1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took thechair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Consideration resumed from 6th March (vide page 10735).
DivisionXIII. - Paper and Stationery.
Item 115-Paper, viz. : -
Manufactures of, untrained, for advertising purposes, including price lists, catalogues, fashion plates, and all printed or lithographed matter forsuch purposes, per lb., 3d.
White, printing (uncoated), in sizes not less than 20 x 25 inches, ad valorem 10 per cent.
Writing, cut less than 10 x 13 inches, and paper, toilet, in rolls or packets, per lb., 2d.
Browns, grey, blue sugar, cartridge, and blotting, per cwt., 6s.
Strawboard, percwt;, 2s.
Bags, per cwt. , 7s. 6d.
N.E.I., including, cardboard, pasteboard, pulpboard, millboard, grey board, leatherboard, and woodboard, cloth-lined boards and paper, floor paper and paper-hangings, ad valorem, 15per cent.
Vesta and match boxes,empty, per gross, 3d.
Cards, playing, in sheet or cut, per dozen packs, 3s.
Upon which Sir William McMillan had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ and on and after 8th March, 1902, free,” be added to the duty. “White, printing (uncoated). … ad valorem 10 per cent.”
– I intend to support the amendment. My first object in rising, is to dissent from the views of those who do not feel themselves under considerable, obligations to the newspapers. It cannot for a moment be said that newspapers like the Australasian, the Leader, and others published in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, do not disseminate an immense amount of. knowledge and information to persons residing in far distant parts of the Commonwealth, who otherwise, would not be able to obtain it; and on that ground alone. I think it would, be inadvisable to impose a taxwhich would have the effect of increasing, the costof their production. The Victorian Master Printers’ Association have distributed amongst the members of the committee representations which, in my judgment, should, carry very great weight. They point out that the printing, industry will be seriously interfered with if this duty is imposed. Hitherto in Victoria there has been no such duty on printing paper, and. I have not heard reasons advanced which justify its imposition now. It has been suggested that the paper used by country journals should be admitted free, and that the rolls of paper which are used by the metropolitan journals should be taxed. I have, however, consistently opposed all forms of class taxation. I have always, believed that it is right that men should contribute to the revenue in proportion to their, ability to do so, but to tax one class while another class is permitted to go free seems to me absolutely unjust. My feeling is that the proposed duty willnot be agreed to, and I am disposed to think thatmany honorable members would be much surprised and concerned if it were agreed to.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling. Downs).I intend to vote against the proposed duty. The Treasurer has referred to it as a revenue duty, but in my opinion revenue duties should fall upon articles of general consumption, and not upon articles by the useof which certain classesof persons earn their living. In opposing the tax Ispeak, notso much on behalf of the large metropolitan newspapers; as onbehalf of the provincial newspapers.I have received a circular, signed by no fewer than 40 proprietors representing, journals published in the northern, central, and southern partsof Queensland, in which they protest against this ,tax, uponthe ground that it will increase, the cost of publishing, their newspapers. They also point out that it is in the nature of a class tax. If the Government, to raise revenue, proposed by a separate Bill a tax upon newspapers at the rate of 10 per cent. upon all the printing paper they used, the proposal would be strongly objected to by this House, and. reference would be made to the historical fights for the liberty of the press that have occurred in the old country. It is suggested that the proposed duty will taxwealthy menwho can easily afford to pay it; but it will fall heavily upon the many provincial newspaper proprietors, who have started as pioneers in the smaller townships. The honorable member for Bland appears not to regard a newspaper as a disseminator of knowledge. His definition of knowledge may differ from mine. While, no doubt, the newspapers take very strong party views at times of political crises, their raison d’être is the dissemination of commercial intelligence, of political news, and of information generally. Although they do not take the place of works on political economy, science, literature, and art, they disseminate information which is of great value tothe community, and it is unfortunate that, at a time when the proprietors are being put toa heavy extra expense in obtaining and circulating intelligence in regard to the doings of thisParliament, the Government should propose tof urther increase theirexpenditure by placing a duty upon printing paper.
– The honorable member forWerriwa,in the whole sale charges of inconsistency which he made against me last night, displayed all the attributes of youth except its befitting modesty. Ifhe knew even the ABC of political economy, he would be aware that, instead of my past advocacy of legitimate protective duties being a reason why I should support the duty upon printing paper, it is a reason why I should notsupport such a duty. The aim of protection is to establish valuable industries in our midst. The object of this duty is revenue- a very legitimate object I admit - and, if it had no special features of unfairness,I should vote for it. Every duty that isnot protective must necessarily add to the cost ofthe commodity on which it is levied, and this would, therefore, bea tax upon the rawmaterial of an industry that is not protected, and is not likely to be. Itwould be utterly inconsistent with the principles of protection to impose this duty, but those honorable members who support it from a revenue standpoint are on much firmer ground. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa asserted that the duty would be protective, but he showed the utter fallacy of that proposition when he said that it would require a 400 per cent. duty to encourage the local paper industry, because it would cost four times as much to produce paper locally as to import it from abroad. The honorable and learned member should know that protectionists do not advocate the imposition of duties which would have the effect ofincreasing the cost of a commodity by 400 per cent. Although protective duties may temporarily increase the cost, their ultimate object is to reduce prices to the consumer. The honorable and learned member urged very strong arguments in favour of this duty for revenue purposes.
– I temporarily placed myself in the position of a protectionist, and argued from that stand-point.
– The honorable and learned member stated that the duty would yield three timesas much as the Treasurer estimated, but he opposed it on the ground that he desired to be consistent in opposing every proposal of the Government. Is that a legitimate reason ? Is the honorable and learned member justified in opposing a proposal, which he admits to be fair, just, and legitimate, because it is supported by a Government in which he does not believe ? If I adopted such an attitude I should consider I was giving ample proof of my unfitness to act in a representative capacity. The honorable member for Bland is generally very fair and reasonable, and his arguments usually have a great deal of weight with me; butI do not think that he was quite as logical as usual yesterday. When I pointed out that the effect of imposing this duty would be to tax the printers, because it could not be passed on to their customers, the honorable member stated that in that respect it was onall fours with most other taxes, and he instanced his own case in regard to whisky and tobacco. The honorable member is, in that case, the consumer, and would pay the tax, but I, opposed the duty for the reason that the printer could not pass thetax on tothe consumer. If the honorable memberhad shown that the manufacturer of the tobacco or whisky had to pay the tax, and could notpass it on, he would have been on sound ground, but when he showed that the consumer paid it, he was proving my case up to the hilt. This would be a class tax levied on a few individuals. It might be a fair thing to tax the large newspaper proprietors, but there are many small newspaper proprietors who could not afford to pay. The honorable member said that the duty would not amount to a tax of more than os. per week upon small newspaper proprietors ; but even that would be a very serious burden in many cases. Therefore, whilst I admit that the Government had some justification for proposing the duty, I cannot support it.
– I was pointing out last evening that I was very much surprised at the attitude taken by certain protectionists in not supporting the duty on paper, and, arguing the matter from their stand-point, I urged that the duty ought to be largely increased. Possibly, if there had not been one or two big interests opposed to the duty, such as those of the newspapers in which honorable members professing protectionist principles believe, we should not have heard a word about the removal of the duty. If honorable members who are opposed to this duty will also vote for the free admission of all other classes of paper, some of my objections may possibly, fall to the ground ; but honorable members are apparently singling out a special line of paper for exemption - a line which the Treasurer expects will bring in a revenue of £25,000.
– I have had a fresh calculation made, and I find that upon the basis of the’ imports for 1900 the duty would yield a revenue of £44,000.
– The free-traders are perfectly consistent when they oppose a duty such as this, especially when they believe that it will fall more heavily upon knowledge than upon anything else. We desire to promote the spread of knowledge, because we know that when the people become generally enlightened the death-knell of what is called protection will be sounded. The majority of the people will then understand that what is called protection is really ~ the protection of a privileged class, and that it does not advance the wages of the great industrial classes of the community one farthing. They will then see the fallacy of the argument that we should single out the employers for special consideration. The honorable member for Gippsland, and also the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, should be aware that pulp for the manufacture of all classes of paper can be imported. I
I find that pulp to the amount of 467,000cwt. was imported into England last year, and the raw material could also be introduced here. If the protectionist argument is sound, why do not honorable members encourage the importation of wood pulp and the manufacture of the paper here 1 The honorable member for Gippsland says that the object of protection is to lower prices to the consumer. He has often complained that the moment the prices are lowered the wages are also reduced. The honorable member has never made the two statements together, but, if he believes in what he says, a good reason is afforded why he should go back upon all he has done, and vote against the . imposition of protective duties. If every newspaper were to attack me, it would not alter my opinion that paper should be admitted free of duty, and I trust that any honorable members who may have been angered by the attacks made upon them by certain newspapers will not on that account allow their votes to be influenced in favour of the duty. To my mind the public interest demands , that there shall be no taxation of knowledge. The arguments advanced by the honorable member for Gippsland in favour of one of . the wealthiest industries in Victoria will . apply with greater force to the exemption from duty of school books and exercise books. If, as the protectionists urge, it is the foreigner who pays our customs taxation, why does the honorable member object to the proposed duty 1
– No one asserts that . the foreigner pays revenue duties.
– The argument of the honorable member is that if a tax representing 3s. or 4s. in the £1 is levied upon an article the foreigner does not pay it, but the moment that taxation is doubled the foreigner steps in and pays it. That is an absurd argument to submit to an intelligent deliberative body. When other items are under discussion I trust that the honorable member will adhere to the attitude which he has assumed upon the present- occasion. In this connexion I would remind him that the operation of the . high duties which are proposed will lead to the formation of rings amongst the four or five firms which are now engaged in this industry. Indeed, the effect of the duty which formerly prevailed in Victoria was. the establishment of a trust between the two mills which existed in this State. In my opinion the Treasurer has very much underestimated the revenue which will be derived from this particular item. I cannot conceive that the receipts under this heading will be less than £90,000 per annum.
– The total net imports of printing paper are valued at £446,000 a year.
– Upon his own showing the Treasurer has underestimated the receipts from one line by £19,000. Upon other lines he has still further underestimated the revenue. Indeed, his calculations can be based only on the supposition that the imposition of the high rates proposed will lead to a diminution of more than 60 per cent. in the imports. If a 10 per cent. duty were levied upon all the goods enumerated under this item it would yield a revenue of more than £90,000, so that the Treasurer has underestimated his receipts by £50,000. I repeat that the proposed duty constitutes a special tax upon knowledge, and is therefore distasteful to the Liberal party. Protectionists naturally desire that knowledge shall not increase. They belong to the party which passed the sumptuary laws, and placed men in parts of London to cut the ruffles from women’s dresses when they exceeded a certain length, and which also regulated the style of boots to be worn. I hold that if people cannot regulate these matters for themselves, no Parliament can do it for them. In support of that proposition, I ask what manufacturer would be prepared to hand over the control of his business to this House? What honorable member would be content to intrust the conduct of his affairs to his 74 fellow members, even though he knows themso well ? Yet this committee is endeavouring to regulate the affairs of people whom it does not know. I trust that the protectionists who support the proposal to admit printing paper duty free will not insist upon levying heavy imposts upon other articles which are consumed by the great bulk of the people. The assertion of the honorable member for Bland that we do not value or regard newspapers is incompatible with our ordinary understanding. I do not say that we approve of all the strictures which are cast on us by the daily journals, but is there one amongst us who does not believe in good, sound, wholesome press criticism? I cannot say that I have been very highly favoured by the newspapers on either side, but my feelings have nothing to do with the question, which is wholly concerned with the interests of the great bulk of the people. The great newspapers in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane will compare with the newspapers published in similar populations in any part of the world ; we have nothingto be ashamed of in our daily literature.
– I am very anxious, for several reasons, to finish, if possible, the remaining items of the Tariff early next week. It will take my colleague and myself some little time to deal with further proposals we desire to place before the committee, and honorable members know that Easter is rapidly approaching. I do not want to curtail debate, but I ask honorable members to be as brief as possible.
– I intend to support this tax as a revenue duty, which I think will touch the class which can best afford to make a substantial contribution to the public Treasury. Before going further, I would suggest to the Treasurer that in regard to white printing paper, which is more immediately under discussion, the size should be altered from not less than 20 in. x 25 in. to not less than 17½ in. x 22½ in., the standard of this class of paper being demy.
– The measurements given in the Tariff are those of experts.
– If the right honorable gentleman will look into the matter again he will see that what I have stated is correct. I am sorry I did not hear the honorable member for Gippsland, who, I believe, made a very effective deliverance against this duty. I am rather interested in the fact, because I expected the honorable member to take a different stand. However, as there is probably no other man in public life in Australia who so repeatedly finds the line of duty coinciding with the line of political self-interest, we ought not, perhaps, to be very much surprised.
– Is that a fair statement? Is the honorable member as independent of the press in his political life as I am?
– I am not at all dependent on the press, from which I never received any favours.
– I happen to have lived all my life in my constituency, where I am known thoroughly well, with all my faults.
– It is remarkable that the honorable member for Gippsland should be found resisting a duty which, to a great extent, will touch only the rich newspaper proprietors, in the various capitals.
– There are not many such: newspaper proprietors.
– The fewer there are the more suspicious the incident becomes, when we remember the enormous influence which those newspaper proprietors wield in the community. The Treasurer estimates that this duty will realize about £25,000 ; but in my opinion the revenue will probably be at least £7,000 over that sum.
– I mentioned that on the figures of 1900, which might be a loading-up period, the revenue would be £44,000. .
– I will not go so far as to say that, but I think the duty will yield about £33,000 per annum.
– I should say, from £30,000 to £35,000.
– That would be a large sum to extract from poor provincial newspaper proprietors, if the latter were going to pay it. But I shall show that the purely provincial weekly newspapers - the type of journals with which honorable members representing country districts are most familiar - will pay something less than onetwentieth of -the whole revenue. Any appeal on behalf of’ the country journals is unnecessary, and is, no doubt, intended to relieve the wealthy proprietors of metropolitan newspapers of their legitimate burden. No one has keener sympathy with country newspapers Ulan I, for I have had experience, as a journalist, of the difficulty of making ends meet: in small country towns. I do not know of any other enterprise which yields such a paltry reward, considering the ability and capital expended. We voted down , any proposal to tax the type, machinery, and other appliances of the printer ; and that was done, I presume, because it was desirable that the primary and permanent requirements of this class of enterprise should be free, seeing that the dearer we make such articles the more we foster monopoly. But this duty on printing paper stands on a totally different footing. It cannot result in fostering monopoly, because it does not unduly handicap persons possessing limited capital, every man contributing to the revenue on the basis of the output of his establishment. If the output is large , his profits, under normal- conditions, are correspondingly large,, and. his, payments to the revenue keep in exact ; proportion. Assuming that any tax is necessary, there is nothing fairer than that the newspaper which has a wide .and payable circulation should contribute more to the revenue than a.journal of inferior position. So when the real- significance of this duty is understood, I do not think, there will be any protest from the country newspaper proprietors. Bulking the whole of the country journals together - dailies, bi-weeklies, and. weeklies - their total contribution will be only about one-seventh of the revenue. I have taken the trouble to go into the matter fairly fully, and have compiled from Messrs. Gordon and Gotch’s list, a return of the daily, tri-weekly, bi-weekly, weekly, and fortnightly newspapers published in the Commonwealth. There are -.21 daily newspapers in the various capital cities ; 40 daily newspapers in the provincial cities ; 38 tri-weekly, and 159 bi-weekly newspapers in the various States ; 98 weekly newspapers in .the metropolitan cities, and 384 in the provinces. Under i this Tariff the metropolitan daily newspapers will contribute £22,000 per year to the revenue, and the metropolitan weekly newspapers.£7,500, while the provincial daily newspapers will pay £2,000, and provincial newspapers -other than daily, £1,687.
– All over the Commonwealth ?
– My estimate is for the whole Commonwealth, and it shows that substantially an average of about 8d. per week will be contributed by each of the purely weekly newspapers in the country districts.
– What does the revenue aggregate ?
– It aggregates £33,1S7.
– What about small jobbing printers ?
– We are not now dealing with job-printing paper.
– Do jobbing printers not use printing paper t
– The honorable member last night, I believe, made a statement to the House that this duty will be a tax on books printed in the Commonwealth. In that the honorable member is mistaken, because this paper is not used in the printing of books.
– I know this paper is not used for the better classes of books, but it is used for a great many publications other than newspapers.
– I shall not go into that question now, but ifthe committee wish to get out of the difficulty and save country newspaper proprietors from taxation, they can easily do so by inserting the words “ in reels or rolls” after the word “uncoated.”I shall take an opportunity of moving an amendment to that effect.
– It has been argued that this duty is a tax on knowledge, and I am disposed to regard it assuch. I do not agree with the honorable memberfor Gippsland thatthe impost will be wholly borne by newspaper proprietors, because they as far as possible will pass the amount on to the general reading public; and anything in the direction of placing a limit on the spread of knowledge is undesirable.
– It depends on the kind of knowledge.
– I admit that newspapers deal with economic subjects from particular stand-points, andare regarded as altogether right or altogether wrong, according to the views of the reader. One of the greatest educational influences is the newspaper, and there is more newspaper reading in the Commonwealth than in any other community. No man can be well informed who does not read the newspapers, and no man who has any brains at all can help being well informed if he regularly reads the newspapers. Arguments might be adduced in support of this duty as a revenue duty, but, to my mind, it is more important to have a well-informed communitythan to obtain revenue, and, as I desire to see our community as well informedas possible, I shall oppose the duty. I should like the Treasurer to consider what was said by the honorable member for New England in regard to the placing of a heavier impost upon tinted paper than upon white paper.
-I am willingto admit tinted paper on the roll at 10 per cent.
– Otherwise printers who use tinted paper would be at a disadvantage compared with those who use white paper, because they would have topay 15 per cent. upon it instead of 10 per cent. I trust that honorable members who are opposed to this tax will show equal consideration when we come to deal with duties lower down in the division - as, for instance, those upon school exercise books - which will be passed on to the consumers.
– If the duty upon white printing paper is not removed I intend, as I indicated last night to move an amendment which will exempt those kinds of printing papers which are used in the manufacture of books. I said thenthat I thought that a certain amount of revenue should be obtained from ordinary printing paper, but that, in order to prevent the destruction of a large and promising industry, the raw material of the book trade shouldbe exempt. I have since had the good fortune toget into communication with persons who thoroughly understand the paper trade, and they have supplied me with the wording of an amendment which will effect the purpose I have in view.I have submitted that amendment to the Treasurer, and it is approved by his experts, and I, therefore, give notice now that, when we come to deal with the exemptions, I propose to add to them “super-calendered and machine-finished white writing paper.”
– The Treasurer has proposed a duty of10 per cent. upon white paper, and of 15 percent. upon tinted paper.
– I have promised to admit at the 10per cent. rate tinted printing paper brought in on the roll.
-But the country newspaper proprietors cannot use paper brought in on the roll, because their machines are not suitable.
– In that case, those who use tinted paper will have to pay a duty 50 per cent. higher than that paid by thosewho use white printing paper. I do not think that the proposed duty, if it is intendedasa revenue duty, should be tolerated for a moment ; but iftheGovern- ment have proposed it as a protective duty, I would point out that the manufacture of printing paper in Australia ‘is next to impossible. Espartograss has never been grown in Australia, and it has yettobe foundthat it can begrown here in sufficiently large quantities to warrantthe establishment of factories for itsmanufacture into paper ; while the manufacture of paper here from imported wood-pulp would be quite out of the question. As farback as 40 years ago there were hundreds men employed in the Commonwealth in the manufacture of the commoner kinds of paper ; and if it had been possible to manufacture printing paper which could compete with the imported article, it would have been manufactured long ago. I am sorry that the honorable member for Coolgardie was too unwell to continue his speech, because he has gone into this matter very thoroughly ; but I am still more sorry that he has arrived at the conclusion that . a tax should be placed upon the printing press. The honorable member for Gippsland very properly stated that this is a class tax, and that it cannot he passed on ; but I was astonished to hear him make the admission that in most cases these duties are passed on. It is because duties are passed on that I am opposed to Customs taxation. The honorable member, however, was at one time a free-trader, and he cannot get rid of his free-trade opinions. While free-traders seldom go over to protection, it is a common thing for protectionists to become free-traders. Gladstone, Sir Henry Parkes, and Sir Robert Peel were all protectionists who became free-traders, and, while Disraeli turned from free-trade to protection, he never put his protectionist principles into operation.
– The honorable member will not be in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– The honorable member for Gippsland says that this is a class tax, and I quite agree with him. The successful newspaper proprietors are very few in number, whereas I could point to many instances in which those who have embarked in newspaper enterprises have been ruined, or have been but poorly rewarded. The newspapers throughout the country are performing a most useful service to the community in disseminating knowledge, and if this duty is imposed a number of able and deserving men will be subjected to a very heavy burden. We know very well that it is not out of the actual papers sold to the public that the newspaper proprietors make their profit. It is the enterprise which they show in carrying on their newspapers which enables them to reap large harvests from advertisers. The leading newspapers of Australia strongly advocated federation, although they knew that they would have to incur heavy expense in maintaining expensive staffs in Melbourne for the purpose of reporting the proceedings in the Federal Parliament. The general public are vastly indebted to the press in a variety of ways, and it would not be fair to impose a heavy tax upon their enterprise. No doubt such papers as the Melbourne Age have exercised a strong influence upon the political opinions of the great masses of the people. The South Australian Advertiser is another notable instance of the business enterprise of the journalist. That daily was raised from a comparatively unimportant position by the enlightened policy and business enterprise of Sir Langdon Bonython. It was the enterprise of the proprietor and the knowledge that he disseminated, and not the papers sold, that was the basis of success. If it had not been for the wide circulation of that journal, upon the reduction of its price to one penny, and its advocacy of liberalism, we should not have so many able men in this Parliament from that State to-day. I do not object to any newspaper because of its political complexion, because I recognise that, apart from politics altogether, the newspapers are of inestimable value to the community, and are therefore deserving of support. For the reasons which I have stated, I am strongly opposed to the imposition of this duty, which has been properly described as a tax upon enterprise and a class tax, and as one which would press most heavily upon the country newspaper proprietors.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr.SAWERS (New England). - I move-
That the word “ white,” line 7, be omitted.
I understood the Treasurer to declare his willingness to agree to the admission of tinted paper at 10 per cent., if it is imported in rolls. If the proposed distinction be made, what is there to prevent paper from being imported in rolls and cut up here?
– There are practical difficulties.
– I do not know what they are. The smaller provincial newspapers do not use paper imported in rolls, because they have not the machines suitable for the use of such paper.
– I trust that the committee will not agree to the amendment of the honorable member for New England. As has already been pointed out, coloured paper can be used for a variety of purposes other than that of printing.
If newspapers, for reasons of their own, choose to use coloured paper, I do not see why they should not pay a duty upon it. So long as they can introduce it in such a ‘ form as will guarantee that it will not be used for other than newspaper purposes, I am willing to make the concession which I previously indicated. I am not prepared, however, to allow all paper to be admitted at 10 per cent. I do not see any great virtue in printing a newspaper upon tinted paper, but if certain publishers choose to use such paper, I do not see why they should not pay duty upon it.
– It is made of the same material as is the white.
– It is made of the same material, but the white paper is used almost exclusively for printing, whereas coloured paper is employed for other purposes, and will thus come into competition with the article made within the States. I hope that the committee will arrive ‘at a speedy decision upon this item, or otherwise we shall have to sit longer hours and meet more frequently. We have all made up our minds how we shall act, and all the talk that may be indulged in will not alter a single vote. I hope that honorable members will allow us to come to a division, and expedite the transaction of public business.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I sincerely hope that our votes upon this particular matter will not be influenced by vindictive feelings against newspaper proprietors. I trust that our actions will not be swayed by any envy of the prosperity of newspaper proprietors, or by the fear that we may be accused of truckling to the press. I feel that it is our duty to act quasi judicially. I am rather surprised to find that after six months of debate some honorable members do not yet understand the arguments of their opponents. The honorable member for Gippsland has been attacked by the honorable member for Werriwa, who is opposed to the proposed ‘ tax, for refusing to support it, and by the honorable member for Coolgardie, who is in favour of it. Neither of those honorable members really understands his arguments. The proposed tax is purely a revenue tax, which cannot Confer an)’ earthly good upon any one, and it ought therefore to be satisfactory to the Opposition. If the Treasurer really wishes it to be carried he has taken the wrong Course. He should have exempted white paper, and then members of the Opposition would have intimated that they were in favour of a tax upon it. There is an old saying that if one wants a pig to go a certain way the best plan is to pull him the other way. Similarly, if the Treasurer had exempted white paper from duty, the Opposition would immediately have inquired, “Oh, why did you not tax the wealthy newspapers?” I- listened to this debate in the expectation of hearing the honorable member for Coolgardie. He is intimately acquainted with the newspaper business, and I am sure that the committee exceedingly regret that his health has not enabled him to express himself as fully as we should have liked. I listened to what he said very attentively, and if the Treasurer desires to see the proposed tax carried he cannot do better than heed his remarks. We all know perfectly well that the big newspapers use paper in rolls, whilst the small journals generally use it in the flatBut in Geelong, one publication uses paper in the roll, whilst the other uses it in the flat. Similarly in Ballarat, the Courier uses roll paper, whilst the Star uses that article in the flat. Under the proposal of the Government, newspapers will be taxed indiscriminately. Unless we are absolutely driven to it, I do not believe in imposing any duty upon printing paper. At the same time it is absolutely absurd to call such an impost a tax upon knowledge. How can a duty upon a piece of blank paper be described as a tax upon knowledge ? If the Government desire to tax newspaper proprietors because they derive big incomes from their enterprises, let them do so by means of direct taxation. By charging a duty upon the raw material of newspapers we shall be practically assisting monopoly by preventing any, save the biggest capitalists, from starting newspapers. I do not believe in taxing half-a-dozen individuals in this way simply because they are wealthy. If we desire to tax the wealthy let us do so in a direct, and not in an indirect, way. The proposed duty is a revenue duty which cannot do good to any one, and I shall therefore oppose it.
– Honorable members have just heard two most peculiar utterances, one from the Treasurer and the other from the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. The Treasurer appealed to the committee to assist him to take a vote upon this question. But whilst he was making that appeal he introduced the novel proposal of a tax upon fashion. He laid down the. proposition that because a newspaper was printed upon certain coloured paper - yellow or pink for example - duty should be paid upon that article. In the twentieth century it is a novelty to find a Treasurer -seriously advocating ;a tax upon fashion. >In order to attract readers, newspapers throughout the Commonwealth adopt certain devices. Some of them affect fancy headings, whilst others are printed upon coloured paper. We have heard the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne recommend the Treasurer to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie, although the honorable and learned member is wholly opposed to such a course ; and under such circumstances, is it surprising that our discussions are prolonged? It has been said by honorable members that they do not care for the press; and while I may make a similar .assertion, I must say that I do care for those who read the press. Honorable members pay as much regard to newspaper reports as do any other section of the community; and in any stampede at a railway station for a bookstall, I notice that the first there for a newspaper is generally some representative man. I deal with this proposed duty as I would with any other. We have to consider whether the Treasurer is in need of revenue; and we must assume from twelve or thirteen divisions, in which he has sacrificed revenue, that he is not. If that be so, why should we proceed to impose a tax on newspaper proprietors? It has been said that the imposition of this tax will make a preserve for wealthy newspaper proprietors who, doubtless, have laid in large stocks of paper. Even if these proprietors have not large stocks of paper, they have capital and are strong enough to stand such an impost better than the proprietors of struggling newspapers. Surely protectionist members will not vote for a duty which will have the effect of decreasing employment. The local Review qf Reviews has already been referred to, and the probabilities are that if this duty be passed, that publication will be printed in the old country. There is no essential difference between the profits of a newspaper proprietor and the profits of a merchant, or a manufacturer, and we know that any proposal to specially tax a merchant or a manufacturer because he had been successful would be scouted. in this Chamber. Newspaper proprietors pay their portion of income tax under the “State laws; and this duty will fall not only on -wealthy, proprietors, but on the whole of those engaged in the publication of .newspapers. The position of the free-trade party on1 this question is very clear, and if this item be carried, there should, beyond all doubt, be a tax on literature. I know, however, that not the most advanced protectionists would advocate a tax of that kind, and yet, if we adopt one tax without the other, we shall ‘be -giving protection to the foreigner, and not to our own people. .1 intend to vote for printing paper being placed on the free list, and I trust the Treasurer will not impose what may be termed a fashion tax.
– In spite of the very many ingenious excuses - I cannot call i them arguments - offered by honorable members for not supporting the Government, I see no reason to recede from ray original intention to give this proposed duty my hearty support. I do not wish to indulge in any wholesale condemnation of the press of this country ; at the same time I cannot indorse a. great many of the eulogies which have- been uttered. No doubt our newspaper pi-ess performs a very useful function, but that function is very much vitiated by the unfortunate tendency of newspapers to become less and less purveyors of news, and more and more supporters of particular views. The average newspaper is too much of a partisan to be an impartial distributor of news ; and my experience leads me to the conclusion that Australian newspapers do not compare favorably with the newspapers of Great Britain. The most extreme partisan newspaper in Great Britain confines its partisanship, as a rule, to its editorials, and can generally be relied on to give impartial reports of the speeches of opponents in the legislative chamber, or outside. In Australia such is not the case. Here, particular newspapers not only indulge in : partisan editorials but give alleged reports that are altogether imperfect and misleading. A. striking instance of this was brought under my notice the other day. We had a debate on the timber duties as affecting Queensland, and one representative- of that State who took a very prominent part in the debate, and, I believe, influenced members of the committee very considerably, was severely left out of a report in one of the Brisbane newspapers, while the speech of another gentleman whom .1 respect very highly, but who by no means contributed anything like the information or the effective argument which his colleague did, was reported at great.length. That is an extreme instance, but the same holds good, though in a lesser degree, with almost every newspaper in Australia. On that account I cannot join in the eulogies bestowed upon the Australian press. One argument used .against this duty is somewhat amusing, namely, that this duty will be a tax on knowledge. There was a gentleman at an English university, who has since become a very prominent man- in the affairs of the Empire, and who .was epigrammaticised in a very clever way, when it was said of him that “what he did not know was not knowledge.” The newspapers are .pretty much in the same position. What they do not believe- is not knowledge so far as they are concerned, and they take good care to give to the public only, the information that they want the public to ,have. Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the duty is a tax upon knowledge, how can any one who has been voting for taxes upon the necessaries of existence consistently object to it1! Surely it is a larger matter to lessen the comfort of the struggling masses of humanity, than to impose a tax upon printing paper, which will affect them, if at all, only to an infinitesimal degree. Then we are told that this is a class tax. But what are all revenue duties but taxes which press most unfairly on the poorer classes 1 The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne gave us a strange reason for objecting to the duty, and that was that, if it were imposed, none but wealthy people would be able to establish newspapers, and that therefore in imposing it we should be assisting monopolists. But we all know that it takes from £60,000 to £80,000 to start a big morning newspaper now. That in itself makes the proprietorship of such newspapers a monopoly. But the honorable member for Coolgardie has shown that in the case of small newspapers the tax would amount to only 8d. per week on their average output. I hope that the Government will adhere to their proposal, and that there are a sufficient number df members who are independent enough to enable them to carry it. It will be interesting to hear those who have opposed this duty addressing themselves to the proposed duties upon stationery and other articles in this division.
-I trust that the duty will be carried, and I regret the tone of the arguments which- have been used by many honorable members. The honorable and learned member for North- ern Melbourne objects to tax newspaper proprietors in this way because they are wealthy, but he would not object to tax them in a direct way. It is refreshing to hear an honorable and learned member, who has been voting for all sorts of taxes throughout, the course of the Tariff, give an opinion of that sort. To my mind the. press of Australia is no better and no worse than the press of other parts of the British Empire ; but I cannot ignore the fact that our newspapers are commercial concerns which, in some of . the States at least, have received a large amount of Government assistance. In New South Wales, for instance, it costs the taxpayers £40,000 a -year for the conveyance of the metropolitan journals into the country by- special trains, and by free postage.
– It costs more than that.
– In addition, thev are assisted by Government advertisements, for which. I am informed they charge higher rates than for ordinary advertisements. The question for us . to consider is, should not newspaper proprietors ‘pay their fair share towards the revenue which we are endeavouring to collect 1 In the early part of the discussion on the Tariff, the acting leader of the Opposition, in comparing the various State Tariffs, pointed out that the Victorian Tariff was practically framed by the Age, and that, therefore, printing paper was carefully made free, but .now he himself is proposing to exempt printing. paper.
– The honorable member has- supported what is practically the Age Tariff pretty well.
– Almost the first re- mark I made in this Chamber was that I would be consistent in regard to the duties I voted for, and that this was. a duty which I thought should be imposed. I have not -so many-colours in my political coat as the honorable member. In fact, I have more consistency in my little finger than the. honorable member has in his whole body. I trust that honorable members will be prepared -to treat alike all who come within the range of our taxation, and will show by their actions that the statement that this or that side are dominated by any section of the press is an incorrect one. I shall support the duty, because I think it is a fair one. It is not a tax upon knowledge, and, in the opinion of practical men, will not unduly hinder newspaper enterprise. I shall, however, oppose any differentiation which would impose higher duties upon the country press than upon the city press.
– The last speaker must have been handled pretty roughly by the press.
– No ; quite the contrary.
– His statement that the Age had the framing of the Tariff we are considering is a reflection upon men whom the committee consider most honorable.
– It was not my statement ; I was quoting the acting leader of the Opposition.
– Then I apologize to the honorable member. I shall endeavour not to bring the newspapers into the discussion at all. No doubt we all at times have had reason for complaint ; but there are many instances when we have had cause to feel grateful to the press. Notwithstanding the remarks which have been made about lobbying, I have not been approached by any one connected with the press with regard to this matter, though I have been approached by persons interested in the manufacture of stationery, who, I think, have made out a very good case. Under the Victorian Tariff, printers’ paper was free, and there was a protective duty of 35 percent. upon stationery ; but now it is proposed to charge a duty of 10 per cent. upon printers’ paper, and to reduce the protective duty upon stationery to 25 per cent. A great deal has been made of the fact that the proposed duty upon printing paper will fall upon a few rich people; but honorable members who support it on that ground forget that those who are what is termed wealthy have earned their wealth by their enterprise, and invested it again in all kinds of industries which are taxed, so that it is impossible to determine how much a rich man pays to the revenue. The proprietors of newspapers who are now in a good position had to win their way by hard struggling, and I do not think we should tax them simply because they have been successful.
– But why exempt them from taxation?
– Because they will not be able to pass the tax on. Printing paper cannot be manufactured here. But while there are some wealthy newspaper proprietors in the Commonwealth, they are so few that they can be counted almost on the fingers of one hand. The great majority of the newspaper proprietors are struggling men. Many papers are carried on by proprietary companies, the shareholders in which have in many cases incurred heavy losses in connexion with their investments. For the reasons which I have mentioned, I do not see my way to support the duty.
-I have a suggestion to make which may help the Treasurer out of his difficulty, namely, that a differential tax should be imposed, at the rate of 25 per cent. on paper used by protectionist organs, and 10 per cent. on that required by journals which advocate revenue duties, whilst thepaper used by labour publications should be allowed to come in free. A tax upon these lines would be quite justifiable, because the protectionist newspapers have been telling us that we have only to impose a stiff duty in order to encourage local production. I have no doubt that if a 25 per cent. duty were imposed, the Melbourne Age would at once start a paper factory of its own. I am told seriously that some one has discovered enough grass within the Commonwealth to make all the paper required for newspaper purposes for many years to come, and, if this be so, I think we might very well impose the duty on the basis that I have suggested. We should, however, allow the paper used in the printing of books to be admitted free. I have no compunction about placing a heavy revenue duty upon paper used by wealthy newspaper proprietors. I do not agree with honorable members who claim that it is not possible for the newspaper proprietors to pass the tax on to the general public, and I am astonished to hear the honorable member for Melbourne argue that paper should be placed on the free list because the tax could not be passed on to the publ ic. The doctrine that because a man is wealthy he should not be taxed unless he can pass the burden on to others, is quite new to me. The big newspaper proprietors, who have the command of the advertising, and who can charge what rates they like to the public, will be able to pass the tax on by slightly increasing their rates, and I claim the support of the honorable member for Gippsland on this ground. I. am prepared to support the duty for revenue purposes. I would point out that the paper used for the publication of labour newspapers should be admitted free, because these journals are much more educational than are the ordinary newspapers.
– I think that in the discussion of this subject we should consider the benefits which the people derive from the country newspapers. The great metropolitan dailies enjoy an immense advantage over their rivals iri the country owing to the facilities which are afforded for circulating their papers by means of the railways, at the expense of the general taxpayer. Owing to these special facilities, and to the fact that they are distributed broadcast every day, they are brought more generally under the notice of the people than are the country papers, which more truly represent the interests of the community as a whole. We should not pay any attention to the fact that certain newspaper proprietors are wealthy ; but in view of the special advantages which are enjoyed by the large metropolitan dailies, I think that we might very well look to them for some contribution to the revenue, whilst we relieve from taxation, as far as possible, the proprietors of country newspapers. I shall therefore vote for a duty of 10 per cent, on roll paper, as distinguished from that which is brought here in sheets, which I think should be admitted free.
– It seems necessary for honorable members to declare that they are not afraid of the newspapers, and therefore I too wish to disclaim any fear of the press. At the same time I shall vote for the exemption of paper from duty, and I think my action in this respect will be in perfect harmony with the course I have adopted with regard to every other duty proposed by the Government. I am sorry that my conduct should seem to the honorable member for Newcastle to. be in any way peculiar. I think that if my votes and actions are examined, they will be found more consistent than are those of the honorable member. I have no desire to tax large corporations, because they are large corporations, and I have no desire to penalize the efforts that are being made by newspaper proprietors to disseminate information throughout the community.
I would point out further that the proprietors of the big newspapers will not have to pay this tax, but will pass it on to the public. The more powerful the journal, the more readily will it be able to pass this tax on to its readers and advertisers. The newspapers which cannot by any possibility pass it on are the small struggling journals in the interior of the country. People must advertise in the big metropolitan dailies, and even if the advertising rates are increased by the operation of the proposed tax, they will continue to do so; whereas the country newspapers - in connexion with which the margin between expenditure and income is extremely small - cannot evade the tax. My view is that we ought not to interfere with the freest possible distribution of all the current and political news of the Commonwealth. I believe that the press achieves a remarkable amount of. good by stirring up political feeling throughout the community. It is a singular thing that where there are most newspapers there is the most intense political feeling, and under our democratic institutions, where that feeling exists, there is probably the greatest progress and national safety. Of course, it is urged that we could very easily make this tax applicable only to printing paper imported in rolls. But the rule which some importers follow at the present time is to import printing paper in the roll, cut it up locally, and distribute it amongstthe smaller newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. I do not think that we ought to do anything to retard the attempts at publication which are being made in Australia at the present moment. I was talking to a member of a large publishing firm the other evening, and. he assured me that they did not care whether the proposed taxes were levied or not, but. that the inevitable result of their imposition . would be that in future the firm would have their books published in London. Such an action would constitute a backward and not a forward step in connexion with the establishment of anational literature. Upon these grounds I intend to vote for placing printing paperupon the free list.
– It seems to ruethat this debate has been carried on underthe mistaken impression that printing papercannot be manufactured within the Commonwealth ; but I would point out that at Fyansford, near Geelong, the article in- question, has been manufactured in the past, and can be manufactured, in the future, with sufficient encouragement. The manager of > the factory which is established there assures me that they can make this printing paper, so the only- question which arises is whether- the Australianmanufacturer can obtain a - plentiful supply of the raw material. One honorable member who spoke said that it was. impossible for- Australia to secure esparto grass. But that particular’ grass is not now vised in the manufacture of paper.- The pulp of the spruce tree is used.? Spruce forests are chiefly to Le found in Canada, and if it is possible for the United -States - to import from that country the -material necessary for the manufacture for printing paper, surely- it should ‘ be equally easy for Australia to import it. I think that Canada could export wood pulp; to the Common^ wealth.- Therefore, whatever duty is imposed upon this particular article, should be absolutely protective in its incidence. -At present eucalyptus cannot be used because of the resinous nature- of its pulp ; but a duty would encourage the- scientists to overcome- this difficulty. It matterslittle to me what income newspaper proprietors are making.; If it is desired . that they shall contribute to the revenue, , let us reach, them by means of’ direct taxa-tion. All considerations as to whether or not newspapers act fairly towards honorable members should be entirely- ignored, and we should deal with this -matter’ from a fiscalstandpoint only. In’ this connexion I’ was very much surprised to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports declare that he was against the proposed protective duty* It was a revelation? to me to learn- that a tax: upon any article which can be’.reasonably manufactured in Australia has not .a protective incidences I Submit that the imposition of a fair duty upon this article- will be productive of revenue, whilst being, incident-, ally protective; and under all the circumstances, I ask -honorable members . -to- support the Government proposal. .
– After considering .all the-arguments which have been advanced during, the course of ‘ the. present discussion, I have come to the conclusion! that the- proposed tax would.be distinctly a class tax.. It will fall, upon avery .small section of the community, who will be unable to pass it on to the people; It is quite true that men in public positions have frequently to submit to newspaper criticism, but the free expression of opinion on the part of a well-conducted press is an advantage to politicians, and also exercises an educational influence upon- the people. To me it’ seems an anomaly to impose a-tax upon printing paper whilst exemptingfrom duty printed matter in the -shape of’ monthly publications and books. I am disposed to think that’ the country, newspapers will be the chief -sufferers under’ the; operation of the proposed duty.’ I know that in tha past the general taxpapers in New South Wales have had ‘to contribute a large sum: of money annually to enable the news. papers published in that: State to be distributed free of postage. That practice has not obtained in South Australia and the other States, and seeing that a. uniform postal law will soon .1 be* in operation, I certainly ‘think that the imposition- of’ an ad- .ditional tax which .cannot’ be passed on to the users of newspapers would constitute “a . very grave. injustice. The,question. has been raised as to whether, white paper should be admitted free, whilst: tinted paper s which is used for the same, purpose) should be subject to taxation’. There’ are several newspapers throughout’ the Commonwealth which are printed upon tinted paper. I well remember that; owing to- -the’ wreck of the steamer by which fresh supplies of paper were being, forwarded,- the small journal which- 1 : conducted at Port Darwin for some years had alternately to> be published upon blue, pink, yellow-, and green paper, and that, as a result, the editorsuffered . considerable inconvenience. So long.– as-. the paper imported is- to- ‘be used for .printing purposes,- 1 do not’ see why any distinction, should “ be made bet ween’ its different classes.
– If we do not make a distinction,’ endless confusion will be created at the Custom-house:
– I do not think so. The’ very character of the1 paper is sufficient :to enable the Customs authorities to determine whether or not it is to’be used for printing purposes. I am not at:all sure that the feeling of < the committee is not in favour of exempting’ all classes of paper except that which is specially prepared and ruled ‘for account work or. correspondence. Printing-paper is employed’ for- 100’ different purposes other than that specified. For example: it is used*’ for- lining boxes and for putting a facing upon, cardboard.
There will be no difficulty at the Customhouse so long as it is understood that the paper is to be used for printingpurposes, and employment will be given within the Commonwealth. If there be any difficulty at theCustom-house it will be no greater than that which must be experienced in connexion with numberlessother items in the Tariff, though in my opinion the confusion will be a great deal less as to printing paper; I shall give ray vote for striking out the word “ white, “ and for making this paper absolutely free.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).There are honorable members who express their willingness to distinguish between the reel paper used in the printing of newspapers of large circulation, andflatpaper used by other newspapers of small circulation, the contention being that flat paper ought to be allowed to come in free. But the Salvation Army, which cannot be described as a rich corporation, use reel paper for the printing of their publications, whereas other religious bodies, whose publications have small circulation, use flat paper. Here we have a difficulty which will arise if an attempt be made to impose a duty. Reference has been made to the fact that the right honorable member for East Sydney made certain statements about theAge newspaper ; but it must be remembered that what the leader of the Opposition complained of was the inconsistency of the proprietors of that publication in advocating a heavy duty upon every commodity but printing paper. The leader of the Opposition and others on this side have been consistent throughout, and have always voted in favour of lessening duties in every division.
SirG eorge Turner. - And also in favour of doing away with a great many duties.
– That is consistent on the part of the Opposition. If we allow books, periodicals, and other printed matter to come in free,and impose a tax on printing paper, a great hardship will be inflicted on printers throughout the Commonwealth. Acolonial author will have to pay duty on the paper on. which his book is printed, whereas an author in England will be able to transmit his works hereduty free.
– No authorever publishes in Australia.
– There are very good authors in the Commonwealth. The question has been fully debated, and I hope the committee will vote for free paper.
Question- That the word “ white “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the item - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Sir William McMillan) put -
That the words “and on and after 8th March, 1902, free,” be added to the duty,”White, printing . . . ad valorem 10 per cent.”
The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “and on and after 8th March, 1902, free” be added to the duty “straw-board, per cwt., 2s.”
I understand that the Australian Paper Mills Company manufacture straw-board, and employ about 100 hands, but that those hands are notemployed continuously throughout the year. Considering, however, the natural protection which the industry enjoys in our distance from the foreign centres of manufacture, I do not think the proposed duty is required. In an invoice of a shipment by the Cambrian Chief from Antwerp, the cost of 6¾ tons is put down at £5 10s. per ton or £37 2s. 6d. for the whole quantity, while the charges connected with its importation here amounted to £27 6s. 2d., and the duty to another £27, making its total cost, landed here, £91 8s. 8d. I am informed, further, that the quality of the locally-manufactured article is not as good as that of the imported article, because of its brittlenesss. While straw-board cut to shape is charged only 25 per cent. ad valorem, the incidence of the duty upon uncut straw-board is equal to 36 per cent. or 40 per cent. ad valorem, and it is more expensive to import the uncut straw-board, because there is a saving in freight of one ton in seven in sending out the straw-board cut to shape. A comparison of Melbourne and Sydney prices before the imposition of the Tariff, and of prices throughout the States before and since, show that full advantage has been taken of the duty by local makers.
– I had intended to move an increase in this duty, but I shall be satisfied if it is allowed to remain as it stands, though I am doubtful if it is large enough to enable our manufacturers to compete with those of Japan. Japanese straw-board can be imported here much more cheaply than that made in Antwerp.
– What is the freight ?
– The freight would be from 25s. to 30s. per ton, I suppose. The cost of labour in Japan is extremely small. Hitherto, in Victoria, there has been a duty of 4s. per cwt. on strawboard, and with that protection a. local industry, which gives a large amount of employment, has been worked successfully ; but if the duty is removed, the factory must close.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).I think it is inexpedient to give this large measure of protection to this industry, seeing that a very large number of industries, employing very many more hands, use straw-board as their raw material, and are therefore interested in getting it at the lowest price possible. The straw-board industry seems to be one of those wretched little handicapped industries that are being handed over to the Commonwealth by Victoria. A report upon the fiscal system of Victoria, issued in 1895, says -
Straw-board is the raw material of many manufactures, such as boxmaking, bookbinding, portmanteau and boot making, and straw-board boxes are in turn a necessary in a large number of industries. We recognise that if the price is enhanced by the duty the result must be detrimental to the interests of a large number of manufacturers and operatives. That the price is greater than it would be if the goods were free is shown even by the figures of the manufacturers. The duty is, we believe, much too high for a material which affects subsequent manufactures, but before making a recommendation for a reduction we would call attention to what the manufacturers consider an agreement between them and the State.
The commissioners point out that the makers of card-board and paper boxes -
Enjoy very little protection from the Tariff, but for the reasons given, no relief can be given to them.
One reason given is the alleged existence of an agreement between a Victorian Minister and a certain company that his Government would do all they could to impose a duty upon straw-board, and that a reasonable period of duration of that duty was implied. Evidently the members of the board looked forward to the time, not very far distant, when these promises, if they were ever given, would be thoroughly fulfilled, and the protection which pressed so heavily on other manufacturers would be removed. The manufacturers admitted that they were giving poor wages, that they produced a material inferior to that which was imported, and that they were not able to meet any demands which might suddenly arise. Many of the reasons urged against this industry being made a monopoly were practically admitted by those engaged in it at the time. Evidence was given by Mr. T. Frame, who had been engaged in making boxes for many years, and who carried on a larger business than any one else, that this duty handicapped him to such an extent that he did not know how he could carry on under it. It certainly prevented him from making a decent profit, and precluded any idea of the extension of his operations outside of the limits of the State in whichhe was protected. It was also shown that straw-board, which under a heavy duty of £4 per ton was sold in Victoria at £12 per ton, was at the same time sold in New South Wales at a considerably lower price. This difference in price still exists, for I can produce two invoices from one of the manufacturers of straw-board, showing that straw-board is sent to Sydney invoiced at £9 9s. per ton, and that a similar article is sold in Melbourne at £11 per ton.
– The price in Victoria is £9 10s. per ton.
– I can only give the honorable member the figures in these invoices which relate to transactions after the Tariff was introduced.
– Does the £11 per ton include freight?
– There is no mention of freight, and I therefore conclude that freight has not been paid. The honorable member for Melbourne has stated that we have to fear that J apan will send us strawboard to such an extent as to overwhelm the local manufacturers, but as Japan did not send straw-board into New South Wales at the time when the Australian paper mills were supplying it in Sydney at £9 9s per ton, we need not fear that Japan will seriously compete if local manufacturers continue to supply the material at that price. The straw-board produced in Victoria is said to be inferior to that which comes from Holland. The manufacturers of boxes say that they cannot use the Australian strawboard for many classes of their work, because it is too brittle and rough. The manufacturers of straw-board say that owing to the style of their machines they cannot make an article of the same quality as that which is imported ; but it is asserted that with better machinery they could produce a material of quality equal to that made in other parts of the world. As long as we grant high protective duties we shall not secure any improvement in the quality, and we should aim at bringing about such conditions as will induce the local manufacturers to turn out the best of material. It has been pointed out that the industries in which straw-board is used are heavily protected by a duty of 25 per cent., but in view of the special character of the manufactured article, that rate of duty cannot afford them sufficient relative protection when a high impost is placed upon the raw material. A great deal has been said about the number of people employed in making straw-board, but it seems to me that the whole of the people engaged in the paper mills, instead of those exclusively occupied in making straw-board, must be included in the numbers which have been given to us. The manufacturers, although having machinery equal to a capacity of 50 tons per week, do not turn out more than 10 tons, and when it is considered that the value of the straw-board is only £9 9s. per ton, it will be seen at once that 85 men could not be profitably employed in the manufacture of such a small quantity. The industry is an insignificant one, and the protection granted to it has very largely hampered a number of other manufacturing enterprises which are, to some extent, dependent upon it for the supply of raw material. One of the results of the duty is that the prices of boxes have been advanced so far that the demand has fallen off. I do not see why we should protect one industry at the expense of others which employ more labour and confer just as much benefit upon the community.
– It seems to me that all the industries in which straw-board is used arereceiving the benefit of high protective duties, and now desire to have their raw material admitted free. In 1895, after the report of the Tariff Board was submitted to the Victorian Parliament, a duty of 4s. per cwt. was placed upon strawboard. On that occasion the protectionist members of Parliament were assisted by a number of free-traders, who thought that the industry should be encouraged. The rate of duty proposed by the Government, 2s. per cwt., is only half , the amount imposed under the Victorian Tariff, and I think it is a very fair rate. The industries which are using straw-board will thus be enabled to get the benefit of that very great reduction - a reduction of 50 per cent. They may not use a very great quantity, but straw-board is one of those manufactures which dovetails into agriculture, because straw has to be grown by the farmer, and, although it does not represent a very large item, it is of some assistance to him. If the encouragement proposed is extended to the industry, other mills will doubtless be started, thus providing the farmer with a market for his produce. Considering that the duty represents a reduction of the rate previously operative in Victoria, I think that the committee might very fairly agree to it.
– This item furnishes another instance of the way in which the Government propose to drag all the States of the union into the awful financial morass in which Victoria has been labouring for so long. Formerly the article under discussion was absolutely free in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and even in Tasmania, which is the poorest of the States, and the one which has been driven to impose the heaviest financial burdens upon the people. In Western Australia the duty previously operative upon straw-board was 15 per cent. only. That represents1s. per cwt., whereas the Ministry are now proposing a tax of double that amount. In Victoria, that shocking example of Customs legislation, the duty under the State Tariff was 4s. per cwt. According to the statement of the Treasurer, straw-board is invoiced at from £5 to £7 per ton. The mean of that amount is £6 5s. per ton. or 6s. 3d. per cwt. ; therefore the mean duty at the 2s. rate represents 32 per cent. But if we calculate the duty upon the minimum price at which this article is invoiced, it is equivalent to an ad valorem rate of 40 per cent. I ask honorable members whether they will sanction such a sacrifice of the interests of the people of the Commonwealth to those of one Victorian industry, which employs only 100 hands.
– It does not employ 100 hands regularly.
– I am putting forward the best possible case that can be urged in justification of the action of the Treasurer. The proposed duty is a preposterous one, and I shall vote against it.
– I think that the Government should agree to the imposition of a much smaller duty upon strawboard than that proposed. At the present time the quality of the locally-manufactured article does not nearly approach that of the imported. Some time ago I had occasion to use straw-board boxes in business, and I found it very difficult indeed to get a box of good quality, and impossible to obtain one which was manufactured from Melbourne straw-board. At the present time this industry is confined to one firm in this city. Formerly several firms were engaged in it, but these amalgamated and formed a trust, so that they controlled the entire business of Victoria. Whilst they were selling Victorian straw-board at a pretty high price in Melbourne, I know that they were disposing of it in New South Wales at a very considerable reduction. Although the Treasurer states that straw-board is invoiced in Melbourne at from £6 to £7 per ton, I can inform him that invoices sometimes run as low as £4 15s. per ton. Indeed, I do not think that the average would exceed £5 10s. per ton. Moreover, as straw-board is very light in comparison with the bulk, it costs about £3 per ton to land it in any Australian port. The local manufacturers consequently enjoy a large measure of natural protection. I admit that there are heavy freights between Sydney and Melbourne, and between Melbourne and Western Australia, which operate against the local manufacturer securing control of those particular markets without submitting to some sacrifice, but making an allowance for that, it seems to me that the effect of the present proposal will be to place the whole business of Australia, so far as the coarser class of strawboards are concerned, in the hands of one Melbourne firm, whilst increasing the price of the superior article to the consumers. I would further point out that of recent years there has been ah enormous increase in the use of straw-board, particularly in New South Wales, for the manufacture for cardboxes in connexion with all kinds of manufactured goods. Consequently, if the price of this article is rendered unduly high, there will be a large falling-off in the consumption of these cardboard boxes, and the revenue will suffer to a corresponding degree. The manufacturers of straw-board practically start from scratch. They obtain their straw, rags,&c., first hand. In my judgment it will be most improper to impose such a rate of duty upon strawboard as would practically confer a monopoly upon one firm. A tax of 15 per cent., combined with the enormous freight charges which it is impossible for the imported article to evade, should be quite sufficient to protect our local manufacturers. I want to see our home industries given a reasonable chance of competing with the foreign industries, but a protective duty of £2 per ton is surely more than sufficient to enable them to do so. If the proposal to exempt straw-board is defeated, I shall move for the imposition of an ad valorem duty of 15 per cent.
– I hope that the Government will consent to a reduction of this ‘duty. I understand that there are between ten and twenty men employed in the production of straw-board in Victoria, instead of 80 as has been alleged. For the sake of employing this small number the Government propose to tax to the extent of 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. all the industries upon the continent whichuse strawboard as the basis of their manufactures. Since the introduction of the Tariff the duty levied upon that article has been added to its price in those States where previously no duty operated. The only effect of the proposed tax will be to decrease the use of card-board boxes, and consequently to diminish employment throughout the Commonwealth. Then again, no comparison can be instituted between the respective qualities of Dutch and Victorian card-board. The Victorian card-board is right enough, I believe, for the making of big boxes, but for bookbinding and similar purposes a less brittle material is required. In the making of small boxes the Victorian card-board cannot be bent so readily as can the imported; but I presume fill these drawbacks could be remedied by the use of up-to-date machinery. What I say is not an argument against the industry per se, but simply an argument against the kind of machinery used in the industry. The only effect of the duty can be to put out of use card-board boxes ; and in connexion with an article so bulky and light in weight, I do not see the necessity for a duty of 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. in addition to the natural protection of 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. afforded by the freight. When the honorable member for Melbourne spoke of the freight as 30s. per ton I presume he was referring to a measurement ton, and not to a ton by weight, the freight on which I believe is from £2 10s. to £3.
– That is so.
– Only very few hands are employed in this industry, and in my opinion the duty would deprive of employment more people than are now engaged in the production of straw-board. This is a case in which the Government might stretch a point and allow the article to come in free. We are continually told that the duty does not add to the price, but I find that boxes which were sold ‘in Sydney prior to the introduction of the Commonwealth Tariff at 8s. and 9s. per gross, now cost 10s. 6d. to11s. Gentlemen’s boot boxes, formerly sold in Sydney at 9s. to 10s. per gross, are now sold at11s. 6d. to 12s., while the prices of similar lines in Melbourne are, I believe, from 1 2s. to 1 5s. per gross.
– The prices cannot vary very much in the two cities with the same duty.
– The reason is that the price in Sydney is lessened in order to compete with the imported article.
– I could understand that argument before the introduction of the Federal Tariff, but now the prices in Sydney and Melbourne must approximate more closely.
– I am told there is a distinction in the prices even now. At any rate, for the sake of employing from ten to twenty men in Melbourne, it is proposed to penalize, to the extent of 30 per cent. or 40 per cent., all those engaged in box-making throughout Australia.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I would recommend the Treasurer to accept 15 per cent. as a fair compromise.
– The boxmakers would be satisfied with 30 per cent.
– The box-makers or the makers of straw-board are not the only persons who have to be considered. We are here to do what we think best for all the connected trades and the public generally. Duties of 30 per cent. may be justifiable in hat-making, boot-making, and similar large industries, but in the case in which we are now considering, I do not think a high duty of the kind should be imposed.
– This duty occasioned my colleague and myself considerable difficulty. We found that the article produced was extensively used in connexion with a large number of other industries, and on that account it might be urged that only a moderate rate of duty should be imposed. We found also that in Victoria the industry had been encouraged under a duty ; and, while we considered that £4 per ton was too high, we felt that we should be making a considerable reduction by fixing the duty at half that rate. These considerations induced us to adopt the proposal which we have submitted to the committee. I cannot see why we should not project a small industry, so long as we do not do any injustice or any considerable injustice to other industries, which are highly protected. It is only fair that smaller industries should receive a reasonable amount of protection, and those who enjoy the benefits of that policy ought to be prepared to assist others in the same direction. Unfortunately, however, the general feeling of people seems to be in favour of protection on what they make, and no protection on what they use.
– That is protection all over.
– That is not the true protectionist feeling.
– Then we cannot find a true protectionist.
– The feeling I have described prevails among a certain number of protectionists, whose true policy ought to be to give a reasonable amount of protection to all industries. If an industry is producing what is simply the raw material of other industries, then the former must be satisfied with a lower rate of duty. I do not know much about this particular industry, but I amtold that the average number of hands employed is80, and that 1,000 tons of straw-board are turned out annually, though, with the larger markets now afforded, 2,500 tons can easily be produced. Judging from the samples shown, the imported article appears to me, as a nonexpert, to be much the better, but it very often happens, when these comparisons are made, that the best of one class and the worst of the other are shown. I doubt very much whether any comparisons of the kind are fair or reasonable.
– The samples are there for the Treasurer to compare.
– I have not had the opportunity of comparing them, and they may be fair samples, but my experience has been such as I have just indicated.
– The samples produced by honorable members on the other side are exactly similar.
– A considerable amount of money has been expended on these straw-board mills, which, in addition to those immediately engaged in the industry, employ a number of straw-producers, carters, wood-getters, and others. It will be seen that this is an industry which we cannot regard as of no consequence ; and I cannot consent to the proposal that this commodity should be admitted free. The only question in my mind is whether the rate is too high, seeing that the commodity is employed in a number of industries. I do not pay much regard to the argument that if this duty be imposed, box-making will cease. What difference there may be in the price, when divided amongst all the boxes, is so infinitesimal that there is no fear of people discontinuing their use. I am told that a reduction of the duty to 2s. will have serious prejudicial effects. Those interested in the industry ask for 3s., but that, of course, is altogether too high ; and considering that this material is so largely used, and that a considerable quantity of it must be imported, we might arrive at a compromise. It would not be wise to have an ad valorem duty, because the article fluctuates in price. As it appears to be the opinion of the committee that the rate proposed is too high, the Government will endeavour to give those engaged in the industry some protection by fixing the duty at1s., which is equivalent to 15 per cent.
Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN (Melbourne). - I am informed that a duty of1s. will have the effect of injuring an industry in which a very large amount of money has been invested. The Victorian mill, I am advised, has cost £50,000, and as six similar mills are being erected in Japan, we may look forward to keen competition. Protection to the extent of 25 per cent. is given to the manufacturer of cut card-board, and a similar duty would be satisfactory to the box-makers ; but1s., which means 20 per cent., is not high enough. The difference in the invoices, which was mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney, arises from the fact that straw-board was previously free in New South Wales, and the manufacturers who have surplus stocks, which they desire to place on the market, find it necessary to sell at cut rates. It is well known that in order to keep the market, manufacturers will often sell in adjoining States at lower prices than they charge in their own.
– Only when they are making extraordinary profits in their own market.
– I feel that the proposed reduction is likely to seriously affect the trade ; but it is better to take what we can get than to have no duty at all.
– We have been informed by the Treasurer that the yearly production of straw-board in Victoria is 1,000 tons.
– That is the information which has been supplied to me. I understand that if the mills worked full time they would produce 2,500 tons.
– Eighty hands are said to be regularly employed in the industry. If they receive 30s. a week, their wages alone amount to £6,000 a year, while, if they receive only £1 a week, their wages amount to £4,000 a year. Therefore, the production of locally-made straw-board costs either £6 or £4 a ton in labour alone, while the value of the imported article, f.o.b., is not more than £5 or £6 a ton. Either the figures which have been supplied to us are incorrect, or the absurdity of endeavouring to establish the industry in the Commonwealth is obvious. The honorable member for Melbourne also informed us that the capital in the building and plant employed in producing the locally-made straw-board amounts to something like £50,000; but these figures, too, must be wrong, because an output worth at the most only £9,000 would be absurd for such a capital.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- In order to save time, I propose to withdraw my amendment, and to propose a duty of 9d., which will be equivalent to 15 per cent. ad valorem.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– It will be better, even for the protectionists, to accept a duty of 9d., which is equal to 15 per cent. ad valorem, than to insist upon a duty of 1s., or 20 per cent. ad valorem, inasmuch as straw-board cut into shape is admitted upon the payment of a duty of 25 per cent. ad valorem.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) put -
That the words “ and on and after 8th March, 1902, 9d.,” be added to the duty, “Straw-board, per cwt., 2s.”
The committee divided.
In division -
– The honorable and learned member cannot discuss the matter at this stage. Up to the present I have followed the usual practice-
– Of voting with your pals.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement, and to apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– I hope the honorable member will notrepeat his offence. My conscience is perfectly clear on this matter, but it was an insult to the Chair, as well as to me, to say that I vote with my party. The Constitutional practice laid down in May and other authorities is that the Chairman, when called upon to give a casting vote, shall vote in the negative, in order to allow further time for consideration. I shall follow that course now.
– It was my experience on one occasion, when Premier of Victoria, to have a 6d. crisis, and I nearly went out of office. I do not want a 3d. crisis-
– I had not finished my statement on the point of order when I was interrupted. My point is that, although upon the consideration of a question involving a general principle, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees very properly votes with the noes, that principle does not apply when there is a division upon a question affecting taxation.
– I would point out that for you, sir, to vote with the noes on this occasion will not allow farther consideration of this proposal. It would be desirable also for the Chairman to state for the information of honorable members the authority which supports his decision.
– I desire to know whether this committee has any right to canvass the vote of the Chairman. I do not know of any standing order which prescribes how the Chairman shall vote. There may be an unwritten law on the subject, but circumstances may prevent the Chairman from following the course generally adopted.
– The function of the Chairman is to give his vote, and he may or may not give his reasons. I have given my reasons, and these cannot be challenged. I have followed May, Blackmore, and other authorities who are respected by all honorable members. Blackmore says -
In giving his casting vote, the Chairman is governed by the same principles as the Speaker. He therefore votes in favour of further discussion.
May also lays down the same practice. Had I voted in the affirmative, the whole question would have been settled, but in casting my vote with the noes, I have left it open for honorable members to further discuss the matter.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to know how this question can be settled, in view of the vote which the Chairman has given?
– I rise to a point of order. I. submit thatyou, Mr. Chairman, should insist upon this discussion ceasing. If the honorable member for Macquarie is allowed to speak, every other honorable member should be allowed to express his views.
– It is for the Chairman to state which way he intends to vote, and, as he has said, he can give his reasons or not, as he pleases. There are certain welldefined lines upon which the Chair, either in the House or in committee, gives a casting vote. When that is done, the immediate business is over, and the House or the committee must pass to the next business. There is absolutely no warrant in parliamentary practice or usage for taking any course that necessitates further discussion.
– I only wish to ask a question, and I claim the same’ right as the Prime Minister.
– I have allowed some departure from the standing orders so that honorable members might be afforded information. I can only repeat that I have followed the only guide available to me when there is no standing order which lays down the course of action to be pursued, namely, the constitutional practice of the House of Commons. The invariable practice there is for the Chairman to vote in the negative, in order to allow honorable members further opportunity for discussion.
– I wish to draw the Chairman’s attention to the fact that the practice of the House of Commons is being applied to conditionsin this committee differing from those which prevail in the Imperial Parliament.
– Order. I mustask thehonorable member to take some other opportunity of discussing the matter. He cannot pursue it any further at present.
– As the committee are evenly divided in regard to this duty, I move -
That the words “ and on and after 8th March, 1902,1s. “ be added to the duty, “ Straw-board, per cwt., 2s.”
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I think that the duty should be fixed at 15 per cent. ad valorem. The duty on straw-board imposes a great disability on those who use the article here, and a wider margin should be allowed between the duty on straw-board in the rough and that on the material cut into shape. It has been pointed out that one ton in every seven of the raw material is cut to waste in the: making of boxes, and that this gives a very large advantage to the foreign manufacturer.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - There is a very slight difference between a duty of1s. per cwt. and 15 per cent., and as the ad valorem duty would be a fair one, I hope the Treasurer will agree to it.
– The results of my inquiries lead me to the conclusion that the value of straw-board fluctuates, and that it is only right in the interests of the local box manufacturers to impose a fixed duty. They may import the raw material expecting to pay a certain amount of duty upon it, and find that owing to changes in the market the cost of introduction is increased. If there is only a smalldifference between a duty of 15 per cent. and an impost of1s., I hope the committeewill accept my amendment.
– I hope the committee will be careful, because if we happen to have another division such as that which has just taken place, there will be no chance of re-opening the matter. I wish to point out that in. the House of Commons no private member is allowed to make a proposal for an increase of taxation, and, therefore, the practice of that House cannot very well be applied to the proceedings in this committee, where it is open to any honorable member to bring forward a proposal for an increase of taxation.
– Order. The honorable member cannot discuss my decision.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I wish to point out that we have no opportunity of considering this duty except in one direction, namely, that of increasing it. For instance, we could not reconsider this matter on the basis of a 9d. duty. The practice referred to by the Chairman is invariable in regard to ordinary legislation, but does not apply to taxation proposals, because the Government are the only people who can insure the reconsideration of such proposals.
Amendment agreed to.
– I do not propose to ask the committee to proceed further with the discussion of the Tariff this afternoon, but I have a request to make to which I hope honorable members will accede. I ask them to come prepared to assist the Government to finish the debate upon the remainder of the Tariff next week. I do not think it will be necessary for us to sit beyond the usual hour of adjournment, and if honorable members will only curtail their remarks, I see no reason why we should hot complete its consideration, with the exception of the postponed items, within the period indicated. Of course it will be absolutely necessary for the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself to be allowed a day or two in which to consider the postponed items before we shall be in a position to advise the committee of the Government proposals.
Resolved (on motion by Sir George Turner, with concurrence)-
That the House at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer the date upon which it is intended to adjourn for the Easter holidays, and also the date upon which Parliament will re-assemble, as I am desirous of making arrangements to do some campaigning.
– That is a matter which has not yetbeen dealt with by the Government, but we hope to consider it on Tuesday next, and I will ask the Prime Minister to announce the Government intentions upon that afternoon. Of course the date of our adjournment will depend very much upon the progress made with the public business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned 4.4.p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020307_reps_1_8/>.