2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In this morning’s Age the following paragraph appears. The Minister of Defence, speaking on the question of nationalizing the tobacco industry - suggested that Senator Pearce should take steps to put a clear-cut issue before the electors.
The electors should be asked to vote on the question : Should a clause be inserted in the Constitution giving the Commonwealth power to manufacture tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes? .. The position the Government took up on the question of monopolies was this : The Government said that under the Anti-Trust Act it could prevent monopolies which restricted trade or became injurious to the public weal. If that Act did not prevent monopolies becoming injurious, then he (SenatorPlayford) would say, “Show me a monopoly that is injurious, and I will help to nationalize it.” That was the position the Government took up on the matter.
I wish, to know from the Prime Minister if those remarks correctly indicate the attitude of the Government in thisconnexion ?
– The report is evidently an abbreviated one, and the remarks do not appear in the Argus, though I conjecture that, had they been understood in the sense which the honorable member seems to attribute to them, they would have been published. I prefer to wait for the Hansard report of my honorable colleague’s speech before answering the question.
– Is the honorable and learned gentleman in favour of submitting to the people a direct referendum in regard to the creation of a Government monopoly in tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes ?
– I cannot speak for the Government on this question, as we have not discussed it; but, if my honorable colleague’s statements in another place cause it to assume importance, I shall be pleased to deal with it when laying our programme before the people.
– Is the Government willing to commit itself to the principles of Socialism, in the event of the’ Australian Industries Preservation Bill not fulfilling the expectations of its framers?
– The honorable member asks me to contemplate a contingency which appears impossible.
Consideration resumed from and October (vide page 5860) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That, from the first day of October, 1906, at Nine o’clock in the forenoon, ‘ Victorian time, Duties of Customs on the dutiable goods specified in the Schedule shall, when those goods are imported from, and are the produce ormanufacture of, any of the British South African Colonies or Protectorates which are included within the South African Customs Union, be in accordance with the rates specified in the fourth column of the said Schedule (vide page 5858) :
Provided that nothing in this resolution shall have the effect of imposing any duty on any goods which are free of, or exempt from, duty under the Customs Tariff 1902…..
– I hope that it will assist the Committee if, in a few words I give some information in regard to the South African Convention, of which we are now able to take advantage. The South African Customs Union Convention embraces the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Orange River Colony, the Transvaal, and Southern Rhodesia. It divides its Tariff into six classes, with differing rates of duty, and a separate rate of preference upon each. Of the Articles of Agreement which follow the list of duties of particular interest to us, first comes Article 3, which says -
A rebate of Customs duty shall be granted on any goods and articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of the United Kingdom, imported therefrom into the Union for consumption therein to the extent following : -
In the case of goods and articles charged with Customs duty under Class I., the amount shown in the column indicating such rebate.
In the case of goods and articles charged under Classes II., III., and IV. and VI., 3 per cent, ad valorem on such goods and articles.
Provided that the manufactured goods and articles in respect of which such rebate as aforesaid shall be granted shall be bond fide the manufactures of the United Kingdom, and that, in the event of any question arising as to whether any goods or articles arc entitled to any such rebate as aforesaid, the decision of the Minister or other Executive Officer, in whom the control of the Customs Department immediately concerned is vested, shall be final.
Australia is admitted under the provisions of Article 4, under which -
A rebate similar to that for which provision is made in the last preceding Article shall be granted in like manner, and under like provisions, to goods and articles the growth, produce or manufacture of any British Colony, Protectorate, or Possession, granting equivalent reciprocal privileges to the Colonies and Territories belonging to Union.
– The agreement does’ not fulfil those conditions.
– In the opinion of the members of the Convention it does. It is only because of the assistance which we have received from leading South African statesmen, and from the High Commissioner, that we have been able to bring these proposals before the Parliament this session. Various suggestions were ex changed, the net outcome of which to us is shown in the schedule. The Convention gives varying preferences to Great Britain, and any Colony with which it may make an agreement, over the whole list of South African productions. Into that total preference, we appear to have entered; but we have submitted to Parliament, to show the advantages of our side of the bargain, only those classes of goods which we are now exporting to South Africa. There may be other exports which have escaped attention, or which may be developed, and call for inclusion in future calculations. I regard the interjection of the acting leader of the Opposition as ‘ a comment rather than a question. The concessions granted by Australia have been approved by the Convention as an equivalent to reciprocal preference within the meaning of the article which I have read. The members of the Convention are satisfied, and I hope that honorable members will be so, too. Article 9 forbids the importation of prison and penitentiarymade goods, and of opium, except for medicinal purposes. In Article 16, alcoholic liquors and blasting compounds are coupled together; but those have only an indirect interest for us. Special arrangements are also made with regard to methylated spirits, soap, and other substances used in connexion with the wool-washing industry. Article 23 sets out that -
The provisions of this Convention shall continue in force from the date of the coming into operation of this Convention, and thereafter; provided, however, that it shall be open -for any party to this Convention to give twelve months’ notice to all the other parties of its wish to amend the terms of this Convention, or to retire therefrom, such notice to be given prior to the 30th June of any one year, and to expire on the 30th June of the next succeeding year.
That reference to parties relates to the five Colonies named.
– Otherwise the convention is interminable.
– Apparently. Under Article 24, a Conference must be summoned after such a notice has been given.
– Are the proposed rates of duty to be given to the South African Colonies importing Chinese or Hindoo labour ?
– No distinction is made. The only Colony to which Chinese are being imported is the Transvaal. The last shipment arrived there a few days ago, and no further shipments are authorized.
– Are there no conditions?
– Does the Government propose to draw a line if it eventually finds that the importation is to be continued ?
– That will be considered if Hindoo and Chinese labour enter into the production of any of the articles sent here from South Africa.
– Do I understand that the honorable and learned gentleman would consider the advisability of withdrawing from the agreement if the traffic should continue?
– If the Committee will refer to the schedule they will find that our duty on sugar produced ~~solely by white labour is to be 4s. per cwt., and on that produced wholly, or partly by black labour 5s., an advantage of is. per cwt. in favour of the former. The amount of preference which we are to give differs according to the kind of South African labour used, in the same way that our Excise duties upon sugar vary. Instead of paying the duty of 6s. per cwt. which is levied upon sugar from everywhere else, the South African product, grown by white labour, will be subject to an impost of 4s. per cwt., whilst that grown by black labour will bear a duty of 5s. per cwt. The South African Colonies make no concession to us in regard to sugar. Thev do not at present produce enough for their own consumption, and therefore the export of sugar by them is purely a question of the future. It is with the deepest disappointment that I have to inform honorable members that our reciprocity treaty with New Zealand has failed to meet with the acceptance of the Parliament of that Colony^ I pass no comment upon the telegraphed reports, which are very brief, but take it that they represent the gist of the objections. From personal knowledge, I am in a position to say that these objections were in the mind of the late Mr. Seddon, and that he mentioned them as among the sacrifices that New Zealand would make by entering into the treaty. It was with a clear knowledge and appreciation of the loss of revenue involved that he set his signature to our agreement, believing it to be a desirable one from the stand-point of the Colony which he represented so faithfully and so well.
– What were the principal objections ?
– The fruit-growers seem to be unanimously against the treaty, some .body claiming to represent the farmers protested against it, the flour millers took exception to the propose’d preferences on their product, and there was the general objection to the loss of revenue that would result. The late Mr. Seddon had all these items clearly in his mind, and mentioned them as among the concessions that New Zealand was making. It was with a full knowledge of all the facts that he threw the great weight of his knowledge and reputation into the scale in favour of the treaty. However, the difficulty was to draft a reciprocity treaty for two countries whose conditions and products were so similar. There is not an equal likeness, but a marked resemblance, between South Africa and Australia. We are practically in the same latitudes, we each have a vast expanse of territory and great pastoral, mineral, and agricultural resources. In South Africa, however, the white population is not much more than one-fourth of that which we at present possess. We have now over 4,000,000 people, whereas they have a population of not much more than 1,100,000. On the other hand, the negro population of South Africa is 5,000,000, whereas our coloured population is not only small, but rapidly decreasing. The real difference between South Africa and Australia is that we have reached a further stage of development. As & consequence, they are still a great consuming nation. In spite of their comparatively limited population, their imports range at about ^9,000,000 per annum. They are large purchasers, not only of manufactured goods, but of agricultural products and frozen meat, and of many other articles which we have progressed sufficiently to be able to produce. Our exports to South Africa to-day represent a total value of £2,000,000 annually. I take their gross total from the last available returns for six months, doubling them upon the assumption that the other half makes no difference worth mentioning. _Our trade is already large, but not nearly as large as it might be. Our most dangerous competitors are in the Argentine. It is from that country that frozen and chilled meats are being received in large quantities, whilst grain supplies and other agricultural produce are commencing to flow in. The great advantage of the treaty will be that some of the benefits which the Argentine has hitherto enjoyed will now be conferred upon us. It is estimated that in connexion with meat and grain and other important articles of consumption, we shall now be placed on an equal footing with the Argentine, whereas we have been in danger of losing ground.
– How have we been placed on an unequal footing?
– Partly on account of the shipping charges from the Argentine being smaller, and also on account of the adverse seasons here which, having temporarily limited our exports, enabled importers from the Argentine to secure the market.
– The Argentine has beaten Canada, although the Dominion has had the advantage of a direct line of subsidized steamers.
– Yes, but the circumstances of Canada differ from those of- Australia.
– But there is not very much difference in the freights.
– I have the assurance of those who are well informed upon the subject that with the preference now given we shall be able to successfully maintain the competition which’, indeed, we have carried on without it. We send- to South Africa at present about half their imports of butter, three-fifths of the flour, sevenninths of the wheat, one-fourth of the jams and jellies, one-third of the leather, onequarter of the frozen meat, and threesevenths of the timber they buy abroad. We send South Africa no cheese, and that is surprising, considering the quality of much of the Australian product. In every one of these lines there is an opening for an increase of trade, particularly in butter, jams and jellies, leather, frozen meat, and flour.
– Has the Minister any particulars as to the canned fruits that are imported into South Africa?
– No particulars are given in the schedule, presumably because we have followed the South African definitions. Fruits, preserved, of all kinds - bottled, tinned, or otherwise preserved - are to be admitted there under the preference at 2d. per lb., instead of 2 1/4d. I propose to introduce into the schedule Angora hair and diamonds, uncut. These articles are admitted by us free qf dutv at present, but one of the special requests of South Africa is that they shall remain on the free list, and that no duty should be imposed upon them until they are consulted.
– The production of Angora hair may become an important industry in Australia.
– I hope that it will. The only concessions made by us to which it seems necessary to call attention are those upon sugar, spirits, tobacco, and wine. It is proposed to admit spirits a.t the Excise rates levied here, plus 2 J per cent. I have already explained the proposals with regard to sugar, which will be subject also to, practically, our Excise rates. The principal reduction made is that upon wine. The present duty of 6s. per gallon upon wine in bulk is to be reduced to 2s., and the duty upon wine in bottles is to be brought down from 8s. to 3s. per gallon. We also, make a concession of 9d. per lb. upon tobacco. The production of South Africa in these particular items is considerable, but the exports as yet are trifling. ‘ Sugar is, so far as I know, grown only in Natal. The total production last year amounted to 19,000 tons, and 15,000 tons were imported. Consequently, there will have to be some considerable development of local production before any sugar is exported to Australia. Tobacco is produced in .three States, Natal, Cape Colony, and the Orange River Colony, but I am informed that the preference of 9d. per lb. is not likely to lead to the importation of tobacco from South Africa to supply the needs of the small minority who prefer the peculiar flavour of what is known as Boer tobacco. The wine production of the Cape is 5,686,000 gallons, which is almost exactly the same as our own. As we are a large wine-exporting country we are not likely, to have wine brought here, except it may be to meet the tastes of those who like the Cape wine, known as Constantia. We obtain no concessions from them on these articles.
– If the imports are likely to be so very small, the concessions are all on the one side.
– It seems too good to be true.
– Curiously enough I find that in the matter of maize also their production almost matches ours. In Cape Colony they distil 1,500,000 gallons of spirits annually, but I have no figures relating to the distillation in the remaining States.
– What kind of spirits do they make?
– Perhaps I had better not guess. I merely know that they distil spirits. In conclusion, I would point out that South Africa has deliberately fixed its Tariff at a certain height with a view to making reciprocal concessions to the mother country and other parts of the British Empire. Our Tariff, as a whole, has not been adjusted upon that plan. But having regard to the circumstances of this particular case, it appears to us that none of the preferences that we are asked to concede are likely to operate injuriously upon Australian industry. No doubt there will be an importation of products which are at present peculiar to South Africa, but these are not numerous, and they come very little into competition with any established industry of our own. As time goes on they will probably become greater competitors in our market. We must naturally look forward to that. At the present time owing to difference between our stages of development - South Africa is one of our most profitable markets. This reciprocal treaty will tend to make that market still more profitable. But the South Africans, having adjusted their Tariff with the intention of giving preferences, are perfectly prepared to see transferred to us from the Argentine, and from other foreign competitors, any share of their trade that we are able to gain. In a similar spirit we ought to be willing to concede an advantage to them over any of- their trading rivals. Therefore, although our Tariff has not been raised, as theirs was, with a view to permitting a fixed percentage reduction- -
– “Raised as theirs was?” Their Tariff is very low in respect of all the items enumerated in this schedule.
– Their Tariff is low as compared with the Canadian and. American Tariff, amd, taken as a whole, is lower than our own. But on their staples it is about the same as ours, or a little above it. They raised it by the amount of the preferences before they granted them in the first instance. In any case, this is a treaty which at the present time promises to be distinctly advantageous to us, and I believe beneficial to South Africa, whose Tariff has been deliberately drawn with a view to making this concession to other parts of the British Empire. If for no other reason than to encourage trade between South Africa and Australia rather than between other flags it seems to me that we are taking a wise step.
– Must we give some notice if we desire to change, or can we change at our own sweet will?
– In my opinion notice is implied, but I can find nowhere in the Convention a distinct statement of our obligations in that regard. I assume that it would necessarily be a fair thing to adopt the same term of notice which is -to be given bv the contracting parties themselves. That would be a year’s notice. Any alteration which may be made in this agreement in future will, I hope, not emanate from South Africa. f trust that those States will find the agreement justified by experience, and that they will recognise’, in stretching out a hand to us, that we have grasped it in good faith, in the hope that our closer economic relations will be permanent.
– I am glad to be able to give the Government a very hearty support in regard to this proposal. Mv only regret is that they have not made it the model of all their other schemes to secure preferential trade, instead of it being merely the one which points the way iri which, we ought to go.
– Thev will make it their model when we get a decent Tariff.
– May I remind the honorable member for Moira that, taking it all round, South Africa has a lower Tariff than has Australia?
– But not in respect of the staple products.
– Is not 10 per cent, the ad valorem rate there?
– Yes, notwithstanding that their Tariff is lower than ours, the British South African Colonies have given an all-round preference of 2^ per cent, to the rest of the Empire - a condition of things to which we declined to subscribe the other day. Consequently, in this matter of preference we are not the most generous people in the world, even though, upon the whole, our Tariff” is a high one. I should have preferred that we followed the example of South Africa in this respect, and I believe it will yet be found that that is the only way in which we can secure reciprocal trade relations between the rest of the Empire. In this connexion I think that our experience in endeavouring to ratify a reciprocal Tariff agreement with New Zealand is a most instructive one. We are now told that we must raise our Tariff before we can obtain reciprocity with that country. New Zealand has her Tariff up, and the trouble is that, for the sake of securing reciprocity, she will not reduce it. She will not reduce it, because her fruitgrowers and her flour-millers object.
– She did not receive much encouragement to reduce it from honorable members opposite.
– I do not understand the relevancy of the honorable member’s interjection.
– When the reciprocal Tariff agreement with New Zealand was under discussion its adoption was opposed by honorable members opposite.
– The agreement was framed upon altogether wrong lines. We ought to have adopted an entirely different attitude towards New Zealand. Instead of approaching each other as protected countries, we ought to have said, “ We are members of the same Australasian family. Let us mutually lower our Tariff.”
– In view of what the honorable member has just stated, does he think that there is any chance of securing that result?
– Not so long as we approach each other as countries with protective Tariffs. But if we approached each other from a different stand-point–
– If we approached each other as free-traders we should not need any Tariff.
– Why should there not be free-trade between Australia and a country like New Zealand?
– I do not see why there should not be free-trade in most things.
-I am glad to hear that. The whole protectionist theoryfrom time immemorialhas been that it is desirable to equalize the social conditions of people between whom trade is carried on.
– A free-trader would have no Tariff to interfere with. He could not give a preference.
– I do not know of any such free-traders as those to whom the honorable member alludes.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie is talking of the Henry George school.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK. - Henry George does not advocate anything of the kind. Such a theory is not urged by anybody except protectionists. They appear to understand much more about free-trade than do free-traders themselves, and it may be that the converse is true when freetraders are upon the public platform. At any irate the honorable member for Laanecoorie will concede that between New Zealand and Australia there ought to exist the closest possible relationship - trading relationship as well as any other. The honorable member for Bland is constantly pointing to the fact that the social conditions in New Zealand are better than those which obtain in Australia. If the wages rates which prevail in the manufacturing industries there are as high as our own, and if the general standard of living is equal to our own, why should we have any fiscal barriers between the two countries ? I say that if we approach each other as protectionists in an attempt to make concessions as a matter of neighbourly feeling, it is not likely that we shall succeed. But if we approach each other with the feeling that these fiscal barriers ought not to exist, and that they ought to be substantially reduced upon either side, I believe that we shall be able to make an arrangement which will confer lasting benefit upon all concerned. However, the logic of events alone will teach us wisdom in these matters, and experience is already showing the truth of what I said the other day, and of what all investigators have ascertained, namely, that by retaliatory methods we cannot lever down the Tariffs of other countries. Human nature will prevent that. As long as we adopt a protective view we cannot expect to obtain a satisfactory reciprocal agreement with New Zealand. I am glad to see that in the case of South Africa, a move has been made by the Government in a different direction. I think that we all ought to be obliged to the Prime Minister for his very informative speech this morning. It was very different from the address which was delivered by the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– He merely laid the duties upon the table.
– I believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs was very complimentary to his chief the other day in proposing the toast of his health. He had a right to be. If ever a man has been kind to another, the Prime Minister has been kind to the Minister of Trade and Customs. He has been doing his work for him during the whole of the session, and supplying the House with information that he seemed incapable of affording us. The Minister of Trade and Customs, therefore, had every reason for expressing, his unbounded admiration and love for his chief. I should like first of all to point out the anomalous way in which we proceed with the making of these treaties. Instead of arranging some intelligent and simple plan of preference, as the rest of the Empire is doing, we are adding all sorts of perplexities’ to our Tariff. Canada, for instance, simply said, first of all. that her Tariff was so-and-so, and then made an all-round reduction to the rest of the Empire, conditionally on the rest of the Empire doing the same. South Africa has acted in the same way. But the Commonwealth builds one Tariff for New Zealand, another for Great Britain, .and still another for South Africa. These several Tariffs must be mutually destructive, and the items will have to be revised. Senator Pulsford points out that the terms of the preference trade agreements with New Zealand and South Africa are contradictory - that, whereas, under the New Zealand Tariff, we have a duty of 3d. per lb. on butter, and 46. as against all other countries, the schedule now before us provides that in the case of South Africa the duties shall be 2-)d. Surely South Africa is “another country.”
– The New Zealand agreement gives special rights to both contracting powers.
– A provision of that kind does not rectify the anomaly ; it merely authorizes it.’ These anomalies ought not to exist. They must result in all-round irritation, and great confusion at the Customs House. Whatever we do for South Africa we ought to do for New Zealand, and whatever we do for New Zealand we oUght to do for South Africa, Canada, and the other parts of the Empire. We ought to; as much as possible, simplify the Tariff. The Government seem, however, to concentrate their attention upon the making of one agreement at a time, regardless of the extent to which its conditions may affect others that have been made. For instance, under the New Zealand preferential reciprocal agreement, raisins from that Colony are free, and from all other countries are dutiable at 3d. per lb. Under this agreement, however, raisins from South Africa will be dutiable at i£d. per lb. And so with regard to currants - free to New Zealand, 2d. in the case of imports from all other countries, and under this agreement id. per lb. in the case of imports from South. Africa. I suppose that South Africa ils “ another “ country.
– In the agreement ‘with New Zealand there is a special clause exempting South Africa from its terms.
– Quite so; but that does not rectify the anomaly. It merely authorizes it. and, by virtue of that authorization, the Prime Minister is pro-‘ ceeding to enact these anomalies. Let me mention a few other items which appear in the agreement with New Zealand, as well as in that now before us. Oats, for example, are dutiable at is. 3d. when they come from New Zealand, and at is. 6d. when they come from other countries ; but those coming from South Africa are dutiable at is. 1 1/2d. Wheat from New Zealand is dutiable at is., and at 2s. when it comes from other countries ; but that coming from South Africa is dutiable at is. i£d. Flour from New Zealand is free. 2s. 6d. from other countries, and is. 10 1/2d. in the case of imports from South Africa. Milk, id. New Zealand ; other countries, 2d. ; South Africa, fd. If we continue in this waymaking conflicting treaties, we shall add to the confusion at the Customs House, and ultimately have a Tariff which will be the laughing-stock of the world. It is far better that we should proceed as other parts of the Empire have done, by granting a simple all-round, reduction of duties on imports f :om the rest of the British Empire. There are some strange anomalies in this agreement, and the only reason why one may consent to them is that the trade to which they relate is either one-sided, or does not exist. There are a number of items in the schedule as to’ which there is no trade between South Africa and Australia. I do not know whether the preference will cause a trade in them to grow up, but I am afraid that it will not do much in that direction. There is no trade in fish between South Africa and Australia, no trade in currants, and hardly any trade in raisins - although there is a. possibility, I should hope, ‘of one developing. I’ take it that, in regard to green fruit, this agreement practically means free-trade between the two countries. We remove the whole of our duties on fruit - bananas, oranges, pine-apples, and fruit n.e.i. - and South Africa apparently does the same. South Africa had before a duty of 3 per cent., and I do not know that the removal of that duty will materially affect our exports of fruit to that country. At all events, it is a step in the right direction, and we may welcome it. As the Prime Minister pointed out, we already have a large proportion of the trade in flour with South Africa, and these proposals may prove to our advantage. There are some articles in the schedule, however, - such, for instance, as those relating to spirits, timber, tobacco, and wine - in respect of which we receive no preference.
– We do on timber.
– I see that ; is so ; but, although there is a large importation of spirits, sugar, and tobacco into South Africa, we are granted no preference. What is the reason for this?
– That is part of their request.
– Was any reason given for the request?
-Only that they are looking to the future.
– What does the Prime Minister mean by that?
– They are looking to future development. With the exception of a special class of tobacco and wine, they do not produce spirits, sugar, tobacco, or wine for export, but they hope in future to do so.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has said that their production of wine is equally as good’ as our own.
– Yes, but we are large exporters.
– They export chiefly their Constantia wine.
-That is their most famous wine, and is the only one that I have heard of as being known outside South Africa.
– If their unwillingness to grant us a preference in respect of these items is due to protective considerations, I do not know that the reason is, one that we ought to appreciate to any extent. I notice that they have substantial importations of most of the items I have mentioned; and I think that revenue con siderations have led to their failure to grant us any concession in respect of them. Of spirits, they import £624,000 worth per annum; sugar,£622,000 worth; tobacco,£120,000 worth ; and wine, £68,000 worth. There is no doubt that duties on such items are largely relied upon by all countries for revenue purposes. Taken as a whole, we may well accept this agreement, more particularly as it is terminable on notice by either side, If that were not so, and there were mutual trade in respect of all these items, some of the duties would have to be revised. For instance, in the case of butter, we make a concession of one-fourth to South Africa, and they make a concession of one-ninth.
– We make a difference of ¾d., and they make a difference of¼d.
– Roughly speaking, that is so.
– I was going to say that if the trade were not one-sided, these rates would have to be revised. It is only because the trade has not been developed that thev are not very material. One reason why I think it would have been better if the duties had been arranged upon the basis of a mutual all-round reduction, is. that we should thus have provided for future development. Who knows what the development in the dairying industry of South Africa may be?
– We are not responsible, their Tariff already being divided into six classes, and each class having a different preference. These are not terms proposed by us. We have to fall in with their existing classes, on each of which they give different preferences.
– Then they are not making any special preference to us ?
– No; that is a general preference which they give to any country that is prepared to reciprocate.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- I do not know what the chances are, but if South Africa began to export butter-
– Would she export to Australia?
– We, at all events, export to South Africa. We could provide against a contingency of that kind by giving notice of our intention to terminate the agreement. So, too, with regard to dried fruits, the concession we make is much larger than is made to us, though, as we are now the exporters, that does not matter. Nevertheless, it is well to point to these items as instances why a treaty of this bind should be terminable practically at will, sincewe do not know what developments may occur. This could be avoided if we followed the lead set us by Canada and South Africa, and made a simple mutual proposal for preference, instead of conflicting arrangements with various portions of the Empire. Still, we are now taking a step in the right direction. We are giving a preference to people who are on the same social plane as we are, who have the same ideals of civilization, and are, in fact, part of the race to which we belong. Therefore, I hail it as tending to bring closer together, by improving their trading relations, peoples of the same stock and of the same aspirations.
– I support the treatv absolutely, and should be prepared to support almost any proposal for preferential trade with any other part of the Empire. Some honorable members seem to think that, in making agreements of this kind, we should get evervthing, and surrender nothing.
– We come as near to that position in the agreement under discussion as we shall ever be.
– These agreements are really in the nature of bargains, one country giving concessions to another in return for similar treatment. Unless the Commonwealth Parliament is prepared to offer advantages to compensate for those that it asks for, we cannot get preferential trade. One cannot have his cake and eat it, and one cannot levy high rates of Customs duties on the productions of other countries and expect those countries to lower their Tariff against our productions.
– The British preferential proposals were framed on that plan.
– I am altogether opposed to the spirit underlying those proposals. Their object seemed to be chiefly to increase our rates of dutv. I would, however, rather accent them than have no preference. We shall never be able to make an agreement with anv other British community by which we shall gain more and lose less than under this agreement with South Africa. In many items Tasmania, as I have alreadv pointed out. obtains practically a free gift of trade. It has been brought under my notice that the South African preference to the mother country, small though it was, was sufficient to affect the business of Australia, and led to the termination of Tasmanian contracts. It is especially desirable that our trading arrangements with South Africa should be on a satisfactory footing, because a large number of vessels call at the ports of that country on their way to England, and before the South African preference to Great Britain, many steamers taking cargoes of fruit from Tasmania shipped them with the right to land them at South Africa, if the market was likely to be more favorable there than in England. I am not discussing the proposal from a State point of view, but I mention this matter because I am more intimately acquainted with the affairs of Tasmania than with those of the other States. Tasmania will gain under the agreement in respect to her two primary productions, fruit and timber. I understood from the Minister of Trade and Customs that canned fruits are included under the heading of confectionery.
– No. Confectionery includes cocoa, chocolate, honey, jams, jellies and similar articles; fruits of all kinds, bottled, tinned, or otherwise preserved including candied peel, form a separate item. In each case there is a preference of¼d., although the rates of duty are not the same.
– I regard this agreement as the first step towards securing preferential trade throughout the Empire. In my opinion, the Empire can provide for the wants of its own people, and I am prepared to give reasonable concessions to bring about the greatest idea of modern British statesmanship - an Imperial Zollverein. I have no sympathy with the foreigner, whether he be German, American, or of any other nation, who shuts his ports against our goods. Believing this to be the first step in the direction of securing the Empire preference to which I refer, I shall give it my hearty support, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on having brought to a succesful conclusion the negotiations in regard to it.
– It isa somewhat ironical comment upon the utility of Government institutions for fostering the trade of a community that this Tariff arrangement with South Africa has been hailed, on both sides of the Chamber, as something too good to be true, though for some time past South Africa has practically held out its hand to us. Three years ago I urged the Government of the day to do something to grasp this extended hand. Seeing how little it was necessary to do to obtain the concession offered to us, the wonder is that the Government have been so long in bringing this proposal before the House. Still, one must not complain about dilatory methods of administration now that we have at last obtained what we desire.
– It has taken twelve months of constant writing and cabling to bring this about.
– That shows the heed for a little business knowledge in these transactions. A lamentable lack of business ability was displayed in framing the New Zealand agreement. Sugar was forced into that agreement in such a way as to make it anything but acceptable to the great mass of the people of New Zealand, the proposal being, to tax them to the extent of from £200,000 to £250,000 per annum to secure a preference which could mean very little to Australia in the immediate future. Had an ordinary business man, acquainted with the trade of the two communities, framed the agreement, he would have left out that item, because New Zealand has adopted the policy of admitting sugar free, in order to foster other industries, and it can be well understood that the general body of the people would resent a proposal to impose a duty of £4 a ton on all sugar imported, to give Australia a preference in regard to. possibly, 50 or 100 tons at the present time though, of course, later on our surplus production of sugar will be verv large.
– New Zealand would have gained revenue by the adoption of the proposal relating to sugar.
– That is the Government way of looking at the matter. Business men and the public generally view it differently.
– The complaint of the New Zealand Committee was that the proposals as a whole involved a loss of revenue amounting to £65,000.
– I am drawing a distinction between the politicians’ point of view, and that of business people and taxpayers. No doubt the New Zealanders think that they are being asked to pay too much in respect to sugar for their preferential whistle.
-I think that when the matter is again considered the proposals in regard to sugar will not be the greatest difficulty.
– Flour is the greatest.
– Flour and fruit.
– If the New Zealand agreement had been framed more on the lines of the agreement under discussion, it would have had a better chance of being adopted, and would have been more in keeping with the general principle which should underlie British Imperial preferences. Without waiting for bargaining, each country should determine what its Tariff should be, having regard to the necessities, and economic and political opinions of its people, offering a reduction of possibly 25 per cent, to Great Britain and British dependencies. That is my idea of Imperial Preference. But I have come to the conclusion that, whatever fiscal views I may entertain, any reasonable or workable scheme should have my support. At this stage of the session it is not desirable to enter upon an academic discussion, but, viewing this as a business proposal, it seems to me that the Commonwealth has everything to gain, and practically nothing to lose under it. Therefore, I accept it with satisfaction, and shall give it my earnest support. I hope that it will tend to the development of the Sou!h African Confederation in such a way that we shall be able to hold that country as a British dependency, that it will give us a larger market for our surplus produce, fruit, and timber, and that the-e will be a great increase in our trade with the sister dependency.
– I join with those who have congratulated the Government on the success of these negotiations, because I look upon the bargain which has been made as a capital one for the Commonwealth, although South Africa will also do well under it.
– We could not expect that country to give everything and to get nothing.
– No; though some honorable members seem to think that Australia occupies that position in regard to the New Zealand agreement. When that agreement was under discussion, it was stated that we were giving away everything, and that New Zealand was conceding nothing.
– On the contrary, many of us expected that New Zealand would refuse to ratify the treaty, because no benefit was being conferred upon her.
– Fears were expressed that the primary producers of Australia would suffer, rather than derive any benefit, from the treaty.
– Thev certainly would not have derived any benefit.
– No. I was one of those who thought that the farmers of Victoria were having taken away from them some measure of the small protection that they had enjoyed. It is impossible for us under present conditions to attain our ideal, namely, interImperial free-trade, and it is well for us to take what steps we can in the right direction. Until the social and industrial conditions throughout the Empire approach something like uniformity it will be impossible for us to bring about absolutely free commercial intercourse between its several parts. The methods of production depend so largely upon local conditions, and these are so diverse, that it would be impossible to have all at once a system of free-trade within the Empire which would not result most disastrously to every portion of it - with the exception, perhaps, of the mother country. I admit that these sectional agreements are objectionable, but they are better than nothing. It is well that we should make a start, because I believe that as we proceed many of the difficulties that now present themselves will disappear, and that we shall eventually be able to take down our barriers altogether. In my view, only a protectionist can afford a real preference. A free-trader cannot consistently give a preference. I have always been opposed to the erection of Tariff barriers between the various States. I strongly resisted the stock tax in Victoria, because I regarded it as an interference with the freedom of intercourse which should exist between the States. Some ten years ago I brought forward a proposal in the Victorian Assembly for a preferential arrangement between Victoria and Oueensland in respect to sugar, but constitutional difficulties arose, and my scheme could not be carried into effect. I congratulate the Prime Minister upon the successful result of his persistent efforts to bring about preferential trade. I believe that we are now entering upon a new era of commercial reciprocity within the Empire.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas) rrt.50]. - I cannot agree with the honorable member for Laanecoorie that a free-trader cannot consistently vote for any preferential scheme, or join in a reciprocal agreement. When the Cobden treaty was introduced in 1861, it was regarded as a step towards that complete free-trade the achievement of which was the ambition of Cobden.
– A free-trader can only give a preference by imposing a duty.
– The honorable member is presupposing that free-trade is already in existence. We have to deal with the facts as they face us. The honorable member postulates an impossible position when he says that you can only give a preference by imposing a duty. We, as free-traders, can consistently vote for any preferences which will modify the existing conditions in the direction of free-trade.
– And when you obtain free-trade you cannot give preferences.
– When we reach a certain place, it will be time enough to howl. So far as the Government proposal operates in the direction of reducing the duties, it can be consistently supported by free-traders’. I hope that the arrangement now being entered into will be attended by the substantial benefits which the Prime Minister anticipates. In any case, we ought to sympathize with the efforts of South Africa to bring about healthy reciprocal relations between the different parts of the Empire. It was at’ the Convention of 1887 that Mr. Hofmeyer, the representative of Cape Colony, made the first suggestion in the direction of preferentia.1 trade. He suggested, I think, that preferences might be granted by reducing duties in favour of products imported from British Possessions. No doubt the proposal now before us is, to some extent, the outcome of the policy which he then put forward. On another occasion, Mr. Hofmeyer advocated the imposition of a special 2 per cent, rate upon all foreign goods imported into the Empire, and the representative of some other part of the Empire - I think it was Canada - suggested a 5 per cent. rate. This was altogether apart from the suggestion of Mr. Hofmeyer that we might make a mutual reduction in respect of imports from various parts of the Empire in order to encourage Inter-Imperial trade. The Canadian policy has not resulted so beneficially as was anticipated. Between 1899 and 1904 the imports of dutiable goods from the United States increased to about the same extent as did the imports of dutiable goods from Great Britain, upon which a preference was granted. These figures show that trade depends upon larger considerations than even a reduction of duties, amounting to as much as 33 per cent. From Mr. Scott’s report, it is clear that our trade with South Africa in the majority of the articles included in the schedule cannot be affected by the proposed reduction of duty. We enjoy a large share of the trade already. In 1903 our exports of butter, fodder, grain, jam? and jellies, meats, and undressed timber to South Africa formed a very large proportion of the total imports of those articles. Under the convention of 1903, preference was given, but by means of an increase of duty. I find, for instance, that the duty upon butter was increased by Jd. per lb.
– It is now proposed to take off that farthing.
– Yes. This proposal is a cross between an ideal agreement and that which the Government presented to us in connexion with New Zealand. We send large quantities of butter to South Africa, and our trade depends for its continuance and increase, not upon the imposition ‘ of a duty of Jd. per lb. upon butter coming from other parts of the world, but upon the quality of the butter and the amount of production. In 1903 Victoria sent to South Africa butter valued at £76,000. New South Wales exported £12,000 worth, and the quantities sent from South Australia and Queensland were trifling. The total exports of butter from the Commonwealth to South Africa were valued at about £90,000, as against total imports valued at £317,000. That shows that the rate of duty has very little to do with the proportion of the trade which these States carry on with South* Africa. Fodder is to be subject to a very small reduction of duty, and the proposed arrangement can have very little effect upon our trade. Last year our exports to South Africa were valued at £31,730, as against £13,730 worth imported from other countries for the half year. So. that practically we already carry on the greater part of the trade in fodder, and I do not think that our exports are likely to be stimulated by a rebate of 2d. per cental. The regular rate imposed upon imports from foreign parts has been 2s. 2d. per cental. Upon flour, a rebate of 3d. is to be allowed upon the dutv of 2s. 6d. per cental. That is a comparatively small reduction, and cannot affect our competition with the rest of the world.
– The results will be small, so far as actual trade is concerned, but the agreement puts us upon the right road.
– Yes ; the agreement is to be valued more for the sentiment which underlies it, and the good feeling which has prompted it, than for any trade advantages that it will confer. I do not anticipate that in respect of the articles specified in the schedule there will be any very large development in our exports to South Africa owing to the adoption of this agreement. The Prime Minister has told us that the production -of wine in South Africa is about equal to our own.
– It is about 5,600,000 gallons in each country.
– But I find that we do not export wine to South Africa, and, as we do export to other countries, it is not likely that we shall import South, African wines unless fashion shows a preference for them.
– The bulk of the wine produced in South Africa is of a cheap class. It is exported to France, where it is blended and used in making other wines.
– The Prime Minister must see, therefore, that in respect of wine the advantage proposed is more of a sentimental than a real one. If it were real the competition which would be chiefly affected would be that of South Australia. In the matter of wheat, I find that, in 1905, we did supply a very large proportion of the total imports into South Africa. The duty against’ the foreigner was is. 2d. per cental, and a reduction of 2d. per cental in our favour is not likely to increase the imports from Australia. To a large extent, those imports must depend upon the seasons, because, in 1903, our total export of wheat to South Africa was valued at less than £12,000, out of a total import by that country of £14,000 odd: - South Australia being, practically the only exporter. Our- trade in wheat with South Africa must depend upon the seasons. Then the duty imposed by South Africa upon agricultural implements is only 3 per cent. , and it is now proposed to make a rebate of the full amount in our favour. Surely a reduction of 3 per cent, upon the import value of machinery into South Africa cannot possibly affect the competition of Australia. Upon that point, Mr. Scott says that the South African people exhibit a preference for other agricultural machines on account of their lightness, and that this to some extent affects the export of machinery from Australia to that country. If that be so, I do not think that a very big difference will be made in our trade by the proposed reduction of 3 per cent, ad valorem upon our agricultural implements.
– The honorable and learned member would not refuse it for all that ?
– No. As I have already said, it is more of a sentimental” advantage than a real one. Mr. Scott’s report further shows that the increase of exports from the Argentine to South Africa, between 1901 and 1903, was greater than that from Canada to South Africa. The figures are as follow: - Canada, 1901, £44,000; 1903, ;£244>000 > Argentine, 1901, £350,000; 1903, £1,483,000. Consequently there has been a far greater increase in the exports from the Argentine to South Africa than there has been in the exports from Canada, notwithstanding that the latter country has a direct line of steamers running to South African ports. I do not. know whether the export of fruit trees to South Africa is still affected by the regulations previously imposed by that country.
– The South African authorities have assured us that those regulations have been misinterpreted here, and that they have modified the administration - not their regulations - so as to remove the difficulty which existed. I have not received any complaints under that heading during the past six or eight months.
– I am pleased to hear that, because, about eight months ago, the Australian Fruitgrowers’ Association complained that the regulations in South Africa were a very serious obstacle to a growing trade in fruit-trees with that country. Two complaints were made, one in regard to the import of fruit-trees into South Africa, and another in regard to the regulations made by Germany in connexion with the importation of fruit. To what extent these impediments to freight have been modified I do not know. I intend to support the proposals of the Government.
– I have no objection to the details of this treaty. If we are to enter into a reciprocal Tariff arrangement with South Africa, the terms of this agreement are about as favorable as they could be. But I do not think that they will have much effect upon trade either one way or the other. From a perusal of the schedule, I am satisfied that, in respect of the items therein enumerated, Australia already pos- sesses the great bulk of the trade. But I would again urge the objection which I voiced upon a former occasion, to entering into separate agreements with each part of the Empire. In order to make my meaning clear, it may be well for me to give a hypothetical case. Let us suppose that we enter into four different agreements with four separate parts of the Empire, namely, Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. Putting aside the present proposals altogether, let us assume that those four agreements cover 100 different commodities - 25 being included in each treaty. It appears to me that if we give to each country a preference upon 25 commodities, we shall penalize every other portion of the Empire. In other words, each, of the countries with which we entered into a reciprocal arrangement would get a preference of 25 per cent., but would be penalized to the extent of 75 per cent. Each party to an agreement with us would, therefore, be penalized to a larger extent than it would be benefited. I fear that these separate agreements will act as a barrier to the accomplishment of that larger scheme of reciprocity which I hope will be entered into between all parts of the Empire. Even if it took a few years, to accomplish, it would be infinitely more satisfactory if we could enter into one. agreement with every other part of the British Empire - an agreement by which the whole of those parts would be benefited as against other countries. An agreement of that kind would be worth making sacrifices for. But I do not think that these separate agreements with different parts of the Empire are worth what they cost. I wish honorable members distinctly to understand that I am not opposing these proposals. I think that the Government deserve credit for having made the best bargain that they could under the circumstances. But I am strongly of opinion that we should endeavour to secure the attainment of one comprehensive reciprocal agreement with every other part of the British Empire - such an agreement as would encourage production in every part of- the Empire, so that we should be able to supply our own requirements, especially our food require ments, in the event of war. I am afraid that that result can never be brought ‘about by the adoption of these separate agreements. To my mind, they will act as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the larger scheme. I have gone through the schedule very carefully, and I have no fault to Cud with its details. But I think it is a mistake to proceed in a piecemeal fashion by adopting agreements with separate parts of the Empire, instead of attempting to bring about the larger scheme to which I alluded.
– I quite agree with those who say that some of the preferences proposed under this agreement are so slight that they are not likely to affect trade in any way. I also recognise that there are most extraordinary inequalities in the preferences bestowed upon both sides. In respect of some of the items there is an enormous difference in the preference given by Australia as against that given by South ^Africa. I do not know how these results were arrived at.
– By bargaining. We started with an offer to extend to South Africa a similar preference upon similar goods. That was declined, and the negotiations proceeded until the arrangement embodied in the schedule was arrived at.
– There are extraordinary and, from a business point of view, inexplicable differences. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that the making of these separate agreements, the terms of which vary to a veryconsiderable extent, is likely to lead to much confusion. For instance, if all the reciprocal agreements that have been before Parliament this session were adopted, we should have four separate Tariffs and three different rates prevailing in respect of the same classes of goods. We should have one rate as against imports from New Zealand, another as against imports from Great Britain, still another applying to imports from South Africa, and the ordinary Tariff applying to imports from other countries. It is almost impossible for the :people to acquaint themselves with the complexities of such a Tariff system. Another objection is that one can never trace the effect of these rates ; thev are too complicated to follow. Under one Tariff agreement we grant a preference to a part of the Empire, and under another we take it away. Under the British preferential Tariff schedule, instead of reducing duties as we have done in this case, we allow them to remain unaltered, so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned, and increase them as against the foreigner. Then under the preferential trade agreement with New Zealand we propose to grant concessions to that Colony by increasing duties, not only as against foreign countries, but as against Great Britain.
– And the rest of the Empire.
– And all other parts of the Empire. Had the New Zealand preferential agreement been accepted, the duties as against South Africa, which we now propose to reduce, would have been increased. The Prime Minister must admit that this system .must lead to confusion, and that we ought to deal with the whole question on broader lines. South Africa has adopted a uniform system of dealing with all parts of the Empire, and is prepared to grant uniform concessions to all parts of the Empire that are ready to reciprocate. That is an understandable position to take up. It removes complications, and means really an Empire preference. But whilst we, on the one hand, grant a preference to Great Britain, on the other we impose penalties against her in order to give a preference to another part of the Empire. We are thus doing what is absolutely opposed to our professed policy, and are giving rise to extraordinary anomalies. From the Prime Minister’s stand-point, it is fortunate that the New Zealand Tariff agreement has been rejected. Difficulties which he and the late Prime Minister of New Zealand created have thus been removed. We have freed ourselves from the raising of duties as against the rest of the Empire, and the lowering of them in favour of New Zealand. I would merely point out that we now have before us two preferential schemes, based on entirely different lines. In the one case the ordinary duties are retained against Great Britain, but are increased as against other countries, and increased in respect of such items that the imports from Great Britain are not likely to be affected to any extent. In this case, however, the ordinary duties are reduced in favour of South Africa. The Minister will find it difficult to defend this differential treatment. For instance, jams and jellies coming from South Africa will be admitted at a rate 25 per cent, below the present Tariff, whereas the same commodities coming from Great Britain will have to bear the full dutv. The position is the same in regard to leathers. We do not deal with agricultural and mining machinery under the British preferential scheme, but under this agreement such imports from South Africa are to receive a preference of 25 per cent.
– If any come here. At present, I think they import all the machinery of that class which they require.
– They import very largely, but some machinery is undoubtedly made in South Africa. Then, again, we grant a preference of 25 per cent, to imports of bacon and hams from South Africa, whilst we make no concession to Great Britain. There are a number of other items to which I need not specifically refer, but I think I have shown that these two contradictory systems: cannot be defended.
– What about the . reciprocity ?
– Great Britain grants us free admission to her markets, and we cannot ask for more. South Africa does not do anything of the kind. The concessions which she grants us are comparatively small. So far as they are likely to be effective - and I do not think many of them will be - our concessions to South Africa are more substantial. She retains a strong protective wall in respect of goods which she can produce, and therefore she is not treating us as well as is Great Britain. That being so, I think that we should grant Great Britain terms at least as favorable as those which we grant to South Africa.
– South Africa grants the same concessions to Great Britain as she does to us.
– Or to any other part of the Empire. If these preferential trade proposals are to be Empire wide, we must give further consideration to them. We have been dealing spasmodically with the question, and if the agreement with New Zealand had been accepted we should have established one of the most complicated and indefensible systems that exist in the world. I trust that before we have any further dealings in matters of this sort - and I am not opposed to this arrangement with South Africa - we shall face the whole question, and frame a scheme which will deal equitably with every part of the Empire.
– I move -
That the following items be inserted : - “ Angora hair, free,” and “ Diamonds, unset, free.”
The effect of this amendment will be simply to draw pointed attention to the fact that imports of Angora hair and unset diamonds from South Africa will be free since those articles are already on the free list.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following foot-note be added to the schedule: - “*Case spirits, in cases of two gallons and under, to be charged as two gallons; over two gallons, and not exceeding three galIons, as three gallons; over three gallons, and not exceeding four gallons, as four gallons ; and so on.”
An asterisk opposite the item “ spirits “ will draw attention to this foot-note, which is similar to that which appears in connexion with the same item in our Tariff.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; report adopted, and Bill founded on foregoing resolution introduced and passed through all its stages.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee :
– The Senate have requested us to amend clause 2 of the Bill by omitting paragraphs d and / from the proviso that the Act shall not applyto goods manufactured by any person under certain conditions as to the remuneration of labour. Paragraph d provides that the conditions may be such as are in accordance with terms which, in the opinion of the Minister, are fair and reasonable. The original intention was to facilitate the proof by manufacturers that they were complying with the conditions, and the effect of its omission will be that manufacturers desiring to take advantage of the proviso will be unable to go to the Minister. They must go to the industrial authority of a State, to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, or to a Judge of the Supreme Court. Paragraph / gave a temporary exemption in the case of goods manufactured before the 31st March of next year. Now every manufacturer wishing to take advantage of the Act must comply with the conditions of the proviso before’ the 1st January. Although I am sorry that these amendments have been requested, because they may create a great deal of inconvenience in remote parts of some States, I am informed that there is no chance of the Senate altering its position, and therefore I move -
That the requests be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the requests, and made the amendments.
Consideration resumed from 4th October (vide page 6132), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill is to provide for a technical amendment of section 180 of the Act of 1902 as amended by the Act of 1905. It has been found in consolidating our electoral law that the incorporation of an amendment relating to advertisements agreed to on the motion of the honorable member for North Sydney would give a meaning different from that intended if inserted without parentheses. The Bill provides for the omission of the words originally inserted, and their ‘ re-insertion in parentheses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.30
– I wish to bring formally under the notice of honorable members Dr. Tidswell’s report with reference to the experiments’ now being conducted by Dr. Danysz in Sydney. I have been reminded of the terms of the motion carried in this House on 15th June, which are as follow : -
That this House is of the opinion that, as the introduction of the microbes proposed by Dr. Danysz for the destruction of rabbits in the State of New South Wales may prove inimical to human and other animal life of Australia, it should not be permitted except for laboratory experiments until such time as Parliament or the Government, if Parliament is not in session, is satisfied that outside experiments will be harmless.
Dr. Danysz has been conducting his experiments in Dr. Tidswell’s laboratory, and the investigations have reached such a stage that it is considered desirable that Dr. Danysz should transfer his operations to Broughton Island. Dr. Tidswell .states that so far the virus that Dr. Danysz uses has proved to be deadly to rabbits, but not communicable by contagion, so far as is known, to any animals brought into contact with those that have ‘received the virus. But it is dangerous, with inoculation, to two or three forms of animal life. Dr. Tidswell concludes that under the circumstances sufficient is known as to the effect of the pasteurella that is being employed to permit of its use at Broughton Island, not absolutely without danger, but without any -but remote danger. The time has arrived when the experiments must be conducted out of the laboratory, and in the open air, if they are to be of any value at all. In the opinion of this independent and competent expert, it would be judicious to permit experiments to be carried on at Broughton Island. In view of the resolution which was passed by this House, it is only fair to remind honorable membersnow that their silence will be taken to give consent, if no opposition be raised to action being taken upon Dr. Tidswell’s report. Dr. Tidswell, who is a man of long experience, and holds the position of Assistant Medical Officer to the Government of New South Wales, and Micro-biologist to the Board of Health, says -
The work which has been done, and which isherein recorded and available for criticism> seems to me to afford reasonable assurance that there would be no danger from such experiments being carried out upon Broughton Island.
Then he goes on to give details of his work. He says -
The investigation of all possible agencies of transmission being out of the question, a selection had to be made of such as would be most likely to come into practical operation. Experiments were therefore performed with representatives of carnivorous birds (crows, seagulls, magpies, and butcher-birds), and wilh the elusive rat, as being the commoner animals which could conceivably convey the virus from the island to the mainland. Additionally, observations were made upon fowls, pigeons, and sheep as types of animals whose interests specially needed watching; upon guinea-pigs, as test animals with familiar proclivities, and upon rabbits, as a matter of course. For specal purposes use was made of a monkey, and of small native birds
The experiments that were made were numerous and of great interest, particularly to professional men.
– How did the guinea pig stand the test?
– Dr. Tidswell says that in the inoculation tests, crows and rats exhibited a natural immunity, guinea pigs, seagulls, and magpies behaved irregularly, and pigeons and rabbits died in every case, while the state of the fowl and the butcher bird was left indefinite -
It has already been seen that the animals which became infected by inoculation were not attacked when fed with the virus, nor when placed in contact with rabbits sick or dead of the disease caused by it. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that a single individual here and there might become inoculated through a wound or otherwise ; just as here and there an individual human being gets what is popularly known as “ blood poisoning “ through a cut or wound.
Then he raises the question whether the virus would be altered1, in character by passage through the body of birds or animals. The conclusion he arrives at is -
In view of the results recorded in this section, there would appear to be no reason to apprehend increased infectiousness, if by chance a bird became attacked with the virus by inoculation..
He also says -
Although birds of prey feeding upon the carcasses of infected rabbits did not become attacked, it might still happen that they could transport the virus by ingesting it and subsequently passing it out again with their excrements.
Tests were also made as to whether flies could communicate the disease, but the season was not favorable for the purpose.
– I should think that they were the most effective means of spreading the infection.
– He says further-
The proof required of’ infection of any of the animals under observation was their illness and death, together with the subsequent recovery of the virus from their bodies. Insistence upon this proof is necessary, because in any large scries of animals kept in captivity, perhaps under conditions quite unnatural for them, some mortality is to be expected, quite apart from any experiments performed upon them. . . . In most of these cases the precise conditions - previous resistance, long interval between exposure and death, obvious injuries, &c. - were such that the death was clearly not attributable to infection. Nevertheless, the valid scientific negation - the lack of the microbes in the bodies - was obtained in all cases save as regards the butcher-birds, whose destruction was actually witnessed.
Dr. Tidswell’s report is summed up in two paragraphs on the first page, which read as follows : -
The whole course of the experiments, therefore, revealed the Danysz virus as one which, whilst causing fatality amongst rabbits, was, so far as natural means of infection were concerned, remarkably innocuous towards the other kinds of animals exposed to it. Amongst^ these animals were those which seemed most likely to have opportunities for conveying the virus from the island to the mainland. In view of the total outcome of the observations, the chance of any such conveyance must be regarded as remote.
In my judgment, there are many more observations needed before the virus could be pronounced safe for distribution broadcast over the land ; many native animals to be tested, much time to be given to the question of modification of virulence. But it is unnecessary to go into these questions until the efficacy of the virus as a destructive agent for rabbits has been determined, a matter which can only be settled by properly conducted field experiments. The work which has been done, and which is herein recorded and available for criticism, seems to me to afford reasonable assurance that there would bc no danger from such experiments being carried out upon Broughton Island.
I hope honorable members will understand that all that is proposed is to carry out these experiments to a further stage, and still under observation, upon Broughton Island. It is not proposed to permit them to be conducted upon the mainland. Dr. Tidswell says that before that can be done much more research will have to be carried on. After a careful examination, Dr. Tidswell has arrived at the final conclusion that there is reasonable assurance that there will be no danger from such experiments being carried on at Broughton Island.
– By whom will the experiments be controlled?
– There is a special State Act which deals with destructive biological agencies, such as that now being experimented with within New South Wales.
– In this case Dr. Tidswell has been acting for the Commonwealth.
– Yes; but, supposing the virus is allowed to leave Broughton Island, and to be taken to the mainland - with our consent - our power over it will cease. New South Wales has a special Act relating to biological agencies, which gives its Parliament complete power over all experiments. I do not ask honorable members to decide this question at the moment. But I think that it is right that they should be reminded of the report, which practically recommends that experiments should be permitted to be carried on at Broughton Island.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to move any motion ?
– No. It will not be necessary to move a motion unless some one proposes to prevent the experiments from being conducted as recommended.
– I desire to say a few words.
– Is it the desire of honorable members that the deputy-leader of the Opposition should be permitted to address the House?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– These very important experiments have proceeded satisfactorily so far, and there is every reason why permission should be granted to carry them a little further. As honorable members know, Dr. Danysz was brought here, not exactly by the Government of New South Wales, but by the pastoralists of New South Wales, in conjunction with the Government. I understand that he is now in Sydney, with practically nothing to do until he receives authority to proceed further with his experiments. He is enjoying himself, and is receiving a salary of £200 per month and all expenses. I believe that it is a matter of some concern to those specially interested that Dr. Danysz should be permitted to proceed without further delay with the work which he. was brought out here to perform. I have the most implicit confidence in Dr. Tidswell. I had a good deal to do with that gentleman, in connexion with the tick question, when I was Minister in control of the Mines Department in New South Wales. I know that Dr. Tidswell is naturally of a conservative turn of mind, besides which he is a very able man in all matters pertaining to the investigation of micro-organisms. I should feel inclined to take his word implicitly in a case of this kind. All that is desired is that the investigations shall be continued under the supervision of a committee of experts which has been appointed for that purpose. I understand that nearly ali the States are represented on the committee, . and I think that we may safely permit the work to be proceeded with, feeling assured that every reasonable precaution is being taken. I think that we shall do well to adopt Dr. Tidswell’s recommendations.
– In order to enable honorable members to discuss this matter, and to also express their opinions upon another subject, I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next, unless Mr. Speaker shall, prior to that date, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, postpone the meeting to a later day, named in the telegram.
We propose to adjourn until Tuesday, on the understanding, that if the business which we expect to come before us next week is not ready for the consideration of honorable members upon Tuesday next, a telegram will be sent to them informing them of the fact that we shall not meet until Wednesday. I understand that it is almost certain that honorable members will not be called together until Wednesday; but it is desired to fix the next meeting for Tuesday, so that in the event of the Senate concluding its work by that time, our duties mav be brought to a close without rendering it necessary to unduly detain honorable senators.
– Surely the difference between Tuesday and Wednesday cannot affect the question.
– Many honorable senators are staying in Melbourne at great inconvenience,’ and desire to leave as soon as possible. If they concluded their work on Tuesday, we should, in the event of our next meeting being fixed on Wednesday, have to detain them here for an extra twenty-four hours.
– Does the Prime Minister think that the Senate will finish all its work by Tuesday?
– Some of the members of that Chamber think so. We can make provision for meeting on Tuesday, and, if necessary, send telegrams to honorable members informing them that we shall not meet until Wednesday.
– I have the fullest confidence in the scientific expert under whose observation these experiments in connexion with rabbit destruction are being conducted. But, as honorable members know, germ life is more active in the spring and in early summer time than at other periods of the year. Dr. Tidswell, in his report, mentions that certain experiments have been conducted with flies, which are great disseminators of disease. The foot of every fly carries numbers of germs, and the capacity of the insect as a. disease disseminator could not be properly determined except in the summer time. I should perfer to see the experiments in connexion with, flies carried on in the laboratory, where they could be conducted without difficulty. and with greater freedom from danger than in the open air. It is unnecessary for me to warn the Government that if Dr. Danysz’s hopes as to the safety of these experiments are not realized, blame will attach to the Ministry rather than to Parliament itself. The experiments, have been conducted during the months of July, August, and parts of September - the least dangerous part of the year - and as the most dangerous part of the year for such experiments is now coming on, I would advise the Government to be very careful, and to require the continuation of the experiments in the laboratory.
– I think a mere suggestion of that’ kind might be sufficient. Before we have time to deal with this matter again they may wish to proceed further.
– I cannot see that any of the dangers, so far as the carrying out of experiments on Broughton Island are concerned, have been removed. Dr. Tidswell says that all possible dangers of infection have not been tested. Butcher birds and pigeons were found as susceptible to inoculation as were rabbits. Even the ordinary every-day newspaper reader, who does not think of dipping into scientific works, knows that it is not sufficient to conduct experiments of this kind during only a few months of the year. We are only on the fringe of the vast forest of discovery so far as germ life is concerned, and this proposal for the destruction of good cheap and healthy food is one of the most momentous questions that has ever been submitted to us. I would earnestly urge the Government, therefore, even at the risk of delaying a final settlement of the matter for two or three months, to be very cautious, and to insist that the experiments shall be confined to the laboratory for a little while longer, until the possibility of infection being conveyed by flies has been determined. My knowledge as a medical man induces me to protest against the carrying out of experiments on Broughton Island again until that question has been settled, and experiments have been conducted in the laboratory during what I term the dangerous part of the year.
.- The suggestion made by the honorable member for Melbourne, that it would be wise to confine these experiments to the laboratory until the liability of flies, to convey infection has been determined, is a wise one. As soon as it is proved that that is not possible, experiments may well be allowed on Broughton Island. Some time ago representatives of the Pasteur Institute conducted experiments on Rodd Island, which is close to a very large centre of population, but the conditions observed, were such that there was absolutely no danger to public health. Broughton Island is a mile and three-quarters from the mainland, and is out of the usual track of steamers. Dr. Tidswell says that the only question to be determined is as to whether flies, can convey the infection, and until that question has been decided, we should not allow these experiments to take place in the open.
– Evidently from the report the experts recognise the necessity of first settling that question.
– I would certainly suggest to the Prime Minister that the precautions at one time taken to preserve the public health in connexion with experiments on Rodd Island should also be observed at Broughton Island, and that the area within which the experiments are made should ‘be absolutely wire-proof. Unless this be done a pigeon may fly from the island to the mainland and spread the disease broadcast. We must be careful lest in seeking to get rid of one pest we do not introduce a greater one. I do not wish the Parliament to shut down on the experiments, but thev certainly ought to be subjected to proper safeguards.
.- I have just obtained a copy of Dr. Tidswell’s valuable and elaborate report, which will undoubtedly be read with much interest by those who, either because of their occupation, or from personal considerations, have been led to give this matter some attention. The investigation has done much to remove . the feeling- I had against the field trials which will be necessary before we shall be able to say definitely that the virus is likely to be effective. I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne has urged that the experiments should be confined for the present to the laboratory. I agree with that view. It is inevitable that field trials must take place before the effectiveness of the virus can be determined, and the point is that danger may arise in connexion with the carrying out of those trials. I have noted that, according to the report, experiments on certain carnivorous birds which would be considered most likely to carry the virus have proved them to be immune, but until cultivations have been made, it will be impossible to say whether they might not convey the disease to other members of the animal family. I still think that the matter requires the most careful treatment and the wisest consideration I recognise that the position occupied by Dr. Tidswell gives tremendous weight to his utterances in this respect, but I would remind honorable members that he is very guarded indeed - and properly so - in his anticipations of the chances of a general infection. I feel satisfied that the Government will continue to exercise a firm control over these experiments in order that
– I am very glad that Dr. Tidswell has seen fit to furnish a report to the House on this matter, which is of vital importance to our producing interests. It seems to me, after a perusal of the report, that the experiments have been carefully conducted, and” that a stage has been reached at which one may safely assume that it would be right for the Government to allow experiments to be made in the open on- some such place as Broughton Island.
– Under glass?
– Perhaps under glass, but, still, a test so conducted would not be under absolutely, natural conditions. I hope that the Government will allow a test to be made in the open, and that they_ will continue to take every precaution to preserve the public health. If the experiments on Broughton Island prove as successful as those in the laboratory appear to have been, I trust that the Government will require further trials to be made on wire-netted areas on the mainland before the virus is spread broadcast throughout Australia. The experiments show that we have in Dr. Danysz an eminent scientist, who has discovered something that may prove of material benefit to the whole of Australia. In benefiting the primary’ producers we benefit the workers in every direction. On a prior occasion I presented to the House some statistics showing the enormous difference between the value of the rabbit-trapping industry and that of the agricultural and pastoral industry. The enormous difference in value. must go indirectly into the pockets of the workers on the land. The people in the towns do not realize the extent to which land is damaged bv the rabbit. The statement is often made that the rabbit-trapping industry is a very valuable one, and an effort is sometimes made to show that’ it is as important to Australia as is the raising of sheep or cattle. I would emphasize the point that the rabbit is an animal which destroys the land, whilst sheep and cattle improve it. I can speak from personal experience, having suffered loss by the depredations of rabbits. The rabbit not only does damage on the surface, but deteriorates the value of land by burrowing. On the other hand, the pastoral and agricultural industries cause land to become more valuable. By increasing the value of our land we increase, to a very great extent, our national asset, and in a way that must be felt by every man, whether he is the owner or occupier of land or a worker. I, therefore, sincerely hope that the Government will assist the development of these experiments to the fullest extent, at the same time taking every precaution to safeguard the health of the people. I feel, with the honorable member for Laanecoorie and others, that one of the first duties of the Parliament is to guard the public health. If these experiments, conducted first of all on an island, and then within wire-netted areas on the mainland, prove that the virus may safely be disseminated amongst the rabbits, action may then be taken to destroy what is undoubtedly a most destructive pest.
– In dealing with’ this matter, the Government is dependent entirely upon the advice of its expert, whose standing, ability, and trustworthiness are recognised. He tells us that the experiments seem to him to afford a reasonable assurance that there will be no danger from their being carried out upon B roughton Island.
-Before the question as to the conveyance of the disease by flies has been determined?
- Dr. Tidswell himself calls attention in his report to fly infection, and says he has reasonable assurance that no danger is likely to arise from carrying out these experiments on the island.
– It will be too late to cry out after the health of the people has been affected.
– Quite so; but since our expert says that he has a reasonable assurance that there will be no danger, the duty of the Government is, unless, indeed, the Parliament decides otherwise, to allow the experiments to proceed to finality.
– On Broughton Island?
– Unless the House otherwise directs.
– In putting the question, may I ask honorable members to inti mate to the Clerk the addresses which, on Monday next, will most readily find them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to again address to the Prime Minister the question which. I put to him last night respecting the regulations made under the Commerce Act in regard to the export of butter. I do not wish to be considered unduly persistent, but the season is just opening, and the necessities of the situation demand an early settlement of this question, since it materially affects the export of butter. Up to a certain point, the reply which the Prime Minister gave last night was satisfactory, but the honorable and learned gentleman went a little too far when he said, towards the close of his remarks, that the arrangement which we suggested would be allowed. to continue for only a certain time. Something definite is necessary. The understanding arrived at between the Minister and the exporters, as to certificates, is satisfactory. I wish to know whether the arrangement is to continue for a few weeks or for the season? If any alteration is to be made in future, due notice should be given, because this matter is a very serious one to exporters.
.- Some of us have long ago made up our minds that itis about time to get back to our constituencies, and those who represent electoral divisions in the larger States must make their arrangements for visiting them at least a week or a fortnight in advance. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister when the prorogation is likely to take place, and whether any new business of importance is to be brought forward this session? No one thought, a fortnight ago, that we should be here to-day, with so much unfinished business on the notice-paper. I am always loth to leave when there is important business before Parliament ; but, much as we may desire to stay, we have now pretty well reached the limit.
– I should like to know from the Minister of Home Affairs when the electoral rolls for the State of Victoria will be ready for distribution? He also promised a few days ago that the latest date possible would be arranged for the placing of names on the rolls.
.- During the past week or so, the examination of candidates for admission to the Police Force of Victoria has been going on. It is customary for a large number of men in the Permanent Forces of the Commonwealth to periodically present themselves at these examinations, with the desire to better their position in life, the pay of the police being three times as much as that of the military. During the inquiry of the Hawker Board last year it was complained that the officer commanding at Queenscliff would not permit men reasonable opportunities to attend these examinations, and as a result, the Minister promised that men, on paying a reasonable discharge, fee, should be allowed to do so. I am told, however, that seventeen mcn’ who applied for permission to present themselves for police examination were refused, on the ground that they had not had three years’ service. I hope that the Minister will inquire into the matter. The regulations provide for men being discharged on paying a fee, fixed by the regulations, to cover the cost of training and uniform, and other expenses incurred on their behalf by the Government. If men are not permitted to present themselves for the police examinations, they, on arriving at; the age of twenty-five years, lose the opportunity of bettering their positions and obtaining employment for which they are eminentlysuitable.
– - I will make the inquiries which the honorable and learned member desires.
– - I recognise the importance of the question asked by the honorable member for Moira, and admit that an alteration of the new regulation should not be made without the consent of Parliament. Unless the subject is brought before the House by the Minister of Trade and Customs, it would be a reasonable thing to allow, the arrangement entered into to remain in force until Parliament meets again.. That arrangement is embodied in a provisional regulation passed to-day. T can assure the honorable member for Wide Bay that the prolongation of the session is as little desired by Ministers as by- members. We recognise that many honorable members ‘have already sacrificed their convenience, and perhaps their interests, in remaining here so long for the discharge of their parliamentary duties. The Government have no Intention of. transacting further business of importance before the prorogation. With regard to the arrangements for our next meeting, telegrams will be sent to the railway stations from which honorable members are accustomed to leave for Melbourne, as well as to their own homes.
– Perhaps the PostmasterGeneral could distribute information on the subject from the various post- offices.
– I shall ask him to do so. In reply to the question of the honorable member for Kooyong- about the printing of the rolls, many of the Victorian and New South Wales rolls have been already issued, and all the rolls for Australia will have been printed for issue before the end of next week. They will then be distributed.
– Has any decision been come to with regard to the date of the ejections ?
– No decision is possible until we receive information in regard to the claims for enrolment coming in.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned’ at 3.1S p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19061005_reps_2_35/>.