental by-laws” be omitted. The honorable member has asked permission to withdraw that amendment on the statement being made by the Minister, that if it be withdrawn the Government propose to move subsequently that all the words after “machine tools” be omitted. That is the state of the question before the House.
– Do I understand that I can make no reference to the regulations or to the Minister’s proposal to omit words ?
– The honorable member would be in order in referring to those matters.
– I am trying to show how unfairly these regulations will press on certain industries, and how one class will be placed at a disadvantage as compared with another. I am in favour of putting articles on the free list, but, with the member for Gippsland, I cannot see why there should be any distinction drawn between agriculturists and miners, and those engaged in other industries.
– There is no proposal to make a distinction.
– But there has been a distinction made all through, as is shown by the fact that the manufacturers get their machines in free while miners and agriculturalists have to pay duties of 15 to 20 per cent, on all machines.
– That is not so.
– This question has been fought out, and the honorable member voted for a duty of 20 per cent, on mining machinery.
– Not specifically mining machinery, but machinery.
– Mining machinery was included. Will the honorable member vole for mining -and agricultural machinery being placed on the same footing as manufacturing machinery ?
– I was pointing out what would be possible under the division as it stands, but the Government- have since then announced their intention of withdrawing this division altogether.
– I admit that the honorable member for Gippsland is always fair in putting a case, but I ask him whether it is not a fact that the committee have decided that all machinery required by those engaged in the conversion of fibrous material into cloth, shall be placed on the free list t
– That proposal will be submitted to us.
– It has been submitted and passed.
– It is going to- be submitted.
– It has been submitted, and it is only fair that agriculturists and miners should be placed on the same footing %
– There is no analogy whatever.
– I know that the honorable member is bound to go with the manufacturers, but I ask the honorable member for Gippsland, who is engaged in agriculture, and who is a friend of agriculturists, whether it is fair that this distinction should be drawn ?
– I have consistently voted for putting their implements and machinery, which cannot be successfully manufactured at a reasonable price within the Commonwealth, upon the free list.
– But I would point out to the honorable member thatall the machinery in this case, irrespective of’ whether it can be locally manufactured, has been placed upon the free list.
– What about the- engines, and boilers which they use 1
– If honorable members look at page 6, they will find amongst, special exemptions the following words, which are in the nature of a general definition : - “ Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing the manufacture of fibrous materials.” I ask the committee to accord similar treatment to the agriculturists and the miners. We know that this is an age of progress. Scarcely a week passes without some new invention being made in regard to agricultural and mining machinery. Only theother day I was reading a report by a. gentleman who had visited America, and who points out that the advances made in agricultural machinery in that country are really wonderful. Are we going to keep up-to-date by imposing a heavy protective duty upon machinery ?
– I have already asked the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– I am glad that we shall have another opportunity of dealing, with this matter in a m straightforward way. The leader of the’ Opposition has notified his intention of again contesting the duties upon mining and agricultural machinery, so that a vote will be taken upon the direct issue. When that time comes, I hope that honorable members will do justice to the primary industries of the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for Corio has made a very distinct statement this afternoon - a statement which he has supported by evidence from a reliable manufacturer.
– The statement contained in the letter which he read was simple rubbish.
– It is all very well to say it is rubbish, but it is useless for the honorable member to make that assertion unless he can prove it. Let him bring forward his proof, and the honorable and learned member for Corio will then be in a position to answer him. In view of the encouragement afforded to large manufacturers, I hope that further consideration will be given to the great industries of mining and agriculture.
– I said that the statement contained in the letter which was read by the honorable and learned member for Corio was rubbish. I repeat that assertion. I have in my hand the catalogue of a firm in New South Wales which manufactures a very large number of machine tools, and also the catalogue of a similar firm in South Australia. Even within a mile of this House I know of a third firm which employs between 50 and 60 hands in the manufacture of machine tools. The honorable and learned member for Corio was talking of one class of machine tools only, which, of course, does not cover anything like the various articles which will come under the definition of that term. To say that there are no tools coming under that’ definition, except those which Mr. James manufactures, discloses either the grossest ignorance, or else an attempt to mislead the committee. In New South Wales any number of these machine tools are being made.
– In what was a free-trade State.
– The issue at stake is - “Are these tools being made here, or are they not?” I can assure the committee that the honorable and learned member for Corio has been misled. I know that there are selfish manufacturers who want protection for their own trades, but will not extend it to others, and for such I have no sympathy. I hope that the committee will adopt the proposal of -the Government, accept their list, exempt from duty the tools which cannot be locally manufactured, and protect those which can.
– I ventured to interject, when the honorable member for Macquarie was speaking, that members, in all good faith, sometimes make misleading statements to the committee, which others are prone to repeat as if they were based upon fact. In this connexion, I wish to refer to what was said by the honorable and learned member for Corio this afternoon. As illustrating the amount of duty which was paid upon some particular line of machine tools, he said -
The duty paid in Victoria on machine tools during the past five years is as follows : - 1896, £1,973; 1897, £3,287; 1898, £4,167; 1899, £4,470; and 1900, £5,689 ; or, a total of £19,586.
Quoting from the same document by which he was misled, he further said -
Taking the same average for 30 years, the amount would be £587,580 (say haU-a-million sterling).
As a proof that the honorable member for Macquarie did not look into that statement
– Will the honorable member permit me to explain 1 I got the statement which I gave to the committee from the document quoted by the honorable and learned member for Corio. I pointed out to him the difference between the average amount of duty collected in a year, and the total which it was represented would be collected in 30 years. That is the reason I abstained, when addressing the committee, from making any reference to the amount of duty collected, and contented myself with merely mentioning the rate. I pointed out to the honorable and learned member what I thought was an inaccuracy, so that he might have the opportunity to look into it.
– The figures used by the honorable and learned member for Corio were repeated by the leader of the Opposition, who, apparently, did not take the slightest trouble to examine them. I only give this illustration to show how very easily honorable members can be misled if they are content to accept statements from any source without taking the trouble to verif y the figures. What do we find ? The total amount of duty collected upon this particular lineof importsduring five years was £19,586. If an average be struck, the amount of duty paid in 30 years would represent only £117,000, instead of £587,580, as was stated by honorable members opposite.
– That is a pretty large sum.
– That is not bad - about £60,000 apiece.
– But there is a vast difference between £100,000 and £600,000. This illustration goes to show the ingenuity of those who compile these documents for a purpose which can easily be imagined. They have actually taken the amount collected during five years, and represented it as the average duty for one year. That is what was done this afternoon. That illustrates the absurd position of those who have now accepted this document which has been printed and circulated for a purpose by some of the honorable member’s constituents who are specially interested. It shows that honorable members should not submit information to the committee without attempting to verify it.
– Are the figures relating to recent importations correct ?
– I do not know, because I have not had an opportunity of verifying them; but the deductions are absolutely wrong and misleading. With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie, that some of us who differ from him on the fiscal question are anxious to place taxes upon the farming and mining community, and at the same time allow the manufacturing community to go free, I think that if he looks into the matter fairly he will see that that is not a correct conclusion to draw from our actions. I claim to have acted consistently in trying to establish industries here for whose productions there is a sufficient local demand.
Where the demand is not sufficient to warrant the establishment of an industry, I have always supported proposals for placing the articles produced on the free list. The demand for such machines as carding and spinning machines is not great enough to justify the imposition of a duty to encourage their manufacture here.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- What has been said by honorable members opposite would make it appear that my remarks this morning were in the direction of supporting freetrade doctrines, whereas I think I am as good a protectionist as any in the Chamber. The position I take up now is the only consistent position for a protectionist to assume. If honorable members will look at the list in the Tariff they will see that the machine tools there enumerated are tools solely used in protected industries. It would be absurd to impose duties of 15 per cent., in order to protect and encourage certain industries, and then to place a duty of 20 per cent, upon the tools used in those industries. Such an action would be like the doctor who attempted to strengthen a man by administering medicine with one hand and arsenic with the other. I read out the whole of the circular which has been referred to, and the error which has been so much commented upon is obviously inadvertent, and not a designed attempt by those who sent it to me to mislead the committee. I trust that the Government will insert lathes in the free list. Lathes are necessary for engineering work of all kinds, and to place a duty upon them’ will affect the cost of farming, mining, and many other implements throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moira has accused me of being influenced by the interests of my own constituents ; but as a matter of fact the people who are interested, and on whose behalf I spoke, are scattered all over the Commonwealth, and may be found in every constituency. There is no constituency in the Commonwealth where an engineer and blacksmith does not trade. It has not been shown that so far as the making of tools used in connexion with smithy work are concerned, there are not more than two men employed. If the Government will not include lathes in the list of exemptions, I shall have to vote with the Opposition.
– One might think from the course of this discussion that the Government wish to place a duty upon machine tools ; but that is not the case. The particular class of tools which the honorable and learned member for Corio has referred to are upon the free list, and I have given notice of an amendment to subject them to a duty of 15 per cent.
– Are lathes and planing machines on the free list?
– The honorable and ‘learned member only referred to lathes at the last moment. What he was speaking of was machine-making tools. I do not intend to move my amendment, because, since giving notice of it, I have ascertained that only two men are engaged in the work of tool making. It has been assumed by honorable members opposite that these two men shared between them the whole of the duty. The leader of the Opposition said that £60,000 apiece was not bad for them.
– I did not mean that they actually got the money, but that they were the cause of taxation to that amount.
– The fact really is that the duty is paid upon much larger, machines than they make. They only make machines up to 5 cwt. in weight. I should like to point out, in reply to the argument that a duty always makes things dearer, that the cost of 1½-cwt. machines in Sydney is £65, while in Melbourne it is £55 ; that the cost of 2½-cwt. machines in Sydney is £80, and in Melbourne £75 ; that the cost of 3-cwt. machines in Sydney is £90, and in Melbourne £85 ; and that the cost of 5-cwt. machines is £130 in Sydney, and £120 here.
– Does the honorable member guarantee the accuracy of those statements?
– I obtained the information from the sole representatives of the Robb Engineering Company in New South Wales.
– What sort of machines is the honorable member referring to?
– To steam-hammers, which are the machines made by James and Son. The honorable member for Macquarie has stated that the machines made here are so bad that people would rather use imported machines.
– I merely quoted the statement made by the correspondent of the honorable and learned member for Corio.
– I think that it is unfair to make such statements, because it is well known that the machines are thoroughly good, and are in considerable demand.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- The honorable member for Melbourne says that I have asked for articles to be placed on the free list which as a matter of fact are already there. I ask honorable members, however, to compare the list of articles which I wish to have put on the free list with the Government proposals. If they do that they will find that the Government propose to put on the free list only 9 of the 53 articles which I wish to have made free, and of which I have given notice.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio said that to impose duties upon the tools required by certain manufacturers was like giving arsenic to a sick person. I thoroughly agree with him there, and I hope that in the future he will exercise the same care in regard to agriculturists and others who use machinery that he shows towards manufacturers, I am very glad that honorable members on both sides of the House have decided, on sound constitutional grounds, to dissent from the proposal of the Ministry to delegate the powers of Parliament to any individual, whoever he may be. We were asked to delegate our powers to a Ministry that would be incapable of exercising them judiciously. We know that the majority of the Ministers are lawyers who do not know anything about tools of trade, and therefore we should be dependent on the discretion of the Customhouse officers, who would naturally look upon all questions from an official point of view. It would be a distinct derogation of the rights of Parliament for us to consent to anything of that sort. It is a good thing that the Ministry have been convinced of the error of their ways, and have recognised that their unwearying and unremitting work has fallen short of what was required. Their modified proposal, which is to he brought forward later on, seems to he nearly as objectionable as that which has just been rejected, and I hope the committee will disagree with it also. With regard to the sum’ mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Corio in connexion with the duties collected on tools of trade during the past 30 years the honorable and learned member apparently made the mistake of adding up the duties for five years, which amounted to £19,000, and multiplying the total by 30 instead of taking one year’s average, and multiplying that.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn..
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
Thatall the words after “machine tools” be omitted with a’ view to insert in lieu thereof the words “as follows.”
Resolved (on motion by Sir George Turner) -
That the House at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– With the permission of the House I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs the question standing in my name on the notice paper for to-day, as follows : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2.In the first instance Mr. Commissioner Oliver (see page 8 of his report) considered sites in the northern part of the State as too far distant from the centres of population, and did not inspect or hold any inquiry in regard to their merits, but I understand through the press that he is in Armidale making inquiry as to the suitability of that site. 3.I will at once forward copies of the honorable member’s question to the Government of
New South. Wales, and suggest that Mr. Oliver should, while in the vicinity, make inquiry as to the merits of the districts named.
– I understand some questions which were asked by me of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral were postponed with a view to getting information.I would now ask that the answers might be given.
– On former occasions the honorable member asked several questions to which I had to reply that the information asked for would be given at a later date. I am now in possession of that information.
The answers are as follow : -
asked further -
The answers are as follow : -
Further questions asked by the honorable member were -
The answers are as follow : -
– I did not quite catch the purport of the answer to the honorable member for Cowper, but so far as I can gather, two new sites for the Federal capital are to be submitted to Mr. Oliver for further inquiry. A number of sites were submitted to that gentleman by the State Government of New South Wales, and he gave reasonable consideration to those which he considered worthy, and furnished his report. Since then, because of some railway extension or projected extension, Mr. Oliver has been asked to report on a site near Tumut, and is now making inquiries regarding the site near Armidale. I should like to know, and no doubt the people of New South Wales would like to know, whether any limit is going to be placed on the number of sites regarding which inquiries are to be made. While I do not think the State Government wish any desirable site to be shut out, still, if a decision is to be arrived at at a reasonably early date, there must be some limit. I wish to know whether the Government have decided to place any limit, and whether the consideration of the further suggestions sent to Mr. Oliver will delay a settlement of the question.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs a matter relating to the administration of his department. A friend of mine in one of the States desired me to obtain some information in connexion with the duties on boots, and in order to assist me in my representations to the Minister, he sent me a couple of odd children’s boots which would be worth, duty paid, about 2s. or 3s. The parcel was forwarded to me in the ordinary way, but immediately on its arrival here I received a communication dated Melbourne, 23rd January, 1902, which states -
A parcel addressed to you has been received by the British and foreign parcels post, and is now lying at this office where delivery may be obtained if required. The charges for duty assessed thereon by the customs officer amount to 2s. 3d.
Then the communication goes on to state that the amount may be remitted by postal note, and delivery may be taken either personally or to my order and so on. The officers in charge in Victoria had not sufficient sense to see that two odd boots or slippers could be of no value, but were merely samples, and they attempted to impose further duties amounting to about the value of a proper pair. I think there must be something radically wrong in the department, and the only excuse, so far as I can gather, is that no certificate was sent with the boots saying they had paid duty, Imagine, on my buying a doll or some other article in Melbourne, to send as a present to a child in Queensland, demanding a certificate from the vendor that duty had been paid ! These were imported boots sent to me from Charters Towers in order that I point out some anomaly in connection with the Tariff ; and the attempt to charge me duty, shows that the administration is apparently very lax. I shall, of course, pay for the boots ; but it would have been absurd for me to pay and ask for a refund. I am informed there are a number of similar instances, and the Minister should take the earliest opportunity of finding some remedy.
– In reply to the honorable member for Kennedy, I do not think he can charge the officers of the department with lax administration, but must rather credit them with the reverse. The officers evidently regard “all as fish that come to their net,” even though it be a Member of Parliament, and I feel inclined to congratulate them on not making any exception in such a case.
– I did not ask for any concession.
– I am sure that honorable member did not. This matter is generally provided for by section 92 of the Constitution Act, which requires that goods imported, and passing from one State to another within two years after the adoption of the Federal Tariff, shall pay the Federal Tariff, less any duty which may have been previously paid. That is the law, and we cannot alter it, though we have already granted certain facilities where we fairly could without infringing the Constitution. At the same time, it is very difficult to lay down a rule of exemptions to meet, cases such as that referred to ; indeed, Ido not think it could be done. That section of the Constitution Act was passed for the purpose of giving the consuming State whatever duty there is on goods passing into it, and the rule must be enforced. I do not hesitate to tell the honorable member that the Government would like to see, in a fuller sense, Inter-State free-trade brought about, and whatever has already occurred to them to that end they have done. If the Government see any possibility of providing further, without infringing the Constitution they will be glad to do so. At the same time, having given the matter much study, I do nob see what can be done. The section was introduced into the Constitution because New South Wales was a free-trade State, and the importers there might have laid in stocks, and after InterState free-trade, sent these duty-free goods into the other States. The section was drawn in the broadest possible sense, and we have no power to provide for any considerable relaxation of the rule.
– But these goods were imported into Queensland under the Federal Tariff, and paid Federal duties.
– That being the case, I shall be happy to receive a letter or memorandum from the honorable member to that effect, when the goods will be delivered.
– I should not go to that trouble, but would rather pay the 2s. 3d.
– Matters of this sort are a little annoying, but there is the rule which cannot be departed from except at the expense of more serious consequences. In reply to the honorable member for Canoblas, I understand from the Minister for Home Affairs that only one additional site, namely, that of Don Dorrigo, has been referred by the Premier of New South Wales, for consideration by the commissioner, Mr. Oliver.
– Will this extra referencein any way delay the decision of the question?
– No ; not at all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4. 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 January 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020124_reps_1_7/>.