3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The following reply has been received from the Prime Minister of New Zealand to the cablegram despatched the other day, at the request of the Senate, and of this House, by the President and myself -
Wellington, 28th September,1907.
Hon. President and Hon. Speaker.
Federal Parliament, Melbourne.
The Government and people of New Zea land tender to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia sincere thanks for their hearty congratulations. We much appreciate the good wishes for the welfare of the new Dominion, and wish the Commonwealth every prosperity.
Mr. McWILLIAMS presented a petition from certain sawmillers of Southern Tasmania, praying the House to pass the duties on timber. ‘
Petition received and read.
Mr. FOSTER presented a petition from certain women in the Armidale district of New South Wales, praying the House not. to pass the Tariff.
– In March last the Minister of Trade and Customs promised a deputation that for a time entries would be permitted to be made and checked before the reporting of the ship by which the goods to which they related were being imported, and I understand that the period was slightly extended yesterday. It will, however, soon expire, and, as the Minister in May last promised that in the course of two or three months he would see whether a permanent arrangement could not be come to, I ask him whether at Adelaide, where agents have to be engaged, he will provide permanently for the checking of entries before the reporting of ships, and will establish a central office or Department at which the checking may take place. Will he also comply with the request of the deputation that a King’s bond shall be established ?
– Some months ago I met a deputation at Adelaide, and at its request made certain alterations, in Customs procedure, the effect of which has since been closely watched, and has so far proved fairly satisfactory. But as there is a good deal to be said both for and against the changes, I have extended the probationary period, so that we may be certain as to which is the best system to adopt. The honorable member has my assurance that, whatever system we may find to be the best, having in view the interests of the merchants, and the need for affording them every facility, will be adopted. The extension to which he has referred has been made so that the Department may be quite satisfied, and in the course of a month or two, when the result of the changes is fully known, I shall be glad to inform him definitely of what I shall do.
– I understand that the tenders for the new mail service are to be. received within a day or two, and therefore I should like to learn from the PostmasterGeneral whether the £25,000 guaranteed in connexion with the cancelled contract has yet been received by him, and, if it has not, whether he will regard the late tenderers entitled to consideration as eligible for the contract which is to be let.
– The recovery of the £25,000 which was guaranteed is in the hands of the Crown Law authorities. Every detail connected with the tenders will receive the consideration which it deserves.
– I have been asked by a representative of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, on. behalf of that body, to ascertain whether it is likely that a Bankruptcy Bill will be introduced this session. I therefore ask the Attorney-General what steps he intends to take in the matter.
– A rough draft of a Bill has been prepared, and is being revised, in view of information received from various public bodies, and at the recent conference of State officials. I hope that, if the Bill cannot be introduced, the draft will be sufficiently advanced to enable it tobe circulated this session.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if mail carts are to be superseded by motors for the distribution of mail matter about Adelaide and the suburbs ; and if it is proposed, in connexion with the change, to reduce the number of clearances.
– The employment of motors is being considered, but no definite decision has been arrived at.
– Has the Prime Minister anything to communicate to the House in reply to the communication made to the South Australian Government regarding the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Act?
– I am informed that a communication was received this morning, the effect ofwhich is that the subject will be submitted as soon as possible to both Houses of the South Australian Legislature.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I may add that the return of the revenue and expenditure of the Pacific Cable Board which I am about to lay on the Table, shows that the loss payable toy the Commonwealth last year was much lower than the loss in any previous year since the opening of the service, being little more than half of what it was in the first year.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper -
Pacific Cable Board - Statement of Annual Revenue and Expenditure of the Board for the five years ending 31st March, 1907, showing the proportion of loss payable by the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Crouch) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the Table of the House, showing -
The names and ranks of all permanent officers in the Commonwealth Defence Forces.
The dates of their first military appoint ments, and successive promotions.
Their past services.
Their respective pay, showing the dates and amounts of each successive alteration since the year 1899.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 1st October, vide page 4035) :
Item 1. Ale, Porter, and other Beer; Cider, and Perry, containing not less than 2 per cent, of proof spirit : -
.- In framing a Tariff every care should be exercised that the duties collected under it should be productive of as little friction as possible between the importers and our Customs officials. Before we pass the first item therefore we should clear the ground somewhat in regard to such articles as cases, casks, bottles, corks, labels, and, indeed, ‘ everything incidental to the importation of various goods. I’ therefore desire to move -
That duties shall not be charged on any containing package where the va-lue of the contents exceeds that of the containing package. This shall apply to casks or shooks of all sizes, cases, cartons, bales, demijohns, bottles, and tins.
Take, for example, a consignment of spirits, drugs or chemicals. It is absolutely necessary that these things shall be enclosed in bottles or jars, that corks sha.1 1 be used, that the bottles shall be packed in cases, and that something shall be used for packing purposes. Under the old Tariff it was the custom to charge a statutory to :per cent, upon the invoiced price of cased goods, and 1 have always understood that this charge was intended to cover the cost of packing and the c.i.f. charges.
– The cost of importing ?
– Yes. But under the present Tariff the Government apparently intend that duty shall be charged upon the. cases, upon the bottles, and upon the material used for packing. If that course of action be persisted in it will cause considerable trouble to importers and others who are interested in this matter.
– There is a lot of difference between exempting cases from duty and exempting bottles. Very frequently the former are quite useless after their contents have been extracted.
– Very often the bottles are equally useless. I know something about importing bottles in my profession, and I say that many bottles are absolutely valueless after their contents have been extracted. In addition, the corks are utterly useless. Under the present Tariff the Customs authorities have power to charge duty upon the cases - and where they contain bottles, upon their cubical contents - in addition to charging ‘ duty upon the articles contained in such cases, irrespective of whether they consist of ale, porter, spirits, chemicals, or earthenware. Seeing that the statutory 10 per cent, is imposed for the purpose of covering the cost of importing, it would be a perfectly fair thing to allow cases, cartons, bales, demijohns, bottles, tins, corks, husks, cap- sules, labels, &c, to be admitted free.
– What is imported in shooks ?
– Shooks are used for packing purposes. Most of the packing materials in which crockeryware is imported is known as “shooks.” Bottles are imported in the same way. However, that is a question of detail. I am arguing in favour of a matter of principle.
– There are special items upon the schedule which refer to packages containing goods.
– 1 am quite aware of that. Casks will be included under the item dealing with hogsheads. Cases will come under the item of timber, bales under that of bags, demijohns under that of bottles or earthenware. Straw will be included under the item of hay, and sawdust, shavings, and paper cuttings, I suppose, under that of “ paper n.e.i.” All these articles are dutiable under the new Tariff. If the Ministry will give an undertaking that the Tariff will not be harshly administered in this connexion, I shall be perfectly satisfied. But otherwise I shall be compelled to move in the direction I have indicated. Duty should be charged upon packages only where the value of their contents exceeds the value of the’ package itself. ,
– That might operate harshly.
– If all packages or cases were admitted free, it might be possible to bring in silver-mounted cases filled with very common stock. By the insertion of the words I have suggested, anything of that sort would be prevented. I further intend to move -
Nor shall duty be charged on material used for packing where its value is less than, that of the goods or articles packed. This shall apply to straw, hay, sawdust, shavings, paper cuttings, husks, Sc.
I also intend to submit a third proposal, which reads -
Nor shall duty be charged on corks in bottles containing dutiable liquids, nor on the labels, capsules, designating any dutiable article.
Under the Tariff higher duties will be imposed than have hitherto operated, and the statutory 10 per cent, will still be added to the duty upon cased goods. Under these circumstances, I submit that trouble will be minimized at the Customs House if effect be given to my proposals. I should like to know whether the present is the proper time to submit them?
– I cannot allow - such amendments as the honorable member has suggested to be moved upon the item before the Committee. It will be better to deal with them when the items to which they relate are under review.
– I rise to a point of order. I am not at all interested .in the attempt of the honorable member to deal with packages at the present stage, but I submit that it is quite within his competency to move the addition to this item of the words “ exclusive of all packages.”
– The “honorable member would be quite in order in adopting that course.
– My desire is to make the proposal more general.
.- Yesterday a discussion was originated by the Treasurer upon what is known as the new protection. I have been sufficiently long in public life to recollect occasions upon which the policy of protection has been presented in various guises. I have heard it spoken of as “ discriminating “ protection, when, as a matter of fact, it discriminated only in favour of a few individuals. I have also heard it dubbed “ scientific “ protection. Now it is being called the “new” protection. In making his statement yesterday, the Trea surer outlined a soh.eme which is designed to protect alike the manufacturers, the workers, and the consumers. A few weeks ago the leader of the Labour Party submitted his scheme in this connexion, and apparently the Treasurer has adopted it.
– The scheme outlined by the leader of the Labour Party differs materially from that of the ‘ Government.
– The two are practically identical. I am willing to believe that the Labour Party are the parents of the scheme, and that the Treasurer is its fostermother. Like most foster-mothers, the latter has very little knowledge of the child that he is presenting to the public. Already his estimate of the revenue which the new” Tariff will yield has been far exceeded. In the same way that skilled accountant, Sir George Turner, when filling the same office, predicted that the Kingston Tariff, after it had been a year or two in operation, would return a revenue of only ,£5,500,000. As a matter of fact it never yielded less than ,£9,000,000. In other words, he under-estimated the revenue that would be collected under that Tariff by about £4,000,000 per annum. A similar result will be witnessed in connexion with the present Tariff. About two months ago the Treasurer estimated that it would yield £800,000 per annum more than did the old Tariff.
– Will there not be a big fall if the present drought continues?
– The honorable member should not forget that when Sir George Turner was acting as Treasurer we experienced an almost unprecedented drought. During the month which has just closed, the revenue collected under the new Tariff exceeded the Treasurer’s estimate by £193,000, and for the quarter ended 30th September it exceeded his estimate by £438,000. In other words, under the operation of this Tariff more than £2,000,000 per annum will be extracted from the pockets of the people iii excess of the Treasurer’s estimate, and .this despite the fact that many traders - particularly those interested in tobacco, wines and spirits - anticipating a heavy increase in the duties upon those articles, made large clearances from bond during the month of August. Notwithstanding that importers have made immense clearances, the public have not only to carry the heavy burden indicated by the Treasurer, but have to provide £2,000,000 per annum beyond his estimate. The leader of the Opposition urged that we should expedite the passing of the Tariff, but we must not have expedition at the cost of thoroughness. What was our experience when the last Tariff was under consideration ? Many of the higher duties were carried by the casting vote of the Chairman.
– At any rate, many of the items were carried by only one vote, and, but for the introduction of those items, it would have been a foregone conclusion that the Kingston Tariff would stand. However, after honorable members had presented their- views, even the Government modified their proposals, and I believe we shall have a repetition of that occurrence if there be reasonable and thorough debate. The Treasurer shakes his head, but we have already seen some changes in the last three or four weeks. In Sydney the honorable gentleman said that he was a “ whole hog “ protectionist, and on the same evening the Minister of Trade and Customs, at the smoke concert of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, Melbourne, intimated that the Government would be reasonable. Since then the Treasurer has said that he does not intend to hold fast to the Tariff, as proposed.
– I have not said so.
– The honorable gentleman has practically said that if good reason be shown there will be a modification of the duties.
– I have not said, anything of the ‘kind.
– Do I understand that the Treasurer is not going to permit any modification ?
– Wait until we reach the items.
– The Treasurer apparently intends to wait until he sees how honorable members intend to vote - that is his skilful political engineering. When he finds his friends in the Labour corner favouring modifications he will be ready to grant them.
– The honorable member need not flatter himself. At all events, I desire to be in absolute opposition to the honorable member for Parkes.
– I, too, find myself occasionally in political opposition to the honorable member for Parkes, but in matters ethical, I find myself in agreement with him. At any rate, the honorable member for Parkes has the courage of his opinion, and I trust I shall never be found factiously opposing him. As a “result of debate, the last Tariff was modified to the extent of saving some ,£750,000 of taxation on the people.
– That was a great mistake.
– Never mind, that was done in the interests of the public of Australia.
– This new Tariff is the result.
– Another place, after debate, further modified the old Tariff by about £1,000,000, making £1,750,000 of reduced taxation in all.
– And the Treasurer of the time, Sir George Turner, said it was a reasonable compromise.-
– The honorable member for Adelaide never said so.
– As a matter of fact, the two Houses of the Parliament could have reduced the Tariff much more than they did, as experience has shown that there has been extracted from the public £4,000,000 a year .more than was anticipated by Sir George Turner. But even suppose this Tariff is carried as proposed in every item does the Treasurer expect manufactures to spring up on the next morning like mushrooms? We know that the factories of Australia to-day are working full handed.
– The manufacturers themselves say that they have difficulty in getting skilled labour, and at some of their establishments, particularly in the textile trade, are twelve months ahead with orders.
– Had the honorable member not better reserve these remarks until we are dealing with the item ?
– That interjection had better have been made yesterday when the Treasurer submitted his statement to which I am briefly replying. Factories cannot be established under the new Tariff for the next three or four years.
– Oh, yes.
– Under the present Tariff factories have not yet been established, and in the meantime the public have had to carry a heavy burden of taxation. I should now like to deal with the item immediately before us, which is, under ordinary circumstances, supposed to yield materials of hospitality.
– The honorable member is a teetotaller.
– My personal habits are those of abstinence, but I belong to no teetotal association; in short, my personal habits are my own concern. In connexion with this item we have had laid before us proposals for thenew protection. This scheme is submitted as a sort of solace to the public of Australia; and I describe it as a lubricant to enable honorable members to swallow the high duties. It is worth while turning our attention to previous legislation with similar objects in view. We passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act, and the Excise Act connected with agricultural machinery, but neither has been a success. The anti-trust legislation will have to be amended to make it effective, and the Excise Act has not yet been put into operation. Both Acts were merely patches, and we shall have to patch them again. The latest proposal is the. new protection ; and I remind honorable members that, only a few years ago, the one cry of the ardent protectionist was that a high Tariff would be the salvation of the people of Australia. The free-traders of those days opposed protection because it did not benefit the general masses of the community. Free-traders are just as patriotic as are protectionists, and just as anxious to see Australian products in general use. But they have always contended that a protectionist Tariff benefited a few at the expense of the many ; and the “truth of that contention is admitted by protectionists in the introduction of the new protection proposals, which are an endeavour to meet the situation. It is proposed to protect, not only the producer and the manufacturer, but also the artisan and the consumer - to protect those who are not employed in protective industries, and who reap no direct benefit from protection. In the case of the consumer it is proposed to appoint a board of inquiry to investigate allegations of overcharges by manufacturers.
– Does the honorable member not agree with that proposal?
– Certainly. But for years free-traders have been pointing out the necessity for some such legislation, while the honorable member for Riverina, and other protectionists, never touched on that phase’ of the question.’ This project was never heard of until it was suggested by the Labour Party, a committee of whom had been appointed to sift the matter ; but to-day protectionists generally are ranging themselves under the banner of this new scheme. This, as I say, is an admission that some machinery, beyond Customs duties, is required. One result of the new protection will be, in my opinion, to stop the clamouring by manufacturers for further and higher duties; and that will certainly be a. gain to the country. As soon as manufacturers discover that they will have to pay high wages, and that they will be prevented from combining to overcharge the general . consumer, they will cease their agitation for increased protection; and I welcome the proposal as indicating some finality. We often hear in debate’ that the . manufacturer is a rogue, or the importer a swindler; but I do not use such terms. We know that neither is out for an airing, but desires to make asmuch money as possible in a given time ; and the new protection proposals will remove to a great extent the sting of protection. I suggest that the new protection proposals, whatever they may be worth, should be introduced at an early stage in, the detailed consideration of the Tariff, and not postponed until later on, or until, perhaps, the consideration of the Tariff is completed. There are many honorable members who, like myself, favour a low Tariff, generally speaking; and if the legislation in reference to the new protection be submitted early, we shall know where we are in relation to the duties which may be adopted. In the Labour Party there are many who hold low Tariff opinions, and who desire that the benefit of any protection which may be afforded shall extend to the whole of the community. To those honorable members the introduction of the new protection proposals at an early date would also be of assistance. The Treasurer was asked yesterday whether the new protection would apply to agricultural and pastoral pursuits, which afford large’ and important avenues of employment, but he was unable to answer the question.
– No, I was not.
– Then why did the honorable gentleman not reply when the honorable member for North Sydney asked the question? I respectfully ask the Treasurer whether the new protection will apply to agricultural and pastoral industries ? I shall wait for an answer.
– Do not wait; it will delay the Tariff.
– Last night the Treasurer did not give an answer, and to-day, apparently, he is unable to do so. Under the circumstances we ought to hesitate in passing the Tariff until we have some further information in regard to the new protection, which materially affects groceries, agricultural products, textiles, and metals and machinery. Before honorable members can vote on the items in these classes they ought to have an idea whether the new protection will be effective in regard to them. If the Treasurer wishes to get the Tariff passed quickly, on the lines he has proposed, it is to his interest to place the desired information before us. The Government delayed the consideration of the Tariff in order that the Judiciary Bill, the Commonwealth Salaries Bill, and the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill might be passed, and surely they ought not to hesitate to introduce immediately a Bill to give effect to their new protection proposals. Such a measure ought certainly to be dealt with before we finally dispose of the Tariff. Before we are called upon to vote on any division in the schedule, we ought also to know whether this policy of the new protection is to apply to the agricultural and pastoral industries. Those industries give employment directly and indirectly to tens of thousands of workers, and with the instincts of a radical I seek for information on this question.
– A radical?
– Yes. The honorable member is a new-born radical. I remember when he used to oppose radical measures. From the first, however, I have been a radical and a free-trader, because I believe that free-trade is in the best interests of the masses. I do not know whether the new protection will stand the test of time, but if it proves effective, it will whittle away many of the obstacles that have hitherto stood’ between me and the policy of protection. If it will give the workers a share of the benefits of protection, a good deal of my opposition to that policy will disappear. A man is not a free-trader merely because he wishes to buy from the foreigner.
– Oh yes he is.
– It may suit the honorable member when on the platform to urge that free-traders are foreign traders, but I have yet to learn that my views in regard to freedom of commerce are not on a broader basis. As a radical, I have fought for an equitable adjustment of the burden of taxation. Hitherto protection has imposed a burden upon those least able to bear it; but under the new protection we are told that there will be a more equitable adjustment of taxation. It seems to me that the Treasurer has thrown aside his “ discriminating protection “ cloak, as well as his “scientific protection garments ; and has now donned a suit of “ new protection.’’ If tinder the proposals now before us an attempt is to be made by a Board to fix prices and profits as well as to determine the rate of pay to be received by workers in various industries, it must be admitted that protection and Socialism are twin sisters. I am strongly of opinion that the new protection is closely allied with Socialism.
– The Opposition corner do not share that view.
– That, at all events, is my opinion. If on top of their Australian Industries Preservation Bill, Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill, and Commerce Bill, the Government are going to place this policy of new protection, I do not think that I shall have to wait long to hear the Treasurer announcing himself as a full-blown Socialist. The Labour Party are taking the Government, with a mask over their faces, step by step, in the direction of Socialism, and before they know where they are, Ministers will find themselves committed to that policy. It seems to me that it would be easier for the State to conduct some of these industries than it would be for it to regulate prices and wages relating to them, and to penalize manufacturers who fail to observe the conditions to be laid down.
– Let us get on with the Tariff.
– The honorable member would like us to “ buy a pig in a poke “ - to vote for the Tariff without discussion, and to adopt the new protection proposals without attempting to analyze them. Unless we are careful we shall have a repetition of our experience in connexion with the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which we are told must be amended. I say openly that I intend to vote for the new protection. Ipropose to give it a trial, for the simple (reason that it is the only way open to me, so far as I can see, to reduce the burden of taxation now on the shoulders of the people. I am strongly opposed to the Tariff, and I intend to adopt what seems to me a means of destroying its most objectionable features. The Labour Party hold that fiscalism is a matter of no great importance to the workers - that neither protection nor free-trade benefits them to any material extent - and they now propose to water clown the system of protection. That is an admission on their part that protection does not bring about a paradise of labour. The policy has been patched again and again, and legislation of this kind is mere botching. Apparently, the people of Australia approve of the coddling of industries by means of a protective policy, and we have now to devise some scheme by which the benefits of that policy will be equally distributed. If the new protection proves effective, it will certainly do away with the clamour for increased duties. We have been told tha,t it is unconstitutional. That contention is raised in connexion with nearly every measure submitted to us, and the question can be settled only by an appeal to the High Court. I am opposed to the suggestion which has been made more than once that the constitutions lit v cf a Bill should be determined, before it becomes law, by a reference to the High Court.
– The Court has decided that that cannot be done.
– I was not aware of that, but in any event I should be opposed to the adoption of that course. It would simply mean delegating to the High Court one of the functions of the Parliament. AVe have in this House very many skilled lawyers, and probably we shall find them expressing different views with regard to the constitutionality of these proposals. There seems to be no desire to test measures of this kind by an appeal to the High Court.
– There has been no action under all the Acts which the honorable member has in mind. No one has been proceeded against under them, and consequently they have not been tested.
– Then they have simply been a dead-letter?
– That is all.
– I should like to know whether this new protection, which has been introduced as a lubricant to .smooth the passage of a protective Tariff through the Parliament, is also to be a dead-letter. My desire is that it shall be operative, and I think that the Bill relating to it should be passed before we are called upon to deal with such divisions as “groceries and agricultural products,” and “ metals and machinery,” on which there is sure to be a fight between the supporters of moderate and of low duties. If we knew that the new protection wouldbe effective, many honorable members would not be disposed to so strongly resist a number of these duties as they would otherwise be. We are told that under this scheme reasonable consideration will be given to those outside the industries affected by the Tariff, and that it will deal with combinations which attempt to increase prices.
– It can effect only about one-twentieth of them.
– Combinations are to be reported to Parliament. What will happen in that event? Everything will depend upon the temper of the Legislature. We are travelling at a very rapid rate, and the moment we depart from our first principles in regard to taxation we find ourselves on the brink of a precipice. If prices are to be regulated, I should like to know whether the Government will be prepared to introduce, in a Banking Bill provisions to regulate the rates of interest that may be levied by financial institutions. Manufacturers often have to make arrangements with such institutions, since their own capital is not always sufficient to enable them to carry on their operations effectively ; and if these proposals be passed they may want to know what Parliament intends to do in the direction of preventing banking and other institutions from charging unduly high rates of interest. I can understand the members . of the Labour Party raising both hands in favour of the proposals of the Minister, because the putting of them forward is an admission of a desire to lessen the burdens of the masses, and an attempt to appease those who are feeling the pressure of Customs taxation. Yesterday ‘ the Treasurer read a list of prices of articles of ordinary consumption obtained in Melbourne by one of his officers, and because there were very few increases, he said that the effect of the Tariff had not been to make living dearer. His officer, however, took the prices of shops in Chapel-street, Prahran, probably the cheapest suburb in
Victoria, and many of the articles contained in his list are not articles affected by the Tariff.
– Besides, many of the prices quoted were for catch-lines, exhibited in the windows.
– Yes. As the honorable member for East Sydney has pointed out, that the Tariff has increased the cost pf living is demonstrated by the fact that the revenue obtained last month was larger than that obtained in August, the probability being that the public will have to pay at least £2,000,000 more during the coming year for the goods which they consume than they paid last year. The effect of the general elections in New South Wales, in stirring up to a sense of the burdens now imposed on it a public which has always loathed Customs taxation, has caused the members of the Labour Party to now express the wish to” reduce the duties on the necessaries of life. I shall vote for a reduction of all such duties to the lowest level, because the Treasurer will not say whether he will introduce his’ new taxation proposals early or late, and I wish to be perfectly sure of my position. My desire is to reduce the burdens of the people, and to make an equitable distribution of taxation. If the new protection proposals were introduced, they might silence opposition to some of the Customs proposals. No doubt the ardent Victorian protectionist who is so desirous that the Tariff shall be passed, will not worry much about the new protection once he gets higher rates of duty ; but honorable members generally should urge its introduction at the earliest moment.
– It should have been introduced long ago.
– Yes. The honorable member .pointed out last night the need for further information as to what is intended by, the Minister. I understand that he is as desirous as any member to reduce iniquitous charges upon the public, and to do all that can be done for the protection of employes, but that he fears that the measures proposed will be as ineffective as other Government measures have proved, and that they have been brought forward merely to appease the public. Certainly, legislation of the character which we are now being asked to consider amounts almost to an admission that as a race we arc more or less decadent. The establishment of Arbitration Courts, Wages Boards, and similar tribunals shows that ideas have changed in regard to individual power and strength. But if the manufacturers are to receive protection by means of Customs duties, the masses whom they employ should also be protected. With regard to the provisions of Part VI. of the Tariff, which deals with metals and machinery, I say openly that, although I have been an anti-bounty man for years - and I do not declare myself in favour of bounties now - when assistance is being given to every other industry, the iron industry is entitled to consideration, and it can best be assisted by a bounty. I should like to know whether the proposed Bounty Bill will be introduced before Part VI. is dealt with.
– I understand that those items are to be postponed until the Bounty Bill has been passed through both Houses.
– I would rather support a bounty for the encouragement of the iron industry than vote for import duties, because Australia will not for many years produce all the iron she requires, and an. import duty would be a tax on all users of iron, and the death-blow to many of our engineering firms, whereas if a bounty were granted the public would have to pay extra only for the iron produced locally. But if a bounty is given for the production of iron, it must be coupled with a bounty, for the encouragement of ship building. Both industries are slightly more important than is the growing of peanuts or flax, and they will employ a class of artisans such as we should be glad to encourage here - sturdy Scotchmen, Irishmen, Englishmen, and Welshmen, who must be paid good wages, and will prove desirable citizens. These industries do not leave openings for the employment of alien or cheap labour. But if the price of iron is increased to encourage its local production, the industries which employ iron most largely must also receive consideration. I trust that, when the leader of the Labour Party speaks, we shall receive more information about the new protection ; but if we are to go much further in our interference with business, there will not be much difference between’ State regulation and State enterprise, and in the long run it may be cheaper and easier for the State to manage industries than to regulate their proper conduct at every point. I do not intend to go to extremes, but I am prepared to give the new protection a trial.
I hope that it is not a mere placard. It is, of course, an admission that protectionists have at least realized what freetraders have always recognised, that Customs taxation does not benefit the masses on whom chiefly it imposes burdens. They admit that manufacturers are as ready as importers to despoil the public, both desiring to make as much as they can. Protectionists, like free-traders, now see that if manufacturers are to be assisted, their employes must also- be protected. Of course, this means interference all along the line, but the public desire to be coddled, and all sections of the community must be treated alike. No doubt, in the end, the system will work its own cure, and manufacturers will cease to clamour for higher duties. The Treasurer will not declare whether the new protection is to apply to the agricultural and pastoral industries, a tacit admission that it will be inoperative as regards a large section of the community. Further, it can have no effect in improving the position of clerks and others employed in distributing houses. When a measure is introduced to prevent the undue raising of prices, will it apply only to the raising of prices on articles- on which import duties are imposed? Apparently that will be so, because the. penalty for infringing the conditions which are to be laid down is to be the payment of an Excise duty equal to half the import duty.
– A point’ we wish to have cleared up is whether the new protection is to apply to the amount of the increase to industries which are being protected by duties which have been only slightly increased, or whether it is to apply to the amount of the duty?
– Quite so. If there has been no increase of duties, will the new protection apply? The whole matter is surrounded with - difficulties. I voted for the imposition of an Excise duty on harvesters, to prevent ‘the public from being victimized by manufacturers; but I fear that measures of this kind will not have the results which are hoped for. However, if there is to be an interference, we should interfere on behalf of the general public, in whose interests I shall be found fighting. I have always opposed protection, because I believe that the public at large do not benefit from it, and if the Treasurer does not introduce his new protection early, I hope that every member of the Committee will do all that he can to reduce duties. The honorable member for East Sydney has .appealed to the Committee to expedite the consideration of the Tariff. But, personally, I have a free hand in this matter, having refused, whenbefore the electors, to be tied. I told my constituents that, as I had discovered that free-traders often try to obtain protection in the interests of particular constituents, I should not be such a fool as to neglect the interests of those whom I representTherefore, I shall act according to my discretion. Personally, I am a freetrader, and believe that Australia would be better under free-trade; but free-trade is impossible at present under the Constitution. Yet, as the working classes have to struggle to make both ends meet with the very small wages which they receive, notwithstanding the machinery which has been established to compel manufacturers to pay reasonable rates of remuneration, I shall do what I can to reduce duties to the lowest level. If I could. I would vote for direct taxation. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, however, I am more or less restricted in my action. Within a very brief period I believe that this Parliament will be compelled to resort to a Federal income tax. In this connexion, honorable members wilt have noticed that some of the States - owing to their continued prosperity - propose “to repeal the taxation upon incomes derived from personal exertion. Those honorable members who fear that certain items in the Tariff are merely intended to be revenue producing ‘need not hesitate to cut them down. We must recollect that Sir George Turner, the most careful accountant who has ever presided at the Treasury, under-estimated the revenue which would be derived from the Kingston Tariff by .£4,000,000 a year. That being so, I am not surprised that the present Treasurer has under-estimated the receipts under the present Tariff ‘by nearly £3,000,000 per annum.
– The basis upon which Sir George Turner made his calculations was altered in Committee of Ways and Means.
– I do not think so. At any rate, that excuse cannot be urged in the case of the present Treasurer. I hope that serious reductions will be made by this Committee, particularly in the duties imposed upon the necessaries of life. I intend to give the new protection a fair trial, because I desire that the whole com- munity, and not a favoured few, shall participate in the, benefits resulting from a protective policy.
– I did not intend to again intrude into the general debate upon this item, and but for some criticisms which were directed against the new protection scheme of the Government last evening I should not do so. In the first place, I ought, perhaps; to acknowledge the sympathetic attitude which has been adopted by the honorable member for East Sydney towards those proposals.. While he did not commit himself to their details, his attitude generally towards the proposals put forward by the Government - which are very similar to those which I put forward on behalf of the Labour Party a short time ago - led me to believe that we shall get from him every assistance in licking them into shape, if that can be done. For myself, I am very glad that he has taken that view of his duty, and of the work to be done by this Committee. The honorable member mentioned one point which certainly merits consideration. It has reference to the possible unconstitutionality of proposals of this character. I am free to admit that the constitutionality or otherwise of almost every proposal that may be brought forward is open to doubt. For myself, I would not pretend to express any dogmatic opinion upon the constitutionality of the Government scheme. I strongly think that it is constitutional, but I admit that there are many features to be argued, and that in construing our Constitution the Courts have recourse to legal principles’ and maxims which do not appear upon the face of the instrument. These are naturally beyond the ken of most laymen, and consequently I do not express any dogmatic opinion as to the constitutionality of these proposals. But I see no reason why the experiment should not be attempted. What is the position to-day ? We have been commanded by the people of Australia to encourage the establishment of industries within the Commonwealth. The verdict of the country at the last election is admitted by the honorable member for East Sydney and nearly all those who are associated with him to have been distinctly in favour of a protective Tariff.
– We do not admit that.
– Those who dispute it must have lost their senses of sight and hearing. The most responsible member upon the opposite side of the Chamber - the honorable member for East Sydney - distinctly admitted, immediately after this House first met. that that was the decision of the people of Australia. I have every respect for the honorable member for Lang, but I prefer to accept the decision of the honorable member for East Sydney upon a matter of this importance.
– Does the honorable member say that the fiscal issue was the issue in Sydney ?
Mr.WATSON. - I say emphatically that so far as I was personally concerned, I raised the issue wherever I went.
– Did only protectionists, vote for the honorable member ?
– I do not know of anybody else who voted for me. There may have been some-
– The honorable member knows better than that.
– The standing complaint of the Labour Party at the last election was that we had no policy except a negative one, upon which to go to the country.
– Everybody recognised that. The issue, so far as I was concerned, was made perfectly clear. The people were informed that we intended to alter the Tariff in the direction of giving industries a. large measure of protection.
– Did the honorable member for Calare make that clear ?
– He was returned as a free-trader.
– I was denounced all over my electorate as a protectionist.
– That was either the result of ignorance or of malice. There is no doubt as to what was the decision of Australia in regard to the Tariff. We have received from the electors a mandate to take such steps as will encourage Australian industries and place them upon a firm basis. With regard to the constitutionality of the new protection scheme, if any attempt is to be made to safeguard the interests of the consumers and of wageearners, it seems to me that it can be done only by adopting the method which has been proposed. Should it prove to be unconstitutional, I suppose that Parliament will have to ask for a further grant of power from the people. We shall have to ask for express permission to deal with certain subjects. But the fear that the scheme may be held to be unconstitutional should not deter us from taking what appears to be a reasonable step to safeguard the interests of the people generally. I rose chiefly, however, to reply to a few of the criticisms of the Government proposals in this connexion. The chief, if not the only real critic of the scheme, has been the honorable member for Parramatta. A few moments ago the honorable member for Dalley said that the deputy leader of the Opposition did not oppose the principle embodied in the scheme.
– Not the general principle.
– If he did not oppose it his support was certainly of a very watery character.
– He opposed it straight out.
– That is my own impression. I do not wish to cavil at his opposition. Every honorable member is entitled to the fullest liberty in regard to the attitude that he assumes upon this question. But the honorable member for Parramatta was in a very pessimistic mood when he took up the stand that he did last evening. If we were to accept his con- . elusions we should cease from experimental legislation altogether. The policy of laissez faire would have to be followed, and we should be obliged to sit down in helplessness, and attempt nothing of a reformatory character. Personally, I do not take up that attitude, nor have I ever done so. Nobody can contend for a moment that every piece of experimental legislation will be successful. But unless we make these legislative attempts and ascertain where the weak spots are, we canrot hope for success. * My own view is that reform is practically synonymous with experiment’, as it has been all through the centuries. We must be prepared continuously’ to launch out in new directions, even though we may very frequently fail. In the mechanical world, if it were not for the repeated failures of those who make attempts in the direction of improvement, we should have no progress. What applies to mechanics applies equally to politics.
– Society is not a mechanism, but an organism.
– That is true enough in one sense, but nevertheless there is a very close relationship between the methods that we must follow, irrespective of whether we are attempting to improve society or to improve mechanical contrivances. In each case we have to resort to experiments . which, in many cases, prove failures. But we must recollect that we shall be compensated if we get an occasional success of any magnitude. The honorable member for Parramatta has- intimated that, in his opinion, the Arbitration Courts have failed. I suppose that he had in his mind particularly the Arbitration Court of New. South. Wales, with which he and I are best acquainted. In my opinion the arbitration law of that State has not received anything like a fair trial. The present President of the Court - Judge Heydon - a short time, ago-
– What about Western Australia ?
– I will come to that presently. Only a short time ago the President of the New South, Wales Arbitration Court - Judge Heydon - intimated that it was impossible for him to carry out the apparent intention of the Legislature whilst he was hampered with the law in its present form. In very graphic language he compared the Court to “ a water-logged ship riddled with shot holes in all directions, and therefore a helpless hulk.” When the Judge of the Court expresses that opinion as to the condition in which the tribunal has been left by the failure of the State Legislature to close up the ‘ loop-holes which have been disclosed in the Act, it is scarcely fair to condemn the principle of arbitration. But, nevertheless, it has achieved a- great deal in every part of New South Wales. The principle has been shown to be sound ; and although, as the honorable member for Parkes said, men frequently do not obey the awards - and that can be admitted at once - the fact does not vitiate the main principle of’ the Act, or prove that it is valueless from the stand-point of the community. Every Act of Parliament is disobeyed by some person ; every law that is. placed on the statute-book finds some law breaker.
– Look at the Standing Orders of this House !
– I understand that the Standing Orders are occasionally broken.
– But citizens are generally punished when thev break the law.
– And I think there . ought to be a means- of punishing those who break industrial law. I have alwaysbeen in favour of some punishment ; and I still think that something could be done in this direction. At the same time, the law has, I say, achieved a great deal ; and the fact that it is occasionally broken by the employers and employes does not, to my mind, vitiate the principle which underlies it.
– Pass a law to catch a millionaire !
– At any rate, I think that the idea of some punishment is a good one. The honorable member for Parramatta and others yesterday pointed out that legislation of a cognate nature, connected with the harvester industry, was passed last year, but that it had proved a failure, or had not been operative. But that does not, to my mind, prove anything. In the first place, this harvester legislation was admittedly an experiment. I think that every one who voted for the Bill, even the honorable member for Boothby, who first suggested it, admitted that the idea was wholly experimental, and would probably have to be improved on later. I am reminded that in some cases the Excise Act has achieved something in the matter of’ wages.
– And in other cases, there has not been time to apply the Act.
– I am not sure that there ought not to have been an earlier attempt made to collect the Excise in cases where an exemption certificate has not been obtained.
– It shows great laxity on the part of the Government.
– At any rate, it does not appear that there is sufficient excuse for delay in bringing this portion of the Act into operation. But even at the worst, its failure does not necessarily condemn any similar proposals, or any proposals for improvement that may be submitted now. Therefore, I do not regret very much that the Excise Act is likely’ to be superseded, and. I do not place very much reliance on the suggestion that its operation proves that no such legislation can be successful. The method involved in the harvester legislation was admittedly clumsy, and it is only bv finding some other way out of the difficulty that, in my opinion, it is possible to achieve success.
– The principle is the same in both schemes.
– The principle is precisely the same; the present is only another, and, perhaps, more effective, method of applying it. The honorable member for Parramatta said yesterday that we cannot stop sweating ; and I suppose he meant that we cannot altogether abolish it. Well, one is prepared to admit that we can- not altogether abolish sweating. While human nature remains as it is, some percentage of employers will be found ready to take advantage of the industrially helpless, who cannot defend themselves, and who, having no resources to fall back upon, are constrained to take any wage offered, so long as it is sufficient for sustenance. But I contend that already in Australia sweating has been minimized very considerably owing to the various methods which have been employed.
– I said so.
– The fact that we cannot altogether abolish, sweating should not deter us from making continuous and improved attempts as opportunity serves. That is the only point I wish to make in reply, namely, that the fact that we have considerably diminished sweating should encourage us to still further efforts whenever a chance is afforded.
– What does the honorable member mean by ‘ ‘ diminished ‘ ‘ ? Does he mean that the sum of sweating has been diminished, or that sweating has been diminished in certain directions?
– I say that the sum of sweating has been diminished very largely.
– I am not quite sure about that.
– I think it is the fact. The honorable member knows that in the slop-clothing trade in Sydney, for instance, there has been an immense improvement in this connexion.
– The honorable member is again quoting an incident which may be admitted. The question is whether sweating as a whole has diminished.
– Yes, I say that the total amount of sweating has been materially diminished.
– Sweating may be diminished in one direction, while it is increasing in another.
– I do not think that has been the case. The worst forms of sweating have existed in those industries where women are the principal employes.
– Just imagine what the sweating would have been had there been no law !
– Quite so ; if there had been no restrictive legislation, or no attempt made to regulate wages and conditions, there would have been much more sweating than we see to-day.
– Sweating would have gone on increasing, particularly in Victoria.
– I do not. know the conditions of Victoria so well as I know the conditions of New South Wales.
– The conditions have been greatly improved in Victoria.
– And the same in New South Wales; and that result alone is sufficient . to encourage us to further .s[ep. in the same direction.
– The improvement is due to the law, of course.
– Undoubtedly- It appears to me that the honorable member for Parramatta altogether misunderstood or misconstrued what is conveyed in the proposals submitted by the Government. The honorable member yesterday talked about attempts to regulate wages throughout Australia. He mentioned difficulties, and, amongst others, the fact that throughout Australia there are varying conditions which make living high in one place and cheap in another, and which make the cost of getting goods from the place of manufacture to one place greater than it does to get them to another. The honorable member went on to emphasize those varying conditions, which undoubtedly exist, just as though it were proposed to have one uniform wage throughout the Commonwealth. No such suggestion has Deen put forward in connexion with these proposals.
– I pointed out the varying conditions more as a difficulty in the determination of a fair price.
– I have looked through the honorable member’s remarks, and I take him as applying the difficulties to both proposals - not merely to prices, but also to wages. What is involved in the proposals as I understand them is that the awards of States tribunals - the decisions of the States tribunals - shall be accepted wherever they exist ; and those . awards or decisions have been arrived at with due regard to the conditions existing in the States.
– The Commonwealth Act specifically states that.
– Quite so.
– The honorable member knows that only a modicum of those employed in industries to which duties will apply, are able to obtain awards.
– I do not know that that is. so. In some States - for instance, in Victoria - where Wages Boards . are in existence, there is some limitation of the area in which those Boards have jurisdic tion, whereas in New South Wales there is no restriction as to the area over which an Arbitration award can be extended. There is, therefore, nothing to prevent employes in any given industry from being asked to work in accordance with an award of the Excise Board, in the event of no State authority having been set up, or no attempt having been made to take advantage of a State authority in order to get “ an award or decision. In Tasmania, for instance, where there is no State authority, or in Victoria, outside the jurisdiction of the Wages Boards, the proposal of the Government is that the Excise Board shall grant a certificate, either after taking evidence itself or by deputy, which will give those who obtain the certificate the same immunity from’ taxation as is enjoyed by those working under a Wages Board’s decision or an Arbitration Court’s decision.
– Can this Parliament instruct an independent Board to accept the decisions of a State Board or tribunal ?
– That may be done by Act of Parliament, but we do not instruct the Board to accept a State decision. The proposal involves this - that the use of the Commonwealth trade mark shall exempt from taxation the manufacturer who is entitled to use it. The Commonwealth trade mark at present can be used with the Minister’s consent by any manufacturer who conforms to a Wages Board’s decision or an Arbitration Court’s award. Therefore, all that the suggestion of the Treasurer involves is that, in addition to those means of obtaining the use of the Commonwealth trade mark, another Board shall be constituted^ available for all Australia, which can issue a certificate entitling a manufacturer to use the trade mark.
– How should we deal with an individual manufacturer who employs no labour?
– In such a case it is proposed to follow the lines .of the Factories Acts, and make exemptions. However, that is a matter of detail.
– What would be the area of the application of the decision? Would it be a common rule?
– It would not be a common rule over the Commonwealth, because that would mean a uniform wage; and such a proposal, in my opinion, is impracticable. As the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, wages are justifiably higher in Western Australia than in Victoria or Tasmania. We, therefore, propose to follow the decisions of the States Courts where they exist, and, where they do not exist, to constitute a Commonwealth tribunal to supply the deficiency.
– I desire to know the area of the Commonwealth tribunal’s jurisdiction ; will it exercise a limited jurisdiction.
– No, I think the Excise Boards will exercise jurisdiction all over Australia.
– That is what I desire to know.
– Will the jurisdiction of the Excise Board be restricted to trades not controlled by the States Courts?
– Will the award of the Board be a common rule for the Commonwealth ?
– Certainly not; it will not be a common rule.
– It will be for the State tribunal to make it a common rule.
– Each manufacturer will have to get the certificate for himself.
– In cases where there are no State tribunals, that is so. The certificate will be issued by the Board, after either taking evidence itself or by deputy in regard to the conditions where the particular manufacture is being carried on. There is a provision, I understand, in the Government proposal that the Board may depute to a police magistrate and assessors the business of taking evidence in any remote portion of the Commonwealth, and thus obviatethe necessity of travelling immense distances ; and on that evidence a decision will be arrived at as to what is a reasonable rate.
– The Board may do so, but need not do so unless it chooses.
– It may, or may not.
– The case of each manufacturer will be an independent case, but at the same time the decision in one case will greatly help the decision in another.
– Quite so; the honorable member for East Sydney is correct, except that where an Arbitration Court award, or a Wages Board decision, already exists, it will be sufficient.
– Quite so.
– But other cases will be decided on their merits, except for general features that may be supplied by the decisions in other cases.
Colonel Foxton. - Six Boards will not do the work.
– I am not so sure of that.
– One Board will be sufficient.
– The honorable member for Brisbane should recognise that there will be auxiliaries to assist the work of the Board. Classes of employers would no doubt, through their associations, make united application to the Board. In all the States capitals the employers are for the most part associated.
– There is, for instance, the Employers’ Federation.
– Quite so. They would make united application, and would be dealt with in the one operation.
– And united application would both cheapen and expedite the work for the employers?
– Undoubtedly. Another point to be remembered is that the work of the Board would relieve any congestion of business in the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, and in connexion with Wages Boards and other classes of industrial machinery. The honorable member for Brisbane will recognise on consideration that the work of this Board is not likely to be so great as would at first sight appear tobe probable. It will be minimized very materially by the existence of industrial tribunals in four of the States. Such tribunals do not exist in Queensland and Tasmania, and the fact that they have not been established in two out of the six States is a strong reason for some legislation of this kind.
– Steps are now being taken in Queensland for the appointment of Wages Boards.
– They are moving in that direction, but we do not know how long itmay take to secure the passing of the Bill to which the honorable member refers.
Colonel Foxton. - The second reading was, I think, carried without division.
– That was in the Lower House ; we do not know what may happen in the Legislative Council. In some of the States the area of jurisdiction of the industrial tribunals is extremely limited, and much trouble is involved in securing its extension. However, wherever local organizations exist the work of the Board will be minimized. I am sure that every honorable member welcomes the fact that the States authorities are themselves making the way easy The general existence of these local organizations will mean practically that there is nofurther work for the Commonwealth authority to do, so far as the regulation of wages and hours are concerned. As to the proposal to constitute a body to report as to prices, I think that the honorable member for Parramatta when he spoke was under a misapprehension. He totally misunderstood the proposition, and seemed to have no conception of what was aimed at. He indulged in a long explanation of the obvious, pointing out that prices varied throughout Australia, and that the conditions of manufacture in Western Aus- tralia and Victoria vary just as they do i n Queensland and New South Wales. All hat is perfectly clear. We at once ad- mit thecorrectness of such a statement, but jo far as I know there is no proposal to fix prices. The first point that appealed t o me in regard to the harvester legislation passed by this Parliament was that it would be impossible to apply such a system to the immense arena of general industry. That is to say, whilst the application of the system to one particular line of manufacture with which we were dealing separately was practicable-
– And we had evidence of the cost of construction.
– Quite so. The unit of manufacture was large, and it was comparatively easy to fix the maximum price to be charged in that case, since we had the necessary data to work upon. I think every one must recognise that it would be absolutely impossible to apply that method to the protection of the consumers of goods generally produced throughout the Commonwealth. That being so, all this talk about the impossibility of attempting to fix prices is a mere waste of effort. We have never proposed to fix prices throughout Australia. It would be practically impossible to attempt to run up and down the whole gamut of goods and prices, and, therefore, no such proposition is made. What is proposed is to appoint a permanent body, which shall be given all the facilities of Government, all the powers that are necessary to examine books and other data upon which an opinion maybe formed, and that it shall constantly watch over industrial conditions in the Commonwealth.
– Acting upon its own initiative ?
– Yes, and also upon the suggestion of any one who chooses to approach it. It should be laid down that part of the work of this Board shall be to inquire into the general conditions surrounding industries, and to report at least at regular intervals to Parliament. Such a body certainly ought to be able, in the course of a little time, to form a very fair estimate of what is a reasonable price to be charged for an article. I do not propose, as the honorable member for Parramatta suggested, that it should attempt to follow prices from the factories in Melbourne to the retail shops, say, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Colonel Foxton. - How could the Board assess wages if it did not do so?
– That is another question.
Colonel Foxton. - But the one is the corollary of the other.
– No. I should like the honorable member to make an effort to dissociate the two proposals. Each is in itself distinct. I have already pointed out that the Board could delegate its power of inquiry as to wages to a police magistrate and assessors in distant parts of the Commonwealth or to any other body decided upon by the Parliament.
Colonel Foxton. - But the profits made in an industry would certainly be a material factor in fixing wages.
– With all respect to the honorable member, I hold the view that a living wage should be insisted upon, even although no profits are made.
– It might be necessary to fix more than a living wage.
– Where the profits were considerable, it might be advisable to do so.
Colonel Foxton. - That is exactly my point.
– Could wages be paid out of losses?
– No. Where there is a loss, it is paid out of capital. A business man prepares in advance for such a contingency. If he thinks that there is a prospect of his losing for a little while, he determines either to make good his loss out of capital or to shut up.
– The State may provide for losses out of capital.
– And business men do so. They say very often, in effect, “It is worth while making up our minds to suffer for a time a certain loss out of capital, since we know that a little later on we shall be fully compensated. We are prepared to lose a little in the hope of making good our losses later on.”
– Sometimes a man who does that finds himself in the Insolvency Court.
– That is no reason why he should sweat his workmen and regard them in a business way as part of his machinery. On the same principle, it might as well be argued that the manufacturer who is making a loss should demand from the maker of his machinery a rebate, since he has not been able to use it successfully.
– When we reach that point the Board need only report to Parliament.
– That is so. I want to make it clear that it is unnecessary, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta, that the Board should follow retail prices throughout Australia. What does such a proposal involve? If to insure that the consumer is not injured by reason of protective duties, we should follow retail prices to villages in remote parts of Australia, the same duty would lie at our door in respect of imported goods. If it be our duty to follow the retail price of goods locally produced, it is equally our duty to follow the retail price of imported goods that are sold locally. There is no need at present to follow prices to the retailer. We assume that the same machinery which distributes imported goods will operate in the distribution of locallyproduced goods, and at the same cost. Whether the goods be locally produced or imported, the storekeeper or the draper will add the same round 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, to cover expenses and profit.
– He will be exposed to the same competition.
– Quite so; therefore, the retail price, although in itself a very important factor, is not a matter with which we are at present concerned. The same factors govern retail prices, whether the goods be produced in Australia, America, . or Germany.
– I do not think it is necessary to follow the goods to the retail shops.
– Nor do I. The factors, whatever the origin of the goods, are exactly the same. The retailer, as compared with the wholesale man, adds the same profit in both cases.
– Whether the goods are produced at a loss or a profit?
– Yes, and whether they come from outside Australia or are locally produced.
– He will be satisfied with the same profits in each case ; if he is not, further competition will make him.
– There will be the same degree of competition, and, therefore, the same degree of profit. The gravamen of the charge against local manufacturers, under a protective policy, has been that they put up the price to the highest limit permitted by the Tariff. That has been the charge levelled - and sometimes with justice - by the free-traders against the protected manufacturer.
– They keep up the price, although they cheapen the cost of production by the use of improved machinery. Mr. WATSON.- That is so, and sometimes increased trade means a reduction in the cost of production. In a great many cases a manufacturer can afford to reduce his prices, notwithstanding an increased Tariff, because, under that Tariff, he secures a large turnover whilst his managerial expenses remain unaltered.
– They say that they will do that.
– Wewish to insure that the manufacturers shall be kept to their word. Until the millennium is nearer at hand than it appears to be to-day, we may allow retailers to compete with each other in the matter of prices. All the proposals of the Government aim at is the insuring that the prices charged by manufacturers shall not be unreasonable; it is not proposed to fix retail prices throughout Australia. I understand that a permanent body is to be appointed, to be charged with the duty of reporting to Parliament, regularly or at irregular intervals, as to whether the prices of the local manufacturers are unduly high, and that, if it is reported that they are too high, Parliament will take action by reducing the protection extended to the particular industry affected.
– How could that be done if only half of the manufacturers connected with that particular industry were offending?
– I think that a serious situation of that kind will not arise, because if only some manufacturers charged extortionate prices, the competition of those charging reasonable prices would speedily put them out of the market. If one-half of the Melbourne manufacturers of boots increased prices unreasonably, the public would buy the boots made by the other half, who were selling at reasonable rates.
– But a difficulty might arise in connexion with the manufacturers of different States.
– The incidence of the Excise would prevent that.
– I think that any difference in prices would result in a speedy adjustment. We must expect that the members of the proposed Board will exercise common sense, and show a certain amount of discrimination. Prices would have to be generally higher than circumstances warrant before the Board would report to Parliament in favour of a reduction of duty.
– The members of the Board must be men of very high class, because they may ultimately become the members of the Inter- St ate Commission. Everything will depend upon the class of men appointed.
– I agree with the Treasurer that very good men will be needed.
– How will the operations of the Board affect the consumers?
– The contention . of free-traders - and I am not sure at the moment whether the honorable member is a free-trader or a protectionist - is that protective duties enable manufacturers to bleed the public by putting up their prices as high as the import duties will allow.
– Is not the introduction of the Minister’s proposal an admission of the truth of that contention ?
– I admit that this is done in many instances, and that the Minister’s scheme was designed to prevent it as far as possible. The honorable member for Franklin asks how the Board will protect the consumers.
– Manufacturers may sell through their own retailers. Many retailers are merely selling for manufacturers. ‘
– That fact would be easily discoverable. The Board would know what manufacturers who were not selling through their own retailers were charging to bond fide retail houses.
– And the books of the manufacturers would show what was being charged.
– Yes. As for the protection of the consumers, if it is shown that extortionate or unfair prices are being charged, the Board will report to Parliament, which may thereupon reduce or strike out the protective duty and allow the competition of outside manufacturers to. come into play.
– Parliament could take any action it chose.
– Yes. Under present conditions, we hear all sorts of statements, mostly ex forte and unreliable, as to the effect of the Tariff on prices, the fortunes which manufacturers are making, and the impoverished state of the poor importers. Many conflicting statements are being put before the country, and it is in the highest degree desirable that Parliament and the community generally should have authoritative information on the subject, such as would be given by the reports of a body composed of experts, who would know exactly how our industries were faring. Such a body as the proposed Excise Board might well be converted later on into the InterState Commission ; but at the present time there are many functions, such as pertain to the Board of Trade in England which might well be added to its work.. It should be more than an Excise Board, and should deal with practically the whole range of trade and industry.
– Why not call it the Board of Trade and Industry?
– That would be a good name to give it. Of course, the name does not matter much, though it should indicate that the Board will have more’ to do than merely to take note of the prices charged in protected industries. In my view, a Board of this sort might do excellent work.
– Would it not be easier for the State to take control of all our industries than to do all that honorable members propose should be done?
– I hardly think so under present conditions.
– Apparently the manufacturer is to be told that he can run his business, but that the State is to manage it.
– I understand that the honorable member intends to support the scheme of the Government, and, as an antiSocialist, he would not support anything unreasonable.
– I have said that it is a placard.
– I do not think that it involves the management by the State of the businesses of manufacturers. Those who’ know anything about trade know that a very fair idea of the range of prices can be obtained without investigating the books pf a manufacturer. But the Board should have power to examine books in difficult cases.
– That power should be used only very exceptionally.
– Yes, and information obtained from books should be treated as confidential. But there should be this reserve power, so that the efforts of the Board might not be frustrated by the contumacy of a manufacturer or of a set of manufacturers!. In the main, it would not be necessary for the Board to demand the production of books, or to interfere in the management of businesses. But the conditions under which a manufacturer employs his work-people are, I think, the proper concern of the community, just as it is our concern that the young shall receive a proper education.
– Does the honorable member propose that the examination of books shall .be limited to the obtaining of information in regard to two matters only?
– lt would be necessary to have power to examine books to determine what wages should be paid.
– How could a fair selling price be arrived at without the examination of books?
– What it would be needful to ascertain would be, broadly, the local cost of production, taking all factors into account. Local prices could be compared with prices abroad, and all the charges which might go to make up the difference could be taken into account. Any set of intelligent men should, in most cases, be able to determine what would be fair prices, without examining the books of manufacturers. Parliament does not desire to go into decimals in this matter. It wishes merely to do rough-and-ready justice. If it were only a question of decimals, the community would not be suffering, and if a substantial grievance were not shown, Parliament would hardly take action.
Mr. Fowler. Only broad questions of equity are to be regarded.
– Yes. I think that the Board should have no great difficulty in reporting whether prices were reasonable. I trust that honorable members will consider these- proposals without prejudice, and with the desire to make the declared policy of Australia as equitable and advantageous as possible to the general community.
.- I have taken a great deal of interest in what is called the new protection, and my initial objections to the proposals of the Treasurer have been greatly allayed by the speech of the honorable member for South Sydney. He appeared to indicate that the proposed Bon rd of Excise will be a sort of Board of Trade, whose business it will be to collect information regarding our industries, and to present it to Parliament for use in the proper regulation of trade.
– The Board will really be a Wages Board.
– The proposed Board, I understand, will collect information as to rates of wages, cost of production, and other matters, for submission to Parliament, and on that information Parliament may act ; but a Wages Board deals directly with employers and employe’s, and arrives at decisions.
– The action of the Wages Board would come in at another point.
– Upon the information presented to Parliament, certificates of exemption will be issued to various manufacturers. There is no doubt that the matter is a very intricate one, and one with which we shall not be able to deal properly until the Bill embodying the scheme is before us.
– The Bill will also contain a schedule of the manufactories to be dealt with.
– The protective policy of the Government, aims first at protecting the manufacturers, secondly at protecting their employes, and finally at protecting the consumers.
– Parliament will deal with those matters.
– I hope that Par, liament will deal with them after the Board has reported to it. Both the Treasurer and myself, as protectionists, agree that protective duties do not increase prices.
– But revenue duties do.
– Protective duties have the effect of ensuring the home market to the local manufacturer, who’ generally charges about the same price for his goods as that which ruled before the duties became operative - perhaps a trifle less. If no increase in prices takes place, and if the operatives engaged in any industry, were previously receiving fair wages, the effect of the Government ‘ scheme will not be to still further increase their wages.
– The Government proposals are intended to insure that all manufacturers shall pay good wages.
– Suppose that production in a factory were increased four-fold, and that the cost of production was decreased by 50 per cent., surely some of the resulting benefit ought to be disbursed in wages.
– Certainly. I have no desire to see any more’ “scrap-heap” legislation enacted, if it can be avoided. We ought - not to pass a law which may prove ineffective. As far as possible, the protection of employes ought to be left to the control of State legislation, because we are not sure of our constitutional power to deal with this question.
– If we have not the power to deal with it, the sooner that we know it the better. I believe that we have the power constitutionally, but there ma-y be a difference of opinion upon that point.
– An appeal to the people would soon settle it.
– Since I entered politics I have only seen one referendum taken, and that was upon the question of Bible reading in State schools. We all know what an extraordinary position was then created. Mr. Bent came into conflict with Archbishop Carr, and the issue was utterly confused.
– Does the “honorable member say that industrial legislation should be left with the States Parliaments?
– That is my opinion. The honorable member for South Sydney has admitted that the States, except Tasmania, are dealing with industrial matters at the present time. In the tropical parts of Australia conditions prevail which do -not obtain in the southern parts of the continent, and, therefore, employers will always be called upon to pay totally different wages.
– Does not the honorable member think that the general control of these matters ought to be in the hands of the Commonwealth?
– But where diverse conditions prevail, the States can do the subject more justice. My desire is to avoid the unnecessary duplication of laws.
– Are the proposals of the Government to be confined to the secondary industries?
– The Bill will contain a schedule and Parliament will deal with it.
– I understand that the scheme of the Government will apply almost entirely to the secondary industries. I repeat, that my desire is to avoid asfar as possible the duplication of laws. If we are to establish a sort of watchdog over the other dogs to see that the latter bark properly-
– If the manufacturers do not bark right, and pay proper wages to their employes, they will have to pay the Excise duty.
– The. manufacturers and all the producers have had an immense meal of industrial legislation of recent years, and they are . not able to digest more at present. Take the case of Queensland as an example. In that State, there is a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in existence, which .provides for the determination of the wages of shearers, rouseabouts, &c. Then there is the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which provides that if an employe^ is killed by lightning, his employer shall pay a certain sum by way of compensation.
– Only if he is killed by something arising out of his employment.
– If he is killed by a stroke of lightning whilst engaged inmustering sheep for his employer, the latter is required to pay compensation.
– If a man be killed by lightning while doing his employer’s work, why should not the latter pay compensation ?
– Then there is the Employers Liability Act. That would be much fairer if it applied all round.
– The Workmen’s Compensation Act in South Australia is working splendidly.
– I am- glad to hear it. I am entirely in favour of a properly regulated Workmen’s Compensation Act. At the same time, I do not wish tosee legislation heaped up unnecessarily.
– I think that the employers are saving money as the result of a lot of it.
– Whether that be so or not, the fact remains that there hasbeen a good deal of this class of legislation. We ought not to continue to heap up such legislation, because, as the result of a protective policy, we shall doubtless receive a great influx of population and capital. I think that the Treasurer mentioned the other day that we are the biggest producers in the world.
– Per head of the population.
– Exactly. If we have to do all the work of Australia in Australia, it stands to reason that we shall require more hands. Consequently, we must have a big influx of capital and labour. If we heap, up industrial legislation, capitalists will hesitate about embarking upon any industry in our midst. The first thing that a man who contemplates engaging in any enterprise here will inquire is, “ To what laws shall I be subjected?” In reply he will be told that he must comply with the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
– In England the Workmen’s Compensation Act is a very drastic measure.
– The capitalist may reply that he has no objection to that legislation, and he may then be told that he will be subjected to some extraordinary legislation enacted by this Parliament. I say that our legislation should be as simple as possible, so as to encourage those who desire to come here and embark upon enterprise.
– Would it not be better to have all these matters under Federal control?
– We have not the constitutional authority to control them at the present time, though I think it may very likely come to us in the future.
– Does the honorable member regard the proposed legislation as simple?
– What I am afraid of is that we are going to have some more scrap-heap legislation, which nobody will be able to understand, and which may have a deterrent effect on people who have an idea of investing capital in Australia, and thus creating industrial enterprises we should all welcome. My object is to ask the Government to make the legislation as simple as possible, so that, while it may produce sufficient evidence for the guidance of Parliament, it shall not prove unduly burdensome.
– I rise to say something which I had intended to say, but omitted, when speaking on the general question a week or so ago. The honorable Treasurer, in the course of his remarks last night, suggested that members of the Tariff Commission ought to keep an open mind in regard to the proposals of the Government. That the members of the Commission will do so goes without saying. I ha!d intended to claim for myself, and other members of the Commission, the right to exercise our independent judgment in regard to the proposals of the Government; but, as I say, I omitted to do so. The constitution of the Tariff required at least four members to sign a report before it could be presented. Necessarily, under such conditions, individual opinions had, to some extent, and, frequently, to a considerable extent, to be sunk in order that a recommendation of a general character might be submitted to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. For instance, the free-trade section of the Commission presented a series, of recommendations in regard to the duties on textiles generally, suggesting, among other things, a duty of 10 ‘ per cent, on bags and sacks. The honorable member for Illawarra, pointed out to his colleagues, when the report was being drawn up, that he intended to dissent so far as that item was concerned. That is an illustration which occurs to me; and I think I am justified in saying that throughout our work, while there was unanimity on general principles, there was not by any means that absolute unanimity in regard to details that some of the reports would indicate.
– That is a reason why we should not swallow in globo all the recommendations of the Commission.
– It shows undoubtedly that there was room for individual opinion, in regard to details, while we may have been agreed on general principles. We endeavoured to indicate general principles rather than details, which appeared more or less unimportant. Of course, honorable members, who are in possession of those general principles, will be able, for themselves, to decide whether or not they shall be applied to particular items.
– Does the honorable member know whether the protectionist section of the Commission adopted a similar course?
– I do not think I am betraying any .confidence when I say that a similar course was, probably, taken by the members of the Commission on the other side of the fiscal fence. We could not, as in the case of a dissenting member of a Cabinet, very well resign in a matter of this sort. It will be at once recognised that the members of the Commission, who had heard all the evidence, were almost in honour obliged to see the matter through, in view of the fact that no one who had not heard the evidence could very well report on it. Under the circumstances, therefore, members of the Tariff Commission may probably vote not absolutely in accordance with some of the recommendations they have signed. That is, at any rate, my position. I shall vote either for or against the proposals of the Government absolutely on the merits of each individual case.
– Then the only value of the Tariff Commission is that the members presented to us so much condensed evidence ?
– The value of the Commission consists in the fact that the members dealt with the evidence presented to them, not as politicians, but as judges. All themembers of the Commission, I think, endeavoured to adopt a judicial attitude. I have done my work as a freetrade member of the Commission, and endeavoured to put fully, and yet fairly, the free-trade position before honorable members. Now it is my duty as a politician to deal with the proposals of the Government, and, while I have signed certain recommendations, proposals, and deductions from the evidence, I claim the absolute right, as a member of this House, to exercise an independent opinion over and above the judicial opinion I exercised when assisting in drawing up, and in signing, the reports. I have to congratulate the Government on having at last taken up in earnest the policy of new protection. It is not so very long ago - only during the last Parliament - that, when I endeavoured to introduce somewhat similar ideasinto the anti-trust legislation, the Government could not see eye to eye with me, and my attempt was defeated. However, we all learn, and, I hope, progress ; and I am glad to see that the Government propose to apply the new protection in a way that will undoubtedly neutralize a great many of the objections that have been taken by free-traders like myself to protection in the past. In view of the absolute betrayal of free-trade by the Opposition
– Oh !
– In view of the absolute -betrayal of free-trade’ by members of the Opposition in favour of a policy of anti-Socialisrn,I, who have been both a free-trader and a Socialist, welcome the proposals of the Government as giving me an opportunity to support a policy which, while not entirely socialistic, undoubtedly, as a member of the Opposition indicated this afternoon, approaches very closely to Socialism. But call the policy by what name we please, it seems to me a distinct advance in the direction of those principles which make for the happiness and progress of humanity. I shall therefore give the Government my assistance in making that policyas successful and as thorough-going as possible.
– I do not propose to occupy more than a few minutes, and I do so in order to reply to one or two observations by the leader of the Opposition, and also by the honorable member for Perth. The honorable member for Perth stated that the Opposition have betrayed free-trade; but I have not been able to discover any evidence on which such a charge can be based. The leader of the Opposition proposed, at the last election, that, in view of a greater and more momentous issue which had arisen, a truce should be called on the fiscal question - at any rate, so far as that election was concerned - in order to afford moderate protectionists, or protectionists of all kinds, an opportunity to unite with freetraders in resisting the encroachments of Socialism.
– That is exactly what the Labour Party have always done in order to advance the encroachments of Socialism.
– But the trouble was that while free-traders sunk the fiscal issue, protectionists did not do so.
– I was just about to refer to that. While the leader of the Opposition was willing, for the purpose of uniting the forces opposed to Socialism, to sinkthe fiscal issue, and so allow those erstwhile opponents to meet on one common platform, the project miscarried, owing to the failure of the protectionists to fall inwith the arrangement. This only shows how unwise it is for freetraders to vote for protectionist candidates on any fiscal sinking plea. The protectionist element of their character will alwaysassert itself.
– Surely the honorable member does not charge protectionists with misleading free-traders?
– I do not say that they -did. mislead’; but merely that they did mot, to anygreat extent, respond to the invitation of the leader of the Opposition. What the protectionists did in many cases was to take advantage of free-trade votes in order to secure the return, of protectionist candidates.
– That was done all over the Commonwealth. When the leader of the Labour Party tells us that at the election the issue was the fiscal question, and that the verdict was for high protection, I remind him that outside Victoria the fiscal issue was not seriously raised, though it may have cropped up incidentally. In Queensland, for instance, there were returned on the antiSocialist issue, members who are protectionists, but who did not raise the fiscal issue before the electors. But, because they had agreed to sink the fiscal issue, . they secured their seats largely by the aid of free-trade votes. How, then, can the honorable member for South Sydney claim that the result of the election in Queensland was a victory for higher protection ? Those Queensland members were elected on a pledge not to interfere with the old Tariff, but to sink the fiscal issue and join forces with the leader of the Opposition in order to resist the encroachments of Socialism. If the fiscal question had been a live issue, will honorable members opposite explain why it is that the Prime Minister did not nut forward protectionist candidates in all the constituencies? Will they tell me why in New South Wales, the principal State of the Commonwealth, returning twenty-seven members, the Prime Minister put forward only two candidates, besides the two members of the Ministry, to uphold the flag of protection ? How is it that the Prime Minister did not see that protectionist candidates contested every seat, or, at least, a majority of seats, in the Commonwealth ?’ Outside Victoria, the fiscal issue was not raised, and the contention that the general election was a victory for high protection, and justified the Government in submitting this Tariff, is an untenable one.
– The fiscal issue was a live question in my electorate.
– But the honorable member’s electorate does not comprise the whole of New South Wales, and it is right on the Victorian border. For my own part, though I did not fight on the fiscal issue, I nevertheless made it plain that I wasa free-trader. In connexion with this ques tion of what is called the new protection we have the bald outstanding fact that the Government themselves have to admit that the policy of protection, which was in the first instance advocated as an infallible . means of improving the condition of the wage earners of this country, has proved, after an experience of forty years, a rank and ghastly failure. They have now to admit what free-traders have always contended, that protection never has, never will, and never can, raise wages. We have seen in Victoria and elsewhere, hot anhonest, but a tacit recognition of that fact in the appointment of antiSweating Commissions, andthe creation of Wages Boards, Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, new protection, and other industrial machinery for raising wages which protection had failed to increase, and to improve the condition of the workers, which protection had failed to. improve. Every one of those devices has admittedly failed to effect the purpose for which it was proposed, and we now have the Government coming forward with a new scheme of new protection. The new protection applied by them to the agricultural implement making industry has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. I am satisfied that this later scheme will be found as abortive as have all the others that have preceded it. I agree with those who insist that we should at once have submitted to us a Bill, or at least a memorandum, embodying the new protection proposals of the Government. Even the leader of the Labour Party admitted a few minutes ago that he was not satisfied with these proposals, although his party was primarily responsible for them. He now thinks that the scope of the proposed Board of Excise should be broadened. It is gradually to develop into something more than was originally intended, and is to embrace the whole system of trade and commerce in Australia. In short, instead of being merely an Excise Board to regulate prices, it is to be something in the nature of the British Board of Trade, and having, perhaps, an even wider scope.
– Will it be any the worse for that?
– No. I think that, if it be so broadened, it will be a vast improvement on the original proposition, so that although it may fail in the particular direction for which it was first designed, it may, nevertheless, be able to do much work of a useful character. Three objects are to be accomplished by the combination of a protective Tariff with a Board of Excise. In the first place, they are going to protect the employers by insuring them fair profits ; in the next place they are going to protect’ the employes by securing to them high wages ; and in the third place they are going to protect the consumer by insuring low prices.
– Fair prices.
– The honorable member yesterday read a list of articles and prices with the object of showing that the effect of protection was to reduce prices.
– I repeat that the honorable member did so. The honorable member for Fawkner, who spoke a few minutes ago, also told us that the’ effect of protection was to reduce, or, at all events, not to raise, prices. The one plea urged by protectionists for the imposition of protective duties has always been that cheapness is prejudicial to the interests of the community. They say,, in effect, “ How can we manufacture goods in Australia when they are imported and sold so. cheaply?”
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– When on the public platform, the honorable member has made that statement times out of number.
– Goods are imported cheaply and sold dearly
– Then, why does the honorable member complain of dumping?
– Because the goods are sold at a high price to the consumer.
– Are we not always told that the- evil of dumping is that goods so introduced are sold at a very low price, thus’ coming into unfair competition with locally produced goods? The Treasurer was careful to tell us that the one great evil of which protectionists complain is the curse of cheapness. The Government introduced the Commerce Bill, the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, and other measures to regulate prices and to prevent goods being sold at too low a rate. The Treasurer knows that I am telling the truth. In connexion with the consideration of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill and the Commerce Bill, he used arguments which he cannot now forsake ; he told us that we should prevent imported goods being . sold at too low a rate, and coming into unfair competition with local manufacturers. And yet he now pretends to say that prices are not, and will not be, raised by protection. What, then, is protection wanted for? Three self contradictory objects are to be accomplished by this one process. If protection is to protect the consumer by reducing prices, we need no protection, because free-trade promotes healthy competition and ‘prevents the undue raising of prices. In the first place, it can be of no use to the manufacturer, since the one thing of which! he now complains is the cheapness of imported goods. He asks for a protective duty to enable him, by artificially raising the prices of imported articles, to compete against them in the local market. And yet we are told today that protection is going to produce the very evil of which these men complain. If it is going to result in cheapness, how are we to have, by the one process, fair profits for the manufacturer, high wages for the operatives, and cheap goods for the consumer? Such a proposal is absolutely ridiculous. Although the Board may report that a certain rate is, or is not, a. fair price, as soon as we attempt to regulate prices, and bring them below a certain standard, we shall have an outcry on the part of the employers that they are not securing the benefits of the protective Tariff, and cannot afford to pay the high wages they are called upon to give. On the face of it,, therefore, this scheme must break down. Apart altogether from the actual difficulties which we shall encounter in trying, by means of a roving Commission, to inquire into the private business matters of various importing and manufacturing firms, in order to determine what are fair prices, we see on the face of the proposal “ failure”’ written as large as possible. Here is another aspect of this matter. The principle to be adopted is the issuing of a Commonwealth trade mark to all employers deemed” to be carrying on their industry under fair and reasonable conditions, and to be paying fair and reasonable wages. This is tobeequivalent to an Excise exemption certificate. But what will be the position of those who employ no labour? What will be the situation where a business is carried on1 bv one individual?
– Or by four?
– Quite so. Unless wehave some special legislation, every one of those people will have to pay the Exciseduty.
– In what industries does such a state of affairs exist ?
– They are innumerable. I am satisfied that as soon as the Board attempts to operate in regard to prices, and tells a manufacturer that he must reduce them, trouble will arise. As a matter of fact, trouble will be experienced long before that stage is reached ; but, assuming that’ the Board gets to that point, we shall at once have a cessation of the cry for more protection. As soon as the manufacturers find that they are not going to reap the benefit of this- higher protection by being able to charge higher prices for their goods - without which they claim they cannot afford to pay higher wages - they will not be nearly so. keen in their demand for high protection as they have hitherto been. I can see that this scheme is the forerunner of the disruption of the whole protectionist edifice. That is one of the reasons which might rather incline me to regard these proposals with some degree of favour ; but I do not propose, at this stage, to commit myself to supporting them. Before doing so, I desire to know something more about them. It seems to foe. farcical to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff before a Bill covering the new protection proposals of the Government has been submitted to us. I wish now to point to a constitutional difficulty. Section 55 of the Constitution provides-
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
– That is why we propose to bring in two Bills.
– But the one will be related to the other. I’ do- not pose as an authority on legal questions, but it seems to me that the proposed legislation, like much that we have already passed, will bring a great deal of grist to the mill of the lawyers, who will be the only people to substantially benefit by it. Before we can fairly consider the Tariff items, we must know what is to be the nature of the Bill or Bills which the Government propose to introduce, since the knowledge of what is proposed may materially affect the decisions of many honorable members on a number of items.
– 1’ was amused yesterday to hear the Treasurer read a list of prices obtained from a number of suburban shops, with a view to showing that the cost of living has not increased since the introduction of the Tariff. Had he contented himself with consulting some of the householders in the locality, he would have had to make a different statement. I know that my wife tells me that housekeeping costs her something like £1 a week more under this Tariff than it did under the old one, and we get our goods from the Chapel-street shops, whence the Minister obtained his price lists. It was childish for the honorable gentleman to go to all that trouble to prove nothing. I have had some difficulty in putting myself right with the people of the St. Kilda and Prahran district, and should have found it a very uncomfortable one to live .in had I not disclaimed responsibility for the Tariff. It is a bad thing that it is legal for a man to impose a Tariff like this, which he knows has not the slightest hope of being accepted by Parliament.
– The honorable member need not make any mistake of that kind.
– Queensland will stand by the Tariff.
– I have received the strongest approval from Queensland.
– I, as one of the Queensland representatives, strongly disapprove of the proposals of the Government.
– The honorable member was elected as a protectionist.
– He is one of the turncoats.
– I am not a turncoat But this Tariff has been sneaked in under false pretences. I grant that the Prime Minister went to the country on the straight-out issue of effective protection.
– And secured a big following.
– He came back with a following of sixteen, so that we are now being ruled by a minority. The leader of the Labour .Party has told us this afternoon that he stood as a protectionist.; but wherever there was a straight-out fight between Socialists and anti-Socialists the fiscal issue was sunk.
– Many anti- Socialists stood as protectionists. I think that the honorable member did so. .
– Just so. I shall deal with that matter presently. In 1905 the Labour Party, at a convention in Melbourne, ran up the socialistic flag, and those’ who were opposed to the nationalization of the means of producing wealth, set about fighting it.
– That has nothing to do with the objective in the Commonwealth platform.
– Item 4 of the fighting platform of the Labour Party provides for a Tariff referendum.
– That is the plank which the honorable member jumped the other day.
– I am not aware that the Labour Party has a monopoly of any particular policy.
– The honorable member is very weak on the timber duties.
– I shall deal with the timber duties when we come to them. Whenever the mirror is turned on the Labour Party, or quotations are made from its publications, its members begin to squeal.
– Only if they are misrepresented.
– I take the statement from a Labour newspaper that one of the planks in the general platform of the party was a referendum of the Commonwealth electors on Tariff questions, when the reports of the Tariff Commission had been completed, the party to give effect to the referendum vote. But now it is supporting the Government in connexion with a. measure for which the people have not voted. Members of the party are violating their pledges to the people, because they said that before the Tariff was dealt with it should be referred to the electors. I was returned as a protectionist, and as one shall be pleased to vote for duties whose effect will be the protection of Australian industries. But the people have not asked for the proposed Tariff. They did not ask for the repeal of the old Tariff except in respect to the removal of anomalies.
– The honorable member anticipated that the Tariff issue would come up this Parliament?
– Only so far as the carrying out of the recommendations of the majority of the Tariff Commission was concerned.
-That is what is being clone.
– No, it is not. The country has not given the Government a mandate to propose higher protection.
– That is not what the honorable member’s leader has said.
– He is not a member of a Cabinet.
– I must differ from my leader on this point. If Ministers think that they are right, why do not they make an appeal to the people on the question ?
– What, another election?
– The honorable member would not be returned again.
– Granting that, by accident, the Government has a following
– Not by accident, but as the result of a conspiracy.
– I hope that, as a member of this Parliament, I shall not say unkind things of any one. What I was about to point out is that minorities should receive consideration, notwithstanding the trend towards majority rule.
– In my opinion the Ministerial minority is receiving too much consideration.
– No doubt ; but the minorities I have in view are the smaller States. We should not legislate merely for New South Wales and Victoria, leaving the other States to suffer. Many of the items in the Tariff will not protect Queensland, but will have the effect of squeezing her industries out of existence.
– What industries?
– As I wish to make my general speech as short as I can, I shall content myself, following the example of the Minister, with referring to those in dustries when we come to the particular items which affect them. As for the new protection proposals, we should be given a pretty good idea of what is intended. Of course, we speak of the industries in which we are most interested. Indeed, most honorable members are sent here to represent the particular industries which exist in their own electoral divisions.
– We are sent here chiefly to represent Australia, I hope.
– It is our duty to enact legislation which will benefit Australia. Even the Treasurer will admit that if we do not safeguard the interests of our own divisions, the latter must inevitably suffer. Before expressing an opinion upon the new protection scheme outlined by the Government, I should like to know how far it will affect the primary industries ?
– How far it will affect butter. That is what the honorable member wants to know.
– There are more commodities than butter produced in the Moreton division. It would do the Treasurer good to take a run over that division.
– I have been over it.
– We produce more than butter there. For instance, we produce wine. But even the butter producers have a right to know if the Government scheme will affect them. If, because we do not comply with certain conditions, we are to have an Excise duty imposed upon our butter, I, as one who is desirous of protecting that industry, shall vote against such an impost.
– Do not the men who are engaged in the butter factories get a living wage now ?
– 1 have always managed to get a living from the factories. But we need to legislate for Australia, and not for a few factory hands. I also desire to ask. the Treasurer whether the Excise duty will be operative in cases in which no award has been given ? I understand that it is intended to provide that where manufacturers do not pay a reasonable wage, and sell their goods at a reasonable price, the import duty will be decreased.
– I did not say anything about the selling price in that connexion.
– If the general public are not going to be protected by the measure it will be absolutely valueless.
– Then let the honorable member vote against it-.
– The position taken up by the Treasurer reminds me of the old nursery saying, “ Open your mouth and shut your eves, and see what God will send you.” During the past twenty years I have endeavoured to make the lot of my fellow creatures as easy as possible, and I think that in so acting I have pursued the right course. I have attempted to give effect to the principle of co-operation. I contend that, if instead of these new protection proposals of the Government, a scheme had been devised whereby the workmen might have participated in the profits of the manufacturer, the difficulty which we all recognise would have been overcome.
– Good old Socialism !
– For some time the trend of legislation has been in the direction of engendering a feeling of distrust and even of hatred as between employers and employes. The greatest difficulty of masters nowadays is to secure reliable labour - men” who will take an interest in their master’s welfare. I know that the employers are very much to blame for this. Ail that they can obtain from the working man is so many hours’ work for so much pay.
– Or so little.
– If the honorable member chooses to put the position in that way he is at liberty to do so. The aim of the workman is to do as little as lie possibly can, and that of the master to payas little as he possibly can. This condition of .affairs will not be removed until the workman is allowed to participate in the profits of the manufacturer. I think that we should do all in our power to assist our primary industries - to promote settlement upon the land. The whole trend of this debate has teen in- the direction of affording protection to the wageearner. T have every sympathy. with :hat idea, as I am a working man myself. I do not mind the taunts of my honorable friends opposite in reference to “ good old Socialism.” I should like to see every man secure the best that he can during his sojourn in this world, but I am not prepared to ask the State to take possession of every industry and to run it for the benefit of the community.
– Not even to stop a shipping combine?
– I did not ask ihe Government to stop the operations of a shipping combine. I merely asked for freedom of contract. The honorable membet for Dalley said that the consumers should receive very great consideration at our hands. I admit .that they should. If the present drought continues I venture to say that the city dweller will feel its effects very much more acutely than will the individual who is settled on the land. An increase of Jd. per loaf in the price of bread will affect city residents a great ileal more than it will affect the farmers.
Therefore we should aim at settling as many persons as possible upon the land. This Tariff, however, presses very heavily upon those engaged in our primary industries. Everything that they require is heavily taxed, whilst not a single commodity which they produce is protected.
– Nearly everything that they produce is protected, including barley. The honorable member does not know anything about the Tariff.
– I know quite sufficient to realize that it affords no protection whatever to the farmer. I admit that it imposes a duty of 3d. per lb. upon butter, but my. point is that we do not import butter. Neither do we import barley.
– We import a great quantity of barley, and we also import hops.
– We import hops only from Tasmania.
– And from other parts of the world.
– The protective duty upon malt was responsible for the establishment of the malting industry on the Darling Downs.
– To what extent will that duty benefit the industry now ?
– Recently, at the Toowoomba malt house, there has been added something like £10,000 worth of buildings.
– The AttorneyGeneral has, perhaps, a “ corner “ in barley, and I am, prepared to give way on the point. But there is not much barley imported ; and I am sure that the duty will affect prices only very slightly, seeing that these are regulated by the market in London or elsewhere. The AttorneyGeneral will bear me out that the aim has been to export barley, and not to make use of it locally.
– The producers much prefer the home market in Australia.
– But for some reason they do not get the Home market. The way to assist rural settlement is not by imposing a land tax, as has been suggested, but by so arranging the Tariff that it will not .bear heavily on pioneer settlers. I have heard it said that the eyes of the land have been picked out in Queensland; but, as a matter of fact, about 97 per cent, of the land of that State still remains’ with the Crown, and, in regard to the remainder, there is, as the honorable member for Capricornia has said, a Compulsory Purchase Act. However, I shall not take up any more time with these general observations. I merely wish to point out that I was returned - and I do .not think by any sort of side-wind - to vote for the retention of the old Tariff, except in regard to anomalies; and I shall adhere to my election pledges.
.- I should not have spoken again but for statements, which I think were altogether uncalled for, by the honorable member for Perth. That honorable member went far out of his way in order to accuse the Opposition, and especially myself as leader, of having betrayed the cause of freetrade. That is- a very serious charge ; and as the honorable member is general Iv very guarded and moderate in his language, it carries all the greater weight. I should like, in very few words, to point out that, in my opinion, the statement of the honorable member is very ungenerous. In our respective spheres, we have all to consider what is the proper course to adopt; and, before the last election, I regarded the question at issue between the Socialists and anti-Socialists as the most important that could arise for decision bv the people of Australia. Viewing the election generally, it will be admitted that that issue was the most important, so far as public attention was concerned, throughout the Commonwealth. Although it is perfectly true that the protectionists in the State of Victoria refused to accept the truce that I proposed, it is also true that the result of the anti-Socialist campaign has been to place on the Opposition side of the House a large number of honorable members who have been returned as anti-Socialists, although they are protectionists. One of the most satisfactory evidences of the wisdom of the course I took on that occasion, if my views are sound on the main question - because that is’ open to difference of opinion - is that the State election1 campaign in New South Wales, only a few weeks ago, which was very warmly contested, and in which the Labour Party was engaged as representing the State Opposi-ton, was conspicuous for the fact - I speak only generally, because there may be exceptions to what I am about to state - that vye scarcely ever- heard Socialism mentioned. That simple circumstance shows that the campaign which I conducted has had far-reaching effects.
– Did not Mr. Carruthers say he would not follow the honorable member in placing such a policy as anti-Socialism before the electors in the State election ? ‘
– The late Premier of New South Wales at one time took up a position against any anti policy. But his remarks on that occasion did not seem to be well weighed; because I suppose every man, who is in favour of some policy, must necessarily be opposed to some other policy. I suppose that there is not a man in politics who is not in favour of some projects and opposed to others. I do not care to which party a politician may belong, he must be anti something, unless his views are affirmative on every conceivable subject, in which case he ought to be in Yarra Bend Asylum. In point of fact, in the old country, as honorable members know, it was an anti issue which carried the great triumph at the late elections - the anti-policy to the Tory Government in a number of important respects. That was more an anti election than any in the history of politics during the last fifty years ; and it produced the greatest result. I wish to say, however, that it comes with very bad grace from an honorable member like the honorable member for Perth, to state that I have betrayed the cause to which I have been attached all my life, simply because I considered that antiSocialism was a policy on which freetraders and protectionists could unite. During the whole of his political career the honorable member for Perth has been hand-in-hand with a number of ardent protectionists - he has actually adopted that attitude every moment of his political existence. If there is any earnestness in the honorable member’s belief in freetrade, how is it that he has been following, like a tame poodle, a protectionist Government for the last seven years? How is it that when that protectionist Government are tottering and doddering along, with scarcely a spasm of life or energy, this rabid free-trader is carefully nursing them in their expiring efforts? No men can associate together in politics without making some questions secondary to others. Honorable members of the Labour Party, I should hope, have minds just as vigorous as have members of any other party ; and I ask them whether, every day, they have not to give way on some points in order to unite on other points? That Is the basis of every political party ; and that the’ honorable member should accuse us of -betrayal, because we looked on antiSocialism as a policy which might unite free-traders and protectionists, seems to me very unfair. I use these expressions with some regret, because I have to acknowledge the general fairness and generosity of the honorable member, of whom, if I may say so, I have, and always have had, an extremely high opinion. I, therefore, feel all the more what I think was a very careless charge levelled against me. The term “ betrayal “ has a very nasty taste in any one’s mouth, because it suggests treachery. We may- be guilty of errors of judgment, and may thereby damage a great cause ; but we all draw a broad line of distinction between an error of judgment and an act of betrayal. The latter involves a moral wrong - a moral wickedness - and I do not think that the honorable member, perhaps, intended his words fo have that serious meaning. But I feel it my duty tq point out that the course I took was in what I conceived to be the interests of the public, in reference to the great political questions of theday. I am perfectly convinced that the cause of free-trade has in no way suffered from the attitude which I took up on that occasion. I make these observations because I feel the charge to be a serious one. I have not abated one jot or tittle of my profound belief in the virtues of the free-trade policy. I have spent most of my life since I was a boy in trying to persuade the people of Australia of the soundness of free-trade, but I should be worse than blind if I were to shut my eyes to the fact that my efforts in that direction have not been crowned with success - that, in point of fact, there is a majority of the electors of Australia who support a policy which is opposed to that in which I believe.- It is consistent with that view that I should do all I can to make this Tariff as low as possible, and I shall not abate my energies, as a representative of a free-trade constituency, in reducing the duties as nearly as I can to the point of a revenue Tariff. On the other hand, I cannot complain in any way if honorable members vote against me, and increase some of those duties - I cannot complain of “ treachery “ or declare that they are “ betraying “ their policy. I take it that, each honorable member knows how he laid his views before his constituents, and that, whether he be free-trader or DrO.tectionist, he will carry out his pledges.
I do not think I am rash in saying that if the Tariff, as proposed, were submitted to a referendum of the people of Australia to-morrow, it would be, scouted by a large majority.
– Nonsense ! I should like to try a referendum.
– I will not ask the Ministry to risk their existence, for that would be suggesting something savoring of suicide. But, without endangering the position of the Government, I am prepared to vote the money necessary to submit the Tariff to a referendum, to-morrow. What a grand thing it would be, in a matter affecting the people of Australia so closely and intimately, to have a straight-out vote ! But no men in Australia would be slower to send this Tariff to “a referendum than the present Treasurer and his colleagues.
– The honorable member knows that I have always been opposed -to the referendum.
– Of course, the honorable gentleman has always been’ opposed to the referendum when in office.
– No ; throughout my life.
– When out of office the honorable gentleman is opposed to nothing that will get him in, and, when he is in office, he is opposed to everything that might put him out.
An Honorable Member. - We are all built that way.
– I am consistent, whereas the honorable member is not.
– To a certain extent “we are all built that way,” but the Treasurer regards protection and the Tariff with all the sacredness that attaches to the most profound theological convictions. All I say to the Treasurer is, “Put your Tariff before the people to-morrow, and we will vote the money for it,, in the belief that it will be money well spent.” There is a fair challenge, which, however-, the Government dare not accept, because the, know - = -
– I was always opposed to the referendum.
– If the Treasurer thought that he could secure a majority at a referendum, he would -jump at my proposal with delight.
– No, I was never in favour of it.
– He has presented more petitions against the Tariff than has any other honorable member.
– Only a couple.
– The honorable gentleman ought to be put in a wire-netting enclosure,, and kept there.
– That is where the honorable member would like me to be.
– We should then have no duty on wire netting. May I ask the Treasurer whether he is willing to give precedence to the item relating to wire netting? We have in him a Minister who has lived in the country, and, for the last twenty or thirty years, varied rural pursuits with political adventures. As a man who hak been attached temporarily to the soil, will he not consent, for the sake of the pioneers of Australia, who are battling with these millions of enemies advancing solidly against them, to put wire netting-
– Oh !
– Of course, this is considered a fitting subject for jocularity 011 the part of honorable members opposite. They are like a little crowd on a Noah’s ark; if they stepped aninch beyond it, they would be submerged in a deluge and drowned. Is the Treasurer prepared to agree to a referendum on the .Tariff, or will he give precedence to the item of wire netting? There are thousands of settlers paralyzed bv that duty.
– There are not ; there has been a lot of misrepresentation in regard to the position.
– Why do not the Government give up the wire netting in their custody? They are not prepared even to do that. I do not wish, however, to touch just now upon controversial matters, since we all wish to enter upon the serious work of the Tariff. I hope that honorable members will not pass the Tariff in the extreme form in which it now stands. That, again, is a matter for themselves to consider. I cannot presume to dictate to any individual honorable member as to what his duty is. He can judge of it only in the light of his own intelligence, and the pledges he has given to the people. But I have no hesitation in saying that there is not one honorable member who pledged himself to a solitary Australian elector as in favour of 40 per cent, or 45 per cent, duties.
– There is.
– There is not an honorable member who has done so outside of South Melbourne, Footscray, and other like places. My honorable friends opposite talk of the necessaries of life. I hope that they will place upon that term an honest construction. Are not clothes, just as much as is food, a necessary of life? Yet it is proposed to impose upon them duties ranging from 40 per cent, to 45 per cent. Every one must have clothes, even if he does not get three meals a day.
– Ready-made clothing is cheap enough.
– But 40 per cent, and 45 per cent, duties constitute a big fence to put up for the protection of people who deal in one of the necessaries of life.
– Surely the right honorable member does not wish to be able to obtain clothes cheaper thanthey are obtainable here to-day?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should ever talk of such a detestable thing as cheapness. It turns the gorge of the royal appetite of the Treasurer. “ Cheapness is a cursed thing ! Do not talk of cheap clothes !” But might I suggest that cheapness is sometimes brought about by the use of shoddy and that one of the incidents of a Tariff sometimes is that a protectionist is able to say, “ Oh, the prices are just the same as they were before 45 per cent, duties were put on. At the beginning of 1907, I used to pay 20s. or 30s. for a suit of clothes, but although since then 40 per cent, and 45 per cent, duties have been imposed, I have only to pay the same price as before.” Do not honorable members know that when these high protective duties are passed, cheapness is arrived at, not by honest competition, but by the degradation of quality?
– We can make better clothing than is imported.
– The honorable member cannot judge of the quality of the goods he purchases. He is not a judge of clothing. He would wear out any suit in three months in looking after the Labour Party. I wish to give the Committee an illustration of what I mean when I speak of the degradation of quality in order to secure cheapness. The Tariff which Sir George Dibbs introduced in New South Wales in 1891 was high enough for the present Treasurer.
– It was not.
– Then the honorable member has put up with a lot in Cabinet. He has confessed to-day that when the right honorable member for Adelaide and Sir George Turner accepted a compromise Tariff he looked upon it as practically meaning the ruination of protection.
– No, I did not.
– He swallowed it like a baa lamb. Whoever knew the Treasurer resign from office on a point of principle? Whoever saw him remain out of office on a point of principle? He will not even swallow theproposal for a referendum on the Tariff, fearing ‘that the shadow of it might injure him. The honorable member went to the people of Australia when Federation was established, and said “We must have a revenue Tariff.”
– I did not.
– I am speaking not of the time that the honorable member has in mind, but of another occasion. He said, “We must have a revenue Tariff. The necessities of public revenue “ - at that time he had not been told of the new land tax system - “ will prevent us from imposing heavy duties. We might go up to 15 per cent.”
– That is not correct.
– That statement was not made at the smoke concert at which the manufacturers gathered round the honorable member like bees round a pot of honey. They do not gather round one when one is out of office. It is when a Tariff is under consideration that one is treated to these royal entertainments. The honorable member was a member of the Ministry that put on these10 and 15 per cent, duties.
– Which the right honorable member removed.
– Which I took off, and the country then began to breathe.
– It began to be ruined.
– No; it was ruin for the honorable member, but not for any one else.
– The right honorable member, by doing so, did not make clothes cheap in New South Wales.
– Clothing there is of good quality. When interrupted I was about to mention a conversation that I had with a big importer at the time that the Dibbs Tariff was imposed. It is singular that some honorable members who think so ill of the importers imagine that they are going to pay out forty-five sovereigns in respect of every£100 worth of goods purchased by them, and that they will forget to pass on that impost to the consumer. It is wonderful that they should imagine the importers to be such benevolent asses. In the one breath they tell us that the importers are vampires, draining the life-blood of the consumer, and in the next that they are paying forty-five sovereigns as duty on every £100 worth of goods and forgetting to pass on the impost. People who swallow such a statement must live somewhere in Victoria. Here is a little bit of practical experience. I asked one of these big importers, “ Well, are you going to pay this 10 per cent duty, or pass it on?”
– Ten per cent. ?
– There were some 10, per cent duties imposed, but the honorable member would not remember them. The importer replied, “ There are some lines in respect of which we have cast-iron quotations. . People have been accustomed for years to pay the same price, and we cannot put it up.” Mentioning what to the Australian worker is a necessary of life - moleskin trousers - he said, “ Moleskin trousers have been sold by us for years and years at the same figure, and we cannot put up the price.” “ Well, then,” I said, “ are you going to pay this 10 per cent. ?” He replied, “ No.”
– There’ is no duty on them.
– Under the Dibbs Tariff there was a 10 per cent, duty on articles of clothing. The honorable member knows nothing about this Tariff, to say nothing of one passed sixteen years ago. The importer, in reply to my inquiry as to whether he was going to pay the 10 per cent, duty, replied, “ No; I have cabled to my manufacturers in England to put down the quality of moleskin trousers, so that I shall be able to pay the 10 per cent, duty, and have a little to cover all the risks that I incur, and to compensate me for the time that I am out of my money. I am going to sell the moleskins, at the same price as before, but I shall not be paying the duty. The man who buys the trousers will pay it, since he will obtain for the same money as before, not the same, but an inferior, article.” The’ man who wears moleskins would not know of that arrangement. / He would get his moleskins for the same price as before, and probably sa,y, “ What a fool Reid is. He told me the manufacturers would pass on the duty, and here I am getting my moleskins for the same price as before.” He is, but he is getting a different value. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will agree with me that the Victorian importers who carry on business in Flinders-lane are not so built that they will forget to pass on forty sovereigns in the hundred which they have paid by way of duty. Will he admit that ?
– Of course.
– That is admitting a lot, since it is a confession that the foreigner is not paying the duty. It is an admission that the local consumers ha.ve to make good these forty additional sovereigns in the hundred, and a lot more to cover expenses. I do not expect my honorable friend for a moment to alter his views on the fiscal question because of a trifle of that sort. What I ask is that, in dealing with Australia and Australian industries, we shall remember that all that we give out to one industry must be proportioned with some regard to (the interests and difficulties of people engaged in other industries in the Commonwealth. That is a fair thing.
– We ask. them to consider others.
– Without raising our “fiscal differences at all, I appeal to honorable members who are protectionists-
– To vote free-trade..
– I have not. said that.. The honorable member is constantly preventing others from completing a sentence,, although he himself never completes one. I am glad to see that he is more goodnatured that he used to be.
– I reciprocate theright honorable member’s ‘ good feeling.
– We have had a number of politicians who, by the stress of their attention to public duties, have broken down their health, and I implore the Treasurer not as a matter of friendship, but as a matter of humanity - he has already, before we have entered upon the Tariff struggle, broken down in one respect; I refer to his temper - to be careful. Before the Tariff is passed, unless he leaves a. good deal of the work to Austin, he will, go stark staring mad.
– If I took any notice of the right honorable member, I might.
– In the meantime, I wish to say to my honorable friends, who areprotectionists, that, whilst they cannot follow me in my desire to reduce to a revenue basis the items in the Tariff - schedule- - and I could not expect them to do it - they should take care that, in carrying out their own policy in “their own way, they do not forget that there are scattered’ over Australia many thousands of industrialists who do not live amid the comfortable conditions of city life; who have- not the regular employment or conditions which many people in cities have ; but who have in their enterprises to struggle day after day in the face of difficulties which only superhuman courage and resolution could surmount. I ask honorable members, when they are lavishly bestowing their gifts upon some of the industrial developments of Australia, to pay some regard to those who are really laying the foundations of all our industrial greatness.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– I think that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.] It is rather disappointing to find that the Minister will not give us full information in regard to his proposals for establishing what has been termed the new protection. So far as one can make out, his statement embodied the. instructions given to the draughtsman, but we do not know to what trades the provisions which are to be brought forward will apply, and in other respects are in the dark in regard to them. When they are brought forward there will probably be another long discussion, which might have been avoided had the Government been prepared to place them more fully before us now. For weeks the Treasurer promised a statement of his intentions regarding the new protection, and at the last it was drawn from him, he being unwilling, or unprepared, to deal with it, or, perhaps, not fully instructed bv the Labour Party, whose members are, no doubt, really responsible for it. We have come to a pretty pass when the Government of the Commonwealth takes its policy from a section of honorable members: It would be more in keeping with parliamentary tradition if the tail which now wags the dog were to be made responsible for the legislation which is passed. As it is, things are now done backwards. The Treasurer is the Acting Prime Minister, Acting Minister of Trade and Customs, factotum, and general bully.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I do so, as you, sir, regard it as unparliamentary. A great deal of time has been wasted because of the Government’s unpreparedness in this matter. The Committee yesterday was ready to go on with the consideration of certain items, but the crankiness of the Treasurer-
– This is not like the honorable member.
– I will say the naughtiness of the Treasurer, who is also Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Trade and Customs. This Minister, who fills so many Cabinet positions, is so lacking in courtesy to honorable members that he tells Parliament what a Minister has never before been known to tell a deliberative Assembly, that he will not give information. I do not know how long honorable members will be prepared to tolerate this kind of treatment, but the sooner the Prime Minister is well enough to take charge of affairs the better it will be for the country. This unthought-out proposal of the Government is called the new protection ; but how can there be any new protection? The term is a misnomer. We know what is meant by protection, the imposition of Customs duties to keep out importations from other countries, so that our own manufacturers may have no competition to meet ; but the difference between the new protection which we have heard piped of so much in this Committee and the old protection is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. The arrangement of the jaws may be different, but the swallow is the same, and the prey all goes the same way. In the course of the discussion, it has been generally admitted by protectionists that protection is a failure. They have abandoned the old doctrine that the foreigner pays the duties. The leader of the Opposition stated to-day that, although he had been somewhat successful, he had not been so successful as he should have been in establishing free-trade ; but it seems to me that, no one could have been more successful. He stamped the freetrade policy upon the great State of New South Wales, whose population is one-third and whose commerce is more than one-third of that of Australia, its trade per head being more than that of any other country in the world.
– New South Wales did not give the honorable member for East Sydnev man v ‘supporters.
– At the last election he did not appeal to the country on the fiscal question, but he has stamped the policy of free-trade on the- State of New South Wales, and has show;n the other States of the Union that protection is absolutely hollow, conferring no benefits upon the masses. As a result, Labour representatives who ‘ as protectionists are to a man declaring the old protection to be a -failure, which, instead of benefiting the worker, enables a large percentage of his earnings to be filched from him, and thus virtually reduces his wages. They are, therefore, compelling the Government to change its tactics, and to propose what is termed the new protection. The leader of the Opposition could not expect any greater success than to cause the people of Australia to admit that the old protection is a failure, and that the equivalent of free-trade must be adopted. That equivalent was expressed’ by Henry George, when, in one of his able lectures in Australia, he said, “ If you could have protection in the same proportion to every individual of the community, it would not te a bad thing. As you cannot, it must be -‘a failure. The easiest and least, expensive way of treating every one alike is to have absolute free-trade.” It seems to me that, in trying to protect every one, honorable members are gradually getting round to the position of Henry George. I believe that they sincerely desire the well-being of the masses, but - as that great thinker and reasoner has shown by his book entitled Progress and Poverty and Social Problems - they must fail. They will do better to vote for the reduction of duties, to lessen the taxation of the workers, than to vote for high duties, and then try to divide the spoils between manufacturer, consumer, and worker, with the ultimate result that the worker’ will be heavily taxed.
– How far does the honorable member adopt the teachings of Henry George?
– One step at a time. When I was a boy I supported the proposal of the honorable member for Angas for the nationalization of land, but when Henry George’s book came out, showing that the easiest method of serving the masses of the people was to tax land, the honorable member for Angas and every other reformer in the matter of land legislation abandoned land nationalization for the more direct and effective land taxation. The Labour Party has taken up an exploded theory. I am asked how far I would go with Henry George. I am in favour of land taxation, and I voted for it at a time and under conditions when few men would have voted for it. I did so because I believed in the principle.
– In the abstract?
– No; in its practical application.
– We shall afford the honorable member an opportunity one day to give effect to his belief.
– The ‘ honorable member should cross over to the Labour corner.
– The Labour Party would not have me, not because its members do not believe in what I believe in, but because I do not believe in some of the things in which they believe.
– Because we do not know what the honorable member believes in.
– He does not believe in humbug.
– I believe in the principle of the caucus, but I do not believe in a caucus-bound party. Being caucus-bound is what free men object to. In the course of his remarks yesterday, the Treasurer stated that it would be very difficult to insure the payment of fair wages under any new protection scheme. His utterances clearly demonstrated that he knows absolutely nothing about political economy. He knows nothing even about the proposals which he has outlined. One has only to read the summary of his remarks,- which appeared in to-day’s newspapers, to realize what a hopeless muddle he was in. He referred to the difficulty that would be experienced in establishing a standard of wages. In this connexion, he ought to have known that the standard of wages is dependent upon the products of the soil. Land is the source of all wealth, and if we reduce the wages of the men upon the soil we must of necessity reduce the wages of those who’ are engaged in our secondary industries. His scheme will prevent the wages of the operatives in our secondary industries from being increased because he proposes to levy excessive taxation upon all that is used by our primary producers. Had the Treasurer been a student of political economy, had he ever devoted a fair amount of attention to reading, he would have known that his scheme starts at the wrong end. He has commenced by reducing the wages of miners and the men upon the land, anticipating that, as a result, he will be able to increase the wages of those who are engaged in our secondary industries. That is impossible. If high duties are imposed for the purpose of benefiting manufacturers obviously the consumers will have to pav them. The manufacturer is not likely to disburse amongst his employes any more than he earn possibly avoid. As a matter of fact, the workman will receive no benefit under the new protection proposals of the Government, because his expenses of living will be increased, and that is equivalent to a reduction of his wages. Then if Parliament decides that a certain manufacturer who is not paying a reasonable wage shall be called upon to pay half the amount of Customs duty in Excise, what will happen ? The cry will be raised that if the Excise rate be insisted upon his factorywill be closed.
– I thought that the honorable member desired to expedite the consideration of the proposed duty upon wire netting ?
– Honorable members like the honorable member for Grey will raise this cry on behalf of the operatives, and will prevent the manufacturer ‘from being thus, penalized.
– What about wire netting?
– Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say upon the new protection. They have wearied the Committee by delivering long speeches upon it. Yesterday I was prepared to proceed with my proposal in relation to wire netting, but I was not permitted by the Treasurer to do so.” Therefore, I’ intend to assert my right to make a few observations ‘Upon the scheme of new protection brought forward bv the Government. It is a hollow fraud.
– The honorable member will be able to debate that question when the Bill is introduced.
– Upon every occasion I intend to expose the hollowness of the proposal from the stand-point of the workers. I recognise that it is a cunning move on the part of those who propound it. Thev start with a sham offer of increased wages to the artisans. It is the old plan of promising a man something at the expense of his neighbour. It is proposed, I repeat, to promise an increase of the wages of the artisans - to share with the employers the spoils of protection - which is a barefaced hoax. But what about the consumers? They are to take care of themselves. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who represents a large number of those whose incomes are less than £2 per week, has no thought whatever for them. He cares only for the band of unionists who have votes for him. That is the attitude of selfish politicians.
– What does the honorable member do for them?
– I am speaking on behalf of the poorest members of the community. The honorable member for Hindmarsh does not care for the poor unskilled labourer, so long as he can obtain a higher wage for unionists. No provision can be made to protect unskilled labour. As a panacea for the ills from which the poor are suffering, the Government proposals are a delusion and a snare. How can the dairymen, the clerks, and the miners benefit under those proposals?
– They pay.
– If the manufacturers thought that this scheme was a practicable one, every Victorian representative would vote against it. It is because they know that they mav be called upon to pay increased wages only to unionists that they are prepared to tacitly assent to it. Upon every opportunity I shall denounce the scheme, because it is opposed to the best interests of the people. I hope that at an early stage of our proceedings I shall be afforded an opportunity of moving that the consideration of the other items of the Tariff be deferred until after the consideration of the item “ wire netting.”
– The honorable member mav move it now.
.- I think that there was some quasi understanding that no motion for the postponement of an item should be put until after the item of tobacco had been dealt with. I think the Minister exhibited an inclination, at all events, to hear anything that might be said on the point; and I hope the honorable member for Robertson will assist in having the item of tobacco considered at- once. I know that there are several people interested in the question, who, as representing the working classes, can ill afford to remain .in attendance. They have already been here for two or three weeks; and they cannot be expected. to hang round until the day of judgment, which is, apparently, about the time when the Tariff will be disposed of.
.- I suggest that the whole of the first division should be put to the Committee as a division, because I think that there is scarcely any item to which exception will hi taken’.
– I have two amendments to move.
– The Minister might move his amendments, and the division be then put as a whole.
– I move -
That the consideration of all items up to 1S6 inclusive, be postponed until after the consideration of “ Item 187 - wire netting.”
The item of wire netting is of vital importance to the primary industries, in view of the fact that in various parts of Australia there is now a drought prevailing. The young stock have very little feed ; and if the wire netting were released from the Customs it might be the means of saving tens of thousands of lambs. At present the rabbits are consuming the grass as fast as it grows, although there are miles cf wire netting in custody of the Customs authorities at Sydney, and possibly elsewhere, which the importers are unable to release, because the Acting Prime Minister will not give an assurance that the duty, if paid, will be refunded in the event of a reduction.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in discussing the item of wire netting, on a motion to postpone the consideration of the previous items, in order that that item may take precedence.
– I submit that the honorable member for Robertson is quite in order in affording such information as may induce the Committee to postpone items in order that the item of wire netting may be considered.
– But a similar motion might be moved in regard to every item in the Tariff.
– Of course.
– The honorable member for Robertson is quite in order.
– It will be, at least, two months before we reach the item of wire netting, unless my motion be adopted.
– What about kerosene?
– No duty is being collected on kerosene.
– Yes, there is ; and the honorable member ought to know the fact.
– I do not desire to discuss the item of kerosene just now, beyond saying that there is a good deal of error in the statement made respecting it. The Acting Prime Minister has declined to give any assurance as to a refund of the duty, although there is a great demand for’ wire netting at the present moment all over Australia. Most of the wire netting imported is on order ; and’ even the netting imported in immense quantities by the Government of New South Wales has been detained. The wire netting seized by the State - possibly it was an election dodge of a character of which I have previously expressed my disapproval - has had to be used for Government purposes. The circumstances are such that the merchants are unable to pass on any excess of duties that may be imposed ; and I daily receive letters from all parts of my electorate beseeching Parliament, through me, to release the wire netting now in the custody of the Customs, because possession of it by the settlers is a matter of life and death. In the country districts, the residents are praying for rain ; but if the wire netting be not made available, as soon as the rain comes the grass will be eaten up by the rabbits, with the result that the death rate amongst young stock will be enormous. This is a matter of immense importance to New South Wales ; . and I hope the Committee will adopt the motion.
– I do not know whether the Chairman just now gave a ruling as to whether the honorable member for Robertson could submit this motion at the present stage, and on that motion discuss the item of wire netting. T point out, however, that if the motion is in order, it will be open to any honorable member to make a similar proposal in regard to any item, and have that item discussed at any time desired: I am anxious to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff in the ordinary way; but if a discussion on particular items can be brought about in the way proposed, there must be considerable delay in completing our work. At any rate, I have to say that the Government cannot approve of the motion of the honorable member. There are other items just as important which are on the list before that of wire netting.. At present, I wish to know whether the honorable member is in order in submitting this motion and discussing the item of wire netting before that item is reached in the ordinary way.
– I submit that the proposal is quite in order, however inconvenient it may be for the Government or the Committee. The question proposed is one entirely for the determination of the Committee, and there is nothing to prevent items of the Tariff being postponed, just as v,e may postpone every clause of a Bill until the last clause has been passed.
– What I refer to is the discussion of the item before it is reached in its order.
– I submit that the item may be discussed now, in so far as a discussion is necessary to induce the Committee to make the departure proposed; and, as a matter of order, I hold that there is no restriction on the Committee.
– I am sorry that the Government did not some time ago consider the expediency of naming some items in the Tariff which, interpreting the general sense of the Committee and the community, ought to be taken into consideration at once. We should then know exactly the position ; and the whole of such items might be disposed of to-night. That not having been done, I can understand the position in which the honorable member for Robertson is placed, though certainly his motion may cause great inconvenience. If we discuss a proposal for postponement to the same extent as we discuss the item itself, we shall be here until doomsday. The motion has the further inconvenience that the public outside will never know when particular, items in which they are interested may come up for discussion. The general public who are interested watch- the passage of the Tariff, and act according to the time at which they may reasonably expect certain items to be taken. This matter is of considerable importance to people in other States who may desire to be present when certain duties are discussed.
– The question is not one of convenience, but one of order.
– I know. I do not think there is any doubt as to our power to postpone items, but the Government are .to be blamed for the necessity that seems imposed on some honorable members to suggest the postponement of particular Tariff proposals. Even now, I ask whether it would not be better for the Government to name, perhaps, nine or -ten items, including wire netting, which might be taken and settled with the least possible discussion ?
– The honorable mem- ber for Robertson wishes us to take wire netting out of its order, and, to enable this to be done, to postpone other items which are of just as much importance. I trust the Government will stand firm and deal with the Tariff, line by line, as it has been presented. Such proposals cannot be settled without discussion, and we. can imagine the time which may be occupied in this way. If this motion be permitted, honorable members who desire to delay the Tariff - and it would seem there are some who have that desire - will simply have to move similar motions in order to keep the discussion going for the next two years. I am prepared to support the Government in firmly adhering to the items in their order.
– I am sorry to say that never in the history of Australia was wire netting so badly wanted ‘as it is today.
– I -must ask the honorable member io discuss the point of order.
– I do not think there is any doubt as to the power of the Committee to postpone any items which they may select, and the motion, in my opinion, is quite a proper one to be put from the Chair for the determination of the Committee. The effect of a proposition of the kind must be considered by honorable members. No doubt this matter relates to order ; and I am not quite in accord with the Chairman when he suggests that when a question for the postponement of items is moved, reasons have to be given. In that relationship we shall be opening up an interminable discussion.
– The closure resolutions carried a year or two ago do not. cover the postponement of clauses.
– We have had evidence this session that there is need for an extended “ gag.” I hope that the Government will stand by their guns and proceedwith the Tariff as introduced.
– On the point of order, Mr. Chairman, I should like to remind the Committee that there has been a fairly general discussion. I do not know whether the honorable member for Angas was in order in speaking as he did just now. If he was, surely I should be in order in replying to him. Last night he expressed quite a different opinion from that which he’ has just uttered. He approved of the stand adopted by the Treasurer, and implored the honorable member for Robertson not to take the step proposed by him.
– I did the same thing ten minutes ago, by asking him to wait as the Minister requested, until the tobacco duties had been dealt with. I said that I regretted the Ministerial action placed the honorable member in an unfortunate position.
– An honorable member of the Opposition said a moment or two ago that it was open to us to deal with the Tariff as we deal with a Bill ; but have we ever postponed the consideration of every clause but the last in a Bill, or half of its clauses, in order that we might deal first of all with one in the centre of it?
– I know with what fate such a proposal would meet at the hands of the Government. I wish to emphasize the point made by the Treasurer, that if . it is in order to postpone item No. i in order that item No. * 2* mav be immediately discussed, it is not in order to move the postponement of half the items of the Tariff to allow a particular item to be dealt with. If it be held that the step proposed by the honorable member for Robertson may be taken and that we must proceed to a division on the motion without debate, we shall be placed in a very awkward position. I submit that if any number of items can be postponed, the course to be pursued must be to move the postponement of item by item until that with which it is desired to deal “is reached.
– There cannot be any question as to the right of an honorable member to move the postponement of any item, but I would point out to you, Mr. Chairman, that, under cover of giving reasons for a proposed postponement of a number of items in order that a certain one may be dealt with, it is not competent for an honorable member to discuss that item. The whole debate must be confined to the question of urgency.
– Incidental reference to the item may be allowed.
– That is a. matter for die Chairman to decide. A strictly incidental reference to the item would, in my opinion, be in order; but it would not be in order to anticipate in any way the discussion of the item.
– I have been asked whether an honorable member may move the postponement of certain items in order that a later item may be discussed. I have also been asked to rule whether or not an honorable member would be in order, when proposing such a motion, in discussing the item which he desires to have immediately under review. I rule that it is competent for an honorable member to move the postponement of certain items, but that it would not be in order for him to make more than a slight incidental reference to the item to which he desires precedence to be given.
– I think that we all admit that the item of wire netting is of very great importance, but, at the same time, there are other items of equal importance to other interests.
– Is the honorable member for South Sydney in order in discussing the item of wire netting? ‘
– So far as he has gone the honorable member has not been out of order.
– I take it that if the honorable member for Robertson were entitled to give reasons for the postponement of a number of items in order that that relating to wire netting might be at once dealt with, I am entitled, to give a few reasons in support of the contention that the schedule should be dealt with in. its present order. Every one is agreed as to the importance of the item of wire netting. *
– I cannot allow the honorable member to enter upon a discussion of the item.
– When interrupted, sir, I had made only an extremely incidental reference to it. The question involved in the proposal before the Chair is whether many items of importance shall be postponed to permit of another important item being considered. The people who are interested in the items it is proposed to postpone would have a legitimate cause to complain if they were set aside in the interests of those who have no greater right to consideration.
– This is a matter of national importance.
– Every item in the Tariff is of national importance.
– I hope that the honorable member will remember the mistake he made in regard to fodder, and correct it in this instance.
– I do not know that I made any. mistake in regard to fodder. The opportunity that some now possess - provided that we deal with the schedule in the order in which it has been introduced - to come at an early date to items in which they are interested, will be lost to them if this proposal be carried. I do not think it is fair to subject some people to the loss which that postponement will involve in order that’ others may be relieved. Another point to be remembered is that if we agree to this postponement there will be a demand foi- other items to be similarly treated. How shall we be able to resist such a demand?
– Representatives of Western Australia, for instance, would desire priority to be given to the consideration of duties on mining machinery.
– Quite so. I suppose that to the people of Western Australia mining machinery is just as important as is wire netting to many people in the other States.
– And the duty on kerosene is also important.
– Yes. It is unfortunate that the determination of some of these items, must remain in abeyance for some time, but I do not think we could discriminate between them with any degree of fairness.
– I quite agree that only a very strong case would justify the proposal before the Committee that precedence should be given to the item of wire netting; but I cannot conceive of an item in the Tariff which is more worthy of at least that degree of consideration which is involved in at once deciding the matter. I admit the force of all the arguments used by the honorable member for South Sydney, but there is a grave distinction between the item of wire netting and those to which he has referred. The item of wire netting involves, as the honorable member knows as well as any one does, a desperate struggle on the part of the pioneer settlers of Australia in coping not with some dead nuisance but with a living, struggling mass, which is eating up the grass intended, we hope, for the sheep of Australia.
– I ‘cannot allow the right honorable member to enter upon a full discussion of the item of wire netting. The question is whether or not certain items should be postponed,
– I was endeavouring by a reference to the subject of wire netting to show the urgency of the matter.
– The right honorable member will recognise that if I allowed him to deal generally with the question I should have to extend the same latitude to other honorable members. ‘
– I am always sensible, sir, of your absolute fairness, and do not wish further to pursue this line of observation, except to say that I think that, in view of the intense interest and importance of this item, and of the industry affected bv the evil with which wire netting is intended to cope, honorable members might fairly extend this measure of consideration proposed. Residents of Victoria may regard this item as being of comparatively trifling importance.
– It is important to them.
– Then that will strengthen my argument. I would ask honorable members to recollect the vast extent of Australia over which this great evil is being battled with, and the anxiety of thousands of settlers who are fighting a great national pest to know precisely how they stand in regard to the orders they have placed for wire netting. Large works are being interfered with by the natural uncertainty which prevails. Whilst I fully admit that a strong case would be necessary to justify a motion of this kind, this is such a case, and I shall co-operate in every way in having the matter settled without undue debate. There is a comparatively’ simple issue involved in the duty on wire netting, and I think the Committee would do good work if it commenced its labours by dealing with the item’ imposing it.
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare) [8.46L - I think that the Government will be wise in considering the proposal:
– Certainly not. I am surprised to hear any one ask for it. .
– I shall give my ‘reasons for the statement, and when lie has heard them the Treasurer may not regard the request as unfair.
– It is taking the business .out of the hands of the ‘Government.
– We do not wish to do that. I absolutely disclaim any such intention.
– I do not wish to take the business out of the hands of the Government, but I should like tosee it conducted in a manner which will meet the needs of those for whom we are legislating. There are some hundreds of items on the Tariff, and,, while many of them are of general and considerable importance, there are a few of major and vital importance, among which is that dealing with wire netting. The Treasurer apparently wishes to lav down the rule that the items must be considered in their order in the schedule; but before the schedule has been finished with that rule will have to be broken, because items will have to be postponed to give an opportunity to obtain further information in regard to them.
– The Minister said to-day that he is going to postpone the duties relating to iron.
– Yes, and he will be forced to make other departures from his rule. Why not, then, in the first instance, give preference to items of major importance, such as those relating to wire netting, tobacco, kerosene, and mining machinery? I am afraid that if this course is not followed, honorable members, in their anxiety to deal with these major items, will rush through minor items without fairly considering them, and I should like to see reasonable consideration given to all. In my opinion, the adoption of this suggestion- would benefit the Government and the community ait large.
.- I hope that the Treasurer will alter his mind in regard to this suggestion. Never in the history of Australia was it more urgent to deal with a matter than it is now to deal with the item relating to wire netting. He would not hesitate had he seen, as I saw last week, the- manner in which rabbits are coming from the dry to the green country. It is imperative that this should be at once stopped by the erection of wire netting fences.
– In my judgment, no item in the Tariff is of more importance than that relating to wire netting, and it is urgent that we should deal with it at once. That is shown by the fact that the Governments of the States are purchasing and importing wire netting to meet the requirements of their people. I have not heard of them purchasing kerosene or mining machinery.’
– For years past, the Governments of the States have been importing wire netting.
– Yes, because it is so urgently needed by the settlers of Australia.
– As the duty levied on this article is returned to the States, could, they not remit it to their people?
– That is a minor matter.
– Is not the New South Wales Government refunding three-fourths of the duty to those who buy wire netting from it?
– Still, it comes out of. the pockets of the people.
– Last night, the Treasurer said that he intended to postpone Part VI., relating to metals and machinery, pending the passing of a Bounty Bill through both Houses of the Parliament, and as the item relating to wire netting appears in that part, that is a further reason for special treatment. If it is not specially treated, it will be postponed until after items which it precedes in the order of the Tariff. I admit that there are a number- of items, as, for instance, that dealing with, magazines, in regard to. which a speedy decision is desired, but I do not see that it would interfere with the proper consideration of the Tariff if half-a-dozen of the more pressing were taken put of their order and dealt with straight away.
– The objection I take on behalf of the Government to the selection of this particular item is that it means taking the business out of the hands of the Government. We know what will happen if that is done.
– We should not tremble if it did happen.
– It is not going to happen. I stated last night, in reply to the question raised by the honorable member for Angas, that the tobacco duties are very important; that, as there are men out of employment, I wish to have them brought on as quickly as possible. In reply to his request that seven or eight items should be dealt with first, I said that I would try to meet him if the Committee would agree to it without- a long and protracted discussion.
– Does the honorable member propose to take the tobacco duties before the spirit duties?
– No material alteration is proposed in connexion with the duties on spirits. Then follow the tobacco duties, which are of very great importance. Representing a country constituency, I am as desirous as is any member of the Committee to deal with the item affecting wire netting, but I shall not permit the consideration of the Tariff to be hashed up. I have a duty to perform to the country, and if I cannot keep control of this Tariff, and deal with it as I wish to, some other Minister may take control of it; I shall not continue in charge of it. Unfortunately the Prime Minister is not here. I wish he were.
– These fireworks are unnecessary.
– There are no fireworks. I am prepared to carry out my promise to the honorable member for Angas.
– And name nine or ten items to be taken next after the tobacco duties ?
– Will the Treasurer ‘ allow the Committee to name one or two ?
– If the Committee will select half-a-dozen items-
– Including that dealing with wire netting?
– Will the Treasurer take the wire netting duty after the tobacco duties ?
– I am not going to be bound to take any one item of the Tariff. I stated last night that wire netting was one of the principal, if not the principal, that will be taken. I do not wish to go back on what I said then; but I am not going to have the Tariff taken out of the hands of the Government at the beginning of what is to be a hard fight.
– Is there any objection to considering the wire netting duty, amongst other duties, first after the tobacco duties ?
– I cannot bind myself. I do not know how the items stand in the Tariff. This is a matter for the Committee. I am prepared, after the tobacco duties are through, to do what I said last night I would do - to take halfadozen items, if the Committee can agree as to them-.
– I hope that the Treasurer will not allow the wire netting duty to be considered before the duties on groceries.
– Or the duties on mining machinery. If we depart from the Tariff order, there will be a nice wrangle.
– I think so.
– The Minister cannot do better than to take the schedule as it is printed.
– I am not prepared to do more than I have promised - to meet honorable members, if possible, after the tobacco duties have been disposed of ; but I shall not do anything until we get to them. It is very unfair that the progress of the Tariff should be obstructed at every possible point.
– It is political manoeuvring.
– That is what it is. We had better have a stand-up fight in order to ascertain who are protectionists and who are not. It is useless to indulge in humbug. If there be any honorable members upon this side of the Chamber who are not protectionists, let them cross to the other side. The Government will not accept the motion.
.- I think that we all regret this sudden breeze in connexion with a matter which is really of some public importance, quite apart from political manoeuvring. The Treasurer has a very arduous task before .him, and this is not quite the best way of beginning it.
– From the point of view of the opposite side of the Chamber, it is not.
– The Treasurer has himself announced that he intends to adopt a course which shows that the proposal of the honorable member for Robertson is an eminently sensible one. He has already declared that he intends to give precedence, not to one, but to half-a-dozen items. It is a most singular thing that the Treasurer should import all the first-class attributes of a political crisis into a suggestion which in itself is not an offensive one, and which accords with the line of conduct that he himself proposes to follow. Surely the honorable gentleman does not consider the proposal of the honorable member for Robertson an insidious abuse of our rights as representatives? Surely he cannot take that view of a suggestion to include wire netting in the half-dozen items to which it is proposed to give precedence? If the interests of the tobacco operatives are worthy of every consideration, surely the interests of the settlers of Australia, who are battling with the gigantic rabbit pest, are also worthy of consideration ?
– Of no greater consideration.
– I do not wish to make comparisons. I am merely accepting the definition of the Treasurer himself. If the interests of the tobacco operatives are an important matter, surely those of the settlers of Australia are also important? What I suggest, in the most friendly spirit - and I think the Treasurer will admit that I have not vexed the Government as much as 1 ought to have done in my capacity as leader of the Opposition - is that, amongst the halfdozen items to which it is proposed to grant precedence after the tobacco duties have been dealt with, wire netting shall be included. The adoption of my suggestion will not involve the Treasurer in any loss of dignity, and will be in accordance with the promise which he has already made.
– I said that, after the tobacco duties had been disposed of, I would take into consideration the question of granting precedence to half-a-dozen items.
– Will the honorable gentleman consent to include wire netting in those items?
– If I had my own way, I would deal with that item first.
– Will the Treasurer agree to take it second ? He may fairly do that.
– If it is agreed to give precedence to half-a-dozen items, I say that wire netting is the first upon which I should put mv finger.
– I think that that assurance is satisfactory.
.- When the honorable member for Robertson moved for the postponement of these items last night, the honorable member for Angas considered the proposal of the Government so eminently fair that he asked the honorable member to withdraw his motion. He did so, and-
– Did the honorable member say that the honorable member for Robertson withdrew his motion last night?
– He did not withdraw it.
– I understood that he did. At any rate, honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber agreed that the proposal of the Government w.as sufficiently reasonable to prompt them to ask the honorable member to withdraw his motion.
– Only one honorable member.
– The position put by the honorable member for Angas is one that this Committee ought to recognise.
As is well known, a number of men are out of employment owing to the fact that the tobacco duties are still in abeyance. Further, a number of persons who are interested in those duties have been kept waiting in Melbourne for weeks.
– For what have they been, waiting?
– They have been waiting to put their case to hoonorabe members. Of course, everybody recognises the seriousness of the position in regard to wire netting. If there be any probability of the duty upon that article being lowered, the sooner the question is determined the better. I, therefore, cordially agree with the suggestion that, amongst the half-dozen, items to which precedence shall be given, wire netting may be included. The Government may fairly deal with that item after the tobacco duties have been disposed’ of.
– The Government have agreed to do that.
– The Government practically suggested that last night, and we might have disposed of the tobaccoduties ere this, but for the general discussion which has ensued.
.- Ten minutes ago I sat here as an admirer of the Treasurer. He ha’d declared himself a stickler for responsible government, and had declined to permit of the control of business being taken out of the hands of the Ministry. But now I find him entering into a compromise with the leader of the Opposition.
– Why should he not do so?
– I want to say that there are more important items’ in the Tariff than wire netting. The Government, I maintain, should deal with the items in the order in which they appear in the schedule. The second division of the Tariff relates to agricultural products and groceries. I contend that groceries and textiles affect a larger number of persons than will be affected by the duty upon wire netting. Thousands are- suffering to-day from the duties imposed upon groceries and textiles
– But it is generallyunderstood that the duty upon wire netting will be materially reduced.
– The Treasurer himself has taken up two positions - first, as the Minister in charge of the Tariff, and, secondly, as a country member. If he considers that the duty upon wire netting so vitally affects the country, why does he not strike it off the Tariff schedule? Why does he not give notice of an amendment that the duty shall be abolished?
– He has defended the duty already.
– Yet, in his capacity as a country member, he professes anxiety to deal with it. I did think that he intended to be stiff-necked upon this matter. Had he remained so, whilst he might have lost the vote of the honorable member for Calare, he would have gained that of the honorable member for Dalley. In view of the declaration of the Treasurer that he would stand firm, I am astonished that he should now agree to give precedence to the consideration of five or six particular items. Which five or six items will the “Treasurer select? Or which items will he allow honorable members to- select? My own opinion is that, once we begin to select items, there will be a most unholy row ; at any rate, there will be more debate over the selection than over the whole Tariff. The tobacco items may be disposed of quickly, and then we shall reach foodstuffs and apparel, which affect thousands, and not hundreds of people. Metals and machinery follow after textiles, and I ask, why should I permit an item of so much interest to my constituents to be put aside for the sake of wire netting? According as an industry possesses friends in this Chamber, so will the clamour be raised for precedence to the items which affect it. . The only claim I should make would lie that attention should first be given to those items which affect the masses, although, as a matter of fact, I am content to consider the items of the Tariff in the order in which thev appear.
.- I hope the motion to interfere, with the order of the Tariff will not be accepted by the Government or by honorable members. If we start the consideration of the Tariff by accepting proposals to give precedence’ to items, I am satisfied there will be more discussion over the question of precedence than over the items if taken in their order. I appreciate to the full the difficulties of the people who are combating the rabbit pest; but, at the same time, wire netting cannot be regarded as the most important item to the people of Australia as a whole. The item may concern certain constituencies very considerably ; but it cannot be said that the duty, although it may be regarded as excessive, is endangering’ Australia or any industry in Australia. The whole community are affected by the duties on foodstuffs and apparel ; and a considerable section are paying absolutely unjustifiable charges for kerosene. A further clamour is raised that a great’ distributing house is to be ruined if the duty is not immediately removed from magazines; but a number of the duties on some metals and machinery , which, in my opinion, have not a chance of being approved by this House, are injuring to a considerable degree one of the great primary industries of the country. Once we depart from the order of the Tariff, every honorable member will be concerned to see that the best is done for his particular constituency ; and the results will be very much more serious than those foreshadowed bv the honorable member for Robertson and others in connexion with the duty on wire netting. Although items which affect my constituency very considerably are low down in the schedule, I am prepared to consider the duties in the order in which they have been submitted to us, believing that any departure will only lead to immense trouble. The Acting Prime Minister does not seem disposed to name items to which he would give precedence, and I point out to him that it would be an absolute impossibility to obtain agreement in such a matter. I think we may pass several of the divisions with very -little debate, and thus speedily reach the item of wire netting which so concerns the honorable member for Robertson.
.- ‘ The proposal of the Treasurer appears to me to be a reasonable one, which honorable members may well accept. The honorable gentleman has recognised the difficulty we are placed in, especially in regard to wire netting and some other important items; but I do not think he is accurate in suggesting, that there is a desire on- the part of honorable members to take the business out of the hands of the Government. Any attempt of the kind could not, of course, be permitted by the Government, but they might have avoided any difficulty by doing, on their own motion, what they have now said thev are willing to do. I hope that the Government will submit a moderate number of items which are very pressing, which they can easily decide upon, and which are most desired by members to be at once dealt with.
– Every honorable member thinks the items in which he is interested the most pressing.
– I am prepared to leave’ the Government to choose the items. There are some which I desire to be taken soon, seeing that they affect the State which I represent; but I feel sure that the Government will be influenced by a desire to deal with those matters which, as they have gathered from the debates, are the most pressing. I hope there will be no division on this motion, because-
– The honorable member for Robertson has been waiting for some time to ask leave to withdraw his motion.
– If the question were pressed to a division, I should have to vote for the motion, not with the object of harassing the Government, but because I should feel compelled to do so in the interests of the country.
.- I did not have the advantage of hearing the honorable member for Robertson, but I am of opinion that if the Government depart from the printed list thev will make a great mistake, for which, they will be sorry for some time to come. The Treasurer invited all honorable members on this side, who were not protectionists, to go to the other side. I do not know that the honorable gentleman can afford to bid any honorable members here to go to the other side; although he might have extended an invitation to protectionists opposite to cross the floor, because I think he will require them all. I shall certainly oppose any alteration in the order of the schedule, because it would mean that any one, whose electorate was interested in a particular item, could alter the order of the whole of the Tariff. If we are first to consider items which are most important, we ought to take those which affect the most people; and when we consider people, and not sheep and rabbits, we ought to deal with groceries, textiles, and so forth. The honorable member for Swan regards the proposal of the Government as a reasonable one; but the Treasurer is old enough in politics to know that when honorable members opposite regard any proposals of his as reasonable, he ought to be a little suspicious - he ought to beware of the Greeks, especially when they bring gifts. If T were in the Treasurer’s position, and the right honorable member for Swan described any proposal of mine as reasonable, I should begin to wonder what mistake I had made. However, if we once begin to select items, a dozen will grow into twenty-four, and, even then, honorable members would not be satisfied ; finally, the order of precedence will cause more discussion than will 4the merits of the items. There are a number of items on which there need be no discussion; and if the leader of the Opposition takes a reasonable view, he will not unduly press debate on questions which are a foregone conclusion. The right honorable gentleman has the opportunity to shorten the discussion almost immeasurably, and if he sets the pace, I shall be only too happy to follow his lead in this connexion. We shall reach the item of wire netting in due course, and, on the way, deal with other items which are of much more importance. If it is to be a question of tactics, and the Acting Prime Minister accedes to requests made by certain honorable members, he must also consider what others desire. We have the schedule in black and white, and if we depart from it what will be the result? A representative of Messrs. Gordon and Gotch told me the other day that he would lose £20,000 if the item relating to magazines, were not speedily dealt with. I replied, “ I do not care whether you lose ,£20,000 or £20,000,000, I shall not vote for a variation of the order in which items appear in the schedule.” The duty on magazines is highly important to thousands of distributors throughout the Commonwealth, but every one affected by the Tariff must take his chance. I shall oppose in every legitimate way any attempt to deal with the items except in the order in which they stand in the schedule.
– Honorable members of the Labour Party are so loquacious that I have not previously had an opportunity to say that I listened with much interest to the suggestion made by the Treasurer that if my motion were withdrawn he would ask the Committee to deal with the item of wire netting immediately after we had dealt with the tobacco duties.
– I did not say that.
– Is the honorable member prepared to adopt that course ?
– I have said all I am going to say upon that subject. Mr. HENRY WILLIS.- The right honorable member for East Sydney is my leader, and I am prepared to adopt his- suggestion. I think he made a very reasonable proposal to the Treasurer - and that honorable member appeared to accede to the request - that we should deal with the Stem of wire netting as soon as we had disposed of the tobacco duties. Why the item relating to tobacco should be taken before the item relating to wire netting I do not know, unless Ministers have been influenced by the clamour of the representatives of South Australia in regard to the tobacco manufacturing industry. A dozen men or so have been thrown out of work-
– The South Australian factories represent only a small part of the industry in Australia.
– The whole business of the Parliament was held up some time ago because a few cigarmakers had been thrown out of work. There are millions at stake in connexion with the duty on wire netting, and the industry affected by it should be considered. I understand that the Treasurer has agreed to the request of the leader of the Opposition that he should invite the Committee to deal with the item of wire netting’ immediatelyafter the tobacco duties have been disposed of.
– It will be one of the first; I do not ask him to pledge himself to take it immediately after the disposal of the item of tobacco.
– Since the Treasurer is as fickle as a young woman, and must be humoured, I desire, by leave, to withdraw my motion.
– I object to the withdrawal of the motion, since _ I desire to speak to the question. The honorable member wishes to withdraw his motion on the understanding that the Treasurer will bring on the item of wire netting as soon as we have dealt with the item of tobacco. I hope that the Minister will not adopt that course. The honorable member for Robertson spoke of the poor people of Hindmarsh, who, he said, were suffering under this Tariff, but for whom the Labour Party were prepared to do nothing, because they did not belong to unions. It is because I wish to do something for the poor people of Hindmarsh that I object to precedence being given to the item of wire netting. If the honorable member has any desire to help the poor he should vote against the duty on kerosene. I am as much interested- in wire netting as he is, but I am still more
concerned about the welfare of the poor people who, under the duty on kerosene, are suffering far more than are those affected by the duty on wire netting. That impost is a mere bagatelle to those engaged in the great pastoral and agricultural in- dustries as compared with the effect of the duty on kerosene to men receiving only 36s. or j£,2 per week.
– Many people who use wire netting are not getting 36s. per week.
– Then the sooner they are out of the industry the better for themselves.
– I refer to the small farmers, whose grass has been eaten by rabbits.
– The Treasurer is relying on the support of a number of honorable members of the Labour Party to secure the passing of this Tariff, but he will be greatly mistaken if he attempts to deal with the items except in the order in which ‘ they appear in the schedule.
.- The honorable member for Robertson has acted wisely in accepting the Government proposal! But is it not a sad commentary on the work of the authors of the Tariff that, within two months of its introduction, we are told that in consequence of it hundreds of workers in the tobacco industry have been thrown out of employment? The Treasurer says that he is as anxious as is any honorable member to remove the dim’culty in regard to wire netting. Why did he not look ahead before he placed the item in the schedule?
– Ask the Tariff Commission why they suggested a duty on wire netting.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh’ has spoken to-night of matters of which he knows nothing. Every farmer has to pay the same duties on the necessaries of life as are paid by the residents of Port Adelaide, and, in addition, he is penalized to the extent of £8 or ,£10 per ton on wire netting that he must use to protect his grass and crops. No section of the community is more severely hit under this Tariff than are the farmers. Every article they require is subject to a duty. I repeat that it is a sad commentary on the Tariff that we already have indications that industries are being ruined by it. The honorable member for Boothby has told us that many men in the tobacco industry are out of work, and yet the Tariff was introduced, amongst other reasons, to increase the avenues of employment. The honorable member for West Sydney has also told us that thousands of distributors will be seriously affected by the duty on magazines. The last two days have been absolutely wasted. It is time that we stopped this talking to the gallery, and set to work to deal with the items in the Tariff.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– In dealing with the item or “ale and porter” we are at once confronted with one of the difficulties that I pointed out when I said it was desirable that we should have from the Treasurer an indication of the intentions of the Government respecting the Excise duty to be imposed under the new protection scheme. The Minister told us that an Excise duty would be imposed on all goods that were protected, and that it would be remitted if certain conditions were observed. We now have before us an item in respect of which protection is given to the local manufacturer, and in dealing with it we are beset with two difficulties. In the first place, we have had no intimation as to whether or not those engaged in the industry will be subject to the Excise duty mentioned by the Treasurer ; whilst the other is that the item is one to which an Excise duty already applies. How does the Minister intend to deal with this item so far as the new protection proposals are concerned?
– The honorable member must recognise that that Excise duty is to be imposed only where the manufacturer refuses to do what is required of him.
– It is to be imposed in every case, and is to be removed only when the Government are satisfied that the manufacturer is complying with the stipulated conditions.
– Quite so ; but the Excise duty now in force is entirely different from that to which the honorable member refers.
– I am quite aware, of that.
– Then why raise a bogy ?
– Does this question arise now ?
– Why not? We are asked to give a certain protection to this industry, and we have been told that any industry which is protected is to be dealt with in a certain way.
– But the Excise duty, which the honorable member has in . . mind, will be an extra, or special, Excise in addition to that already applying to this item.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for Flinders for the information which he has given to me.
– I understood from the Minister’s statement that that is so Mr. DUGALD THOMSON.-I am applying to the Minister for information in regard to items such as this. Where Ex- ‘ cise is chargeable under the Tariff, isit. intended by the new protection to provide for a further Excise if the prescribed con- ditions are not complied with? And is the industry affected by this item one which will be brought within the scope of the new. protection ? I cannot see my way to vote . intelligently in respect to items on the Tariff without knowing whether they will be affected by the proposals providing for what has been called the new protection.
– We should know, too, whether the additional Excise, will be. equivalent to half the increase in the duty or to half the whole duty.
– That is another matter which the Minister has not explained, but in the case of spirits an Excise equal to half the whole duty would be very heavy. We should know whether the special Excise is to be equivalentto half the import duty, or to half the protection given to the industry. I never knew a Chamber to be ready to accept proposals with so little information in regard to them. Having once dealt with the Tariff, we shall find it practically impossible to, re-consider any of these items. We should know what items will be affected by the new protection, and what the special Excise is to be.
– I take it that it willbe half the amount of the protection given.
– Different , views have been expressed by honorable members, and we should know the intentions of the Government in the matter, instead of being asked to swallowits . proposals without adequate information concerning them. I would take this attitude if I sat on the Ministerial side of the chamber. I wish to know whether the Minister proposes to apply his new protection to the manufacture of beer, and, whether he proposes to deal with it as the manufacture of spirits has been dealt with. If the principles of the new protection are to be applied to this industry, will the special Excise be equivalent to half the duty or to half the protection ?
– The honorable member for North Sydney has raised a very important question. I did not interject because I did not regard it as important, or because I possessed special information, but because I gathered from the skeleton statement of the Treasurer that it is ‘intended to impose a special Excise, or, where there is already an Excise, an extra Excise for the purposes of the new protection. The view I have taken is that the whole subject is replete with difficulties, and that we must either ask the Government to bring forward now in detail its proposals relating to the new protection, and decide what is to be done in re gard to them before dealing with the Tariff-
-That would mean an indefinite postponement of the Tariff.
– Precisely. I do not suggest thatthat course should be taken.. But we must either do that or deal with the Tariff first, leaving the proposals relating to the new protection to be considered afterwards. I do not know which is the better course, but the Government has charge of this business, and the Treasurer has said that he intends to go on with the Tariff first, and tosubsequently bring forward his new protection proposals. The contention of the honorable member for North Sydney that, having passed the Tariff, we cannot re-consider any of its items, is of great weight, and if we deal with the Tariff before considering the new protection proposals, our hand’s will be largely tied in regard to them. I think it undesirable to, at this stage, launch into a debate on the principles of the new protection, which may occupy three or four weeks. It is really a conflict of difficulties, and it seems to me that the urgency of disposing of the Tariff is paramount to all other considerations. I think, therefore, that our better course is to postpone all arguments relating to the new protection until the proposals concerning it are brought before us.
– I think that the Government might bring forward its proposals relating to the new protection in an explanatory memorandum. That has frequently been done when new proposals have been submitted, and it has been done even in regard to Bills. Why should not the new protection proposals be embodied in a memorandum, if only in outline?
– They were outlined yesterday.
– I advise the honorable member for Parramatta; to read the statement which I have made in regardto them.
– I wish to know, amongst other things, if the proposed new Excise will be equivalent to half the whole of the duty, or merely to half any increase in duty, and I should like a list of the industries to which it is intended that the new protection shall apply. We should have such a list before us in dealing with the items of the Tariff.
– Does the honorable member think that this matter is involved in the item before the Chair?
– We should have to get a great deal more information than that. The Government would have to set forth all the conditions of exemption.
– All that information could be presented to the Committee in a memorandum.
– Even if we had such a memorandum, nothing definite would be known until Parliament had dealt with the proposals of the Government.
– We should, at least, know the mind of the Government in the matter.
– Oh !
– I do not wish to hear the honorable member say “Oh.” I am speaking, not to him, but to the Committee. I am tired of his humbug. As he cannot argue the question, he sits in his chair grunting. He told us this afternoon that he, and others, propose to give further protection to Australian industries in consideration of the new protection thatis to be provided for. But I ask the honorable member for South Sydney whether he thinks that the Tariff should be dealt with before we know to what items the new protection will apply ? Are we to pass the Tariff, leaving the Government to apply the new protection to such items as it pleases ?
– The new protection does not affect theitems of the Tariff.
– It should affect our decisions in regard to the rates of duty. The questions raised by the honorable member for North Sydney are very pertinent. We should know whether, in regard to industries affected by an Excise, an additonal Excise may be imposed, and whether that Excise will be equivalent to half the duty or to half the increase in duty.
– How can that affect the discussion of the items of the Tariff?
– The honorable member keeps repeating that question because he knows nothing about the matter. A simple explanation would save time, but the Minister cannot make one. He knows as much about the new protection as he does about the other subjects which he brings before the Chamber, and that is nothing at all.
– And he does not know enough to know that he knows nothing.
– That is the trouble. As we can get nothing from the Minister about the new protection, I ask the honorable member for South Sydney whether the special Excise will be imposed in cases where there is already an Excise, and whether it is to be equivalent to ‘half the duty, or to half the increase?
– Or is it to be half the difference between the import duty and the Excise ?
– That isanother matter. One might well think that the Government would have looked into the point before putting forward any proposals. We ought to know all about these proposals before dealing with the Tariff.
.- I hope that the Minister will be a little patient, because an explanation now may help the passing of a number of items.
– I do not see that the new protection proposals affect the consideration of the Tariff in the slightest degree.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister seriously contend that they are to have not the slightest influence with the Committee in considering the Tariff?
– The protection of the workers is to be provided for by a special Excise. That fact may influence honorable members in dealing with certain items on the Tariff. But the exact proposals of the Government in reference to the new protection do not affect the items of the Tariff.
– How do we know that the industry affected by this item will be in the list of industries to which the new protection will apply?
– I do not know that it will.
– If distilleries are inthe list, surely breweries will be there, because they employ more men, and are of more importance. I hope that the Treasurer will re-consider the matter. I want to ask a further question of a very simple character. I do not ask the Treasurer to tell me what are the exact provisions of a Bill which is not yet in existence, and the drafting of which will occupy a considerable time. But, apart from the conditions which will be embodied in the measure, the Treasurer might say whether the proposed Excise provisions will be applied to the whole of the items upon which duties have been imposed. Is the beneficent and benevolent scheme which the Government are incubating to be applied to all the items of the Tariff, or is it to-be confined to some of those items?
– I have said previously that a list of the items which the Government desire to be subjected to the Excise will be submitted.
– But when will it be submitted ?
– I cannot say positively.
– Will it be within a week?
– I cannot say positively.
– Is this responsible government? Why, I might as well ask a piece of wood drifting with the river current where it was going.
– I must ask the honorable member to discuss the question before the Committee. I have already allowed him considerable latitude.
– Then the Government scheme is not to be a general one ?
– It will not apply to everything.
– On behalf of the Australian worker, I ask why it is not to be generally applied? The Government have already applied this benevolent provision in opposite way’s in two Acts of the last Parliament. Under the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act, the new Excise duties cannot be imposed upon distillers untilboth Houses of the Legislature have passed a certain resolution.’ But under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act’, those duties became operative immediately.
– Presumably the agricultural implement makers have to prove themselves innocent of any offence before they are exempted from the duties.
– Exactly. Mr. Joshua might fairly presume that Parliament would not pass the necessary resolution within a couple of years. But in the case of the agricultural implement makers, the duties became operative immediately.
– Not one of them has paid the Excise.
– But if they do not obtain exemption, every penny of the Excise due upon every implement that has left their works can be collected as from 1st January of the presentyear. I again ask the Treasurer whether, under the Government proposals, it is intended to adopt the plan which lias been embodied in the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act, or that which was followed in the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act? That is a simple question, and I pause for a reply.
– The memorandum which I submitted yesterday sets out the position very clearly.
– Has the Treasurer any idea which plan is to be adopted? . Has he laid the memorandum upon the table of the House?
– The honorable member is not going to catch me.
– Which principle is mentioned in the memorandum ?
– I do not think there is any need to postpone the consideration of the Tariff - as has been suggested by members of the Opposition - pending the completion of the Government proposals in connexion with the new protection.
– We did not suggest that.
– It has been suggested.
Several Honorable Members. - Oh, no.
– If honorable members merely desire to know the nature of the Government proposals, I think that it was sufficiently set out by the Treasurer yesterday.
– But did he mention which system of Excise is to be adopted?
– Yes. The special Excise will be based upon the system that has been embodied in the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act.
– Now I understand the matter. I thought that I would get the informationfrom the honorable member.
– I understood the Treasurer to say yesterday that the Government intended to adopt the principle that has been embodied in the legislation enacted in respect of stripper-harvesters.
– The honorable member for East Sydney knows that perfectly well.
– There is, however, a difference in the method of the application of the principle.
– Are we to have two kinds of treatment in relation to beer and spirits?
– That is another matter. I was addressing myself to the question put by the honorable member for East Sydney. I understood the Treasurer to affirm yesterday that the Government proposals follow upon the lines of the special Excise embodied in the harvester legislation, except that there will be a difference in its application.
– After we reach a certain stage.
– Yes. The principle, however, is exactly the same. If honorable members merely wish to understand the Government proposals, they will find them presented with sufficient clearness in the speech of the Treasurer yesterday.
– Would it hurt the Government proposals if we could see them?
– No. I see no reason why they should not be brought forward at the earliest possible moment.But if those proposals were actually before the Committee, we should be no further advanced so far as the determination of the general Tariff is concerned, because the list will be subject to the approval or otherwise of the House. It may be added to, or substracted from, just as we. may decide. I do not care to bind myself exactly to what the Government may propose in the way of a schedule of industries to which their proposals will apply.
– They bind themselves to follow the honorable member,
– I do not think thatis so. The degree of alliance between the Government and ourselves is clearly understood.
– Is there an alliance?
– I say that the degree of alliance between the Government and the members of the Labour Party is clearly understood,and it does not involve any obligation on either side.
– ‘I should think that it did not. It is the easiest thing in the world to drive when one knows how.
– The honorable member ought to know. He has had a long experience. I remember one occasionupon which, in’ his anxiety to promote the tern- . perance of the people, we had a discussion upon tea. I do not see that we should be advantaged by postponing the consideration of the general Tariff until the Government proposals had been absolutely defined. As the honorablemember for Flinders has pointedout, we are upon the horns of a dilemma in any case.
– Are we to bekept therefor three months ? I cannot stand it.
– I dare say that the horn would break if the honorable member were impaled upon it for three months. The honorable member for Flinders pointed out that if it was proposed to defer the Tariff until the question of thenew protection had been settled, it would mean, an extended debate, and that even then honorable members might legitimately desire to know what the Tariffas seeing that.it might operate in the decision as to which industries the new protection should be applied.
Mr.Fowler. - Necessarily so. ‘
– I. thinkso. It would be betterto proceed with the Tariff first, and then decide in detail what form the newprotection shall take. We already have a knowledge of the principle which is to befollowed, and we might leave the details until after the Tariff has been dealt with.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to go back and make the Tariff square with the new protection ?
– I do not think there will be any need for that.
– Then we are not to take the new protection into account when voting the duties?
– I do not anticipate that many honorable members of the direct’ Opposition will be influenced materially by the fact that the new protection has been proposed, but that they will vote for the lowest possible range of duties.
– Not necessarily ; if we were informed as to the new protection, the honorable member does not know what we might do.
– I am only judging f romthe experience of some honorable members opposite on a previous occasion. At the same time, I do not think the new protection need in the slightest degree influence honorable members in the general consideration of the Tariff. I am confident that before the Tariff leaves this House a majority of honorable members will be ‘in favour of the general principle involved in the new protection. I am content to rely on the good judgment of the Committee in coming to a reasonable andpractical decision ; and, therefore, I feel that we may proceed with the consideration of the Tariff, apart altogether from the particular shape the new protection may take. The principle will be approved by the House, and the shape the new protection may afterwards take is not of great importance at present.
– I have no desire to cause any delay, but must say, a few wordsin reply to the Treasurer and other honorable members. The honorable member for South Sydney has very properly said that, in his opinion, there is reason in the request for a list of the items that are to beaffected by the new protection. I have asked and pressed for that list but I recognise now that it is not in existence, and, theref ore is not available. That is aclear enough indication that the Ministry have not sufficiently prepared their measures, because, when they introduce two policies, one of which hangs upon the other, and ask us to decide on the one, we ought to have a greater knowledge of the other than we have at present. I may give an illustration in support of my contention. YesterdayI asked if the new protection was to be applied to all the items on the Tariff carrying duties, or only to all the items carrying protective duties. It has been indicated by the Minister that the system may not apply, and probably will not apply, to All items, but that a list will be prepared Selecting certain items.
– The Minister said that yesterday.
– At any rate, the Minister has said so. Although we cannot have the list when it has . not been prepared, surely we, who have to see that the industries of the community are treated equitably, have a right toat least ask whether the new protection isto be applied to. all the items ; or, if not, what is to be the principle of selection on the differentiation between industries. An answer to such a question ought to be expected from a Minister by
Item agreed to.
I tem 2 (Ale, porter, &c, containing less than 2 per cent, of proof spirit) agreed to.
Item 3. Spirits and spirituous liquors, n.e.i.-
. -I should like to know what has been done to insure that spirits imported from abroad are of the age required under the schedule we passed a little while ago. I understood that recently it was proposedI do not know whether the proposal was put in actual operation - that the declaration of the importer should be accepted Las. sufficient proof of the age of the spirit. If that proposal has been carried out, it seerns to be altogether inadequate, especially when compared with what is laid down for ascertaining the age of locallyproduced spirits, which are under Customs supervision for two years from their distillation before being placed on the market. I am glad to see that the Minister has not, apparently, so far agreed to waive or attempt to alter that law. In regard to imported spirits, I pointed out, when the proposal was under consideration to insist on an age limit, that both in Great Britain and in France the age could be certified to by responsible people. In Great Britain, spirits are under Customs control, and bonded certificates can be sent with the spirits to insure that proof of age
-Did the deputationconsist of local men or importers ?
– Most of them were frorn South Australia, and they represented both distillers and importers Representations have been made on both sides, and. as there appears to be a difference of opinion, it seems to me that those who have complied with the law are ‘in the strongest position.
– But those in South Australia could not comply with the law, because they have to wait for the vintage.
– Everybody concerned was placed in the same position ; and as far as possible,. I shall take care that the local producer is placed in quite as good a position as is the importer.
– As to a request for an extension of time in regard to the maturing of spirits, there is a great difference between the circumstances of. some of the growers;, say, of South Australia, and the growers of other parts of the Commonwealth. Those in South Australia must wait for the vintage ; and they have not had time in which to mature the spirits. Their difficulty was that they did not get sufficient time to secure the vintages necessary to give them the spirit required. In the circumstances, their request was very reasonable. *
– The position presented by the honorable member for Angas is not sound. Ample time has been given to these people ro make provision for their trade. They now confess that, prior to the passing of the Act, they were gelling immature spirit.
– The Hunter River distillery has not sold a bottle since the Act came into operation. It is preparing to comply with the new law.
– That distillery is within my electorate, and it has made provision to supply matured spirit. If the wineries of South Australia are not prepared to do so they must take the consequences. The facts put before us go only to show the fraud. that they have been perpetrating. We should ‘, insist upon spirit being matured in wood for at least two years. If local vignerons cannot supply the demand, then it can be met by imputations. Are we -to enforce on the consumers the use of a vile immatured spirit ?
– That is not the point.
– I hold that it is. Are we to allow people to sell the vile immature liquor which they have supplied in the past, to the ruin of the health of many’ of our citizens ? I think not. A constant opposition has been shown to the
Act, especially on the part of certain people in South Australia, who do a large trade iti Australian brandy. There is in my electorate a supply of matured spirit in wood which will command the trade until the South Australian or the Victorian distillers have matured their spirit in accordance with the Act. The importers are as bad as the local manufacturers, since they are also prepared to supply immature spirit: They are selling it at a low rate in order to get rid of it within the period specified by the Act. I hope that the Minister will insist upon the observance of the provisions of that measure.
– I am glad to learn that the Minister of Trade and Customs is prepared to place the importers of spirits on an equal footing with the local distillers. I am glad, also, that he does not intend to grant any extension of time. Whilst it may be true that some of the distillers in South Australia have no stocks, I am satisfied that those who are so situated would probably be in the same position if an extension were granted. Even in South Australia there is a large stock of matured spirit, which, if necessary, can be obtained. If the time’ were extended it would be very unfair to those who are keeping a stock until the beginning of the year. I am quite satisfied that, if we have not in South Australia a supply of matured spirit sufficient to satisfy ali requirements,” it can be obtained in other parts of the Commonwealth. If it cannot then there will be nothing to prevent our securing it from abroad. There may be one or two cases of hardship occurring under the Act, but if any hardship is to be ‘suffered it should not be borne by those who have made a reasonable effort to comply with the law.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Robertson would not for a moment consciously do an injustice to wine merchants and distillers of very high standing.
– No, but I have been watching them.
– If the honorable member has, his vision for the moment is somewhat distorted. It is a most serious thing to talk as the honorable member has done of wines or brandies which have not attained the standard of purity required by the Act. I think that he is mistaken. I have not had interviews with the winegrowers, except that I have casually met them on the Adelaide express, and. have asked them why they were coming to .Melbourne. Last year we passed an Act in connexion with the duties on. spirits, and it was . pointed out, in the course of the debate upon it, that pot-still brandy, which as ah element represents 25 per cent., of the total, must be matured for two years in order to eliminate certain vapours. It was also shown that 75 per cent, of the constituents of brandy - that is the rectified grape spirit - does not require to be matured for two years. The Parliament decided to the contrary .0 I desire, in fairness to the spirit industry of South Australia, to point out that, it was stated by experts that it is unnecessary to keep 75 per cent, of the constituents of brandy for two years, that the rectified spirit itself does not require to be kept for that period. Pot still brandy is kept for about two years, but if the whole composition were kept in wood for . such a time the spirit would have no power. The difficulty of the distillers is. that they have not been able to- comply with the terms of an Act which prescribes that spirit which does not, in their opinion, .require maturity must be matured for two years. They are endeavouring to comply with that provision.
– Has the honorable member ever tried to drink whisky that has not been matured?
– I am a teetotaller. The Parliament has determined that spirit shall be kept in wood for two years, and the distillers simply ask for an extension of the time within which that provision is to come into operation.
-(Robertson) fi 0.40]. - It is generally admitted that the longer a spirit is kept the milder it becomes. There are a great many humbugs in the distillery trade.
– South Australia produces a. first-class brandy.
– It produces, good wine brandy, and does a -large trade -in it. The distilleries there have also a desire to produce a second-rate brandy - a blending of 25 per cent, of wine spirit “with 75 per cent, of unmatured spirit.
– They fought against the practice. The honorable member is corn.pletely misrepresenting the case.
– They raised the greatest clamour in favour, of such a compound.
– The honorable member is doing a great injustice to South Australia.
– I have . been watching those engaged in the industry. The South Australians, who produce a first-class brandy, were granted protection, and they set up an agitation to be allowed to produce a blend of second-rate brandy. One may enter -an hotel, and imagine that he has been supplied with a pure brandy, when, as a matter of fact, he has received a glass of blended liquor made from sugar spirit and wine spirit, chiefly at the instigation of .interested wine-growers and brandy makers in South Australia, who, a year ago, stood at. the doors of this Parliament trying to buttonhole- every honorable member.
– The honorable member is libelling South Australia.
– We have in Australia” to-day a first-class brandy, and the South Australians should take a back seat until they can compete with the brandy makers of New South Wales.
– The statement just made by the honorable member for Robertson is absolutely incorrect in every particular. It is most unfair that the honorable member should thus libel those who, throughout Australia, are known as being amongst the best wine makers and brandy distillers in the Commonwealth.
– What is the South Australian blended brandy?
– It is a pure grape spirit.
– It is not.
–The honorable member has only to turn to the Act in order to see of what it is composed. South Australian wine makers were most anxious that the Act in question should be passed. Liquor of -the quality referred to by the honorable member has been sold in some parts of Australia, but it is not possible to sell it now. I think- he should be more careful than he has been to-night in making statements in this House.
Item agreed to.
Item 4. Amylic alcohol and fusel oil, per gallon, 14s.
.- In the comparative table that has been circulated by the Ministry, I see opposite this item, and under the heading “Recommendations of the Tariff Commission,” the words “cannot trace.” That, .1 understand, means that it has .been impossible to trace any recommendation on the part of the Commission in regard to this item.
– That is so.
– I wishtoknow from the Mi nister whether amy lic alcohol is a deleterious compound. …..
– It is.
– I do not think that either the Treasurer or the Minister of Trade and Customs, has the remotest idea of what this item is, and yet this is the way in which weare called upon to legislate respecting the, industries of Australia.
– The members of the Tariff Commission, unfortunately, were not in possession of sufficient evidence to enable them to make any recommendation with respect to this item. Incidentally, we obtained a certain amount of information in regard to amy lic alcohol and fusel oil, and my opinion is that its entry into the Commonwealth should be absolutely prohibited..
– Only 140 gallons were imported last year, so that it cannot be largely used.
– It should be used still less.
– What is it?’
– It is an inferior product of alcoholic distillation, which is used in soma mysterious way to make compounds resembling a legitimate alcoholic drink. I believe that in some cases it is used, industrially but, as the Tariff Commission could obtain very little inf ormationin regard to it, wedid not make any, definite recommendation.
– Why was it not treated assaccharine was treated ?’
Mr..FOWLER- We had definite evidence in regard to saccharine.
– It wasnot published.
-It is in the Commission’s reports.
– Has this spirit any special chemical value?
– The Commission was unable to ascertain what its particular chemical value” is. My suspicion is that it is used to produce an imitation of honest alcoholic liquor - that it is an adulterant, and, therefore, Ithink that its importation should beprohibited.
-The item has been inserted mainlyat the instance ofthe Government Analyst,ahigh duty being imposed to checkimportation.
– It isnota very high duty.
– I suppose it is high in comparison with the value of the spirit.
– Yes.The former duty was 14s. The Department has not had much to do with it and the Tariff Commission made no recommendation on the subject.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer has not prohibited the importation of this spirit. I take it that the Tariff Commission could not obtain definite information in regard to it, because the wine and spirit merchants who were examined declined to say anything about it. At one time fusel oil was often used to fortify and strengthen inferior liquor. The effects of the importation of amylic alcohol are not to be measured by its importation. While only 140 gallons may have been imported last- year, with little effect on the revenue, the use of the spirit may have caused a considerable amount of trouble. I have read of men being sent to lunatic asylums through using; fusel oil. Apparently the wine and spirit merchants would use this spirit if they could get it. Its use being so. dangerous, why not make the duty on it 50s. ? The Treasurer cannot tell us whether it is required for special chemical’ work. I should like him to see whether he cannot get f urther information in regard to it.
, - I have given the Committee all the information I have at the present moment. It was not expected that these questions would be raised. If the Committee agrees to the item, I shall make further inquiries to see if danger is to be apprehended from the importation of this spirit, and, if it is considered; dangerous, shall not allow the duty to remain at 14s.
– I am satisfied with that statement.
Item agreed to
Item 5 (Collodion) agreed to.
..- I move -
That, after item 5, the following words be inserted, “ 5A. Wood naphtha and methylated alcohol. Free.”
These substances have, by a mistake, been put under “Oils.” in item 235;, when properly they shouldbe under “ Spirits.”
Amendment agreed to.
Item 6 (Spirits denaturated) agreed to.
Item, 7.. Perfumed -Spirits and Bay Rum, per gallon 25s.
.-Is there any reason for imposing a duty, on bay rum and perfumed spirit?
– The rate of duty charged is that which prevailed under the old Tariff.
– It is really taxation.
– Some persons would drink these preparations because of the spirit in them, if it were not.for the duty.
Item agreed to.
Item 8 (Spirituous Essences) agreed to.
Item . -9Sulphuric Ether andother Ethers, n.e.,i.-
.- Sul phuricand other ethers containing 5 per cent.or more, of proofspirit are to becharged 14s. a gallon, while those containingless than 5 per cent. are admitted free of duty. .
– No alteration is proposed in respect to these -preparations.
– No; but I should like: to know why are duties imposed. There is a medicinal and an industrial ether. Themedicinal ether, Which it is endeavoured to produce free of alcohol, only contains tip to a total of 3 per cent:, and is used as a. stimulant and ‘ anaesthetic. Ether itself is produced from a combination of sulphuric acid and alcohol, the alcohol being animpurity Industrial ether isa very muchcheaper article. It is thendustrial ether which is subject to a.duty of 14s. It contains up to 10 per cent, of alcohol. If is the raw material of a number of industries, being used in. the manufacture of ice, varnishes, and French polish, for extracting fat from seeds and nuts, and for dssolving gumresins. If the duty is proposed on account of thespirit contained ad froma fear that some effort may be made to ‘extract the alcohol from it, it may be as well to point out that if would not pay to attempt to extract the alcohol from industrial ether. Nor can the duty encourage’ its manuf acturelocally, because the quantity used is too small. I cannot understand theobject Of the duty on an article which is the raw material of so many otherindustries.
– Etherscontaining. less than 5percent.of proof spirit arefree. gather from the officers that one reason for that is that it is very . difficult to test it when the proportion of spirit gets down as low as 5 per cent.
– If the industrial ether contains under 10 per cent., the Government should not penalize the manufacturer-.
– We must get a revenue from the spirit. There was some trouble . a little . while ago, if I remember aright, through a good deal of this material being brought in, and some mechanical means being employed to extract thespirit, in. connexion with perfumes and that sort of thing.
– These alcoholic ethers are sometimes consumed instead of ordinary alcoholic liquors.” -
– I cannot remember the. full particulars, but I know that I hadto . deal some time ago with an instance of the spirit being extractedby some means, and used in other ways. There was a good deal of evasion of the Customs in importing this article, and extracting and using the spirit.
– The majority of industrial and medicinal . ethers will- come in free under this item.
– These are the. recommendations of the Government Ana- Iiyst. The Department has dependedupon him in connexion with this and oneor . two other matters.
Item agreed to.
Item 10 (Non-spirituous ethereal fruit essences, &c..). item11 (Wine, sparkling), item 12 (Wine, still), item 13 (Wine, grape, unfermented), agreed to.
Item 14. Wine, n.e.i., including Sake, Ginger, and Prune Wines; and Wines (other than Grape) ; containing -
Not more than 25 per cent, of proof spirit, per gallon, 3s. 6d. . (b)more than 25 per cent, but not more than 50 per cent. of proof spirit, per gallon, 7s.
– It would appear from this item that the Government have reduced the duty on wine with the lower proportion of proof spirit. There ought to be some explanation of that.
– This is taken from: the Tariff Commission’s report.
– Both sections of the Tariff. Commission left the old duty un altered. The lowest duty was 6s. I do not see anyneed- to reduce it, because a wine with 25 per cent, of proof spirit has quite sufficient fortification for ordinary purposes.
– Our wines are higher than that:
– Our sweet wines are higher, but I do not think the dry wines are. These are foreign wines.
– We request that our wines be admitted, to England, in spite of the higher strength, at the lower dutv.
– I think the maximum in the sweet wines which we export is 35 per cent.
– It goes over 40 per cent, in some cases.
– In the dry wines the percentage is not nearly so great. At any rate, it is rather unusual to find the Government reducing the duty on items which have been passed by both sections of the Tariff Commission as sufficient. This can be no question of preference to the old country, because they do not produce wine to any extent. I see no reason to reduce the duty.
. -This was done by the Department to bring the duty into unison with item No. 8.
– It is not quite in unison with . that item.
– It is so far as paragraph A of item 8 is concerned. The Department has done this of its own accord, for the reason I have stated. I cannot say at this moment why it should have been done.
– If that is the only reason, would it not be better to adhere to the old duty ?
– This is a beverage. The other, in item 8, is for industrial purposes.
.- This is not wine in the ordinary acceptation of the term. It is not wine manufactured from fermented grape juice, and is not made commercially in Australia. It is really more in the nature of a cordial.
– It includes grape wines.
– It specifically excludes grape wines. The item refers to ginger wine and other beverages which contain a comparatively small percentage of alcohol. I take it that the reason for including them here is so that the duty will beupon their alcoholic contents.
.- Even if these wines are” of the character indicated by the honorable member for Lang, I cannot see why they should come in at the lower rate. Ginger wine, containing, say, 24 per cent. of proof spirit, is quite as. much entitled to pay the full rate as a grape wine of that strength. This will allow a ginger wine, containing a high percentage of proof spirit, to come in at the lower rate, which, in my opinion, is a thing that we ought to discourage.-
.- I certainly think that this alteration requires some serious explanation, because it is really encouraging the 3s. 6d. item at the expense of duties which range much higher - up to 8s. in bottle and 6s. in bulk. To do so is contrary to the policy of the Tariff I should think. Wine n.e.i. means, of course, all wine not included in items- 11, 12, and 13. The honorable member for South Sydney is quite correct in his interpretation. It does seem that the Department is notonly capriciously reducingthe recommendation of the Tariff Commission, ‘but is also acting contrary to the wisdom of those who framed the Tariff of 1902. We may take it that in 1902 this matter must have been very fully considered. Then the Tariff Commission comes along, and both sections of it recommend a provision in accordance with the Act of 1902. So that we have both the Act of 1902 and the recommendations of the two wings of the Tariff Commission in favour of keeping up the higherrate. But suddenly the Government’ propose a drop of nearly 50 per cent. I do not think we should consent to what is proposed. It is not in the interest of the revenue, and it would encourage inferior wine in competition with the better classes at the higher duty.
– Does not what is proposed include sake, the Japanese drink ?
– That would, I suppose, come in at 3s. 6d. I take it that the Acting Prime Minister will see at once that this sudden drop is not wise. Of course, if the liquid in question Were used for industrial purposes it might be wise to reduce the duty, but if it is a beverage it is a mistake.
– I will look into the matter to-morrow.
– The Minister might aswell postpone the item. In the absence of better information the better course would be to postpone it.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Trea should have been possessed of more information on the point than I have. I think that the Department should have given me that information. I shall consent to postpone the item until I understand it better. The only information I have is not sufficient to show why the smaller duty is recommended.
Mr. POYNTON (Grey) fu. 9]- There may be some injury to the revenue if the item is postponed, after the discussion which we have had. If it is seen that there is some chance of a higher duty being imposed, goods will be withdrawn from bond, and the revenue will suffer. I think we ought to put the duty back to the old rate.
– The Minister should give some consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey. The duty should be put back to the old rate to protect the revenue, and then, if the Minister finds after consultation with the officers that there is some real reason why the duty should be reduced, the item can be recommitted. But the revenue will suffer if it is postponed.
Mr. REID (East Sydney) fu. 12]. - I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey might be adopted, except for this reason : In case the new duties are below the old duties, the higher duties’ are always collected. In this case, for instance, the higher duty will be. collected.
– The higher rate is deposited.
– If that be so, the revenue is protected, and we do not need to consider that point. We have an assurance from the Minister of Trade and Customs that the higher rate is always collected, and, therefore,’ there -is no need to do anything but postpone the item.
.- I do not think that the Department can collect the duty under the old Tariff. The only - duty that they can collect is that in accordance with the resolution passed by this House. The rule as to collecting the higher duty only applies where there is a doubt as to what duty should be collected. It would be an extraordinary position if the Department could collect the duty under the old Tariff. What is provided in the Customs Act is that where there is a doubt as to what the duty’ is, the Department shall collect the higher duty j but it would “be ridiculous if they were to collect the duty under the old Tariff, and not that provided for in the “resolution of this House.
– If the Tariff now under consideration were not passed the old Tariff would be in existence all tthe time, and the duties collected’ would be contrary to a law which has never been’ repealed. The only reason for collecting the duties imposed in accordance with the resolution of this. House is absolute necessity. But they are illegal all the time. In Sydney . a firm of importers applied to the SSupreme Court for a mandamus to compel the Collector of Customs to deliver up their goods to them. Those goods were not liable to duty by law, though they were liable under a resolution of this House. The Court decided not to issue the writ, on the ground that, from public necessity and long practice, the duties were collected in anticipation of an Act of Parliament. Parliament always has its remedy in the event of the Courts granting a mandamus. Parliament, in such an event, could immediately pass a law to make the duties in accordance with the resolution of one House legal for the ‘ time being. It is a matter of practice to collect the higher duty, and my own impression is that when the Tariff of 1902 was being discussed in Committee, if the existing State laws imposed a higher duty than the new Commonwealth Tariff proposed, that higher duty was collected by the Customs.
– The Customs Department would then put’ six different laws in force.
– The Department is now doing exactly what the right honorable member says.
– I know that it was so in 1902, and that practice, the Minister tells me, is now being pursued.
– The Department is collecting the 6s. and’ 8s. per gallon now.
– That is the proper course to adopt, because if the duty be reduced, the excess can always be refunded.
– I desire to postpone the consideration of this item.
– From a revenue standpoint, there is no advantage to be gained by declining to postpone it.
.- This is a question upon which we might hear, the views of the Attorney-General.
– No. The Depart-‘ ment is collecting the 6s. and 8s. per gallon now.
– The honorable member for Angas has said that the Department is acting illegally.
– It is not a question of what we can do, but of what we are doing.
– The honorable member for Angas affirms that the Department is wrong in collecting the higher duties in all cases.
– Yes ; but the higher duties are the law at present.
.–The point referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney, I understood, was a. different one. If the Minister says that in accordance with departmental practice the duty fixed by the Tariff Act of 1902 is being collected because it is the higher duty, I can understand the position.
– The higher duties are being collected I understand, but the balance is being placed to the credit of the importers and will be refunded in case of a reduction of those duties.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the item be postponed until after the consideration of item 16.
Item 15 (Lime and. other fruit juices) agreed to.
Item 16. Table waters (aerated or mineral), and preparations, n.e.i., packed for household use for the production thereof, ad valorem 25 per cent.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the item be amended by leaving out the comma after “ preparations “ and after “n.e.i.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receiptof a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House dp now adjourn.
– I desire to direct the . attention of the Treasurer to the fact that the Excise provisions inserted in the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act of lastyear come into force this month.
In other words, the conditions of labour in the industry must be fair and reasonable from this time onward. Consequently, I, ask him to make inquiry as to whether the. conditions imposed by that Act are being, observed in the wine-growing districts of South Australia, because it has been reported, upon good authority, that a very great difference exists between . the wages paid in the various establishments.
– In reply to the remarks ofthe honorable member, I shall urge the: Minister of Trade and Customs to-morrow ; to obtain the informationwhich he desires. The matter is in the Customs Department’,and no doubt the Minister, through: the Collector, will do what the honorable member wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.-
House adjourned, at 11.23 p.m.-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1907, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071002_reps_3_39/>.