1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
In Committee of Ways and Means -
Consideration resumed from 25th February (vide page 10298).
Division X : -Wood, Wicker, and Cane.
Item 102.- Furniture, n.e.i. (except metal), in parts or finished, including billiard and bagatelle tables and boards and accessories, photograph frames and stands for pictures, picture frames (on pictures or otherwise), and picture mouldings, cabinets, brackets, trays, verandah blinds, screens, hair curled, show figures for draping or oher purposes, writing and stationery cases, writing desks, and. mirrors framed or set, ad valorem, 20 per cent.
SirWILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). We have come now to a division the items in which are, I . think, widely separated from most of the other items in the Tariff. The manufacture of furniture is not a primary industry, but it is one which is so natural to the country, and receives so much protection by reason of the heavy freights and charges for importing furniture from Europe and other parts of the world, as to render it an absolutely secure industry under any circumstances, and I do not hesitate to say that it requires no protection. The cost of importing furniture here from other parts of the world ranges from about 17^ to 100 per cent., and a reasonable average would be about 40 per cent. The importation of furniture into Hew South Wales, where, prior to the announcement of this Tariff, there was no duty, has been hardly worth considering, and I have been told that, with the exception of Austrian furniture, and particular articles which for some reason or other cannot well be manufactured in Australia, was only about £600 worth a month. Any honorable member who visits Sydney, and takes the trouble to inquire into the matter, will find that nearly all the great establishments there which deal in furniture make their own, and that the articles which they manufacture compare favourably with the best European furniture. The result of imposing a duty upon furniture in Victoria was to cause the manufacture of a great deal of the cheap and medium quality furniture to fall into the hands of the Chinese. I find that before a wages board was established in Victoria for this trade, the wages paid to furniture makers in New South Wales were higher than those paid to furniture makers in Victoria, and that after a wages board had .fixed a standard for the wages of the furniture makers in Victoria, the wages paid in New South Wales were as high, and for certain classes of work higher, than those paid in Victoria. The principle laid down by the honorable member for Corangamite some time ago, that in no case should a duty be imposed which would completely prohibit importation, is, I think, a very safe rule to follow, and I would, therefore, point out that a duty of 20 per cent, upon furniture will practically prohibit its importation. I do not mean to say that there will not be any importation of furniture if the proposed duty is agreed to, but in dealing with a large line of articles from which revenue is expected, it is of no use to speak about an importation of £10,000 or £20,000. The principle ‘ laid down by the Prime Minister at Maitland was that we should see that no harshness is shown to the industrial life of any State which has been fostered under particular fiscal arrangements. But in my opinion - and I do not generally express exaggerated views - if there were no duty upon furniture, the furniture-making industry in Victoria and elsewhere would be unaffected. It must be recollected, as I have before remarked, that while a duty of 10 per cent, may prohibit the importation of one article, it may take a duty of 30 per cent., 40 per cent., or even 50 per cent, to prohibit the importation of another article, and one of the faults of this Tariff is that, notwithstanding the compact which was entered into by the Government, in many cases duties have been imposed which are very near the point of prohibition. Honorable members will recognise that this is such a case. We, on this side of the chamber, are quite willing to carry out our part of the compact, and allow tho Government to obtain revenue ; but I hold that a duty of 10 per cent, is the highest revenue duty that should be imposed upon furniture. I have here an invoice which shows that the charges upon an importation of furniture ex Runic in August last, amounted to 96 per. cent., or deducting the duty, to 50 per cent., and I have information of other cases in which the charges have amounted to practically 100 per cent. I should like to give the committee one or two salient figures in regard to .the furniture-making industry, which, perhaps, will appeal to them more than any rhetoric would do. In New South Wales, in 1898, there were 69 furniture factories, in which 1,075 adult males were employed, while in the same year there were 56 furniture factories in Victoria, in which only 808 adult males were employed. Two years later - in 1900 - when’ New South Wales was still a free-trade State, and Victoria had a duty upon furniture, the number of factories had increased in the former State to 77, and the number of adult male employes to 1,333, while in Victoria the number of factories had increased to only 59, and the adult male employes to 922. I do not desire to institute any invidious comparison between the two States, but it is necessary when we are told thai? industries cannot exist without protection to show that they have been carried on successfully in the free-trade State of New South Wales. There may bea great deal of apparent argument at times in favour of protection to industries involving the employment of scientific processes, very elaborate machinery, or heavy years of accumulated experience, butfurniture making does not come withinthis description. The industry is carried on all over the world with ordinary tools, and the work is easily understood. It does not require high duties or mollycoddling, as the work of furniture making is just as ordinary and just as natural as that carried out in a blacksmith’s shop. If any duty is imposed, it should be with the object of obtaining revenue, and considering the natural protection that is afforded, the duty must be fixed at a low rate ; therefore I move -
That the words”andonandafter 27th February, 1902, 10 percent.” be added.
– I have received a letter from Messrs. Tye and Co., furniture manufacturers and importers, of South Melbourne, with regard to the duties provided for in this item. They show that on the 1st October last they imported a consignment of chairs’ from New York, and that the import charges, including duty, represented 69 per cent, on the invoice value of the goods. On 14th November the charges in connexion with a consignment of furniture amounted to 70 per cent. The charges on a shipment of assorted furniture, on 21st November, represented 71 per cent. On the 11th December, the same percentage of expense was incurred in connexion with another consignment, and the import charges and duty upon another shipment on 3rd January of this year, amounted to 82¾ per cent. The last shipmentwasmade up of an assortment of furniture, including desks, book-cases, sideboards, and bedroom suites. Another line of furniture, consisting of curtain-poles, was landed on 2nd January, and the freight and duty represented 108 per cent,upon the invoice value of the goods. On 5th January a similar shipment was landed, thechargeson which represented 100 per cent., the freight in the latter instance being rather less than in the former case. On 26th January, the costs in connexion with a shipment of chairs amounted to 68½ per cent., and on a shipment landed on 13th February, the cost amounted to 69 per cent. These figures, which can be verified, fully bear out the statements of the acting leader of the Opposition that furniture, owing to its bulky character, and the care that has to be taken in packing it, has a very large natural protection. Itis questionable, therefore,whether in the interests of the Commonwealth it is desirable to impose a high duty, which, added to the natural protection,would probably have a prohibitive effect. It is not the desire of Parliament or of the Government that any duty should be prohibitive, and, therefore, the rate should be reduced.
– Both the honorable members who have just spoken have stated that the natural protection on furniture ought to be sufficient. We have had that point discussed time after time, and the committee have alwaysdecided that whilst there is a certain amount of natural protection in certain cases, that alone is not sufficient. We know what can be done in the way of capturing our markets, and it has been decided that the natural protection is not sufficient to guard usagainst such a possibility. The honorable member for Wentworth stated that therewere no imports into New South Wales.
– I said they were diminishing.
– The honorable member said that the importations amounted to about £600a month.
– Plus the other kinds of furniture, which I did not include in my Statement.
– I find that the importations of furniture and wicker-work into New South Wales in 1898 were valued at £112,000 ; in 1899, £107,000 ; and in 1900, £129,000.
– I was referring to the ordinary furniture, such as is manufactured in the local establishments.
– My honorable friend must be under some misapprehension in regard to this matter, because Victoria imported £19,000 worth of. furniture in 1898, £22,000 worthin 1899, and £27,000 worth in 1900. My honorable friend must realize that there could not be such a large difference unless some very good reason existed.
-There was more money in New South Wales with which tobuy furniture from abroad.
– I am very glad to hear it.
– I was referring to the ordinary furniture, and did not include Austrian bent wood and other kinds which are not locally manufactured.
– Those descriptions of furniture, are also imported into Victoria, and, therefore, any comparison which does not include them would be absurd. The figures show that the Victorian duties had the effect of shutting out a lot of goods that would doubtless have been imported but for that impost.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman call that practically a prohibitive duty ?
– No, I do not think it is. The furniture industry is an important one, to . which we ought to extend a reasonable amount of protection. The honorable member for Wentworth suggests that the duty should be reduced to 10 per cent., and states that such an amendment would result inan increase of revenue. What does that mean? It can only, mean that we should have to make considerably less furniture within the Commonwealth in order to realize an equal amount of revenue.
– Then the right honorable gentleman admits that prohibition is desired ?
– No ; we do not want prohibition, but we do not intend to impose a mere revenue duty where an important industry is concerned. My honorable friend must admit that a 10 per cent, duty would be imposed merely for revenue purposes, and that if the duty were reduced by one-half, as he proposes, we should have to import twice the quantity of furniture in order to realize the same revenue as under a 20 per cent. duty. That would mean that a large quantity of furniture that could be made within the Commonwealth, with the protection of a. fair duty, would not be manufactured here. In addition to that, the woods used in this industry are dutiable, and many other articles used in making up furniture have to be imported subject to duty. It is only fair that we should take these mattersinto consideration. It cannot be said that we are imposing such a very high rate of duty when the rates hitherto levied by the various States are considered. In New South Wales prior to the imposition of thef ederal Tariff th ere was no duty upon furniture. Victoria levied a 30 per cent, duty, and South Australia 25 per cent., Tasmania 20 per cent., and Western Australia - where as a rule the duties were fixedat very low rates - 20 per cent. Therefore it cannot be said that the Government have imposed an extreme or prohibitive rate. We expect to derive some £18,000 in revenue, and this will be paid upon the better class of furniture by people who can well afford to contribute to the revenue. If there is one thing that ought to be made within the Commonwealth it is furniture.
– We make the very best of furniture in Sydney.
– Quite so, and yet some people will not buy locallymade furniture. They will bring then goods in from the United States, and Canada, and other countries, and although it is admitted that we can and do make first class furniture within the Commonwealth, there is a prejudice against it because it is Australian made. If people desire to import furniture such as we can make here, they should be prepared to pay something towards the revenue. Twenty per cent, is not an unreasonable duty to impose, because it gives proper protection to those engaged in the industry, and calls upon those who can well afford it, to contribute towards the revenue.
– If there is one duty that ought to be reduced it is that upon furniture. The industry is one which has been protected more or less in all the States, but has not been a success. I know that . it has not flourished in South Australia, where thewages paid are not such as were expected by those who asked that the industry should be protected. The class of articles turned out by local manufacturers is not such as to recommend protection, because the quality is very inferior. My experience in buying furniture has not been a particularly happy one, because I have had to pay about 40 per cent, above ordinary prices, in order to secure well-made articles. The imported furniture is vastly superior to the locally-made over-protected article. You cannot open a drawer in a locally-made article of the ordinary class under twenty attempts, and probably will not be able to close it under forty, because the wood is not properly seasoned, and the workmanship generally is indifferent. Let us look at the measure of protection which is already enjoyed by this industry.
I have in my possession about 50 invoices from which I could draw illustrations, but I have no desire to inflict their contents on the committee. From one letter, however, I shall strike a few averages to show the extent of the natural protection which it enjoys - a protection which it is now proposed to increase by the imposition of a duty of 20 per cent. Moreover, that 20 per cent, really represents 26 per cent. Under the old Victorian Tariff the ad valorem rate imposed upon furniture was 30 per cent., but it was not levied upon the charges for freight and casing, whereas the present duty is imposed upon the value of the goods imported, plus those charges. The proposed rate of 20 per cent., therefore, really represents 26 per cent, ad valorem. Let me take thirteen invoices, dating from September last to the end of January of the present year.
– Whose invoices?
– They are invoices by Tye and Co. Limited. of Victoria, but I have others from Hooper and Co., of Adelaide. I shall, however, quote only one or two of them. I find that upon chairs, averaging the cost of landing, upon the invoice value of two shipments of 155 cases, the natural protection enjoyed is over 75 per cent. Upon roll top desks it is 125 per cent. Surely it is not necessary to add another 20 per cent, to that in order to protect the local manufacturer. I would further point out that, according to a report which Iread some three or four years ago, the biggest wages paid in this industry in Victoria are paid by Chinamen.
– How long ago was that?
– About three or four years. I remember reading the report, and using it as an argument in support of a proposal for the payment of a minimum wage when the matter was being discussed in the South Australian Parliament. Then, again, the average cost upon the invoice value of landing a mixed shipment of sideboards and bedroom suites was 87 per cent., whilst baby-carriage gear enjoys a natural protection of 50 per cent. I need not give any more illustrations. In one case it will be seen that the average rate of natural protection amounts to not less than 125 per cent. Where, then, is the necessity for asking for an additional duty of 20 per cent.?
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).I have listened with very great interest to the arguments of my honorable friends on the other side of the chamber, and I have also noted that they are well primed upon this particular item. Unfortunately for them I know the value of a great deal of their data. The firm quoted by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, would not manufacture a single article if they could onlyimport their goods free. It is well known that in the Victorian boot and furniture trades there are a large number of dealers who are manufacturing solely on account of the protective duty which has hitherto been operative. I might instance the firm of Bedggood and Company in connexion with the manufacture of boots. That firm would not manufacture a single pair of boots were it not for the fact that the duty which has been operative impels them to do so. Messrs. Tye and Company, who are identified with the furniture industry, may also be mentioned in this connexion. They are a very excellent firm, pay good wages, and treat their employes well, but they would infinitely prefer to import their goods rather than to manufacture them. Those who know the very large profits which are made by importers can well understand why this is so. But I have in my hand a document whichI think will weigh quite as much with honorable members as will the opinion of Messrs. Tye and Co., who are directly interested in this matter. It comes from the Employes’ Union, and the secretary of that organization in connexion with the furniture trade, speaking for himself and the operatives in New South Wales and South Australia, appeals to this committee to impose a duty of at least 25 per cent, upon furniture. Surely the employes know their own interests quite as well as do Messrs. Tye and Co.
-What is the name of the secretary?
– The secretary of the Employes Union is Mr. A. Dobson, and he also sits upon the Trades Hall Council, representing South Australia and New South Wales.Why do the employes ask for the imposition of this duty? Because included in this item is wickerwork furniture of all kinds, which is daily entering more and more into competition with ordinary furniture. This wicker-work is made up largely in China and Japan. Thousands and thousands of pounds’ worth of it are being manufactured in China by men who receive from 6d. to 9d. per day. I specially appeal to my honorable friends in the labour corner, irrespective of the fiscal opinions which they hold, whether it is fair to sub- “ject our journeymen to this cruel competition? If a protection of 100 or 150 per cent, is proved to be insufficient, surely they will not begrudge that measure which is necessary to ensure that our own workmen shall receive fair wages. I admit that there are Chinamen engaged in this particular line of business in Victoria. But their number is steadily diminishing, and this year there are considerably fewer than there were two years ago.
– That is not in accord with the evidence given before the Factories Commission which is now sitting.
– I am sure that if honorable members get the official figures they will find that the number of Chinamen engaged in the furniture trade is steadily decreasing.
– The inspector’s last report says that it is increasing.
– Even if the number were increasing, that would not constitute a reason why we should not protect, to the best of our ability, the European workmen -who are engaged in this particular industry. The circular to which I have referred, in addition to being signed by the journeymen employes in connexion with the furniture trade, is signed by the employers. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has quoted the opinion of Messrs. Tye and Co. As against that opinion I set the statement of the United Manufacturers of Victoria, and I hold that their statement is as worthy of consideration as is the declaration of the firm in question, good as it undoubtedly is. The honorable and learned member also spoke about Austrian chairs. Why should we import Austrian chairs when our own chairmakers are walking about the streets looking for work ?
– How many are walking about ?
– According to the latest telegrams there are over 3,000 men looking for work in New South Wales.
– Are they chairmakers. «
– I am afraid that some of them are.
– There is plenty of work upon the farms in the country if they will only go to it.
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member make that state.memt. Let him discard his black coat, don fustian, and see what farm work he can obtain, and how much wages he will receive.
– Can Austrian chairs be made within the Commonwealth 1
– We can make chairs equally as good as the Austrian chairs. Does the honorable member for South Australia insist upon importing Austrian chairs when our own chairmakers are looking for bread 1
– Why does the honorable member desire the imposition of a duty upon furniture, if he merely wishes to encourage the employment of our own men ? Why does he not buy from our own men ?
– That is exactly the point I am urging. Let the honorable member speak for himself. I would point out that the New South Wales people are not buying from their own chair-makers. The journeymen chair-makers in that State are appealing, to us to levy a duty of 20 per cent, in order to keepout the Austrian chairs. In Victoria the duty was 30 per cent., and in all the other States, except in New South Wales, the lowest duty was 20 per cent.; and, seeing further that we have Chinese competition internally and externally, and also Austrian competition, the least we can do is to fix the duty as proposed by the Government. What are the Austrians to us? Surely we in Australia can make a chair good enough to sit on, and good enough to put in the best rooms of our houses.
– The honorable member wants to dictate what chairs people shall use.
– If people live in this country, and draw rents and become rich here, they should be compelled to support their own people.
– Suppose people become poo* here 1
– The right honorable member has not got poor here.
– Would the honorable member for Melbourne Ports object to sell a hat to the Austrians ?
– I do not sell hats to the Austrians, and if I did the Austrians would be right to protect themselves against me. In Austria the people do take care to protect themselves, and we do not send any chairs to that country. I have.no interest in this particular.industry ; indeed, I do not believe I know a single manufacturer personally. But I do know the journeymen and the secretary and president of the union.
– They are more important than the employers.
– I have not said that.
– I have said so, from the honorable member’s stand-point.
– I am sure that the honorable member does not mean what he says. I recognise the importance ofgood employers, just as much as thehonorable member.
-But theemployers are notsonumerous as the men.
– That is an unworthy insinuation on the part of the honorable member. I appeal to the committee in the interests of the journeymen, who ask for a duty of 25 per cent, to, at any rate, accord a duty of 20 per cent.
– I. am sorry the honorable member for Melbourne. Ports has presumed to speak in the name of New SouthWales operatives, as well as that of the Victorian operatives; because out of the 1,300 shown to be employed in this industry in the mother State, I am quite sure he could not find 200 protectionists. The simple fact of the matter is that the honorable member is in communication with somebody, or some organization, composed of very few individuals, who, I suppose, are in line by correspondence with other organizations of the same kind, which are trying to dictate the duties for the Commonwealth. I do not agree with a great deal that has been said this afternoon with reference to the inferior character of Australian-made furniture. In Sydney - and I am willing to believe the same of Melbourne - furniture is being made that can compare with any imported article. And the question of duty has nothing to do with that excellence, because the same development has been attained in New South Wales as in Victoria; and, in my opinion, the healthy conditions prevailing with open competition, have induced rather more enterprise and rather better quality in the products. The whole question is whether the duty proposed by the Government is too high. We are all agreed to give a reasonable revenue duty. I recognise, and I think other honorable members also recognise, that so far as the masses of the people are concerned their furniture is practically all manufactured in the Commonwealth. The acting leader of the Opposition has correctly stated that this duty will have no effect so far as fostering the industry locally is concerned seeing that we are now manufacturing nearly all we require in the Commonwealth.
– The statistics, do not show that.
– The Treasurer has quoted New South Wales statistics to show that £100,000 worth of furniture is imported. But I think he will admit that that is very small in proportion to the large amount, that must be manufactured in a State with a population of over 1,250,000.
– If we have the duty, proposed, nearly all the furniture now imported will be made in the State.
– I do not think that that is correct. The Treasurer has admitted that the bulk of furniture imported is of the more expensive class, which is purchased by people who can afford to pay, as he says, the duty ; and the only question that can arise is as to the revenueproducing power of the duty. In my opinion, 15 per cent, ought to be the high-water mark of revenue duties ; and the committee ought not to countenance the imposition of duties of 20 per cent, and 25 per cent, merely for revenue purposes. We have ample evidence that this industry is thriving in all the States without protection, while there is no evidence that a high duty will tend to encourage the industry or find more abundant labour for the operatives. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has stated that there is no wicker furniture made in the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, considerable quantities of wicker furniture are made in New South Wales.
– There are two factories in Victoria.
– I was not aware of that; but considerable quantities are made in New South Wales, and even in the Blind Asylum of that State this class of furniture is manufactured. This furniture can be, and is, manufactured and sold alongside the same kind imported from China and Japan. It has been abundantly proved that, with a free port, this cheap class of furniture can be manufactured with profit in New SouthWales ; and I do not see very much in the argument that this high duty will keep out Chinese and Japanese goods. Apart from the more expensive classes, we have Austrian furniture imported into New South Wales ; and I saythat aduty of 20per cent.willnot keep the latter furniture out of the Commonwealth. Surelywe are not going to adopt the dictatorial policy of compelling, people to usearticles to which they object?If a fair and reasonable amount of duty is paid to the Government, surely no onewill attempt to dictate what styles of furniture or classes of commodities the peopleare touse? I was going to say that Austrian furniture must be imported, but I will not go so far, because itwould be possible, by fixing an extraordinary duty, to altogether keep out this class of goods. The Government do not, however, take up that position, but ask for a revenue duty. Theacting leader of the Opposition has responded by suggesting a duty of 10per cent., and Iam inclined to vote for that proposal ; but for purely revenue purposes no duty ought to exceed 15 per cent. Something has been said about the number of Chinese employed in the furniture industry. I believe it isa fact, both in New South Walesand inVictoria, that the proportion of Chinese employedare gradually decreasing. That is the result ofthe improved machinery which is being brought into use from year to year, and is enabling thewhite man to overtake his business, which for a long period has been practically in the hands of the Chinese. In New South Wales and in the other States this trade is gradually coming back into the hands of the white cabinet-maker, and that is taking place in the mother State without any protection, just as it will take place elsewhere. It must beso, because the improved machinery and its extensive use are gradually displacing the Chinaman, who could, as a manual labourer, work for very much less wages than the English cabinet-maker. It must be obvious to every honorable member who has even a casual knowledge of the furniture trade that nearly all the larger warehouses in Sydney or Melbourne are either manufacturing their own furniture, or having it manufactured in the Commonwealth. That will go on, because, as the honorable member for Wentworth has pointed out, the freight and other importing charges are so high as to constitute a great natural protection, and to afford abundant scope for the rise and progress of the industry without protective duties. I shall not vote at present for a duty of more than 10 per cent., but if the motion of the honorable member for Wentworth fails, I trust that the committee will endeavour, to keep revenue duties down to a maximum of 15 per cent.
– The honorable member for Lang has stated that a large amount of furniture is imported from Austria, and comparatively little from China and Japan ; but I find from Coghlan that, in 1900, New South Wales imported from Austria furniture valued at £2,164; and from China, furniture valued at £3, 5 2 1 .
– That is cane and bamboo furniture.
– The honorable member for Lang did not differentiate.
– An item of £3,000 is not very considerable.
– The figures show that only£2,000 worth of furniture was imported from Austria out of the total importation into New South Wales of £113,000 worth.
– Where did the bulk come from ?
– I see that £29,000 worth came from the United States, and £22,000 worth from the United Kingdom.
– Those are the better classes of furniture.
– That is furniture imported by those who could afford to pay the rate of duty proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Wentworth stated that, while the furniture factories in.New South Wales have increased in number, those in Victoria have decreased, pointing out that there are 59 factories in the latter State at the present time. Members of the Opposition, when it suits them, quote from the report of the Victorian Factories Inspector, in order to prove either that a very small number of hands are employed in any industry, or that few manufactories are in existence.But the last report of this inspector states that there are 245 European furniture factories in Victoria, and not 59 as stated by the honorable member. In addition, there are 142 Chinese factories. In the 245 European factories there are employed 1,104 males and 135 females, and these, added to 552 Chinese, show a total number of about 1.800 employed in this industry in Victoria. The honorable member for “Wentworth also stilted that the importations of furniture into New South Wales have gradually decreased, but the figures do not bear him out, the value of the importations into that State in 1897 being £72,000 ; in 1898, £82,000 ; in 1899, £101,000; and in 1900, £113,000. I have never seen in this chamber a more glaring instance of juggling with figures.
– If that is so, the figures are on a par with the figures given by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in regard to the Chinese.
– When we were discussing the Immigration Restriction Bill, I referred to the number of Chinese in the furniture trade, and to the fact that they were increasing, but I think that the legislation which we have passed will prevent their further increase in any of the States. I am anxious that we should impose upon furniture a duty sufficiently high to encourage the employment of white labour in its manufacture. In Victoria there is a wages board connected with the furniture trade, and there is also a wages board in South Australia, though the Government of South Australia have refused to gazette its regulations, perhaps because they want to get ahead of the other States. In New South Wales, too, they have an arbitration court, which I believe will fix the wages for Europeans and Chinese at rates similar to those paid in Victoria. But there is no sense in fixing the rate of wages in the furniture trade if we allow foreign-made furniture to be imported here. In New Zealand, the conciliation board fixed certain rates of wages for the boot trade, but, as the duty upon boots is a low one, the importationed foreign-made boots are competing unfairly with the locally made article, and thus the employes are not bene,fiting by the fixing of their wages. If honorable members opposite are earnest in their desire to improve the condition of the workers they will vote for a high duty, and then, when we have shut out the importations, we can, by industrial legislation in each of the States, fix the rate of wages. But. unless we prohibit the importation of foreign-made furniture, we may, by fixing the rate of wages, be doing the workers an injustice, ina’smuch as we may render the local manufacturer unable to compete with the importer.
– None of the speakers so far has referred to the real reason why the furniture trade in Victoria has fallen so largely into the hands of Chinese.
– But the same thing has happened in New South Wales.
– It has happened to a very much larger extent in Victoria, and the reason is this - that with a duty of 30 per cent., the cost of furniture, and especially furniture of poorer .quality, became so high that those who wanted it were forced to get it made as cheaply as possible, and therefore went to the Chinese.
– Why have the Chinese entered - into the furniture trade in New South Wales 1
– I will refer to that directly. To my mind, one of the strongest arguments against the proposed duty is the condition of the furniture trade in Victoria. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to some statements made by the secretary to the Furniture Employes Union of Melbourne, but I have here various statements in regard to the wages paid in New South Wales, where furniture, prior to the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff, was admitted free, which show that the position of the workers in the furniture trade in New South Wales under free-trade was much better than that of the workers in the same trade in ‘ Victoria, although in Victoria there was a duty of 30 per cent, upon furniture. Mr. T. H. Thrower, the president of the Sydney Labour Council, in giving evidence before the Royal commission on the Victorian Factories Act, which sat in Sydney in July last, said -
In the furniture trade the work was mostly done on the piece-work system, in the cabinet branch the average earnings being from £2 5s. to £2 7s. 6d. per 48 hours. The Victorian Factories Act had not drawn any of their best mon from Sydney.
Mr. E. W. Cutler, secretary to the Sydney Cabinet-makers’ Union, stated that -
Wages average £2 12s. 6d. for barely 48 hours per week. The average is as high as in Melbourne under the wages board determination.
Then Mr. A. Dobson, secretary to the Furniture Operatives’ Union of Melbourne, in addressing the Trades Hall Council, quoted a letter received from the secretary to the Sydney union, showing that wages had been higher in Sydney under free-trade than in Melbourne under protection, and he added - ,
Wages of furniture makers and polishers in Sydney have never come down to the level of those ruling in Victoria. Men receive 45s. in Sydney for work for which men are paid 35s. in Melbourne.
Before the provision of the Victorian Factories Act in regard to a minimum wage came into force, the condition of the Melbourne workers at that time is shown by the proceedings of a conference between the Trades Hall Council and the AntiSweating League, held in Melbourne, when, according to the report appearing in the Age, delegates of various trades gave evidence, and the representative of tha wickerworkers stated that -
Under the piece-work system boys were employed to do the work, one factory having fourteen men, twenty boys, and three improvers.
The Chief Inspector of Factories in ‘Victoria stated, in his report for 1897, that the Victorian adult furniture operatives earned on the average 31s. Id. per week iri that year. Those facts, to my mind, conclusively prove that, in the interests of t the workers, a high protective duty was not beneficial to Victoria, and that the New South Wales workers were far better off under free-trade.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie gave as a reason for the furniture trade of Victoria being largely in the hands of Chinese the fact that there was a duty of 30 per cent, on furniture imported into Victoria; but, in saying that, he was talking nonsense. The Chinese have possession of the furniture trade to at least as great an extent in Sydney as in Melbourne.
– They went to Sydney after they had learned the trade in Melbourne.
– The honorable member does not know these things of his own knowledge. He is talking from a brief which has been given to him. I have had opportunities, extending over sixteen years, for ascertaining the state of the trade in Sydney. The honorable member must know that where Chinese or other persons are willing to work for long hours at low rates of wages, people who do not care from whom they obtain their requirements are- sure to employ such persons under either free-trade or protection. In both Melbourne and Sydney the Chinese have devoted themselves very largely to furniture making, and people who do not care from whom they get their furniture have bought Chinese furniture simply because it was cheap.
– But the honorable member for Yarra says that the number of Chinese in the furniture trade in Melbourne is increasing.
– I believe that that is so. But the honorable member also pointed out that Victoria has in the past allowed Chinese to come in almost without hindrance, while of late years the Nev/- South Wales law has been very much more stringent, so that fewer Chinese have entered New South Wales, and as a consequence fewer Chinese have embarked in the furnituremaking business there.
– They are diminishing in South Australia under an Act not so stringent as that in New South Wales
– But the administration in South Australia has been more severe than in New South Wales. I am officially informed that for some years past in South Australia no Chinese were allowed to come in, because they were prohibited as an Act of State. There has been an active administration in South Australia to keep out Chinese for some time past, and the fact that in the absence of that administration they would have come in, is proved by the experience in Victoria where they have continued to enter, and where they are now attempting to gain admission on permits issued by the State Government. It seems to me that this is an instance where we may very well impose a comparatively high duty, for the reason that a great portion of the furniture used by the community is made locally - I am ‘ sorry to say a large portion of it by Chinese labour. That which is imported may be divided into three classes - first, American cheap wooden chairs ; secondly, Austrian bentwood furniture ; and thirdly, superior furniture, which is used b)’ those who can afford to pay big’ prices in order to obtain the very best the world can give them. The imports of furniture of the first two classes are almost entirely confined to chairs. These are packed in pieces, and are put together after their arrival within the Commonwealth, and consequently they do not take up such a great amount of cargo space as wouldinvolveany great expense forfreight. The prices of this class of furniture are so low that a 20 per cent; duty would not make a very great differenceto the people who use it. We neednot extend our sympathyto the people whocan afford to buy the more expensive class of furniture. Mahogany, oak, andmaple furniture will be imported by those who require it whether itis subject to a duty of 10, 15, or 25 per cent. With regard to the wages paid in Sydney and Melbourne, I would remind the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the evidence which he speaks ofwas taken in Sydney in 1901, and that the Victorian Factories Act had been in operationsince 1896, or five years beforethe evidence was taken. The wages board in the furniture trade was brought into existence very shortly after the Act was passed, so that it would have been in existence probably four or five years prior to the evidence given in Sydney. It is veryclear that the witnesses who gave the evidence quoted by the honorable member, must have been speaking of a period long before 1901.
– They referred to the wages then prevailing.
– If that is so, their statements are absolutely incorrect ; because the wages board determinations and the sworn declarations of those responsible for their administrationshow that instead of the wages being lower, theywere rather higher in Melbourne than in Sydney. The minimum wage under the Factories Act in Victoria, according to the report of the Inspectorof Factoriesfor 1900 was 48s. for 48 hours for males, and 20s. for females there are, however, few femalesemployed. The figures given in the report, show that the actual average wagepaid for European furniture makers, numbering511, was50s., 1d. per week or 2s.1d. per week above the minimum. In addition to that there were four pieceworkers who averaged. 45s. 6d. per week. There were also 234. Chinese who were supposed to be receiving 48s. 7d. per weekor 7d. over the minimum. We knowhow difficult it is to ascertain what Chinamenare getting, irrespective of theState in which they are employed. The evidenceshows that inthe yearbefore that quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie the Melbourne workmen were receiving 5s.1d. per week, more wages than were being paid in Sydney. One witness stated that the wages, paid in Sydney were 45s. per week, and another statedthat they ranged from 45s. to47s. 6d. per week. I know the men who gave evidence in Sydney; and I do not believe that they stated anythingwhich they did not believe to be true, but my impression is that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie or his informant has misconstrued the evidence, and that the secretary of the operative furniture makers wasspeaking ofthe period prior to the establishment of the wages board in Melbournewhenhe wasreferring to the low wages paid there.
– I referred to both periods - to1901 and tothe period prior to the passing of theFactories Act in Victoria
– The honorablemember contradictedme when I was referring to the period prior to the passing of theFactories Act asthat at which the low wages were paid. Mr. Thrower and Mr. Cutler, referring to the period at which they were giving evidence, stated that.nearly all the work in Sydney was being done by piecework, and that the operatives were earning from 45s. to47s. 6d. per week. The Victorian workmen wereat the same time earning 50s.1d. per week. I do not say that this difference inthe rates is sufficient to makeanoise about, but I wish to show that the honorable member’s contention that the imposition of a protective duty had led to low wages in Melbourne was hardly correct, I trust the committee will see the wisdom ofimposing a fairly high duty. We cannot reduce the cost to the average consumer toany appreciable extent byreducing theduty. We shall, however, certainlyincrease the price to those who use the best classes of furniture. I have it on the best authority that in Melbourne furniture is a good deal cheaper than in Sydney.
– Is that owing to the duty?
– No ; but it is nodoubt due to local competition. I only instance that toshow that the great massesof the people will continue to buy locallymade furniture whatever the duty, may be, and that the duty will be collected onlyupon bent-wood furniture, American chairs, and the best classof f urniture which the wealthier people willimport.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The honorable and learned member for South Australia,. Mr. Glynn, stated that the furniture-making industry, had not been a success in South Australia. I am surprised to hear the honorable and learned member speak in that way, and I cannot understand where he has been buyinghis furniture, because unquestionably an exceedingly goodclass of furniture ismadein that State.
– Hear, hear ; but those who buy it have to pay pretty stiffly for it.What I saidwas that the generalrunof the low priced goods wasvery poor.
– The general run of cheap goods all over the world is very poor, and people have to pay a fair price if they want good furniture. To say that furniture making, has not been a success in South Australia, or that good articles cannotfee made there isabsurd, because some of the best of work is turned out from the local manufactories. The manufacture, of furniture within the Commonwealth is leading more and more to the use of native timbers. Some of these are exceedingly useful for furniture making, and I should bevery sorryto seethe same state of affairs existing inall the States as has hitherto prevailed in NewSouth Wales. That State has been importing furniture to the extent of£100,000 worth per annum in excess ofthe Victorian imports, and ifthe same conditions were to apply all through the Commonwealth, weshouldimport something like £500,000 worth of furniture which ought to bemade within the States. This would discourage the use of native timbers; and throw out of employment a large number of workmen.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The Treasurer claimed that this duty was imposed for revenue purposes ; and that if it were reduced to 10 per cent, there would be a falling off in the revenue by one half. That is nota soundconclusion. The right honorablegentleman has told us over and over again that the lower the duty the greater the amountof revenue that would be derived.
– I said that ifthe duty were reduced the importations would have to be largely increased in order to yield the same amount ofrevenue.
– The importationswould, be greater, but notnecessarily of double the value. The people would have more money tospend upon furniture, and they would importmore. Thelowerthe amount of duty, within certain bounds, the greater would be the importations, because the people would have more money , to spend.
Mr.L. E. Groom. - Then the local manufactures would fall off.
– Only in the case of the lowerpriced furniture. The manufacture of higherclass furniture would increase, because people would be able to buy better goods. We should always consider the high naturalprotection afforded by import charges in connexion with an article such as f urniture, which, in some instances, amounts to as much as 85 per cent. It is because of this high natural protection that most of our f urniture is manufactured in Australia. In Victoria, the duty which formerly operated was 30 percent., and in South Australia it was 25 per cent. We are told bythe honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, thatthe industry offurnituremaking in that State is a very large one. Ofcourse,we cangetfirst-class furniture madein Australia, justas we can obtain itfrom abroad, provided always that the timberof which it is composed is well seasoned. The honorable member for Yarra gavethe committee some figures having, reference to the importation of furniture from China. He pointed out that in 1900 we imported . £3,521 worth of furniture from China, while from the United States, where European labour is employed, we imported £29,000 worth.
– But there are a great numberof Chineseemployed inthe United States.
– In the United States white people are engagedin the furniture trade just as they are in other parts of the world. Butfrom Chinaand the United States we receive only the cheaper kinds of furniture. Most of the imported manuf acturesfrom America come from the centres where Chinese furniture is at a discount. ButI wouldpoint out that whatever duty maybe imposed uponfurniture; it will always be imported from America, because the prisonmanufactured goods there aresent outof the country, and arenotallowed to besoldwithinthe Union. Not oneword of the honorable member’s argumentwould dead me to believe that the imposition of theproposedduty would have the effect of excluding this low grade of furniture. It will come in just as it has done hitherto. But if it is right that we should impose a revenue duty, it is also right that we should not take more out of the people’s pockets upon one class of article than on another. Over and over again the committee have decided that for revenue purposes, a 15 per cent, rate is all that the tax-payer should be called upon to bear. The Treasurer has apparently abandoned the doctrine of protection in regard to furniture. That more men are employed in Victoria in the manufacture of furniture is due to the fact that there are more Chinese employed than in any other State. The reason why they pay better wages is because they work upon co-operative lines. They divide their profits amongst themselves, and are able to net something like 48s. per week. The proposed duty will have no other effect than that of giving the Chinese an opportunity of earning as much money as do Europeans, because they manufacture only the lower class of furniture which comes into competition with the cheap goods imported from abroad. I hope that the Treasurer will reconsider this matter. If he merely desires to raise revenue from this source I repeat that 20 per cent, is too high a rate to charge. Ten per cent, should be the high-water mark.
– I was also surprised at the remarks which fell from the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn. I have bought furniture made both in South Australia and in Victoria, and my experience is that good furniture made in either State is in every way equal to good furniture made elsewhere. I am disposed to think that the honorable member for Robertson attaches too much importance to the natural protection which it is alleged that this industry enjoys. When I was’ in London some months ago I saw in an establishment in Holborn an office desk which took my fancy. I went into the shop and asked the manager the price of it. When he gave me the information, I said - “That would be rather an expensive desk by the time I received it in South Australia and had paid the duty.” The manager replied - “ Oh, South Australia!” The result was that I got the desk, but the exporter paid the duty. That desk to-day is in a room surrounded by colonial-made furniture, and I do not think that the latter in any way suffers by the comparison.
– I must confess that this is an item concerning which I cannot work up’ a great deal of enthusiasm upon purely fiscal. grounds. It seems to me that the duty proposed by the Government almost comes within the category of those compromises which we were promised at Maitland, but of which we have seen very little during the course of the Tariff debates. The 20 per cent, rate which is proposed is a little higher than is necessary, but, recognising that it is lower than the average duty which prevailed i n the various States under their former Tariffs, I feel inclined to accept it. One statement was made by the honorable member for Robertson, which, if true, would almost lead me to take up a very strong attitude in reference to this particular item. He told us that a large quantity of the furniture which is imported from Austria and the United States is made by prison labour. If that be so, I, for one, would favour the imposition of an absolutely prohibitive duty. I do not believe that we should admit to the Commonwealth products which are not permitted to be sold in the countries from which they come. If it can be proved that the greater portion of. the furniture imported into Australia is of prison manufacture, I think that the Government will be justified in taking very definite action. Under the circumstances, whilst I prefer a duty of 15 per cent., as more nearly approaching a compromise than 20 per cent., I feel no very great difficulty in agreeing to the Government proposal.
– I do not wish to protract this discussion, but I heartily support the amendment submitted by the acting leader of the Opposition. I do so for several reasons. In the first place nothing can . be adduced in support of the Government proposition except a desire to get revenue. The whole case in favour of protecting this industry has entirely broken down. It seems to be a matter of impossibility for us to protect the great bulk of the furniture which is made within the Commonwealth. People talk a good deal about the necessity for guarding against Australia being made a dumping ground for the cheap labour products of other parts of the world. But I do not know any part of the world where furniture can be obtained cheaper than it can be within the Commonwealth itself. With the exception of chairs, perhaps, none of the commoner articles can be manufactured elsewhere cheaper than they can be in Australia. In very many instances, too, it is sacrificed by auction, so that it can be purchased for less than its cost price. Nothing that we an do will prevent that sort of thing. I have no inclination to discuss the relative advances which have been made by Victoria and New South Wales in the manufacture of furniture, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that certain results have been laboriously obtained in Victoria, under a protective policy, and that almost similar results, pari passu, have been secured in New South Wales under a policy of freetrade. A certain number of males are employed in the industry in Victoria, and a similar number in the neighbouring State. A certain standard of wages has been established here, and practically the same standard rules in New South Wales. One is therefore impelled to ask “ What has protection done for this particular industry in Victoria?” I have looked through the statistics bearing on this matter, but I prefer to be guided by information obtained from a young man who has had experience of working in the furniture trade in both New South Wales and Victoria. He has been backwards and forwards several times, and he assures me that some time ago the rate of wages paid in the latter State was lower than that which obtained in the former, but that since the institution of wages boards in Victoria the wages paid in the respective States have approximated more closely to one another. He further adds that even the statistics relating to the wages paid in the States mentioned do not evidence the position of the trade, because the work in a good representative firm in New South Wales is more constant than it is in Victoria. Thus at the same wage per week, a man can depend upon earning more per annum in New South Wales than he can earn in Victoria, where the employment is more precarious. Apart from these considerations, however, it is a significant fact that the same result has been obtained in New South Wales under a policy of freetrade as has been secured in Victoria by the adoption of an expensive and laborious system of protection. In the latter State, I repeat, the only effect of extending protection to the industry will be to protect the Chinese workmen. I wish particularly to correct an impression which seems to exist onthe part of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who certainly ought to know more than any other honorable member, the facts regarding the employment of Chinese in Victoria. That honorable member says that the Chinese are a constantly decreasing number, as compared with Europeans engaged in this trade. I hold in my hand the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories of Victoria, who, referring to the competition of Chinese against European workers, says that in 1889 there were 1103 males employed in the European furniture factories, and that in 1900 the number was 1104. Honorable members will see that in the course of a year, flourishing under protection, the number of European employes had increased by one. The inspector further says that in 1899 there were 488 Chinese males employed in the trade, while in 1900 the number was 522. Yet, in the face of these facts, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports says that Chinese are going out of the trade in proportion to the increase of European employes. Mr. W. H. Ellis, one of the sub-inspectors of factories, says : -
In spite of the increased activity of trade, and the extra demand for all classes of furniture, the prices obtained have not been in proportion. It is a very difficult matter to raise the prices when once they have gone down.
That is carrying out my statement that the price of this common, cheap, furniture is extremely low in Victoria. Mr. Ellis says further : -
The competition amongst the Chinese themselves is quite as keen as it is between Europeans and Chinese, and I am firmly convinced that the European can never successfully compete against them, for various reasons.
Mr. Ellis deals with a matter which I believe to be one of the troubles of industries under protection, when he says : -
Small makers are the curse of the trade. In the majority of cases these men are simply living from hand to month, and are of necessity often compelled to sell at whatever price they are offered. Failing a sale they are compelled to take it to the.auction rooms, where it is sold for whatever it will fetch ; in many instances it is sold at a loss.
In the face of these facts it is utterly impossible to think that anything can be done in the way of protecting the furniture trade. The natural protection is exceedingly great, and quite sufficient if any protection be needed. But furniture is made here as cheaply as it can be made in any part of the world, and it is impossible to protect this particular class of article, which comprises 19-20ths of the whole of the trade. The honorable member for Bland has pointed out the only two cases in which protection can operate in the furniture trade. One case is in connexion with the article of chairs, which, whether Austrian bentwood, or cheap American chairs, come in at a very low rate, some of them being prisonmade, or manufactured where the industry is conducted on a very large scale, and where they are produced cheaper than we can hope to produce them for half a century to come. Then protection will operate in reference to the higher and more artistic classes of furniture, which people with greater means can afford to purchase. We are not justified in taxing the cheap chairs, which are purchased by the very poorest class of the community, and are an article of necessary furniture; and from the revenue point of view these chairs ought to be dismissed entirely, or taxed at a much lower rate than that proposed. We have left, then, the higher classes of furniture, which are largely made of expensive woods, and finished with artistic design ; and in these we have what everybody considers a legitimate subject for revenue taxation. But, if we are going to raise revenue from this line, true finance would lead us not to impose a rate so high that it would be utterly impossible to expect anything like an adequate return. A duty of 20 per cent, would not, to my mind, restrict trade by one-half, but would restrict it in a much greater proportion. A duty of 10 per cent., or at the very utmost 15 per cent, is the highest we can impose from a revenue point of view. On the other hand, I hope, in the interests of the poor consumers, who are already taxed heavily on a hundred and one other items, that these Austrian and cheap American chairs may be admitted, if not entirely free, at any rate at the very lowest rate of duty which has hitherto been imposed.For the reasons which I have given, the furniture trade here cannot be protected. We do not suffer any prospect of cheap furniture from other parts of the world being dumped here, because furniture is made as cheaply here as elsewhere. We cannot get commensurate revenue by a high tax on the higher classes of furniture, and, therefore, I hope the amendment will be carried, and these cheap chairs made still cheaper.
– I shall not be able to vote for the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth, if he persists in limiting his proposal to a duty of 10 per cent. We have an honorable obligation to the other States - the State in which we live, and also the State of Queensland.
– Have we no honorable obligation to one-third of the people of Australia, who live in New South Wales ?
– We have an honorable obligation to all the States - to South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, and also New South Wales - and that obligation I desire to see carried out as far as possible without carrying fiscal theories to any undue extreme. It has been customary in the past to place a high duty on these importations, and I earnestly hope the leader of the Opposition will see his way to alter his amendment to 15 per cent. That might be regarded as an honorable compromise between New South Wales and other States, who have felt it in their interests to have high duties. If the amendment be altered to 15 per cent., I shall be prepared to support it, but I cannot vote for the proposal now before the committee.
– I hope the amendment will not be carried, because, in my opinion, even a duty of 20 per cent, is too low.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I make no suggestion. I always find it better when the numbers are against me to accept the best I can get ; and while not satisfied that 20 per cent, is sufficient, I shall vote for that duty. Hitherto there has been a duty of 30 per cent, in Victoria, and it is proposed to levy a duty on pine equivalent to 2s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet, in addition to an excise duty of 6d. per gallon as affecting the cost of varnish, and a duty of 3s. per cwt. on tacks. It will be seen, therefore, that the furniture manufacturer is taxed to the extent of 15 to 20 per cent, on his material, while at the same time it is proposed to reduce the protection which is given him.
– Cannot the duty be shifted on to the consumer?
– I hope the furniture manufacturers may do that, but I am now dealing with the question from a point of view which I consider fair. A great deal has been said on the question of chairs, but I do not think many of the committee are aware that these cheap chairs arrive here at an invoiced value of 15s. to 20s. per dozen, or 1s. 3d. to.1s. 8d. each. Who can compete against articles imported at those prices? The duty on these chairs amounts to only 3d. or 4d. each.
– The honorable member is not taking an average, but is citing the lowest and cheapest line.
– I am taking the lowest class of chair which is imported from America. . I do not think the better classes of furniture will be affected by this duty, because those who desire furniture from England will have it irrespective of the cost. Personally, I see no necessity to go to England for furniture, because, if people will pay a price lower than the cost of importation, they can get furniture made here with wood equally as good, and with equally good workmanship. I hope the Minister will stick to his proposal.
– Ihope the Government will carry out their Maitland promise in regard to this item, although they may have failed to do so in regard to the great majority of items. That is to say, I hope the Government will impose a revenue duty, with incidental protection. Their present proposal is not a way to obtain revenue ; indeed, the heavy duty is intended, as the Treasurer has told us, to shut out imports and make for smaller revenue with larger local production. The duties hitherto imposed in this industry have not had the effect of encouraging the importation of the articles, asis shown by the fact that for the whole of Australia the Government expect to obtain a revenue of only £17,900. Is that not something ridiculously small, considering that from fancy goods the Government expect £54,200, and from boots and shoes £68,000?
– The argument used is that the natural protection shuts out the furniture under any circumstances, and if that be so, the lower we make the duty the less we shall have to collect.
– This heavy duty is not required for protective purposes. The natural protection, with a moderate impost, should be sufficient to make for revenue.
– Does the right honorable member say that no more will be collected if the duty be 20 per cent, instead of 10 per cent. ?
– I think more duty will be collected at 10 per cent.
– Then the natural protection cannot be sufficient, and the natural protection is used as an argument against the duty.
– But the Treasurer urges that 10 per cent, more or less makes absolutely no difference. There must be, however, a considerable difference. That which will bear a duty of 10 per cent, and be imported in large quantities, will not bear 20 per cent.
– But I think that this furniture is something that ought not to come in in large quantities ; it ought to be made here.
– Why force consumers on to a market to which they are not willing to go ? To compel people, whether they will or will not, to buy in the local and dear market may suit the manufacturers ; but it will not suit the consumers, with whom we are more directly concerned.
– Did not Tasmania for revenue purposes impose a duty of 20 per cent, upon furniture?
– At that time the conditions in Tasmania were abnormal, the purchasing power of the people having declined so terribly that we had to tax them to the uttermost on the margin that was left. I hope that such conditions will not prevail within the Commonwealth, and that it may prosper, although how it is to do so under this Government I do not quite know. Why should we not encourage the use of Austrian bent-wood furniture by our people, seeing that for durabilty and lightness furniture made here or imported from England cannot be compared to it. As it is an article which suits the people, why should they not be allowed to obtain it upon fair terms, and pay upon it a fair revenue duty?
– I say again that the proposed duty is practically prohibitive. The Treasurer expects to receive £17,900 from an importation of£ 89,500 worth of furniture, and if we assume that 800,000 households represent the households of the 4,000,000 people in Australia, that would mean an importation for each household of 2s. worth of furniture per annum. Under such circumstances is it not fair to call the duty a prohibitive one 1 Honorable members opposite talk about the Maitland compact to get revenue without destruction of industries, and then they propose duties which practically annihilate the revenue. It is hypocritical to call this a revenue duty. But whenever the members of the Opposition suggest reductions, weare met with the ultra-protectionist argument that we can make everything we want in our own country. If that argument were pushed to the extreme, the only revenue which we should obtain would be from the duties on narcotics and stimulants. There is no symmetry in this Tariff. “We have placed a duty of 15 per cent, on woollen piece goods, which, as honorable members know, can be imported for charges amounting to 10 per cent., so that the total protection to the local manufacturer is 25 per cent., but it is proposed to place a duty of 20 per cent, upon furniture, which at least costs 20 per cent., and, in many cases 100 per cent., to import, so that the local manufacturer will have a protection of anything over 40 per cent. If a duty of 20 per cent, is placed upon furniture, a similarly high duty should, to be equitable, be placed upon other articles. Victoria imposed a duty of 30 per cent, upon furniture, and that duty was practically prohibitive, but as it is seen that a duty of 20 per cent, will have much the same effect, we are now asked to agree to 20 per cent. In reply to what has been said in regard to the Tasmanian duty, I would point out that we are not now dealing with the provincial Tariffs, though this Tariff bristles with provincialisms, instead of being a broad Australian Tariff. Half of the duties imposed by the States were imposed either out of a spirit of retaliation, or to prevent importations from other States ; but, although we have swept away the InterState Customs barriers, the Minister still tries to bolster up his position with provincial arguments. I feel that the committee are against any extreme course, but, as it must be admitted upon broad principles that 15 per cent, is the highest revenue duty that can be imposed upon furniture, I desire to amend my amendment, so as to reduce the proposed duty to 15 per cent. If a duty of 15 per cent, were sufficiently high to apply to such things as cutlery, surely it is more than enough to apply to an article like furniture, in regard to which the local manufacturer has a very great natural protection.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– To my mind a duty of 15 per cent, upon furniture is almost prohibitive. I know from personal experience that a bedroom suite, which can be bought in England for £20, costs £35 or £40 to land here. A short time ago I bought a colonially-made, blackwood, 10-foot extension dining table, in the principal auction room in the city. It was sold to me as a good table of its class, and I paid about £5 10s. for it ; but after it had been in the house for three or four months we noticed that the legs were loose and wobbled, and on looking at it I discovered that it was not properly jointed, and that the legs had not been mortised at all, so that I had to get a carpenter to secure them by screwing on angle irons. There is not the slightest doubt that most of the furniture manufactured in Victoria of late years has been of an inferior descriptions When the land boom burst, people were unable to pay the high prices demanded for imported furniture, and indeed hardly anything was too cheap, so that furniture of the most inferior description was made. There is no doubt, too, that the number of Chinese employed in the furniture trade in Victoria has increased. I should like to see a fair amount of good furniture imported. If that happens, we shall get good locally-made furniture much more cheaply than it can be obtained now. It has been said that first-class locally-made furniture can be obtained, but my experience is that if you buy first-class locally-made furniture, you have to pay much more for it than for equally good English imported furniture. A duty of not more than 15 per cent, would give more revenue than the proposed duty, and would lead lo the manufacture of a better article locally.
– I shall support the Government proposal. I regret that we cannot raise the duty to 33 per cent.
– Why not make it 100 per cent. ‘(
– In his heart the honorable member would like to see furniture admitted free, but I say why not have our furniture made here, instead of allowing foreign-made furniture to be brought out in the ships which come to take away our wool and tallow ? Are we never to have industries of our own?
– Does the honorable member object to vessels coming here to take away our wool and tallow ?
– I differ from those who say that we should not make our own candles and our own tweeds. I should never be one to interpose to prevent the establishment of local manufactures, and thus debar our young people from employment.
– Would the honorable member vote for an export duty upon wool and tallow ?
– PATERSON. - China was a great country before she was visited by ships from other parts of the world, and there was a state of high civilization there when the people of Great Britain and Ireland were running about in garments of seaweed. It is very nice for the honorable member for Wentworth to make calculations about the importation of furniture for each household, but he takes no account of the thousands of people who have no homes of their own, and who are content to camp out in the open, or under a bullock dray. We do not want American cane chairs, or stuffed cushions, or velvety sofas. There is too much expensive furniture in this country. Those who use luxurious furniture will later on have the luxury of paying heavy doctor’s bills, because the man or woman who sits all day in chairs with tea-cosy backs is sure to suffer in the long run with lumbago or sciatica. The people of the United States of America would not tolerate a duty of 30 per cent. The duty there is about 40 per cent.
– That is prohibitive.
– All the better. The honorable member for Wentworth says that the duty must be made low in order to secure the return of a large amount of revenue. But I think that we should look for our revenue to the increased consumption of beer, tea, and other dutiable articles by the artisans to whom employment will be given by the establishment of local factories. The honorable member for
Wentworth complains of the provincial character of the Tariff, but his was the most pro vincial speech that I have heard this afternoon. If the people of Victoria choose to buy Chinese-made furniture, and to put up with an inferior article, they should be allowed to do so. It is not generally known that we have splendid timber resources in Australia. We have a larger variety of timbers for manufacturing purposes - for furniture making, for cabinet work, and for all sorts of decorative purposes - than has any country in the world. I believe that India, including the West Indies, has 1,660 varieties of timber trees, but Australia has over 2,000 varieties. We have some of the most magnificently grained wood that could be possibly conceived for all the purposes of artistic decoration, and there is no reason why our timbers should not be used with advantage equally for the furnishing of the palace and of the peasant’s cottage. We have everything here in the way of raw material, and it is important that we should address ourselves to the utilization of our splendid resources. Are we to be content with the use of our timbers for the building of weatherboard cottages and the laying down of floors? No, we must use them for all the higher classes of work. I was a free-trader once, as I inherited my political predilections from my father, who belonged to the old Manchester school, but the moment I inquired into the question of how best to utilize the resources of a new country, I had to cast off the old skin of the Manchester school and support measures for the encouragement and development of our native industries. The basis of the whole of the arguments in favour of federation was protection against the world and Inter-State free-trade. Every one was anxious to see the removal of those barriers which restricted the freedom of intercourse between the States, and we were desirous also of protecting our native industries against foreign competition, and of preserving for the men and the women of Australia such work ascan be performed by them. I had not intended to say a word upon this subject, but I have spoken because some of the observations made by honorable members on the Opposition side of the Chamber appeared to me somewhat puerile and unworthy of those who uttered them.
– The acting leader of the Opposition has pointed out that the furniture which is imported here is subject to heavy charges in the way of freight, insurance, and other expenses. Figures have been placed before us showing that even on such articles as chairs, which can be packed in pieces, and forwarded from Germany, England, and America at low rates of freight, the import charges amount to between 50 per cent, and 70 per cent. How much greater relatively would be the charges in cases where wardrobes, chiffoniers, and other bulky articles have to be imported. I base my case not only upon the invoices and statements of interested manufacturers, but upon my own experience during the last two months in connexion with a shipment of Victorianmanufactured furniture to South Australia. The freight upon this parcel, which consisted of bedroom suites, rocking chairs, sideboards, and so on, amounted to 20 per cent, upon the cost of the goods, and yet the freight was only 9s. per ton measurement. This shows how very high the natural protection must be upon shipments of furniture coming from Germany or America, and emphasizes the argument that there is no necessity for such a high import duty as 20 per cent. I do not intend to refer to the character of the furniture made in Australia beyond saying that we get some of the cheapest and sloppiest of furniture hero, and that on the other hand we can procure from first-class manufacturers who make their goods of well-seasoned timber and with European labour, as good furniture as can be imported. There is not the slightest necessity for extreme protection, and the suggestion of the acting leader of the Opposition should meet with the approval of the committee.
– The amendment proposed by the acting leader of the Opposition is a very reasonable one, and I only regret that he felt called upon to abandon his original proposal. The honorable and learned member for Brisbane argued that the imposition of a duty would operate in the direction of providing employment, but if he had examined the statistics relating to the furniture trades in New . South Wales and Victoria, he would have found that his conclusion was wrong, because there are over 300 hands employed in New South Wales in excess of the number similarly engaged in Victoria.
– How many Chinese are employed in Sydney in furniture making?
– There are more Chinamen employed in Victoria than in New South Wales. Curiously enough this duty proves what we have so often urged, namely, that where it is necessary to impose a protective duty in order to foster an industry, it always tends to the introduction of the cheapest labour. It is well known that furniture has been very highly protected in Victoria by an import duty, in addition to the natural protection afforded by freight and other charges, which in many cases represented fully 70 per cent, of the value of the goods. Of course the Victorian duty was practically prohibitive. Honorable members should recollect that we do not increase the capacity of the people to purchase an article simply by imposing a duty upon it. What a very fine, handy method of conferring good upon the people it would be if, merely because we imposed a duty of, say, 30 per cent, upon some commodity, the wages of those interested in its manufacture were immediately raised to a corresponding degree. But even protectionists do not urge that such a result follows the imposition of a duty. Honorable members must see that every increase in the price of an article means a diminution in its consumption, and when there is such a diminution, there must be a decreased amount of labour employed in its production. The figures which have been quoted this afternoon clearly show that the increased price of furniture in Victoria has resulted in a decreased consumption, and as a consequence 300 less hands are employed in this State to-day than there otherwise would be. I trust that the committee will support the amendment of the actingleader of the Opposition.
– When the committee were discussing a previous item, honorable members who hold free-trade opinions were startled by a demand from the protectionist corner of the Chamber that glue-pots should be placed upon the free list. After listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders I can understand one reason why that demand was made. If the honorable member’s description of the furniture which is manufactured in Victoria be correct,- glue-pots should be in great request. I have no doubt that it is quite possible to manufacture as good furniture within the Commonwealth as can be made anywhere, but owing chiefly to the fact that proper seasoned timber is not used, the locally-manufactured articles do not compare favorably with most of those imported. From documentary evidence which has been placed in my hands by a large importer and manufacturer, it seems that the proposed duty offers a very high measure of protection indeed.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– To Messrs. Tye and Co., Limited. The statement of this firm goes to show that the local manufacturers enjoy a natural protection ranging from 70 per cent, to over 100 per cent. They also point out that whilst there is an apparent difference of 10 per cent, between the duty imposed under theVictorian Tariff and that which is now proposed, that difference does not really exist. The writer sums up the position thus -
In the above costs, duty paid was 30 per cent. No duty was charged on freight or casing. Under the Federal Tariff, when we pay 20 per cent, duty plus duty on casing and inland freight, we do not save more than 4 per cent., thus making the present duty 26 per cent, ad valorem.
Thus, instead of a difference of 10 per cent, obtaining between the Victorian Tariff and the present proposal of the Government, the real difference is 4 per cent. only.
– We do not charge upon freight and casings now.
– I was not aware that the Treasurer had remitted those charges.
– We remitted them weeks and weeks ago.
– Then the contention that the Government proposal really represents 26 per cent, ad valorem falls to the ground. But even with a 20 per cent, duty operating, it can be shown that the cost of importing some lines of furniture represents a natural protection of 69, 70, 71, 82, and 100 per cent. The suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth, that the duty should be fixed at 15 per cent., affords, to my mind, a very wide margin.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- On their own showing the Government are of opinion that a duty of 20 per cent, will lessen the importation of this furniture to nearly one-third of the present dimensions. Consequently it cannot be argued that this is a revenue duty ; it is evidently proposed for protective purposes. I had hoped that as honorable members on the other side got better acquainted with political economy, and the requirements of the Commonwealth, they would give up studying the interests of individuals and study theinterests of theCommonwealth. I had hoped that the moment they saw any money being diverted from the Treasury to particular individuals, they would take care to stop or prevent it ; but the Government proposal means a large diversion of revenue into the pockets of people who will thereby be enabled to levy a tax on other members of the community. It seems extraordinary that at the inception of the Commonwealth honorable members should not have got rid of the idea that they are here in the interests of a class, and not in the interests of the Commonwealth. The only result of such a policy as that which the Government are now pursuing must be loss to the Treasury and the people generally.
Question - That the words “ and on and after 27th February, 1902, 15 per cent. “be added - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 103. Timber, viz.:-
Architraves, mouldings, and skirtings of any material, per 100 lineal feet, 5s.
Timber, dressed, n.e.i., per 100 super, feet, 3s.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 12in. x 6in. (or its equivalent) and over, per 100 super, feet,1s.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., in sizes of 7in. x 2½in. (or its equivalent) and upwards, and less than 12in. x Gin. (or its equivalent) per 100 super, feet,1s.6d.
Timber, undressed, n.e.i., of sizes less than 7in. x 2½in. (or its equivalent), per 100 super, feet, 2s.6d.
Laths, per 1,000, 5s .
Palings, per 1,000, l5s.
Pickets, dressed, per 100, 4s.
Pickets, undressed, per 100, 2s.
Shingles, per 1,000, 3s.
Boors of wood : - 1¾in. and over, each 7s.6d.
Over1½in. and under 1¾in., each5s. 1½in. and under, each 3s.6d.
– I thank the Treasurer for postponing the two first items, because we should first deal with the basic line of undressed timber.
We cannot properly arrive at a suitable duty on dressed timber before dealing with undressed timber. But I do not quite understand the Treasurer as to the necessity for postponing the item of New Zealand, pine in the exemptions, nor as to how long the postponement is to be. The Treasurer is quite right when he says that people importing timber naturally desire to have the duties settled, but the same uncertainty applies to New Zealand pine.
– No; people are getting New Zealand pine without paying duty.
– Only New Zealand pine, undressed, of 12 inches by 6 inches, or over.
– New Zealand white pine is being let in free.
– But New Zealand pine goes beyond New Zealand white pine. There is a great business done in New Zealand kauri pine.
– I only ask for a postponement out of courtesy to my honorable colleagues.
– We understand that, but I desire to know how long the postponement is for ?
– It will not be for long. If the Minister for Trade and Customs is not back next week, I shall take the matter in charge myself.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier).- In the remarks I purpose making I shall deal almost exclusively with the effect of the proposed duty upon the mining industry of Broken Hill, because, although I know that there are other mining centres in the Commonwealth which will also be affected, I shall leave honorable members who are better acquainted with them to speak for them. Some 15,000,000 feet of Oregon timber are imported into Broken Hill every year, and a duty of1s. per 100 feet upon that quantity, would produce £7,500. As a matter of fact, however, the actual revenue that will be obtained, if the proposals of the Government are agreed to, will be more than that, because some of the timber which is imported, will have to pay duty at the rate of1s. 6d. per 100 feet.
– I understand that about 70 per cent, of the timber imported is 10 in. by 10 in. measurement.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company lasty ear imported 4,800,000 feet of timber upon which a duty of ls. per 100 feet would be charged, and 2,700,000 feet of timber upon which a duty of ls. 6d. per 100 feet would be charged ; so that if the proposed duties remain in force that company will have to pay in the aggregate£4,425 a year towards the revenue, and the amount of duty paid on the total importation into Broken Hill will be nearly £10,000. A few years ago, when the Dibbs’ Tariff was in existence, similar duties had to be paid upon the timber imported into Broken Hill, but at that time the Proprietary Company was paying £100,000 a month, or £1,200,000 a year, in dividends ; while, owing to the fall in the price of lead, its profits for the half-year ending 31st May last amounted to only £87,000, and in the last half-year to only £34,000. It may be said that the mining industry at Broken Hill is so large that the payment of £10,000 is neither here nor there ; but it must be remembered that during the last twelve months 2,400 men have had to leave Broken Hill to find work elsewhere, because some of the mines have closed down, and other mines have had to lessen the number of their hands, and, with a falling market in lead, the position of those who remain at Broken Hill is not likely to be improved by the proposed charge. Although any quantity of timber is to be obtained within the Commonwealth, none of it is, in the opinion of the mine managers of Broken Hill, as suitable for their work as the Oregon pine which is imported from America, and even if Australian timber would answer as well as Oregon timber, it could not be obtained for anything like the same price. In mining matters, of course, price is not everything, and as one who has worked in the Broken Hill mines, and who represents men who are working there now, I say that a still more important, and, in fact, the paramount consideration, is the safety of the miners themselves. If other timber would make the mines safer, I would say that the mining companies should be compelled to use it, regardless of cost. But although price is not the paramount consideration, it is an important matter. Mines are not worked as charitable institutions, and if they do not pay they are shut down, regardless of the fact that a number of men are thus thrown out of employment. Of course it sometimes happens that mines are worked for a time without returning a profit ; but that is in the hope that eventually the shareholders will be handsomely repaid for the capital they have sunk in them. Where shareholders do not think that they will recoup themselves in the immediate or distant future, the mines are shut down, and the men who have been employed in them have to look for work elsewhere. Consequently, as I said before, the price of the timber used in the mines is an important consideration. That New South Wales cannot supply timber at a price at which it will compete with the imported Oregon timber is proved by the fact that, when duties similar to those now proposed were imposed by the Dibbs Tariff, no New South Wales timber was used in the Broken Hill mines, and the mining companies continued to import Oregon. Similarly it has been shown that South Australia cannot supply timber to Broken Hill in competition with the Oregon timber. Broken Hill is close to the South Australian border, and South Australian timber merchants, if they could supply suitable timber to the mines, would have the advantage of cheap freights. The Government of South Australia paid a bonus of £10,000 to encourage the export of butter from that State, although it now amounts to only £51,000 worth a year, and, seeing that the timber imported into Broken Hill is worth nearly £100,000 a year, they would have done all they could to obtain part of that trade; but they found it impracticable. Now it is said that suitable timber can be obtained from Queensland. But in the past there have been no restrictions against sending timber from Queensland to Broken Hill. The Queensland timber-getters have had the same opportunity as have those of other parts of the world to send timber to Broken Hill, but up to the present time they have not sent any. The Queensland timber that is supposed to be suitable for the Broken Hill mines is hardwood, and I understand could be landed at any Queensland port for 16s. per 100 feet.
– Where does the honorable member get his figures 1
– I am informed that that is the price at which hardwood is delivered at Mount Morgan.
– It is cut and prepared for that price.
– The Oregon is cut, and the cost of preparing it to go into the mines is very little.
– Where does the timber that is sent to Mount Morgan come from?
– I do not know. I assume that if hardwood can be delivered at Mount Morgan for 16s. per 100 feet it could be delivered at a Queensland port for that price, and to bring it from Queensland to Port Pirie would cost another 5s. per 100 feet. So that, landed at Port Pirie, it would cost 21s. per 100 feet ; while Oregon timber is delivered there for a little under 10s. per 100 feet.
– Is it sawn into pieces to fit the mines?
– It is sawn to the measurement of 1 0 x 10, but it has to be cut before it can be made up into sections, though that does not cost ver y much.From the figuresI have given it will be seen that Australian timber could not compete with Oregon timber, even if the proposed duties were imposed. But while I think that the Broken Hill mining companies should be allowed to obtain the best and most suitable timber for their requirements, wherever it comes from, I have given some consideration to the question whether something cannot be done to supply the mines with Australian timber. Not long after I was returned to the New South Wales Parliament I was introduced to one of the leading timber merchants and saw-millers of that State, and I tried to induce him to go to Broken Hill to discuss with the mine managers there whether it was not possible to obtain Australian timber which would be as suitable for their work as 10 x 10 Oregon timber. Of course the hardwood would require to be 6 x 6 inches instead of 10 x 10 in order to reduce it to the same weight as the Oregon timber of larger bulk. Although I pointed out to this gentleman that he would be able to do £100,000 of business if he could persuade the mine managers that he could supply them with suitable timber, he was not prepared to spend the £20 that it would have cost him to go to Broken Hill to discuss the matter. Further than that, when Mr. Delpratt, the general manager of the Proprietary Company, happened to be in Sydney some two years ago, I induced him to meet one of the leading timber men in Sydney, and discuss the possibility of obtaining in New South Wales some timber suitable for mining purposes. Mr. Delpratt had a very long conversation with this gentleman, but I am sorry to say that he was not convinced that any suitable timber could be obtained within the Commonwealth. It takes 800 feet of Oregon timber, as compared with only 460 feet of hardwood, to weigh a ton. If it were possible for 460 feet of hardwood to perform the same service as a ton of Oregon, then, according to the figures I quoted just now, a ton of Oregon landed at Port Pirie would cost £4, whereas a ton of hardwood from Queensland would cost £4 16s. 6d.
– How much timber is used at Broken Hill ?
– The mines use 15,000,000 feet annually, and 800 feet go to the ton. According to what I have stated, there would be a difference of 1 6s. 6d. per ton in favour of the Oregon timber. If a ton of hardwood would serve the sane purposes as a ton of Oregon, the freight from Port Pirie to Broken Hill would amount to the same sum in either case ; but if a ton and a half of hardwood were required to fulfil the same purposes as a ton of Oregon, the freight on the hardwood equivalen t to a ton of Oregon would represent 40s. as against 28s.
– Could the honorable member say how much of the cost of timber delivered at Mount Morgan is represented by freight?
– No, I cannot ; but the amount is not very much, because the whole of the freight paid in six months for firewood and charcoal, as well as for the logs referred to by me, amounted to only £5,000.
– What proportion of the timber used in the Broken Hill district is absorbed by the Proprietary mine?
– The Proprietary mine uses 4,800,000 feet of the timber, upon which a duty of1s. per 100 feet is charged, and 2,700,000 feet of that upon which a duty of1s. 6d. per 100 feet is levied. That makes a total of 7,500,000 feet, or about half the total quantity imported into Broken Hill.
– Does it follow, then, that half the extra cost involved by the duty would have to be paid by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company?
– Certainly. If they use half the timber, they will have to pay half the total amount of the duty. Even if the railway freight upon hardwood were exactly the same as upon Oregon - that is, assuming that one ton of hardwood would perform the same work as one ton of Oregon - there would still be a difference of 16s. 6d. per ton in favour of the Oregon timber. The duty amounts to 8s. per ton, and that will have to be paid by. the mining companies, simply because, even with the duty added, the Oregon is cheaper than any timber that can possibly be supplied within the Commonwealth. So far as the Broken Hill mines are concerned, therefore, this duty will be a purely revenue-producing impost. Some honorable members tell us that it does not follow that the public have to pay the whole amount of a protective duty; but in this case the mining companies will have to -pay the whole of the duty, because the duty in itself will not prevent them from using Oregon timber. If it is desired to compel them to use Australian timber, it will be necessary to impose a still higher duty. When the Oregon timber was first introduced into Broken Hill, a large number of us who were working there had an idea that possibly the selection of Oregon was due to prejudice on the part of the American mine managers. I venture to say, however, that there is no ground for any suspicion of that kind now. Mr. Delpratt, is a Belgian, and Mr. Courtenay comes from England, and none of the mine managers have the slightest prejudice against Australian timber.
– I do not suppose that any of them . know that there is any timber in Australia at all.
– If that is so, it is surely the fault of the people’ of Australia. I have gone to them and told them that there was an immense business to be done, and yet they have not taken any steps to push their trade. I first spoke to Captain Millard, of Sydney, who knows a good deal about timber, and he introduced me to one of the leading timber men there. I asked this gentleman to go to Broken Hill, telling him that there was no prejudice on the part of the mine managers in favour of American timber. He, however, was not prepared to go unless his expenses to Broken Hill and back were paid. Thereupon, I went to the honorable member for Macquarie, who was then Minister of Mines in New South Wales, and asked him whether he would be prepared to pay the expenses of this gentleman to Broken Hill, to enable him to advocate the use of Australian timber in the mines. The reply that the honorable member for Macquarie gave me was one that I admit I agreed with to a great extent. He said, “ I do not think I can do it. If the business is worth £100,000 a year, I think the timber men of New South Wales ought to be able to subscribe £20 amongst them to defray the expense of sending a representative to Broken Hill.” Therefore, if Mr. Courtenay and Mr. Delpratt do not know anything about Australian timber, their ignorance is due to the lack of enterprise of the Australian people. This duty must involve extra taxation to the extent of £10,000 per annum upon the mines ; and I ask whether, in view of the present state of the mining industry at Broken Hill, it is wise to add £10,000 per annum to its burdens ? The cost of the timber is not the paramount consideration with me. Tire safety of the men engaged in the mines must necessarily be our first care. Practically every foot of ground has to be timbered, and in view of the tremendous operations being carried on at Broken Hill, I would go so far as to say that the companies should be compelled by law to use the best possible timber. The companies claim that Oregon is the best and most suitable from the stand-point of safety. They declare amongst other things that Oregon will give notice of any unusual presure upon it. I have frequently heard the timber in the Broken Hill mines creaking and cracking, thus warning the men employed there of impending danger, and giving them an opportunity to escape, or indicating that a certain portion of the mine required to be strengthened. Needless to add, I attach infinitely more importance to the safety of the men engaged in those mines than I do to any dividends paid. I do not affirm that Oregon is the safest timber that can be used in the Barrier mines, and it is just possible that the fact that it is the cheapest timber tends to warp the judgment of mining managers and directors. But very highly paid and competent officials declare that it is the safest timber which can be used, and so far as I am aware no mining inspector has ever advocated the use of any other. Some time ago I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, seeing that the Broken Hill mines were large consumers of Oregon, which was not produced within the Commonwealth, he would consent to placing it upon the free list. His reply was that though Oregon could not be produced locally, he hoped the committee would be able to point to some other timber, the use of which would be equally suitable for mining purposes. I say that this Parliament has no right to dictate to a mining manager how he shall manage the mine which he controls. We have no title to tell a mau how he shall manage his business. I am a State socialist, and should like to see our mines, farms, and great workshops in the hands of the Government. But if they were nationalized it would be simple madness on the part, of this committee to tell the experts engaged how they should conduct a particular mine or industry. How much more unfair is it, then, to allow private enterprise to develop these mines, and afterwards to step in and dictate to the companies interested how they shall conduct their operations 1 I should be quite agreeable to assist in the passing of laws providing for the sanitation and ventilation of mines, and for the regulation of the wages paid to the men employed underground. But for us to direct mining companies to use a particular kind of machinery or timber would be to exceed our legislative functions. I do not think that the lawyers in the Cabinet would like any mine managers to dictate to them ‘ how they should conduct a law suit. I have assisted to pass legislation imposing great responsibility upon mine managers. Under the mining regulations of Victoria and New South Wales, if a fatality occurs in a mine the manager can be arrested for manslaughter. He has to face the music of the coroner’s inquest. Surely it would be unfair for us to tell men who are liable to arrest for manslaughter in case of accident how they are to work their mines ! With the little knowledge that I have gained through working in the Broken Hill mines, I should not presume to direct mine managers to use a certain class of timber, and I do not believe that the honorable member for Kooyong, who is the chairman of directors of the Proprietary Company, would act differently. If upon a full and exhaustive investigation into the merits of Oregon, experts declared that it was not the safest timber which could be used, none would advocate its disuse more strongly than I would.
– If Oregon is so safe, why is it not used at Mount Morgan ?
– If the people at Mount Morgan think that hardwood is preferable, by all means let them use it. Moreover, the timbering of Mount Morgan and that of the Broken Hill mines are entirely different matters. On the Barrier we have to deal with stopes 400 feet wide. In the Mount Morgan mine, only 1,600,000 feet of timber are annually used underground, whereas, the Proprietary mine alone uses 7, 500,000’ feet. The remaining mines at Broken Hill consume a similar amount. A small mine there uses as much timber as does theMount Morgan mine. If Oregon be the most suitable timber for use in mines, I take it that there will be no disposition on the part of this committee to tax it. We should rather favour the payment of a bonus upon it. In this connexion I may mention that South Australia has already recognised what cheap timber means to Broken Hill. That State is practically paying a bonus upon mining timber by making a substantial reduction in the cost of its carriage by rail. For instance, a ton of Oregon, if it is to be used underground, can be sent from Port Pirie to Broken Hill for 28s. 6d., whereas, the charge upon other timber which does not go underground is 58s. per ton. Timber is raw material to the mines at Broken Hill. Without it those minescould not carry on operations for a single day. It is just as necessary to them as isthe most up-to-date machinery. It is as much raw material to the miner as is a machine tool to the man who manufactureswire nails or galvanized iron. I would further point out that the Government have placed New Zealand pine upon the free list.
– They have altered their proposal to make it applicable to New Zealand white pine only.
– They placed New Zealand pine upon the free list in order to assist the dairying industry. That timber is practically raw material to the butter export business. If the dairying industry or any other industry is to have its raw materials or machine tools admitted free of duty, why should not a similar concession be extended to the Broken Hill mines 1 Up to the present time this Parliament has done nothing to lighten the burdens of the people at Broken Hill. There is not one article entering into the homes of the people there which has been made cheaper, although the cost of many commodities has been increased. By the taxation of timber, mining machinery, and explosives, the dividends paid by the Broken Hill companies will probably be decreased, and as a result the miners will soon be asked to accept lower wages. When dividends decrease the cry is for miners to work for less money, and the men are jambed between pressure brought to bear in order to make wages lower, and the pressureof the Tariff which makes living dearer. The workers of Broken Hill have done a great deal, not only for that place, but for South Australia and Australia generally, and at tremendous expense to themselves. About one man per fortnight is killed in the mines, and besides there are a large number of accidents, the two together forming a very big bill which the miners have to pay.
– Are the accidents through falls of earth and breakage of timber?
– Not all the accidents arise from these causes, but some of them do, and 1 am glad the honorable member has made the interjection. One or two men have been killed lately owing to timber not having been put in ; and the dearer timber is the greater anxiety there will be on the part of mine managers to save in this direction.
– That is a serious charge.
– Where is the serious charge?
– Does the honorable member for Barrier think that the imposition of the duty will make any difference so far as loss of life is concerned?
- Mr. Dickenson, the secretary of the Proprietary Company, uses the same argument as I have used against the imposition of this duty - that both directors and managers will be more careful in the use of timber the more expensive that commodity is made. I do not believe for a moment that there is a manager who would cause any risks to life in this connexion, but there is not the slightest doubt that the bigger the bill is for timber the more economy there will be. The owners will instruct managers not to save timber at the risk of any one’s life, but to be as careful as is consistent with safety. Up to the present the taxation under, this Tariff has made life somewhat harder at Broken Hill. I do not say that the same result has not been experienced at other places, but it is estimated that it costs a miner and his family of three or four children 6d. per day more to live now than formerly, so that the present Tariff is equivalent to a reduction of wages to that extent.
I ask the Government and Parliament in their Tariff proposals not to make it harder to earn a living, or make it more dangerous to follow what is at the present time a most dangerous calling. I move -
That the words “ and on and after 27th February, 1902, free” be added to the duty, “Timber, undressed . . . per 100 super.” feet1s.”
– Honorable members and the people of the country recognise in the honorable member for Barrier an excellent representative of Broken Hill. The honorable member puts his case exceedingly well from his point of view, but he sometimes forgets that the Commonwealth is a large place, and embraces a great number of other centres and industries than those with which he is particularly associated. The discussion has so far been on the subject of mining timber, and, I admit, that the honorable member for Barrier has presented a good case; but I ask honorable members not to believe that the proposed duty will be any serious encumbrance to the Broken Hill mines, or that it can, from a revenue point of view, be called an unreasonable duty. We have been told that Oregon timber landed at Broken Hill costs 14s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet. On that the Government propose to charge1s., or somewhat under 7 per cent. Surely that is not an alarming duty on an article used by such wealthy companies as the honorable member has the honour to represent. I remember the time not long ago when the Broken Hill mines measured dividends, not by thousands of pounds, but rather by millions.
– I said so just now.
– And the honorable member was careful to point out that the dividends were small and unusual, owing to the present low price of the commodity which is produced. It must be admitted that Broken Hill is suffering only from the fluctuation of the market, and if the Tariff were to be arranged on such an assumption as is suggested, the result would be anomalous and inconsistent in every respect. Would the honorable member argue that if prices were to rise, and Broken Hill to return to its former prosperity, he would not object to the imposition of the duty proposed by the Government 1 I know that the honorable member’s principles are too firmly held for him to admit that any duty is justifiable under any circumstances whatever.
– Everybody admits that we do not want duties if we can avoid them.
– I do not complain of the honorable member for Barrier holding these views, because from his stand-point they are exceedingly sound ; but there are States, and districts, besides Broken Hill, which have come into the federation, knowing all the circumstances likely to arise, and expecting to be treated in the same way as they were prepared to treat other States and districts.
– Those other places have had a pretty good “ show,” for which the Broken Hill miners have to pay extra.
– The miners have to pay extra for sugar.
– I have already said that I do not complain of the honorable member for Barrier holding these views, nor of any representative of New South Wales resisting every duty. But those honorable members are too intelligent not to know that federation imposed Tariff burdens on New South Wales which that State would not have imposed on its own account. That is undoubtedly part of the penalty which New South Wales pays for coming into the Commonwealth. I have said there are other mining fields besides Broken Hill, and I have the honour to represent some of them. In the mining districts of. Queensland, the local timber has been found the best and cheapest, and is used exclusively. At Broken Hill, Oregon timber has been found to be the best available for the kind of work which is there carried on, but as to Mount Morgan, Queensland hardwood is used exclusively. That hardwood, delivered dressed at the mines, costs on an average 16s. per . 100 superficial feet.
– What sizes ?
– Various sizes ; and the better classes of hardwood, such as ironbark and bluegum, are, I suppose, ten times stronger than Oregon pine. The honorable member for Barrier was very eloquent about providing, for miningpurposes, timber which will insure safety to the miners. I am entirely with him on that ground ; and I am happy to be able to say that at Mount Morgan there has not been a single accident attributable to faulty timber.
– What width do the miners work at Mount Morgan? There is no similarity between the two places.
– I am not competent to say what would be the result of the use of Queensland timber at Broken Hill, but I know something of mining and mining engineering, and my impression is that if the Queensland hardwood were used at Broken Hill, there would be fewer dangerous accidents.
– If the honorable member worked in the mines of Broken Hill he would never say that ; and I speak as a miner.
– I prefaced my expression of opinion with the statement that I am not an expert, but am simply expressing an abstract opinion. Honorable members will admit that the fact that there has been no accident from defective timber at Mount Morgan is a fair counter to the statement made by the honorable member for the Barrier. That honorable member is slightly in error as to the cost of the timber used,in Mount Morgan. I have here a report from the architect and builder of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited, and f romthatit appears thatfor the last two years the average quantity of sawn timber used has been 1,642,785 superficial feet. That quantity of timber, at 16s. per 100 feet, represents something like £13,000 per annum, and not £5,000 or £6,000 per annum, as mentioned by the honorable member.
– What I said was that £5,000 represented the freight on the wood and charcoal.
– ThenI misunderstood the honorable member. The case made out by the honorable member is not so important as it at first appeared, because, as the timber to which he refers costs 14s. 6d. per 100 superficial feet to deliver at Broken Hill, a duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet is equal to only 7 percent. It may be argued by some people that that is a protective duty, but it was not so argued by the honorable member for Barrier, because he maintained that, whatever duty may be imposed, the mineowners of Broken Hill will feel it incumbent upon them to continue to use Oregon pine. I have already expressed the opinion that Queensland hardwood would be more suitable than Oregon pine for the purposes of the Broken Hill mining companies, butI do not intend to discuss the question, and I shall leave the subjectof comparative price to those who are interested in these matters. The honorable member for Barrier asked how is it, if Queensland timber is suitable, that the Queensland timber merchants have not already cut into the Broken Hill trade, but he knows that Broken Hill is a mining centre which sprang up very rapidly, and Oregon was at the time easily obtainable, and proved very suitable. Perhaps, too, it was introduced by American managers. In any case, we know how difficult it is to depart from an established custom. There is, however, an abundance of good timber in Queensland, and it is likely that if the mining companies at Broken Hill began to use Queensland timber, freights would be reduced as the traffic increased, and that ultimately it would be found very suitable. The honorable member also wished to know if the Government intend to carry out the policy announced by the Minister for Trade and Customs about a month after the introduction of the Tariff - to admit New Zealand white pine free of duty. I hold that the Minister for Trade and Customs promised to admit New Zealand white pine free of duty under a misapprehension, and I interjected at the time that there is plenty of timber in Queensland which is suitable for the manufacture of butter boxes. The right honorable gentleman then stated that if he found my statement to be correct, he would reconsider the matter. Honorable members who have examined the samples of timber which have been exhibited in the lobbies of this building for some time past, will admit that timber can be obtained from Queensland which is as good as, if not superior to, New Zealand pine for the manufacture of butter boxes. The question of cost arises here again, but I am credibly informed that the cost is not so high as some people would make out, and I have no doubt that, if encouragement were given to the use of Queensland timber, as the trade increased and competition became fiercer, prices would be reduced. The timber industry is a very important one in Queensland, as is show n by the returns of the railway department. According to the commissioner’s report for 1901, the railways in that year carried 567,851 tons of minerals, from which they received a revenue of £71,325; 273,516 tons of agricultural produce, from which they received a revenue of £97,871 ; 24,525 tons of wool, from which they received a revenue of £78,028, and 416,664 tons of timber from which they received a revenue of £85,478.
– That was only log and sawn timber. The figures do not include doors, window sashes, or articles manufactured from timber.
– The Queensland timber industry is nothing in comparison with the Broken Hill mining industry.
– I am aware that Broken Hill is a large mining centre, but the mining centres of Queensland in the aggregate employ a much larger number of men. I think, too, that I am within the mark when I say that 10,000 men are employed in connexion with the Queensland timber industry.
– Directly and indirectly !
– In felling the timber in the scrubs and forests, in drawing it to the saw-mills, and in distributing it from the mills. According to the Queensland statistics for 1900 there are 2,797 hands employed in the saw-mills of that State, and I am informed by those who, I think, have -knowledge on the subject that twice as many men are employed in the industry outside the mills. Coming back to the suitability of Queensland timber for the manufacture of butter-boxes–
– Would it not be well to leave the discussion of that question until we come to deal with the exemptions I
– I ask the honorable member not to do more than incidentally allude to the matter, inasmuch as it will come on for discussion at a later stage.
– I should like to know if we cannot have a general debate upon this item. That is the course which has generally been pursued, and it will prevent the necessity of alluding to various matters over and over again.
– I hope that you, sir, will enforce the strict rule of Parliament. My experience is that very often after there has been a general debate, the various subjects spoken of have been referred to again at length upon each particular item.
– I cannot see that butter-boxes are mentioned in this division. If we are bound to discuss the item line by line, we must start with the proposed duty on architraves, mouldings, and skirtings.
– We have postponed that line in order that undressed timber may be dealt with first.
Mr.Wilkinson. - As undressed timber may be used for the making of butterboxes I do not see how honorable members can be prevented from discussing the suitability of Queensland timber for that purpose.
– I cannot conceive how, under the proposal to impose a duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet upon undressed timber, an honorable member can be out of order in discussing the suitability of certain timber for the making of butter boxes. In my opinion, honorable members are at liberty to refer to all the uses to which undressed timber may be put.
– The question before the committee is the proposal to impose a duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet upon undressed timber of certain sizes, and I think it will facilitate business if you, sir, adhere to your ruling, and confine the discussion strictly to the question before the Chair. I cannot see how the time of the committee will be saved by having a general debate at this stage. If honorable members discuss now the suitability of certain timber for making butter boxes, we shall have the whole debate over again when we come to deal with the proposed exemptions.
– Butter boxes are manufactured from undressed timber.
– Quite so ; but the exemptions which provide that timber for butter boxes shall be admitted free of duty will be discussed hereafter.
– I think it will tend rather to shorten than lengthen the discussion if honorable members are permitted to refer at this stage to all the uses to which undressed timber may be applied. Apart from the question of convenience, the honorable member for Wide Bay is perfectly within his rights in referring to timber suitable for making butter boxes.
– It seems to me to be necessary to place the committee in a position to deal with the effect of the Government proposals from a financial stand-point, and it would facilitate business if the whole question in all its bearings could be discussed now.
– It was suggested that the consideration of the first two lines of this item should be postponed until the third line had been dealt with, and I acceded to the desire of honorable members. I have no wish to limit discussion, but I am bound by the standing orders. Standing Order No. 226 provides -
In committee, members may speak more than once to the same question, and when an amendment has been proposed from the Chair shall confine themselves to such amendment.
Had I acted strictly in accordance with this standing order I should have limited the debate to the amendment only, but as the question involved in the third line of the item is such an important one I did not take that course. Standing Order No. 274 provides that no honorable member shall digress from the subject-matter under discussion, or anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the noticepaper. If the honorable member were allowed to drift from this specific proposal he would be clearly anticipating discussion upon others which will come under the consideration of the committee at a later stage, and therefore I rule that the debate must be confined to the specific class of timber now being dealt with.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I hope I shall not be out qf order if I confine myself strictly to the amendment before the committee, which, I understand, is that timber of a certain measurement and over shall be free of duty. If timber of this class is allowed to come into the Commonwealth free of duty, great injury will be done to the timber industry in Queensland. If the amendment is carried, not only New Zealand, but American, European and Asiatic timber of all kinds will be admitted into the Commonwealth free of duty, and I hope, therefore, that the committee will not agree to it. If it is shown that timber admirably suited for making butter boxes can be supplied within the Commonwealth, every consideration should be given to those engaged in procuring it. I have testimony from people who have used timber grown in Queensland, that it is not only equal, but greatly superior, to the New Zealand pine that is being used in the southern part of the Commonwealth for the manufacture of butter boxes. The principal representative men of Queensland, who have expressed their opinions in a petition which has been presented to the Prime Minister, believe that great injury would be done to the timber industry of Queensland if undressed timber of the kind we are now dealing with is admitted free of duty. They have pointed out that if it had been known that the Queensland timber and other industries would not have been treated with the utmost consideration, the people of that State would have hesitated about joining the Federation. I do not rely very much upon that expression of opinion, but when the question of federation was before the people of Queensland, they threw in their lot with New South Wales, and I hope that the representatives of that State will not desert us on this occasion.
– We were expecting the representatives of Queensland to help us in the great fight for freedom.
– If the honorable members from New South Wales assist the representatives of Queensland they will be fighting in the cause of freedom.
-I think we have done very well for Queensland in connexion with the sugar duties.
– In the far north of Queensland, where, according to some people, white men cannot work, there are thousands of pioneers in the scrubs and forests opening them up for cultivation and procuring timber which is suitable for a variety of purposes, including the manufacture of butter boxes. The industry is carried on by white men, and every encouragement should be afforded to those who are engaged in such arduous work. I have heard many honorable members state that if we can develop an important industry in any part of the Commonwealth we should confer benefits upon the whole community, and, from this point of view, the timber industry of Queensland is entitled to the fullest consideration.
– Has not the Broken Hill mining industry equally good claims ?
– Yes. We do not want to injure the mining industry at Broken Hill, but will assist it when occasion demands. Some question has been raised regarding the ability of Queensland to produce timber of good quality in quantities sufficient to supply our needs. We have a variety of useful timbers in Queensland, and sufficient pine to meet all demands of the Commonwealth for very many years. It is not contended that it will be possible to supply all requirements at once, but in a few years Queensland will be able to respond to every call made upon her timber resources. I have received a telegram from the Under Secretary of Lands of Queensland, of to-day’s date, in answer to an inquiry as to the quantity of pine in Queensland suitable for making butter-boxes and other purposes. He says -
Not sufficient data give accurately quantity pine available. Saw-millers compute quantity on timber reserves alone at eleven billions superficial feet, without computing quantity on other Crown lands or on freehold. Departmental officers consider estimate reasonable.
I believe Queensland will very soon become the great timber-producing State of the Commonwealth. I have also the testimony of architects and engineers holding high official positions that the quality of the Queensland timbers cannot be excelled in any country. Surely such evidence should be conclusive. In this connexion I may mention that Mr. Badger, an American, who is controlling the tramway system of Brisbane,declaresthatthe Queensland timbers, surpass even the best American timbers. I sincerely hope that the committee, if they will not grant us a higher duty than is proposed by the Government, will not accept a. less.
– I am sure that no one who heard the speech of the honorable member for Barrier can doubt that he is thoroughly in sympathy with the working men of that district. He is interested in their welfare, not only because they are voters - although that fact may weigh with him at election time - butbecause a bond of manly sympathy draws him close to them at all times. But when we concede so much he should be prepared to credit others with motives equally conscientious. He has no right to declare, even by inference, that honorable members who represent the timber-getters would, under any circumstances whatever, sacrifice the safety of the miners in whose welfare he is interested. We have as much sympathy with the miner as has the honorable member. Any person who works in a mine does not enjoy all the best of the good things of this life. Certainly a man employed in the Barrier mines, where there is a tendency to become “ leaded,” and where he is located in what is practically one of the deserts of Australia, does not secure much of the good things of life. Neither does the investor obtain more than he is entitled to. Indeed, it might be wiser for any man who contemplates investing in mining to put his money upon a race - horse. We cannot afford to ignore these two sections of the community - the miner and the investor. The honorable member for Barrier stated that since the introduction of the Tariff the cost of living to each householder at Broken Hill had been increased by 3s. per week. A very small mental calculation will show that that amount represents about £8 per annum, and, as everybody knows, -the extra sum which householders will be called upon to contribute under this Tariff could not possibly exceed one quarter of that sum. We desire to raise a revenue of £8,500,000, and if we deduct from that amount £4,500,000 which will be derived from narcotics and stimulants, it will be seen that only £4,000,000 will have to be raised from all other sources. When, therefore, the honorable member for Barrier declares that we have enhanced the expenditure of householders to the tune of £8 per annum, it will be seen that, to put it mildly , he is stating a fallacy. I ask honorable members to. turn for a moment to the basis upon which his argument rested. I find that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is the richest silver and lead mine in the world. I think most people believe that it has a magnificent future. We know what its past has been. From 1885 to 1S99, £20,561,000 worth of ore was taken out of that mine, and an enterprise which can boast such wonderful results ought surely to pay its share of the up-keep of the Commonwealth. The argument of the honorable member was, of course, limited to the .Barrier mines. But I would pointout that every other mine within the Commonwealth uses hardwood timber. The Broken Hill mines only use Oregon. When honorable members reflect that the Proprietary Mine has taken £20,500,000 out of the ground in fourteen years, they will see that the appeal which has been made is not on behalf of a mendicant. It is idle to declare that such an enterprise cannot afford to pay, upon the honorable member’s own showing, under one method of calculation, £5,000 per annum, and under another something between £3,000 and £5,000 per annum.
– Would the honorable member get the shareholders who have sold out to support the mines now ?
– Perhaps I have not made myself perfectly clear. The honorable member for the Barrier has made an appeal to the committee on behalf of the principal Broken Hill mine. He has left out of consideration all the mines in Australia save the great Proprietary Mine, which stands forth as at once a pride and glory of the Commonwealth. We find no fault with the importance attached to that mine. But in the light of its past history, and of its magnificent future, no one can truthfully urge that it cannot afford to pay its share towards the up-keep of the Commonwealth.
– What do they get back ?
– What have I got back? I am prepared to believe that nine-tenths of the people of the Commonwealth will never be able to show any material benefit from the accomplishment of federal union. But, the ideal of federation is a nobler one than the personal benefit of the individual. It is not intended that Parliament should consist of a body of men, each of whom seizes what he can out of the public estate, to the disadvantage of the rest of the community. If protection enhances the prosperity of the Commonwealth, the Broken Hill miner, as a unit in the community, will incidentally share in that prosperity. The honorable member for Barrier implied that the miners of Broken Hill were working under safer timber than Australian hardwood. It- has been reserved to him in the 20th century to inform a deliberative assembly that our hardwood - some of the toughest in ‘ the world - is not safer to use in mines than is the easily fractured Oregon pine. If his statement be true, then every other mine in Australia is worked upon criminal principles. I believe that the mines of Broken Hill can well afford to pay the State something extra if it be necessary for them to do so. I do not believe that it will be necessary. Upon the banks of the Murray River there is enough redgum to supply timber to the Broken Hill mines for all time. Why is it not used 1 If there were a railway from Broken Hill to Menindie, it would be used. I believe that the Broken Hill mines will find that it is better to use hardwood than Oregon. When they have discovered that fact, the railway to Menindie will be completed within a very short time.
– How far is it from Broken Hill to Menindie ?
– It is 70 or 80 miles. The construction of such a line will throw open the vast redgum forests belonging to New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. That being the case, I do not think we need to worry very much over this particular item. I hope that the Government proposal will be adopted.
Mr. F. E. McLEAN (Lang). - I listened very attentively to the honorable member forWide Bay, and I could not but be struck with the idea which seemed to run through his mind that in the event of this duty operating in a protective way it would be Queensland which would receive the benefit ; in fact, the honorable member spoke as if this duty must be preserved in the interests of that State. But if the duty has any protective effect, Queensland will not be “ in it.” There are other parts of Australia from which hardwood can be brought at very much cheaper rates of transit, and it is simply asking, the committee to assume too much when it is said that we are doing an injustice to Queensland if we decide to put this timber on the free list. I have listened in this House, at one time and another, to a great deal said about this mammoth timber industry in Queensland. It is not generally known, I think, that only a very few years ago, the Government of Queensland were compelled to impose an export duty on some timbers.
– And Maryborough kauri - the very wood which is shown in the lobbies of this House as illustrative of the suitability of. Queensland timbers.
– What was the export duty for?
– To prevent timber going out of the State, and, as a matter of fact, those interested in Sydney in importing timber have for years past been unable to get any Maryborough kauri.
– I will give £5 to any hospital if the honorable member can prove that there ever was an export duty on any timber in Queensland.
– I shall be very glad to go into the matter with the honorable and learned member. I do not know whether it was called a royalty or an export duty ; I simply know that an embargo was put on the export of Maryborough kauri for years, and that we in New South Wales were unable to get it, except in the smallest possible quantities. If there is this boundless source of timber supply in Queensland, how is it that during the last five or six years, with an open port in New South Wales, Queensland timber has not figured largely in the imports of the adjoining
State? I have here a return, which was placed on the table of this House, on the motion of the honorable member for Moreton, showing the value of the timber exported from the various States for the three years 1898 to 1900. It appears that the total export of timber from Queensland during 1900 was valued at £18,106; while the export from New South Wales was £139,000. Queensland exported during that year to New South Wales timber to the value of £9,228, while New South Wales exported to Queensland timber to the value of £23,516.
An Honorable Member. - How much of the latter was re-exported ?
– Nothing appears to satisfy honorable members opposite. I know it is quite possible, indeed more than likely, that a considerable part of the timber exported from New South Wales was reexported.
– There was no hardwood timber exported from New South Wales to Queensland in 1900.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that New South Wales hardwood is not extensively exported to Queensland ? Does he say that hardwood from the northern rivers of New South Wales is not exported to Queensland every week ?
– There is no return given for 1900.
– A considerable export of New South Wales hardwood into the State of Queensland has been going on for a number of years. I only want to call attention to the fact that, while we are told of this enormous industry of Queensland, which is said to be capable of supplying the requirements of the Commonwealth, Queensland has not been a serious competitor in the market with New South Wales. I am willing to admit every word the honorable member for Wide Bay has said about the quality of the Queensland timbers, because Maryborough kauri is equal to New Zealand kauri, and the other Queensland timbers are equal to any we are likely to get from New Zealand. But from my knowledge of the trade which has been going on during recent years’, Queensland in this connexion has not proved equal to the requirements of New South Wales. It is asking too much of the House to expect us at this early stage to impose protective duties merely for the sake of encouraging the production of timber in Queensland. I support the amendment, because it must be patent that, although the honorable member for the Barrier is the representative of the great mining district of Broken Hill, a district that imports 15,000,000 feet of Oregon timber into the Commonwealth in one year, is more largely interested in this question than is any other district in the Commonwealth. Look at the enormous quantity of timber that is absolutely necessary for the requirements of the miners, and contrast it with the importations generally throughout the Commonwealth. No comparison can be made between the requirements of Broken Hill and the requirements of the other mining districts of Australia. The honorable member for Barrier has a perfect right to point out that the imposition of a duty will result in very great hardship to the industry which is the backbone of the district he represents. In asking the committee to treat Broken Hill in this respect with special consideration, the honorable member is asking no more than is asked for every night, when honorable members seek to make special exemptions in favour of particular industries. This is one of the most important industries in Australia, and at the very time we are engaged in framing the Tariff, the industry is in a worse state than it has been since the mines were discovered. This is a most inopportune time to impose new taxation of the kind. The honorable member for Richmond has quoted the balance-sheets of the Broken Hill Proprietary for a number of years j but do we not all know that at the present time this industry is in a languishing condition - that it was never in a worse condition. Under the circumstances, and seeing that these mines are the largest consumers of these sizes and descriptions of timber, the honorable member has a very fair claim on the committee for special consideration. I should have preferred to see the Government bring down a proposal for a moderate duty for all sizes of timber, without discriminations. I should have been prepared to vote for a moderate duty on all sizes of timber ; but, since the Government have introduced a sliding scale for protective purposes, I have a perfect right to ask that the same discrimination in regard to exemptions shall be extended to the mining industry as has been shown in connexion with a great number of other industries. The honorable member for Wide Bay has pointed out that Queensland hardwoods would be very suitable for mining purposes, but I have already replied that there are millions of feet of hardwood in the State of New South Wales, and the honorable member for Richmond has shown that there are many millions more feet much closer and more accessible to Broken Hill, in the Murray forests, whence it could be transported at a very much lower cost. With my knowledge of the cost of producing and transporting hardwood timber, I venture to say that if the duty be passed as proposed by the Government, not 1,000,000 feet out of the 15,000,000 feet required at Broken Hill will go there from the other States. The proposed duty will not operate in a protective way, but can only act as a revenue duty, which will be a new and very serious tax. on the mining industry at Broken Hill. During the last few years, those engaged in mining there have been practically exempt from taxa-tion on their timber imports, and’ we are choosing the very worst 3!ear in their history to impose a burden that will be very grievous and almost unbearable. And what good shall we do by this taxation? It cannot be pretended by any honorable member who has a knowledge of the industry that the imposition of a duty will really encourage the use of Australian hardwood instead of the imported article. Is there any honorable member who seriously believes that such will be the result ? In the great cities of Melbourne and Sydney, the duties do not make a bit of difference, because people use imported timber when they require it, and pay the tax. As a general rule there is no real competition between Oregon timber and hardwood timber in the Australian markets. In New South Wales, where the door has been wide open, the saw-milling industry has never been in a more prosperous state than during the last three or four years. I am not attributing that to freetrade or to an open port, but simply noting the fact the during the last three or four years there has been a distinct revival in the sawmilling industry of New South Wales, which is unquestionably the largest industry of the kind within the Commonwealth. The industry in that State employs more hands than does any similar industry in any other State, and it shows a larger output ; indeed, in every respect the industry is much more important in New South Wales than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. With the door wide open, New South Wales has been able to develop the industry, and if there is any lack of development it is not due to competition with foreign timbers, but is due in many respects to want of proper forest regulations and that legitimate encouragement which oan be given without fiscal expedients. I do not wish at this stage to labour the question, but simply repeat that I should have preferred to be in a position to vote for a uniform duty on every description of timber. A simple duty of the kind, without any sliding scale or discriminating protection, would have tended to produce a large revenue.
– If the Government had proposed a duty of 10 per cent., would the honorable member have voted for it ?
– If the Government had proposed an all-round duty, I should have said that every industry interested must pay it. The right honorable gentleman may smile, but there is no inconsistency. This scale of duties is on a discriminating basis. That being so, I claim for the mining industry, as one of the great primary industries of the Commonwealth, that special exemption which has been extended to many other of our industries. The obvious intention of the proposed duties is to give employment to the local saw-mills.
– That is one object.
– Revenue is only a secondary consideration.
– Wo expect to receive a large amount of revenue from these items.
– There is a vast difference between duties imposed for the raising of revenue and duties imposed for the dual purpose of raising revenue and affording protection. Whenever in the past protective duties have been imposed, special exemptions have been made in favour of the primary industries which they affect, and that being so, I think it is consistent to ask that the mining industry, which hitherto has had to bear no special taxation of this kind, and is now less able to bear it than ever before in its history, should be given the concession for which the honorable member for Barrier asks. If the duties are passed as they stand, instead of giving legitimate encouragement to the saw-milling industry, they will have an opposite effect. I could understand a proposal to allow the larger sizes of timber to come in free, and to impose a reasonable duty upon the smaller sizes, in order to afford employment to our own people, but the margin between the large and small sizes which is provided for in the item is too small to have that effect. Therefore, I think that, in the interests of those whom he wishes to serve, the Treasurer should agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier. Undoubtedly the duties provided for in this and the two succeeding items are intended to operate as protective duties, but, as the honorable member for Barrier has shown, the duty upon Oregon pine, at any rate, will operate only as a revenue duty, because that timber cannot be grown here, and will continue to be imported. The honorable member for Barrier has told us that Oregon can be landed at Port Pirie for 10s. per 100 superficial feet.
– That is the cheaper kind of Oregon.
– It is not a cheaper kind, though it may be cheaper on account of its size.
– It is different from the Oregon used for other purposes.
– We are importing the same kind of Oregon into Melbourne and Sydney for other purposes, and know what it can be imported for. As a matter of fact, the freight from the Pacific Slope to Port Pirie is less than the freight from New South Wales or Queensland ports to that place ; so it will be impossible, even if the proposed duty is agreed to, for the sawmillers in Queensland and New South Wales to compete with the American sawmillers. That being so, the duty will be a serious tax upon the mining industry at Broken Hill. It is beside the point to argue that the Broken Hill companies can use timber now growing on the Murray or in Queensland. Surely we must believe that men possessed of capital and brains understand their own interests sufficiently well to know what timber is best adapted for their purpose. The honorable member for Barrier has made out a very good ca.se for giving special treatment to the mining industry in this respect. I refer to the Queensland timber industry in no spirit of opposition to any legitimate movement which may be made to bring Queensland timbers under the notice of the Australian public
I believe that now that we are welded into one Commonwealth it will be to our advantage to use the productions of the Commonwealth wherever it is reasonably possible to do so. But when there is such a wide discrepancy between the price of the local article and that of the imported article as exists in this instance, we must give relief to the industry affected. I could have quoted more figures from the report which has been laid upon the table to show that, so far, the Queensland timber industry has not sufficiently developed to be able to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth. Western Australia, indeed, appears to be fast becoming the largest timber-producing State in the Commonwealth. Up to the present time Queensland has not been able to supply the demands of New South Wales. Only a few weeks ago Sydney merchants who endeavoured to obtain Maryborough timber for the making of doors, were told by the local saw-millers that they would not supply them with timber, but that they would supply the doors.
– And they are taking the doors.
– I am glad to hear it. I do not grudge the people of Queensland any trade that may legitimately come to them under the operation of the Tariff. AH I say is that the Queensland industry has not yet proved itself equal to supplying the demands of New South Wales, and it will undertake too large an order if it -sets itself, at any rate for a number of years to come, to supply the requirements of the Commonweal th.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). - I am glad that the honorable member for Lang exhibited a sanity at the end of his speech which his earlier remarks would not warrant us in attributing to him. I cannot understand why he should take objection to the fact that Queensland is not yet supplying the whole of the timber required by the Commonwealth, seeing that that State is so much younger than the mother State. I think, however, that every honorable member will applaud his sentiment that the Commonwealth should depend upon its own resources, from whatever State they are derived. That is the text we should stick to. But why declaim against Queensland ?
– I did not declaim against Queensland.
– The honorable member’s speech exhibited a plethora of paradoxes. Those who represent Queensland have never claimed that the timber industry of that State is at the present time able to supply the demands of the Commonwealth. .The honorable member for Wide Bay, the honorable member for Oxley, and others have spoken of our great timber resources, but they have not claimed that we are in a position to supply the whole Commonwealth. We are, however, entitled to be heard in this chamber on the subject. We ask for nothing more than our share of the trade of the Commonwealth on fair marketable terms. Will honorable members deny that the mining industry of the United States is something very large ? Yet not a single log can be imported into that country without paying a heavy tax.
– They have sufficient Oregon growing there for all their requirements.
– Their timber industry would not have been developed to its present vast proportions had it not been for the tax which is imposed upon timber coming from other countries. Every log of timber in the rough is subject to duty. If the log is squared, a higher duty is imposed, if it is flitched, more taxation is levied upon it ; and if it is planed it has to bear a still higher duty. I am prepared to follow the policy of the United States, in regard to timber and many other commodities, and as New Zealand is not within the fold of the Federation, she should be treated in exactly the same way as if she were a foreign country. What chance shall we have of developing our timber resources unless we impose a small duty ? Are our forests to rot ? Are we not to utilize our timbers for all the purposes of life and employ them in the various industrial concerns in which we are engaged, and particularly in the mining industry? I have had some experience in mining, and I would ask what miner would use pine for timbering purposes if he could procure the wholesome hardwood of Australia ? I have known of hundreds of accidents which have happened in mines owing to the rotten rubbishy timber used in the workings, and we should do everything we can to secure safe working conditions for those who are employed underground. It is not only Queensland that has fine timber resources, but alsoVictoria, Western Australia, the northern territory of South Australia and New South Wales. The mother State was so badly governed, and her administration was so foul and corrupt that she threw off Victoria and Queensland, and she has impoverished herself in consequence. Queensland should be regarded by New South Wales as a dear daughter, whom she thrust from her in scorn and contempt. All the timber resources of Victoria and Queensland were once hers, but now that she has lost them she has no regard for them. The representatives of New South Wales should not point the finger of scorn at Queensland, and tell her that she cannot supply her own requirements. The honorable member for Lang told us that Queensland had been obliged to import timber from New South Wales.
– That is not saying that Queensland was not able to supply her own requirements.
– PATERSON. - That is what the honorable member’s remarks conveyed. It has been the policy of New South Wales for the past 40 years to hound down Queensland and Victoria.
– We gave Queensland a free port, for six years.
– PATERSON. - What was the good of a free port to a country that was fully occupied in developing its own resources, and using its timbers in the construction of railways, for the purpose of opening up its territory? Queensland had no time to export a single railway sleeper to New South Wales, and more than that, carpenters and sawyers in Queensland were being paid 16s. per day, whereas in New South Wales they were receiving only 8s. per day. Queensland will be able to supply New South Wales with timber in a very short time, but no steps will be taken in that direction until it can be shown that there is a profit to be made out of the business. New South Wales has enjoyed great advantages in connexion with her timber trade. Wherever there have not been steamers to pick up every log of timber, railways have been run upon the back tracks along the coast to develop her timber resources. I am glad to say that she has done very well out of her timber; but while she has been drifting along in her quiet oldfashioned way, the people of Queensland have built up a great State, with a population almost half as large as that of the mother State. She has built as many railways as New South Wales possesses, and has supplied sleepers for their construction, and yet we are asked why Queensland has not entered the free port of Sydney with her timber? We should not be taunted with laziness or want of enterprise because we have not been able to send our timbers into New South Wales where the local sawmillers have had every advantage. Queensland has her timber left, and it is as good to her as money in the bank. The timber industry of Australia is capable of very great development, and there is no reason why we should not supply all our own requirements for butter boxes, for jetty and wharf piles, for railway sleepers, for bridge building, or for many other purposes. I shall support the proposal of the Government, and I shall consider the Ministry unworthy of the confidence reposed in them as the first Commonwealth Cabinet placed in office to sustain a policy of protection against the world unless they insist that this industry shall be protected against every inch of timber that may be sent in from abroad.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat would have done well if he had abstained from making reflections upon other States, such as he strongly objected to in the case of Queensland. The greater portion of his speech has been devoted to an attack upon New South Wales. As a representative of that State I must decline to reply to his remarks, but the honorable member must remember that if the attitude of the representatives of New South Wales with regard to the timber duty is calculated to inflict injury upon Queensland it will work equal harm to New South Wales. Hardwood, such as the honorable member has spoken of as growing in the forests of Queensland, also grows in the forests of New South Wales, and the pines - hoop pine and other kinds - which are to be found in the Queensland forests are also procurable in, the mother State. If we show that in spite of the benefit which might accrue to the timber industry through the protective incidence of a duty we can take a broader view, and look at the effect of the duty upon the larger industries of the Commonwealth, we should not have to submit to an attack such as that which has. been delivered by the honorable member. The honorable member was so rashly impetuous as to make a certain offer if any one could prove the statement made by the honorable member for Lang that there was an export duty on timber in Queensland.
– On pine.
Mr.THOMSON.Onanytimberthehonorable member said. I do not care whether the honorable member fulfills his promise or not, but he challenged any one to show that there had ever been an export duty on timber in Queensland. I have here a pamphlet which has been issued by Queenslanders in reference to the timber duties, in which it is shown that there is an export duty on cedar at the present time of 2s. per 100 super feet. Further than this, the official statistics of Queensland for 1900 show that there is an export duty on cedar in the log of 2s. per 100 feet, and that a similar rate is levied on sawn cedar. I only hope that the other information given by the honorable member is more reliable than his statement in this connexion. I have already represented to the Treasurer that we are dealing with the base of the whole of these duties, but we must, at the same time, deal to some extent with the superstructure. The question arises why timber should be admitted free of duty, and one of the best answers is to be found in the comparative statement of the duties levied in the States prior to the introduction of theFederal Tariff. Ministers have always quoted these comparisons to support their own duties. What do we find? In three out of the six States, namely, in New South Wales, Victoria, except as to hardwood, and South Australia, undressed timber was formerly admitted free of duty. In other words, 3,000,000 of our population - and a large proportion of them protectionists - saw good reason why they should admit undressed timber free.
– In Victoria we had a duty of1s. per 100 superficial feet upon Oregon.
– But Oregon received special treatment. Other undressed timbers coming into competition with Queensland pine were admitted duty free. Only onethird of our population saw fit to place a duty upon undressed timber that would compete with Queensland timber. Surely when in two of these States - which are more or less protectionist - the Government deemed it desirable to admit undressed timber free, there is very good reason why the Commonwealth should adopt not the ideas of one-third of our population, but the ideas of two-thirds. Then again I would point out that timber is used in many of our large industries. It is an expensive and necessary material in connexion with those industries. For example, in the export of tallow, timber is required for the cases ; in the export of meat, casks and cases are used ; whilst in the export of fruit and jam - which last named bids fair soon to become a very considerable industry - cases are also necessary. The worst policy which the Commonwealth can adopt is to add to the cost of our exports in the markets of the world. Year by year we are becoming larger exporters. The very extent of the territory we possess, in proportion to our population, tells us that we shall have to find fields abroad for the absorption of the produce of that territory. In exporting, we have to come into competition with every other nation in the world. The smallest increase in the cost of exportation in these large lines is sufficient to turn the trade from the Commonwealth. Under such circumstances it behoves us to be exceedingly careful, lest we increase the cost of the goods we export. I agree to some extent with the remarks of the honorable member for Lang, who stated that if an all-round revenue duty were proposed, instead of a graduated duty, there might be some reason for giving it consideration; but in dealing now with the most moderate duty proposed we have to remember that on top of that duty the Government proposes a rising scale of duties. Besides the industries which I have already mentioned, there are a great many others in connexion with the conduct of which timber plays an important part. The mining industry, and the effect which the proposed duty will have upon it, has been very properly alluded to by the honorable member for Barrier, than whom no one can speak with greater authority. But he has spoken only of the Barrier mines. What applies to them will apply to the whole mining industry. We have also to remember that under the Government proposal we shall be imposing a tax upon many of our joinery and turning factories. Surelythat is not the desire of a protectionist Ministry? By adopting the proposed duty, we shall either limit our manufacturers’ choice of timbers, or, if thev still exercise their powers of selection, we shall add to the cost of those timbers. Why is all this being done ? Why has the Treasurer departed from the policy which he previously adopted as a Minister in Victoria ? ls it not being done largely at the request of the representatives of Queensland? Is this committee not being asked to impose this duty in the interests of the northern State ? Let me call attention to a few of the reasons given for this action. In the first place, Queensland says that although she has magnificent forests, she cannot compete with the timbers imported from abroad. With whom has she to compete ? With Canada, the Northern States of America, and New Zealand ! Surely in this connexion the argument cannot be advanced that labour is so much dearer here than it is in the countries mentioned. If Queensland has the great forests and good timber, which her advocates say she possesses, why can she not compete with New Zealand ? I cannot conceive any reason for her inability to do so. Just as I believe that New South Wales does not require any protection to be extended to her timbers, so I feel assured that Queensland does not need any such artificial aid. Queensland asks for the imposition of the proposed duty upon timber. Why ? Because she states she cannot compete in her own market with imported timbers. How then is she going to compete in the other markets of the Commonwealth ? Yet we are told that if these duties are imposed, she will be able to compete with New Zealand in the supply of butter boxes. Now if she can with the duty asked compete in that line she can compete in the most closely-cut line in the timber business. The price of butter boxes is cut very fine, and if Queensland can compete with New Zealand in their manufacture, she can compete against almost all the softwood timbers imported for other purposes. I would further point out that her competition will be in dressed timbers, so as to avoid freightage and other charges upon the waste which is incurred in sawing and dressing. If by duties her locally dressed timber is forced into consumption in the other States, she will be enabled to shut up the southern mills. If she is able to do that legitimately, and thus to make use of her magnificent forests, I shall be very pleased indeed.
But if Queensland asks that a duty shall be imposed in order to force all this business to herself, then she is asking too much from the southern parts of Australia. I should like to compare the duties of Queensland and their effects, as set forth in the pamphlet, The Queensland Timber Industry, with the figures as given in the official statistics of that State. It is claimed in the pamphlet that the duties latterly existing in Queensland have developed her pine industry. It is asserted that it is owing to these duties that the Queensland timber industry has rapidly come to the front, and that the output has largely increased ; and it is contended that the industry cannot go on unless the duties are continued. On page 1 of the pamphlet we are told that what is asked for is a duty rising from ls. per 100 feet superficial to 2s. 6d. per 100 feet superficial ; and that corresponds very closely with the Government proposal, the only difference is that while the Queensland propositi is to allow a duty of a ls. on sizes over 12 x 12 or their equivalent, the Government propose to allow that duty on sizes over 13 x 6 or the equivalent. The facts show that the recent Queensland duty has not had the effect that is claimed. The duty came into force on the 25th October, 1888. and is ls. 6d. per 100 superficial feet on dressed timber of over 12 x S, and 3s. per 100 feet on smaller sizes of undressed timber, and also on dressed timber. But prior to 1S88 the duty was ls. per 100 on undressed timber all round, and ls. 6d. per cwt. on dressed timber: and that, we must admit, was a moderate duty. I have taken the Queensland statistics for 1887, because in that year there would be no increase of development in anticipation of the higher duty, which only came into operation in October of the following year. The statistics are from the Queensland official records, and what I desire to show is that the pamphlet is absolutely wrong in the statistics it furnishes on page 8 as to number of factories and hands employed, the value of the machinery and plant, the horse-power, the value of the land unci premises, and the value of the output. What is given in the pamphlet is not simply a record of the timber saw-mills, but is also a record of the joinery and turnery mills, which would be in existence if there was not a log of timber in Queensland. As a matter of fact, owing to the way in which the figures are given, the output in some cases is doubled, because when the .timber goes from the saw-mills to Brisbane and elsewhere, it is entered as output, and when it leaves the joinery and turnery mills it is entered again. But in the statistics of Queensland I find the saw-mills dealt with separately. The figures given show that in 1887 there were 102 sawmills, and in 1900 there were 160, and not 215 as recorded in the* pamphlet. In 1887 there were 1,771 hands employed, and in 1900 2,228, and not 2,797 as recorded in the pamphlet. The value of the plant in 1887 was £200,449, and in 1900 it was £239,349, as against £289,503 given in the pamphlet. In 18S7 the horse-power was 2,339, and in 1900 it was 3,700, as against 4,232 recorded in the pamphlet. In 1887 the value of the output was £439, 389, and in 1900 it was £511,357, and not £652,427 as stated in the pamphlet. I recognise it would not be fair to take the output in value only, as timbers vary in price from year to year, so I have calculated the number of feet. In 1SS7 there were 43,830,800 feet of softwood issued by the mills in Queensland, while in 1900 the output was 58,024,523 feet. In 1SS7 the output of cedar was 1,671,700 feet, and in 1900 it was 2,166,735. In 1887 the output of hardwood was 25,11S,400 feet, and in 1900 it was 3 9, 000, 000. These figures show that in the thirteen, years there was an increase of less than one-third in softwoods, and an increase of over one-half in hardwoods. It will be seen that the most rapidly increasing timber industry of Queensland is that of the hardwoods, which need fear no competition from abroad, but only from within the Commonwealth. In 1887 the population of Queensland was 367,000, while in 1900 it was 490,000 - an increase of, say, onethird.
– Another fact is that in 1887 the Government were spending part of the £10,000,000 loan.
– But there are other years near 1887, and it will be seen that the figures, though they vary from year to year, come pretty close for this description of industry. At any rate, the population increased by one-third during that time, and the output of softwood and cedar increased less than one-third. That shows that this duty, which is urged as necessary, and which the Government are proposing, in spite of the fact that the Treasurer never proposed it when he was a Minister in
Victoria, has not had the effect which is claimed for it. When there was a much lower duty the industry progressed as rapidly, in proportion to the population, as it has progressed since. It has not been the duty which has extended the industry ; it has been the development of the country, the ability to reach the forests, and the settlement of the population around the forests. I thought it right to place these figures before the committee. I do not wish to injure Queensland, and I do not believe that that State will be injured, even if there be no duty. The best evidence of my belief in that respect is that I take the same attitude in regard to New South Wales ; but I thought it necessary to correct certain statements which might have weight with the committee, and take us on what I consider a wrong course. The Treasurer will say, of course, that to strike this duty out will deprive him of revenue. But supposing we strike the duty off undressed timber, and there is a duty on dressed timber, as in all probability there will be ; or supposing, as another alternative, we reduced the duty on undressed timber all round to a reasonable revenue figure, I do not think the. effect would be very disastrous to the revenue. In my opinion the Treasurer has underestimated what he is likely to receive from the timber duty when he puts the amount at abou t £ 1 1 8. 000. We can compare anticipations with facts so far as Victoria is concerned. The usual consumption in Victoria, on an average for three years, has been 71,500,000 feet of timber of the different classes scheduled here, and the revenue on that quantity would be £62,-000, or nearly 50 per cent, more than the £42,000 estimated by the Treasurer for Victoria. The Treasurer may say that there is no evidence that this average consumption will continue, but as a matter of fact, in the eight months already passed, the arrivals in Victoria have been 1,000,000 feet more than the average.
– Yes; but these calculations are not made for this year, but for when we get into full working operation.
– But as the population increases the consumption of timber will grow greater; and if we take the first year, with all its disturbances, and the present population, we are surely taking the safe side from the Treasurer’s point of view.
– We expect to import more undressed “ timber and less dressed.
– That may be true of the importation into the Commonwealth. I was confining my attention to Victoria. 1,000,000 feet more than the average consumption for a year have been imported into Victoria during the past eight months of the current financial year, and the importations during the next four months, based upon what is known as the quantity now on the way and likely to arrive, will bring the total importations for the year up to 96,000,000 feet, or one-third more than the quantity which I said would yield a revenue of £62,000.
– That is a very big increase.
– I admit that it is, and I should be very chary about . giving the figures if they were not based on actual arrivals as regards the first eight months of the year.
– It may be that merchants have been stocking up this year, because hitherto a great deal of timber has been allowed to come into Victoria free.
– Allowing only 24,000,000 feet for the importation for the remaining months of the year, the total importation will amount to nearly 96,000,000 feet. There are other matters which I will leave until we come to the items to which they particularly refer. At this stage I only take the opportunity of pointing out the injury which I believe will be done to the Commonwealth if the duties asked for by the representatives of Queensland are agreed to. I think, too, that the imposition of these duties will do an injury to the Queensland trade as well. I am satisfied that Queensland will be able to retain the control of her own market, and her output will increase even more rapidly than her population. She has a great asset in her forests, and I believe that the quality of her timber, if not up to the most sanguine descriptions, is really firstclass. Seeing that she will retain her own local market, and that she should even be able to compete successfully against the timber imported from places like Canada, America, and New Zealand, where the labour conditions are similar to her own, I do not think she should be allowed to handicap the exporting industries of the Commonwealth, upon which our future prosperity so much depends, by demanding the imposition of .a duty upon the timber which they require. A duty of ls. per 100 superficial feet is not a - small duty ; it is a very large one. If we cube it, it means 1.2s. on a block of timber measuring 5 feet x 5 feet .x-4 feet. If Queensland opens up her forests, provides better means of carriage to her ports, and improves her milling plants, I am sure she will be able to get all she deserves of the trade of the Commonwealth in competition with the rest of the world.
– According to your ruling, Mr Chairman, we must confine our remarks to the proposed duty upon undressed timber, but I think it would have been better if we had been allowed to discuss the item at large, because we should then be able* to say in one speech what we may now have to make two or three speeches about. So far, the discussion has turned chiefly upon the position of the Queensland timber industry, but I do not think that the duty should be considered only in relation to that industry. The representatives of Queensland have not / claimed that that State can produce timber of better quality - with .the exception of pine - than that produced by the other States of the Commonwealth. As good, and in some instances a better, supply of hardwood can- be obtained from the other States. I have seen hardwood in the Gippsland district which is better than anything I ever saw in Queensland, but I have not seen in any of the States pine equal to the Queensland pine. It is hardly likely that any large quantity of hardwood would be imported into the Commonwealth, but inasmuch as the honorable member for Barrier has stated that hardwood cannot be used at Broken Hill because Oregon pine is so much cheaper, I think it is necessary to point out that Australian hardwood measuring 12 x 6 would probably sustain a greater weight than Oregon pine measuring 12x12. The honorable member says that Oregon gives warning when it is going to crack, because before it breaks it splits into ribbons, and then ths ribbons crack; but no one who knows anything about timber would compare a baulk of Oregon with a baulk of ironbark, spotted gum, or black butt, half the size. Although there are not so many men employed at Mount Morgan as there are at Broken Hill, there has not been a single accident there owing to the breaking of timber since the mines were opened, while the honorable member for Barrier tells us that on the average a man has been killed every fortnight at Broken Hill from that cause. Would it not, therefore, have been better for the mines if the mine-owners of Broken Hill had used Australian hardwood instead of Oregon pine ?
– Why has not Australian hardwood been sent there ?
– So far as Queensland hardwood is concerned, it has already been pointed out that Queensland so far has not been able to do much more than meet her own requirements.
– Then are we to continue to pay this duty until it suits Queensland to provide us with the timber that we want?
Mv. WILKINSON.- -We are justified in making provision for the future, by encouraging industries which are capable of being developed ; but I should have liked to see some provision proposed in respect to timber similar to the provision in Division VIa. in respect to metals. I take credit to myself for having been amongst the first to see the trend of this timber business. On the 7th June last I moved for a return showing the quantities of commodities, including timber, imported from all places beyond the Commonwealth into each of the States for the three years ended 31st December, 1900. The honorable member for Lang has told us that NewSouth Wales exported timber into Queensland, but now I wish to show the extent to which New South Wales, with all her vast resources, has had to import timber from parts beyond the Commonwealth. In 189S, New South Wales imported dressed timber to the extent of 9,481,700 feet. In 1899, she imported 13,657,000 feet, and in 1900, 9,546,000 feet. Of undressed timber she imported in 1898, 44,500,000 feet; in 1899, 49,250,000 feet; and in 1900, 56,625,000 feet. Thus the State of New South Wales, which is supposed to be exporting timber to Queensland, was under the necessity of making very large importations on her own account. Queensland imported 669,479 feet of timber in 1898, 1,453,642 feet in 1899, and 1,112,543 feet in 1900.
– Do not those figures prove that New South Wales requires protection more than Queensland does?
– No ; they prove either that New South ‘ Wales has not sufficient timber to supply her own requirements, or that her people have not had sufficient protection to enable them to develop .her resources. I believe that New South Wales has timber resources equal to those which have been developed in Queensland so far ; but in the tropical scrubs of Queensland there are immense undeveloped supplies of very valuable timber, which cannot be equalled in any other part of the continent. If Queensland had imported timber in the same ratio as has New South Wales, she would have required 15,500,000 feet of timber instead of 1,112,000 feet in 1900. My argument is that as the timber duties in Queensland have encouraged that State to supply her own needs, so a timber duty, such as is now levied, would encourage the people of the whole Commonwealth to supply their needs. Victoria has no pine forests, but she possesses perhaps the best hardwood to be found in any part of the world. I do not think that she has yet learned to fully appreciate her forests.
– Queensland has not supplied her own requirements yet.
– It does not follow that she will not be able to do so. The object of protective duties is to encourage the growth of new industries, as well as to protect those already established. The timber industry in Queensland is a growing one, and if we are to develop our resources, we should preserve our markets for our own people. The importations of timber into Victoria are not so clearly set forth in the return from which I have previously quoted as are the importations into the other States. It is shown that Victoria imported deals, flooring, lining, shelving, and logs, Oregon, spars, and other timber to the extent of 54,083,200 feet in 189S; 67,877,423 feet in 1899, and 79,476,304 feet in 1900. If Queensland had imported timber to the same extent as Victoria has done, she would have required 23,000,000 feet instead of 1,112,000 feet in 1900. It will not be contended that Queensland has been making less progress than other States in building and other works in which timber is used, lt must be borne in mind that in the southern States buildings are constructed mostly of stone or brick, whereas in Queensland the commodities principally required for building purposes are wood and iron. Still, Queensland has been able to almost meet her own requirements. I am prepared to admit that we are not in a position yet to meet all the requirements of the Commonwealth. We are willing to agree that, until such time as the Commonwealth is able to meet her own requirements, a drawback shall be allowed upon all timber used for the casing of any local products for export. In connexion with the Broken Hill mines, it was not fair on the part of the honorable member for Barrier to compare the prices per 100 feet for hardwood and Oregon. A 12 x 12 inch Oregon baulk would not be equal in strength to a 12 x 6 ironbark or spotted gum’ baulk, and, therefore, any comparison of prices on the basis of equal bulk of timber would be entirely misleading and unfair. This is not a Queensland, but an Australian matter, and I am convinced that the development of the timber industry of Australia can be promoted by encouraging those engaged in it to import the best machinery. They will then be able to produce timber equal to anything in the world, and suitable for almost any purpose. In the Agricultural Museum in Brisbane, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of specimens of timber which have been selected by the Agricultural department of that State suitable for use for nearly every purpose connected with industry within the Commonwealth. The scrubs of Queensland are full of magnificent timber, which would be readily placed upon a market protected for a short time against products from other parts of the world. The honorable member for North Sydney quoted certain figures with a view to showing that the timber industry in Queensland had not made any substantial progress under the stimulus of protective duties. I would point out that, in 1885, Queensland floated a £10,000,000 loan, and that in 1887 she was engaged in spending the money recklessly in the construction of railways, bridges, and other public works. Sleepers were being cut in tens of thousands, and girders for bridges, and piles for wharfs, jetties, and bridges, were being obtained on all hands. Saw-mills were started on the edge of every forest, and the timber industry was in a very flourishing condition, owing to the false stimulus given to it at that time. Therefore, any comparison between the figures for the years from 1887 to 1S90 and those for the period immediately following would not be fair. There has been a steady growth of the timber industry and of the subsidiary industries which have grown up in connexion with it in Queensland. I speak as one of a race of sawyers. I have had experience in timber getting and cutting, and I know the qualities of the timber of Queensland, and where they are to be found. My family history extends back over four or five generations of sawyers, and 60 years ago my progenitors cut hardwood at Brisbane Water, near Sydney. They have also cut pine and hardwood in Queensland, and I and my brother have also been engaged in the industry. I know that the timbers of Australia are equal to anything in the world.
– Does the honorable member set himself up as a better expert than the mine managers of Broken Hill, who say that Australian hardwood is not so suitable for their purposes as is Oregon pine 1
– Have they tried to get suitable timber in Australia ? The honorable member for Richmond has told us that within 70 or 80 miles of Broken Hill there is a magnificent Supp. y of hard wood . New South Wales has a splendid asset in Broken Hill, and is it not to her interest to build a railway from the Barrier to Menindie over easy country, thus simultaneously developing her timber and mineral resources 1
– The honorable member does not recognise that hardwood is not suitable for the Broken Hill mines.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has shown conclusively that hardwood is used in other mines with far less accidents to human life.
– There is not another mine in Australia which can be compared with the Proprietary mine.
– That may be so ; but when a man is killed at Broken Hill every fortnight, whilst at Mount Morgan no fatality has ever occurred, it goes to prove that Oregon is inferior to hardwood.
– Are the lodes worked at Mount Morgan 400 feet wide ?
– The strength of the timber depends largely upon the lengths into which it is cut. Timber requires prop- ing at certain distances, otherwise it will yield. British oak has at all times been regarded as one of the best timbers in the world, and we know that its stability and toughness has been disputed by the Australian ironbark. Now, however, some honor> able members wish to persuade us that
Oregon pine will bear a strain which the Australian ironbark, turpentine tree, and the woolly but will not resist. I know that it is impossible to persuade an Australian engineer to use any timber in railway construction work other than that which is found upon our own continent. I have in my possession testimonials from Government architects in Queensland, .who, when they first undertook railway, construction work there, imported whole stations composed of Norwegian and other pines. They did not think there was.timber in Queensland which was good enough to floor even a railway station. t I do not think that the proposal to levy a duty of ls. upon every 100 superficial feet of undressed timber is at all unreasonable. It is a very modest charge indeed, and had it been twice as much I would have supported it.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- I should not have ventured to trouble the committee at this late hour, but there are two . or three matters in regard to which I desire to make a further explanation. The honorable member for Barrier spoke of the Broken Hill mines with an intimate knowledge of the subject to which he was addressing himself, and he can certain])’’ be acquitted of having any provincial bias, inasmuch as those mines have sustained a population of 30,000. He was also justified in calling special attention to the fact that within the past fifteen years the Proprietary mine has produced wealth to the value of £20,000,000. Out of that sum £13,000,000 has been spent in wages, and in the local manufacture of machinery. Dividends to the extent of £7,500,000 have been distributed amongst the shareholders. The whole of this debate has turned upon the merits of Oregon pine for mining purposes. In the early days of Broken Hill, the Proprietary Company used to import hardwood timber from Tasmania, and without desiring to depreciate the quality of that timber, I may state that it was found to be quite unsuitable to the special requirements of Broken Hill, and its use had to be- abandoned. As a matter of fact it was regarded as positively dangerous - so much: so that it had to taken out of the mine, and the space thus caused filled up with mullock. It will also be remembered that in order to secure the benefit of the experience and knowledge of the best experts in regard to the working of extremely wide lodes, we imported from America the man who took the great Comstock lode down to ‘ 3,500 feet. He had to deal with what is known as the square-set system, that being the only way in which such large quantities of ore can be handled with safety. Of course it may be asked - “ What are the peculiar characteristics of Oregon pine ? “ But any one who has traversed the long stopes in the Proprietary Mine must have noticed that the fibre of the Oregon in places was broken and torn,, although it does- not snap off short like the- hardwood timber. Thus it supplies warning when it is incapable of supporting the weight which has been put upon it. Those acquainted with mining are aware that it is the duty of the shift boss to carefully inspect the mine in order to ascertain if any of these square-sets betray signs of weakness. If they do, they are immediately taken out and replaced by others. That is a task easy of accomplishment, because the Oregon is cut into such sets that it can be withdrawn and replaced with facility. Moreover I would point out that, size for size, Oregon pine is only about half the weight of hardwood timber. Consequently men are able to handle it much more easily, whilst at the same time, it is cheaper to the mine-owners. I do not suggest that the imposition of the proposed duty will result in any exodus of men from the Barrier mines. The depression at the present time is due to the fall in the prices of the metals which the mines produce. Oregon pine timber will continue to be used even if the duty be increased beyond the Government figure, for the reason that thi? timber is cheaper, safer, and more easily handled. To impose a duty will not benefit the timber industry of Australia in the slightest, or give Queensland any special advantage, but will simply put a needless tax on the industry of the Barrier district. We have experimented with various timbers, and have proved, not only by our own experience, but by the wider experience of the United States and Canada, tha’t Oregon pine timber is, for all the purposes of taking out wide lodes, the best and most serviceable: There is a matter on which, I think, the honorable member for Barrier gave- the committee a wrong impression. That is as to the number of lives that are lost at Broken Hill. No one regrets more than do those who are interested in controlling the affairs of the Barrier the lamentable fact that there are accidental deaths there from various causes; but the honorable member for Barrier will remember that most of these deaths are from accident on the surface, and have nothing whatever to do with the timber used in the mines.
– I did not mean underground - I meant deaths in connexion with the mining industry.
– But I am afraid, from one or two remarks which followed, that the committee got the impression that these accidents are due to the failure of the timber. The accidents happen mostly on the surface, and the greater part are due, I regret to say, to want of proper precautions on the part of men themselves when undertaking hazardous work. Let me say emphatically that, so far. as the management at Broken Hill mines is concerned, the mere imposition of a duty, or the mere cost of timber, when placed in the balance against the safety of men’s lives, will not be taken into consideration ; and Iam sure that the men on the field are perfectly satisfied that this is the case, and I wish this to appear on the records of this day’s proceedings. The weight of the hardwood, which can be obtained in many parts of the Commonwealth, is one of the most important facts which induce mine-owners to use Oregon pine instead. The Chairman of Committees has rather restricted us in this debate, but I hope to have an opportunity later on of submitting figures which, though they may be questioned by the Treasurer, will I think conclusively show that the revenue from the timber duties, as proposed by the Government, will be much greater than is estimated.
– I make the calculation for a year when the Tariff will be in full working operation ; and that will be two or three years hence.
– I have taken the full period for which the Commonwealth Tariff has been in operation, and after making proper deductions, which I think the Treasurer will admit are correct, I shall be able to show that, consistently with due consideration of our financial needs, undressed timber may be admitted free. If this timber, which lies at the base of the whole superstructure of the timber industry, be admitted free, wo can have graduated duties imposed, according to the extent in which , timber is dressed.
– The whole of the argument to-day is simply pleading for
Broken Hill.We are asked to give up this revenue in order to help Broken Hill.
– I am prepared to admit that the Treasurer is justified in thinking that Broken Hill has rather absorbed the attention of honorable members this evening.
Sir.george Turner. - It might be thought that Oregon is used nowhere except at Broken Hill.
– The Treasurer will perceive that the interests of Broken Hill are so large that that place supplies a very good illustration of the pernicious results which will follow the imposition of the proposed duty on undressed timber. A concrete, substantial illustration of that kind is better than general argument on the fiscal question. I have tried to show that the introduction of Broken Hill into the debate ought to be free from the charge of provincialism, because of the large interests there involved, because of the good which the mining there has done for the whole Commonwealth, and because of the large number of people who are benefited and supported by the industry.
– Does the honorable member mean that the imposition of this duty will close any of the mines ?
– I do not say that for a moment.
– The duty will simply take away a little of the profits which the shareholders have to divide.
– Had I been fortunate enough to have the. attention of the Treasurer he would have heard me say that I did not think for a moment that any men would lose employment in consequence of the duty ; but I showed that the Government’ proposal will imposea needless burden on the Broken Hill mining industries without benefiting any other industry. That seems to me not only unnecessary, but unjust; and my intention is to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for the Barrier.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).- It is unfortunate that the Broken Hill mines are not in Victoria. Had the mines been in this State we should have had theVictorian representatives to a man supporting the free admission of the raw material of the industry. The comparisons drawn tonight between the Broken Hill mines and mines in other parts of the Commonwealth are most ridiculous. Let members imagine a huge chasm 400 feet wide and thousands of feet deep, all held together in 7 feet square. I have worked as a miner in the deepest mines in Victoria, both alluvial and quartz, and I say that so far as the timber required is concerned, no comparison is possible between the mines at Broken Hill and mines at Mount Morgan or elsewhere in Australia. At Broken Hill hardwood is altogether unsuitable ; it is dangerous to life and limb, and its cost, in addition to the proposed duty, would be considerable. It means increased freight, and when it has been brought to Broken Hill there is great difficulty in working and swinging it about in such a mine as I have described. This duty means an imposition on the Broken Hill mines, and ultimately an imposition on the miners.
– Does the honorable member , mean to say that wages will be reduced in consequence of the duty ?
– In working mines, any increased cost beyond a certain limit falls on the workers ; indeed, there has been an intimation already that 10 per cent, will be taken off wages at some mines in Broken Hill. Here is an industry employing thousands of men - an industry which has been a great factor in supplying the railways of South Australia with traffic, and in the consumption of the products of that State ; and I ‘ challenge the Treasurer to show me one item in the Tariff which is in the interests of the Broken Hill miners. “
– Who finds the money to keep miners going, if it is not the unfortunate men who have to pay calls month after month ?
– What rubbish the Treasurer is talking ! But let me take the right honorable gentleman’s own ground. It is a fact that shareholders in Broken Hill mines have again to pay calls : but is that a reason why extra duties should be imposed 1 If this tax is imposed, although honorable members may have the satisfaction of knowing that it and other imposts in the Tariff will bring about the reduction of the wages of the miners of Broken Hill, they cannot compel the use of one plank of Queensland timber there, because that timber is not suitable, and therefore Oregonpine will continue to be imported. It is unfortunate for the miners that Broken Hill is not situated in Victoria. If there were such mines at Bendigo, we should have the honorable and learned member for that district on his feet denouncing these duties, while if there were such mines at Castlemaine, the honorable and learned member for Corinella would contend that timber should be upon the free list. But because Broken Hill is hundreds of miles from Victoria, and its requirements are different from those of other mining centres in Australia, honorable members will not try to understand the position of the people there. Honorable gentlemen opposite may smile, but if they worked in the Broken Hill mines, and took the risk of lead poisoning, and exposed themselves to all the other dangers of the work, they would not regard a reduction in their wages as a very light thing. If these duties are imposed, and the price of silver and lead does not increase, a reduction in wages must take place in Broken Hill. Hundreds of industries in Melbourne have received consideration, but when we appeal for consideration for the mining industry, we cannot be heard. Although e asked for concessions in regard to mining machinery, they were refused, and to-night we ask that timber, which is indispensable to the success of the Broken Hill mining operations, may be placed upon the free list. The. miners are now taxed upon the machinery used in connexion with the mines, and upon nearly everything they eat or use.
– But the machinery used in Victorian industries is on the free list.
– Hundreds of tools of trade and a great deal of machinery has been placed upon the free list for the benefit of Victorian industries, and the people of the Commonwealth have to pay to support those industries. The miners of Broken Hill do not ask for a protective duty upon their productions ; all they ask is that they maybe allowed to obtain their requirements as cheaply as possible. Honorable gentlemen talk about the pine on the Murray, but more pine is used in Broken Hill in twelve months than is grown upon many miles of the Murray country, and I know something about that country. Some people when they see a few pine trees talk about pine forests. It takes hundreds of trains to convey the timber used by Broken Hill in one month. If honorable gentlemen could be induced to visit Broken Hill they would not take up the attitude which they assume to-night. However, they seem to be as soulless as a billiard ball, so that it is useless to appeal to them. Later on they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they have assisted to bring down the wages of the miners at Broken, Hill.
– I think that we might adjourn now.
– We have been adjourning very early for some time past, but J shall not object to report progress now if honorable members will to-morrow curtail their remarks as much as. possible, so that we may get to a division. We want to deal with these matters as soon as we can.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Agreement with the Adelaide S. S. Company for Western Australian mail services. - Return to an Order dated 27th September, 1001.
House adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 February 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020226_reps_1_8/>.