3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented a petition from the Child Study Association of Australasia, praying the House to remove all Customs duties from food and clothing necessary for the health, comfort, and decency of the people of Australia.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE presented a petition from certain persons at Wagga and the surrounding districts, Sydney, and other places, praying the House to reject or greatly modify the proposed Customs duties.
Petitions received, and read.
– We have many times resolved that petitions be read, but in no case has it been thought worth while to have read long list’s of the names of the signatories, though, of course, if the House desires to hear them, the Clerk will read them.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs the return which he promised to furnish in connexion with the administration of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act ; and will he explain why Excise has not been collected from firms which have not been working under the award of the President of the Arbitration Court?
– I have been supplied with the following information
On the same day, the Collector, South Aus tralia, was requested to furnish the desired information, and, in reply, he stated that -
I may say that the position is very unsatisfactory.
– Then the new protection is a failure.
– It seems that we shall have to do something more to enable the intention of Parliament to be carried out. We are giving further consideration to the matter, and I hope to have available to-morrow some additional information, which I shall be prepared to put before the honorable member if he will call at the Department. As soon as I am in a position to inform the House of what further steps are being taken in the matter, I shall be glad to do so. I am advised that there appears to be a certain degree of collusion between employers and employes to prevent the intention of Parliament being carried out, and it is difficult to safeguard ourselves against such tactics: This scheme represents, to a certain extent, what is known as the policy of new protection. It provides for Australian conditions
– I am afraid that the Minister is proceeding to discuss the matter.
– We do not understand what the honorable gentleman is doing in this matter.
– There are some things which honorable members opposite do not wish to understand. I hope that before we have dealt finally with this question, we shall have shown them that the intention of the Government is that Australian ratesof wages shall be paid in industries which are given protection.
– As certificates of exemption under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act were granted to a large number of manufacturers of agricultural implements in South Australia, subject to the condition that they should obey the award of the Arbitration Court, I should like the Minister of Trade and Customs to explain why Excise has not been collected on implements madeby firms that are not obeving that award?
– I shall be glad to look further into the matter. The honorable member will recognise that we might do an injustice if we insisted on the award of a Court in one State being observed, while manufacturers in other States were subject to no such order. Our desire is to do that which the honorable member suggests, and, as far as possible, I shall see that the law is carried out.
– Am I to understand that the Department of Trade and Customs is unable to administer the Act? If not, will the Minister be good enough to explain why the Excise duty has not been collected from those who have not been granted an exemption, and are not carrying out the award of the Court?
– I do not say that we are unable to administer the Act. We certainly are not unwilling to do so, but there are many difficulties to overcome.
– Are they legal difficulties ?
– There are legal and other difficulties which we are endeavouring to overcome. As soon as I have further information on the subject I shall foe glad to submit it to the honorable member.
– I wish again to call the attention of the Minister to the very important fact that firms in South Australia that are obeying the award of the Arbitration Court have to compete with those who are not. In the circumstances, what action does he intend to take in the interests of those who are paying fair rates of wages?
– I intend, as far as I can, at the earliest possible moment, to put all on the one footing.
British Preference : Departure from Schedule - Alleged Inaccuracy of Comparative Table - Order of dealing with Schedule - Duty on Printing Paper - Increased Charges by Sydney Firms - Wire Netting : ‘Refund of Duty - Tweed: Increased Price in New South Wales.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister, without notice, whether it is true, as reported, that the Government, pending the passing of the ordinary rates of duty, contemplate abandoning the preferential trade proposals in the schedule to the Tariff. Is it the intention of the Government to persevere with their preferential proposals in the order in which they stand in the schedule?
– I do not know from what source the honorable member has obtained the information to which he refers, but I may say at once that we have no such intention as he ascribes to us.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has inquired into the complaint made last week by the honorable member for Perth that the departmental comparative table of rates of Customs duties which has been laid upon the table of the House is incorrect?
-I am having prepared a paper to. lay on the table of the House. I anticipated that it would have been ready to present this afternoon, but unfortunately some delay has taken place. I hope to be able to put it before honorable members to-morrow, and think it will show that the table inquestion was very carefully prepared. We are at a loss to understand the contention that it contains many incorrect statementsMy desire is that the paper which I shall lay on the table to-morrow shall include the 70 or 80 items which the free-trade section of the Commission recommended should be dutiable, and which the Government, in accordance with the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Commission, have placed on the free list.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the consideration of the items in the Tariff in the order in which they appear?
– In reply to a complaint by a representative of Messrs. Geo. Robertson and Co. Ld., that a duty of 20 per cent, on high-class paper was operating detrimentally to local employment in the book printing industry, the Minister of Trade and Customs said recently that he did not think it would be right to favour importers as against local manufacturers. I wish to know whether his consideration of the matter is directed merely to a reduction of the duty on the raw material or to a proposal to put a duty upon imported’ books?
– The deputation which waited upon me pointed out that the duty on printing paper operated detrimentally to those who imported paper and used it foi- printing purposes. I stated in reply that we had no desire to place on the raw material a higher tax than was levied on the finished product.
– What about the Geelong paper mills?
– They will receive every consideration. I think the honorable member will recognise that it would be unfair to propose to place on the raw material a higher tax than that levied on the finished article. I promised the deputation that I would inquire very carefully into the statements made. I would remind the House that we have to look into both sides of the question, since assertions made by deputations are necessarily ex parte.
– That is what is said about the reports of the Tariff. Commission.
– The fact that we have the views of various deputations put before u.s places us in a’ very much better position than we should otherwise be to deal with the Tariff. The Tariff had largely to be prepared in secret, and the members of the Commission, as well as the Ministry, had to guard against any disclosure of information. The consequence of this is that many anomalies are being pointed out to us. We intend to give every consideration to such representations. I shall be very glad to give consideration to every complaint that is brought under the notice of the Government, but I may say at once to the honorable member for Angas that it is not our intention to raise the duty on the finished article. It is only a question of whether or not the duty on the raw material should be reduced.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that certain firms in Sydney have increased the prices of certain goods to the extent of the difference between the duties in the old Tariff and those now in operation, and that this step has been taken notwithstanding that the goods in question were imported prior to 8th August last?
– The honorable member was good enough to give me notice that he intended to ask this question.
– Or did the Minister give the honorable member notice?
– We do not conduct business on the lines adopted when the honorable member’s party was in power. The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I am credibly informed that all the merchants in Sydney have entered into an agreement binding themselves to add the extra amount of duty on orders for all goods received by them on and after 12th August. It is presumed that this increase in price is being made on goods which were imported under the old Tariff at lower duties than those now in “force.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will refund duty collected upon wire netting if the item in the schedule be struck out?
– That is a question which, to a very large extent, must be answered by the States Governments, since they receive nearly all the revenue. It has been decided that no duties shall be refunded, and that decision will be adhered to unless the House determines otherwise.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he is aware that a certain tweed factory in New South Wales sent to its customers all over that State two days before the new Tariff was introduced a circular stating that their prices would be increased by 25 per cent, in consequence of the rise in wool - a rise which I may say had not taken place - and that two days after the introduction of the Tariff the firm in question published a large advertisement to the effect that they were not going to raise their prices in consequence of the new Tariff ?
– I am not aware of the incident to which the honorable member has referred, but if he will give me the particulars-
– I shall give the honorable member the original correspondence.
– Then I shall be glad to make inquiries into the matter. If the honorable member wishes to infer that in some way or other a leakage of information has occurred-
– I shall give the Minister the facts, and he may draw from them whatever inference he pleases.
– If the honorable member wishes to suggest that there has been a leakage of information from the Department, I shall be glad to be furnished with all the facts- on which he bases his statement. Having regard to the number of men who knew what the Tariff was to be - considering that the Tariff Commission, and others whom they had tt> take into their confidence, knew what the Tariff was likely to be- I think it reflects the greatest credit upon all concerned that, so far as we have been able to discover, no leakage of information has occurred.
– I should like the Postmaster-General, as representing the Minister of Home Affairs to explain what are the proposed functions of two new officers for whom provision is made in the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs. I refer to the officers described as “ military engineer “ and “ lighthouse engineer.”
– I shall be happy to afford the information when the Estimates are under consideration.
– I have just received a reply to a communication which I addressed on 19th March last to the PbstmasterGeneral’s Department, and I should like the Postmaster-General to say whether he will inquire why this unprecedented delay of 198 days has occurred? Will he also endeavour to facilitate the work of the Department ?
– If the honorable memberwill see me at the Department, I shall be able very quickly to furnish him with an answer, and public time will thus be conserved.
Seizure of Wire Netting : Cancellation of Carriers’ Licences
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I have to state -
I do not think it wise at the present moment to discuss the propriety of any action which the Government, upon the advice of its legal advisers, proposes to take, to insure the observance of the law in regard to the case under notice.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows - 1, 2, 3, and 4. I have no objection to placing the papers in question on the table of the Library, and will have this done as soon as they can be obtained from Sydney.
West Maitland and Sydney
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will seriously consider the advisableness of reducing the telephone rates between West Maitland and Sydney, seeing that although a reduction of 50 per cent, has been made in the rate between Newcastle and Maitland, no reduction whatever has been made for the Sydney-Maitland service, while practically all other lines have received consideration?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The basis on which ordinary trunk-line charges are made must be such as to be of general application, and I regret that I am therefore unable to recommend a special rate in any particular case.
The present trunk line charges are substantially less than those charged in New South Wales prior to Federation, and no further reduction could be made without involving a loss of revenue, which the circumstances do not warrant.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he any objection to lay upon the Library table the papers in connexion with the granting of the Albert medal to Diver Hughes, of Western
Australia, or, in the alternative, will he be good enough to state the facts in connexion with the matter?
– The following particulars are from the departmental files- 28th March. Varischetti rescued by Divers Hughes and Hearne, assisted by Diver Curtis and others. 2SU1 March. Mr. Mahon, M.P., wrote to the Acting Prime Minister suggesting that action should be taken on behalf of the nation to recognise the heroism displayed by Divers Hughes and Hearne. 30th March (?). Report asked for from Mayor of Coolgardie. 1st April. Mayor of Coolgardie promised report. 3rd April. Reply sent to Mr. Mahon asking for full statements of case.
Sth April. Mayor of Coolgardie forwarded report (received, 17th April). 10th April. Mr. Mahon forwarded copies of newspapers giving particulars. 16th April. Mr. Mahon was informed that as soon as 0ffici.1l report was received from the Mayor of Coolgardie the matter would receive prompt consideration. 20th April. The Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Western Australia, saying that his attention had been drawn to the action of Messrs. Hughes, Hearne, and Curtis, and that lie had been asked to take action in the direction of having their praiseworthy exertions a suitably recognised. Sir John Forrest ad’ded “that, before taking any steps in the matter, he desired to learn whether the Premier of Western Australia would prefer to submit the case through the Governor of his State, as, in that case, it would not be necessary for him to move in the matter.
Sth May. The Premier of Western Australia replied that the Governor had recently dealt with the matter in a despatch to the GovernorGeneral, and had recommended that the Albert Medal should be awarded to Diver Hughes.
Mr. Moore added that no reference was made to the actions of the other persons (received 17th May). 10th June. Acting Prime Minister acknowledged that letter, and stated that it was understood that the Governor-General had brought the case of Diver Hughes under the notice of the Imperial Authorities. He added that the attention of the Royal Humane Society would be invited to the claims for consideration of the three divers engaged in the rescue. 10th June. A letter was sent by the Acting Prime Minister to the Royal Humane Society. 15th April. From the files in the GovernorGeneral’s office it appears that on the 15th April the Governor of Western Australia forwarded to the .Governor-General a number of communications from the Acting Premier of the State and others, drawing attention to the conduct of all concerned in the rescue of Varischetti. The Governor suggested that the case of Mr. Hughe’s was worthy of being represented to the Imperial Government with a view to the award of the Albert Medal. 26th April. The Governor-General transmitted the papers to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with a recommendation for favorable consideration. 19th July. Secretary of State for the Colonies intimated that the King had been pleased to award the Albert Medal (second class) to Mr. Hughes, and asked that the presentation of the medal be undertaken by the Governor-General or by the Governor of Western Australia. That despatch was delivered to the Governor-General at Perth, and His Excellency requested the Governor of Western Australia to be good enough to undertake the presentation.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. The Public Service Commissioner advises as follows -
The work and responsibility in the Electrical and Mechanical branches differ in each State, and to provide for this, certain positions such as line inspector and mechanician are divided into grades, with an appropriate salary to each. In the latter position there is a range of seven different salaries according to the value and importance of the work. -The officers are moved from grade to grade as the importance of the work justifies. The same system is followed in’ regard to positions in other branches of the service.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been called to a paragraph in this morning’s Age, wherein it is stated that the officials at Deniliquin are working overtime?
– I have given notice of a question on the subject.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the paragraph to which I refer, and to ask him to remedy the state of things therein complained of.It would appear that several officials are dying, or have died, from overwork. Something should be done to relieve the tension at the office.
– If what the honorable member refers to is the subject matté of notice of question No. 6, the Minister will not reply until the question is called on.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
An Honorable Member. - How long will it take to obtain those reports ?
– Unfortunately, it will take altogether too long a period, but I am compelled to proceed in the only way that is open to me, and that I have done. The reply to the second and third questions put by the honorable member for Riverina is -
No ; but I have called for a report upon both’ these matters.
– The Minister is always calling for reports.
– The honorable member knows that I can do nothing so far as salaries are concerned.
– But why call for reports?
– Because it is impossible for ‘me to obtain information without doing so. Can the honorable member suggest any other way in which I can acquire the necessary information?
– Order ! I would remind honorable members that the time for asking questions without notice has expired.
– The replies to the other questions put by the honorable member for Riverina are as follow -
– I move -
That on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of General business.
In submitting the motion,. I desire to say that I take this course purely for the purpose of facilitating the transaction of public business, so that as soon as possible we may have an opportunity of dealing with the separate items of the Tariff. I was under the impression that all honorable members understood what was the intention of the Government in this connexion, but, apparently, the honorable member who took exception to the course we proposed to adopt last evening was not present at the time that intention was announced. I regret that he was absent, because I wished honorable members to understand exactly what was proposed before I submitted the motion which I desired to move last night without notice. The Government do not wish to take Thursday afternoon from private members unless the House is willing to adopt that course, but it seems to me that it would be wise to fall in with that proposal, and’ to get on as quickly as possible with the real business of the session. Honorable members who have private business upon the notice-paper have been exceedingly considerate to the Government, in that they have already voluntarily sacrificed one, if” not two days, which should have been devoted to its consideration. I do not wish to unduly deprive them of an opportunity to transact this private business, but I do desire that we shall have no interruption of our ordinary business, and that as soon as possible we shall arrive at a determination of the great question which is at present so exercising the public mind.
– The course which the Government propose is a rather unusual one to adopt at the beginning of a session. On the other hand, the circumstances are of a most urgent character. The need for conserving the time of the House and for devoting every moment that is available to the consideration of Government business, is made apparent when we recollect the short period that remains to us during the present year to dispose of the work that is before us. I assume that in taking away from honorable members the time which is ordinarily allocated to them for the transaction of private business, the Government will not be averse - if the occasion should offer - to affording them an opportunity to consider that business. That has been the practice hitherto followed, and I take it that a similar course will be followed in the future. But I do think that the public business is more urgent than is any private member’s business. ‘ Therefore, I support the Government in their proposal to expedite the transaction of public business so far as is consistent with a full consideration of the urgent matters upon the notice-paper. The sooner we can settle the Tariff, the better it will be for the trading community as a whole, the better for our industrial enterprises, and, indeed, for all concerned. I do not think that any private business upon the notice-paper possesses a tithe of the importance that attaches to the Tariff. I hope, therefore, that the Government will make good use of their opportunities, and proceed with the discussion of that matter as soon as possible with a view to facilitating its definite settlement. I shall cordially support the Government upon the present occasion.
.- I should think the honorable member for Parramatta would support the proposal of the Acting Prime Minister. At an earlier stage of the session the honorable member went so far as to suggest that no time should be devoted to the transaction of private members’ business. Upon that occasion, I raised the question of whether there was an Opposition in the House - of whether there was any body of members in this Chamber whose duty it was to conserve the rights of the minority. I entertain quite a different opinion from that of the honorable member. I go so far as to say that nearly every political reform that is worth anything has originated with a private member.
– What are they?
– I may inform the honorable member that the principal question upon which the Tecent elections in Queensland were fought was one which was raised bv’ a private member some years ago. The Government went to the country upon the issue of having carried out that reform. Every great reform has originated with one or two private members.
Mr.J oseph Cook. - What proposal is there of an urgent character upon our businesspaper in the name of a private member?
– The proposal of the Acting Prime Minister is to take away the time which is now available for private members’ business, absolutely. If that be done, and an honorable member wishes to bring forward a matter which he regards as of pressing importance he will be obliged to beg the Government to allow him an opportunitv of doing so. There is no difficulty whatever in the way of getting urgent Government business disposed of. Ifhonorable members are anxious to deal with the Tariff quickly, let us meet upon Mondays in addition to the ordinary days of sitting. The attempt to take from honorable members the two or three hours which are now allotted to them for the discussion of important general business is not the best way of getting the work of the House performed. I am not one of those who believe in giving the whole of the time of Parliament to any Government. It seems tome that an uneasy haste is being exhibited to develop a situation which is being contemplated by a number of honorable members at the present time. Believing, as I do, that the greatest political advantages which we enjoy to-day are the resuit of efforts made by private members, I shall oppose the motion.
– I shall not oppose the motion, although I have upon the business -paper a proposal which is set down for a Thursday afternoon, which is not far distant. ‘ But I rise chiefly to protest against the time which is at present allocated to honorable members for the transaction of private business being taken from them. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that the discussions which take place in this Chamber have an educative influence upon the people. If Thursday afternoon be taken from honorable members, they will not have an opportunity of proceeding with the motions of which they have given notice. I would suggest that, to overcome the difficulty, the House should meet in the mornings as well as the afternoons of the ordinary days of sitting, especially while the Tariff is under consideration. We could then reach the details of the Tariff, and reduce the duties which have to be reduced at the earliest possible moment. A large number of honorable members come from distant States, and they are compelled to waste morning after morning when they might be doing excellent work here. If we met earlier in the day we could get away earlier in the evening; and an arrangement of the kind would be more convenient to the majority than meeting late in the day and sitting on until a late hour at night. I hope the Government will later propose that we meet in the morning as well as in the afternoon.
.- I rise to support the motion of the Acting Prime Minister. I hear on all sides instances of hardship owing to the present uncertain state of affairs. I hope there is nothing in the rumour that after the main discussion of the Tariff and the Budget the Acting Prime Minister intends to introduce new Bills before the discussion of the details of the Tariff is taken. Such an arrangement would postpone the settlement of the items and prolong the state of uncertainty which is doing so much harm in the country.
– Who said that that proposal would be made ? “ Suspicion “ seems to “ haunt the guilty mind.”
– The Acting Prime Minister has just said that he would allow nothing to interfere with the rapid settlement of the Tariff.
– I did not say so just now.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon; but that is what I understood him to say.
– The Acting Prime Minister now says that he is going to introduce other Bills.
– I hope the Acting Prime Minister will take this matter into serious consideration. If is of the utmost importance, in the interests of the mercantile, manufacturing and producing communities - in fact, in the interests of the whole of Australia - that the Tariff should be settled. The honorable member for Coolgardie the other night pointed out that we have been already sitting thirty days, and that between now and Christmas there remain only fifty-five or fifty-six sitting days. If we take other business, as I understood the Acting Prime Minister to suggest, a long time will elapse before the Tariff is finally settled. At present, our minds are fresh on the subject, and the business ought to be pushed through without one moment’s unnecessary delay.
.- I absolutely disagree with the proposal of the Acting Prime Minister to deprive members of the little time usually devoted to their business. It is customary in assemblies of this character to see the Opposition standing up for the rights of individual members, and for the interests of the minority ; but on the present occasion there is apparently a remarkable combination amongst honorable members opposite to assist the Government to get certain private business out of the road. I suppose we may reasonably infer that there is strong reason for this unanimity. There is really no justification for attempting to deprive private members of the time allotted to them. I thoroughly appreciate the necessity of settling the Tariff as soon as possible, but it is only a few days ago that honorable members opposite were suggesting an adjournment for a week in order to consider the Tariff.
– Who made that suggestion ?
– If the honorable . member did not ask for an adjournment, honorable members in the Opposition corner did so.
– The suggestion came from the honorable member for Kennedy, who sits in the Ministerial corner.
– I do not say that the suggestion of an adjournment was exclusively associated with the Opposition corner.
– The honorable member makes statements without being able to substantiate them.
– Will the honorable member say-
– Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I ask the honorable member for Flinders, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether he is prepared to say that the proposal to adjourn for a week was not supported by honorable members in the Opposition corner?
– I was not aware that the proposal was supported by honorable members in this corner.
– For the honorable member’s information, I shall find out what is the fact. The honorable member for Parramatta will not dispute that the proposal to adjourn for a week received consideration from the occupants of the front Opposition bench.
– What is the reason for all this talk?
– I am trying to show the inconsistency of honorable members who desire to waste time at one particular period of the session, and subsequently endeavour to deprive private members of the time allotted to them.
– The suggestion for an adjournment was made in order that we might get ready for the discussion of the Tariff.
– I have frequently protested against proposals to adjourn over the Friday, and those protests are fully justified by the motion now before us. In addition to the time lost by the adjournments over Friday, we are now asked to abandon the time usually devoted to private members’ business. One of the distinguished members in the Opposition corner proposed only yesterday that we should adjourn over a day in order to visit the Agricultural Show at Flemington.
– Does the honorable member not need educating?
– If visiting Agricultural Shows will have the result of educating the honorable member for Indi, I think we ought to provide him with a free pass to shows throughout Australia. In view of the proposal to deprive us of a whole day’s sitting, where is the consistency of honorable members who now clamour to deprive private members of the few hours a week usually allotted to them? On one, if not two days, during this session private members have not taken full advantage of the time allotted to private business, and on no occasion do I’ think that the full four hours have been occupied in the exclusive discussion of such business. The honorable member for Parramatta asks what’ is the importance of any of the private members’ business on the notice-paper. In answer to that, I may point to the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney, as to mating provision for the effective defence of our shores by training the men of Australia. In my opinion, that is one of the most important proposals on the noticepaper.
– It could be justas effectively discussed on the Estimates.
– We cannot get an expression of opinion from the House when the Estimates are before us; the only means of ascertaining the opinion of honorable members is by means of a concrete motion, such as that of the honorable member for West Sydney. Of course, if honorable members desire to shelve the question, there is justification’ for assisting in the plunder of time as proposed by the Government. Then, again, the honorable member for Riverina has an important motion down for consideration. That honorable member has had the experience of a disputed election, and has been faced with costs amounting to£1,000 in order to get justice from a Court, although he had been returned by a majority in a constituency ; and if other honorable members had had a similar experience, they would be firmly convinced of the necessity of the motion of which the honorable member for Riverina has given notice. The honorable member for Batman also has a motion on the noticepaper in favour of bringing all the industrial conditions of Australia under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– A similar motion has been on the business-paper for six years.
– That only proves that the limited time for private members’ business is responsible for the delay in arriving at a decision. We are at our wits’ end. to devise some scheme whereby the consumer and the men employed in the manufactories of Australia may receive some reasonable consideration under the protection afforded by the proposals of the Government. We have to admit that no satisfactory arrangement can be arrived at until the industries of Australia are under the control of the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable member does not stop this speech, we shall vote with him.
– I hope the honorable member will.
– That is the very thing the honorable member would not like.
– I can assure the honorable member that he will have an opportunity to vote on the question. . I am not one to raise a protest, and then, as we frequently see amongst honorable members opposite, not have the moral courage to call for a division. In my judgment the proposal of the Acting Prime Minister is absolutely unjustifiable. The Fire Insurance Bill, in which I am personally interested, is intended to make insurance companies meet their proper liabilities; and such a proposal is certainly deserving of the con.sideration of honorable members.
– The Acting Prime “Minister has promised to find some time Slater on for the consideration of that Bill.
– But what prospect have fourteen different motions, all of them of great importance, of receiving consideration in Government time at the end of the session? The honorable member has had enough experience to know that once we> give away our rights there is no chance of regaining them during the session. I do not care whether the business be considered on the Thursday, Friday, or Monday ; I am prepared to sit on more days a week in order that the business of the country may be satisfactorily carried on.
– Nonsense ! How could we sit more days than we do?
– I do not say that we could sit six days a week, but I am prepared to devote more time to the public business. The Government are apparently particularly desirous of getting the Tariff out of the way, though I do not know that they are more desirous than honorable members in the Opposition comer, who doubtless will view affairs through a different pair of spectacles as soon as the Tariff is disposed of.
– What about a bonus on mining?
– The honorable member for Indi has apparently been trying to placate some doubtful voters in his constituency by a suggestion which is entirely outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– There is the one comfort that I have one of the honorable member’s leading and most intelligent colleagues to support me.
– It must have been on the first view that-
– I very much regret to have to call attention again to the constant interruptions and passages at arms which are occurring. They ought not to «e. I ask honorable members to preserve such order that the speaker may be heard bv the House and myself
– i have only to add that I hope that the Government, if it has a majority, will, as it is strong, show itself merciful, and allow private members’ notices to stand on the business paper for consideration when the items of the Tariff have been disposed of. .
– - 0ne might be excused for thinking, from the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that there is a great deal of important private business on the notice paper ; but as’ a matter of fact, there . are set down only nineteen motions and orders of the day for the various dates up to the 24th October, and of these, fifteen are in the names of Government supporters, and only four in the names of members of the Opposition. As a rule, I should be the last to support a proposal for taking from private members the time allotted for their business ; but I wish to refresh the memory of the House as to what has been the experience of this session in regard to the conduct of private members’ business. Every honorable member who has a motion to move, refers to it as very important, and, having made a lengthy speech on it, looks round to get some one to move the adjournment of the debate until some date weeks ahead. If these proposals were really ofsuch importance, It is to be assumed that those in charge of them would go on with them as long as possible, until finality was reached. As the honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out, the subject matters with which the motions and orders of the day now on the business paper deal, can be referred to during the Budget and Tariff discussion which is now proceeding.
– Under what heading could the Fire Insurance Bill be referred to?
– The subject of fire insurance could be discussed during the general debate, or on the item “ fire hose” in the Tariff. Most of the. private members’ business on the paper consists of abstract propositions, the carrying of which would have no immediate effect. An up-to-date Government should have up-to-date measures on its programme, and would not need the suggestions of private members as to the- desirability of this or that piece of legislation. In any case, very little can be done in the four hours a week now allotted to private members’ business. The settlement of the Tariff is of paramount importance, not to the trading community only, but to the public of Australia. Four or five weeks ago, I said that it would not be settled until after Christmas, and I am still of that opinion; but we should endeavour to deal as soon as possible with proposals for duty which are injuring the public. The Acting Prime Minister, when he asked for Supply, said that it was intended to proceed with the consideration of the Budget and Tariff without interruption; but, as the honorable member for Fawkner has pointed out, the honorable gentleman, although he wishes private members to forego their opportunities for pushing forward their business, with a view to expediting the consideration of the Tariff, now himself proposes, to intercept that debate. I voted against the Supply asked for, because I knew that, once the Bill was passed, the Minister could snap his fingers at the House for some time to come, and the change in the order of business which he now intends shows that I was welladvised in taking that course. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that private members have from time to time brought forward ideas which have been found useful by Governments, but all the suggestions mooted Can be discussed either during the debate on the Budget and Tariff, or during the consideration of the “Estimates. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie says that it is the duty of an Opposition to support the minority, but’ I think it is rather our duty to study the interest of the general public. Seeing that in fifteen of the items of private members’ business now on the paper Ministerialists are concerned, the Opposition is not greatly interested in the motion before the Chair ; but we consider the proposed duties unjust, iniquitous, and atrocious, and desire that they shall be removed at the earliest moment possible. It has been suggested that we should sit an extra day a week. When I was in the habit of journeying constantly to Sydney at the week ends, I liked to have my Mondays at home ; but now that I am living in Melbourne, I am quite willing to come here on Mondays. There are reasons why we should not sit on Saturdays to which I need not refer. If we sat five days a week, the Government could give one of them to private members, which would be a better arrangement for them than that which has obtained up to the present time. 1 trust that, in future, private members who bring business before the House will press forward with it, instead of consenting to long adjournments. In any case, they have not the Opposition to blame for this proposal to take time from them.
– The only justification for depriving honorable members who have business on the notice-paper of the time allotted to them under the Sessional Orders is the urgency of Government business. I agree that the consideration of the Tariff is an urgent matter; but I understand that it is the in tention of the Acting Prime Minister to interpolate the consideration of three other measures, the discussion of two of which - the Commonwealth Salaries Bill, and the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill - will not occupy much time. Indeed, the passing of one of these measures is a matter of urgency, because the question with which it deals should be determined in one way or another before the Treasurers of the States make their financial statements. As for the third measure which it is proposed to interpolate, the Judiciary Bill, its consideration will involve the relations between the Supreme Courts of the States and the High Court and those between the High Court and the Privy Council, a subject of such momentous importance that three or four days will be required to enable honorable members to express their opinions not merely on its legal and constitutional, but also on its practical aspects. I suggest that, while it will cause little delay to consider, prior to dealing with the Tariff, the other two Bills to which I have referred, there will be serious delay if the consideration of the Judiciary Bill is interpolated.
.- It must be a matter of astonishment to honorable members that so much warmth has been introduced into the discussion of this motion, seeing that nearly every previous Government has taken similar action when occasion demanded. I could understand the great wrath of those who have business on the notice-paper, and the chagrin and disappointment which they have so unpleasantly manifested, if they had the slightest hope of carrying any of their propositions to finality this session. But every one knows that there is not the slightest chance of that.
– We should not have heard the honorable member speaking in. this way had there been a Home Rule motion on the notice-paper.
– I advise the honorable member not to introduce an irrelevant issue. If he persists in doing so, I shall give him a piece of my mind in regard to Home Rule. It was a piece of impertinence on his part to introduce the subject in that way. No honorable member has a right to make an interjection which is irrelevant and impertinent.
– It was neither impertinent nor irrelevant.
– The honorable member was not too sure about the Home Rule resolution, so that the” less he says on the subject the better it will be for himself.
– That is not so.
-I ask the honorable member for Coolgardie to confine “his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I shall do so, but I claim the right to reply to impertinent allusions to a subject like Home Rule. I am not afraid of any action that I have taken in this House in regard to Home Rule, or any other question.
– No one of us is.
– I advise my youthful and precocious friend to keep quiet. He is not likely to silence me, though I very much regret his irrelevant interruption. Speaking to the motion before the Chair, I wish to say that there is no finality possible in regard to the private members’ business on the notice-paper. Even if the motions there set down were carried, they would have no effect until measures had been passed to give effect to them. I have a notice of motion on the businesspaper which I am desirous to pass, but I know that there is’a strong feeling outside the House that we should get the Tariff out of the way as soon as possible. There is great unrest in regard to the Tariff in Western Australia and the other States. All over Australia business is in a state of chaos, and we should deal with the Tariff before we attempt to dispose of other measures. As one who was responsible for one of the first notices of motion which appeared on the business-paper, I am prepared to make this concession to the Government, and am surprised at the warmth that has been displayed during this debate. The honorable member for Wide Bay talked of the many magnificent schemes and reforms which had been promulgated by private members in this and other legislatures ; but I should like him to consider for a moment where most of them originated.- Is it not a fact that for the most part thev have originated in the minds of obscure individuals outside Parliament ?
– Is” there no originality in this House?
– I do not say that, but I repeat that most of the great movements which have agitated Parliaments, and have led to great reforms, have been originated by men’, outside Parliament, in humble walks of life. There is no possibility of any of the notices of motion on the businesspaper being dealt with finally during the present session. We have less than fifty days within which to deal with the
Tariff before ‘Christmas, and I should like honorable members to say whether there is the slightest chance of Parliament finally passing the Tariff before then.
– We have over two years in which to deal with it.
– If that were the position, I might be disposed to take up a different attitude; but the public generally consider that we should finish the Tariff before the end of the year.
– That is impossible.
– Then I may be expecting too much.
– We occupied eleven months in dealing with the old Tariff, which was not half as bad as is the present one.
– The original object for which the Tariff Commission was appointed was not to bring about the revision of the Tariff as a whole, but to secure the rectification of anomalies. There are many items upon which both the Government and the free-trade and protectionist members of the Commission are agreed, and I hold that we should first dispose .of them and allow that section of the commercial community which is affected by them to settle down once more to business. I am certainly anxious that the whole Tariff should be dealt with by the Parliament before the end of this year. The present uncertainty has caused a great disruption of business. The bulk of commercial people do not care what duties are imposed; their chief object is to ascertain definitely what the duties are to be, so that they may pass on any increase to their customers. In these circumstances, therefore, the sooner we deal with the Tariff the better it will be for the Parliament and for the people of the Commonwealth.
– As one who has on the business-paper a notice of motion for an early date, I desire to say that I think that the Government proposition is a justifiable one. I sincerely hope that the time to be given up by private members to the consideration of Government business will be used to good effect, and that it will not be devoted to speeches extending over three and four hours such as we have listened to during the last fortnight. If honorable members who have notices of motion on the business-paper are prepared to forego their rights, others who have long speeches in course of preparation should be ready to compress them* i« order that we may make the best use of trie additional time thus granted to the Government. I was surprised to hear an honorable member suggest that we had over two years in which to deal with the Tariff, and my astonishment was accentuated by the fact that the suggestion came from an ardent free-trader. As a protectionist I hope that we shall deal fairly, honestly, and expeditiously with the Tariff. We have to consider not only the manufacturer and the importer, but the great body of consumers behind them, who are at present suffering because of the general feeiing of unrest in the commercial community, as well as by reason of imposts to which they should not be subjected, and who desire to see the matter finally settled.
– The suggestion that we should meet on Mondays is, to my mind, an excellent one. At the present time fully 75 per cent, of honorable members are in Melbourne every Monday.
– Why not sit on Saturdays as well?
– And on Sundays !
– I have long held the opinion that we should sit regularlv on Mondays.
– It isallvery well for. a representative of Victoria to receive the suggestion in that way. Surely we should be prepared to extend some consideration to the representatives of other States, who, during the session, have to make their homes in Victoria. It is unfair to them that the session should be unduly protracted bv the fact that we sit only four days a week, when we might well sit on five. If this suggestion were adopted we should have ample time for the consideration of private members’ business as well as of Government measures. The proposal that we should hand over to the Executive the whole control of’ Parliament is a verv serious one. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that honorable members should retain as far as possible the scanty privilege which they at present enjoy of submitting business once a week. If an extra sitting day were decided upon the Government would have ampletime to dispose of the Tariff without depriving hon-. orable members of their only opportunity to bring forward measures representing the views of, at all events, a considerable minority in the House. It is singular that whenever a Ministerial proposal is submitted honorable members of the Labour
Party invariably abuse the Opposition. I would remind them that this is a Government proposal, for which’ the Ministry must accept responsibility. . I shall vote against the motion.
– Is the honorable membei going to move as an amendment that Monday also be a sitting day?
– That would be a motion’ of want of- confidence.
– If the honorable member would move such a motion I should support it. I trust that the House will also refuse to allow any important measures to be brought on for consideration before the Tariff has been dealt with.
.- I trust that the Government will not listen to the suggestion that we should have an additional sitting day. Like the honorable member for Franklin, I at one time thought’ that Parliament should meet every day in the week and sit from 10 a.m.- until the business of the day had been transacted. During one long session, however, it became necessary for the Legislature, of which I was then a member, to sit from Monday.’ until Friday, and sometimes on Saturdays, and I can assure the House that after that procedure had been followed for two or three weeks every one was anxious that it should be discontinued. My own view is that we should sit only three days a week. If we are to discharge our duties honestly and faithfully it is undesirable that our sittings should extend over a greater number of days. An honorable member, no matter: what his capacity may be, cannot sit here for more than three days a week if he is to give to the proposals submitted to the House that consideration which is expected: of him. Some honorable members may have a private secretary or an army of clerks to compile information which they need regarding the various -proposals from time to time submitted, but others, less fortunately situated, are fully occupied during the off-days in preparing themselves for the work of the House. Whilst it may be necessary at times for the Government to ask honorable members to give up the time generally devoted to private members’ business, it should be recognised that private members must have an opportunity to introduce motions affecting questions in which they and their constituents are interested. It is true, as has been said, that’ many great reforms ha.ve sprung from motions submitted by private members. It may be that Parliament has little originality, but I know of great reforms which have resulted from the persistent efforts of private members who, session after session, have submitted motions relating to them until the people have been led to recognise their importance, and the Parliament itself has adopted them. I hope that this privilege will not be lightly taken from honorable members. Having regard to the way in which the time given up to the consideration of private business is sometimes wasted, I have often said that it is not surprising that attempts should be made to do away with the concession.
– What is the position when honorable members voluntarily postpone their motions?
– It is no wonder that the Government should seek to do away with the privilege when honorable members act in that way. An honorable member may desire to submit to the House a motion in which he and his constituents take the deepest interest, and private members’ day affords him an opportunity of voicing the views of the electors in regard to it. I do not think that those who have objected to the motion should be censured, and I certainly hope that the Government will not seriously con sider the suggestion that we should have an additional sitting day. The reports of the Tariff Commission were presented from time to time in the early part of the year, and I am surprised that the Government did not call honorable members together a month earlier than they did. Had they done so we could have dealt with important measures, and so cleared the way for the consideration of the Tariff as soon as the Government were prepared to submit it. I agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie that the Government would act wisely if they asked the Committee to deal first of all with the items in respect to which both sections of the Tariff Commission are unanimous. If they would also drop their preferential trade proposals and accept the protectionist recommendations of the protectionist section of the Commission, I am sure that it would not take long to dispose of the Tariff; but as long as they defend the imposition of exorbitant duties, thev must expect their proposals to be criticised at length.
.- It appears to me that if the Government think it is worth their while to appropriate the two or three hours a week which are at present devoted to the consideration of private members’ business, they ought also to take steps to secure the hours of the forenoon upon ordinary sitting days.
– We sit long enough already.
– I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy that the number of days upon which we meet should not be increased. But if the work before us is of such an urgent character - and I agree that it is urgent - why should we not put in full days - just as we do on Fridays?
– Let us commence sitting at daylight and continue till midnight.
– It is farcical for the Government to pretend that the three or four hours a week which, under this motion they will be able to snatch from private members, will be of material’ assistance to them in shortening the debate upon the Tariff. If they are sincere in their protestations, they should at least take steps to secure more time for the consideration of that matter. It is quite possible that some arrangement might be made by which the House might sit during the forenoon upon ordinary days of meeting, and proceed with the consideration of Government business. Personally, I believe that the afternoon which is devoted to the discussion of private members’ business is well spent. While I desire to see the Tariff disposed of as soon as possible, I suggest that private members’ business should not be interfered with, but that some other method of insuring additional time for the consideration of Government measures should be devised.
– I shall vote against the motion, because I believe that the privileges enjoyed by private members are so few that they ought to be jealously guarded. No difficulty should be experienced by the Government in proceeding with the consideration of the Tariff. If I had a motion upon the businesspaper, and I deemed that the Tariff was of greater importance than it, the Acting Prime Minister would only need to approach me with a request that I should allow its consideration to be deferred, to insure that course being adopted.
– I should like to see the individual who would convince the honorable member that the Tariff was of more importance.
– I have been convinced that Government business was more important than my own private business upon many occasions, both in this Parliament and in the South Australian Parliament. Undoubtedly, the honorable member who is chiefly concerned ought to be the judge as to whether his business or that of the Government is the more urgent. I do not see a single motion upon the businesspaper with which honorable members are not familiar. If the Government desire to expedite the transaction both of public and private members’ business, why cannot we agree to take a vote upon these questions right away ? They have all been dis- cussed, and honorable members know exactly the position that they occupy in respect of them. As a rule honorable members put motions upon the businesspaper because they wish practically to talk to their constituents. They desire to educate their constituents - a very proper thing - but I say that when the authors of these motions have made their speeches, a vote might just as well be taken upon them. I decidedly object to increasing the hours of sitting. When I come to this House I am in attendance continuously throughout the sittings, whereas some honorable members are present .for only two or three hours. I would further remind honorable members that Ministers are obliged to be present throughout the entire days upon which the House meets, and it is too much to expect them to be able to attend to departmental affairs if our present hours of sitting be extended.
.-! listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy, because he has had a long experience of parliamentary life, and consequently speaks with some authority. He entertains the view that the rights of private members should not be lightly interferred with, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie expressed a similar opinion. Of course, we all know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has, what he conceives to be a most important measure upon the businesspaper, and in speaking in the way that, he did, he was, to certain extent, defending his own interests. He has declared that the Opposition has failed to support the rights of private members. I am a member of the Opposition, and I desire to see the present Government displaced as soon as possible. Consequently, I can perceive no reason why the progress of business should be delayed any longer than is unavoidable. At the same time, I hold that we are not here to consider the interests of private members, but rather those of our constituents, and of the country at large. Today the whole trade of Australia is being dislocated by the fact that the Tariff proposals of the Government remain in abeyance. The sooner that the items in the schedule are disposed of the better for all concerned. For that reason I shall support the motion of the Acting Prime Minister, although I do not anticipate that I shall be able to adopt a similar course very frequently.
– I do not care very much whether the motion proposed by the Acting Prime Minister be carried or not, although I intend to support it. I do object, however, to private members’ business being allowed to interrupt the consideration of Government business. It is a mistake to set apart Thursday afternoon for dealing with private members’ business. When we proceed with the consideration of the Tariff on Tuesday afternoon, the discussion should continue until Thursday night without interruption. Then, if honorable members who are possessed of ideas desire to meet on Friday or Monday to facilitate the transaction of private members’ business, I shall offer no objection to that course being adopted. If the Government cannot carry the motion they should at least set apart Friday, instead of Thursday afternoon, for the consideration of private members’ business.
.- I regret that the Government deem it necessary thus early in the session to ask honorable members who have private business upon the notice-paper to forego their rights in connexion with that business. I recognise that gradually our rights and privileges are being whittled away. Originally a whole day in each week was devoted to the business of private members, but the time placed at their disposal was subsequently limited to portion ot-a day, and later still it was reduced to about four hours. The honorable member for Dalley has stated that honorable members themselves evince so little desire to prosecute their motions that they frequently agree to the adjournment of the debate upon them for a period of six weeks. From his parliamentary experience he must know that, as the session advances, the business-paper becomes seriously congested, so that it is necessary for honorable members who are interested ‘ in private business - after they have concluded their own speeches - to agree to its adjournment for a period of six weeks in order to secure another opportunity for its consideration.
– But when the day arrives they readily agree to its adjournment.
– I am not in favour of abolishing the right of private members’ to deal with public business. At the same time, I do not desire to see the present system continued. I believe in setting apart one day in each week upon which private members should be afforded an opportunity to deal with their business. The decision of the House in respect to many matters brought forward by private members is of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. I cannot avoid saying that if this motion be carried it will not have the effect of expediting the close of the discussion upon the Tariff. The members of the Opposition should recognise that they have a public duty to perform by refraining from speaking at undue length upon the general debate on the schedule, seeing that their remarks will be repeated ad nauseam when we reach the separate items. The real solution of the present difficulty is for the Acting Prime Minister to invite the Standing Orders Committee to frame a new standing order, imposing a time limit upon the speeches of honorable members. The opinion I have expressed has been formed after due consideration, and I repeat that, even if the Acting Prime Minister succeeds with this motion, he will not gain one fraction of time for the more important business of the Tariff. I decline to vote away my privileges, or the privileges of my constituents , and the private business which I have in hand is not in my personal interests, but in the interests of the Commonwealth. We know that private members usually receive a promise that the Government will facilitatein every way possible private members’ business ; and I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will announce that at the termination of the consideration of the Tariff, or at some other time, ample opportunity will be afforded, not only to reach, but to dispose of the private business on the notice-paper. If the Acting Prime Minister can make such a promise, members generally, I have no doubt, will be able to support his motion, recognising the greater importance and urgency of the Tariff.
– I must say that I am a little surprised at the heat to which this motion has given rise. I thought it was practically agreed by the whole House that the Government were wise in asking for this concession.
– We have already wasted an afternoon over this motion.
– That is not my. ‘fault. The other night, when there was a fairly full House, 1 made the following intimation on the motion for the adjournment -
I think that honorable members will give me credit for not having tried to bring about late sittings. I have agreed to adjourn at times which I thought were reasonable, but while the debate on the Budget continues - and I hope that it will not continue much longer - I think it is fair that on Thursdays it should not be interrupted by private business. I do not wish to press that suggestion if honorable members will not approve of it, but I feel that I am not asking too much in requesting that private business shall not intervene during the progress of the debate.
As I say, there was a fairly full House at the time, and not one objection was raised ; and I therefore took it for granted that honorable members were in accord with the suggestion.
– Those remarks were made on the adjournment, when honorable members were going away.
– That is so; but it was an early adjournment, just after ro o’clock. I hardly cared about adjourning at so early an hour ; and I took the opportunitv to make that intimation. If there had been any serious objection raised I should not have submitted this motion to-dav, because I can assure honorable members I had no desire to occupy a whole afternoon in its discussion. The Government have no wish to deprive honorable members of their rights in any shape or form.
– Then why this motion?
– I feel that private members’ business, intervening as it does in the middle of the week, interrupts the discussion on the Tariff a great deal more than it. would if it came on at the end of the week.
– Private members’ business is fixed for Thursday because no quorum could be obtained on any other day.
– If private members’ business is not worth a quorum it cannot be of much account.
– It is not always possible to get a quorum even for Government business.
– The Government have never yet failed to get a quorum. Rather than have the Tariff debate interrupted on a Thursday, I would prefer to, later on, devote three or four days, or even a week, to private members’ business. At present only four hours can be devoted to this business, and, as a rule, no finality is reached ; in my opinion, it will be much fairer to give honorable . members an opportunity to have their motions not only submitted but dealt with later on.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister afford that opportunity?
– I shall try to do so. Of course, much will depend on the method adopted in regard to dealing with the Tariff ; but I will afford an opportunity for private members’ business as early as I possibly can. The honorable member for Riverina suggested that a recommendation should be made to the Standing Orders Committee to curtail the length of speeches ; but a motion to that effect would take nearly as long to discuss as the Tariff itself. Of course, I have no desire whatever to resort to the closure if I can. possibly help it; the closure is for use only in cases of absolute necessity. The honorable member for Kennedy suggested that Parliament met too late in the year. The honorable member must have forgotten that the Prime Minister and myself were in England, and that the reports of the Tariff Commission were not all submitted until a considerable time after we had returned. How would it have been possible to deal with the Tariff until the. reports were submitted? As a matter of fact, it would not have mattered very much if the House had not been called together until a little later in the year than it was. I hope that it is not seriously suggested at the present time that the House should meet another day in the week. Personally I have a great deal of departmental work to do - so much that it is almost too heavy for one ; and if Parliament met another day in the week it would be practically impossible for me to meet all my engagements. Near the end of the session, when it is seen that we can conclude in a week or two, we might sit on Mondays and even on Saturdays ; but such a course is not necessary at present; and, as I say, I hope any suggestion to that end is not made seriously.I admit at once that there are several important motions amongst private members’ business ; and, perhaps, that of the honorahle member for West Sydney is the most important.
– What about my little pet ewe lamb?
– I had not observed the motion in the name of the honorable member. The. honorable member for Coolgardie also has an important motion on the notice-paper ; but I repeat that the “proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney is one to be most carefully approached and seriously discussed. However, even if that motion be carried it canonly be a direction to the Government, because it is a subject with whichonly theGovernment can deal. The honorable member for Wide Bay has asked me whether, when the Tariff has been disposed of, time will be given for the consideration of private members’ business; and my reply is “Certainly.” If it is possible to make an arrangement by which two-hours’ speecheson the Tariff may be curtailed a little, when some of the more important itemshave been disposed of, time may be afforded for private members’ business.
– That is, the Government will revert to the old rule?
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- I shall consult honorable members as to whether they desire Thursday or some other day for private members’ business.
– Give two or three days.
– I should like later on to see a week devoted to private members’ business.
Question - That’ the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
MINISTERSlaid upon the table the following papers -
Defence Acts - Provisional Regulations - Military Cadet Corps - Amendment section1, para. 5 (a); Additions section 1, para. . 4; section 2, paras. 19 and 21. - Statutory Rules, 1907, No. 87.
Audit Acts- Tranfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1906-7 (dated 29th August, 1907).
Consideration resumed from 3rd Septem ber(vide page 2742) of motion of Sir William Lyne -
That duties’ of Customs and duties of Excise be imposed according to the following Tariff (vide page 1648)…………
.- Last night I briefly outlined my attitude towards the Tariff, before I, in deference to the wishes of the Committee, asked that progress be reported. I stated that I had secured the support of my constituents by advocating the principles of the new. protection. I wish now to make clear what I conceive to be the difference between the new and the old protection. The old, unregulated protection licensed the exploitation of the community by capitalists. It is needless to say that Iam against that form of protection, and advocate the new protection. Many of the members of the Opposition decline to have to do with anything new. They adhere so faithfully to the musty traditions of the past that they stand aghast when it is proposed to depart from precedent. On this aspect I differ from the honorable member for Parkes, who accepts nothing new ;. were he an angel I should be afraid of being considered the other thing, but as he is not an angel no odium rests on me. The natural protection of distance and carriage, about which the members of the Opposition have spoken so much is not sufficient to permit the proper development of our industries. It is not allowed to operate freely, because so many of the manufacturing industries of other countries are controlled, as by the American trusts and combines, in such a way that their productions can be landed here cheaply or dearly as it suits their book. Where combines are operating to our detriment, it is desirable to protect ourselves from foreign importations. Under a high Tariff, without the restraints which I should like to see imposed, manufacturers take advantage of their position to charge what prices they like in the home market, flooding free ports with their surplus output. That flooding has happened in Australia over and over again, and we must, in self-preservation, protect ourselves from such inundation, until we can satisfactorily develop the manufacturing side of our national life, which should be a complement to our primary production. I hope to see protection accompanied bv an active closer settlement policy, to relieve the congestion of our population. With that subject I shall deal at greater length further on. If it were necessary to detail instances in which we have suffered by importations from other countries, I could recite the facts relating to the American harvester combine, showing how it depreciated and inflated prices, but I think that honorable members have already sufficient information on the subject. Besides the protectionist point of view in regard to the Tariff, I wish to put befpre the Committee the workers’ point of view. The workers hope that, by encouraging industrial enterprise, they will obtain more employment. But they have no wish to become slaves, and feel that those appointed to administer the affairs of Australia must prevent anything in the nature of slavery from being brought into existence. Employment under harrowing conditions tends to undermine the stamina of the race, and we must take precautions against unfairness on the part of employers. The workers have supported me because I announced myself to be opposed to everything in the nature of imposition. The honorable member for Parkes has accused the Government of having introduced a Tariff without considering the consumers, or the moral and physical development of the race, but it is the humanitarian aspect of this policy, with which I am concerned, and the need for its consideration is mainly responsible for my. entry into politics. We, of course, must consider the consumers, of whomI suppose fully 80 per cent, are workers, as distinct from the 20 per cent, who live on investments, and in this connexion I propose to define the principles of what I have alluded to as the new protection: I have on several occasions heard questions asked as to. the meaning of this term, and the manner in which the proposals which it embraces will operate, even those who are opposed to protection as ordinarily understood professing to be ignorant of what is meant. The Tariff itself I characterize as crude and cumbersome.It is an abortive attempt to reconcile the principles of revenue tariffism and protection, which, it must be admitted, are mutually destructive, and therefore cannot satisfactorily co-exist. The need of revenue has induced the Government to impose heavy duties on goods which cannot be produced within the Commonwealth; but which, as necessaries of life, must be imported. I am of opinion that duties should be imposed upon goods which can be produced within the Commonwealth, so long as their local manufacture is properly regulated ; but I am opposed to mere revenue duties. If more revenue is needed, I should like to see adopted a form of taxation which will be bitterly opposed in some quarters, but which I think we shall have to resort to in justice to the community at large, in order to secure, not, perhaps, equality of taxation,but equality of sacrifice in taxation. No’ doubt those who sit on the Opposition corner benches will protest that while the Commonwealth can . raise revenue by means of Customs and Excise duties, it should not impose direct taxation ; but when the interests of the community are opposed to those of individuals the latter must suffer, the divine rights of man being paramount to the rights of property . The Government, however, in its unscrupulous haste to increase revenue, has, by its ukase, levied duties on goods which cannot be produced in the Commonwealth, and on goods which can be, but are not at present being made here. Most of us have heard of the consignment of bicycles which has had to be returned, because of the increase in the duty to £5. The Tariff has been awkwardly introduced. It should have been tempered to the public. Ships which prior to its introduction had called at one Australian port should have been allowed to discharge their cargoes at that and their remaining ports of call with in the Commonwealth free of duty. The Tariff need not have fallen with such sledge-hammer force on importers ; the clumsy and haphazard manner of its introduction has discredited protectionists. The new protection which I shall vote for, and which I have advocated on the platform, means the imposition of high duties on goods which can be manufactured in Australia, combined with the regulation of the conditions of manufacture.
– Cannot we make bicycles in this country ?
– Yes, but consignments in ships already on the water before the introduction of the new Tariff should have been unloaded duty free. I believe that it is the intention of the. Ministry to provide against the charging of exorbitant prices by protected manufacturers, and the sweating of workers such as has obtained in other countries, and I honour Ministers for it. Proposals to that end will certainly get my’ support. But, in my opinion, it is not intended to go far enough in the regulation and control of industries. To my mind, the conditions stated by the leader of the Labour Party approach most nearly to what is desirable. All attempts at restriction and control interfere with private enterprise, but it is better that there should be such interference than that the lives of the people should be made hard, and that thev should be compelled to bear unnecessary burdens. The growing intelligence of the democracy sees the necessity for controlling huge manufacturing industries, so that the public may have a greater share of the wealth which thev create, and may no longer be overridden by capitalists. The members of the Labour Party express that growing sentiment, and I, as a young Australian, desire to voice it. I have no wish to indulge in extravagant language, but I trust that we shall have formulated a schemewhich will be just in its incidence, and will tend to the moral elevation of the people, and the national development of the Commonwealth. That is a reasonable proposition, and representing, as I do, the young Australian sentiment, as I may term it, I am hopeful of its being embodied in the new Tariff. We are all familiar with the proposal submitted bv the leader of the Labour Party that goods manufactured” or prepared under fair conditions of labour, shall bear the Commonwealth trade maTk, and that others shall bear an Excise duty stamp so that unscrupulous employers may be brought into line with those who have decided to observe the conditions laid down. That is ti fair proposition, and I am disposed to think that very few Excise duty stamps will be purchased. Then, again, the leader of our party rightly says that some provision must be made to regulate prices. T hat will entail the appointment of a tribunal to adjudicate on questions relating to prices, and although some objection may be taken to this innovation, I repeat that we must either interfere, or be interfered with.
– It is a proposal very difficult to carry out.
– I recognise that it is, but since the Tariff Commission was able to go into details in regard to prices in order to determine what the ad valorem duties, in certain cases, should be, it seems to me that we should be able to go a step further. Unless we are going to allow the people to be exploited, the problem must be grappled with. No one can deny that they have been exploited in connexion’ with the new duties on tobacco, since prices have been increased in respect to goods on which the increased duty has not been paid. A careful scrutiny of the facts is not necessary in order to determine that this course has been adopted, and I hold that the principle of protecting the public might well be extended. When we know that such tactics are indulged in by unscrupulous persons, the Government, as the representative of the people, should be* competent to provide measures for the protection of the people. It is true that we have no precedent for what we now propose, but the Parliament has as much right to establish as’ to follow precedents. The people have to be protected, and I believe that the public generally will insist on such a system of protection as I have indicated.
– If the duties were reduced, would the honorable member be in favour of refunds being made?
– We could not trace those to whom the duties had been passed on. There are already in the Tariff provisions which embody, to a large extent, the proposal I have advocated. We find, for instance, that the duties under Division VIa. which relates to Metals and Machinery, are -
To come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and exempt from duty in the meantime. Proclamation to issue so soon as it is certified to Parliament by the .Minister that the manufacture to which the proclamation refers has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth.
That is the very principle to which the Minister of Trade and Customs took exception when I said that it might well have been extended to the cycle making industry. I hold that it can be amplified, and that there are in the Tariff many items that might have been subjected to similar conditions. Such a system enables the interests of the consumer to be safeguarded during the time that must necessarily elapse between the passing of the Tariff and the establishment of the industries that it is designed to encourage. There is a gap which must be filled, no matter what system of protection we devise. Until our industries are in a position to meet the demands made upon them we must adopt some means to ease the burden. I find that in many cases duties have been slapped on,- although the Government know very well that the industries to which they relate are not in a position, to meet local requirements, and that therefore the public for a time will be fleeced.
– Thev never will be in a position to meet local demands unless we give them some encouragement.
– Then why not provide that the duties relating to such indus-‘ tries shall come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation? If the principle embodied in Divison VI. a be appli-cable to some cases, it must surely be applicable to others. I recognise that it is possible that designing combines beyond the Commonwealth might, dur:ng the interim, offer their goods at cutting rates, in order to prevent .the development of industries in Australia ; but where it could be shown that such tactics were being resorted to, it would be open to the Government to impose a duty sufficient to place the local manufacturer on an equal footing with those trusts. We have had an ‘ illustration of what mav be done bv a combine in connexion with the kerosene industry, attempts to develop which were made in New South Wales some time ago. Retorts were installed, and some kerosene was turned out there. but the Standard Oil’ Company immediately reduced prices to such -an extent as to prevent the local article securing a footing on. the market. T recognise that it mav be necessary to impose a small dutv to safeguard local manufacturer^ from such attacks ; but we should provide that when, later on, a) proclamation is issued, showing that in the opinion of the Minister the industry has been sufficiently established in Australia, the impost shall be so increased as to shut out imports. There should also be a provision that the local manufacturers shall maintain their present prices, observe proper conditions of labour, and produce a kerosene that will pass the proper flash-light test.. I see nothing to prevent the adoption of that course. It would involve a little more responsibility than is usually undertaken by a Government, but the welfare of the people of our own land should be the first concern of the Ministry. Every able-bodied man, every intelligent unit, is an additional asset to the State, and it is because we have regard to the well-being of the individual that we stipulate that any protection that is granted shall be hedged about in the way I have indicated. The necessity for such a provision is amply demonstrated in connexion with the kerosene industry. At the present time the shale miners in New South Wales can turn out only crude oils, such as solar and residual oils; but they would be in a position to produce the finished article - kerosene - if they were protected against the Standard Oil Company. I am sure that the people of Australia would far sooner burn a locally -produced illuminant than an imported one. The New South Wales Shale Company are prepared to give a bond’ that they, will not charge more for their oil than ‘the Standard Oil Company is charging. I understand that their price at present is nd. per gallon, whilst that of the Standard Oil Company is 10 7/8 d. The difference is so small as to be scarcely worthy of consideration.
– That is a boom- price as compared with the-price that prevailed a few years ago.
– That is a question with which “the tribunal to be appointed would have to deal. If the evidence brought before it showed that the price was extravagant, it would recommend that the protection granted the industry should be conditional on a reduction in rates. We must have more of this regulation of the cornmercial relationships of men; because, when thev are left uncontrolled, it’ is only human nature for one man to try to make as much as he can out of another. ‘ The greed for profit, as a general rule, knows ro moral law, and will fust- as unconcernedly sacrifice the lives of the community, as it will sacrifice the lives of any other animals to the attainment of its own ends. We have evidence of thisin the operations in other countries of huge combines, without bodies to be kicked or souls to be damned. We do not desire the establishment of such monopolies in Australia, and therefore we must face the issue like men, and provide against their possibility.
– Does the Shale Company guarantee to produce kerosene as good asthe imported article?
– Exactly. My contention: is that the local production should be submitted to the usual flashlight test. Surely we have in our midst men capable of conducting such tests. In England the test is applied in a more satisfactory way thani it is in the United States of America, and1, in consequence the kerosene sold there is of verv high quality.
– There is no difficulty in making such tests here.
– Quite so. To come now to another item in the Tariff, I . think thatwire netting ought to be exempt from duty until it is known that local manufacturersare in a position to supply the demand. There would be no difficulty in embodying, such a provision in the Tariff. As a matter of fact, however, we find that a duty of 3c* per cent, has been imposed, although it iswell known that the local manufacturers cannot satisfy the demand for wire netting in Australia. There has been a great outcry in regard to this duty, and I, for one,, would have been prepared to support a motion censuring the Government for proposing the duty without imposing any conditions. They might’ very well have tempered the impost to the man who is deserving of every consideration - to the small farmer who has to depend upon wire netting to protect his land from the rabbit invasion. The object which the Government have in view might have been accomplished bv pro- .viding that, as soon as it is shown that the local manufacturers can turn out sufficient wire netting to supply the local demand, a duty shall be imposed. When the local manufacturers could show that they were in a position to satisfy the requirements of Australia, we should be justified in granting them ample protection, subject to the condition that fair rates of pay. should be enjoyed by the workers in the industry, and that a satisfactory article should be sup*plied at a satisfactory price. I un:derstand that many manufacturers do- not ask for higher prices than were ruling prior to the introduction of the Tariff. The Mildura fruit-growers, for instance, recently stated that they did not desire higher prices for their dried fruits and that they would not attempt to obtain an increase, since they were satisfied with the extended markets that protection would give them. That is the spirit that I should like to see manifested throughout Australia. Unfortunately, in very many quarters it does not occur spontaneously, and it is the duty of the Government in the interests of the people to spur it on. I, for one, am anxious that manufacturers and others shall be compelled to take up such aposition. Item 168 in division VI. savours of the condition that I desire to see attached to the Commonwealth system of protection. It provides -
Any dutiable machinery or machine tool, or any part thereof specified in any proclamation issued by the Governor-General in pursuance of a joint address passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of the Parliament, stating that such machinery, machine tool, or part cannot be reasonably manufactured within the Commonwealth, and that it should be admitted free, shall be free. That is a reasonable provision, and it is one that the daily press ihave very carefully ignored. None of the iedeeming features of the Tariff have been put before the public by them. It is to this provision that I pin my faith, and it has formed the basis of my defence of the Tariff. I trust that the fullest advantage will be taken of such provisions, and that we shall, in short, go as far as we possibly can in the direction of regulating, in the way proposed by the Labour Party, the system of protection that we adopt. I wish now to deal with duties that have been imposed purely for revenue purposes. I am averse to a revenue Tariff. Of course I know that free-trade in its literal sense is impossible. Free-traders themselves admit that free-trade is synonymous with a revenue Tariff. The terms have become synonymous by usage, but I am not disposed to regard them as such. I do not fayour a revenue Tariff, and I will use my best endeavours to defeat proposals tending in that direction. The Government, in their desire to grant a large measure of protection to industries, have increased the duties upon certain commodities. They realize that they cannot derive much revenue from the goods thus penalized, and accordingly they have been compelled to resort to duties upon the necessaries of life - duties to which I am opposed. Upon cutr lery a duty of 20 per cent, has been levied. We have no hope of manufacturing cutlery in Australia. The conditions required for its production are of a peculiar character. Its manufacture requires natural conditions which do not obtain in Australia, in addition to which the necessary market is not available here. In the course of twenty or thirty years, when we have a closer settlement policy in full swing, that market may be available, and, perhaps, artificial conditions may then be introduced to take the place of those natural conditions which are so necessary to the successful manufacture of cutlery. A duty of 20 per cent, has also been imposed upon cash registers and computing scales. Again, I say that we have no hope of manufacturing these articles in the Commonwealth.. They are patented machines, and, in addition, their manufacture involves the outlay of a vast amount of capital. Special knowledge is also necessary, and it is manifest that in Australia the necessary market to warrant the establishment of factories for their production is not available. The same remark is applicable to surgical apparatus and appliances.
– Would the honorable member put them upon the free list?
– And also wire netting?
– In regard to wire netting, I have already said that until our manufacturers are able to supply the local demand, that article should be admitted free. When our local manufacturers are able to cope with the demand in Australia we may erect a tariff wall as high as we choose, so long as we retain the right to regulate prices, and the conditions of labour under which the industry shall be conducted. The Government have also imposed a duty upon currants, although we cannot grow them in Australia.
– We are growing them. The honorable member ought to travel.
– We shall be exporting currants presently.
– At any rate, we are not producing currants equal in quality to the Grecian currant, about which there is a peculiarity which placesit in a class bv itself. If it can be demonstrated that we can grow currants successfully I shall not object to the duty. - I wish to encourage Australian industries, but I am credibly informed by those in the trade and by fruit-growers that we do not produce currants which, from the stand-point of quality, approach the Grecian currants.
– The honorable member, must have been consulting the importers.
– I have consulted no importers.
– Does the honorable member say that we cannot grow currants in Australia?
– I am assured that we cannot produce currants equal to the Grecian currants. Then a heavy duty has been imposed upon magazines. I cannot support that duty, because it seems to me to represent a tax upon intellect, and in Australia we cannot natter ourselves that we have a monopoly of the intellect of the world. Further, we cannot hope to see these magazines published in Australia. Of course, I am aware that the imposition of the duty is defended upon the ground that it is really, a tax upon the advertisements contained in these publications. But I would point out that these advertisements are not inserted on account of the circulation which the magazines en-, joy in Australia, but on account of the larger circulation which they enjoy at home. In any case, we must recollect that it is the prices paid for the advertisements which bring these magazines within the reach of the entire reading community. The advertisements thus enable our people to acquire a better knowledge of things in, general, which cannot fail to be advantageous to them. I protest against this proposal to tax the thought of the world, and to erect a barrier between it and our own people. The duty upon magazines differs from duties imposed upon ordinary commodities. We cannot comprehend all the variety of human thought, all the elevated intellect of the day, and that being so, I say that we should give our people free access to these magazines. I happen to possess a little knowledge of advertising, and I know that the largest advertisements to be found in magazines are also to be found in the Australian newspapers. The authors of these advertisements do not rely upon the magazines to give their wares publicity in Australia, because the circulation, of these periodicals here is limited. For every copy that is bought a dozen are borrowed, but after allowing for that, the advantage accruing from advertisements in magazines here is infinitesimal. Then a heavy tax has been imposed upon certain prepared infants’ foods.
I suppose some honorable members will urge that those foods can be made in Australia. We can make some of them, but we cannot make certain special preparations for infants. These derive their chief virtues from qualities which are inherent in the soil of their country of origin. In addition there are- trade secrets connected with the manufacture of these foods. When I consider that the duty imposed upon them is equivalent toabout 4d. per tin I say that, in the interestsof the race and of the child life of the Commonwealth, these articles should be admitted free. We ought not to tax infants’ foods. It is a crying shame to doso - mothers experience the crying portion; of it - but I think that at least we should be sympathetic. Apart from the sentimental phase of the question, I desire to> emphasize the national phase. If we wish to develop a healthy type, it is imperativethat we should conserve our child life. That result can be assured only by bestowing proper attention upon children in their babyhood. There are certain infants’” foods, the manufacture of which generations of protection would not stimulate, and these should certainly be made as free as possible to the people. The overweening desire of the Government for revenue is made manifest by their action in regard to these questions. They have levied duties upon the poor indiscriminately. Whilst in some cases they have imposed higher duties upon the rich, they have also imposed what the honorable member for Parkes calls “ equality of taxation.” I do not want equality of taxation, but equality of sacrifice in taxation. It is all very well for the honorable member for Parkes to talk about the national spirit, and the universal liability of the community to bear its share of taxation, but if I were to say that the people should share equally in natural opportunities, and, consequently, in the wealth of the country, he would at once tell us quite a different tale. We should then hear all the old cries about the rights of property. I propose to discriminate in this matter of taxation. We must have equality of sacrifice, rather than equality of taxation, and we shall not get equality of sacrifice bv taxing infants’ foodsThere are some items of the Tariff which, as I have already indicated, should come under Division VI. a. I refer to commodities which admittedly we can produce in Australia, but which we are not in a position to- produce immediately. Amongst these commodities might be classed rubber specialties. We do not grow rubber yet. The duty upon these articles would clearly be a revenue duty for the time being. I say that it is incumbent upon us to conserve the rubber industry by all the means in our power. But let us conserve it by some such provision as is embodied in Division VI. a. Upon cartridges, a duty of 30 per cent, has been imposed, notwithstanding that we do not manufacture them in Australia. Up to the present, we have no arms or ammunition factory in the Commonwealth, and until we have, cartridges should be admitted free. We must recollect th a.t they are largely used by the poorer classes of the community - by the man who gets a half-holiday on Wednesday or Saturday. The fact is that the Government propose to penalize the wage-earner every time. Further, I hold that the duty of 5s. 6d. which has been levied upon single-barrelled guns, and of 7 is. upon double-barrelled, should be deferred until it has been certified that we are in a position to manufacture these weapons in Australia.- It would be a very easy matter- for the Minister of Trade and Customs to keep in touch with our local manufacturers - especially with the aid of a tribunal such as we propose to appoint - and to ascertain exactly at what period the duty should be made operative. Upon woollens, a duty of 35 per cent, has been levied. Now, we all know that we can manufacture woollen goods locally. I yield to no man in my desire to see the woollen industry developed, and the raw products made up iri Australia, instead of being sent abroad to provide employment for other than our own operatives. I object to transferring this industrial activity from Australian to other shores. But the position is that we cannot at present produce the supplies required by Australia, otherwise we should not have imported over ^1,000,000 worth of woollen goods last year. I admit that we ought to be manufacturing all these goods. But, pending the time when we shall be in a position to manufacture sufficient for our own requirements, why should we levy a duty of 35 per cent, upon them? 1 say again, that Division VI. a of the Tariff should apply to woollens. A dutv should not be imposed, or, at an rate, the duty ought not to be increased, until our local manufacturers are able to supply the demand. Then I venture to say the people of Australia would be quite satisfied to buy the local product. Indeed, I go further and say that now the tendency is merely to forget the local manufacturer when purchasing woollens. There is some fetish about foreign-made goods, particularly English-made goods, and these are asked for, but I think that the people would not at all object to being compelled to be patriotic and’ to buy the local article.
– The only way to make them patriotic is to impose a protective Tariff.
– When once the local manufacturers are able to supply the demand we may build the Tariff as high as Heaven itself. What I say is that the high Tariff has been put on too soon, when local manufacturers cannot supply the goods, the people, in the meantime, being fleeced. To this I object; we have no right to “take down” the people while local manufactures are in process of development, and the Government should have made provision in the case of woollens, so that the Tariff could be imposed by proclamation on its being ascertained that the local manufacturers could supply the demand. Of course, this would entail more supervision ; but we cannot be indifferent to the welfare of the people. I, for one, am quite prepared to take all the trouble that is necessary in order to plo.tect the people from exploitation during the time which must elapse between the imposition of a duty and the period when the local manufacturers can supply the demand ; and in the meantime I object to a dutv of 35 per cent, on woollens. The same remarks apply to agricultural machinery, on which there is a dutv of 20 per cent. There te no guarantee that the agricultural machinery required in this country can be made here in sufficient quantities to supply the demand; we cannot turn it out at a moment’s notice, and vet. in the meantime, high duties have to be paid. This, of course, has simply furnished free-traders with arguments against the proposals of the Government; and I very much regret the fact. The incidence of the Tariff should have been tempered much more than it is. Portable engines and. other similar machinery are taxed to the extent of 30 per cent., although thev are not made in Australia, and it will certainly be a year or two before thev can be made here. Until the local manufacturer, when assured of effective protection, undertakes to supply this class of article at a reasonable cost - which could be ascertained in the same way that value is ascertained for the purpose of ad valorem duties - it should be free. Then, again, the same remark applies to wirenetting machines, on which a duty of 25 per cent, is imposed, and which should, in my opinion, come under the operation of Division VI. a of the Tariff. The proposed duties on mining engines and machinery has supplied further arguments to the opponents of a protected Australia ; and I . regard that policy as an’ essential to national development. There has been a haphazard imposition of duties of 35 petcent., evidently with the view of raising revenue ; and I hope, to see the Government modify their proposals in this connexion. I do not care how high trie protective duties may be so long as we are satisfied that the articles which bear the duties can be produced here at a reasonable price, with proper working conditions in the factories. Churns, refrigerators, and so forth bear a duty of 25 per cent., though we all know that these articles are not produced in Australia. The duties mean taxation to those least able tobear it, more particularly the farming community, and on behalf of the latter 1 protest against the impost. Then there are anomalies in the Tariff ; and one was brought under my notice only the other daw . Umbrellas, as before, bear a duty, of 20 per cent., but the silk, which cannot be made in Australia, has to bear a duty increased by 5 per cent., while the sticks also carry a heavy impost. The raw materials, so to speak, of the industry are taxed, whilst the finished article is not taxed ; and this means that those now engaged in the business will not foe able to compete with the outside world. Under the old Tariff, it was possible to produce umbrellas here as cheaply as manufacturers are producing them in other countries, but if the imposition were removed, the ‘ local producer would be inundated with the surplus foreign product, and we should lose the industry. There should have been more discretion exercised in the imposition of duties. To- tax the raw materials of an industry which is already established, is simply suicidal, so far as industrial development is concerned. I consider that’ those engaged in the industry I have just mentioned were only charging reasonable prices, which would compare favorably with the prices of- the article from over- sea; but, as 1 say, if the protection be removed, there will be an inundation of the foreign product, with the accompaniment of cut prices. At any rate, those engaged in the umbrella industry cannot, afford to pay the increased duties on their raw material without increased protection on the manufactured article ; and 1 hope to see this anomaly removed. There are other anomalies, but I shall not take up the time of the Committee by referring to them, reserving my remarks until we reach the items. Qf course, I realize, aiming, as I do, at high protection in order to stimulate industries, that in so far as we abandon a revenue Tariff we render some other form of taxation necessary. By “ another form “ of taxation, I mean direct taxation, and until we have direct taxation, we can never get an equitable adjustment of the public burdens in Australia. The land reflects the wealth of the community, just in proportion as that wealth exists and varies - that is an economic principle. We must raise more of our revenue from the land than from any other source ; and I have frankly told the farmers in my constituency that they are now paying five times as much as they would in the way of land taxation. They have to pay railway freight up and down to the centres of industry, and they have been taxed largely for the construction of railways which constitute the arteries of the country, and, in addition, they are paying interest on the public debt and Customs duties. A land tax, as I have pointed out to them, would relieve them considerably of these impositions, and then, and then only, will they reap the benefit of the enhanced values which they, more than any other class, help to create.
– A land tax would raise rents.
– Would it? If a land tax were imposed on idle ‘lands, which are held for speculative purposes, use would be made of those lands, and, of course, rents would be lowered. To say that is only to apply the ordinary crude law of supply and demand, which now applies where it should not apply, namely, to flesh and blood. If the law, however, were applied to the land, it would make land cheap, and not dear; and the only way to compel the use of land is to impose a land tax. Such a tax would not, as some suppose, hurt the farmer. In New South Wales the farmers, on a moderate estimate, hold only ^20,000,000 of- unimproved value in land,- whereas the unim- proved value of the squatters’ land in that State is£47,000,000, while the unimproved value of land in Sydney is£40,000,000. These are all moderate estimates. It will be seen, therefore, that a land tax would hit the rich landlords of Sydney, and the weathy squatters with their princely revenues, and . banks much harder than it would ordinary farmers; and the figures show how the land tax would automatically adjust itself to aggregations of wealth. By such a tax we should get equality of sacrifice in taxation, instead of equality in taxation ; and equality in taxation is unfair. I have pointed out, over and over again, how, if there were a reduction of 60 per cent, in railway freights, and a land tax of 3d. in the pound, the average farmer with 500 acres would save £20 a year. Honorable members of the Opposition corner, who declaim against interference with the divine rights of property, seem to have no regard for the divine rights of men. But those honorable members will have to be brought to their senses. As soon as the majority of thecommunity, who are the “working population, see their way clear, there will be a re-adjustment of taxation, and I hope to see accompanying this Tariff, highly protective as it is, a land tax which will have the effect of breaking up large estates, and providing that agricultural development, which, in conjunction with industrial development, . furnishes the complement of our social order. That is what I hope for, and I trust that the Ministry will be able to take such a course as will permit of my following them.
– The speech that has just been delivered by the honorable member for Macquarie I do not quite understand.
– I cannot help that.
– I do not wish to be disagreeable. It appears to me that the honorable member is a free-trader:
– As a matter of personal explanation, may I state that I am not a freetrader.
– I understand that the honorable member for Macquarie was at one time a free-trader, though he is now in favour of the new protection. I repeat that I have no wish to say anything disagreeable of the “ honorable member, who, I think, made a very excellent speech. Iunderstand that the honorable memberin tends to vote against the duty on wire netting, that he is not in favour of taxing the necessaries of life, and that he is not in favour of duties on manufactures until those manufactures can be produced here to compete successfully against the imported article.
– That is what every freetrader believes.
– But thehonorable member for Macquarie is in favour of then making the duties prohibitive, though, I think, he will be found voting with honorable members on this side oftener than he will be found voting with the Government. Therefore, I am certainly not going to be in any way disagreeable to the honorable member.
– My vote will always depend on the conditions.
– I desire to say something about the Budget. To some extent it has been lost” sight of, owing to its being’ introduced with the Tariff, which now occupies such a large share of public attention. The Budget deals with millions of money, and hints at a number of problems, none of which have been grappled with. There is no policy put forward by the Government; the Budget is merely thrown on the table after having been prepared by heads of Departments. We are practically told that we may take it or leave it ; and it would appear that the members of the Government amongst themselves have said, “ If w.e bring in a Tariff now, attention will be diverted from the Budget, and the bad management of the Departments will scarcely be referred to, owing to the discussion which must necessarily take place on the items of the Tariff.” That is really what the Government thought in introducing the Tariff at the present time.
– That is what the honorable member thought the Government thought.
– I do think so; I have expressed a thought which I’ am sure is shared by most Ministers If it be possible to divert attention from the Budget, the Ministry will get over great difficulties, because there will be no reference to the bad administration of Department’s, and they will be let down very lightly . in regard to such policy as thev have out before the country’. A number of questions are raised bv the Budget which T do not think the Government has seriously thought out. Had it done so, we should have heard more in regard to them from Ministerialists. I wish to say something in reply to the statements which have been made outside as to the extravagance of Commonwealth administration. We find that some honorable members are inclined to support the State politicians who have inveighed against Commonwealth administration on the ground of its extravagance. Unfortunately, no Commonwealth Government has hitherto realized its responsibility in this matter. Commonwealth representatives have met in conference representatives of the States, and have, metaphorically, sat at their feet, allowing themselves to be dictated to in regard to matters of policy. It is only right that the Commonwealth authorities should consult the authorities of the States on matters of mutual interest. But Commonwealth Ministers are not alive to the responsibilities of their positions when they allow themselves to be dictated to in regard to policy. We shall never make much headway in popular esteem until we have “a Government of sufficient stamina to stand up for the Commonwealth instead of kneeling at the feet of the authorities of the States. The honorable member for Flinders essayed, the other evening, to show that our finances are on a wrong footing, and that there is properly nothing to the credit of the Post Office or of any other of our Departments; that, in fact, deficits would appear if the amounts spent in the construction of public buildings were shown in their accounts. He said that they would be shown in the accounts of a private firm; but there he was in error. Had he known ‘ anything of business, he would have been aware that every commercial firm allows for wear and tear or the depreciation of its property. Furthermore, every commercial concern, whether it be a very small one or one like the Australian Mutual Provident Society with a revenue of millions, has its property account. It regards its property as an asset. Similarly the public buildings, which are the admiration of our people, are magnificent Commonwealth assets, the value of which would be set against the expenditure upon them in any commercial system of bookkeeping. Furthermore, the honorable membersuggested that the fact that since Federation, , £6,000,000 has been returned to the States over and above the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenuedue to them under the Constitution should not be considered a matter for satisfaction, or regarded as evidence that” there has not been wasteful expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth. He seemed to think that, being unable, notwithstanding our profligacy, to waste any more money, we were compelled to return that sum. That is the tone in which he used to speak at the Conferences which he attended as a representative of Victoria, and the tone which is being used by the present Premiers of the States. They adopt that tone because they are provincialists and not Federalists. They cannot escape their environment, or the domination of the metropolitan press. The Commonwealth Parliament has been told that it is a spendthrift, and deserves no credit for the manner in which its affairs have been administered.
– In addition to the large sum which the Commonwealth has handed back to the States over and above their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, it has expended £2,500,000 on public works without borrowing.
– Since Federation New South Wales has borrowed . £17,000,000, while the Commonwealth has borrowed nothing.
– In all probability, the States have excellent assets for the money which they have borrowed ; but those in charge of their affairs might give this Parliament credit for intelligence. We have prevented the frittering away of money by Commonwealth Governments, with the result that up to the 30th June, 1907, there was returned to New South Wales, in addition to three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, £2, 36 1,000; to Victoria, £1,518,670; to Queensland, £61,519; to South Australia, , £527,463 ; to Western Australia,£1,099, 910; and to Tasmania, £158,706.
– And the Commonwealth constructed a large number of public works out of revenue which, under State administration, would have been paid for with loan money.
– Yes. This Parliament must maintain its honour. It is our duty to see that the public funds are not . wasted, and in the past we have insisted on the excellent policy of constructing public buildings out of revenue, political economists having laid it down as a principle that the borrowing pf monev ultimately increases the taxation of the community, and that, therefore, borrowing should be avoided, unless it is absolutely inevitable. I find that the Post and Telegraph Department has a verv large credit balance this year. Under State adminis- tration the portfolio of Postmaster-General was the least important of those held by Ministers, whereas the Commonwealth Postal Department requires a very able administrator. The honorable member for Denison was such a man. Whenever honorable members had occasion to see him it was made evident to them that lie went about his work like a man of affairs.
– So d.d Mr. Sydnev Smith and the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– There have been two or three capable men, but under the administration of the honorable member for Eden- Monaro there has been a great falling away.
– He was a good Postmaster-General.
– I do not think so. How has it come about that the Department has a large sum to its credit ? Is it not due to the fact that officials have been sweated, and that promotions which should have been made have been kept back, supernumeraries and temporary hands being employed when permanent appo ntments should have been made? On this subject a magazine, entitled The Federal Service, has published the following statement -
We are prepared to give satisfactory evidence that at least some of the fifth class officers, who have not been promoted, are doing highly responsible work, far in excess of the value paid for it ; they have been on the £160 grade for a number of years, and they have been recommended for promotion each year. Following up this evidence, we find that the estimates do not provide for these increases, and we are forced to the conclusion that somewhere in the official channel there is a stumbling block to promotion. We now make the statement, and we invite those who can do so to join issue with us, that a number of promotions were recommended from the fifth to the fourth class, and that these promotions were struck out - not because the officers were unworthy, their recommendation proved their worth - but because there were too many fourth class officers in the service.
– That was the fault of State administration.
– It is pretty generally admitted bv the Postal officials that under the administration of the States they were better off than they are now.. We have been told that the Public Service Commissioner is not amenable to influence, and, therefore, I would ask how it comes about that, since the last election, postmasters and other officials were promoted to positions to which thev were not fitted, ‘and to which they were not entitled, and that men who were notified for removal were allowed to remain where they were? Influence must be assumed to account for that state of affairs, which, it seems to me, has. not tended to improve the efficiency of the Department. Mr. Arndell, the head of the Postal Department in Sydney, said in a report -
Although in many instances officers have for a considerable period toiled long beyond the regular hours, no complaint of overwork has reached me, each striving to carry his burden while his strength lasts. There must, however, be a limit to the power of endurance of even the strongest, and unless substantial relief is shortly forthcoming not only the health of the officers but the efficiency of the service must sutler. The pace at which the work has to be rushed through is productive of mistakes, which, I have no hesitation in saying, would not occur if the staff were maintained at its legitimate strength………
I can therefore only repeat that unless substantial relief is speedily afforded the health of the officers and the efficiency of the Department must sutler.
It is well known that there aire in the service all over New South Wales persons who cannot be trusted with money.. In many offices a leakage from the till has taken place. Postmasters have complained to me that they are compelled to leave in charge of the till those whom they would not think of employing if thev had their own way. In some cases postmasters are located at railway stations. At a railway station from, which immense consignments of wheat produced in my electorate are despatched the stationmaster has to attend also to the duties attaching to the post-office. He is repeatedly called upon to leave the office and the till is left under the control of a boy.
– Is the boy in the employ of the Postal or the Railway Department?
– I believe that he is in the employ_ of the Post and Telegraph Department. In many cases boys are able to get at the till, and the officer in charge has to make good any deficiency. Any boy, regardless of what his history may be, can secure temporary employment in the service. Then, again, officers iri charge of post-offices and railway .stations have so many matters to attend to that delays must necessarily take place, and sometimes a’ telegiam received in the morning is not delivered until late in the afternoon.
– Australian boys must be specially honest..
– We all ought to be honest. I hold that those to- whom money has to be intrusted should be specially selected. Another complaint that I have to make is that great delay in dealing with correspondence takes place in the Department. In answer to scores of letters that I have sent in I have received nothing more than a bare acknowledgment, with the promise that they will receive attention. No further attention has been given to them. This shows a lack of good management. Nearly every question has to be sent to the central office in Melbourne for decision. The Secretary to the Central Administration was at the head of what, compared with the General Post Office, Melbourne, is a small post-office, and he was not sufficiently familiar with the postal systems of Australia to be able to adequately discharge the responsible duties of his office. He will shortly be placed on the retired list, and the Department will then have an opportunity to secure a suitable man for the position.
– The honorable member’s remarks suggest the curse of seniority.
– It is simply a question of securing an efficient officer.
– Does not the honorable member think that Mr. Scott is an efficient officer ?
– Can it be said that the man at the head of the Department, whose duty it is from time to time to advise the Minister, is thoroughly familiar with his business, when he allows the service to drift as it has done?
– He is one of the most competent officers in the Commonwealth service.
– Prior to Federation he occupied an important position in a small city called Brisbane.
– At all events the Queensland service is not so rotten as is that of New South Wales.
– That is no answer to my contention. The postal service is a most important one, and the fact that an honorable member stands by an officer simply because he comes from the State of which he is a representative is no credit to him.
– Why does the honorable member attack an officer who cannot reply to him? It is a cowardly thing to do.
– Where is the Postmaster-General ? He should be here to defend his officers if he can? Federation started badly. The Government began by appointing one good officer as an UnderSecretary - I refer to Mr. Garran, Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department.
– What about Mr. Hunt, the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs?
– He was a supernumerary - a junior - in the Lands Department of New South Wales. He passed the easiest examination in Australia to entitle him to. practise as a barrister, and’ he was a man of no experience when he was placed in charge of the Department of External Affairs.
– What about Dr. Wollaston? He is the most capable administrator in Australia.
– He was a Victorian officer, and was brought up in the home of protection. In all probability he is a highly efficient officer. But I was referring more particularly to officers introduced into the Commonwealth service by members of . the first Federal Ministry. Queensland had to have its representative in the Postal Department because the PostmasterGeneral came from that State. And! in the same way the then Prime Minister, Mr. Barton, appointed his bosom friend! as Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, because he had to have in the service an officer from New South Wales. We find inefficient men advising iVfinisters. The same state of affairs exists in the Defence Department.
– Does the honorable member think that that is a fair statement? .
– The honorable member is here to defend his Department.
– The honorable member should not indulge in general statements unless he is prepared to prove them.
– So far I have given proof of all my statements, and I have yet to criticise the Defence Department. I propose now to refer to the cancelled mail contract. The present Minister of Trade and Customs, when PostmasterGeneral, accepted the tender of a firm which was to lodge a deposit of £25,000 as a guarantee of good faith. Where is that deposit to-day ? The facts go to show that at the time the Government were in dire straits. They allowed Sir James Laing and Company to secure the option of floating a company to provide the necessary mail service, and they saw that if they insisted’ upon the deposit of £25,000 being lodged there would be no contract. In the circumstances, therefore, they did not insist upon a cash deposit, and the syndicate, finding that it could not float a company and so make a pot of money out of the option they had secured, threw up the sponge. That is an old game in mining circles, and it -is singular that the Minister should have allowed it to be played. The position suggests the inefficiency of the Administration. One of the greatest Departments of the Commonwealth at the time
Apparently was controlled by a man who did not possess a knowledge of’ even the rudiments of business. He is supposed to have had some experience of mining business, where tactics of the kind to which I have referred are resorted to every day. Mining men who secure an option without putting, -down any money are considered very smart. In this case a company was able to secure an option and to drag it through the streets of London. *
– With no hope of floating a company, because the British public had been fleeced again and again in connexion with steam-ship sendees.
– That is so. The syndicate wished to make a pot ot money out of the option they had secured from the Government. In mining circles thev would have been described as the “ first robbers.” What has become of the Minister who allowed the bond for ^25,000 to be spoken of as a deposit? I was under the impression that the money was actually in the Treasury.
– - The honorable member knows that we have a guaranteed bond.
– Can the Government realize upon it?
– Of course thev can.
– If it cannot be liquidated, then the Minister responsible for it should be at once shunted. The Government should either ask him to retire or themselves take the responsibility of resigning. I am saying that which business men know to be correct.
– That is so.
– I have had a lot. of experience in floating companies.
– Has the honorable member ever played the part of the “ first robber “ ?
– No. When I have secured an option I have always put down mv money as every honorable man ought to do. The Minister of Defence said just now that it was unfair to attack, the head of a Department.’ I am go;ng to br> so unfair as to say that I think the Mmister is responsible to some extent -for the fact that the Estimates provide for the payment of the annual subsidy of ,£200,000 under the Naval Agreement Act.
– That is a statutory provision.
– We have to remember that if we said to-morrow to the British War Office authorities, “ We are not going to give you any more,” they would say, “ That fs all right. Please do not take up our time by discussing so small a matter.”
– It is a pity- they did not say that eight years ago.
– They did. When Mr. Barton discussed the question with them they asked for twice the present subsidy. He replied that he would support the granting of ^200,000 per annum, and the authorities said, “ Very well ; anything you like; but we think £400,000 would be a small subsidy.” I should be prepared to-morrow to vote £1,000,000 for this purpose, and I am sure that my constituents would indorse my action.
– Let the fleet come to Melbourne, and I will support such a subsidy.
– It will be found that the people of Australia are not niggardly so far as this question is concerned. They are prepared to -pay for the defence of Australia.
– If we paid a subsidy of £1,000,000 a year, it would illustrate the saying that there is no limit to human folly.
– It would be an excellent investment. Our chief line of defence, I maintain, is the British Navy. If that were withdrawn, all our military and naval forces would be of no avail against an enemy. At the same time, I do not hold the view that it is our duty to do nothing towards providing ourselves with an effective system of defence. For that reason I should like the Government to exhibit a little more interest in the naval cadet movement. The other day the Minister of Defence declared that every facility was being provided for the enrolment of cadets, both in the Naval and the Military Forces. I know from correspondence with the Defence Department that his statement is not accurate. Upon a previous occasion . I pointed out that damaged ammunition had been supplied to cadets and to. rifle clubs. The Minister replied that’ such a state of . things ought to be impossible. That is not quite the answer which should have been given by the honorable gentleman. He should have known a little more about his own Department. From the Jubilee number of The
Sydneian, the official magazine published by the Sydney Grammar School, I quote the following -
The grave political limitations under which our staff officers struggle - in silence - are more than hinted in the following statement, published in the DailyTelegraph so recently as July 6th. We have seen no official denial : -
The quality of the ammunition supplied to the cadet force has been the subject of unfavorable comment on more than one occasion. The attention of the National Rifle Association was officially directed to the matter at its last meeting by one of its members, Mr. H. B. Jamieson, who was on the Randwick range recently, and had ocular demonstration of the utter uselessness of the ammunition which cadets were using at target practice. Lieutenant Dakin, the secretary of the association, was also in a position to substantiate these remarks. His son, who is a promising young shot, and has figured in the prize list at the cadet rifle meetings, was unable to find the target- with the ammunition issued to him, but on trying with another brand scored six bull’s-eyes in succession. The association decided to forward a letter of protest to the District Commandant.
What are we to gather from this? That Major Dove takes a wicked delight in fooling his cadets with bad ammunition ? Either this, or that he is issuing to the boys the only ammunition he can get - old stuff perished through long storage -
– I endeavoured to trace the case when 1 saw it referred to in the newspapers, but nobody could tell me where the ammunition came from.
– The article continues - that he requisitions the Head-quarters Staff in Melbourne for fresh supplies, who in their turn ask the Minister for War for a military vote sufficient to provide serviceable ammunition. The Minister for War in his turn utters “ prave ords” in public - but continues to do nothing. Whatever the future policy of our trustees may be, few will question their wisdom in waiting till they are assured that the Federal Government is in earnest, and is prepared to supply Australian cadets with serviceable arms and ammunition that is not “ utterly useless.”
These statements are contained in the official journal of an educational institution, which is attended by 8oo boys, who decline to enter the cadet service owing to the defective ammunition which is supplied to its members.
– Why did they not communicate with me?
– They have communicated with the Minister through their responsible officer. I maintain that we should have serviceable ammunition supplied to our defence forces..
– Serviceable ammunition made in Australia.
– Who was the responsible officer through whom the complaint of the cadets was communicated ?
– It was Major Dove, I think. The Acting Prime Minister stated the other day that he was in favour of the appointment of a High Commissioner in London to exercise supervision over our financial affairs. In the past we have been fortunate enough to secure the services of honorable men as the official representatives in London of the various States. But I would point out that a verylarge sum of money is being annually expended there on account of the Defence Department. Weare spending millionssterling in England, and I maintainthat if we had an officer representing the Commonwealth there he would be better able to perform the duties which are now being discharged by persons who are not directly responsible to us. It is very necessary that we should have an efficient Department, governed by a man whose selection has been approved by this Parliament, so that we may be able to fix responsibility. Unless we appoint our own officer, we cannot expect to be always as fortunate as we have been - seeing that millions sterling will have to pass through the hands of persons who are not immediately responsible to us. I now come to a question which was incidentally touched upon by the Acting Prime Minister during the course of his Budget speech - I refer to the federalization of old-age pensions. I am in favour of the Commonwealth initiating a Federal scheme of oldage pensions, but I recognise that such a. scheme is impracticable during the continuance of the Braddon section of the Constitution. Until that section expires, we cando nothing in this direction except bv means of direct ‘ taxation. I havealways advocated the discontinuance of the Braddon section at as early a date as possible. I hold that the Commonwealth ought to control the whole of the Customs revenue. Of course, the States must not be allowed to want for funds, but it should be for the Federation to determine what sum shall be annually returned to them. I believe that less than £2 6s. per head of the population of Australia represents all that they at present receive from the Commonwealth. If it could be arranged that the Commonwealth should return that amount annually to the States, we might exercise absolute control over the whole of the Customs revenue, and there would then be no reason why we should not undertake the payment of old-age pensions from the funds in our possession. It would the4 be incumbent upon the States to discontinue paying those pensions from their own sources of revenue.
– The honorable member wishes to tax the tea of the old people of Australia in order to pay them old-age pensions ?
– The honorable member, I am sure, agrees with what I am saying. Even if we imposed what might be regarded as a prohibitive Tariff, we should continue to collect a large revenue under it. The control of the Customs revenue should be in the hands of the Commonwealth, which should return a. fixed sum annually to the States. We should then be able to undertake the payment of oldage pensions, and to raise additional revenue if necessary, by means of direct taxation. Of course, the- land taxes and every other form of direct taxation imposed by the States would have to be abolished. By assuming our responsibility and undertaking Federal work in a Federal way, we should compel the States to adopt that course. It has been said that an understanding was arrived at amongst the framers of our Constitution, that direct taxation should not be imposed by the Commonwealth. Such a compact was very necessary while the Braddon section continued operative, and until we had gained some experience of the working of the Constitution. But I decline to admit that my hands are tied in this connexion, and that 1 -should . not vote in favour of the imposition of direct taxation. As soon as the Braddon section has expired, I hold that we should accept the full responsibility of providing for the payment of old-age pensions, and for other services of a Federal character, and, if necessary, we should raise additional revenue by means of direct taxation upon the land. At the present time, a land tax is operative in some States, but not in others.
– The Braddon section will not expire by effluxion of time.
– It can be superseded in ten years from the establishment of Federation. I say that if honorable members opposite will discard extreme forms of Socialism, they will be able to create a very effective party in this House. I ant glad that the extreme Socialist is disappearing from our midst. The most extreme Socialist in this Chamber has made a very temperate speech.
– Name. .
– I do. not propose to name him. I will say, however, thi,t he is a representative of Victoria. Then, the honorable member for Grey is a reasonable man, who takes a most statesmanlike view of any question that he discusses. The Labour Party is mellowing, and must mellow. When those men in the organization, who have not gone into publiclife, but who pull the strings and are the drivers, are mellowed, the party will have a much better policy to place before thecountry. The other day, when speaking toa prominent member of the Labour Party, I referred to that extreme person, Tom Mann, and the honorable member said, “ Yes; he was in our service and our pay, and I think it was a great mistake to have him.” It will be seen that the Labour Party are mellowing.
– I do not think so.
– In answer to the honorable member, I may say that it was the” leader of the Labour Party with whom I was conversing.
– I object to the honorable member alleging that there are men who pull the strings. Who pulls the strings?
– Those men who assemble at the periodical conferences in Sydney and elsewhere, but who, beyond driving the party, nave no responsibility.
– Nonsense ! Half of them are farmers from the country.
– Honorable members opposite know that we on this side know as much about what is going on in the party as they do themselves. If it be proposed to take over, not only control of the Customs, but the control of direct taxation, it is about time we took over all the public debts of Australia.
– If we did so, the States would only get into further debt.
– Let them do so; the States have their responsibilities, and we cannot control them. At the present time the public debt of Australia is over £230,000,000.
– It is £243,000,000.
– I am speaking only of the public debt up to 1904. Most of that money was raised in England only some £40,000,000 being borrowed in Australia. In my opinion, the whole of the debts should be taken over by the Commonwealth ; and when they are taken over, there might be debentures issued at 3 per cent.
– How much of the indebtedness is represented by money borrowed to construct railways?
– A very great deal. In Australia we have assets for our debts; and that is the difference between this country and other countries, which have nothing to show for their borrowed money but honour, glory, and history, though some of them have added to their area. In Australia we have a tangible asset for every penny we have borrowed ; and if we wished to liquidate our debts, we could to-morrow easily dispose of our assets, and repay every penny we owe.
– What does the honorable member reckon this building would
– This matter is evidently beyond the grasp of the PostmasterGeneral. All the honorable member can think of is this little building in which we meet, and the jobbery attached to its erection ; his mind can go no further. I am speaking of the consolidation of debts, amounting to over , £230,000,000, and yet I find a member of the Cabinet laughing, although the proposal is one which is within the sphere of practical politics, and has been made by the Government of which he is a part.
– The PostmasterGeneral was laughing because some one suggested that he had heard this sort of thing before.
– If the PostmasterGeneral had any sense, he would know that he will hear a great deal more of the subject before consolidation is consummated. When the consolidation is brought about there will be a saving to Australia of £1,500,000.
– The money cannot be got at 3 per cent.
– I heard the discussion between the honorable member for Parkes and honorable members in the corner as to the raising of the money ; and the honorable member had an idea that we should have to go into the market, and raise , £230,000,000 with which to pay the people who hold bonds to that amount.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I am merely pointing out what the honorable member for Parkes thought. Another idea was entertained by honorable membersin the corner, though that idea was not made very clear. It was suggested by somebody that, inasmuch as our bonds were at one time selling at £99, and werenow at £86, the present is not an opportune time to consolidate our debts. But it does not make a bit of difference what the. bonds are selling at in London.
– Does the honorable member think not?
– Yes; and I shall tell the honorable member why. The words “consolidate” and “convert” have their meanings; and if we convert our debts from 4 per cent, to 3 per cent.-
– There is no country in the world raising money at 3 per cent.
– In Canada money israised at 2½ per cent. Money can be raised at any rate of interest ; it all depends on how much less than the £100 we receive. My proposal is that we can raise money at 3 per cent., and pay nothing for the conversion. As a matter of fact, the time when our bonds were selling at £99 would not be the best time to convert stock. The best method of all is the inscription of stock; and we might give the lenders 3 per cent, in perpetuity if we like. However, I do not desire to go into the scheme fully, because I dealt with it in some detail on a previous occasion ; but, in my opinion, it is the best scheme that has yet been put forward. The money would be raised by calling on those who now hold our bonds to take 3 per cent, for what we now pay 4 per cent. A man who held 4 per cent, stock would not take 3 per cent, stock if he knew what we know, namely, that Australia is just as sound when represented by separate States as under Federation. But the financial advisers of investors in London knowour affairs as wellas we know them ourselves, and if we offered 3 per cent, stock in place of . 4 per cent, stock, they , would say that it was not an opportune time for the transaction. It was here that Mr. Coghlan stepped in, and suggested that some inducement should be offered in order to facilitate the transaction; and there would be an inducement if we said to the investor,”We will give you cash value as between the 3 per cent, stock and 4 per cent, stock for the period of your bonds,” which may be for a year, or for forty-five years in some cases.
– Does the honorable member say that investors would accept that offer ?
– I say thatI would accept it if I were an investor. The cash value, as between 3 per cent, stock and 4 per cent, stock, would give me the actual value of my bonds as I held them originally. Then, what is the inducement to me as an investor? The inducement is that I still hold the face value of the amount I invested in the bonds, with the additional sum of interest for the period of one year, or forty-five years. That stock also would be inscribed, or I could pick up the money if I chose, and my capital would still remain at what it was. It may be said that the stock could be inscribed at so much more than £100, and that we should be paying interest on it. But I say that we should be paying not more, but less, interest in the aggregate, becausewe should be paying 3 per cent. But, at the expiration of the period for which the bonds were running, whether for one year or forty-five years, we should be paying just the same as if the bond had run on without our intervening. The next question that arises is, “ What benefit is it to us to do this “ ?
– That is it; I was just about to ask the question.
– The advantage is that some of the bonds will fall due in two or three years, and yet they will be already launched at 3 per cent, at par without any additional expense ; every bond that falls due will be already floated, and 3 per cent, will be the limit of our liability on the public debt. Then the moneys ultimately must be paid ; and in this connexion, the scheme I suggest is not my own, but it is an old one which has been worked both in England and in New South Wales. A sinking fund of½ per cent, for sixtv years would liquidate the debt; and, while the actual sum paid in interest would be no more than it is to-day, there would be provided a sinking fund.
– We should not be paying less than we areto-day.
– We should be paying 3 per cent, whereas now we are paying 4 per cent.
– But there would be a loss on the conversion.
– I may remind the honorable member that some of the loans were issued at 6 per cent. ; but, ire any case, the principle is the same, and the cost of conversion would occur once only, whereas it would be repeated with every loan falling due if the debts were not converted. As the sinking fund accumulated we could go into the market and purchase our own stocks, and we could do so at advantageous terms if they ran down, as they must occasionally. The fluctuations of the money market are just the same as in ordinary trade -indeed, it is trade in money. We could go into the market and buy our stocksas soon as opportunity offered.
– That is done by Canada.
– It is done by every country. The honorable member for Macquarie asks how I account for the reduction in the value of our bonds. One reason may be that the English Government are now borrowing £112,000,000. That, of course, makes a difference in the London money market, but theinfluence of that operation will not last long. The people who receive this . £112,000,000 for their Irish properties will not walk about with it in their pockets ; and the very financiers who found the money for the British Government are the financiers” who are looking for secure investment for it on behalf of the recipients ; ‘ and so it comes back again into the market.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– In a speech which I delivered last vear, when I propounded a scheme for the conversion of the debts of the States. I said -
If we ask the bondholders to accept 3 per cent, for 4 per cent, stocks, we must give them something that will be equivalent to the difference in the percentage. .
– Then what advantage shall we derive?
– We should gain upon every loanmaturing from1907 till existing loans had run their fixed period under the actuarial valuation, as from that period the stocks converted would cost the Commonwealth nothing. . In respect of every bond current, weshould give an inducement on paper by inscribing our stock. We should in that way raise the value of that stock, whilst at the same time we should reduce the interest bill on loans maturing, providing for a sinking fund of½ percent, which in sixty odd years would wipe out the face value of the accumulated debt. Under this system we should pay nothing more in respect of interest, although we should appear to pav a little more on paper. When our bonds fell due, we should redeem them at their face value.
That is a very terse statement of my position. As one who has devoted a considerable amount of time to this question, I wish, without speaking on it exhaustively now, to do something to advance its consideration a little, and I hope on another occasion to contribute still further to its discussion. Referring to Mr. Coghlan’s paper on the debts of the States. I said -
Mr. Coghlan points out that loans amounting to several millions will fall due every year for forty-five years, and that if the States debts be consolidated at 3 per cent, at par, there will be a saving to the Commonwealth when the loans expire of £1, 375,000 -that is, if we allow the bondholders an opportunity to make some profit in the meantime. During the five years, from 1907 to 191 1, the loans falling due, if redeemed at 3 per cent., would represent a saving of £273,000 per annum.During the period, from 1912 to 1916, we should effect a further saving of £390,000 per annum. So the saving would be increased every year. If we <lo not adopt the plan suggested, the States will probably have to raise money at 4 per cent. ‘ The honorable member for Swan asked of what advantage it would be for us to consolidate now. The advantage is that it would cost nothing, and would result in an annual saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds, from 1907 onwards. If the bonds are allowed to fall due as he proposed, we must take the risks of the market, and borrow the money necessary to meet them, at whatever prices are asked. But under my scheme, the holders of 4 per cents, would be offered stock at 3 per cent, to the amount of their holding, together with the capitalized difference between 3 and 4 per cent, for the period for which the loan had currency, which might be one year or forty-five years. The Commonwealth would inscribe upon its ledgers the amount of the principal originally held by the bondholder and the amount which would represent the capitalized difference between the first rate of interest paid to him, and 3 per cent., and would pay 3 per cent, on both sums.
– A bondholder would not agree to conversion unless he knew that he would gain bv it.
– No one would accept 3 per cent, in substitution for 4 per cent., unless he was given some advantage. Mr. Coghlan points out that it would be necessary to otter to bondholders an inducement to convert. The financiers of England know the position of Australia even better than we do. It is their business to know it. They have in their safes Australian stock, which they have underwritten, and a short time ago put some of it on the market, with the result that prices fell. Recently a gentleman went from Australia to London, joined the Stock Exchange there, and made £500,000 in a very short time, because he knew as much as the English financiers of the value of Australian stock. He knew when to buy and when to sell, and by giving information to clients all over England, and satisfying them by testimony from various quarters as to the correctness of his’ views, he secured for investment trust funds representing a great deal of money, and made the profit I speak of. The advantage the bondholder would get would be interest on the difference between the rate at which he originally advanced his money, and the 3 per cent, given under the conversion, while in sixty years the whole of the existing public debt would be liquidated if we put away½ per cent, per annum. Is not this result worth securing? Earlier in the discussion some one asked what about the future borrowing of the States.
– They have already borrowed too much.
– We cannot take from them their right to borrow, but it would be an advantage to them to borrow through the Commonwealth if it were willing to give them what they asked. It has been suggested that they might be compelled to come cap in hand, and to take then turn. My proposal is that they should be allowed to get what they ask for. The Commonwealth. could raise money at 3 per cent., which is less than the States pay for it, and it could make an appointment which would save the commission of 1¼ per cent, now paid to the Westminster Bank.
– Would it not be the work of the High Commissioner to manage our borrowing ?
– He would have an oversight; but he could hardly be expected to do the whole of the work, remembering the magnitude of the indebtedness of the States. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, quoting from Mr. Coghlan ‘s statement, pointed out that in one year £8.000 falls due, and the next nearly £32,000,000; but under my scheme that does not matter. The scheme cannot be carried out without the co-operation of the financiers and the consent of their clients. When a man proposes to invest trust funds he acts, not upon his own initiative, but upon the advice of his financier. Within the last two or three years the British Government have allowed Australian stocks to be placed on the list of securities in which trust funds may be invested. That action was taken because of the high standard of our stocks.
– The British Government insist upon our lodging heavy guarantees in London.
– It is only right that we should give .a guarantee. So far as the London financiers are concerned, the guarantee that we offer is to be found in our magnificent railway systems and public works, from which an annual income of millions of pounds is being derived.
– Is not the character of the people the best guarantee?
– It certainly is a guarantee, but I would remind honorable members that the character of the Khedive of Egypt as a guarantee was not worth much to Great Britain. She had to take possession. She went behind his character and seized securities in Egypt which she holds to-day. Honorable members must recognise that it is necessary for a debtor to have assets as well as a good name. The possessor of an. excellent name might be a bankrupt, and a mere name without assets is of no great service to a creditor who wishes to realize. If we raise the money necessary to pav off the debts of the States we must make a debit in their accounts in respect of the fixed sum to be returned to them ‘ after the expiration of the Braddon section.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth could borrow better than could the States?
– I believe that the Commonwealth could always borrow at 3 per cent: Any one asking in ‘England for money and possessing such a security as a province or a State can fix his own price. Canada said she ‘would give 2 per cent, interest, and she got what she wanted, whilst in boom time Western Australia fixed at 3 per cent, the rate of interest that she was prepared to pay, and got what she wanted at £99. We may fix our own rate of interest, but the man tendering will also fix the price that he will pay for our bonds. It is, after all, a mere matter of business, and when we speak about 3 per cent, stock we expect to be able to float our loans practically at par. I wish now to say a word or two with regard to the Tariff, in the preparation of which less intelligence appears to have been exercised than in connexion with any other Australian Tariff. A Government charged with the responsibility of legislating for something like 4,250,000 people, scattered over a vast continent, has seen fit to accept Tariff proposals framed by a body of irresponsible persons. A number of honorable members in this Parliament, together with others outside the Legislature, were appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the Tariff, and there came a time when not one of the Commissioners was . a member of the LegislatureIt was suggested by the honorable member for Parkes that the recommendations of the Commission should be, swallowed by the Committee. My reply is that I was not sent here to delegate to an irresponsible body my right to assist in legislating for Australia. I decline to follow in detail the recommendations of the Commission. I shall go to the sources of information to which they have gone as a representative of the people, and shall make my own deductionsfrom the evidence taken by them. It is immaterial to me whether the recommendations be those of free-traders or of protectionists ; I hold that it is my duty to_ decide for myself what Tariff should be imposed. The Government, in adopting the recommendations of the protectionist section of the Commission, have been guilty of disgraceful procedure. They might just as . well have adopted the proposals of a debating society. We find in the Tariff only twenty-seven items for. which the Ministry are responsible, and their action in regard to them reminds one of the tipsy man who takes up a pen and writes at random. Tt seems to be of noconcern to them whether 10, 15, or 300 per. cent, duties be imposed. They have actually proposed duties as high as 300 per cent, and their action in this regard would be a disgrace to any responsible Administration. No intelligence is shown in the preparation of the Tariff - it’ is neither protective nor prohibitive. It fails in every respect. The Government have not even looked into the reports of the freetrade section of the Commission, and they are attempting to impose upon their supporters when they ask them as a party to vote for the Tariff. I have not yet heard one honorable member say “As a good party man I shall vote for the Tariff.” Under another Tariff, New South Wales, a free-trade State, had£1,500,000 per annum in excess of its requirements.
– It never had a freetrade Tariff.
– My point is that the last Tariff raised for New South Wales , £1,500,000 more than she required for governmental purposes. According to the statement of the Acting Prime Minister, the new Tariff will yield her an additional £40,000 per annum. One-third of the people of the Commonwealth who are opposed to such taxation are to be. treated in this way. Have the minority no rights? Have they no claim to consideration ? The States Governments’, who have enjoyed these immense surpluses, have frittered away the money. The Government which preceded the Carruthers Administration frittered away the surplus revenue returned to it by theCommonwealth, and at the end of three years, during which Joans amounting to £12,000,000 had been raised by it, retired from office . leaving a deficit of£350,000. That is a sample of the extravagant prodigality of New South Wales. The present Administration in that State have enjoyed an enormous surplus every year, and they now claim praise for their proposal to reduce taxation.
– They ought to pay their debts before they talk of reducing taxation.
– The present Administration in New South Wales have not only paid their way, but have paid off part of the public debt. For the first time in the history of Australia that step has been taken.
– They took money out of the trust funds for the purpose.
– There is no foundation for that statement.
– It is incorrect, but I do not wish to discuss in detail the affairs of any State.
– When the honorable member makes such strong statements he must expect some reply to them.
– I was speaking of the prodigality of the remnant of a party to which the honorable member belonged when he was a member of the Legislature of New South Wales. I had in mind the stragglers who followed the Acting Prime,
Minister when he was the leader of the Government in that State.. I have not much to say of the present State Administration. They are a lot of spendthrifts. The Commonwealth Tariff has produced for them an immense revenue drawn from the wageearners. It takes a man of pluck to propose direct taxation ; a mere weakling may bring in indirect taxation, to “ pluck the goose without making it cry.” At the present time a man who works hard and lives well has 25 per cent, of his earnings swallowed up by taxation. We are faced with a deplorable condition of affairs. I am glad to observe that the people of this State are beginning to recognise what they have to pay under the Tariff, and are resenting it. The honorable member for Gippsland smiles, but I do not think his smile is caused by thoughts of the men who have to submit to this taxation.
– No. He is smiling about the swindling that is going on.
– Swindling must take place in connexion with Customs taxation. During this debate we have heard again and again the statement that the merchants are passing on the duties to the consumers. There was a time when we were told that the foreigner had to pay the duties. Our protectionist friends have changed their tune, and we are told that the importers pass on this taxation to the consumers, who are also called upon to pay increased prices for goods on which the duties have not been paid. The Minister of Trade and Customs told us the other day’ that we had in Australia a supply of kerosene sufficient to meet all our requirements for the next twelve months. I venture to say that 75 per cent, of that supply is to be found in two States. What, then, is the position in the other States where there is a shortage ? In those States there mustbe withdrawals from bond, and the increased duty on kerosene has there to be paid.
– There is no duty on kerosene passing from one State to another.
– No, but the honorable member must not lose sight of the. fact that the stocks in the different States may be held by a dozen different firms.
– In what State are they now paying duty on kerosene?
Colonel Foxton. - In Queensland duty has been paid on something like 10,000 cases.
– That, of course, is of no consequence to the Minister.
– The honorable member knows that increased prices are being charged for goods on which no additional duty has been paid.
– Possiblv in four out of the six States the duty on kerosene is already being paid bv the importers and passed on to the consumers.
– Do not flog a dead horse. That duty will be removed.
– I do not know that it is a dead horse. The duty may be removed, but the Minister said to-day, in answer to a question put by me, that no refunds of duty would take place.
– How much would the importers refund to the consumers ?
– I raise no objection to the policy of the Government that refunds shall not be made At one time refunds of duties were made, but we found that whilst the merchants benefited the consumers did not. The people in four out of the six States are possibly paying to the merchant what he has been called upon to pay by way of duty, and something more. When a man has to spend £1 in respect of a duty he very often expects to get 30s. in return. I have received letters from small shopkeepers who say that they feel the effect of this duty being passed on to them very acutely. Not only has a duty been imposed upon kerosene, but almost every article in daily use has been taxed by the Government. The other day the honorable member for South Sydney presented an invoice, with a view to showing that the increased price paid by a consumer who purchased his goods at the Civil Service Co-operative Store was only 6d., although the amount of his purchase was not inconsiderable. The explanation for that is simplicity itself. It is that upon the Australian goods specified in the invoice no duty has been paid. It is true that duties of 30 or 40 per cent, may have been imposed upon similar goods of foreign origin, but those duties merely represent the measure of protection which has been extended to the local manufacturer, and added to the cost of living. Take the case of boots and shoes as an illustration.
– Boots and shoes are being sold for less than the duty that is levied upon them.
Mr.HENRYWILLIS.- I bought a pair of boots in Melbourne for 10s. 6d. - I usually pay 22s. 6d. - and they are the worst boots I ever purchased. The poorest woman in the community would buy the best goods, if her means permitted her to do so, because they are the cheapest in the long run. I admit that we can make good boots and shoes in Australia, but we have not a sufficient quantity of the right class of leather to supply our local requirements.
– Cannot we make leather here ?
– Yes, and no. We can make leather in Australia, but we cannot make as good leather as can be produced in cold countries.
– Is there no cold country in Australia?
– There is in Tasmania. We cannot produce such good leather for the uppers of boots as can be imported from France, Germany, or England.
– Nonsense. The honorable member could not tell the difference between two skins if they were put before him.
– I am quite prepared to argue that question. There is no better leather than French calf, because the grain of the skin is much finer and closer than is that of Australian calf. The “reason is that French calf comes from a much colder country, where the skin carries more hair in its natural state. Australian calf -skin is much more porous than is French calf-skin, the fibre is not so close, and the hair is not so thick. That is the reason why, for the uppers of boots, Australian leather is not equal to imported leather. In Tasmania, a wallaby is to be found, the skin of which has a very close fibre. When that skin is dressed, it possesses a finer grain than does any other “skin in Australia, save one. Upon Kangaroo Island, in. South Australia, a much smaller wallaby is to be found. The grain of the skin of this animal is as fine as the butt of a horse hide. Large quantities of these skins have been sold at 16s. per lb., so that honorable members will perceive that they are valuable. Unfortunately, however, the supply of these skins is very limited. In Australia, we can produce two or three classes of leather equal to anything in the world, but the trouble is that we cannot produce as much sole leather asis required to supply our people with boots and shoes.
– The honorable member does not know anything about the matter. I know exactly what I am talking about. The sole leather of the small proportion of hides which is imported from New Zealand is very valuable. But in Australia all the hides of animals fall away at the shoulder. They are very thin and porous. That is why we export so much light sole leather to other parts of the world, whilst importing the heavy sole leather. We do not produce superior boots because we do not permit our manufacturers to obtain the best material for the purpose. Under this Tariff the Government have increased the expenses of the working man by at least to per cent. After allowing for the middleman’s profits its effect will probably be to diminish the wages of the worker by 4s. in the pound. In other words, if a man is receiving , £2 per week, his wages will be reduced by 8s.
– He will be provided with more work.
– The honorable member who preceded me made avery sensible speech. He declared that 80 per cent, of the community consists of workers, and the remaining 20 per cent, represents the wealthier classes. If the Government were possessed of any pluck they would have imposed these heavy duties upon the 20 per cent, who can afford to pay them.
– The honorable member ought to be sitting upon this side of the Chamber.
– No. What I am saying has always been the policy of the Opposition. Not only have the Government levied duties ranging from 10 to 30 per cent, upon everything that the working man consumes, but they have also taxed the iron and wood which are required to build his home - indeed, they have not even allowed his drainage pipes to escape taxation. Can a man erect a house to-day for the same price as prior to the introduction of this Tariff? The builder must increase his interest, or, in other words, his rent; and every working man will have to pay more for his cottage, as soon as there is a. greater demand for houses. Then the poor miner has nothing to gain from protection ; and why miners are ever protectionists is very hard to, understand.. To-day I received a letter from a miner, who informs me that in his district the people are up in arms against the Tariff, because thev are free-traders and know what protection means. Not only have we reduced the miner’s , £1 to the value of 15s., but it has been made more expensive to provide the machinery which is necessary for his work. If a syndicate have only , £1,000 to spend on machinery, they cannot afford £1,500, and must abandon their enterprise, as we find to be the case all over the country. How is it possible under the new Tariff to obtain the cyaniding and other machinery necessary to extract the last grain of gold out of the mullock? Such machinery cannot be made in Australia.
– There is hardly any machinery used in the cyaniding process.
– Of course, we know that vats are used in this process, but machinery is also necessary in mining; and the duty in this connexion has been raised considerably.
– The largest gold mine in the world gets all its. machinery made in Australia.
– No doubt a good deal of machinery is made in Australia. For instance, boilers used in Western Australia are made in Adelaide; but machinery which cannot be made as well here as elsewhere is imported ; it is all a matter of price and patent rights.
– To what sort of machinery is the honorable member referring?
– I am referring to electrical appliances amongst other machinery, and, as the figures shqw in connexion with the Melbourne City Council electrical project, machinery that formerly cost £1,000, will now cost£1,500; and the same may be said of machinery in every department of industry. Will anvbody deny the fact that, owing to the Tariff, it is now more expensive to undertake industrial enterprises? There is not the slightest doubt that mining is not the only industry that is being injured by the Tariff ; and I think I ought here to say a word for the farmer and settler. Every piece of machinery, or necessity of life the settler requires is unduly taxed under the Tariff. Last week I visited a property which I had not seen for six months, and I expected to see long grass there for the sheep which badly require it; but there was not a blade of grass to be seen, every bit of it having been eaten by rabbits. Yet the duty on wire-netting has been raised to 30 per cent, or 40 per cent. ; and thereby the very men who create wealth are injured.
– The duty on wirenetting is doomed ; there is no need to worry about it.
– I hope that may be so. When I asked the Acting Prime Minister to-day whether, in the event of the duty being abolished, he would return that already paid, he replied in the negative. Are we to allow the rabbits to have full sway For another twelve months? There is not the slightest doubt that the Tariff will not be disposed of for at least eight or nine months. Several years ago we were considering a Tariff month after month.
– Two men were practically killed in the process.
– Yes ; but those men, unlike the present Government, worked.
– Is not the Minister of Trade and Customs killing himself?
– I was disap- pointed to find the honorable gentleman looking so well. In the case of the last Tariff, the Senate, which represents the States, did good work in reducing the duties; but that Tariff, as I say, took months to consider, and, so far as I can see, the users of wire-netting will have to continue to pay duty for perhaps nine months.
– Why not take the duty off now ?
– I am pretty certain that the duty will be taken off, eventually ; but I am equally certain that the Acting Prime Minister will not return the duty already paid. Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of New South Wales, is making political capital out of the situation in regard to the duty on wire-netting. That gentleman has sent out circulars, or has been instrumental in having circulars sent, out, with the object of showing the settlers that £12 6s. per mile will have in the future to be paid for wire-netting supplied to those who have applied to the State Government. Mr. Carruthers knows that if he desires to help the settlers, he need not add more than one-fourth of the. dutv to the wire supplied, because three-fourths will go back to the States from the Department of Trade and Customs, and of the one-fourth, a large proportion will be de voted to administering the services taken over by the Commonwealth. Further, a large residue will also go to the State of New South Wales. What kernel is there in the nut that Mr. Carruthers is cracking before the public?
– There is still a percentage that will not go back to the people.
– That is so; but I started by saying that three- fourths could be remitted.
– J do not think it. could. _
– It is a constitutional question.
– If Mr. Carruthers can do that, he can do anything !
– The Government of New South Wales is supplying netting to settlers at cost price.
– That is all right.
– And if 15s. of every £1 collected is returned to the State of New South Wales, Mr. Carruthers could remit the charge to that extent.
– Then he could destroy the Tariff !
– He could make a present of the wire if he liked.
– This, of course, opens up a constitutional question; but there is no doubt that Mr. Carruthers could take that step, and risk the consequences in the High Court. Mr. Carruthers is imposing on the electors, when he tries to make political capital out of the present situation; and, further, he is abusing his friends as well as his enemies. Mr. Carruthers wrote to me and others, asking us to help him and the State Government candidates ; and yet, at the same time, he abuses us. I do not intend to deal with Mr. Carruthers further ; but I cannot help saying that he is insulting us shamefully, and I resent it. He may be fighting our battle, but we are fighting his ; and we ought not to be insulted. I should now like to refer to the question of free-trade versus protection. The honorable member for Parkes suggested that we should swallow the Tariff as outlined by the Tariff Commission - that we should impose duties for the protection of industries. When I went before the country as a candidate, I was prepared to adjust anomalies in the Tariff; and if, when I am returned, I find a majority here with power to legislate as they please, am I to turn protectionist because my party is in a minority ? I do not think so ; and, what is more, I do not intend to turn protectionist. If I have to turn protectionist I prefer to leave this House. I shall work for my constituents and the people of the country as long as they choose to elect rae, but I will not punish the people by supporting the Tariff which has been submitted by the Government. Let it be understood that I believe in free-trade, but in absolute freetrade.
– There never ; has been absolute free-trade in New South Wales.
– The honorable member says that there never has been absolute free-trade in New South Wales.
– I say so again.
– Under the Government of Mr. Deas Thompson, long before we were born, and later, under the Government of the present representative in this Parliament of East Sydney, New South Wales had the freest Tariff in the world. That Tariff was as near free-trade as we can get it ; if we have absolute freetrade we haveto look for other means of raising revenue.
– Then why call it freetrade ?
– It is what is known as free-trade in England, and we take our cue from the British people.
– The Reid Tariff did not mean a free-trade breakfast table, but imposed duties on butter, bacon, and almost every requisite.
– The Reid
Tariff relieved the people of taxation to the amount of £1,000,000, and that is the sort of legislation we can admire.
– That Tariff took the burden off the shoulders of the rich and put it on the shoulders of the poor.
– Why should we always try to help the strong by resorting to protection? Why feed the fatted calf?
– Has not the honorable member contended that protection does not feed the fatted calf ?
– It is protection that has created the millionaires of America.
– What has created the millionaires of Great Britain ?
– Their own enterprise,. The manufacturers of Great Britain are the great manufacturers of the world. That country is the world’s emporium, to which manufactures and staple products are sent from all over the globe.
However, I do not wish to trespass upon the attention of the Committee any longer. I thank honorable members for the patient hearing which they have given to me. As a free-trader, it will be my duty to reduce the duties on the Tariff as much as possible, and remove all anomalies. I shall do this for the advantage of the 80 per cent, of our population who are workers. The free-traders are the friends of the workers, the true representatives of the people. Having in view the interests of the masses. I can never be a protectionist.
.- It is not my intention to follow the bad example of honorable members oppositeby making a long speech. One might have thought, after the last general elections, that freetrade was dead, but the few freetraderswho were returned to this Parliament seem to be very much alive indeed. The free-trade party, however, was badly beaten in New South Wales and throughout the Commonwealth, and when I look at the Opposition benches, I am tempted to vary the well-known lines, and to ask -
Do I sleep, do I dream,
Or is visions about?
Are things what they seem,
Or is free-trade played out?
– The fiscal issue was not raised at the last elections in any other State than Victoria.
– Those who were the leading free-traders in the last Parliament are not members of this Parliament. Every country in. the world is throwing aside the doctrines of free-trade.
– Can the honorable member name one country which is doing so?
– Great Britain is doing so.
– The result of the last British elections proved the contrary.
– There is a free-trade majority of over 400 in the House of Commons.
– Lord Playfair, speaking at the Cobden Club, on the McKinley Tariff, in 1891, said -
If the Americans be right in principle, if they be successful in practice, the whole policy of the United Kingdom is founded on a gigantic error, and must lead us to ruin as a commercial nation.
Let us compare the relative progress of the two countries. In 1890, the imports of the United Kingdom were valued at £355,000,000, and her exports at £263,000,000, an excess of imports of £’92, 000,000. In the same year, the United States imports were valued al £159,000,000, and her exports at _£i 7 3,000,000, an excess of exports of £’14,000,000. But in 1905 the imports of the United Kingdom were valued at £[487,000,000, and her exports at £330,000,000, an excess of imports of £[157,000,000, and an increase of over £65,000,000; while the imports of the United States were valued at only £[242,000,000 and . her exports at £[328,000,000, an excess of £86,000,000. Those figures contain the reason why the people of the United Kingdom are now asking for protection.
– The result of the last elections does not show that they are asking for protection.
– The witnesses who came before the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into Tariff matters asked for protection. Does the honorable member think that the people of the United Kingdom will remain content under a fiscal system which is reducing men and women to poverty? As to the condition of some of the workers ‘ of Great Britain let me quote the following statements by a writer in the London Daily News -
We saw at the Exhibition a woman making match boxes - a trade at which many thousands are employed. She worked at astonishing speed - and this is necessary if a piece of bread is to be bought. The materials are supplied as measured lengths of chip and paper. Paste is paid for by the worker. The little sliding tray is made of two pieces of chip, one the floor, the other bent round to make the rim. A piece of paper is ‘ pasted on to secure the whole. The case is one long piece of chip, bent, and secured with the familiar wrapping. Then the striking paper is put on. The boxes, as thus made, are Jimp with paste. They must be dried before a (ire, the cost of which comes out of “ earnings.” These “ earnings “ are 2d. or 2¼d. per 144 boxes. . . Another worker covers gay sun- shades. She supplies her own cotton at 2d. a reel, and it must match the sunshade it is used on. There are often thirteen shades of colour in one parcel. She is paid 6cl. per dozen sunsha’des completed. How many does she make per day ?
– The honorable member might also tell us something about the sweating dens of the Bowery in New York. An account of them would eclipse what hehas read.
– The honorable member for Robertson referred to the position of New South Wales. I am about to give the Committee figures which show that New
South Wales has progressed more rapidly under protection than during any similar period of her previous history.
– Her recent progress has been due to the good seasons which she has had.
– In 1900 the revenue of New South Wales was .£10,203,931, and in 1905 £[11,514,324, an increase of £[1,310,393. The deposits in her banks of issue in 1900 amounted to £[32,233,591, and in 1905 to £[35,972,268, an increase °f ;£3>738>677. The depositors in her savings banks numbered in 1900 282,643, and in 1905 350,139, an increase of 67,496 ; while the amount of the deposits in the first year was’ £[10,901,382, and in the second £[13,221,562, an increase of £[2,320,180. The population of the State was in 1900 1,364,590, and in 1905 1,540,240, an increase of 175,650.
– And still her people are against the Tariff.
– They are in favour of the Tariff. That is why they are asking for more protection. In 1900 the number of factory hands employed ira New South Wales was 60,779, and in 1905 72,175, an increase of 1 1,396 due to the Tariff. The total trade of the State in 1900 was valued at £55>725-587, and in 1905 at £[66,181,000, an increase of £[10,455,413. The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission in its final report says -
We find definitely that the Commonwealth Tariff has not prejudiced Australian industry ; but, on the contrary, production, trade, nml employment have, under it, largely increased.
The honorable member for Dalley on Friday last stated that, in his opinion, bottles’ should be admitted free of duty.
– I said that the duty on bottles makes groceries dearer. I did not say that they should come in free.
– The honorable member thought that a duty on bottles was unnecessary, because we obtain a large part of oursupplies from the United Kingdom. -In the United States the number of men employed in the bottle-making industry in 1880 was 25,763, and in 1900 61,164, or an increase of 35,401 in twenty years. In Belgium in 1880 there were 10,124 persons employed in the industry, and in .1900 22,780, or an increase of 12,056. In Russia, in 1887, 21,044 persons were employed in the industry, whilst ten years ‘ later 37,543 were so engaged, so that there was an increase of 16,499. In France, in 1886, 21,428 persons were employed in the industry, and ten years later there were 38,500 so. engaged, the number having increased by 12,072. In Germany, in 1 881 , 35,631 persons were engaged in the industry, and twenty years later 58,221 were employed in it, or an increase of 22,608. 1 would draw the special attention of honorable members to the fact that in the United Kingdom, in 1880, 23,647 persons were employed in this trade, whilst twenty years later there were 32,929 so engaged, so- that the number had increased by only 8,282. These figures go to show that the glass bottle trade of the United Kingdom is gradually drifting to other countries. The annual average of imports of bottles into the United Kingdom for the five years, 1894-98, was 867,525 gross, and from 1899 to 1903 the average was 1,626,874 gross. It will thus be seen that there was an increase of 87 per cent, in these’ imports. The value of those imported during the first five years mentioned by me was £1,758,879, whilst the value of the imports during the second period was £2.0301956. Had these bottles been made in the United Kingdom employment would have been given to 5,000 men at 30s. per week. What is the condition of the bottle glass makers in the old land ? One of the witnesses before the Tariff Commission stated that the trade there had been verv bad during the last twenty years. In Glasgow, in 1870, there were twenty-four or twenty-five glass bottle factories, whilst to-day there were only three, and in one district 40 per cent, of the workers in the trade were out of employment. This is the state of affairs under the policy of free-trade. The honorable member for Dalley appeals to the Labour Party to assist the workers in the old country by reducing the protective duty on bottles entering Australia. When the Tariff Commission was in Svdney, representatives of the whole of the bottle manufacturers in New South Wales appeared before it, and asked for a more highly protective Tariff than the bottle manufacturers of Victoria had requested. Mr. Cornelius Bishop, glass bottle manufacturer of North Botany, gave evidence that -
The glass manufacturers of this State are unanimous and deeply in earnest in their request for a higher duty on glassware of all kinds that are being made in the Commonwealth.
He was then cross-examined as follows by the honorable member for Perth -
Have the New South Wales bottle manufacturers been in communication with the bottle manufacturers of Victoria in this matter? - Yes, and no. In the first place, it happened that when we held our first meeting, the manager of the Melbourne firm was in Sydney. He came to the’ rooms where we were meeting, and remained for about half-an-hour, after which he had to go away to catch his train. Since then, so far as I know, there has been no communication between us and the Melbourne manufacturers.
Have you seen a copy of their request, or has their request, as submitted to the Commission, been brought under your notice ? - Yes ; I have read the evidence.
And, generally speaking, are you in harmony with their request? - I an., in every particular, except that the duty that the Victorian manufacturers are asking for is very much too low.
That was the evidence of a representative of the whole of the bottle makers of New South Wales. Mr. Osborne Thompson, manager of the Sydney bottle works, who also gave evidence, was examined as follows -
If the duties which you suggest were imposed, what employment would the trade give? - I should say that if all our requirements were locally supplied, at least -^’100,000 in wages would be annually spent iri the Commonwealth.
We thus find that manufacturers in freetrade New South Wales were asking for higher protection than was sought in Victoria. Manufacturers in South Australia likewise asked for protection, and, needless, to say, manufacturers of Victoria also required additional duties. The glass bottle workers in Great Britain, many of whom are out of work, have to compete with the products of a country where those engaged in the trade work seven days a week for a wage of from 173. to 25s., and where women are employed, and there is no restriction on child labour. If the free-traders had their way, the same competition would confront manufacturers in Australia. Reference has also been made during this debate to the pottery trade. A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Lithgow, New South Wales, and whilst there entered a shop conducted by a lady in the same line of business that I happen at present to be engaged in. In reply to my question as to the state of trade in Lithgow, she said, “ Things are very dull at present. We used to have a pottery here, but it has closed down. We need more protection.” More protection is considered necessary in New South Wales in order that the pottery at Lithgow may. be kept in full swing. When the Tariff Commission was in Sydney, witnesses before it urged that protection for the pottery trade was essential. I was under the impression, judging from what I had heard. that no witnesses asking for more protection would appear before the Commission in that State; but the reports of the Tariff Commission, as well as the statements made by some of the members of it in this Chamber, show that the people of New South Wales are just as anxious to secure protection as are the people of Victoria. With a view of showing the condition of the pottery trade in England, I propose to quote from the evidence given before the Pottery Commission of the United Kingdom.
– It is the oldest trade in the world.
– And England is losing it. There are hundreds of men out of work there, and the unions are doing all that they can to keep from starvation those unable to find employment.
– That is why we are asked to put a duty of 140 per cent, on pottery ware.
– The pottery-workers of Great Britain to-day are asking that they shall be protected in the same way that workers are shielded in other parts of the world. They are asking for a duty of 40 per cent. If the honorable member for Grey doubts my statement, he may read the evidence tendered before the Commission. It is available in the Library. Witness, No. 276 - Enoch Marsey, gave evidence before the English Commission that-
There are considerably less people employed in our district than 20 years ago. Of the balance some have drifted into other businesses; a great number have gone to America, many have become chargeable to the rates. We are talking of increasing one parish workhouse, though at the present time it is one of the largest in the country ; it is crowded. We have thousands of people in Longton out of work. The workpeople beyond doubt are realising what the foreign competition is doing for them, driving them into the workhouse and taking away their bread.
That is the evidence which was given before the Tariff Commission appointed in Great Britain. During the . past” twenty years the- wages in the pottery trade of the United Kingdom have been reduced by 20 per cent. The imports of foreign china amount to over £[500,000 annually, the workers losing £’250,000 yearly in wages, or approximately £5,000 a week. It is stated that through the importation of pottery and china into the United “Kingdom £7,000 a week has been lost to the workers there. We are asked to compete against the Japanese, who pay their employes 4d. a day, and who last year exported over £[526,000 worth of pottery.
– Not to the Australian States.
– To me, it is quite, immaterial where they exported it. My point is that we have to legislate to protect our manufacturers against the labour of persons who receive only 4d. per day, notwithstanding that Australian operatives are paid from 8s. to 9s. per day. I now come to the duty upon nails - a matter which was touched upon by the honorable member for Dalley. In this connexion, I desire to point out that whilst the .Tariff Commission was sitting in Sydney several witnesses asked that a larger measure of protection, should be granted to them in respect of the manufacture of nails. Mr. Simon Hill, who was examined on the 10th of April, 1906, asked for a higher
Tariff upon nails.
– Would not all manufacturers do that?
– They ought not to in Sydney. The workers of New South Wales also requested that a higher duty should be imposed upon this article. Mr.
To-day the American glories in his factories and in the superiority of his products. Today the Australian glories in leviathan warehouses packed from ceiling to basement with 40,000,000 pounds worth per annum of foreign* goods made by foreigners, most of which weshould aim at making ourselves by every deviceat our disposal, thereby increasing the prosperity of ‘our own kith and kin, and the value of our raw material, and wiping out the reproach of being “hewers of wood and drawers of water “ for the wiser and more civilized peoples of the earth.
– The honorable member must not forget that that cheap labour is the highest protected labour in the world.
– Mr. Hill goes on to say -
Importer though I am, and until recently a strong believer in the doctrine of free imports, I am forced to the conclusion by the operation of the present Tariff, where it is sufficiently high to be protective and industry-building, that a high effective Tariff is absolutely necessary for Australia, so that industries may be of a diversified character, and the raw materials which lie at our feet in superabundance may be turned into articles of utility and value by the employment of Australian labour and capital. To not be able to make nails and thousands of other things we require places us on the level of naked savages in the South Sea Islands.
I wish now to refer to the evidence tendered by certain witnesses in respect of mining machinery. We have been told that certain classes of mining machinery cannot be manufactured in Australia. I venture to say that there is not an article connected with mining machinery which cannot be manufactured within the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is getting out of his depth now.
– In reply to that interjection, I may say that I have carefully read, the evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission, and I find that witness after witness emphatically asserted that there is not a piece of machinery used in connexion with Australian mines which cannot be manufactured within the Commonwealth.
– We ought to accept the evidence of the persons who are using it.
– The testimony of those who are using Australian mining machinery to-day in Broken Hill and Western Australia is that it is the best machinery they have upon their mines. Witnesses who gave evidence before the Tariff Commission declared that they were using Australian made machinery, and that it. was equal to - and in some cases better than - imported machinery. Mr. D. J. Sullivan, representing the workers of Sydney, gave the following evidence in reference to the iron industry -
At present we have good moulders working as agents’ on the wharves, as casuals, hawking, fishing, butchering, in wood and coal yards, firing on steamers, and at any occupation where they can yet in, probably taking a chance of employment from those who follow any of the above occupapations. Last Christmas, when giving some financial relief to those of our members who applied for it, we knew how it hurt them to be compelled to be in such circumstances, although by our rules financial assistance is part of the benefit they” subscribe to.
That is the position of the iron trade in Sydney. I come now to the clothing trade. As evidencing the progress- which that industry has made in New South Wales, I may mention that, whereas in 1898 it employed 2,120 persons, in 1899 the number had increased to 2,181, and in 1903 it had still further increased to 3,105.
– That growth was due to Inter-State free-trade.
– This evening the honorable member for Robertson dealt at some length with the duty imposed upon boots and shoes. I consider that upon these articles a higher duty should have been levied than that which the Government have imposed. On the 20th August last, I asked a gentleman to supply me with some information respecting the introduc tion into Japan of bootmaking machines. He was good enough to cable to Germany for it, and he now writes -
We have much pleasure in giving you herewith some particulars in connexion with the bootmaking machines supplied to the Japanese Government by the Moenus Machine Works. We have just received a cable, according to which the Moenus Machine Works supplied five complete outfits to the Government, each of which is capable of turning out 1,000 pairs of boots or shoes daily.
At the present time these machines are turning out 35,000 pairs of boots per week. The mechanic who operates each machine receives 11d. per day of fourteen hours, and is required to work seven days a week, whereas the mechanic who works the machine in Australia receives 12s. per day. The communication continues -
Taking the. 35,000 pairs of shoes made in Japan -on this new set of machinery, at an average of 5s. per pair, it would amount to ,£8,750. One-third of the wholesale price’ being labour in Australia, would leave ^2,916 at Australian rates. That amount represents giving work to 1,166 men for one week, at £2 ros. per week. Taking the Japanese highest wages at nd. per day, of 14 hours, it would only cost the Japanese £$ 8s. lod., showing a saving in wages to them of ,£2,863.- The full value of the goods under Australian conditions would be 2,8,750 - deducting the amount saved in labour by the Japanese would leave their full value at £5,887. The duty on ^5,887 at 47^ per cent, would amount to ^2,796, which would still be £67 less than the saving they had made on their labour. Japanese work 98 hours per week, and his best mechanic gets 6s. 5d. per week. To work an average Australian bootmaker the same number of hours, under the Factories Act, we would have to pay him £5 8s. 6d. per week.
I think I have clearly shown that more protection is needed for our industries. In Japan the Tariff contains duties of 60 per cent, j and the object of the Commonwealth Government is to block out foreign trade,’ and find work for those who are out of employment in Australia to-day. I trust that within a very short time this Tariff will be finally passed,, and that our manufactories, before the expiration of this year, will be found working at full pressure. I congratulate the Government on the introduction of so effective a Tariff ; of course in some items there will have to be slight alteration ; but I have sufficient confidence in the present occupants of the Treasury benches to believe that any alteration made will be in keeping with the policy which was placed before the country on the 12th December last. I hope that we shall not have any more long speeches from honorable members opposite, but that honorable members who are anxious to set to work and put the Tariff on a proper basis will have every opportunity afforded of expediting its progress. I feel certain, judging from the number of protectionists in this House, that the Tariff will be made effective.
: - I regret that I have been a victim of influenza, and, in consequence, have not had the opportunity of hearing the exposition of the Tariff by its author, the Acting Prime Minister, or of listening to the leaders of the different parties within this House. T have not had the advantage of hearing the remarks of the leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Labour Party, or of the leader of .the fourth party, whoever he may be.
– The fourth party has no leader.
– I understand that the fourth party is leaderless; but the probabilities are that, when the Tariff has been disposed of, its leader will be discovered pretty quickly. I have listened very carefully to the speech of the .honorable member for Batman, and I had the advantage of travelling over a great part of’ my State, especially in my own elector-, ate, and eliciting the opinions of those interested in mining,’ pastoral, and farming pursuits.
– And I suppose the honorable member heard a number of people asking for higher duties?
– I cannot say that I have met very many who ask for a higher Tariff. I do not take part in this debate with the same feeling of enthusiastic approval which was expressed by the honorable member for Batman. Of course, that may be the fault of my earlier training and my reading. It is well known that ever since I entered this House I have been an advocate of low taxation all round ; and I have seen no reason for departing from my original attitude. . I recognise that it is possible to make a few people wealthy by Tariff taxation; but I have yet to discover that the’ great masses of the community have ever been made wealthy by such means. When T do discover that the general community benefit in that way, I mav feel disposed to revise my opinion. From the .very outset of Tariff discussions in this Parliament, I have recognised the advantage which would result to honorable members if, instead of having only the information supplied by Ministers, or picked up by themselves as best they can, they had some authoritative information, such as that which may be gathered by a competent Commission. Such information we did not have when we considered the first Tariff, but on the present occasion we have before us the result of the labours of a very able body of gentlemen representing both sides of the fiscal question. The investigations of the Tariff Commission extended over a considerable time, and the results are now before us in the form of various very voluminous reports. I do not see, however, how honorable members can be expected to make themselves acquainted with . the contents of those reports in the time at their disposal. However, the reports are here; and I presume that we shall be able to glean from them a considerable amount of information which will prove of value when we are dealing with the- separate items. I notice that the Tariff Commission was very considerably handicapped in the securing of evidence. Of course, information from those specially interested in Tariff legislation - whose interests were in the direction of increased duties on commodities with which they were specially concerned - was readily secured.
– No evidence was taken from consumers.’
– That was not the fault of the Commission, but the fault of the consumers. The trouble was that the great body of the consumers did not feel sufficient interest in the subject to prepare evidence or submit their views ; and, practically, the Commission were confined to one side of the question. If the views of the other side received any expression at all, it was mainly in the form of information elicited by the Commissioners from those who were interested in the increase, rather than the decrease, of Customs taxation. While that might be urged as an objection to a considerable number of the findings of the Commission, I am still persuaded that the Commission did good substantial work. I am favorable to the continuance of a Commission of a similar character, so that all matters relating to the Tariff in the way of alterations, and so forth, may’ be thoroughlysifted, and honorable members placed in possession of the latest and most accurate information. The absence of such Information was felt very much when the first Tariff was under consideration. We then found that the presentments of cases made to honorable members very often, did not disclose half the real facts of the case ; and it was only subsequently that we discovered that there was another side to many of the questions we had considered. It is only by the creation of some such authoritative body as I have indicated that we can hope to secure reliable information. After all, we are legislating for the people, and we desire to ascertain the real facts. I do not suppose there is an honorable member, how-, ever strong may be’ his feelings on one side or the other, who has so shut his mind that it would be useless to present facts to him. ‘T believe that free-traders and protectionists alike are prepared to look into cases, and accept the facts as they really are, before arriving at a judgment. Apparently we are committed to a system of high taxation, even supposing we do not make any considerable advance on the recent Tariff. We have now an opportunity for the’ introduction of what is termed the “new protection,” which can only receive a fair trial by the establishment of a proper tribunal, with ample powers to investigate the whole question. I am not in any way adversely criticising the reports of the Commission. I recognise that the members of that Commission had a difficult task, and that their presentment of the case is largely based upon the representations of those who are interested in manufacturing, and who are anxious to secure preferential treatment for their industries. On the other hand, I recognise that the great mass of consumers have not had their wishes voiced before the Commission, but, notwithstanding that weakness, I am of opinion that the Commission has made an invaluable investigation, and has laid the’ foundation of very much better work in years to come. I do not wish to discuss at length the relative merits of free-trade and protection. The last speaker had a great deal to say about the progress which was being made by America, and other protected countries, and the decay of Great Britain. The protectionist theories are, at first sight, very attractive. There is the statement that they keep money in the country, and, by building up industries, increase the national wealth, providing employment for surplus labour. But free-traders are as desirous as protectionists to increase the legitimate industries of the country. Every industry which will produce wealth and give employment deserves encouragement, and often a Legislature can best assist industries by leaving them alone. Such indus- tries as require Tariff protection are being established amidst surroundings which do not tend to their development. It is hoped that protective duties, by discouraging the importation of goods which would compete in the local market with their output, will foster such industries, and that the securing to them of the home market will ultimately make them sufficiently strong to stand alone. But the protective system merely amounts to the levying of taxation on profitable in’dustries for the encouragement of the unprofitable ones. The industries which are natural to a country yield profits and pay wages without protection. How could protective duties benefit those engaged in the production of wool, meat, and agricultural and dairy produce? As a matter of fact, they need no protection, but are large exporters to other countries. It seems to have escaped the protectionists that the exports of a country largely increase its wealth. But a country which exports must be prepared to receive imports in exchange. Our exports are paid for chiefly by our imports. If we place a heavy embargo on imports, it will re-act on our exports, and thus injure those engaged in our profitable industries. Thus, every attempt to punish the other fellow injuresourselves. This has been recognised in protectionist countries, notably in America. The manufactures of that country are protected by heavy duties, and have progressed by leaps and bounds. But the territory of the United States is more largely selfcontained than that of any other country, since it possesses very varied climates, and produces almost everything required by its people. Furthermore, the best of the manhood of the old world has gone there to assist in building up its natural wealth. Now, however, its leading statesmen are discovering that the high Tariffs which have hitherto prevailed are acting detrimentally to its industries. The existing Tariff was fathered by the late President McKinley, who was assassinated in the zenith of his brilliant career. But he lived long enough to recognise the weakness of the Tariff, and in an address which he made during a tour of the country, which took place just prior to his assassination, he said -
We must not repose in fancied security, that we can for ever sell everything and buy little or nothing. What we” produce beyond our domestic consumption must have vent abroad. The excess must be relieved through a foreign outlet, and we should sell everywhere we can and buy wherever the buying will enlarge our sales and productions, and thereby create a greater demand for home labour. The period of exclusion is past. Commercial wars are unprofitable.
The New York World, a leading American ^newspaper, commenting on these utterances, said -
Those are the words of a statesman. They -are economically sound. They are politically :sagacious in responding to and leading a popular demand, which is certain to extend and grow more insistent with the passing of time.
This has also been recognised by other politicians, and, according to a recent -cablegram, Mr. Taft, the present Secretary for War, who is looked upon as a probable successor to President Rooseveldt, has indicated that a revision of the Tariff must take place in the near future. Apparently he proposes a revision on the lines suggested by the late President McKinley. He says that as soon as the presidential election is over, he will favour the calling together of a Congress to revise the Tariff. Therefore, instead of protectionist countries becoming more and more enamoured of high duties, up to the point of prohibiting importations, with the object of building up their own industries - which is what the protectionists here desire - they are beginning to see that, once the local market is supplied, an outlet is essential to further progress, and that to secure such an outlet there must be an exchange of trade with other nations. As that truth becomes more gradually recognised, the idea that national wealth is to be built up by the erection of Tariff walls will fade away, and Tariffs themselves disappear. With regard to the proposals now under discussion, it was recognised that, because of the hurry of preparation, and the lack of information in regard to -details, many anomalies existed in the firstCommonwealth Tariff. Free-traders, as well as protectionists, desired the removal of those anomalies, and a Commission was appointed, one of whose principal duties was to suggest means for their removal. “The Government has founded its present proposals ostensibly on the recommendations of the Tariff Commission ; but the [Popular opinion is that it has made things worse, increasing anomalies, and adding to instead of lessening the causes of friction and dissatisfaction. Throughout the electorate which I represent I have met men who favour the humanitarian legislation which I desire to secure, but who, as .protectionists, felt that they could not vote for me. They, therefore, recorded their votes for my opponent. We now find that a protectionist Government has imposed what the honorable member for Batman regards as one of the most perfect Tariffs that could be submitted. It is one which he, as a protectionist, can enthusiastically support. The criticism to which it has been subjected during this debate has shown him that there are a few rough corners to be smoothed off, but substantially the Tariff proposals of the Government meet with his approval. I find that my protectionist friends in New South Wales who, for the most part, are engaged in’ primary industries, are as bitter in their hostility to the Tariff as the free-traders are. When it was introduced, I thought that ‘ free-traders like myself had some reason to complain, but I was not prepared for the criticism which the advocates of protection in country districts levelled at it. When I proceeded to question them, I found that they were in favour of protection as long as it did not adversely affect their own interests, but that as soon as they were called “upon to pay. something under a scheme to give effect to their principles, they suddenly became free-traders. So long as protection meant a Tariff on the Blucher boots of the working man as well as on his tweed suits and his food stuffs, they were satisfied, but they objected to the imposition of duties on their mining machinery, irrigation plants, wire netting, fencing wire, and a hundredandone other station and farming requirements. I am afraid that the honorable member for Batman will not see eye to eye with them in their advocacy of such a differential system of protection; he will be disposed to tell them that this is a protectionist Tariff which ought to command their support and approval. I have no desire to discuss it in detail, but I would point out to the Committee that the farming interests of New South Wales have been hit very severely by the duty on wire netting. For many years the pastoral areas in what is known as the western division of New South Wales have been subjected to the rabbit pest. So completely have the rabbits taken possession of those districts that pastoralists have gradually been driven before them, and, owing to their depredations, holdings to-day are not worth anything like their original value. Within recent years the invasion has assumed a more serious form. It has passed over the pastoral lands in thinly populated districts, and has largely, taken possession of agricultural areas. Whereas at one time squatters alone were engaged in fighting the pest, to-day the small farmer in the wheat-growing belt of New South Wales is engaged in a life and death struggle with it. In the district where I was born, for thirty-five years agricultural pursuits were successfully followed without any talk of the rabbit pest; but last year many farmers practically lost their crops owing to its depredations. Thev naturally feel that unless they are able to enclose their holdings with wire netting, it will be useless for them to sow. The rabbit is in possession, and owing to its presence the farmer has practically nothing to gather from lands which otherwise would give a good return. Many of the settlers engage in mixed farming. They combine agriculture with sheep raising, and they have discovered that the carrying capacity of their ground will be very seriously reduced unless they can keep down the pest.
– The duty on wire netting will protect the rabbits.
– Quite so. During last autumn many land-owners who were unable to protect their holdings with wire netting were faced with the possibility of very serious loss. To prevent the total destruction of their flocks they had to import fodder from Sydney, and to resort to hand feeding. This was due not so much to the fact that the season was an adverse one as to the depredations of the rabbit. During the earlier part of the summer and autumn the rodents had eaten up the grass which had any nourishment in it, and the stock was consequently left without anything to sustain life. These people recognised that they must enclose their holdings with wire netting in order to insure their safety. Strange to say, as the demand for wire neting increased, the price of the imported, as well as the local article, jumped up by leaps and bounds. Settlers were also told that any large order would have to be placed some time in advance. Within a short period the price of wire rose from £25 and £26 per mile to £40 and £45 per mile. A strike took place amongst the workers engaged in the local manufactory, who claimed that despite the increased returns they were receiving sweating wages. The strike collapsed, and I am informed that a number of those who took part in it went to the cane fields, or turned to other occupations rather than return to their old trade. They went out of the factory to engage in work which is generally regarded as being better suited for black than whitemen. It was in these circumstances that the State Government had to take the unusual course of importing large quantities of wirenetting. Netting so imported was sold at £26 per mile, something like the cost price,- but the duty imposed under the new Tariff” raised the price to about £32 10s. per mile, and the Government notified the holdersthat this increased amount would have tobe paid. Naturally the farmers consideredthat a great injustice had been inflicted upon them. The honorable member for Franklin said just now that this Tariff was designed to protect the rabbits rather than the land-holders. That will practically be the result of a duty on wire netting. It is retarding the operations of those whoare endeavouring to keep down the pest, and to that extent it is protecting the rabbit. At the same time, I do not think it is conferring any material benefit on themanufacturers who can at present commandsuch high prices for their product. I hopethat in the interests of the large primary productive forces of the Commonwealth, such a duty will not be retained merely for the purpose of creating an industry, not for the manufacture of wire netting, but merely for weaving the wire, an operation which, represents only a small proportion of thelabour involved in the turning out of thefinished article. I have here a number of” letters addressed to me by different representative bodies, urging that I should do my best to secure the striking out of theduty. The Pastures and Stock Protection. Board of New South Wales has announced, its opposition to the impost. I have received the following letter from the ForbesPastures’ Protection Board, which has under its control very large areas devoted to the.mixed farming to which I have referred-
Sir,- On behalf of my Board, I desireto urge that you will use your best efforts to eliminate the proposed new Federal duty on wirenetting, when the Tariff comes up for debate in the House.
From your personal knowledge of this district in particular, you are aware of the fierce struggle for supremacy that has been waged! between the farmer and the rabbit for the last number of years, with the result that the landholder now finds it absolutely imperative to wire-net his land before he attempts to cultivate it, and his profits, never very large, arefurther reduced by this big outlay.
Another point that might be stressed is than: the increased charge will, for the most part, fall on the small holder, for those with the larger and more valuable estates have already purchased and erected their netting.
Trusting that you will do your best to help in this direction. I am, yours faithfully,
The statement contained in that letter indicates what is taking place. When the Barton Tariff was introduced, a proposal was made to levy a duty upon wire-netting, but, after discussion, the Committee decided to place that article upon the free list. At that time the squatters were engaged in fighting the rabbit pest, and to that end were enclosing their holdings with wirenetting. That work has since been completed, but in the years which have intervened, the rabbit pest has developed more alarming proportions than ever, with the , result that persons engaged in mixed farming are now being called upon to incur the cost, of wire-netting their holdings - an outlay which formerly only the large station-holders were called upon to bear. Consequently, the case for the remission of this duty is very much stronger upon <the present occasion than it was in 1901. I understood that the object of appointing the Tariff Commission was to secure the removal of anomalies, but I gather that the “introduction of this Tariff has only served to add to the list of anomalies. If the Acting Prime Minister read the Argus of yesterday he must have noticed in it a reference to a shipment of Canadian chairs, the duty upon which, under the old Tariff, would ha.ve been £[77. Under the new Tariff, however, a sum of .£1,093 was demanded as duty. The leading article from which I gleaned this information :goes on to say -
These are the flagrant cases, but other duties are imposed with so much ingenuity that only at the Custom House do they reveal their remarkable range and grip. Such an instance was that of a small shipment of bottles which, under the old Tariff of 20 per cent., would have ;paid 5s. 5d. ; but the Lyne Tariff, by charging at so much per cubic foot on the outside measurement of the package, has raised the duty to £1 is., or something over 100 per cent. Yet some people wonder why prices- go up. The mention of that percentage recalls the magnificent ascension of the “sky-scraper” duties. They rise on a beautiful ascending scale, from 45 per cent, on apparel, through 50 and 70 per cent, on corks, to* 100 per cent, on lounges and. preserved fish and bicycles, thence by a leap “to 200 per cent, on lamp globes, dates, and Vienna chairs, to 600 per’ cent, on buggy bodies. “The Argus also quotes the case of another consignment of chairs to Sydney which, under the old rate of duty, would have been called * upon to pay ‘£[30, but which, under the new rate, was required to pay .£600, with the result that the importer declined to take delivery of it. These are anomalies which have been created by the new Tariff. To me it seems to be a double-barrelled Tariff, in that it applies the principle of protection to certain lines of goods whilst upon others it endeavours to raise a large revenue. The result is the high taxation for revenue purposes of goods which cannot be produced locally. When the old Tariff was under review in this Chamber, very considerable reductions were effected in the rates of duty proposed by the Government. As honorable members are aware, members of the Labour Party have no particular fiscal faith. Thev are quite at liberty to act as they choose in this connexion. The result was that when the Barton Tariff was under review, reductions were made in the duties imposed upon a large number of items, including wire-netting, iron, &c, in order that the burden of taxation might not fall with undue severity upon the workers, and upon those who were engaged in industries which could not possibly be benefited by duties. The result was that when the Bill embodying the Tariff resolutions was forwarded to the Senate, the leader of the Government in that Chamber - Senator O’Connor - announced that reductions had been made upon the original proposals of the Government which involved the sacrifice of an estimated revenue of ,£920,000 per annum. I gather that the present Tariff is estimated to yield an additional revenue of from £800,000 to £1,000,000 per annum, and therefore I am justified in presuming that in many instances the Government have reverted to the proposals originally submitted in connexion with the first Commonwealth Tariff. When that Tariff was introduced there was in this Chamber an effective fighting force of freetrade members. Those members, as a party, can claim credit for having effected considerable reductions in the Government proposals’. I regret that there is not a similar party in this Chamber at “the present juncture. To-day, I am sorry to say, the Opposition are not led by a gentleman who is pledged to free-trade principles as the first plank in his political programme. Consequently I am not sanguine that large reductions will be made in this Tariff, as they were made in the first Commonwealth Tariff. Of course I know that honorable members like the honorable member for
Robertson will not allow their antisocialistic proclivities to outweigh their freetrade preferences, but nevertheless I regret that the leader of the Opposition is not in a position to challenge the Government in connexion with their Tariff proposals. No doubt the Acting Prime Minister feels very grateful for the position in which he finds himself, and probably he expects, the Ministerial proposals to obtain a considerable amount of support not only from honorable members upon the opposite side of the Chamber, but also from those who sit behind the leader of the Opposition. In the second Commonwealth Parliament, when the fiscal question was a live one, I thought that the right honorable member for East Sydney made a mistake in neglecting to challenge the position of the Government in respect of their Tariff proposals. He went before the electors. as the champion of free-trade principles, and as the opponent of the Tariff then in existence, with a request for a mandate to enable him to make further reductions in the duties.
– At the general election before last. In accord with those pledges, I, for one, thought to find in the right honorable member a fighting factor in this House, but, when the House met, he adopted other tactics. I took occasion, in an address which I delivered, to question not only the wisdom but the fairness to the electors generally, arid particularly of his own State, of his course of action. That address, however, could not apply on the present occasion. The honorable gentleman went before the country, not as the champion of free-trade principles, but as the sinker of the fiscal issue. He presented an entirely new question te. the electors, namely, that of antiSocialism, or, in other words, opposition to the Labour Party, because the Socialistic cry was very largely a bogus one. All the talk we heard about the marriage tie being threatened, about the rights of property being in danger, or about meditated attacks on the Christian religion, and so forth, was merely imaginary, and was presented to the electors for the purpose of winning a victory which appeared to be in doubt. There is no man in the Labour Party, to which I belong, who believes in such nonsense. The attack of the honorable gentleman was really made on the members qf the Labour. Party. It is well known *hit, although I am a free-trader, and have always voted for free-trade principles, I am a believer in the Labour movement, anc? from the outset have been a member of the Labour Party. I can claimthat when the Barton Tariff was introduced I did my fair share to secure reductions on a number of the items. T know that when a number of the leading, free-traders, who were returned, not as Labour men, but as free-trader’s, were looking after their own business, I was here, against the advice of my medical adviser,, fighting for the principles in which I believed; so that I do not think any reasonable exception can be taken to my position, on that score. It was represented to me, in the course of last Parliament, that if I wished to follow any longer the leader of the Opposition, I should not only have to sink my free-trade principles, but would have te become a traitor to those Labour principles which I have held all my life. I refused to do either, and the result was that I do not think any candidate in New South Wales was fought more .bitterly than I wasmyself, ‘ or that there was a candidate against whom the same kind of despicable weapons were used by my quondam friends in the free-trade party.
– They gave me a. taste of it.
– If I had been the most extreme Socialist, the hostility could not have been more bitter. I think that the criticism levelled against theleader of the Opposition is not as justified’ to-day as it was, or would have been, in the last Parliament. The right honorable gentleman was then the champion of freetrade, pledged to the Commonwealth toendeavour in the life of that Parliament, to give effect to his principles. Now, however, he does not stand pledged to anything of the kind. He stands pledged’ to sink the fiscal issue, as far. as it is possible for him to sink it; for, at the last: election, he raised the anti-Labour issue,, and invited protectionists as well as freetraders to come, behind has banner. To a large extent that invitation was accepted, and in New South Wales there were foundprotectionists and free-traders fighting side bv side. That being so’, how can the right honorable gentleman- be expected to lead an attack on the Treasury benches in connexion with the Tariff? If the right honorable member did so, I consider he would be false to the pledges he gave to those protectionists whose support he asked for, and whose help he secured. And, what is more, he would be landed in a very awkward position. Although he might claim to represent a majority of the House, so far as parties are concerned, if he tabled a. motion against the Government, his majority as an anti-Socialist leader would be very considerably diminished on other issues, and he would find that a number of men, who support him- on that issue, would walk across the House and -support the Acting Prime Minister on the Tariff question. Those honorable members could not do otherwise than be loyal to the pledges they gave to their electors ; and, in this connexion, the electors of New South Wales may justly feel that they have a grievance. The electors of the mother State were told to sink the fiscal issue, and were invited to join in returning anti.Socialists, irrespective of their fiscal faith. But they were not told that the antiSocialists in the other States, and notably in Victoria, refused to sink the fiscal issue. They were not told that Mr. Allan McLean, who was the co-equal of the honorable member for East Sydney in the coalition Cabinet, and was his second in command in leading the anti-Socialist forces, did not sink the fiscal issue, but, on the contrary, was making it the primary issue at the elections. The electors in New South Wales, who, perhaps, did not look beyond their own State, and, it may be, were illinformed as to what anti-Socialists were doing elsewhere, may justly feel that they have’ a grievance. But that was a matter of the absence of sufficient information, rather than a ground of complaint against the honorable member for East Sydney for not “ putting up a fight “ on the fiscal issue. The attitude of the honorable member foi East Sydney has called forth a considerable amount of criticism in various directions where he ordinarily received” support as an anti-Socialist. The Sydney Morning Herald, on the 21st of last, month, instructed the leader of the Opposition as to the attitude, that he should assume in the present debate. That paper spoke as follows : -
The business of the Opposition is, if possible, to rectify the Tariff out of existence, and in doing this a great deal of dependence is placed by the whole Commonwealth on the efforts of Mr. Reid. He has always been a staunch fighter on the side of free-trade, and it is not to be supposed that he will fail the cause and party now.
Then some reference is made to the Tariff Commission, and the article goes on -
The new Tariff is extreme and prohibitive. Mr. Reid is therefore left with a perfectly free hand. There is no reason why he should not lead the attack in the House of Representatives to-day in his old fighting form, and it is needless to say that the Commonwealth will be disappointed if for any reason he should fail to take the stand expected of him…….
The State of New South Wales, to. which Mr. Reid belongs, makes a special call upon him. . . . Other States like Queensland and Western Australia are in the same difficulty, and are calling for a lead. Mr. Reid could not, even if he desired, shirk the responsibility which the whole Commonwealth now casts upon him.
Subsequently the same newspaper published the following: -
Mr. Reid’s Failure.
Those who expected from Mr. Reid a clear and sound note of opposition to the Tariff proposals of the Government will be sadly disappointed on reading the speech which he delivered in the House of Representatives last night. From him least of all our public men did we anticipate such a misstatement of fact as that the country decided at the late general elections for protection as against free-trade…..
In every State in the Commonwealth the bitter cry of the over-taxed consumer is being heard. . . Why, Mr. Reid admits that the people in their maddest moments never dreamt of such an instalment of protection as that which is now proposed. . “. . Mr. Reid has disappointed those who saw in him a leader who would place himself at the head of the people in all the States who are protesting as effectively as they can against the iniquities of the Tariff. It was his duty, once the prohibition gauntlet had been thrown down, to rally to his banner all the freetraders and the moderate protectionists who really represent the people, as against Sir William Lyne and his friends, who really represent the manufacturers. He has lost an opportunity of serving his country which we are afraid will never come his way again. The leader of a great party, who might have made himself the mouthpiece of the continent, he has disappointed the hopes of his best friends, and has played into the hands of the plunderers of the people. He has not only surrendered the fortress, but he has done his best to spike the guns.
I contend that the “fortress” was “surrendered “ and the “guns spiked,” not on the occasion when the honorable member for East Sydney spoke on the Tariff, but: in the last Parliament when he decided to relegate his free-trade principles to the back ground and’ substitute the antisocialistic issue. The Daily Telegraph, foo, has been very severe in its comments. In its issue of the 20th ult. it prints this statement - “ There is a very large majority of protectionists in the House,” says Mr. Reid : and proceeds to foreshadow a series of sham fights in which reduction will be made by the Government, whose prices have been fixed on the principle of the Oriental curiosity dealer, and of victories which will consist in abatements of exactions, which it never was hoped could be maintained. And so Mr. Reid joins the dreary ranks of the lost leaders - and at what a moment ! All through the State, through the largest part of the Commonwealth, there has been ringing for days a clamour of indignation in which surprise has not been the least dominant note.
It is not too much to say that a great deal has been forgiven to Mr. Reid, as a leader, by his party, and bv the country. If he has been absent from his place, it has been felt that the hour of need would find him there, a leader in the forefront of the battle. His position in the country has been due to that respect which even his enemies feel for the fighting man. His was one of the voices on which the people believed that they could rely when it should be necessary to stir enthusiasm and to animate effort. And now, when the day of disaster threatens us, instead of furious protest, we hear a whimper about the large number of protectionists in the House, and a pitiful cry te the more moderate of them to be as merciful as possible.
Then the Watchman, in the issue before last, says -
There is every warrant for the outcry being made against the leader of the Federal Oppositin by the daily press. There is only one thing for Mr. Reid to do, and that is to retire from the leadership. His party are tired waiting for him, and his State suffers through his inability to fill the breach when occasion requires.
We recognise the other States are against him to a man, and that his position is an unenviable and unfortunate one : but all that thrown in, he has lost touch with the electors of New South Wales, and they in turn have lost heart because of him.
I think, for the reasons which I have given, that that is hardly fair criticism. Had the writers, prior to the last elections, looked beyond the borders of New South Wales, they must have seen that the present position would be the inevitable outcome of the antiSocialist campaign. Now, like the Chinaman who has prayed for benefits and suffered misfortune, they are beating their Joss. They forget that before the elections Mr.- Reid sank the fiscal issue, and raised an entirely new one, in which he invited co-operation, which they gave heartily. There is therefore not much logic in their position. Last Parliament a lightning change followed the discussion of the vexed Capital Site question. The leader of the Labour Party was at the time Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister, and the honorable member for East Sydney, sitting in opposition to him. The House as then constituted was divided into three nearly equal parties, each preferring a different site. The honorable member for East Sydney and his supporters urged, however, that to allay the irritation felt in New
South Wales .because of the delay in dealing with the question, a settlement should be arrived at, the suitability of the choice being not so important as the making, of it. But directly the site was chosen, a lightning change took place, and the Watson Administration disappeared from the Treasury Benches. Other changes took, place subsequently, and last session, whenever the Government tried to do business, ifr was thwarted by the Opposition, even when, the members of that party were not hostileto the principles of the Government proposals. So much was business delayed that at one period it seemed that the sessionwould be fruitless, because, although muchhad been attempted, and partly done, the tactics of the Opposition were making completion impossible. As a result the closureresolutions were arrived at. Now that we are discussing a new Tariff, involving details of vital importance, I am surprised tofind a disposition on the part of Opposition members to rush matters. Private members’ time has been taken away to givemore opportunity for dealing with theTariff. In view of the anxiety to despatch business, I ask is history about to repeat itself? When the Tariff has been disposed1 of, what will happen?
– The deluge.
– I think so; but not what the honorable member expects. Apparently his next move will be to try to remove the Labour Party from Commonwealth politics; but it will be one of the toughest enterprises he has undertaken. As honorable members desire that’ progress be reported, I shall postpone the remainder of my remarks until to-morrow.
Duties on Boots and Shoes - Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act: “New Protection.”
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– 1 wish, to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is prepared to indorse the recommendation made by the Tariff Commission in Report No. 50. It is as follows -
We consider that where protective duties are substantially increased, provision should be made to secure payment of reasonable wages to persons engaged in the industries benefited by such duties.
.- I should like to know whether, when considering the report to which the honorable member for Macquarie has referred, the Acting Prime Minister will take into consideration the fact that the increased protection affecting some industries relates to only certain lines? Take boots and shoes, for instance. The ‘ duties are increased on infants’ sizes, so that the new protection will only apply to certain sizes, and not to others. Will the Government take steps to make the new protection apply to the whole industry, and not, as the Tariff Commission proposes, to a’ part of it ?
– I think it is necessary, after the reply which I received to-day from the Minister of Trade and Customs in regard to the “ new protection,” to say a few words. A number of employers in the agricultural implement trade are, I am glad to say, paying the wages that were agreed upon by the employers themselves, and as ratified tiy Mr. Justice O’Connor. Others, however, who have received certificates of exemption in the matter of Excise, are working their employes fifty-six hours per week, ;and, when protests have been made, have told their men that if they do not like it they can “ lump it.” It is time, I think, that the Government carried out their part of the contract. If they are not going to -do so, I can assure the Government that there will be no “ protection “ for me. I want to secure fair play, not only for the employes, but also for those employers who are loyally abiding by what was agreed upon. I cannot conceive of anything more unfair than that the Government should, month after month, allow certain employers who are not observing proper conditions to go on manufacturing under protective duties agricultural implements which enter into competition with the manufactures of others who are paying the regulation wages. It is unjust to the employers who are treating their men fairly, as well as to the men themselves. I hope that the Minister will give a promise that he will see that the Excise duty is collected from those firms which are acting unfairly. There can be no reason for delay. I do not know why the Excise is not being collected, or what difficulty there can be in its collection. In the interests of the revenue alone it ought to he collected. We. have been hearing throughout the debate on the Tariff that revenue is required, and certainly justice ought to be done all round in this matter - justice to the revenue, to the employers, and to the employes.
– In reference to the question which has been brought’ forward by the honorable member’ for Macquarie I have to say that even to-day I have been considering and dealing with the matter of the “ new protection,” and honorable members can take my word for it that before the Tariff goes through the best system that can- be devised will be adopted for the protection of the wage-earners and of the public.
– Why has not the Government carried out the provision of the Act with regard to the Excise on agricultural implements?
– The honorable member has been at this matter so long that it has become a standing dish. He is to some extent unreasonable. The exemptions referred to were granted by the Judge of the Arbitration -Court. An arrangement was made - I do not know whether there was a decision or whether there was a suggestion from the Judge - between the emplovers and die employes, and it has been asserted, I think, by the honorable member, that there has been some collusion with the object of evading the law. I understand that there is an agreement, and that it is in connexion -with what has happened in connexion with the arrangement made with the cognisance of the Court that the trouble has arisen.
– There is no trouble in that respect that I know of.
– It is nonsense to say that there is no trouble. There is trouble. For example, it is very difficult to get information. The honorable member knows that certain things have been done legally under the direction of the Court.
– I know exactly what, has been done.
– I know who is agitating, too. I happen to know the name of the agitator, although I did not know it until this morning. But I’ want to know the absolute .truth concerning information that has been supplied to the honorable member. I say unhesitatingly that the Customs Department should be able to get the fullest information; but a check has arisen in consequence of the legal position taken up, and the decision of the Judge of the Arbitration Court to give exemptions to these manufacturers. That’ is the trouble that exists. There were, I understand, about thirty persons- who sat on a conference which arrived at a certain decision, -and it is in accordance with the decision of that conference that the work has been going on,
– I say absolutely that it is so. I want to” get full information.
– It is not difficult to get the information.
– I mention the facts, so far as they are known to me, to show that there is a difficulty. I shall see the Minister of Trade and Customs about the matter to-morrow.
– The judgment was simply based upon the agreement . arrived at, but it does not affect the working of the Act.
– The Judge created the exemptions first..
– The Judge gave effect to the rates agreed upon by the parties.
– And he created the exemptions. I understand that the two parties to the conference came together to deal with the conditions of the industry, and that the arrangement arrived at is being carried out.
– No - that is the trouble.
– It is not being carried out.
– That is the point which I wish to ascertain. It is difficult, to ascertain the truth when men have a grievance, and do not come forward and tell us what it is.
– I will give the names to-morrow.
Sir- WILLIAM LYNE.- Why do they . not come forward, instead of leaving us groping in the dark?
– They have come to me now, and I have the information.
– A statement has been made that there is collusion. . If the men will not give us some assistance they place us in a difficult position. There is no doubt in my mind that there ought to be some way of getting at the truth, and if people who have been . granted exemptions are doing things which they should not do, they should be dealt with at once. I will certainly ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to make full inquiries into the matter at once. But at the same time I say that I do know that there is some one who is making statements which, I am informed, are not very accurate.
– I will give the information to-morrow.
– I shall hand it to the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– I shall give the information to the House.
– That will bebetter still. We shall then know all about the matter. The Minister of Trade and> Customs will certainly see that there is nolapse, so far as his Department is concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070904_reps_3_38/>.