1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and readprayers.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. A cablegramwas published in the newspapers on Tuesday reporting that in the House of Commons last week Mr. Brodrick, the Secretary for War, made a statement as to the number of horses sent to South Africa: The total is 218,000, in addition to 90,000 captured from the Boers. The United Kingdom supplied 60,000, the United States 77,000, Australia 20,000, Canada 11,000, South America 26,000, and Hungary 24,000. It is well-known, as was pointed out by Sir John Cockburn, in a letter to the London
Times last week, that the table-lands of North Australia are peculiarly adapted to the establishment of stations for horsebreeding purposes. Emphatic testimony on this point has been borne, both bythe present Government Resident at Port Darwin, Mr. Justice Dashwood, and his predecessor, the Hon. J. L. Parsons. In a report dated 31st December, 1900, Mr. Justice Dashwood writes -
I have taken every opportunity of urging upon thepastoralists of the Northern Territory the advisability of engaging in the enterprise of breeding horses of the right stamp for export to the East,and particularly as Indian remounts. There are thousands of square miles of country suitable for this purpose, find which, under the land laws, can be acquired from the Government on the most liberal terms.
In a later report, written from Powell Creek, and dated 19th September, 1901, His Honour says -
Arrived here yesterday. Had a most interesting journey overthe table-lands. Have travelled hundreds of miles over magnificent plains, consisting of rich black and chocolate soil, thickly grassed with Flinders, Mitchell, and a variety of other excellent stock grasses. All the stockI saw, both old and young, are fat and healthy.
Having read these extracts I will now ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will make representations to the Imperial authorities as to thewisdom in the interests of the Empire of utilizing the facilities afforded in the northern portions of Australia for breeding horses of the stamp required for service in South Africa, India, and elsewhere.
– It is probable that we should receive a very considerable volume of testimony as to the advantages of particular parts of Australia for the purpose of horse-breeding if we were to go through a preliminary investigation of the subject. This Government has to make whatever representations it may make in view of the common interests of all Australia, and, while I can undertake to represent the advantages of establishing breeding stations for horses in the’ Commonwealth, I can scarcely undertake, at the same time, to assume the large and heavy onus of pointing out that any one part of the Commonwealth is better adapted for the purpose than another. If the Imperial Government arc induced to establish breeding stations in Australia, no doubt they will make such inquiries as will probably lead them in the right direction.
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. It is not the custom of the Postal department to wake telegraph messengers, who have completed their probation, and have served for twelve months in the department, when par- taking of their annual leave, pay half the cost of the relieving officer.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to make provision on the Estimates for the unpaid allowances which have been promised to certain officers in the Post and Telegraph department ?
-Additional Estimates are being prepared in the departments, and when those are being considered by the Cabinet this matter, which relates, as I understood from the honorable member yesterday, to the Post-office employes in New South Wales, will be reconsidered, and then we shall be able to say exactly what we intend to do.
Salaries of Transferred Officers - Customs Administration - Supply of Rifles
Question - That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
– I regret that the question I have to bring before the House has been raised so many times, and that so far as I know the men affected are no further forward in obtaining what they consider their rights than they were last June. One of the first questions put on the notice-paper when this House met last May, was a question by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, asking that effect should be given to a section in an Act of the “Victorian Parliament relating to officers transferred from the public service of Victoria to the Commonwealth service. It provided that men in receipt of less than £156 per annum should be paid at rates equal to those attached to corresponding positions in any other State. The Act was passed months before the departments were transferred, and the Premier of Victoria, in reply to questions on the subject, says that he is quite prepared to pay these men for the time they were in the employment of the State, provided that he can get vouchers from the Prime Minister stating what they are entitled to get. The grievance of these men has been explained by the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and myself, on three or four occasions, and each time we were promised that some effect would be given to the State Act. In order that the Victorian Public Service Board could be sure that the men held positions corresponding to those in other States, a federal officer was borrowed for the purpose of going round the States to obtain the information, and he furnished a report early last December. When I asked, first the Minister for Home Affairs and subsequently the Prime. Minister, if effect would be given to the report, I was told that the Cabinet would consider the matter. Although the report has been in the possession of Ministers for over two months, nothing has yet been done so far as I can learn. It has been announced in the press that to give effect to the report would cost the Commonwealth £40,000 or £50,000 per annum. That estimate is, I consider, very wide of the mark. About 600 officers are affected by the Act, and if the amount is correctly stated in the press then they must be averaging about £60 per annum, but badly as this and other States sweated officials, especially the lower paid men, I do not think they ever were so unjust as that. It is not the report, but an Act of Parliament that gives the men the money. According to high constitutional authorities the Constitution safeguards the men in their position, and they were entitled to that money prior to their transfer, provided that they held corresponding positions. Most of these men are in the Post and Telegraph department, and I do not think it would be very hard to find out whether they are in corresponding positions. I have taken the trouble to go through the figures for the various States, and I find that in no case is the salary paid in Victoria the highest - that is £156 per annum. I hold that effect should be given to the report, and I trust whichever Minister replies on behalf of the Minister for Home Affairs, who, I regret to see, is absent, will give a straightforward answer. The men have been waiting for over fourteen months to have effect given to the State law. Some of the highest paid men in the service received their increase right away. But the men at the bottom of the ladder - those who receive £78, £90, ; and £132 a year - have not received theirs yet. Perhaps it would have been a good thing for them had the Act provided that no money should be paid until all the increases were granted. In that case, the higher paid officers would have seen that the Act was put into force quickly. It has been stated that there is a great deal of difficulty in ascertaining what is a corresponding position in the various States. Most of the men who are affected are letter-carriers, and what are known as postal assistants - men who do telegraphic work and relieve postmasters. Some of these relieving officers occupy responsible positions, and have a great deal of money passing through their hands. I do not see that there is any difficulty in finding out whether a letter-carrier in Melbourne is in a position similar to that of a letter-carrier in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, or any other city.
– Does the honorable member contend that a letter-carrier in Melbourne is entitled to the same wage as a letter-carrier in Kalgoorlie ?
– I am not contending that for a minute. Probably a lettercarrier in Kalgoorlie gets much more than the maximum specified in the Victorian Act, which was passed before the men were transferred. A reclassification board had sat in this as in other States. I believe that in New South Wales a reclassification board fixed the salaries of these men, and that they are being paid. I believe that if this Act had been applicable to New South Wales the men would have been paid their increase before now. Their representatives would have been more pressing than we have been.
– They have been pressing for their increments, but they have not received them yet.
– The officers in the Victorian departments are in a far worse position than are those in the other States.
The Treasurer knows the circumstances perhaps better than doe3 any other honorable member, as he assisted to draft the Act to which I have been referring. I trust that we shall receive a definite answer from the Minister who is representing the Minister for Home Affairs.
– I desire to support the request of the honorable member for Yarra. This question has been postponed from time to time, but has now reached such a stage that it must receive the serious consideration of the Government. This is not an ad miscrecordiam appeal for any concession to the Victorian officers, but merely a request that they shall receive their legal and constitutional rights. It is clearly provided by section 84 of the Constitution that any State officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall have preserved to him his existing and accruing rights, and there is no limitation to that reservation. When an officer of a State department is transferred to the Federal service he passes over in the possession of all his rights existing and accruing at the time of his transfer. That was enacted so that public servants should not be apprehensive that under the Federal regimé the)’ would be treated less generously or less liberally than under the State system of Government. That point having been clearly stated, we next have to inquire what was the position of the Victorian officers at the time of the transfer of the departments which have been taken over by the Commonwealth. The Post and Telegraph department was transferred by Gazette notice on the 1st March, 1901. If honorable members will turn to the Victorian Act passed on the 27th December, 1900, they will see that section 19 clearly defines the position of the officers of the Trade and Customs, Defence, and Post and Telegraph departments. It is there enacted that every officer of these departments shall be entitled to receive a salary equal to the highest salary then payable - that is at the time of the commencement of the Act - to an officer of corresponding position in any Australian State.
– That was an improper provision.
– That is not the point. Whatever may be said with regard to this legislation, it conferred certain rights on the officers of the transferred departments. The provision in the Victorian Act was subject to the condition that the highest salary payable should notexceed £156 per annum. The Treasurer was a member of the State Government that assisted to pass that law, as also was the honorable and learned member for Indi. At the time of the transfer of the State departments to the Commonwealth there were about 430 letter carriers in the service of the Victorian Postal department, and all. these are interested in the rightsconferred by the Act to which I have referred. There are also about 100 postal assistants, and these, with the letter carriers, constitute about three-fourths of the Victorian officers concerned, the other fourth being made up of line repairers, porters, and pillar cleaners, not officers in the department.
– There are also the telephone attendants.
– Yes ; but I do not think they are so much interested, as the difference in the salaries paid in Victoria and in the other States is not so great in their case as in that of the letter carriers.
– The Victorian Act applies to them as well.
– Yes ; but the amount of money involved is only small as compared with that which is payable to the letter carriers. At the time of the transfer of the departments to the Commonwealth, the salaries of letter carriers in Victoria ranged from £90 to £132 per annum, and the postal assistants received from £90 to £108 per annum. The highest salary paid to letter carriers in Queensland was £140; in New SouthWales, £150; in South Australia, £150; and in Western Australia, £140.
Mr.O’Malley. - What was the highest salary paid in Tasmania?
– I am sorry to say that the salaries paid in Tasmania are much lower than those paid in Victoria.
– Hear hear ; it is a disgrace.
– The question is whether these men are to receive the rights secured to them by the Constitution. As already mentioned, an officer has been appointed by the Federal and State Governments to make an investigation asto how many officers are concerned, and what would be the corresponding pay to be assigned to them in view of the salaries paid to officers discharging similar duties in other States. The report of Mr. Cerutty is now in the hands of the Federal Government, and although it is admitted that there are certain difficulties in the way of determining the extent to which the positions and work of certain officers in various States correspond, the matter should be settled without any unnecessary delay. The question may arise whether the pay is to be regulated by the fact that certain officers do corresponding work or have a corresponding period of service to their credit ; but that is a matter for the administration to determine.
– That was what Mr. Gerutty was supposed to find out.
– It is a matter of administration to determine what positions the officers in Victoria occupy as compared with those who are performing similar work in New South Wales and other places. It is for Ministers to say what a letter carrier in Castlemaine should receive in comparison with an officer delivering letters in a similar country town in New South Wales.
– Living allowances are granted to officers living in the warmer districts of New South Wales, but the honorable and learned member would not ask that they should be paid to the Victorian officers?
– No, all the circumstances would have to be taken into consideration. Substantially I take it that the Victorian Act means that a man carrying letters in the streets of Melbourne should receive pay corresponding with that paid to an officer carrying letters in the large cities of other States.
– What, notwithstanding length of service ?
– That is a matter for the Government to consider, and the question is too complicated for me to deal with in all its details at this stage.
– If the matter were as it is put by the honorable and learned member, it would be very simple.
– I admit that there are certain complexities which will have to be dealt with, but it is for the Government to grapple with them as best they can. If the Government will not move in the matter, and endeavour, by regulation or otherwise, to determine what are corresponding positions, and what would be corresponding pay for certain services, the existing deadlock will continue. The Victorian officers now respectfully ask that their constitutional rights should be conceded to them, and that they should receive pay corresponding with that received by men performing similar work in other States. The principle of the Victorian Act seems a fair one, and I see no reason why it should be challenged. All we ask is that effect should be given to it, and that the Victorian officers should no longer be denied their constitutional rights. If we were asked to consider legislation dealing with the equalization of pay throughout the Commonwealth, we should have a free hand, and it might be a matter for consideration whether men working in different parts of Australia were entitled, irrespective of climatic considerations, to receive the same remuneration. But we have not a free hand. The Constitution has declared that these men shall have certain rights preserved to them, and we cannot take away those rights. It is provided that the Victorian officers shall receive pay equal to that given to officers similarly employed in other States.
– That is what the Victorian law provides.
– The Constitution provides that existing rights shall be preserved, and the only question for us to consider is - “ What are these rights 1 “
– Rights conferred by an Act passed after the Constitution had been made.
– After the Constitution had been made certainly, but before it came into operation. The Constitution was not established until the 1st January, 1901, and the Victorian Act was passed on the 27th December, 1900, in order to secure certain rights to the Victorian officers. The Federal Government has now no right to delay the granting of those rights. The amount of money involved is not so much as is apprehended. There are between 500 and 600 officers interested; and if all their claims were conceded the expenditure would not amount to more than £10,000 or £12,000 per annum. This sum the Victorian people will have to pay during the bookkeeping period, but subsequently I presume the expenditure will be provided for on a federal basis. I hope the Government will take immediate action to grant to these men the rights conferred on them by law.
– The honorablemembers who have just spoken have asked for the expenditure of certain money, but the grievance to which I desire to direct attention relates to the collection of revenue.. The Customs department in Sydney is in a chaotic state, and although the mercantilecommunity of that city are reputed to belaw - abiding citizens, I shall not answer for their conduct if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue. I know that the Prime Minister is anxious, that the requirements of a great port likeSydney shall be met, and that properfacilities shall be presented to the mercantilecommunity for the transaction of business. Of course it was only natural that in theearly stages of the operation of a Tariff,, which was new to New South Wales,, difficulties should arise in connexion with the collection of duties. But that time haspassed, and I therefore feel abundantly justified in directing the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Treasurer, to the difficulties which still! exist, and which tend to make the Tariff even more objectionable to the people of that State than it otherwise would be. I know that the Prime Minister is anxious to gild, the pill to the mercantile community byproviding them with adequate facilities forthe transaction of business, and in this connexion I wish to point out that there isa deficiency of clerks in the invoice department. As-, a result, considerable trouble is experienced, in the passing of entries. Entries which, a few mouths ago would have been passed in five minutes, now occupy three or four hours. I would also suggest to the PrimeMinister the desirability of establishing an inquiry-office, to prevent the time of high officials being occupied by people who haveto approach them in order to obtain necessary information. By initiating an inquiryoffice, the valuable time of these officers would be saved, and the interests of themercantile community conserved. Additional facilities should also be offered in connexion with the issue of InterStatecertificates. The daily press of New South Wales is teeming with complaints from established firms in regard to the difficulty of passing entries.
– Inter-State trade has. been almost stopped.
– That is perfectly true, and the complaints have reached even the city of Melbourne. I am not now, after the manner of the Yeomen of the Guard, singing a grievance, glad that I have a grievance to sing, but I am merely pointing out that in the interests alike of the revenue and of the mercantile community, improved facilities should be provided. I honestly believe that the Customs officials are doing their duty. It is said that the Victorian officers who have been transferred to Sydney are rendering a great service to the people of New South Wales by reason of their adaptability to the present condition of affairs. But the staff is undermanned ; the strength of the invoice-room needs to be increased, and the heads of firms experience great difficulty in obtaining an audience with the Collector of Customs. The latter is daily besieged with officers in quest of information, whilst heads of business firms are precluded from personally interviewing him.
– The daily changes which this House is making in the Tariff are responsible for most of the trouble.
– We should need to make hourly changes in the Tariff to render it acceptable to the community generally. I trust that the Prime Minister will see that additional facilities in the direction I have indicated are granted to the mercantile community without delay. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. Some three weeks ago, I brought under the attention of the Minister for Defence the fact that the members of the civil service volunteer corps, which is officered by heads of departments, are unable to practice rifle shooting, because they are armed with obsolete weapons. I have since been strengthened in the position which I then took up, by the remarks of the military commandant, General Sir E. Hutton, who states that the forces must be armed with np-to-date rifles, such as the Lee-Enfield. I am advised that thousands of these rifles are stored in Sydney. Other volunteer corps have received a certain number, and I ask that the civil service corps should be similarly treated. I am sorry that the Minister for Defence, who was present a few minutes ago, is now absent from the chamber.
– He cannot stay here for long upon any day.
– I regret that the health of the right honorable gentleman, as the
Prime Minister explains, is not such as to permit him to remain long in the chamber. I trust, however, that the head of the Government will make a note of the matter to which I have just referred.
– I will make a note of it, and represent it to the Minister for Defence.
– I am grateful to the Prime Minister for this assurance, and no doubt up-to-date rifles will accordingly be issued to the civil service corps, to allow of their developing into proficient marks- men.
– As regards the Customs matter to which the honorable member for Dalley referred, I ask honorable members to recognise that in the introduction of a new Tariff affecting six States, and involving the construction of a number of new laws, there must necessarily be considerable pressure and some inconvenience ; but the daily changes made in the Tariff are largely responsible for that result. I ask honorable members, and the public generally, to recognise that these difficulties are inseparable from the present state of affairs, but as time goes on - and we will endeavour to make the period as short as possible - these difficulties will be removed. Honorable members will agree that this is undoubtedly a time of stress, when perhaps considerable additions to the Customs staff might be considered by some to be necessary. We are prepared to do what is essential in view of the new condition of affairs, but we should be sorry to permanently saddle Australia with a large staff which would not be wanted under normal conditions. Even if we appointed new men, by the time they became trained to their duties, it would be requisite to dispense with their services. I ask honorable members to take these matters into consideration, and to exercise a little patience, in order that we may avoid unnecessarily saddling Australia with a large Customs service. The little trouble to which reference has been made will soon be over.
– The Government have already had about six months in which to overcome these difficulties.
– But until the Tariff has been passed we cannot well avoid them. I am not for a moment suggesting that anybody is to blame in connexion with the present condition of affairs. But it exists, and I ask honorable members to make allowances accordingly. I wish also to put it to them that it was contemplated in the days precedingfederation that its accomplishment would enable us to effect some savings in connexion with the Customs department. Of course, we have abolished the border duties, but I think it would be a grave disappointment if it were found that the Customs department under federation is more expensive than it was formerly. Of course, it would be very pleasant to exercise all the opportunities for patronage in the way of overloading the service which present themselves under the temporary stress ; but we shall be better discharging our duties if we avoid such a state of things as far as possible, and endeavour to meet tentative difficulties by the exorcise of a little patience, with the sure and certain hope that such a course of action will be to the permanent good of the community generally.
– The patience of New South Wales is almost exhausted.
– I can assure honorable members that we are doing everything to meet that particular case. The Collector of Customs for that State, Mr. Lockyer, who was present in Melbourne for a long time giving us his valuable assistance, has now returned to Sydney. Further, only the day before yesterday I despatched Dr. Wollaston, the Comptroller of Customs, to that city for the purpose of more closely inquiring into what action is necessary, and reporting to me. I expect he will return either at the end of this week or the beginning of next, when we shall learn what steps it is desirable to take in order to remedy existing difficulties, and will not hesitate to take them. We are as keenly alive to the present position as any honorable member can be. It would be easy to make a number of appointments, careless of what the permanent result might be. I do not think we ought to adopt that course. I ask honorable members to appreciate the position as I put it, to recognise that the Government are doing all that is possible under the circumstances, and what they conceive to be in the best interests of the department and of the federation.
– I think that honorable members will sympathize with the honorable member for Yarra in the complaint which he has made, and with the men whom he represents. At any rate, I do not believe that any one will accuse me of a lack of sympathy with men in the public service who are in receipt of less than £3 per week.But when the honorable member cites an Act of the Victorian Legislature to justify him in demanding that a letter carrier in Melbourne shall be paid the same salary as is paid to a letter carrier on the gold-fields of Western Australia, or in Northern Queensland, I think he exceeds the bounds of fair play and common justice amongst the various classes of civil servants.
– I did not say that.
– I do not value very highly the Act passed by the Victorian Parliament, although I have every respect for that tribunal. But I venture to consider that an Act of that kind, which was passed only a few days prior to the establishment of the Federation, is a characteristic piece of Victorian smartness. Relying upon that section in the Constitution which declares that all officers transferred to the Commonwealth shall preserve their existing and accruing rights, the Victorian Legislature passed a law giving to the officers who were earning under £156 a year the same pay- as is received by the highest paid officer holding a corresponding position in any of the other States. The honorable member for Yarra denies that that legislation compels the Postal department to pay a letter carrier in Melbourne the same salary as is drawn by a letter carrier in Kalgoorlie. But if the Act does not mean that I do not understand what it means At any rate the honorable and learned member for Bendigo confirms my interpretation. He quotes the Victorian Act, and also the section in the Constitution, to prove that it is necessary, if we are to comply with the Constitution, that letter carriers and other postal officials in Victoria should be paid as high salaries as are paid to officials occupying similar positions in any other part of Australia. If the honorable and learned member for Bendigo is sufficiently influential to compel the Government to attempt to carry out such a proposal he will render the Postal department practically unworkable. It is ridiculous for any honorable member to expect a man, living under the conditions which prevail in northern Queensland, and on the gold-fields of Western Australia, to work for the same salary as that which is paid to an officer in a comfortable town in Victoria or New South Wales, where the cost of living is comparatively small, and the circumstances exceedingly pleasant. If an attempt be made to carry out this provision, it will bring the Postal department into almost a condition of chaos. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo says that the section in the Constitution is absolutely imperative, and that all officers transferred to the Commonwealth preserve their existing and accruing rights ; but I should like to hear from the honorable and learned member a definition of the word “rights.” As a matter of fact, since the Commonwealth took over the Postal department, rights which some of the officers stationed on the Western Australian goldfields previously enjoyed have been taken away. In Western Australia, where professional advice is very costly, and where the hard conditions of life frequently drive men into illness, the State Government conceded the right of free medical attendance ; but, since the Commonwealth took over the Post-office, that right has been withdrawn.
– Was that right founded on regulation ?
– It was founded on regulation, but it was one of the existing rights enjoyed by officers stationed on the gold-fields.
– If it was an existing right, it is preserved by the Constitution.
– That being the case, these employes in Western Australia have a much greater grievance against the Commonwealth than have the postal officials in Victoria.
– Why not advocate their rights, and leave Victorian officials alone ?
– The honorable and learned member cannot have read the records of the House, or he would know that I have been advocating the rights of these Western Australian officers.
– Then why oppose the present proposal?
-I am not opposed to the wages of these men being raised, because I think any man who receives a salary of under £3 a week is entitled to every consideration, but I contend that it is absolutely impossible for the Postal department to pay them the highest wages that are paid in any Australian State. If these men, or their representatives in the House, insist on their being paid such wage, thePostmaster-Generaloughtto insist on the right to transfer these men to any part of the Commonwealth he may think fit. That, I think, would largely cure the complaint which the honorable member for Bendigo has been voicing so eloquently this afternoon. If these letter carriers and others, who are receiving small pay in Melbourne, or in any of the Victorian country towns, want to increase their remuneration, let them go to the back blocks of Western Australia, and endure the hardships which they will meet there. To claim that they should receive the same salary as men occupying corresponding positions in places where the conditions of life are so hard, is most preposterous.
– It seems a pity that the time of the House should be occupied in discussing the question of the payments made to letter carriers and others in the State of Victoria. At the same time, that we are doing so is not the fault of the House, but rather the fault of the Government.
– The Victorian Government.
– The Federal Government, who, of course,knew of the Victorian Act, and, in order to ascertain exactly what was involved in the claims, borrowed an officer from the Victorian Government to make inquiries.
– No, the reverse; the State Government borrowed Mr. Cerutty from my department.
– At any rate, the services of an officer were obtained to find out exactly what was involved, and a report was prepared and presented to the Government ; but no member of the House, or any other man, so far as I know, has ever yet seen what that report advocates or suggests. Questions on the point have been asked times out of number, and I myself, though I regret to have to undertake that kind of work, have asked in vain what are the intentions of the Government. Under these circumstances members are unwillingly compelled to voice their views in the House. I am not here to justify the Victorian Act. If it is illegal, it is for the AttorneyGeneral of the Federal Government to say so, and end the matter. If the Act is legal, it is for the Executive Government to say to what extent they are prepared to carry out its provisions, and how soon these officers may expect to derive benefit from it. The injustice exists in keeping these men under the belief that they are to receive increments of salary, or certain advantages, and thus possibly inducing them to enter into contracts and obligations they may not be able to fulfil. The Government ought at once to make a declaration as to whether the Victorian Act is legal, and if it is legal, say what their intentions are in regard to a settlement. It is quite improper that these officers should be allowed to labour under a delusion, if there be a delusion; and I ask the Government, if they have sufficiently considered the matter - and we were told three months ago that they were considering the report - to, without further ado, declare to the House this day what the state of the case is, and what their intentions are. That course will avoid any future discussion, and will probably satisfy members of the House if it does not satisfy the officers concerned, It is hardly fair for the honorable member for Coolgardie to imply that there has been an act of “ smartness,” as he termed it, on the part of the Victorian Government.
– I said “characteristic smartness.”
– We Victorians are thankful for the compliment, but in this particular case it does not exactly apply. If I understand the Constitution aright, whatever increments are paid to these officers will have to be borne by the Victorians themselves.
– That was not known at the time the Act was passed by the Victorian Parliament.
– On the contrary, it was known at the time, and it was mentioned, not once but twenty times, that the whole cost would have to ‘ be borne by the Victorian people.
– Only for a time.
– There was no particular smartness about the Act ; and the unfortunate part was that only after a long delay was this act of tardy justice done to these men. The honorable member for Coolgardie asks the honorable and learned member for Bendigo for a definition of “ rights.” I now ask the honorable member for Coolgardie for a definition of the words “ corresponding position.”
– “ Corresponding position “ are the words in the Victorian Act, which the honorable member helped to frame. 28 r 2
– I know what is in the Victorian Act.
– -Then why does the honor, able member ask me for a definition ?
– I hold that the letter carrier in Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie, or the back-blocks of Queensland, does not occupy a a “ corresponding position “ to that of a man in the city of Melbourne, but, in all probability, the letter carrier in Sydney does occupy a “ corresponding position “ to that of the letter carrier in Melbourne. The Sydney letter carrier, however, gets £8 per year more than the Melbourne man, and all that the latter asks, by virtue of the Victorian Act, is that he shall get the same wages as his colleague in the neighbouring capital. That would be my definition of “corresponding position.” As to the definition of the word “ rights,” the Attorney-General is the legal authority of the Government in all matters’ of that kind, and when we have heard his views, we shall probably be satisfied. I feel that by this discussion we are to a certain extent wasting time, and all I ask is that the Government will announce their policy and end the matter.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Bourke that perhaps this is not a matter that ought to be engaging our attention in view of very much larger questions of public importance. But I have been trying to gather from the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and other honorable members what was the exact object of the Victorian Legislature in passing their Act within a few days of the inauguration of the Constitution. It at any rate seems to show great want of faith in the justice and equity of the Government and Parliament which were to be called into existence that the State Legislature should pass at the eleventh hour, as a kind of death-bed repentance for its former neglect, an Act to dictate the policy of the Commonwealth. I do not know where was the necessity, because there is a disposition in this House, and there always will be, to see that equality is dealt out to public servants in all parts of the Commonwealth. I urge on the Commonwealth Treasurer, and on the Government, the importance of seeing that there is equality of remuneration for the same services all over the States. If there are in the Victorian branch of the postal service any large number of officers underpaid in comparison with officers in other States - say in New South Wales - doing similar service, there is an equitable claim on the Government to place the former on the same footing. I say that, utterly irrespective of the existence of the Victorian Act, and setting aside all question of constitutional or legal rights. There must be throughout the Commonwealth, in all the services, fair and equal remuneration for the same services rendered ; and I think the Government can be trusted to see to this matter. There seems, however, to have been an amount of delay which is irritating to a number of honorable members, who feel compelled to appeal to the House. I wish to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley in regard to delays in the Customs department in Sydney at the present time. I quite agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs that it would be exceedingly undesirable to make permanent appointments at present, and thus enormously increase the cost of the Customs service. I do not think, however, that it would be necessary to make any very considerable number of appointments, and whatever were made need be of only a temporary character. I imagine that officers could be spared at the present time from Victoria.
– We have already sent 40 or 50 officers from Victoria.
– I am informed on really the best authority - and the information was not conveyed to me in any spirit of grumbling or complaint - that the delays are increasing in connexion with the passing of entries, and that it appears to the mercantile community that the service is wholly undermanned. If there were a few more officers in the invoice room, it is believed that the work would be expedited, and these irritating delays would disappear. I have been informed by merchants that there has actually been an increase of the charges of customs agents for passing entries. They have had to increase their fees, because of the long delay which takes place in putting business through the Custom-house. If that is so, and - though it may not be a general rule I am informed it is the case in particular instances - it seems to indicate that there is considerable delay. Now that Dr. Wollaston is in Sydney, the Government might specially direct his attention to these complaints, in the hope that the cause for them may be removed. There is another matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I suppose he has seen newspaper paragraphs a.gain and again, complaining of the unsatisfactory state of the telephone service in Sydney and suburbs. This is not an imaginary complaint. I am told that even in Melbourne and suburbs the same unsatisfactory condition of affairs exists, but I can only speak from my own personal knowledge of the state of things in Sydney and suburbs where, at present, the grievance is simply intolerable. I hope that the Minister will direct the attention of his colleague to those complaints, and that some resolute effort will be made to restore the telephone service to something like its original efficiency. I understand that a board which was appointed to report upon the telephone service, has practically condemned the arrangements of the Sydney General Post Office, and that a large expenditure of money will have to be incurred before a first-class service can be established there. If that be the case, I suppose we shall have to put up with an amount of inconvenience for some time to come, but I trust thatan earnest effort will be made to minimize it during the time the new switch board and the new arrangements are being brought into operation. There are some thousands of subscribers to the telephone in the metropolis of New South Wales and its suburbs, and the whole service is of such importance to the mercantile community, professional men, and private citizens generally, that it is entitled to the very earnest and early consideration of the postal authorities. I bring this matter under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, hoping that some effort will be made to minimize the inconvenience.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South AustralianHowe ver difficult it may be to justify the Victorian Act applying to the letter carriers whose case has been referred to - and I certainly do not think it would be easy - the service has very good grounds for asking that the matter shall be settled. If the Commonwealth Government are liable to pay the amount asked for, to increase the salaries of the letter carriers to the highest amounts paid in corresponding positions, they should do so without delay. What possible advantage can accrue to the Commonwealth by delaying the settlement ? I think the officers have a right to have their positions defined at once. A number of representations have been made to me with respect to the low wage paid in my own State as compared with what is paid to men in corresponding positions in the other States. So far I have been telling those who have complained that the matter will have to be left in its present position until the Public Service Bill passes and the Public Service Commissioner is appointed, and is able to put the anomalies right. However, as the question has been raised, I draw the attention of the Government to one particular case of what appears to be a hardship. It is that of the linemen in South Australia. They are paid from 6s. to 7s. a day in all the other States, which is one shilling a day higher than the amount paid in South Australia. This is not a case of men receiving anything like £156 per year. The men are paid under £100 a year, for which they do very hard and important work. I ask the attention of the Government to the case, in order that the Minister may see whether, without waiting for a report from the. Public Service Commissioner, wherever there appears to be an injustice, it cannot be put right.
– I sympathize with the Victorians in the matter which has been raised concerning the salaries of the letter carriers. I do so not merely in respect of the regulations, although they contain the provision to which reference has been made. I sympathize with them on the merits of the case, which is one for favorable treatment. I find, on making a comparison of the amounts paid to the letter carriers in the various States, that they come out as follows : - In New South Wales the maximum salary is £150; in Queensland, £150; in South Australia and Western Australia, £140 each ; in Tasmania, 7s. 6d. per day ; in Victoria, £132 only.
– What is the lowest rate in Victoria ‘!
– I have not the minimum ; I have given the maximum.
– The minimum is £90.
– It is £95 in New South Wales. I say without hesitation that where these salaries are lower in some States than in others a levelling up ought to take place, upon the merits of the case alone, altogether irrespective of the technical point connected with the regulation. If a right, such as has been spoken of, has been, given to these men deliberately by the Victorian Parliament prior to the time of their coming over to the Federation, that right, constitutionally, must be recognised.
– What about our men upon the gold-fields ?
– There appears to be some misapprehension on the part of the honorable member for Coolgardie as to the action taken by the Victorian representa1tives in this matter. What the honorable member refers to in connexion with the goldfields are special gold-field allowances. In New South Wales, outside a given radius, such special consideration is also allowed. That is done to induce the officers to go out into the back blocks and take positions there. I do not think that there is any attempt on the part of the Victorian representatives to interfere with that sort of differentiation arising from climatic considerations.
– The Public Service Bill allows a differentiation to be made.
– Quite so, and I fancy that all the Victorian representatives are urging is that the ordinary normal salary paid to Victorian officers shall be equal to the ordinary normal salary paid in the other States, altogether apart from special considerations. Officers would not go out to Western Australia, into the hotter parts of New South Wales, and into the northern parts of South Australia, unless such special consideration were given to them ; or if they were compelled to go out they would be under severe disabilities as compared with officers living in towns, if they received only the same salaries. On the justice of the case, therefore, these special allowances must always exist, because they are based on .climatic conditions. But the Victorian representatives, in asking that the salaries of these officers shall be levelled up to the amount of those received by similar officers in other States, are making that claim without any reference to these special considerations. That being so, on the merits of the case alone, and quite apart from the regulations, it seems to me that the officers are entitled to have the £1 32 maximum made up to £150. I cannot see that a letter carrier in Melbourne ought to receive a lower salary than is paid to a letter carrier in Sydney. On the principle that we should mete out equal justice to all the servants of the Commonwealth, the increase ought to be paid as quickly as possible. Whatever it may cost, we are obligated, it seems to me, to do a simple act of justice to these men, who are in receipt of very small salaries indeed. I therefore sympathize fully with the Victorians. On prudential grounds also I urge that if these low salaries are allowed to remain at £132 in Victoria, the inevitable consequence will be that the higher salaries will be bound to come down to the lower level sooner or later. We should level up the smaller salaries rather than leave an existing and continual temptation to level the others down. With regard to the telephones which have been mentioned by the honorable member for Lang, I can assure the Government that the trouble is a very real one in Sydney at the present moment. That trouble has been brought about by the recent installation of the electrical tramway system in Sydney, which has completely disorganized the telephone system. Some steps ought promptly and boldly to be put into operation there to inaugurate what is known as a metallic circuit, so as to do away with the trouble which is consequent upon the electrical tramway system. This alteration would cost a good deal of money, taking into consideration the extent of the lines which would require to be treated, but the cost should not be taken into consideration for a moment when compared with the mercantile advantages which would assuredly accrue. At the present time the telephone service is almost useless by reason of the induction set up through the electrical tramways. There is also some trouble in connexion with the switchboard. That has come about owing to the rapid increase in the telephone business in Sydney.What was supposed to be a switchboard of adequate capacity at the time it was ordered some seven years ago, is now almost filled up ; and some steps must be promptly taken to meet the rapidly expanding business.
– Does the honorable member know what a metallic circuit would cost?
– I should say that it would cost £100,000 in Sydney.
– Quite that.
– Some have estimated the cost at £200,000, whilst others have estimated it as low as £60,000 or £70,000. I should say that it would cost anything from £100,000 to £150,000 to inaugurate a metallic circuit in Sydney, and the same expenditure would have to be incurred in Melbourne. But whatever the cost may be, unless it be undertaken the present systems very shortly will become absolutely useless for purposes of communication. We cannot possibly get over the induction except by having a metallic circuit - at least, no means has been found to enable that to be done. I saw a man the other day who professed to have invented an absolutely silent telephone wire. I told him he had “ a good thing on “ if his invention were successful. We went to an electrician with the invention. In about five minutes the electrician showed him that his supposed new invention was really defective. Therefore, the Government should take steps as soon as possible to instal a metallic circuit, and the present difficulty will not be overcome until they do. Under the most favorable conditions, if the work were undertaken at once, it would take some years in each of these cities to thoroughly inaugurate a metallic circuit, and it ought to be put down as speedily as possible.
– It will form part of our new loan proposals.
– I hope the Treasurer will, not take a too economic view of the matter, because the money would be well spent if he would place at the disposal of the Postmaster - General £400,000 or £500,000 for the purpose of doing this absolutely essential work. There is one other matter to which I desire to refer. I, too, am being requisitioned by members of rifle clubs in my electorate in regard to the supply of an improved rifle. It is time that the Government took steps to furnish the clubs throughout the Commonwealth with the latest and most approved pattern of rifle. They are practising at present with obsolete weapons, and, in consequence, I am afraid that their practice does not amount to very much in the way of securing efficiency so far as modern weapons are concerned. The rifle clubs are anxious to obtain modern weapons, and the least the Government can do is to supply them, in view of the fact that the men devote so much of their time and attention and incur so much expense in making themselves fit to defend their country in the hour of need. We are all glad that General Hutton, whom we know to be heartily in sympathy with the rifle club movement, has come to control our forces, and it is to be hoped that he will very soon make some urgent recommendation for the equipment of the forces with uptodate rifles. I urge the Government to take care that the clubs do not remain long with obsolete weapons in their possession. I would again ask the Government to consider seriously a matter somewhat similar to that relating to officers transferred from the Victorian civil service, save that it applies to officers taken over by the Commonwealth from the public service of New South Wales. These officers are deeply interested in the question of increments accruing under the New South Wales Act to which I have referred already. The Public Service Board of New South Wales issued a regulation reducing the annual increment from £15 to £10. It was found subsequently by the AttorneyGeneral that that regulation was illegal, and a new one was issued restoring the balance of £5 which had been taken off the annual increment. In the meantime, however, a number of officers had been transferred to the Commonwealth service, and because of their transfer they are unable to take advantage of the new regulation. If this was not an existing right at the time of their transfer I should like to know what is. Had they remained in the service of the State - and this is the test - they would have been receiving an increment of £15 instead of that of £10 now paid to them. I urge the Government to take the matter into consideration, with a view of meting out what I cannot help feeling is simple justice to a class of individuals who have come over to serve the Commonwealth, and who, if they be not recompensed as I have indicated, will suffer a permanent disability to the extent of £5 per annum.
– I agree that itis necessary that the Government should take some action to settle the matter to which reference has just been made. It was not, however, for the purpose of addressing myself to that question that I rose, but to ventilate the grievance of those engaged in the jewellery trade, in regard to articles for repair passing from State to State. The matter has been brought before the House on two or three occasions through the medium of questions addressed to Ministers, and the Government have indicated that they are prepared to take it into consideration. I have no wish to go fully into the grievance if the Government have arrived at a decision, but if not, I must enlarge upon it.
– We have come to what I think the honorable member will agree is a satisfactory decision.
– Then there is no occasion for me to ventilate the question further.
– The matter brought forward by the honorable member for Melbourne has been a somewhat difficult one to deal with, although it may be looked upon by many as comparatively small, in view of the large and important questions with which we have to deal. A section of the Constitution provides that goods imported into one State shall not be allowed to pass into another without paying duty, if duty has not already been paid upon them. We all know that that provision was inserted in the Constitution by the Federal Convention in order to deal practically with the position of New South Wales, which was then under free-trade. The convention desired to prevent the loading up of goods in that State, prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, in order that they might be sent subsequently to other States without duty being paid upon them, thereby competing unfairly with the importers and traders of those States. The Minister for Trade and Customs has been very anxious to avoid doing anything which might appear to depart from that provision, and he has made inquiries in this and the other States as to the desirability of allowing articles of jewellery intended for repair to pass between one State and another without paying duty. He finds that the feeling in the different States is that that privilege should be allowed, and that it will not be looked upon as an infringement of the Constitution, or as unfairly treating any State. He has made inquiries from the Chambers of Manufactures, the Chambers of Commerce, and from other sources, and having gained the fullest information on the subject, he has given instructions to-day that in future articles of jewellery shall be allowed to pass from State to State for the purpose of being repaired, and for alterations, proper security being given for their return to the State from which they come within six months. That, I think, is a satisfactory answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Melbourne in relation to a matter which I know has given my right honorable colleague a good deal of trouble, in his desire to deal fairly with all the States. As to the increments to officers employed in the Post-office, and transferred from the New South Wales service, I would point out that those officers came over with certain rights. Their rights were fixed by the regulation in force at the time of their transfer.
– Which was declared subsequently to be illegal.
– It represented their rights. The matter has been considered by the Cabinet on several occasions. I, personally, have gone very fully into it and placed a report in the hands of the Prime Minister. I mentioned earlier in the day that additional Estimates, are being prepared for submission to Parliament in connexion with the financial statement, with which I hope we shall be able to deal within the next three or four weeks. In dealing with those Estimates, full consideration will be given to the claims of these officers, in view of the fact that the regulation was repealed subsequent to their transfer, and that they would have been in a better position had they remained in the service of the State. The Cabinet will give full consideration to that matter. If we cannot see our way clear to make the concession, then when the Estimates are before the committee it will be competent for honorable members to indicate their desire in a very simple way, and we shall carry it out. There may be technical difficulties in the way, but every consideration will be given to the question before the committee deal with the Estimates. The position of certain officials transferred from the Victorian service to the Commonwealth has been very fully discussed. In December, 1900, the Victorian State Government, of which I was the head, endeavoured to deal with certain reports made by the Reclassification Board. The board was appointed to deal with grievances existing amongst the public servants of that State, and it sat for about two years. The Bill brought in to give effect to certain of its recommendations did not contain the provision inserted subsequently with regard to these officers. When the Bill was before the State Parliament I took up the position, which has been taken up by several honorable members, -that the Public Service Commissioners ‘ of the Commonwealth would have to go thoroughly into the position of the whole service, and see that officers who were doing similar work in the different States received as far as possible similar remuneration. The State Legislature, however, was not satisfied with my view that that would be done, nor with the further statement that in my opinion there could not, and would not be, a lowering of salaries ; but that in all probability the lower salaries would be raised to a par, or nearly to a par, with the higher remuneration received by officers doing similar work in other States.
– Is it fair to shirk that obligation 1
– I think it is fair that officers who are doing practically the same class of work in the different States-
– Under the same conditions.
– Yes, and who have equal responsibilities, should receive, as far as possible, equal remuneration. That was the object which Parliament had in view in inserting the words “corresponding positions “ in the section to which reference has been made. That section, I may say, was drafted by the honorable and learned member for Indi and myself, at the table of the House very late one night, when the Bill was before the State Legislature.
– It was nearly two o’clock in the morning, and we were all very tired.
– I would have preferred that that provision had not been inserted, but the House was practically unanimous in the view that it should find a place in the Bill. I had taken up the position that the commissioner would see that this was done, and it was contended, therefore, that there would be no harm in placing the provision in the Bill, and thus giving the officers a statutory right to take over with them. Whether it is an existing or an accruing right within the meaning of the Constitution may be open to some question, but the great difficulty has been to ascertain anything in relation to “ corresponding positions.” I do not know that the Federal Government should be blamed for delay in connexion with this matter. The Victorian Act was passed towards the end of December, 1900, and the Victorian Public Service Board had an immense amount of work to discharge in filling up vacancies in the departments which were [ being transferred to the Commonwealth. For the purpose of retrenchment we had had a large number of “acting” officers discharging work of a considerably higher grade than that relating to their actual positions in the service. The Reclassification Board had made certain reports, which Parliament had adopted, and it was necessary for the Victorian Public Service Board to carry out those recommendations before the departments were actually transferred. For two or three months before the transfer they were working very hard in order to carry out that duty. Afterwards the Victorian Public Service Board attempted to deal with the question of “ corresponding positions,” and they spent some months over it. I know the difficulty of the work, for prior to the appointment of the Reclassification Board I endeavoured to deal with the grievances of the Victorian public servants. I sought to reconcile the rights of officers in the various States holding somewhat similar positions, but I was utterly unable to do so. We found that men who might be called “ postal assistants” here, discharged duties entirely different from those being performed by “ postal assistants” in other States. In Victoria they were practically junior officers, while in Queensland - where the term was used, I think - they were clerical officers doing high class work. It was not until some time in September - I recollect the date very well, because I was attempting at the time to prepare the financial statement for the House, whilst I was assisting my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, in dealing with the Customs Tariff - that I was asked through the Prime Minister whether I would lend an officer from my very small staff to visit the different States and make inquiries in regard to this matter. The officer whose services were requisitioned had been secretary to the Reclassification Board, and had a very full knowledge of all the difficulties of the position. Naturally he gained much information on these debatable points while acting as secretary to the Reclassification Board. I agreed to the request somewhat unwillingly at the time, but knowing that the Victorian Government was very anxious to deal with the question, I put my staff to considerable inconvenience in allowing him to do the work.
The officer took a long time to visit the various States and make inquiries, and it was not until late in December last that his report reached the Government. The report is a very lengthy document comprising some 74 or 75 pages. I obtained it from the Minister for Home Affairs - to whoso department this matter appertains - and went through it, as I had been interested in the matter while in the Victorian State Parliament. Before the Government can attempt to deal with this report, it is absolutely necessary that the various departments interested should have an opportunity of considering the suggestions made in it. The report is a valuable one, made by a very able officer, possessed of great experience ; but having read it, I venture to say that there are a vast number of questions which are not dealt with in it, and to which the Minister would have to give many weeks of steady work. That would be necessary in order to enable him to decide fairly between the officers in the various States, so that the officers in Victoria may not be placed in a better position than that of their confreres in other States. There are a large number of questions to be considered. It is not merely, as the honorable and learned member for Bendigo said, a question of taking a letter carrier in Melbourne and a letter carrier in Sydney, and saying that they are to get the same rate of pay. The claim put forward by these officers, I believe, is that no matter for how long or how short a term they may have served, they are to get this maximum rate of pay. That never was the intention of the Victorian Government or Parliament. It would be a very unreasonable contention indeed to say that an officer who had been at this particular work for two or threeyears, and who, perhaps, was in the lowestgrade of all, should have his salary immediately raised from £90 or £110 to the maximum of £156, and that is why this large sum of money, £40,000 or £50,000, is spoken of. It has been stated that the Act applies to 600 officers ; but my recollection is that it applies to a far greater number. The 600 officers who are spoken of may be the letter carriers and letter sorters. There are a large number of officers whose positions are dealt with in the report. Seeing that it only came into our hands from theVictorian Government towards the »nd of December, we have had no opportunity toconsider the report, and are not likely tx> get a fair opportunity until we are in recess. It must be fully considered by the various departments interested. The information given with regard to the work has been, collected with a great deal of industry. But still there are a number of points which could not be dealt with in the report, because it was for the head of the department to consider them in dealing with the very difficult question of corresponding positions. Being responsible, as the head of the State Government for the passing of the Act, I am naturally anxious to see it carried into effect at the earliest possible moment, but with the work that the Government have had to do, and the fact that, excepting for two or three weeks when we adjourned, Parliament has been sitting practically for nine months, we have not had time to go into the question. “We have sent the report to the different departments asking for information with regard to the various matters it deals with. As soon as that information is received, and an opportunity is presented, we shall endeavour to deal with it, but I confess frankly that I do not think it will be possible for us to go fully into the matter, nor do I think it would be possible for the Minister for Home Affairs to properly go into it with the other duties he has to perform before the close of the session. However, if it is at all possible, it shall be done. But, in my opinion, the classification can be properly made only by the commissioner to be appointed under the Public Service Act, who will have to classify all the services, and who probably, in dealing with classification, will be in a much better position than would any officers we might appoint, or any Minister who might attemy.it to deal with the question. I admit that that means some considerable delay, but I do not think it right that I should raise the hopes of officers that the matter will be dealt with at once, when in my opinion it cannot be dealt with in a proper manner for a considerable time. Whatever is done will be dated back to the day when the Act was passed, and the officers will be entitled to get the fixed rates of pay from that date. While we shall be anxious to expedite the -matter as much as possible, it is of no use to raise any hopes that it will be done within a few weeks. I feel perfectly certain that it is impossible to deal with it unless we can have more leisure at our disposal than we are likely to have for a little time to come with Parliament sitting. It will be for the Attorney-General to consider the constitutional rights of the officers. I know what was the intention of the State Parliament, and I do not think there was any desire to be smart or to take an unfair advantage of the other States. In New South Wales a reclassification took place just before the transfer of the departments, by virtue of their Act, which provided for a reclassification from time to time, and the salaries of the officers were considerably raised. In Victoria a large number of positions were filled up, and rightly filled up, before the officers were transferred, and a special clause was inserted in the Public Service Bill in order that thi officers might be given what I believe they would have been given by the commissioner without that provision - an amount of salary commensurate with the work they were doing, and comparing it with a similar class of work done by officers with a somewhat similar length of service and similar responsibility in other States. Under these circumstances I think that honorable members, and the officers concerned, will have to exercise patience for a little longer. I can only promise that whatever we, as a Government, can do, whatever the Minister for Home Affairs can do, to expedite the matter, will be done, and that if the officers have any rights under the State Act, they will undoubtedly be conserved, and I am certain that in the course we propose we shall be supported by the House.
– I am glad to hear that the Treasurer recognises that where the class of work is the same, and the conditions similar, the same amount of wage should apply. I wish him to take one point into consideration. It will be found, when the Government come to deal with the question, that some of the States were not up to date in the matter of attending to the whole of £he services to be transferred, and getting an Act passed just at the eleventh hour. I can understand that it is difficult to arrange this matter, and that it cannot be done in a hurry. But I wish it to be done in such a way that no injustice will be done to those men for whose benefit an Act was not rushed through, on the eve of the transfer of the department, to raise their status and their increments. Take the case of the linemen in connexion with the telegraph department in South Australia. Although men in the country branch, extending right out on Eucla, put up with more hardships in a month than linemen round the cities put up with in twelve months, yet those men are getting only 6s. per day. Nothing was done by the State Parliament just before the services were transferred to increase their rate of pay. I do not think that simply because the State did not increase the pay of these men, and other States did increase the pay of their men, they should be left out in the cold when they are doi ng a class of work which warrants their getting a wage of more than 6s. a day. I am not raising a question as’ to the position of the Victorian officer or the New South Wales officer : but I submit if a man in the interior is doing line repairing he is entitled to get more per day than a lineman who is engaged in a city, where all supplies are much cheaper than in the interior. All I ask of the Treasurer is that, when this service is being considered, the cases of the men will be dealt with on their merits, irrespective of any legislation which may or may not have been passed.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer, who gave a reply to the honorable member for Melbourne, if the decision of the Government relates to jewellery only, or to all goods, including machinery, if a bond is entered into that they shall be returned.
– To all goods sent for repair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means -
Consideration resumed from 12th Feb ruary (vide page 9983).
Division VIa. - Metals and Machinery. - To come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and except us to galvanized plate and sheet iron, exempt from duty in the meantime. Proclamation to issue so soon as it is certified by the Minister that the manufacture of iron or of reapers and binders or of any machinery to which the proclamation refers has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth, according to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement of manufactures : -
Item 77. Iron and Steel -
Scrap Iron and Steel, and Pig Iron, 10 per cent, ad valorem.
Ingots, Blooms, Slabs, Billets, Puddled Bars and Loops, or like crude Manufactures less finished than Iron or Steel Bars, but more advanced than Pig Iron (except Castings), 10 per cent, ad valorem.
Bar, Bod, Angle, Tee, Sheet, Plate, and Hoop, except Galvanized Plate and Sheet, 10 per cent, ad valorem.
Galvanized Plate and Sheet, viz.: - Plain, 10 per cent, ad valorem.; Corrugated, 15 per cent, ad valorem..
Machinery- Reapers and Binders,15 per cent, ad valorem; other Machinery referred to in Proclamation, 15 per cent, ad valorem.
Upon which Mr. Glynn had moved -
That the words “Division VIa.” be omitted.
– This I regard as one of the most important questions which have been brought before the committee by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I agree with the acting leader of the Opposition, for the reason which he gave amongst others, that the question of bonuses will have to be dealt with in a separate Bill, and that it would have been better to first deal with the rest of the Tariff. However, the Minister insisted on our proceeding, and we shall have to come to a decision. It is perfectly clear to me that the establishment of bonuses in connexion with the iron or any other industry was never before the people of Australia. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has said that it was before the people of Victoria in consequence of the manifesto of the Protectionist Union of Victoria.
– No ; of the United Conference of Australia.
– The Australian people were more likely to be impressed with the manifesto of the Prime Minister of Australia, who was appealing to them for support, than with the manifesto of even the Protectionist Association of Australia. In that manifesto, and in the speech delivered by the Governor- General to Parliament, there was no mention made of any bounties. I contend that the question has not been before the people of Australia, and that they have expressed no opinion upon it. In his manifesto the Prime Minister proposed not to destroy any existing industries ; but it gave no indication that an amount of money was to be taken out of the federal revenue in order to create protected industries, such as the iron industry. The most important point in my mind is the doubt whichhas been expressed as to the power of the Commonwealth to tax the imports for the State Governments. The State Governments are, and perhaps for all time will be, the biggest consumers of this product, and if the Federal Parliament have no power to tax their imports, then, in my opinion, the whole bottom falls out of this proposal. Because, if all their imports were to be admitted duty free, it would be absolutely impossible to establish the iron industry with any hope of success. I think the bounty system is less objectionable than is the system of protection through import duties. If bounties were given to assist the establishment of the iron industry we would know how far we were going, but in the case of protective duties we have no means of gauging the extent to which the community may suffer.
– That is a fallacy.
– I rise to a point of order. The Chairman ruled recently that it was disorderly to make even a single interjection, and I must ask you to check the honorable member for Port Melbourne.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is mistaken. I did not rule that it was disorderly to make a single interjection. What I ruled was, that while short interjections would not be noticed by me, lengthy and continuous interjections were disorderly, and must be desisted from.
– I apologize, Mr. Chairman. I did not hear any such ruling.
– There is no doubt that the iron industry, if established within the Commonwealth, would be of the utmost benefit to the community generally. But it has no claims beyond those which might be urged in favour of the coal-mining, the goldmining, or the farming industry. All these interests - particularly the agricultural, dairying, and coal-mining industries - have been handicapped by the provisions of the Tariff”, and I should like to know what the Minister for Trade and Customs would say if we, who represent country constituencies, were to ask for bonuses to assist those engaged in agriculture?
– The first bonus I ever proposed was a butter bonus.
– I do not know how the butter bonus worked out in South Australia, but it proved an absolute failure in Victoria. Its object was to help the Victorian farmers in connexion with their butter export trade, but the greater part of the money, instead of going into the pockets of the dairy farmers, was appropriated by the speculators who sent the butter away to other parts of the world. I know of one firm in Sydney which pocketed £1,500 of the Victorian butter bonus in one deal. If the iron industry is entitled to abonus, all our great industries must be treated in the same liberal way. The Minister for Trade and Customs tells us that the £250,000 which it is proposed to spend in bonuses will be the money of the Australian people, and will be expended for their benefit. If we are to take the people’s money in this way we should nationalize the industry at once ; otherwise we shall have no guarantee that the money will be spent for the benefit of the people. No doubt the establishment of magnificent ironworks would contribute to the general good ; but we have no assurance that those who start the industry will not be the “ first robbers,” and clear out of the enterprise after they have fully exploited the Commonwealth funds. Moreover, I should like to know what guarantee is to be given that a fair rate of wage will be paid to the workmen engaged. We are told by the honorable member for Echuca that bonuses are to be given and duties imposed subsequently in order to protect the iron industry against the cheap labour of other countries, and we find afterwards that the place where the cheap labour is employed is that magnificently protected country, the United States. In Pennsylvania, where the iron industry is carried on to a far greater extent than in any other part of the United States, the wages paid to those employed in the ironworks are very low indeed. It has been pointed out by various writers that the condition of the labouring classes in Pennsylvania is so deplorable that nothing worse can be found in Russia, or in any part of the world where serfdom still prevails.
– Those are Russian serfs.
– I rise to a point of order. I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, to stop the honorable member for Port Melbourne from making these incessant interruptions.
– I must ask the honorable member for Port Melbourne not to interrupt.
– When the Government introduce the Bonus Bill which they have promised us, I shall certainly insist upon proper guarantees being given that the labouring classes engaged in the iron industry shall get their fair share of the benefits conferred by the bonuses. When a certain company asked the New South Wales Parliament for concessions which would assist them to establish the iron industry, the whole scheme was dropped from the moment a minimum-wage clause was inserted in the interests of the working classes. I am strongly opposed to the system of bounties as proposed by the Government. It would have been very much better if it had been left over until after the Tariff is disposed of. (Committee counted.) . The point mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney was a very important one. He pointed out, that if we devoted £250,000 for the payment of bonuses to those engaged in the iron industry, the people of the Commonwealth ‘ would have to be taxed to the extent of another £1,000,000. The Commonwealth Government would be able to retain only one-fourth of any revenue raised through customs, and it would therefore be necessary to impose duties that would yield £1,000,000 in order to provide the amount required. This is a very serious matter for the committe to consider. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs has told us that the Government have been doing their best to assist the great primary industries of the Commonwealth, I am one of those who hold that they have done a great deal throughout the Tariff to damage these great industries. I shall vote against the proposal of the Government, as I think consideration of the whole question should have been postponed until we have the Bonus Bill before us.
– The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, appears to have opened up the whole question of granting bonuses. I regret that the Government did not accept the suggestion made last night that the consideration of this matter should be postponed, because the bonus system is one which should have been considered in a broad way and without reference to any particular industry. The protective nature of the Tariff can no longer be in doubt, nor can there be any question that the primary industries are not in any sense served by it. That seems to be admitted on all hands, and the opinion expressed by the Attorney-General yesterday makes it clear to me that the primary industries will be further hampered b)- the duties which will come into operation as the result of the proposals now being made to assist the iron industry. The cost to the producers of the country must be increased by the extra expense of construction and maintenance of the State railways, owing to the duties on iron. The great primary industries of the Commonwealth all contribute to the State revenues, in proportion to the extent to which they are developed, through the traffic which they bring to the railways, but the establishment of the iron industry will not result in any increase in the railway returns. I think that honorable members opposite have shown throughout the Tariff debate the straits to which they were driven for argument in regard to the scant consideration which the primary industries have received, in- that they could only rattle in outfaces the dry bones of past State favours, such as the provision which has been made for water supply, and the expenditure which has been incurred in the construction of railways, roads and bridges. I think I could show the committee that these concessions have been very much exaggerated. In saying this of honorable members opposite, I desire to make exceptions in the cases of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and the honorable and learned member for Indi, who appear throughout to have discussed the matter in a perfectly fair way. Both of those honorable and learned members held that, while other industries had received concessions in that way, the primary industries should receive a quid pro quo in the way of a bonus upon export and transit. I think that is a perfectly fair attitude to assume. As showing how necessary it is that some such consideration should be given to the primary producers, I wish to draw attention to the results of the payment of bonuses in “Victoria a few years ago, which show how very soon - owing to the prolific nature of our soil - we reached an exporting point. It is a matter of very great delight to us that, when an industry is once started, we have a country which is capable of providing for more than 4,000,000 people. How could we expect it to eventually support a population of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 people if the demands of the home market could not be speedily supplied with our small population? A good deal has been said about over production, but I am quite sure the history of the world teaches that no nation was ever brought to famine conditions by reason of over production. Fortunately for us, we can easily produce much more food than is necessary for our own people. But I wish to draw attention to a short return which I have received from the Secretary of the Victorian department of Agriculture, and which shows that all the industries which were established owing to the payment of a bonus in this State verysoon reached the exporting point. A bonus was granted for the planting of vines and fruit trees, but there was no market for them. The effect of granting similar encouragement to the cultivation of green fruit was that an unlimited market in the United Kingdom and elsewhere could not be reached through freight and charges being too high. In regard to dried fruits, the supply of raisins and apricots speedily overtook the demands of the local market. The granting of a bonus to canned fruits gave the industry a start, but it could not compete with Californian fruits upon the English market. A bonus upon fruit pulp and upon vegetable fibre, resulted in an almost unlimited demand in the United Kingdom, and in Europe respectively. While I admit that the iron industry is one which might be well started by the payment of a bonus, I think it is wrong to single it out for special consideration. It appears to me not only that the primary industries are to be denied consideration under this Tariff, but that no encouragement is to be given to them in the way of the payment of bonuses. I heard nothing in the list which was read out last evening which pointed to any intention to grant assistance to the primary industries.
– I do not include potatoes amongst “metals and machinery “
– I understood that the principle of bonuses generally was being discussed at the present stage. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra has raised the objection that bonuses do not find their way into the hands of those whom they are intended to benefit. But that drawback could be very easily overcome by applying the bonus to secure to producers some concession upon railway freights alone; at any rate, a good deal could be done in that way. Let us take the wheat industry as an illustration. We are aware that a very close estimate of the consumption of wheat is made every year, and we know the quantity exported. The Tariff offers the farmers the benefit of a duty of ls. 6d. per cental upon wheat - a duty which, tomy mind, is worthless, because, I think, weshall never again require to import wheat from abroad. I would point out that the difficulty raised by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra could beovercome by subsidizing the railways tothe extent of any bonus that might be given upon grain or produce of any kind. If the railways were subsidized to the extent of 6d. per bushel, 55 per cent, only of the inoperative duty, it would represent a substantial concession as against the Government proposal. If a bonus were given on the estimated consumption of the homemarket, it would be only what we are supposed to give under a protective duty. In this connexion it also occurs to my mind that the cost of export from thiscountry must also increase, if there is anything in the Government contention that the operation of this Tariff’ will check imports. To the extent that there is a checking of imports the freights must rise. Vessels must come here in ballast, with the result that freights would rise instead of fall. A good deal has been said both inside and outside the House in reference to the development of the iron industry in America. We hear so much about America that one is almost impelled to think that her position, with a population of 80,000,000 is analogous to that of Australia, with a population of only 4, 000, 000. The opportunities for developing the iron industry in America are so great that the comparison does not hold good in the slightest degree. I have taken theopportunity of looking up some facts in connexion with the enormous mileage of railways made in the United States, which have provided an opportunity for developing this industry. I am in possession of some astonishing facts, which will show what the railway system of America is. An amount of money has been absolutely wasted in the making of railways there, which would pay for the establishment of 50 iron industries. For example I find that from 1875 to 1890 the aggregate foreclosure sales on the railways of the United States comprised 50,525 miles with 2,S65,000,000 dollars worth of combined stocks and bonds, or an average of 191,000,000 dollars per annum. In 1893- alone 74 railway companies, holding a mileage of 30,000 and a capital of £360,000,000, passed into the hands of the receiver.
– They are not in the hands of the receiver now.
– These facts go to show that there has been an immense amount of money expended. I cannot recall the authority which I have for this statement, but I know that it is a good one. I have seen it stated that the absolute waste upon the construction of railways in America was equal to something like £600,000,000.
SirWilliam McMillan. - Does thehonorable member mean the value of the original capital ?
-Yes. The amount was fixed in my mind by the concluding observation of the author, which was to the effect that the amount of money thus wasted would have provided dwelling accommodation for every man, woman, and child in the United States. No one can correctly estimate the amount of money which it has cost the United States to start the iron industry when it is mixed up with figures of this kind. These losses would be sufficient to make the Commonwealth bankrupt if it indulged in such extravagances orsuffered similar misfortunes. I should like to say one word with regard to my position in this matter. I have always declared in favour of the bonus system in a new country, and I am very glad that the Government have drawn the line at offering a bonus and imposing a duty at the same time. But the objection which I have to the Government proposal is that the duty is to be imposed now. The distinction drawn by men who follow the limitation of Mill is that it should be understood from the first that a duty should operate for a certain time only. There should be a period fixed at which an industry should require no more bolstering up. But if a bonus is to be given for so many years, and then we are to impose a duty–
-That is not so.
– Is not that the proposal of the Government ?
– The test is if the industry has been established.
– I object, because the duty is then to be imposed.
– Not necessarily. The duty is to be imposed only after the industry has been established.
– I may not have followed the Minister accurately, but I understood him to say that a bonus of £250,000 was to be extended over a certain number of years, regulated, no doubt, by the output, and that when the industry was established, a protective duty was to be imposed.
– That is, if the industry has been established to the satisfaction of Parliament.
– That is rather a wide condition, and I should say when an industry is established it does not require either a bonus or a duty. There are f ree-traders who thinkthatMill on this point made some mistake, but I have seen no refutation of the position laid down by that economist that is satisfactory to me. My objection is to the duty, and not to the bonus system, which, I think, might be extended to those unprotected industries which cannot be placed on an equality with protected industries except by such means. I regard it as only consistent with my principles to vote for the amendment.
– A few statements have been made which require correction. Before dealing with those, however, I must say that the beautiful picture drawn of the possibilities of the iron industry in Australia -a picture suggested by the success of that industry in the United States - is altogether misleading. The conditions which obtain in the United States are quite different from those of Australia. In the first place, all the railways in America are privately owned, and there is no condition, that goods, required by the States shall be admitted duty free ; and further, there is not anything like the population to cater for in Australia. It has been stated in the course of this debate, and is frequently stated by protectionists, that the decay of the iron trade in England is a result of the protection in the United States. I have contradicted that statement repeatedly, but it is still made, and was repeated only yesterday by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who contended that protection in America had resulted in England becoming a third-rate nation in this connexion. It has also been said that a large trust in England has made arrangements to transfer their business to Canada, because the system of protection there prevails. I have in my hand a book by Dawson entitled, The Unearned Increment of England, in which he refers to evidence taken in 1885 by a Royal commission appointed to inquire into the depression of the iron trade. According to the evidence, the royalties on a ton of pig iron, from ironstone. and coal, amount to 3s. 6d. in the Cleveland district, 6s. in the Cumberland district, 6s. 3d. in Scotland, 6s. in Germany, 8d. in France and ls. 3d. to ls. 6d. in Belgium. It is shown that for a period of 37 years, on an output of 130,000,000 tons of pig iron, no less than £3,000,000 was paid in royalties, and that in 1S85 a company in West Cumberland had eight blast furnaces, four of which were idle, not because of want of work, but because of the royalties which were demanded. That company applied for a reduction of these royalties, but unsuccessfully, and, in order to fulfil contracts with the Indian Government, had to import from Belgium. It was also stated in the course of the evidence that a blast f furance turns out 600 tons of pig iron per week on which the royalties alone amount to £202, while the wages paid, from those of the manager down to those of the lowest paid man, amounted to only £95 per week. Further on we find, according to Mr. Forsyth, the president of the Scottish Land Restoration League, that out of 80 blast furnaces in Cumberland in 18S5, more than half were out of blast solely on account of the royalties. The Minister for Trade and Customs during the federal campaign also stated that the depression in the iron trade of England, was due to protection in America ? But I think I have shown that it is entirely due to the heavy royalties which have to be paid to owners of land. It is very easy to say that we can afford to throw away £250,000, but yesterday, when I asked where the money was to come from, the Minister seemed to consider it an irrelevant question, or one as simple, as that two and two make four. This Parliament has under its control onefourth of the revenue of the Customs ; and we are under a distinct pledge to the States that our new expenditure - and I presume this bonus will be new expenditure - shall not exceed £300,000.
– Does the honorable member mean that expenditure of the kind now proposed comes under that heading 1
– The expenditure will have to come out of our quarter of the revenue.
– Surely “ new expenditure” means the ordinary expenditure of administration ?
– I do not know, but if it will satisfy the honorable and learned member, I shall say that it is not new expenditure. It is immaterial to the States whether it is new expenditure or not, if it is taken out of the portion they are to receive. Some guarantee of success is required before this bonus system can be undertaken. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo some time ago tabled a motion in favour of establishing agricultural stations or colleges on the American plan. That is a most admirable idea, but it cannot be executed without considerable expenditure of money. In the United States, 11,000,000 acres were granted at the start for this purpose, and if the proposal of the honorable and learned member is not to be a farce, and is to be carried out on American lines, we shall have to be liberal with the public funds. In addition to the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, we are now asked to pledge Parliament to this proposed bonus. It may be said that the proposal does not pledge us, but we should be accused of a breach of faith if a bonus were subsequently withheld ; and the vote which we shall give will decide whether we shall fix duties to come into operation five years ahead, and in the meantime agree to this expenditure of £250,000. If we desire to encourage the production of iron, we must first get the States to agree unanimously that they will take all the iron work they require at a given rate from these ironworks when established. Under such circumstances, I should net hesitate to vote for the bonus, and I should be prepared to fix the English rate with a failaddition for carriage and other charges.
– Would the honorable member make any allowance for difference in wages 1
– I shall not discuss that just now. It is evident that the Minister has made no arrangements in regard to wages so far, but he might provide in the Bill for a minimum wage, so as to give at least some protection to the men employed. It is absolute nonsense to say that there is any possibility of establishing an industry of this character, unless all the States buy all the material they require from the local iron works ; and in connexion with this Tariff it is contemplated that everything the States require shall come in duty free. Having regard to the question of wages, will there be sufficient trade outside that of the States Governments to warrant the expenditure of anything like £1,000,000 for necessary plant ? What guarantee have we, if we give this £250,000, that at the end of the five years, vested interests may not be strong enough to come to Parliament and claim that the industry cannot be carried on unless the bonus be continued for a further similar period t That has been the experience in regard to bonuses and protection all through. If the Government can get all the States Governments to buy all they require from the local iron works, then the Government might as well nationalize the industry and do the work themselves. Because it will mean in one way and another not £250,000, but from twice to thrice as much as that.
– How does that come about?
– Because I do not believe for a moment that it is possible to establish this industry on a bonus of £250,000.
– The honorable member means that there must be further grants 1
– Yes. In view of these possibilities the question certainly requires further consideration. It has never been discussed by any Parliament in the Commonwealth, except the Federal Parliament. It was not submitted to the people at the Federal elections, nor was it included in the Maitland manifesto nor in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. Under all these circumstances the Government might well have postponed the matter for further consideration. I shall have to vote against the proposal at present, but I want it distinctly * to be understood that I am not one of those who are totally opposed to bonuses. I think that although bonuses in some instances produce bad effects, they lead in other cases to good results. The bonus system is very much better than protection. In the present instance, however, I intend to vote for the amendment of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The matter before the committee is of such very great consequence that I feel that a member who has devoted any attention to it whatever should not allow the opportunity to pass without having something to say upon the proposals of the Government. I wish to state at the outset that while I am directly opposed to the protectionist system, I am not prepared to say that I would not, under certain circumstances, vote for a bonus for the purpose of establishing an industry that was for the benefit of the. whole of Australia, such as the manufacture of pig iron. In granting a bonus for the establishment of an industry that could not possibly be established without such aid, a given sum would be paid, which the public would know that they had to pay; in contradistinction to the protectionist system, under which the people never know when the duties will cease, and which involves a payment by the whole community for the benefit of a few. The debate that has taken place cannot possibly be otherwise than beneficial; and while it might have been advantageous to the mercantile community if we had proceeded with other divisions of the Tariff, yet no complaint ought to be made against the Government, because in the exercise of their judgment they have adhered to their intention to have this question considered.. When the debates are read at a subsequent period, when a Bill for the granting of the bonuses comes before Parliament, the perusal of the speeches which have been delivered will be of immense advantage in connexion with the proposals of the Government ; and in all probability the Government themselves will be assisted materially in the preparation and drafting of their Bill by the consideration of the views that have been expressed by honorable members. The remarks made by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, deserve very careful consideration. In the course of subsequent speeches, statements which he made have been denied, though in a very bald manner. I am inclined to think that a great deal of what has been said by the honorable and learned member is absolutely correct, and reliable for future reference. The proposal of the Government is, I take it, that a bonus shall be paid on the output of iron till the industry has been sufficiently established. Protective duties are to operate as soon as it is certified that the manufacture of iron has been sufficiently established, and those duties are approved of by both Houses of Parliament. Following up the line of thought to which expression has been given by the honorable and learned member forSouth Australia, Mr. Glynn, I should like to say something about the ores in Australia and Tasmania that are suitable for the manufacture of steel rails. I will then. consider whether the bonus system would probably lead to the establishment of an industry for the manufacture of iron. I am inclined to think, from past, experience in Australia, that the bonus system, as proposed by the Government, would not lead to the establishment of the iron industry. I think so for reasons which I hope to make clear to the committee. The iron ore of New South Wales and Tasmania may be suitable for smelting processes if combined, but neither of those ores alone is suitable for the manufacture of iron for steel rails. The Tasmanian ore is a red hematite. A large deposit has been found at Emu Bay, and has been previously used for smelting purposes. Iron has been produced from it in very small quantities, indeed, for specimen purposes, and it has been found to be a very fine class of iron. The production of it upon a large scale was attempted some years ago, but the project failed, because there were certain elements in the ore that could not successfully be coped with by the company. Certain of the elements found in the hematite rendered that ore unsuitable, taken by itself, for the manufacture of steel rails. The iron deposits of New South Wales have been reported upon favorably by experts from England ; but the elements complained of in the ores of Tasmania were found in a larger percentage in the ores of New South Wales. Mr. Joseph Mitchell submitted for the consideration of the iron-masters and capitalists of England the suitability of properties in New South Wales containing iron ore, limestone, and coal, for purposes of iron smelting. These properties were not all adjoining, but were at varying distances apart ; and that is a matter which has to be remembered in taking the proposal of the Government into consideration To bring the iron ore, the limestone, and the coal together would be attended by very considerable trouble and expense. I know that it is contended that we have in New South Wales these three deposits in close proximity, and consequently that we shall be able to produce an iron suitable for manufacturing purposes at a very low rate. But I am in possession of facts quite sufficient to satisfy me, as they satisfied others who were experts, that it would be quite impossible for New South Wales to produce iron suitable for this purpose from the ores that she has within her territory. To lay down a suitable plant for developing the industry would involve the expenditure of not less than half-a-million of money. That is the sum mentioned in England as necessary for the establishment of such an industry with a first-class plant and appliances. Mr. Mitchell was in possession of a guarantee from the Government of New South Wales, such as the Federal Government is not able to give, that a contract for the supply of 100,000 tons of steel rails would be given for the colonial product at a price equivalent to the ruling price in England, plus freight and insurance.
– That was no concession.
– I contend that it was no concession at all from the point of view of the consumer, the State, and the users of steel.
– It was a freetrade proposal.
– It was; because we cannot possibly import steel rails without paying freight upon the imports, nor can we do business without incurring the ordinary expenses attending shipment. No loss whatever would have accrued to the people of New South Wales through the Government making such a proposal. It was a free-trade proposal, and the only proposal that is likely to “catch on “ in England, or is likely to be successful in Australia. A Cabinet minute to this effect stood good for some years ; but the iron masters of England did not go beyond sending out experts to report upon the properties and the scheme.
– Had not the maritime strike something to do with the failure of the scheme ?
– All kinds of failures were attributed to that strike, but I am in. possession of facts which show definitely that it was not the cause of the failure of that particular scheme. During the period “of five years, when the offer was open, I was in the late Mr. Mitchell’s confidence, and certain properties thatt he had under his control are now under mine. I mention this because I have made certain statements respecting the value of New South Wales iron ore for smelting purposes ; and since the late Mr. Mitchell’s death I have had one of the best iron deposits on the properties thoroughly opened up, and some thousands of tons of ore sent to the smelting works at Cockle Creek and Dapto.. I have found that the quality of the ore has not improved as the deposit was developed. It has not improved upon the sample that was examined by the experts who were sent out by the English syndicate who contemplated taking up this project, nor have the objectionable mineral elements that exist, and that caused the failure of the project in Tasmania, lessened in percentage. A higher percentage of this mineral is found as the deposit is opened up. I contend that these are all difficulties which will have to be considered by any syndicate that may proceed with this project, and to overcome them will involve very considerable expense. From my investigation of the project, I am satisfied that ironmasters would not lay down a plant for the manufacture of iron in the Commonwealth upon the Government proposals. Letters received by me up to within a recent date leadme to assert with some degree of confidence that there is not the remotest possibility of the Government proposals being taken up in England, because proposals much better than those enunciated by them have been submitted to ironmasters in London. A bonus of 12s. per ton, aggregating £250,000, would not be sufficient to induce ironmasters to sink £500,000 in an up-to-date plant and works. Even if a bonus were offered which was actually sufficient, the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth could not be depended upon for the protection of the industry. The only security against the failure of the enterprise is to be found in a guarantee that all steel rails required for State railways will be obtained from the works established here. That guarantee has been given in other cases ; and those who are in the business in England to-day insist upon it in order that they may have a secured market for their output after they have gone to the expense of establishing works. Unless there were some such guarantee they would have to compete with the Steel Trust of America, which in the early stages of the enterprise would doubtless quote rates so low astoinduce some of the States to obtain all their steel rails from it. Some of the States would do so doubtless under some plausible pretext, although the real reason would be that they preferred to pay the lower figure quoted by the trust rather than the higher rate required by the local industry. That is what is feared - and it is a very reasonable fear - by business men, and it is that which is responsible for their failure to take very kindly to the Government proposals. This matter has been under consideration in London since the Government propositions were made public, and I have sound reason for believing that a guarantee that for a period of ten years the States would buy the steel rails required by them from the local works, at a price equivalent to the ruling rates for steel rails in England plus freight and insurance, would lead to the establishment of the industry. It would doubtless be established without delay, and neither a bonus nor protection of any kind would be necessary. The freight and charges upon iron brought from America or England would constitute sufficient protection to the industry when it was well established, provided always that the demand was as great as the supply, for small works, established at very great expense, could not be conducted successfully. If the output were a good one, then the company or syndicate, having put down a plant at a cost of some £500,000, would be able to cope with the demand at satisfactory prices. I have referred to the difficulties in the smelting of the ore. These may be overcome, for there is an iron ore on the coast of Queensland which is believed to be rich in ferric oxide, and suitable for mixing with the New South Wales product, Assuming that this ore were obtainable in large quantities on the seaboard, it could be brought down to New South Wales - where the coal and limestone deposits exist in close proximity - and mixed with the iron ores, of that State. In that way the manufacturers would be able to produce a metal at a figure very much lower than that at which it is possible to do so in any other part of Australia, although perhaps not at a lower figure than that for which it could be produced on the coast of New Zealand. If the Ministry could arrange with the Governments of the several States to give aguarantee such as I have indicated, the establishment of this much-desired industry could be effected without bonuses or protection.
– Very few of the State Governments are extending their railway systems now.
– I am satisfied that the giving of the guarantee would lead to the establishment of works in the Commonwealth almost immediately, because the matter has been before the people who are interested for a number of years. The honorable member for South Australia,
Mr. V. L. Solomon, has interjected that very few of the States are extending their railway systems at the present time. We know, however, that there is a proposal - whether it is made seriously or not I do not know - for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. An order for the supply of the rails necessary for the construction of that line would be sufficient to satisfy the people to whom I refer. Then there is the proposed railway from Oodnadatta to meet the short line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek.
– The real transcontinental railway.
– I agree with the honorable member that that would be a real transcontinental railway. One of these railways will be taken in hand in the future.
– Does the honorable member think that we could establish the industry in the Commonwealth if we arranged for the States to obtain their supplies of rails from the local works ?
– Yes, upon the conditions I have stated. There is no reason -why the Ministry should not be able to obtain that guarantee, because some of the State Governments have expressed their willingness to let contracts for the local production of steel rails upon certain conditions. In the first place it may be asked why the Government of New South Wales have failed hitherto to establish the industry upon the lines I have indicated, and judging by his interjection that idea has occurred to the Minister. The lines I have indicated formed part of the policy of the Reid Government.
– The guaranteed order was not sufficient.
– The honorable member is correct. In the first place the offer made by the Government of New South Wales was limited to the taking of rails required for that State for a certain period. A limited annual output for a limited number of years was to be taken, and the demand for one State only was not sufficient to induce the capitalists and ironmasters to enter upon the project. There is also a reason for the failure of the proposal made by the See Government, and I shall be able to indicate the way in which it is explained in England. Very recently I received from England a letter dated 17th
October, in which the following cutting from the Ironmonger was enclosed : -
It did not come as a matter of much surprise that no tenders were received locally, nor by the Agent-General in London, for the supply of 100,000 tons of steel rails, to be entirely manufactured and finished in this State - that is, New South Wales - under the conditions laid down by the Works department. The stipulation that the contractors should pay a minimum wage fixed by Government for an eight-hour day, and that the cost of the rails was not to exceed the lowest selling price in England or America, plus charges of importation, did not meet with the approbation of the ironmasters of England or America, while American trusts doubtless influenced opinions as well. The Minister for Works thinks the likelihood of the American Steel Rail Corporation seeking to extinguish any rival company starting in this way, by temporarily bringing down the price, was the consideration which most influenced British manufacturers. He points out that after he had inserted the minimum wage of 7s. per day, the Blythe River Iron Mines Limited agreed to accept the contract. Why this company did not tender when the contract was thrown open does not appear. Perhaps the much-expected Federal Tariff proposals had something to do with it. Since the tender-box was opened the company have been in communication with the Minister. They say that though the question of starting their projected ironworks at Burnie, in Tasmania, and also on the banks of the Yarra, in Melbourne, is being considered, their representatives in England may think that under certain circumstances Sydney would be the best centre. The Minister states that a local ironmaster representing others has also ottered to take up the matter.
We see from this that the cause of failure was a stipulation that the contractor should pay a minimum wage fixed by the Government for an eight-hour day, and secondly the likelihood of the American Steel Rail Corporation seeking to extinguish any rival company in the way suggested. This seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion. It is part of the policy of these great American trusts to cut in and destroy an industry in its early states. These objections would prevail also against the Government proposal. In New Zealand they have a project which is rather more favourable, I think, for the manufacturer or investor than that now before us. My friends in London have sent out with this letter some extracts from a proposal which was placed before them respecting that particular project. It reads as follows : -
In the Legislative Assembly, on the 17th July, a discussion was raised as to the necessity of initiating an iron and steel industry in the colony, and the fostering of same when the Government provided a subsidy of £20,000, representing £1 per ton on the first 20,000 tons manufactured, provided a company would furnish , £200,000 for necessary appliances, buildings, plant, &c. In addition to above the Government will give a contract for the supply of 50,000 tons of necessary material as an initial support of the project, at an extra profit of £1 5s. per ton over the prices quoted at present sources of supply representing the freight of same, which amount of extra profit £62,500, together with the afore-mentioned subsidy of £20,000, makes £82,500 a nucleus indicative of practical support to the company or syndicate undertaking the project.
N.B. - It is believed that this subsidy or contract, or both, can be increased to at least £100,000 as soon as the company is formed. The valuable deposits of million tons of iron sand at Taranaki, which give a very high percentage of over60 per cent. of iron, so excellently situated for establishing works adjacent to railway and shipping ports, has been looked upon for years by the colony as capable of utilization by projected works, at only a very nominal cost of delivery, viz.,6d. per ton. The Government has granted the option of lease and working under mining laws of the Government reserve at Parapara, a huge deposit estimated at 30 millions of iron (hematite) ore, containing an average of about 52 per cent. iron, on which site works can be erected.
The proposal of the New Zealand Government is very much more favorable than that of the Commonwealth Government in this respect - that New Zealand offers an advantage of £1 5s. per ton, will offer to be a customer to the extent of an enormous quantity of rails, and a further bonus of £1 per ton, as against the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to give a bonus of 12s. perton. There appears to me very little prospect of the federal project being taken up while that offer is in the market. Thenominal cost of 6d. per ton for the delivery of the iron ore is another very great consideration. That might be considered in conjunction with the statements I have made respecting the cost of bringing ore from the various parts of the Commonwealth. Whether it is brought from Emu Bay, in Tasmania, to the coast of New South Wales, or from the northern coast of Queensland down to the coal supply of New South Wales, or from the distant parts of New South Wales, in which are situated the properties which were formerly held by Mr. Mitchell. These are considerations which weigh very heavily upon the minds, I think, of men who are likely to launch out into this venture, as being an expenditure that will not enable them to compete successfully with the establishment of mines in New
Zealand, where the Government offer a bonus, and advantages so much greater than the bonuses and advantages that the Federal Government propose in their scheme. Further, the New Zealand Government offer the option of a lease of Government property, with hematite ore of 52 per cent. iron, and where there is said to be a deposit, and it is not disputed, of 30,000,000 tons. This honorable members have to consider with my statement as to certain properties which I have had tested, to the extent of thousands of tons, where the ore is not produced at so low a figure by any means, and which could not possibly compete with the establishment of such an industry in New Zealand. I think I ought to let honorable members know what the opinion in England is of this particular project, and of the proposal of the New South Wales Government. I have a letter which reads as follows : -
With reference to the iron and steel industry, I have had before me a much more liberal scheme from the New Zealand Government than even Victoria. I enclose you a list of some of the points, also a cutting from the Ironmonger, re the New South Wales Government scheme. The Blythe River people are only trying to book the Government order, and then rely upon getting further support from them.
This, I believe, is the company which the Government of the Commonwealth are in communication with.
– I think this company was referred to by the Minister.
– I referred to two speci ally, the Blythe River and the Eskbank.
– Has the honorable member any objection to give the date of the letter ?
– It is dated 17th October.
What firm or company are going to be dictated to by the Government as to what rate of wages they are to pay their men unless the Government intend paying them.
Honorable members will notice that it refers to that cutting which summarized the advertisements in the London press calling for tenders for the New South Wales steel rail supply.
All that New South Wales has done so far with her mode of doing business is to let New Zealand and Victoria get ahead of them with their schemes, the consequence being that those who take up the New South Wales scheme will have to stand greater competition, which I very much doubt whether they will be able to stand, especially against New Zealand.
I think I have made out a very strong case indeed, to show how impossible it is for any manufacturer in the Commonwealth to compete with the natural conditions that prevail in New Zealand.
– They have been trying for about 30 years to develop the iron industry there.
– They have been trying to do so, but evidently the honorable member is not aware that they have been trying to develop the industry here for 30 years. If he had been in his place he would have heard the statement that the ore here is not so suitable, and is not so cheaply obtained as in New Zealand.
– That is a matter which is open to doubt.
– It is not.
– I happen to know as much about that perhaps as the honorable member does.
– The deposit is right at the waterside, and the Government have offered special facilities for the establishment of works on Crown lands, and better conditions than are offered by the Government of the Commonwealth.
– They failed miserably.
– I would remind my honorable friend that he failed miserably in his attempt to establish the industry in New South Wales.
– I never did attempt it.
– If I remember aright the honorable member was a member of the Reid Government, which wrote the very minute which gave Mr. Mitchell a status in London, and was the means of his being able to bring out experts to report on the properties I have referred to.
– A thoroughly free-trade proposition.
– It was a thoroughly free-trade proposition. The proposal of Mr. Seddon is a liberal one, inasmuch as he offers the manufacturers a demand for their output, which the Government of the Commonwealth are not able to offer, and until they are able to offer conditions similar to those submitted by New Zealand, I fail to see how it is possible for ironmasters to establish the industry here.
It is my intention to oppose the proposals of the Government for the reasons I have stated. If they are prepared to give an undertaking that the steel rails required by the States shall be procured from any ironworks established within the Commonwealth, English iron-masters would start operations here without delay. This is all that has been looked for, and it was all that’ was expected under Mr. Mitchell’s proposal. Owing to the comparatively small demand for iron in New South Wales it was impossible to induce the capitalists to invest £500,000 in the establishment of ironworks in that State. But if an assurance could be given that the local works would have first claim to supply the requirements of six States the necessary capital would be subscribed at once, and the industry would be established in some part of New South Wales. I feel confident that no one will undertake to establish ironworks under the proposal of the Government.
– The matter was very nearly complete when Mr. Mitchell had it in hand.
– I do not believe that the matter was nearly completed.
– I know it was.
– I know quite as much of the circumstances as does the the honorable member. I was in Mr. Mitchell’s confidence.
– What I mean is that Mr. Mitchell very nearly succeeded in raising the necessary capital.
- Mr. Mitchell had in his possession the minute written by Mr. Reid stating that the Government of New South Wales would take a certain quantity of rails per annum to supply the requirements of that State, at a certain juice. The price mentioned represented the selling price in England plus the freight and charges in connexion with the conveyance of rails from England to Australia.
– It was arranged to take 15,000 tons a year for ten years.
– Yes, equal to 150,000 tons. That memorandum was sufficient to induce English capitalists to send out experts to inquire into the matter. I cannot enter into all the details, but honorable members who are sufficiently interested will find the whole of the circumstances on record in the New South Wales Hansard. I am not opposed to the bonus system, provided it is applied to the establishment of a great industry that cannot be established without it. Many political economists who call themselves free-traders advocate the system of bonuses with a similar qualification. Under the bonus system the people pay a definite sum of money for a definite advantage - an advantage that will extend to the whole community. Those who pay the money reap the benefit under a bonus system in contradistinction to what takes place under a system of levying protectionist duties through the Customs, where those who pay the money do not reap the benefit. Under protection the many pay for the advantage of the few, whereas under the bonus system the many pay for the advantage of the many. I shall oppose the proposal of the Government, because I believe it to be impracticable.
– I think we can all agree as to the desirability of doing something to secure the establishment of a real iron industry in Australia. I cannot, however, agree to the suggestion put forward by the Government, for this reason : that the expenditure of £250,000 - as far as the iron industry itself is concerned, apart from the subsidiary industries - would, under the bonus system, simply mean that the Government would bear the greater portion of the expenditure incurred by any syndicate or company, without reaping any corresponding advantage; except, of course, such as might be derived from the employment of the individuals engaged in the production of the pig iron.
– And from the establishment of the industry.
– Just so. If our finances permit of our appropriating such a large sum of money, and investigation shows that the iron industry could be carried on successfully from a commercial stand-point, it would be preferable for the Government to expend the money directly in an attempt to establish the industry. If the attempt were successful the Government would get the benefit of their own expenditure, and if it happened to be a failure, they would, at least, be in a better position than if they had handed the money over to a company or syndicate, because they, instead of the company, would have the works. I do not share the fears of the honorable member for Robertson that New Zealand will become a serious competitor with us in iron production. As I was at one time a New Zealander, I remember the attempts made by the Government for many years past to establish the iron industry in that colony. They are at this disadvantage. New Plymouth, or its neighbourhood, where the iron sand occurs, is a considerable distance away from the coal, and the coal deposits in New Zealand are situated near bar harbours, which present great difficulties in arranging for cheap transit. I do not see, therefore, that there is any great probability of successful competition in iron production by New Zealand. Whilst recognising this, however, it seems to me that before anything in the way of a large expenditure is authorized either by means of bonus, or in the shape of direct expenditure by the Government of the Commonwealth, we should have a proper investigation made by experts from other parts of the world, who may be qualified to give an opinion as to the probability of making a commercial success of the iron industry. I am not convinced that it is possible to bring the coal, the iron ore, and the fluxes together in Australia at sufficiently low rates to insure the production of iron at a cost which would reasonably approach the price of the imported article. I remember reading a short time ago about the methods employed by the great steel trusts of America in mining and delivering their iron ore, from the point at which it was practically quarried to the lake side at Pittsburgh, and conveying it thence by rail to the furnaces. They have reduced the handling of the ore to an absolute science. Not only the methods of handling, but also the enormous quantities which they carry from one point to another, and with which they deal in making their iron or steel, have an important bearing upon the cost of production. I am still in the dark myself as to the probability of successful competition in this country, even with such a margin as 15 per cent.
– We are all in the dark.
– Yes, we are all in the dark ; and although I should prefer the direct expenditure by the Government of any sum that it may seem desirable to expend in making an experiment of this character, I should require, before voting for such a proposal, to be convinced by the reports of those qualified to express an opinion, that there was a fair probability of success. In the meantime, I do not think we are justified in agreeing to the proposal of the Government in its present shape.
– The honorable member means the proposal to impose duties in five years hence.
– Yes ; if we consent to the proposal now put forward by the Government, we shall, in a manner, bind ourselves to adopt no other method of procedure but that which the Government have outlined. It is certainly true that a Bill would have to be introduced to give practical effect to the proposal in the Tariff, but we should have passed in the Tariff Bill a clause that would bind us as to the manner in which we should encourage the iron industry.
– We should be adopting a specific scheme.
– Practically so; I do not think we should do that. This matter is very much in the nature of an open question. I am extremely hopeful as to the result of the inquiries that should be made on the subject, and also as to the financial possibilities of establishing the iron industry. It might be properly remarked here, however, that it is not necessary, in order to prove the commercial possibilities of iron manufacture here, to incur an expenditure of anything like £1,000,000. It is true that the Blythe River Company have said that £1,000,000 would be spent by them in putting up blast furnaces and rolling mills and steel works, but as far as the conversion of iron ore into pig iron is concerned, or even into steel blooms, there is no necessity for any such enormous expenditure - that is, so far as I am advised by those who pretend to speak with authority on the subject. I believe that for a sum of not more than £50,000 blast furnaces could be erected quite capable of treating ore on a scale sufficiently large to afford some indication of the commercial results, and a further sum of £25,000 or £50,000 could be expended in actually running through the ore so as to demonstrate the possibility of handling it economically. So that an expenditure of, at the most, £100,000 - I am sure it could be done for very much less - would be quite sufficient to demonstrate the commercial probabilities of iron production in Australia. I think the committee should pay some regard to the point advanced yesterday by the honorable member for North Sydney, namely that there is no probability of commercial success for the iron industry in Australia, unless we are assured that the various State Governments will, be customers for the iron that is produced locally. A few weeks ago I was speaking to one gentleman who was interested in the Blythe River Company and he admitted that unless they have an opportunity of competing on equal terms for the trade of the various State Governments, as involved in their railway proposals, there was no chance whatever of his, or any other company, making a success of their scheme. The fact is that in Australia to-day, the consumption of iron and steel, outside the requirements of the various State Governments, is so small that it would not be worth the while of any set of capitalists to embark a large sum of money in establishing the iron industry unless they could secure the custom of the States. Further, unless we are satisfied that the State Governments would either have to use the local product, or to pay an increased price upon imported iron, I should not be prepared to advise that the Commonwealth Government should establish iron works of their own. Whether the iron industry is established privately, or by the Government, it would require the patronage of the State Governments in order to make it a success. As to the probability of the State Governments being customers, we must recollect that there is a probability - a very considerable probability - of the High Court ruling that we have no power to tax importations made direct by the State Governments, or on their behalf by the railway commissioners and others.
– Not a considerable probability.
– I hope that the honorable member is correct. I hope that it is not so certain as it would appear that the property of the States will be held to include goods imported from abroad. Personally, my strong hope is that the State Governments will have to pay the duty, because otherwise a disruption of business will occur, and the local tenderer, whether he be a manufacturer or importer, will be placed at a considerable disadvantage. But, in this connexion, we have to look at the possibilities, and I am assured by some legal gentlemen in the House that the High
Court will probably decide that the term “property” includes every kind of property. However, I do not wish to discuss that matter now, because it is one which the High Court alone can settle. Still it is an element which we have to take into consideration in arriving at a settlement of this question. That is one of the strong reasons why we should know the interpretation placed upon those words by the High Court of Australia before we come to any definite decision as to what we shall do. We must know, before we can reasonably estimate what are the probabilities of success, who are likely to be our customers, and to what extent they .are likely to consume the local commodity.
– Would it not be sufficient to know that, before the Bill providing for the bonus is passed 1
– We should know all the circumstances before we enter into this scheme. We should commit ourselves to nothing until we are fully seized of all the facts. If we agree to the proposal of the Government with the amendment suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, we shall then have a free hand as regards the method in which we should approach this question. Of course there is room for a difference of opinion as to which is the better method–
– We cannot reasonably debate that matter now.
– I do not think that at this stage we can reasonably debate the advisability of the Federal Government nationalizing the iron industry, although I should prefer to see that step taken if we are to spend a quarter of a million of money in encouraging it. I am quite willing to agree to this item with the amendment suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, because, if it were passed in that form it would merely amount to an indication of our willingness to adopt some means in the future to encourage the iron industry. That is a declaration of intention to which scarcely any one will take exception.
– It is hardly the sort of thing to be embodied in the Tariff.
– It is admitted by the Government that subsequent legislation must be enacted, and in view of that fact I do not see that the fate of this particular series of proposals matters very much. But I absolutely object to the payment of a large sum by way of bonus to any private company, in regard to the establishment of the iron industry or any other industry. If we are to contribute a large sum in that way, we should do so by means of direct expenditure under a commissioner or some expert appointed by the Executive Government.
– Why not encourage shipbuilding in the same way ?
– I am referring only to the present case. If the division is carried I trust it will be with the addition of the words suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor.
– I ask the indulgence of the committee to say a few words. I am sure we all agree that the honorable member for Robertson made a very thoughtful and instructive address, which was evidently the result of considerable research. But he made one statement to which I may be pardoned for taking exception. I do so because I cannot for one moment allow any reflection to be cast upon what I hope is destined to become one of our greatest industries. The honorable member appeared to indicate that there were no deposits of iron ore within the Commonwealth which could be worked with commercial success. I have no brief for the Blythe River Iron Mining Company. I am not interested in it either directly or indirectly, but I am in a position to know that the ore from that mine has been sent home to the ironmasters and carefully tested. As a result they sent out one of their competent experts, and it has been proved that that deposit of ore is of a sufficiently good quality to warrant the establishment of works there. That fact has been placed beyond the region of doubt. It is a remarkable deposit, and it has been calculated that it contains at least 40,000,000 tons of ore. It is quite possible that that quantity is an under-estimate. I should like also to refer to another great deposit which is to be found in the Iron Monarch mine in South Australia. That deposit, it is estimated, contains at least 30,000,000 tons of ore of exceptional quality. In the northern parts of Queensland, too, there are iron deposits of illimitable extent. I am perfectly aware that there may be deposits which to the ordinary observer appear to be of good quality, but which upon examination are found to contain phosphorus, chrome, arsenic, and elements which are detrimental to the manufacture of steel of a satisfactory character. I wish also to tell the honorable member for Bland that the idea that a great iron industry can be successfully established within the Commonwealth by the expenditure of only £150,000 is a delusion. In that respect the honorable member was not accurately informed. In this connexion I need only point out that the complete equipmentof oneof thebigironf urnaces inPennsylvania, which will produce 2,000 or 3,000 tons of iron weekly, costs from £150,000 to £200,000. These large plants are necessary to enable the iron to be economically treated, inasmuch as it is only by the reduction of exceedingly large quantities that success is possible from a financial stand-point. Of course every one is aware of the results obtained in Pennsylvania. Carnegie’s works are known throughout the length and breadth of the world. Those works have been perfectly equipped as the result of an enormous expenditure, in order that the cost of the reduction of the ores may be reduced to a minimum?
– He works his own collieries and steamers also.
– Of course he has his own collieries and steamers. But I would also point out that a large quantity of iron ore is brought from the surrounding districts for treatment at those works, because the large furnaces and appliances which have been erected there give the best possible results. At this stage I should like to ask what will be the position assuming that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, is carried.
– The division will disappear.
– It would be a matter for regret if, as the result of the adoption of that amendment, the idea of assisting the iron industry vanished from the policy of the Government.
– The Government may introduce a Bill if they choose.
– The rejection of this division means that the committee do not want it.
– I hope that that will not be the attitude taken up by the Government. I know that a great many honorable members upon the opposition side of the chamber wish to see some assistance given to this industry. They object to the proposed method of rendering that assistance, but are prepared to help in the establishment of the industry.
– They are prepared to accept anything which is not proposed.
– That is not fair, after the generous way in which we have treated the Government.
– Last night I pointed out that my objection was not so much to the imposition of the proposed duty as to our pre-judging the decision of Parliament five years hence.
– We ought to have had the whole scheme before us.
– But the Minister for Trade and Customs subsequently gave us a considerable amount of information, so that we know the lines upon which the bonus is proposed to be given. Though I wish to adhere to the position which I took up in supporting the amendment of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, I feel that I shall be placed in a false light if, by the adoption of that amendment, the Government were to abandon their intention of assisting the iron industry by means of the payment of a bonus.
– How can the Government introduce bonus legislation if this proposal be rejected ?
– If the Minister has no objection I should like him to make a distinct declaration on this point, because that might influence the action of’ some honorable members on this side of the House. All are agreed that it is desirable to establish the iron industry, and most honorable members are of opinion that that assistance is required in its establishment. One point which has not been brought out is that for the export of silver, copper, lead, and zinc, there is a foreign market, whereas we cannot hope for a foreign market for Australian iron, that commodity being produced so much more cheaply in other parts of the world. The iron industry must always depend entirely on the home market, and that places it in an entirely different position from that of other mineral industries of the Commonwealth.
– As an industry particularly worthy of protection for the home market.
– That is one of the strong reasons why the iron industry particularly deserves assistance and consideration.
–! have listened very attentively to the many able speeches made on this question, particularly to those delivered last night by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and the honorable members for Mernda and Kooyong. It does seem to me a little strange, in a country where the various State Governments own the railways, that those Governments should be absolutely at the mercy of private corporations for the supply of steel rails. To-day the cry is all about war and invasion ; yet, if Australia were surrounded by foreign fleets, and the supply of steel rails from foreign countries should become exhausted, we should not be able to transport troops, owing to our inability to construct lines or keep existing lines in repair. In this respect we should be as helpless as were the southern States in the American war. The Opposition contend that to spend this money in the way proposed will mean waste ; yet this industry has never yet been established in any country on God’s earth, not even in England, without assistance from the Government at the start. I should like to read an extract from the London letter of the Melbourne Age of February 12th, containing, not the opinions of the Age representative, but those of the American consul in Liverpool, Mr. J. Boyle, who is one of the ablest representatives the American Government ever sent to England. After having been like kittens for the last 40 years the people of England are commencing to open their eyes. They have talked free-trade, but they have practised internal protection more or less. This is what Mr. Boyle says -
Upholders of English free-trade are in the habit of confidently denying that there is any popular desire for a change of policy. It is worth while to quote for once the report of an independent observer on this subject. The United States consul at Liverpool, Mr. J. Boyle, one of the ablest of the county’s foreign representatives, whose views always get wide publicity here, informs his Government that there is “ undoubtedly a strong sentiment” among the masses of the population in favour of changing the fiscal policy of England-
This consul is held responsible by his country, and any opinions he publishes in America are republished in England. He proceeds - - so as to bring about reciprocity with other commercial nations. “ It is altogether probable,” he adds, ‘ ‘ that if the United Kingdom passes through a period of hard times in the near future this question will become a leading one.”
– Does the honorable member intend to connect those remarks with the motion before the Chair 1
– The question before the Chair is really that of free-trade or protection.
– The honorable member is not in order in debating the whole question of free-trade and protection, but only in so far as it applies to the iron industry.
– These remarks apply to the iron industry, inasmuch as they show the necessity of Australia profiting by the mistakes of the mother country, whose example our friends opposite are continually quoting. Mr. Boyle, summing up, says there is no doubt that when the English people wake up from their slumber and find where they are drifting, with their trade leaving them, they will change their policy and get new machinery. The whole trouble is that the machinery of England to-day is antiquated. How can we hope to establish these industries here, or make this country anything but a desert industrially, unless we are prepared to back the Government up in proposals of this character ? We have in Tasmania one of the great mines of the world. I am not speaking for that mine, but for the whole of the Commonwealth, and I say that if we can make this a Commonwealth industry, I want that to be done. I am in favour of that first, but sooner than that the mine should lie idle, if the Commonwealth feels unable to tackle the question, then I shall vote for a bonus. But I am afraid a bonus will not accomplish what we want. Does it look reasonable to ask English money lenders to invest £1,000,000 or £500,000 in a plant on the strength of a bonus? I say it does not; but if the Government will impose an all round duty of 1 5 per cent., there is no question whatever about the establishment of the industry or that it will be profitable. A great many of the railway companies of America own their own mines and manufacture their own rails. They are not dependent on the Carnegie Steel Company, unless that company holds stock, and generally they are all brothers in the trust. I remember, years ago, when the Pennsylvania Railway Company disagreed with the rail manufacturers and decided to manufacture their own material. It was then that the Pennsylvania Company got concessions to suit themselves. It is ridiculous to think that we can start an industry of that character in Australia and compete with manufacturers who have millions of money behind them and the best plants in the world. Some 30 years ago the American people were under the impression that they could not make steel rails worth sixpence, and said1 it was all nonsense to suppose that Carnegie could manufacture material of any value for the market. It was thought there was some quality in the English water which tempered the steel, or that there was some peculiarity in the English process ; but it is always the case that people imagine that what they require can be made much better in another country. The same thing used to be said in Amenca about cotton goods, and it was held that calicoes, muslins, and material of that kind could never be made in that country. I remember going to a New York tailor and paying seventy-five or eighty dollars for English clothes, because I would not wear those made of American material. The same feeling operates in Australia to-day, and people have to be educated up to appreciating their own manufactures. When there is a fixed idea that only certain goods are worth having those goods become dearer. I know that at Stewart’s in New York people used to pay enormous prices for imported shawls, although equally good shawls were made in America. We can never build up a great industry in the Commonwealth of Australia unless we give protection to those who invest their money in the country. But we require to be judicious in the protection which we give, We must be reasonable. We do not want to enable certain manufacturers to enjoy a monopoly. When I said in the early part of my speech that I had paid from 80 dollars to 100 dollars for a suit of clothes in America, honorable members seemed amazed, but I can assure, them they need not be. The first time any honorable member opposite is in New York or Chicago let him go into the shop of a foreign tailor, leave his measure, and order a suit of clothes without asking the price. Let him tell the tailor that he wants the suit made of English cloth. I do not think any honorable member who tries that experiment will have any difficulty in persuading himself when he comes ‘to pay the bill that what I say is the absolute truth.
– That is what protection does !
– It is not what protection does, but it is what foreign goods do when the people get the idea ingrained in their minds that they must buy goods that are made abroad. A man can get a suit of American cloth just as good as a suit made from English cloth for 40 or 50 dollars, and that is very cheap.
– Is not the honorable member speaking of many years ago 1
– I am talking of a few years ago. Suppose that the bonus which, the Government propose is given, and that one man or one syndicate gets in first with his plant and machinery, will the first comer eat up the whole bonus 1 If so, where will cbe Tasmanian people come in ?
– There is not room for more than one.
– Pardon me ; I do not know exactly the quantity of iron that is required every year to carry on business in the Commonwealth of Australia, but I believe that we consume about 180,000 or 200,000 tons. There is ample room for more than one manufactory of the kind. Another consideration is this : Suppose an English company puts its money into plant and machinery and that by the time it gets half ready the bonus is exhausted, what will its position be then? I can only see one really business-like way of attaining our object, and that is to guarantee a 15 per cent, duty straight out to those who establish iron works in Australia when once they get their plant started, and are making iron in the country. No doubt the bonus proposal looks plausible, but at the same time if a man like Andrew Carnegie came along he would take the whole of that bonus in three months. A firm like, the great Steel Company of America would earn the whole of the bonus which the Government offers in a few weeks. Another consideration is the supply of pig iron required every year in Australia. Suppose this country were surrounded by a foreign fleet for a year. Could we carry on 1 Suppose we were surrounded for five years as the southern States of America were 1 Could we keep our railways in repair and transport our troops 1 Have we enough pig iron in Australia to enable us to continue manufacturing the requisite iron’ goods for carrying on the country, and developing it and keeping our railways in good repair? These are questions which the Minister for Trade and Customs ought to be in a position to answer. We have been talking a good deal about war lately, and those who talk fight must expect to have to fight some day. I never saw a prize fighter who did not one day meet his match ; and when a country starts out to do battle, she is bound to get some one jumping on her byandby. Every country should endeavour to lay down plant for the production of the various commodities that are requisite for supplying the requirements of its people. Progressive countries to-day rest their prosperity upon progressive development. It should be our ideal to establish works to make Australia a selfcontained country. It will be found as we do so that the establishment of great industries leads to the creation of various other works. Take the case of the west coast of Tasmania. Suppose the great Mount Lyell mine had been discovered, not in Tasmania, but in Spain, or in Cuba, or in the United States. Would the people of the Commonwealth have benefited from it as they have done 1 Would the merchants of Sydney and Melbourne have shipped the goods that they have shipped? Not a bit of it. That is where the theory advocated by our freetrade friends fails. It fails because they want to have only one kind of industry. The opening up of an industry such as the Mount Lyell mine has created, has taken the surplus population from the various communities of the Commonwealth, and enabled them to send money back to the States from which they came. If the mine had been discovered in some other part of the world we should have lost these people for ever. Every industry that is established in the country, whether in Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, or New South Wales, is a benefit to the whole of the Commonwealth. If the Government had the pluck to establish these iron works themselves, and to conduct the enterprise from the very foundation - having their own mines, their own smelting works, their own rolling mills, supplying their own people and paying a legitimate wage - there would be no possibility of a difficulty hereafter.
– Except to their revenue.
– It would be to the benefit of their revenue, because thousandsof pounds worth of goods would be manufactured here in consequence of the establishment of the iron works, and thousands of pounds worth of goods would be shipped to Australia through the Customs. That is the position we have to look at. However, I am not going to vote against this proposal, because it seems to be the best thing to do under the circumstances. If we cannot get anything better we must take what we can get. When one has his hand in a lion’s mouth he should not kick the animal until he gets it out. But I am hoping for more. Bad as this proposition is–
Mr.Kingston. - Not bad.
– It is bad because it does not cover the situation. It does not seem to have what I will call the stamp of American progress upon it. We ought to look more and more to what America is doing. From all parts of the world enterprising people are going to that progressive country to learn. The other day Mr. Schwab, the president of the great American Steel Company, told an English delegation that was visiting America that the wages paid in the steel mills of that country were double the wages paid in England. It seems to me that to a large extent industrial progress is a question of wages.
– Where does the honorable member find that statement?
– I find it in an American newspaper, which I will bring up to the House to show to the honorable member to-morrow, if I can put my hand upon it.
– The statement is utterly untrue.
– It is absolutely true. More than that, Mr. Schwab said that the English must adopt more progressive machinery. The trouble with Great Britain is that she has been asleep. She is losing her mastery of the manufacturing business of the world because she has been asleep.
– The honorable member must have been asleep when he read that statement.
– I saw the figures, either in the New York Journal or the New York World - I forget which - and the statement is perfectly true. Every enlightened Englishmen who goes to America goes back to his own country and says that English manufacturers must adopt American methods. English papers and magazines are full of leading articles about
American progress. The curse of it is that for ages in England the leading men did not believe in free education. They believed in keeping the mass of the people ignorant. They thought that 50,000 ignorant men, with one educated man to look after them, could run a country. But they have found out now that education is a physical, as well as an intellectual, force, and that, while every American is able to work his feet and his hands with his head, the average man in an English factory works his head with his hands and his feet ! Consequently English manufacturers only get about half the amount of product out of their workmen that the American manufacturer gets. In other words, 20,000 men in America produce more than 30,000 in England. That is what is driving England out of the manufacturing centres of the world. I venture to prophesy to-night that within ten years we shall see the policy of protection adopted in England. Unless a country adopts protection she cannot get reciprocity with any other country. She has nothing to give. Other countries take her markets from her. The United States has the English markets, and is swamping them with American products. In conclusion, let me say that I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will adopt a policy that will give to those men in New South “Wales who have been struggling for years a little protection at once. I hope that he will not only agree to give a bonus, but that he will finish up by moving for a duty of 15 per cent.; and that this country will gradually arrive at the point that is admirably summed up in the lines of the greatest poet of democracy, Robert Burns -
To make a happy fireside clime
To weans and wife,
That’s the true pathos and sublime
Of human life.
That is what we are here for.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - Honorable members must be agreed that this has been one of the most interesting discussions that we have had in connexion with the Tariff, and that the question of the best means of establishing an iron industry in Australia is one of the largest questions that is likely to be discussed by this Parliament. It appears to me that the disadvantage of the discussion at the present time is that it hardly comes within the scope of the consideration of the Tariff. We are now dealing with the first Tariff for the Commonwealth. That, after all, is a very practical and businesslike matter which should be settled, apart from questions that rightly do not come up for immediate consideration, and which cannot be determined even if the proposals of the Government are accepted. We have herewhat I consider to be a very extraordinary proposal, to give the Government power by proclamation to impose, at some future time, a duty upon certain goods after resolutions have been agreed to by Parliament. In the first place, I do not think that the committee should be asked, at this stage, to deal with the imposition of duties which it is admitted will not be required for years to come. I object also to give the Government power by proclamation to impose duties, even after resolutions have been passed by Parliament. It seems to me that we might very well defer, for some years to come, the question of imposing a duty upon iron imported into Australia, and that if the Government wish to bring down any scheme for granting bonuses to the manufacturers of iron, that matter can be dealt with entirely apart from the Tariff proposals. Therefore, this discussion, although an exceedingly interesting one, dealing with a very large and important question, appears to me to be somewhat out of place while we are considering the matteroffact and business-like proposal to establish a Tariff for the immediate requirements of the Commonwealth. A great deal has been said as to the advantage of giving bonuses for the establishment of important industries. I am not very much in favour of the system of bonuses, and I am not prepared to recognise the distinction, that some honorable members have put forth, between the general system of protection, and the system of establishing industries by means of bonuses.
– There is no distinction in principle.
– Really none. I am willing to admit that there might be very important public reasons for going out of the way to establish an industry of the magnitude and importance of the manufacture of iron. Looking at the iron industry as being to a large extent the foundation of a great manufacturing system, and looking at the importance, for very grave national reasons, of making a country independent of outside resources, in regard to the supply of a staple article of that kind, I am willing to admit that very good reasons might be advanced for going out of the way to give bonuses for the establishment of such an industry. I do not admit, however, that this is the right time or the right place for the discussion of a question of such great national importance, which is entirely apart from the general question of framing a Tariff for the Commonwealth. I am willing to admit that there are questions involved in the establishment of an iron industry which do not come up for discussion in general fiscal proposals.
– On account of its greater importance ?
– Yes. To my mind the question of establishing an iron industry in Australia is one of the highest national importance, and it demands treatment apart altogether from our general treatment of the fiscal question. Although I cannot go with them, I can understand that in relation to an industry of this kind, certain honorable members may be prepared to make concessions to some extent upon their general principles ; but I do say that we are to-night, and have been for two days, discussing a question that does not demand immediatesettlement by this Parliament. I go further, and say that we are not in possession of information sufficient to enable us to deal with this matter finally ; and, therefore, while the discussion may have its advantages in educating both honorable members and the public, on the great question of establishing an iron industry in Australia, it cannot be finally settled in this Parliament at this time. There are very good reasons why its consideration should be deferred. The honorable member for Robertson, who delivered a very interesting and able speech on this subject, and furnished the committee with much valuable information, struck the very kernel of this matter, if I may so put it, when he pointed out, that the failure of all previous attempts at the establishment of the iron industry in Australia, has been due to the fact that we have not been prepared to guarantee to any persons establishing the manufacture here, a sufficient demand for their product. The attempts made in New South Wales failed, simply because the guaranteed orders were not sufficiently large to induce the establishment of a ° first-class iron industry. While we remained as separate communities it was impossible to guarantee sufficient orders to secure the establishment of a first-class iron manufactory. We are not in a very much better position at the present moment ; the only difference is that, if we chose to do so, we could impose a duty such as the Government propose to impose at some future date, for the purpose of encouraging the industry, that is, if it would have any effect. But the Minister himself knows that to propose such a duty to operate immediately would be ridiculous. We are not in a position to put all our ironworkers in the Commonwealth under the great disadvantage of having to pay higher prices for their raw material at the present time. We recognise that in order that manufactured articles may be produced in our iron foundries and engineering establishments, we must give them all the advantages of free raw material. That being so, the Government do not propose to impose immediately an import duty on iron, which is the only advantage, if any, that the Commonwealth could offer for the establishment of the industry at this time.
– Would the honorable member vote for such a proposal %
– No; I say that it is the only advantage, if any. I do not believe that the imposition at this stage of a duty of 10 per cent, on iron would have the effect of establishing the iron industry in the Commonwealth, and I am not prepared to vote for the imposition of such a duty, which would put a tax upon the raw material of so many large and important industries. We are not in a position to guarantee orders to those who might establish ironworks here. The Commonwealth Government have not the control of the railways ; nor have they the control of any great services in which the product of an iron mill would be required. Therefore ‘ unless the Commonwealth Government could enter into an arrangement with the States to guarantee orders, they would really not be in a position either to establish iron mills themselves or to give any substantial guarantee beyond a bonus to any iron manufacturer who might see fit to establish the industry in Australia. The question of giving a bonus to the manufacturers of iron, or of any other commodity, is one that should not arise for discussion during the consideration : of the Tariff. It is a distinct question, which should be introduced by the Government at another time, and one which will have to be introduced on another occasion, even although the Government carry their present proposals. Thus we are engaged, after all, in what must be, so far as all practical purposes are concerned, an idle discussion. I admit, as I have said before, that it has its advantages in educating honorable members and the public on this great question, but the demands made on the committee for the settlement of the Tariff, and for the establishment of a proper financial system, at the earliest possible date, arn too great to warrant us in occupying a considerable amount ‘ of time in the discussion of what, after all, is merely an abstract proposition. No advantage can be gained by bringing forward proposals such as these at the present time except that they indicate the policy of the Government. It is easy for the Government to indicate what are their proposals in this direction without embodying them in the Tariff. If their proposals are carried as they stand now, they will have no practical effect. Subsequent legislation will be necessary. Further action on the part of both Houses will be necessary, and administrative action will be necessary on the part of the Government in years to come. It will be seen, therefore, that we are discussing prematurely a proposition which might be discussed with very much greater advantage, and with much greater fairness to the committee, at some future date. There are honorable members who have condemned these proposals, but who do not want to vote against bonuses if they are proposed in another way at some future time. I do not think that the Government place honorable members in a fair position in calling upon them to vote on these Tariff proposals for or against a bonus on locally produced iron, when, as a matter of fact, it is not necessary to put honorable members to that test now. The Minister for Trade and Customs would not dream of imposing or collecting now a duty of 10 per cent, on iron ; because, although he is very anxious to establish the industry in the Commonwealth, he knows that it would be impossible to impose such a duty at this juncture without inflicting great hardship on a large number of manufacturing industries. The duty is not required for revenue purposes; nor can it be used for protective purposes at this stage so that we might just as well postpone the consideration of these proposals until some more convenient season. I shall have to vote against the proposals, because, although they would not be operative immediately, they are distinctly protective in their character, and, so far as I can see, they are intended only to indicate the policy to which the Government are pledged. They can have no practical effect from any point of view ; therefore, I would join with other honorable members who have preceded me, in urging the Government not to put the committee to the test of voting on these proposals at the present time, but to give honorable members the fairer opportunity of dealing with the question of imposing a duty when either the revenue or other interests compel them to ask for the duty, and of voting upon the question of bonuses when they are prepared to bring forward definite legislative proposals upon that subject. At present the committee has not the information at hand to guide it in this matter. I would also suggest to the Minister in charge of the Tariff that before definite proposals for the giving of bonuses in connexion with the iron industry are submitted, the Commonwealth Government should obtain at any cost the opinions of the ablest experts in the world in regard to the deposits of iron ore in these States. We have heard a great deal of conflicting testimony as to the value of these deposits. We are told that some of the deposits in Tasmania are very rich, and are workable, and that with a guaranteed output for an extensive iron mill the industry could be established profitably there. We have heard that contradicted with equal force, and I believe with equal authority. Before the committee or the Commonwealth is asked to adopt the system of establishing the iron industry by bonuses, I would urge upon the Government the importance of securing the best expert testimony in the world not only as to the iron deposits in all parts of these States, but also as to the possibility of establishing the industry on a sound commercial basis. There is the question of the possible requirements of the Commonwealth at the present time, and in the immediate future. We require some distinct testimony as to what the actual requirements of the State Governments and general consumers in Australia are likely to be within a reasonable terra of years. That evidence is not before us in such a way as to justify us in accepting these bonus pro.posals; but it could be furnished by properly qualified experts appointed to inquire into the whole subject. And further evidence as to the value of these deposits, and the practicability of working them on sound commercial principles, could also be obtained for the benefit of honorable members. We should then be in a very much better position to approach the whole question, dealing with it, as I hope we should, as a great national question that calls for consideration apart from all ordinary party interests. Of course honorable members on this side of the chamber are opposed to the establishment of industries which would impose heavy burdens on the great masses of the people. We have taken up a position in regard to the Tariff which is very clear and definite. Therefore, whether by way of bonuses, or by way of protective duties, we may be expected to oppose the attempted encouragement of an industry on lines which we think to be unfair to the great masses of the people. But we are all actuated by an earnest desire to see an important industry like this established in Australia, and we shall all be prepared to receive definite proposals when the proper time comes, and to approach the consideration and discussion of them in a fair spirit. But we are not in a position to consider these proposals at present. We have not the necessary information at our disposal. We are not prepared to commit ourselves to the bonus system while dealing with the fiscal policy of the Government. Therefore I would again urge the Government, however little effect it may have upon them, to reconsider the whole question, and not to put the committee in the unfair position of having to vote practically against the bonus proposals, when as a matter of fact we are only considering the Tariff, and there is no immediate need for the imposition of a duty upon iron for either revenue or protective purposes.
– I very cordially agree with the honorable member for Lang, that this subject is of intense national importance. I do not think that any of us will grudge the attention which has been given to it, and I believe that the committee will see that, with one modification, the Government’s proposals ought to be passed. That modification is more or less 28 i’ important, but it is one I would ask the Government to accede to, and if that is done I do not see why we should not, especially in view of some of the observations just made by the last speaker, agree unanimously to pass this division. From whatever aspect we may regard this question of the iron industry - whether from that of internal development, the advancement of our manufactures, and our industrial population generally, or that of defence - it is highly important that we should not be guilty of any delay in doing all we can to promote a thorough development of the production and manufacture of iron in Australia. What is the State that most of all is going to benefit by the advancement of this industry? I am sure that Victorians cannot be accused of any selfishness in this matter. We know perfectly well that if there is more than one State in Australia which will profit by any energy we may put into the advancement of this enterprise, it is New South Wales, which stands pre-eminent in its possibilities and in its promise in this regard. I quite agree with what has fallen from my honorable friends, that before anything like definite proposals for the practical working out of this question are placed before Parliament, the Government should obtain the fullest and most reliable information. But I take it that if this declaratory division is passed - and it is nothing more than that - it offers an announcement of policy on the part of the Commonwealth that will at once justify the Government in going to the trouble and expense of making those inquiries ; and it will also have, I think, an immediate stimulating effect on those who have any idea of embarking in the enterprise. If the Commonwealth announces, as it ought to announce at this early stage, that it is prepared to give encouragement to the production of iron, and to its subsequent manufacture, I take it that those who are hesitating about embarking in the industry - those who are weighing in the balance the question of whether they should put their capital into it or not, will have one important factor to determine them in that direction. We know perfectly well from our mutual friend, Mr. Coghlan, that the ore as it exists in New South Wales is not only plentiful and well distributed, but is in many places of the highest possible class, in close juxtaposition with the coal measures, and happily very close in many instances to existing lines of railway. From a practical stand-point there is, therefore, no reason, so far as we can discover, why the iron industry should not have made greater headway in that State. Coghlan sums up the position in his Wealth and Progress of New SouthWalesfor 1898-9, at page 463, in these words -
The iron trade should in time form one of the great staple industries of the colony. Every natural advantage possessed by the great iron and machinery-producing countries of the world - such as England and Belgium - is also present here. Not only are iron and coal deposited in abundance, and in positions easily accessible and readily worked, but, as pointed out in the chapter on mines and minerals, the local iron ore is exceedingly rich. Scarcely any progress, however, has been made in iron smelting, and nearly the whole stock of pig and wrought iron required for the local manufactories is imported. The other descriptions of metal works, both for smelting and manufacturing, are in a more forward state.
With that great promise before us, why should we not lend a helping hand to the development of this great natural possession of New South Wales ? We all feel that what is beneficial to New South Wales will be beneficial to the whole of Australia, and I cannot see how any one can doubt for an instant the truth of the observation which the honorable member for Lang gave utterance to, that the iron industry is of such importance to us all, as lying at the root of so much of our material prosperity in that direction, that we ought to give it special attention. I was glad to hear the honorable member make that remark, because the whole protectionist cause rests on this point, that by assisting production we assist the present and the future welfare of the Commonwealth. It is only a matter, of degree between the view expressed by my honorable friend and those expressed by protectionists generally. He applies it to one industry, we apply it to many industries. In this particular instance we agree with him most cordially. I. agree with him, too, when he says that subsidies and bonuses are only a branch of the protective system. It all depends on the nature of the particular industry or enterprise how we should apply the various protective modes of assistance, and to what extent we should apply them. I agree, therefore, that there should be an announcement by the committee on behalf of the Commonwealth that we are prepared to encourage manufactures, and particularly the manufacture of iron.
Mr.F. E. McLean. - The honorable and learned member admits that this is only a “ placard “ after all.
– I have stated, the honorable member will recollect, the reason why I think it will be of immediate practical use. Those who are considering the question of embarking on this form of industrial enterprise, will find in this division a great deal more than a “ placard.” It is an announcement by the committee on behalf of the Commonwealth, that we intend, at all events, to devise some means of encouraging manufactures in Australia.
– We cannot answer for the next Parliament.
– We can answer for ourselves, and at the present moment it is our duty to speak for the Commonwealth.
– Is it a. usual thing to put into a Tariff a declaratory resolution ?
– I do not say that it is usual ; but when we find a Tariff framed in this way, that some goods are taxed, that other goods are absolutely free, with no indication that any protection will ever be afforded to them, and that, certain goods are for the present declared to be free, but with a promise that will in the future stimulate development in these particular directions, I cannot see, and my honorable friends cannot indicate, that any harm will be done. When they ask the Government to drop this division, they ask the Government and the committee to abstain from one of the most important declarations of principle it is possible to make. I agree with the Government that they should persist in passing the division. I quite appreciate the observation which has been made by some honorable members that we are not in a position at the present moment to declare exactly in what direction that assistance should go. I am not at the present moment inclined to bind myself to granting bonuses to iron manufactures or, as it is put here, “bonuses for the encouragement of manufactures.” That means all manufactures, not merely iron manufactures. I agree with the honorable member for Bland, who declared his agreement with the policy of encouraging, manufactures, but his inability to bind himself to the giving, of bonuses. There are many honorable members who have yet to consider whether the granting of bonuses will be the right course for us to adopt. What I would suggest to the Government is to omit the words “relating to bonuses,” so that the paragraph will read in this way -
Proclamation to issue so soon as it is certified by the Minister that the manufacture of iron, or of reapers and binders, or any machinery to which the proclamation refers, has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth according to the provisions of any law for the encouragement of manufactures.
– What proclamation?
– The honorable member must know that that interjection is not at all relevant to the point to which I am addressing myself. I was speaking of the objection of some honorable members to bind themselves down to a bonus. I am not prepared at this stage to say that I do not agree with the Government with reference to the bonus, but I think there is an immense amount of force in what has been urged in various quarters that, before definitely deciding that we shall grant a particular bonus, we ought to know much more aboutthesubject than wedo. The Government will not be giving up any portion of their policy if they adopt my suggestion. They will not commit themselves to the abandonment of the bonus proposal, but will leave themselves free to consider the whole matter in the light of any information they may obtain.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has committed himself to the granting of a bonus.
– He will be quite free to adhere to that policy if he adopts my suggestion. Whilst he has declared his present belief in bonuses he will be left free to follow any conscientious course that may subsequently suggest itself to him. If he concludes that bonuses are right he can adopt them wholly, or if he thinks they are right in some cases, whilst in others a different course would be preferable, he will be free to do that which he thinks best.
– He would come into the committee with a policy, and go out without one.
– I do not think so. Ministers have been appealed to by honorable members not to bind them down to something that they have not had an opportunity to consider, and I now ask the Minister to amend the proposal as I have suggested. If the words are not struck out I shall still be prepared to vote with the Government. I cordially approve of making some such provision in the Tariff in order to indicate in the most effectual way possible that it is our intention to encourage the manufacture of iron. I want to see that done, and if the Government proposal is carried it will not only give heart and spirit to those who are anxious to embark in this particular form of industry, but it will also afford justification of the highest character to the Government to undertake that investigation which we all think is necessary before we finally make up our minds. No one can suggest that Victoria seeks to derive any advantage from this proposal. The support the representatives of Victoria give to this policy is purely unselfish - if we can claim any merit for that. The proposal is one that I believe will work for the advancement of Australia, and for the benefit of the whole industrial population. Those who desire to promote the interests of the workers of Australia can find no field in which they can so advantageously work as in this, because there is no possible line of industry which confers benefit on labour to the same extent as does the iron industry. Directly and indirectly it offers the widest possibilities for the improvement of the status of labour. We know that fully 95 per cent, of the value of iron is represented by the labour employed in its manufacture. We must remember that the establishment of the iron industry will not merely find employment for labour in the mining of the iron ore, but will enable us, as the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, to become self-resourceful in the must urgent matters of State. Not only will labour be engaged in the secondary working of the iron ore that is brought to the mouth of the pit, but the coal workers, sailors, carriers, and people in almost every department of life, and in every branch of manufactures will be benefited by the development of this industry. On all these grounds I urge that we should not hesitate to support the Government, in furthering what must be regarded not only at present, but for all time to come, as one of the most important industries. There may be no precedent for this proposal, but it is all the more praiseworthy for that, and it is certainly to be regarded as one of the most beneficial provisions in the Tariff.
– Owing to my unfortunate absence from the committee during the last three or four days I have been seeking such light as could be afforded by honorable members who have spoken from time to time until the honorable and learned member for Indi convinced me that I had better not listen anymore. The honorable member has told us that he is in favour of everything that everybody has said, whether for or against the Government proposal or the granting of bonuses. He agrees with the honorable member for Lang who, I understand, is opposed to the Government proposal in this clause, and is also, to a mitigated extent, averse to the granting of bonuses. The honorable and learned member for Indi is also entirely in accord with the honorable member for Bland, who is opposed to bonuses, and he was opposed to bonuses himself up to the time when it seemed that he would have to oppose the Government if he did not agree with them, and then he expressed himself as ready to support them. I am sorry that the Government have thought proper to confuse the issue by proposing the duties provided for in this division before taking the committee into their confidence as to their bonus scheme.
– The honorable member was not here yesterday.
– I was not present when the right honorable gentleman explained his proposals, but no explanation could have altered the fact that the legislative cart is being put before the legislative horse. Instead of our first considering the proposed bonuses, we are discussing what shall happen in the event of these bonuses being brought into operation. Ministers place me in a peculiar position, inasmuch as I favour the bonus system, but have to oppose their present proposal. I. shall support the granting of a bonus for the encouragement of the iron industry, as I think it is in the first interest of the Commonwealth that our iron resources should be developed. It cannot be cast in my teeth that I am advocating something that freetraders may not support. The strongest opponents of the bonus system in Victoria are the protectionists, who have denounced it again and again.
– That is news.
– Who has done that?
– I think Mr. Trenwith has.
– No, he is a strong advocate of bonuses under certain conditions.
– I can show that Mr. Trenwith has expressed himself as opposed to bonuses. However that may be, bonuses which are intended to confer benefit upon the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, may very well be granted for a time, and for a time only, so as to secure the establishment of an industry. After that object has been attained, the industry may be allowed to rest upon its own foundation. With bonuses it is not a question, as with protectionist duties, of continuing the drain upon the public year after year, and decade after decade, and century after century, as it would be if the honorable members representing Victoria had their way. Let us support the establishment of this great industry by means of a bonus. If those who establish the industry succeed, well and good. They may then be allowed to run alone. If they fail, the industry may be allowed to drop. There has been some misapprehension as to the value of our iron deposits, especially as to those of Tasmania. The honorable member for Robertson spoke in disparagement of the Blythe iron mines. I venture to say that those mines are about the first in extent and wealth in the whole wide world. There is a mountain of iron extending for a considerable distance on both sides of the River Blythe, and the ore is of singular purity. Instead of the iron deposits being a long way from a port, they are within 6 miles of a port, and already connected with it by tramway. I think the honorable member was confusing the Ironcliff mines at Penguin with those which are on the Blythe River. The deposit of iron ore now being worked at Penguin bears no comparison for wealth, extent, or purity with that at the Blythe River. I wish the Minister would see his way clear, even at this late hour, to postpone the consideration of this division in order that we may have the Government proposals with regard to bonuses before us, and, I hope, adopt them. If the Minister will postpone the division he will relieve me from the necessity of voting against the Government on this division as a matter of principle, whilst I am willing to support them in their bonus proposals. In connexion with this matter, I can quite understand the Government desiring to legislate five years in advance. They have had such a “sickener” of the Tariff as would make them desire to postpone everything for the next twenty years.
– I can assure the right honorable member that we have not been sick, and we are very sorry that he has been.
– I shall be sorry if the Minister for Trade and Customs does not see his way clear to do what is the proper thing, both in the interests of the Government and of the Commonwealth.
– I think I have exercised a reasonable amount of patience in respect to the length of time that I have had to remain in Melbourne to discharge my duties as one of the representatives of a distant State. But I am bound to confess that that patience is being rapidly exhausted, and to-night, the finishing touch has almost been supplied by the honorable and learned member for Indi. He seriously asks this committee to vote for a proposition which, in effect, simply means that some day or other the Federal Parliament - not this Parliament, but a future Parliament - will do something to encourage the iron industry. This is put forward seriously as a statesmanlike proposal by a gentleman who undoubtedly enjoys a reputation for state craft throughout Australia. His excuse for urging the adoption of such a proposal is that it will do no harm. Has the Commonwealth Parliament actually reached such a low ebb that honorable members are to be asked to pass resolutions simply because they will do no harm ? I do not think that the honorable and learned member is in earnest in inviting the committee to adopt the amendment, or in urging the Government to accept it. I trust that the Ministry have sufficient self-respect to adhere to their original proposal, which means something, rather than agree to the adoption of a proposition which is simply meaningless, and which, if passed, can tend only to lower the dignity of this House’.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I think that by this time the Government must be convinced that they would have acted more wisely if they had agreed to postpone the consideration of this item. We have been discussing it now for a good many hours, and still occupy much the same position as we occupied when the debate commenced. We have now arrived at a most delighful situation. The honorable and learned member for Indi declares that several honorable members who are opposed to the bonus will vote with the
Government, whilst on the other hand the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, who favours the granting of a bonus to the iron industry, threatens to vote against them.
– He will not vote against the Government upon this occasion.
– From my knowledge of him it would not be wise to dare the right honorable member too much. Yesterday I stated that I was not prepared to commit myself to the bonus system. I declared that rather than give a few manufacturers an opportunity of controlling the whole of the iron output of Australia, and thereby creating a monopoly which would ultimately control our State railways, I should prefer to see the iron industry nationalized. I see no reason why some of our great railway systems, especially if they were federalized, should not go in for the production and manufacture of their own iron, just as they at present undertake the manufacture of their own locomotives. All the large railway systems throughout the world now manufacture their own locomotives. I do not think that the idea of nationalizing the iron industry is as chimerical as it sounds. At any rate I should like an opportunity for a test vote to be afforded upon this question.
– Is not the proper time to take a vote upon that when we get the Bill 1
– Yes ; and that is why I cannot vote with the honorable member. The result of excising Division VIa will be that no Bill will be submitted to Parliament.
– Will the honorable member again state for my information exactly what he proposes ]
– Certainly. I propose to add after “ manufactures” the words “ or the establishment of such manufactures under Govermental control.”
– Where does the ad valorem duties come in under such a proposal 1
– That would be a matter for subsequent discussion. The proposition of the Government is that, contingent upon the committee approving of certain bonuses, these rates of duty shall become operative.
– But the whole scheme is simply a preamble to the imposition of the duties.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– Then I understand that the honorable member is willing to vote for the proposed duties if his amendment is carried ?
– Exactly. All I desire is that those who prefer that the industry should be under Government control, shall have an opportunity of saying so. Under such circumstances it would be absurd for me to vote for the excision of the whole division. Is it likely that the Government will come down with a proposal for the granting of bonuses if we omit this division?
– Why should not they?
– Why should they?
– Because it is an unheard of proceeding to put such a proposal as this in the Tariff.
– If honorable members, who have listened to the debate, are reasonable, they must admit that the objection all along has been to the wholebonus system.
– That is not correct. Several honorable members, while they object to putting “ the cart before the horse,” are in favour of bonuses. We are not against the free discussion of the bonus system hereafter.
– I admit that that is the view of two or three members, but it would be absurd for us to expect the Government to come down with a bonus scheme if we defeat this item. I hope the Government will agree to add the words I have suggested, my only object being to give honorable members an opportunity later on of expressing an opinion on the question.
– It is perfectly nauseating to listen to the absurdities which we hear from time to time from honorable members on the other side, who pretend to believe in the establishment of industries by means of protective duties. Why is this industry singled out for this peculiar treatment ? Why is this industry not treated in the same way as the beetsugar industry of ‘Victoria’? The latter industry is not in existence, but honorable members on the other side had not the slightest scruple in imposing a heavy duty. The honorable and learned member for Indi treated us to an admirable little homily on the advantages of the manufacture of iron, and with all he said I thoroughly agree. Since the honorable and learned member did not tell us whether or not he was prepared to give a bonus or a duty I cannot disagree with him. But with regard to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, and his latest proposal, I should like to know whether he thinks it is fair to put these two alternatives in the same broad proposal. He asks us to vote either that the Government shall take this industry into their immediate control, or that there shall be a bonus.
– We are asked to vote for either of these alternatives.
– That is not the honorable member’s suggestion ; he merely wishes the question to be open for debate later on.
– Nothing of the kind ; we commit ourselves to one or the other.
– No, we do not.
– I shall be thankful to know I am wrong. Honorable members need not trouble their heads as to the data regarding this industry. It has been established for some years that there is every requisite in the Commonwealth for the successful manufacture of iron. Particularly is that so in New South Wales, and with the portion of the speech of the honorable and learned member for Indi which deals with this point, I agree the more readily because I know from actual experience that what he states is true. Honorable members need not suppose that we want any more expert advice. We have had expert advice sent, from England, and we have had advice from our own experts. This subject has been in the process of investigation by experts for-the last ten or twelve years, and even before then we had actual experience of the making of iron. In reference to the sand deposits in New Zealand, and the possibility of making iron from them, tests have already been made, and have failed. A great number of ironworkers went from Lithgow to the ironworks which have been in existence at Onehunga, in New Zealand, for many years. Practical experience is better than theorising, and these men, who were to all intents and purposes bankrupt, came back with the verdict that iron could not be successfully manufactured there to compete with iron manufactured elsewhere.
– For what reason ?
– The reason is, I believe, that these sands are of a peculiar nature, and the problem of properly treating them chemically has not yet been satisfactorily solved.
– It may be ; there is no finality in a matter of ‘that sort.
– I do not say that there is finality. I am talking of the progress up to date ; and at present it has been found impossible to make the treatment of these sands a commercial success. The sands have been sent to England for treatment in the steel works there ; but even that did not give satisfactory results, and the ironworks at One.hunga are to-day absolutely idle. Moreover, the figures quoted by the honorable member for Robertson show that the resources of New Zealand in this respect are not very great. Estimates are usually rosy, but the honorable member’s estimate of 30,000,000 tons of available ore does not offer too great a prospect for the employment of a big modern plant. But in New South Wales, to say nothing of Tasmania, excellent ores are available. Experts tell us that in New South Wales alone, so far as investigations have gone, there is abundance of ore in sight, thoroughly tested and proved to be suitable for making the best steel, capable of competing at satisfactory commercial prices. It will be seen, therefore, that we need not trouble our heads as to the data concerning this important industry. I do not know that I should ‘ have . risen had it not been for some remarks last night by the honorable member for Mernda, who traversed some statements I had made, and accused me of misstating figures in reference to Canada and the United States, of making false inferences, and misleading the committee. These were pretty “ tall “ charges, and I thought at the time that I should have been permitted to reply. However, the Chairman, in his extreme impartiality, decided otherwise, and I have had no opportunity to reply until now. The Minister for Trade and Customs also suggested that I had incorrectly quoted figures.
– I did not mean that the honorable member personally incorrectly quoted figures, but that the figures were incorrect. .
– The honorable member for Mernda cast some doubt on figures I quoted in regard to Canada.
– That was in reference to the United States.
– And in reference to Canada also ; and the honorable member went on to give his own opinion - he had nothing more substantial - that somebody in Canada had undertaken to compete with the great Carnegie industry
– A statement to that effect appeared in the press quite recently.
– But the honorable member would not give any authority at all last night.
– I did ; but the honorable member’ was too excited to hear me.
– I have here figures regarding Canada, and they are very instructive, proving, if they prove anything, that all the coddling in Canada has not resulted in an increase in the manufacture of iron from the native ores of the Dominion. That is the very point we are discussing at the present time. The proposal of the Government is that we shall do something to encourage the production of iron from the native ores of the Commonwealth, and we are considering how far we ought to go in encouraging that production. According to the figures which I have here, the production of iron in Canada in 1884 was 29,000 tons per annum, and after seventeen years of the operation of bonuses and duties, the production to-day is only 34,000 tons. There has been practically no increase in consequence of the bonuses and duties. Of course the iron requirements of Canada have increased ; the figures go to show that. And I do not want honorable members to believe that no more iron is manufactured in Canada than was the case seventeen years ago.
– Those are the very figures that the honorable member quoted last night. Why repeat them ?
– Because the honorable member for Mernda said I was misleading the committee. I am quoting from the Statistical Year-Hook of Canada, and I do not know that I can get a better authority than that. I think it is even a better authority than Curtiss on protection. It is the only reliable authority I can think of for the moment ; and it shows that notwithstanding seventeen years of encouragement to this industry in Canada, there are imported 65,000 tons of iron annually whilst only 34,000 tons are raised from the native ores. That is the result of seventeen years of high protective duties, as applied to the Canadian industry. In regard to the United States, the remark I made was that, in spite of the high duties in the early part of the century, the production of iron had not proceeded very rapidly, and that it was only in the latter part of the century that iron production had assumed the gigantic proportions we know to-day. My point was that during the early part of the century, while high duties were imposed, the increase in the quantity of manufactured iron in the United States was not considerable. Strange to say, the honorable member for Mernda, in the figures he quoted, practically confirmed what I said, but he seemed to doubt whether the duties were in operation in the early part of the century. Let me quote what one of the historians of the United States says. I remind the honorable member that this is not Curtiss on protection. I do not go to sources that are tinged with party bias, when I wish to quote the history of a subject. In the History of the United States, by Andrews, there is this passage, as to duties in the early part of the century -
Iron duties were put up in 181 S, and again in 1824, from which date for 40 years they ranged between 40 and 100 per cent.
If those rates are not sufficiently high for the most rabid protectionist, I do not know what more can be wanted. But notwithstanding that they had these rates throughout the early part and down even to the middle of the last century, the manufacture of iron proceeded only at a very slow pace indeed ; and it is true, as the honorable member pointed out last night, that a great increase in the production of steel in America has taken place during the last ten or twenty years. Why has it taken place in that period ? Owing to the immense population of America, and the increased ingenuity and skill that have been displayed in connexion with the manufacture of steel - an ingenuity and a skill which have so lessened the labour cost in America as to make iron the most cheaply produced article in the whole world. I pointed out, last night, that the cost of making a ton of pig iron to-day in the United States is only 2s. per ton in Carnegie’s works.
– It is a singular coincidence that the imposition of the McKinley Tariff was almost synchronous with the advance in the production of iron in America.
– The honorable member is quite wrong there.
– It is substantially right.
– The Carnegie Trust was in existence long before the McKinley Tariff was introduced. Andrew Carnegie was worth £40,000,000, made out of steel, before the McKinley Tariff was imposed.
– Did he not make that under comparatively free-trade conditions ?
– I do not see how that could be the case. All down the last century there has been protection. It is not correct to say, as some honorable members have done, that no country in the world has ever established an iron industry except with the aid of protective duties. America itself is a case in point. For 100 years before the revolution there were iron industries in America.
– There were ironworks there in the year 1740.
– -The honorable and learned member for Indi will find that the first blast furnace in America was built by Penn in Pennsylvania, and since that time the iron industry has obtained in America, and had assumed great proportions there before the first Tariff was introduced in the 18th century. So that the fact is that the iron industry in America was established and was going along quietly with the growth of the population, and keeping up with it yearly, before there was any talk of the imposition of protective duties to the extent to which we see them now. Honorable members must not suppose therefore that there has never been an iron industry established anywhere except by the direct interposition of the State in the shape of customs duties or bonuses. Canada supplies a case to the contrary ; so does America. In both those cases the industry was living and thriving before customs duties were imposed. In the case of Canada, as I have shown, the imposition of duties has not led to the slightest stimulation as far as the utilization of native ores is concerned, and the manufacture of iron in America had assumed titanic proportions before the McKinley Tariff was introduced. Why has Andrew Carnegie prospered so greatly? Not entirely because of the protective duties, although they have enabled him to do it latterly. He has prospered because of the aggressive course he has pursued in connexion with the development of his works and the supply of his material. I remember the case of Tom Johnson, who, a few years back, had the best plant in the world at the time it was put up for the manufacture of iron. The capital put into the plant, machinery, and buildings was estimated to be worth £15,000,000 sterling, and it certainly was the best plant in the world at the time. What happened ? These works depended for their source of ore supply upon some iron mines about thirteen miles from the place where the works were situated. What Carnegie did was to buy out the sources of ore supply, and compel the firm to sell their plant to Carnegie and Company. He continued this policy until he monopolized the whole manufacture of iron in the United States. It must be remembered that the manufacture of iron is not a business that lays itself open so readily to competition within a country as is the case in reference to other articles of production. For instance, there are only one or two places in Australia where there are proved deposits of iron in commercial quantities. Clearly, therefore, those who possess these sources of supply need not fear competition from outside, because the supply of raw material is not available for competitors. This industry is in that respect peculiar, and does not rest upon the same basis, so far as concerns competition, as do other industries. That is one reason why we ought to be careful as to what we do in the way of building up a monopoly. If there have to be bonuses for the establishment of an iron industry, I am inclined to think, since the Government is the greatest customer of all for iron, and since the industry when established must depend very largely upon the Government, which will be its principal customer, that the Government itself might make the experiment instead of giving bonuses to private companies. That, however, is a matter for careful consideration later on.
– And it should not be decided by a side-wind.
– That is the remark I was about to make. In voting against this proposal, as I intend to do, I am by no means opposed to doing anything to assist in the establishment of this mining industry. I wish still to be free, as I hope I shall be, to assist in any proposal which this Government may make for that end. I say again that if the Government were as earnest in connexion with this industry as they have been in connexion with others, they would have brought down a concrete proposal instead of this empty, bluffing proposal which we have to consider at the present moment. What would it mean if we carry what the Government propose ? Does any honorable member suppose that any hard-headed business man would take the slightest notice of it ? Is it to be supposed that any practical business man would be ready to find the capital to put down a plant for this purpose merely upon the passing of a resolution in connexion with which there is no guarantee ? Governments may change, and no one can tell what the opinion of the next Parliament may be upon the subject. It is not likely that business men would proceed to the establishment of such a business without a direct guarantee from the Government. As to the possibilities of the industry, reference has been made to Tasmania and to the Blythe River Company. We have been told by the honorable member for Kooyong that the industry cannot be established with any capital short of £1,000,000. That may be the case so far as the Blythe River Company is concerned, but I should like to remind the honorable member that at Lithgow, in my electorate, there is already an extensive plant in operation for the manufacture of -iron. They are there making thousands of tons of iron every year, the only difference between what they are doing and what is proposed being that at Lithgow the basis of the manufacture is imported pig, steel blooms, scrap-iron, and things of that kind, instead of the raw material being obtained within the country. All that is required there to begin producing iron in its manufactured state from the raw ores is to put down, say, a single blast-furnace to feed the manufactory with the raw product.
– It. would not be on a sufficiently large commercial scale.
– I am inclined to disagree with the honorable member as to that. The honorable member himself has told us that one of the best furnaces in America can be put down for about £200,000, and that furnace would have a capacity for turning out 2,300 or 2,400 tons a week. Practically one blast-furnace will give us 10,000 tons of pig iron per month ; that means that one or two blast-furnaces will give us nearly, but not quite, as much iron as we consume throughout the Commonwealth in a year. I believe that Mr. Sandford is going on with his blast-furnaces in New South Wales. He has an English expert out here now, whose report is that there is no difficulty in the way, except that the expert and Mr. Sandford both say that a bonus is required, which is a very natural thing for them to say. Honorable members may make up their minds that this industry will be in operation whatever this committee may do about the matter. It will be in operation because there is in the district an abundance of the requisite material for the cheap production of iron and steel. Therefore I am inclined to think that the industry will grow, as others have done, and I do not think there is any insuperable difficulty at all in putting down a blast furnace there where the works are established for turning the raw pig iron into the finished article. In that way the industry would begin by easy stages and develop with the growth of population, and with the growth of the industrial activity of the continent. That seems to me to be the natural and rational way in which this industry will be introduced and continued for some years to come. However that may be, competition is said to be good, and if these two companies compete with each other, no doubt they will bring down the price of the product, as all competition does, unless they pool their interests, in the way in which that is done in America, and keep up rates. We need not be concerned for the fate of these companies. What we are concerned in is the establishment of this industry. I believe it will be established in the Commonwealth, and have a very prosperous career. If I had time, and the committee cared to hear the details, I could tell honorable members why I hold this belief. I could tell them that in Lithgow the cheapest fuel in the world is to be obtained. The fuel - used there to-day by the iron workers does not cost them more than 2s. 6d. per ton. It is to be found in proximity to the iron mines and limestone quarries, and, therefore, there is at hand all the raw material requisite for the building up of a huge national industry. I cannot vote for this empty proposal of the
Government, but if they will come down with a concrete proposition in the shape of a bonus proposal I shall be prepared, to consider it. Whether I shall vote for a bonus or not will depend upon the kind of proposal the Government make. We have had proposals of this kind before us in the Legislature of New South Wales, so that we are not entirely in the dark in regard to them. This is a new experience to honorable members sitting at the table, but legislators in New South Wales have been working at the idea for many years. We have not made any progress with it, for the simple reason, I am afraid, that the companies which, it is said, are going to spend all this money do not intend to do so unless the Government will guarantee them against loss. If the Government are to give a guarantee to an industry of this kind, ought they to give it to private individuals or undertake the experiment themselves, since they are the largest consumers of the finished product. I apprehend that it matters not to those engaged in the industry whether it is conducted by the Government or by private individuals. They are concerned only in the expenditure of their labour, and the return which their labour will bring them. There is a great deal to be said for the view put forth to-night, that if the State is to step in with a gift of a quarter of a million of money to secure the establishment of the industry in the Commonwealth, there should be at least some guarantee as to the way in which the distribution of the money will be made. Whether the bonus is given or not, my own impression is that before long we shall see a blast-furnace in the western district of New South Wales. I am certain that that will take place with or without a bonus or a duty. Doubtless, if they can get a duty, Mr. Sandford and the expert from home will be all the more pleased. Instead of bringing down an empty proposal of this kind, which amounts to nothing - and as proposed to be modified by various honorable members, would be even more absurd - the Government ought to make at least an intelligible proposition. And better than all, if they are so firmly convinced that there ought to be an iron industry in the Commonwealth, they, as protectionists, should treat this industry as they have endeavoured to treat every other industry during the progress of this debate.
– I thought we were going to hear from the Minister on this subject, but I am very much afraid that if he is going to follow me there will be -another lengthy debate as to the carrying on of business. I think that our proceedings during the last <18 hours have shown very clearly’ the impropriety of the course adopted by the Government. What have they done ? According to the Minister for Trade and Customs, he has been preparing an elaborate Bill dealing with the giving of bonuses .to encourage the iron industry, and he insidiously inserts in the Tariff a corollary to that proposition. In effect he has asked us to pass the corollary before we know anything of the proposition. Evidently that was done with a certain amount of. intent, because it was not until honorable members of the Opposition asked certain pertinent questions that the Minister condescended to place an outline of his scheme before us. The most serious part of his proposal is the attempt to carry legislation through this House in a thoroughly unconstitutional manner. Whoever heard of a great scheme like that now proposed for the establishment of a national industry by means of bonuses, which was not embodied in a Bill with all the conditions connected with it fully explained, so that honorable members could see at a glance the conclusions at which they might arrive ? We are asked to pass, in Division VIa., a corollary to the proposition of the Government of which we know practically nothing. We are asked to say that five years hence we will put a duty of 1 0 percent, upon iron, when the industry is established here ; but as a salve to honorable members the Minister is willing to deal with this proposal as with a previous item of the Tariff, by providing that effect shall be given to it only by resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. Honorable members should look at the absurdity of the proposal and the awkwardness of it. We are to determine now that a duty of .10 per cent, shall be imposed, and when the matter is brought before Parliament by resolution honorable members will have to vote practically for 10 per cent, or nothing, that duty being embodied in the Tariff. How can we foresee what will be the duty necessary to maintain this as an established industry? It might require a duty of 20 per cent., or it might require only a duty of 5 per cent. The Ministry are entering upon a great experiment. At the end of five years the bonuses might be so effectual that with the iron ore and the coal lying side by side, and the price of that coal only a fifth of that paid in England, no import duty would be required. Even certain honorable members of the Opposition have committed themselves to the bonus system. The Minister has put the whole committee in a most awkward and unpleasant position. When he finds that some honorable members on his own side see the awkwardness of the situation he says what I consider is not a right thing to say. He declares - “If you do not pass this proposal you will not get any bonus system.” That is simply a threat. What is the proposal made by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn ? He points out that the Government have put the cart before the horse ; that they have put in the Tariff a corollary to their own proposition, and asked us to decide the whole of this momentous question upon a corollary which is only a contingency. The Government have no right to do that. It is simply a mode of exercising coercion over honorable members in an unfair way. What is the meaning of the attitude taken up by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor ? He urges the Minister, as other honorable members have urged him, to postpone this item. He considers that we ought not to discuss it. Practically he said in effect yesterday that he would vote against it, but he wants to insert a proposal for an alternative scheme connected with the bonus. In other words, he goes further than the Minister. By the ruling of the Chair we ought to be confined to a large extent to a consideration of what will be the import duty five years hence ; there is nothing in the division under discussion which gives us a right to go intimately into the question oi bonuses, if the Chairman chooses to keep us within certain limits. The question of bonuses is coming up in another Bill, but the honorable member wants to intrude a discussion on the important question of whether or not the iron industry shall be a great national one, carried on by the State. Then we have the honorable and learned member for Indi. I wonder whether he was smiling on the other side of his mouth when he made his proposal. Has he ever, in the whole of his experience - which is longer probably than mine - seen introduced into a Tariff a mere nebulous assertion of the opinion of a Parliament ? When we deal with the Tariff we deal with a practical business principle ; we mean business. If an honorable member, desires the House to proclaim that the iron industry ought to be encouraged - that the Government ought to introduce a Bill at some time or other to carry out the bonus system - he tables a motion to that effect ; that motion is passed or rejected by the House, and no one is hurt. But is an affirmation embodied in a Tariff? Never! On the few occasions upon which we obtain the opinions of honorable members on the other side in support of our views, they adopt marvellous and tortuous ways of getting out of the position. The honorable and learned member for Indi, in the same breath as that in which he said he approved of our views on this question, said - “ I see a way out of the difficulty which will not hurt the Government.”
– When did I say I was in favour of the honorable member’s view of the question ? His view is not to encourage the manufacture.
– I want to condemn the honorable member out of his own mouth. The Minister will say that he wants to confine the discussion more or less to the particular proposal in Division VIa. But now I shall read what he did say, and it shows that he recognises the fact that it is impossible to debate the question without the whole concrete scheme being before us.
There are two questions. - Is the industry worthy of encouragement? Is the bonus too large ?
Whether it is worthy of encouragement is not the question at all. We all believe in an abstract principle like that. The bonus is to be embodied in a Bill, and the Minister tells us that if we do not vote for his proposal to fix the import duty for five years hence he will not bring in the Bill. It is a most improper position to place honorable members in. I did intend to go somewhat into the subject of the iron industry, but I think there has been quite enough said for the present. We have a right, no matter how interesting this debate may be, to conserve the time of the House. There is not a single word that has been uttered on this particular proposal with regard to the iron industry which will not be repeated ten times when the Bill is submitted. I charge the Ministers, who refused the reasonable request we made to adjourn the debate, with all this loss of time. The debate’ may be interesting, but it is a loss of time so far as the country and the consideration of the Tariff are concerned. Some honorable members on this side have said that they are in favour of bonuses but not of import duties. I hold that a bonus practically opens up the whole question of protection. There is this difference between the two, that when you impose an import duty you are not responsible for the industry, but when you grant a bonus you practically are. Will any one tell me that if this sum of £250,000 is not sufficient to put the industry on a sound footing the Government can afford to see it fail? Once you embark on the policy of assisting a great national industry you must succeed ; you cannot afford to fail. If you find that in five years it is still a cripple,youwill have to give it the bounty for another five years. My point isthat we are asked to express an opinion with regard to not the main question, but a contingency arising out of a proposal to be placed before us in a Bill. When the Minister says, as he does say in effect, that whoever votes against the contingent proposal votes against the bonus system, he makes an absolutely incorrect statement. Furthermore, when he declares that if the bonus proposal is lost he will throw up the whole scheme, he makes an utterance which he ought not to make in his responsible position. It would be far better, even in the interests of the bonus system, for us to delete from the Tariff this division. That would not in any way commit any honorable member, for or against the bonus. We should be in exactly the same position as we were in before. The Government could bring in a Bill embodying their proposals. To those who think that the import duty should be decided at the same time as the bonus, as a prospective thing to give solidity to those who may enter upon the enterprise, I submit that there is no reason why the Government should not bring in that proposal with the Bill to grant the bonus. I am perfectly certain that I carry with me all the level-headed men in the Chamber. We are now asked to do what has never yet been done in the history of legislation in Australia. I defy the Minister for Trade and Customs to cite an instance where it has been done. We are asked to decide a question which is to be ultimately embodied in a Bill which is not yet before the House. I do not argue altogether upon that principle, although it is sufficient to make the
Government pause. The provision for a bonus will have to be surrounded by the utmost precautions. Even those who believe in bonuses do not believe in monopoly, and it is necessary for us to have before us the whole scheme of the Government, with the whole of its intricacies, before we decide anything. Therefore the only common-sense course to-night is to delete this division from the Tariff, and demand that the Government shall put before us the whole of their scheme in a constitutional manner.
– It has just been contended by the acting leader of the Opposition that yesterday 1 was guilty of some breach of duty in not announcing at once to the committee full particulars of our proposal in relation to the bonus.
– I did not say that.
– Honorable members will recollect what happened. The division was called on ; the honorable member rose in his place and expressed the desire that it should be eliminated from our consideration for this session, which, I venture to say, meant for all time, or until he should have an opportunity to introduce it. Under those circumstances, how was it possible for me, before I dealt with a question of that sort, to disclose our views ? I directed my attention, in the first instance, to the answering of the plea for destruction by postponement, and then immediately afterwards, in accordance with the wish of the committee, I declared, as fully as seemed to me to be necessary - certainly it satisfied a good many honorable members - what were the particulars of the bonus system which we proposed. In asking honorable members to reject the amendment, which, I believe, gives expression to the views of the Opposition, though in many respects in their utterances they are divided, that we should have nothing to do with the matter, I ask them to consider whether we could have adopted any other course. We do not ask them in the slightest degree to bind themselves to the details of the proposals with reference to bonuses which it will be our duty shortly to submit. The decision of the committee in respect to them will not be given now. That will be given when the Bill comes before us for consideration. I simply ask the immediate attention of honorable members to what is a portion of the Tariff, finding its place in natural sequence after the division with reference to metals and machinery. That division deals with immediate duties, and we ask honorable members to consider what shall be done in the future with reference to duties which are necessary, I venture to consider, in connexion with certain industries. What I desire to impress particularly on honorable members is that, by their rejection of the amendment, they in no way bind themselves to the proposals of the Government in connexion with bonuses as regards details. There is no good in discussing the proposals in the greatest detail, because we cannot effectually deal with them at this moment. I promise at the earliest opportunity to bring down the Bill, and honorable members will have the fullest right to debate it. As regards an amendment which has been suggested, that the preliminary declaration which is contained in this division should be made to apply to the establishment of this industry under State control, I do not hesitate to assure honorable members that we have no particular love for the individual rather than the State; and if any State found itself called upon to embark in the iron industry, and established it to the satisfaction of Parliament, we should not dream of attempting to refuse the State, a considerable aggregation of the community, the en- 0 couragement we should willingly bestow on the members of a more limited corporation. Nothing of the sort. The establishment of the industry would be for the good of the whole Commonwealth. If it is a matter which is deserving of consideration when undertaken by a company, certainly the fact that it is undertaken by any of the States for a larger number of shareholders, the people of the State, would not deprive it of the right to the bonus we propose to grant.1 As regards the question of the Commonwealth undertaking an enterprise of this sort, that would involve considerations which would be absent in the case of particular States. As regards particular States, let them please themselves ; it is a matter between them and their people, just as in the case of companies it is a matter between them and their shareholders. But if we were called upon to exercise power in this connexion, we should have to consider a good many other matters. We should have to consider, for instance, what were our powers under the Constitution. We have not unlimited powers, and it is one thing to place a certain amount of money at our disposal for the encouragement of the industry on certain conditions, and quite another thing to involve the Federation, if it were possible, in the attempt to establish an industry which would absorb a much larger amount of capita] and involve a variety of considerations to which it. is not necessary at the present moment to refer. What is the position ? It is simple enough. We believe in protection. We have made no secret of that. Protection, we think, should be fairly extended to industries existing and to industries which may be called into existence at the right time. As regards existing industries, where the protection may be considered capable of fairly assisting, or becoming capable of assisting at a very early date, local production Ave can apply it more certainly and safely whenever it is not likely to impose any very increased price on the consumer. But as regards other industries the reverse may be the case. As regards the iron industry, there are huge probabilities. I was sorry to hear a number of honorable members attempting to throw doubt on the value of the iron deposits of Australia, but those who really take a practical interest in this matter, on whatever side of the Chamber they may sit, agree that .we have the iron, the coal, the limestone, and all the conditions which should insure success. Although we have had these advantages for years, yet the industry is not established. What does that lesson teach us?
– That there is no market.
– I shall answer that in a moment. Why has not the industry been established? On account of* the absence- of the encouragement which has been extended in other places. There is no doubt about it. Every one of these facts has been established to the satisfaction of both sides of the Chamber, and I trust there will be a discontinuance of the slanders upon our- resources, and upon the capacity of our people for successfully conducting industries. All these circumstances combined speak eloquently in favour of the conclusion that the reason why the industry has not been established is that it has not been offered the same encouragement that has been extended to it in other countries. The United States speak to us on this point, and what is their history ? As to England, I have shown what she has done in the way of encouraging her iron industries. I prefer, however, to speak from the history of Canada. Canada has done more than we are proposing, and I am sorry that we are not able to go as far as Canada has done. She has both protective duties and a bonus system in operation at the same time. We are not proposing the two things simultaneously. Our scheme contemplates the granting of a bonus until the industry is successfully established, and the imposition of duties afterwards when they can be levied without disadvantage to the local consumer. Why do we adopt this course ? Because we fear that if we were to impose a duty at the present moment it would possibly result in an increase of price to the consumers of iron, and in consequent disadvantage to the general community. We say, therefore - “Let us draw out of the funds of the Federation the money which is necessary for the encouragement of the industry in the initial years of its establishment. The cost will come out of the public purse, and will fall particularly on none. The money will be spent in bringing into existence a national undertaking.” What then ? We look forward - and who ventures to doubt it - to the probable early success of the industry, and to the time when our resources will be fairly availed of, and the local production will be such as to meet local wants, irrespective of imports. Then when Ministers certify that this stage has been reached, and both Houses of Parliament declare that the time has arrived when a duty can be called into existence without detriment to the consumer, the duties will be levied. Is that unfair ? As regards the bonus, how is it unfair t Is it not worth while to risk £250,000 in the establishment of the iron industry? We are told that the industry will succeed without this bonus, but in the early stages of this nation we may well devote our attention to the establishment of the iron industry at the limited cost contemplated, and under such circumstances that we can make a great national investment, without adding to the taxation of the consumer. It has been urged by some honorable members that this industry cannot be established because there is not a sufficient demand for the manufactured article. It has been stated also that we shall not be able to secure the patronage of the States - that is what it comes to. We may secure the patronage of the States in a variety of ways, and we ought to do our best in that direction. I venture to think, however, that it will not be necessary to do very much to secure it. I believe the same feeling of patriotism will animate the States in the future as in the past ; and we know very well that if an ‘industry had been established here they would have been only too glad to support it. We might do something to make the States support the industry. One way would be by the imposition of a protective duty. AVe are told that the home market is all we have to look to, and the only way in which we can preserve the home market for the home producer is by imposing a protective duty. Honorable members have raised various objections to these proposals. Some honorable members have objected to the proposals on the ground that they should not have been introduced now, but at some other time. Others have cavilled at this scheme, and suggested that we should bring down another, and they have in fact offered to do everything but what they are asked to do. One honorable member asks whether the States will have to pay duty upon their imports, and when we tell him that we do not know for a certainty, he suggests that we should wait until we do know. We believe that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing now. Now is the accepted time ; now is the day of our industrial salvation.
– But the right honorable gentleman is not doing it now.
– I can just fancy the pitiful wail, that would arise from the Opposition benches if we proposed, in addition to granting a bonus, to impose a duty that would add to the cost of foreign imports. As regards the liability of the States to pay duty upon imports there may be some room for difference of opinion ; we may all have had different opinions at different times. As has been shown by the Attorney-General, it is evident that the Convention never intended that the words which have been so frequently quoted should have the effect of preventing the imposition of customs duties on goods imported by the State Government.
– Why did not the Minister provide for that in the Tariff 1
– Because I made a mistake, of course. When I make a. mistake I acknowledge it, and do not harden my heart as other men do. I am inclined to think that we made a mistake, and honorable members know that I am not making this admission on the spur of the moment. I discussed this matter before when the point was raised by the honorable member for Parkes. Apart from the intention of the convention,. I find that the Canadian Constitution, which confers larger powers upon the Federal Government than does our own Constitution, contains this provision : -
No land or property belonging to Canada, or any province, shall be liable to taxation.
These are almost the same words as are contained in our Constitution, and it has been the practice to tax State imports under the Canadian Constitution. Having regard to the declared intention of the Convention, and also to the way in which the Canadian Constitution, which contains very similar words to our own, is construed, I venture to think that there is a great possibility of it being held that State imports can be taxed by the Federal Parliament. However, that is not a matter for us to decide at present. We cannot decide it, for the only authority that can deal with it is the High Court, and the sooner that court is brought into existence and disposes of the matter the better.
– What does the Minister propose to do for existing industries ?
– I sympathize very much with the honorable member for Newcastle in the point he has raised. The position he puts is that certain descriptions of iron - bar, rod, angle, and tee - are now being made by various manufacturers. I have one manufacturer particularly in my mind. As this iron is not being manufactured from Australian ore, the manufacturers, while being deprived of the protection of a duty, may not share in the bonus. All I can say is that the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, call upon the Government’ to give grave consideration to the question of whether some provision might not be made in connexion with our bonus proposals to meet a case of that sort. However, in that connexion I cannot pledge the Government; because, of course, it is not quite the same thing to foster the manufacture of goods from imported pig-iron as to encourage the digging of the ore from the mine itself, and the manufacture of iron from Australian ore. There has been a good deal of controversy as to the success which has attended the efforts to encourage the
Canadian iron industry. Some exception was taken to what I stated yesterday. “What I said was that as regards the total consumption of iron in Canada the proportion of Canadian manufactured iron had increased from 36-2 per cent, in 1884, which was the first year after the bonus was granted, to 60-9 per cent, in 1900. I ventured to say that that was a very considerable increase. Some honorable members then called into question the importance of that increase, because they said that of the total amount of iron locally produced - over 100,000 tons - a considerable quantity was made from foreign ore. I knew that, but it did not affect the point I made. It only induced further investigation of the circumstances under which this was brought about. Various countries depend upon various supplies - local, and those which are not altogether local. The United States, for instance, get their best iron ore from Cuba, and England derives ore from Spain to the extent of one-third of her total consumption. In the case of Canada the socalled foreign ore is just as much Canadian ore - except in a constitutional sense - as Tasmanian ore is Australian.
– -From where do they get it ?
– They get some of it from Newfoundland, which to all intents and purposes is within the federation. It comes from a place called Belle Island, in Newfoundland ; and from the Sydney mines at Cape Breton, in Nova Scotia, which, of course, is included in the federation.
– Is the ore from Nova Scotia included in the foreign imports ?
– Undoubtedly it is.
– How can it be a foreign import if Nova Scotia is within the federation ?
– The ore is imported from Newfoundland into Nova Scotia, so that the iron is manufactured from foreign ore.
– Does it pay the duty then?
– I never suggested that there was a duty levied upon it. I do not believe that there is. What Canada did in respect of this iron, which was of special quality and particularly wanted for the purposes of Canadian industry, was not only to permit of its free importation, because there was never a tax upon it, but to grant a lower bonus upon it. There was a discussion upon the subject which took various phases. One honorable member urged that the bonus should be limited to Canadian ore, whilst another declared in favour of an equal bonus being given to foreign ore. The question was solved roughly by the Canadian Parliament granting a bonus of 12s. per ton upon the domestic ore, and 8s. per ton upon what is constitutionally and properly referred to as “ foreign “ ore, but which was practically Canadian ore, obtained from the particular places I have mentioned, and imported for the encouragement of Canadian industry. It is owing to benign encouragement of that sort that during the last three years iron manufacture in Canada has -increased.
– Would the Minister give his authority for all these statements ?
– The various reports of debates in the Canadian Ilansard constitute my authority. Thus, whilst previously there were no imports of foreign ore, because no bonus was granted upon it, there were 53,463 tons of iron produced from foreign ore in 1898. 46,1S6 tons in 1899, and 67,221 tons in 1900. It is therefore proper for Canada to take full credit for an increase of from 28,000 tons of local production to nearly 102,000 tons.
– Have her imports decreased then ?
– In 1900 the imports totalled 65,000 tons.
– Is not that an increase ?
– It is an increase of 13,000 tons, as compared with the imports of 1884.
– It is a progressive increase during the last few years ?
– Nothing of the sort ! There is an increase only as regards foreign imports between 1884 and 1900, of 13,000 tons, as against an increased local production of 70,000 tons. The local production of Canada, as compared with its local consumption, has increased from 36-2 to 60-9. When these figures were referred to, I went to the highest possible source, in order to obtain authentic information upon the subject. I telegraphed to the highly-respected Canadian commissioner, Mr. Larke. I had the good fortune, when I came to the House, to find him here, so that instead of being compelled to communicate with him in a more cumbrous way, I had the advantage of a personal interview. He tells me that the bonus system in Canada has been an immense success, and one which might well be recommended for Australian acceptance. We do believe that it is a good and proper thing to encourage the iron industry. Let us address ourselves seriously to that task, and not attempt to accomplish it by any devious method. Let us do it in a direct way, which I hope will redound to the good of all Australia, and to the credit of the Federal Parliament.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - The Minister for Trade and Customs has clearly proved my point. The whole of his speech has been a piece of impassioned declamation in favour of the adoption of the bonus system for the encouragement of the iron industry. He practically puts honorable members in the position that if they include this division in the Tariff, they commit themselves to the Government scheme. Is the committee going to stultify itself against all constitutional precedents by voting in favour of a great national scheme which the right honorable gentleman himself says must be embodied in a Bill and fully explained to Parliament? If honorable members do so they will put themselves in a position which no Australian body of legislators has ever occupied before.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - This afternoon I asked what would be the attitude of the Government in the event of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, being carried ? Since then one or two speakers have indicated that in such a contingency the Ministry would abandon their intention of submitting a Bill to this House providing for the payment of bonuses to the iron industry. I should like to have a distinct expression of opinion from the Ministry as to the course which they would take under those conditions.
– I should like to point out that the Minister for Trade and Customs does not fairly put the position which I take up in regard to this matter. I say that considerable hardship will be done to a large number of workmen throughout the Commonwealth, and to several large industries, if this scheme for the payment of bonuses is carried out upon the lines proposed by the Government. As to the existing industries, I submit that so far they have had no chance of rolling their iron from the native ores of the Commonwealth. They have to import pig iron, because there is none produced within Australia. Under the Government proposals these industries will not receive the bonus, because its payment is to be limited to the native ores, so that any iron containing a proportion of scrap cannot participate in it. Either the proposed bonus is to be given upon pig iron solely, or it will be equivalent to a double bonus. For example, if the Blythe River Company, or any other company, lays down smelting works, and produces a certain quantity of pig iron upon which a bonus is paid, that pig iron will be transferred to rolling mills elsewhere, and rod and bar iron will be produced from it. The pig iron will be blended with the scrap. Is the bonus to be paid a second time upon the latter, or are the people who own rolling mills to wait till the bonus period expires before they obtain the advantage of this small duty of 10 per cent.? If so, they will be unprotected for at least seven years, assuming that smelting works were erected immediately.
– My idea is that the honorable member makes out a case for extending a bonus to them. I will promise to look into that matter more closely.
– Only a week or two ago we imposed duties on farmers’ requisites in the making of which only very few people are employed ; and yet an industry in which last year £78,000 was paid in wages is allowed to go by the board. The Minister must see that, if the proposal be carried, the industry will be left absolutely in an unprotected state.
– Referring to the question of the honorable member for Kooyong, the Government consider that theirproposal for the encouragement of the iron industry consists of two parts - bonus and duty, one of which comes into force at once, and the other as I have indicated. The Government think that the defeat of one will be the defeat of the other. We make it perfectly clear that we have not the slightest objection to extending the benefits of the encouragement to industries established by a State Government.
– Do the Government accept the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor ?
– I think that amendment only enlarges the power of Parliament.
– I do not think so.
– I think it does, and I do not see any objection to it at this moment. We do not give up our own proposals, and we think that the addition increases the power of Parliament. The honorable member for Newcastle has brought the matter to which he referred under our attention before, and he has very properly emphasized it in his speech, opening up an aspect of the case which must be considered. The man who uses scrap iron will not be entitled to the same advantage as the man who uses the local material exclusively. The point raised is one which ought to be met, and we shall endeavour to meet it.
– In the Bill?
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The Minister for Trade and Customs has made a very remarkable speech to-night, such as he can make on occasion. He indulged in a good deal of pathos ; and I use that word rather than “bathos,” because the former is more respectful. At any rate, it is a speech such as he only can make when he has some awkward corners to dodge; and he is an adept in dodging corners. I want to bring the Minister back to the hard figures concerning the Canadian industry, figures which appear on the same and subsequent pages of the Statistical Year-Book from which he quoted. The Minister has told us that the bonus and duty in Canada have been a success, but he has shown that the effect of all this stimulation in the country has been to employ not the Canadian in mining ores but the foreigner outside.
– I do not call the Newfoundlander a foreigner.
– The Minister has told us that the ore all comes from Newfoundland, but I take leave to doubt the information which the honorable member has furnished the House on that point. But supposing it does come from Newfoundland, why is that the case ?
– Because Canada has not got it, whereas you have told us Australia has.
– The Minister told us that the ore was imported from Newfoundland into Nova Scotia. Hear what is said about Nova Scotia -
In Nova Scotia some of the richest ores yet discovered occur in boundless abundance. The iron manufactured from them is of the very best quality, and is equal to the finest Swedish metal.
How is it that with these magnificent ores in Nova Scotia, and the stimulation given by the Government, the bulk of the ores used in Canada are imported from outside the Dominion? The same authority goes on to say that there are the richest ores all over Canada ; and yet the Minister admits that the duties there have only succeeded in encouraging men who mine them in other parts of the world. Do honorable members seek to establish a similar condition of things in Australia? The Minister told us that in England some of the ore used is imported from Spain. It is true that a small proportion is imported, but nothing like the proportion of one-third, as stated by the Minister. These ores are imported into England, and also into America, simply for blending or fluxing purposes, staple ores being won within the boundaries of each country. In Canada the contrary is the case. While 34,000 tons are manufactured from native ores, 67,000 tons are manufactured from foreign imported ores. On page 152 of the Canadian Year-Book, a very remarkable state of things is exhibited. Before the introduction of this ore from outside, ores were exported very largely from Canada. As far back as 1868, 25,000 tons per annum were exported. In 1880 there were exported 50,000, and 54,000 tons in 1885 ; but in 1900 the export had dwindled down to 5,000 tons. Miners used to be employed by the thousand, winning ores for export, and in 1884 practically as much iron was made in Canada as is made to-day from native ores. According to these figures the only effect of the stimulation of the iron industry of Canada has been to make the production of iron ores more and more a matter for the foreigner. We are told that it is desirable to establish the industry here on Canadian lines, in order that we may have more miners to mine the ore and the requisite coal ; but the result in Canada has been to drive these miners out of employment, and, I suppose, out of the country.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Parramatta would willingly accuse me of misrepresenting facts.
– I do not suggest that.
– But the honorable member has challenged my figures on insufficient data. The honorable member first challenges my statement that England imports one-third of her ore ; but Mr. Jacquet’s report says at page 16 : -
The total amount of iron ore consumed in Great Britain during 1899 was as under : - Mined in Great Britain, 14,46.1,330 tons; imported ores, 7,580,458 tons; total, 22,041,788 tons. So it would appear that over 30 per cent, of the ore was imported from foreign countries, chiefly from Spain, The imported ores are far superior to the majority of those obtained locally. They are used to produce pig iron for the manufacture of steel by the acid processes.
I think that extract disposes of that question. As to the importation of ore from Newfoundland to Canada, I can refer to a speech by Mr. Wallace, when this Bill was discussed in the Canadian House of Commons, in 1899, as follows : -
As to making the bounties payable on the iron ore brought in from Newfoundland, I can heartily indorse the statement made by the leader of the Opposition, that we should pay a bounty on the iron ore brought in from Newfoundland, and for this reason : We are told there is in that colony a kind of iron ore that is not to be found in Canada, or, if found in Canada, then at such a distance away from our smelters that it would be economically impossible to transport it.
I fortified my information in this respect by converse with the best man in Australia to convey information in regard to Canada, namely, the Canadian representative.
– The debate has lasted so long, and has been so exhaustively, as well as ably, treated, that I do not now propose to discuss the merits of the question. I rise merely to draw attention to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor.I was perfectly certain when I asked the honorable member what his suggested amendment was, that the Government were going to adopt it. The Government, when they find themselves in a difficulty, owing to a certain amount of wavering on the part of their usual supporters, cling to anything likely to pull them through.
– The Government will adopt any reasonable amendment, even if proposed by the honorable and learned member.
– I know ; but the Governmentaccept evenan unreasonable amendment when in extremis. The suggested amendment of Mr. Batchelor does not make the matter better or worse. It does not get over the difficulty to which the honorable member referred, with, I think, a considerable amount of conclusiveness, namely, that a monopoly will be created under the operation of these bonuses and import duties. It is proposed to cure that difficulty by declaring that the proclamation is to issue, not only when private individuals start the industry, but the Government engage in a monopoly. That will not cure private monopoly ; in the first place, because the Federal Government, as the Minister admits, cannot start this industry and become ironfounders, and, in the next place, because it is not likely, for many years to come, that any State Government will be induced to pass a resolution making the production and manufacture of iron a State monopoly. In the meantime, the amount voted for bonuses will have been exhausted. Then, again, it is doubtful whether any State can adopt, under the Constitution, a monopoly of the iron industry. They cannot, for instance, without the consent of the Federal Government, or of the two Houses, by resolution, grant bounties for the encouragement of industries. If the States themselves engage in industries, the very evil which is sought to be prevented by denying the right to give bounties without consent, will be created in the very worst form, because a State which engages in the production of iron will be doing what a State bounty would seek to encourage. But it would be worse still, because then these State productions could not be taxed, inasmuch as no excise can be placed on any of them ; and we shall then be doing what we seek to prevent, by not allowing the State, without the consent of the Federal Parliament, to engage in any monopoly. By doing that we shall be allowing the -State to secure freedom from an excise that will be placed upon the private individual. When these aspects of the case are impressed upon the High Court of Judicature, it is open to question whether the court will not declare that any State engaging in these industries is acting contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. So that I am sorry that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has somewhat confused the issue which we sought to put in a clear-cut shape before the committee, by indicating that if this amendment is negatived he will propose a further amendment. That further amendment might render the proposal of the Government more or less palatable to some members of the committee ; but I say that, by indicating such an amendment, which in the long run would be futile, we shall not get rid of the evils about which the honorable member himself has spoken, but shall be preventing honorable members from giving a clear-cut decision upon the issue of whether this power should remain or not. I do not wish to refer to the argument urged by the Minister, and dealt with by the honorable member for Parramatta, with regard to the Canadian industry. The Minister himself has destroyed the case which he himself sought to set up in regard to the alleged success of the bonuses in Canada. In Canada they do not make the duties against which my amendment is directed a condition of the bonus. The bonus by itself is the cause of the success of the industry, if it has been a success. The Minister for Trade and Customs says - “If you reject my scheme in regard to the duties the bonus goes to the wall,” although the pure bonus system, according to his inference from the statistics, is a success in Canada. The Minister has sought to show that in Canada the bonus system alone has produced a certain measure of success, and that there is no dependence of one system upon the other. But yet he tells us here that unless we keep up the interdependence of the two he will abandon the bonuses. I think honorable members are scarcely seized of the fact that the Minister, by his own argument, and by his answer to the honorable member for Kooyong, has destroyed the argument with reference to success which he sought to draw from the Canadian precedent; because there the bonus system stood alone, and according to his own statement is a success, whilst hera he says - “ I am not prepared to adhere to the bonus system alone, and unless you buttress it up by a duty I shall have nothing to do with it.” There is, however, a main argument which should particularly strengthen the support to my amendment. Parliament ought not to pass any system of duties to come into operation some years hence. Taxation is a matter principally - and in every other respect its object is incidental - -for the purpose of raising revenue year by year ; and in England they pass most of their taxes merely as. annual supplies.
What right have we, according to the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution, to fix the fiscal policy of Parliament five or ten years hence - practically to fix the revenue, because these will be revenue duties 1 I do not say that technically it is not constitutional to do so, because the matter has been decided by the Privy Council ; but I do say that it is against the spirit of our Constitution, and on that ground alone we should reject this proposal for conditional protective duties. The Minister for Trade and Customs has also mentioned Canada with regard to another legal aspect. He attempted to get rid of the difficulty pointed out by the honorable member for East Sydney as to State imports being probably free from taxation, by pointing out that in Canada the Federal Government taxes them. But has there ever been a construction of the Constitution on the point ? I do not know, as a matter of fact, whether there has been or not, but I do not think there has been, for this reason, - a very large part of the income of the provinces in Canada is derived from the income of the Federation. As Professor Goldwin Smith has pointed out time after time, men are returned to Parliament on their promises in regard to importuning the Federal Government for further portions of the federal revenue - that is to say, on account of their promises to put pressure upon the Federal Government to get out of them further sums of money for the provinces. This shows that the States are not likely to object to taxation which will pass into the hands of the central body, to be repaid to the States themselves. I very much question whether there has been a judicial interpretation of the matter in Canada, as probably the States do not think it would be judicious to try the point, because if they did it would mean next to nothing in the case of most of them. Now the matter has been thoroughly thrashed out, and I trust honorable members will give .their decision according to their convictions upon the general principles of the case.
Question - That the words “ Division VIa.” proposed to be omitted, stand as printed - put. The committee divided- -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I think I ought to make a communication with respect to the commercial treaty with Japan, and the agreement made between Queensland and Japan thereunder, and with respect to the Immigration Restriction Act. It will be in the memory of honorable members that in the year 1900 the Government of Queensland, having power to make an arrangement on the subject under a protocol between England and Japan, to which Queensland alone of the Australian colonies had consented, made an arrangement with the Government of Japan - no doubt under
Imperial sanction - under which, there being no Immigration Restriction Act, the immigration of Japanese labourers and artisans was to be allowed to such an extent as not to exceed the number at the time in Queensland, which number, if I recollect rightly, was 3,247. That agreement continued to be acted upon for some time. In the course of investigations after the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act, the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth expressed the opinion that the agreement under the Japanese treaty, and, in fact, the treaty itself, had, by the coming into force of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, ceased to apply to any partof Australia. That opinion was communicated in the course of correspondence to the Japanese Consul-General, who consulted his Government. It was strongly dissented from by the Government of Japan, who expressed the opinion that the treaty and the agreement both subsisted still. About the end of January, however, probably at about the time when the treaty, just concluded, was entered into with Japan, the Government of that country intimated to the acting Consul-General, Mr. Eitaki, that while they contended that the commercial treaty and agreement continued in force, they were prepared to come to an understanding in the matter. That is to say, that if the agreement were treated as still subsisting with reference to some 208 Japanese, possessed of permits issued by the Queensland Government before the Immigration Restriction Act come into operation - and who had been given passports by the Japanese Government - that Government, while not abandoning their contention as a matter of international law, were prepared to treat the agreement as no longer existing. It seemed to us that that was a fair, considerate, and courteous proposal, and it was accepted. The result is that when the permits and passports, which are now under consideration, have been exhausted, there will be no contention for the entry of Japanese into the Commonwealth by virtue of the treaty or agreement.
– Will the Prime Minister lay the correspondence on the table ?
– I can do that ; but the correspondence will be found to be simply a repetition of what I have said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020213_reps_1_8/>.