1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).My name does not appear in the lists of the division upon the salt duty taken last night, owing to the fact that upon leaving at ten o’clock I arranged that I should be paired, and as the honorable member for Kennedy, who was in the choir, was against the duty, I waa paired with him.
– I wish to explain that, although the honorable and learned member for South Australia,. Mr. Glynn, asked me to pair with him on the salt duty, I understood that the pair was to last only until half-past six p.m., and, therefere, when a division was taken later on, I voted in it. If the honorable and learned member had asked me to pair with him for the whole night, or for any other period, upon that or any other question, I should have been glad to do it, or if ray attention had been directed to the matter before the division took place I should have retired ; but as it was I voted.
– I went through the pair book about eleven o’clock last night, and it was then understood that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo had paired with the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn. I feel sure, however, that he would not have voted if he had considered that the pair still held good.
– I paired with the honorable and learned member for Corio, for the evening, but as he wished to vote for the salt duty I paired with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo in regard to it, and I thought that the division would be taken before half-past six. I am sure that the honorable and learned member would not have voted if he had considered that the pair held good. There was a pardonable misunderstanding.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to keep the chairman of the Castle Salt Company here for the rest of the session to give him advice as to what he is to do?
– In this morning’s newspapers cablegrams appear oonveying the gist of a report in the London Morning Leader relating to the recent execution of officers in South Africa. Will the Commonwealth Government take steps to obtain the depositions taken at the court-martial, And have them published as soon as possible, so that we may know the exact facts, and the public may know the best or the worst of the case at the earliest opportunity.
– The honorable and learned member, of course, understands that we are not entitled to demand the depositions as a right, but they have been asked for as a matter of courtesy.
Mr.Higgins.- From whom?
– From the CommanderinChief in South Africa, Lord Kitchener.
– Could not they be obtained through the Colonial-office?
– That may ultimately be the channel of communication ; but to expedite matters this Government applied in the first instancedirectly to Lord Kitchener. It is necessary that this most unhappy event should be probed to the last particular, so far as is within our power.
– Will the Government take care, in framing their request, that it does not appear that this Parliament sympathizes with the men if they were criminals ?In the report which went home it seemed as though Ministers had prejudged the case.
– I do not think that any one who heard the Prime Minister’s speech could be of that opinion.
– I did not form that opinion from what the Prime Minister said, but that is the opinion which might be created by the report of his remarks.
– The control of press reports is beyond the powers of the Government.
– In a telegram which appears in to-day’s Age, the president of the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board is reported to have stated that there would have been a much larger increase in the revenue of the board but for the fact that a large amount of money is owing by the Commonwealth Government on the departments taken from State control. It appears that the Federal Government contend that they are not taxable by the board ; but the president said, “We will bring them tobook by cutting off their water supply.” I do not think that it is a very nice tiling to have these statements in circulation, and I hope the Government will look into the matter and let us know what has happened. I am sure that the Government are prepared to pay all their just debts.
– I am unable to understand how such a statement came to be made. It is nearly twelve months since the. federal departments in New South Wales and in the other States were advised that in the opinion of the Commonwealth Government they are not liable to be rated for water supply or for other purposes ; but they were instructed to make such arrangements with the authorities who supply them with water, light, and other services as would fairly pay for the services. I shall call the attention of the Postmaster-General and of the Minister for Trade and Customs, whose departments are chiefly concerned, to this matter, in case there has been a misunderstanding between some particular departmental officer and the Water and Sewerage Board.
– It was stated in the newspapers yesterday that MajorGeneral Hutton has taken certain steps with regard to the officer appointed to command the Commonwealth contingent which has just left Sydney for South Africa. I should like to have the particulars of the case laid upon the table as soon as possible. It is stated in this morning’s newspapers that when the explanation is received a very different aspect will be put upon the case. It seems strange to me that the explanation was not given before.
– I understand that the Minister for Defence has yet no other source of information than that available to the honorable member, but that he proposes to inquire into all the circumstances of the case.
– Under the de cision of the Comptroller of Customs, while the owners of goods may appoint licensed Customs agents to act for them, and the Customs agents may appoint their clerks to do the necessary work, in certain proclaimed ports Customs agents must go to the expense of obtaining licences for every clerk employed to perform the ordinary function of signing declarations as to the value of goods and the genuineness of invoices. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs look into the matter, and see if the hardshipwhich this practice entails cannot be removed?
– The matter has been carefully considered. We had occasion to consider the effect of the provision in the Act, and the matter received the attention of the law officers of the Commonwealth. The result is that we think that it was intended by Parliament that licensed Customs agents should not be allowed, in places where licences are required, to appoint to act for them persons who are not themselves licensed. The protection intended to be conferred upon persons employing licensed agents should not lightly be got rid of. We are satisfied that that is the true construction of the Act, and that it is the proper interpretation to place upon it in the interests of the public.
Report of select committee presented.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have been furnished with the following answer to the honorable member’s questions : -
As the information asked for apparently applies to the whole of the Commonwealth, information will have to be obtained from all the States. The necessary action to obtain this information is now being taken, and as soon as it can be obtained a reply will be given.
Consideration resumed from 3rd April (vide page 11369).
Item 57 - Apparel and attire, and articles, n.e.i. …..
– I understand that the honorable member for Wentworth desires to have the whole of this item reviewed, and I have given notice of an amendment providing for the treatment of towels and linen handkerchiefs as cotton iece goods.
– I do not know what the honorable member for Wentworth desires to do with this item, and I think, therefore, that it will be betterto go on with the amendments of which other honorable members have given notice. When we have dealt with them, we can, if necessary, come back to this item again.
– I think that the Treasurer has made a very reasonablesuggestion which will not in any way interfere with the object that the honorable member for Wentworth has in view. It will be convenient to follow the list as closely as we can.
– I move-
That the following new item be inserted - “57a. Bags and sacks,calico, hessian, linen-, and meat wraps, whether partly or wholly nude, ad vol. 15 per cent.”
There is no special line in the Tariff dealing with this particular matter. Some of these bags are dutiable under the heading of apparel, attire, and articles, at 25 per cent. There are some exemptions, one of which is flour bags, and the result is that a great deal of confusion has arisen. All bags are now being brought in as flour bags with a view to their exemption from duty, and no protection is being given to the large number of people engaged in the bag-making industry, who have to’ compete with articles imported from Calcutta and other similar places. Canvas, hessians, and brattice cloths ore free, and we are proposing further to exempt duck, which is among the materials used for bag-making. We do not desire to interfere with such bags as are used by farmers, or others following similar occupations. I am prepared to take the items separately, as there may be some question with regard to meat wraps which would not arise in respect to other articles. Meat wraps are very largely made in Queensland, and a 15 per cent. duty would afford only reasonable protection to those engaged in the industry. In the first place, meat wraps were exempted, as it was recognised that the duty of 25 per cent., to which they would otherwise have been subject, would be too high. There was some difficulty in otherwise dealing with them at the time, and it was agreed that the matter should remain in abeyance, so that the Government might bring down a proposal, and afford the committee an opportunity of discussing it.
– Will flour bags be covered by this new duty 1
– Yes, but not corn bags, nor three-bushel bags.
– Why are three-bushel bags excepted?
– Because they are not mode here to any extent.
– Any bags can be sewn up here.
– We were anxious not to do anything which might impose any unnecessary harden upon the agricultural community ; but if honorable members object to the exemption, I do not mind including all bags.
– I understand that unless this item is passed the articles referred to will be free of duty.
– Some of them would be free, and others would be dutiable at 29 per cent. Bran bags, corn bags, and flour bags are at present exempted; but we propose to removeflour bags from the exemptions. We have also exempted onion bags and potato bags. We intend to exempt “ sugar-mats “ instead of sugar” bags,” the terra “ bags “ being used in that connexion by mistake. Wool-packs also will be exempted. The importers argue that the word “ gunny “ will include all bags coming from Calcutta, and it is therefore desirable that we should omit that term from the exemptions. Great trouble has arisen with regard to the admission of flour bags under the exemptions, ‘ because bags which are intended to be used for all sorts of other purposes are being brought in as flour bags, and are being branded after their admission as oatmeal bags, salt bags, and so on. It is therefore necessary that we should have a special line dealing with this class of bags at a special rate of duty, and I think that our proposal deals fairly with all classes.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I would point out that if potato bags are to be exempt under that definition, very grave difficulties may arise. Who is to say to what use the bags are to be put 1 An importer may enter a large shipment of bags as potato bags, and they may be suitable for bagging potatoes; but they may also be used for a variety of other purposes. The importer, in order to secure their free admission, would only require to prove that the bags were capable of being used for bagging potatoes. However, that is a matter of administration, in which Ministers are more concerned than are the committee. The same difficulty would arise with regard to bran bags, corn sacks, and onion bags. How can the Minister decide whether a certain bag does or does not come under any one of these descriptions? It is desirable that the exemptions should be put in a more specific form. If there were bags known definitely as potato bags, onion bags, or bran bags, and not used for anything else, there would be no difficulty, but I doubt if there are any bags so universally known incommerce under these names that the Customs officials could use proper discrimination.
SirGeorge Turner. - In Victoria we used to admit all bags over three bushels free, but the honorable member for North Sydney strongly objected to a similar.course being followed in this case.
– That would certainly be a clearerdefinition, but as the exemptions stand I am afraid that they will give rise to endless difficulty. The industry connected with the sewing up of bags, or hemming meat-wraps, seems to be one of the most chimerical, and I have a strong objection to a duty which is intended to protect it. The labour expended in the sewing up of the raw material cannot be very great, and we should not embarrass our farmers and other producers by imposing a duty. At the same time I recognise the importance of reducing the duty from 25 to 15 percent. in, the cases where the goods are now dutiable.
– The difficulties mentioned by the right honorable member for East Sydney undoubtedly exist, but they occur in a more aggravated form under the Tariff as it stands than they will do under the proposal of the Government. The committee in passing the exemptions assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the articles called bran bags, or corn sacks, or potato bags, were sufficiently known to commerce to be identifiable and distinguishable from similar articles used for other purposes ; but confusion has arisen, which the Government proposal will tend to minimize. The proposal to omit the term “gunnies” from the list of exemptions is a reasonable one. Potato and onion bags are exempted, and any one seeing the term “gunnies” also amongst the exemptions would be justified in assuming that it meant something other than potato or onion bags, although they are generally recognised as “gunnies.”
– The Minister has full power of regulation under the Customs Act.
– But he cannot make regulations which would contradict the Tariff itself. The regulations cannot be inconsistent with the Act of the Parliament, and consequently the omission of the word “gunnies” is necessary in order to avoid confusion. It will not limit the exemptions in the slightest degree. Quite apart from the fiscal issue, it certainly seems- to me that this amendment and the following one are in the direction of clearness.. For that reason I think that the Government proposal should be adopted.
– This item affords one of those instances in which by attempting to accomplish certain results which are in no way justified by their importance, the Ministry are creating a condition of ‘ confusion. If bags, which are merely imported material sewn together, are to be made dutiable in certain cases, why should they not be dutiable in all cases 1 If, on the other hand, they are to be admitted free because they are chiefly used in the large producing interests, why should not all bags be free 1 That is the simple line which should be laid down, and when the Ministry attempt to depart from it, confusion must inevitably result. The Government propose to retain in the list of exemptions, potato, onion, and bran bags. But I would point out that a great variety of bags which are imported may be used for these purposes. The description of “ gunnies “ is the only one which is distinctive.
– Not as regards the use to which the bogs are to be put.
– I have always objected to the duty payable upon any article being determined by the use to which it is put. Such’ a principle is an absolutely vicious one to introduce into any Tariff, inasmuch as it penalizes the honest man, whilst the dishonest individual escapes. The use to which an article is to be put should not regulate the duty payable upon it. In my judgment, it would be far better to omit the words “potato” and “onion” and to retain the word “gunny.” If the raw material of which bags are made in to be admitted free it would be wise to place all bags upon the free list. Upon a previous occasion meat wraps were specially omitted from the list of exemptions. Of course, the Treasurer declares that the tax upon these constitutes only a very small charge.
– I understand that it represents about £d. upon each carcass.
-.- That is a very serious burden to impose when we remember that sometimes as many as 100,000 carcasses are forwarded by one vessel.
– What weight does the honorable member allow for each carcass?
– Cross-breds will weigh els much as 70 lbs. Seeing that our meat companies are already so severely handicapped, we ought to relieve them of every charge that we possibly can, and when Ministers urge that the proposed tax represents only so much, honorable members should recollect that we have levied other charges upon our meat companies from time to time. The very smallest percentage of increased cost is sufficient to materially affect the whole of this export trade. In the post our meat companies, have experienced a severe struggle in their endeavours to push Australian meat in the markets of the world, and behind their success lies the success of our graziers. Now, however, the Ministry propose to place a further disability upon these companies. To my mind the Government should at least be logical. If there is reason for excluding some of these bags, there- is reason for excluding all - of them. If we impose a duty upon bags on the ground that they can be manufactured locally, I would point out that all bags can be made locally. There is no difficulty involved in cutting up the material for a woolpack and sewing it together, and very much more labour is required in that operation than is involved in the making of a meat wrap or a flour bog. The Ministry, therefore, should either make all bags dutiable or admit them all free. They should certainly be made free if -we exempt the raw material which is used in their manufacture.
– I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to be consistent. Whenever any matter connected with the manufactures of the Commonwealth has come up for discussion he has almost in variably exclaimed - “Let us protect our manufactures’.” But is he protecting a .great national industry which is really the backbone of the Commonwealth by imposing a duty upon meat wraps ? I do not consider that he is. Even if the proposed taxation represents only¼d. upon each carcass exported, it will amount to a fabulous sum in the course of twelve months. It is easy for the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs to urge that the duty is a small one, but upon the top of all the other taxation which has been levied upon the pastoral industry it represents a very large amount. If the Government intend to tax gunny bags to the extent of 15 per cent., why do they not propose to tax flour bags? Where is their consistency in this connexion ? The pastorolists could better afford to pay duty upon woolpacks than upon meat wraps. Under the Government proposal, if I desired to import bags, I should bring them in as corn bogs. The effect of that proposal will be to make men dishonest. What is to hinder the . Castle Salt Company or any other company from importing as corn bags the particular bags which it is proposed to omit from the list of exemptions ? I fail to see why any distinction between the different classes of bags should be made. I would further point out that meat wraps cannot be used more than once, whereas corn bags can be used again and again. Yet the Government propose to tax meat wraps to the extent of 15 per cent. The meat exporting industry is a national one, and I ask the Government to deal fairly with it by admitting all bags free.
– The object of recasting this item is to preserve a very large industry. Hundreds of persons are employed in the cutting up and stitching together of flour bags, oatmeal bags, spice bags, and bags for other purposes, and the industry, besides being a large, is a growing one. One or two firms in Melbourne, however, have had their sales diminished by thousands of pounds during the last month or two through the action of the committee in regard to this duty. But, as we have done so much to assist and develop industries in which less capital is invested and fewer hands are employed, we should do what we can for this industry, too. Messrs. Thomas Brown and Son Limited, of Brisbane, say that less than 15 per cent. is not sufficient) and I understand that that firm and one or two others employ between 150 and 200 women and girls, whose earnings are a very welcome augmentation of the family income. It has been said that the proposed duty will be a tax upon the pastoral industry. The Treasurer says that it amounts to about¼d. a carcass, although really it is a little less. On the Treasurer’s statement, however, the tax would amount to only £1 per 1,000 carcasses, so that on such an immense shipload as 20,000 carcasses it would be only£20.
Mr.Thomson. - One of the biggest bagmaking factories in the Commonwealth was established in New South Wales under freetrade.
– I am glad to hear that New South Wales has so large an industry, and I feel sure that the duty will not do any harm. I have an interest in one of the large Queensland meat companies, and I know that those companies are paying dividends of 10 and 15 per cent., and are putting money by. The Queensland Meat Export and Agency Company, which has works on the Brisbane River and near Townsville, and recently bought the Burketown and Normanton works, has many thousands of pounds to its credit, although it has been paying large dividends, and the price of sheep and cattle has been high. The proposed tax will not fall upon the producers of the meat, but upon the exporters, and they will not feel it.
– Why not make all bags dutiable?
– We do not make every kind of bag in the Commonwealth. . We do not make wool-packs here, just as we do not make chronometers. I am pleading for the preservation of an existing industry. The Custom - house officers will not find any difficulty in determining what is a potato, onion, soogee or gunny bag. No farmer would put potatoes in a corn sack, unless he was sending them only a very short distance.
Mr.Reid. - Why should potato bags be free while meat wraps are taxed? Meat wraps are not made here. All that is done is to import the material, and cut it up.
– We import a great deal of the material that we use for the manufacture of trousers, but we make trousers here.
– Would the honorable member advocate the placing of a tax upon trousers, and allow waistcoats to come in free?
-Iam not dealing with the question of clothing at the present time. I trust that the bag-making industry, which has been so successful in Australia hitherto, will not be damaged by any alteration or modification of the proposals of the Government.
– I should like a little more information in regard to the item of meat wraps. I stated when we commenced the consideration of the Tariff that if I was satisfied that a reasonable duty would succeed in establishing an industry which, when, established, would produce articles as cheaply as they could be imported, I would vote for such a duty; but that where I thought that an industry could not be successfully established, I would refuse to give it protection. I also stated that I would not vote for duties which would prove to be a tax upon industries which were not protected. I voted for a duty upon agricultural implements, because I knew from personal investigation that duty cheapened their cost. That has been proved by the fact that New South Wales farmers were buying Victorian mode implements. Do I understand that the duty upon meat wraps will increase their price 1
– It is equal to about £d. per carcass
– Has the right honorable member ascertained if meat wraps are likely to be produced locally with a reasonable amount of protection as cheaply as they can be imported 1
– If we do not provide for local competition the importers will be able to charge what they like.
– A ring in meat wraps !
– If the Treasurer can show me that the locally-made meat wraps will be as cheap as the imported meat wraps, I shall be prepared to support the duty ; but if it will impose a tax of £d. per carcass upon the pastoral industry, I shall not vote for it.
– A duty of ID per cent, on meat wraps cannot have been proposed for revenue purposes ; it- must be regarded as a protective duty, though the making of meat wraps, apart from the bog industry, must be a very trifling tiling indeed. I have here a circular from a firm of bag-makers in Melbourne, which is indorsed by two letters from bagmakers in New South Wales, asking for a protection of 10 per cent. Why, then, does the Government propose to give them IS percent. 1
– Originally the material which they used was admitted free, but we now propose to place a duty of 7 j per cent, upon it, so that the actual protection which they will get under our proposal will be less than they ask for.
– The circular to which I refer is dated 14th March.
– That was before we put forward ‘our recommittal proposals.
– We can make wool-packs just as well as meat-wraps locally, and in view of the fact that a high degree of protection is not required, it will ba better to impose an all-round 10 per cent, duty, so that the industry of bag-making may be extended to all branches. This would overcome all difficulties of definition such as those hitherto experienced, and relieve us of’ the necessity of considering the purposes to which the bags axe to be applied. We have no right to inquire as to the uses to which an article is to be devoted, but should levy the duty irrespective of any such considerations. I have seen bags used as overcoats, and for making stretchers, and also for constructing partitions in houses. Should we, therefore, tax bags as clothing, or furniture, or building material? An all-round duty would get rid of all difficulties on this score, but it would be far wiser to abolish the duty altogether, because all the articles proposed to be taxed are used in connexion with the export of produce, which has to compete in the markets of the world against all comers. There might be some reason for levying a duty upon the calico bags used for the local distribution of produce, but in view of the difficulty of differentiating between one bag and another, it would be far better to allow all bags to come in free.
– I am astonished to find the subject of imposing a duty upon meat-wraps again brought before us, after the discussion which took place on a previous occasion. It was then conclusively shown that the meat export trade was likely in the very near future to prove of the greatest value to us. I think I om within the mark in saying that when the meat export trade was started in New Zealand the number of sheep in that colony was about the same as in Victoria, namely, about 13,000,000 ; but, owing to the improved husbandry which has resulted -from the introduction of the New Zealand fat stock into the world’s markets, the flocks in that colony have increased to 19,000,000, whilst the Victorian flocks remain as before. I believe that in the cooler districts of Victoria great improvements will take place in sheep husbandry when the meat trade is fully developed, and that the lamb export trade, which is now being largely extended, will prove of the very greatest advantage to the settlers in the dry districts of the Commonwealth. These are the best fattening districts in good seasons, and as fat lambs give about the quickest possible return to the graziers, I believe that the extension of that particular branch of industry will be determined only by the facilities for transport from the grazing grounds. Notwithstanding that the past season was one of the worst on record, fat lambs were last spring sold at a railway station in the Murrum bidgee district at 10s. 3d. per head to go to Sydney, when we could only obtain 8s. 6d. per head for our lambs in Victoria. The lambs in the dry districts come in comparatively late in the year, after the drought of the summer is over. With a good winter rainfall they fatten rapidly, and can be marketed in the spring, thus enabling the squatter to reduce his stock and tide over the following summer with advantage. I am quite satisfied that there will be a greatopening in this way, and that we should do everythingwe can to encourage our meat export trade. The Treasurer speaks of the duty upon meat- wraps involving a tax upon the meat exporters of only¼d. per carcass, and that so small a saving is not worth considering. I do not think that he showed his usual sound judgment when he mode that statement. But I was more surprised to hear the honorable and learned member for Brisbane make light of the effect of the duty upon the meat export trade. As a Scotchman myself - one who has had the misfortune to be born out of Scotland - I cannot understand how my honorable friend could have departed so far from the true Scotch faith - “ Tak’ care of the pence, and the pounds will tak’ care of themselves.” He seems perfectly reckless in regard to the it’s, and asked - “What was £1 per thousand?” Another good Scotch maxim is that when the income decreases the expenses should bo cut down; but the honorable and learned member for Brisbane was apparently advocating quite the contrary policy, when he argued that because the sheep of the Commonwealth had been reduced some thirty millions by droughts the duty would be less felt. We know that the greatest difficulties are being experienced by those engaged in the pastoral industry, and we should therefore hesitate to place any unnecessary burdens upon them. The Treasurer made some mention of the weight of the carcasses, but I might point out to him that the meat exporters do not care to accept lambs for export over 401bs. weight. If they buy large flocks of lambs, including some over that weight, they dispose of the heavier animals locally and ship the others to England. They prefer to have them of an average weight of about 35 lbs. Then, again, the average weight of the sheep carcasses exported is from 50 to 55 lbs., and the¼d. additional in the cost of the meat-wrap must be distributed over that weighty and not over such heavy weights as have been referred to by the Treasurer. I have had a great deal of experience in the dry districts of Victoria, and in connexion with the meat export trade, and I thoroughly believe that the export of lambs will be developed to such an extent that many of our farmers will be saved. I know of many people who have given up growing wheat in order to devote their attention to raising lambs for export, and I think that the Government are very ill-advised in seeking to impose a duty which will have the effect of levying further taxation upon our struggling farmers. Under this Tariff we have been able to offer very few advantages to the settlers in the country districts, and I hope that, under all the circumstances, the Ministry will reconsider this matter, and leave meat-wraps on the free list.
Mr.MAUGER (MelbournePorts).- By far the greater number of the bags which will be subjected to duty under the Government proposal, such as salt, sugar, rice, and oatmeal bags, are used for the distribution of goods within the Commonwealth in connexion with industries that are fairly protected. The manufacture of the bags gives employment to from 450 to 500 people, and indirectly maintains a groat many more. I think we are all prepared to recognise the importance of the meat export trade, which has been referred to by the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Grampians, and I am sure that no one would do anything that would be likely to jeopardize it. I should like to point out, however, that all the countries with which we have to compete most keenly in connexion with our meat export trade levy considerably heavier duties upon such things as meat wraps than the Government now propose. In the Argentine Republic a duty of about 1d. per bag is charged ; in New Zealand - another of our keen competitors - a duty of 20 per cent. is levied upon all kindsofbags, which we are asked to subject to a duty of 15 per cent. Canada charges 20 per cent., and the United States imposes a fixed duty as well as an ad valorem duty of 15 per cent. I would point out that in connexion with our factories we enforce the payment of a minimum wage, we compel the employers to provide the best of sanitary arrangements, and we restrict the work to eight hours per day ; and in view of these circumstances, and of the fact that those engaged in the industry have to compete with the cheap labour of Japan and India, some reasonable protection may very well be afforded to them. I hope the committee will treat the industry fairly.
-I suggest that this item should be postponed until after we have considered the Government proposal, under item 64, to impose a duty of 7½ per cent. upon the raw material used in the construction of some of these bags. It is difficult for us to determine what rate of duty shall be imposed upon the manufactured article until we know what is to be done regarding the raw material. If a 7½ per cent, duty is imposed upon the latter, some honorable members might not object to protect the manufacturers of some classes of bags by imposing a 15 per cent duty. But if the raw material is to be admitted free, we might very reasonably object to such a high rate of protection as that now proposed. It is useless for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to quote the duties levied in other countries without stating whether the raw material is admitted free of duty or not. Unless all things are taken into consideration, any such comparisons are futile.
– In connexion with the meat export trade, we have to cut things very fine in order to insure a reasonable return to the producers. We are already handicapped very heavily by freight charges and’ wharfage rates, and I do not care to impose any further burdens upon the trade by placing a duty upon meat wraps. So far, I cannot be accused of having voted in favour of imposing taxation upon our producers. Following out the same policy I should need to be thoroughly satisfied before voting for the Government proposal that its operation would not have the effect of increasing the price to the consumer. The industry of bag-making has practically no existence, and, therefore, I foil to see that we are justified in imposing a duty of 15 per cent. upon the articles mentioned.. I am not disposed to support a. tax which will impose an additional burden upon theproducers of the country.
– I think that a mistake has been made in the heading of this item, inasmuch as calico, hessian, and linen are utterly unsuitable for the making of sacks. The Treasurer proposes to place upon the free list corn sacks, bran bags, potato bags, onion bags, wool sacks, ore bags, and sugar mate. Honorable members will thus see that all bags used by farmers, squatters, and miners, together with 90 per cent. of those used by millers, are to be included in the list of exemptions. I think that an industry which already employs between 400 and 500 hands - men and women - deserves every consideration at the hands of this committee. I trust, therefore, that the committee will sanction the duty proposed by the Treasurer.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). I hope that the Government will accept the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and postpone the consideration of this item until we have dealt with the duty upon the raw material.
– I have no objection to that course if it will facilitate business.
– Then I shall not say another word, and shall thus avoid placing myself under the imputation of impeding progress.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - I merely desire to say that if a duty is ultimately levied upon the raw material no one will’ desire to Bee the finished article admitted’ free.
Items 57 to 63, inclusive, postponed.
Item 64. - Piece goods, namely : - Cotton and: piece goods, n.e.i. ad valorem15 per cent.; and on and after 4th December, 1901, 10 per cent.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the following words be added - “Piece goods, namely, cotton and linen piece goods, n.e.i. (including dungaree and denim), on and after 4th April, 1902, ad valorem 7$ per cent.
– The original proposition of the Government distinguished between the more and less valuable classes of articles, and between articles which were used in trades and those which were not. That proposal was that we should impose a 15 per cent, duty upon one class of goods and a 10 per cent, rate upon the other class. Many objections were raised by honorable members to the distinction thus created, but the Government thought it only right that the better class of articles should contribute a little more to the revenue than should the poorer class. Of course, I admit at once that this is absolutely a revenue duty, because at the present time none of these piece goods are manufactured within the Commonwealth. On the previous occasion when this item was under discussion it was contended that it was impossible to readily distinguish between the different classes of piece goods, and the suggestion was made that in the interests alike of the Customs officials and of the importers it would be better to levy an all-round duty. However, the Government were of opinion that by making certain alterations they would, be able to avoid confusion without causing the importers undue trouble and annoyance. Accordingly we adopted the principle that the cheaper articles should be admitted free, and that the duty of 10 per cent, should be imposed upon the better class of goods for revenue purposes. The annual value of the imports of the better class of articles is about £1,500,000, whilst the value of the poorer kind represents about £1,000,000. Under our original proposal we estimated that we should receive something like £380,000. When we’ agisted to abolish the duty of 10 per cent, upon the poorer class of goods, we estimated that the revenue which would be derived from this particular item was £150,000. Experience, however, has shown us that great confusion results from a distinction being made between different classes of piece goods, and we have therefore arrived at the conclusion that it would be wise to adopt an all-round rate of per cent. I believe that such a duty will produce more revenue than does the existing duty. I therefore ask the committee to support the Government pro- . posal
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- I have everysympathy with any proposal which will meet the convenience of the trade and sim,plify the Tariff, and upon this occasion it seems to me that the Government proposition Ls preferable to the existing duty. But I cannot help noticing that the present proposal involves a very large increase in the taxation of articles; which are really amongst the necessaries of life.* In all the States, except where the need for raising revenue was very pressing, the cheaper classes of prints have hitherto been included in the free list. The Tren-surer has already told the committee that the aggregate revenue derived from theoperation of the Tariff has thus far exceeded his estimate, although from the States’ point of view he does not consider that the situa-tion has improved. I am inclined to think that upon examination it will be found that the latter portion of his statement is overdrawn. I shall certainly resist the imposi-tion of duties upon articles which are the necessaries of the poorer classes, unless someabsolute necessity cun be shown for the adoption of such a course. I admit that no element of fiscalism enters into theconsideration of this matter. The proposed duty is one for which any freetrader could conscientiously vote. But I have to deal with the Tariff as it stands, and I do not feel disposed to givethe Treasurer the £37,000 which heseeks by imposing additional taxation upon the articles which are covered by this item. It is all very well for the Treasurer to saythat this is a proposal which is viewed with favour by importers. We know how littlethe Ministers care about the favour of theimporters. It is quite delightful to hear from the lips of a Minister an argument that this proposal meets with the favour of flinders-lane. I could understand a Minister saying that it meets with the hearty approval of manufacturers. Some years ago it would have thrown the honorable member for Melbourne Ports into a mild fit to be told that a proposal met with the favour of the softgoods trade. He would have suspected that some diabolical conspiracy against theinterests of colonial industry must be involved in a re-arrangement of items which met with the approval of Flinders-lane, buthe is thankful for small mercies nowadays.. We all know that tents are very often mode, not of canvas, but of calico. It would be intolerable from any point of view to put a duty of 7^ per cent, on the raw material of tents, and to allow the finished article to come. in free. That would be an outrage on common decency which I do not think any man in the House would wish to see perpetrated. I wish to be fair to the manufacturers consistently with my duty to the general community,and I certainly would not single them out for the special outrage of making them pay on their raw material while the finished article was admitted free.” I should say that that was singling them out for an abominable injustice. I feel sure that the Government have only to hear the matter mentioned to make an exemption.
– We cannot do that.
– Of course the Government cannot
– We are not going to try.
– It is only another illustration of the absurdity of tie structure which the Treasurer is so laboriously putting together, and which will have to be knocked over by-and-by.
– Do- not be too sure of that.
Mi*. REID. - I can assure the Treasurer that if he thinks that an abominable injustice of that sort is going to stand he is mistaken. It is a small matter - it concerns only a few tent makers ; but still we have been very solicitous about a man and a boy in cases involving large producing industries. “Why should we not be commonly fair to the men who make tents t
– We shall put a duty on tents to get over the difficulty.
– The remedy is another illustration of the way in which the Treasurer gets out of absurdities. Considering the overwhelming vote-
– That will be changed.
– I suppose the Treasurer has some mysterious power which enables him to’ say that, although there is an enormous majority for a free item one night, if the Government make up their mind, that majority will disappear and there will be a majority the other way. It is a grand position to be in. We saw on illustration of that power last night. That matter will have to be taken up on another occasion. We will take our turn in proposals for reconsideration, but that will come on by-and-by.
– Some time about Christmas, I suppose.
– Judging by the way in which my honorable friends are managing business that is very likely. In this particular case we ought not to allow tents to be admitted free without exempting the raw material of the tent-maker.- These difficulties are got over in the case of manufacturers who use a dutiable article in bond.
– The difficulty is that there are a large number of small men, but spread over a wide area.
– Still, some attempt should be made to put that right. It is a reproach on the Tariff, and, although I do not mind how many reproaches of that kind there ore, I think in common fairness we should protest against this one. It is a perfectly legitimate duty from both points of view ; but considering the large number of burdens which from my point of view are put on the people, I think that the present arrangement is the best, inasmuch as it saves the people, on the Treasurer’s own estimate, a sum of £37,500. There is no scope here for those imaginative calculations which go to show that there is no increased burden on the people. We cannot produce cotton piece goods at present. Consequently it is a fair tax, and is not proposed in the interests of colonial industry. The bitter pill is not sweetened in this case. Looking at it purely from the financial point of view, however, I do not feel prepared to vote this additional revenue of £37,500.
– I rise to give a few instances of anomalies in the judging of materials, an’d also in the class of articles of which some are free and others dutiable. I have had a variety of samples sent to me. The samples I hold in my hand are chiefly 1Bed as lining materials. That which seems to be the best article is duty free, and the others are subject to a 10 per cent. duty. I have also samples of lines of shirting. Paney shirting, which is fit for any gentleman to wear, is on the free list ; but the material which is used chiefly by the poor for boys’ shirts is subject to 15 per cent. duty. In the case of dress stuffs and fancy materials it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to discriminate between the 10 per cent, articles and the free articles. In Adelaide it is found to be a very difficult matter to discriminate between the lines. The samples are all marked in abook by an importer. I defy any honorable member, without the aid of the book, to pick out the free lines or the dutiable lines. I venture to say that if he were asked to pick out the dutiable lines he would pick out the free lines. Such anomalies must militate against good administration. It is impossible for Customs officers who have had no experience as drapers to discriminate. I am prepared to vote for a uniform duty of 5 per cent, ou all these lines.
– In the Tariff 20 or 30 lines are enumerated as duty free, and cotton and linen piece goods, n.e.i, are subject to 10 per cent. duty. I agree with the last speaker that a 5 per cent, duty all round would be fairer than a 7½ per cent. duty. I am opposed to these revenue duties. It is quite possible that the committee moy take that view in order to facilitate the business of the Customhouse. I have heard that other lines which are charged in some States at 20 per cent, are being admitted free in other States. I hope that that anomaly will not be allowed to exist very long. I should prefer all the lines before the committee to be mode duty free, because no protectionist principle is involved, but if a proposal of that kind cannot be carried we should make the duty as low as possible. I am prepared to vote for the free admission of cotton and linen piece goods, which are not manufactured here.
– Cotton piece goods are made in Queensland.
– I was not aware that any cotton piece goods were manufactured in that State.
– Some years ago they made borne cotton piece goods, but they are not doing so now.
– It is not an extensive industry.
– The factory is for sale if any one wishes to buy it.
– If we struck an average between 10 per cent, and duty free, it would be 5 per cent. I cannot understand why the Treasurer has gone beyond the average. We are now dealing with the raw material for other trades, and I think the Treasurer might well agree to a S per cent duty.
– I do not wish the committee to be placed in the position in which it was placed not very long ago. If it is decided that the 7-j- per cent, duty shall stand, there will be no opportunity to propose an alteration. I move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the word “ free “ after the figures “ 1902.”
Previously I proposed an amendment which included parts of these goods, and was in favour of admitting them free. That amendment was carried on the voices. Prints, which represent a large proportion of the articles under this heading, have been admitted free with the concurrence of the Government and with the unanimons voice of the committee, because it has been recognised that these articles are used largely by the great bulk of the community, and should not be taxed. In New South Wales and Victoria in the post they were admitted free. I abstained from moving iu the matter earlier because I thought that some other honorable member would have done bo. But in view of the fact that on a previous occasion prints were placed on the free list, and that the honorable member for West Sydney also succeeded in obtaining a very large vote in favour of admitting other cotton articles free, I cannot see what reasons can be advanced in favour of placing a high duty on the goods in question. The Government themselves admit, according to the figures the Treasurer has given, that they will receive from these goods £35,000 or £40,000. more than would have been received had they been admitted on the terms already consented to by the Government. We are told that they are taking this action with the view of attaining simplicity in regard to importations. This is the first time that the Government have admitted that they have done anything in connexion with the Tariff in the interests of the merchants. The Opposition have been taunted with being agents for the merchants, but I have always denied that imputation. We have to consider the interests of the community generally, and not the interest of any particular class. The Opposition are not responsible for the debate that is now taking place. The Government alone are responsible for it, by bringing forward such a proposal, with the view of getting additional revenue out of the people to the extent of nearly £40,000. The Government nave shown no disposition to recommit items with the object of decreasing the burdens of the people. We do not want another exhibition such as we had last night in connexion with the salt duty. During my twenty years’ experience of public life, I have never before witnessed anything like what occurred last night, and do not want to see anything like it again.
– People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
– At any rate it was a very nice piece of engineering, which I hope will not be repeated. There is no need for this duty. The Treasurer has admitted that he will receive through the Customs over £800,000 a year more than he expected to get. Indeed, he will receive between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000 more money than any federalist ever stated that the Federal Government would raise through Customs duties. Not a man who advocated the Commonwealth Bill stated that the Government would raise more than £8,500,000. Some of the ad vocates of the measure expected that £7,500,000 would be raised.
– The honorable member will find that I stated that we should raise nearly £9,000,000.
– But the Prime Minister, who was the leader of the federal movement, never stated that more than £7,800,000 would be raised.
– What were we told in the smaller States 1
– Can the honorable member quote a speech from any leading federalist who said that the Commonwealth Government would get more than £8,500,000?
– The smaller States were told that they would get the same amount of revenue that they had received in the past.
– I do not profess to know what they were told in the smaller States, but I do know what the people n New South Wales were told by the man who was looked upon as the leader of the deral movement.
– What did the honorable member for North Sydney say 1
– He said that about£8,000,000 would be raised.
– Did not the Sydney Daily Telegraph mention £9,000,000 1
– The reason why some of us opposed the Commonwealth
Bill was that we felt sure that it would land us in a difficulty.
– Did not the honorable member support the Bill 1
– No ; I did not believe in it, and I lost my seat in consequence of my attitude. To-., day I am proud that I did lose it. Those who advocated federation never anticipated that a revenue of more than about £8,500,000 would be necessary for the Commonwealth. The Treasurer admits, however, that he will receive £500,000 in excess of that sum during the present year, while it is estimated on the best authority that the revenue during a normal year will be £1,500,000 in. excess of it. I have been asked whether I did not take a stand against the Commonwealth Bill. It is true that I opposed it, and one of my reasons fop doing so was because of its financial clauses. I was not against federation, but against theBill ; and although I lost my position as amember of the State Parliament and as a. Minister of the Crown, I felt that I had been defeated in fighting a straightforward battle for a certain principle. As a matter of fact, I was one of the first Ministers in New South Wales to give a practical turn to federation, and I am sure that every member of this Parliament will loyally stand by the Commonwealth’ and seek to carry out legislation in accordance with the Constitution. I feel that we should not be justified in voting for such a large additional amount of taxation as this proposal would involve.
– What about the smaller States 1
– It would be far better to make advances to them; in fact, I would go so far as to say that we should give them the money necessary to make up any deficiency, rather than unduly tax the whole of the people of the Commonwealth in order that a little additional revenue may be obtained for some of the States.
– Is the honorable member in favour of putting a tax on the people of New South Wales, and giving the money so obtained to Tasmania, rather than that Tasmania should bear the taxation which she ought to bear ?
– I contend that we have no right to impose heavy burdens, such as are being imposed, on the people.
Mr. SPEAKER informedthe House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the State of Tasmania, in the place of the Honorable Frederick William Piesse, deceased, and that the writ had been returned with a certificate of the election of WilliamHartnoll; Esq., indorsed thereon.
Mr.Hartnoll took and subscribed the oath.
– I was not fortunate enough to hear the reasons of the Government for desiring to enforce their demand, but it appears to me that their conduct and their demand are most inconsistent. When this item was originally before the committee I proposed that it should be free. At the desire of the Government, however, and for the convenience of the committee I divided my amendment into sections, in order to enable honorable members if they chose to vote for retaining on the free list those articles which are now exempt from duty without compromising their action in connexion with the other articles which stand now at 10 per cent. The confusion which is said to exist in the trade was pointed out long ago. Directly the result of the vote was known, complaints came in from the trade generally that the interpretation of this division by the Custom-house officers was creating a good deal of dissatisfaction. The Government then proposed to do something, but although three or four months have elapsed, they have done absolutely nothing. Now they propose to do that which, had it been done in another way, they might have done with a good grace some months ago. They move that the duty be 7½ per cent., presumably in the hope that they will succeed in carrying a duty of 5 percent. if they do not get any more. It is not as if the Government proposed to remove all the inconsistencies under this head. They do not propose anything of the sort. They told us that they wished to recommit this item for the sake of securing simplicity. Incidentally they seek to gain some £37,000 additional revenue. From the beginning, the Government estimates of the revenue have been continually falsified by actual facts. The Treasurer’s original estimate of the revenue for the year was some £8,000,000 odd. Whether he has since estimated the revenue for the entire year, or that to be derived from any particular line, he has invariably under estimated the amount, and in spite of the fact that we have placed tea on the free list, he finds himself with a revenue much in excess of what he first anticipated, and which he declared would be amply sufficient for all our needs. The honorable member for Macquariehas pointed out that no man in New South Wales, except the rabid anti-Billites, ever declared that a revenue of more than £8,500,000 would be required. Dr. McLaurin,the leader of the anti-Billites in that State, said that a £9,000,000 Tariff would be required, but he was howled down by those who now sit behind the Prime Minister. Such an assertion was declared to be a mere frothy exaggeration on the part of those who were hostile to federation. Yet, when there is a prospect of a revenue of more than £9,000,000 being received, it is proposed to increase the receipts from this particular line to the extent of about £40,000 per annum, in order to convenience the merchants. It is the first time in the history of the Tariff debate that the Government have ever given a thought to the convenience of any one but the manufacturers ; or, if they have, it has been in a very unostentatious way. We have to rebut the statement made by the Government that they are recommitting this item for simplicity’s sake. The whole Tariff is a hideous denial of that statement, for it is simply chaos. Here we have as a separate line coatings, vestings, and trouserings, which are just as much cotton goods as anything else. Yet it is not proposed, for the sake of simplicity or for some other reason, to place these goods on the free list. The Government never seek to obtain simplicity by the obvious method of reducing duties. I have a couple of samples here of pure cotton goods which are charged 20 per cent.
– These goods are charged 1 5 per cent.
– At any rate, they are not charged 7½ per cent. Why not include these goods with those which are to pay a duty of 7½ per cent., if simplicity is all that the Government desire? As a matter of fact it is not simplicity, but revenue, at which the Government aim. It is very late in the day for the Government to charge the Opposition with having little thought for the smaller States. If the Opposition had had no more thought for the smaller States than had the Government, those States would be in a hopeless state of bankruptcy. According to die statement furnished by the’ Treasurer yesterday, there is a total revenue of £6,685,623 for the past nine months of the current year, leaving only £1,323,377 to make up the £8,000,000 which the Treasurer in his Budget speech said would be sufficient. It is clear there is to be a heavy surplus. If the Treasurer had his way he would recommit the tea duty here, and there is no doubt that the Government propose to recommit that item, in another place. If that be done, and the duty be reinstated, there will be £40,000 additional revenue. It is a common rumour that in another place the tea duty will be reinstated. Let the Government deny, if it be not true, that it is their intention, through their representatives in the other Chamber, to support the re-enactment of that duty.
– It is not true.
– The Treasurer has made a rather awkward admission, and it may be that in the endeavour to catch a little sprat he has lost a large mackerel.
– Make no mistake about that.
– But there are other ways of dealing with a matter of this kind. We have not forgotten the action of certain Government supporters in connexion with the tea duty. When it was considered that the tea duty was safe, the Government, through their agent, gave permission to its most favoured henchmen to vote against it ; and it may be that it is these kind of tactics which they have it in their mind to exercise in another place. While the Government, through its. representative in the Senate, may not move or support a reconsideration of the tea duty, they may obtain that other kind of support which is infinitely more valuable. I cannot conceive the position of a Government which declares itself to be short of revenue, and which deplores the wretched condition of the smaller States, and yet deliberately says that it will do nothing in another place to impose a duty which it would have imposed the other night had it had a sufficient number to support it. The plea of simplicity, and the convenience of trade, is mere balderdash, ‘in view of recent events. There is no necessity for morerevenue, but if there were, it is only right that the country should know that had the Government had its way from the beginning, the smaller States would have been in an infinitely worse condition than that in which they are now. The Tariff is productive of very much more revenue than was pre’viously received, and yet “the smaller States are in difficulties. What would their position have been if the Treasurer had had full sway < The Government started out as protectionist, though heaven knows what kind of Government it is now, except one that undoubtedly endeavours to protect itself. A duty of from 20 to 25 per cent, is imposed on goods which are made up from cotton pieces, and yet the shirt-makers and others from Victoria are face to face with the competition of cheap European labour under the disadvantage of a duty of 7£ per cent, on the raw material. This is an industry in which females are largely employed, and those females have no votes, and are therefore unable to excite the enthusiasm of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others who urge the necessity for establishing native industries. If the Government are earnest in their desire for simplicity, the Opposition will be very glad to go through the Tariff again, item by item, with that object in view. But in their newborn zeal for simplicity, the Government single out this item which enables them to obtain more revenue, while they leave untouched another item of precisely the same nature, to interfere with which would mean a reduction of the revenue. I understand that by the ruling of the chair it is not competent to move a reduction upon - any proposal made in these recommittals - that it is not competent in this case for an honorable member to move that the duty be 5 per cent
– Yes, it is quite competent
– Some three or four months have elapsed since the present duties were imposed, and I believe that the people engaged in the trade are thoroughly satisfied with the state of things as they now find them. Clearly it ib not the convenience of the public which the Government have in view, because if a duty of 7£ per cent, be imposed on goods which are now free the public will have to pay an enhanced price of at least 10 per cent We are told by protectionists that when goods are made here under a protectionist Tariff they become cheaper. If that be so, the effect of the imposition of a duty of 7£ per cent, on the raw material of these industries will be to drive the local manufacturers out of the market. I am informed by two firms of shirt-makers that if this Tariff be altered in the direction indicated, they will be unable to continue their operations in the major portion of their trade. We have no right to disturb existing conditions without adequate reason, and there is certainly no reason in the world why an increase of revenue should be obtained in this way, when simplicity can be secured by placing both lines on the free list. The Government stand convicted of gross inconsistency. If the Government want simplicity and consistency, there are two methods open to them. They can either put all these articles on the free list, or they can subject them all, including coatings, vestings, and trouserings, to a duty of 7 j or 5 per cent., as the committee may decide. I very much regret that the Government have so long disregarded the just complaints of the trade against, not so much the Tariff itself, as its interpretation by the department - on interpretation which has varied in the different States. I brought under the notice of the department a case in which three different interpretations were given in three States in regard to one class of articles, and what was true in that instance I believe is true in a dozen more. Under the present administration, it might happen that goods coming into Victoria would be charged 20 per cent., whilst similar goods coming into New South Wales would be charged only 15 per cent., [and other goods of the same kind coming into Brisbane only 10 per cent. In the present instance .there is no need for any increase in revenue. In spite of the denial of the Government that they will be partners in an attempt in the other Chamber to re-impose the duty upon tea, I believe that the majority of honorable members are of opinion that they would look with favorable eyes upon such an attempt, and that it is extremely probable that the attempt will he made, and made successfully, because pressure is being brought to bear by the necessitous States. If, in addition, we grant them the £40,000 for which we are now being asked, we may find ourselves in the happy position of having what no Australian Government has hai for some time past, a surplus ; and what we sholl do with it I do not know. I am very sorry that the Government have determined to go all through the Tariff again. I do not know if they can Bee before them any harbor of finality, but I cannot. If they are justified in moving the recommittal of items because they think that they can beat up a majority to vote for their proposals, there is no sort of reason why the Opposition should not do likewise. I hope that the committee will not agree to the proposal of the Government, and that if the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie is defeated, a reduction of 2£ per cent, will be mode. Furthermore, I trust that whatever happens to the item, the amendment of the honorable member for Bland in regard to coatings and trouserings will be similar! v treated.
– The most extraordinary statement that I have heard since I have been in this Parliament is that of the honorable member for West Sydney, who said that the Government, through their Agent, gave permission to their supporters to vote against the tea duty. No such permission was given, either by myself or by my right honorable colleague, and I had control of the tea item.
– The supporters of the Government took that permission, whether it was given or not.
– That is a very different thing ; though the day may come when they will regret their action.
– Will the right honorable gentleman say that such a statement was not mode?
– I say that no authority was given to make it.
– There was an implied authority, since it came from a certain person.
– The only person who could have given it would have been myself, and I was as desirous as any member of the committee that the duty should be imposed. Another statement made by the honorable member was that the Government are going to try to override the decision of the committee by having the re-imposition of the tea duty moved in the Senate. We have no such intention. If the Senate does anything in the matter, we shall have to consider then what course we shall take We did not attempt to recommit the item, because we found out, by making inquiries as to the opinions of honorable members who did not vote, that we could not succeed in getting the duty re-imposed, and that being so, what would have been the use in spending two or three days in discussing the matter 1
Air. Thomson. - The motion to recommit, was not discussed.
– But any proposed amendment would have been.
– Did the Government ascertain that their proposal to increase the salt duty would be carried ?
– No. I recommitted the salt duty because there was a misunderstanding when a vote was first taken upon it in committee, and I felt it my duty to have it reconsidered, though I had no knowledge of what the result would be. There is another item in regard to which’ I shall have to take a similar course. We are twitted with having allowed three or four months to elapse before making the proposal now before the committee, but this is the first opportunity we have had to make it. As I said before, our experience shows us that the advice tendered to us by honorable members opposite, that the provision agreed to by the committee would create confusion, and that an all-round fixed duty should be agreed upon, to secure simplicity of administration, was correct. That being so, it was our business to ask the committee to accept that advice. I press the proposal now before the committee very strongly, as a revenue duty which we are entitled to ask for. I regret the necessity as much as any man ; but an ad valorem duty of 7 J- per cent, will not very greatly affect the purchasers of the cheaper qualities of goods, and the duty will fall equitably upon all classes. It is ‘ argued that the Tariff is already returning mora revenue than was anticipated, but, while that is undoubtedly true as regards the aggregate a return, we must not forget that in the cose of two of the States, in one instance a smaller amount than was anticipated and in the other an amount very little in excess has been collected. The honorable member for West Sydney said that the action of the Opposition had largely increased the revenue, but I do not see how the revenue can be increased by placing articles on the free list, which is what the Opposition have consistently tried to do. When they have failed to provide for the free admission of articles, they have moved for the lowest duty possible, and then for a slightly higher duty.
– Until the committee agreed to a revenue duty instead of to a protective duty.
– The revenue duties to which the Opposition have agreed have been duties of 10 and 1 5 per cent No one can say what return the Tariff will give under normal circumstances after it has been in operation for a year or two, and while it is a very nice thing to out down revenue duties, I feel that it is not a proper tiling to do at the present time, considering our obligations. If the proposal which we now place before the committee be agreed to, slightly more revenue will be obtained than the item will yield as it stands ; but what the Opposition want to do is to make the item absolutely free, and .thus incur an admitted loss of revenue amounting to £150,000. That is of no concern to New South Wales, which will have a sufficient amount of revenue under any circumstances. It also probably means very little to Western Australia, so long as she has her present additional Tariff, but the amount of revenue derived from that source will diminish every year, and when the Inter-State duties cease she will very probably be glad to have the assistance given by such revenue duties as these. Had we been able to retain other duties which have been struck out, and which would have represented revenue amounting to £600,000 per annum, there might have been some justification for saying that we should relieve the public from payment of ‘ duty on these articles. I should have been only too glad to make the whole of this line free, because I know that it would have assisted some of the Victorian industries. As a protectionist I believe in giving these industries a fair measure of protection, and introducing their raw materials free ; but the exigencies of the Commonwealth are such that I could not see my way to agree to any such proposal. When I speak of the exigencies of the Commonwealth I mean the exigencies of the several States. We all know that if any financial trouble occurs in any one of the States it must recoil upon the Commonwealth, and we are bound to give to the several States a fair and reasonable amount of revenue. Owing to the disturbing conditions which have operated during the current year we shall be able to make our return to the States only on a revenue of
About £8,000,000 ; but in a normal year should be able to make the return on a revenue of £9,000,000, which would enable them tocarry on properly. The reductions already made, however, have largely modified our revenue anticipations, and we are not justified in taking any further risks. The States, and especially the smaller ones, entered into the federal compact on the understanding that their finances would be protected, and that they would receive back from us a sufficient amount to enable them to carry on, and as their trustees we have no right to run any risk of a serious shortage. We ought to be on the safe side. If the experience of a year or two shows that the revenue is more than sufficient to give the States the money they require we can then reduce these revenue duties. It will be much more easy to take off a duty than to impose additional duties which may be required to meet the necessities of the case.
– But how will the matter stand if the State increase their needs in the meantime?
– I am not dealing with what the States may need in the future. I adopted, as the basis upon which we should calculate the revenue necessities of the various States, the returns for the year 1899, which was a normal year, and we have a solemn duty to perform to the States, namely, to give them back, as nearly as possible, the amount they were collecting in that year. We cannot, of course, return to some of the States as much as they were receiving, as that would have necessitated the imposition of too heavy a Tariff, but we must do our best in that direction. We must not forget that we have taken away from the States their great power of taxation through the Customs, and that they have trusted implicitly to us to maintain them in a proper financial position. What would have happened in any one of these States with pressing financial necessities, if we had not entered into the federation? Take, for instance, South Australia, where there will probably be a deficit The Premier would have been able to bring down proposals dealing withcustoms and excise duties in such a manner as he might think necessary to meet the exigencies of the case. He would have been able to impose a primagerate for a year or two, and increase the duties so as to meet the deficit ; but now we have taken this power away from him. Some of the States that are most likely to suffer were the most enthusiastic in the cause of federation, and it is our business not to strike out these duties because it may appear nice to be able to relieve the people of certain burdens, but to do our best, whether we are protectionists or free-traders, to treat the matter in a federal spirit and not to think of our own individual States. So far as Victoria is concerned, the abolition of these duties would no doubt entail a heavy loss, but probably she would be able to pull through. With regard to some of the other States, however, great difficulties might arise. Has not South Australia imposed nearly all the direct taxation it is possible to levy, and is not Tasmania in much the same position ? Queensland is suffering very severely, and I never expected that she would be affected to the same extent as now appears, but Queensland is a great country, and when the present drought has passed away, and good seasons return, she will no doubt be able to obtain sufficient revenue from the Customs to maintain her finances in a proper condition. In the meantime she will not receive enough from that source, and we must protect her interests. I hope honorable members will not be led away by the cry that we should make these goods free of duty, and that they will not assume that because the aggregate revenue is sufficient for the purposes of the Commonwealth it will therefore fully meet the requirements of the individual States. I venture to say that when the Tariff is in full working order it will be found that four out of the six States will not receive enough revenue through the Customs to enable them to carry on. It is all very well to say that these States should increase their direct taxation, but I venture to tell honorable members that these States joined the Federation on the distinct understanding that we would protect their rights, and if we take any steps to reduce the revenue, and thus force them into carrying out drastic retrenchment or levying heavy taxation, the people will not blame those who have to impose the taxation, but will rightly accuse us of having been false to the trust reposed in us. This is a serious matter to those States which can least afford to lose their revenue. What are we asking fori That a uniform rate of 7£ per cent, shall be levied so that a large amount of revenue may be realized in those States which roost require it I venture to say that these duties will not be felt by any family or individual within the Commonwealth. This is the only course open to us, and our duty is plain, whether the step we are taking is popular or unpopular. We should impose these duties at the present time and await the working of the Tariff for the next two or three years. Let us see how the revenue will be affected when our factories are fairly established, and we are .producing very largely goods which are now imported, and upon which duty has to be paid. If we receive the £11,000,000 or £12,000,000 which some honorable members seem to think will be derived, no one will be more anxious than myself to reduce the duties. But in the meantime do not let us take any action that will place any of the States in the unfortunate position of having to impose heavy taxation in order to raise revenue to meet its needs. Thousands and thousands of people voted for federation on the understanding that we would protect the financial interests of the States, from which we were taking away the principle means of raising revenue in time of need. I feel very strongly upon this matter. I am taking up my present position very much against my own desires as a protectionist, because I should very much like to see these raw materials admitted free of duty. I feel, however, that whilst I hold the position of Treasurer, it is my undoubted duty to urge the committee to pass these duties in order to give us revenue sufficient to meet the necessities of the States. If after the Tariff has been in operation for some time my predictions are belied, we can easily reduce the duties so as te bring the revenue within something like reasonable proportions. Until we can arrive at certainty on this point, however, we have no right to strike off these revenue duties. I ask my honorable friends on both sides of the chamber to give to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth the amount of revenue which he thinks he requires on this particular item.
– I have listened to the most eloquent and .touching address which my distinguished friend has ever delivered in any place on any subject. We all thoroughly respect his earnestness, and we feel somewhat affected by the desperate way in which he is seeking t» retain the enormous exactions which he and his Government have imposed upon the people of Australia. My right honorable friend in dealing with matters of this sort seems to be unable to draw a sufficiently clear line of distinction between the States as States and their Governments, and the people of the States. So long aspresent methods of expenditure in the different States continue, we shall find the Governments rapacious to the lost degree for the extremest exactions from the people, in order that they may recklessly spend money. Dealing, however, with the States, as representing the people, the taxpayers are precisely the same people, whether in. the Commonwealth or in the States. One of the serious lines of cleavage between, the party which I have the honour to lead and the Government is this : - That the Government, at a time when extravagance is rampant all over Australia, are ministering to that extravagance by pursuing their present line of policy. The Government are not pursuing the prudent line of, if anything, moderating the exactions from the people until we can clearly foresee what the actual working of the Tariff will be, but they are adopting what I call the imprudent, and the unstatesmanlike course of exaggerating the possibilities of the cose, -in order to impose upon the people greater burdens than wise financing would suggest If the people in any State of the Commonwealth have one interest which is more weighty than another it is this - that when we are acting as a legislative body and imposing burdens upon them, we should try to cut down those burdens as narrowly and as closely as we can, consistently with the necessities of the case. That is the line of policy which the Ministry have failed to follow. If we under-tax the people of the Commonwealth, and in consequence an embarrassing financial situation is created in each of the States, the people will, I think, not view us with undying hatred because we have tried to manage their finances upon more prudent lines than experience warrants. We know from the history of finance in politics that if you give a Government millions more than the circumstances require, in an incredibly short period of time it becomes a necessity to that Government to continue to draw the extra millions for all time to come.
My view of this matter is that the people will forgive us if the result proves that we have under-taxed them. But if the result evidences that we have over-taxed them, the money will have been spent in the interim and can never be returned. We shall only add to the difficulties of the situation by enlarging the basis for extravagance which already exists. Therefore, although I thoroughly appreciate the motives of the Treasurer in connexion with this matter, I feel bound to join issue with him. He made another remark which I must strongly deprecate. He has made similar remarks upon more than one occasion, and more than once I have called attention to them. They do a deal of harm to the credit of Australia in quarters where our credit is of very great importance - quarters where there are already a sufficient number of hostile critics of Australian finance. The right honorable gentleman said that if anything “ happens “ to one of these States the whole Commonwealth will be injured. Our financial critics in London, reading that remark, will” interpret it to mean that even the Treasurer of the Commonwealth contemplates, as one of the possibilities of the situation, that one of the States will be unable to meet its engagements. That is a serious remark to come from the mouth of the finance Minister of the Commonwealth. Of course it is absolutely ridiculous. We know very well that there is not one of these States, afflicted as they may be with passing troubles, which is not absolutely sound. If there be an element of embarrassment in the position of any one of the States it has arisen from over-taxation of the people, because, tax as highly as we may, Governments will spend as largely as they can. That it seems to me is a situation which tells strongly against the position assumed by Ministers. The Treasurer says that we do not know what the result of the operation of this Tariff will be. From that fact some men would deduce the very opposite conclusion to that drawn by my right honorable friend. If we do not know how the Tariff will work out, let us moderate our estimate of the taxation which we think it is necessary to impose upon the people. Is ignorance of the exact outcome of our proposals to be made an excuse for multiplying the burdens of the people? Is it not rather the strongest possible inducement to go slow? If we find that the Tariff is not yielding a sufficient revenue cannot, we add to the volume of taxation?
– The right honorable member attempted that in New South Wales, and did not succeed very well.
Mr.REID. - If the Treasurer knew the history of the finances of New South Wales since I vacated the office of Treasurer, he would scarcely make that remark.
– The right honorable member attempted to impose extra taxation when he thought it was necessary, but was not successful in so doing.
Mr.REID. - May I point out to the Treasurer that, whether rightly or wrongly, I removed enormous burdens from the people. Finding that in my desire to make those burdens as light as possible, I had
Bailed rather close to the wind - owing to many misfortunes to which I do not wish to refer - I had the courage to come forward and anticipate a possible deficiency by making provision for it. But as events subsequently proved I was over-prudent in proposing that extra taxation, because, notwithstanding that I failed to carry most of my proposals, there was a large surplus at the end of the year. That is the history of my State financing. I managed to carry on the government of New South Wales with an expenditure of £9,250,000, whereas the expenditure during the two-and-half years which have since elapsed, has advanced to over £12,000,000 annually. I think, therefore, that my worst political opponents in New South Wales will agree with a certain leading and illustrious weekly newspaper which said last week -
Whatever Haiti’s financing was, Lyne’s was worse, and See’s capped them all!
I erred upon the side of putting the knife into the bone of this huge system of taxation, which has been the curse of the people of Australia.
– To a great extent the right honorable member passed on current expenditure to posterity.
Mr.REID. - I passed some of it on to the honorable member. That is what has made him think of posterity. Going away from this subject, however, I wish to strongly emphasize my previous remarks. In view of the fact that no duty has been imposed upon tea - and I most cordially approve of the course taken by a majority of this committee, although I admit that a duty upon that article would be one of the fairest imposts in the world in a reasonable Tariff - I feel that to press the proposal to exempt the goods under discussion would be going too far. If the Government will tax the people upon their clothing, of course 1 naturally want to exempt their tea from duty. That is my policy. Under all the circumstances, I am perfectly prepared to vote for a 5 per cent, rate all round. I should like to point out to the Treasurer that the revenue which such an impost would yield would be less than the amount derivable under the Government proposal only by about £25,000. A 10 per cent, duty upon goods valued at £1,500,000 represents £150,000, while a 5 per cent, duty upon £2,500,000 worth of goods would yield £125,000, so that the difference between the revenue which would becolleoted under the two proposals represents only £25,000. But in all probability there would be no actual difference, because whatever our fiscal views may be, all will agree that if we have an enormous body of imports under any heading, a large proportion of which is dutiable whilst the remainder is admitted free, a large loss of revenue must inevitably result. In such circumstances, a considerable quantity of the goods which should be dutiable ave somehow or other admitted free. Probably an all-round duty of 5 per cent, would yield very much the same revenue as the Treasurer expects to derive under the Government proposal. Therefore, I om perfectly prepared to take the responsibility of voting for the imposition of a 5 per cent, duty all round.
– I have consistently opposed every protectionist duty which in its incidence was prohibitive, and would thus prevent the realization of revenue. Wherever it has been due to the people - as in many instances it has - that goods should be placed upon the free list, I have voted with those who have sought to exempt them from duty. Now, however, we are discussing a revenue duty for which free-traders may honestly vote, and which, considering the exigencies of the revenue, I shall support, even if I om constrained to vote against some members of my own party. It cannot be said that the operation of a duty of 7½ per cent, is likely to be in any way oppressive. Neither can it be urged that in this case the consumption of the poorer people of the community is per head of family equal to the consumption of the richer. Every household is regulated by the means of its owner.
– People must go without boots and clothes if they cannot buy them.
– I hardly appreciate the relevancy of that remark. I would further point out that when we talk of the large sum which the Tariff will realize, we are speaking of an unknown quantity. We do not know what it will realize. We only know what has been realized so far, and from that basis we can deduce nothing which is perfectly satisfactory, because none of us - except possibly the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs - knows what influences hitherto operated, although we can very easily imagine that many influences have had the effect of giving a tremendous stimulus to the customs revenue to date - a stimulus which will utterly fail when the Tariff is finally passed. We do not even know the form in which this Tariff will be finally passed. It is still subject to possible alterations - alterations which may seriously affect the revenue. The honorable member for Macquarie, when speaking of the more necessitous States, said light-heartedly that the other States would be willing to lend them any money which they might require. Where is the honorable member going to obtain that money? What solid comfort is there about a promise of that description?
– He will give an I.O.U.
– A promise of that description is about as good as the pledge of Dick Swiveller or the promissory note of Micawber. What the smaller States require is a sufficient revenue to enable them to meet their obligations and to place their finances upon a fair basis. They do not ask for promissory notes, nor even for cash payments.
– I listened with very great attention to the earnest appeal which the Treasurer made to this committee. I had previously resolved to support an allround duty of 5 per cent., but in view of the strong case which the right honorable gentleman has presented, I must support his proposal to levy a duty of 7½ per cent., if he cannot agree to 5 per cent. My feeling is that much of the responsibility for the imposition of these duties must rest with those honorable members who did away with the duty on tea. That is a responsibility which, I am afraid, will come home to many honorable members. I think it was a bad vote, and I regret exceedingly that it was given. We have, as the Treasurer has pointed out, to respect the obligations which we incurred to the States, and that is a grave responsibility.
– I hope that the Government will accept the compromise which has been offered by the leader of the Opposition. I feel in a certain amount of difficulty. I take it that no matter on which Bide we sit, we are. bound to see that sufficient funds are raised for the purposes of the Commonwealth ; certainly not to minister in any way to any extravagant spirit which may be displayed by the States. Since the committee in its wisdom has refused to sanction a duty on tea, by which we might have raised a sum of nearly £400,000, it is incumbent upon us to see how we can make good that loss. I was prepared to vote for the imposition of a duty of 2d. per lb. on tea, but since the committee decided not to have a duty on that article, I have thought that we were bound to review other duties. From the start I have taken the stand that it was most unwise for the committee to delay its decision on the tea duty to such a late period. The duties on tea, sugar, and other things should have been decided in the first instance, so that we might have dealt with the minor articles with a thorough knowledge of what revenue we had secured by means of those great revenue-producing items. Being in a state of ignorance as to what will be the outcome of this Tariff, we are bound to see that we make sufficient provision for the requirements of the Commonwealth. It was perfectly right for the Government to bring forward a proposal to review the duties on these linen and cotton piece goods, but I cannot agree to the imposition of a 7 per cent duty. The suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition is a most wise and patriotic one. It shows that he is taking up a proper position of responsibility, and is desirous of assisting the Government to provide for the adequate needs of the Commonwealth, without going to any undesirable extent in ministering to the extravagance of the States. His suggestion does infinite credit to him. I hope that it will be adopted by the Government, so that we may come to what I consider to be a very happy compromise, and one which I think, if it is adopted, will reflect credit on both sides of the House.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I can only agree partially with the statement of the lost speaker, that we ore under an obligation to assist the Government in providing for the needs of the States. Our obligation can only arise when we have some share of the responsibility of framing the measures which are necessary to finance the States as they ought to be financed. I decline to subscribe to the theory that the Government must destroy revenue sources every day of the week, and that then we must be dragged at their chariot wheels to make up for that loss by adopting other forms of taxation. That is not my idea of the function of an Opposition in connexion with the question of financing the States. In these very proposals of the Government for the reconsideration of items, time after time they seek to destroy revenue sources. Take the item of mining machinery. Why is the duty on that item to be fixed at 20 per cent. ? To shut out the possibility of getting revenue from that source. Again, why is the duty on starch to be fixed at 2d. per lb.1 To shut out the possibility of getting revenue from that source. So one could go through the Tariff. Ministers are robbing the States of revenue every day of the week, and then they come and plead piteously to us that in the interests of the States we should help them to put on these revenue duties. It is a wrong thing to consent to the piling up of these revenue duties, which properly belong to a free-trade Tariff, on the top of their high protective Tariff. If we had had the responsibility of framing the Tariff on proper lines, this difficulty would not have arisen. It is because the Government every day of the week have destroyed sources of revenue that the States are short It is not our duty to take the obligation which rests upon them of making up for that loss in some other way. They must accept that responsibility. I decline to share in the responsibility of making up State deficits. The Treasurer told us with a great deal of fervour, almost with tremulousness in his voice, that we must see the States through. How and to what extent are we to see the States through 1 Has any honorable member ever heard of any States applying the pruning knife of retrenchment f Has any one ever heard that any States spent less last year than in the previous year ? It seems that concurrent with federation all the States have increased their expenditure.
– Except South Australia, which has reduced the number of Members of Parliament and of Ministers.
– - What is the net result of their efforts * at retrenchment so far 1 I decline to subscribe to the theory of the Treasurer that the only alternative to voting these free-trade revenue duties is to impose direct taxation. There are. other alternatives which ought to be adopted before resorting to taxation in any of the States. The States may all reduce their expenses if they will. In New- South Wales a dose of economy will be very welcome indeed. We have heard from the leader of the Opposition that the increased expenditure from revenue alone in that State is £3,000,000 in two ‘and a half years - from £9,250,000 to £12,250,000.
Mi-. Reid - I said over £2,500,000 as I wished to be on the safe side.
– My statement is well on the safe side. According to a recent analysis, the spendings in New South Wales this year are £6,000,000 more than they were four years ago. Are we compelled to take the obligation of maintaining that condition of things? I do not think so. It is an anomaly in our system of finance that while we have the obligation to raise revenue, we have no control over its expenditure. When I see wanton extravagance going on in many of the States, I decline to ‘pile up these revenue duties for the purpose of bolstering up that extravagance. The Government persistently by their policy of protection have destroyed revenue sources, and it is no part of our obligation to help them out of difficulties of their own creation. When the Treasurer says that we must see the States through if there be a difficulty, our reply is that it is of his own creation and he must adopt a moderate revenue Tariff. The difficulty would not have arisen but for the way in which the Government have shut out revenue. If the intention expressed in the Maitland manifesto hod been adhered to, and a 15 per cent revenue duty placed on the bulk’ of the imports, none of these troubles would have arisen in any of the States. It is because the Government departed from what they told the people on the hustings that all these troubles have come upon them. As a member of the Opposition I decline to take the slightest responsibility for any of the troubles which the Treasurer sees looming in the distance.
– I am glad that on one matter at least the committee seem to be agreed, and that is that these cotton and linen piece-goods, if not made duty free, shall be subject to a uniform duty, whether it be 5 per cent or 7£ per cent The samples which . have been displayed here by honorable members prove very clearly that, if it’ were at all possible to distinguish between the different articles, it would require so many officers to be appointed that merely for the purposes of administration one-half at least of the revenue would be swallowed up, to say nothing of the endless delays and inconveniences which would be caused to merchants. On that point it is ‘a goodthing to see the committee agreed. The Treasurer has made an appeal on behalf of revenue. He says that he wants an additional sum of £150,000, and that the various States will need the money. It is a remarkable thing that immediately after he made that request he said - “ If there is a greater revenue than is desired, the very first thing I shall do, when I - get an opportunity, will be to take off the revenue duties,, and leave on only the protective duties.” That shows that he was not considering the interests of the States, although he argued that he was, because his argument now is - “So long as you can show me that this money will not go into the Treasury, but will go into the pockets of particular manufacturers, or of a class of manufacturers, I am quite willing that the duties shall remain ; but the moment you are able .to show me that all the revenue from a duty will go into the Treasury, that moment I shall agree that it is one which ought to be abolished as soon as possible.” Is not that an extraordinary doctrine for any Minister to lay down to the committee ? One would try to believe that the Treasurer could not have meant what he said if it were not for the fact that, time after time, it has only been necessary for some honorable member to show that the revenue from a duty would not all be received by the Treasury for the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs to at once decide that the proposal, however monstrous and unjust it might be, ought to receive their support. “With regard to the question of revenue, one would have thought, from the appeal of the Treasurer, that he was speaking in the interests of a particular State. But we are here as representatives of the people of Australia. At the present time we have -nothing whatever to do with State rights. We have to discuss the financial policy laid before the people of the Commonwealth when they were informed that it would be necessary to raise a sum not exceeding £8,000,000 from customs and excise. That was the statement made by the Prime Minister and other honorable members opposite. But the information now before us shows that this Tariff will bring in about £9,000,000 of money in a normal year. The Treasurer has already admitted that he has received an increase of £500,000 above what he expected. That will bring the revenue from the Tariff up to about £9,500,000
On his own showing. But I can show that the right honorable gentleman has underestimated the results. Let honorable members turn to three or four of the large items. In regard to spirits, the difference between what was expected and what the Treasurer has actually received has been £140,000 in four months - that is, from October 9th to January 13th. Honorable members will recognise what a tremendous difference that makes. Again, on tobacco, both import duty and excise, the difference was over £160,000. So that on the two items of tobacco and spirits alone there has been a difference of £300,000. I could go into other large items and show that they indicate a difference of nearly £700,000. An analysis of the returns proves that the actual receipts from the Tariff as introduced would have given the Treasurer about £1,200,000 more than he at first estimated. He has only put down the excess at £500,000, because that is what he has received, but there is another £700,000 to be added to that sum. If the revenue from the Tariff had been £8,000,000, it would have given far more /than New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia require. When the Treasurer made his impassioned statement regarding South Australia he pointed out that that State is short by £200,000 this year. But that is not due to the action of the Federal Parliament. The revenue collected from customs and returned to South Australia has been far greater than that State has ever received in previous years.
The shortage in the South Australian revenue is due to the failure of the mines, and to the terrible depression in the price of lead. I read that there has been a drop of over £100,000 in the railway receipts on the Broken Hill -line alone. How can we possibly help a thing like that) It is not a matter for us to deal with. We may regret that this shortage has occurred, but we cannot be expected to impose further taxation on the people of the Commonwealth to meet it, The right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, has stated that one reason why we should impose duties amounting to £150,000 on the people is because a certain amount of that ought to be returned to Tasmania. The amount of revenue which would be returned to Tasmania from an item like ;this would, I think, be £7000 or £8000. I regret that that State should go short but I would point out that the Government have thrown away revenue in regard to other items, and that we cannot be expected to make it up in the way now proposed. If the argument hod been used with regard to the revenue duties, that they should not be decreased because of the necessities of the States, and if there had been no undue taxation in regard to other items, the argument might have had weight with honorable members, arid probably many of us would have been found voting in accordance with the requirements of the States. To that extent honorable members were bound to go, but not beyond it. The moment the Government departed from the sound procedure of collecting only what was absolutely essential for the purposes of administration, that moment honorable members on the opposition side of the chamber were bound to oppose them as strongly as possible. The honorable member for Kooyong has, in effect, said that sooner than allow £35,000 to be lost, to Tasmania he would be prepared to impose £1,000,000 of taxation on the rest of Australia. If that honorable member, and those who take bis view, would state at once that to meet the deficiency in Tasmania he would be prepared to vote for direct taxation to the extent of even half-a-million, honorable members might attach importance to what he has said. But when we have honorable members saying on the one hand that they will not vote foi’ direct taxation, and on the other that they will vote to increase Customs taxation all round to provide for the necessities of the States, I want to know what position we shall get the
Commonwealth into if we follow such advice. Why did not the Treasurer listen to honorable members like myself; who protested when he threw away £90,000 on spirit excise? Why did he not consider the States as he ought to have done in that matter? But he mode no protest against £90,000 being diverted into the pockets of some distillers. No ; at that moment his mighty soul rose up in defence of those lucky individuals, and he did not care twopence about the necessities of the States. There can be no question that if the excise and the import duty had been the same, as it should have been, that amount would have been received by the Treasurer. Then let honorable members recollect the duty on hats - 20 percent. If the Treasurer was so anxious about the States, why did he consent to lose nearly £40,000 upon that item? Because he hoped that that sum might . be diverted into the pockets of some firms of hat manufacturers. We know that there is a hat factory in Victoria, the proprietors of which mode powerful representations to honorable members. And we must listen to them in preference to attending to the necessities of the States. As a matter of fact, the revenue was actually thrown away in that respect. Is the Treasurer, in these circumstances, the man who should ask the committee to consent to anything of this sort f Is he the mon who should say that, because there may be a shortage in the case of some of the States, therefore we are to find revenue for him ? We know what has been the extravagance in Victoria and New South Wales, and that so far as South Australia is concerned, it has received for more revenue under the Federal Tariff than it ever obtained before. Western Australia is in the same position. Should we not, therefore, pat an end to this demand for further taxation, and not listen to appeals when we know that they are unsound? When this item was brought up lost year, and before I knew what a large revenue would be derived from the whole of the Customs taxation, I was one of those who proposed that’ it would be far better to adopt on all-round Tariff of 5 per cent, on these goods, instead of continually splitting them up in the way in which the committee was doing. But to-day the situation is different ; we have no need of additional revenue. If we are unable to resist the pressure of one or two small States that are clamouring for an amount of money which it was never anticipated would be returned to them, it will bo impossible to withstand the pressure which must necessarily be brought to bear upon us when the larger States have squandered all the money that they are now receiving. This is the House which ought to endeavour to put an end to the extravagance of the States. We may be in the unfortunate position of depriving one or two States of an amount to which they are genuinely entitled. That,” however, is a’ matter which can be fought out in another place, and which can receive the attention it deservesat our hands when the Tariff comes back.
– I do not think the committee will accuse me of any desire to waste time, and I should not have spoken at this juncture if the Treasurer had not failed to reply to the very reasonable suggestion thrown out by the leader of the Opposition. I have had an opportunity of examining a number of samples of goods affected by this item, and I think itwould be very hard indeed for an expert todiscriminate between those which are admitted free and those which carry a 10 per cent. duty. If the suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition were adopted, and an all-round duty of 5 per cent, imposed, we believe that the same amount of revenue would be rased as that which the Treasurer expects to receive by means of a 7 per cent, duty. We have from time to time made proposals for raising revenue, but the Treasurer and his colleagues have insisted that these particular manufactures should carry a protective rather than a revenue duty. It would appear that the chickens have comehome to roost. The Treasurer fears that some of the States will be in financial straits before long. .1 have no such fear. South Australia, which has been referred to inferentially, has so far received a largerrevenue than she obtained last year.
– Owing to the heavy rates which have since been altered.
– I have no intention of going into the matter in detail, save to say that if these excessive rates were not levied we should obtain more revenue, and the necessity for the appeal made by the Treasurer would disappear. His appeal seemed to be an attempt torally his forces, and did not give the impression that the States were likely tobe in straitened circumstances if these proposals were not adopted by the committee. I hope that the Treasurer will make some statement with respect to the suggestion made by the leader of the Opposition that the duty should be 5 per cent, all round.
– As I understand the Government proposal, it practically means that all cotton and linen piece-goods will be dutiable ; that a very large class of goods now included in the free list will be liable to a duty of 7£ per cent., and that those which are now subject to a duty of 10 per cent, will also be included under the 7£ per cent, heading. If that is so I shall not be prepared to go as far as the Government propose. The Customs authorities are themselves to blame for the difficulty which has arisen in regard to administration, for the classifications were made on their advice. In their original proposal the Government made two classifications, on which they proposed to levy 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, duties. It was finally decided that a duty of 10 per cent, should be levied on one particular classification, and that the other should be admitted free. The Customs authorities find, however, that difficulties arise in administering these two classes, and that there is a necessity for uniformity. I am not convinced that in order to obtain that uniformity there is any necessity to increase the revenue. As I understand the situation, something like the same amount of revenue would be obtained from an all-round duty of 5 per cent, on these goods.
– There would be a loss of £25,000.
– The difference between the 5 per cent, proposed by the leader of the Opposition and the duty of 7£ per cent, proposed by the Government would be £62,500.
– That is simply on the figures, but there are other factors to be considered.
– Mv experience is that one has only to state his facts in order to obtain figures to prove them. A desire for economy is being expressed throughout the Commonwealth, and the only effective means of fulfilling that desire is by refusing to vote the money. While you give a Treasurer money he will spend every penny of it. I know that the Treasurer is not in the habit of making statements for which there are not good grounds ; but while I recognise the position of great responsibility which he occupies, I am not disposed to give this increased revenue to the Commonwealth in order that it may be distributed amongst the States. We have already too much extravagance all round.
-paterson. - The States want this additional revenue.
– And if we give it to them, we shall find that they will requireanother million next year. If there is any real desire for economy, we can test it now. If the necessity should arise, we can find the money for the States to which reference has been made.
– Disaster overshadows the whole of Australia.
– The cry of disaster, because there may be a deficiency in the accounts of the Treasurer for one year, is mere moonshine. An increased revenuetaxation is not going to ameliorate the conditions brought about by reason of disastrous droughts.
– The honorable member might have some regard for those who suffer.
– I have, but it is not by taking money out of their pockets that we can show regard for them.
– The State debts cannot be paid without money.
– To adopt such proposals as that before us is merely to keep up the old system of extravagance which we all cry out so much against on the platform, I take this opportunity of saying that the only effectual means of bringing about economy is to refuse to vote taxation. It is admitted on all sides that this is a> revenue duty pure and simple. Very recently I deliberately assisted the committee in reducing the taxation of the Commonwealth by something like half-a-million of money by freeing tea and kerosene, and I am not now going to vote more than 5 per cent all round as a revenue tax. If there is any real desire for economy let that desire be evinced now. Is it by taking money out of the pockets of the people whohave suffered in the drought distrusts that we are going to benefit those people !
-paterson. - They have no money to take.
– Then do not let ustry to take any. For the reasons I havegiven I shall support the proposal for ant all-round duty of 5 per cent
– The speech of the honorable member for Moira, who is a regular and consistent supporter of the Government, must have shown that there is something more than mere fractious opposition in regard to this item. There is a principle at stake, the importance of which has been recognised by the honorable member. I am afraid we have lost sight of the fact that in matters of taxation we have to deal with the whole of Australia, and not with the States ;, we do not tax the citizens of particular States, but the citizens of the (Commonwealth. The’ leader of the Opposition has pointed to the extravagant State expenditure which is going on throughout the whole of Australia, under the guidance of Premiers who know that the obloquy of imposing customs taxation rests with the Commonwealth, while the temporary prestige of reckless, expenditure lies with them. I am afraid that in the last few days representatives have been voting on State lines, and if that be continued we shall witness some of the worst phases of American politics.
– We had a taste of that lost night.
– Honorable members openly stated last night that they would vote for a duty on salt because those who advocated such a duty had previously supported a duty on sugar. By the Government proposal the duty on high-priced cotton goods will be decreased by 2½ per cent., while the duty on the cheaper cotton goods, which are purchased by the bulk of the community, will be 7½ per cent. It has been admitted that, irrespective of fiscal views, the cheaper classes of cotton goods should be placed on the free list, on the principle that the burdens of taxation should be equitably adjusted. But the principle advocated by the Government seems to be that the dearer the article, the less should be the taxation. When the people of Australia come to know the effect of the Government proposal, they will not regard it from the point of view of citizens of a State which is in financial difficulties, but from the point of view of citizens of the Commonwealth, who have been most unjustly treated in this connexion. We ought to exercise the power we have, and not supply food for the comorant-like appetites of Premiers who desire the cheap popularity which can be obtained by reckless expenditure. Under the new system of federal government, we have, with few exceptions, dealt with taxation as the representatives of Australia, and not as the representatives of States, and I trust the Minister will not insist on giving undue recognition to the apparent or probable financial position of any individual State. If that be done we shall find that the committee will not be divided on clear political lines, but will, as I have said, present some of the worst phases of American politics. The Senate can look after the State rights. This is the national House, and we must deal with matters of taxation in a national spirit I know that we cannot get these goods placed on the free list, and in order that importers may not evade the duty, and in order to protect the revenue, I am prepared, as a matter of pure expediency, to vote for a duty of 5 per cent. As a difference of only £25,000 per annum is involved, and as the Treasurer has admitted that he has obtained something like £600,000 more revenue than he anticipated, I hope the Government will accept the lower duties.
– I think that progress should now be reported.
– We must have a vote on the item to-day.
– Several honorable members are absent owing to the conference at Corowa, and I do not think they understood that there would be any determined effort made to get this itemthrough to-day. Nearly every honorable member who has spoken to-day has curtailed his remarks, while other honorable members have abstained from speaking, for the express purpose of enabling honorable members to catch the Inter-State trains.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- The desire of the Ministry to get to a vote as soon as possible is a very proper one, but certain honorable members have to travel some hundreds of miles, and ought not to be compelled to lose their trains because other honorable members wish to speak. If there had been a single speech which could in any way be described as obstructive, I should commend the Ministry for taking a firm attitude ; but it must be admitted that no such speech has been delivered this afternoon. The Ministry have treated the Opposition very well, and it would be better to arrange an adjournment rather than create ill-feeling amongst those who may be kept from their homes.
– Honorable members cannotsay that I have not treated thom with the utmost liberalityin the matter of adjournments. Time after time I have consented to adjourn when the sitting ought to have continued, and the fact is that we are not getting on with the Tariff.
– This is the wrong time to take a stand.
– Unfortunately every time seems to be the wrong time. However, T do not desire to put honorable members in a bad temper, because I know that does not facilitate business ; and I have no objection to adjourning now. I must, however, ask honorable members to go to a vote within a couple of hours of our meeting on Tuesday.
– We cannot make any promise.
– I cannot pledge honorablo members, but I shall do all I can to carry out such an understanding.
– The Government will probablyha ve to ask honorable members to sit an hour or two later next week.
– Let us meet an hour or two earlier - say ten o’clock.
– We are not getting on as quickly as we should, and I hope, therefore, that honorable members will curtail their remarks as much as they can.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - Attorney-
General)- I move -
That the House, at its rising,, adjourn until Tuosday next.
It may be necessary to ask honorable mem- bers to meet on Monday week if we do not make better progress than we have made heretofore. We must sit longer and of toner if we are to get through the business which re mains to be done.
– I should like to offer to the Government what I consider a very practical suggestion, and that is that between now and Tuesday next they should revise the business-paper, and strike out two-thirds of the items upon it.
SirGeorge Turner. - I should not object to striking out all the proposals of the Opposition.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta might very well be followed, because this is not the final revision of the Tariff.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– As a considerable time has elapsed siuce questions were put by me, and the honorable member for Parramatta, as to the probable date of the projected visit of the members of the House of Representatives to the proposed federal sites, I should like to ask the Attorney-General if the Government are yet able to give us any definite answer?
– Probably on Tuesday next the Home Secretary will be able to furnish the honorable member with the information which he desires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4. 18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020404_reps_1_9/>.