1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m.,. and read prayers.
-I desire to present a petition from Mr. J. C. Whitelaw, of Tasmania, with reference to the recent election of a member to serve in this House for the electorate of Tasmania, which I believe was., sent to you, Mr. Speaker. The petitioner, who, with Mr. McCall and Mr. Hall, was a candidate, claims that Mr. Hartnoll, . who was returned, was not eligible for election, because, under the Tasmanian Electoral Act of 1896 it is provided that there shall be written at the foot of the nomination-paper a statement under the hand of the person nominated declaring his consent to become a candidate, and that:, the consent of Mr. Hartnoll was not so given in writing. He prays that it may therefore be determined that Mr. Hartnoll was not duly elected and returned, and that he may be returned, and may have such further or other redress as the circumstances may warrant. I move -
That the petition be received, and be referred at once to the Committee of Elections and Qualifications for inquiry and report.
– Has a deposit been made by Mr. Whitelaw ?
– I understand that a deposit has been lodged with the Supreme Court of Tasmania, but none has been received by the officers of this House.
– I wish to explain that I have not taken up this matter for party reasons, but merely because Mr. Speaker thinks that I am the person who ought to present the petition. I take it that the question whether the lodging of a deposit with the Supreme Court of Tasmania is sufficient is one to be determined by the Committee of Elections and Qualifications.
– This House cannot be blind to the fact that, even supposing the objection taken by Mr.Whitelaw be a valid one - and I am not sufficiently versed in the electoral law of Tasmania to say whether it is or is not-
– I rise to order. Is it in accordance with the proprieties, or permitted by the standing orders, that an honorable member should proceed to discuss a question which it is proposed to refer to a committee of this House which is in the nature of a legal tribunal, and is supposed to determine the matter in dispute according to the justice of the case?
– Any honorable member is entitled to speak upon the motion before the House. ; but I trust that the practice which will be adopted is that such questions as this will be referred to the Committee of Elections and Qualifications as a matter of form, and that honorable members will wait until the committee brings up its report before raising any discussion upon them.
– As a rule, unless it can be shown that there is some very solid reason for lodging a petition, I do not think the House should receive it. The matter is entirely within the control of the House. The objection taken to the return of Mr. Hartnoll appears to be that his signature was not attached to a certain document, and it appears to mo that it is for this House to say whether a quibble of that sort should be allowed to defeat the expressed will of the people of Tasmania as shown by the returns of the voting at the recent election. I should hold that view even if the honorable member who has been returned belonged to the party which sits on the other side of the Chamber. Therefore, I should like to see the petition referred to the committee, with a direction which would prevent the time of the members of the committee from being wasted over a purely” technical difficulty. If the petition be referred to the committee without any direction from the House, it may happen, if the members present are persons of an extremely technical cast of mind, that they will be inclined to come to a determination which will defeat the desires of the people of Tasmania. My reading of the law is that in a matter of this kind it should be interpreted so as to carry out the will of the people as declared as nearly as possible, and one of the dangers which must be guarded against is that of overlooking the spirit of the law, and being entirely guided by its letter. However, as honorable members seem to think that the matter will be safe in the hands of the committee, perhaps it will be as well to wait until its report is received before dealing with it further. I trust, however, that all speed will be taken by the committee in coming to a conclusion, because I hold that the moment a member’s seat is challenged the objection should be investigated as speedily as possible, and I think honorable members have sufficient of the judicial temperament to agree with me in that.
– I wish to ask the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, if, after the strong statements which he made against Mr.Whitelaw during the recent election campaign, he intends to sit as a member of the Elections and Qualifications Committee upon this case?
– The honorable member cannot, at this stage, formally ask such a question; but if the right honorable member for Tasmania chooses to reply to the question, as part of the discussion, he can do so.
– If I entertained any portion of the doubt which apparently influences the mind of the honorable member for Kennedy as to my qualification to sit upon this case, and to deal honestly with the petition which it is proposed to refer to the Committee of Elections and Qualifications, I should im-. mediately request that I might be relieved of the responsibility of my position as a member of the committee; but I am perfectly satisfied that my mind will not be in the slightest degree biased by anything that has gone before or any party interest that I may take in the result.
– Can the right honorable member say that, after having said that he would sooner see the man hanged than a member of this House ?
– I think that any pro-Boer is more eligible-
– Is a man to be denied justice because he holds opinions of that sort?
– He has not been convicted of holding such opinions.
– I have said that I am ready to give him justice. All I said during the election I should be quite ready to repeat at any time.
– Yet the right honorable member says that he is not biased.
– I am not biased, because the decision of the committee will have to be regulated by law, and not by any particular opinions which Mr. Whitelaw or any one else may hold in regard to the Boer war or any other matter.
– The sooner we refer all these matters to the Supreme Court the better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. POYNTON presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of South Australia, praying that the franchise may be extended to women on the same terms as to men. He presented similar petitions fromtheIndependentOrder of Good Templars of South Australia, from the Woman’s Land Reform League of South Australia, from the Effective Voting League of South Australia, and from Henry Zadon and other adult residents of South Australia.
Mr. FOWLER presented similar petitions from the Western Australian District Independent Order of Rechabites, from the Independent Order of Oddfellows, Western Australia, from the Coastal Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia, from the Independent Order of Good Templars, Western Australia, and from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Western Australia.
Mr. WATSON presented a similar petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of New South Wales.
Mr. BAMFORD presented similar petitions from the Women’s Australian Natives Association of Queensland, from the Women’s Equal Franchise Society of Queensland, from the Women’s Franchise League of Queensland, from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Queensland, from the Queensland Temperance Alliance, and from the Salvation Army, Queensland.
Petitions received and read.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if his decision in the case of the R.M.S. Australia that, for the purposes of the Customs Act, coal is to be regarded as cargo, is to be taken as a precedent. In other words, is his action to be taken as an authoritative administrative verdict upon that particular section of the Act, and to be accepted as such by the steam-ship companies trading to our ports ? It is only the urgency of the matter that induces me to refer to it to-day, as I understand that my right honorable friend is not in very good health. The sooner an authoritative statement can be made as a guide for the future the better it will be for all concerned.
– In the case referred to, we did what we deemed necessary and proper under the circumstances ; but the whole question of holidays and our powers with respect to them, and also our powers to prevent ships from loading or discharging cargo on Sundays, will require a little further investigation. I shall announce the result as soon as possible, and if we require any further authority to enable us to do whatever is necessary, I take it that the House will not be slow to grant it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Defence whether he will lay upon the table to-morrow the report which I understand has been furnished to him by Major-General Hutton, with respect to the re-organization of the military services. I regard this matter as urgent, because I understand that if we adjourn at the end of this week the Prime Minister will not be with us when we re-assemble, and that no opportunity will be afforded of questioning him with respect to any recommendations made in the report, unless it is laid upon the table without further delay.
– I hope to be able to make the report available to-morrow.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs whether there is any truth in the statement in the newspapers that the Cabinet has again changed its opinion concerning the tour of the federal capital sites, and whether it is now intended that the Estimates should be passed, and a Loan Bill and other measures should be dealt with before the tour is entered upon?
– I think it is my duty to answer questions which relate to the action of the Cabinet. . All I can say, in reply to the honorable member, is that the matter will be discussed by the Cabinet to-morrow, and I shall be ready to answer the question the same afternoon.
– I should like to ask a further question. Is the Prime Minister aware that his colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, with the concurrence of the Minister for Home Affairs, informed the leader of the Opposition and myself, in the most definite way on Friday last, that the tour of the federal capital sites would positively be made when the Tariff discussion was concluded ?
– It is quite true that the Government have not abandoned the ideaof bringing about the tour during the present session; but the date has not been fixed, and that will be discussed in Cabinet tomorrow.
– It was promised most distinctly that it would begin on Friday next.
– Yes ; but all promises of that kind depend upon the state of public business. If the public business is sufficiently advanced, well and good ; but that is a question for the whole Cabinet, which will be taken into consideration to-morrow.
– The question will depend upon the state of the minds of honorable members. A great many honorable members have abandoned the idea of making the trip at the present time.
– I desire to know if the Prime Minister can inform us when the returnI moved for in the early part of the session relating to travelling allowances will be laid before the House ; are we to have it before we are called upon to deal with the Estimates?
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised that question ; I shall see that the return is placed before Parliament as soon as possible.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has granted permits for the discharge of cargo or coal from or the loading of any vessels on Sundays?
– I do not think so. Of course, a good deal goes on in the office in the regular course of which the Minister is not fully aware. No such permits have come under my observation, but if the honorable member will ask the question upon notice, I shall obtain the information desired.
Mr.MAHON. - Some time ago the Treasurer was able to inform us of the total receipts under the State Tariff of Western Australia, but could not give us any details. I understood that the right honorable gentleman could not obtain the details himself. I wish to know now whether it is possible to obtain the returns in detail, and when such returns can be laid before the House?
– I have not yet been able to obtain the details from the Customs department. Last week I again urged the department to procure the information for me, because I wished to include it in the papers to be laid before the Senate when they are dealing with the Tariff. I shall be only too glad to publish the details as soon as I obtain them. Personally I am very anxious to investigate them, and to see where I made a mistake in my calculations. The information can be furnished only by the Customs department, and I am afraid that the staff in Western Australia is not too large, and that it is probably not accustomed to doing this class of work. They have so far given me the totals only ; but I hope they will soon be able to furnish the details.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if there is any truth in the report that it will cost something like £30,000 to distribute the bonuses provided for in connexion -with the sugar industry in Queensland. A report to this effect has been circulated in Queensland, and as I understand that there is no foundation for it, I ask the question in order to obtain an official denial.
– In my opinion the idea that it will cost any such sum is preposterous.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 The Postmaster-General is not aware of the notion referred to.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice-
Whether, having regard to section 87 of the Constitution, it is permissible to the Commonwealth Government to deduct from duties of Customs and Excise levied in or on behalf of any State any portion of the rebate which has to be returned to manufacturers of sugar by white labour ?
– I think that, as provided in the Excise Bill, it is permissible.
Debate resumed from l 8th April (vide page 11843), on motion by Mr. Kingston -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I have no intention of following the right honorable the leader of the Opposition in his elaborate discourse upon the work we have done in Committee of Ways and Means, or upon the principles of Tariffframing. I think there is a general feeling throughout the House that we ought to have an armistice, and, therefore, the speech of the right honorable gentleman might have been a little less aggressive. It might also have been expected to reveal more indications of a modification of view in consequence of recent trade developments and change of policy, even in England. I wish to particularly refer to a matter which has not been touched upon by the leader of the Opposition. Clause 4 of the Bill prescribes that the time for the imposition of uniform duties of Customs is the 8th day of October, 1902. I adhere to the view I expressed during the discussion upon the Customs Bill that this attempt to anticipate the moment of imposition of uniform duties will be utterly , futile for the purposes of the Constitution. There is a crucial moment which the Constitution contemplates, namely, the moment of the imposition of uniform duties. That moment will not be reached until this Bill becomes law, and I fear that nothing that which we can do in any Bill under the Constitution can make that moment anterior to the actual time of the Governor-General’s signature. I was one of those who warned the Government of this difficulty when the Customs Bill was under discussion. I should not like it to be said that this measure passed through this Chamber without some one dissenting from the mode adopted by the Government for overcoming the difficulty presented. I admit that it is a grave difficulty, but, in my judgment, the Ministry have not been successful in meeting it. I wish also to refer to clause 7. I was astonished to find in this Bill a provision which is aimed at trusts or “combines,” as they are called in America. Although I quite appreciate the view which the Minister for Trade and Customs has adopted, I entertain grave doubts whether under section 55 of the’ Constitution that provision will be of the slightest use. Section 55 says that any law which imposes Customs taxation shall deal with the imposition of customs duties only. Therefore, any measure dealing with other matters would be inoperative. I do not speak of this clause, however, with the same confidence that I speak of clause 4. I seriously question whether it is competent for us to include a provision of this kind in a Customs Bill.
– It ought to be contained in a separate measure. Assuming, however, that it is valid it will not be effective in its operation. The Minister for Trade and Customs in this Bill professes to deal with combinations of importers or of manufacturers. But the only power given to the Government after an inquiry by the Judge has been held is to reduce or remit duties. I fail to see, therefore, what hold the Government will have over the importers. To say the very least, there is as much likelihood of combination on the part of importers as there is on the part of manufacturers. Honorable members who know the history of the reaper and binder will realize this. It has often struck me that there is no country in the world where conditions are more favorable to the establishment of combinations amongst importers than they are within the Commonwealth, seeing that we possess such a h uge territory and so smallapopulation. A few importers by combining would be able to rule the market, and to dictate terms in regard to any commodity. It would be well if clause 7 were embodied in a separate Bill, and I do not think that clause 4 has solved the difficulty of determining the period of the imposition of uniform duties.
– In view of the state of public business, and of thenecessity which exists for closing this session, the length of which has already exceeded the expectations of all who contested federal honours, I think it is desirable that the debate upon the Tariff should terminate. There were many things which I wished to say, but in view of the circumstances surrounding the position I intend to forego my opportunity for so doing. I believe there are others who intend to take a similar course, but I want the Ministry to clearly understand that we do so with the object of facilitating the transaction of public business, and because it is strongly felt by honorable members upon this side of the House that the tour of inspection of possible sites for the federal capital should be undertaken without any further delay.
– For the same reasons which actuate the acting leader of the Opposition, the section of this House to which I belong intend foregoing their right to speak upon this occasion. Another opportunity may possibly be afforded us at a later stage of bringing forward arguments with even more force than they could be presented now. At present there is a desire amongstthe labour section of the House to conclude the Tariff debate as early as possible, and to proceed with other work.
– I wish to place upon record my appreciation of the remarks which have fallen from the acting leader of the Opposition in regard to the desirability of bringing this session to a close. More than twelve months have elapsed since I left my home to attend to my parliamentary duties in this city. That fact sufficiently indicates to honorable members my feelings in regard to this matter. As the honorable member for Wentworth has said, there are very few candidates indeed who when they entered upon the federal campaign, ever dreamed that the session would exceed four or five months.
Mr KINGSTON (South Australia Minister for Trade and Customs), In reply. - I should like in the first place to acknowledge the courtesy of honorable members in the decision that has been arrived at. It reflects the greatest credit upon their public spirit. I know what a temptation it is to some of us - and I am taking myself as a typical example - to talk, although I confess that in the debate upon the Tariff I have not indulged in talking many times when I was provoked to do so, because I felt that the time would be better spent in arriving at a division. Now, however, that the House is in the humour to give practical effect to the sentiment which then animated me, I am only too delighted. I appreciate the remarks which have been made by honorable members, and I think it is very pleasant to reflect at this time that, in spite of all the little worries which we have had in committee - including the times, of course, when heat was naturally imported into the debates - there should be such a general feeling of goodwill animating honorable members. The Government reciprocate the feelings of honorable members opposite, and desire to speedily send this Bill to another Chamber, hoping to receive it back at as early a date as is compatible with its proper consideration. I trust that when it is placed upon the statute-book it will reflect credit upon all sections of both Houses. After the example which has been set to-day I do not know that I should have troubled to speak, but the remarks of the leader of the Opposition were such that it would be hardly complimentary for me to pass them by unnoticed. As I have a few observations to make in reply to them, I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman is not in the chamber, because, in his absence, one is naturally impelled to refrain from saying what perhaps. would be justified were he present. I take exception to the criticisms in which he indulged regarding the conduct of the Prime Minister, and which, I venture to say, were altogether unfair. The right honorable gentleman took it upon himself to complain of the frequent absence of the Prime Minister from this chamber. We all know perfectly well that whenever ithas been possible the Prime Minister has been either in this chamber, or available upon the premises in case any necessity arose for his immediate presence. I have yet to learn that when two Ministers have charge of a Tariff the presence of a third - who is less familiar with its details than are those whose business it has been to make a special study of its minutiæ - is absolutely necessary. Surely such a course of action would be absurd. Is a third Minister to sit here asafigure-head to be jibed at ? Certainly not ! I venture to think that when two Ministers are in charge of a Tariff, the time of the Prime Minister can be better spent in attending to those matters of pressing public business which occupy his every moment, so long as he is within call of the House. I trust we shall hear no more of these complaints. There is one thing about which I am very sorry. The leader of the Opposition has too often exhibited a desire to condemn those members of the Government who are representatives of his own State. It would seem that the local jealousies, dislikes, and quarrels of the old State Parliaments are being transferred here. I hoped, however, we had come here animated by a sincere desire to do our best for Australia, andto forget old party quarrels. I had my share of party quarrels and sectional strife in the State from which I come, but I am happy to say that I have buried every fraction of the old ill-will which might temporarily have arisen, and that the representatives of that State, with others, are working single-handed for the benefit of United Australia. I hope we shall not have these statements repeated. The leader of the Opposition talks about perpetual absence, indeed ! If there is one subject upon which he ought to be dumb, it is that. Out of the 164 days which this Parliament has sat, how often has the Prime Minister been absent? I have the figures here. He has been absent for ten days, and we know and regret some of the circumstances which caused his absence. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who censures the Prime Minister for his absence, makes this admission -
Unfortunately . I have been compelled to be absent on more than one occasion.
Now what are his figures ? I am sorry that he is not here to-day. I should be able to say a good deal more than I am now saying if he were. I regret the cause of his absences.
– There is no mystery about it.
– I know that there is no mystery about it. Professional pursuits are the cause. In matters of this kind we should extend every mutual courtesy. I am well aware that the necessity for attending to professional pursuits imposes a heavy strain on honorable members like the leader of the Opposition. I sympathize with him. I should like, indeed, if it were possible, that the remuneration which is accorded to the members of this House should be a more fitting recompense - of course I am expressing my private and personal opinion - for the responsibilities which are cast upon them. But when the right honorable member takes it upon himself to accuse the right honorable the Prime Minister in the terms he has used, I have a right to call attention to this fact - that whereas the Prime Minister was absent for only ten days, how often was the leader of the Opposition absent? Eighty -seven days! “ I have unfortunately been compelled to be absent on more than one occasion.” Eighty-seven days ; and yet this is the same gentleman who indulges in this criticism and finds fault with the Prime Minister.
– The leader of the Opposition was complaining that the Prime Minister, although in the building, was not in this chamber.
– The honorable member says the leader of the Opposition finds fault with the Prime Minister because, when he was here, he was not in his place. How many Ministers are required to be actually in the House? One or two. What necessity is there for all to be present ? Does any honorable member feel himself slighted because five-sixths of the Ministry, or a due proportion, are not here now ? Nothing of the sort ! We must arrange the public business as best we can. Honorable members know that the Prime Minister has been available when he was wanted, and that when any matter has arisen requiring his immediate presence he has come into the House and done what was necessary. So much for that matter. It is the only personal matter to which I am going to refer, and I am sorry that the occasion was given to necessitate the reference. I listened with the greatest care to the figures given “by the right honorable the leader of the Opposition, because I have occasion very frequently to scrutinize the working and financial results of our. Tariff. There are few things which are more interesting. The right honorable member favoured us with some particulars upon the subject. I want to tell honorable members this - that I will prove to their entire satisfaction that those figures are utterly unreliable and untrustworthy. I have been positively shocked, when I came to examine them, to ascertain their true nature. Knowing what I did of the facts, I did not hesitate, the moment the right honorable member sat down, to step across to him and mention to him personally, in a friendly way, . that his figures were ail wrong. I knew it. They were so utterly inconsistent with my recollection of what were the facts. Since Friday I have had an opportunity of looking fully into the matter, and I have been daily expecting some withdrawal by the right honorable member after the words I spoke to him in regard to the figures referred to. I am astonished that he has not yet made one. The figures are of such an extravagant and misleading character, that I do not believe that the right honorable member ever looked through them before using them. He is pressed for time in a variety of ways, and there seems to me but one solution in regard to the figures which he presented for our acceptance : that is, that they were placed in his hands by some one in whom he had greater confidence than, in this particular instance, he ought to have had, and that he accepted them blindly, used them rashly, applied his best intellect - as he always does, and a brilliant intellect it is - to the advocacy of the conclusion desired to be drawn, and drew a remarkable picture of the results. That picture, so far as the canvas ou which it is painted is concerned, is rotten to the core. I would ask honorable members to apply their common sense to the consideration of these matters. I ask them to look at the subject with the glamour which was cast around it by the eloquence of the honorable member temporarily dispelled. He speaks with such force, such strength, and such elegance of diction that one’s mind is temporarily withdrawn from the value of the argu- ment in admiration of the attributes with which he presents it for our consideration. In this connexion he has presented figures so inaccurate that honorable members, when they come to analyze them, will be startled at their absolute absurdity. Let me take one instance.
– I - I think they were Brother Hirsch ‘s figures !
– I do not know.
– He was not far wrong in the main, anyhow. N
– If all the right honorable member’s figures “go bang,” what becomes of the conclusions which he bases upon ‘them? He drew attention, amongst other things, to the fact that the right honorable the Treasurer had shown that the figures with regard to the results for the year were £600,000 in excess of the estimate which he had previously presented. I think £584,000 was the original sum the right honorable member mentioned, but he afterwards said £600,000 roughly.
– A little more than that for the twelve months.
– The leader of the Opposition said that calculation was based upon the experience of about five months. In making an estimate with the later knowledge possessed by the end of February as compared with the knowledge we possessed when we introduced the Tariff, the Treasurer showed that he would get £600,000 more than had at first been estimated. Let honorable members recollect that that was for the entire year. The Treasurer was making a calculation at that time with the extra knowledge before him, and bringing the calculation up to the end of the year, he calls the excess £600,000. The leader of the Opposition entirely loses sight of the fact that the calculation is for the end of the year. He adds another £200,000 on to that sum. He says that the calculation was for nine months, and that therefore you have to add a sum for tlie remaining quarter - £200,000. He does that simply for the purpose of further shaking our calculation. Let honorable members see what the leader of the Opposition says -
This calculation is based upon the experience of about five months, but the statement of the Treasurer, taken by itself, shows an increase of £5S0,000 over and above his estimates.
That is so, calculated up to the end of June.
Accordingto the Treasurer’s estimate for nine months -
It was an estimate for the whole year.
Mr.Watson. - But the receipts for the first three and a half months of the year were known.
– Yes ; they were ; we know about that. But I may say that as regards the question of the previous Tariffs, it will be found that honorable members need not make any objection as regards the fact that in the first part of the year, between June and September, we were administering another Tariff ; for the reason - and this would tell all the more against us - that those three months would give us more from Inter-State trade than any three months under our own Tariff system.
-Upon what does the Minister base his statement?
– On the best estimate we could form. Let me tell honorable members that it is impossible to overestimate the trouble we have had in arriving at these estimates. It is not necessary for us to ask for the forbearance of the House in that respect, for the more we go into this matter the more, I am sure, the House appreciates the difficulty. I do not hesitate to say that, although we may have been wrong - and were so - the amount, as nearly as we can arrive at it, to which we were wrong in the first estimate, is very small. It is surprising how near we were to the correct figures, and that we did not go a great deal more wrong than we did under the circumstances.
– The right honorable gentleman is not denying that the Treasurer stated that the revenue would be £600,000 more than was anticipated ?
– No. But that was for the year. The leader of the Opposition made out that it was for only nine months, and he added another £200,000 for the purpose of bringing in the three months up to the end of June, when as a matter of fact that period was already calculated. When the Treasurer made the calculation for the whole year, it was unnecessary and improper for the leader of the Opposition to calculate again for a period of the year, and to make that addition to the Treasurer’s calculation. He continues -
According to the Treasurer’s estimate for nine months, if we take the same rate of receipts to extend over the full twelve months, we shall receive something like £800,000 in addition to the £8,000,000 which was estimated for the current year.
– That was the Treasurer’s estimate.
– Of course it was £8,009,000, and the £584,000 was from the new light which had been cast upon it. The £584,000 or the £600,000 was for the whole year, and, when we have the whole year, on whatever basis we make the calculation, it is absurd to say that we ought to make it a second time. The leader of the Opposition continued -
In spite of the collapse upon these four lines to the extent of £600,000, the Treasurer has received in actual revenue £600,000 more than he estimated for nine months. I mention these figures - the leader of the Opposition went on to say, with that mildness of pronouncement which often characterizes him when he is in the full flight of his eloquence - as showing the reckless calculations upon which we were asked to pass a Tariff that would produce extravagant results.
I do not hesitate to say that any fair-minded man who looks into this matter will come to the conclusion that the leader of the Opposition has attempted improperly to credit £200,000 to the revenue for the present year because he has not recognised the plain fact - the discovery of which ought not to have troubled him for five minutes if he had looked at the papers before him - that the £600,000 which had been credited by the Treasurer made full allowance for the whole of the currentyear.
– It was only for the nine months, according to his own showing.
– It is useless for the honorable and learned member to attempt, by the interjection of irrelevant remarks, to disturb the thread of my discourse.” I have put the matter plainly before honorable members generally, and I do not think it necessary for me to repeat myself. Now I will go a little further, and call the attention of honorable members to the statement made by the leader of the Opposition as to the receipts which we were likely to have during the current year. That is a most important matter, in regard to which I should have ventured to think there was not room for difference of opinion, seeing that we have travelled so far towards the end of the financial year ; but I do not hesitate to say that there is a huge gap between the calculations of the Government and those of the leader of the Opposition. I will read what the right honorable gentleman said -
Taking the period of five months from October to February as a basis, the Tariff will probably yield - leaving out Western Australia - £9*271,000. The Treasurer’s estimate for a normal year for the same States was £8,230,000 ; so that upon the basis of the actual facts in an abnormal year-
The right honorable member was referring to tlie present year as an abnormal one, and of course it is characterized by many features peculiar to itself - we have an excess of £1,000,000 sterling - if the receipts continue for the full period of twelve months as they have been coming in - over the estimated revenue for a normal year.
Just think of it ! According to the leader of the Opposition, the receipts for this abnormal year will be £9,271,000, exclusive of those from Western Australia. Do not honorable members know that that is preposterous 1
– Not including the InterState receipts from Western Australia.
– I knew that the very statement of the matter would drive honorable members to seek some solution of it. I have been seeking it. The statement staggered . me at the time. I have been poring over it ever since. I cannot get away from it.
– The leader of the Opposition did not exempt the oversea receipts in Western Australia.
– Yes, he did. The leader of the Opposition excluded the receipts from that State. I will go a little further in my quotation from the right honorable gentleman’s speech, and make the point much clearer -
The case of Western Australia is very exceptional, and I have, therefore, eliminated it from the comparison. Let us, however, add the figures for Western Australia. Adopting the same basis of calculation, we find that the receipts in Western Australia will probably amount to £1,250,000, and that the Tariff will yield a total of £10,500,000 in the six States in an abnormal year, instead of £8,940,000 estimated for a normal year.
The honorable member for North Sydney will see that the words I have just quoted dissipate the force of the suggestion made by him. The leader of the Opposition rejected not only the Inter-State receipts of Western Australia, but the whole of the receipts from that State. Without a penny being credited in respect of Western Australian receipts, he made the total revenue for the year amount to £9,271,000, and inclusive of the receipts from Western Australia, to £10,500,000. That is preposterous. Any honorable member who looks at it can see that my statement is correct. I arn dealing with the matter in all sincerity. I spoke to the leader of the Opposition immediately after he “ made these statements, and told him the figures were wrong. I feel sure some one had put into his hand figures which he had not time to investigate, but in the accuracy of which he believed. I know that he would not dream of presenting to the committee figures which he did not believe were warranted, but it was impossible for him to go through them in detail. He accepted that which was unreliable. He accepted it, not knowingly, but believing it, and that explains what was almost incapable of explanation before in regard to the woy in which he has voted in certain directions at different times. He always put revenue first, and, when we find that figures presented by him conscientiously are so far from the fact, although we blamed him before, we sympathize with him now. He has been misled by these figures. If we were receiving revenue to the extent of £10,250,000 per annum out of Australia to-day - but we know that we are not doing anything of the kind - it would constitute a case for the alteration of the Tariff in many features, in order to relieve the burdens of the people. But when we see that a calculation of that kind is £2,500,000 wrong, we come to a conclusion very different from that which would be forced upon us if the figures were correct.
– Does the Minister still exclude from his calculations nearly £10,000,000 in respect of the imports for 1899 1 .In the first instance the Minister took off £5,000,000, and subsequently made a further reduction.
– We took off £5,000,000 for the displacement of imports by local manufacturers on a normal yea)’.
– Originally the Minister took off nearly £10,000,0 0 from the imports of 1899.
– Five million pounds of which constituted one of the items.
– Is the Minister still calculating on that basis ?
– I am not much concerned about putting a fresh statement of the figures before honorable members at this moment. We believe that the last statement given by the Treasurer, and which applies to the existing year, will be justified, and justified so approximately as to reflect great credit upon those who made the estimate.
– The Minister must remember that certain duties have been struck off since then.
– I know that; but all these calculations have been presented for our consideration.
– The Tariff is just as likely to yield a revenue of £10,000,000 as anything else.
– Not for the present year.
– Next year.
– But we are speaking about the receipts for the present year.
– The leader of the Opposition was referring to the receipts for next year.
– He was undoubtedly speaking of the receipts for the present year.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that he was not doing so.
– I do not, and the honorable member has no right to make that statement. Every word of his estimate shows that he was speaking of this year.
– Does the Minister say that the leader of the Opposition’s calculation of over £10,000,000 was in respect of revenue for the current year?
– Yes; there is no getting away from it. I heard the statement at the time and noted it. I have before me authentic information on the subject, and I venture to suggest that if honorable members of the Opposition do not like it, they might, at least, allow me to proceed, although I am not going to plead for a hearing.
– I want only to correct the matter. The present year is too far gone to admit of a miscalculation.
– I say so too; but just as the leader of the Opposition made a mistake in regard to the £200,000, so he has made a similar mistake in this respect. Let me proceed a little further in my quotations from his speech -
Now let us contrast the probable revenue returns for this year with the actual Customs revenue derived by the States in the year 1900. That will be going back some little” time. I shall leave out Western Australia as a very special case, and take the five other States. In 1900 New South Wales received Customs revenue to the amount of £1,785,000-
Will honorable members listen to this? - whereas, during thecurrent year, upon the basis of the revenue as it has been coining in, she will receive, probably, £3,397,000 - an increase of £1,612,000 upon her Customs revenue for 1900.
– The leader of the Opposition was referring to the coining year, not to the current year. It was a slight slip.
– It was repeated dozens of times.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has no right to say that it was a slip.
– The honorable and learned member is not qualified to do so. I am reading what I heard. The leader of the Opposition continued -
Victoria will receive an increase of £841,000 -
Honorable members know that that is nonsense, as I will show later on -
Queensland will unfortunately receive £121, 000 less, South Australia will receive £205,000 more, and Tasmania will receive £82,000 less. The total revenue received from Customs in these five States in 1900 was £6,816,000, whereas the probable revenue during the current year, as I have said, will be £9,271,000 ; and the gain in these five States will thus be £2,455,000. That is, even if the revenue pans out for the rest of the year as it has panned out for the period which has already passed. It must be remembered that in 1900 all intercolonial products passing from one State to another were taxed.
– Does “the rest of the year “ mean the rest of the coming year?
– That is the way in which honorable members of the Opposition put it. I am not finding fault. I do not think that honorable members will debit me with a desire to be unfair. I am simply saying what I thought at the time the speech was made.
– We have not a copy of that speech in our hands.
– The right honorable gentleman further said -
And our inter-State products we supposed to yield about £1,000,000 to the different States in a year. So that we must remember since 1900, that £1 , 000,000 has gone- wisely ; we do not grudge it, but it has gone - and in spite of this £1 , 000,000 having gone, this Tariff will give us in this year £2,500,000 more than the five States got in 1900.
The honorable member for Bland then interjected -
After allowing for reductions.
And the right honorable the leader of the Opposition said -
I am dealing with actual receipts from the Tariff this year.
Other matters then intervened which do not bear upon the point, but further on I interjected -
Can the right honorable gentleman give us a rough idea of the date of that calculation?
Because I wanted to see if there was something to be considered as regards the heavier duties being on at the time. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
I should like to give the actual date.
– For what date is that calculation made?
Mr.REID. - May I first give the important fact. My basis of calculation is this : - I take the actual federal receipts for the period from October to February inclusive. That is a period of five months. . . I calculate from the 9th of October to the 28th February. The revenue received in that period is the basis. I apply that basis to the period of twelve months. Applying that basis for five months to the actual receipts for the whole year at the same rate - estimated, of course - I bring out, as I have said, the result that the receipts, exclusive of Western Australia, would be £9,270,000, instead of £8,230,000, on the estimate of the Treasurer for a normal year of £8,942,000.
I ask honorable members do they believe that we are going to get £10,500,000 this year ?
– The whole thing is a misapprehension.
– The right honorable gentleman is speaking of the financial year of which nine months have run, and the leader of the Opposition was speaking of 1902, of which only three months have run.
– I can give the words the leader of the Opposition used.
– We have heard the words he used, and they are compatible with that explanation.
– I do not think so at all. I venture to think that they leave no room for doubt that the leader of the Opposition was speaking of the current year.
– He does not say “ the current financial year,” but “ the current year.”
– He could not have meant the current financial year of which nearly ten months have already passed.
– What did he mean?
– The current year, 1902.
– All I can say is the language he used leads to a very different conclusion. Do honorable members believe that the results to which the leader of the Opposition refers, even if calculated for the whole of the year 1902, are likely to be achieved ?
– Yes. A different value of imports has to be considered.
– All I can say is that I have come to a very different conclusion. As regards a normal year, as honorable members know, in the old time we put it that we should get a revenue of £8,900,000. I put this further, that if honorable members look at the receipts of the first three months of this calendar year they will see that we have got, say, about £2,250,000. Multiply that by four, and what do we get? A revenue of £9,000,000, approximating to that given by the Treasurer under the circumstances to which I refer. I say that for the leader of the Opposition, speaking as he did in connexion with the second reading of this Bill, drawing an immediate result, as opposed to a forecast for a long distant future, whether it was for the year ending June 30th, or the year ending December 31st, 1902, a forecast of £3,397,000 from New South Wales : an increase of £800,000 in the Victorian revenue for 1900, and £205,000 in the revenue for South Australia for 1900, which was one of her best years, I say that for him to draw a prospect of such returns as these for the purpose of guiding our judgment in connexion with a Bill of this description, seems to me to be altogether unwarranted. If his predictions were for the financial year, they were preposterously wrong ; and if they were for the calendar year, they may be more nearly right; but they are still very far from the mark, and are outside it to an extent which I venture to consider is altogether misleading.
– The right honorable gentleman’s premises are so different.
– I think I am justified in taking the premises upon which I started. But, making every merciful allowance in the hope of achieving some excuse for the statement indulged in, there is still such a margin between the estimate of the leader of the Opposition and that which seems likely to be achieved, so far as we know the facts, as to render it one which it is a pity has been publicly supported in this House by a gentleman of the standing of the leader of the Opposition. I am sure that had he had the time to more carefully look into the matter he would never have made such an estimate.
– Will the right honorable gentleman tell us what is the value of the imports for the first three months of this year?
– I cannot at this moment, as I have not the data with me ? But the honorable member will know that the first three months of the year are good from the Customs point of view, certainly as compared with the April-June quarter.
– The right honorable gentleman will remember that the Treasurer gave us an estimate of £21,000,000 as the total value of imports for 1902, but that figure has since been increased to £28,000,000 or £30,000,000.
– I can tell the honorable and learned member that with respect to the extent of imports, subsequent events have justified a very considerable portion of the criticism in which the leader of the Opposition indulged on that subject. I trust I shall never attempt to avoid candidly admitting the fact when the right honorable leader of the Opposition is fairly right, even if it be at our own expense. I trust also that members of the Opposition, when they find themselves in similar circumstances, will avail themselves of some few of the many opportunities presented to them to make similar statements. I shall not dwell any further upon the question of figures. They are dry and uninteresting, but the statements which were made by the leader of the Opposition were so prodigiously wrong that I think it was worth while to call attention to them. The right honorable gentleman indulged in some remarks with respect to Chinese and American labour, and he succeeded in proving to his own intense satisfaction that American labour is much cheaper than Chinese labour. All I can say is that the American ought to know how it suits him, and if the right honorable gentleman desires to draw from the statement in which he indulged a conclusion that we ought not to bother our heads about excluding the Chinese, or anything of that sort, I remind him of two things : first, there is no more protective country in the world than America, as regards Chinese or any other foreign wares, and secondly, as regards the exclusion of the Chinaman himself, American legislation is of a similarly stringent character. If one thing does seem more laughable than another it is for theleader of the Opposition to allude to the American as regards his skill in the way in which he has done. He is undoubtedly a man of great industry and skill, but at the same time what the right honorable gentleman ventures to tell us is that, whilst he is a man of the greatest skill in industrial pursuits, and can practically beat every one else out of the market, so far as fiscal legislation is concerned he is characteristically an idiot, because the legislation which he advocates and places upon his statute-book, and which he neglects no justifiable opportunity to extend, is exactly the opposite to that which the right honorable gentleman himself has advocated. We have this picture : American people most skilled in industrialpursuits, needing protection least, and adhering to it most determinedly. I would ask the leader of the Opposition to make an effort to realize his position. He is one of the last adherents of an exploded cause.
– The right honorable gentleman will know more about that after the next election.
– That got home upon honorable members. I do like to hear all these expressions to the contrary. There is pluck in Australians. They would advocate anything, even if proved to be wrong. If they have believed in a thing once they will believe in it always, and will go down with it smiling.
– The cause has been gaining ground in this Chamber.
– We have had freetrade victories time after time.
– What did the honorable member for North Sydney say ?
– The honorable member is sorry he said it. There is one idea that he has abandoned, and he will no doubt abandon his policy of free-trade later. The smallest beginnings are welcome.
– Where is the 14 majority ?
– I remember getting into trouble some time ago, because it was said that I caused that want-of-confidence motion. I have broad shoulders, and everything is laid upon me, but if honorable members opposite think that the 14 majority is gone let them try it.
– We tried and succeeded.
– Then why are honorable members where they are ? Are they there of their own will? I venture to think they would get here if they could. I do not forget all that is said in this House, and I recollect that earlier in the session the right honorable the leader of the Opposition told us, amongst many other things, that there were as many free-traders as protectionists in the House. Do mot honorable members remember how the right honorable gentleman called the roll, and succeeded to his own eminent satisfaction in proving that he had a majority of about two ? Where is it ?
– The right honorable gentleman is getting entirely away from the second reading of this Bill I must ask him to confine his remarks to the question.
– I am only too pleased to bow to your ruling, sir. When honorable members speak of free-trade, I ask them to look round, and see what the world is doing. The whole civilized world is against free-trade. What is the position of the dear old mother country, to whom I wish every success ? There they do not term the recently imposed corn law a duty - they speak of the charge as a registration fee, but it is really a duty of 5 per cent. Remembering the British objections in the past to the imposition of duties upon food, I venture to think that the views which were held when Britain went in for complete free-trade have been modified by subsequent events, and that now there is not that determined opposition to protection of the local market which previously was undoubtedly the watchword of the country.
– The duty to which the right honorable gentleman alludes is a genuine revenue tax for war purposes.
– A revenue tax with a protective incidence. Perhaps the time may come - and speed the day if it be to the mutual advantage of both ! - when reciprocal arrangements can be entered into between all parts of the Empire, and we can reap the advantages of mutual trade. On the subject of free-trade I ask, what is the position of New South Wales? She has the lowest manufacturing rate of any of the States. If she manufactured goods at the same rate as Victoria, she would produce at least £2,000,000 worth more than she does. She is not to be compared with Victoria in regard to those industries which compete against the importing industries. She has a population one-eighth greater than that ofVictoria, and on the basis of population she ought tohave an advantage of 12½ per cent. Her territory comprises 311,000 square miles, as against 87,000 square miles in Victoria, and look at her natural advantages, her coal mines, and the extent of her other resources. Her wealth is God-endowed. We envy her none of her resources, though few countries have been more blessed by Providence. We would, however, wish that they were shared by the other States. We know her temporary difficulties, and we sympathize with them, as we sympathize with the difficulties which equally affect Queensland. We know, how ever, that Queensland has in the past overcome similar troubles, and will in the future overcome the difficulties which now beset her. The sooner she can do so the greater will be the delight of the people of her sister States. Returning to the comparison of New South W ales with Victoria, I say that, while in the industries which compete with the importing industries, New South Wales should have an advantage of 12½ per cent. as regards the number employed, Victoria has really an advantage of more than 50 per cent. We, on this side, desire to look to the future of the Common wealth. We have seen the developments which have taken place in other parts of the world. We notice with regret that British trade with Australia is not increasing in the same ratio, or anything like it, as the trade of other countries, and we ask - Is this country to be exposed to the competition of the world ? Are we to be compelled to struggle for our own markets, unaided in the contest, with people who protect their markets, and give no share to us? The right honorable member for East Sydney says -
I hope Australia will never sink so low with its labour that it can compete with the labour of Belgium, Germany, or France.
He says that it cannot compete, and never will be able to compete. ‘ If that be true, without protection Australian manufactures are dead, because the countries to which he refers are great manufacturing countries, and there is hardly an industry in the civilized world which cannot be found there. Why should we refuse to apply the remedy which every civilizedcountry has applied, so that its own people may be employed in the making and fashioning of those things which they use 1 The gloomy view of the leader of the Opposition, that we cannot, and should not, compete with the manufacturers of other countries ; that we are to have no manufactures, but are to be, practically, mere producers of raw material, relying upon our natural resources, our sheep farming, and this, that, and the other primary industry, is not our view. We hope that the arts and sciences and manufactures will prosper in Australia as they have prospered elsewhere. We know how they have been fostered in other places - and even in the dear old mother country for years - and what the children have learned at the knee of the old mother, they intend to practice by protecting their people as. she has protected hers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 4 -
The time of the imposition of uniform duties of Customs is the Sth day of October, 1901, at four o’clock in the afternoon, reckoned according to the standard time in force in the State of Victoria, and this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation at that time.
– I understand that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has already drawn attention to the doubts which exist in regard to the effect of certain clauses of the Bill in view of the provisions of section 55 of the Constitution Act. We have already passed clause 2, which incorporates the whole of the Customs Act of 1901, which contains many provisions, such as those prohibiting the importation of indecent or blasphemous literature, and others wholly unconnected with the imposition of taxation. The clause with which we are now dealing relates to a subject which has engaged the attention of honorable members on more than one occasion. I do not suppose that any one is prepared to say definitely that it is incompetent for1 this Parliament to date back the imposition of duties for the purpose only of validating their collection, but if the clause is intended to fix a date to satisfy the terms of the Constitution I am clear that it is beyond our capacity to do that. The Constitution fixes a certain event as the point from which certain consequences should spring, and it is incompetent for this Parliament to say that some other event shall be the event prescribed by the Constitution. Of course, it is for the Government to say whether they desire to take their chances with this clause ; but I feel it incumbent upon me to point out that legal members are of opinion that a doubt exists.
– I think it is a highly convenient thing to declare the date upon which the imposition of the duties took place, though, of course, we cannot alter, and we do not attempt to alter, the terms of the Constitution. For our purpose all we do is to declare our view in regard to the matter, though the clause may be of convenience in assisting the courts of law in interpreting the Constitution.
– The courts of law will not be helped by this clause in their interpretation of the Constitution.
– They may. It was thought by both sides that we should bring the Tariff into force immediately, so far as we could, and put an end to the imposition qf the Inter-State duties. There might have been any amount of trouble in regard to the collection of the Inter-State duties if we had not declared the time of the imposition.
– Section 55 of the Constitution clearly provides that laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation. The effect of clause 4 is to determine something in accordance with section 92 of the Constitution. Section 55 refers more particularly to provisions like clause 7, and the subclauses therein contained, and I quite see how, by the drawing round of the argument, it might be made to apply to clause 4. Now that attention has been drawn to the matter, however, I do not see that there is any necessity to deal with it more fully. I think that we should try to keep out of the Bill - the first taxation measure to be sent to the Senate - all extraneous matters, and in this case we have not done that.
– No one can doubt that the Government have very carefully considered the very serious question raised by the honorable member for Indi, but I think that, where a possible error of judgment might lead to very serious consequences, it is due to the committee that the Attorney-General should explain why he has allowed this matter to pass. Section 55 of the Constitution applies asmuch to this as to the following clause. The question is, whether clause 4, which has the effect of antedating the operation of the Bill to the extent of some months, can be regarded as a law imposing taxation. It is a law antedating a law imposing taxation, but whether it is in itself a law imposing taxation is a question which seems to call for very careful consideration. Whilst I do not, on a mere cursory examination, set my opinion against that of the AttorneyGeneral, who has no doubt given the matter careful consideration, I think he should explain to us why be does not shareour misgivings.
– I take it for granted that this clause is really in keeping with the form in which we have considered the schedule. We have allowed certain provisions to stand as from a certain date, and we have fixed subsequent dates for the operation of reduced or increased duties. The whole basis upon which we considered the schedule was that it should begin to operate on the8th October. If it does not operate from that date the whole of our proceedings have been absolutely irregular.
– We declared at the outset of the schedule that it should come into operation on the8th October.
– Yes. I know nothing about the constitutional aspect of the matter, but it seems to me that the clause is necessary in view of the peculiar character of the schedule and the way in which we have dealt with the amendments of it.
– I should like to learn from the AttorneyGeneral whether this and a subsequent clause are intended to meet the case of a possible action for a refund of duty. The question has been raised in some of the States, whether, on an action for a refund of duty it would be possible for the Commonwealth to make a successful defence? I am leaving out of consideration the question whether there is any form of procedure by which at the present time actions can be successfully brought against the Commonwealth.
– Of course there is.
– I am not so sure that the question can be answered off-hand. If clause 4 and clause 6 are intended to validate illegal acts of the Customs officers who have already collected the duties, it may be questioned whether they can be properly inserted in a Bill for an Act to impose taxation.
– The position in regard to this measure may be looked at from the standpoint of the constitutional practice in all the States with which we have been familiar, or as to the further issue whether restrictions to which we have not been accustomed are imported into that practice by the Constitution. Particular attention has been paid by honorable and learned members who have been considering this question to the 5 th section of the Constitution, to which, upon the second reading, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne first directed attention.
– That was more in regard to clause 7.
– I did not understand the honorable and learned member to refer to section 55 of the Constitution, in connexion with his criticism ‘ of clause 4. On the contrary, so far as I followed his argument, it was that no exercise of the legislative power of the Commonwealth could, in his opinion, render clause 4 legal, whether it took place in connexion with a Taxation Bill, or any other Bill ; but that is a distinct issue. If I may be permitted to allude to an interjection with reference to clause 2, I would say that it appears to me to be clearly in its place, because without it there would be a lack of machinery to give effect to the Bill. All that clause 2 does is to provide that the collection of customs duties shall be by means of the machinery provided in the Customs Act and embodies the provisions of that Act so far as they relate to the collection of duties. There are many matters in that Act entirely beyond the scope of the Bill now before us ; but such provisions as are necessary in imposing taxation require to be annexed to this Bill. All clause 2 adopts from the Customs Bill are the provisions necessary for the carrying out of its purposes. So far as clause 4 is concerned, it seems to me that the citation of section 55 of the Constitution on that point raises a difficulty which can find no footing if its language be interpreted by the ordinary experience of Parliament. In every measure it is necessary to fix a date for its commencement, and to say that, because a date is named earlier than that upon which the Act is passed, we are introducing something foreign to the imposition of taxation, thus bringing it into conflict with section 55 of the Constitution, would be to ignore the established constitutional practice and authoritative principles which must be followed in interpreting both the Constitution and this Bill. With regard to clause 7, there is, perhaps, more matter for consideration, but, on the whole, I contend that, inasmuch as clause 7 is a condition of the imposition of duties, it is in its proper place.
– It is a condition of the imposition or removal of duties.
– It is a condition of the imposition of duties in this sense, that the schedule says duties shall be imposed at certain rates, and clause 7 provides that, in certain cases, the duties so imposed may be reduced. That seems to be a provision so bound up with the imposition of taxation that it would be extravagant to say that it involves the introduction of foreign matter. I admit that the matter is open to argument, but it was better that the provision should be inserted here, so that the attention of the committee might at once be directed to it. Whether, as a matter of policy, it had better be incorporated in this Bill, or whether it should be brought clown in a separate Bill, is another question. I admit that the arguments urged in favour of the latter course are grave and worthy of consideration. We can accomplish all we require by placing it in a separate Bill, and can thus remove doubts which, though they may not imperil the Bill, should be avoided if possible.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I amvery farf rom disputing the eminentconvenience, from a parliamentary point of view, of this proposal, if it be right, and I hope that the doubt which has been raised may prove to be unfounded. I am afraid, however, more serious difficulties than those now suggested may arise in a few years, inasmuch as the time fixed for the imposition of uniform duties is a dividing line for the purposes of finance. We are to adhere to the bookkeeping system between the States for a period of five years from the imposition of uniform duties, and from the expiration of the five years we are to begin the payment of monthly surpluses to the different States as this Parliament may prescribe. It will be very awkward if we become involved in a quarrel with the States as to the date on which the bookkeeping period is to end, and the distribution of surpluses by votes is to begin.
– That question has already been raised.
– Honorable members may very fairly hold different views upon the more imminent question whether any duty which was not levied in a State on 8th October will not have to be refunded if collected between8th October and the time at which the Governor attaches his signature to this Bill. Our finances may be very much upset by the decision of this question. I particularly rely for my view upon this point upon section 108 of the Constitution, which provides that every law in any State is to remain in force until provision is made by the Federal Parliament to the contrary, and until such provision is madeby the Federal Parliament the State is to have the power of repeal or alteration. Therefore, if the State Parliament of New South Wales had not imposed a tax upon shoes prior to the8th October they would be able to alter the law with regard to the duty upon such goods until the federal law was passed. I feel that we were justified in pointing out this doubt at an earlier stage, when there was a possibility of retreat, and ]’ can only hope now that everything will go smoothly, but I have very grave doubts.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes). - I do not think that the time devoted to the present discussion is wasted, because it is quite possible that we may pass these clauses without the consideration they deserve. Clause 4 involves some other considerations. We know very well that during the progress of the Tariff debate, a great many changes were made from time to time in one direction or another. When the matter first came before the House doubts were expressed as to how people who had paid duties upon articles which were afterwards exempted from taxation would be treated. The object of this clause is to throw back to a particular date the operation of the Tariff, as it emerges from this committee. It would be very interesting to the public to know how the Government propose to act in cases where duties have been collected upon goods which have since been placed on the free list. I understand that the Attorney-General admits that it might be better to remove any doubts as to the wisdom of including clause 7 in this Bill, by putting it in another measure.
– Yes, as a matter of policy.
– Precisely. Of course this is a question into which no party feeling enters. “We are anxious that there shall be no possibility of the determination of one case governing hundreds of others. The Constitution is very clear upon the point at issue. It says -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
– It does not say “ shall impose taxes only.”
– I quite admitthat ; clause 4 really involves the antedating of an Act which imposes taxation, but it is not in itself an imposition of taxation.
– It is something which deals with the imposition of taxation.
– But does tlie Attorney-General say the matter is so absolutely clear that no doubt can exist in regard to it? We know that in this Chamber questions have been raised regarding which there has been a good deal of doubt, although both sides seemed very confident of their particular positions. If there is any doubt about the matter, would it not be better to introduce the purpose of clause 4 into the Bill which contains clause 7 ?
– I think that clause 4 must remain where it is.
– I am inclined to agree with the last remark of the Attorney-General. If we included clause 4 only in a Bill, would that provision constitute a law imposing taxation? It would have necessarily to refer to the duties which have been imposed by this Bill, and would make them payable as from the Sth October last. It would, therefore, be a law imposing taxation. By putting clause 4 in a separate Bill we shall be faced with the same difficulty - if a difficulty exists - as will be experienced if we retain it in its present place. It is a law declaring that certain taxes shall be deemed to have existed as from the Sth October last, and constitutes an attempt to legalize that procedure, if it would otherwise have been illegal. The section of the Constitution referred to does not say that the measure shall impose taxation only ; it declares it shall deal only with the imposition of taxation. That implies that we are at perfect liberty to add any other provision which is necessary for the collection of taxation. More danger would result from the omission of clause ‘4 than from its inclusion in the Bill.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- I think there can hardly be any doubt that, as we are now placed, this clause must be retained. At an earlier stage of our deliberations, there were two paths possible. One was to pass an Act providing that when the Tariff proposals were laid upon the table, they should have the force of law. That would have imposed taxation as from that moment ; the other course was that which the Government have adopted.
– The first course was politically impracticable.
– The course which the Attorney-General thinks was politically impracticable was not adopted. The other course was to bring down Tariff proposals in the way ordinarily associated with constitutional government. Now we have to take up the position that these duties, which were collected upon Executive authority, were rightly collected. There is no other way 1 know of than that now suggested, namely, to ante-date the imposition as far as we can, and to validate, as is done in a subsequent clause, the collection of these duties. If that be not the right way of dealing with this matter, there can be no right way. The fixing of the time for the imposition of a tax forms part of a Bill imposing taxation. If we make no statement upon the subject, it means that the tax was imposed from the time when the Royal assent was given. If we wish to fix any other time for the commencement of the imposition, we must state it ; it may be either before or after the Royal assent is given. I do not wish any confusion to exist in regard to this matter. While I think that the course which has been taken is effectual so far as it relates to the Commonwealth, it will most probably not satisfy the conditions of section 90 of the Constitution, which says that -
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, all laws of the several States imposing duties of customs or of excise, or offering bounties on the production or export of goods, shall cease to have any effect.
That, however, is quite a different question. While it is possible for us to say that for our own Commonwealth taxation purposes we may ante-date the imposition of a tax, the actual date of its imposition is when the Governor-General gives his assent. When we come to deal with the rights of the States under section 90 and the other financial sections of the Constitution, we may find a very different question awaiting us from that which merely concerns the power of the Commonwealth to insist upon taxation from the various States as from the 8 8th October last.
Clause- agreed to.
Clause 6 -
All duties oE customs collected pursuant to any Tariff or Tariff alteration shall be deemed to have been lawfully imposed and collected, and no additional duty ‘shall be payable on any goods on which duty was so collected merely by reason that the vate at which the duty was so collected is less than the rate of duty specified in this Act, and no duty shall be payable in respect of goods delivered for home consumption free of duty pursuant to any Tariff or Tariff alteration.
– It will be within the recollection of the committee that upon a previous occasion the question of allowing refunds of duties was raised. Where duties, after their payment by importers, have been abolished or decreased, I hold that some consideration should be given in the way of refunds. I am quite aware that very strong objection can be taken to the practice of allowing refunds under all conditions. It is not contended that, immediately a duty is reduced or abolished, those who have paid it are entitled to a refund of the difference, irrespective of whether they have parted with the goods or not. There may be a very proper objection taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs to giving up duties which will never reach those who finally paid them, namely, the consumers. I propose to take advantage of the promise of the Minister that an opportunity would be afforded honorable members of deciding this matter at the present stage, and to submit a proposition which is absolutely just as between the Custom-house and those from whom duties have been collected. That proposal is that they shall be entitled to a refund only upon so much of their goods as they can prove to the satisfaction of the comptroller was in their possession at the time the reduction of the duty was resolved upon.
– Consider the reverse position. Should they pay duty upon stocks which they had in hand when the duties were imposed?
– As the honorable and learned member knows, that is impossible. When the Customs authorities have 33 x 2 parted with the custody of goods, they have no further hold upon them. But while in such cases advantages may accrue to some individuals, I fail to see that disadvantages should be imposed upon others.
– Very often they would be the same people.
– Very often they would not be. Take the case of an importer of a large quantity of machinery. Does it not seem very unjust that, because he has undertaken arrangements for its erection which require him to take delivery of it before the Tariff has been finally settled by both Houses, he should be mulcted in a tax of 25 per cent, instead of 15 per cent. 1
– Is it not hard also on the man who draws out on the 7th of October and pays the higher rate ?
– He has the opportunity of waiting till the 9th of October.
– So has the other man.
– But let me point out the absolute injustice in regard to some States. In New South Wales it has always been the custom to refund, not merely on goods in stock, but also on those not then in the possession of the party paying the duty. Refund has been made of the whole of the excess duty paid - that is, the whole difference between the original duty charged when the Tariff was introduced, and the final duty fixed upon when the Tariff became law. Look at the position in which- importers are placed in New South Wales. There w.as no intimation that the old custom was to be departed from.
– It was publically mooted. I always said that the policy of the Government was not favorable to refunds.
– Probably the free stores of many of those persons who imported goods were empty, and the whole question then came to be between the cost of putting in bond and the saving of the interest on the duty. Consequently, in many cases importers determined, in anticipation that the usual custom would be followed, to pay duty on a whole shipment. They anticipated that they would receive the treatment the)’ had always received. Indeed, they knew of no other system. Surely they are placed at an improper disadvantage if they are called upon, after paying duty, in anticipation that the old system would be followed, not merely to lose the duty on the goods they may have sold, but also the duty on the goods they have in hand. I think these importers are entitled to fair consideration. They ought not to be penalized when Parliament decides that a duty proposed by the Treasurer shall be lowered, or that there shall be no duty at all on the articles in question. There is no danger to the revenue. The comptroller will have to be satisfied that the goods were in the possession of the importers when the duties were lowered or abolished, and he is not likely to err on the side of leniency in such a matter. He is likely to demand proofs that will make the revenue absolutely safe. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: -If a higher duty than that provided in this Act has been paid on any goods entered for home consumption after the imposition of uniform duties, the person or persons by whom, or on whose behalf the duty has been paid, shall be entitled to a refund of the difference between the duty paid and that provided in the Act on so much of the said goods as he or they can show to the satisfaction of the collector of Customs in the State of impost to have been in his or their possession at the time of the reduction or abolition by this Act of the higher duty.”
– I would remind the Minister that this subject came under the consideration of the House either by means of a question or during the debate on the Tariff on several occasions. It was urged that a definite principle should be laid down so as to avoid complications in the future. Anybody who knows anything about commercial matters understands that the more you delay a matter of this kind the more difficult is it of adjustment. We require to act promptly. As far as I understand, in most cases when a Tariff has been imposed it has been laid down as a matter of political honour on the part of the Government, that if in the course of the debate a duty is altered by being made lower, or is abolished, a refund should be. made. It stands to reason that the whole of the action of this committee is to a large extent illegal. We take upon ourselves the most arbitrary power by resolution practically to impose duties which have not received the sanction of the two Houses of the Parliament.
– It is an illegality which has been very much respected by the courts.
– But it is, an illegality more peculiar in our case than in the case of any particular State. We practically impose a uniform Tariff by resolution of this House, whilst at the same time the Constitution declares that a State shall have the right to alter its Tariff until the imposition. “ Imposition “ means imposition by Act of Parliament. Consequently we are doubly bound asa Parliament to deal carefully with the interest of the people when we ourselves are doing an illegal act - an act which, however, is essential, and which a law-abiding and common-sense people like the British in every community are willing to pass over. But because they are willing to do that it is all the more necessary that their rights should be respected. During the course of the debate on the Tariff there was considerable sympathy with large classes of the community who are affected in this respect. I feel that the Government are bound in honour to refund anything - whether the goods have gone into consumption or not- that has been collected in excess of the duties finally passed. But in that respect the committee does not agree with me. There was a consensus of opinion that once the duty had been passed on to the ultimate consumer it would not be fair to give a refund to the importer. But there was a good deal of feeling in regard to the importers of machinery who import direct and do not pass on the duties. It was felt that where the goods were still in the hands of the importers a refund should be made. The amendment of my honorable friend, the member for North Sydney, goes further, and rightly so. To give an instance - we reduce a duty from 20 per cent. to 10 per cent. A man has taken goods out of bond and paid duty on £1,000 worth. He allows £500 worth of goods to go into consumption, and, presumably, makes good the 20 per cent. duty paid on them. The committee say, rightly or wrongly, that he has done with those goods, and that we cannot trace the individual to whom he has passed on the duty ; but he has still £500 worth in stock. He can prove - and I agree that the onus of proof should be thrown upon him - that he has paid the 20 per cent. duty on those goods ; but, by the action of the committee, he is prevented from getting back that duty. The committee declares to the world that he shall not have the right to charge more than 10 per cent. in respect of the duty upon that balance. That is an absolute breach of faith and honour on the part of the committee.
– It bars the man’s legal rights.
– Yes. Yet there is no question about the bona fides of the case. Under this Bill, it is proposed to deny to a man the right not to cheat the Customs, but to get back what legally belongs to him. It may seem hard language to use, but it appears to me that in those States of Australia where protection has been in force, a kind of justice is rampant very different from that in other States. It seems to me that the whole spirit of the Customs Act and its administration is that every man who imports goods into Australia is a rogue. An importer, as an honest citizen, has just as much right as has the manufacturer who makes goods here. I do not speak as an importer, because I am largely connected with both manufacturing and exporting interests. As a matter of common justice, it seems to me that it is wrong for a strong Government with millions at its back to refuse rights to private citizens who cannot fight them, It is all very well for honorable members to talk about the right of a man to go to the High Court of Australia for redress ; but what mercantile man would fight the Government if it were possible to avoid doing so? The ingenious way in which this matter lias been delayed has been very inimical to the interests of the importers. Every day that passes makes it more difficult for a man to prove his case and obtain redress. The committee ought to declare clearly and precisely. that it will not see an injustice done in this matter.
– How far would the honorable member carry the principle ? Let us suppose that 20 per cent, has been paid on certain goods by an importer ; and that he has sold some of them to storekeepers who still have portion of the stock in hand. The honorable member says that if the duty has been reduced the importer should obtain a refund in respect of the portion of the stock he has on hand, but that no refund should be made to the storekeepers.
– No ; for the simple reason that the Government enter into the contract with the man who imports and who pays the duty. I hold that in this case the Government ought to make a refund to every man who imports goods, whether the goods go into comsumption or not. I wai ve the other point. The only man recognised by the Government is the one who makes the contract with them, and they have nothing to do -with his business. Because substantial justice cannot be done all round, owing to the intricacies of the case, that is no reason why we should refuse justice where we can give it. That seems to me to be a very good principle. I am surprised that the Government should refuse to take up this position. Is it a matter of revenue ? It can be nothing else, because there is no question about cheating the Customs. Great difficulty has been experienced in connexion with the section of the Customs Act referring to regulations, and there is a matter which has come up lately to which I should like to refer. I do not know how the Minister for Trade and Customs has decided it, but I will put the case in a few words : Certain people imported tea into New South Wales at a time when it was liable to a duty of Id. per lb. under the State Tariff. That duty was paid, but it is said that because there is no duty at the present time, those people are not entitled to obtain any drawback when they export the tea out of the country. I give this illustration simply to show that we are not asking for an act of grace, but for a refund of what in each case does not belong to the Customs. In the case of the tea the duty was paid on the understanding this the article was to be distributed in Australia ;. but the Customs authorities allow a man to take goods out of bond in order that commerce may not be harassed, and they say to him inferentially - “ If you do not dispose of all those goods here, but send them out of the State, we will give you a drawback.” That is the principle for which we are asking now. I am told that a large quantity of machinery for the development of Kalgoorlie has been imported into Western Australia, and that duty has been paid upon it there. Is it failthat a refund should not be allowed when, by the common sense of the committee, the duty has been reduced ? The man who brings in his machinery at the present time is better off to the extent of 10 per cent., or whatever the reduction may have been, than the man who, trusting to the honour of the House, imported the machinery before the alteration was made. If it had been imagined for one moment that the House was not going to deal fairly with these individuals, nothing would have been imported while the Tariff was under discussion. We commenced the discussion of the Tariff on the 8th October last, and inferentially, we
I said to the whole commercial and mining community of Australia - “ You can go on with your commercial relations. If we find that the duties which are now arbitrarily imposed are not sanctioned by law, we will make refunds to you to the extent of the duty wrongly paid.” On the faith of that understanding, millions of pounds worth of machinery and other goods were imported into Australia during the Tariff debate. It was believed that if after discussion the committee did not approve of any high rate of duty proposed by the Government, a refund would be allowed in respect of the excess duty paid. I am not using language one whit too strong when I say that if the Government do not consent, and if the committee do not force them to consent, to a clause similar to that proposed by my honorable friend, there will be a huge breach of public faith.
– I am a little surprised by the observations of the acting leader of the Opposition. We have been asked repeatedly whether the Government intend to make any refunds, and if there is one thing which I have made as clear as clear could be from the earliest days of the Tariff debate, it is that we are against such a system.
– The Minister said that the Government would give the House an opportunity of deciding the matter.
– And so they have. But it is absurd to say that we did not at the same time make it as distinct as could be that our policy was against refunds. I referred to the New Zealand and Victorian practice, which had been not to allow refunds. To say that, when I stand here calmly advocating the course which I said before I should advocate, I am guilty of a breach of faith, is a little too strong. I am sure that honorable members will not sympathize with such a suggestion.
– I did not make it a personal matter.
– A charge of that sort against the Government is unfair.
– - When making any amendment, did we not provide that “on and after” such and such a date the duty should be so and so ?
– Exactly. What did that mean? It meant that we were carrying out our policy; that any reduction or increase of duty was not to be retrospective. The acting leader of tlie Opposition says that we look upon importers as rogues. We do not do anything of the sort.
– The honorable member did not make that statement against the Government. He said that there was a tendency in that direction.
– I do not think that there is anything of the sort, but if there is, I hope it will not continue. Of course there are class prejudices. Sometimes we hear a manufacturer abusing an importer, and an importer abusing a manufacturer, but their business relations go on just the same, and they do not intend to cast any reflection upon each other. The importer looks after himself very well, and so does the manufacturer.
– And so do the public generally
– I meant to say that people who carry on a particular undertaking know their business better than do others. Naturally they are able to bring greater skill to bear upon it, and so the general public are placed at a little disadvantage if the business people desire to take advantage of them. But they do not. It suits an importer, or anybody who brings goods into the Commonwealth, to take the goods out of bond ; to pay the duty on them. He knows that the Tariff 13 being altered from day to day.
– He cannot leave his goods in the possession of the Customs for ever.
– He takes out of bond just as much as suits his purpose. He says - “ Ali ! the Tariff may be raised. I will take these goods out of bond.” He sells the goods, and adds to the price the amount of the duty.
– But a portion may remain in stock after the duty has been altered.
– Then we have to go back and find out what stock the man held at a certain time ? It is not a question of what stock he has to-day. He may have sold a great many of these goods at a profit before a particular duty was imposed. He may have had a huge stock on hand on which no duty was paid, but the price of which he increased as soon as a duty was imposed. He mav have made a handsome thing out of it.
– That has nothing to do with the Government.
– It has something to do with us when, after profiting in that way, an importer comes to us and says - “ I have over-stepped myself. I have been a little too clever, and have paid duty on goods which are now free. Will you be good enough to make a refund?”
– The Government prevent a man who is in that position from recouping himself to the extent of the original duty by thedeclaration in the Tariff that the duty has been reduced.
– He has had a good time. There is no great difficulty about the refusal to refund because of any alteration in the Tariff. What is the effect where a duty is placed upon goods which have previously been admitted free ? The importer gets the benefit, and when, on the other hand, a duty previously imposed has been reduced, I venture to think that he makes a poor case for the refund, and we do not propose to grant it.
– The individual to whom the right honorable gentleman has referred as making money through the imposition of a duty upon goods previously freemay not be the individual who has paid duty upon goods the duty upon which has been reduced.
– He may or may not. It is folly to say that we should have mercy upon a man because he has tried to protect himself against the Government by removing something from Customs control which it would have been better for him to have left under Customs control. If he has lost in that way we propose that he should bear the loss.
– As I understand the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, it is intended to provide that when a person imports goods, and has paid the higher duty upon them, and can prove to the satisfaction of the Customs authorities that he has a portion of those goods still in his possession, he shall be allowed upon them the difference between the duty he paid and the duty as reduced by Parliament At the first glance it appearedto me that there was a great element of justice in that, and that it was a fair and reasonable proposal. But upon thinking it over I do not very well see how the amendment can be accepted without creating an injustice. Take the case presented by the acting leader of the Opposition of a man who imports £1,000 worth of goods, upon which he pays a duty of 20 per cent. He sells £500 worth of these goods and has still £500 worth in his possession, and can prove that they are the goods upon which he has paid the higher duty. The honorable gentleman says that he should be entitled to a refund of the difference between the higher duty which he has paid, and the lower amount to which the Legislature reduced the duty. But suppose he sold the other £500 worth of the goods, as he would have done in almost every case, to a retail storekeeper. That storekeeper may still have the £500 worth of goods on his hands, and the importer would then be able by reason of having to pay a lower duty upon them to compete against him at a reduced value upon the £500 worth of goods he held.
– He does not compete with the retailer.
– The importer could sell the other half of the shipment of goods to another storekeeper at a lower price.
– Through the act of this committee.
– I admit that, and I admit that so far as the importer is concerned there is a great element of justice in the proposal made. If we could give a refund all round I am sure that honorable members would approve of it, but it appears to me that that is impracticable, and that to redress where ‘we can redress would create another injustice to persons who have the goods on hand, who bought them for purposes of resale, and who would have their value reduced by competition with the person who will get the refund.
– I do not think the Minister for Trade and Customs has approached this question in that judicial frame of mind which would enable him to deal with it in a thoroughly impartial way. What the committee are asked to do by the Bill is not to compel the importer to pay duty, but to bar an existing legal right which he has. I think the Minister might have approached this question in something less of the spirit of an advocate, as if trying to defend the Treasury from an unjust claim made upon it. There is no injustice about this claim. If honorable members consider the question carefully, they will see that the honorable member for North Sydney is really trying to modify an attempt to bar a certain existing legal claim which persons have under this measure. I have never seen the amendment proposed ; but when this clause came before the committee I saw at once that the effect of it was’ to bar thousands of claims which might otherwise be brought against the Government to recover money paid upon the supposition that a certain duty was going to be imposed. It is the duty of the committee to approach this question in a thoroughly impartial spirit, and with a desire to deal fairly with the public ; and honorable members should remember that the Government have the whip hand. The Government by this clause can say : “ We refuse to pay.” If we pass this clause, of course, no one will have any right, because it antedates the duty, and any claims that at present exist will be entirely gone. The honorable member for North Sydney has no more interest in the matter than has any other member of the committee, but he sees in this clause an engine of injustice. He knows that certain men have imported certain goods and cleared them at a time when certain duties were assumed to be about to be placed upon them. They have not been placed upon them - the resolutions have been laid upon the table, but, of course, until the Bill is passed the duties are not constitutionally imposed. The House has determined that those goods shall not be subject to the duty first proposed, and the honorable member for North Sydney says, in effect - “ You are now asking us to pass a clause, the effect of which will be to debar people having existing rights from insisting upon those rights against the Government and recovering this money.” The honorable member very properly says - “ I justified that resistance to a certain extent. I do not think the money ought to be returned to them upon the goods they have sold, because they have had the benefit of the duty from the retailers or other merchants to whom they have disposed of the goods. But upon those goods which remain in their possession at the time when the lower duty was determined, they are entitled to have a refund of the excess duty which they have paid.” I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs of a case I brought under his notice prior to the date at which machinery of a certain class was determined to be free. I pointed out to him that Ritchie Bros., a large firm of manufacturers, had imported certain machinery connected with their manufactures and upon that machinery they had to pay duty to the extent of about £3S0. Subsequently
Mr. Bruce Smith. we determined that that class of machinery should be admitted free. This machinery would be imported not for sale or to be disposed of in any way, but for use in connexion with one of the industries which we have been for many months trying to encourage, and although it is included amongst the list of exemptions in this Tariff, duty to the extent of about £380 had to be paid upon it. The manufacturers are told, “You imported your machinery for the purpose ‘of pushing on your industry. There is no duty on these goods, but in your anxiety and enterprise you have withdrawn them from the Customs before Parliament has considered the question. You have paid £380 in duty, and you must forfeit that amount although you may come into competition with men who have imported the same machinery at a little later date, and who will, therefore, escape that imposition.” I would ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider this question in the light of the broad principles of justice. Why is this clause being submitted to us now ? Because there is an existing legal right. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Wentworth has said, although it is not a law hy which these duties are collected before a Tariff is passed, it has the effect of law, because we know the courts of the different States, and the English courts - although there is some doubt about the decision of the courts at home - have determined that the moment the resolutions are laid upon the. table of the House the Tariff shall be taken to be in force.
– They have worked up to that point.
– They have worked up to that point, and that is the law. But, as I read it, and as many abler lawyers than myself would read it, the law also is that, if a duty is not ultimately imposed, the importer who has paid that duty has the right to recover from the Government the amount of excess duty he has paid upon the supposition that there would be a duty imposed to that extent. The Minister for Trade and Customs will admit that there are hundreds of outstanding claims against the Government which he is now attempting to block. I do not use the phrase in any antagonistic spirit, but he is trying by this clause to debar people who have these rights from enforcing them against the Government. We are asked to say that these existing rights are not to be recognised. We are being asked practically to antedate an Act of Parliament. How does Parliament generally deal with existing rights ? The imposition of a duty, as every one knows, is a tentative thing; it is a supposition that a duty- is going to be imposed. It has not been imposed, and as a consequence there is a right outstanding on the part of these people. We are asked as a Parliament to say that we shall not recognise their existing rights ; that we shall antedate this Act of Parliament, and make tlie money paid by them the property of the Crown. I am not an importer, and have no interest whatever in the matter, but I do say that when it is thoroughly realized by the public that we have deliberately deprived the citizens of the Commonwealth of the lawful right they had to recover money paid upon a misapprehension, the utmost astonishment will be expressed by all just and right-minded men from one end of Australia to the other. We are being asked to force these men who, prompted by business enterprise, have withdrawn their goods from the Customs control at an early date, to make a gift to the Government of the excess duty they have paid, and which may amount to hundreds of pounds. It would be a very bad beginning if we were to take this step without some such reservation as that proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney. The honorable and learned member for Indi asked how about this person, and how about that person. If we could reimburse the retailers who have paid duty which should not have been levied it would be fair to do so ; but although it is impossible to give back to every grocer, draper, and ironmonger throughout the country what he has paid in duty, that should not prevent us from doing justice to the man who has £50, £100, or £500 worth of goods in his store, upon which duty has been paid, although similar goods bave afterwards been made free.
– Under that system, not only would the retailer not obtain a refund of the money which he has paid, but the goods upon which the refund was given would come into competition with the goods upon which he had paid duty.
– I admit that that is so ; but to go into such fine distinctions would require a differential Tariff; to meet the case of every trader throughout the country. We cannot give complete justice, but where a man has a distinct moral right to get back what he has paid under a misapprehension, it is a rather drastic thing for us to say, “ We shall deprive you of that right, and, because we cannot do complete justice, we shall not do any.” Our attitude towards the retailer is this : We admit that he paid more for his few lbs. of tea, or cheese, or his few yards of. cotton or calico, because at the time he bought it a duty which was afterwards removed was in force ; but it would cost the country much more to find him out and repay him, if it were possible to do so, than the amount actually involved. The amendment of the honorable member for North “Sydney does not raise a party issue, and if a division is taken upon it, members of the three parties in the House will be found voting on his side. I have mentioned an instance in which Messrs. Ritchie Bros., agricultural machine manufacturers, imported, for the purpose of their business, six machines, on which they paid in duty over £360. These machines are now free, but the importers are handicapped by the duty which the)- have paid on them. I suppose that ultimately the)’ will pass the duty on to the consumers of their manufactures, but that should not happen. We should enable them to make an entry on the credit side of their books of the amount they have paid by refunding it to them.
– How would the amendment read in connexion with the provisions of clause 5 1
– I am more concerned with the principle involved than with the actual wording of the amendment. In my opinion, it should apply not to the goods now in hand, but to the goods remaining in hand ; to the remainder of any importation of which part has been disposed of.
– By the time the Bill gets through the Senate there will probably be no remainder.
– There is a question of morality involved in our action today. The people of Australia will be shocked to find that the Government are grasping moneys to which, morally, they are not entitled, and upon which they would have no legal claim were it not for this provision. By the vote upon this question we shall sound tlie keynote with regard to the sort of treatment which Parliament is going to accord to the public, because it is master of the situation in holding their money. We should let the country see that, although the Government may think it their duty to grasp everything they can, impartial justice will be accorded by Parliament wherever their rights and those of the public conflict.
– I trust that the amendment will not be .carried. It is true that we are bound to offer substantial justice to the community in matters of this sort, but, while we have heard a great deal of pleading for the importer, not a word has been said in favour of the reimbursement of the consumer. I know that a number of firms in New South Wales which were heavily stocked in a variety of lines, did very well in regard to A, B, and C, but made a loss upon D, and they now wish to be recouped their loss upon D, although there is no intention on their part to turn over to the Government the profits they made on A, B, and C.
– But there are cases in which people have imported machinery upon which they were required to pay duty, although the Committee of Ways and Means afterwards remitted the duty.
– No doubt there are such cases, but I do not know of them. If the claim of the importers is allowed, it seems to me that the merchants in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, who were compelled to pay comparatively high duties under their State Tariffs prior to the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff, should be reimbursed the difference between the State duties and the Commonwealth duties. Then, too, what about the consumer? In New South Wales the consumer in a great many cases has had to pay higher prices for goods upon which no duty at all was levied. That is easily seen by comparing the prices which have been enforced with the amount of Customs revenue received in New South Wales. I believe that about one-half of the quantity of cotton piece-goods imported between 4th December and 5th April last came in free of duty ; but since then a duty of 5 per cent, has been imposed upon such goods. Is it proposed that the merchants who imported free of duty shall share their profits with the consumers ? We know,. as a matter of fact, that they will do nothing of the kind.
The people of Australia have had the fullest notice of the intentions of the Government in this matter. If that were not sufficient to convince them that refunds would not be allowed, it should have made them especially careful about not taking from bond more than their immediate requirements.
– Then we should have all the less to pay in refunds.
– I admit that ; but that ought to have done away with the necessity for any such provision as the honorable member suggests. On the 21st November the honorable member for North Sydney asked the Minister for Trade and Customs a question as to refunds, and the Minister answered -
I cannot answer the honorable member’s question with reference to refunds, beyond repeatingwhat I have already said on this subject ; but the policy of the Government is against refunds.
It is true that he said that before the Tariff was disposed of an opportunity would be afforded to the committee to come to a decision on that point; but there was the statement of the policy of the Government, which, I contend, should have been sufficient notice to the commercial community that they would run very great risk indeed if they took out of bond more goods than were absolutely necessary to meet their requirements. I cannot agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes in his assumption that the whole community of Australia will receive a shock if refunds are not allowed. It must be remembered that in Victoria, and I think in some other States, no refunds have been allowed.
– That is a shocking statement.
– In New South Wales I could never see the justice of allowing refunds, seeing that in the main they helped the trader only, and not the consumer. There are some inequalities and perhaps cases of injustice, and some of these will remain whether we pass the honorable member’s amendment or not. Moreover, looking at the difficulties under the bookkeeping clauses of the adjustment of payments of the States, and the absolute impossibility of following out to the consumer the benefits of any remission of duty, I think we shall do better if we leave the clause as it stands.
Mr. . HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I listened carefully to the honorable member for Parkes, in order to grasp the exact principles upon -which he argues that a grave injustice has been done. As I understand, the honorable and learned member contends that we should make refunds of duties Paid during a period in which (according to the final decision of the committee) a lower duty, or no duty at all, should have been paid. At first sight, and without regard to what we have done, there appears to be strong reason to support the honorable member’s position, but I think that he has been arguing under a misapprehension. I am not sure that the amendment is even in order. Clause 5 has been passed providing that duties are to be collected as from the time of the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and at such later dates as are mentioned in the schedule.
– The Government felt bound to give ‘the honorable member for North Sydney an opportunity of testing the feeling of the committee.
– No doubt ; but I wish to show that there is no injustice whatever. There has been no such taking away of the rights of individuals as the honorable and learned member for Parkes seems to imagine. Take a concrete case. In the case of methylated spirits, the duty was fixed “at 3s., and on and after 18th April, 1902, at ls.” Assuming that the schedule is passed in this form, why should a man who has paid the legal duty as between the Sth of October and the 18th of April claim a refund ? What was the object of amending the Tariff in that form 1 Was it not to provide that tlie duty as first proposed by the Government should be collected up till a certain date, and that from that time Onwards a lower duty should be levied. Now an attempt is being made to entirely alter the schedule. It is always open to honorable members to discuss every word in the schedule or other part of a .Bill, and the correct course for the honorable member to adopt would be to propose alterations in tlie schedule which would carry out his object. Clause 5 adopts the schedule.
– Was not that form of dealing with the schedule, to which the honorable and learned member has referred, adopted as a matter of convenience, and without any idea that it would bar any rights 1
– That form of amendment was adopted for convenience in the collection of the duties, and because it was not convenient to make refunds. I admit that if one looks at the case put by the honorable member for North Sydney by itself, without regard to other complications, the honorable member lias established a very strong position, but the more I look into the matter, the more I feel that the honorable member’s proposal’ will raise a larger number of ghosts than it will lay. We cannot do justice to the importers unless we are also prepared to extend our consideration to the consumers and retailers. If we make restitution to the importers we must do it all round. In imposing a Tariff we cannot avoid inflicting hardship, and at the same time conferring undeserved benefits. The case put by the honorable member for Bland was exceedingly apt. I know of instances in which men have made a handsome profit upon two or three lines, and have perhaps lost upon another, and unless the honorable member for North Sydney can show that he can do ideal justice all round, his proposal should be withdrawn. If we make a special exemption against the schedule in favour of one class, we shall have other classes asking us to do the same for them.
– Then if halfadozen criminals were involved in a crime, and only two were caught, the honorable and learned member would not punish the two because he could not extend the same treatment to all.
– That is not a fair way of putting it. If we find numerous classes affected by hardship, and we try to remove the disabilities under which only one class suffer, the rest will be clamorous for similar relief, and with very good reason. It was well understood in connexion with the amendments made in the Tariff that the lower duties should take effect from tlie date mentioned in the schedule, and that up to the time of the alterations the duties first proposed should be collected.
– There is something in the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne as to the effect of clause ‘5. It may be, as he says, that by passing that clause we have assented to the imposition of all duties from the Sth of October, and that we have a varying Tariff providing that the duties should be enforced from the Sth of October until the various dates on which they were altered. It may be also that this was the intention of the committee, but if clause 5 has the effect claimed by the honorable and learned member, I feel sure that the committee will be ready to recommit it and alter it as may be required. Every opportunity should be given for expressing the real feeling of the committee in this matter. I know of instances similar to those mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Parkes and the honorable member for North Sydney. In one case an indentor imported cotton goods to the value of £1,000. These were placed in bond, and in order to deliver certain parcels it became necessary for the indentor to take the whole of the goods out of bond and pay duty at the rate of 15 per cent., amounting to £150. Within a fortnight we placed a large number of the articles upon the free list, and the indentor thus found himself in the position of having paid £150 where he should have paid only £30. He had only sold £200 worth of goods, and he had to dispose of the rest of them in competition with importers who were able to take their goods out of bond without paying the duty. Is it to be argued that the indentor should have to bear the loss which resulted from the alteration of the duty 1 Upon the goods with which he had already parted he could not expect a refund, but if the man who bought them from him were able to prove that they had not passed into consumption, he would be entitled to a refund of the duty. We are now told, however, that although duty was charged without the assent of Parliament, those who paid it are not entitled to a refund. I do not think that was the intention of the committee, and I am quite sure it ought not to have been, because it is not in accord with those principles of justice to which it is the duty of Parliament to conform. Clearly, where a man can show that he has been called upon to pay a duty which has not been assented to by Parliament, he is entitled to a refund, and it is idle to say that, because we cannot do justice in every case, we must not do justice in any. It is argued that, because we cannot catch all robbers, we ought not to catch an)’. I am surprised to find in this Chamber men who regard our Parliamentary Acts as of no importance. In my judgment it is sometimes more important that those Acts should seem to do justice than that they should actually effect it. Honorable members are told that, because the State of Victoria upon very improper grounds, refused to act justly in connexion with the question of granting refunds, this Parliament ought to adopt a similar course. I hope that we shall carry out the true principles of morality. Mv contention is that in clause 5 we should have used the words “ as from the 8th October,” instead of “ as from the time of the imposition of uniform duties of Customs,” and if that contention be correct, people will be able to recover all the duties which they have paid since the introduction of the Tariff. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth has power to antedate duties to the period mentioned, but I claim that we ought to do so specifically in this Bill. I do not think that the Senate will allow the measure to remain in its present form. However, I do not wish to labour this matter further. I have done my duty in drawing attention to it, and I think it will yet be seen that I have acted in the interests not of a party, but of the whole House.
– In this case the consumer has been used as a sort of red herring, and honorable members have been asked why he should be denied a refund of the duties which he has paid, seeing that we wish to make a similar concession to importers. But even that inquiry does not put the case in its proper light. We have to remember the very large body of people to whom that argument is in no way applicable - people who import for their own purposes only. Why should they not be allowed a refund of the duties paid? Up till the other evening monstrous duties operated upon machinery of all classes, but the committee happily decided to reduce the bulk of them to 15 per cent. Are people who have paid hundreds of pounds in excess of the present rates of duty to be denied any refund whatever ? Are they to be penalized for their energy in pushing their various industries ?
– I always feel perfectly sure that when the honorable member for North Sydney submits an amendment he has not only common sense but justice behind it. In this instance I know that he has substantial reasons for adopting the attitude which he has assumed. My feeling, however, is that the adoption of his proposal will give rise to greater dissatisfaction than will otherwise exist. In the belief that the course taken by the Government constitutes the lesser of two evils, it is impossible for me to support his amendment.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- Perhaps it is not altogether surprising that in a “Victorian Tariff a Victorian system should be adopted, irrespective of how unjust that system might be. I call this Tariff a Victorian one. Its inspiration and rates are taken, entirely from the Victorian Tariff.
– That is absolutely incorrect - every syllable of it.
– My statement is just as good as is the Prime Minister’s.
– It is not, because I know, and the honorable member does not.
– The Prime Minister does not know all that he thinks he knows. I know that other influences than those of the New South Wales representatives in the Ministry operated when the Government agreed to such high duties as were incorporated in the Tariff.
– The honorable member has no right whatever to say that.
– The Prime Minister knows that I have a right to say it.
– That is not correct.
– To-day an allusion was made to the frequent absences of the Prime Minister from the chamber. I do not attach so much importance to his constant presence here, but if he interjects in that way perhaps it would be better if he were more frequently absent.
– Any man who has been accused so often, and, in many cases so meanly as I have been, might at least be allowed one interjection.
– The Prime Minister has not been meanly accused by me. I am not astonished to find that a Victorian system of dealing with the question of refunds has been adopted. But if by the adoption of any system her own people would lose heavily in comparison with those of the other States, I would be much more astonished did we not hear strong protests from the Victorian representatives in this Parliament. That is the position. The course of action adopted by the Government will inflict injustice upon some of the other States by preventing their importers from competing with the Victorian importers upon level terms, as the system adopted is a Victorian one, for which the Victorian importers were prepared. The only reason advanced why a refund should not be made is that it is impossible to do justice to everybody in the community, although it is admitted that justice can be done to a great number. Is that tlie sort of British law which is to be applied in the Commonwealth? I thought that British law laid it down that we should right a proved injustice, though in attempting to do so we conferred an undue advantage upon some individuals. I can quite understand the objection against giving to an importer something which the consumer has paid, and which cannot be refunded to Lim. But it must be remembered that as soon as the duty is reduced the effect passes on to the consumer ; because there are plenty of competitors who, not having to pay the higher rate of duty, will compete in the market, and thus reduce the price. It has been said that what I propose will not be of any benefit to the retailer. I absolutely deny that. The Tariff is being framed and administered without due regard to the ordinary course of business. Will it not be an’ advantage to an enormous number of retailers who indent goods to get a refund of the higher duty which they have been compelled to pay ? That will be their advantage. An instance has been given where a retailer has bought from an importer ; and it is said that while the importer will get tlie rebate on what he has in stock the retailer will not get it on what he happens to have in stock. But are not those who know anything of business aware that immediately a Tariff has been imposed retailers - except as regards anything they are committed to by contract or indent - refuse to buy except from hand to mouth, because they know the possibility of an alteration of the Tariff in Parliament ? Consequently they would be affected very little in that direction, whilst on all contracts and indents they would get a benefit. The mere name of an importer, although he may only be an importer for a day - through having purchased a plant, or machinery, or cement for building purposes - is sufficient to induce many to refuse that full justice that will be readily given to manufacturers. We have frequently heard it urged that justice should be done to a single manufacturer. Here is a case where justice ought to be done to a, great many importers ; but no consideration is to be given to their case. I am sorry there has been any warmth over this matter, and I regret if I have said anything to ruffle the Prime Minister.
– Not in the slightest degree.
– I did feel that the right honorable gentleman’s interjection was unnecessarily offensive.
– I only said that the statement was incorrect : what else could I say ?
– The right honorable gentleman intimated that I said what I must have known to be untrue.
– -I thought the honorable member had made a very bad guess.
– Icould prove it line by line. The Victorian system has been adopted all through in connexion with the Tariff. Even the very expression used in making amendments - “ and on and after “ such and such a date - is adopted from the Victorian system. I take exception to that system where an injustice is being done. Is the Minister prepared to make concessions under any circumstances? Is he preparedto make them, for instance, on goods actually in stock at the time the claim is made?
– I do not think I can. I would rather adhere to to the system we have proposed. I see that this is precisely the Canadian system.
– I do not admire the Canadian system in connexion with Customs. If the system is shown to be unjust, we should endeavour to alter it. I willgo to a division.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - In fairness to the commercial community, this matter should have been settled long ago. It could have been settled in the sections of the Customs Act. We should have intimated, at the very beginning of our deliberations, that we intended to give no refunds with regard to goods upon which duty has been paid. That would have been honest. The honorable member for Bland has quoted certain words used by the Minister for Trade and Customs, which, of course, he did say. But I am satisfied that the matter was left in absolute uncertainty. It was practically said to the importers - “Rely upon the justice and honour of Parliament, and your case will be met.” Many honorable members who were favorable to the granting of refunds stated that they would not agree to a refund where it was proved that the goods had gone into general consumption, but I was of opinion, gathered from interjections or remarks made in the committee; that there would be a refund in all cases where it could honestly be shown that the goods remained in the possession of the importer after the lowering of the duty. Furthermore, there was an almost universal consensus of opinion that in the case of machinery a refund would be made to the importer. If the Government had made up their minds on the question they should have made a declaration earlier, or they should have had it placed in the Customs regulations that the course now proposed would be pursued. It has been said that the public understood, but the public know very little of what goes on here. The words used by the Minister may not have been reported throughout Australia. Therefore, I say that if what the Government now propose is done, it will be a great hardship upon the community, and will be looked upon as a breach of faith.
-It was my intention to adhere strongl y to the view that there should be as little debate as possible upon this Bill, whether in committee or in the House, but the question in relation to refunds has assumed a different aspect as the debate has proceeded. What is the position of Queensland in this matter, and the responsibility which has been placed upon my shoulders by the five State electorates, comprising all the shipping and the largest area of manufacturing interests in Southern Queensland, which constitute the constituency by which I have been returned 1 The electorate of Brisbane, which I represent, is the most important in the State so far as commercial, financial, shipping, and manufacturing interests are concerned, and the constituency represented by the honorable member for Oxley is, I think, practically next in that respect. There are other constituencies farther north which have similar interests. I wish to tell the committee what has been my experience in this matter. Throughout the Tariff debate I have been in receipt of hundreds of letters in respect of the Tariff, as well as many telegrams and letters relating to refunds. I have battled with Ministers from the very first on the question of refunds, and, although, feeling that they had a very hard time of it, I have not by any means represented to them the full volume of correspondence which I have received, I have not failed to put the matter very clearly before them. I do not think that
I have had ‘ to beg very rauch in order to obtain an honest and truthful statement of their views on the subject. 1 believe that Ministers generally, and especially those who have devoted themselves to the highlyimportant duty of passing the Tariff through this House, have desired from the first to give honorable members on either side, who represent interests such as I represent, truthful replies to all questions submitted to them. One evening, while the committee was sitting, I handed certain correspondence to the Treasurer. It related to the question of refunds, and some days later - no doubt after the matter had been considered by the Cabinet - it was returned to me by the right honorable gentleman, with a minute on it to the effect that the Government had come to the conclusion that it was a matter entirely for the discretion and decision of Parliament.
– Yes, that was the reply.
– PATERSON. - I am sorry that my private secretary is not within call, otherwise I should produce the original minute ; but honorable members will accept ray word. When I received the letter from the Treasurer, I inquired whether I was at liberty to convey the terms of the minute literally, by telegram or by letter, to my correspondent, and I received an answer in the affirmative. A similar statement had been mentioned here frequently, and my mind was in a state of preparedness to receive whatever hints were given either by the Minister for Trade and Customs or the Treasurer. I was perfectly satisfied with the answer, and, in reply to my correspondent, I put the statement referred to by the acting leader of the Opposition in inverted commas - “ That it was the impression of all members of this House that the matter was to be dealt with by Ministers as an open one.” The conclusion I arrived at from the answer given me by the Treasurer was that Parliament would have an opportunity of pronouncing upon the question of refunds, and that the matter would be dealt with, not from the Ministerial point of view, with all the strength of Ministerial support behind it, but as an open question, without any party feeling on either side. Having the permission of the Treasurer to convey to my constituents, verbatim et literatim, the. minute made by him on the letter in question, I did so. And what is the result t I am battered about like a dirty old sparrow on the house-tops. All my representations, given in good faith, as coming from the lips of responsible Ministers, are set at nought, and a proposal is put before us which is intended to unite all those who are against any refunds to commercial men, who, from the first, have expected that the precedents of the past would be followed and that refunds would be allowed. The Government have not kept faith with the written statement given to me. I have reason to remember that statement well, because owing to the fact that some of it was written very badly, I was unable to transmit it on the night that I received it, and had to request the Treasurer to be good enough to interpret it. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs has made a note of my observations. The Minister has always acted towards me and other honorable members with tlie greatest good faith, and I have had pleasure in transmitting to my constituents from time to time the statements given to me by members of the Government. The result of this will be that, whilst I shall not be regarded as a cypher in the position I have had to occupy, Ministers will be looked upon, in view of my representations, as having failed to keep faith with the people of Queensland.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I have paid very close attention to the debates, and have watched the observations of the Minister for Trade and Customs on this particular point. The impression made on my mind by his utterances is certainly very different from that which the acting leader of the Opposition as well as the honorable and learned member for Brisbane say was conveyed to them, although the particular words to which the honorable and learned member for Brisbane refers are quite in conformity with the expressions which have been uttered by the Minister for Trade and Customs. This matter first came up in the House so far back as the 5th November last, when, in answer to a question by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, in regard to refunds of duties, the Minister for Trade and Customs said -
The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : - The Government cannot give any undertakings in this matter, on account of the difficulty of securing any rebate to the person really affected by the duty. [ The Minister also promised further inquiry.
– That was in regard to a full rebate.
– That was in regard to the refund of duties. On the 19th November last the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, asked the Minister, upon notice - so that all honorable members had the matter brought before them -
Whether he will state the intentions of the :0vernment in in regard to the Tariff in the event of duties being reduced or struck out, as much uncertainty on the subject exists in mercantile circles iii Adelaide and probably elsewhere.
The Minister for Trade and Customs’ reply was as follows : -
This matter will be dealt with by the Tariff Act, but the Government; do not propose to provide for refunds of amounts paid before the reduction or excision of the duty.
That is clear enough.
– That related to the modified proposal.
– The Minister stated distinctly that the Government did not intend to make any refunds. Again on the 20th November the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, put a question with respect to the refund of duties, to which the Minister for Trade and Customs replied -
Our. proposal is to make the provision of general application, though it iB of course a matter for the decision of Parliament, and will be included in the Tariff.
That is just as the right honorable gentleman has left it. He did not say that the Ministry intended to make a proposal, and then, as far as they were concerned, leave it an open question. The right honorable gentleman further added -
The provision in the Bill is upon the precise lines of the provision in the New Zealand Act.
The matter came up again on the 21st November when the Prime Minister spoke upon the question, and he stated practically what had previously been stated by the Minister for Trade and Customs. He gave the arguments pro and con upon the whole question, and then he said -
The importer takes his chance. When he clears goods out of bond he does so as a businessman thinking that the best course to take. And in many cases he risks an increase of duty. An importer may take goods out of bond before the Tariff is imposed, and as has been done in some cases ma)’ charge the consumer with the duty subsequently imposed, although no duty has been paid. I do not think the whole of the sympathies of the House are necessarily with the importer. If the importer has put the goods into consumption which was his object when he took them out of bond, he has charged the consumer with the duty, and it is not fair that in so doing he should have the double advantage.
– That does not apply to this question.
– It applies to this question of refund where a duty has been lowered or abolished. This matter was constantly before the minds of the’ committee. It was discussed by the Chambers of Commerce, and pointed questions as to the intention of the Government with respect to refunds of duties were answered uniformly in the same way.
– Ministers made halfadozen statements other than those mentioned by the honorable and learned member.
– If they did, perhaps the honorable member will quote them presently. It has been the consistent attitude of the Government throughout, as regards these refunds, that they could not be sure that they could do justice to all parties, and that therefore they preferred to make a general proposition. I dc not think it can be said that there was a general consensus of opinion, that the Government intended to go back upon their decision in this matter, which was clearly and emphatically stated upon every occasion on which a question was asked.
– The honorable and learned member must see that it is to the advantage of States in which this practice existed before, and to the disadvantage of other States.
– That is not the question. The question is whether the Government have gone back upon any statement they have made upon the subject.
– The question is whether the Government are approaching the subject with an open mind.
– The question is whether the Government have been consistent in their attitude upon the subject throughout. They have been charged with inconsistency by the acting leader of the Opposition, and by the honorable and learned member for Brisbane, who says he has been betrayed, and has compared himself to a battered sparrow hopping about from place to place, without knowing where to find rest. I think the Minister for
Trade and Customs is right to take the stand he has taken, that it would beimproper to make these refunds. The honorable member for Wentworth said that these people have had no notice of the matter, and that to retain the higher duties now would, therefore, be a gross breach of faith. But, within a few weeks of the first collection of duties under the Tariff, all the merchants in the Commonwealth were possessed of the facts.
– This is a question which could have been definitely settled at the beginning.
– So far as Ministers are concerned they did definitely settle it, and they have acted consistently by collecting these duties all along. From the 8th November to the present time the matter has been before Parliament, and the public and merchants have been aware of the facts.
– The honorable and learned member coolly slipsover the previous period when a large amount of duty was paid.
– It was a period of only about a month. If the honorable member had worded his amendment so as to make it apply only to excess duties collected during that month, there would have been more justice in his claim than there is when he proposes to extend it over a period of seven or eight months. Merchants have had all this notice of the matter. They have taken their goods out of bond knowing that it was at their own risk, and apparently they have been quite prepared to run it. This is a very difficult proposal to put into practice. After a lapse of seven months how are we to identify goods upon which the higher duties have been paid? Honorable members must see that to attempt to do so would be to give opportunities for the practice of all sorts of fraud. I rose chiefly to point out an injustice done to the Government in the statements which have been made, and I hope the committee will not agree to the amendment.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat has busied himself during the last ten minutes in trying to prove that the Government have been consistent in what they have done. I interjected that we have had half-a-dozen statements from them since the dates which the honorable and learned member quoted.
– I have always said that I am opposed to refunds, and every member of the committee knows it.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs asked me to quote one of the different statements which I say have been made. I do not think I could do that in five minutes. But there are half-a-dozen answers which have been given by Ministers since those quoted by the honorable and learned member, and I venture to say that in them there has been no expression on the part of Ministers of an intention to do anything more than to submit the whole matter to the House. That has been the reply which Ministers have given recently to these questions. We are continually hearing that we ought to take a broad view of the question, and each State should consider the interests of the other States. Our position in New South Wales is a peculiar one in this respect. Our merchants, believing that the immemorial practice in New South Wales of refunding excess duty paid would be followed, find themselves handicapped as compared with Victorian merchants, who have been acting upon the Victorian practice, which has been to make no refund. After the declaration of this House that the higher duties should not have been imposed in the first instance, on the merits of the case, it occurs to me that the least the Government can do is to refund the money which has been paid by these people who have taken their goods out of bond in good faith. It is not a matter of whether it is legalor not. It is a matter of fair play. The House has said that these duties ought not to be imposed.
– How can the duties be given back all round ? How can we get at the consumers who have paid the duties?
– Because we cannot get all back is that any reason why we should not get back as much as possible? Where a man has paid £100 in duty upon a machine which is still unused, and which concerns only himself, has he no right to come to the Government and ask for a refund of the £100?
– But the honorable member would not let him get it, because somebody else may have sold a machine and passed the duty on. We have a right to do what is fair and just so far as we possibly can, and that is all that is proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney. There is no proposition made for a general refund, as we know that would be quite impossible. We only ask that each claim shall be investigated, and where it can be shown that the excess duty has been paid, and the claimant has the goods still in his possession, he should get a refund of the money which this House has declared he ought not to have paid. I am surprised at the stand which the Government have taken in this matter.
– I agree that there is something to be said for the refund of duty paid upon machinery. But we cannot discriminate between machinery and other articles imported. Do honorable members mean to tell me that, as a business man, I am going to overstock when I know that the Tariff is being changed from day to day?
– In New South Wales refunds have always been made.
– We are dealing with the Commonwealth now, which is something altogether different, and that perhaps is why honorable members fail to grasp the position. When this claim is made for refund of excess duty paid, I would ask whether any importer has offered to give the Government back any profit that has accrued to him as the result of goods being made free?
– Not that I am aware of.
-What is fair for one side is fair for the other. We are here to do justice to everybody, and we must consider how many consumers there are for each importer.
– It may be that the consumerswould get the refunds.
– If honorable members can show me that these refunds will go to the consumers I will vote for the proposal. Otherwise I believe in the Government getting all they can. What would this proposal mean in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in connexion with the excise duty imposed? It would mean that we should have to refund some thousands of pounds to them. But what have they done to the consumer ? Directly the Tariff was announced in Queensland sugar went up £4 a ton. Honorable members are asking the Government to give back the duty paid, but how is the consumer going to get any benefit from it ? I do not believe in attacking the importer any more than the manufacturer, but while I am here I shall look after the interests of the consumer, as I represent a constituency of consumers. The honorable member for Brisbane has said that the Government have broken faith with him. That was news to me, because questions have been asked about these refunds ever since the Tariff was introduced. Ministers were asked whether they would allow a refund upon a certain article, and we always had the same answer, that the matter would be dealt with in the Tariff Bill. The Government have been against refunds all through, andhow can honorable members say that they have broken faith?
– It is only a breaking of faith in the matter of the proposal made to-night. The Government always said that they would not deal with the question when the Tariff was being discussed.
– We have an opportunity of dealing with it to-night. If the vote goes against the Government, refunds will be allowed, and if the Government win they will not be allowed. I hope there will be no refunds.
– I understand that the honorable member for North Sydney proposes that those who have taken dutiable goods out of bond, and paid duty at the rates originally fixed in the Tariff shall have a right to a refund of the excess duty paid where those rates have subsequently been reduced.
– Upon what they have in stock?
– I do not think that the amendment, as I read it, limits it to that, but I will not quarrel with the honorable member upon that point. I followed the discussions in committee as closely as possible, and I have been under the impression from statements which have been made, that the Government did not propose to allow any rebates at all. But they intimated that when the Tariff Billwas introduced, it would be open for honorable members to discuss the matter. It is true that the honorable member for Parramatta said that the principle of allowing rebates has been recognised in New South Wales, but those of us who have had extensive experience of that principle know that it was open to abuse, and I am not prepared to vote for its repetition. It simply meant that certain moneys which the Treasury had collected were handed back to certain, importers, though often the people who had really paid the duties got no benefit from them. I have yet to learn that it is possible to discriminate so completely that injustice will not be done on the one hand to the Treasury, or on the other hand to the consuming public. That being so, I am strongly disposed to vote against the granting of refunds. If I thought that the money could be refunded to those who actually paid the duty, I should be prepared to consider the matter, but that was not accomplished in New South “Wales, and I am afraid that at could not be done in the Commonwealth. I feel, therefore, that in justice to the consumer and to the Commonwealth Treasurer I should vote with the Government.
– It is somewhat unfortunate that this question should have been brought forward at this stage at all. It was the duty of the Government to state at the time- of the introduction of the Tariff whether refunds would be allowed if alterations were made.
– It was stated on the 21st November that no refunds would be allowed.
– The Minister stated that he was utterly opposed to the granting of refunds, and I understood that the Government took the same position, but, at the same time, he told me distinctly that the House would have an opportunity of settling the matter. Therefore, when I received letters from merchants in Queensland, I informed them that the Government was opposed to the granting of refunds, but that at a later date the House would have an opportunity to decide the matter. I am in favour of granting refunds, because I think that, once a duty is remitted or reduced, those who have paid it, or have paid a higher rate than is afterwards collected, should be repaid the amount which Parliament has decided should not be collected. It is unfair and illegal for the Government to retain such moneys.
– What about the consumer ?
– The Government deals only with the importers, and only those who paid the duty are entitled to refunds. The reimbursement of the consumers is a matter which must be left t to the merchants and the retailers.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Brisbane seems to think that there hav been action on the part i >
*0O * 2
of the Government equivalent to a breach of faith. There can have been no” doubt whatever as to the attitude of the Government in this matter from the very first. We have always been opposed to the granting of refunds, and time and again, when the question has been put, we have told honorable members that the House would have an opportunity to decide the matter. We have refused refunds on all occasions. A number of references have been made to answers given by me at various times. They are all of one tenor, and I should be ashamed if they were otherwise. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, asked me, in reference to mining machinery, if any refunds of duty would be given, and my reply was -
If Parliament so decides, we shall do so. Our proposal is not in that direction, but we propose to take ‘the sense of the House on the subject.
Too much has been said in regard to tlie injustice of our action in this matter, but there is just as much justice in demanding what we demand as in the proposal of the members of the Opposition. Are we to stigmatize the Acts of other States as unjust, simply because they are not the same as those of New South Wales 1 Victoria has granted no refunds, and I know of no provision for refunds in the South Australian legislation. New Zealand, in the clearest terms, has enacted that no refunds shall be given, and the great Federation of Canada has provided in section 21 of the Duties of Customs Act of 1897 - and I am indebted for the reference to the honorable and learned member for Indi - that -
Nor shall the person paying it be entitled to any refund or be liable to any further payment of duty by reason of such rate of duty being altered by any resolution introduced subsequently to that in accordance with which such duty was paid and before the passing of this Act.
– That was an Act introduced with the Tariff. A very different thing.
– I do not see any difference. We have the testimony of an honorable member who knows that in New South Wales, where they granted refunds, the system did not operate in such a way as would induce him to vote for its repetition. There has been a form of administration there which seems to have permitted the abuse of power, and if a similar provision were introduced here it might open a door for mischief which it would be better to keep closed. Refunds could be muchmore easily granted in connexion with the simple Tariff under which the State of New South Wales formerly laboured, than under a Tariff which selects for taxation so many articles of different character as this does, and thus multiplies the opportunities for mismanagement.
– The honorable member for Canobolas did not instance any abuse in New South Wales.
– Not in so many words, but ho told us what the effect of the New South Wales system had been. The honorable member for Parramatta has been only too glad to receive the assurance of the honorable member for Canobolas on other matters. No honorable member is more careful in his statements than is the honorablemember for Canobolas.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I should like to know from the honorable member for Canobolas what abuses have occurred in New South Wales? What he said was that the system might be open to abuse. If he tells us that there has been abuse, I am prepared to accept his statement.
– Did not the honorable member hear of abuses when he was in the New South Wales Parliament in 1892 ?
– I did not.
– I heard of a few, though I was not then in Parliament.
– I heard of none, and I. should like to know what abuses occurred. The honorable member for North Sydney does not contemplate the payment of refunds all round, irrespective of whether the goods have been consumed or not. It is asked that refunds should be made only in regard to goods which it can be proved to the satisfaction of the Minister for Trade and Customs have not gone into consumption. The Minister will have it within his power to see that justice is done and that no manipulation takes place.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 12
Noes … … … 26
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Honorable members may have been influenced in giving their votes upon the amendment which has just been defeated by considerations which would not weigh with them in regard to refunds of the duty upon machinery only. The amounts paid in duty upon machinery have been very large - in many cases so large as to considerably embarrass those who had to bear the increased outlay. I therefore move -
That the following words be added: - “If a higher duty than that provided in this Act has been paid upon any machinery entered to be used by the importer after the imposition of uniform duties, the person or persons by whom or on whose behalf the doty has been paid shall be entitled to a refund of the difference between the duty paid and that provided in the Act on so much of the said machinery as he or they can show to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs in the State of import to have been in his or their possession at the time of the reduction or abolition by this Act of the higher duty.”
– I understand that the object of the . right honorable member is not to provide for a refund in all cases, but to limit it to machinery which has been imported for use by the importer. I suppose every honorable member knows of some such case, and I may mention one regarding which I have had several interviews with the Minister for Trade and Customs. In this instance a large firm of agricultural machinery manufacturers imported some modern laboursaving machines valued at about £1,200. They paid something like £360 or £380 duty in order that they might get immediate possession of these machines, and adopt improved methods of manufacture. They are using the machines themselves, and there is no suggestion that any sale has been made to retail buyers. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will take the proposal before the committee into favorable consideration. I am not concerned as to the exact form which it takes, but where machinery which has been imported has been taken out of bond promptly, so that it might be made use of with the greatest expedition, the manufacturers who use it ought not suffer for their business promptitude. I hope that the Minister will not consider it his duty to fight this proposal, but will leave the committee and his own party with an entirely open mind, so that they may do what they think is fair under the circumstances.
– I do not know how I should feel, occupying the position which I do, and drawing the emoluments which attach to the office, if I evaded all responsibility. In a matter of this sort, it seems to me the duty of the Minister to indicate the policy of the Government, and to justify the course which they take. I think we ought not to legislate for special cases. Legislation which is enacted to give certain individuals certain advantages during a limited term is a very difficult thing to justify. We have heard of various systems which obtain. There is the method under which no refunds are permitted, and ‘ that under which they are granted in all cases. Only a few minutes ago the committee divided upon the question of whether a refund should be permitted in certain specific cases, and a considerable majority voted against the proposal. Personally, I feel that as we cannot deal satisfactorily with all cases, it is better to lay down a general rule. If we are now to enter upon a consideration of the question of whether a specific refund should be made in this case or that, we shall open up a discussion which may extend to every item in the Tariff. I do not think it would be fair to give one class terms which we have already decided not to give to people generally. I hope that honorable members will see the force of the arguments which I have used, and vote accordingly.
– The proposal which .now emanates from the right honorable member for Tasmania is one which places honorable members in a somewhat difficult position. I take it that we are legislating for the entire Commonwealth, and that we have no desire to make any special class distinction. The amendment submitted would very materially benefit several mining companies in which I am interested, but I could not venture to ask special consideration for those companies to the exclusion of other interests throughout the Commonwealth with equal claims to a refund, if such consideration could not be justified upon principle. I cannot quite see the object of the proposal submitted. At the first blush it strikes me as being an unfair suggestion, which will press unduly upon the people of the continent. I regret that it will be impossible for me to support the amendment.
– I desire to mention one or two matters which I have already brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and which bear directly upon this question. Upon one occasion I represented to him the case of a miller whose business premises were burnt down, and who, as a result, was compelled to import new machinery. Seeing that that machinery could not be manufactured within the Commonwealth, I asked whether, in the event of an alteration being made in the amount of duty imposed upon it, a refund would be allowed to the miller. There could be no difficulty in tracing that machinery, and honorable members must admit that the miller in question was placed in a very unfair position as compared with others who are engaged in the same calling. I admit that, in some cases, it is very hard to determine who has ultimately paid the duty Then, again, there is the case mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle, which had reference to a zinc-refining retort. That honorable member pointed out that this apparatus could not be manufactured within the Commonwealth, and urged the Government to place it upon the free list. I understand that one or two of these retorts have been imported, and duty has been collected upon them. The committee, in deciding to exempt them from duty, have declared that the Government acted wrongly in charging it. In such cases I hold that a fair claim exists for a refund.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7. - (Power to reduce duty in case of rings,&c.)
– The Government still adhere to the opinion that this clause deals with the imposition of duties, and that it is properly part of the Bill so far as dry law and constitutional procedure are concerned.
SirWilliamMcMillan. - The Government admit nothing.
– This is not a matter of admitting nothing, but of stating something. But as a matter of policy, perhaps, the course of public business will best be facilitated if we withdraw the clause from the Bill, and deal with it subsequently. I trust that honorable members who agree with the policy contained in the clause will be equally desirous of facilitating its passage when it is introduced on a subsequent occasion.
– In common with the honorable and learned member for Indi and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I agree that this Bill is not the place in which to insert such a clause, but it is of no use to discuss whetherit is a good or bad provision at the present time. I believe, from what I learn privately, that the honorable and learned member for Corinella holds the same view, that the clause ought not to form part of this Bill, in view of section 55 of the Constitution. Therefore I am glad that the Government propose to omit it. Of course, the Opposition have good reason to rejoice at the admission that there is a necessity under a protectionist Tariff for inserting a provision which will remove rings, trusts, monopolies, and combines of all sorts. The truth could not have been better stated from this side of the Chamber. ‘ I may mention that I had intended to move for the insertion of a clause providing that a copy of this measure, with the schedule attached, should be exhibited in every place where dutiable goods were exposed for sale, my object being, of course, that the public should have an opportunity of knowing exactly the amount of duty paid for their goods. But I do not think that I can go on with that proposal, as the
Government are not proceeding with the clause.
– I favour this clause very much, and I trust that the Government, having taken the course of making sure of the matter by omitting it from this Bill, will lose no time in introducing it in a separate measure. The Bill should be introduced, and come into force almost contemporaneously with the Tariff and the Excise Bills. I also hope that when the Minister introduces his Bill, he will notice that the clause, as framed, will require a little alteration. It provides that if there is any trust or ring - the latter word more correctly describes the idea - to unduly enhance the price of any particular goods, a report may be obtained from a tribunal, and on that report the Governor-General may, on an address from bothHouses of theParliament, direct that the goods which are the subject of thering shall be admitted free of duty, or at a reduced rate. In the case of importers, it would probably be the case that the goods were already being introduced free of duty or at a low rate ; and in the case of a ring of manufacturers the case would not be met by merely saying that the goods should be admitted free. What we need to provide is that if importers make a ring such as we have had in Victoria in the case of reapers and binders, upon which there was no duty, other goods with which they come into competition shall be admitted at a reduced rate, in order to break down the ring. In the case of manufacturers, it may be that a provision will be needed to insure that other goods that will come into competition with them shall be admitted free, or at a reduced rate. The clause as at present worded would undoubtedly fail to meet the case fully.
– Is this copied from the Canadian Act?
– It is not copied from the Canadian Act. The Canadian Act uses the term “like articles.” That may have escaped the observation of the framers of this clause, and that phrase points the direction in which the clause should go. The matter should receive the fullest consideration, or it may fail to attain its object.
– I hope, speaking as a member of the Opposition, that the Government will see their way to embody this clause in legislation as quickly as possible. In view of the experience of the people of America, and also having in view the action taken in Canada in the same direction, there is a possibility that we shall meet with like combinations here ; and I. am one of those who believe that a protectionist Tariff operates in thedirection of promoting what are called “combines.” It is very much easier to legislate in advance to meet such difficulties than to legislate after rings and trusts have got a footing and interests have been created.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- One matter that seems to have escaped notice is that a clause such as this has been in force in the United States something like fifteen years. But the objection to any Judge deciding such a matter is that Parliament has said that a duty is to be, say, 50 per cent., and the manufacturers affected say - “ How can any Judge, when Parliament has decided thatthe rate shall be 50 per cent., declare that it is 45 per cent. too much “ ?
– Under this provision the Judge has not get to say that.
– The Judge may believe that the ring in question is raising the price of an article 45 per cent. above what it ought to be, buthe cannot go behind the decision of Parliament. Indeed Parliament would be stultifying itself by agreeing to such a proposal, even if it were possible.
– I wish honorable members to understand that this clause is not withdrawn to be forgotten. We shall deal with it at the earliest possible opportunity. We hope an opportunity will be found this session. If it is not found this session, the matter will be dealt with early next session.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the standing orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to be passed through its remaining stages this day.
– Why should the forms of the House be set aside in this way? Is there a special reason for it?
– Every one is anxious to send the Bill on in order that its perfections may be appreciated in another branch of the Legislature.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed-
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- When we were dealing with the Bill in committee, clause 5 rather escaped my notice, but I chew attention to it at a later stage. I do not think that the point was fully grasped at the time, and perhaps it will be necessary for me to deal with it again. Section 108 of the Constitution provides that -
Every law in force in a colony which has become or becomes a State, and relating to any matter within the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, shall, subject to this Constitution, continue in force in the State ; and until provision is made in that behalf by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, the Parliament of the State shall have such powers of alteration and of repeal in respect of any such law as the Parliament of the colony had until the colony became a State.
Therefore, until this Bill has been finally assented to, it will be possible for any one of the States to pass Customs Acts. We know that nothing of. the sort will be done ; but it seems to me that, looking at clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill, we have made a slight mistake. By clause 4 we provide that -
The time of the imposition of uniform duties of customs is the 8th day of October, 1901.
In view of the section in the Constitution to which I have referred, I do not think that the time of the imposition of uniform duties of customs is the 8th October last. Still we can leave it at that. The point occurs in relation to section 5, which provides that -
The duties of customs specified in the schedule are hereby imposed according to the schedule as from the time of the imposition of uniform duties of customs.
If, as I think nearly the whole committee are agreed, the time of the imposition of uniform duties of customs is the date on which the Bill becomes law, the fact remains that we have not’ inserted a date from which these duties are to be collected, without straining clause 4 at all events. If the meaning of that clause is held to be that which many of the legal members of the House attach to it, we will not have fixed any date. We can get over the whole difficulty at once by recommitting the Bill and providing that -
The duties of customs specified in the schedule are hereby imposed “as from the 8th October, 1901,” or such other later dates as are mentioned in the schedule.
We can make our laws retrospective, in all cases where goods are free in any States, as there are no laws, and if my suggestion were adopted we should fix a date from which to act. There is no doubt about that point if we consider section 86, as we have executive control over the customs and excise. When we fix the date for the imposition of uniform duties of customs we deal with an entirely different matter, and one which the AttorneyGeneral himself ought to consider. I think that the matter is open to a very strong attack in another Chamber, and our desire is to send up the Bill as perfect as possible. I fail to see why we should run the risk of passing the Bill in this way when the difficulty might be overcome at once by adopting the suggestion I ha ve made. Of course, it might be argued in the High Court that even if the time of the imposition of uniform duties of customs happened to be the date on which the Bill was finally assented to by Parliament, still so much of clause 4 would hold good as would make clause 5 refer to the 8th October. As the matter stands, it seems to be a case of indifferent draftsmanship, and one which might land the committee in difficulties. If the Attorney-General can give me his assurance that he has already dealt with the point, and anticipates no difficulty from it, I do not propose to labour the matter any further. I merely place on record my objection, and hope that if the Bill is “passed in its present form my fears will not be realized.
– I feel that the kind of informal compact that we made during the earlier hours of the sitting should be observed on the third reading of the Bill, although,if I had had an opportunity of following him, the rather bellicose speech made by the Minister for Trade and Customs might have led me into a lengthy oration. However, we have had sufficient time to cool down, and distance, while not in this case lending enchantment to the view, gives to one’s mind a clearer proportion of the relative value of speeches and acts. During the hours which have passed since the Minister’s speech was made, I have come to the conclusion that he said very little to which it is necessary to reply. There is one matter on which, in justification to the leader of the Opposition, who is absent, I should like to set the Minister right. It is absolutely clear, from the very words of theHansard report, which is now in myhands, that the rather extraordinary statement attributed to the leader of the Opposition could notpossibly have been the statement that he really intended to make. He said -
According to the Treasurer’s estimates for nine months, if we take the same rate of receipts to extend over the full twelve months, we shall receive something like £800,000.
I think the Treasurer’s statement was that therevenue would be about £600,000 in excess of the original estimate. That is not very material. The statement made by the leader of the Opposition may have been made from memory. He gave the exact estimate of the Treasurer that at the end of the year, instead of having £8,000,000 of revenue, he would have probably something between £8,600,000 or £8,700,000. That disposes of any possibility that the leader of the Opposition said that the current year would yield a revenue of over £10,000,000 from all Australia. I do not know what figures were at the disposal of my right honorable friend, but I have always said that no one in the universe could tell what would be result of a Tariff such as this in the next two or three years. If the Tariff had been, as originally cast, of a highly protective character, there is no doubt that in three or four years’ time the revenue would have been very materially reduced by the effect of that protective incidence. But even in that case, no one could tell how many years it would take for the full effects of protection to be felt. At the present time, when the Tariff has been made much more revenue producing than it was originally, no one can tell what its exact effect will be. We must wait for actual fa cts before we can decide. Certainly there are two or three things which we can consider. In the first place the Tariff will undoubtedly yield during the current year an amount far in excess of the Treasurer’s estimate. In the next place the Tariffhas been so reconstructed that it will be a much greater revenue-producing machine than it would have been under the original proposals. We must recollect also that in the original proposals and calculations of the Treasurer a certain statement was made, which was not in any way supported by facts. In 1899, what are called the external imports from oversea were £32,000,000, and although it has been impossible to obtain from the Government the actual statistics for the last two years, I am of opinion, as the result of experience, that with the increase of population the external imports into Australia during the last year were probably nearer £40,000,000. If we consider that the Minister for Trade and Customs based his duties in his original proposal upon imports d during 1 8 99 amounting to £21,000,000, when really they amounted to £32,000,000, we may be perfectly certain that there is even a greater margin of discrepancy in the estimates of the Government. But I do not think that that is a matter which it is wise for us to labour. We are committing ourselves to a certain Tariff. We know broadly that according to the last estimate the amount of duty to be collected is far in excess of what ought to be the requirements of the Commonwealth. Therefore without referring to what may be done in another place we ought to hold with every judicious alteration that will reduce the enormous burden upon tlie people. I do not think that I need say any more. The other remarks made by the leader of the Opposition were more of a personal character. They were stated fully, and I do not desire to repeat them, although I concur with my right honorable friend. I am very glad that so far as this Chamber is concerned we have now come to the end of our labours on the Tariff. I have to thank many honorable members of the Opposition, who, while I have been acting as leader of the party, have given me a generous support. We have to thank particularly honorable members representing Western Australia. If I might single out any honorable member who by common consent has, by his great commercial knowledge, and by the fairness with which he has dealt with every question relating to the Tariff that has. been brought up, distinguished himself more, . perhaps, than lias any other honorable member, I might refer to the honorable member for” North Sydney. That honorable member has shown a knowledge of commercial matters and a grasp of the details of business which have added very much to the information of this Chamber, and his opinions have always been given with a sauvity and sense of equity, which, I believe, have commended him to. both sides of the House. I have nothing to complain so far as those honorable members who are opposed to me are concerned I think the discussions have been carried on in a way which has reflected credit upon all concerned. In very difficult circumstances, during a discussion extending over six months on matters which must have created considerable heat, the rules of debate as well as the dignity of the Chamber have been well sustained. I hope that the measure will not prove so disastrous to many interests as I had anticipated. I regret, however, that it has not been drawn upon broader national lines. I feel that if more concessions had been granted by the Government so as to make the Tariff approximate nearer to a revenue Tariff, we might have erected a system of finance through the Customs which, so far as both sides of the House are concerned, would have been allowed to stand for many years to come. There can be no doubt that nothing is more inimical to the interests of commerce than the continual change of Tariff regulations. However, we must hope for the best, and give a loyal support to what may be the result when this Bill finally emerges into law. I should like to say to my right honorable friend who. has the control of this great department that, whether rightly or wrongly, a feeling is abroad that the department is i inimical to the importing interests. Whether * rightly or wrongly, the opinion is abroad also ‘that there is too much centralization iri the department. I know, as a fact, that on many occasions merchants in Sydney have had to wait for days for reference to be made to Melbourne in order to have points adjusted. Therefore, everything that can be done to simplify matters and to create a common knowledge throughout Australia among the different Customs officers, ought to be done. I am sure it ought not to be the interest of the Government, no matter what their principle of taxation may be, to make that taxation irritating to the people. They desire to get the full revenue required for the government of the country, but, I take it, they desire also to interpret the law according to its simplest meaning, and with fairness both to the people and the Government. I am sure they do not wish to add to the irritation that must arise out of a system like this, which is new, at any rate, to one of the great States of Australia, the further irritation that would naturally spring from a sense of wrong if there was a feeling that there was not equitable dealing in the administration of the department. I trust my right honorable and learned friend will make it his business to see that the administration is more popular in the future.
Mr. KINGSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Trades and Customs). - In reply to the observations of the honorable member,
I should like to say with regard ‘to the figures to which he has referred that there was not the slightest desire on my part to make a point unfairly against the right honorable the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Reid. At the same time, there is no doubt that that right honorable gentleman presented to our consideration figures which, either for the present financial year or the present calendar year, showed a total revenue of £10,500,000.
– He was not more foggy than the right honorable gentleman himself.
– It would remain for the honorable member for Parramatta to speak before the height of fogginess was reached.
– The right honorable gentleman must see that some of the figures are contradictory.
– They are mixed up, and they struck me as peculiar, and it is for that reason that I drew the attention of the leader of the Opposition to them immediately after he sat down. I should be delighted, not to see a total revenue of £10,500,000 received, but as regards my native State to see an excess of £200,000 over the receipts of 1900 as the leader of the Opposition suggested. The bare statement of the figures is sufficient to enable any honorable member who has given attention to the matter to know that they are. entirely wrong. I would not have discussed them so much in the right honorable gentleman’s absence, but they strongly appealed to me. I have no desire to refer to them further.
– They are uncorrected proofs.
– Yes, but we know what the reporting is here. I have so much trust in the Hansard reporting here that I never correct my proofs in the slightest degree. There is one other matter to which the honorable member for Wentworth referred. He has said that there is a feeling abroad that there is a tendency in the administration of the department not to have due regard to the interests of importers. I have paid very great attention to the administration of my department, and I have endeavoured to be guided by the law. I can assure honorable members that there is nothing I have knowingly done, or would dream of doing, which would strain the law against importers or manufacturers. But there is the law, and it has to be administered. According to such ability as I may happen to possess, I can assure honorable members that it will be administered fairly and honestly. There is not at present any ground for the feeling referred to, and there never will be if I can prevent it. As regards the complaint about centralization I should like to say this : - Centralization - reporting to head-quarters sometimes resulting in delay - is very necessary in the first stages of the administration of an Australian Customs department for the reason that without .centralization we cannot get uniformity of administration. We find that in the different States there has been such a difference in the systems of administration, and in the interpretation of Tariffs, that the utmost vigilance is necessary at head-quarters for the purpose of preventing the benefits of a uniform federal Tariff being altogether neutralized by a want of uniformity in the administration of that Tariff.
– The suggestion is that the department in Sydney is shockingly undermanned.
– There is no doubt that there has been a strain on the department. There has been a strain upon the Government, and upon honorable members generally. It has been a time of considerable stress, and the officers have been working under pressure. I am afraid I have not strictly observed the eight hours’ principle myself. But it is a difficulty of a temporary character, necessitated, as I say, by the exigencies of the new administration, and necessitated also to a very great extent by the preparation of those returns and reports for which honorable members called so often, without the slightest idea of the amount of time and trouble involved in getting them up. I have called for returns myself, and it was very necessary that we should have them, but when honorable members grumble sometimes that they do not get them as soon as they would wish, I must say that the trouble involved in the preparation of the returns and reports is of a character difficult for me to describe. They cause an amount of overwork and pressure under which the officers of the department find it difficult to carry on. I. think it would be a pity to gauge the future requirements of the department on the basis of the present requirements, and by providing for all time a staff necessary to cope with present requirements, prevent our giving effect to our desire that there should be, in connexion with federal administration and the abolition of Inter-State duties, some saving in the administration of the department. I think it would be a great disappointment to those who have laboured in the interests of federation to find that while as regards customs, one of our chief objects was to abolish the troublesome Inter-State duties, and consequently dispense with the officers necessary to give effect to them, we were at the same time called upon for such further outlay that there would be no saving in connexion with the establishment. 1 am very hopeful that just as we are emerging from a time of pressure, so also are the officers of the department. I have already provided that those who have worked considerable overtime shall be rewarded by holidays altogether in excess of those they have usually enjoyed. We may yet have to consider whether anything further is necessary in that respect. Honorable members may rely upon this : that as regards the effective, prompt, and impartial administration of the department, and as regards its administration within the lines laid down bylaw, no pains shall be spared to attain all that is rightly desired by this honorable House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill follows much upon the lines of the Customs Bill to which we have just given our assent We propose to call it “ the Excise Tariff of 1902.” We propose to provide for the incorporation of the necessary machinery Bills, and to define “Tariff” and “Tariff alteration.” Wo propose to declare the time of the imposition of uniform duties of excise in the same way in which we declared the imposition of uniform duties of customs. We provide that duties of excise shall be levied as from the time of the imposition of uniform duties of excise or from such later dates as are mentioned in the schedule in regard to any particular items. We provide that the duties shall be collected upon -
Then, in clause 6, we validate the prior collection of duties, and in clause 7 we deal witha matter which was brought under our notice by the honorable member for North Sydney, in relation to substitutes for dutiable goods.
– Is clause 7 original ?
– I do not know that it is altogether original. It is based upon the principle of the substitute clause contained in the Customs Act, with a little alteration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee -
Clause4 - (Time of imposition of uniform duties of excise.)
– I should like to ask a question which has cropped up during our recent debate. There will be an amount payable in the way of rebate to sugar planters who use white labour. Out of what’ fund will that money be paid 1 Will it be paid out of the excise fund, or out of the general revenue ?
– It is a deduction from the amount of duty collected. I imagine that the procedure would be to hold a certain amount in suspense, but I should prefer that the Treasurer answered the question.
– The Attorney-General said that the payment of the rebate would be legalized by a clause in this Bill. Did he refer to clause 6?
– It is legalized more particularly by that part of the schedule which deals with sugar. There is no repayment. What is done is to collect the duty less the rebate.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Minister for Home Affairs will tomorrow ask honorable members to deal with the amendments of the Senate in the Public Service Bill, and he. will also move the second reading of the Franchise Bill, with which, considering the late period of the session at which we have arrived, and the fact that it has been recently dealt with by the Senate, honorable members, I hope, will be prepared to go on without an adjournment of the debate. I promised the honorable member for Wentworth that when the Tariff was disposed of I would make a statement to the House in regard to the intentions of the Government with reference to public business.I propose to do that tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020422_reps_1_9/>.