1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I understand that there is some hitch in the negotiations between the Government and the Eastern Extension Cable Company regarding cable business. Has the Prime Minister any objection to laying the correspondence upon the table?
-There will be no objection to laying the correspondence upon the table when it is complete; but, as the matter is still in negotiation, it might be undesirable to make the terms of negotiation public at the present time. I think it would be more in the interests of a satisfactory solution of the difficulty to wait until the correspondence is complete.
– Is anything further being done concerning the construction of the Pacific cable ?
-I am afraid that I cannot give a very definite answer to the honorable member’s question. I understand that the construction of the Pacific cable is being proceeded with as rapidly as possible, and that preparations are being pushed on for a connexion with Norfolk Island.
– It was to be nearly completed by this time.
– I think the latest information is that it is expected to be completed about April.
In Committee of Ways and Means -
Consideration resumed from 13th February(vide page 10041).
Division VIa. - Metals and Machinery. - To conic into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and, except as 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, Rod, 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 percent, art valorem.
– Although I may not be successful in my application, I again ask the Ministers who are in charge of the Tariff whether, now that they have obtained their purpose in an indirect way, by getting the committee to give what they call a vote in favour of bonuses, they do not consider that it would be better not to proceed further with DivisionVIa. just now, but to go on with items which are of more importance to the immediate interests of the trading community. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, by his proposed amendment in regard to the establishment of a national industry, will introduce a new element into the discussion, and I foresee a very long and protracted debate if we go on with the division now. I am not speaking in any party spirit ; but I do not think it fair in the interests of the general trading community of Australia that we should spend day after day upon a division for which there is no urgency when many branches of trade are almost paralyzed because of our delay in dealing with other items on the Tariff. The Government have won their victory ; what they call a principle has been affirmed, and now it will be better to postpone this very ticklish question to the end of the Tariff. By that time, perhaps, the Minister for Trade and Customs will be able to place the Bounty Bill in the hands of honorable members.
– I can hardly agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that this division should be postponed or withdrawn now, since a number of those who voted with the Government last night for its retention are not in favour of the granting of bonuses. I, for one, object to my vote last night being taken as a declaration in favour of bonuses. Some of us, however, desired the opportunity to place it upon record that we are prepared to take some action in regard to the establishment of the iron industry. Whether that action will be of the nature proposed by the Government, or of some other kind, is a subject for future decision; but unless we had voted for the retention of the division last night, we should have had no opportunity to vote for the amendment indicated by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor. When the Bill which the Government intend to introduce is before us, we shall have a chance, without being bound beforehand, to vote for the establishment of national works, in the event of their establishment being justified by investigation.
– We can debate that subject later on. It is purely a question for the future, whereas there are a number of items upon the Tariff awaiting settlement.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s point ; but I contend that, if we stop at this stage of our proceedings, a number of us will be misrepresented by the vote which we gave last night.
– And stultified as regards future action.
– Yes. It will be better to amend this division, if it is to be amended, and then let the matter stand over. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, intends to propose the addition, at the end of the first paragraph, of the words, “ or the establishment of such manufactures under direct Government control.”
– I cannot allow the remark of the last speaker to pass without challenge. I altogether dissent from the view that, if honorable members had not voted last night for the retention of the division, they would not have had another opportunity to give a vote in favour of the encouragement of the iron industry. Some honorable members on this side of the Chamber have already declared their intention of supporting the bonus proposals, and by voting as we did last night we had not the slightest intention of voting against the granting of bonuses.
– There was no test vote on the question last night.
– That is so, and, therefore, it should not be said that that was the only opportunity which honorable members had to vote in connexion with the encouragement of the iron industry. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber who voted against the retention of the division last night are still prepared to consider any proposal which may be brought forward by the Government in connexion with the establishment of the iron industry.
– I venture to think that the last two days have been occupied in discussing one of the most important subjects that could engage our attention, and it would be a terrible mistake, after having dealt with the question to the extent that we have, to revert to some other subject. No industry is of greater importance than the iron industry, and I think we should be doing what we could not justify if we were to postpone this division of the Tariff. The idea of the acting leader of the Opposition seems to be that we should -
Promise, pause, prepare, postpone ; and end by letting things alone.
– I do not mean anything of the kind.
– I know what the honorable member says, and what he does not say. He does not say all that he intends.
– That is not fair. I was never more sincere.
– The honorable member was never more sincere than when he made his first request for the elimination of the division, and the postponement of the whole subject until another session. We do not propose to agree to that. We propose to accept, for the reasons I indicated last night, the amendment referred to by the honorable member for Bland ; the effect of which will be to give Parliament larger powers in dealing with the matter when it comes to consider the Bonus Bill. We intend to bring down the Bonus Bill–
– When ?
– Within a fortnight, at the least.
– Then it is hardly worth while having this debate now.
– The decision of the committee on this division will assist us in the preparation of the Bill, and no time will be lost in submitting it for discussion. I trust that honorable members will not leave work half done, but will proceed with the finishing of this division.
– I think that both the honorable member for Bland and the Minister for Trade and Customs gave the committee good and solid reasons forthe postponement of this division. I understand that the whole item is now before the committee, and that, practically, the whole question of the encouragement of the iron industry, and the method of its encouragement, must incidentally arise in connexion with its discussion. The Minister for Trade and Customs has just indicated that the Government propose to accept an amendment which has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, and that announcement must considerably affect the attitude of honorable members on all sides of the House towards the item. We cannot discuss the questionof the duty coupled with the bonus, apart from the suggested amendment, because the Government have placed an entirely new issue before the committee. When we were discussing the former question, which was settled by last night’s vote, the honorable and learned member for Indi claimed that the value of the resolution which would be passed by the committee would be to induce a large number of people to invest their capital in the iron industry, that it would be a kind of guarantee to capitalists that the Government of the Commonwealth were going to give a bonus, and that this would act as an incentive to the establishment of the industry. It is now proposed by the Government to accept a proposal which makes an alternative policy open to them - the establishment of a national industry. Is it reasonable to expect that any kind of result would flow out of the indication of a bonus system in a resolution of this kind, when side by side with it is a proposal to establish a Government industry, it may be either by the Commonwealth or by the States? It does not matter what form the national industry assumes, it is utterly useless to issue a placard to investors or capitalists, holding out the inducement of a bonus on the one hand, while you declareton the other that it is quite possible that the Government may enter into the business on a very large scale. If there is to be any public money voted for the establishment of the iron industry,’ I go with my honorable friends in the labour party in saying that the State should run the monopoly. Therefore, I voted against the former proposal of the Government, and reluctantly I shall be compelled to vote against the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia if it is coupled with their proposal. I wish to point out to the honorable member for Bland that, so far from getting a clear-cut vote in regard to the establishment of a national iron industry on this resolution, we shall be just as mixed as we were when we went to a division last night.
– I admit that; but we leave it open to get! one later on.
– We have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs that within the next fortnight he will be prepared to bring down to the House definite proposals for the establishment of the iron industry in Australia. There was some show of reason in the contention of the honorable and learned member for Indi last night that we might be doing something to induce capitalists to put their money into a business of this kind, if we were going to postpone the consideration of the bonus proposals to some remote date ; but now we have a definite assurance that during this session the whole question will be brought down in a definite form for consideration by the House, the discussion which is proceeding must appear to honorable members to be not only premature, but utterly useless. I think the committee will be facilitating public business if they decide to vote against the resolution, either as it is submitted by the Government, or in the amended form suggested by the honorable member for South Australia.
Amendments (by Mr. Kingston’) agreed to-
That the words “exceptas to galvanized plate and sheet iron,” lines 3 and 4, be omitted.
That the words “of iron, or of reapers and binders, or of any machinery,” lines 6 and 7, be omitted.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I move-
That, after the word “manufactures,” line 11, the following words be inserted : - “or the establishment of such manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Governments.”
– Is not that useless ?
– I do not think that this is a time when we need discuss the constitutional point. The phraseology I suggest will not prevent the Commonwealth Government from going on with such works if it is found to be constitutional to do so.
– The honorable member does not mean to limit it to the Commonwealth Government ?
– No. I use the words “ Commonwealth or State Governments,” so that the whole thing is left quite open to discussion when any Bill dealing with the question is submitted to the House. We cannot say off-hand whetherwe have the power to engage in this work, and we do not know how far the State Governments may be prepared to go, with encouragement from this Parliament. All I desire now is to see that we do not commit ourselves to anything which precludes action of this sort being taken in the future. If the amendment is carried it will leave us all a free hand later on. I do not wish to be committed even to the establishment of the industry under the control of either a State Government or the Commonwealth Government, because I desire, before coming to a decision on that point, to be sure of all the practical possibilities of the proposal which in detail few of us know much about at the present time.
– I cannot help again emphasizing the trouble we are all in by reason of the fact that these proposals are put before us in such a confused manner. Yesterday I was troubled about how I ought to face this question. I cannot see how one can refuse to give a protective duty to the manufacture of iron, which is of such colossal importance to the Commonwealth, when we have given protection to many other things which are next door to no importance to the Commonwealth. Consequently if there were a clear-cut issue as to whether I should vote for a protective duty to iron my course would be quite clear. I could not refuse to do so in justice to those who have any capital embarked in the industry, or who are likely to engage in it in the future. But when the proposal is accompanied by a number of side issues and references to measures which are to come before the House very shortly, it is indeed a matter for regret that the Government will not consent to the frequent applications made to them to postpone this matter until those other and more important measures can be definitely brought before the House. By the amendment of the honorable member for Bland I am again put in a quandary. I am in sympathy with the aim of his amendment, but it seems to me to be mixing up the three things, and we are in danger of committing ourselves to some other course of which we do not approve. I cannot approve of granting a bonus for very many reasons other than the consideration whether or not it is desirable to give a bonus. The question is inextricably mixed up with finance, and it is rather extraordinary to my mind that the Government have given us no information as to how we shall pay such a large sum, amounting on the iron alone to £250,000. Under the financial provisions of the Constitution, to do that would necessitate raising £1,000,000 by Customs taxation. It cannot be raised in any other way according to the policy of the House, and we cannot raise £250,000 alone, because it cannot be debited as part of the expenses of the Commonwealth. We must raise an additional million in order to have a quarter of a million available for paying bonuses to the manufacturers. If we could deal with the amendment on its merits without respect to the question of bonuses, I should at once vote for it, because I think it is possible by the Commonwealth, if the Constitution offers no difficulty, and I do not see that it does. We talk about making our own small arms. If we can make our small arms, I see no reason why we should not also make the iron to be converted into small arms.
– Surely that is a very different thing.
– I say that I would approve of that, but I should be still mere in favour of it if the thing could be taken up by one or more of the States which, being fortunately situated in having iron, coal, and limestone in their midst, could work it to the greatest profit. But another difficulty which presents itself to my mind is that the Commonwealth could not undertake this enterprise unless it had possession of the mineral deposits. I believe that some of these mineral deposits which have been spoken of so highly are not in the possession of State Governments, but are in the hands of private proprietors. It is of no use for the Commonwealth or any of the States to attempt to start the industry with a second-class mining property. We want the best property that the whole of the States offer in order to carry out the experiment, and if the best property is in the hands of private individuals it would be better to let them make it.
– The State can always acquire it.
– If private individuals were in possession of property such as that of the Blythe River Company, which has been spoken of so highly, the State would have to pay through the nose when it desired to acquire it. The only point which I rose to bring before the committee is that we are placed in a position of very great difficulty. Opinions are exceedingly divided on this great question, and how we are to approach it. Some honorable members are prepared to deviate slightly from their convictions and favour the imposition of a moderate protective duty on iron, seeing that we have voted protective duties in. respect of so many other manufactures. Other honorable members would vote for a bonus, while others, again, would vote for a bonus if they could see any ground for the belief that the financial expedients necessary for the raising of the requisite money are within the power of the Commonwealth. The Government, however, have not given us any information showing how that question may be solved. We have now an intimation from the Minister for Trade and Customs that within two weeks he will bring down a measure dealing with the question of the bonus. In view of that statement, what can be the reason for desiring to push on with this proposal now, when the way in which we shall deal with it depends so much on the definite proposals of the Government in regard to the bonus t Why should there be a desire to push on with the matter now in the light of the fact that we are anxious to deal with other items of the Tariff which are deeply agitating the merchants and traders 1 Their trade is at a stand-still, and they are being put to enormous expense and trouble, owing to the fact that such matters as the duty on tea, timber, kerosene, and a hundred and one other things have to be dealt with by us. The question now before us is, to my mind, a purely academic one at the present stage. It must be debated in the abstract, because we cannot approach it more closely until some definite proposals are put before us. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bland would entirely cut out all that was said so well and so ably by the honorable and learned member for Indi last night as to the effect which the Government proposal would have upon the investors of the world. The honorable and learned member said that it would induce them to put their money into the iron industry of the Commonwealth ; that it would be a declaration to the whole world that the Commonwealth was determined to vote, not only a protective duty on iron, but large bounties for the establishment of the industry here. If we agreed to the honorable member for Bland’s proposal - and it is one which I think we ought to agree to - it would entirely remove the effect of a declaratory policy in inducing people to invest their money in the industry. The debate, however, has cleared the atmosphere very largely of doubts and difficulties. It has enlightened many of us upon the subject - it has enlightened me very much - and it has emphasized very much the importance of the industry. I think, however, that the matter might well be allowed to stand over in view of the difficulties in which we are placed ; that its further consideration should be postponed until the measures referred to by the Minister are perfected. Let us get on with some of those questions, the solution of which is awaited with anxiety by the whole trading community of the continent.
– I think that, in endeavouring to improve the Government proposals, the honorable member for Bland has given very good reasons why we should reject it, even as sought to be improved by him. The honorable member said that he was in favour of the nationalization of an industry of this kind, but he was careful enough to intimate at the same time that such nationalization would have to be on some common-sense and practical plan before he could adopt it. That is a position which I indorse heartily. I believe in the principle of nationalization where it is likely to be profitably and advantageously adopted. But the importance of such a proposition demands that we should have all the details before us before we pledge ourselves even to the principle. The same argument holds good with regard to the system of bonuses. Certain honorable members of the Opposition have indicated their preference for the giving of bonuses under certain conditions to an industry of this kind. I can easily understand that we might be justified in supporting a proposal to give a bonus to the iron industry if we had all the details before us : but in view of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs has intimated that we are going to have a practical scheme of some kind or other put before us within a fortnight or so, I think it is only reasonable that honorable members should refrain from pledging themselves on indefinite proposals. We should wait until we know to what we are asked to pledge ourselves. If the proposal of the honorable member for Bland had amounted to a statement of a preference for nationalization as against the bonus system, I should have been very glad to support him.
– If that were the issue it would be all right.
– Quite so. But while the proposals are shaped as they are I can only consistently follow the course I have adopted up to this juncture, and refuse to pledge myself to any of these crude and illdigested propositions of the Government, until we have the whole details before us.
– I must protest against the committee giving its sanction to what are neither more nor less than legislative shams. As has been pointed out, this proposal in its present stage is really a deceptive one. It is something that is introduced in the Tariff ; something which is supposed to enact duties, and yet will not enact duties ; something that would commit us by inference, at any rate, to the giving of a bonus. With the amendment that the honorable member for Bland has placed before us, it would commit us also by inference to the establishment of a State industry in iron ; yet practically it enacts nothing, because the whole question will have to come before Parliament in two forms at some future time. Upon important questions such as the giving of a bonus, and that which has been raised by the honorable member for Bland, we should give a direct vote ; we should not be asked to decide by mere inference. I will show why the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland must be considered as one put forward simply as an excuse for getting votes - and it has been accepted as such by the Government. The whole power that the honorable member seeks to obtain by his amendment is contained in the division as brought before the committee.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong. Does not the printed clause limit us to one form of encouragement, namely, the giving of ‘bonuses ?
– The power to grant assistance to Government works, if they need it, is provided for in the division.
– - -By bonus.
– Inferentially by bonus.
– Inferentially only, because a Bill is to be brought in to deal with the question of bonus, and we can deal with that Bill ; but the honorable member’s proposition would not get over the giving of a bonus to a State Government. The bonus could be given just as before. The only difference between the honorable member’s amendment and the Government proposal is that he would make it clear that the bonus may be given to a Government, as well as to private, ironworks.
– It goes further.
– It goes further than that in that the establishment of the industry can be taken as accomplished, although there is no bonus. There would be nothing to prevent that being done if the industry were established by private enterprise.
– But it must be according to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses. That governs the whole thing.
– That law would probably contain a provision that if, as the result of bonuses, an industry had been established, or if it had been established without bonuses, the duty should be imposed. Surely the law would not be so absurd as to confine the imposition of the duty to an industry established by a bonus. No doubt the law would set forth that, if the industry were established either with the assistance of a bonus or without one, the Minister could proclaim a duty.
-r-The main purpose of the Bill must relate to bonuses.
– Of course, but the honorable member does not mean to say that the Bill would not provide that, if an industry had been established without bonuses, it would get similar treatment. Everything depends on the Bill. There is nothing in the honorable member’s proposal which is not provided for in the division under discussion, or for which the Bill to be introduced in connexion with the bonus proposals would not provide.
– The honorable member is wrong there.
– Does the right honorable gentleman wish me to believe that, in the Bill dealing with the bonus, he could not provide that, if the industry were established sufficiently by means of a bonus or without one, there should be a duty imposed.
– We would not have the right to put bonus and Customs proposals in the same Bill.
– What is the use of the right honorable member making that statement ? Surely he knows that he could have two Bills?
– We could have halfadozen if necessary.
– Would it not be easy to accompany the Bonus Bill–
– With another Tariff Bill.
– With the resolutions referred to in this division? Practically a Bill will have to be brought in. The Minister will have to submit a motion covering this proposal, and it will have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament before it can be carried out.
– We would do that by means of one Bill, but the honorable member wants two Tariff Bills.
– The proposal in the division with which we are dealing is merely an intimation. The committee is asked to commit itself not by direct vote but by inference, to the bonus system, to the establishment of a State iron industry, and to these duties. In regard to the duties of course there would be a more direct committal. Except as to the slight difficulty which the honorable member for Bland has pointed out, the Minister might deal with a State industry, although no bonus had been given previously. He could deal with it in his Bonus Bill. That is the only effect of the proposed amendment. The honorable member for Bland objects altogether to bonuses, yet he is giving the Minister power to provide for them.
– I am only refraining from tying the hands of the House and the Minister.
– The honorable member must see the confusion into which we are getting. It is another proof that this is not the time to deal with the matter ; that the proper time to deal with it will be when we have the whole question before us, and when we can give a distinct and definite vote on what I admit is a very important issue - that of bonuses and State iron works. But we are not in a position to give that vote now, and are legislating by inference in a certain direction. Honorable members who will vote for this division admit that they are opposed to a portion of it, and yet, by inference, they are committed to the proposal of the Ministry. That is not the proper way to do business. The Minister’s duty was to see that this committee had an opportunity of giving a straight-out vote on an issue so important.
– There will be that opportunity.
– At the present time, at any rate, I do not approve, as some honorable members do, of the Government undertaking the iron industry. I quite agree with a great deal that our Governments do in the way of managing and controlling the railways, and so on.
-Does the honorable member propose to discuss that now ?
– No ; I merely wish to state in a few words my objection, because, owing to the form of the motion, members appear to be committed by inference to proposals of which they are not in favour. The iron industry is a competitive industry, and that is the great difference between it and the management of State railways. That industry will have to compete with the rest of the world, and so far as we have bad experience, our Governments have not displayed those qualities which would enable them to manage an intricate and technical industry in competition with the world.
– Railways are competitive in some parts of the world.
– The railways here are not competitive with railways outside the Commonwealth.
– The Government could have a monopoly of the iron industry if they wished.
– In such case there would have to be duties so tremendous that there would be no fear of competition.
– Then we should be able to regulate prices.
– Prices would be regulated pretty high under those circumstances.
– No. Our railways are worked as economically as are any private railways.
– Considering the population, quite as economically.
– Is it likely there would be competition with a national industry when the Governments were the largest consumers ?
– I am not speaking of competition within the Commonwealth, but of competition by importations from abroad.
– The usual free-trade argument will not apply against duties in that case.
– If importation be prohibited there will be no competition, but there will be competition so long as duties are moderate. However, I do not desire to enter into that large question, in regard to which there is a good deal to be said on both sides. I wish to express my view, in case it might tie thought from some remarks which have been made, that we are committed to the proposal of the honorable member for Bland. I say again that as this question will have to be debated twice in the future, the time that we have given to it now is absolutely wasted, and for that reason I regret that the Government did not agree to a postponement to a time when the present proposal could be accompanied by a Bonus Bill. I understand that last night the honorable member for Newcastle asked for a bonus or protection, or some assistance, for an industry which is already paying £70,000 a year in wages, and that the Minister at once said he thought that the proper assistance would be by way of bonus. That is a most astonishing argument.
– A new development.
– Yes. I understood the honorable member for Newcastle to say that the industry to which he referred will be excluded from the proposal of the Government, because it uses scrap iron and imported pig iron. This industry must be profitable, because it has gone on year after year. Yet the Government say that, although the proprietor is getting a profitable return, they are prepared to put a further sum of money into his pockets. This industry succeeded and employed n large amount of labour under freetrade conditions, though to a certain extent there is now protection on some of its productions. It never required help before, and yet we have the liberal-minded Commonwealth Government offering this bonus in addition to the profits which have already been made.
– This industry had a very good bonus from the State Government in the shape of railway rate concessions.
– The industry was not established under free-trade conditions.
– As regards the Tariff, the industry was established under freetrade conditions. I cannot say whether the arrangement with the State Government as to rates was justified or not.
– But it exists.
– If the arrangement pays the railways commissioners, the State Government were justified in making it.
– I do not say that the State Government were not justified in making the arrangement; but those engaged in this industry get considerable reductions in rates, as compared with other customers in the same business.
– If the rates pay the State Government, it is a proper business transaction.
– Similar arrangements are made with regard to the carriage of farmers’ produce and fruits.
– All railway managements must take into account special circumstances.
– That, as a matter- of State concern, is well and good ; but if one State gives advantages to a particular industry, what does the honorable member think of that position ?
– If the- concessions are on business lines, and the traffic pays, why should they not be given ? It is a mutual arrangement when a man says he can provide certain traffic at certain rates, and those rates pay.
– But one man is not sup posed to get different treatment from another man.
– That is not done. If another man establishes works at Lithgow under circumstances which make the reduced rates pay, no doubt the same consideration will be extended to him. But for the sake of argument, we will say this industry is protected, and that the goods are carried at a loss - that State money is given to assist the industry. Under these conditions the proprietor of the industry has made money, and yet the Minister offers, in addition, to hand over, in the shape of a bonus, Commonwealth money to that proprietor. I thought the attitude of the Ministry so extraordinary at the time, that, in dealing with this division, I deemed it desirable to make some allusion to the suggestion of the honorable member for Newcastle.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I desire to say a word or two, and I shall very strictly prevent myself from taking up time on this mere side issue. It would be absolutely unfair to the country, waiting as it is for the consideration of other matters, if we were to elaborately enter into the question whether the Government shall or shall not carry on a great national industry like that of the manufacture of iron. We are getting more and more into a muddle. The honorable member for Bland has proposed an addition by which he desires to make it possible for the Government to undertake the entire working of this industry ; in other words, to practically create a State monopoly. Under that proposal there can be no other condition in a competitive industry like this, except a huge monopoly, with absolutely prohibitive duties. It is proposed to crystallize a certain duty of 10 per cent. after we have done away with the bonus ; because there can be no bonus if it is a Commonwealth industry. Does anybody imagine for a moment that it is probable that 10 per cent. would be a suitable duty to enforce? The idea is absurd on the face of it. We are brought back to exactly the contention which honorable members on this side have urged, namely, that we cannot possibly deal with this division of the Tariff until we know the ultimate scheme of the Government. The honorable member for South Sydney asked how we could refuse protection to this particular industry, having extended that policy to so many other industries. I am not, of course, very anxious to impose duties, but the honorable member forgets that on protectionist principles, and certainly on free-trade principles, any free list ought to embrace raw material. And if there is any raw material that practically goes to the bed-rock, and is the basis of all the industries which we have been protecting, surely it is pig iron. Therefore, I do not think there is very much in the contention of the honorable member for South Sydney. But I want, to-day, to emphatically declare my fiscal faith. I do not believe in bonuses any more than I believe in protective duties. I could understand a free-trader, if he had to take one or other alternative, considering that bonuses, the assistance beginning and ending with them, are better than protective duties. There is a great deal of difference between a bonus on an export, such as that given in Victoria on butter, and a bonus of the kind proposed. In the former case, the Government do not carry on the business, and the bonus ends with the giving. Once, however, we begin to grant a bonus to the iron industry - once we put clown £250,000, the bulk of which will probably go to one firm - the commercial and political honour of the whole country is practically . pledged to the success of that industry. We cannotafford to allow it to fail. We have then started a national policy which declares that we will not depend on foreign markets for our iron, which is the basis of all other industries.
– If the industry were a Government concern, and it did not pay after fair trial, it could be closed down without hurting any one.
– We are not talking now about an experimental thing such as the establishment of a beetsugar industry which the State is to assist.
– Is this a party or a personal speech?
– Some honorable members on this side have talked about bonuses, and I think what they have said may have been misrepresented. What free-traders generally hold is that there should be no more assistance given to one industry than to another. We believe that every industry should stand by itself. We believe in the equality of industry and in the equality of public expenditure. Any other principle, to my mind, is immoral. On this subject, what free-traders mean is that they prefer a bonus in certain cases to the import-duty system, if they have to make a choice between the two systems. I am one of those freetraders who believe that the essence of freetrade is the non-interference of the State in the industries of the people. I am absolutely averse to any attempt to create these huge industries and businesses under Government, where there will probably be ten times more inefficiency and corruption than would exist under other circumstances. I should be appalled at the idea of this
Commonwealth undertaking a great iron industry which would have to become a monopoly. It would mean not merely an enormous creation of departmental machinery, not merely an increase of our congested civil service, but that we would have to create such a monopoly by the imposition of State import duties as to shut out an article of raw material which should come in free. Instead of creating and assisting industries, we might strike a death blow to natural industries of the country, which depend upon getting a raw material like this at the lowest possible price. There are monopolies in matches and tobacco in France, and they are filth)’ monopolies. You can get about the worst value for your money in the world, in the purchase of the products of the monopolies of Government in that country. I feel that we are doing enough injury to the industries already established in the country by the absolute paralysis of business which our action has caused, and it is not right that we should take up further time in connexion with a matter upon which the House has not decided, and will not decide for some considerable time. Whether it is to be a private industry or a Government industry, it must, in the nature of things, be brought before this House in a manner entirely different from that of an ordinary Tariff, and as a great national proposal to deal with this industry in a way different from everything else. I doubt whether we shall deal with it at all this session, and, although the session has already been prolonged far beyond its proper limits, we are asked to deal with the contingencies of a scheme, the main body of which is not before us, and may not be before us for some time. I say this is acting in a childish and silly manner, and it is unjust to the people of the country that we should allow a matter of this kind to occupy hours and hours of our time when they are waiting for the settlement of their own business affairs. I am not going to make a speech upon the question whether we should have a national industry of this kind. Under all the circumstances it would have been better if this amendment had not been intruded. The honorable member for Bland says that it is simply a declaration, that he does not commit himself to bonuses at all, and yet the Minister last night said in effect, that if we did not pass the Government proposals we should get no Bonus Bill. We have had this debate, and we now understand generally what the feeling of the committee is. We understand that a majority of honorable members of the committee are willing, if a measure is brought up and read a first time, to discuss favorably, in many cases, a scheme for bonuses, or at any rate for the creation of a great iron industry in this country. That is quite sufficient; the Minister got his vote last night and he ought to be satisfied. But it is unreasonable to intrude the idea of a State industry, and then as sensible and reasonable men, without a smile upon our faces, to talk about fixing a duty of 10 per cent., when we do not know whether it is to be a State industry, in which case no bonuses would be required, and the matter would have to be dealt with entirely differently. I say it is a farce, and I am sorry that the party feeling which was displayed last night has not allowed honorable members to be swayed by common sense and constitutional views. I repeat now what I said last night, that this matter is not constitutionally before us. The Minister told us that he is going to embody the whole scheme in a Bill. One or two details with regard to the scheme were dragged out of the right honorable gentleman, but there is no paper upon the subject in the hands of honorable members. This is one of the largest proposals ever put before the members of any Parliament, a proposal practically to nationalize a great industry, and here we are solemnly being asked to give a vote and put our imprimatur upon it when the scheme is not in our hands. It is unparliamentary and unconstitutional, and I hope the committee will not lend itself to it.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I wish, with the permission of the committee, to amend the amendment I have submitted, by adding the words -
Or to the establishment of manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Governments.
– It does not matter much, because it does not mean anything.
– So far as that is concerned, the honorable gentleman has appealed to the committee to treat this in a common-sense way. We are all agreed that that should be done ; but there may be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes common sense. In this instance I may, perhaps, without being held to be too presumptuous, express a doubt as to whether the right honorable the leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for Wentworth takes the common-sense view with regard to the manner in which these industries should be encouraged. The right honorable leader of the Opposition, if my memory serves me correctly, has said that if a big move were made in the direction of the establishment of an iron industry the case for State control of it is well worthy of consideration. The right honorable gentleman keeps an open mind in regard to these things, and he is very wise to do so. The statement of the honorable member for North Sydney, that this proposal I have made is a votecatching suggestion, is rather unlike the honorable member. I have never yet had to complain of any unfairness on his part, but it does seem to me that he is degenerating a little when he begins to impute ulterior motives in a matter of this kind.
– I said it was a reason for giving or getting votes.
– Even that I think is an unworthy insinuation. It may be admitted by some people that a number of us are in rather a difficult position in desiring that it shall not be thought outside that we are against any attempt to establish an industry, which, if established, is bound to be a most important one for Australia.
– We are all in that position.
– We are all in that position, and that should have brought it home to the honorable member that it was not fair to attribute any political colouring to a proposal such as this.- I am sure that the honorable member for South Australia, who first brought it forward, had no such idea in his mind. All I wish to do is to insure that, while we may vote for something which indicates that we will later on be prepared to take steps in some direction, we shall not bind ourselves in such a way as to prevent the fullest and freest discussion of the matter when it comes before Parliament. I agree that perhaps it would have been better if there had been no such section in the Tariff at all, so that we might have reached the consideration of an operative measure sooner than we are likely to do now. It must be recollected, however, that Tariff proposals must be involved if State
Governments are to take the matter up. If the State Governments are to establish works in New South Wales, Victoria, or Tasmania, their operations will require some assistance through the Tariff, and they will get it from the protectionist section of the House, and probably from some of the free-traders also. The honorable member for Wentworth is afraid of unduly increasing the cost of the raw material of iron manufactures in the Commonwealth by a State establishment of the iron industry. In reply to that, I say that unless it can be shown that iron can be locally produced at a reasonable advance upon the cost of iron introduced from abroad, I will not be in favour of any Government taking up the industry. It is a matter upon which we must ascertain the probabilities later, and in the meantime I ask the committee to agree to the amendment I have’ suggested, that we may have something to work upon in the future.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I am afraid the amendment in its present form does not make the original amendment any more clear. In fact, it mixes the whole thing up most inextricably.
– It seems to be clear to Ministers, and so clear that one might be excused for thinking that thev even suggested the amendment to the honorable member for Bland. They appear to have known all about it, even before it was proposed. One thing certain about the matter before us is that it is a proposal the like of which was never made in any civilized Parliament before, nor do I think any such proposal will ever be made again. It is proposed that this 10 per cent, ad valorem may
Come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation ; and that proclamation is
To issue so soon as it is certified by the Minister that the manufacture of iron …. lias been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth according to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement ‘of manufactures, or to the establishment of manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Government.
That is to say, if it is decided that the Commonwealth is to undertake this industry, the Government themselves, so soon as they have established the industry, and have proclaimed to the world that they have established it, may pay to themselves the bonus.
– The honorable member forgets the qualifying provisions which we propose to introduce.
– That does not make the absurdity any the less. It means that if it were decided by the Commonwealth to establish iron works under the direction of the Commonwealth Government, then this provision would direct the Government, upon an address by both Houses of the Parliament, to declare that the industry had been sufficiently established to receive a bonus, and forthwith the Parliament would proceed to vote itself a bonus at the rate of 10 per cent !
– Not at all.
– There is no other reading of it.
– That reading is impossible.
– If the industry is sufficiently established it will not require a bonus.
– Does the Government want to impose duties against itself, so as to prevent itself from competing with itself when it has a monopoly ? Where is the sense of this proposal ? I am unable to see the slightest sense in it. I never heard of such a proposition being made in any Legislature. According to the honorable member for Bland, he wishes to leave the way open for future action. He says we voted last night so as not to commit ourselves to anything. We are now asked deliberately to record a vote in favour of an amendment, in order again that we may not be committed to anything. That is what the declaration of the honorable member for Bland means. He does not know whether he will support the industry by a bonus or not. He does not know whether he will support it at all until particulars are before him. The amendment will not bind any one. I think the honorable member should withdraw the amendment, and that the Government should certainly waste no further time upon the discussion of a proposition so absurd as this.
– I confess that the more I look into this proposal the less I like it. The wording of it seems as objectionable as the principle. I do not care for the principle of the Federal Parliament making a declaration in favour of the establishment of industries by the State. I do not believe in monopolies.
– This is not a declaration.
– It is either that or nothing; because the States can take advantage of a general law. Any State, so far as it engages in importations, will come under a general law : and there is not the slightest necessity for mentioning here that if a State starts an industry it will be entitled to the benefit of any bonus law that we pass, or be entitled to exemptions from duties - which amounts to the same thing. If we leave out the words proposed to be inserted by the honorable member for Bland, a State which happened to start any of the industries here mentioned could take advantage of the whole of Division VIA.
– If the Commonwealth started an industry it would not need a bonus.
– Then there is no need whatever for the amendment, because the Commonwealth as well as the States is exempt from taxation under the Constitution. Consequently if an industry is started by the Commonwealth, and if it is not an industry which the Commonwealth cannot start without an amendment of the Constitution, there is no need to say that the Commonwealth has an immunity from taxation which the Constitution already provides.
– Is the honorable and learned member laying it down absolutely that we cannot impose duties on goods imported by State Governments?
– I am speaking of the Commonwealth. This provision, as far as it relates to the Commonwealth, is practically useless, because the Commonwealth cannot deal with the iron industry as a producer. It has no land, and is not entitled to buy land in order to become a producer of iron.
– If we federalize the railways is there anything to prevent the Commonwealth from making its own steel rails?
– No. There is a section of the Constitution which gives the Parliament power in respect of -
Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any department or officer of the Commonwealth.
Therefore if the Commonwealth happens to own the railways of Australia, there is no doubt that it can manufacture its own engines, because that would be incidental to the efficient carrying out of the work.
– And its own rails and its own iron.
– So far as that might be necessary for the efficient working of the railways it might be done. I do not suppose that it would be necessary to do much in that way, but I do not see that the High Court of Australia could restrain the discretion , of the Commonwealth Government in preferring to do for itself what might be done by private individuals, because the “Government thought it could do it more efficiently. But at present I cannot see that there is any industry .of which the Commonwealth has legitimate control which would necessitate iron production; and, therefore, the Constitution prohibts the Government from becoming miners or manufacturers of iron. As regards the States, if any State chose to establish an iron industry, it could, without the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, take advantage of Division VIa., because a State is a unit equally with any private individual or any company. If a State, therefore, started the manufacture of any of the things mentioned in Item 77, the Government would be entitled to issue a proclamation, subject to the conditions to be put in afterwards. I think that is perfectly clear. If, for instance, South Australia initiated the manufacture of any of the articles mentioned in Item 77, a proclamation - subject to the conditions to be afterwards mentioned - could be issued, and these duties would become operative. There is no doubt, therefore, that there is no necessity for putting in these words. As regards some of the articles mentioned in the item, the States are already doing what we wish to encourage. Take the locomotive branches of the Railway departments of some of the States. Are they not producing some of the articles included in the division, sufficient for the needs of the States ? For instance, Division VIa. refers to -
Other machinery referred to in proclamation.
What is the meaning of that, except that besides the particular machinery enumerated in the division, “ other machinery “ may be brought within its operation? What is to prevent th e Minister to-morrow declaring that the States are at present producing machinery that comes under the category of “ other machinery “ ? They are producing engines in some of the States. What is to prevent those engines being included in “ other machinery “1 I therefore say that there is not the slightest necessity for mentioning the States at all ; because, if they happen to produce any of the manufactures set out in this division, or any “ other machinery “ which may be referred to, a proclamation can issue, and we need not wait for private enterprise to produce what is contemplated. But perhaps the Minister will explain what really is meant by the provision in regard to “other machinery referred to in proclamation.” What is contemplated by that? The division is “to come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation,” and the articles enumerated are to be “ exempt from duty in the meantime.” That covers not only iron and steel work, but the “other machinery referred to in the proclamation. What class of machinery is exempt to-day under Item 77? I cannot see what is meant by it. It showsanother and somewhat absurd aspect of the proposal ; because if ten years hence the Government issue a proclamation declaring that a particular class of machine that comes under “ other machinery “ has been sufficiently established, then retrospectively any duty that was collected on that machinery was wrongly collected.
– Can we fix a duty at all for five years hence ?
– I do not think we can.
– Does the honorable and learned member say seriously that we cannot fix a duty to commence at the end of 1903?
– We technically can fix a duty to commence ten years hence, no doubt; but 1 had in mind, when I answered the interjection of the honorable member for Wentworth, that under this provision the Government may issue a proclamation bringing in “ other machinery,” and declaring that that “other machinery” has been sufficiently established under another provision contained in the preamble to this division, and that particular machinery will have been exempt from duty from the day this provision of the Tariff is passed.
– It is almost a certainty that it would be.
– But you may be collecting duties on it under other parts of the Tariff.
– That is not at all likely.
– I think that the proposal is an absurd one. Some of the machinery which five or ten years hence may be declared to be exempt from taxation may have been subject to duties in the interval. I confess that I am unable to thoroughly grasp the meaning of the provision. My main objection to it is that we should not take it upon ourselves to lay down a principle for the guidance of the States in regard to a matter of this kind. The question is a big one, and may lead to a considerable amount of agitation in the State Parliament. It is proposed that we should pass an Act to regulatethe State control of certain industries ; to declare first that the States should establish these monopolies, and, secondly, to set forth the conditions under which they should be carried on. What right have we to lay down the conditions under which State production shall take place? It is not only absurd, it is unconstitutional, and the safer thing to do would be to negative the amendment.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).Some exception has been taken to a remark of the honorable member for North Sydney, that the amendment is a vote-catching amendment. While I do not think that it was moved with that object, that has been its effect, because the honorable member for Bland and other honorable members would not have voted last night for the retention of the division had not this amendment been foreshadowed. It would be interesting to know what really is to be the attitude of the Government in regard to the proposal of the labour party. They are in favour of the amendment because they say that it will broaden the scope of action in regard to the Bonus Bill ; but what we desire to know is what attitude will they take when we come to deal with the question in earnest? I think that the labour party will find later on, when we come to deal with the Bonus Bill, and the question arises, shall the iron industry be under State control or under private control, thatthey will lose their proposal for the nationalization of the iron industry, and the bonus system will be carried.
– That will be because some of the members of the Opposition vote with the Government.
– I am not responsible for the Opposition ; but the labour party are making that possible by supporting this proposal in its crude state. I understood the other day when the scheme embodied in the division was submitted to us, that the primary reason for its appearance in the Tariff was that we might place upon record the fact that we had agreed to these duties as an encouragement to private enterprise to enter into the iron industry. But what encouragement is given if two alternative schemes are put forward to be discussed at some later date ? What is the use of taking up the time of the committee with the proposal now ? The Government, by accepting the amendment, absolutely undo what they pretended they wished to do when they proposed this division. The reason why they accept the amendment is very plain ; they could not have saved the division last night if they had not accepted it. I am afraid that when we pome to consider the two rival proposals,the position of those who are interested in the amendment - of whom I am one - will be that a majority of the committee will be against a scheme of nationalization, and we shall therefore have the bonus system established whether we like it or not.
– I am very sorry that I am not in agreement with several honorable members who have spoken from this side of the Chamber, and with what seem to be the views of the majority ofthe party with which I am associated. I voted against the retention of the division because I do not like it. I think that it was a mistake to bring this matter forward during the discussion of the Tariff, and I am against both the granting of bonuses and the imposition of duties. But last night the committee decided that the division should be retained, and that we should proceed with its consideration ; and that being so, I think we should endeavour to make the best of a bad decision. The amendment does not pledge us to anything. It simply provides for a contingency. It provides for the occurrence, at some future time, of the nationalization of the iron industry by either the States orthe Commonwealth. Such a proposal does not require us to have much information before us, or to go into the question thoroughly. It does not pledge us to the nationalization of the iron industry. It simply provides for the contingency I have named.
– Are we here to pass resolutions which pledge us to nothing 1
– It pledges u3 to do something which we may find later on is inadvisable.
– The main objection to the amendment is that it is altogether unnecessary. But, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for North Sydney, we are, in passing the division, legislating by inference, and, since the committee have agreed to legislate by inference, I do not think it will do much harm to go further, and provide for this contingency. It may have the effect of directing the minds of the people towards a reform which, to my mind, is a very desirable one for investigation.
– Why should we vote in the dark now, when the definite proposals of the Ministry are to be placed before us in a fortnight?
– In voting for the division we do not vote for anything definite. With all respect to the Government, I fail to see how we can deal with the Bonus Bill this session. Are they going to abandon the Defence Bill, in discussing which we spent a fortnight, the Inter-State Bill, the Electoral Bill, and the Estimates 1 If not, how can we find time to discuss the granting of £250,000 in bonuses or bounties for the establishment of the iron industry 1 Surely it would have been far better to deal with this matter quite apart from the Tariff. But, as the Government are determined to legislate by inference, and as the proposal of the honorable member for Bland may direct attention to what may be an advisable reform, I shall vote for the amendment.
– I think that to add another complication to an already complicated and unnecessary proposal is inadvisable. We are practically committing ourselves inferentially to the suggestion that it is desirable that the iron industry should be taken up by the States. I do not suppose it is contemplated for a moment that the industry will be taken over by the Commonwealth. Neither the Ministry nor the mover of the amendment suggest that. We are called upon, however, at this inopportune moment to debate the whole question upon the proposal to add certain words to this undesirable division, which the committee yesterday decided to retain. As the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, has pointed out, it cannot get fair consideration at the present time. The proper time to consider it would be when a measure for the establishment of bonuses was before the House. I do not think it right to take up the time of the committee by dealing with the subject now. The Minister for Trade and Customs cannot claim that the smelting works which were established by the State of South Australia at Port Augusta, in pursuance of the idea which underlies the amendment, have been a success, since at the present time they are closed down.
– That is because of the big fall in the price of copper.
– Not at all. They were closed down before the fall took place.
– Private companies fail sometimes.
– No doubt: but I believe that a well-directed private enterprise will be better for the iron industry than State control. I shall therefore be compelled to vote against the amendment, which I think has been brought forward at the wrong time, and is an altogether improper one.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The honorable member for Kooyong says that the proposed amendment is asking the committee to declare in favour of nationalizing an industry
– He says “ inferentially.”
– It does not do anything of the kind.
– I should vote for it if I thought it did.
– If it does, then the honorable member must see that those who do not believe in the establishment of an industry by giving bonuses to private enterprise to form a company, are also asked, by carrying what he believes in, to agree to that. I am not prepared to agree to any proposition that it is advisable to establish private companies by the grant of bonuses from the public purse. The suggestion is, that we should add to the first possible forms in which the industry may be established, a ‘ national ironworks. On that condition I can support the proposal, but I cannot support it as the honorable member wants me to do. I think he is making a mistake in charging us with asking honorable members to support inferential ly a declaration in favour of nationalism. We are not doing anything of the kind. We are simply adding to the contingencies in which it may be desirable to do something or other in order to support the establishment of the industry.
– How will the matter stand when the honorable member’s amendment is carried?
– It will be pretty much in the same position as if nothing had been brought forward by the Government. I have said all along that as it depends on something which is not yet brought down, it is really not tangible. When the bonus proposals of the Government are brought down, then will be the time to consider the whole question. I object to make any declaration, implied or otherwise, in favour of the establishment of this industry by private speculators, assisted by the public purse. I object to the control of the iron industry passing into the hands of a few individuals.
– The honorable member is moving the amendment so that he may have an open mind.
-I am moving the amendment with the object of putting the resolution in a form in which I can approve of it. I certainly cannot approve of it in the form in which it was brought down by the Government. I should like to have whatever advantage there may be from a declaration by the committee that the contingency of the State undertaking such a work is possible. At any rate it will be declared that it is possible that this contingency may arise. Some remarks have been made by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, as to the power of the State to do this sort of work. South Australia has already done a considerable amount of work in the same direction. For instance, it has been working a State mine for copper at Oodeawirra, and a gold mine at Tarcoola : and it was working a gold mine at Mount Granger. It has also established smelting works for copper at Port Augusta. If it can mine for copper and smelt copper ore we certainly have a precedent there.
– There is nothing to prevent that under the original proposal.
– I do not suggest that there was. Honorable members on the other side seem terribly afraid of adding this contingency.
– I am not afraid, but I think we are making nonsense : it is not intelligible.
– It is certainly more intelligible, and certainly, to my mind, more acceptable than it was in its original form.
-The danger is in prescribing the States how they are to do these things.
– The trouble in the opposite quarter arises from the probability of the proposal being carried, and it may be just as well that we should not hinder it being carried out at the earliest possible moment.
– The last speaker said that he put in this addition to protect himself. He was against the original provision because a bonus might be given to private speculators, and he was not prepared to use the public funds for the encouragement of private speculators, and so, as an ease to his conscience and his political belief, he moved the addition, although it is a contingency which he is not prepared to admit will come within any reasonable period. We are in this position, that although honorable members on every possible occasion eschew their belief in debating societies, the national Parliament has during the past three days reduced itself to the position of a debating society, arguing the principle of individualism or socialism. I am astonished at the Minister for Trade and Customs. A man supposed to be well versed in the affairs of life, and to have a full acquaintance with the principles of parliamentary government, is asking us to put on record a placard, and he is apparently agreeable to accept the amendment. It could have no legislative effect. It would be simply a bannerette telling the people of Australia that the Ministry are prepared to nationalize one particular industry. That opens a very large question. I can understand that if the Ministry had gone to the country on the principle of nationalization, the relationship of their supporters would have been altered. In that case there might have been honorable members from this side of the Chamber supporting the Ministry, and there is no doubt that many of their present supporters would have been opposed to them. The position is a very strange one, because we find, by the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, read in conjunction with the Government proposal, that after it is established an ad valorem duty will be imposed to encourage the industry. In other words the Commonwealth Government will place a tax on themselves to encourage them to do something’ else. It is a farcical proceeding. (Committee counted.) The Minister is getting fretful, but the country will be more fretful when it sees how the time of Parliament is wasted in discussing proposals of this kind. The Ministry are undoubtedly wasting the time of Parliament, because they admit that this proposal if carried will have no effect until something else takes place. We wish to expose to the country the position which the Ministry are taking up, because later on they will be charging the Opposition with this waste of time. The people of the Commonwealth expect that a question of such far-reaching importance as the nationalization of any industry shall be made a test question at a general election. The Ministry did not mention the question in the. Governor-General’s speech. Three days ago the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced a resolution dealing with what is called the bonus system. He was going to adhere strongly to that resolution, to make no surrender, and to agree to no postponement. In the interests of the country, he declared, it must be carried. But from that time to now there have been changes every hour until at last the Government have accepted an amendment which alters the whole complexion of the resolution and its intention in regard to bonuses. If I had the capacity to deliver an apostrophe to this proposal I would say - “There can be no other result but defeat - defeat with a capital 1 D.’ “ The Ministry to-day are treating Parliament as a debating society, and flaunting before the people of Australia statements as to what they are prepared to do in years to come, simply as a “catch vote.”
– I would ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I am showing what must be the effect of this proposal. Other honorable members have dwelt upon the early history of matters of this kind. The Minister for Trade and Customs went back to the days of Tubal Cain : but I am not going to indulge in ancient history ; I speak rather with a prophetic voice. The honorable member for Bland has tabled an amendment which, if put forward as a plank in the platform of the labour party or by a Ministry seeking re-election, might have a certain effect. It affirms the desirability of nationalizing the iron industry. But when the concessions relating to the sugar industry were before us, we did not hear honorable members from Queensland saying that that industry should be nationalized.
– They did say so. Mr. WILKS. - I think we have reached a critical state in regard to governmental matters. We have reached the parting of the ways so far as private enterprise and the nationalization of industries are concerned. Let us have, a full-dress debate on the subject when a well thought-out scheme can be submitted. The Ministry are prepared to accept a condition supplied by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, in order that he may not experience such difficulty in voting for the Government proposal as he would otherwise feel. The honorable member admitted openly that he could not vote for the original proposal, and this condition has been tacked on so that the proposition may not be considered so dangerous. Are we to support propositions simply to satisfy the political conscience of any honorable member ? I refuse to be committed to any proposal which seeks to impart a different colour to a scheme to which, in reality, I am opposed. In reality it is proposed that when this industry is established the giving of bonuses shall cease, and that an ad valorem duty shall be imposed. The Government is to encourage itself in this way : it is to tax itself in order to stimulate itself. We hear much of the quaint fancies of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, and I could quite understand some enterprising writer in the future adopting this proposal as a theme for a comic opera. I hope that even at this late hour the Government will not accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor. If they do they will be in a still worse position than they were originally. Only last night the Minister for Trade and Customs had to use all his dramatic force and eloquence to secure support for his proposal. It was only by promising to gratify the desire of different honorable members, by allowing them to add something to the scheme, that he obtained a i majority for his dragnet proposal. The difficulties in which the Minister found himself may be judged by the fact that he had to resort to Biblical history in urging his proposal upon the committee. I hope that the Ministry will allow this proposal to drop. I am not prepared to support such a proposal for the purpose of excusing the vote of an honorable member.
– In assenting to the honorable member for Bland’s amendment, it is suggested that we are committing ourselves to the principle of the nationalization of the iron industry. We are not doing anything of the sort. I am sure that the honorable member who proposes it does not make such a claim, and any honorable member who has given the matter the consideration which its importance deserves knows full well that we do not do so. I spoke last night on the subject of nationalization. I said that, as regards the States, if they, being responsible for their action, took upon themselves the nationalization of the iron industry, we certainly would not dream of doing anything which would deprive them of the encouragement that we are prepared to extend to private individuals. Is it not better that the benefits to be derived should be shared by a number than by a few? The suggestion that we should refuse to a State which established the industry the advantages that we would confer upon a private company or an aggregation of individuals, is utterly indefensible. I said also that I doubted whether our Government had the power to undertake such an industry - -that I -was certain that there was much to be considered before we could think of recommending the undertaking of the industry by the Commonwealth Government. Our position is clear. We are not discussing here the question of the nationalization of the iron industry, either by the Commonwealth or by a State Government. What we are considering is the question - how should we limit the conditions under which these protective duties are to come into force ? We do not propose to apply them at once. Why ? Because the industry does not exist to a sufficient extent, and the imposition of a duty in such circumstances would prove a burden to the community greater than the advantage which might result. But when the industry has been sufficiently established, so that the goods may be supplied to the local consumers at a reasonable price notwithstanding the duty, that will be the time to impose it. We ought to contemplate and provide for the duty coming into force then. The test of the time is this : If the industry is sufficiently established - I do not care whether it is established by individuals, or by a State, or under what circumstances - and the time arrives for the preservation of the home market for the good of those whohave established the industry, whoever they may be, and for the good of Australia, the duty should be imposed. It has been pointed out again and again how important the home market is. Everything depends upon it, and we require this duty to come into existence when it is necessary for the preservation of the home market, and then only. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, said that the amendment now sought to be introduced was not necessary. I take the plainest possible exception to that statement. I think I shall be able to convince the honorable and learned member that if a State established this industry independently of a bonus, it would not be possible to call the protective duty into existence for the purpose of preserving the home market, unless we had an amendment of the character named. We provide that any duty under this division shall come into force when the industry -
Has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth according to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement of manufactures.
That is the exact limit of these conditions. The industry must have been sufficiently established according to the law relating to bonuses for the establishment of manufactures. What would be the position when the establishment wasaltogether independent of and not con.nected in the slightest way with a bonus ?
– “ Any law relating to the establishment of bonuses.”
– The amendment proposed to be inserted is designed to meet the special case which the honorable and learned member says does not require to be met. At present we provide only for the calling into existence of these duties when an industry has been sufficiently established under the bonus system. That provision does not apply to the case in which it is said that it should apply, and the amendment is absolutely necessary.
– That depends on the Bill.
– Without mutilating the Bill we could not get rid of the difficulty which is sought to be overcome by the amendment.
– Could not the Government give a State a bonus 1
– But the State might establish the industry irrespective of a bonus. Honorable members who favour this amendment desire to provide for that contingency. They are against bonuses, but they are in favour of a State undertaking work of this kind. Therefore, ils the original provision provides only for the establishment of an industry under the bonus system, it is necessary that words of the character proposed in the amendment should be added.
– But the bonus must apply to a State.
– I think the State would, and should, be equally entitled to the bonus. But the point raised by honorable members is that it is necessary to provide for the calling into existence of any of these duties independently of the establishment of the particular industry by means of the bonus system. That can be met only by the amendment now proposed. With all respect to the honorable and learned member, I. consider it is necessary in order to meet the views of honorable members. As the honorable and learned member knows, we are advocating the bonus system. We have a perfect right to leave the matter open in order to enable the sense of the House to be taken in the fullest way when we come to the discussion of the principles on which the industry shall be encouraged. We are encouraging it in two ways - one by means of the Tariff, and the other by means of a bonus. I am sure that, in considering the whole of this division, honorable members will have regard to the fact that the principle on which we are seeking to impose these duties is that they shall be called into operation when an industry is sufficiently established. I do not mean sufficiently established for the purposes of some small locality, but sufficiently established so that a duty may be imposed without raising the rate for the raw material to an extent which it would be difficult to bear at the present time, and that is the result which would accrue from any such imposition at the present stage.
– Does the right honorable gentleman believe that the Government would ever be able to repeal these duties if the States started any of these industries ?
– Parliament can do what it likes. If Parliament in its wisdom thinks that a given duty ought to be continued it will be continued. This division is an indication of the intention of the present Parliament in the matter. It is an indication that we wish to give some bonus to provide for the establishment of the industry, and that we think that when the industry is sufficiently established these protective duties should come into force. There is only one other matter to which I should like to refer. The honorable member for Kooyong made a jesting reference to the result of the Government undertaking industries of this description. I am not expressing an opinion one way or the other ; the question can be discussed at the proper time. But the honorable member for Kooyong in his reference to the failure of the Port Augusta smelters was altogether unfortunate. These smelters were opened only last year, at a time when the copper market was much depressed. The sum of £4,000 was spent on the works, which were intended for the smelting of small quantities of ore for prospectors in the northern districts, and, when prices fell, ore did not come to hand, and the smelters simply had to close. I do not think that from a solitary instance of that sort we can draw any particularly adverse inference.
– The price of copper had gone down.
– The price had gone down to the bottom level, and there are larger concerns, in which more than £4,000 has been lost from the same cause. However, I am expressing no views whatever on the propriety of State interference in the way of undertaking such works, but I am sorry to notice that the Opposition are not altogether united in the view they take. From expressions which fell from the leader of the Opposition when this question was discussed in connexion with the Tariff some time ago, I had thought that this was one of the proposals with which he would have been most pleased : but a very different view seems to be taken by his leading i lieutenant to-day. However that mav be, I take strong exception to the suggestion by the Opposition generally that there ought to be no State interference. History shows that the State must interfere for the purpose of encouraging and assisting in securing the establishment of industries of this description : and the course proposed is one which I believe the committee will be prepared to adopt.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - If I was not accurate in the information with which I supplied the committee, I shall be the first to make honorable members aware of the fact. I spoke on information which was given to me by an honorable member of the South Australian Parliament only halfanhour before I entered the chamber.
– I only point out that the smelters closed under the circumstances I mention.
– I have had no opportunity of making personal inquiries, but I shall certainly do so now; and if the facts as I stated them to the committee are incorrect, I shall take care that not only the Minister, but also honorable members, are so informed.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That after the word “governments,” just inserted, the following words be inserted, “but no proclamation to issue except in pursuance of a joint address passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of Parliament, stating that such manufacture is sufficiently established.”
In this amendment I adopt the words previously used in the provision for the proclamation in regard to machine tools.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the item be amended by the insertion of the word “wire” after the word “ plate,” line 21.
– I move-
That the item be amended by the insertion of the words “and tinned “ after the word “ galvanized,” line 24.
The simple difference between galvanized iron and tinned iron is that one is prepared with zinc and the other with tin ; and both ought to be treated alike.
Mr. KIR WAN (Kalgoorlie). - Some time ago the committee decided by a large majority that galvanized iron should not be dutiable.
– The Government have accepted that, and put the duty off until the industry is established.
– The amendment will give power by proclamation to impose a duty on what the Commonwealth Parliament have already decided shall be free.
– But it will not be an immediate duty.
– If it is not necessary to impose an immediate duty, I fail to see why a duty should be necessary at some future time. This industry has already been established in New South Wales under free-trade conditions, and I cannot understand how the circumstances can so alter in five years as to justify the imposition of a duty. In order to test the feeling of the committee, I shall move that the word “galvanized” be omitted. The whole question has already been discussed pretty fully, and one of the reasons which induced honorable members to vote in favour of galvanized iron being placed on the free list was that this commodity is almost a necessary of life in many parts of Australia. It is used extensively in the back blocks for the building of houses and huts in connexion with mining camps, and also throughout the whole of Queensland, in the conservation of water. It was felt by the committee that people who have to live in galvanized-iron houses have quite sufficient hardship to endure without the price of the commodity being increased. No promise should be held out that a duty will be imposed five years hence, when the industry will be still further established and better able to stand alone.
– I beg leave to withdraw my amendment for the time being.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Kir wan) proposed -
Thattheword “galvanized,” line 24, be omitted.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- The argument of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is, in my opinion, unanswerable. The proposal isto give a bonus, and to impose a duty when a proclamation is issued, according to the resolution or both Houses, declaring the industry to be sufficiently established. In the future Parliament, the debate on the resolution will necessarily be confined to the question whether the industry has fulfilled the condition in regard to being sufficiently established. That Parliament will not be able to consider the advisability or the general policy of imposing a duty ; as a matter of fact, I think the Chairman would rule such a discussion out of order.
– The question will be whether there has been sufficient establishment to justify the imposition of a duty.
– But the future Parliament will not be able to discuss the policy of imposing a duty. The only question then will be whether the industry is sufficiently established. It will be easy enough to point outthat the policy of imposing a duty in the case of a sufficiently established industryhas already been determined. A legal right will accrue from the Government proposal.
– I do not say that.
– If we adopt the proposal of the Government, we limit the judgment of the Houses in the future. We declare that duties ought to be imposed on certain conditions, and it is the question of the existence of those conditions which will have to be ‘ settled by resolution of the Houses. It is, therefore, most dangerous to allow galvanized iron to remain in the item. Can any one deny that, say, six I months hence the industry will be sufficiently established ? In my opinion, it is a bad principle to provide that duties are to be imposed on particular items, subject to a future Parliament declaring that an industry has been sufficiently established.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I am unable to see the distinction which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie seeks to draw by his amendment. If iron is to be included in this division, let all kinds of iron stand together.Why should bar, ; angle, tee, and other kinds of manufactured iron be included in this division, and galvanized and corrugated iron excluded 1
– Another good free-trader “ gone wrong “
– I have not “ gone wrong,” as the honorable member will find when the vote is taken.
– The duty has already been taken off this article by a vote of the committee.
– This is not a matter of free-trade and protection, but a matter of justice in the treatment of several kinds of iron production. I am unable to perceive the nice distinction which would make a bonus applicable to iron of one kind, and refuse it to the production of iron of another kind. The strong objection taken in Western Australia to the imposition of a duty upon galvanized iron does not depend upon the corrugating process at all. It is a simple and inexpensive process, and the objection to the duty is in respect of the iron which forms the basis of the galvanized iron product. As a matter of simple justice, therefore, without any reference to the fiscal aspect of the question, I must refuse to make this distinction between galvanized iron and other forms of iron production.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I cannot pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I take it that the whole object of this division is to encourage the manufacture of iron from native iron ores. The Government desire to give a bonus of 12s. per ton upon what becomes iron after the ore has been treated. The iron may be put into various shapes right away from the smelting, but the general understanding is that there is to be a bonus upon the production of iron. Assuming that it takes 2 tons of iron ore to make a ton of metal, I take it that the Government proposal is that for every 2 tons of native ore that goes into the smelters there is to be a bonus of 12s. paid, and it does not matter what shape the iron takes, whether it is pig iron, galvanized iron, bar, rod, or angle iron. The object is to have the metal which is now lying useless in the ground converted into a valuable commodity.
– Weare not dealing with the bonus now, but with the duties to come into operation after the bonus ceases, and they are varying duties.
– We desire practically to put 10 per cent, upon the original value of the material. That is the duty proposed upon pig iron, and it seems to me that it should carry with it almost everything else connected with iron. It only shows how very difficult it is to deal with this matter in the way in which it has been brought before us. The committee has said that there shall be no duty on galvanized iron. There was no question of finality to that. It was to continue, so far as we knew, for all time”. When a vote is given in that way, it is not given with some thought of a compromise or contingency attached to it. The principle involved was that this article “was of such universal consumption by the pioneer settler that it ought not to be taxed. I must con- fess that, under the circumstances, I am puzzled to know how to decide upon the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - I shall feel compelled to vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, because I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that if, under this division, at some time or other a duty is to be imposed upon other descriptions of iron, it is a reasonable thing to expect that the manufacturers of galvanized iron should participate in any benefits which may be derived from the imposition of such a duty. If we allow galvanized iron to come in free while all other descriptions of iron are taxable, we will be putting the local manufacturers of galvanized iron at a disadvantage. In New South “Wales, for instance, sheet iron is coming in free under existing conditions, but I suppose under this Tariff it would be subject to a duty of 10 per cent., with the result that if a person wished to use imported sheet iron for the manufacture of galvanized iron within the Commonwealth, he would have to pay 10 per cent, upon it, while an importer could bring in iron already galvanized duty free.
– -That would be putting on a tax for the benefit of the foreigner.
– It would be an absolute disadvantage to the local manufacturer of galvanized iron. However much he may desire to put the whole of the consumers of the Commonwealth upon the best possible footing for the purchase of commodities, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie must see that we have not the right to offer special inducements to people to import rather than to manufacture. This proposal is a protection to the importer, and a direct discouragement to the local manufacturer of galvanized iron. If these duties are to stand, galvanized iron must be placed upon the same footing as other descriptions of iron, and I must therefore vote against the amendment.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the words “and tinned” be inserted after the word “galvanized,” line 24.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs what is the justification for making the duty upon corrugated galvanized iron greater than that upon plain galvanized iron. When this matter was previously before the committee we had the same relative figures before us, and the committee showed unmistakably that it would not tolerate any difference between these two classes of galvanized iron.
The corrugating of iron is a very simple operation employing little or no labour, and I am prepared to move that the duty of 15 per cent, be reduced to 10 per cent.
– My idea is to strike out the words “ plain “ and “ corrugated “ and make the duty upon galvanized iron 10 per cent, in view of the previous decision of the committee. I move -
That the words “plain, corrugated, 15 per cent.” be omitted.
The item as amended will then read “galvanized and tinned, plate and sheet, 10 per cent.”
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- Is the Minister perfectly satisfied that this will cover all the forms in which galvanized iron is now imported t Even angle and bar iron is galvanized for certain purposes. Will the form in which we have agreed to the item cover galvanized iron in every form in which it is customary to import it ? It is clearly the intention of the committee to impose the same duty upon every form of galvanized iron as upon other descriptions of iron.
– I think this will cover it. I will look into the matter further, and if I find that other words are necessary, I will have no hesitation in proposing them.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the words “machines and parts “ be inserted after the word “machinery,” line 27.
– I move, as a consequential amendment -
That the words “machines or parts” be inserted after the word “ machinery,” line 28.
– What do those amendments refer to 1
– In the latter case there may be some machine to which we may desire to give encouragement, and it might not come properly under the term “machinery.” It is subject to parliamentary control, and the duty will come into force only when the industry is shown to be established.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I would ask the Minister to strike out the line, “ other machinery referred to in proclamation.” In regard to the other items we know what we are doing, because they are specified. This is a sort of general clause under which any class of machinery which the Minister wishes to submit to Parliament will come under this duty of 15 per cent. It really amounts to an affirmation that we recognise that the bonus system, and the system of bringing these duties into operation as soon as an industry is established ought to apply to all classes of machinery. That is going far beyond what even members on the Government side contemplated when they voted against my amendment last night, because the whole of their arguments were directed not to these detailed items, but to the question of the establishment of the iron industry.
– I move- “
That the words “wire netting, aci valorem, .10 per cent.” be added.
If this amendment is carried, it will simply be a declaration that when the wire-netting industry has been sufficiently established, the Parliament will be able to declare that a duty shall be imposed for its benefit.
– It is already a regular industry in New South waleS
– But it is not sufficiently established to justify a duty.
– It is not in the same category as the manufacture of iron.
– The view I take is that the wire-netting industry is not sufficiently established to justify a duty, and that when it is established a duty should be imposed.
– It is far more established than is the barbed-wire industry.
– The Government ask to take this power in respect of wire netting, and I hope that the committee will give it to us.
Mr. F. E. MCLEAN (Lang).- Wire netting stands on an entirely different footing from the other articles that have preceded it. In the first place, the committee has decided that there shall not be an import duty upon wire netting. An attempt was made to put the article on the list of dutiable goods. The question was fully discussed, and the determination arrived at was that there should not be an import duty in regard to the manufacture of wire netting, which already is being extensively made within the Commonwealth. I understood that the whole object of this division was to provide for special treatment in the case of the manufacture of iron, which is regarded as a national industry, but which it was said could not be established owing to the large amount of capital which had to be embarked in it, unless special treatment were meted out to the manufacturers. It cannot be argued that the wire-netting industry, which has already been established in the Commonwealth, and from which there is a considerable output, stands on the same footing as does the manufacture of iron and steel. We have gone back to some extent in regard to galvanized iron, simply because the proposals with respect to iron itself made it necessary that we should review, what we had done in respect to galvanized iron. But the same argument cannot be adduced with reference to wire netting. If it could be admitted for a moment that wire netting was entitled to exceptional treatment under this division of the Tariff, we might bring in quite a large number of articles which have been placed upon the free list. But I do not think * that there is anything connected with the industry to call for this special treatment. Is it contemplated to include wire netting within the bonus scheme of the Government 1
– If it is manufactured within the Commonwealth.
– It appears to me that an abundance of capital has already been invested in this business. A considerable industry is in existence : and I certainly do not think that it is the intention of the committee to provide valuable bonuses for existing industries. Of course, I have heard statements made in the course of the previous debate as to the unpayable character of the enterprise. That might be an argument in favour of the committee retracing its steps and reconsidering the question of wire netting. I could quite understand, upon the recommittal of the Tariff, a proposal being made, in view of fuller information, to put an import duty on wire netting. But I certainly see no reason for special treatment being meted out to the industry, or why we should be asked to bring it under the bonus scheme of the Government, and to make the article subject to duty, when the clear determination of the committee at a previous stage was to place it on the free list.
– We are not now discussing in an effective way whether a bonus should be given for the manufacture of wire netting. Our proposals later on will be to that effect, subject to the consideration of the House : but what we are now doing is to declare, by this division, as regards certain goods, the manufacture of which at the present time is not sufficiently established to justify the imposition of a duty, that a duty may be called into existence when the commodities are manufactured to such an extent as to be sufficient to supply Australian wants without unnecessary cost. When such circumstances arise to the satisfaction of the Executive, and when, in addition, the Parliament is also satisfied that the industries here enumerated have been sufficiently established, this provision gives the right to bring and affords an easy way of bringing into existence the duties which are necessary for their continued prosperity. That is all. What we intend to propose in addition is a duty of 10 per cent, as regards spelter or commercial zinc. We discussed that yesterday. Honorable members know how important it is that we should embark on the industry of extracting zinc. We propose also as regards iron and steel tubes and pipes - which we have specially exempted from taxation - that the power of imposing a duty on such manufactures when they are sufficiently established shall be called into existence by a declaration of the Executive and both Houses of Parliament.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Do the Government propose, if the committee agrees to place all these articles in the division, to bring down their bonus proposals referring to the whole of them in the same Bill 1
– Yes ; why not ? They will all be in a schedule to the Bill.
– Then they will be covered by the same act of legislation. It seems to me that the Government are doing their best to defeat any possibility of this industry being taken over by any State Government, because no State Government would attempt to enter into the numerous industries which would be required to carry out the proposals now made by the Government.
– They will not be interdependent.
– No. An alteration of the schedule will no more defeat the Bonus Bill entirely than an alteration in the Tariff will prevent the collection of customs.
– Oh, I see! I forgot that this means nothing !
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- It appears that whether we put things into this list or leave them out, it has practically the same effect. I see no reason why we should not place 50 other articles upon the list. The question whether they will become subject to duty will depend upon Parliament at a future date. One might rake the Tariff through for articles that have not been made dutiable and put them upon the list ; but when we have done that nothing will happen. The wire-netting industry is already established, and if the Minister for Trade and Customs will not accept the evidence of its establishment in the Commonwealth as a “ sufficient “ establishment I do not know how he is going to deal with the other industries that come under the same heading. The wire-netting industry has been established in the free-trade State of New South Wales, and has supplied the wants of that State in competition at a reasonable price. That surely is the strongest evidence the Minister could have that Australia’s wants will be supplied now that the customs boundaries have been removed. But the Minister seems to doubt even now whether the industry has really been established and wishes to put off till some future time the question as to whether or not the article shall be liable to duty. It appears to me that we are simply doing nothing, and doing it in the most puzzling manner. Here is an industry which is already established to a degree is much more extensive in respect of the employment of labour and so forth, than are many of the industries that have been protected and which have been stated by honorable members opposite to be established industries. But we are asked to say that the Ministry cannot be sure at this time whether or not the industry is established, and that at some future date Parliament is to be asked to consider it, together with a number of other industries. Surely it is absurd to take this course. I am not going to object particularly to the inclusion of wire netting. When we are committing the absurdity of inserting a list of articles that means nothing, we might as well put in as many items as the Government choose. By so doing, we shall simply emphasize the ridiculousness of the procedure.
– I must take exception to the statements made by honorable members opposite that this wire-netting industry is established in New South Wales. Of course, it is established in the sense that such an industry is carried on there, but let me tell the committee that that industry has not been a paying concern for the last three” years, owing particularly to the competition of Germany, and the keeping down of the price. I do not make this statement without having evidence to support it. I do not desire to expose the internal affairs ! of any business, but I am prepared to show honorable members privately a certificate from a well-known accountant in Sydney, who has audited the books of Lysaght Bros., the company referred to, showing that they have had an actual loss on their , works for the last two years.
– Does the honorable member mean that an industry is not established until it pays?
– I take it that any one hearing honorable members opposite say , that this industry was established would be led to believe that it was a paying concern, whereas it is not. The term “ established,” although perhaps technically , correct, is a misleading one as applied to ‘ this particular industry.
– “Sufficiently established “1
– Sufficiently established. If some encouragement is not given to this industry, it will be destroyed, and the market will be under the control of foreign manufacturers.
– Is an English manufacturer a foreigner 1
– The competition now is caused largely by the importations of German manufacturers. I do not use the term “ foreigner “ in the sense that the honorable member means it. I believe that the manufacture of wire netting is subsidized in Germany, and I know that the German steamers which bring it here are subsidized. If the local industry is destroyed, we shall have to pay more for wire netting than we do now. I hope that honorable members will not be led away by some of the statements which have been made, and that they will agree to place this industry upon the same footing as the galvanized-iron industry and other manufactures of iron.
– The original proposal of the Government was to place wire netting upon the free list.
– Probably because they were not sufficiently aware of the facts at the time. It is possible that they thought, as I thought, that the industry was on a sufficiently firm basis to be able to do without protection. If I thought that the industry could stand by itself, Ishould not ask for protection for it ; but, as I do not think it can, I hope that the committee will extend some consideration towards it. Some of the raw materials, such as sulphuric and muriatic acids, used in the industry, are dutiable here, and are therefore sold at high prices, whereas in European countries they are very cheap. The industry deserves our special consideration, and I hope the committee will agree to the proposal of the Minister.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Went- worth). - The remarks of the honorable member for Cowper show the dangers which we may expect to meet if we adopt the system of bonuses. The Minister has very adroitly inserted the words sufficiently established” in his proposal. I suppose that an industry is not sufficiently established “ until it pays a dividend, but who is to say what dividend is a sufficient dividend? Then a “sufficiently established “ industry may, after a period of time, have a number of losses, and show a series of bad balance-sheets, in which case I suppose it will come under the coddling treatment again. Have we not heard during the discussion ofthis Tariff of balance-sheets being manipulated to show poor results? Do we not know, that, in order to prevent competition, men sometimes treat their profits in such a way as not to show too big a dividend, and thus excite competition 1 When one hears of bad results in a business one does not know whether they are due to the innate difficulties of the undertaking, or to the bad management of the people connected with it. I suppose that nine-tenths of the failures in legitimate industries throughout the world are the results of the bad management and personal ill habits of those connected with them. The system which the Ministry now propose is like the protective system in this, that what you do for one you must do for all. I should like to know when the end is to come. The more we look into the matter, the more dangerous it seems, especially when it is questionable if the Commonwealth at the present time has sufficient money to pay its way.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia). - I should like to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs what amount of bonus he proposes to give to this industry. He has told us that a certain amount is to be paid to the iron industry, and a certain amount to the reaper and binder industry, so that, I presume, he has made up his mind in regard to the wire-netting industry. The other day we decided that we would not put a duty upon wire netting. Now, the Government propose to pay a bonus to the wire-netting industry, and, at the same time, to impose a duty upon wirenetting. Such a proposal will come as a revelation to the farmers of Australia. I do not know whether the New South Wales industry is established, but I know that it turns out a great quantity of wire netting.
Mr.Clarke. - 9,000 miles a year.
– That is a good deal. I should like to know what bonus per ton the Government intend to give. That large quantity of wire netting has been manufactured and sold under free-trade against the competition of the world. There may not have been large profits during the last three years–
– There have been heavy losses.
– The honorable member does not know that. Can he tell me how much, money has been spent upon improvements and new plant? The industry is fairly well established at the present time.
– How can it be fairly well established when there is a loss of £3,000 ayear in connexion with it ?
– They have put more than that amount into plant each year.
– What wages do they pay - about £1 a week?
– We are not discussing that question. There is nothing about wages in the Government proposal. It would be better to put on a duty of . 10 per cent, than to give a bonus. I am sure that the farmers would rather vote for a duty than for a bonus, if the question were left to them to decide. The bonus upon wire netting would not be like the bonus to the iron industry, because in all probability an application would be made for the subsidy at once. If the Government will reconsider the matter, they will find that they are upon very dangerous ground. During the next ten years, the demand for wire netting in Australia will very greatly exceed the past demand. In New South Wales a great deal of subdivision is going on, and the quantity of wire netting that will be required because of the recent land legislation in all the States will be enormous, so that the local industry will have a large market apart from any bonus. I think that the proposal should stand over for further consideration.
– I am prepared to accept as a perfectly honest statement what has been said by the honorable member for Cowper. The reason why the wire-netting industry has languished during the past few years is not hard to discover. The recent droughts in New South Wales have destroyed nearly all the rabbits in very large areas of country.
– But during the last two or three years the rabbits have increased again.
– On one New South Wales property that I know of, where they were spending £1,200 a year in keeping down the rabbits, although it was divided into three divisions, the rabbits were completely destroyed during the drought ; but when a good year came, they increased again so quickly, that now a large number of men have to be employed to keep them down. The same thing will happen all over the country, so that it will become necessary to use an immense quantity of wire netting, and the local factory will not be able to supply the requirements even of New South Wales. Therefore, if a duty is placed upon wire netting, it will become dearer - at any rate in the first instance, whatever may be the truth of the protectionist doctrine that protection ultimately makes things cheaperand the smaller land-owners who have not got their properties fenced, and have suffered a great deal by losses of stock, will be placed in a worse position than they are in now. I know of men in the Murrumbidgee country who are selling their properties because of the hardships which they have had to endure, and this will be putting another hardship on men of that class. Doubtless the larger holders have most of their properties fenced, but the homestead lessees, who will require to do something very shortly to keep their properties clear of rabbits, will be placed at a very much greater disadvantage if a duty is imposed, and they have to pay higher prices for this very necessary article in husbandry. I know how the wire-netting industry must have been checked in New SouthWales by the drought. If in the last two or three years there has been a loss, it has been simply because there has not been a market for the product.
– Owing to the increase of rabbits, the demand for wire netting has been greater during the last two years than it had been for many years previously.
– That certainly is not the case in any districtI know. We hope that we shall not go on experiencing these disastrous droughts which have occurred during the last four or five years. I am inclined very much to the opinion of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that as soon as the good seasons come the industry in New South Wales will not be nearly able to reach the demand ; I think it will then flourish. If it has flourished in the past, there is no reason why it should not do so when a greater demand arises. Ican quite understand that there will be no profit until it does arise. But it does not follow that because an industry has languished for a year or two it must necessarily be propped up by a duty. Those of us who are engaged in pastoral pursuits have to take one thing with another. There is no industry which has suffered more during the last few years than the pastoral industry, from here to the Gulf of Carpentaria. I shall vote against any further disability being put on the pastoral ists at the present time.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I quite agree with the effect of the remarks of the last speaker as to the unwisdom, at present anyhow, of imposing a duty on wire netting, although I cannot agree with him as to the reason for the industry in Sydney not paying. During the last two years in New South Wales - not in the far west, but in the central division - the increase of the rabbitshas been such as to enormously increase the demand for wire netting. It is not because of a lack of demand that the wire-netting industry has not been successful. In my own district, which includes a large part of Upper Riverina, the demand for it has been enormous, and will continue to be so for some years to come, especially under recent legislation of the State Parliament. I have to choose between assisting an industry employing, I believe, 300 hands, and putting a disability on the farming community suffering under a special stress of circumstances. I was willing enough to vote for a duty on agricultural machinery, because the farmers are supplied almost entirely by local makers, and I do not think that there is any probability of an increased price being demanded because of the imposition of the duty. Nor do I doubt that they can be supplied effectively by local makers of machinery. I am quite sure, on the other hand, that even if Lysaght Brothers were engaged to their fullest capacity, they could not for some years, under the special conditions, supply all the local requirements, and of course the price of wire netting would go up by the amount of the duty. I am not prepared to put that impost on the people peculiarly affected at the present time. I do not see that it will do much harm to adopt the present suggestion. It simply means that we leave an easy method open by which Parliament at a later stage may put 10 per cent, duty on wire netting if circumstances justify its imposition. I understand the Minister to admit that, under this suggestion, the Bill may provide for the passing of a resolution to impose the duty by proclamation without necessarily having a bonus first.
– The wire-netting industry is not sufficiently established at the present moment to justify us in putting on a duty, for this reason, that the local output is not equal to the local demand, so that the result among other things would be, as regards the quantity which required to be imported, to add to its cost to the fanner to a very considerable extent.
– There must be a monopoly before it is established ?
– I think not. The Government and both Houses of Parliament must be satisfied that it is sufficiently established not to operate to the disadvantage of the community by an increase of the price of the imported article greater than the advantage which would be produced by the local manufacturer.
– Does the Minister mean that it is able to supply the whole demand ?
– The honorable member will admit that he might view the question of the imposition of a duty from two different stand-points, according to whether or not he thought that the local supply could meet the local demand. If he thought that it could I am sure that he would more readily put on a protective duty to secure the market to the local manufacturer than he would if he thought that the reverse would be the case, and very considerable importations must continue at a largelyincreased price to the community. We use the term “ sufficiently established “ to avoid increased prices being charged to the consumer through the imposition of a duty. When the time comes that the Government and both Houses of the Parliament are satisfied that things have altered, and that the industry is sufficiently established for the purpose I have mentioned, then they have power to call into existence this protective duty. I am sure that honorable members generally will see nothing objectionable in that. As regards the amount of the duty, honorable members will see that it is very reasonable - only 10 per cent, on the import value. It is unnecessary to discuss the question of bonus at this particular moment, because that must depend on the decision of Parliament hereafter as to whether it will give any bonus, and, if so, what. But our proposal is for 10 per cent., to continue for a term of three years, and, combined with the bonus on pipes, &c, not to exceed £50,000.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- The defence of the Minister for Trade and Customs is that, when the output of an industry meets the local demand, he will deem it to be sufficiently established. That looks very strange when we remember the attitude of the Government in the past in regard to cognate industries that receive protection, such as barbed wire and wire nails. Although the output of those industries does not meet the local demand, still we find them protection. The industry is employing 300 men and paying £20,000 a year in wages, but now we are told that it is not deemed sufficiently established. If it were a Victorian industry, employing only five hands, whether it met the local demand or not, it would receive immediate assistance. The honorable member for Cowper, from the protectionist’s stand-point made a very strong appeal on behalf of the wire-netting industry when he said that it is tottering. Surely the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will not allow an industry of this kind to totter any longer 1 Surely he will throw in his weight as an extra Government whip on the side of the industry ? Are we to understand that “sufficiently established “ means that the industry is paying high dividends, and is a strong monopoly ? The honorable member for Bland said that the rabbits in the central division of New South Wales have caused a great demand for wire netting. As the rabbits have given an impetus to the wire-netting industry, let the Minister include in the resolution a bonus for their production. It is strange that the Ministry are making such a mental recovery. In the original Tariff they placed wire netting on the free list, and now they see their way clear to import a brand-new system of protection called bonuses. If the New South Wales Ministers told the Cabinet of the existence of this industry, then either their colleagues took no notice of their representations, or if they did, they would not agree to give any consideration to this substantial industry in New South Wales. I think these circumstances show the absurdity and difficulty of carrying the resolution into practical operation.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).-! regret very much that the Minister regards this matter so lightly. He appears to think that to give these people a bonus of 30s. a. ton is nothing at all, because he does not propose to put on the duty straight away. Until the industry is established he thinks there is no danger ahead. Assuming that Parliament has agreed to this proposal as embodied in a Bill, and that it is in recess, it will be in the power of the Minister, as soon as he decides that an industry is established, to put on the duty straight, away.
– When two resolutions havebeen passed - one in each House.
– I did not understand that. As a matter of fact, we makea present of £15,000 a year to these people straight away. There are scores of other industries which are only just paying their way when we come to consider the plant which they are accumulating. Whether the wire netting industry in New South Wales is or is not paying now, I am not in a position to know. Of course, I accept the statement made by the honorable memberfor Cowper so far as the return goes ; but it is a well-known fact that people who have been in this company have made a. fortune out of it.
– Not in New South Wales.
– The honorable member is probably confounding the company with the firm of Lysaght Bros., the iron manufacturers in the old country. The Australian firm has nothing to do with that firm.
– I am not going to submit to this proposal without strongly protesting against it. When the proposition was first introduced, it was never intended that it should apply to an industry which was practically established, and able to compete against the world. If we are going to do this, where shall we finish ? By way of illustration only, I would refer to the position of the salt industry in South Australia. Those engaged in it have just as much right to receive this bonus as has this company. They employ more hands, and they have not paid a dividend since the inception of operations.
– We have given them protection to the extent of 10s. per ton.
– Look at the gold mines in Western Australia that do not pay. We ought to give them a bonus.
– And on the same ground we should also give a bonus to wheat-growers who are unable to make the “business pay. If the rule is to prevail that every company which is on the verge of insolvency shall be bolstered up by means of a bonus, the outlook will be a very serious one. I suppose it is useless to protest against this proposal, but I am satisfied that if the States were polled on the question tomorrow they would not agree to it. The proposition would not even receive a decent minority vote. It is monstrous to talk of <ri vin » an advantage of 30s. a ton to those engaged in this industry when they are getting on well without it.
– Let us fight that out when we come to deal with the Bill.
– Then we shall be told that we are committed to the provisions in this division.
– Not at all.
– I lodge my protest against this proposal, and when I have an opportunity of fighting it later on I shall use all my powers against it.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta.)I desire to obtain some information from the Minister for Trade and Customs with respect to this matter, before I care to vote upon it. We are told that he is going to place this wire netting under tribute to the extent of 30s. per ton so soon as the House declares that the’ industry is sufficiently established for the purpose. What is the definition of the term “ sufficiently established” 1 Here is an industry which has been established for the last fifteen years, which employs 300 men, and in which £20,000 a year is paid away in wages. It has fallen on evil times, and its balancesheets for the last few years have not been good. Because of droughts in New South Wales its output has decreased, and its business has not been remunerative, and for that reason we are asked to save it. Why should not the Government step in and save other businesses from going into the Insolvency Court every day? There are storekeepers who would like to have their balance-sheets put straight by means of direct subsidies from the Government. I wish to know whether the industry is to receive the bonus straight away, on the ground that it is “ sufficiently established,” or if it is not sufficiently established at what time that establishment will be complete. We are told by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that those engaged in the industry are losing money. If it is not sufficiently established to do without this bonus of 30s. per ton, how can it become sufficiently established when according to the honorable member it is losing ground ? The honorable member says it is going backward instead of forward. The only effect of putting this proposal to a practical test would be that the Government would step in immediately and give a bonus of 30s. a ton on their output to Lysaght Brothers in order to square their balancesheet. They might just as properly step in and save every coal mine proprietor in the Commonwealth who happens to have an unremunerative property. They might just as well assist some of the mines at Broken Hill, the shareholders in which are suffering while the miners themselves are out of employment. Why not give them a bonus to tide them over their difficulties ? Their balance-sheets are bad. Our copper mines are shut down for the present. Why not give them a bonus ? It seems to me that the Commonwealth Parliament is to inaugurate its existence by going to the rescue of individual business firms, who by reason of circumstances which are explicable, happen to have bad balance-sheets for the time being. That can be the only practical effect of inserting this provision. It is time the Minister gave the committee some estimate of what the total payments proposed to be made under this division by the Government are likely to be. We are told that £250,000 will be required in the case of pig iron alone. Then we have galvanized and tinned, plate and sheet iron, reapers and binders, and wire netting in this division. Are there no other items to be placed on the list? Why should there be no other ? Why not include within the same beneficent proposal every industry that has suffered ? The huge joke of it all is, that after we have been struggling with this matter for the last three days, we are told that the debate amounts to nothing ; that the question of the payment of these bonuses is to be settled by a Bill which the Government have to introduce after the Tariff has been disposed of. We have been wasting three days of our valuable time in discussing a proposition which may or may not come to anything. Honorable members who are supporting the Government in these proposals have the hardihood to tell the committee that they do so because, in taking that course, they do not commit themselves to anything; that they do so in order that they may have an opportunity to vote against the proposals when the Bill comes to be considered. Altogether this is the most absurd position in which the House has yet been placed, and I can conceive of no better designation of the mental condition of the Minister who sits at the table and allows the proposition to be criticised as this has been than that which has been applied by the honorable member for Dalley. We ought to know how many more items are to be placed within this category. The Ministry are simply trying to get once more within the range of their Tariff proposals items which have already been rejected by the committee. That is the real meaning of this meandering policy. The committee has already rejected certain of these proposals, and it will really be stultifying itself if it agrees to the proposition of the Minister.
Mr. SKENE (Grampians). Notwithstanding the explanation of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I am still troubled as to the definition of the term “ sufficiently established.” Assuming that this proposal were passed, and that before the House adjourned representations were made by one of these firms that it could supply all the wire netting required throughout the Commonwealth, would it not be within the power of the Government to bring before honorable members a Bill for the purpose of giving effect to this proposition? If such a Bill were introduced in the present state of the House, no doubt it would be passed. Therefore, I should like to know whether the Minister cannot give us some better information on the question how we are to arrive at the true meaning of the term “ sufficiently established.” It seems to me to be so very indefinite, especially when relating to an item with which we have dealt already, that I should not like to run the risk of voting for a proposal which might have the effect of putting on the duty again at once.
– If a provision is passed giving the Government power to declare a duty, and if both Houses are satisfied that an industry is sufficiently established, it will be possible to declare that duty. But with regard to the honorable member’s gloomy forebodings, I would point out that it has been decided, practically by both sides, that these industries do not exist to an extent to allow of the bringing into existence of the duties suggested.
– The Minister is now putting the matter from a different standpoint.
– There is no doubt that when Parliament has agreed to do anything which it has power to do, it can do it. Do honorable members suggest that they should not have the power to do so ?
– They would have the power without this provision in the Tariff.
– They might, but this is only obviating the necessity for introducing amendments of the Tariff every year. This gives to Parliament what it ought to have - a facile means of providing an alteration on a certain basis. I venture to think the time will never come when any member of the Federal Parliament, now or hereafter, will suggest that the Federation is not to be trusted.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - The Minister has properly described this proposal as giving Parliament a facile means of altering the Tariff without going through the ordinary procedure.
– In a certain event.
– But I do not suppose that the Minister contemplates that this duty will be imposed during the life of this Parliament, unless he is prepared to admit at once that the industry is already sufficiently established. If the industry is sufficiently established, I submit that the proper parliamentary procedure is to recommit the Tariff, and ask the committee to impose a duty. If, on the other hand, the Government believe that it will take some years to establish the industry on a basis to justify the imposition of an import duty, then clearly we are taking on ourselves functions that belong to another Parliament. I do not suppose the right honorable gentleman expects he will be Minister for Trade and Customs, or that the present Government will be administering the affairs of the Commonwealth when the time arrives that these industries are sufficiently established to justify a duty. Surely we are not in any way denying the right of Parliament to impose a duty when we vote against this particular method. Parliament has power to alter the Tariff next session or to impose an import duty on this article at any time. For the Government to claim that they are giving Parliamentany power, right, or liberty which we do not already possess under the Constitution, is simply to mislead the committee. This method of procedure is absolutely unparalleled in Australian parliamentary history. So far from giving a right or privilege to Parliament, the proposal is, to some extent, an endeavour to commit Parliament to a certain course. I realize that perhaps all this talk is useless either for or against the proposal, in view of the fact that we shall have to deal with the resolutions when they are submitted, and that no tax can be imposed without the sanction of Parliament. The Government are responsible for all this waste of time, by adopting a course which is contrary to all parliamentary precedent, and which does not, in any shape or form, help in the establishlishment of this industry.
Mr. KIRWAN (Kalgoorlie).- The Government ask the committee to agree to a very singular proposition. Wire netting is on the free list, and the industry is established in the Commonwealth ; but the Government calmly propose that a bonus of 30s. per ton shall be granted, and that when the bonus has been paid for five years, the industry shall be further assisted by a duty of 10 per cent, or 15 per cent. That is an extraordinary way of “spoon feeding” a special industry, and is going much further than we have gone in connexion with any other item in the Tariff. 1 quite agree with honorable members who are opposed to the insertion of this particular item, but I cannot follow the reasoning of the honorable members for Lang and Parramatta, and others who, while they oppose the item, favour the imposition in this division of a duty on galvanized iron. That is a position which, in my mind, cannot be reconciled.
– We do not do any such thing.
– The industries are both established, and are on exactly the same footing. The proposal of the Government is not fair and goes to an extreme in protection. The Minister for Trade and Customs has explained the action of the Government in agreeing to place wire netting on the free list, by saying that the output is not equal to the demand ; and I take it that that is the policy which the Government favour in matters of this kind. But I should like to know if the Government are going to be consistent and argue that the output of electrical machinery, agricultural machinery, and a number of other commodities which are mentioned in the Tariff, is equal to the demand within the Commonwealth. This is only one of the innumerable inconsistencies with which this Tariff is filled.
Question - That the words “wire netting, ad valorem 10 per cent.” be added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes… … … … 25
Noes……… … 17
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston)agreed to-
That the following words be added : - “Iron and steel tubes and pipes, not dutiable under Division VI., ad valorem 10 per cent.”
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the words “Spelter, ad valorem 10 per cent.” be added.
– I shall be glad to give the honorable gentleman the explanation which the Minister appears to be unable to give. This spelter is used largely in the manufacture of galvanized iron. It really supplies the coating of the iron sheets.
– It is the zinc of commerce.
– It is fitting that after proposing later on to give a bonus of 10 per cent, on galvanized iron, Ministers should immediately proceed to impose a duty of 10 per cent, upon one of the most costly ingredients in the manufacture of it.
-“ Spelter” is absolutely “zinc.” Efforts are being made now, for, I think, the first time in this country, to manufacture zinc from low-grade ores. The product of the process employed is called “ spelter,” and, as honorable members know, the zinc is used to galvanize iron.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That Division VIa., as amended, be agreed to - put.
The committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Division VIa., as amended, agreed to.
Resolved (motion by Mr. Barton) -
That the House at its rising do adjourn until Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 3.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020214_reps_1_8/>.