House of Representatives
2 April 1902

1st Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 11250

QUESTION

SENTENCES OF AUSTRALIAN OFFICERS

Mr ISAACS:
INDI, VICTORIA

– I rise for the purpose of asking the Prime Minister a question with reference to a matter which is agitating the minds of the people of this country in an almost unprecedented degree. I wish to know if he has received any information from the Home Government or the South African authorities with regard to the execution of two Australian officers, Lieutenant Morant and Lieutenant Hancock, and the imprisonment of a third, Lieutenant Witton. I think it needs no words of mine to assure the right honorable and learned gentleman that a complete elucidation of this matter is awaited withvery intense interest in Australia.

Mr BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I am endeavouring to obtain information. I need not say that it would be most unwise for any of us to come to a conclusion or form any judgment on the subject in view of the conflicting accounts that have appeared. Much of the information I have received has been derived entirely from private conversations, and under circumstances which forbid the repetition of the conversations to the House. Such information as I have been able to afford has been stated by me as it has been presented in the press. It appears that on the wounding of Captain Hunt and the retirement of the Carbineers, who were outnumbered on that occasion, they were reinforced and came back to the scene. They there found Captain Hunt - who had been shot, I believe, through the lungs - dead, and seriously battered about, with his neck broken - whether before or after death I cannot say - and with his eyes protruding. On the capture of a Boer laager there was found a Boer who, unlike his comrades, was not able to escape, being wounded in the foot. He was in khaki and had some article of the clothing of Captain Huntin hispossession. He was tried bydrumhead court-martial by the three lieutenants, and on his being convicted he was shot. Further information, so far as I am able to disclose it, goes to this effect : - That the same party of the corps captured two parties of Boers, one numbering eight and another numbering three. On their capture of these two parties no court-martial apparently was held. There does not seem to be any clear evidence that the Boers were caught wearing the uniform of the British army, so that that point is still in doubt. These men were shot, and I am not in any way credibly informed that they were submitted to court-martial. It remains to be seen whether they were identifiable with those who had maltreated Captain Hunt before or after death. There is no satisfactory information on that point. If they could not be identified, of course honorable members will form their conclusions as to whether they should have been shot. The other officer who has been mentioned, Major Lenehan, was at a distance of 70 miles from these occurrences. On their return to or towards Pietersburg the three lieutenants were placed under arrest, and they were tried some four months afterwards. Lieutenant Morant, who had gone out from Australia in one of the contingents, and was the son of an English admiral ; Lieutenant Hancock, who came from Australia, and was an Australian ; and Lieutenant Witton, were all convicted of ordering, or being accomplices in - I do not know exactly how it stands - the murder of these Boers. The two first mentioned were shot ; the sentence of the third was commuted, I believe, by the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, to imprisonment for life. Major Lenehan, a gainst whom several charges were brought, was eventually convicted on only one - that of having failed to send in any report. His defence was that he had been exempted from sending in a report. Whether that is correct or not, evidently the court-martial overruled it. He was convicted, and received the sentence of a slight reprimand, and was afterwards escorted to Capetown, where he re-embarked for Australia.

Mr McDonald:

– That is his own statement.

Mr BARTON:

– These are the only direct factsI have, and as to some of them the information does not leave my mind in any state of certainty.

Mr Fowler:

– Will the Prime Minister say whether this is official information?

Mr BARTON:

– This is so much as I am able to disclose of the facts as they have come to my ears, and I am not now making any breach of confidence. I am discharging my duty to the House as far as I can.

Mr Fisher:

– The information is not official ?

Mr BARTON:

– There can be no official information in this matter so far as I can see, and for this reason: All these men were serving in an Imperial corps under the regulations of the British army, and as soldiers of that army. They were not in any sense employed by Australia, nor were they in a corps that was raised in Australia, or was distinctly Australian. They were liable to be treated according to the King’s regulations and the legislation governing these matters ; and it is clear, whatever opinion anybody may hold as to the justice of the case, that they were duly tried in the manner in which any other alleged offenders are. tried. There is one remaining fact to mention. Between their arrest and the passing of sentence the men were called on to serve, and did serve, in the defence of Pietersburg against Commandant Meyer. Those comprise all the facts which I can state with any pretence to authenticity, and of course I do not vouch for some of them, because they are still left in doubt. I am endeavouring to obtain information, but it rests entirely with the military authorities in South Africa as to the extent of the information which they will give, that being a matter for them exclusively to determine, having regard to the maintenance of discipline in the Army.

page 11251

QUESTION

POST AND TELEGRAPH ACT

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:
TASMANIA

– As a matter of urgency I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he will be so good as to lay upon the table of the House during the afternoon, if possible, all the correspondence which has passed between himself and the Premier of Tasmania in regard to the enforcement of the Post and Telegraph Act against “ Tattersall.”

Mr BARTON:
Protectionist

– I shall endeavour to have the papers prepared for laying upon the table of the House to-day. If they cannot be prepared in time, I shall promise my right honorable friend to lay them upon the table to-morrow.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– Will the right honorable and learned gentleman let me see them to-morrow morning?

Mr BARTON:

– I shall try to have the copies ready and sent to my right honorable friend’s address in the course of the morning, before laying them on the table.

page 11252

QUESTION

CONSERVATION OFWATER

Mr GLYNN:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing public interest which has been displayed in the locking and conservation of the waters of rivers, he will give me a special opportunity, on some early date, to moot the question in the House. I have a notice of motion on the business-paper, but I have not had an opportunity to reach it, and I cannot see one unless I am helped by the Ministry.

Mr BARTON:
Protectionist

– I would ratherthat my honorable and learned friend renewed the inquiry after the conference at Corowa has been held. One cannot make a prediction whether the results of the conference will justify the giving up of time for the discussion of the question when public business is so urgent as it is now.

page 11252

QUESTION

REPORTED SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT

Mr POYNTON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the statement in both the Melbourne morning newspapers that it is intended that this House shall adjourn to-morrow night until Tuesday next.

Mr BARTON:
Protectionist

– That statement is like many others appearing in the newspapers - perfect news to me.

page 11252

QUESTION

DUTY ON ASPHALT

Mr GLYNN:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

Whether he will allow asphalt in shapes, at present charged for by the Customs department at 15 per cent., ad valorem, as if asphalt tiles, to be admitted free as being the raw material asphalt ?

Mr KINGSTON:
Minister for Trade and Customs · SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

Yes ; if simply the raw material : asphalt in shapes, and not asphalt tiles.

I may add that if asphalt is really the manufactured article we shall charge duty upon it, but if it is merely raw material in shapes convenient for importation no duty will be levied.

page 11252

QUESTION

DRAWBACK ALLOWANCES

Mr S SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs - upon notice -

  1. Is drawback being refused on the export of goods on which the duties first levied by the Tariff have been paid, if such duties have since been reduced or abolished ?
  2. If so, what reason is there for thus handicapping the export trade of the Commonwealth ?
  3. What greater difficulty is there in distinguishing the duty paid in such cases, and in identifying the goods, than there is in distinguishing and identifying in the case of goods duty paid before and exported after, the imposition of the Tariff?
Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Drawback is not allowed at a greater rate than the duty in force at the time of export, as provided for in the Customs regulations.
  2. The risk of loss to the revenue.
  3. In the case of goods on which duty was paid prior to the new Tariff, drawback is only given in accordance with the rule mentioned in answer No. 1 above.

page 11252

QUESTION

PATENTS AND TRADE MARKS

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
South Australia

– I move -

That a return be laid on the table of this House showing the number of applications for Letters Patent, Provisional Protection, and Trade Marks. &c, up to the end of 1901, in the following form: - Name of State; No. of applications for Letters Patent or Provisional Protection ; No. of applications for Trade Marks; expenses of department; revenue ofdepartment; profit of department.

The return will cost little and will furnish valuable information.

Mr Watson:

– What period will it cover ?

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:

-From the beginning.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 11252

TARIFF

In Committee of Ways and Means. - (Recommittal.)

Consideration resumed from 26th March, 1902 (vide page 11250).

Item 2.- Spirits, viz. - Spirits, and spirituous compounds, n.e.i., when not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon, 14s.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I desire to add words providing for an allowance on under-proof spirit down to 16.5 under proof. When this item was before the committee in the first instance I endeavoured to secure an alteration of the rate of duty on under-proof spirits. In two of the States at least it has been the rule to levy duty on under-proof spirits according to their strength down to 16.5 underproof, and an examination of the statistics shows how very largely the character of the importations has been influenced by this practice. In South Australia, where the allowance for under-proof spirits was made, a very large proportion of the imports were in the form of case spirits, bottled, label led and capsuled under well-known brands which afforded a sufficient guarantee of their purity and regularity of quality. In Victoria, where no allowance was made for underproof spirits, the imports were mostly in bulk, the spirits being “ broken down “ in the States, and in many instances mixed with an inferior colonial made article, very much to the detriment of public health. No advantage to the revenue is derived from insisting upon the payment of the full duty on under-proof spirits, because it leads to the spirit being imported at proof and “broken down” after its arrival in the Commonwealth. Therefore the revenue does not profit from the exclusion of good brands of under-proof spirits. The statistical returns show that in 1900 South Australia imported 20,444 gallons of brandy in case as against 9,800 gallons in bulk, and 12S,963 gallons of whisky in case as compared with 37,000 gallons in bulk. Thus nearly threefourths of the whisky imported was bottled at the distilleries under the guarantee of people whose very living depends upon the maintenance of the standard of the spirit they are purveying. In the same year Victoria imported 39,551 gallons of case brandy, und 65,000 gallons of bulk brandy, and the importations of case whisky amounted to 179,750 gallons against 393,592 gallons of whisky in bulk. In Victoria and New South Wales the great proportion of the spirits was introduced in bulk, and was “ broken down “ within the States by being mixed with water or something else. If only water were used, it would be comparatively harmless.

Mr Watson:

– The spirit which is introduced here in .bottle is “broken down” with water also.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Yes ; but we know the brands under which it is imported, and we have some guarantee as to its purity. We know that these spirits are examined before they leave home by the leading Government analysts.

Mr McCay:

– No, they are not.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I say they are. The spirits are examined and their purity is vouched for by the Government analysts.

Mr Watson:

– No.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I can show the honorable member the certificates. 32 e

Mr Watson:

– The honorable member might show a certificate which would apply to one sample out of a million cases.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– But how are these samples taken ?

Mr Watson:

– Sometimes in a very perfunctory way.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Does the honorable member mean to say that the spirit imported in bulk into Victoria and New South Wales and .” broken down “ in the States is of anything like the same quality as that imported in case under well-known brands ?

Mr Watson:

– In a great many cases it is better.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– If the honorablemember thinks that, he cannot know verv much about the spirit trade and the quality of the spirits imported here. It is well known that the moment that one of theleading brands of whisky goes off in quality its trade is lost, so that a certain amount . of protection is afforded to consumers by the importation, of whisky in the bottle under the labels of known reputable firms. To argue to the contrary is absurd, and it . is equally nonsensical to say that in the bulk of the hotels in Melbourne consumers can obtain as good whisky fis is provided for them in the great . majority of the Adelaide hotels. I put it to the right honorable gentlemen,, who have had the benefit of the advice of their officers, whether there will be one penny piece of advantage to the revenue by adhering to the bad example set by the old Victorian Tariff, of having a straight-out duty of so much, whether the spirits be 16 per cent, under proof or whether they be absolutely proof spirits? Thefigures show distinctly and clearly that, there can be no possible advantage in it.. On the other hand, from the point of view of the. interest of the consumers, it is best that the rule which has been in vogue in two States, of making an allowance for under-proof spirit, should beadopted throughout the Commonwealth. If that rule is not adopted, there will be a bad look out indeed for the consumers. In nine cases out of ten the stuff that is purveyed as whisky in thehotels of Melbourne and Sydney is not as. good whisky as is sold under the labels of reputable firms. A good deal of it is rank poison. Any man who has sampled whisky in the hotels of Melbourne and Sydney will say the same thing. The very fact shown by the statistics, as to the extreme excess of bulk spirits imported into Victoria and New South Wales under the old laws, is sufficient to prove that a very great advantage was being obtained by the traders as against the consumers.

Mr Fisher:

– That does not apply to nine out of ten hotels, I should hope.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I should like the honorable member to devote a few evenings to tasting the whisky sold in the various hotels of Melbourne. Let him test the quality of it by the state of his head - which is a very fair test - and see how long it is before a place has to be found for him in that magnificent institution established by the Victorian Government at Kew. I say without the slightest hesitation that the result of the importation of bulk whisky into Sydney and Melbourne is that a grossly inferior class of spirit is served to the consumer. The imported whisky is broken down and mixed with inferior spirit. That is the danger to the public health.

Mr Kingston:

– Does the honorable member mean since the introduction of this Tariff?

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I mean under the old Tariffs. For these reasons I move -

That the words “ with an allowance for underproof up to 16.5” be added to the duty “ Spirits, per gallon, 14s.”

Mr KINGSTON:
South AustraliaMinister for Trade and Customs · Protectionist

– The Government ask the forbearance of honorable members generally with regard to the recommitted items - either not to proceed with proposals where there is no chance of carrying them, or, if there is such a chance, to curtail their remarks as much as possible. We have discussed this matter previously for two days, and arrived at a conclusion against the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, by 34 votes to 16. I have heard no reason given why the committee should reverse its previous decision. There was practically a concensus of opinion that we should be doing all that was necessary if in this connexion we adopted the practice of four of the States rather than that of two, even though one of the two should be my own State. Provision has, however, been made for an allowance to be made on under-proof spirits which had been shipped prior to the introduction of the Tariff, or which were in bond. A very important reason that was given against the honorable member’s proposal was that it was a desirable thing that we should have the important industry of bottling spirits conducted within the Commonwealth.I am credibly informed, on the best authority, that the two great firms of Burke and Walker are at the present moment making arrangements for the bottling of their spirits in Australia. Why should they not do so ? Let us have the benefit of this trade. Our contention in favour of retaining the provision of the Tariff as it stands is supported by what has happened since, and I do not think the committee is in the humour to effect the change proposed.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– Possibly there may be a reason in favour of the amendment which has escaped the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs. If honorable members will turn to section 40 of the Distillation Act they will find that it provides as follows : -

No entry authorizing the removal of spirits shall be passed in respect of spirits of a lower strength than 25 per centum under proof, nor in respect of a smaller quantity than 10 gallons.

On turning to thepart of the Tariff dealing with excise, it will be found that the excise on spirits distilled wholly from barley malt, molasses, or maize is 12s. 6d. Supposing that the spirit bottled from the colonial distilleries is sent out - as it generally is - at about 16.5 underproof, this means that we are giving the local distillers a protection of 4s. 8d. per dozen. This is rather an important point, as it gives an undue preference to the local distillers which I do not think it was intended to give. We have already given a preference of1s. 6d. per gallon of proof spirit, and in cases where the spirit is made from wine the preference to the local distiller is 3s. per gallon. But it was certainly never intended, so faras I am aware, from reading and hearing the discussion, that on every dozen bottles of spirit sent out we should give an additional advantage to the local distiller of 4s.8d. per dozen, or 2s. 4d. a gallon. Is the Minister aware of that? If not, it is a very good reason for making an alteration. It is evident that a large amount of revenue may be sacrificed in thisway, and in view of the fact that the Treasurer has complained of the way the committee has cut down his revenue, I urge that, as we allow spirit 25 per cent. under proof to go out of the local distilleries, there is no good reason why we should not make the same allowance in regard to imported spirit.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– The amendment of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, would have the effect of slightly diminishing the revenue. There are a certain number of brands of spirits that would be imported in bottle in any case, and would pay the higher duty. I happen to know that that is so from friends of my own in the wine and spirit trade. I also know that in Sydney two firms have been taking premises with a view of bottling reputable and well - known brands locally. That is in course of arrangement, and I think that the revenue aspect will not be materially altered one way or the other; although the revenue will be slightly greater under the proposal in the Tariff. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, has made one of those extravagant statements which simply defeat their object. He spoke about the inferior class of spirit which he alleges comes into New South Wales and other States in bulk. It must, however, be apparent to the meanest comprehension that where there are publicans of reputable character it pays them, as an absolute matter of business, to buy bulk whisky of greater maturity than that to which ordinary bottled whisky can pretend, and to give it to the customers at the same price as the latter. By taking bulk whisky, which is bought on bond certificates, the publicans save the cost of capsules, labels, corks, bottles, straws, and cases, the last of which can only realize a small amount as second-hand goods in the city, and, possibly nothing at all in the country districts. All this money is saved in addition to the cost of advertising, which is so largely resorted to in the case of bottled whisky. For that reason a very large portion, if not the greatest portion of the bulk whisky sold in New South Wales, at any rate for years past, has been equal to, if not superior, to the case whisky. I am excluding a very superior case whisky which is guaranteed to be ten or twelve years old. Taking the ordinary bottled spirit sold in a vast majority of hotels, and even in the best of hotels, it is not so good as the bulk whisky, as may be gathered from the fact that when a publican wants to treat his friends he always advises the latter. I do not think the committee have been given any reason for reversing their previous decision. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa slightly misconstrued the position so far as concerns the comparison between the 25 per cent. under proof allowed in respect of spirits going out of any Commonwealth distillery, and the charge which is made on imported proof spirit. There is no protection at all so far as that aspect is concerned. Spirit which is brought in in bulk can be broken down to any degree.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Then there will be no advantage in importing proof spirit if the duty be the same on under proof as on proof.

Mr WATSON:

– I admit that; and I understand that the only reason 25 per cent. is allowed in the case of local distilleries is to provide for gin, which is sold at a strength much below that of brandy and whisky.

Question - That the words “with an allowance for under proof up to 16.5 “ be added to the duty, “spirits, per gallon, 14s.” - put. The committee divided -

Ayes……… 16

Noes……… 35

Majority…… 19

Question so resolved in the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Item agreed to.

Item 3. - Wine, fermented, viz. : . . . Containing more than 35 per cent. of proof spirit, per gallon, 14s.

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– I move-

That the words “ per gallon, 14s.” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ For each 1 per cent. of proof spirit over 35 per cent., up to and including 38 per cent., additional, per gallon, 6d. ; containing more than 38 per cent. of proof spirit, per gallon, 14s,”

Honorable members will recollect that when we were considering this item before, we promised to make further inquiry as to whether we were not making the transmission stage from wine to spirit too low when we fixed 35 per cent. of proof spirit in connexion with the change from 16s. to 14s. It was pointed out, in regard to port and sherry, that unless we were careful we should be practically providing a prohibitory rate on these particular wines. That I do not think we intend to do. We have found from our inquiries that 35 per cent. is rather low as compared with the law which had obtained hitherto in the States, where the rate has approximated to 40 per cent., where it has not actually reached that degree. Under the circumstances we took some trouble, particularly in regard to port and sherry - which are particularly affected by these duties as being of a higher strength, when they reached the Commonwealth at any rate - to obtain statistics from Melbourne, which we have no reason to believe is different in this respect from other places, as towhat was the strength of the wines admitted. We found that out of 53 samples of port wine which were tested, 49 were over 35 per cent. of proof spirit, whilst only four were under that percentage.

Mr Isaacs:

– What was the percentage of the 49 samples ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I have all the figures here. For the purpose of pointing out where the line of distinction seems to be drawn - we drew it at 38 per cent. - I may say that out of the 53 samples only four were over 38 per cent.

Mr Batchelor:

– Were these imported wines?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Yes ; these were ports and sherries, which it is suggested, as I have said, are of a higher strength, and will be particularly affected. It seems to me that the argument may be sustained that if we make the duty 14s. at 35 per cent. of proof we shall be practically excluding these wines.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– What was the strength of the four samples above 38 per cent?

Mr KINGSTON:

– Two were 38.7, and two were 39. These figures all relate to port wines. Coming to sherries, I may say that out of 46 samples that were examined, twelve contained over 35 per cent. of proof spirit, while 34 contained under 35 per cent. Of eight other samples of wine which were tested, one contained over 35 per cent. of proof spirit, while the remaining seven contained less than that, percentage. Out of the total of 103 samples, only four contained over 38 per cent. of proof spirit, and I do not think we should legislate specially to meet their particular case.

Mr Henry Willis:

– The best kinds go very high.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Then they can afford to pay a little higher duty. We make ample provision for a fair strength of wine. All we are proposing is that for each additional degree between 35 per cent. and 38 per cent., there shall be an additional 6d. per gallon duty imposed. That I do not think is excessive. It would simply amount to about 7s. 6d. per gallon on wine containing 38 per cent. of proof spirit.

Mr Isaacs:

– Had the wines which were sampled on behalf of the Government been fortified?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I believe they were fortified. I do not profess to be an expert, but when these wines are of a greater natural strength than are the majority, we propose that they should pay a little extra duty. It may be said that we have rather a strict provision in the Distillation Act in relation to the fortifying of wines.

Mr Watson:

– The provision referred to will have to be put on a par with this proposal.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The question is how that can be done. I think we may as well make a provision of the character that we now suggest, and when we have obtained a little further knowledge on the subject we may if necessary permit Australian wines to be further fortified. That is a task which does not commend itself very much to me. I should be sorry to find it necessary, for the chief charm of our wines is often held to be their purity and their freedom from fortification. Of course it would be possible to provide that this provision shall come into force when our Distillation Act has been so relaxed. That, however, would be a cumbrous procedure. Whatever is for the real good of the wine industry is bound to be placed on the statute book before long ; and although I hope we shall be very careful in regard to relaxing the provisions of the Distillation Act in reference to the fortifying of Australian wines, we shall have power to do so if necessary. I propose that we may, on payment of the extra duty, relax, as regards the strong wines, the practical prohibition which was previously imposed, keeping in our own hands, power to alter, as we may think fit, our legislation with reference to distillation.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). The Government proposal does not seem to meet the requirements of the case. The Minister states that of the samples of imported wines which were examined by his direction none contained 40 degrees (of proof spirit. I have it on the authority of those who ought to be aware of the facts that these wines generally have a strength of 40 per cent, of alcohol, and run up to 42 per cent.

Mr Kingston:

– I had a statement of that character before me, and that was why I checked it.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– Of course these figures relate to one class of port wine, but it would be curious if they disagreed with those of others. In common justice to the consumers we ought to see that they are not penalized by being made liable to pay the duty which is imposed on spirits. If Ministers would agree- that the still wines in bulk should be liable to the duty as proposed with an increase of 3d., instead of 6d. per gallon for every degree above the limit of 35 per cent., and up to 40 or 42 per cent., the exigencies of the case would be met.

Mr Isaacs:

– Why commence at 35 ?

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– I would have commenced at 40 or 42 per cent., but the Government have started with 35 per cent, in the Tariff. I think they have commenced here in the wrong place, as possibly they have done in other cases. If the Minister adopts my suggestion, there will be no great divergence from his own intended line of action, while I think the result will be more satisfactory to himself, and, I am sure, to the. great bulk of the consumers.

Mr ISAACS:
Indi

– I think that with the best of intentions the Government have proposed something which, if adopted, would be very unsatisfactory. The question that I put to the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon - “ Why commence at 35 degrees ?” is answered by the fact that 35 per cent, of proof spirit is the limit to which colonial wines may be fortified under the Distillation Act. Section 59 of that Act absolutely prohibits Australian wine being fortified under any circumstances so as to contain more than 35 per cent, of proof spirit. When the Tariff was introduced this very item recognised that fact, and whilst it placed a duty of 6s. per gallon on imported wines in bulk, it provided that if they contained more than 35 degrees of proof spirit they should pay a duty of 14s. per gallon. That was proposed with the object of placing imported wines on the same footing as Australian wines so far as the mercantile world was concerned.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– Imported wines are not fortified to that extent.

Mr ISAACS:

– The Minister, in reply to an interjection by me, said that the wines to which he referred were fortified. Imported fortified wines, therefore, are to be allowed to come in at an advance of 6d. per gallon duty per degree when containing over 35 degrees of proof spirit. It is not a question of free-trade or protection so much as it is a question of placing this prohibition on Australian wines, and giving the advantage to the imported wine. That is not fair. It seems to me that so long as the Distillation Act remains in its present form, we cannot consistently adopt this provision. I cannot understand why the very point of fortification at which ‘ Australian vignerons are compelled to stop should be that at which imported wine should commence, so to speak, to pay the nominal additional duty of 6d. per gallon per degree, and be allowed to come into Australia on that basis.

Mr Conroy:

– Supposing that an Australian wine is exported, can it be fortified up to 35 per cent. ?

Mr ISAACS:

– No. If the Act is valid - and we must presume that it is - it governs Australian vignerons at the present time. Any Australian vigneron who dares to contravene this provision exposes himself to a penalty of £20. It is not for us to say that an Act of this Parliament is invalid. J

Mr Glynn:

– The general opinion was that the Act was invalid.

Mr ISAACS:

– The honorable member has no right to say that. We passed the Act as a valid Act. While the provision stands, we ought not to do something which is distinctly differentiating in favour of the imported wine. We ought to be consistent, and if we are inconsistent at all it ought not to be on the side that injures our own people.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– It may be remembered that I raised this question at an earlier stage, and that for the reasons given by the last speaker the Government saw fit to stand by their proposals in the Tariff. I am glad that the Government have seen some reason to recede from the position which they then assumed. Some Australian wine-makers have already asked that they shall have permission to exceed the limits in the Distillation Act, because it is absolutely essential that a larger quantity of spirits should be used to preserve certain wines in crossing the tropics. As regards imported wines, it is said that there are brands of well-known repute that will not carry across the tropics except with a higher margin even than the 38 per cent, allowed. It is said that really good port wines require to contain up to 42 per cent, spirit to carry across the tropics to Australia. If that is so, it does seem rather hard to destroy a legitimate trade without any sufficient reason. As regards the Distillation Act prohibiting the use of more than 35 per cent, proof spirit in Australian wine, I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Indi that the section which deals with the matter says “ fortified under this Act.” What do these words refer to 1 I hold that there is a concession of duty given on spirits used for the fortification of Australian wine, that it has to be given under the supervision of an officer, and that it will only be given up to proof spirit of 35 per cent. The wines pass, after that concession, from the supervision of federal officers into the free stores of the owner, and they can be fortified if it is desired up to 80 per cent., with this proviso : that no concession will be given on the spirit used for the fortification. That is the position of the Australian wines, and unless the State authorities choose to follow up the action of the Commonwealth the degree of fortification cannot be interfered with. We have representations from wine- growers who export certain varieties of port wines that a higher percentage of spirit is actually necessary for the preservation of wines in crossing the tropics, and we have the importers saying the same thing. The only question now is what percentage of spiritshould be allowed over 35 per cent. ? I aminformed by several good authorities that itshould be allowed up to 42 per cent. Sixpence on one per cent, increase is considerably higher than the duty on proof spirit. Therefore these wines, while they are allowed, in, have to pay a certain penalty. The wines are penalized sixpence for every per cent, above 35 per cent., therefore I think that 42 per cent, might be placed as the limit. It may be that there is only a small proportion over 38 per cent. ; but these maybe the very wines that require the additional percentage of spirit. Competent authorities say that really good wines require an additional percentage of spirit. It will not interfere with Australian wines, because they can have 80 per cent, of spirit in them and not come under federal control. I suggest to the Minister for Trade and Customs that he will be perfectly safe in making 42 per cent, the limit, and that thenhe will be penalizing some of the wines.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– I thoroughly agree with the honorable member for NorthSydney’s interpretation of the provision in the Distillation Act. The question is whether wines containing over 35 per cent, of proof spirit shall be imported. We are charging 2s. per gallon more on 35 per cent, port wines than on champagnes, consequently the revenue may be seriously interfered with. Wine-growers at Wahgunyah, Corowa, and. two or three other places have expressed the opinion that to cross the tropics wine needs to contain 40 per cent, of proof spirit. The natural strength of some South Australian wines runs up to 31 and 32 per cent. I tasted a Murray River wine called claret which ran 32’7 per cent, of natural spirit. _ A port wine without any fortification, I. am told, would run up to 35, and on some occasions to 3G per cent. The vigneron mus’t add from 3 to 4 per cent, of alcohol to keep that wine. Members are losing sight of the revenue when they fix the limit at as low as 35 .per cent. I think it should be raised to 42 per cent. South Australia is the only State which formerly fixed a limit at as low as 35 per cent. It was never proposed to give local port wine a protection of 1 4s. per gallon if there was over 35 per cent, of spirit in it. Possibly the time is not very far distant when an excise duty on local wines will have to be imposed, because otherwise the revenue from imported wines would cease.

Mr BATCHELOR:
South Australia

– I should like to hear from the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the position taken up by the honorable member for North Sydney is correct, namely, that section 59 in the Distillation Act, which limits the fortification of Australian wine to 35 per cent, of proof spirit, refers to the concession made in the Tariff. As far as the Tariff is concerned, it provides that spirit used for the fortification of Australian wine shall pay excise duty at the rate of only ls. per gallon, but no limitation is placed upon the strength to which the wines are to be fortified. It seems that there is nothing to prevent anyone from obtaining spirit at the low rate of duty for the fortification of Australian wine up to any degree of proof strength.

Mr Thomson:

– They would have to satisfy the Customs officers that the spirit was to be used in accordance with the Distillation Act.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– But no limit is placed in ,the Tariff upon the use of spirit required for fortifying purposes, and it seems necessary to make some such provision.

Mr GLYNN:
South Australia

– I quite agree that if the limit of proof strength of wines is raised under the Tariff, it also ought to be raised under the Distillation Act. Several honorable members took the view when the Distillation Act was under consideration - and I think the honorable and learned member for Indi agreed - that, so far as we attempted,, apart from the question of excise or import duties, to prescribe a strength of 35 degrees of proof spirit for wines,- we should be acting ultra vires, and I believe that the limitation for any purpose other than that of the Tariff is ultra vires.

Mr Isaacs:

– Do not let us throw mud atour own Act.

Mr GLYNN:

– I have no desire to do that, but surely if it is proposed to legislate beyond the limits of the Constitution, honorable members should be cautioned not to pass provisions that may afterwards be proved invalid.

Mr Watson:

– Once an Act is passed weassume that it is valid.

Mr GLYNN:

– But those who hold the opinion that such an Act ought not to have been passed should not be debarred from expressing that view. Personally I should have no hesitation in challenging any such provision in a court of justice, and it is only the etiquette- of Parliament that prevents’ our here impugning our own enactments.. Still, it is the dirty of those who think so to point out that the legislation passed is, in their opinion, ultra vires of our powers. I think the opinion expressed by -‘ the honorable member for North Sydney is the right one, and that as far as we attempt to do anything more than impose certain restrictions for the purpose of rebate,, our acts will be ultra vires. The South Australian Vine-growers’ Association have requested that the limit should be fixed at 42 per cent., and a very good case has been advanced for adopting a similar standard with regard to imported wines. In twenty countries, including the United States, I cannot find any limit as low as 35 per cent., except in South Australia, and in New Zealand with regard to Australian wines - the limit in New Zealand for other wines is 42 per cent. I therefore move -

That the amendment be amended by the omission of the figures “ 38,” with a view to insert in . lien thereof the figures “42.”

Even then, the rate of 6d. will be too high, the rate recommended by the wine-growers being 3d.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs will be in a position to declare the attitude of the Government in respect to the section of the Distillation Act that has been referred to. I shall nob vote for any alteration such as that now proposed, unless there is a probability of a similar alteration being made in the Distillation Act. It would be most unfair to allow highly fortified sweet wines to be imported from abroad, and at the - same time prevent our local growers from fortifying their wines up to a similar strength. I am inclined to think that the contention of the honorable member for North Sydney is correct, and it may be, as stated by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, that the provisions of the Distillation Act relating to the limit of strength are ultra vires. On the other hand, neither of these contentions may be correct, and our local producers may be placed at a disadvantage of 3 per cent, as compared with the importers of wines. If the Distillation Act is valid, as we have to assume for the time being, we shall, by imposing a lower import duty, encourage the introduction of wines containing more than 35 per cent, of proof spirit. When the Distillation Act was under discussion, I was under the impression that a strength of 35 per cent, of alcohol was provided for, instead of 35 per cent, of proof spirit, which would be roughly about half the strength of absolute alcohol. A vast area of country is now devoted to the production of dry wines which could be more suitably used for the production of sweet wines. The incomes of wine-growers would be doubled if they were able to produce sweet wines, but unless they are permitted to fortify their wines up to at least 38 per cent, of proof spirit they cannot with safety send them away to the markets of the world. In isolated cases they may be able to do so, but not generally. Having been convinced of the necessity of raising the limit in the interests of those who export wine to the Commonwealth, I hope Ministers will be prepared to amend the Distillation Act and place our local producers upon the same level as wine-growers abroad. If this is not done I think it would be improper to make any alteration.

Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- Some honorable members have referred to some expression of opinion on my part as to the constitutionality of section 59 of the Distillation Act. My recollection is that when I moved the amendment which now finds a place in the section, prohibiting the fortification of Australian wines with any other than wine spirit up to a strength of 35 per cent, of proof spirit, I proposed it as an addendum to the section, because if any question were raised as to the constitutionality of my amendment the same objection would arise as to the validity of the section to which I proposed to add it. I did not express an opinion as to the constitutionality of the section. I do not think that at this stage we should raise any doubt as to the validity of the provision. It is one thing to raise a question of that sort when a matter is being discussed, but when an Act has once been passed we should never cast any doubt upon the efficacy of our own enactment. The suggestion that the Minister for Trade and Customs should give a distinct assurance that steps will be taken to increase the limit of fortification, under the Distillation Act, from 35 per cent, to 38 per cent, is, of course, a matter for the Minister to consider. I am not prepared, however, to support this proposal, even though such an assurance is given, because we do not know whether it will be carried out. The proper course would be to defer the present suggestion until both matters can be dealt with at the same time. We ought not to place this burden upon the Australian producer, on the off chance of our being able to bring him up to the same level hereafter.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I have an amendment to propose which would take priority of that moved by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and he has agreed to temporarily withdraw in older to enable me to move that the figures “ 35 “ be struck out with a view to inserting ^’‘40.”

Mr Isaacs:

– That would be worse still.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– It would be better still according to the opinions of those who have been importing the better classes of port wine. They hold that it is absolutely necessary that the limit of strength should be increased to 40 per cent.

Sir George Turner:

– That would relieve them from the payment of any extra duty, or would take away five times 6d. at any rate.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Does the Treasurer consider that the duties that have been in vogue in the various States have been so ridicuously low that it is necessary to increase them enormously t Do not the Treasurer and other honorable members recognise that a duty of 6s. per gallon on port wine and sherry imported in bulk, and 8s. per gallon on case wine, is a sufficient protection for the colonial vigneron, especially considering that the local wine pays no excise, whilst there is an excise on colonial beer 1 In South Australia we lost revenue by making the limit 35 per cent. New South Wales has, roughly speaking, a little over three times the population of South Australia. Yet New South Wales, with a limit of 40 per cent, in strength, had a revenue of £15,900 from imported wines; whilst South Australia, with a limit of 35 per cent., which was virtually prohibitive, had a revenue of only £1,501. So that, although having a third of the population of New South Wales, South Australia only derived about one-tenth of the revenue from this source.

Mr Watson:

– A splendid testimony to the value of South Australian wines.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Victoria, with a limit of 40 per cent., had a revenue of £8,000 ; Queensland, with a limit of 43 per cent., had a revenue of £11,600 ; Tasmania, with a limit of 40 per cent., with a smaller population, and of course a smaller production of wine, had a revenue of over £5,000. In four States of the group they had a limit of 40 pei’ cent., in another 43 per cent. In the four States there has never been any complaint on the part of the wine-growers as to that limit of strength. But in framing this new Tariff we have it constantly impressed upon us that it is necessary to lower the strength at which we will permit the importation of port wine and sherry to be introduced to 35 per cent.

Mr Isaacs:

– That is because we have prohibited our own vignerons from going higher.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– Because we made a blunder - that was pointed out at the time by experts in the wine trade - we are, ergo, to repeat it by making another ! Australia is now producing very good port wine, and the local wine is fairly well protected. The strength that has obtained in the past in the various States, and about which there has been no complaint whatever, is a fair standard upon which to act now. If it is necessary to alter the Distillation Act in this respect it will be easy enough to do so. The Government, with an absolute majority behind “them, could pass a Bill through all its stages within a very short time for that purpose. But because an error of judgment has been made in that respect we should not attempt to rectify it by putting an embargo upon the import trade. The importers claim that the better classes of sherry and port cannot be imported under the strength of from 37 to 39 per cent. Those are figures given by the leading experts in Victoria and South Australia.

Mr Kingston:

– Then 38 is the medium?

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– But the Government seek to make it 35.

Sir George Turner:

– We let it come in up to 38, but impose a little extra duty ; and that is what is being fought against.

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– If the Government permit the importation of sherries and ports at anything like the strength that has obtained in the past, why should they seek to reduce the strength at which these wines are imported ? Have the Government any information to show that under the old rule which obtained in four of the leading States - which adopted 40 per cent, and over as a minimum - any harm was done 1 If it is merely a question of squeezing out another ls. 6d. or 2s. duty, let the Governsay so, and not shelter themselves behind the statement that because we have put 35 per cent, in the Distillation Act it is necessary to do the same here. Why not provide as a compromise that 3S should be the percentage, that being the medium between 37 and 39, at which most of these superior wines are imported 1 That would be an easy way out of the difficulty, and the Government could then allow the other wines to go up to 40 or 42 per cent, by payment of something additional. I understand from experts that some of the finest wines are imported into New South Wales up to a strength of 42 per cent.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (by Mr. V. L. Solomon) proposed -

That the figures “35” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “3S.”

Mr McCay:

– This amendment opens up a rather important matter. The amendment, though certainly germane to the subject under discussion, is by no means the amendment for the consideration of which this item was recommitted, nor is it in any sense an amendment of the amendment. The whole question of the duties is practically raised again. I, for instance, am of opinion that in fixing the difference between the excise and the import duties in regard to some intoxicants, the committee acted very unfairly ; and I should like to know whether, if one honorable member is allowed to introduce a fresh question, other honorable members will be allowed the same privilege 1

Mr V L SOLOMON:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · FT

– I submit that the amendment is perfectly relevant, dealing, as it does, entirely with the proposal under consideration. It is open to the committee to amend the item in any way thought desirable.

Mr Kingston:

– The Government would be only too delighted to support a liberal construction of the position, so long as it fairly came within the meaning of the business before the committee. I would ask, however, whether, after having fixed the strength of 35 per cent., it is possible to go back and deal with a question which has already been settled at a previous stage. The Government have no desire to raise any technical objection to the amendment, but I think it is clear that we should be making a mistake in considering the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon.

Mr Glynn:

– Even the amendment of the Minister for Trade and Customs seems to me irregular. Hitherto such amendments have been phrased “ that on and after” a certain date certain amendments shall be made. The Minister, however, has been collecting on the basis of 14s., and now wishes to amend that item retrospectively. In such a case we ought to have adhered to the form of amendment which has hitherto been observed.

Mr Kingston:

– Perhaps I may do that.

Mr Glynn:

– As a matter of fact, the committee are considering the whole of the sub-head of this item, and the Government suggest one particular method of dealing with it, while we suggest another.

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Kirwan). - In my opinion, the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, is in order.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The Government think the principle right that as wine increases in strength, approximating to spirits, it should pay a greater duty. We think that a fair line to commence with is 35 per cent. proof spirit. Gradations, as we may call them, obtain in England, where wines not exceeding 30 degrees of proof spirit pay 3s. 9d. ; wines over 30 degrees and up to 40 degrees, 5s. 6d., and so on. with a greater rate per degree.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– The rate is different.

Mr KINGSTON:

– No doubt the rate is different, but I do not think that beyond elderberry and similar wines, much wine is produced in England, whereas in this case we have to consider both revenue and protection. We propose to commence at 35 per cent., with a duty of 6d. for each degree above, stopping at 40. In doing this we consider that we shall be making ample provision. Our want of local knowledge has been supplemented by information, and I have here a communication from the Commercial Association of Oporto, the members of which would, of course, like the duty to be as low as possible. In this communication, which has been transmitted through the proper channels, I find the following : -

Now the wine of Oporto usually shipped to that country requires to have an alcoholic strength not below 38 degrees Sikes, a limit which, until the passing of the recent legislation alluded to above, was well within the Australian fiscal regulations.

There were a variety of duties in the States. In South Australia there was a duty of 12s. per gallon, and in Victoria a duty of 8s. per gallon ; but we propose to commence lower down. The communication from the Commercial Association of Oporto, in dealing with the question of what is a fair strength, proceeds -

We therefore beg your Excellency, in the name of those important interests, to be good enough to take such steps as you consider adequate to enable these wines to be admitted into Australia at the minimum duty up to 40 degrees, or at least 38 degrees Sikes.

We cannot go to the extent suggested in the amendment, and certainly the majority of the States fixed the strength at 40 per cent.

Mr Thomson:

– Up to 43 per cent.

Mr KINGSTON:

– That is in Queensland, the position of which is absolutely peculiar. The Commercial Association of Oporto tell us that they can do with a strength of 38 per cent., but would like it to be 40 per cent. We have proposed 38 per cent., but to make certain we concede the extra 2 per cent., and ask honorable members not to support the amendment.

Mr Batchelor:

– What about distillation?

Mr KINGSTON:

– In regard to that question, I believe the Act, in every line and letter, is perfectly valid. Section 59 applies merely to the use of spirits for fortif ying wines, pursuant to concessions given under the Act.

Mr McCay:

– The Minister for Trade and Customs spoke very differently when I raised this point during the discussion on the Bill.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I shall be happy to confer with the honorable and learned member, and persuade him that he is in error. The part of the Act which deals with vignerons states plainly that no Australian wines shall be fortified so as to contain more than 35 per cent. of proof spirit.

Mr Isaacs:

– What concessions are there?

Mr KINGSTON:

– There are various concessions in the shape of licenses for distilling spirits and using these spirits for fortifying wine, and we have a perfect right to attach to those concessions certain limits and regulations, whatever the wisdom of the latter may be. At the same time I would not be dealing fairly if I did not call attention to a section which to some extent seems to have been forgotten even by the honorable member for North Sydney, namely, section 76, which provides that no person shall sell any Australian wine containing more than 35 per cent. of proof spirit. I believe that section is of general application, and is not confined in express terms to the exercise of power under the Act. Whilst we are relaxing the condition which we imposed previously, in charging the spirit duty on wine which contained more than 35 degrees of proof spirit, I do not think we ought to place our local wines at a disadvantage. It would be altogether foreign to the desire of the Government to countenance such a proceeding. In that connexion, a very strong case has been made out for relaxing the conditions in regard to the strength up to which Australian wines may be fortified. On the other hand, it may be said that it would be a pity to allow the sale of Australian wine which was fortified to a higher degree than that provided in the Act, as it would tend to destroy the reputation we have already acquired for pure wines. I think it would be a pity to do so, but still it seems to me that if we relax this condition so that imported wines containing more than 35 per cent. of proof spirit can be sold here, we should not refuse the same privilege to the local vignerons.

Mr Isaacs:

– Does the Minister undertake to bring in a Bill to place the local vignerons on the same footing ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– I will bring in a Bill with that object in view, unless a little further experience of the working of the

Act convinces me to the contrary. At the present time I am strongly of opinion that it should be done. I think it would be almost the corollary of what we are proposing now. The more I think that we can interfere wisely for the sake of the reputation of one of our great staples, the more I think that in a matter of this kind there is a good deal to be said in favour of allowing the wine-grower to do what he thinks well, knowing that the profit will be his. If my mind remains as it is to-day, and the simple object of an amendment of the Distillation Act is to deal fairly with the local producer as compared with the foreign importer, we shall do what is suggested, subject, of course, to the possibilities of riper experience.

Mr MACDONALD-PATERSON:
Brisbane

– I am exceedingly pleased with the statement which has just been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I had intended to suggest that the limit should be increased from 35 to 40 per cent., but the Government proposal that an increased duty of 6d. per gallon per degree shall be charged in respect of all wines containing more than 35 per cent., and up to 40 per cent. of proof spirit, meets my wishes. Those who require wine containing 40 per cent. of proof spirit will be prepared to pay the additional duty.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I think the Minister should give us more than the qualified promise made by him to amend the Distillation Act, provided that we agree to this amendment in the Tariff. It must be seen that unless the Distillation. Act is. amended, this proposal will be extremely unfair to the local producer of wine. Under the Act we prohibit him from producing, under any circumstances, wine containing more than 35 degrees of proof spirit ; but we are now proposing to allow an importer to bring in wine containing up to 40 per cent. of proof spirit on payment of a small additional duty. There may be a very large demand for wine of that class, and I fail to see why we should shut out the local producer from supplying that demand when we concede the privilege to the importer. The matter is of so much importance that the Minister should promise to bring in a Bill to amend the Distillation Act, so as to place the local article on an equal footing with imported wine.

Mr KINGSTON:

– One is tempted to give a promise exactly as it is desired, but would the honorable member pledge himself to do anything six months hence when he might change his mind in the meantime ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– But the Government are proposing to allow wine containing more than 35 per cent, of proof spirit to be imported. If it is right in the one case it cannot be wrong in the other.

Mr KINGSTON:

– That is the view I take now, and it would require a great deal to lead me to alter my opinion on the subject. “When I say that “ if I am of the same mind sis I am now” I will bring in a Bill to amend the Distillation Act, I am simply availing myself of a saving clause. I cannot promise to do anything, but that is our present inclination.

Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Would it not be better to provide that wine containing up to 40 per cent, of proof spirit should be liable to the one duty without any gradation from 35 per cent upwards ? If the item were amended in that way it would obviate the necessity for a great deal of examination at the Customhouse.

Mr Kingston:

– Not a bit of it.

Mr. ISAACS (Indi). - It seems to me to be beyond all question that colonial and imported wines should be placed on the same footing. I cannot see why there should be any doubt on the point.

Mr Kingston:

– Nor can I.

Mr ISAACS:

– Then will the Minister agree to provide, in relation to this item, that it shall take effect as from and after the date when Australian wines may be fortified to the same extent ? That would ensure that our own producers should not be placed in an inferior position, and would give the Minister an additional inducement to bring forward his amending Bill at an early date. Until the Distillation Act is amended local producers of wine will be placed at a great disadvantage.

Mr KINGSTON:

– I think that such a provision in the Tariff as that suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi would make the item rather cumbrous. I acknowledge the little difficulty for the time, but I take it that in view of the expression of the Government we may provide as now suggested. Instead of introducing the provision suggested by the honorable and learned member in the Tariff, we should introduce a Bill containing a clause-

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Then the Minister will introduce an amending Bill ?

Mr KINGSTON:

– We should provide by legislation for an amendment of the Distillation Act.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - The insertion of such a provision as that suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi would be unique.

Mr Isaacs:

– We have a similar provision in Division VIa. of the Tariff.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– I should be very glad if the Minister would go one step further, and allow this matter to be settled at once. Although it would possibly involve some slight loss of revenue, that loss would be amply compensated for by the simplicity of administration which would result if we provided for one rate of duty on all wines containing up to 40 per cent, of proof spirit. I make the suggestion in a perfectly friendly spirit, and I hope that the Minister will consider it.

Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I understand that the Government are prepared to extend the strength of wine which may be imported up to 40 per cent 1

Sir George Turner:

– Yes ; to make the limit 40 per cent, instead of 38 per cent.

Mr.’V. L. SOLOMON.- But the Government will not give way on the question of whether the one duty should not be imposed in respect of all wines containing up to 38 per cent, instead of 35 per cent, of proof spirit. The extra 6d. per gallon for every additional degree above 35 per cent, is a very heavy impost, and altogether out of proper proportion to the duty imposed on proof spirits. To make it proportionate, the additional duty per gallon should be something like Hd. per degree instead of 6d. I would suggest to the Minister that a compromise might be arrived at by providing that the increased duty per gallon should be 3d., instead of 6d., for every additional degree between 35 and 40 per cent. I shall endeavour to test the opinion of the committee on this point at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -

That the amendment be amended by the omission of the figures “38,” line 4, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “ 40.”

Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- Presuming that the Government proposal of a 40 per cent, limit is accepted, and that we have to accept the decision that they will not allow the one duty to apply up to 40 per cent. what is the best way to accomplish a distinction ? I would suggest that instead of going up 6d. every point, the Minister should make wine up to 38 per cent. subject to an extra1s. duty, and wine from 38 per cent. up to 40 per cent, subject to another1s. There would be only two points in dispute there, that is as to 38 per cent. and. 40 per cent. wine. But as it is there are five points of dispute with the importer, and very fine points too -as to whether the 1 per cent. has been reached or not. Every degree is a point of dispute. Limit that either by making the five degrees subject to one rate, or by making two rates for the five degrees. If that course is adopted, there will be only one or two points of dispute between the importers and the department. The officers will be saved a great deal of trouble, and greater satisfaction will be given in the administration of the Act.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The honorable member for North Sydney is suggesting that for 36 per cent., 37 per cent., and 38 per cent. wine, we should charge an extra1s., and for 39 per cent. and 40 per cent., an extra 2s.

Mr Thomson:

– If it is wished to make a second stage.

Mr KINGSTON:

– There is something to be said in favour of that. There might be something to be said in favour of making a medium rate for the whole lot. There is not very much difficulty in determining the strength of the wine. I have various instances worked out in decimals. Although I acknowledge that there is something to be said in favour of the honorable member’s suggestion on the score of convenience of administration at the same time I prefer to have the amendment as it stands.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I move -

That the amendment be amended by the omission of the figure “6” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “3.”

Threepence would be double the proportionate rate upon spirits. According to the duty on spirits it would be about l½d. for each point above 35 to 40 per cent. At 6d. per gallon it is three or four times the proportionate rate of duty. Even at 3d. per gallon ordinary imported port wines and sherries which come in at from 39 to 40 per cent. would pay at the rate of 7s. 6d. per gallon.

That I think is a very fair duty, and undoubtedly a very fair protection to Australian vignerons.

Question - That the figure “ 6 “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the proposed amendment - put. The committee divided -

Ayes … … … 33

Noes … … … 22

Majority … … 11

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to -

That the amendment be amended by the omission of the figures “ 38,” line 5, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “40.”

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Item, as amended, agreed to.

Item 5 - Tobacco, viz. : - …. Cigars, including the weight oE bands and other attachments, per lb., Os. 3d. and 15 per cent, ad valorem.

Mr GLYNN:
South Australia

– On behalf of the honorable member for Wentworth I move -

That the words “and on and after Srd April, 1902, 6s. Gd.” be added.

This will have the effect of increasing the present fixed duty from fis. 3d- to 6s. 6d., and of abolishing the ad valorem duty of 15 per cent. Taking the average of the cigars imported into Victoria in 1S97-98 and 1899 the price was 7s. 7d. per lb. A ID per cent, ad valorem duty upon this would represent ls. 3d. per lb., and a fixed duty of 6s. 3d. added would bring the total duty to 7s. 6d. per lb. The excise duty is ls. 6d. per lb., and the duty upon imported leaf is ls. 6d. per lb., or a total of 3s. Therefore, the protection under a duty of 7s. 6d. per lb. amounts to 4-s. 6d. per lb., which, I need scarcely say, is a very high figure. The weight of ordinary cigars is about 12 lbs. per 1000, whilst heavy-weights run to 15 lbs. per 1000. A protection of 4s’. 6d. per lb. averages on ordinary cigars £2 14s. per 1000, and on heavy-weights £3 7s. 6d. per 1000. As the Treasurer has already conceded a reduction of this duty, I think he might go to the further reasonable length now suggested. According to the information contained in the report of the chief inspector of factories in Victoria for 1900 as to wages in the cigar trade, the protection now afforded amounts to 143 per cent, on the wages paid.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I trust that the committee will not make any alteration in the duty. We fought this matter out very fully when it was first before us. It was then proposed that a duty of Ss. 6d. should be imposed upon Havanna cigars, and 6s. 6d. upon other cigars, it being admitted that the better class of goods should contribute more to the revenue. Now we are asked to consent to a duty of 6s. 6d. per lb. all round, but as the committee, by 35 to 22 votes, refused to adopt the other proposal, I feel certain that they will not agree to make the duty uniform at lis. Gd. per lb. As this matter has been very fully debated we might come to a division at once.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– I would remind the Treasurer that the circumstances are entirely different from those obtaining when we were dealing with this matter before. We then had a whole series of composite duties still to deal with, but these have since one by one disappeared. The Treasurer has time and again recognised that the feeling of the committee was against these composite duties, and has abandoned them.

Mr Watson:

– A number of honorable members favour a composite duty as applied to cigars, but would not adopt the same principle in regard to other articles.

Mr THOMSON:

– There was just as good reason for the adoption of composite duties in regard to other items as in the case of cigars. As a matter of fact, the composite duty is more objectionable as applied to cigars than to any other line in the Tariff. No drawback is allowed upon cigars, which are usually sold in bond, as importers ‘will not hold large, duty-paid stocks if they cannot get drawback upon re-export. When a man buys in bond, hemust, under the composite duty, obtain from the vendor before he purchases particulars as to the duty that will have to be paid. He cannot know the cost of what he is buying unless he ascertains this from the vendor before purchasing.- Consequently, the cost of the cigars has to be disclosed. It is not right to expect traders in cigars to declare the cost before a sale is made. Business would be impossible under these conditions. The Minister gave as a reason for composite duties that, whilst protecting the local maker of low-grade articles, they would make the users of the higher-grade goods pay something more to the revenue. If the ad valorem principle is a good one to apply in order to make the consumer pay something more to the revenue, that something should be entirely in proportion to the value, but under the system of composite duties only a portion of the duty is being collected on the tic? valorem principle. Cigars which cost ls. pay only 15 per cent, upon that shilling. Surely if there were ever a reason for applying this principle it was to be found in the case of boots, and yet in that instance Ministers abandoned the composite duties. If the Treasurer desires to make a distinction between the .high-grade and the low-grade goods, he can do so by imposing a higher rate of duty upon the better class of cigars. The protection now afforded to the. local manufacturer is 4s. 6d. per lb., as against 2s. 6d. per lb. previously in New South Wales, 4s. 3d. in Victoria, 2s. 6d. in Queensland, 4s. 7½d. in South Australia, 2s. in Tasmania, and 4s.1½d. in WesternAustralia. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for South Australia gets over any difficulty with regard to labour, because it is shown that the duty represents nearly double the whole cost of the labour involved in the manufacture of Australian-made cigars. What is now proposed as import duty is more than theduty charged in any State previously, except Tasmania, where the duty was 6d. more. I quite anticipated that the Treasurer or the Minister for Trade and Customs would accept the previous decision of the committee in connexion with composite duties. I urge them to do so. This is the last duty of that sort, and it is the most deleterious in its effects. If they abandon it they complete the symmetry of the Tariff, inasmuch as all of these duties which they looked upon with favour - and for which I am willing to admit there was on the surface something to be said - have been abandoned with this exception. As to the 6s. 6d. duty proposed by the honorable member for South Australia, it is the same duty as has been put on cigarettes. A lesser margin has been allowed on cigarettes, but this is the same import duty, so that we unify the Tariff in this respect by adopting the amendment. Of course a further proposition can be made, which personally I should agree to, that an extra 2s. be put upon Havanna cigars, which are of a higher grade.

Question - That the words “ and on and after the 3rd April, 1902, per lb. 6s. 6d.,” proposed to be added, be so added - put. The committee divided -

Ayes……… 20

Noes … … … 33

Majority…… 13

Question so resolved in the negative.

Item agreed to.

Item 7. - Sugar

Amendment (by Mr. Kennedy) negatived -

That the following words be added to the duty: - “A rebate of 3s. percwt. shall be allowed to manufacturers on all sugar used in the manufacture of cordials, syrups, jams, jellies, preserves, and confectionery ; such rebate shall bo allowed to only licensed or registered manufacturers under regulations approved by the Governor-General in Council.”

Item 8. - Animals…… Special exemptions. Cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry for the improvement of breeds subject to departmental by-laws.

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– I move-

That the exemptions be omitted.

The duty on animals has been struck out, and, therefore, it is no longer necessary that these special exemptions shall appear.

Motion agreed to : exemptions omitted.

Item 17. - Coffee and Chicory, viz., raw . . . per lb. 3d.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– I should have supposed that in the administration of the Tariff the duty would apply to coffee and coffee only, but, as a matter of fact, duty is being demanded on coffee in thecherry and coffee in the parchment - not only on the coffee, but on the cherry and the parchment. The serious effect is to absolutely shut certain coffees out of the market.

From actual cleaning operations of different shipments we learn that from a given quantity of coffee in cherry the yield of cleaned raw coffee is 50 per cent, to 65 per cent.; that is to say thai; nearly one-half of the material on which duty is demanded is not coffee at all. From coffee in parchment, 74 to 82 per cent, of cleaned raw coffee is obtained. The present administration of the Tariff in regard to this item has a far wider effect than would at first sight be supposed. Most of the coffee in these forms comes from the South Sea Islands, and some of it from the New Hebrides. Owing to the small quantity grown in the scattered positions on the islands, it does not pay to erect machinery for the purpose of cleaning the’ coffee ; and hitherto coffee in parchment and in cherry has been imported and cleaned under Customs supervision, duty being charged on the result only. The effect of the present administration is to drive most of the trade in connexion with the New Hebrides and adjacent islands into the hands of the French. Surely that is absurd, seeing that the duty charged on the husks affords no protection.

Mr Fisher:

– Coffee is grown in Queensland.

Mr THOMSON:

– But the Queensland industry is protected by the duty on the coffee. Coffee can be brought from Ceylon, Java, and elsewhere already cleaned.

Mr Kingston:

– But it is not imported from the islands in that form.

Mr THOMSON:

– The coffee cannot be cleaned on the islands for the reasons I have already given. There is cleaning machinery on one or two of the islands, where a considerable quantity is grown, but most of the coffee is. produced in small patches in many different islands which may be separated not by 10 or 20 miles, but by 100 or 1,000 miles.

Mr Ewing:

– How much coffee comes from the South Sea Islands 1

Mr THOMSON:

– A large and increasing quantity, and surely the trade is of advantage to Australia. The question is whether we shall deliberately cast aside trade which is not from Central America or Java, but from islands inhabited by our own people. Ought we not to encourage the connexion which we desire to maintain under the British flag ? The steamers which run to these islands have the greatest difficulty in conducting their trade in competition with the German and French subsidized shipping companies, and to continue the present administration of the Tariff in this connexion will deprive the vessels of valuable freight and necessitate the payment of larger postal subsidies by the Federal Government. It is absurd to deliberately reject trade when the difficulty at the Customs can be surmounted in the way in which it has hitherto been surmounted; namely, by having the coffee cleaned in the presence of a Customs officer. This is done in the case of rice and other commodities, but in regard to coffee importers are made to pay on the husk.

Mr Harper:

– Which is valueless.

Mr THOMSON:

– I have no interest whatever in this matter, except that I desire to see our connexion with the South Sea Islands kept up and British influence maintained. I cannot conceive a single genuine reason against the practice which has hitherto’ prevailed. The importer pays for the services of the Customs-house officer, and cleaning under customs supervision to a certain extent gives labour within the Commonwealth .

Mr Mahon:

– An extra duty is imposed on tea imported in packets.

Mr THOMSON:

-If a piece of paper has to be cut into two parts, efforts have been made, to have that cutting done within the Commonwealth, but there seems an objection to that principle being applied in the present case. If the Minister for Trade and Customs says that he has no power to carry out my suggestion without having express words in the Tariff - although that is a power which has been exercised by other Ministers of Customs from time immemorial - then I must move the insertion of such words.

Mr BAMFORD:
Herbert

– I hope the Minister for Trade and Customs will not allow himself to be influenced by the arguments of the honorable member for North Sydney. Coffee-growing is a large industry in Northern Queensland, and, in fact, all along the coast of that State.

Mr Thomson:

– My suggestion does not interfere with the duty on coffee.

Mr BAMFORD:

– The honorable member has really made out a good case for retaining the duty as it appears in the Tariff, seeing that he himself says that no material difference is made one way or the other, whether the husk be taken off .or left on.

Mr Thomson:

– It makes no difference to the Queensland grower.

Mr BAMFORD:

– It makes a great deal of difference, because as administered at present the protection is a little higher than it otherwise would be. Husking the coffee is easily done ; it merely means conveying the coffee from the different small plantations to one centre. I am credibly informed that the real object of importing the bean in the husk is to prevent it from getting worm eaten. I am told that a little worm immediately attacks cleaned coffee and seriously damages it during transport.

Mr Harper:

– That is absurd !

Mr BAMFORD:

– I do not pose as an expert, but I am told that there is the same risk in regard to coffee beans as to grain, cigars, and other goods if they come in an uncovered state. I hope the Minister will not be influenced by the pleading of the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr HARPER:
Mernda

– I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will adopt the suggestion thrown out by the honorable member for North Sydney. The practice of cleaning under supervision in the Customs has been in existence for the last 25 years ; in fact, ever since coffee was produced in the islands. If better authority be required for the statement I have made honorable members may refer to the Imperial Tariff, 1902, paragraph 167 of which provides -

Coffee in the husk, which has been delivered out of warehouse under bond for the removal of the husks, will be charged with duty on all loss exceeding that due to the removal of the husks only. The estimate for the proportion of the husks is to be made on the results of actual experiments by the officers, or samples taken by them for the purpose.

Sir George Turner:

– That would not include the parchment.

Mr HARPER:

– Yes; there are two kinds of husks. The coffee berry is like a cherry, and that is why it is called “ cherry.” There is an outer skin which contains two berries, which are encased in the silver skin. The one is the cherry, and the other is the parchment, but both are husks or refuse, which are equally valueless. They have to be removed before the article becomes the coffee of commerce. If duty is charged on the husks, then it will be levied on something which is not coffee. If the Minister refers to page 401 of the Imperial

Tariff, 1902, he will see that paragraph 475 states -

Coffee imported in the husk may be delivered from the warehouse for the purpose of having the husk removed, upon bond being entered into, in the penalty of double the duty payable on the goods, for the return of the coffee to the warehouse after the operation has been completed.

That is when it is done out of bond. Security is given that the coffee will be returned in due course. The paragraph continues -

Prior to the removal of the goods such samples are to be taken as may enable the officers in the warehouse to estimate the proportion of husks, and on the return of the goods duty is to be paid on any loss in excess of such proportion.

That fairly lays down the practice in Great Britain, and the honorable member for Herberthas been misled if he has been told that the coffee is sent in the form referred to by him in order to prevent it from becoming wormy. I understand that most of the coffee goes from the Islands to Sydney, and it will be seen at once that, if the husk is taken off at the Islands, the coffee comes in at 3d. per lb. Therefore it is evidently a mistake to charge anything on the husks, which are not coffee in any shape or form.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I hope that the Minister will agreeto the suggestion made by the honorable member for North Sydney. Most of the coffee grown in the Islands is imported into New South Wales ; very little comes into Victoria. In this State they have always paid the duty on coffee itself, and not on coffee in the husks. If the coffee had been brought into Victoria in the same condition as that in which it is introduced in New South Wales, I am sure that those concerned in the industry would have broughtthe matter under the notice of the Government.

Mr Thomson:

– They are charged here only on the coffee.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That is so. In no case has the duty been levied in the way now adopted by the Commonwealth Government.

Mr EWING:
Richmond

– I desire to ascertain what it costs to clean a pound of coffee. We are told that the Island coffee is imported into New South Wales in cherries. It is not sold in that form, and I wish to ascertain what it costs to place it in the condition in which it is retailed.

Mr Thomson:

– About £1 or £2 per ton.

Mr. HARPER (Mernda). - I wish to call the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the fact that the words “ kiln dried “ which appear in this item should be transferred from the third to the second line, so that it would read -

Coffee and chicory, viz. : - Raw and kiln dried, per lb., 3d.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Such an alteration cannot be made without a further reference to the committee.

Mr HARPER:

– A complaint has been made to me from another State that ordinary raw coffee is being stopped, on the ground that the importer must prove that it has- not been “ kiln dried.” I think that the origin of what I conceive to be a mistake in the item is that the Government, in drawing up the Tariff, have had.recourse to the Imperial Customs Tariff, and have adopted the term “kiln dried” which is used there without regard to the fact that in the Imperial Tariff coffee is treated separately from chicory. They have lumped the two together, with the result that a duty of 5d. per lb. is being charged on ordinary raw coffee, on the ground that it is “kiln dried.” The intention of the committee was that the duty on ordinary raw coffee should be 3d. per lb., and I. consider that when we are reviewing the coffee duty, I am within my rights in calling attention to what I conceive- to bea mistake in the item.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:
Tasmania

– I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will accede to the request made by the honorable member for North Sydney. At the present time a duty of 3d. per lb. is being collected, not only on coffee, but on the absolutely useless husks. I have a sample cherry here which contains no coffee. The whole cherry would be an absolute waste, and yet it would be liable to duty. We do not wish to obtain revenue unfairly by collecting it on coffee husks, under the plea that we are collecting it on coffee. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Mernda should be adopted.

Sir George Turner:

– Coffee is not “ kiln dried ; “ that term applies to chicory.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Some honorable members whose duty it is to be astonished say that it is an extraordinary thing that the same rate should be charged for coffee taken out of the shell as for coffee that remains in the parchment, or in the cherry, as it is called. The sample which was produced just now was cherry coffee, but surely it might be referred to as coffee 1 Do honorable members think that an allowance is claimed or allowed in respect of the shells or husks of almonds and nuts of various descriptions ? Nothing of the sort. Are almonds almonds 1 Is an orange an orange ? Would honorable members claim that an. allowance should be made in respect of the skin if oranges were subject to a duty 1

Mr Brown:

– But what have the Government done in the case of rice ?

Mr KINGSTON:

-We have made an express provision.

Mr Brown:

– Then why not do the same in this case 1

Mr KINGSTON:

– I am speaking of the form in which the Tariff has been passed so far. The practice as regards almonds and nuts is to charge by weight. No difference is made between the bulled- and the- unhulled It is not as if we had not adopted the same principle- in the case of coffee. What we say to the importers is - “ Bring your coffee unhulled if you like. We are not making an exception to your detriment, if you choose to bring it in in that shape.” It may not be in accord with our .’policy generally as regards the encouragement of industry, but I desire a clear appreciation of, the position on both sides. The Government are prepared to give effect to the evident wish of the- committee. Coffee-making is a. considerable Australian industry. It is an industry in which Queensland is very greatly interested:

Mr Harper:

– - And which has- a protection of 3d. per lb.

Mr KINGSTON:

– The people of Queensland do not consider that a very considerable protection. At this time it is not necessary to reopen a settled question. We have our doubts whether the duty is sufficient. And we doubt whether it should be relaxed in favour of those whose industry we have not endeavoured specially to encourage during this session on account of the nature of the competition to which it subjects our white workers. But under Jill the circumstances I am willing to give an assurance to the honorable member for North Sydney, that we shall prepare a regulation which will have, the effect of enabling coffee to be dealt with in the parchment or cherry under Customs super vision. I think it must be done in bond, and duty paid on the net result. As regards the question of “ kiln dried,” I understood the Chairman to say he was not prepared to allow that question to be dealt with, but I am obliged to the honorable member for Mernda for his remarks on the subject. It is evident that the words “ kiln dried “ are intended to apply more particularly to chicory. And we shall do what we can to give an intelligent construction to them.

Mr. HARPER (Mernda). - I did not understand the Chairman to rule as now suggested. The term “ kiln-dried “ distinctly affects coffee, and it ought to be made clear. . I do not wish to strike it out. We. could transpose the words.

Sir George Turner:

– That line is not recommitted. It is only “ coffee raw “ which is recommitted.

Mr HARPER:

– On the Minister’s assurance, I shall leave the matter alone.

Mr. BAMFORD (Herbert). - I have been informed by Mr. Newport, coffee expert to the Queensland Government, that coffee is kiln dried, and that the most inferior kind imported is that which is kiln dried. That information was given to me by Mr. Newport in the precincts of this chamber. I should like the Minister to give particular attention to the matter before being influenced by the arguments of the honorable member for Mernda.

Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I object to what I must describe if it really represents the feeling of Queensland as the insatiable greed of that State. I do not believe it does, because I do not think for a moment that Queensland is a greedy State. Here is an honorable member who has a protection of 3d. per lb. - 50 per cent. - urging the Ministry to secure some better results by round-about methods of administration. Surely it is a round-about method to apply the words “ kiln dried” to coffee. Coffee is not kiln dried - except in some case where the sun may not be sufficiently strong and artificial heat may be applied simply for drying it to the ordinary condition at which it is dutiable at 3d. per lb., and is called raw coffee. I am very glad that the Minister is going to make the regulation he has promised. He said that it was giving an assistance to that black labour which we did not desire to encourage. It is doing nothing of the sort, because the cleaned coffee grown by black labor in Java and other places is allowed to come in at a duty of 3d. per lb.

Mr Kingston:

– The South Sea coffee comes in under the same condition.

Mr THOMSON:

– It does not when the Minister tries to charge duty on the husks.

He states that the Government should not be asked to make an exception, but this system has been carried on for years, and should not be departed from unless good reason can be shown. No good reason has yet been shown for this departure. The Minister pleaded that Queensland might need more than the protection she will get. That State cannot get one penny more protection if husks are charged duty. She gets a protection on the raw coffee, and if this coffee in the husk is shut out, it does not prohibit competition with Central American and Javan coffee, which pays duty on the clean weight. I do not think it should have been necessary to bring this matter before the committee. The Minister could have done what is necessary by administration. I was requested to bring it before the committee, because he would not administer the law as he now agrees to do.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– As one who does not believe in discouraging the use of temperance drinks, I think that a duty of 3d. per lb. on coffee is extremely high. Considering that tea is placed on the free list, we ought to lower the rate of duty on coffee. I should like to move that the duty be lowered, but as the whole item is not recommitted I can do no more than record my protest.

Item agreed to.

Mr R EDWARDS:
OXLEY, QUEENSLAND · PROT; FT from 1913; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910

– I move-

That the following new item be inserted : -

  1. “Fish, fresh, viz., oysters, on and after 3rd April, 1902, per cwt. 2s.”

This will restore the item practically in its original form. When it first came under the notice of the committee the honorable member for Wentworth raised some slight objection to a duty upon oysters, and the Prime Minister who happened to be in a particularly generous frame of mind withdrew the proposal, which was dropped without further discussion. For some years past oyster beds have been cultivated in Queensland, and considerable expense has been incurred in carrying on the industry. This has been essential to the maintenance of an abundant supply of oysters, because the natural beds are being rapidly depleted. The report of the inspector of fisheries in Queensland to the 30th June, 1901, shows that during the twelve months then ending the exports of oysters from Queensland amounted to 11,747 bags valued at £15,288. This quantity represents about four-fifths of the total output of that State. The revenue received by the department for the same period amounted to £5,703. It follows, therefore, that 7s. 7d. was paid to the Fisheries department upon each bag of oysters. The New Zealand Government does not tax the oystermen in that colony, beyond charging them a small working licence of 2s. 6d. per man, whereas in Queensland £5 per annum is charged upon every bank; £1 or more for each boat, and 10s. for each man’s working licence. Therefore, New Zealand oysters can be placed upon our markets more cheaply than can those locally grown. Our oystermen are, I think, entitled to moderate protection, and I hope that the committee will accede to the prayer of the large number of petitions which have been presented to this House from the oyster cultivators of Queensland.

Mr FISHER:
Wide Bay

– I think this duty would have remained on the Tariff but for an accident which occurred during one of our all-night sittings. The duty will not injure any interest or individual, but on the other hand will assist an important industry in Queensland. I trust that the committee will agree to the proposal, and thus do justice to a large number of persons in Queensland who minister to the needs of the people of all the States.

Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I am surprised that any honorable member should ask for this duty. The only oysters imported into the Commonwealth come from New Zealand, and it seems absurd to put this matter forward as one of national importance. It is reducing our legislative proceedings to a farce. Practically no revenue is expected from this duty. Moreover I do not think that any private member should be permitted to make a proposal for the imposition of a duty. I know that a ruling contrary to that view has been given, but honorable members should not take advantage of it because it is opposed to the practice of the House of Commons, and will certainly not be indorsed when outstanding orders are finally adopted.I hope the proposal will not be seriously entertained.

Mr. WINTER COOKE (Wannon).Here is an item which, before the Tariff was introduced, was free all over Australia, except in Western Australia. Now, because the States are united, we are asked to protect the great State of Queensland, not from the cheap labour of other countries, but from people who live under like conditions to ourselves. Surely there is no need for Victoria and New South Wales to protect themselves from oysters! Victoria before federation was not afraid of oysters, but apparently federated Australia is supposed to be afraid of the little oysters that are sent over by our fellow countrymen in New Zealand! The amendment ought to be rejected on the voices.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - I had hoped that Ministers would defend a position which is uncomfortable for them in this instance. I should have thought that they would not submit to an alteration in their own proposals.

Mr Mauger:

– They proposed this duty originally.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– But they abandoned it without any pressure from any quarter. The appeal of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat ought to settle the question. We are asked for the first time in any State except Western Australia to impose a tax upon an article which enters very little into competition with anything produced in the Commonwealth, and to which no one can take any exception. It is absolutely unreasonable and unfair that the Government, because one of their supporters has suggested this duty, should, at the eleventh hour, go back upon themselves, and calmly submit to this alteration.

Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).This matter was discussed on a previous occasion when the Prime Minister agreed to to abandon the proposed duty. It was then pointed out by the honorable member for Wentworth that the total amount of duty which the Government expected to receive from oysters was about £270, and that previously there had been no duty in Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. The Government are playing fast and loose with the committee. We desire to facilitate the despatch of business, but that object will not be attained if the Government, at the instance of one of their supporters, seek to impose a tax upon an article which the Prime Minister had previously agreed should be free of duty.

Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). The honorable member for Macquarie has referred to the fact that in several States in the past there was no duty on oysters. There was no need for a duty in Queensland, because she is well supplied with oysters, as also is New South Wales. But one of the first principles of federation was that there should he Inter-State free-trade with protection against the world. Tens of thousands of people voted for federation on that account. New Zealand is not part of Australia. Only the other day a gentleman who is a native of New South Wales told me that there are thousands of acres of oyster beds in that State which only require a little cultivation to enable them to feed the whole Commonwealth, with oysters. I find that oysters are now four times the price that they were some years ago, and that monopolies have entered into the trade because of the absence of facilities for the encouragement of oyster culture. The protection asked for is not for Queensland alone. On the broad principle of enabling oyster culture to be encouraged and to be successful in all parts of our coast we should have a moderate duty. The oyster has been such a trivial article in the eyes of State Treasurers that they have never thought of a duty upon it, but so many duties have been knocked off in the Commonwealth that we have to be careful. If it is necessary to impose a tax upon New Zealand timber, we should also tax New Zealand oysters. In that country they have a better climate for oyster production. The New Zealand oyster is larger than the Australian, but not more wholesome. It is a very coarse article of diet. The Prime Minister agreed to strike oysters off the Tariff without consulting other honorable members or the Minister in charge, and it was understood that the question would be revived at a later stage. I am sorry that it should be discussed at all. I do not think it is worth discussing. The proposition should commend itself to every honorable member, and I trust it will be agreed to by a good majority.

Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I wonder that honorable members opposite do not claim that a duty on oysters is important for the sake of encouraging the manufacture of wire netting because wire netting if of sufficiently small mesh would keep off the fish that prey upon the oysters’ spawn ! It is ludicrous that we should be asked to retrace our steps on a matter of this sort. If Ministers intend to conduct the business in this fashion, I may as well inform them that I am going to remain here for the rest of the year.

I am inclined to think that the Opposition have been too peaceful altogether. When I look back upon our lost opportunities, I realize that it is simply and solely because we had not wearied out the Government supporters that they are behaving as they are now doing. When we were discussing coffee berries we learned from the honorable member for Mernda that the duty was levied on the berry with the skin on, and he pointed out ‘how absurd it was to do that, because people do not consume the skins. But we are now asked to levy a duty of 2s. per cwt. on oysters in the shell. I do not know precisely what is the weight of the oyster apart from the shell. Probably there would be about 10 lbs. of oysters to every 100 lbs. of shell. The tax on the oysters, apart from the shells, would be something like 20s. on every cwt. of oysters eaten. Do the Government intend to allow a drawback on the shells 1 Probably if honorable members opposite advertised the fact that there is to be a duty of 2s. per cwt. on oysters, the New Zealand oysters will learn to grow with less shell ; though from the oyster’s point of view they should grow more shell, so as to have a better chance of not being exported and devoured. I have no doubt that at Stewart Island, whence the bulk of the oysters come, the decision of the Federal Parliament will be largely advertised, and that we shall have an oyster parliament passing a vote of thanks to this Chamber. The local oysters would of course view the matter differently, and point out how the duty will increase their chance of dying. I cannot but be surprised at the action of two or three representatives of Queensland in this matter. Sometimes honorable members think it proper to represent the views of their constituencies without pledging themselves to those views ; but if they do so, they should not call on honorable members on this side of the House to vote with them. There must have been a solemn Cabinet meeting since the item was struck out at the instance of the Prime Minister himself some months ago, and I should very much like to know the name of the wise Minister who suggested that this item should be reinstated with a view of preventing the eating of New Zealand oysters. Consider, too, what earnest debates must have taken place in order to overrule the original decision of the Prime Minister. How did the Cabinet divide? The poem of “The

Walrus and the Carpenter” must be entirely unknown to them. Such a proposal turns our proceedings into a farce, and one would have thought, even from the point of view of the Government, that the item would have been laughed out of the Chamber, seeing that it is proposed to impose only1d. per lb. on tinned fish, while about 2s. per lb. is imposed upon the raw material. For the sake of revenue to the amount of about £270 extra Customs officials will have to be engaged. I am sorry that honorable members who previously agreed to strike out this item should now, for party purposes, support the present proposal.

Question - That the following new item be inserted : - -“Fish, fresh, viz., oysters, per cwt., 2s.” - put.

The committee divided -

Ayes … … … 25

Noes … … 24

Majority … … 1

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

Item 20. - Fruits and vegetables….. Bananas, per cental, is. on and after 28th November, 1901.”

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:
Tasmania

– I suppose it will be admitted that the trade of the islands of the Pacific is of some considerable importance to the Commonwealth of Australia. Those of us who look forward to the time when these islands will be part of the territory of the Commonwealth and under Australian control and domination, will certainly do all they can in the interim stage to protect that trade and reserve it for Australia. We have this evening done one thing in favour of the trade with the islands ; we have drawn the proper distinction between raw coffee unhusked and cleaned, and coffee in the husk. There are two other articles of commerce between the islands and Australia which are of very considerable importance. One of these is maize and the other is bananas. In proposing, on behalf of thehonorable member for Wentworth, that bananas shall be free, my only desire is that trade shall be encouraged in that way, not upon any new lines, but upon lines which prevail already in one of the most protectionist colonies in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand. Bananas have hitherto been free in New Zealand, as well as in New Caledonia, and inasmuch as, apart from the desirability of encouraging trade between the Common wealth and these islands, it is well that bananas should be largely introduced amongst our people as a wholesome article of food, I hope the committee will see fit to place them on the free list. I move -

That the words “and on and after 3rd April, 1902, free,” be added.

Mr KIRWAN:
Kalgoorlie

– I should like to have some statement from the Government setting forth their reasons for insisting upon this duty.

Sir George Turner:

– We fought it out in committee, and decided after three or four divisions that the duty should be1s. per cental.

Mr KIRWAN:

– I think there are very good reasons why the committee should reconsider this duty. In addition to the fact that bananas are a food of the people, the question is one that affects the relationship of theCommonwealth to the islands of the Pacific. There are two aspects,as we know, from which we can regard that matter. It is very important that we should stimulate and encourage trade between the Commonwealth and the islands, of which at present the French are very desirous of obtaining possession. In addition to that, there is the proposal which has emanated from New Zealand for a federation which would include Fiji and various other islands in the southern Pacific. I sincerely trust that the committee will not regard this question from the free-trade versus protectionist aspect alone, but will consider the interests of the Commonwealth generally, and see that it is desirable to encourage the trade and the friendly relationship which should exist between the Commonwealth and these islands of the Pacific.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– I think it is useless to re-discuss matters that we have already debated very fully. There was a long and acrimonious debate on this item. If I recollect rightly, I offered to reduce the duty from 2s. to ls. per cental in order to settle the matter. That offer was not accepted, and we went to a division on an amendment by the honorable member for Wentworth that bananas should be free. The whole question of the island trade was then discussed, but the committee negatived that proposal by 23 votes to 14. That was a fairly substantial majority, having regard to divisions on some other items which have been passed, and for that reason I propose simply to take the vote of the committee without occupying any time in discussing this ‘matter. There are other parts of the Commonwealth which must be considered, although I think that the question >n of encouraging trade with the islands will have to be dealt with generally when we come to take their colonization into consideration. It may be proposed that the Commonwealth shall take over the islands, or assume some protection over them, and we could then settle terms under which we would deal fairly with them and with the Commonwealth as a whole. Meantime, I think that the duty imposed on bananas is a very legitimate one.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
Robertson

– The statement made by the Treasurer is unsatisfactory. The original proposal of the Government was that a duty of 2s. per cental should be imposed on bananas. It was pointed out at the time that such a duty would injure the trade between Sydney and the islands, and it has been found by those who have large dealings in bananas that the present duty of ls. per cental has brought about that result. Trade with the islands has been injured very considerably in consequence of there being no back freight to Australia for vessels trading to the islands. The result of ‘the duty has been a loss of trade, not only in bananas, but in other produce. The trade has been diverted chiefly to New Caledonia and New Zealand, while so far as some of the islands are concerned, their trade will go to Honolulu and find an outlet thence in the direction of San Francisco. This duty is felt more by the merchants of Sydney than it is by those of Melbourne.. When we. find representatives of “Victoria urging the claims of this State-from time to time, I think it is rather ungracious for the Government to insist on this duty, with its consequent loss of trade to Sydney merchants. The item was discussed when there was not a full committee and in the absence of people from New South Wales, who had been waiting for days for the purpose of laying information before the committee so that the matter might be fairly and properly dealt with. I hope that the Government will not insist upon the duty.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– This matter is far more serious than the Government appear to consider. While on the one hand the Cabinet are expressing their desire to attract the islands to the Commonwealth* they are on the other hand doing everything to alienate the islands from it. The encouragement of trade with these islands - and especially when they can do so without injury to the Commonwealth - is an important part of the Government policy. What is the position t Under the Victorian State Tariff there was no duty on bananas, and the whole of the trade of this State in that article was done with Queensland. That condition of affairs would continue without any duty. The reason is obvious. The island steamers can bring bananas to Sydney without transhipment, but that process would be necessary if they desired to send them on to another State ; whilst steamers from Queensland can bring bananas from that State direct. The absence of the necessity for transhipment is a great advantage. In New South Wales before the imposition of the Federal Tariff half of the trade in bananas was done with Queensland, while the other half went to the islands of the Pacific. The object of this duty is to secure the whole of the trade to Queensland. When that is accomplished the back freight of the island steamers, in the shape of the carriage of bananas to New South Wales, which constitutes a very large item in their earnings, is destroyed. These steamers are experiencing the greatest difficulty in competing with foreign vessels in the island trade. They cannot compete in the trade itself without a loss. I ani not speaking without authority on this subject, because I “had a great deal to do with the matter as a director of the Australian New Hebrides Company while it existed. That company endeavoured to compete with the French companies. In the first instance, it received a mail subsidy of £1,200 a year from New South Wales, and £1,200 - which was reduced subsequently to £800 - a year from Victoria. All credit to Victoria for giving that subsidy when she was not so directly interested in the matter as was New South Wales. It was given in order to maintain communication between Australia and the islands, for it was felt that those islands would be lost to us unless that communication was retained. When the Government remove the natural freight back from the islands, they at once tend to destroy the natural stream of trade. Surely, when Queensland gets half the New South Wales trade, and all the Victorian trade, it is not worth while to impose the duty. The very effect which was anticipated is occurring. *

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– The Government have deplored any discussion on the recommitted items. In dealing with the Tariff we discussed many items, and if the same course is to be pursued as was pursued a few moments ago, it will become necessary to rediscuss them. We have no desire to unnecessarily discuss any items, but we are in this position, that if we allow a silent vote to be taken, the Government will muster all their forces and’ try to undo that which was deliberately done with the concurrence of the Prime Minister. With the view of settling the question, as we thought for all time to come, the Government deliberately agreed to the proposal made by the honorable member for Wentworth .to admit oysters duty free, but they have gone back on that agreement. I wish to prevent the possibility of anything of that kind occurring again. It is only with a view to facilitate the transaction of business that I utter this note of warning. If we are treated in a similar way in regard to other items, I fear it will be some time before the consideration of the Tariff is completed.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– There is one argument in support of a duty on bananas which has not been advanced by the other side. In order to carry out the idea in its entirety we ought to allow the raw material to come in duty free. By that means a large employment might be given to children in skinning bananas, and we should have it put forth that under the benign regis of protection a new industry had sprung up. I throw out the suggestion for what it is worth. I feel quite sure that honorable members on the other side, after their brilliant remarks in favour of taxing oysters, will readily consent to allow the raw banana to come in free so that it may be peeled here. There is an argument which should appeal to honorable members on this side, and to sensible men, no matter where they are. When the duty was last considered it was pointed out that the effect” of imposing a duty would be to lessen a trade which was being carried on at a considerable disadvantage. I refer to the trade of New South Wales with the islands. Sufficient time has elapsed since the introduction of the Tariff to show that that will actually happen. That fact should weigh with the committee. I remember a speech in which the honorable and learned member for Corio pointed out that Australia ought to take possession of all these islands, lt is perfectly clear that if we do take possession of them the trade of the islands will be carried on with Australia. It has been shown that, slight as this duty is, it does affect to a certain extent the island trade which is already on the balance. It is not argued that any man in Queensland or elsewhere derives any considerable benefit from the imposition of the duty. I did not anticipate that it would endanger the trade with the islands, but I am assured by commercial men and others who deal with the islands that it is diminishing the trade, and may help to do away with the line of communication which the individual States did so much to build up. Under these circumstances I trust that the committee will accept the amendment.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - In my former speech I suggested, but only very delicately, what strikes me as being the position to which we should give our thoughts. In the islands of the

Pacific we have a great rival who is by statesmanlike legislation proceeding in a direction which will secure the trade of the islands. In New Zealand bananas are duty free, and here the Government are trying to drive away that particular part of the trade by imposing a duty. I hope that honorable members will take the view which should be taken by statesmen, that they will look ahead and recognise that it should be the aim of the Australian Parliament to secure the great command of the islands of the Pacific.

Question - That the words “and on and after 3rd April, 1902, free,” be added - put. The committee divided -

Ayes … … … 22

Noes … … … 26

Majority … … 4

Question so resolved in the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:
Tasmania

– I move -

That the words “ on and after 3rd April. 1902, per cental 6d.” be added.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I am afraid I cannot accept that amendment, because the instruction to the committee is to deal with the proposal -

That bananas be exempted from duty. and that question has now been disposed of.

Mr Watson:

– I submit that when once an item is recommitted, it is permissible for us to proceed to any extent we may think fit in regard to the matter dealt with; otherwise there would be no possibility of departing from the wording of the original proposition. The proposals now before us are not necessarily in their original form, and they cannot all be regarded as explicit instructions to the committee. Take, for instance, the proposal “ That the duty on cigars be reviewed.” That cannot be regarded as an instruction to the committee ; it is simply intended to convey that the item shall be reconsidered.

Sir George Turner:

– As the items were brought forward by honorable members, I took a note of what they desired. In this case, the honorable member for Wentworth wished that bananas should be exempted from duty. Where there was any doubt as to what was desired, I put the proposal in the wider form, “That the duty be reviewed.”

Mr Watson:

– In connexion with the duty on wines, we varied the proposal of the right honorable gentleman at his own suggestion.

Sir George Turner:

– It would be quite competent for us to vary a proposal as in the case referred to by the honorable member. If the Chairman can see his way to allow the amendment of the honorable member for Tasmania, I shall be very glad, as I desire that the committee shall have every opportunity to express its opinion.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– As the proposal that bananas should be exempt from duty has been rejected, I hold that it is perfectly competent for any honorable member to move that the duty be reduced to any amount below1s.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I am bound to rule in accordance with the instruction given to the committee. If the instruction had been “that the duty on bananas be reviewed,” it would have been perfectly competent for the honorable member to propose any amendment of the original duty; but now that the committee has given its decision upon the definite proposal submitted to it, I am bound to rule that the matter cannot be further discussed.

Mr Watson:

– I should like to know if the Chairman has received official copies of the motions as actually carried in the House. My own recollection is that no such wording as that now appearing in the printed list before us was adopted in the House, and if anything has been interpolated since, a wrong course has been followed. It will have the effect of tying the hands of the committee behind its back and preventing us from arriving at a compromise when that would be the best way out of a difficulty. In the present case it does not make much difference perhaps, but very much may depend upon our liberty of action in respect of other proposals.

Mr Mahon:

– I rise to a point of order. The Chairman has given his ruling on the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Tasmania, and I wish to know what question is now before the committee. The honorable member for Bland is speaking apparently for the purpose of disputing the Chairman’s ruling, and if that is his object he ought to submit the matter in a proper form.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I did not understand the honorable member for Bland to be speaking with a view to dissent from my ruling, but I gathered that he was asking whether I had received any official document showing the exact wording of the motions submitted to the House, and of the instructions to the committee. I am bound to accept as official the list of which copies have been handed to honorable members. This was submitted to Mr. Speaker, and as he is reponsible for it, I assume that he is perfectly satisfied that it has been brought before the committee in the form in which he received it from the Treasurer.

Mr McDonald:

– There is one notice on this list standing in my name for which I am not responsible. I made a suggestion to the Treasurer, it is true.

Sir George Turner:

– Yes, and I told the honorable member that. I would not move in the matter, and that the proposal would- have to stand in the honorable member’s name if it were placed on the list.

Mr McDonald:

– I am prepared to accept the position.

Mr Mahon:

– If this irregular discussion is to be permitted, I wish to know why certain amendments of which I had given notice do not appear on the list now before us. The Government did not give notice of what they intended to do with regard to the recommittals, and I was not present on the last sitting day. My absence on that occasion, however, afforded no reason for omitting my proposals from the list. I desired to propose the reduction of the duty on gas engines to 10 per cent., and the reduction of the duty on gas and water pipes.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I must ask the honorable member to make his observations in the House. Perhaps I have permitted this discussion to go too far. As a matter of courtesy I allowed the honorable member for Bland to ask for certain information.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– And the Chairman has refused the same opportunity to others.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I have done nothing of the kind, and I must ask honorable members to assist the Chair.

Mr Mahon:

– I have always shown my willingness to support the Chair,, but if the right honorable member for Tasmania and the honorable member for Bland are to be allowed to indulge in an irregular discussion, I claim the same light. I should like to have an explanation as to why the amendments of which I gave notice do not appear on the list now before us.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I am sure the honorable member for Coolgardie will see that neither myself nor the committee are responsible, but that the matter must be dealt with in the House. The honorable member for Bland asked whether the motion submitted by the honorable member for Tasmania was in the form in which it was received by the House. Now the honorable member is asking why one of the other items was not put upon the paper. I am not in a position to give him that information.

Mr Watson:

– I formally move- -

That the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from, in order to draw attention to a fact in connexion with the Votes and Proceedings of the House. They disclose to the committee mo such set of resolutions or items as are included on the notice -paper with which honorable members have been supplied.

The Votes and Proceedings of the House, it seems to me, constitute the only authority that the committee can look to as to any instruction given by the House in reference to business to come before the committee. The Votes and Proceedings are our only journal. Hansard contains no reference to the specific items. The Hansard report does not pretend to cover the question of resolutions of a forma] character, or anything of that kind, but to give a report of the proceedings so far as debate is concerned. But the Votes and Proceedings of last Wednesday, the 26th of March, contain the following as item 6 -

Ways and Means. - The House, according to order, resolved itself into Committee of Ways and Means.

Then it goes on to state what occurred prior to the proposal to recommit, and says -

Sir George Turner moved that the resolutions be now recommitted to the Committee of Ways and Means for the reconsideration of certain specified items.

There is no record even of the items that were to be recommitted. That in itself is a serious omission, as it seems to me. But allow me to point out the significance of the phraseology used - “for the reconsideration of certain items.” “Certain items,” not the matter of some specific amendments, but the items of the Tariff themselves. That seems to me to point, so far as the records of the House go - and those are the only records to which I have access - to the conclusion that the items to be referred back tothe committee were referred in such a way that the committee were assumed to have a free hand to go to any extent it thought fit. Now, sir, to come to my own memory of what occurred, it was that the right honorable the Treasurer read over a number of items which it was desired to have the sense of the committee upon, those items having been suggested by himself and various private members ; and that the Speaker put the question in the form that certain items or lines of items he recommitted. I say that that information should appear upon the journals of the House. But there is no information to guide honorable members, and so far as the information that is contained in the journals goes, it is solely in the direction of a larger view than is being permitted to us to-night. I would also point out that it is admitted by our action a few hours ago that we have the right to amend a specific motion that is contained in the printed set of amendments for recommittal. We have already done that.

Sir George Turner:

– But we cannot make a new motion.

Mr Watson:

– I will point out what is the consequence of any such ruling. In the first place we could not move for a duty of 6d. on bananas until the committee had been tested with regard to making the item free of duty, for the reason that the committee would be stultifying themselves by voting for 6d. in the meantime. Therefore, we must first decide - as we have all through this Tariff discussion decided - whether we will have the extreme proposal before we can come to the more moderate one. That, I say, has been the position right through, and I do not see any escape from it on the present occasion. Now, sir, to come to the document upon which you yourself have relied. There is nothing in it to intimate that it is an official document emanatingfromthe hands of the Speaker. It is a document absolutely similar to papers that have been issued from time to time during the Tariff discussions, merely showing the amendments to which various honorable members desired to give publicity before moving them in the committee.

Sir George Turner:

– It contains the items they desire to recommit.

Mr Watson:

– That is, it is issued for the information of honorable members. But there is no signature attached to it.

Mr Higgins:

– It is not an official document.

Mr Watson:

– It is not an official document, but is merely issued for the convenience of honorable members. It is a document to give publicity to certain proposals which are coming forward. We have had such documents circulated ever since the introduction of the Tariff, and no one has contended that we were bound to the very wording of the amendments put before us upon these papers. In this instance, there is nothing to distinguish the document in’ question from the documents circulated earlier in the Tariff debate. There is no record whatever of the actual question put from the chair in regard to instructions to the committee ; and it does seem to me that where there is no such record, and no official document to guide us, our course should be to keep the proceedings of the committee reasonably free, so as to allow of a compromise, and of that full discussion that will probably - or should - result in the best results being obtained. While I do not like to move any motion dissenting from your ruling, I am afraid that in regard to the latter items the ruling may lead us into a peculiar position, from which perhaps it will not be possible for us to escape if we once allow the decision at present given to be acted upon.

Mr Higgins:

– Could we not have a division on this matter, and leave the general question to stand ?

Mr Watson:

– I am not personally concerned with regard to the question of bananas, because I know that the Government can win on the alternative proposition. Therefore I am not worried about that. But there are a number of items coming on which the ruling of the Chairman will affect, and that is not a good thing. I point out, to make the matter clear, that in the first place there is no record for the guidance of the committee upon our Votes and Proceedings, nor is there any such record in Ilansard, so far as I have been able to -find out, and that the document which the Chairman relies upon - no doubt with a full desire to do the right thing - is not an official document, and bears no signature of any responsible authority, but is merely a circular to give publicity to the intentions of certain honorable members. I therefore reluctantly move -

That the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from.

Mr Barton:

– The honorable member for Bland having moved that the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from, I beg leave to make a few remarks on the subject. It is urged that the document which is before the- committee is not an official document. If it is not an official document there is no official document. If there is no official document, then the conclusion must be that the whole Tariff has been recommitted for discussion. The debate cannot be limited except at the instance of a ruling which says that the desire of the House was that the items to be reconsidered were such as are shown by the document upon the table. If it were not done in that way there is no document which shows what the desire of the House was. Therefore the contention of the honorable member cannot be good unless he contends that every item of the Tariff was recommitted. To show how baseless that contention is - if I may say so in all courtesy - the record says that the motion passed was -

That the resolutions be now recommitted to the Committee qf Ways and Means for the reconsideration of certain specified items.

That destroys the contention that the whole Tariff was recommitted.

Mr Watson:

– I never said it was.

Mr Barton:

– Very well ; if the whole Tariff was not recommitted, then it is true that “ certain specified items “ were recommitted ; and it is only a question of evidence what those items were. The only evidence is a document which has passed under the revision of Mr. Speaker, ‘ and which is upon the table. That document has been laid upon the tal .le. The committee declares itself to be a perfectly rudderless ship, and to have no guidance whatever, unless it accepts this document. I have in my hand the’ Treasurer’s notes which he took down at the time, and which include the item in question. His note is not in exactly the same words, but it contains the information that the proposal carried was for the recommittal of the matter in order to declare bananas to be free of duty. The Treasurer’s note says “ bananas to be free.” The document upon the table only puts that proposal in more formal words : “ That bananas be exempted from duty.” What is the difference between those two ‘ things? What is the difference between making bananas “ free “ and making them ‘ exempt from duty 1

Sir Edward Braddon:

– How is the honorable member for Wentworth responsible for that 1

Mr Barton:

– The Treasurer took a note of what the honorable member for Wentworth said. I do not say that the honorable member for Wentworth is responsible for what my right honorable friend took as a note ; but if the Treasurer took a note on which official action has been taken, and if the document in question is objected to because it is not been signed by Mr. Speaker, we are driven to one of two conclusions - r either that the whole Tariff was recommitted, which we know is not the fact ; or that certain specified items were recommitted. If we do not come to the latter conclusion, there is nothing to guide us. If the Chairman’s decision were to be dissented from, it would mean that it would open up the whole discussion that has been going on for the last six months ; because, once we admit that consideration is not limited to the items upon the paper, we admit the whole question. As to the point of the honorable member for Bland, that there is no official guide to the committee, my answer is that if this paper is not an official guide, certainly there is no official guide ; and if that is right, there being no official guide, the whole Tariff will be open to revision, whereas the resolution of the House itself says that the Tariff was recommitted “ for the reconsideration of certain specified items.” To hold that the whole Tariff is open to reconsideration would be a reversal of the resolution of the House itself as contained in the Votes and Proceedings. That seems to me, fairly speaking, to dispose of that point. The remaining point is as to whether the Chairman was right in deciding as he did that, the motion “ that bananas be exempted from duty” being disposed of, the consideration of the question ended there and then. As to that I will admit this : That if you, sir, could have decided that the whole item was open so that the committee, at this stage, could take any action it chose in any direction I should have been much the better pleased. But J. have got to take things as I find them. It is our duty to take things just as we find them. The motion was that the Tariff be recommitted for a certain purpose. We have to read into that motion a recommittal with regard to the things mentioned in this paper. The Tariff was recommitted for the purpose of moving, amongst other things, “that bananas be exempted from duty.” How can it be contended after the decision on that amendment that another proposal can be made ? I would even go so far as to say this : That if upon the motion that bananas be exempt from duty some honorable member had moved a relevant amendment, the Chairman would have been bound to rule against that amendment. If, instead of saying “exempted from duty,” the motion had been that the duty be so and so, it would have been open for the committee to consider such an amendment. But the opportunity for that has gone by. The whole motion for the recommittal in this respect was that bananas be free of duty, and once that was decided the matter was over. I am not now speaking from a Government point of view. I am speaking from a considerable experience in parliamentary affairs, more especially from the experience gained during my occupancy of the chair in another State. I am bound to say, although I would rather it were the other way, that I cannot see how we can question your ruling, that there can be no further motion on the matter. On the question as to what was recommitted, we cannot have any other guide than the printed document we see before you.

Mr Glynn:

– I shall have to refer to one or two of the standing orders in support of what I take to be the practice in connexion with recommittals. I think the true practice in respect to resolutions is that we can, as with a Bill, recommit the whole of a particular resolution arrived at by the committee. When a Bill is being reported we can ask for a recommittal of the whole of the Bill or a particular clause, but not a portion of a clause. There is no necessity for prescribing by the motion that the clause shall be recommitted for the particular purpose which the honorable member may have in view. As a matter of fact we only mention the purpose in an endeavour to get the support of honorable members, or to disarm opposition - it is purely a matter of courtesy. The true position is that any honorable member can ask for the recommittal of a clause without stating a single reason, and the position of a resolution of a committee is exactly that of a clause of a Bill. Each particular item is like a clause, and we simply ask that it shall be recommitted, and after it gets back into the hands of the committee the members of the committee “can do as they please. As regards the question of instructions these only apply where a particular clause, had it been as it originally was before the committee, could not have dealt with it in a certain way. In the case of a Bill leave to recommit does not authorize an addition to a particular clause, and, therefore, we have to ask for the instructions of the House to do something which in an ordinary way we could not do in committee ; and it is the same way with resolutions. If we ask that instructions be given to the committee we simply ask for power to do something we could not have done when the resolution was first considered ; and that view is laid down clearly by May. An instruction can be given in relation to a resolution, not to enable the committee to do something which it could have done previously when the resolution was before the committee for the first time, but to enable it to do something further - to make a particular addition to the resolution, which addition in an ordinary way could not have been made. “When asking for a recommittal honorable members give information to enable the Government to decide whether they will support the motion or not, but the standing orders require no particulars. Standing Order 181 says -

On the motion for the adoption of the report the Bill may, on motion, be recommitted, either in whole or in part; in which case, if amendments are made and the Bill be reported, a subsequent day shall be fixed for taking the report into, consideration.

There is not a word there about stating reasons for asking for a recommital, or about instructions being given to the committee to do certain things. Standing Order 246 provides -

Resolutions of the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means reported to the House are read a first and second time, and agreed to ; or may be amended, postponed, recommitted, or disagreed to.

We are now dealing with Ways and Means, and there is not a word in that standing order setting forth that we must explain whya recommittal is asked for, or that we are to be pinned down by our expressions as to the object we have in. view. On the question of instructions, Standing Order 248 says -

An instruction empowers a committee to consider matters not otherwise referred to it.

That is the point.

Mr Barton:

– That does not empower the committee to consider matters not referred to it..

Mr Glynn:

– Though the matter may be put in an informal way - in a clumsy manner such as that adopted by some honorable members and especially by the Government - still, under the standing orders, the whole of the resolutions or one can be recommitted.

Mr McCay:

– Does the honorable and learned member say that the House cannot instruct the committee in regard to the resolutions so as to restrict the power of the committee?

Mr Glynn:

– It is not necessary for my purpose to say that, but I do not think the House can. I think the House cannot restrict the power of the committee over the resolutions submitted to it, but the House can increase that power by allowing an amendment which, under the standing orders, would not otherwise have been possible. Standing Order 249 provides -

No instruction can be given to a committee to do that which it is already empowered to do, or to deal with a question beyond the scope of a Bill as read the second time.

Such a power is not inherent in the committee; it is not given by the standing orders, or sanctioned by the practice of Parliament. When the question is first considered by the committee, and there is not power to do a particular thing, we may on the report ask that when the clauseor resolution is recommitted an instruction shall be given to amplify the power and to do something which there would otherwise not be power to do. If there is no necessity for instructions there is a bald recommittal, and on that recommittal the committee can do just as it pleases - that is within the power it had when the resolution was first considered. I feel, therefore, that if the question goes to a division. I shall be bound to disagree with your ruling.

Mr Higgins:

-From the discussion it appears that not only this item, but others that will follow, will be affected, along with the practice of the House in framing resolutions. So far as I have learnt of the practice of the House of Commons, it is a common thing to order the recommittal of a clause or item for a certain purpose, and then, of course, the debate in committee is limited to that purpose. But supposing that in a. resolution of the House for recommittalthere is no limitation, then the committee is at large. The formal resolution of the Treasurer was that the resolutions be now recommitted to the Committee of Ways and Means for the reconsideration of certain specified items. The only limitation, there is as to the items; there is an absolute power of reconsideration. Although I see, Mr. Chanter, that, as it appears to me, you have correctly interpreted what was the actual will of the Government and of the House when the recommittal was ordered, still I say that the form of ‘ the resolution, which is the only tiling that binds the committee, is in favour of the contention of the honorable member for Bland. The unfortunate thing is that in the haste of the House a resolution maybe drawn up in an unlimited form when it is meant to be limited . As a committee we do not know what has passed in the House. We only know that we are bound by the resolution that the resolutions be recommitted for the reconsideration of certain specified items. If there be any need to refer to the practice of the House of Commons, I should point to pages 4:68-9 of May, 10th edition, where are shown the different ways in which a Bill may be recommitted. A Bill may be recommitted without limitation, or it may be recommitted with regard to a particular clause or amendments, or it may be as to certain clauses or schedules. None of these things have been done here. We read -

A Bill may he recommitted and an instruction given to the committee that they have power to make some particular or additional provision.

In that case I say, with respect, that the resolution ought to have been to the effect that the resolutions be now recommitted to the Committee of Ways and Means for the reconsideration of certain specified items, and as to items for the purpose of exempting them from duty. Although I recognise that you, sir, have seen and expressed the wish of the House so far as I recollect it, and that the Government would not be very likely to consent to. a recommittal without limitation, the form of the resolution is binding on us, and unwillingly I have to say that I agree with, the honorable member for Bland.

Mr McCay:

– So far as he has gone I agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, but I see a further’ difficulty the committee have, to face in the fact that if we are to go solely by the resolution of the House as reported in the journals, we have absolutely no evidence before us to show which items of the Tariff haw been recommitted, and, consequently, we cannot consider anything.

Mr Barton:

– We must take the printed document or nothing.

Mr McCay:

– What evidence have we, for instance, that the item of bananas was recommitted The only available evidence in writing is the Treasurer’s note, on which the- printed document was founded. The honorable member for Wentworth is not here to verify or question the accuracy of the Treasurer’s note, but we all recollect that the Treasurer read these items out after he had taken them down, as they were suggested by honorable members. I do not recollect whether or not any corrections were made.

Mr Wilks:

– No one questions the accuracy of the note.

Mr McCay:

– Then, while agreeing absolutely with what the honorable ‘and learned member for Northern Melbourne has said, I wish to take the matter a step further, and point out, that unless we accept, this document, we have absolutely no evidence of what items have been recom- mitted

Mr Watson:

– Whose fault is that ?

Mr McCay:

– That is not ‘the question ; we are taking the facts as they are.

Mr Watson:

– If the honorable and learned member were told he had no title deeds to a piece of land would he accept that opinion ?

Mr Barton:

– AVe must take the best evidence procurable.

Mr McCay:

– That is so. AVe are on the horns of a dilemma. Either we have nothing to guide us beyond the individual memories of honorable members - which, with all respect, would not be satisfactory - or we have the printed, list. Earlier in the evening I drew attention to the same difficulty in connexion with another item ; but on that occasion the Chairman’s ruling, from which I entirely dissented, was given against the position I adopted. The position now is that if we do not take the list we have nothing to guide us, and we are not entitled to consider any item. We have no reasonably satisfactory evidence as to what items are to be reconsidered, unless progress is reported and the Speaker is asked, to name them. I am. certainly clear, as far as my memory goes, that the Treasurer took down exactly what the honorable member for Wentworth asked for, and that was that bananas should be free. As the honorable member for Northern Melbourne has read from May, a Bill can be recommitted to reconsider certain specified amendments. The analogous position in this- case would be a recommittal to consider a certain specified alteration of duty. If a. duty be recommitted for that purpose, the particular amendment proposed, p.r matters relevant to it, only can be considered. I do not think that an alteration in the rate of. duty is in any way relevant to the specific proposal that bananas should be free. I should be glad if we could have a definite ruling, and no doubt time would be saved if it were given in the widest possible way. The dilemma is that we have either, no evidence of the items to be reconsidered, or we must take the evidence of the list, which is a reproduction of that taken down by the Treasurer, and read out at the’ time so as to allow honorable members to make any correction that might be thought necessary. At first I thought your ruling was right, Mr. Chairman ; subsequently I thought it was wrong, but I have come to the conclusion, finally, although not without some hesitation, that it is right, solely oh the ground that unless we take this list we have no right to consider anything. If the list itself is not evidence, then the memories of honorable members cannot be evidence. The only possible alternative would be to ask Mr. Speaker to say, if he can, what the duties are that have been recommitted.

Mr Conroy:

– The only official information which the committee has is the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, which are signed by the Clerk. In those Votes and Proceedings it is stated that the motion was -

That the resolutions be now recommitted to the Committee of Ways and Means for the reconsideration of certain specified items.

When we come to look at the notice-paper we find under orders of the day -

  1. Ways and Means. - Further consideration in committee (The Tariff - Recommitted Items).

On the list furnished to us in every cast’, the Chairman would put down the items. I hold that the moment we are entitled to consider an item that moment we are entitled to go into it fully. The Treasurer so clearly foresaw this, that I think he asked something in the nature of a promise from honorable members that they would practically confine themselves to the particular part of the item which would be under discussion.

Sir George Turner:

– I requested them to limit their notices as much as possible.

Mr Conroy:

– I would draw the attention of the Treasurer to what happened in my own case. My direct motion was that item 57 be recommitted, although I indicated that I desired that it should be recommitted only in order that towels and linen handkerchiefs should be on the free list, and should rank at least with cotton piece goods.

Sir George Turner:

– The honorable and learned member did not expect me to agree to recommit the whole item 1

Mr Conroy:

– It was and is my intention, as far as possible, to confine my attention almost entirely to that, but I did not intend to restrict debate. I do not think the committee can be bound by anything which has been reprinted subsequently by order of the Treasurer. It may be unfortunate if we have to go into the whole of an item, but the moment it is recommitted we have to consider it as a whole.

Mr McCay:

– Does the honorable and learned member regard the printed list as being an indication 1

Mr Conroy:

– I do, in regard to the items.

Mr McCay:

– Then the honorable and learned member goes only half-way.

Mr Conroy:

– Tes. The honorable and learned member knows that if the latter part of a section in an Act were held to be ultra vires, the court would still act on the first part. If the latter part of the Treasurer’s statement had been merely a misprint, surely the committee would have said that he had power to alter it?

Sir George Turner:

– Will the honorable and learned member pardon me ? It appears to me that we are becoming involved in a discussion that is likely to occupy some considerable time. We are all agreed that we cannot afford to spend our time in this way if we can possibly meet the difficulty by adopting any other course. Personally, I feel that the Chairman could not have ruled in any other way than he has done on the wording as we have it here, if we are to have regard to this document.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Then all that we have done to-night is wrong ?

Sir George Turner:

– I do not think so. We are all anxious that these particular items should be discussed, and that every honorable member should have an opportunity of dealing fully with any matter which he desires to have reconsidered by tHe committee. I requested honorable members to give me the items which they desire to have recommitted, and I wrote down those items. Where I had any doubt on the matter, I asked honorable members what they proposed, and when I could not find any honorable member in order to ascertain exactly “what he proposed, I set it down in the widest possible way that the duty be reviewed. What I suggest is that instead of having a long discussion on this point of order, and a motion dissenting from the ruling of the Chairman, I should undertake to ask the House to recommit this, or any other item in regard to which a similar difficulty arises, for the reconsideration of the committee as soon as we have dealt with these particularamendments. Without giving rise to any question of dissenting from the Chairman’s ruling, honorable members would in that way have the fullest opportunity of dealing with any item. I understand that the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, desires to move that the duty on bananas be 6d. per cental, and if my suggestion is adopted I will take care that the item be recommitted. I will take the same course in regard to any other item in which a similar difficulty arises. That, I think, ought to satisfy the committee.

Mr Watson:

– I am agreeable that we should take the course suggested by the Treasurer. It is an exceedingly reasonable, not to say a generous, proposal, and, with the consent of the committee, I will withdraw my motion. My only desire in moving it was, that the committee should have an opportunityfor full discussion.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– I thank the Treasurer for the graceful way inwhich he has met this difficulty, and I welcome his suggestion that my proposal should be dealt with hereafter. We have been told that if there be any evidence that any items are before the committee by way of recommittal, that evidence is to be found in the printed paper before us. Unfortunately, however, we have before us two papers which disagree very materially.

Sir George Turner:

– One paper sets forth the notices of motions intended to be moved for therecommittal of items, but some of which were not moved ; the other list comprises those that were moved.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– The committee imposed a duty of 2d. per lb. on currants and a duty of 3d. per lb. on other dried fruits including raisins. Dates, which had been duty free in New South Wales, are therefore subject to a duty of 3d. per lb. The date is a valuable fruit. The stones constitute a large proportion of the weight, consequently on the quantity of fruit a much larger duty is paid than is paid in the case of other fruits. The value of dates is very much lower than that of currants or raisins. Dates are worth from 10s. to 12s. 6d., sometimes 15s. per cwt. One penny farthing per lb. may be considered as the general value. In the streets of Sydney dates used sometimes to be sold at l½d. per lb. They are largely used by the poorer classes when other fruits are not on the market. The duty of 3d. per lb. practically means the exclusion of dates from the Commonwealth. A duty of1d. per lb. is equal to from 75 to 80 or 90 per cent. according to the price of dates. The duty on currants is fixed at nearly 100 per cent., and in the case of raisins the duty on the cheaper sorts is fixed at nearly 100 per cent., and on the dearer sorts at from 25 to 40 per cent. If we impose a duty of1d. per lb. on dates it will interfere with no production of the Commonwealth that I know of. I ask the Government to agree to a duty of1d. per lb., which would be proportionate to the duty imposed on currants and raisins.

Sir George Turner:

– Make it 1½d. per lb.

Mr THOMSON:

– If I cannot get a duty of1d. per lb. I shall accept a duty of. 1½d. per lb., though I think that the former would be quite sufficient on a wholesome article which is used largely by the poorer classes.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - I hope that the Minister will accept the suggestion. Threepence per lb. is a tremendous duty to impose on dates. Surely the Minister for Trade and Customs will not pretend that there is any protective policy involved in the imposition of the duty. We do not grow dates, though some people may manufacture them.

Mr KINGSTON:
Protectionist

– The honorable member for North Sydney submits his proposal in a very amusing way. In regard to coffee he urged that the shell ought to be allowed for, because the people did not eat it, but now he asks for a similar allowance to be made for the stone. So long as they get a rebate of 50 per cent. he is perfectly content. The right honorable member for Tasmania suggests that there is no protection involved in this duty, as we do not grow dates. In South Australia we have some magnificent date plantations. Taking into consideration the soil which is suitable, and the artesian bores, which are close handy, the possibility of the extension of the date industry in what was considered one of the most God-forsaken parts of Australiadry and miserable - should encourage us to give a little protection. I can assure honorable members that there are most excellent prospects in connexion with the industry. For some years these plantations have been established, and they are being continually added to. The time is not very far distant when Australia may be able to supply itself with dates. Under all the circumstances I am willing to reduce the duty from 3d. to l½d. per lb. We want protection, and we also desire a reasonable amount of revenue. The honorable member for North Sydney may for similar reasons propose to cut down the currant industry.

Mr Thomson:

– No ; we are putting the duty on dates on the same level as the duty on currants.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Let it go, and save time.

Mr KINGSTON:

– As it seems to be the general desire of the committee we shall take a duty of1d. per lb.

Amendment (by Mr. Thomson) agreed to.

That the words “Dates, on and after 3rd April, 1902, per lb.1d.,” be inserted.

Item, as amended, agreed to.

Item 22. Grain and pulse, or * * * groats, per lb.,1d.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - I move

That the words ‘ ‘ and on and after 3rd April, 1902,½d.,” be added.

Groats are consumed very largely by the poorer classes and by invalids.

Mr Kingston:

– Invalids’ food, as such, is free.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:

– Groats are used for that purpose, and although the Minister is very far removed from that stage of life when gruel was his proper food, I hope that he will have some sort of feeling for the children of Australia.

Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie;.A dutyof½d. per lb. is imposed on oatmeal, rolled oats, wheatmeal, pearl barley, Scotch barley, maizena, and cornflour, and I see no reason why a difference should be made in the case of groats, which are used for making children’s food. I trust that the Minister will not make the Tariff more inconsistent than it is in many cases. It will save time if he will agree to’ the amendment.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:
Protectionist

– When the committee dealt with the item of grain and pulse it was felt that some of the articles under that head, not being very valuable, would be fairly treated if subjected to a duty of½d. per lb.; but groats were looked upon as a much more valuable article than the others. I think the price averages 5d. per lb.; sometimes it runs up to 8d. per lb. The committee decided to leave the duty at 1d. per lb. The honorable member for West Sydney proposed that it should be reduced to½d. per lb., but he did not proceed with his proposal. My honorable colleague has since looked into the matter and has come to the conclusion that, having regard to their value, groats may very fairly bear the impost of1d. per lb. If the article were used exclusively for the purpose of making infants’ and invalids’ food it would be duty free, but as I understand that it is not used for that purpose only, we must object to a reduction of the duty to½d. per lb.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - I venture to say that the great bulk of groats consumed throughout the Commonwealth will be consumed as invalids’ and infants’ food. We must give babies that which is best for them, and this is an article which happens to be best for them. There is scarcely any gruel used anywhere which is not made out of groats. So far as I know that is its particular purpose. One does not feed horses or animals on imported groats, but on crushed oats. I. hope that theMinister will be humane and accept a duty of½d per lb., which, after all, is a very sufficient ad valorem duty.

Question - That the words “ and on and after 3rd April, 1902,½d.” be added- put. The committee divided.

AYES: 23

NOES: 22

Majority … … 1

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

Item, as amended, agreed to.

Item35.-Meats, fish, poultry and game, viz. : - ……. sausage casings, per lb. 2d.

Sir JOHN QUICK:
Bendigo

– On behalf of the honorable member for Melbourne, who has left for China and Japan, I move -

That the words “and on and after 3rd April, 1902, free” be added.

I cannot profess to have a very special knowledge of this subject, but the case in favour of placing sausage casings on the free list has been very strongly set forth in a circular issued by the Master Butchers and Live Stock Buyers’ Association of “Victoria. The matter has also been brought under my attention by the Butchers’ Association in my own district. It may surprise honorable members to know that thousands of pounds worth of these casings are imported year by year from the United States. These are not what are known as sheep sausage casings, but pork sausage casings, and I am informed that 95 per cent. of the pork sausage casings used in Australia have been imported. They have been admitted free of duty into Victoria and New South Wales, and I have never heard of any demand for a duty. Large quantities of sheep sausage casings are produced locally, but the bulk of these are exported to America and Germany, where no duties are imposed. The butchering trade generally is interested in the free importation of pork sausage casings, because there is no large local production of the article. Pigs are grown and handled upon such a large scale in America that the sausage casings can be produced there and exportedto all parts of the world at a very low price.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– This is a most important item, and the circumstances connected with the discussion are especially noteworthy, inasmuch as, among other tilings, they mark thefalling from fiscal grace of two distinguished knights. The honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo have now departed from the protectionist principles to which they have so closely adhered during the last six or seven months, and I am glad to find that, even at this late stage, they have seen the error of their ways and have decided to support the free admission of sausage casings. The public of the Commonwealth will no doubt be extremely grateful to them ; although they may be far more concerned with the contents of the casings than with the casings themselves. In the interests of not only those who make the sausages, but also of those who consume them, I trust the Treasurer will agree to the amendment.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I think the Government might accept this amendment. We produce a large number of” sausage casings here, but they are mutton sausage skins. There is a considerable recriprocal trade with the United States.. They take our mutton sausage skins, and we take their pork sausage casings. We only produce about 5 per cent. of the pork sausage casings used here so that there is no question of protection at stake.

Mr KINGSTON:

– Since the Government proposed the duty in question we have obtained a little further information on the subject. We find that there are two sorts of sausage casings, one of which we export and the other which we import. The United States are able to dispose of their hogcasings at a price which suits us, and we import them, whilst we export our mutton sausage casings. The result is that from the United States, Victoria alone during the year 1900 imported 233,795 lbs. weight of sausage -casings, valued at £11,104. On the other hand; still taking Victoria as a type of the other States, she exported a total of 89,496 lbs. weight, of the value of £3,970. The imports are hog casings and the exports are sheep casings, which are sent to America and Germany, where they are admitted duty free. As it seems that we are not producing the more valuable of these casings in sufficient quantities for ourselves, and as we know that they enter into our local manufactures, we might fairly let this duty go, and we propose to do so.

Amendment agreed to.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I move-

That the words “ Preserved fish in tins or other air-tight vessels, including the weight of liquids, on and after 3rd April, 1902, per lb.1d.,” be inserted.

The duty on preserved fish in tins under the Tariff as it stands would be2d. per lb. Honorable members will recollect that there was a considerable discussion with regard to the item, and I then said that the Government would endeavour to meet the wish of the committee by reducing the amount of the duty. Since that time the Tariff has. been reduced in other directions where I hoped it would not have been. Preserved fish seems to be used to a great extent in the far-off parts of the various States. It is a revenue rather than a protective duty, and though the amount in question - £30,000 - is considerable, the reasons for reducing the tax are very strong.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - I am glad that the Treasurer has made this proposal, because it will confer a considerable amount of relief to those who specially deserve it. People living in the far back parts of the Commonwealth necessarily use preserved fish as an article of diet to a considerable extent, if they are to be relieved from the obligation of living almost entirely on bacon. I thank the Treasurer for his liberality in making the proposal.

Amendment agreed to.

Item, as amended, agreed to.

Item 40. - Oilmen’s stores, n.e.i., including culinary essences non-spirituous, soap dyes, condition foods, and other preparations used in the household, whether otherwise exempted or not ad valorem 20 per cent.

Sir GEORGE TURNER:

– I move-

That the word “non-spirituous” be omitted.

There are two proposed amendments upon this item. One is a merely technical one, but the other is of some importance. When we were dealing with the item spirits many weeks ago it was pointed out that our proposals would impose the full 14s. per gallon duty on spirits or compounds containing spirits, although there mightbe only a small proportion of spirits in a particular article. It was pointed out that in New South Wales they had a sliding scale.It seemed to us at thetime that it was rather unfair wherethere was only 25 per cent. of spirits in an article to charge the full rate, and we adopted the sliding scale of 3s. 6d., 7s., 10s., and 14s., according to whether the amount of spirits contained was 25 per cent., 50 per cent., 75 per cent., or proof. At that time, it escaped the notice of the committee that we are in a position very different to that of New South Wales. New South Wales, while she had these revenue du ties, had noprotective duties. What we now propose is, to take out the word “ non-spirituous.” That means that oilmen’s stores, whether they contain the spirit, or whether they are nonspirituous, will be liable to 20 per cent. duty, unless they contain such a large proportion of spirits as would make them dutiable at the higher rate under the heading of spirits. We have done something similar to that in regard to medicines and opium. So far as we can see, if we omit the words “non -spirituous,” we shall make these various articles dutiable at 20 per cent., but if they contain 25 per cent., or more, of spirit they will be liable to pay a higher rate.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I am afraid there will be great difficulty about this matter. I was told by a person in the trade in Sydney the other day that the amount of labour involved in connexion with returns to the Custom-house to determine under which class duty should be paid on goods was such that it was almost impossible to carry on business. I believe there will be found in the Treasury a communication from a Sydney firm in connexion with the difficulty. It should convince the Government of the large amount that has to be paid by merchants to make up the returns required by the.’Customs authorities. The gentleman of whom I spoke told me that the matter in question only involved about 8s. 6d. upon the whole consignment, but that it took several clerks a considerable time to make out the calculations required by the Customs authorities. I want to have this matter fairly treated, and do not want to see the law taken advantage of, but at the same time it would be better if the Government had some fairer way of computing the duty instead of compelling merchants to make out returns which are very expensive. The Treasurer will recollect that I brought this subject under his notice, and I think he promised to make inquiries, but owing to the regrettable absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the matter was held in abeyance. I trust that the Treasurer will look into the case, and that if he finds that any wrong is likely to be done, he will recommit the item for reconsideration.

Mr Crouch:

– I should like to move that the words “and flavouring” be inserted after the word “ essences.”

The CHAIRMAN:

– The difficulty that presents itself to me is exactly the same as that on which I previously ruled. The recommittal in this case was to consider the insertion of certain words which were specified, and for no other purpose ; and, therefore, I am bound by my previous decision that I cannot accept proposals for either omissions or insertions beyond those for which items were recommitted.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I take a different view from that of the Chairman, and propose raising this point at a later stage.

Mr Watson:

– The Minister says that he will recommit the items.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I want to avoid that if possible, and to have the matter settled.

Mr Harper:

– This item under discussion was not recommitted in an ordinary way, but was left over for the purpose of discussing several points raised at thetime, and pending further inquiries. Do I understand that we shall have a further opportunity of discussing the item?

Sir George Turner:

– A further opportunity will be given.

Mr.Crouch. - I understand that the only reason that these words I have suggested were not inserted was that the honorable member for Melbourne understood that on recommital the whole subject would be under debate.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Honorable members seem to be under a misapprehension that the items in the Tariff have been recommitted. As a fact, the items have been recommitted only in certain sectional parts which are clearly specified. I am bound by that specification, and I have no power vested in me to allow the committee to extend or abstract anything from the items re-submitted for their decision. I am at all times willing to meet the wishes of the committee, but if I were to give a ruling one way, and then, with the concurrence of of the committee, to reverse that ruling, it would only lead to confusion.

Mr Harper:

– Surely there is a difference between items which are recommitted “ for review,” and anitem on which a certain amendment is to be proposed by the Minister. Are the committee not supposed to be at liberty to amend the Minister’s proposal, or amend the item in some other way ?

Sir George Turner:

– The Chairman has so decided.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment (by Sir George Turner) proposed -

That the words “ whether otherwise exempted or not “ be omitted.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I am not quite certain whether any amendment can be submitted which would have the effect of going beyond what the Treasurer forecasted a little while ago, when he said that he proposed to charge essences and perfumes at a higher rate if. the fixed duty on spirits happened to be higher than the duty on the former. The only advantage given to the local producer for manufacturing essences and perfumes is the difference of1s. in the excise on spirits, the local manufacturer paying 1 3s. as against 14s. But the local manufacturer is placed at certain disadvantages which more than wipe out that difference of1s. In the process of manufacture there is a loss by evaporation and from other causes of a percentage of spirits which more than makes up for the apparent benefit. Under the circumstances it seems to me that there will be no protection to the local manufacturer ; indeed, he will be in a rather worse position than otherwise.

Sir George Turner:

– I fail to see any mode by which I can obviate the difficulty.

Mr WATSON:

– The only way would be to charge some fair and reasonable duty on perfumes and essences in addition to the spirit duties. Whether it is worth while to encourage the local manufacturer is a matter for the Treasurer to consider, but all other industries have had some little advantage given to them.

Mr HARPER:
Mernda

– I have been asked by the honorable member for Melbourne, Sir Malcolm McEacharn, to represent his views on this matter, and I quite concur with what the honorable member for Bland has said. Whether the article comes in as spirits or as essences, practically the same duty has to be paid, so that there is no protection to the local maker. I would suggest that the words be inserted, “ in addition to the duty chargeable on the spirits contained therein.”

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Under the ruling of theChairan amendment cannot be submitted.

Mr HARPER:

– There are first of all spirituous essences, non-spirituous essences, and medical essences, and, apart from the spirit duty, there should be a uniform impost on the articles. In order to attain that end we must adopt some such words as I have suggested.

Sir George Turner:

– We cannot deal with that proposal now.

Amendment agreed to.

Item, as amended, agreed to.

Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -

That progress be reported.

Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - In justice to yourself, Mr. Chairman, as well as to the officials at the table, I desire to correct a statement which I made earlier in the evening. I made the mistake of -thinking that the two papers which I held in my hand were intended to be of the same character, although they were different in ‘effect. As a matter of fact, however, I find that one is dated the 25th of March, and contains the notices of motion of recommittals, while the other is a paper printed subsequently, and containing the list of motions moved. I moke this explanation, and trust that it will be clearly understood -that I lay no blame on any one but (myself.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Progress reported.

House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020402_reps_1_9/>.