3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN presented a petition from certain retail confectioners of Victoria, praying the House to revert to the former Tariff rates, or to levy a maximum duty of 2d. per lb. on all confectionery.
Petition received andread.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented a similar petition from retail confectioners residing in and about Sydney.
Sir PHILIP FYSH presented a similar petition from retail confectioners in Tasmania.
Colonel FOXTON presented a similar petition from retail confectioners in and About Brisbane.
Colonel FOXTON presented a petition from certain music teachers and others in and about Brisbane, praying the House not to impose a duty on pianos.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua - The Removal of Natives Ordinance of 1907.
Post and Telegraph Act - Amendments of Postal, General Postal, and Telephone Regulations - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 103.
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations- Amendment of Regulations 60 (4) and 234 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1907, No.99.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if he has read the cablegram in to-day’s papers, in which it is stated that Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, M. P. , speaking at Stepney last night, averred his belief that Australians are preparing to build a navy to fight Japan? Is it the policy of the Government to build a navy, and have Ministers discussed in Cabinet the possibility of having to fight Japan?
– The Prime Minister will shortly explain to Parliament the policy of the Government in regard to the construction of an Australian Navy. If a navy is built, it will, of course, always be available for use against the enemies of Australia. It is to be hoped that we shall have no enemies, but if we are attacked, and have a navy to defend us, it is to be presumed that it will do its duty.
– Will the Treasurer take steps to correct mischievous statements such as I have referred to, which are calculated to disturb and disrupt the peaceful relations of friendly nations?
– I think that it would bebest to take no notice of the matter.
– Despite the curt reply given by the honorable gentleman to the important question which I have asked,I still ask whether there is any ground for the rumour that the Government proposes to build a navy to fight a friendly nation? Currency has been given to it by a member of the House of Commons, who spoke as one in authority, possessing a knowledge of the facts.
– The honorable member might ask a sensible question. The Government know nothing about what Mr. Ramsay Macdonald has said. The honorable gentleman must know that Ministers have no such idea in their minds as that imputed to them. The answer of the Minister of Defence was a very proper one.
– Has the at tention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to a telegram from New South Wales, published in this morning’s Argus, in which what is termed a curious instance of lack of enterprise on the part of the Postal Department is commented on ? It appears that Trundle, an important centre in a mining and farming district of the Calare division, has to depend for mail communication upon a coach service, although trains have been running there for at least two months past. If he is aware of the circumstance, will he give reasons for the continuance of this arrangement, and inform the House how long it is to continue ?
– I do not admit lack of enterprise on the part of the Postal Department. Very often hundreds of pounds are saved by using coaches for the conveyance of mails instead of paying for their carriage by train. The whole subject is to be considered in Conference next week, and I hope that a satisfactory arrangement will then be made with the Railways Commissioners.
– I would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that a good deal of inconvenience is being caused by the changing of telephone numbers and the non-issue of new directories? Will he take steps to issue the new directories as soon as possible, so that subscribers may know the telephone numbers of those with whom they wish to communicate ? My own telephone number has been changed .
– I am not aware of the facts ; but in view of possible complications and the strange rumours which are current, I shall make all necessary inquiries-.
Mr-. MAHON asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table a copy of the Ordinance of the Legislative Council of Papua permitting the removal in certain cases of aboriginal natives from the Territory?
Whence and for what purpose are the natives to be removed ?
Can he say whether, pending, the approval of Ordinances by the Governor-General, it is usual for the local administration to take action under such Ordinances?
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s* questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I desire to apologizefor having addressed my question to theMinister of Horrie Affairs, seeing that the matter referred to lies entirely within your province, Mr. Speaker. I desire to’ ask you, upon notice -
If, seeing that the ventilation of this chamber is still unsatisfactory and bad, you will seriously consider the scheme first suggested by theofficers of the Department of Home Affairs, and act on it at the earliest possible moment?
– As the honorable member has implied, this and all other matters relating to .the House, and the convenience of honorable members, is under the control, not of Ministers, but of the House Committee. In pursuance of a resolution arrived at by the Committee some time since, steps are about to be taken to provide another system of ventilation for this chamber. The scheme is the one in which the honorable member has taken a considerable interest. Yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister informed me that Colonel Owen has been instructed to proceed at once in the matter.
– Has anything been done in regard to the sewering of the building?
– This is not the time for answering questions without notice, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that that matter, too, has been under the consideration of the House Committees of the two Chambers, and arrangements have been made to provide for sewering.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
Whether, in regard to a statement contained in the Argus of yesterday under the heading of “ Federal Printing,” and setting forth that the Department of Home Affairs had accepted a tender, one condition of the contract being that all the setting is to bedone by hand, the use of machines not being permitted -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions I beg to state -
I cannot say when the return will be laid on the table. The information is not in the possession of this Government ; the Premier of South Australia was accordingly asked to supply the desired particulars on the 18th July last.
Reminders were forwarded on the 21st August and 5th October, but no reply has yet been received.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 8th October, vide page 4361) :
Item 187. Wire-netting, ad val. (General Tariff), 30 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 25 per cent.
.- I should like to know whether the Treasurer has any proposition concerning this item to submit to the Committee?
– Probably I shall have later on.
– Are honorable members to proceed with the consideration of the item in the absence of any intimation as to what is the nature of the Government proposal ?
– In reply to the honorable member, I would point out that the Government proposal is before the Committee. As honorable members are aware, the duty upon wire-netting has engaged a good deal of attention throughout a considerable portion of some of the States. That fact has been evidenced by the circulars which have been addressed to honorable members, and also by petitions which have been presented to this House. At the present stage I wish to say that a duty has been imposed upon this material in consequence of the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. That section reported to this effect -
The representative of the Wire-netting Workers’ Union of New South Wales complained to your Commission that there was no duty on wire-netting under the Tariff, and that the industry was suffering for want of adequate protection. There was only one factory in Australia at present, and the men there did not average more than half-time all the year round. There was no duty on wire-netting in New South Wales immediately before Federation, it having been removed by the Reid Government.
That is to say, that a duty upon this material was imposed bythe Dibbs Government.
– What was that duty?
– I think it was 10 per cent. ad valorem.
– It was remitted by the Reid Government, and was not reimposed by the next Ministry, I suppose?
– After the displacement of the Reid Government there was practically a fiscal truce in that the, people of New South Wales, upon a second referendum, had agreed to enter the Federation, and accordingly the Tariff question was remitted to the Federal arena. That is why no attempt at alteration was made in the New South Wales Tariff during the eighteen months or two years immediately preceding the establishment of the Commonwealth.
– Why did the Treasurer remit the duty upon wire-netting when he was Premier of New South Wales?
– I did not remit the duty. It was taken off by the Reid Government. For the honorable member’s information, I may say that the duty was imposed in 1892 or 1893, and continued to operate until the end of 1894 or the beginning of 1895. When the Dibbs Government retired, and the Reid Government assumed office, the latter remitted the impost. That Government lasted until the middle of 1898. The Commonwealth draft Constitution had then been agreed to–
– What, in 1898?
– Yes, in 1898 or 1899. At any rate, the duty had been remitted when the second Federal referendum had been taken in New South Wales. Upon the overthrow of the Reid Government, I became Premier of that State, and held office until the Commonwealth was established. But it was understood that in the interim no attempt should be made to alter the Tariff. I desire the honorable member for Maranoa to distinctly understand that I did not remove the duty upon wire-netting. It was abolished by the Government of which the leader of the Opposition was the head.
– I was always under the impression that the Treasurer was responsible for its removal.
– No. The Protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, in their summary of the evidence of the representative of the Wire Netting Workers’ Union of New South Wales, said -
There was no duty on wire-netting in New South Wales immediately before Federation, it having been removed by the Reid Government. There was no duty in Victoria under the old Tariff. In his opinion, a duty of 25 per cent. should be placed on English and 30 per cent. on German netting.
– From whose evidence is the Treasurer quoting?
– From that of a witness before the Tariff Commission. I have just given the substance of his replies to questions 87,447 and 87,382.
– Was he one of the employés in Messrs. Lysaght Brothers ?
– I do not know, but probably he was: The report continues -
By placing such duties on importations people would be encouraged to invest capital in the industry in other States, and employment would then be materially increased.
The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission also states -
A grazier inQueensland, owning extensive stations in that State, made strong objection to the suggested duty. Amongst the reasons given by the witness were : - That it would prove pernicious to the whole community, especially to those interested in districts now free of rabbits, but which were in danger of being invaded by them ; that the present price of wire-netting rendered the erection of fences expensive ; and that any serious addition to the cost of the material would make the erection of rabbit-proof fencing almost impracticable, with the result that, in a few years, a large area of country would be rendered worthless by the invasion of rabbits. ,
That is the testimony of Mr. Jowett - the gentleman whom I saw yesterday. I did not then know that he was such a prominent man in connexion with this matter, but I can well understand it, because he toldme that he was a strong free-trader.
– He told the Treasurer the truth.
– His statement accords with the answers which he gave to the questions put to him by the members of the Tariff Commission.
– Well that is “ red hot.”
– I happened to meet this gentleman yesterday and I thought that he was “ red hot. “
– Let us agree to admit wire-netting duty free and dispose of the matter at once.
– Certainly not. A great outcry has been made in connexion with the duty on this material by interested persons. I know of more than one occasion in the New South Wales Parliament when objection was urged to persons interested in the pastoral industry being permitted to vote upon questions affecting that industry. The objection was based upon constitutional grounds, and I am satisfied that the majority of those who are objecting to the duty upon wire netting at the present time are interested parties.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter. He is interested only so far as the interests of a few of his supporters are concerned. I think that I may take credit for knowing as much about the necessities of the pastoralists as does almost anybody, and I say that the agitation which has been worked up against the duty on wire netting is to a very large extent a spurious agitation. In saying that, I do not suggest that the duty should be as high as that which is proposed.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer should say that, because he has not made a fortune out of the pastoral industry.
– I have not made a fortune out of anything, but I can stand up and say that I am not interested in this matter in any shape or form. That fact makes my position stronger than it would otherwise be.
– It may make the Treasurer indifferent.
– The honorable member himself told me that he wanted to buy a lot of wire netting, so that he is interested in the item.
– I do not want to buy an ounce of it.
– The Treasurer ought to withdraw that expression.
– It is a downright untruth.I do not want to buy a yard of wire netting..
– The honorable member must not take umbrage at my statement.
– I do not want to buy a yard of wire netting, and I never told the honorable member that I did.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken. He told me so within the past twenty-four hours.
– I do not want to buy any.
– I did not make the remark which the honorable member questions in any hostile spirit, but in reply to an interjection by him.
– I never said anything of the sort, and I have never bought a yard of wire netting in my life - at least not directly.
– Well indirectly. I do not want the honorable member to jump up in such a fiery spirit-
– I did not make the statement which the Treasurer alleges that I made.
– Oh, yes. I may inform honorable members that in Canada the duty upon wire netting of British origin is 20 per cent., the intermediate duty - which is a sort of semipreferential duty - is 27½ per cent., and the duty under the general Tariff is 30 per cent.
– How many rabbits are there in Canada?
– The rabbits will probably become a pest there.
– No. They would be frozen in Canada.
– Perhaps a rabbit, as well as other animals, will live amidst snow.
– No, it will not.
– I have no desire to relieve the Government of any responsibility, but I do not wish honorable members to allow the hysterical petitions which have been presented to the House to unduly influence them in connexion with this item. I hope that they will approach it with an open mind, and deal with in in an equitable way.
– There is no hysteria connected with it when one hasto foot the. bill.
– Has the honorable member to foot the bill ?
– Yes, in just the same way as has anybody else.
– If the users of rabbit-proof netting care to go to the proper source they can purchase it cheaper to-day than they could before the duty was imposed.
– That is not a fair statement to make.
– If, on the contrary, they will purchase the imported article through the agency of companies and banks, there is no doubt that they will have to pay for it. Probably these institutions will make their customers pay the full amount of the duty.
But I find that the wire netting which is commonly used is now purchased at Lysaght’s at a cheaper rate than before the duty.
– It is £12 dearer than it used to be.
– And I will give the honorable member the reason.
– I should like to hear it, because we want to see the price less.
– Let the honorable member be fair. The risein the price took place some considerable time before the imposition of the duty, and I have taken the trouble to ascertain the cause. I have no doubt that if the duty were taken off to-morrow the increased price would continue, because the same reasons operate. The price before the duty was imposed was 50 per cent. higher than the lowest price for five years past.
– Isthat for imported wire?
– Yes, and Australian wire too ; and the reason is that the raw material, the wire, has, during the last fiveyears, gone up 70 per cent. in price. These details can, if necessary, be verified by statutory declaration.
– Why not manufacture the wire here?
– I put that question, and I may say that communications have gone on between the company in Sydney and Mr. Sandford, who, as soon as he can obtain the necessary machinery, will undertake the manufacture of the wire. I understand that the parties are prepared to enter into an arrangement by which the company in Sydney will take the whole of the wire that Mr. Sandford can produce at his works at Lithgow.
– Then why not give Mr. Sandford a bonus for producing the wire, instead of imposing a duty?
– That is what I should like to do, because I regard a bonus as the proper and legitimate way to encourage an industry of the kind. I make that remark now, because, in the past, some antipathy has been shown to a bonus for the iron industry.
SirJohn Forrest. - Not at all.
– On two occasions I have tried to pass an Iron Bonus Bill, and have been defeated, or have had to withdraw the measure. These facts remain in my memory, and have to be taken into consideration in framing a Tariff. All these events happened before the duty was imposed, and I may further say that the price of spelter, which is used in large quantities for the manufacture of wire for wire netting, has increased by 50 per cent. At the present moment, Lysaght Bros. cannot secure half the quantity of spelter they require, and are taking the whole of that which is produced at Broken Hill and other places. Indeed, the company are prepared to enter into further contracts to take the whole of the spelter that can be produced in Australia, in preference to purchasing imported material. I think the honorable member for Kooyong, who has some knowledge of this matter, will bear out what I have said. Lysaght Bros. at present employ over 400 hands, and I am assured, and believe it to be correct, that their order book to-day is not full. One of the directors of the company and the manager have informed me that if they do not get large orders they will have to dismiss 150 hands.
– Why do they not reduce the price ?
– They have done so.
– By £1 !
– I have obtained authority to give the history of this company and I should like to do so as shortly as I can, in order to place the facts before honorable members. If the statements I am now making are not accepted by honorable members the representatives of the company are prepared to make a statutory declaration.
– There are not 400 men altogether in the wire industry in New South Wales to-day.
– What I am stating is absolute fact. I got my information from one of the directors and the manager of the company ; and, as I say, they are prepared to support their statements by statutory declaration if necessary.
– The 400 includes men and boys.
– I think the boys are over and above the 400, though I cannot speak definitely on that point. I received this information on Monday, and I put very keen, searching questions to both of the gentlemen I have mentioned, because I desired to obtain the exact truth. The manager told me that the present proprietary had had to do with the company for only two years ; that they had taken over the works, together with a debt of £ 1 00, 000, created by the attempt to carry on this struggling industry.
– And now the Treasurer wants the Commonwealth to bear the burden.
– I do not want anything of the kind. I know the honorable member will be fair ; he says he is a protectionist, and I am sure that he is, if he will only allow full fling to his inclinations.
– The fact is that it is not a Victorian industry.
-In reply to that interjection, I may say that a great deal of harm has been done by the announcement that it is proposed to carry on the. wire-netting industry in the gaols of Victoria.
– It is not a Victorian industry ; that is the point.
– I am not going to say anything about that. I promised honorable members to refer to the prices. The New South Wales Government invited tenders for 4,000 miles of wire-netting, which, of course, is a very large quantity. A tender was received for 4,000 miles of wire-netting of 42 inches in width and1¼ inches in mesh, which is the usual size. The tender accepted by the New South Wales Government was at the rate of £26 10s. per ton, which is practically a mile ; and the transaction staggered the ordinary importers in Sydney who were charging£4 or £4 10s. a ton more than the tender price for the same class of netting at that particular time. Lysaght Brothers tendered for the 4,000 miles of netting at £31 a ton, which is estimated to mean £30 10s. a ton, seeing that the company, unlike the Government of New South Wales, truck the wire-netting to the individual purchasers, at a cost of 10s. per ton. The tender is the lowest that has ever been accepted in Australia.
– Wire-netting is free.
– No; duty is being charged, and that causes extra expense.
– Was that tender before or after the institution of the Tariff ?
– Let me proceed, because I regard the information I have here as an education. The New South Wales Government then invited tenders for wire-netting of 36 inches in width, with 1¼-inch mesh, and the tender accepted was at£24. The tender of Lysaght Brothers was£27, or, deducting the 10s. for trucking, £26 10s. I asked the manager why the price was lower than they are charging in a general way now, and he said that it was because of the enormous quantity ordered, namely, 4,000 miles. Let me tell honorable members what is the retail price for this very wire-netting to-day. With the Tariff in operation, Lysaght and Company are charging£31 7s. 6d. per ton for small lots, or, with the reduction of 10s. for trucking,£30 17s. 6d. for the same class of wire whichthe New South Wales Government purchased at £26 10s.
– But the wire is made here.
– And that is the reason they do not charge the equivalent of the duty.
– What were they charging before the Tariff operated?
– The price was the same, or a little more. The tender to which I am referring was before the Tariff was imposed, and, therefore, Lysaght Brothers have reduced their price by £1 per ton since the imposition of the duty.
– What tender was that at
– I think it was a German tender, and I am informed by every one who has used it that the German wire-netting is very inferior. I am giving these figures to show how near the Australian price is to the price of the imported article. I have seen many farmers and squatters in and around Wagga in reference to this matter, and they all tell me that Lysaght’s netting is worth from 30s. to £2 more per ton than the imported wire, a great deal of which is German.
– They can still buy Lysaght’s wire-netting.
– That is why I say there should not be an outcry for which there is no justification.
– Lysaghts have done very well without a duty ; why should they not go on without one ?
– Let me proceed, because I wish to have these facts recorded in Hansard. Lysaght Brothers tendered at practically £26 10s. for 36-inch wire.-netting, and the tender accepted by the New South Wales Government was £24. At present those who receive that wire in the course of ordinary retail trade are charged£27 7 s. 6d, which, with the reduction of ios. for trucking, means £26 17s. 6d. ; and the users get better value for their money, inasmuch, as the Austraiian wire-netting lasts much longer than that imported from Germany. These facts are, to my mind, extremely important.
– From what statement is the Treasurer reading?
– I am quoting statements made by Mr Meeks - whom the honorable member knows - and by Mr. Chant, who is the principal officer connected with the works. I mention these names because I am authorized to do so, and I have before me a type-written copy of the company’s price list.
– When the honorable member spoke of the price being £24 per mile, <lid he mean to say that that was the price of the wire-netting landed at Sydney ?
– Yes. But not on the trucks. As a matter of fact, Lysaght Brothers place the netting on the trucks without extra charge, whereas those who take the Government netting incur an additional expense in conveying it from the wharf to the railway trucks. There 5s another class of wire-netting which is probably more largely used than is that to which I have just been referring. I speak of the 1½-in. mesh, which is used for subdivisional fences. Wire-netting of 1¼-in. mesh is used for the boundary fences, since it shuts out even the small rabbits; but the 1½-in. mesh is, as I have said, used for subdivisional fences. Lysaght Brothers are supplying a great quantity of the larger sized mesh, 1^ in., and their price for it, 42 inches wide, according to the retail distribution rates, is ^”25 15s. If we deduct the ios. per ton, as we have done in connexion with the other class of netting, as representing the cost of trucking, the price is £25 5s. per mile. The 36-in. I 4-inch mesh wirenetting is being sold by them at’ present at £22 7s. 6d., or, allowing for the ros. in respect of trucking, £21 17s. 6d. When I inquired whether the firm were supplying wire-netting outside New South Wales. I was told that they had large orders from Queensland and Victoria, as well as some from South Australia and a few from Western Australia. Last week their output was 335 miles of wire-netting, and within a month or two they anticipate that it will have increased to nearly 600 miles a week.
– Then they have been doing fairly , well.
– But for the fact that wire-netting which was to be distributed is still lying in bond, they would not have been able to reduce the price, even to the extent of -£i per ton, as they have done. All the imported wirenetting would otherwise have been in competition with their output.
– What fools the importers would have been had they taken the wire-netting out of bond.
– Considering that they have the support of a number of free-traders, they would have been foolish to do so. I feel strongly on this question, but I may say at once that I do not intend to ask the Committee to pass the duties of 30 per cent, and 25 per cent, originally proposed.
– It is a case of “don’t shoot; I’ll come down.”
– I shall be quite satisfied with a lower duty.
– Our intention is that wire-netting shall come in free.
– Oh ! those Wagga wings.
– The honorable member is not an angel, and I am sure that he has not yet a pair of wings. It was s<aid in the House the other day that Lysaght Brothers and Company were a foreign company. As a matter of fact, they have no connexion whatever with Lysaghts of Great Britain. Australian money has been invested in their works, they are managed by’ Australian people, and Australians are employed in them.
– Gibbs, Bright, and Company are interested in the company.
– I believe that they are the largest shareholders, and that they took over a considerable portion of the debt of ^100,000 that was incurred by the company through their inability to compete with the imported article. I have been informed, at all events, that that is the position. ‘
– It was a case of bad management.
– I do not know about that, but if any honorable member can controvert any statement I have made in regard to the firm, I shall say that I have been misinformed, and that I shall never again trust these, people. . I am authorized to inform the Committee that Lysaght Brothers will enter into a binding agreement not to increase their prices, but, on the contrary, to reduce them still further if their orders are increased.
-Will they be brought under the new protection policy?
– They will.
– And will they guarantee to keep up the quality ?
– Yes. Judging by the information I have received as to the quality of iron now being produced at Lithgow, I am inclined to think that the quality of the wire-netting produced in Australia will still further improve. At a function which I attended a few days ago, a representative of the Otis Engineering Company publicly stated that the iron which they had used in the construction of a traction engine, and which they had obtained in Australia, was equal to the best Scotch iron, and better than that imported from England. The fact that such superior iron is being produced at Lithgow within a few months of the establishment of the industry there seems to warrant the assumption that the quality of Australian wire-netting will also improve. It should be, and must be, better than the German wire-netting, which is most inferior and short-lived.
– If the price of the raw material increases Lysaght Brothers will not be able to maintain the present selling rates.
– I asked Mr. Chant whether the company would enter into an undertaking not to raise the price of their wire-netting, and he said they would undertake not to raise prices unless the prices of imported raw material were raised.
– Is the Government prepared to impose a duty on their raw material?
– I know what the honorable member has in mind. There is a duty on wire, and that duty has been imposed with the object of assisting the iron industry of Australia. I should be very strongly inclined to support a bounty on the production of wire as a manufactured article.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to place wire on the free list?
– If the honorable member would support a duty of 25 per cent. , or even 20 per cent. , on wire-netting, I should be prepared to put wire on the free list.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that the tenders accepted by the New South Wales Government were for German wire-netting?
– I speak subject to correction, but my information is that a great portion of the wire-netting to be supplied under that contract will be of German manufacture. I do not vouch for the accuracy of that statement as I do for others that I have made; portion of the wire-netting to be supplied may be of English manufacture, but my information is that it is not. The Minister of Trade and Customs has just reminded me that wire from Great Britain is now free.
– Does not a great deal of wire come from the United States of America?
– Why should we not make it in Australia? Why should we depend on Germany or America for our supplies? I hope that we shall shortly be able to manufacture all the wire that we need. I have put the position as strongly as I can, and I trust that the information I have placed before honorable members’ will so impress them that a majority will not be prepared to leave the iron industry of Australia entirely at the mercy of the Germans or the Americans.
– What duty does the Treasurer propose to impose on wire-netting?
– I shall be satisfied with a duty of 15 per cent.
– As against imports from Great Britain?
– I should be prepared to agree to a duty of 10 per cent. on imports from Great Britain, and of l5 per cent. on imports from other parts of the world.
– Making it 5 per cent. from Great Britain, and 10 per cent. against the rest of the world.
– I shall demand the vote of the honorable member, who was returned as a protectionist.
– The Ministerwill not secure it.
– The honorable member ought to have an open mind on this question. I trust that the Committee, in dealing with this item, will give reasonable consideration to the interests of our own people, and that they will not be prepared to place wire-netting on the free list. I have shown thatno great harm can result from the imposition of a duty upon- it. At the present slack time, the total requirements of Australia in respect of wirenetting average .about 15,000 or 16,000 tons per annum,. It is estimated that the demand will increase in the autumn of next year, but I am assured that for some months the quantity required will not exceed that which I have mentioned. Honorable members will therefore see that Lysaght Brothers’ output is almost” sufficient to meet present requirements.
– -Nearly 14,000 miles of wire-netting were imported last year.
– At all events, the information I have received is that at present the average consumption is about 15,000 or 16,000 tons a year; but that possibly, . in consequence of an increased demand from out west, there will be an expansion next year. Lysaght Brothers employ 400, if not more, hands-, and when thev double their output, as I am told they will within a few months, the number of their employes will also .be almost doubled. This being the case, are we going to let loose, in Australia imported German wire-netting?
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the colonial wirenetting is superior?
– I do.
– Then why did the honorable member make such strenuous efforts to obtain imported wire-netting for/ his son?
– I did not. The action of the honorable member in introducing personal matters is outrageous ; but I shall tell the Committee why my son sought to obtain the imported article. As a matter of fact, he is struggling to place his operations on a sound footing, and he applied for the imported wire-netting simply because the State Government offered to supply it on twenty years’ terms. A payment of 5 per cent, for twenty years was sufficient to make good the total cost and interest.
– The same terms are now being offered.
– No. The State Government are now offering to supply wire-netting on only ten years’ terms, and the annual payments have been doubled. The fact that very easy repayment terms were offered induced my son to make application, but as the Government did -not stand to their bargain, he is now negotiating to purchase wire-netting from Lysaght Brothers. The honorable member must not tread on my corns. If he does he will find that . I can hit back.
– Wire-netting has been free for some time.
– I have not had time to look into all these details, but I am informed by the Minister of Trade and Customs that even the free-trade section of the Tariff Commission recommended that a- duty of 5 per cent, should be imposed on it.
– But under the old Tariff it was free.
– I think that a duty was originally proposed.
– The proposal was that it should be admitted free of duty.
– I am not sure on the point. I have given the Committee very good reasons why the proposed duty should be agreed to, and I hope that honorable members will not expose the local wire-netting industry to the competition of the cheap and inferior manufacture of Germany, and thus put out of employment the 400 “men who are at present at work, and prevent employment from being given to as many more. I understand that another wire-netting’ factory has been started in South Australia’, and that other companies will start directly it is known that there will be no danger of their being swamped by wholesale importations. I ask honorable members to deal fairly in this matter. The rates, proposed- 15 per cent, against foreigners, and 10 per cent, against British manufacturers - are not too high, and will not bring about any material increase of’ price in the local article.
.- I was glad to hear the statement of the Treasurer regarding the position of the New South Wales wire-netting factory, and to learn that a second factory is being established in South Australia.
– And a third at Pentridge.
– That is a matter under the control of the Victorian Government. It has been stated that the New South Wales company has been using- as much spelter as it can obtain from Broken Hill.
– It gets no spelter from Broken Hill.
– I know one of the gentlemen whose names have been mentioned by the -Treasurer, and I prefer to take his statement on the subject.
– Nevertheless, mine conveys the actual fact.
– I understand that the statement made by the Treasurer will be supported on oath if necessary. The Treasurer has just handed to me a statement relating to the operations of the company.
– I have opened the letter in which it was enclosed since making my speech.
– The statement is as follows -
Lysaghts’ Factory, New South Wales, started twenty-three years ago, under a protective Tariff. The immediate effect of the. local factory starting was a £10 per mile reduction in prices of the imported article. Some ten years ago, the duty was abolished by a free-trade Government, and the company became a steady loser in trying to compete with cheap foreign netting. Two and one-half years ago a crisis arrived, when a huge debt had been accumulated, but, luckily, the keen demand for rabbit netting enabled the company to realize better prices in spite of competition, and it has therefore survived. Prices of all nettings have increased during the last three years owing to the enormous rise in the prices of raw wire and spelter. The rise in wire has been 70 per cent., the rise in spelter has been 50 per cent. Netting has increased in price from above causes about 50 per cent. Whether the price of netting is maintained depends largely on the cost of wire. At present, the huge German combines control the wire market, especially for fine sizes, such as netting is made from. Since the imposition of the duty on netting, owing to the falling off of foreign and English orders for netting wire, the German producers of wire are becoming’ weak, and if the duty on netting is passed, it is almost certain the price of wire will fall. If this is the case, a reduction may be expected in local netting early in the coming year. The local factory employs 400 hands. The local factory put out 300 miles of netting weekly now, and will increase this quantity rapidly if the duty remains. The local factory is spending , £15,000 on extensions to plant to protect their position, and will spend more if encouragement is afforded. The local factory is supplying all demands at an already reduced price, and wants more orders. The local factory is owned exclusively by local men, andemploys a capital of£100,000.
New South Wales Government Purchase.
The difference between the price of the netting purchased by this Government and the tender by the local factory is not so great as it appears, for the following reasons : -
The Government has not allowed for -
The local price was for the netting delivered on trucks consigned to consumers and delivered in any size parcels as required. The local netting is also of a much superior quality, and consumers for many years past have always been willing to pay a higher price for it. To show its bona fides, the local factory finally asked the New South Wales Government to offer the local netting side by side with the imported, the local at the local price and the Government purchase at its price. There is no doubt in the minds of the local manufacturers which netting would have been most sought. The Government, however, would not take up the offer.
– There is nothing there in support of the statement that the company has obtained spelter from Broken Hill.
– By whom was the statement furnished?
– By the manager of the company,I understand.
– It is stated that there has been a rise of 50 per cent. in the price of spelter.
– Yes, and the Treasurer said, on the authority of persons connected with the company, that it has obtained from Broken Hill all the spelter which it could obtain there.
– That must have been next to nothing, because they have not produced spelter of a good quality there vet.
– That is so. The arrange merits for supplying spelter have broken down. They cannot produce it at Broken Hill.
– Personally, I have no knowledge of the subject, but the honorable member for Barrier should be in a position to say whether spelter of good quality and in sufficient quantity can be produced at Broken Hill. I yield to none in my desire for the establishment of industries in every part of Australia, and I would go to any reasonable length to hiring that about.
– So would we all.
– From the statements made from time to time, I think that some honorable members have no liking for Australian industries, or, at any rate, would not give them preference. They contend that the god of cheapness must be worshipped, and that if goods can be purchased more cheaply in other parts of the world than they can be produced here, we should go abroad for our requirements.
– The honorable member says that he would do only what is reasonable for the establishment of an industry. Every honorable member is prepared to say that; but opinions differ as to what would be reasonable in each case.
– If the honorable member will go as far as I would consider reasonable, he would go the length of doing all that is possible to establish our industries on a sure, firm, and profitable basis. It is always asserted by freetraders and revenue tariffists that the imposition of duties adds to the burdens of consumers, but that is correct only when duties are imposed on articles which are not manufactured or produced within the Commonwealth, because in regard to them importers have a complete monopoly, and can pass on the charges to their customers. But where there is internal competition, caused by the existence of Australian manufacture or production, the importer is compelled by it to pay part, if not the whole, of the duties imposed. The Committee may see its way to assist the wirenetting industry, not by the immediate imposition of a duty, but by the granting of a bounty for every ton or mile of wirenetting manufactured, until such time as the New South Wales and other factories have a sufficient output to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth. When that stage is reached, an import duty might well be imposed to protect our manufacturers from competition from abroad, and the bounty be discontinued. In the first instance, the users of wirenetting would not be called on to pay any more for it, because the bounty would be provided out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That has been suggested, and I fail to seewhy the Government cannot pursue that course. There isno doubt that the land-owners throughout the Commonwealth, and more particularly in the Riverina district, will be saddled in the immediate future with a very large expenditure in the purchase of wire-netting. Realizing as I do that they are now suffering from another drought it would ill become me to add to their burdens by supporting the imposition of a duty upon that material. I should like to see the impost upon it reduced to 10 per cent. in the case of German importations, and the full amount of the preference proposed granted to Great Britain.
– The honorable member is going to “fall” upon the item of wirenetting.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I do not slip upon anything. The honorable member did me the honour to visit my electorate and to address the people of Deniliquin with the object of banishing me from the public life of the Commonwealth. Their answer to him is that I am still a member of this Parliament. The fact is that I have never broken a single pledge which I have given my constituents. I call myself a protectionist, and I claim to be a thoroughgoing protectionist. There are two ways in which a man may be a protectionist; first, by supporting the payment of bounties for the encouragement of industries, and, secondly, by supporting the imposition of Customs duties to achieve the same result.
– Let us get on to the item of wire-netting.
– I know that some honorable members are prepared to vote for the removal of the duty upon this article. I know also that they are not prepared to support the payment of a bounty of a single shilling to protect the wirenetting industry. I call their policy a foreign-trade one. The statement has been made that there is only one wire-netting factory in the Commonwealth to-day. We are told that a second is about to start in South Australia.
– There is one in Melbourne.
– Perhaps the honorable member visits that factory more frequently than I do. I understand that it is located at Pentridge.
– It is many years since I was there.
– I have never been there. The manufacture of wire-netting byprison labour in Victoria is a matter for which the Premier of this State must assume responsibility.
– Does the honorable member think that a duty of 10 per cent. in itself will be sufficient to protect the industry ?
– Does the honorable member think that the agitation against the duty is hysterical ?
– I do not. I regard the rabbit plague as the greatest curse that has ever afflicted Australia, and parties larly is it so in those parts of the Commonwealth which are sparsely populated. Closer settlement would get rid of the pest, but so long as we have large areas from which we desire to derive as much profit as possible in the form of wool and wheat we must be prepared to face this terrible scourge.
– How would the honor able member promote closer settlement ?
– If every honorable member would support the same policy as I do, we should soon bring about a closer settlement of the country, and simultaneously we should get rid of the rabbits. I am very sorry to say that in my own electorate the pastoralists are suffering from another severe drought. The little grass that is left upon their holdings is being devoured by the rabbits, and it is imperative that something should be done to cope with this pest. The Pastures Protection Boards are doing their duty well. They employ inspectors who are constantly travelling over the country, and compelling land-owners without distinction to incur expenditure, not only in enclosing their holdings with wire-netting, but in destroying the rabbits upon their properties.
– Will the effect of the proposed duty be to make wire-netting cheaper or dearer?
– I do not think that we have any evidence bearing upon that point. We have evidence that the price of the Australian article hasbeen reduced by £1 per ton.
– Has the honorable member any evidence of the price of the article in other parts of the world ? As a matter of fact, it is falling rapidly.
– The price of wirenetting in other parts of the world is not now under consideration. If Messrs. Brown, Jones, and Robinson could import the netting necessary for their individual requirements from other parts of the world, they would get the benefit of the cheapness of this article. But at present that benefit is confined to one or two importers and to the New South Wales Government. The Treasurer quoted the prices of wirenetting this afternoon. He toldthe Committee that the lowest price at which an immensely large order could be supplied was £26 per ton landed in Sydney.
– I said from £24. to £26 per ton.
– I am speaking of the highest quality of material, and of the closest mesh.
– Why labour this question so much?
– I am not labouring it. I merely desire to discharge my duty.
– Cannot the honorable member do it more briefly ?
– Whilst doing all that I can to help my constituents, it is not my duty to assist the opponents of Australian industries.
– Does the honorable member really think that he will influence any honorable member?
– I hope to influence . some, including the honorable member himself. He represents a State which is about to incur a very large expenditure in an attempt to resist an invasion by the rabbits.
– In Western Australia we have already erected 2,000 miles of rabbit-proof fencing.
– The honorable member may find that it is necessary to erect a good many more hundreds of miles of fencing. He affirms that the rabbits are invading Western Australia from the eastern States. But where did Australia get them from in the first instance? God Almighty did not send them here. They were brought here for the purpose of providing sport for foolish land-owners, and now they have become a veritable scourge to the country. I am prepared to vote for a reduction of the proposed duty contingent upon the Government undertaking to grant the wire-netting industry assistance by the payment of a bounty. If they will undertake to introduce a Bill authorizing the payment of a bounty of 12s. 6d. per ton upon the production of wire-netting within the Commonwealth for a period of two years–
– Would the honorable member favour the payment of that bounty to wire-netting made by prison labour?
– The honorable member desires to elicit from me a statement which might bring me into conflict with the Victorian Government. I think that he knows my opinion upon this matter pretty well. If we reduce the duty upon wirenetting, we might grant a preference of 5 per cent, to British manufactures, and authorize the payment of a bounty to all wire-netting manufactured within the Commonwealth for a period of two years. Some little time ago I put some questions in the House in reference to this matter, and received answers to the effect that Lysaght Brothers were then turning out 200 miles of wire-netting per week; that within three months the company would undertake to produce 300 miles per week ; and that within twelve months, if the duty were retained, the output would be increased to 600 miles per week, which is estimated to meet the annual requirements of the Commonwealth. The first promise has been carried out, because, although three months have not elapsed, the output has been increased to 335 miles per week. We may safely conclude, therefore, that the proprietary will extend their operations, and give more employment, and that within twelve months they will have overtaken the demand within the Commonwealth. If we extend to that company, and others who choose to encage in the industry, the assistance of a bonus of 12s. 6d. per ton for a period not exceeding two years from the passing of the Bonus Bill, and then substitute for the bonus a duty such as that proposed now. of 15 per cent., the case will, I think, be met. Such a scheme would meet the wishes of the land-owners, who are the consumers of this commodity, and also of those who are about to engage in the industry, thus doing that justice which is the object of the Committee. I do not know whether at this stage it would be judicious for me to move that the duty be reduced.
– How can we vote for a reduction of the duty when we do not know that a bonus will be given?
– That is my difficulty.
– The Government might introduce a Bill, and not be able to carry it.
– If honorable members are true to themselves and to the country, a Bonus Bill will be carried. I am prepared, contingent on a Bonus Bill being introduced by the Government, to support a reduction of this duty, and, in order that the question may be discussed, I move-
That the following words be added : -“ and on and after 10th October, 1907 (General Tariff), 15 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 10 per cent.”
– I rise forthe purpose of submitting the amendment of whichI gave notice some time ago, to the effect that wire-netting shall be free. The honorable member for Riverina has suggested that those honorable members who favour the abolition of this duty show a disregard for the industries of Australia. I submit, however, that the action of the Treasurer and of the honorable member distinctly shows that, in their opinion, if the duty is maintained at the rate proposed by the Government, it will prove inimical to one of the largest industries in Australia.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Why do the Treasurer and the honorable member for Riverina agree to accept any reduction in the proposed duty ? The reason is to be found in the agitation which has been raised in Riverina and other constituencies of Australia, which has distinctly brought home to those gentlemen the fact that the farmers and pastoralists, who have to combat the great rabbit curse, are strongly of opinion that a duty on wire-netting does not have the effect of reducing the price of that material.
– The honorable member knows very well that the agitation does not affect me.
– At any rate, we have hadpetitions from Wagga in opposition to the Tariff.
– That fact would make me vote the other way.
– We have heard the honorable gentleman state, not only here, but at public meetings in Sydney and Melbourne that he was determined to have the Tariff considered exactly as submitted.
– That is not correct ; I never said anything of the kind.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs went so far as to say that the proper course was to have a compromise between parties - that there was no room for extremists such as the Acting Prime Minister has shown himself to be.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– I admit that the last few words are my own. At any rate, the Minister of Trade and Customs was distinctly referring to extremists of the type of the Treasurer. It appears to me that the Treasurer cannot for one moment entertain the proposal for a bonus, in view of the statements he himself made in submitting the Tariff. The honorable gentleman told us that the total consumption of wire-netting in Australia is 15,000 odd miles per annum.
SirWilliam Lyne. - It is 16,000 miles at present, and will increase.
– The honorable gentleman has also stated that the output at Lysaghts’ works is equal to the requirements of Australia at the present time:
– I did not say so.
– Has the honorable gentleman not said, not only to-day, but a fortnight ago on the floor of the House, that Lysaght Brothers are turning out from 300 to 400 miles per week?
– I said that the firm had turned out 335 miles last week.
– Well, if we multiply that by fifty-two we have 15,000 miles which, according to the honorable gentleman himself, is the total annual requirement of the Commonwealth.
– At this particular season of the year.
– We know that there are heavy demands for wire netting at the present time.
– No, there are not ; the order books of the firm are not full.
– I shall read one or two letters directly on that point. This question of wire netting was inquired into, to some extent, by the Tariff Commission. Mr. Meeks and Mr. Chant, who represent Lysaght Brothers, had ample opportunity to state their case before the Tariff Commission ; but, instead of coming themselves, they sent one of their employés, who had been engaged for a considerable time in the industry. The members of the Tariff Commission had no opportunity of crossexamining Mr. Meeks and Mr. Chant - who represent Gibbs, Bright, and Co., the principal shareholders of Lysaght Brothers - and thus ascertaining the real state of affairs in connexion with the business. Instead of appearing before the Tariff Commission, those gentlemen went direct to the Treasurer, who now tells us that he put searching questions to them, though he has not said what those questions were.
– Yes; I gave the answers to the questions to-day.
– I never heard what the questions were, and I listened closely to what the honorable gentleman said. I heard the honorable gentleman read a statement from Mr. Meeks, but that statement is merely ex parte, and there is no opportunity to test it by cross-examination. Yet honorable members are asked to swallow a statement given under such circumstances.
– I have not only the information given to me by those two gentlemen, but also a letter which I received after I made my statement.
– I am perfectly aware of what the position is, and I submit that, under the circumstances, we are entitled to regard very carefully the statements submitted to us by the Treasurer.
– I thank the honorable member for his insinuation.
– There is no insinuation against the Treasurer.
– The honorable member makes the insinuation as an antiAustralian.
– I am not an antiAustralian, and I make no insinuation.
– I sent for the men, and they answered questions put by me.
– What I submit is that the Committee are entitled to look very carefully indeed on evidence given in this way. The Treasurer made an eloquent appeal that the consumers of wire netting in Australia should not be left at the mercy of German and American manufacturers. But it is not from America and Germany that the largest importations come. We have the same old story in connexion with the whole of this Tariff. Every duty that is being imposed under it is being directed, not so much against the foreign manufacturer as against the manufacturers of Great Britain. In many instances, our chief competitors in the Australian markets are not the foreigners to whom the Treasurer has referred, but our fellow countrymen in the motherland. For the most part imported wire-netting comes from Great Britain. In 1906 wire-netting of the value of£52 1,000 was imported, and, of that total, nearly £400,000 worth came from the mother country. Honorable members will therefore recognise that these duties are imposed, not so much against the Americans or the Germans, as against the manufacturers and the workers of the United Kingdom. The Treasurer based the whole of his case in support of these duties on the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, as well as on the statement made by Messrs. Meeks and Chant. I trust that every honorable member will read the report signedby the Chairman of the Commission and his protectionist colleagues, in which a duty of 25 per cent. is recommended. I am sure that no fair-minded man will contend that there is anything in it that would justify the imposition of any duty whatever. Wire-netting is required, not only by the big pastoralists, but by the small farmers and settlers of Australia. In many districts where rabbits were never seen a few years ago, thousands of them are to be found to-day, and they are eating out the small settlers. In one of the most closely settled districts in Australia - the electorate of Illawarra, which I have the honour to represent - great damage is being done by them. Farmers in the Camden, The Oaks” Appin, and Mittagong sections, in some cases have had to give up their holdings owing to the depredations of rabbits, and the pest is making its appearance even in the coastal districts. Nearly everything used by the settlers is taxed under this Tariff ; but I contend that it should be our desire to admit duty free everything they require in the development of their holdings. If Honorable members refer to the report submitted by the free-trade section of the Commission, . thev will find that it absolutely justifies the position I am to-day taking up. It has been suggested by ‘ the honorable member for Riverina, and others, that the free-trade section of the Commission recommended a 5 per cent, duty on wire-netting. If honorable members read the conclusions of that section, they will find that that is not the case.
– Never mind the conclusions ; look at the recommendations.
– In the fourth report of the “ B,” or free-trade section of the Commission, there appears the statement -
No sufficient case has been stated to warrant any duty on wire-netting. On the other hand, there is evidence that a duty would be a direct tax upon rural industries, and would seriously militate against the successful occupancy of large areas of Australia.
Surely that is a definite pronouncement.
– Will the honorable member read the recommendations of the free-trade section?
– I am referred by the honorable member to the schedule “ Metals and Machinery.”
– Why not read the recommendations” on page ‘31 of the report ?
– They have nothing to do with the item now before us. They are mere suggestions. It was not our duty to frame a Tariff, and the recommendations in question were made as part of a suggested symmetrical and uniform Tariff. In no case did we suggest duties exceeding 20 or 25 per cent., and I do not think, we need go beyond the conclusion I have read.
– The recommendation to which I refer goes further than the conclusion which the honorable member has read.
– Then the honorable member may read it to the Committee. One of the reasons advanced by protectionists for the, imposition of protective duties is that they lead to increased employment. The evidence given before the Tariff Commission clearly shows that, in the wire-netting industry, the proportion of labour cost to the value of the manufactured article is infinitesimal. It is in the erection of mile after mile of wirenettingfencing, to shut out the rabbit pest, that employment is given to a number of men.
– And labour is employed in utilizing the land protected by the netting.
– Quite so. Much labour is also employed in connexion with the products of land so protected. Thousands of people are employed in our cities in handling and dealing with the produce of the soil. Even the very wharf labourers, whom the honorable member for West Sydney said last night would not immediately participate in the benefits of duty free wirenetting to the settlers of Australia, are concerned in this question. They have to handle our wool, our butter, and other products which we largely export, and consequently are dependent to a very large extent upon the success of our farmers and pastoralists. I propose now to read from the report of the free-trade section of the Commission, to which I have just referred, a paragraph dealing with the question of labour cost -
Although precise details as to complete labour cost were not given, some facts were admitted under cross-examination which afford a guide to the cost of production. The weaver who gave evidence stated that his work required the most skill. Working full time on piece-work his wages averaged £2 2s. a week, and he thought the average wage for weaving was over 30s. a week ; but he was unable to slate the average over the whole factory. He made a series of calculations as to the cost of weaving, on which basis he, as a weaver, received 8s. 6d. for weaving a total of 1,200 yards’ run of 48-in. wide poultry netting, which, when sold retail, realized £20.
In other words, the labour cost of wirenetting, for which the public pay .£20, is only 8s. 6d.
-Less than 2J per cent.
– That is so. Evidence was given by Mr. Jowett, to whom the Treasurer has referred, as to the effect which a duty on wire-netting would have on the pastoralists. He pointed out that the suggested duty of 25 per cent, would mean an increase of about- ‘^6 per mile’ on the normal cost. When we remember that mile after mile of netting has to be erected for the protection of holdings, we must recognise that these ‘ imposts would be a very serious burden on those who have to fight not only rabbits, but droughts and other evils. The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission reported -
In certain years named the bulk of the imports into Queensland appeared to have been of Sydney manufacture, and that netting was sold in Brisbane on the basis of the list of the manufacturers. Prices for the size of netting quoted had advanced very greatly lately, owing to increased demand and limited supplies. The Queensland Government had been unsuccessfully trying to get supplies for years.
I am sure that every representative of Queensland will confirm that statement, which is based oh the evidence given by Mr. Jowett.
– It is absolutely true.
– In New South Wales, the position became so acute that the Government of that State had to import wirenetting for the use of settlers. Mr. Jowett referred particularly to the fact that a large number of men are employed, not only in erecting wire-netting fences, but in keeping them in order. I desire honorable members to take the reports of both sections of the Commission into consideration. We shall provide increased employment for labour, not by giving special treatment to the wire-netting industry, but by allowing the settlers throughout Australia the fullest opportunity to obtain wirenetting as cheaply as possible.
– Why did the honorable member recommend a duty of 5 per cent. on wire-netting?
– I did not.
– If the honorable member refers to page 31 of the report, he will find that recommendation there.
– I wonder that the Treasurer knows anything about the matter, because he has stated that he has not read our reports.
– I have not said that. I read a good many, but found them so absurd that I had to stop.
– That is an easy way of dismissing a difficult question. For his benefit, I shall again read the conclusion of the free-trade section of the Tariff Commission in this matter -
No substantial case has been stated to warrant any duty on wire-netting. On the other hand, there is evidence that a duty would be a direct tax upon rural industries, and would seriously militate against the successful occupancy of large areas of Australia.
The Treasurer has himself suggested a reduction of the rates from 30 and 25 per cent. to 15 and 10 per cent., which is a very good beginning.
– It is the end, too.
– The honorable member made out no case for any duty at all, and the investigations of the Tariff Commission, as well as the general information available, show that, in the interests of the pastoralists, the agriculturalists, and all engaged in developing the lands of Australia, and all dependent on them in the big cities and elsewhere, wire-netting should be admitted duty free. I, therefore, move -
That the following words be added : - “ and on and after10th October, 1907, Free.”
.-I support the amendment of the honorable member for Illawarra. If ever there was a genuine agitation for the removal of a duty, it is that which is taking place throughout Australia in reference to the duty on wire-netting. The Treasurer, in speaking of the requirements of the Commonwealth as 16,000 miles, loses sight of the fact that last year 14,000 miles were imported in addition to the local output, and this year, and for some years to come, the importation will increase, because the use of wire-netting is becoming more general. In South Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent upon various methods of rabbit destruction, which have resulted in failure ; but some years ago the Government of the State bought wire-netting extensively, and supplied it to farmers at a reasonable price, allowing long periods for repayment. The use of that wirenetting has been very successful in assisting the settlers to keep down both wild dogs and rabbits, and after a thorough investigation the Government of New South Wales has decided to follow the example of the Government of South Australia. The necessity to use wire-netting will mean a tax of from 3d. to 4d. per acre on the farmers who use wire-netting, while the duty is equivalent to an increase in price of £6 per ton and to a total impost of £137,594, if the importation continues at the rate of last year. In speaking against these duties last night I referred to them as a class tax, because they affect the primary producers only. I know of hundreds of thousands of acres on which crops cannot be grown unless they are protected by wire-netting, and, in my opinion, it was a criminal thing for the Government to propose a tax on the users of this article when there were no good grounds for doing so. On the Minister’s own figures the duties are equivalent to a bonus of over £300 for each man employed in the New South Wales factory, and the persons who are called upon to pay it are the unfortunate settlers who have to battle against climatic conditions, and often on inferior land, which is practically useless without the application of superphosphates. Notwithstanding their difficulties, Ministers who profess to be the friends of the farmers are loading them with a tax which in the aggregate, based on the imports of last year, will amount to j£i’,37>594-> but will probably be much larger. ‘ In my opinion, there should be no duty, and, consequently, no preference. Reasonable competition between the German, English, and Australian manufacturers will cause the users of wirenetting to be fairly dealt with. Last year something like ,£378,000 worth of wirenetting was imported from the United Kingdom, the balance of the importation coming from Germany. According to a statement in to-day’s Argus, a gentleman, who for ten years was. in the employment of Messrs. Lysaght Brothers, has stated that the bulk of this wire-netting is made by piece-work, those employed receiving wages equivalent to 22s. 6d. a ton.
– Twelve shillings a mile.
– That is for what is tailed “poultry netting,” which is of large mesh. Netting 3 ft. 6 in. wide and of ii-in. mesh is woven at a cost of 22s. 6d. a ton for labour, a ton of netting ‘stretching out to the length of a mile. Yet the manufacturers have increased the price to £31. The Treasurer has not justified in any way his proposal to increase the price to the farmers by £6 a ton. One of the most remarkable speeches which I have heard for a long time was that of the honorable member for Riverina, who claims to be ‘ a consistent protectionist. Notwithstanding the statement of the Treasurer to the contrary, he says that the agitation for the remission of these duties is not hysterical, but that the farmers are in earnest about it, and, as the result of the agitation in _ his district, he suggested a duty’ of 15 per cent, against foreign manufacturers, allowing British manufactures to come in at 10 per cent. When we hear a pronounced protectionist like the honorable member for Riverina taking up the position that he did, we know that some ‘ very strong pressure must have been brought to bear upon him by residents of his own constituency. Otherwise he would have voted consistently for the imposition of high duties. I shall support the proposal to place the item upon the free list.
– I feel that I must make a few observations in regard to this item, seeing that I represent the major portion of the agricultural and pastoral districts of Western Australia, and that my own opinion in respect of it is in complete accord with that of my constituents. I believe that in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Illawarra I shall be acting not only in the interests of my constituents, but in the interests of the rural population of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the fiscal question does not arise in this connexion. Wire-netting is an absolute necessity to those who are engaged in rural industries. They have to combat the rabbit plague and the wild dog pest - not to mention other pests - and it is a sine qua non that they should use wire-netting. Indeed, in many parts of Australia, occupation cannot be successfully established without it. I am surprised that the Government should now desire to make a new departure by levying a duty upon that article. When the first Commonwealth Tariff was introduced by the honorable member for Adelaide in 1901, the Government of the day, of which I was a member, decided that wire-netting should be placed upon the list of exemptions. That proposal was agreed to by Parliament, and the item’ has remained upon that list ever since. We know that in New Zealand no duty is levied upon the article, and that one-half of the members of the Tariff Commission also recommended that it should be placed upon the free list. Why the protectionist section of that .body should have recommended making a new departure in this case, and proposed the imposition of a duty of 25 per cent, upon if is to me ‘ quite inexplicable. The original proposal of the Government was that a duty of 25 per cent, should be imposed upon wire-netting of British origin, and of 30 per cent, upon all other netting. But in view of the opposition which has been aroused to those proposals, they now desire to reduce the duties to 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, respectively. The reason given for desiring to impose this duty, namely, iri order to support one industry which has been established in New South Wales, and which, according to the evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission, has been doing fairly well, does not appear a sufficient reason for placing an obstacle in the way of successful occupation of the land. This factory is said to have done well, and to have increased its output to a very large extent.
– It has been certainly paying very low wages.
– Last year the Commonwealth imported £521,788 worth of wire-netting, the larger portion of which came from the United Kingdom. That ought to be satisfactory to those who desire to encourage the importation of goods from the mother country. Personally, I believe in granting a real preference to Great Britain - not a sham one such as is contained in the present proposals of the Government. Out of the £521,788 worth of wire-netting imported by the Commonwealth last year, £379,000 worth came from the United Kingdom, £140,000 worth from Germany, and’ a little more than £3,000 worth from other countries. It has been said that the firm in whose interests we are asked to impose a burden upon the whole rural population of Australia will undertake not to increase the price of wire-netting if we grant them an adequate measure of . protection. But I would point out that what we desire is a reduction in the price of that article. A few years ago the price of wirenetting was, I believe, £12 per ton less than it is now, and we hope to see it again reduced to that level very soon.
– I hope that all metal will maintain a highprice, because it will be a good thing for Australia.
– We require to be able to purchase some cheap materials in order to encourage those who are endeavouring to subdue the great forces arrayed against us in the development of this country.
– It is of no use robbing Peter to pay Paul.
– If anybody requires assistance, it is the producer. I repeat that years ago, wire-netting could be purchased for £12 per ton less than it can be purchased now. I trust that its price will againbe reduced ere long in the interests of those who are endeavouring to subdue the wilderness, and to make the land profitable. It has been urged by the Treasurer that 400 hands are employed in the wire-netting industry in Sydney. What are their interests compared with those of the tens of thousands engaged in rural industries, who are doing their best to develop the resources of this country? We know that those engaged upon the land cannot do very much unless they enclose their holdings with wire-netting for the exclusion of vermin. It has been suggested that the States - which, under the Braddon section of the Constitution, are entitled to receive three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue collected by the Commonwealth - are at liberty to practically remit the taxation which we impose upon wire-netting to its users. I look upon that as a most mischievous suggestion, and I hope that any such action would be held to be illegal. If it would not amount to a bonus under the Constitution, I hold that it would Be practically equivalent to that. It would place those who benefited by it in a different position from that occupied by persons in other parts of Australia, whose State Governments might not feel disposed to adopt a similar course of action. If we encourage the idea that the States Governments are able to grant to certain individuals in their own States an advantage which cannot be conferred upon others engaged in the same avocation in different States, we shall be introducing a most mischievous principle.
– Would the honorable member have any objection to the New South Wales Government refunding the duty upon wire-netting to the settlers within its borders if they so desired ?
– It would be a very mischievous principle to encourage. It would be practically introducing a bonus system and would entirely upset our system of Inter-State free-trade. I intend to do my best to retain the item of wirenetting upon the free list. I see no reason why an attack should be made upon the rural industries of Australia by altering the old condition of affairs. The rural population have enough difficulties to overcome without our adding to them. They lead isolated lives - they are subject to innumerable disabilities - and they are worthy of every encouragement. If there is one class in the community whom we ought to assist, it is that of the agriculturists and pastoralists. The imposition of a tax upon an absolutely necessary article such as wire-netting, cannot be in the interests of Australia.
– This afternoon, the Treasurer made a very impassioned address in support of his pet duty upon wire-netting. He advocated it strongly as giving expression to the protectionist principles of which he is such an ardent champion. He intimated that the interests of 400 persons - employers and employes - were at stake in this connexion. I am speaking on behalf of not only employers and employes, but also of the consumers, who represent the great primary industries of the State, without which those employers and employes would have no vocation. In asking that fair consideration should be given to those other interests, I am only asking what is fair and legitimate, and pressing home to the Committee interests which are entitled to receive some attention. The rabbit pest affected, first of all, our thinly-populated districts and pastoral areas, and later still the agricultural and more closely settled districts. Since the pest became acute immense sums of money have been expended in efforts to control and limit it. As the outcome of past experience, extending over twenty years, and after vast expenditure, it is realized that one of the most effective weapons in fighting the pest is wire-netting fencing. This is not an absolute preventitive, because enclosed country is apt to become infested in time, so that other means have to be adopted. It is claimed, however, by those who have practical experience, that wire-netting restricts the spread of the pest from country which has been eaten out to more favoured country ; and that it is only by this means that any practical work can be done in the way of preserving holdings and preventing the devastation of newer areas. The pest has reached such proportions as to become a national evil, our grazing and agricultural industries being in the grips of a lifeanddeath struggle. Surely, if this Parliament, in its wisdom, can do anything to help those industries to retain their position, it is a legitimate work for statesmen.
– This is on all-fours with- the fodder duty.
– Practically so; but there is the great distinction that the fodder duties operate only in very disastrous seasons, whereas the rabbit pest is with us all the time, and is, even now, converting good seasons into disastrous seasons, equal to any resulting from drought.
– We can make wirenetting Here, whereas we cannot make fodder in times of drought.
– We have to consider that, while we are engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with this terrible pest, the Australian manufacturers of wirenetting are not able to cope with the requirements of those engaged in grazing and farming. Not only have the local manufacturers not been able to cope with the demand, but they have so raised their prices as to make them practically prohibitive to a large section of the community. Some years ago the Government of South Australia, followed a little later by the Government of New South Wales, came to the assistance of the primary industries in this connexion.
– That was on account of the prices charged by the importers.
– And toy the local manufacturers, too. If the manufacturers in Australia had kept their prices within a reasonable limit, ‘and had indicated that they were in a fair way to meet the demand, the States Governments would never have stepped in and given the orders they did. The Government of New South Wales are as anxious as any honorable member here to encourage the manufacture of wire-netting ; but they are not prepared, in the interests- of a single industry, and of a few employes, to crush the great primary industries, which support all the other industries, including that of making wire-netting. It has been stated here that Lysaght Brothers can sell wirenetting cheaply; but let any honorable member become a purchaser, arid he will be very speedily undeceived. Much information has been given to us ; but why did not the manufacturers go before the Tariff Commission, and, in that way, lay their case before Parliament and the country? Instead of going themselves, thev sent a representative of their sweated employes, who thought that an increase in the duty might do something towards bettering their position. On this point, the Tariff Commission report is as follows -
The representative of the Wire Netting Workers’ Union of New South Wales complained to your Commission that there was no duty on wire-netting tinder the Tariff, and that the industry was suffering for want of adequate protection. There was only one factory in Australia at present, and the men there did not average more than half time all the year ‘round.
That was before the Tariff was imposed. There was no duty on wire-netting in New South Wales immediately before Federa-tion, it having been removed by the. Reid Government; nor was there any duty on this commodity under the Victorian Tariff. The report of the Commission proceeds -
In his opinion, a duty of 25 per cent, should be placed on English, and 30 per cent, on German netting.
By placing such duties on importations, people would be encouraged to invest capital in the industry in other States, and employment would thus be materially increased.
Only one witness gave evidence on the opposite side. That was a grazier from Queensland, and, in regard to him, the Commission’s report is as follows -
A grazier in Queensland, owning extensive stations in that State, made strong objection to the suggested duty. Amongst the reasons given by the witness were - that it would- prove pernicious to the whole community, especially to those interested in districts now free of rabbits, but .which were in danger, of being invaded by them ; that the present price of wire-netting rendered the erection of fences expensive, and that any serious addition to the cost of the material would make the erection of rabbit-proof fencing almost impracticable, with the result that in a few years a large area- of country would be rendered worthless by the invasion of rabbits.
As an outcome of that evidence the protectionist section of the Commission recommended a duty of 25 per cent., and the report was signed by the four protectionist members - Sir John Quick (Chairman), Mr. Francis Clarke, Mr. W. G. Higgs, and Senator McGregor. It was on that report, apparently, that the Government acted in submitting the item to this Committee. I undertake to say that* throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales no item out of the 440 odd in the Tariff, has called forth so much adverse criticism.
– It is the same all through Australia.
– I can well understand that, wherever the rabbit pest has made, itself felt, or has become a menace, there should be an outcry against this duty, lt has been well said that the Tariff is designed, not to assist the primary producers engaged in agriculture and grazing, but to protect the rabbit against his human foes. in the terrible contest for supremacy. In New South Wales, the rabbits first appeared on the sparsely populated pastoral areas in the western, division, and, as a result, holdings there have been practically abandoned. In a large number of cases, where attempts were made to bring, about settlement under homestead leases, hundreds of pounds spent in fencing, clearing, and making homes, have been lost. But the pest is assuming wider and more destructive’ proportions. There was a time when it was considered that the depredations of the rabbit would be limited to sparsely populated areas, and to light sandy country where cover could readily be obtained by burrowing. It is now- realized, however, that the pest is spreading from the abandoned areas’ to the agricultural areas ? As I stated last night, in my own electorate, where farming operations have been carried on for the past thirty-five years without any thought of danger from the rabbit, the crops, during the past two years, have been lost through the depredations of the pest. Farmers now realize that unless they are. able to enclose their cultivated, and also their grazing, areas, they will not be able to hold their own against these incursions. They have been laying poison and adopting every recognised means of fighting the pest other than erecting wirenetting around their holdings, and they now find that all their efforts in that direction count for nothing. A veritable wave of rabbits is flooding their land, and their position to-day is worse than it has ever been. Only those who have been able to enclose their holdings with wire-netting can hope to secure anything like a reasonable return .for their labour. Farmers have informed me that, owing to their failure to secure wire-netting, they found that it would be absolutely useless this year to put in any crops - that their experience of the last few years had forced them to that conclusion. The grazing areas have to be enclosed in this way, in order that the grass required for stock may be preserved. Last year I met in one part of my electorate land-holders who were purchasing fodder at considerable cost to feed their stock in the early autumn, their grass supplies having been almost depleted by the rabbits. The pest had eaten up all the grass with any nutriment in it, leaving nothing but the tall, dry, wiry grass, which was absolutely useless as a fodder. Considerable losses of stock occurred, and the percentage of lambs this year has been materially reduced. These losses will be intensified unless the farmers, settlers, and graziers are able to protect their areas. The cost of enclosing a holding with wire-netting is very considerable. When the farmers, as well as the- large pastoralists, found itnecessary to resort to that method of protecting their lands, the local manufacturer, as well as the importers, raised the prices to such an extent that a few months ago wire-netting, which at one time could be purchased for £30 per mile and even less, was selling at from £40 to £45 per mile.
– What gauge is used for rabbit-proof fencing?
– The class of netting used is 1¼-in. mesh, 42 inches and 36 inches wide. There are two gauges -the “A” and the “B,” and the “A” gauge is the stronger.
– There is a 17 and an 18 gauge ?
– That is so. The 18 gauge was quoted to me in Sydney at £40 per mile, and the 17 gauge at £45 per mile. That quotation did not include the cost of sending the netting from Sydney to the districts where it was required. The Treasurer has said to-day that Lysaght Brothers, since the introduction of the Tariff, have reduced their prices by £1 per mile. Considering that the price shortly before the imposition of the Tariff was £26 per mile, and that it is now £40 per mile, they have a very large margin on which to work. The small holders cannot place orders with Lysaght Brothers. They have to go to the retail houses to purchase even netting made by that firm, and, consequently, have to meet the additional charges imposed by the retailers. Can the Treasurer assure the Committee that, henceforth, the small settler as well as the big pastoralist’ will be able to place his order with Lysaght Brothers and secure the more reasonable terms which he has mentioned ? If he cannot, then the position of the small settler will be as bad as it was before. A Government does not interfere with the commercial arrangements made between consumers and producers unless there is grave reason for doing so. We have to remember, however, that after considerable agitation, the Government of New South Wales were induced to intervene and to invite tenders within the Commonwealth, and also in the old country, for the supply of large quantities of wire-netting for distribution amongst settlers. A contract for the supply of 4,000 miles was entered into, not with a German firm, as one might have inferred from the statement of the Treasurer, but with a reputable firm in the old country which contracts largely for supplies required by the British Government. As soon as the wire-netting so contracted for was introduced the cry went forth “The Government is giving the settlers an inferior article, which will not compare with the product of Lysaght Brothers, or with that supplied by the importers.” There was such a striking difference between the cost, of the article supplied direct by the Government and the price asked by private firms that many settlers thought there was possibly some ground for the outcry, and I was asked by a number of farmers in my electorate to investigate the facts. I did so, and found that the Government were supplying to farmers and settlers in the class indicated as good an article as that supplied by the local manufacturers or the importers. It was discovered in the first instance that there was a difference between what is known as the trade measurement and the actual measurement, and the first consignment received by the Government did not conform to the actual measurements which the contractor had undertaken to supply. The Government insisted that the terms of the contract should be adhered to, and the result was that the farmers who bought from them’ obtained better value for their money.
– Where is the evidence to establish that statement?
– My authority is the Government officer charged with the supervision of the distribution of wirenetting in New South Wales.
– What is the difference between the trade measurement and actual measurement?
– I cannot say, but the Government official to whom I have referred said that it was so great that the State authorities insisted on actual measurements being supplied, and that the contracting company in the old country had to alter their machinery in order to comply with that demand. I was also informed that- the Government insisted upon the iron being properly galvanized. That is an important matter. If the iron be not properly galvanized, it speedily rusts, and soon becomes useless. It is highly important that the whole face of the netting should be properly and evenly galvanized. Owing to the action of the State Government, settlers are securing better conditions, both in respect of the measurement and the galvanizing of the wire-netting, than are obtainable in respect of the locally-manufactured article or wire-netting imported and sold by private firms.
– I think that inspection is valueless.
– I can only say that those who have obtained supplies of netting from the State Government are anxious to secure more. The. Tariff was imposed at a very critical moment. About 2,500 miles of wire-netting had been delivered, and about 1,500 miles had yet to be landed, the effect of the duties being to increase the price of netting which the Government had been supplying at £26 per mile to £32 ios. per mile, and the price of other netting which had been landed at £22’ ios. per mile fo ^28 4s. zd. per mile.
– I ask honorable members ,to conduct their conversation in less audible tones, as it is with difficulty that I hear the honorable member for Calare.
– I know that there is some excuse for the conversations which are taking place, because honorable members are comparing notes on this very important subject ; but it is one to which the Committee should give very close attention. According to an article published in the Sydney Stock and Station Journal, on the 16th August last, and headed “ A Crushing Duty,” the Hon. James Ashton, ex-Secretary for Lands in New South Wales, made this statement about the Tariff when first imposed -
Of the 4,000 miles to be supplied under the current Government contract, about 2,500 miles have been delivered, leaving about 1,500 miles yet to be delivered. Of this, about 480 miles will arrive next week, on which the Government will have to pay duty to the extent . of over ^’3,000. At present wire-netting is free. The total duty payable in respect to the quantity yet ito be received under the contract is about £10,000, and having regard to the average quantity of netting per individual up to date, that £10,000 will be paid by about 500 persons.
Of course, if this crushing duty is preserved by the Commonwealth Parliament the question of counteracting it in some degree will have to t>e taken into consideration by the Government and Legislature of the State of New South Wales. At the present time it would be premature and ill-advised to take steps in this direction.
Afterwards, Mr. Carruthers, the late State Premier, took very drastic steps, seizing 480 miles of wire-netting which was under the - control of the Customs. Whilst it must be admitted that he had a very considerable grievance, I do not think that it will be generally held that he took the correct course on that occasion. Mr. Ashton continued -
I am hopeful that when the matter in all its bearings is put before the Commonwealth
Government and Parliament, there will be a drastic modification of the present proposal. . I may add that at the time I received the news of the proposed duty I was in the middle of negotiations for a further supply of netting, running into from 2,000 to 3,000 miles. In consequence of the proposal that has been made, and the uncertainty that surrounds the matter, negotiations have - been interrupted and nothing further is at present being done. The sooner the matter is finally dealt with by the Commonwealth authorities, therefore,” the better for those concerned in the use of wire-netting.
Then, in the Forbes Times, of the 17th August, appeared this statement -
The Minister for Lands stated that the Department had in hand orders for 9;000 miles of wire-netting. The question as to whether the State Government would be compelled to pay the increased duty was under consideration.
The New South Wales Parliament voted a sum for the purchase of wire-netting, to be re-sold to settlers on terms allowing the deferment of payments for a period of ten years. But many were so desirous of obviating the difficulties resulting from long terms, that they paid in cash, and the Government, wisely, I think, intended to use this sum in purchasing more netting, thus doing everything possible to meet the demand all over the State. Applications for netting came mostly from the small land-holders in the agricultural districts, requiring the supply of 9,000 miles. But the imposition of the Tariff disarranged everything, and left matters in. a state of chaos. Practically all the netting which was on its way here has since been held in bond.
– A great deal of it has recently been released.
– I am glad to hear that that is so. Some of the farmers who have been trying to keep the rabbits off their wheat, and urgently need wire-netting to enclose their holdings, went to the expense of visiting Sydney to see what could be done, but they informed me that nothing could be done until this Parliament had dealt with the matter. The state of affairs in the wheat-growing districts impelled me to take strong action in endeavouring to bring about the early consideration of this duty, instead of allowing it to be dealt with in its order in the schedule, which would have meant a delay of some weeks. The Minister has spoken of the agitation for the removal of the duty as hysterical. But the farming community is not generally regarded as hysterical. In fact, the jibe is often uttered that the farmers are so slow that they do not see the importance of things as readily as do their better informed and quicker city brethren. But when they are hard hit with a real grievance, they place their case strongly before those who are in a position to remedy it. I represent a part of New South Wales which is largely devoted to agriculture. While there are big grazing areas in it, there are also many agriculturists spread about it. Consequently, I have received a sheaf of communications protesting against the duties. Condobolin is an important town in the Calare Division, on the border between the wheat-growing and the purely pastoral country, where settlers have great difficulty in protecting their holdings against the ravages of the rabbits. At a meeting held there, on the nth August, and presided over bv the Mayor, Mr. J. T. Brady, this resolution was carried -
That this meeting of all persons interested in the welfare of the State emphatically protests against the proposed Tariff on wire-netting.
In the letter conveying that resolution to me, the Mavor says that - :
Wire-netting is ‘essential for our mutual protection, and the purchase of it is forced upon us by the presence of what may be justly termed a national calamity.
From the same centre I have received similar resolutions carried by the Pastures Protection Board, the Lachlan Shire CounCli, supporting the proposals of the Bogan Shire Council, and the Yass Pastures Protection Board. From Forbes, I have a communication which I read the other day, the Pastures Protection Board there also having carried a resolution protesting against the duty. In the letter communicating the fact to me, the secretary says -
The land-owner now finds it absolutely imperative to wire-net his land before he attempts to cultivate it. . . . The increased charge will, for the most part, fall on the small holders, for those with larger and more valuable estates have already purchased and erected their netting.
I have also received a communication, which I have handed to the Minister, from Mr. Charles Burton, the Secretary to the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, a very strong and representative body, which has protested against the duties on the ground that they amount to class taxation. I do not know what was in the minds of the movers and supporters of that resolution. In my view, the proposal has been put forward on the grounds on which protectionists usually justify the imposition of duties, and, if it is a class tax, the objection applies equally to a number of other items in the Tariff. I therefore wrote to the secretary on the subject, but so far have received no reply, and therefore cannot tell the Committee why the’ Association regards this as class taxation. I have also a communication from the Goobang Shire Council, which meets in Parkes, protesting on behalf of the land-owners against the duties. I saw, too, in the local press the report of a meeting of citizens and land-owners in the vicinity, at which both protectionists and free-traders condemned the duties as hurtful to the landed interests, and inflicting an injury upon those engaged in farming and agricultural pursuits, but I have not received any direct communication from the promoters of the meeting. I have received a communication from Mr. A. Stewart, secretary of the Parkes Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, who desires me to convey to the Minister a resolution arrived at by that body. That resolution is to the effect that a tax should not be imposed upon wire-netting. It further contains the suggestion that the manufacture of this material should be encouraged, and that the best way to encourage it is, not by imposing the proposed duty, which .will have the effect of crippling the industries which have to pay it, but by offering a bonus upon its production until the industry has became established. I have similar objections from the Molong Pastures- and Protection Board, from Weddin and Grenfell, from the Pastures and Protection Board at Young, and from the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association at Bena, which is located in the district of Condobolin. Mr. W. A. Ewers, in writing to me upon the matter, says -
The State Government has made praiseworthy efforts to supply harassed farmers with cheap netting, and their action has been a great boon to the local farmers as well as to farmers and settlers throughout the State. It is a regrettable fact that in consequence of the increase of duty and tho increased cost to farmers, numbers of orders for netting have had to be countermanded. The Condobolin Pastures and Protection Bar( had to cancel several orders at its last meeting.
I have received similar communications from the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Associations at Bogan Gate, Eugowra, and Ponto. Ponto, I may inform honorable members, is situated in the neighbourhood of Wellington, and the communication emanating from the local Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, shows the extent to which the rabbit pest has travelled over this wheat-growing district. I am also in receipt of similar communications from the Boree Farmers’ and
Settlers’ Association, from the Mandamah Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, from thi: Reefton Farmers’ and Settlers’’ Association. I also noticed a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, that the Cowra Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association had instructed its secretary to communicate with me, protesting against the imposition of the proposed duty. So far, however, his letter is not to hand. Further, I have received communications in reference to this matter from the Sebastopol Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association in the Temora district, from the Condobolin Pastures and Protection Board, from the Goobang Shire Council, and from the Peak Hill Pastoral and Agricultural Society. I shall support the amendment, of the honorable member for Illawarra, and if I cannot get the duty upon wirenetting remitted, I shall endeavour to approach as closely to that result as possible.’ At the same time, I shall consider any fair proposal for the encouragement of the local manufacture of this article by means of the payment of a bonus. I desire to see wirenetting made within the Commonwealth if it can be placed upon the market at a reasonable price. But I am not prepared to severely handicap our large producing interests for the benefit of a single manufacturer and a few hundred employes. I shall give their interests as fair consideration as possible, in view of the other large interests which are at stake. A great deal has been said by the Treasurer in reference to the injury which will be inflicted upon those who have invested their capital in the manufacture of wire-netting, and upon the 400 workmen employed in the industry if we do not agree to the duty proposed. But I would ask him whether he has investigated the conditions under which that factory has hitherto been operating? In the Worker - a labour newspaper published in New South Wales - of the 18th April last, I find an article with the following headlines: - “Strike of Wire Workers,” '’A Sweated Industry,” “ Family Men on Ten Shillings to Twentysix Shillings a Week.” The article says -
All the workers in wire-netting, numbering about seventy-five, employed bv Lysaght Bros, and Company, Sydney, refused on Monday to work any longer under conditions which amount to nothing short of gross sweating.
– Does not the- honorable member think that if the item be placed upon the free list the condition of those workmen will be rendered worse?
– I know that” whilst the manufacturers have been getting an enormous price for their wire-netting - as much as from £40 to £45 per mile being the retail price - they have been sweating their employes, who have had to live upon wages ranging from ios. to 263. per week.
– Are those the wages of the weavers?
– No. If the honorable member will turn to the report of the Tariff Commission, he will find that the witness who represented Messrs. Lysaght Brothers’ industry, and who asked that body to recommend the imposition of an increased duty upon wire-netting, describes himself as i.n “expert weaver.” When he was asked the wages that’ he was receiving, he said “ About two guineas a week.” The less expert hands receive a much smaller wage. Further, in this very factory a system has been in vogue of payingoperatives according to the quantity of work done - a kind of task system. Under it, things were cut down to such a level that men were unable to earn a decent wage. Perhaps I had better read to the Committee the statement made by Mr. J. Gallon, the secretary of the Wire-Workers’ Union of New South Wales, who, in addressing a meeting at Five Dock after the operatives had gone on strike, said -
For several months there has been much dissatisfaction among the machinists through the management delaying redress of grievances. On Saturday the men determined to bring matters to an issue. A deputation again asked the management for better conditions, pointing out that the company was continually putting on new men to learn the work, to the disadvantage of the older hands, who were able and willing to do it. The poor pay made at the work under present conditions was scandalous. He himself had only made 4s. during a night shift, and several married men with children were only making from ios. to 26s. per week, owing to the management not finding sufficient material to work up. Under the circumstances all they could do was to cease working as a protest.
The report goes on to say -
Several of the men spoke to the. same effect, and gave their experience of sweating at the works. One told how in a night shift he only earned 3s’. ad. Another in two hours at night had earned ro£d., and then had to stop for want of material. It was stated that the wage of machining one mile of wire-netting was 28s. ‘
That- is the amount which is paid” for the manufacture of a mile of netting as against the retail price of from £40 to £45. The report continues -
It was decided to advertise the fact that they refused to work under the conditions obtaining at the works.
– What does the honorable member mean by “machining”?
– The machining is the expert work of weaving. Here is another report from the Worker of 2nd May last, dealing with the same matter -
The 70 or more wire-netting machinists who left Lysaght Brothers and Company’s Sydney works because the firm persisted in paying them far below a living wage and refused to supply the quantity and quality of material agreed upon by both sides in the Arbitration Court, are giving some interesting particulars concerning the sanitaryconditions existing on the unsewered premises. The men suffered badly owing to the windows of their department having been broken a long time ago and never having been mended. The boy employes have for some . time been compelled to work close to an unsewered structure erected within a few feet of them. - The floor of the works (one storey) is unboarded, and in bad weather turns to black mud. The firm, at latest, had a .score or so of their own gaivanizers and some outsiders trying to learn wirenetting, but the top wage earned’ since the experts left has been 22s. a week, and most earned much less. Four of the new hands have left, and declare themselves satisfied that it is impossible to make a living on wire-netting at Lysaght’s. A few of the skilled workers who left have got casual jobs, and the secretary of the Union is appealing through the Sydney Labour Council for assistance to meet urgent cases. Steady though the men were, it was impossible to save anything out of the firm’s miserable pay. The men are all fully determined to have nothing to do with the company while it runs a sweatingshop.
These are the conditions that prevailed in this factory only a few months ago, when the demand for wire-netting was at its maximum, and the price had been raised to the enormous figure I have quoted.
– Why is the factory legislation of New South Wales so far behind ?
– The honorable member had better ask the Legislative Council of the State the reason.
– What dividend does the company pay?
– I have nothad an opportunity to ascertain what dividend is paid. We were told by the Treasurer to-day that Lysaght Brothers commenced business with a big debt, and no doubt they have been working a dead-horse for a number of years. I presume the reports I have read are fairly correct, otherwise I cannot conceive of their being spread broadcast without the firm taking some action-. The fact remains that the ques tion of the wages and conditions was taken to the Arbitration Court, and a certain wage was fixed ; but the employers defeated the order of the Court by refusing to supply the expert and better-paid men with the material necessary to earn decent remuneration. On the other hand, the employers engaged learners and low-paid men to work the proper material, with the result that the higher-paid men left the industry, and, I understand, a number of them have preferred to go to work in the sugar-fields of Queensland. This is a phase of the question worth consideration, when the Treasurer makes a strong appeal to honorable members to penalize our primary industries, in order to assist this company. Whatever profits have been made by the company have certainly not gone into the pockets of those who do the work, seeing that men with families were expected to live on wages ranging from ios. to 26s. per week. Wire-netting was one of the items in the first Commonwealth Tariff ; but, in consequence of the rabbit pest, it was decided to admit the commodity free, and the conditions which led honorable members then to put wire-netting on the free list, have since been intensifies1 rather than diminished. On that occasion it was largely the interests of the large pastoral holders which had to be considered, because the small settlers in the agricultural areas were not affected by the pest to the same extent that they are now. The latter were then content with the cheaper methods of poisoning, and so forth, but since then the large holders have enclosed and subdivided their areas, and, to some extent, got the rabbits under control, whereas the agricultural country between Condobolin and Cowra, or Orange, has become severely infested. It is now recognised that the only means of combating the rabbits is furnished in wire-netting. We have to remember that the users of wirenetting have not only to consider the first cost, but also the expense of upkeep, because, unless the fencing is kept in- good order, it becomes useless.
– The annual cost of up- . keep is from £5 to £7 per mile.
– That estimate, I believe, is a reasonable one; but, of course, a good deal depends on thenature of the country. Many of the areas I have mentioned are subject to heavy rain, and, as they are not like the flat country, to be met with further west, the rushing of the water destroys a good deal of the netting, and, as I say, unless it is kept in efficient repair, it ceases to be effective. I hope that the Committee will not be led away by any abstract theories as to the advantages or disadvantages of protection. I can assure my protectionist friends that if anything will discredit their theories with the practical men in the country, it is a duty or. wire-netting. I appeal to the Committee in the interests of the producing classes to regard this question from the point of view from which it was regarded when the last Tariff was under consideration. If I cannot get wire-netting placed on the free list, I shall endeavour to make the duty as low as possible. If the Treasurer wishes to help the industry, he ought to submit a matured and reasonable scheme for a bonus, when I, for one, shall be prepared to give him some help.
– I claim to be second to none in my desire to protect the community, and particularly the farming community, from any imposition. I have also expressed mv regret that the farmers have been imposed on to the extent thev have owing to the increased duty on wire-netting, which was, I may say, sprung on them without any notice whatever, or without Parliament having an opportunity to indorse the proposal. Whilst I say that, however, I question the attitude of the honorable member for Calare, who advocates absolutely free ports for wire-netting. While the honorable member does that, he describes to us the condition of affairs quite recently when wire-netting was selling at a high price - a price brought about, not by any scarcity in the products required for manufacture, but simply bv the increased demand. In other words, advantage was taken of the necessities of the farmers to increase the price of wirenetting, either bv the manufacturer or the local importer, one can scarcely say which. But the fact remains that the farmers were imposed upon, and that before the new Tariff rates were collected. The honorable member for Calare also detailed the circumstances under which the employes in this industry worked in Sydney, and clearly showed that they were reaping absolutely no benefit from the increased demand. The case of the employes is a Dutiable one, and under free-trade too ! Well, if the lot of employes under protection is to be as bad, we are certainly between the devil and the deep sea.
– It is as bad in many cases.
– I think that a better way of overcoming a great trouble, and solving a social problem, than freeing our ports to wire-netting, is suggested by the Labour Party. 1 do not claim that this proposal is a panacea, but it is better for our farmers and all concerned, than leaving our ports open to this commodity. It has been shown that Lysaght Brothers have already reduced their price a little - not much, but still a little. If we are to see that proper conditions are observed for the workers, and proper prices charged to the consumers, there must be a duty in order to bring the industry within the scope of the new protection scheme. Unless there is a duty the conditions must remain as they are, because the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to pass industrial legislation. I realize that until the demand can be supplied locally, there must be a burden on the producer if we do not adopt some alternative. An expedient is necessary between mow and the time when the local manufacturers can turn out all the wirenetting required ; but I do not indorse altogether the expedient suggested by the Prime Minister, because I regard it as neither one thing nor another. It is a capitulation on the part of the honorable gentleman, and it is rather a heavy tax to ‘ impose in order to tide over the gap between the incidence of the duty and the power of the industry to cope with the demand. What I mean by tiding over the gap is the prevention of any dumping in anticipation of a higher duty. I should have preferred to place wire-netting in Division VIa., which, dealing with metals and machinery duties, says they are -
To come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and. exempt from duty in the meantime. Proclamation to issue as soon as it is certified to Parliament by the Minister that the manufacture to which the proclamation refers has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth.
T think that the whole trouble might have been met by simply deferring the incidence, even of the 30 per cent. duty. It does not matter how high the duty is, so long as we have the right to control the industry in regard to prices and the conditions of manufacture. We are faced with artificial conditions from the outside world. There are 3,000,000. or 4,000,000 of German workmen engaged at 3s. 9d. a day, but we, as purchasers of their products, get no advantage from those low wages. The price of the commodity rose phenomenally under free-trade, and we cannot regulate outside manufacturers except by shutting them out entirely, when we can deal with our own manufacturers under our new protection. We can at least achieve our object under that system. I should support an amendment designed to prevent the dumping which would otherwise, in all probability, take place. It is always open to foreign manufacturers to take advantage of the cheap labour at their disposal to destroy local competition in our markets. The cheapness of their production enables them to place their products on the Australian market at a low price, but they’ do not give the public the advantage of it unless they have in view some such motive as has dominated the Standard Oil Company - the capturing of the local market in order that it may be subsequently exploited. In anticipation of the ultimate imposition of a heavy duty those who have the advantage of cheap labour abroad, in the absence of any duty whatever, would no doubt flood the market and spoil the growth of the manufacture. A slight duty is necessary to prevent this exploitation of our market, and I should think that a duty of 10 per cent. as against imports of wire-netting from foreign countries, and of 5 per cent. as against those coming from the United Kingdom, would be sufficient for a time. Failing that, and rather than permit a continuance in our factories of the harrowing labour conditions so graphically described by the honorable member for Calare, as well as any imposition on our farmers, I should support the fresh Government proposal of 15 per cent. and 10 per cent. I intend, however, to move an amendment, if no other honorable member does so, that the duties on wire-netting be reduced to 10 per cent. in the case of foreign imports, and to 5 per cent. on those coming from the United Kingdom. I should favour the imposition of such duties until the industry was so thoroughly established in Australia that it would be able to cope with the Local demand, and afterwards a prohibitive duty. I should, however, support such a duty only on the understanding that the local manufacturers should sell at a reasonable price, and treat their employés as human beings ought to be treated. By such means only can we develop Australia on better Lines than the unsatisfactory ones which have hitherto obtained, and which would continue if we allowed individual enterprise, of which we have heard so much of late, to go absolutely unchecked.
– I regard the Government proposals as being practically absurd. The original proposition made by them was that duties of 30 and 25 per cent . should be imposed, but they have now indicated their readiness to accept an amendment providing for duties of 15 per cent. and10 per cent. Even those rates are, in my opinion, too high.
– From a protectionist stand-point ?
– Yes. I speak as a protectionist who does not desire to build up a monopoly, and render it necessary for Parliament to pass legislation to prevent sweating of the character to which the honorable member for Calare has referred.
– Does the honorable member say that protection creates monopolies ?
– Excessive taxation means the building up of monopolies.
– Are 15 per cent. and 10 cent. duties excessive?
– In this instance we have to add to the import duties a natural protection of about 15 per cent, represented by the cost of freight and packing imports.
Mr.Watson. - Wire-netting is not cased ; it comes out in rolls.
– No, but some is rolled in layers of tarred paper. That point, however, is immaterial to the issue before us. The question is whether or not we are prepared to build up the wirenetting industry at the expense of the primary producers, who themselves find everything that we require to build up a great Commonwealth. We are constantly being told of the desirableness of settling the people on the land, and I would remind the Committee that the more people we place on the land the more wire-netting we shall require. Unless the pests be checked, every settler will soon need to have his holding’ surrounded with a rabbit-proof fence. I know of stations in New South Wales from which no income has been derived during the last ten or fifteen years. This has been due solely to the depredations of the rabbits. Those who by erecting wire-netting fences and resorting to various other means of coping with the pest have been able to keep it down are bearing the heat and burden of the day, and we should do what we can to assist them. Instead of heavily taxing our primary producers we should encourage them by giving them their wirenetting at as low a price as possible. I think that a duty of io per cent, on ‘foreign imports, and of 5 per cent, on imports from Great Britain would be high enough in this case, and I hope that the Treasurer will agree to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for ‘Macquarie. There are other considerations to be borne in mind. We desire to develop the country. Instead of having a few sheep carried on large areas, we desire to see a large number carried on small areas. The agricultural and pastoral industry is the most important in Australia, and I hope that the reduced duties that I have just mentioned will meet with the approval of and be adopted, by the Committee. I certainly am not prepared to go beyond them. It seems to me that we should have disposed, first of all, of the question of preference, and that before dealing with this item we need to know whether the Government intend to allow the drawn wire used in the manufacture of netting to come in free. It would be idle to remove the duty on wire-netting and put it on again in the event of our imposing a duty on the raw material. I hope that the Government will do as they have proposed, and grant a bounty on the . production of iron.
– Where are we to obtain the money for the payment of bounties ?
– Where do we obtain the money for other purposes? We have been told that Lysaght Brothers have sunk £100,000 in the wire-netting industry, and have not yet paid a dividend. We have also been told that they have been sweating their employes. How many men in -Sydney and Melbourne have expended £100,000 in developing industries without asking for any protection for them ? I know of many men who have pioneered industries without appealing to the Government to assist them or to grant a bounty on their product. Our people should not be unduly taxed, and we should not pass legislation which “will practically necessitate later on .the passing of further legislation. That, however, is what we seem to be driving at in connexion with the effective protection proposals. I desire to see the passing of legislation based on common-sense lines for the good of Australia, and I repeat that I shall not support a higher duty than one of 5 per cent, on imports -.of wire-netting coming from Great Britain and of 10 per cent, on wire-netting from other countries.
– The action taken by the Committee in agreeing to the postponement of a number of items in order that that relating to wire-netting might be given preference shows that honorable members recognise the importance and urgency of this question. Throughout New South Wales there are people who are waiting anxiously for supplies of wire-netting to enclose their holdings. I have received from a number of my constituents petitions praying that wirenetting may be placed on the free list. Communications on the subject have reached me from Pastures Protection Boards and Farm ers’ and Settlers’ Associations, and other bodies, at .Wellington, Mudgee, Hill End, Hargraves, Casillis, Merriwa, Curra Creek, Singleton, Murrurundi, Scone, Denman, Muswellbrook ; also from the Cudgegong and other municipalities where meetings have been held and resolutions carried praying Parliament to place wire-netting on the free list. Those meetings comprised protectionists and free-traders. Representa- .tives of both views have written to me urging that the duty on wire-netting should be removed. The Committe has done well in giving preference to the consideration of this item, and the next duty before us is to do justice to the primary industries. It is all very well for those who are interested in the establishment of secondary industries to say that they seek protection for the manufacturer. I take it that they also represent the primary producer. All necessaries of life come from him, and if the cost of primary production be increased then the cost of living to the manufacturer, and the artisan engaged in a secondary industry, must likewise be increased. That being so, representatives of manufacturing districts will conserve the interests of those of whom they think they are the special representatives by dealing with this item without delay, and removing the duties upon it. If that be done, those who have already sown their crops will be able to enclose their holdings with wire-netting, and clear their expenditure for the year. That is as much as some of them expect to be able to do. In many parts of Australia a drought is being experienced, and farmers have to enclose their holdings to protect themselves from the incursions of rabbits which,, in search of food, are leaving the’ Crown and pastoral lands for the agricultural holdings. There is a drought extending over a large area of New South Wales. In one closely settled district not far from Sydney, which I visited early this week, rain has not fallen for ten months, and there is scarcely a blade of grass to be seen. The farmers living there require to enclose their holdings with rabbit-proof fences, in order to save any new grass for’ their sheep and their lambs. If the ewes do not get the young grass they will have no milk, and their lambs will die. A loss of lambs would necessarily mean’ an increase in the price of mutton. If grazing areas in rabbit infested districts are not protected by wire-netting there will be no grass for the sheep, and pastoralists, to whom a drop in the lambing percentages is a bery serious matter, will sustain further losses. The wool picked off the carcases of sheep will fetch only 6d. per lb., whereas that which is shorn off a live sheep will realize od. per lb.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-45 p.m.
-The settler finds it almost impossible to make a living in many places, unless his holding is fenced with wire-netting to keep out the rabbits, and, consequently, both protectionists and free-traders are protesting strongly against the proposed duties. Men have to sink their fiscal beliefs when their livelihoods and the future of those dependent on them are at stake. Many a land-holder is encumbered by mortgages or other debts, and must keep up his payments to the financial institutions from which he has borrowed. This he cannot do if his crops and his grass are devoured by rabbits. The Treasurer has stated that buyers are interested persons. I never heard a more stupid remark, because we are all buyers.
– Is the honorable member a buyer of wire-netting?
– If my managers were to say to me, “ We need wirenetting,” I should reply,’ “Order it.” Wire-netting is essential to the pastoralist. Without it he must go under. All who are in any way connected with pastoral or agricultural pursuits are, to a certain extent, interested persons. But I do not think that any honorable member would allow his vote to be influenced by personal interests.
– The honorable member was making insinuations against the Treasurer.
– As a user of wire-netting he is as much interested as are other honorable members.’ He gave his case away in suggesting the reduction of the duties from 30 and 25 per cent. to. 15 and 10 per cent. I assume that the manufacture of wire-netting can proceed under duties of 15 and 10 per cent, and, therefore, the former rates were wholly extravagant. As a matter of fact, the industry has thriven for years without protection.
– It was started under the io per cent. Dibbs duty.
– When the leader of the Opposition was in power in New South Wales wire-netting was on the free list. It was also free under the Tariff introduced by the first Federal Government, of which the honorable member is a remnant. The honorable member for Adelaide was an extreme protectionist, with an abhorrence of reasonable prices ; but even he put wire-netting on the free list. The New South Wales Company was indebted to the extent of tens of thousands of pounds.
– To the extent of £100,000.
– Yes, and it has been able tq work off that debt within the last four or five years; at any rate, it has wiped off a large part, if not the whole, of it. The factory has also increased its output, and the number of hands now employed there is between 300 and 400 - mostly boys, I am told.
– Men and boys. Therefore the concern is on a sound financial basis, and is making money very fast. The Minister has said ‘that, in all probability, the price of wire-netting will be reduced, and that it has already been reduced by £1 per ton. He did not tell us that there has been a steady falling off in the cost of raw material in Europe. I have been informed by persons interested that the reduction in the cost of raw material in Europe will enable the price of wire-netting to be reduced by £5 per ton. Therefore the local manufacturers ought to have made a still larger reduction than they have made. The difference between the cost of imported and Australian wirenetting is £14 a ton. The Australian manufacturers decline to sell to small customers, and will supply only through the middlemen.
– That is a rule with all large manufacturers.
– If they were to supply direct to the consumers, they would save the settlers the profits which now go to the middlemen. There has always been an outcry against the middlemen, and an endeavour has been made to bring consumers and producers as close together as possible, to reduce prices. I advocate that. But in this industry the probability isthat the difference of £14 to which I have referred is divided between the manufacturers and the middlemen. As the factory turns out about 300 miles, or tons, of wire-netting each week, the manufacturers’ share of this profit must be at least 300 times £7.
– But is there the profit of which the honorable member speaks?
– The honorable member for Calare will bear out my statement that the difference between the price of the Australian netting and that of the imported netting is £14. He said that he had obtained quotations from both importers and local manufacturers.
– What is the price of the imported netting?
– The cost of the locally-madenetting is reported to be £40 10s. a ton. The Treasurer has told us that for 4,000 miles of netting, 42 inches wide, of a mesh of inches, the price was £26 10s. per ton ; but that this was a low quotation, due to the largeness of the order. The difference between £40 10s. and £26 10s. is £14.
– What is the difference between the quality ?
– If the local article were so much better than the imported, nobody would be more delighted than I should. I do not advocate the use of a shoddy article, and I hold that quality always regulates value. We have it upon the authority of the men who work in the industry that 28s. per ton represents the cost of putting the wire together, and of regulating the mesh, so that very little money is absorbed in the wages cost of production. The difference between the price of the imported wire-netting and that of the imported article is - as was shown by the honorable member for Calare -£14 per ton.
– The honorable member must be mad.
– The Treasurer himself heard the statement of the honorable member for Calare, who personally made inquiries into this matter. I am prepared to accept his word just as readily as I am that of any other member of the Committee. I know that pig wire is very much cheaper than is rabbit-proof wire.
– Pig wire?
– Yes. The honorable member has not heard of that. I suppose. It has a larger mesh than has rabbit-proof wire. The honorable member for Calare, I repeat, has informed us - as the result of personal inquiries - that the price of wire-netting locally manufactured exceeds that of the imported article by £14 per ton.
– The honorable member is absolutely mistaken in the statement which he is making.
– Does the honorable member think that the local industry could live if it charged the consumer £14 a ton more for its product ? Who would buy the local netting ?
– The Treasurer himself admits that the cost of the imported netting is £31 per ton.
– That is the cost of the imported netting with a width of 42 inches and a mesh of1¼ inches, as compared with £26 10s. per ton for the local article, at which price the New South Wales Government accepted a tender.
– The line which the Minister has quoted at £30 10s. per mile could not be purchased in Sydney a few months ago for less than £40.
– The industry is already established, and is a thriving one. It is evidently an industry which is able to work off “ a dead horse.”
– What profits does it make ?
– I cannot say. The representative of the company who gave evidence before the Tariff Commission was unable to give any information as to the profits made by the firm. Why, I ask, did not the principals give evidence before that body? Had they done so we might have been able to ascertain exactly the position which the industry occupies. But. instead of doing so, they preferred to approach the Treasurer direct, and to make their representations to him. Had they tendered evidence to. the Tariff Commission they would have had to submit to a searching cross-examination, and the result might have been damaging to those who advocate the granting of a larger measure of protection to the industry. The only inference that we can draw, therefore, is that the industry is succeeding very well, and does not require further protection. It lived in New South Wales under the operation of a protective duty of 10 per cent., and it was not extinguished even when it was exposed to a free-trade Tariff for five or six years, and a further period of five years under the first Federal Tariff. Since then the output of the factory has increased, and the number of hands engaged in the industry has also increased. Without the aid of any duty whatever, Messrs. Lysaght Brothers have reduced the price of wire-netting by £i per ton. I claim that they should have reduced it by per ton. Further, they have definitely promised the Treasurer that if Parliament gives them an adequate measure of protection, they will continue to reduce the cost o”f wire-netting to the consumer conditionally that the price of their raw materials is kept down to bedrock.
– I would call the attention of honorable members to the fact that the number of conversations going on in the Chamber is quite intolerable. I must request honorable members to assist the Chairman in maintaining more order, and in affording the honorable member who is addressing the Committee an opportunity to be heard.
– The small land-holder experiences great difficulty in obtaining his supply of wire-netting direct from the manufacturer. At the present time large consignments of this material are in bond, but the small settler who ordered his supply months ago is unable to take delivery of it at the increased cost of £6 ros. per ton. Consequently the importer, who practically indented it for him, has to allow the importation to remain in bond until the duty has been reduced. To my mind, the most satisfactory course for us to adopt is to place wire-netting upon the free list. The industry has succeeded very well under the old Tariff, and therefore the item might fairly, be placed upon the list of exemptions. The ravages of the rabbit are felt not only by the large land-holder, but bv the small. The pastoralist who requires a large quantity of wire-netting has already ordered it, but the smaller land-holders have been unable to purchase their supplies. They have had to postpone the evil :day as a matter of expediency. Now that they find they must enclose their holdings with wire-netting, thev are unable to do so owing to its excessive cost. If we increase the price of the netting bv £6 ios. per ton, it will mean that they will be compelled to enclose smaller areas. We all know that rabbits from, the waste Crown lands are rapidly encroaching upon our agricultural areas, where they have already done an immense amount of damage. How can we’ account for the fact -that our financial institutions are the holders of so much land ? Is it not because they have obtained liens over the holdings of so many of our settlers ? If the Government proposal be adopted, the man upon the land who is already in debt will be obliged to pay the increased cost of wire-netting, and I therefore appeal to honorable members to make trie cost of that article as little as possible. For these reasons, I hope that the Committee will take into consideration the success achieved by the industry without any protection, and, having regard to the necessities of the settlers, will take the reasonable course of placing wire-netting on the free list, and so promote the .general prosperity of the country.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation in view of the fact that, I think, I was personally responsible for misleading my friend the honorable member for Corangamite. The honorable member asked me a question as to whether any spelter is produced at Broken Hill, and, when I answered him, I had in my mind the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, with which I am directly associated, forgetting for the moment, that the Sulphide Corporation, which gets its ore from Broken Hill, has a factory at Cockle Creek” for the production of spelter. I, therefore, wish to put both the honorable member and the Minister in a correct position in this connexion, the Minister having questioned the accuracy of the statement made by the honorable member. It is a fact that the Sulphide Corporation produce a considerable quantity of spelter which is consumed bv Lysaght Brothers in Sydney. I have since learned that Lysaght Brothers could take a larger quantity of spelter if it were being produced.
– That bears out the statement of the Treasurer.
– I merely wish to have the matter correctly stated. If there is any item which deserves liberal consideration at the hands of the Committee, it is that of wire-netting. As already pointed out by more than one honorable member, the rabbit pest is a national calamity - a national foe which settlers are ‘ fighting throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. The pest is becoming so grievous and serious a danger that the time may come when, not only the States, as States, must take action, but when the Commonwealth itself will find it necessary to take a hand ; because regulations which are made within one State may not be sufficient to protect an adjoining State. However, it was with astonishment that I heard the Ministry propose the duty which appears in the Tariff. I could not imagine what dictated their course of action, because it seemed to me to be placing a serious charge on the very people -whom we desire- to help, even under ordinary conditions, and at present the conditions are extraordinary, inasmuch as they are fighting a common enemy. Not only are large squatting interests affected, but the smaller holders have also to face great danger. Only this afternoon, a settler who has 20 acres, told me that, in consequence of an adjoining proprietor having abandoned his area he had been compelled to erect wirenetting in order to protect himself from the pest. T should have liked to see wirenetting free, though I consider that if a moderate duty be imposed, it does not necessarily follow that those who require wire-netting will have to pay a price materially in advance of that which would have to be paid if the commodity were free. We are entitled to regard this as a large revenue-producing item, and, therefore, after giving the matter consideration, I have come to the conclusion that duties of 10 per cent, and 5 per cent, will not prejudicially affect the interests of either the industry or the consumers. Such duties as I have mentioned would, I think, be a fair compromise. This is the first item on which the question of preference to Great Britain has arisen, and I regret that we have not been able to debate it at length in order to determine on general principles what our attitude is to be. . Personally I consider that the wire-netting which is made in Great Britain is, as a rule, of better quality than that imported from the Continent, some of the larger works of which I have personally visited. This is one of the cases, I think, in which we mav agree to preference to Great Britain being granted. I have already inquired from you, Mr. Chairman, whether I would be in order in moving an amendment to the effect that the duties shall be 10 per cent, and s per cent., but I understand that at this stage it is not competent for me to make the proposal. At the proper time, however, I shall do so, believing, as I say, that the consumer will not have to bear such ah impost as will place him in a disadvantageous position. I was surprised to find that spelter enters so largely into this question - that almost one-third - certainly more than one-fourth - of the material used in this industry, apart from the wire, is spelter, and we may hope for a very large increase in the production of that commodity. The general manager of the Broken Hill. Proprietary has recently arrived after an exhaustive investigation throughout Europe and the United States, with a view to the establishment of works at Broken- Hill, which will allow no nOSsibility of doubt that all the spelter necessary will be obtainable within the Commonwealth.
.- The debate, so far, has shown the wisdom of the course adopted by the Committee in pressing on the Government the propriety of dealing with the item of wire-netting at once. It is perfectly evident that the high duties, which are now paralyzing the supplies of wire-netting all over Australia, are doomed, and that, at the worst, we shall have duties of 10 per cent, and 5 per cent., instead of duties of 30 per cent, and 25 per cent. I am sure that honorable members on both sides - and no one more than the honorable member tor Riverina - will be glad to have the matter settled at once, so that every one concerned may know how they stand. The effect of the decision of the Committee, whatever it may be, will be to enormously reduce the duties, even if not, as I most earnestly desire, to place the commodity on the free list. I really think that the Committee might adopt the policy which the Government have adopted, in connexion with two industries which receive, I think, the most liberal measure of protection under the Tariff. Do honorable members, know that this Government have in favour of two town industries - the manufacture of hats and the manufacture of woollens - established free-trade in machinery? Are honorable members aware that, while there is a demand from settlers and pioneers in all parts of Australia for free wire-netting, which is their only defence against a gigantic and rapidly expanding curse, and while the
Government have, by an extraordinary contrivance, put heavy duties on machinery in the general Tariff-
– For mining machinery.
– Yes. Are honorable members aware that, under these circumstances, the Government have, in a little schedule at the end of the Tariff, made this provision -
Machinery, and parts thereof, used in the. manufacture of fibrous materials and felt, and felt hats, when installed for use in a woollen mill or a hat factory for the manufacture of such materials, felt, and hats. . . . Rebate : - The full duty paid.
The full duty paid ! Those gentlemen who own hat mills and woollen mills may introduce £100,000 worth of machinery from Germany, and, after paying £35,000 in duty at the front door, may go round to the back door and draw £35,000 out of the Federal Treasury. The hat industry enjoys protection to the extent of from 30 to 40 per cent., and so does the woollen industry, and yet these industries are to enjoy free-trade in machinery against the interests of the great machinery industries of Australia ! A Government which can make such a provision might well afford some consideration to the farmers and settlers, and place wire-netting on the free list. The provision I have read is one of the most monstrous I have ever seen in a Tariff. This was supposed to be a thorough protectionist Tariff.
– So it is.
– It was supposed to be an effective protectionist Tariff ; but there is a back door open to the proprietors of the Denton Hat Mills, and of the Victorian woollen mills, so that they may come to the Federal Treasury, dip their hands into the money chest, and take every penny that they may have paid in duty at the front door on foreign machinery. This is an outrage on the name of protection - more than that, it is a damning, mysterious, sneaking sort of process.
– No one ever knew of it.
– It was probably not intended that it should be known, and that is why the provision was made in this way. If honorable members look at page 49 of the Tariff they will see that those who use rubber waterproof cloth in the manufacture of coats and other goods receive a refund of three-fourths of the duty paid on that material. But the Denton Hat Mills and the Victorian Woollen Mills receive a rebate of every penny paid by way of duty.
– What about the New South Wales woollen mills? Why does not the right honorable member befair?
– Then, let us speak also of the New South Wales woollen mills and the hat mills of that State. The principle in each case is the same. Why this extraordinary back-door free-trade contrivance for the benefit of two industries? What an outrage it is on honest, straightforward Tariff reform.
– And the hat mills are paying 15 per cent, dividends !
– There is always some reason for extraordinary actions of this kind. They are not done for mere fun. It is not for mere fun that rabid protectionists are allowing foreign machinery for the woollen and hat mills to be landed free of duty in these States. What they do for the woollen and hat mills, protected to the extent of 45 per cent., they ought to do for the farmers and pioneers of Australia ; but they should do it in a more straightforward way. Do not let us exact a duty at the Customs House, and provide that those who pay it may secure a refund on going round to the back-door. An infinitely more straightforward course would be to put the goods on the free list
– Those- who have paid duty on wire-netting cannot obtain a refund.
– Certainly not. There is no country more devoted to protection than is the United States of America, and yet, when that awful calamity, resulting in the destruction of Boston, occurred, all the protectionists of the United States met, and within twenty-four hours established freetrade in building materials for the benefit of the distressed people whose homes had. been destroyed by fire. What the great rabid protectionist power of the United States of America did in twenty-four hours for the homeless people of Boston, this Committee is not prepared to do for the farmers and settlers who are fighting a plague infinitely worse than a fire. When a fire has reduced one’s home to ashes, one has a chance of building another on the same site, but the trouble in regard to rabbits is that the more we appear to exterminate them the more they come upon us. It is all very well for owners of houses in our great cities to collect their rents; but we are dealing with people who areover and over again deprived of the results of their industry for a whole year by this everlasting ineradicable pest, and surely the appeal which those people make to the Parliament is equal to the appeal which Boston made, and not in vain, to Congress.
– There is no opening in this case for compromise.
– I should think not.
– There ought to be a straight-out vote against the duties on wirenetting.
– It is not formeor any one else to dictate to any honorable member what his duty is. I have very strong opinions upon this question, but I do not presume to cram them down any one’s throat. I merely say that there are times when men should be able to sink even their desire for an effective protective policy in order to give a helping hand to those who all over the lands of Australia are fighting hard against a gigantic curse. When a bountiful season comes this curse multiplies. The bounty of nature is appropriated by the armies of rabbits, and when drought comes the last blades of grass intended to keep alive the last sheep are eaten by the pest. In drought or in plenty we have a gigantic curse eating into the heart of Australia. I would ask honorable members who talk of the employment of 300 or 400 men in the wire-netting factory to consider the majestic array of men, women and children scattered under pioneering conditions over the trying surface of the Australian Continent. Let them compare the lot of the half-million people crowded into the fifty or sixty square miles of Melbourne or the fifty or sixty square miles of Sydney - with their comparatively steady employment, and with all the comforts, refinements, and enjoyments of civilization which they possess - with that of the people attached to the lands of the country. We talk about closer settlement, but it is the closer settlement of the rabbits which is destroying Australia. It is only the closer settlement of human beings that will enable us to cope with the pest. Do not honorable members who are ardently desirous of promoting closer settlement think that the advance guards - the men who are dotted over the surface of Australia, laying the foundations and providing the facilities for future millions to be settled on the land under the magnificent and proper policy of closer settlement - deserve some slight consideration ? Let us pension the 400 workers in the wire-netting industry ; let us give them £200 a year each as a retiring allowance. That would be infinitely better.
– That would be–
– Perhaps I may be allowed to speak.
– Perhaps I may be allowed to make an interjection.
– The honorable member must allow me to say that I look upon this problem as one of the most serious that we have to face.
– And I look upon the food duties as constituting a serious problem.
– The point is that I am at present addressing the Committee.
– The right honorable member likes, when it suits him, to get in an interjection.
– Quite so; my honorable . friend, I am sure, will forgive me.
Mr.Hughes. - The honorable member for Dalley had better cross the floor of the House.
-I do not invite one of my oldest and best friends to cross over to the other side of the House. I have not the arrogance and self-confidence of the Treasurer. I do not order honorable members of this House to cross the floor because they do not agree with me.
– I think I remember an occasion in the New South Wales Parliament when theright honorable member did so.
– If I did it was under the wicked influence of the honorable member. It was another instance of evil associations corrupting even the best of good manners. When the honorable member for Grey ventured to suggest the omission of this item the Treasurer at once said -
– Oh, no.
– Well, at all events, a minute, if not a moment, later the Treasurer said to the honorable member, “ You are going to vote against the Government.” Honorable members should be allowed every reasonable degree of independence in dealing with the Tariff.
– I do not wish it to be turned into a revenue Tariff.
– The honorable member is perfectly entitled to that view. But his love for the Denton Hat Mills was so ardent that he gave them free-trade in German machinery and 35 per cent, protection. The magnificent generosity which could lead him to enrich the resources of the hat mills of Australia might be extended to the farmers and settlers of its six States. I am asking the honorable member to do for out great national industries, struggling with drought and disaster, what he has done, without the slightest pressure, for the woollen mills and the hat mills of the Commonwealth. In order to show the urgency of this matter, I would point out that the imp’orts of wire-netting have risen from £95,000 worth in 1903 to 20,000 worth in IQ06. The fact that wire-netting is the only remedy for the rabbit pest is shown by the marvellous expansion of our imports of that commodity. Some people seem to think that Lysaght Brothers have been struggling on a falling market against foreign importers, and that the Tariff treatment of the industry has always injured them. According to a business publication, The Australasian Hardware and Machinery Journal, in April,’ 1906, full prices were being asked for all grades of wire-netting, and on 25th May, of the same year, it was reported by the same journal that an advance of £1 per mile all round was made in the price of Lysaght’s. In August, 1906, there is this statement - “ Lysaght’s have put their price up another £j per mile.” I am not blaming them. The importers put up their prices whenever they have a chance to do so. No man can fail to have a wholesouled disgust for many of the profits which the importers derive ; but do not let us’ differentiate thiem from others.
– Was not the price of wire-netting last year raised all over the world?
– Of course it was. I am merely showing that it was not a falling, but a rising, tide for Lysaght Brothers. Probably prices were raised for a reason which left them no more profit than they secured before. It is common knowledge that the raw material of the wire-netting industry has increased in price all over the world, and it does not follow that this increase of £1 per mile represented any greater profit.
– It was a rise which was not a rise. 0
– In point of fact, it might have meant no rise in profit. I do not like to quote the views of interested people respecting these matters. We are all assailed - and properly assailed - with, letters regarding the Tariff. People have a right to give us all the information they can in reference to it; but we must regard with a certain degree of caution all statements that we receive.
– With a great amount of caution.
– If the honorable member had received with a greater amount of caution the application of the Denton Hat Mills for free-trade in machinery, it would have been better.
– Not at all.
– Did the honorable member grant them free-trade in machinery without being asked to do so? I shall give the name of the firm responsible for the statements I am about to quote, so that honorable members mav take them for what they are worth. A firm which imports wire-netting, in a letter addressed to an honorable member, writes : -
With regard to a statement reported in the Sydney papers as made by Sir William Lyne - that since the imposition ‘of the duty the local manufacturers have reduced their prices by £.1 per mile, and to another statement published in the Sydney papers, that these manufacturers are willing to give a bond that they will not increase their prices if the duty goes on ; we beg to state for your information that the prices lately ruling have been the highest known for many years - on account of the high costs for materials which have, existed all over the world. These prices are now rapidly falling, and if the duty were taken off to-day the price of imported netting, instead of being £1 per mile less than prices lately, ruling, would be from ^5 to £7 per mile less, according to size.
– Is that a letter from an importing firm?
– Yes. Surely we must listen to these people. They are still allowed to live in Australia. The letter is from Messrs. Noyes Brothers, a wellknown Sydney firm; not mere adventurers. I mention the name so that their statements, if incorrect, may be contradicted.
– It is a very good firm.
– Not very long ago, the price of wire-netting was increased by £io,. and it is therefore very easy now to reduce it by £1, with a falling market. The simple-minded Treasurer, if Messrs. Noyes Brothers spoke to him, would curl up as though Satan were tempting him from the path of virtue, because they are importers; but Messrs. Lysaght Brothers he thinks entitled to share in the benefits of the high duties which the Government has proposed. I have no animosity against these manufacturers. They are as much entitled to consideration as are any others. But the making of wire-netting is not an intricate mechanical process The frame being fixed for the weaving of netting of a certain width and mesh, all that is necessary is to feed the machine with wire. Boys can do the work, and probably many of them are employed.
– What are the 400 hands doing?
– They are mostly boys. There are four boys to a man.
– If the importations of wirenetting were stopped, it would mean an increase of only 23,000 tons in the local manufacture, and the labour to which additional employment would be given is of a most primitive character.
– Paid at the rate of 22s. 6d. per mile.
– Yes. Moreover, all the raw material required is imported, though that is no reflection on the manufacturers.
– Has the honorable gentleman worked out the real margin of profit ?
– No. I recognise that it is difficult to dogmatize on business propositions of this sort. But the local manufacturers, who had aninterest in putting a good case before theTariff Commission, preferred to send one of their hands, instead of giving the members of the Commission an opportunity to learn their position from themselves. As a rule, when manufacturers are struggling with adversity and free-trade, they are not averse from making their position known. It must be remembered that we are not asking for a new gift for the farmers and settlers. There has been free-trade in wire-netting for years. In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, this is a larger question than in the other States. But under the Commonwealth Tariff, wire-netting has always been admitted free of duty. The honorable member for Adelaide, whose absence from this Chamber we sincerely mourn at all times upon whom, whatever I may think of his views, I have always looked as one of those progressive spirits’ who have a vast influence for good and Sir George Turner, both agreed that, in view of the difficulty and urgency of dealing with the rabbit pest, wire-netting should be admitted duty free. But now, when the evil is ten times worse than it was, the Government proposes to increase the duties to 30 and 25 per cent. As the honorable member for Calare has shown, the rabbits are now advancing against the farmers of Australia, and destroying the wheat crops. Honorable members know what a calamity it would be to the masses if the price of bread were increased by1d. a loaf. If the plague broke out in Australia, should we not remove every obstacle, and tear down every barrier, in the endeavour to stamp it out? The rabbit pest is a plague which is eating out the heart of the primary industries of the country. We cannot do much for our settlers, but we can at least send them a message of sympathy. Even protectionists desirous of giving effect to their policy might keep their hands off this wire-netting, as they have done for years. The New South Wales factory has prospered under free-trade, though I was told, when I took off the duties in 1896, that it would be closed within a week, and its employes thrown into the streets. But there are more people employed now than there were then, and the business has greatly improved. If it is necessary to help them, why not do so in a way which will conserve the interests of the farmers ? In assisting Mr. Sandford, and those interested in ironworks in Tasmania, the Government proposes to show consideration for the engineering firms of Australia, recognising that iron and steel are the life-blood of manufacturing, and, therefore, instead of imposing duties on iron, intends to introduce a Bounty Bill.
Mr.J oseph Cook. - Wire-netting was dealt with in the last Bounty Bill.
– I am glad that the honorable member has reminded me of that. Now that another Bounty Bill is proposed, I hope that the Government will extend to our farmers the consideration which Ministers have shown to our manufacturers, and if they regard it as necessary to assist the wire-netting industry, will do so by a bounty instead of by a duty. In dealing with the Tariff we must cast an enlightened eye over the whole position of Australian industries. There are some things which we cannot do for one industry because of the urgent needs of others. We cannot make a gift without taking the money out of some pocket. The gifts made to one industry are paid for by other industries. I do not question the right of honorable members who announce themselves protectionists to put into effect the policy which they advocated when before the electors; but, seeing that the protectionists of the past have allowed our farmers and settlers to get their wire-netting free of duty, I ask them, now that this pest is casting its ominous shadow over a still larger part of our bright Continent, not to do a great injustice. In former times it was the great sheep-walk owners or lessees who were interested in wire-netting. In days gone by large territories were owned or leased by individuals who possessed enormous resources. But most of them have been ruined. The strongest financial power in Australia, after many victories, collapsed when faced with the rabbit pest. Twenty years ago the great western division of New South Wales was covered with magnificent pastoral properties, whose owners had unlimited means behind them ; but today there is scarcely one of these men who is not ruined, while their properties are in the hands of the banks, or other financial institutions.
– Because of the droughts.
– Australians can deal with droughts ; it is the horde of invaders which eat the grass when it is plentiful, and all that is left when it is not-
– And kill even the scrub.
– Ir; the early days, there was natural feed, salt bush and scrub, which could be used in time of emergency ; but that has gone.
– The rabbits are as bad as a perpetual drought.
– Those of us who ask that wire-netting shall be admitted free of duty are not pleading in the interests, of the great squatters, but in the interests of the thousands of farmers and free selectors. The big men who were in the Western Division of New South Wales have been ruined. Who can point to one of them who has withstood the rabbits and the droughts ? All are bankrupt. I do not plead for them ; they are beyond the reach of help. But I am pointing out, as did the honorable member for Calare, in a speech upon which I heartily congratulate him, that we can succour the smaller men. The honorable member has a closer touch with the realities of this evil than I have. Like other honorable members who represent country constituencies, he comes from a district in which every day may be witnessed an almost hopeless struggle by those on the land for the preservation of their flocks and their crops. Unfortunately, there can be no sort of co-operation in this. Each man must do what he can for himself. The rabbits come from all parts of the country, and wire-netting provides the only line of defence which will save thousands of homes and farms and free selections from absolute ruin. Surely the Committee will come to the relief of our settlers. We ask, not for any great act of generosity and indulgence, but simply that things shall be left as they were.
– Had I not listened to many previous speeches from the right honorable member for East Sydney, I should think that there was something in his last utterance ; but, notwithstanding the tones in which he appeals to the Committee, honorable members are all able to weigh the value of his remarks. He uttered two or three statements to which I intend to reply, but I shall not speak very long, because there is not much to answer. He spoke as if he represented a . country constituency, although he represents, and has always represented, a city and an importing constituency. I, on the other hand, represent a constituency which is as much interested in this question as is any in Australia.
– The honorable member misrepresents” it.
– My constituents have stuck to- me for twenty-seven years ; the honorable member’s constituents will not stick to him for fifteen years. Had I misrepresented my constituency, I should have been put on one side long ago. No one knows more about this subject than I do, or better understands the requirements of the people in the country. There is no man who understands the difficulties experienced by those settled upon the land better than I do.
– I do not want to hear anything from the intertwitter over there. I cannot refrain from laughing, because I know that he never really means what he interjects. No honorable member, and no man in this country, feels more acutely than I do for those who are called upon to fight pests of any description. It is only a short time ago that the large squatters- whose interests the honorable member for East Sydney so gallantly champions - desired to introduce into this country a most virulent poison. I had to step in and see that it was not distributed broadcast in the way that was contemplated. Of course, I am referring to Dr. Danysz’s virus for the destruction of rabbits.
– It was never proposed to distribute it.
– Oh, yes, it was. If the Commonwealth Government had not intervened to prevent its promiscuous distribution, the most serious results might have been experienced- from one end of Australia to the. other. Having acted in that matter, I can speak with some degree of certainty as to what actually happened. I freely admit that I should welcome any means bv which the rabbit pest could be wiped out, especially upon the larger holdings. Where there are a large number of people settled upon a small area they have no need to fear the rabbits one bit. The ravages of the pest are felt only upon large properties, such as are to be found in my own electorate - properties which ought to be subdivided. Upon the occasion of the last election, I received the adverse vote of this class of property-holders, because I desired to do something in the direction of subdividing estates which are now a breeding ground for vermin. Because of that, [ was fought as no other man was fought at the last election. But I am thankful to say that I triumphed. The true remedy for the rabbit pest is to be found in closer settlement. The wire-netting of the runs is the best work that can be undertaken at the present time, but in the future we desire to see settlement - where settlement can take place - instead of the large holdings that we have to-day.
– Hear, hear.
– In my own electorate - and the honorable member for East Sydney knows nothing about the matter - is to be found the cream of the wheatgrowing country in Australia. In that country there are 2,000 property-holders who own 2,000,000 of acres.
– Many of them are “ cockies.”
– One of them holds 15^,000 acres, and another 156.000 acres. The honorable member for East Sydney cannot teach me what is required by the masses of the community. As I have already remarked, the ‘true remedy for the existing condition of things is to be found in closer settlement. Who but the members of the Opposition have blocked settlement? Every member of that body would vote against the imposition of a progressive land tax.
– The Treasurer dare not bring one forward.
– I would if I had the chance. There need be no mistake as to how I should vote upon that question. The honorable member for East Sydney has declared that wire-netting should have been included in the Bounties Bill. He also stated that the honorable member for Adelaide- of whom I can say quite as much in eulogy as did the honorable member himself - did not include that item in his Tariff. But the honorable member for Adelaide put it. in the Bounties Bill which he brought forward, and, at that time, he did not know that the measure in question would noi be carried. Had that item not appeared, in the Bounties, Bill, I will undertake to say that it would have found a place in the Tariff introduced bv the honorable member for Adelaide. Need I remind the Committee that the honorable member for East Sydney was the strongest opponent in this Chamber of that Bill, which contained the very provision that he has jumped Jim Crow about to-night. If we were not being loaded up bv the importations of cheap’ and inferior wire-netting-
– Chiefly British netting.
– We are being loaded up with importations of cheap and inferior wire-netting from Germany. Honorable members know that a large proportion of the wire-netting imported into the Commonwealth is of German manufacture. The effect of doing what has been suggested by the honorable member for East Sydney would be to allow all our Customs warehouses to be crowded with wire-netting before the Bounties Bill is passed, and to block any prospect of establishing the industry that we are endeavouring to assist. That industry was brought into existence in New South Wales under the operation of the Dibbs Tariff, which imposed a 10 per cent, duty upon wire-netting. It thrived until ‘ the honorable member for East Sydney was returned to power in New South Wales, when a blight overtook it. It continued to struggle until those interested in the enterprise had incurred a debt of £100,000, the larger proportion of which, I am informed, still stands to the debit of the company. That is the position in which the honorable member for East Sydney placed this industry, and if he had his way he would to-night put it in an even worse position. During the course of his remarks he referred to the iron industry. Who opposed the granting of a bounty upon the production of iron and steel ? Was it not the honorable member and the party which supports him? We have heard upon numerous occasions the same old screech that has emanated from him this evening. This is about the twelfth time that I have heard the appeal which he has made to-night upon this very question. When we had an opportunity of providing for the payment of a bounty upon the manufacture of wire-netting in the Bounties Bill, he was chiefly instrumental in blocking it. I “know perfectly well what would become of any Bill of that kind if we had to depend upon members of the Opposition.
– How can the Treasurer depend upon us? We are in opposition te him.
– The Government never do depend upon the Opposition. But when the honorable, member offers advice in the way that he has done to-night - when he pleads in such dulcet tones - honorable members should beware of him. I know him well enough to beware of him upon such occasions. He is not going to push the Government into a cul de sac-
– I helped to save the Government last night.
– Because it suited the honorable member’s purpose to do so* I accepted his assistance, but I recognised that it was given because it suited him to offer it. He was under the impression that he would get the Government into a position that it would be hard to escape from.
– The Treasurer appealed to me across the table three times last night, and I assisted him every time.
– I wish to say a word or two regarding his quotation of the provision in the Tariff relating to hatmaking machinery. He has eulogized the honorable member for Adelaide. I would point out to him that the same provision was contained in the Kingston Tariff. The same provision operated until it was superseded by the new provision. A similar provision was contained in the old Victorian Tariff-
– But the Treasurer buried it.
– I should like to bury the Opposition. The honorable member endeavoured to make it appear that, the Government were doing something for a special class. But the same provision is contained in the Tariff of 1902.
– The Treasurer buried it so well that I did not know of it.
– I remember one occasion upon which the honorable member was asked whether he ever indulged in reading. His reply was, “ No; I never read.” Evidently he could not have read the provisions of the Kingston Tariff. My answer to him is a complete refutation of his accusation that the Government are doing something unusual in the action which they are taking.
– Is the Treasurer going to stand by that provision?
– I am not going to stand by the honorable member.
– One good turn deserves ‘ another.
– I may be able to return the good turn done me by the honorable member when my action will not interfere with a policy of grave importance to Australia. I should like a duty of 15 per cent, to be im;posed upon wire-netting of foreign manufacture, and of 10 per cent, upon that of British origin, if I cannot get the duties for which I am now striving. But I do not intend to be blind, or to be a fool. I do not propose to act in the interests of a particular class, which has been circulating from a common centre petitions which have been reaching honorable members by thousands. The wirenetting industry was established under a protective policy. Under a free-trade regime it struggled for years until it had accumulated an immense debt. The company was then obliged to reconstruct. All this time the importers were reaping the benefit, and the German manufacturers were making their profits. My colleague the Minister of Trade and Customs reminds me of the ad misericodiam appeal which the honorable member for East Sydney made to protectionists to support him at the last election. What was the result? He was absolutely beaten out of sight, and now he comes here and endeavours to obtain the support of those whom he thinks may not be disposed to give effect to their protectionist principles.
That, however, is not a matter for the Government to consider. At the last election we received a mandate to introduce a protectionist policy, and we have done so; and T venture to think that this House has more stability than to throw over the protectionist principles then enunciated. The leader of the Opposition, and others, have queried a statement I made in reference to Lysaght Brothers ; and I have since despatched a couple of telegrams, to which T have received replies. I am much obliged to the honorable member for Kooyong for supporting what I said in regard to spelter being obtained at Broken Hill. It is Broken Hill ore that produces the spelter, though the spelter itself is made at Cockle Creek ; and honorable members who threw doubts on my statement only raised a quibble. I have received a telegram regarding the wages paid by Lysaght Brothers as follows: -
We take all spelter we can get from Sulphide Corporation, Cockle Creek, who make it from Broken Hill ore.
Total wages about £joo weekly. Men, day work, 40s., upwards, according to class of work. Piece-work, up to 60s. ; boys and improvers, 12s. to 35s., day work and piece-work. The majority of men and all boys work thirty-seven and ahalf to forty-eight hours weekly. A few yard hands, fifty-three hours.
– The wages paid represent about 35s. per head.
– The Chairman of Directors of the Company is now listening to me ; and he knows whether what I say is correct. As a matter of fact, I was under the marie this afternoon ; because while the company produced last week 335 miles of wire-netting, they produce on the average 300 miles weekly. Fortunately I was able to obtain a quick reply to my telegrams; and I am now able to refute the insinuations which were cast , upon my statements’. In addition to receiving a telegram from the manager of the works, I have seen the Chairman of Directors, of whose presence in Melbourne I was not aware this afternoon ; and the information I have is, I am satisfied, absolutely correct. The honorable member for Calare this afternoon made some statements as to which I am sure that he has been misled.
– Is the Treasurer aware that a strike took place in this. factory within the last four months?
– Yes, and I have the fullest information regarding the occurrence. I know that Mr. Flowers, and the President of the Trades Hall Council, called off the men, all of whom, I believe, were taken back into the employment of the firm.
– The whole of them ?
– Yes, I believe the whole of them ; the information I have received will bear the fullest investigation. Any one who has any doubts on the matter has only to telegraph to Mr. Flowers, and the President of the Trades Hall Council, to ascertain the facts.
– The men were working under free-trade conditions up to the time of the Tariff.
– Of course they were; but I venture to think that there was no set of men better treated. I am sure that neither Mr. Flowers, whom I know very well, nor the President of the Trades Hall Council, would have afterwards adopted the course he did, unless he was satisfied that the firm were doing well by the men. I have the further information that Lysaght Brothers are selling the wire-netting to which I referred this afternoon, at £2 per mile less than the price of the imported article. Let us have straightout facts if we are to have a straight-out fight.
– I suppose the duty is calculated on the price of the imported article?
– Probably so; but I know that the price of local wirenetting has been reduced within the past few weeks by at least £1 a ton. I do not know that there is any other matter to which I need refer. No one is more anxious than myself to do all that is possible in the interests of - the farming community ; and it is mv personal interest to do. so. What personal interest can I have in placing an incubus on farmers, squatters, or any one else? But in the interests of Australia it is not right to wipe out an industry which is keeping the price of wire-netting down. If importers had their full fling they would do as they did in other industries in New South Wales tor so many years under the regime of the Reid Government - they would raise prices by a scratch of the pen, without adding to the value of their imports, and thus fleece the public. What has been the history of every properly protected industry ? When the local manufacturer has got his industry into working order prices have been brought down. This was the case in the hat industry in Sydney, when some of the friends of the leader of the
Opposition, who were large importers, had to reduce their prices in consequence of the local competition, and they are now selling their commodities much more cheaply than ever ‘ before. Similar consequences have followed protection in Victoria, and must follow in all cases where internal competition affords an opportunity to people to invest their capital and fight the fleecing importer. I, for one, will not abandon the policy of protection, which is in the interests of the whole of Australia, because we can never ha.ve a large population with high wages and prosperity without that policy.
.- I had not intended to speak on this subject, although I am naturally interested as the representative of a large farming community. I have made up my mind, as my friends in the corner know, to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Illawarra. The Government have framed a protectionist policy approaching prohibition, but there is an old adage that there is an exception to every rule ; and I venture to say that an exception ought to be made on the present occasion in the interest of. those people who have spent their lives in settling this country, and are engaged in that primary production on which so much depends. I listended to the honorable member for East Sydney, and I certainly observed nothing objectionable in his statements. The honorable member was appealing honestly for consideration for people who certainly deserve it. The Treasurer may think that he knows all about the pastoral and agricultural interests - about the struggle people have to make to maintain themselves on the land. Does the honorable gentleman know that the effects of the present drought are intensified by fully one-third owing to the rabbits? Does he know that hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in Victoria and elsewhere in efforts to eradicate the pest? The honorable gentleman ought to remember that, to common-sense, practical men, bounce and bluff cannot be addressed as convincing argument. We are not interested in old political feuds of New South. Wales, but we are interested in the pastoral and agricultural industries, to which a duty of 30 per cent, on this commodity will, in many cases, mean ruin. The people engaged in- those industries are entitled to our fullest consideration. I have in my possession, though not here, a dozen letters from the Treasurer’s own constituency, begging that this duty should not be imposed, and similar feeling has been expressed all over Victoria. Who is to benefit from such a duty ? It certainly will ‘not benefit human beings, it is really and truly a protection for rabbits. This question is of enormous importance from a financial point of view, seeing that wirenetting to the value of over £500,000 was imported last year, and rabbits are spreading to such an extent that more than double that expenditure will prove to be necessary if the pest is to be checked. In Victoria we have been endeavouring, to the best of our ability, to eradicate the pest by poisoning and so forth, and the high price obtainable for trapped rabbits has been an inducement to the destruction of more than would otherwise have been killed. Several computations have been made as to the number of rabbits in Victoria. At first the number was estimated at something like 5,000,000, but that estimate was raised to 15,000,000, and subsequently to 25,000,000, while to-day those who understand the question place the figure at no less than 50,000,000. If the late railway strike in Victoria had continued for another three weeks it would have meant ruin to a number of people, owing to the increase of rabbits, and if we alter the ordinary conditions of life in the way now proposed, I venture to say that the pest will so increase as to involve disaster. Surely there is some reason in the appeal made by the leader of the Opposition, and by other honorable members on both sides of the House. Honorable members have a free hand in regard to this item, and there is no necessity for the bluff of the Treasurer. I must confess that it was only to-night I learned of that provision in the Tariff for the return of the whole of the duty paid on machinery imported for the hat industry and the woollen industry. The information astounded me. As the leader of the Opposition said, it seems that a man may pay duty at the front door of the Customs House, and obtain a rebate at the back door. That is not an honest procedure. We have been flooded with literature relating to the Tariff, and a business man ha.s not time to look into all these wretched details. The practice referred to by ‘the leader of the Opposition is certainly a very undesirable one. It is not the expected outcome of such an honest protective policy as we were led to believe would emanate from the Treasury benches. There can be no doubt that we have had to-night a development which will surprise the people of Australia. I trust that the speech made by the leader of the Opposition will have some effect upon my honorable friends in the Labour corner. We should all be deeply interested in the welfare of Australia, but, having regard to some of the measures passed by this Parliament, I am inclined to believe that some honorable members are not. The fact that the House recently affirmed a proposal to expend something like £500,000 upon the erection of a Commonwealth building in the Strand, London, is a case in point. We have heard honorable members criticise Government proposals, and we have seen them turn round and vote for them as scorn as it was pointed out that the position of the Ministry was assailed. When the people hear of such conduct, what must they think of the Federal Parliament? It is now proposed to subject the farmers and settlers of Australia to another serious disability. Instead of voting for these duties, I should beprepared to vote for an expenditure of £500,000 on wire-netting to be distributed amongst farmers and settlers. At the present time, it takes all the money that the stock-owners and others can find to maintain themselves on the soil, and if we subject them to disability after disability their position will become very serious. I trust that honorable members will recognise the desirableness of giving consideration to the farmers of Australia. The large squatter is practically extinct. There are now very few of them left in Australia. Thousands of Victorians have acquired land in the Riverina district, and to-day they are assailed with drought and rabbits, with the result that the land which they hold is not worth the money that they owe upon it. The honorable member for Riverina knows that I am speaking the truth, and he must recognise that it is proposed by these duties to inflict on the farmers and graziers of Australia a grievous wrong. They are the bone and sinew of the country, the producers of everything that is calculated to assist other industries, and we certainly ought to extend every consideration to them.
– I cannot recall any occasion when I have listened with greater pleasure to three consecutive speeches than to-night in listening to the addresses delivered by the leader of the Opposition, the Treasurer, andthe honorable member for Indi. They remind me of an old dish, very common in that part of the old country from which I come, called curds and whey. The curds come first, and the whey, which follows, is very watery and bitter. It is not at all palatable, and is usually thrown away. I listened with great attention to what the leader of the Opposition had to say regarding the duties on wire-netting, because I knew that all that could be said in favour of their remission would be said by him. I heard quite sufficient of his remarks to convert me had I stood in need of conversion. I am sure that any one who has laboured under the necessity - the painful necessity, as the honorable member for Indi has said - of paying 30 per cent. duty on his wire-netting, will be glad to know that the right honorable member for East Sydney is very sorry for him. His sorrow is so deep that during the course of his speech, he was able not only to deeply affect the Committee, but even to convert himself. He seems to have stood in great need of conversion. During the last election campaign the one thing which he made painfully clear to the people of Australia was that that was not the time to bother about such trivial matters as free-trade or protection - it was a time when every one should rally round the grand did flag, and down the Labour Party. At that particular time, the right honorable member did not care two snaps of his fingers whether the rabbits spread over the land in millions or singly.
– How much did the honorable member care?
– The leader of the Opposition deliberately set up as his standard the sinking of the fiscal issue. He appealed to every protectionist and freetrader in Australia to lay aside the fiscal hatchet and to get under his banner. Many of them did so, and there they are in the Opposition corner. They are now clustering round him, and he cannot even make a speech on a great question like this, without having to appeal to honorable members on his own side of the House to let him get out what he has to say. No farmer is likely to be deceived for one moment by the present attitude of the right honorable member. Had he done at the last general election what he did at the two previous elections, there would not have been a duty on wire-netting. Why was no duty imposed upon it under the Tariff of 1901-2? It was because the right honorable member then stood in this House at the head of a solid phalanx in favour of a low Tariff. But, at the last general election, he deliberately threw aside an opportunity to get a similarband to follow him. Would he then have objected to any one who believed in a duty of 50 per cent. on wire-netting, provided that he was in favour of his ticket of anti-Socialism?
– Is not the honorable member on the same ticket? Is he not arm in arm with red-hot protectionists? Is he not embracing protection in the form of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports?
– To embrace the leader of the Opposition, even politically speaking, is a process which I find extremely difficult.
– I should hope so.
– The position is this : The Treasurer, for reasonsbest known to himself, has submitted a Tariff under which wire-netting is dutiable at 30 per cent. To-day he says he will be satisfied with a duty of 15 per cent. I ask the Committee to say whether or not, if the leader of the Opposition had done his duty by freetrade, by low tariffism, the Minister in charge of the Tariff would have proposed such a duty. Has not a high Tariff been submitted for the reason that the leader of the Opposition confessedly abandoned any pretence to fighting against one?
– I fought for twenty years against a high Tariff, and never got. much help from the honorable member. He never once stood on a platform to assist me.
– The people of Australia have been taxed, so far as wire-netting is concerned, to the extent of 30 per cent., simply because the leader of the Opposition has not done his duty. If one contrasts the speech made by him this evening with that which he delivered when the Tariff was first introduced, one finds a striking difference between the two. On the previous occasion, the right honorable member was going to extend to the Tariff thatkind of treatment that the position of parties in this House deserved. He is now suddenly fired with a noble enthusiasm to fight against the Tariff. Whose interests are now at stake? The ground is absolutely littered with the tracks of the great moneyed institutions of Australia.
– One of them has this very wire-netting factory which is under discussion.
– It is in trailing up these institutions that the right honorable member is acting the part of the political black-tracker. They are in danger, and when the tocsin rings he is to the front, as he always was. He has endeavoured to make the country believe that the interests of the farmer are particularly bound up in this question. Every one knows that rabbits can be a menace to Australia only so long as the country is held in large, and not in small, areas. There is no doubt that the real obstacle in the way of closer settlement is the fact that it pays men and large institutions to hold great areas of land, and that it would not pay them to do so if we had in operation a fair progressive land tax. The men who stand in the way of the real settlement of the land, as the Treasurer has pointed out, are those who stand in the way of the settlement of the rabbit question. In 1894, there was no man who more enthusiastically believed in land taxation, and advocated it more heartily than did the present leader of the Opposition.
– Not in progressive land taxation. I always opposed a progressive tax.
– The right honorable member then said that the settlement of the land was of enormous importance to the people of Australia, and that one of the best ways of bringing it about was the imposition of a tax upon land values. I do not know how far he was prepared to go, but he did go to a certain extent in that direction.
– It is incorrect to say that I ever advocated a progressive land tax.
– That is another matter. The party of which I am a member is prepared to go further than the right honorable member desires to go. Is it not a fact that when we reach the settled districts - when, for instance, in New South Wales, we reach the county of Cumberland - rabbits cease to be a nuisance?
– Rabbits cannot exist under closer settlement conditions. But I do not deny the very great importance of wire-netting to our farmers. All I say is that the position has been aggravated by the action of the leader of the Opposition and his party. In the last electoral campaign he deliberately invited the people to rally round his standard, because he said that the country was in danger by reason of the existence of the Labour
Party, which he compared to a tiger. Now’ he says that it is in danger because of the existence of the rabbit. What an anti-climax ! I would cheerfully vote to give our settlers wirenetting for nothing, if it could be done, because it would be of immense value to the country to get rid of the rabbits once and for all.
– They are going to be a very serious problem.
– I do not see how they can become a much more serious trouble than they are. This country suffers from two very great curses ; one is the rabbit, but, as I do not wish to disturb the harmony lately established between the honorable member for Indi and myself, I shall not mention the other. I should be glad, if it could be done, to vote for the distribution of wire-netting on terms similar to those on which seed wheat is distributed in times of drought. In my opinion, it would pay the Commonwealth to arrange for this. Having said so much, I have only to add that the question for us to consider is whether the imposition of duties of 1 5 and 10, or 10 and 5, per cent. will increase the cost of wire-netting. If it will not, and will encourage the local manufacture, I see no reason why we should not vote for it. But if it will increase the cost, I shall, not vote for it. My only desire is that the farmers and settlers shall get wirenetting as cheaply as possible. We have the statements of Messrs. Lysaght Brothers, and the new protection proposals, as to the efficacy of which I express no opinion, though I regard them as worth trying. But until I am convinced that the price will not be increased by the imposition of a duty, I shall vote for the admission of wire-netting free.In dealing with this matter, I am wholly uninterested, because there is no manufacturer of wire-netting in my constituency, and my only desire is to benefit our primary industries. That alone will determine my vote on this item.
.- During the debate–
– It is grossly unfair to call upon two members in succession from the same side of the Chamber.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it ; but I wish to point out that the custom of calling a member from each side of the
Chamber in turn has always been observed by Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees.
– I have been prevented from speaking earlier by the application of that rule.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.When I relieved the Chairman, he asked me to call upon the honorable member for New England, who had risen several times.
– But the honorable member has not called on others, who have risen quite as frequently. He has not obeyed the instruction which he received.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is another reflection which should be withdrawn. I am desirous of giving every facility for discussion, but, as several honorable members have risen whenever a speech has been concluded, I have had to adopt the procedure which I think fairest, and the suggestion that I have acted unfairly should not have been made.
– As one who has most profound confidence in your impartiality, Mr. Batchelor, I hope you will allow me to say that the rule to which the honorable member for Parramatta has referred has been carried to this length : that, an honorable member having spoken from the Opposition side of the Chamber, I have been prevented from following him, althoughI wished to speak against the views which he had expressed.
– You, sir, having ruled on the point, is it in order for anhonorable member to canvass your decision ? Such conduct amounts to a reflection on your action.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.While I have the right to request the honorable member for East Sydney to resume his seat, I prefer to listen to what he has to say, because’ I do not wish honorable members to think that I am not acting in accordance with parliamentary practice. It is not the invariable rule to call a member from each side alternately.
– I say that it is.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Such an interjection, when the Chairman is speaking, is distinctly disorderly. The rule is departed from when the Chairman sees good reason for doing so. I thought that it should be departed from, and, therefore, called on the honorable member for New England, who, I think, has risen more frequently than any other honorable member. The fact that he is a new member also weighed with me.
– If the honorable member for Parramatta has a special reason for wishing to speak now, I shall have great pleasure in giving way to him. I would, however, point out that, whilst the last speaker is a free-trader, I am a protectionist, though I look upon this as a nonparty debate.
– I decline absolutely to speak by the favour of any honorable member.
– Then I shall proceed with my few remarks. I see that courtesy is not appreciated.
– I hope that the honorable member will not think that I spoke in any ungracious spirit, so far as he is concerned.
– In the debate, great stress has been laid on the fact that the importation of wire-netting equals in value more than £500,000. In 1906 it, I find, was valued at £519,000. In addition, there is the output of the Sydney factory, which the Treasurer states is 300 miles a week, and which, calculated on the same basis as the imported, may be valued at £577,000.
– £1,000,000 worth is used annually.
– Should not consideration be shown for an industry of so much importance? It has been said that very few hands are employed in making wirenetting; but if we take a glance at the great rabbit industry, we find that something like 30,000 persons are employed in connexion with the trapping, freezing, and exporting of rabbits.
-If those who are rabbiting had to pay rent for the land on which the rabbits breed, they could not make a living.
– The fact that so many persons are employed shows that the destruction of rabbits is in itself an industry. Rabbit fur, when properly prepared, is worth about 8s. a lb. Of course, I do not advocate the rearing of rabbits in place of sheep. The wool industry is much more important than the rabbit industry, especially in the drier districts. In countries like New Zealand and Tasmania, the rabbit pest will never be known, because the regular rainfall produces such an abundance of feed. It is in times of drought that they aresuch a great curse. This debate seems to have been conducted largely in the interests of those who desire to use foreign-made wire-netting. But, as thousands of pounds worth of locallymade wire-netting is used, there must be some advantage in using it, and the reports in the newspapers show me that the imported article is of a very rubbishy character. Some men are very sorrythat they ever bought it, because they have found that it has rusted so quickly that the rabbits are now getting through it, and they will probably have to fall back on the Australian-made article. I listened with great pleasure to the speech of the leader of the Opposition. To my mind, he narrowly escaped fame when, in his great Toowoomba speech, he advocated the establishment of State industries. Had he used the power’ which he possesses, and which he would have gained, by establishing the local manufacture of iron, he would have done much to solve the troubles of the wire-netting industry. He himself has admitted that iron is at the base of many industries.
– When Premier of New South Wales I offered a contract for 100,000 tons of steel rails, in order to give the industry a start.
– I give credit where it is due. But the honorable member narrowly missed fame by not going further.
– The Premier of Victoria is providing for the State manufacture of wire-netting - in the gaols.
– We have no guarantee that some of the foreign-made netting imported into the Commonwealth is not manufactured in German gaols. When honorable members have spoken of the wretched conditions obtaining in Messrs. Lysaght Brothers’ factory, I could not avoid asking myself, “ What guarantee have we that the operatives who manufacture the German netting imported into Australia are not also sweated?” Personally, I should prefer to see the industry established in our own country, where an attempt can be made to regulate the conditions of labour surrounding it. Fortunately, I represent a constituency which is not troubled with the rabbit pest. It is a district which enjoys a splendid rainfall, and such a diversity of climate that I do not think rabbits would ever flourish there. But if they were approaching that district I contend that the best means of coping with them would be by an effective system of closer settlement.
– By the use of wirenetting.
– No. Closer settlement would itself keep the rabbits back, and upon the fringe of that country depots might be established where the rabbits could be frozen for export. The rabbit pest appears to me to be a just chastisement of Australia for the maladministration of the Lands Departments of the various States which has occurred in the past. It seems to me that we have erred in continuing the clumsy system under which we have permitted great areas to be monopolized by a few individuals. To sanction the imposition of a duty of 15 per cent, .upon wire-netting of foreign manufacture, and of 10 per cent, upon netting of British origin, would be to merely authorize the collection of revenue duties. I entered this Chamber with an earnest desire to fight for effective protection to Australian industries. I do not think that the wire-netting industry deserves too much protection, by reason of the fact that only the weaving of the netting is undertaken locally. Had the Treasurer stuck to his guns and proposed a duty of, say, 25 per cent, upon this material - which was the rate recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission - I should have been willing to support him, provided that he would include the item in division 6a of the Tariff. I s’ay this because I understand that it is his. intention to offer a bounty upon the production of wire. Division 6a of the Tariff relates to metals and machinery, and reads -
To come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and exempt from duty in the meantime. Proclamation to issue so soon as it is certified to Parliament by the Minister that the manufacture to which the proclamation refers has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth.
The wire-netting industry has not been, and will not be, sufficiently established until the wire used in it is manufactured locally, .instead of having to be imported. Until the industry has been established a bounty should be granted to encourage the manufacture of this netting. It seems to me very strange that so many thousands of persons should be using the local netting, and I ask the Government to give some thought to that aspect of the question in their bounty proposals.
– People prefer to use the Australian netting if they can obtain it at a reasonable price.
– I am pleased to hear that. It confirms mv view that the local article must be superior to the imported. At the same time, I shall not give a vote which might have the effect of increasing the price of the locally manufactured article. o
– But the honorable member cannot obtain a good article for the same price that he cap a bad one?
-Certainly not. Those who have purchased the foreign netting are finding out that even if thev are required to pay a few pounds more for the locally manufactured article, it is cheaper in the long run. I am pleased that we have an assurance from the Treasurer that Messrs. Lysaght Brothers have undertaken not to increase the price of the locally manufactured article to the consumer so long as the industry is afforded a reasonable measure of protection, and the price of the raw material is not increased.
.- When I entered the chamber after the adjournment for dinner, I was under the impression that a political crisis 0had occurred. But I find that I was mistaken, and that, after all, the item under consideration is that of wire-netting. In speaking upon this question, the honorable member for West Sydney declared that if the members of the Opposition had been returned in stronger force at the last election, wirenetting would not have found a place in this Tariff. Need I remind him that it was not due to the Opposition that that item was placed upon die free list under the 1902 Tariff? It was put there by the protectionist Government of the day. The item immediately preceding wire-netting upon the Tariff schedule is that of barbed wire, on which the Government propose to lew a duty of 30 per cent. I am led to believe, from the remarks which have been made this evening, that many of those who have pleaded for wire-netting to be placed . upon the free list will be found, advocating the imposition of a high protective duty upon barbed wire. The production of barbed wire is a Victorian industry, and the manufacture of wire-netting is a New South Wales industry, and I object to preferential treatment being accorded to either. We all know that the Premier of Victoria proposes to nationalize the wire-netting industry. He has suggested that the netting should be manufactured in the Pentridge gaol - an institution which is run purely upon socialistic lines, and in which uniform hours of labour, uniform wages, uniform board and lodging, and uniform apparel, obtain. There everything, in short, is conducted upon beautifully socialistic principles. I cannot understand why the Labour Party have not submitted a proposal in favour of giving effect to Mr. Bent’s idea. Not only are the conditions of’ wages and labour uniform, but there is also a uniform desire on- the part of the operatives to get out of the institution to which I. refer. But apparently honorable members do not desire to nationalize the industry upon the lines suggested by the Premier of Victoria. I come now to the position as it presents itself to me. The honorable member for East Sydney has spoken of the heavy tax which the impost upon wire-netting would mean to the farmers of the country. But I would point out that the same argument might be applied to other duties, which are of an even more oppressive character. There are tens of thousands of persons in Australia who will reap no benefit whatever from the duties levied under this Tariff, -but who will, nevertheless, have to, pay them. The wire-netting industry is one which employs more hands than does the barbed-wire industry. Why, then, should the latter receive more encouragement than the former? There is a proposal before the Committee to levy a duty of 15 per cent, upon wire-netting of* foreign manufacture, and of 10 per cent, upon the imports from the United Kingdom. I shall not vote in favour of a revenue duty. The honorable ‘ member for Kooyong desired to move that there should be duties of 10 per cent, and 5 per cent., but, in my opinion, such duties, while taxing the farmer, would not have the effect of building up- the industry, and I shall be surprised if the Government accept the suggestion. I would rather see wirenetting placed on the free list, because then something would be done for the struggling selector and pastoralist. If the people are to pay revenue duties, I think the pastoralist mav well be called upon, seeing that in the last few years wool has been bringing the highest price ever known in the history of Australia. I am glad to say that the high price is keeping up, and that the pastoralists are making thousands of pounds a year.
– There is a long way less wool now.
– What do the pastoralists care, so long as prices are high? Owing to not preparing for bad times, and to overstocking, pastoralists have done more injury to their runs than probably the rabbits have. No request has been made to me bv the representatives of any ‘industry in New South Wales; but, rightly or wrongly, if I see any evidence of particular industries being selected for protection, I shall certainly see that a share of the benefit goes to New South Wales. In the last Parliament and the Parliament before, although industries affected by the Tariff were carried on in my electorate, I ‘voted free-trade every time ; and I ask how many honorable members can show such a clean sheet ?
– I slipped only on bananas.
– The honorable member for Maranoa was certainly very strongly in favour of a duty on bananas, and he. now supports the placing of wire-netting on the free list, because it is used by most of his constituents.
– Quite right.
– Then it is quite right for the honorable member for Dalley to vote for a duty which will benefit an industry in which some of his constituents are interested. My own opinion is that no more taxation should be imposed on the people than is necessary for the purposes of Government; but if taxation has to be imposed I think, as I said before, that the pastoralists can as well afford to bear it as any section of the community. It requires 6 miles of wire-netting to surround a 1,280-acre block; and. if the duty be fixed at 15 per cent., it will mean taxation on the settler to the extent of £30. We must not forget, however, that the wirenetting may last from five to ten years, and if so, the taxation may amount to, say, only £5 a year. Are we to understand that the settlers are in such a struggling condition that taxation amounting to £5 a year will break them ? By way of interjection, I said a little while ago that if we were to take the duty off food and apparel we would benefit the struggling farmers and settlers infinitely more than we should by the removal of the duty on wirenetting. The wire-netting industry pays wages amounting to ^10,000 a year, and it has never received any assistance in the past. Under the circumstances, therefore, I am prepared to vote for a duty of 15 per cent, as my high- water mark of protection. I cannot go back to my electors and say that I voted for removing the duty from wire-netting, the making of which is essentially a new South Wales industry, when a month later, the men with whom I voted, supported heavy protectionist duties in the case of the barbed-wire industry. The nail industry employs only about twenty men in Victoria; but I am sure we shall hear- no appeal for the removal of the duty on nails in the interests of the fruit-grower, the butter producer, and others who use nails. The duty proposed on nails is $0 per cent. ; and I should be prepared to place wire-netting and nails on the same level. Lysaght Brothers have been accused of sweating, but on that point I have no information. In order to prevent sweating and unfair conditions, I shall support the new protection, which, I understand from the Treasurer, will be applied to the wire-netting industry.
– How will the Treasurer apply the new protection to the wire-netting industry ?
– The honorable member had better ask the Treasurer that question. As a free-trader, I should prefer to see all commodities on the free list, except a few . items for the purposes of revenue. That, however, is impossible, and, therefore, I shall in this case vote for a duty of 15 per cent., combined with the new protection. As I said on a former occasion, that system will have the effect of stopping the clamour for increased duties, seeing that employers will be called upon to share the protection with their employes. The difficulty will be to determine fair and reasonable wages - to determine whether they shall be based on the’ profits or be standardized. If wages be based on profits, all the better for the workers. I have heard it said that in the wire-netting industry, only low wages were being paid, but, according to the Treasurer, wages are better now; and if they should be reduced, the new protection scheme will come’ into play. If any firm has shown their bona fides, Lysaght Brothers have done so by ‘battling so long without any
Tariff assistance. As to preference to Great Britain, I do not think that 5 per cent, is enough. I had hoped that the question of preference would have been dealt with in a special schedule and not discussed on items as they arise in the course of our consideration of the Tariff. While I shall vote to-night for a protective duty of 15 per cent., I shall reserve to myself the right to endeavour to make the preference in favour of Great Britaingreater than that now proposed. Unquestionably, a quantity of the wire-netting imported is of German manufacture, and I have sufficient Australian nature about me not to have any preference for German productions. For my own part, I should like to see free-trade within the Empire, with protection against the outside world. Many of the old hard-and-fast economic laws are giving place to more humane considerations; and it is from that point of view that I support the ‘new protection scheme. Joint-stock companies and other modern methods of handling capital, compel us, in the interests of humanity, to take a different view of those economic laws which were once regarded with so much veneration. As I said -before, most of the men employed in the wire-netting industry reside in my electorate, and my fixed policy, under present circumstances, is to do the best I can for them, as other honorable members are doing their best for their constituents, although they put a glamour over their action by talking about national industries, and so forth. I state my position in a much more blunt and open manner.
– More parochial manner.
– The honorable member can be parochial enough when an item affects the farmers. I admit that under ordinary circumstances this duty could not be defended. Nor can I defend duties on food and apparel. I have in my electorate thousands receiving small wages, and not steadily employed, and they are called upon to bear the burden of heavy duties on everything they eat and wear. I have already pointed out that, on the other hand, the pastoralists are doing fairly well - I hope they will continue to do well - and that as a class they are better able than are the workers in my electorate to carry’ fiscal burdens. I do not know why the honorable . member for Kooyong has submitted his proposal. It seems to me that, if a farmer can afford to pav a 10 per cent, duty on wire-netting, he should be able to pay a 15 per cent, duty upon it, while the higher duty would have the effect of encouraging an industry which, I. trust, will expand. It has been said that the industry consists merely of the weaving of imported wire. I would point out that the barbed-wire industry of Victoria simply consists of running wire through an imported machine, which twists it, and puts on the barbs. And so with the nailmaking industry, in which imported machines are employed in treating imported wire. If wire-netting should be placed on the free list, then barbed wire and wire nails should also be free of duty. I am not prepared to support a higher duty than 15 per cent, on wire-netting, and if such a proposal be defeated, I shall vote for the item being placed on the free list.
– During this debate it has been urged that the question of rabbit extermination is closely allied with that of closer settlement. To some extent that contention is true. In very closely-settled districts wire-netting is not necessary to cope with the pest, but in the greater part of Australia such settlement will always be impossible. It is- in only an infinitesimally small portion of the Commonwealth that we can have such close settlement as will render -rabbit-proof fencing unnecessary. Then, again, it has been urged that the question is one that affects the pastoralists rather than the small farmer and the horticulturist. That, certainly, is not the position in South Australia. There the pastoral areas are so large that it would be impossible to erect rabbit-proof boundary fences round them, and the cost of erecting such subdivisional fences in country the sheep carrying capacity of which is hot great, would be too much to allow of its being attempted. For the most part, wire-netting and barbed wire are used by South Australian pastoralists to protect the sheep from wild dogs. It would be absolutetly futile_ for them to think of employing netting to protect the grass from the rabbits, which swarm across the larger areas. For one ton of wirenetting used by the pastoralists, ten tons are used by the farmers and horticulturists. There axe thousands of gardens in the. Mount Lofty Ranges, and’ every one of them has to be surrounded with wirenetting fences. Many of them are subdivided in the same way, so. that this question is of the greatest importance to farmers and horticulturists in the State of which I am a representative. It has been suggested that many honorable members are opposed to these duties because they represent constituencies in which wirenetting is largely used. The electorate which I represent is not troubled by rabbits, but, nevertheless, I intend to vote against these duties. We have to consider whether the wire-netting industry is of such importance that it is worth the added cost of erecting, and maintaining rabbitproof fences involved in the imposition of a duty. Contrasting the produce yielded by areas enclosed with wire-netting with the utmost possibilities so far as the wirenetting industry is concerned, I fail to see that the industry is of much importance. Even if we manufactured every pound of wire-netting .used in Australia the industry would not be one to brag about.
– It would be a cut above the wire nail-making industry.
– I voted agains) the duty on wire nails, and I intend, as 1. did before, to vote against the duty on barbed wire.
– What about salt?
– That is a primary industry.’ My constituency is not interested in the salt industry, but that is a mere side issue. The Treasurer has told us that Lysaght Brothers are prepared to give an undertaking not to increase their present charges for netting. I should like to know whether they will undertake to reduce the present prices concurrently with a reduction in the markets elsewhere. We know that prices will come down in a very short time, so that there is not much in the offer made by Lysaght Brothers not to increase their present high rates unless the price of their raw material be increased. It is our duty as protectionists to look at the’ value of an industry.
– Every industry, if it employs only one man, is worth having.
– I have never been able to take up that attitude.
– Would not a dutystimulate local competition?
– We are confronted by the fact that Lysaght Brothers succeeded in establishing a good industry, and in turning out an excellent article, without a duty.
– They cannot go on.
– I do not wish to give a free-trade vote on this item without stating my reason for doing so. In all these cases we must look at the magnitude of the industries affected by a duty and at the magnitude of the industry which may. be built up under its protection.
– Cannot we make wire in Australia ?
– If it were proposed to establish the wire-making industry, 1 should be prepared to vote for a duty for its protection; but I have no sympathy with an industry which merely provides employment in the tinning of kerosene or the twisting of wire, or is trumpery in its nature, while its protection places a heavy impost on large sections of the community.
– How many men are employed in the making of tobacco by hand, for whose advantage the honorable member fought so hard the other day?
– That is a much more important industry than the making of wire-netting, and employs only men. No boys or girls are employed in it.
– Is not the industry of girls to be protected?
– An industry which gives profitable employment to heads of families is of more value than one which gives employment to boys or girls, because heads of families, if adequately remunerated, can maintain their children. In any case in which it is possible to protect industries employing boys or girls I shall do what I can to protect them. But it is ridiculous to impose duties to protect industries employing only one or two men at the cost of the whole community.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As a representative of a portion of Tasmania I enter my protest against adjourning at this early hour, seeing that we have so much important business to do in connexion with the revision of the Tariff. We, as the directors appointed to manage the business affairs of the Commonwealth, should get through our work as speedily as possible, even if we have to sit here all night.
.- I ask the Treasurer where in the Kingston Tariff is the schedule of which he spoke?
– The honorable member will find it at page 31 3 of Volume I. of the Commonwealth Acts.
– That is a straight out exemption.
– I was just going to conclude, sir, with the remark that in that Tariff the Government proposal is wrapped up in such a way that one has great difficulty in discovering what is actually proposed.
– On several occasions I have called honorable members to order for referring in the House to proceedings in Committee of Ways and Means, and, of course, I am obliged to call the right honorable member’s attention to the infraction of the rule.
– I do not want to reply to the honorable member for East Sydney, but I will show the schedule to him.
– I have seen it, but it is wrapped up in such a way that one does not know what is really proposed.
– To-morrow I can give all the information the honorable member requires which I may tell him is absolutely satisfactory. I can. assure the honorable member for Bass that it was not my . desire to adjourn at this hour to-night, because I was. very anxious to go on with the business. Before I agreed to report progress I asked for a list of those who desired to speak. I was supplied with a list containing five or six names, and, in the circumstances, I did not think it would be right to keep honorable members sitting until five or six speeches had been delivered.
– What about the farmers whose properties are being overrun with rabbits?
– I was very anxious to get the matter settled to-night if possible, but, in view of the fact that we have had a long day and that we sat until a late hour last night, I felt when the appeal was made to me that I would not be justified in detaining honorable members any longer. I should not like the whole of to-morrow to be occupied with a discussion on the subject referred to, and, therefore, I hope that at an early hour a division will be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.57p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071009_reps_3_40/>.