3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Refund of Wire Netting Duties - Proprietary Medicines and Foods - Passing of Entries, Melbourne Customs House.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer a question of which I regret I have not had an opportunity to give notice. In view of the decision of the Committee of Ways and Means last night, fey which the general Tariff on wire netting was fixed at 10 per cent., and on wive netting from the United Kingdom at 5 per cent., and, in view of the voluntary proposal of the Government to reduce their ( excessive Tariff ot 30 and 25 per cent, to’ 15 and 10 per cent, respectively, I desire to know whether, under the exceptional circumstances, the Government can see their way to refund the excess duty which has already been collected throughout the Common- monwealth ?
– I do not know who has “ put up “ the honorable member to ask this question.
– I protest against any such insinuation.
– Of course, it is a good thing, after a late sitting, to commence the morning’s business with a joke, because it puts us all in a good temper. I am not prepared, however, at the present moment to answer such a question.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether his. attention has been drawn to the following paragraDh which appeared in the Melbourne Age on Wednesday last-
A new trade combine is controlling the retail prices of infant and invalid foods and of patent medicines and similar things, generally classed under the heading of “ proprietary articles.” The wholesale distributors of imported and locally made goods are combined for trade reasons under the style of the “P.A.T.A.,” which means the “ Proprietary Articles Trade Association.” The association has issued a printed circular, in which it is demanded that all retailers selling any of a very long list of foods, patent medicines, pills and ointments, Stc, shall do so at certain prices which are stated. Failing, compliance with this requirement, retailers have been told that they will not be allowed to sell goods at all. They will not’ be supplied with them.That is made an absolute ultimatum, and became operative today.
A list of the increased prices is given by the newspaper; and I ask the Minister whether he will endeavour to ascertain the prices now being charged by the association, as compared with the prices charged for the same article, say, a week ago, before the association was formed, so that we may have the information before us when dealing with those articles in the Tariff?
– My attention has been called, to the newspaper paragraph. I am making some inquiries, and immediately. I obtain the information I have asked for., I shall be glad to see what can be done in the matter.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he is aware that at the Customs House, Melbourne, considerable difficulty- is being experienced by importers in passing their goods, and that in some cases, after the duty has been paid, importers have to send their clerks day after day, for as long as ten days, before obtaining possession? If the Minister is aware Of this block, will he make inquiries, and endeavour to expedite the business ?
– My attention has been called to this matter. Honorable members can easily understand that, owing to the preference provisions and the changes in the Tariff, there is naturally some little difficulty, and that the same expedition cannot be observed as under the old Tariff. However, instructions . were given, on t.he introduction of the Tariff, to engage extra men, and to do everything to expedite business. As far as I can see, that result has been achieved to a great extent, because there is not a tithe of the complaints from merchants that were made when the old Tariff was introduced. Ishall make further inquiries’, because the delay mentioned by the honorable member is certainly long; I can promise the House that everything that can be done to expedite business in a reasonable way, shall be done.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been called to the following paragraph in the Melbourne Argus : -
Yesterday morning Sir William Lyne waited on the Premier (Mr. Bent) and had a long consultation regarding their future action - concerning the Federal offices to be built in the Strand, London -
Sir William Lyne desired that the Commonwealth shall be allowed to make decision regarding the style and cost of the building to be erected. . . . Mr. Bent, however, refused to accede to this arrangement . . . he insisted that the question of type of building should be decided by him.’ The Commonwealth would have to build its offices to correspond externally with the Victorian building.
This may be a joke, or it may be a very serious matter; and I should like to know whether it is correct that Mr. Bent has taken up this attitude.
– If the honorable member had scanned the Melbourne Argus of the previous day, he would have seen that this very question was answered by me, after the appearance of another paragraph which was equally incorrect with that just read. I have stated very definitely that the Commonwealth will control its own land and buildings. I really do not know whether the honorable member is as capable as the honorable member for Kooyong of making a joke, but the person who wrote that paragraph must certainly have been joking.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether if, amongst the tenderers for the mail contract, there are persons who do not possess steamships, and, therefore, cannot produce the best evidence of their ability to carry the mails, he will demand a deposit sufficiently substantial to prevent a repetition of the fiasco which occurred in connexion with the previous tenders. Under those circumstances, will such a surety be required as will guarantee the bona fides of the tenderers ?
– Of course, the honorable member, in putting that question, is aware that the deposit has already been largely increased. I need scarcely add that I entirely agree with the view the honorable member takes, and that no tender ought to be accepted, either from those with ships, or from those without ships, apart from satisfactory guarantee for the fulfilment of the contract.
– Now that the £25,000 deposited in the case of the last mail tender seems to have been lost in the London fog, I should like to know what became of the first £2,500 - that is, to which account it has been credited? The Treasurer saidhe would afford me the information to-day.
– I did make that promise, but, as a matter of fact, I have not had time to obtain the information required, or, indeed, to deal with any public business this morning.
– I should’ like to know whether the House may take it that the holding of this £25,000 in abeyance by Messrs. Laing and Sons will be allowed to operate as . a factor in determining between tenders for the mail contract.
– 1 can certainly say that the fact that payment of such a sum is in abeyance will not Le an argument in favour of the firm concerned.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to a cable message in this morning’s: newspapers in reference to a combination of ship-owners, on the continent and in Great Britain, for the purpose of combating unionism on the lines of what is known as the Shipping Federation. Is the Postmaster-General aware whether any of the tenderers for the new contract are members of that combination, and, if they are, will the terms of the contract be such as to insure no differentiation as against unionists, but, on the contrary, that unionists- and non-unionists shall be accepted, according to which are the better men ?
– I am not aware of the position of tenderers in regard to this matter, but the statement of the honorable member will receive careful consideration.
– I understand the PostmasterGeneral to say that he is not aware that any of the tenderers are in this new combination ; but I. ask him whether, in the event of it being ascertained that they are, he will take steps to see that the terms of the contract are such that there shall be no differentiation against unionists?
– I am not in a position at this stage to state whether it is possible to alter the terms of the contract. I am in entire sympathy with the honorable member, and if anything can be done, it will be done.
Mr. SPEAKER laid upon, the table the following paper -
Report from the Joint Library Committee.
MINISTERS laid upon the table-
Defence - Report on the Swiss Military System - Compiled in the Department of the Chief of Intelligence.
Excise Act1901, and Sugar Bounty Act1903. - Sugar Regulations - Statutory Rules1907, No.101;
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 10th October, vide page 4580) :
Item 27. Glucose, per cwt., Ss.
– In accordance with the promise which I made a day or two ago, when honorable members were invited to give preferential consideration to the item of wire netting - an item which has since been disposed of - I intend to test the feeling of the Committee as to the desirableness of taking certain other items out of the order in which they appear in the schedule. There are some items of vast importance to the- industries to which they relate, and in connexion with which anomalies have arisen. I therefore move -
That item 27 be postponed until items 105, 177, 178, 234, 301, 352 have been considered.
I recognise that these do not represent all the items in the ‘Tariff which are probably deserving of immediate consideration, but tney certainly ought to be accorded preferential treatment. For instance, item 234 relates to kerosene. I have no hesitation in saying that the impost on that commodity is unjustifiable, that it presses heavily on the poorest section of the community, and is calculated only to further enrich a company the operations of which art world wide.
– Has the honorable member obtained the consent of the Government to his amendment?
– I have not sought their consent in submitting this proposal. I am exercising a privilege still possessed, I believe, by every honorable member.
– A privilege not usually accorded to Government supporters.
– At all events, 1 intend to ask the Committee to support me.
– The Government will resist this proposition to the end.
– If the opposition of the Government be as successful in this instance as it was to the attempts to secure the imposition of . certain reduced duties on wire-netting, they will enjoy themselves.
– That was merely the Treasurer’s answer for the time being.
– And it will be the answer right through.
– I do not wish to indulge in recriminations.
– Has the honorable member, in view of the statement of the Treasurer, obtained the consent of the leader of his own party to the course he is now taking?
– I have not sought the consent of any one. I have briefly outlined my objections to the duty on kerosene, and since there is no reasonable Drospect of the retention of the item, I think that we should remove it without delay. Item 177 relates to mining machinery, and part of the Government proposals in reference to it are absolutely unjustifiable. I do not wish to suggest that I oppose the whole of the proposals of the Government respecting duties on machinery for mining purposes. I shall be prepared to give reasonable consideration to a proposition to grant effective protection in respect of the necessities of the mining industry which can be produced in Australia, but I certainly object to duties on machinery which there is no reasonable chance of producing here. As to the item of electrical machinery, which I have included in my amendment, I would remind the Committee that the efforts of the Australian States to meet our growing requirements -in this respect are very limited. Having regard to the enormous developments in the manufacture and utilization of electrical machinery in other parts of the world, the Australian market is not sufficient to justify the erection of the plant necessary to supply all the electrical machinery and appliances that . we require. If that be so, and I believe I have expressed the view of the majority of honorable members, why should we not take the item out of its order? Then we have item 352, magazines. Although I do not say that I shall vote for magazines being placed on the free list, I am satisfied that the Government proposition as it stands is most unfair.
– Has not some arrangement been made to overcome the difficulty iri regard to it?
– Importers of certain magazines which, if introduced as originally published, would be dutiable, are allowed to mutilate them by cutting out pages of advertisements, and so escaping the impost. To my mind, however, a tax imposed by law should be removed by law and not by an act of administration. The Government proposal in regard to chairs is about as clumsy a scheme as one could possibly conceive of. I am satisfied that it will be varied, and T fail to see why the Ministry should not be prepared to adopt my amendment that preferential consideration be given to the item. It is certainly desirable that the half-dozen items enumerated in my amendment should receive preferential consideration. They all are important, and as many of them are low down on the list, and in. ordinary circumstances would not be reached for some time, I think that the Committee should be prepared to take the course I propose.
– The motion submitted by the . honorable member for Kalgoorlie has my sympathy, but at present I do not propose to deal with it on its merits. I wish to point out the difficulty which results from the honorable member submitting a proposal that half-a-dozen items be taken out of their order in the schedule. Many of us might desire to substitute other items for some of those enumerated by him. I wish to ask you, Mr. Chairman, for the information of the Committee, whether it will not be competent for any honorable member to move the postponement of allitems prior to any particular item to which, he desires preference to be given. Will it not be competent for an honorable member to take that step from time to time and so to overcome the difficulty associated with the selection for preferential treatment of halfadozen . items which may not be unanimously supported by the Committee?
– How much time will be wasted ?
– My proposal would avoid a waste of time, and I think it is worthy of consideration.
. -I very much regret that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has seen fit to submit this motion, because the Government cannot and will not accept it. We wish in every way to meet the desire of the Committee, but we were told again and again that we. made a mistake in allowing preferential consideration to be given to the item of wire-netting - a step which we took under circumstances of which honorable members are well aware. So much time was occupied in discussing the proposed postponement of other items in order that that relating -to wire-netting might be disposed of, that the Government have absolutely made up their minds to deal with the remaining items in the order in which they appear in the schedule, although it may . be necessary for me to bring forward the Excise duties relating to certain divisions just as we did in connexion with the consideration of the tobacco duties. The Government, however, cannot now agree to any item being taken out of its order. A moment’s reflection should be sufficient, to satisfy honorable members that the adoption of the course proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would not expedite the determination of the Tariff. I am as anxious as any honorable member to dispose of the items of the Tariff quickly, but I feel that by considering them out of their order we should not conserve the time of the Committee. I hope that those who do not desire to see the
Government turned out of office will recollect that it is essential that the Ministry should control the business of the House. In the most civil way, therefore, I ask honorable members to take some notice of my observations in this connexion, and to allow us to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff, item by item, with a view to disposing of it as quickly as possible.
– I desire to point out that, the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - if it were carried - would not assist honorable members very much. It would merely result in postponing the consideration of the item of glucose. Therefore! desire to move -
That the consideration of all the items down to, and including item 231, be postponed until after the considerationof item 234.
My proposal, if carried, will allow the Committee to come to a decision upon the question whether a duty shall be levied upon kerosene, which is a very important matter to all classes of the community.
.- I wish to know whether the statement of the honorable member for Robertson, that the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie if carried - would merely result in postponing the consideration of glucose, is correct.
– Yes. The statement of the honorable member for Robertson is quite correct. ‘ If the motion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie were agreed to I should then have to put the Committee item, number 28, “sugar.”
– You, sir, have entirely misrepresented my intention.
– Order. I must point out to the honorable member that he submitted a certain motion. I called his attention to the wording of it, and. read it out to him distinctly so as to’ avoid any misunderstanding. He informed me that I had correctly stated it, and I then put it to the Committee.
– Under the circumstances I think that I might be permitted to amend my proposal. It is absurd to suggest that I desire to postpone the consideration of the duty upon glucose in order that we may consider item 28, which relates to sugar.
– The honorable member should accept the amendment I have suggested.
– The honorable member is always looking for points.
– I must point out to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the honorable member for Dalley is in possession of the chair. If the honorable member desires to withdraw his motion, he is at liberty to do so.
– What I desire is that item 27, and all subsequent items, be postponed till after the consideration of items 105, “tea,” 177, “mining engines and machinery,” 178, “electrical machinery,” 234, “oils,” 301, “chairs,” and 352, “ magazines.” With the permission of the Committee I will amend my motion to read as follows : -
That item 27 and - all subsequent items be postponed until after the consideration of items 105 “ tea,” 177 “ mining engines and machinery,” 178 “ electrical machinery,” 234 “ oils,” 301 “ chairs,” and 352 “ magazines.”
– I desire to ask you, sir, whether it is not possible for the Committee to deal with one item at a time? The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has moved for the consideration of half-a-dozen items; under the impression that .we cannot deal with one item at a. time by placing it at the head of the list?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie would be quite in order in moving the postponement of all other items until after the consideration of any particular item, as was done in the case of wire-netting. The same course may be followed now if the Committee so desires.
.- When resisting the proposal to give precedence to the consideration of wire-netting the other evening, I stated that the Tariff had evidently been framed upon scientific lines, and that the items which most materially affected the public ran consecutively. But the amount of pathos which was imported into the debate on behalf of the wirenetting manufacturers was such that only four members voted against the Treasurer’s proposal. Apparently the Committee is seized with only one idea. The consideration which an industry is to receive is evidently to be measured by its strength. The honorable member for Robertson desires to give precedence to the consideration of the duty upon kerosene. Instead of pouring oil upon the troubled waters, I shall endeavour to pour a little kerosene upon the embers of indignation-
– The honorable’ member will give us a blaze.
– We have never beforewitnessed such a blaze as occurred during the discussion of the duty upon wire netting. The tremulo and the top notes of Mary Ann were both introduced on behalf of the struggling settlers of Australia, but not one word was said in the interests of the general public. This morning we have had three startling announcements from the Treasurer. In the first place, he has declared that the Government have made up their mind. That fact is worth dwelling upon. It will come as a revelation tosome honorable members that the Government have a mind to make up. But we have been told by the Treasurer, not only that they have a mind, but that they have actually made it up. I only wish that the had made it up in regard to the question of wire-netting. The Treasurer has also announced that the Government will resist certain proposals to the end. To what end? To their own end, or to that of the debate? I will stake my existence that if honorable members intimate that they wish to accord precedence to any particular item of the Tariff, the Government will not resist it to their own end. The Treasurer also made a reference to the possibility of the Ministry being turned out of office. Any Government which introduces a Tariff of this description, which imposessuch heavy taxation upon the necessaries of life, deserve to be driven out of office.
– - Let us get on with the consideration of” the items.
– The honorable member for South Sydney took good care when it was proposed to give precedence to the consideration of wire-netting not to vote with the minority of four. When the members of the Labour Party are upon the public platform nobody could be. more declamatory than they are concerning attacks upon the interests of the working classes. If the Government agree to accord’ precedence to any particular item in the .Tariff we shall find all sortsof interests in the community clamouring for priority. Every business concern in Australia will have a right to ask that its interests shall be considered first. What an intolerable position that would be. There is a very easy way of prolonging this discussion, namely, by moving amendments such as were submitted the other evening in respect of wire-netting. But T have no desire to adopt that course. I say that precedence should not be given to the consideration of any particular item, but that the discussion of the Tariff should be proceeded with in the order in which it has been framed as rapidly as possible. Why should this Tariff be “peacocked?” My vote will be given against any peacocking of the Tariff, even if the Government is willing to allow that to be done. I hope that the items will be dealt with in the order in which they stand in the schedule. ‘
.- I shall not support the motion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. In the first place, to my mind, if it were desirable to take certain items out of their order, it does not include all the items to which preference shouldbegiven. For though I should like to see the kerosene duties dealt with as soon as possible, duties which, in my opinion, are even more important than the duties on wire-netting with which we have dealt, and while I should be glad for the Committee to deal as soon as possible with the other duties which the honorable member enumerated, I think that the timber duties should also be dealt with speedily. Oregon timber is very largely used in the district which I represent, and, in the interests of my constituents, I should like the Committee’ to come to a speedy decision in regard to the duty on it. I intend to move the reduction of duties on electrical and mining machinery, and on other items, but, for the reason I have given, I shall not vote for the motion. Another reason why I shall not support it is that we have no right to take the business out of the hands of. the Government unless we wish to remove the present Ministers from power.
– What justification has the honorable member for suggesting that the Government would resign if the motion were carried?
– The Treasurer has said so, and I cannot conceive that even this Ministry has so little sense of honour that it would remain in office if a motion were carried against it after a declaration of that sort. Therefore, if the honorable member on pressing the motion to a division succeeded in carrying it, he would defeat his own ends. I do not know if he would be sent for if the Government were to resign, but, in any case, a change in the Administration would mean a delay of some weeks. I regard the pro posed duties on kerosene and magazines as iniquitous and idiotic, and would like to see them removed without delay; but the most expeditious way of proceeding with the Tariff is to deal with its various items* in their order, and to sit longer hours. In my opinion, we might reasonably be expected to sit six days a week.
-Why not on Sunday, too?
– I am not” in favour of working more than eight hours a day for six days a week. According to a statement made by the Minister of Trade and Customs, a very large stock of kerosene was imported into the Commonwealth before the Tariff was introduced, and no duty was paid on it.
– But, notwithstanding that, the price has been increased.
– Yes. If the Government were receiving the extra charge, the position would not be so bad, but the money is going into the pockets of the importers.
– We cannot prevent that. Even if the importers did not add the duty, the retailers would probably increase the price.
– I am not finding fault with those concerned in this. If we were in business we should probably act similarly. The present position of affairs is inevitable.
– It is the outcome of the existing system.
– Yes. When the Government distributes everything, we shall not have these occurrences. Believing that the quickest way to deal, not only with the duties mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but with the Tariff as a whole, will be to consider its various items in their order, I shall vote against the motion.
Question - That all preceding items be postponed until after items Nos. 105, 177, 178, 234, 301, and 352 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority. … … 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Henry Willis) proposed -
That items 27 to 233, inclusive) be postponed until after the consideration of item 234, oils.
– I hope that the honorable member will not persist with this amendment.
– Why ?
– If we are to deal with a question like the Tariff effectually, and bring the discussion to a close, the only way is to allow the Government to arrange the order of business. Of course, there are a number of items to which honorable members, including myself, would prefer to give precedence; but the only parliamentary method is to allow the Government, so long as they continue in office, to decide the order in which business shall be submitted. The amendment really means a waste of time.
– I quite sympathize with the general principles of parliamentary government which the honorable member for Flinders has laid down; but this is the first time in my experience that I have known that it is the duty of honorable members to teach the Government their duty as to how the business shall be conducted.
.- I trust that the Committee will accept the item as submitted. The primary industries of a country are worth more con sideration than are the secondary industries, which are mere parasites on the former.
– Then making milk into butter is a parasitic industry?
– At present, I am not discussing butter, but glucose. It has been urged that glucose is used as an adulterant; and I believe that in America it is mixed with honey. In Australia, however, with the duty proposed, there is no possibility of glucose being used for the adulteration of foodstuffs. A fair amount of . glucose is used in the manufacture of confectionery, though not as an adulterant. It is used for sweetening purposes where sugar cannot be used, and if this duty be imposed, it will mean a larger demand for sugar. Glucose is produced from maize, and as a large quantity of the latter is grown in Australia, the time must be very near when it will be possible to convert it into pure glucose.
– In the course of my administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, I obtained some knowledge of glucose. The duty has been placed high.
– The duty is the same as before.
– That is so; and the duty was made high originally because the imported glucose is not so pure and wholesome as that which could be locally made.
– Is glucose made in Australia?
– Yes. Glucose is made from starch, maize, potatoes, and other ‘starchy materials, diluted with sulphuric acid. I know there are honorable members who have an idea that this duty ought to be altered ; and I think that if I make a few remarks now, some time may be saved. Glucose is a kind of sugar, though not so sweet. It may be produced also from dried grapes, cane sugar, and similar material.
– What is glucose like?
– I am sure I do not know.
– It is almost like honey.
– What is it used for?
– It is used in the manufacture of beer, in improving poor wines, and in the manufacture of confectionery.
– Chiefly in the manufacture of confectionery.
– That is so; and I am astonished that the manufacture of glucose has not been more developed in Australia. I understand from information supplied to rae, that glucose is imported in a solid state from Germany, Belgium, and the United States.
– Will the Treasurer say where glucose is made in Australia?
– I think Messrs. Parsons Bros., of Sydney, made an attempt to manufacture glucose in the north of New South Wales. As I have said, I had occasion to deal with glucose as a matter df administration when I was at the Department of Trade and Customs, and I then learnt that it could be manufactured from very deleterious materials.
-I am told that not a pound of glucose is made in Australia.
– I was under the impression that glucose, was made in the north of New South Wales.
– An attempt was made ‘to make glucose there.
– I knew “that there had been an attempt to manufacture the product in Australia. However, if glucose can be used for the purposes I have mentioned, I think the Government have done well to follow the recommendation of both sections of the Tariff Commission, and make the duty in accordance with the old Tariff.
– This item does not involve the question of free-trade or protection. The Treasurer has made a very fair statement, but he has not told us all the purposes to which glucose may be applied. Iri the first place, glucose is largely used in the manufacture of beer, because it is cheaper, although the beer thus produced is not so good as that made from sugar. ‘Glucose is also used as an adulterant for leather, for the purpose of perpetrating fraud on the public. Some classes of leather, when ready for manufacture, are dry, and, in order to soften them, glucose in a form very like that of Dutch cheese, is absorbed into it, to the extent of, perhaps, 2 lbs. or 3 lbs. to 15 lbs. or 16 lbs. of leather. If glucose is worth 3d. per lb., and leather is sold at od. per lb., we see that the adulteration gives an advantage to the manufacturer of leather ; and it is the presence of glucose which accounts for so many flies in cobblers’’ shops. I am informed by those in the confectionery business that 20 per cent, of glucose is used in the manufacture cf sweets.
– Only in the manufacture of some kinds of sweets.
– I have been informed by mein in the trade that in most of the better classes of confectionery 20 per cent, of glucose is used, but that it is absent from the common varieties. Boiled lollies, for instance, are made of two classes of sugar, but no glucose is employed in their manufacture. The glucose used for confectionery is of a light-grey colour, and is very waxy. It imparts to what is known as French confectionery a glossy appearance, making it shine like satin. I have had a lot to do with the importation of glucose; but until I visited confectionery works in Melbourne a few days ago I had not .seen the variety used in that trade.
– It is not unwholesome.
– It is said not., to be injurious, but there are chemists who hold that it is. It is a residue.
– It is the very opposite.
– The glucose used in the making of confectionery is extracted largely from Indian corn. It is a manufactured commodity - a pure wax. In a factory which I visited last week I saw men drawing it over a large pin and mixing it up just as cobbler’s wax might be treated.
– It is nothing like cobbler’s wax. Here is a sample of it.
– I saw barrels of it in the confectionery works which I visited. It is used as an adulterant in confectionery, amd is an imposition on the little children who consume sweets. I would support a duty that would prevent its general use. It is of no value save for making a cheap beer, for adulterating leather, and for use in the manufacture of confectionery. I repeat that it is a wax, and not a sugar, and its use is a fraud upon the general public. I shall therefore support the Government proposal.
. The honorable member is mistaken in speaking of glucose as a by-product. It is made to an enormous extent in Germany from potatoes, and from maize in the United States of America. It comprises the starch contents of either maize, potatoes, or rice, and is not an injurious substance.
An Honorable Member. - Does it not contain sulphurous acid?
– Sulphurous acid is found in it.
– A good deal of glucose put on the market contains sulphurous acid.
– But not in sufficient quantities to be a menace to the public health.
– Some sulphurous acid has been found to contain arsenic.
– If I remember rightly, in connexion with the London beer prosecutions it was shown that the use of arsenic in improper proportions produced bad results, but my contention simply is that glucose per se is not injurious. I agree that it is improper to lead people to believe, that cane sugar is being used in certain commodities, when, as a matter of fact, glucose is substituted for it. For instance, the use of glucose in lieu of cane sugar in cordials should not be permitted.
– Why not, if it is a wholesome commodity?
– Because people drink cordials to obtain certain results. The States authorities should insist upon certain standards for cordials, so that the public would know what they were buying. If the public desire cordials in which cane sugar is used, they should be able to get them; and, on the other hand, those who desire to use cordials in the manufacture of which glucose has been used should have an opportunity to ‘do so. So far as I have been able to ascertain glucose is noninjurious, but has not the same qualities as cane sugar. While the import duty is justifiable, I fail to recognise the propriety of imposing an Excise of £4 per ton.
– The Excise duty was imposed because it was said that glucose might compete with sugar:
– Why should we subordinate everything to the interests of Queensland sugar? I have given the growers of sugar in Queensland and also in New South Wales, every assistance, . but I think it most unfair to impose a disability in the shape of an Excise duty of £4 per ton on glucose, since it can be made from maize’ grown in New South Wales or Queensland, or from potatoes produced in Tasmania, Victoria, or any of the other States.
– Hear, ‘hear. The duty was imposed on the strong recommendation of both sections of the Tariff Commission.
– On the recommendation of a portion of each section.
– At all events, I think it was a mistake, and I shall be very glad to join with others in removing it.
– At present we have an import duty of £8 per ton, and an export duty of £4 per ton, so that there is a protection of only £4 per ton. Would the honorable member be in favour of removing the Excise duty and reducing the import duty ?
– I have not sufficiently considered the question to enable me to express a definite opinion as to the measure of protection that should be granted to the manufacturers of glucose.
– They contend that £4 per ton is hardly enough because maize and other products from which it is manufactured are cheaper in other countries/
– I am inclined to think that an import duty of £6 per ton without any Excise duty ought to be sufficient. That, however,’ is an opinion formed only as the result of a very superficial inquiry into the manufacture of glucose. I do not profess to know enough about the subject to be able to say what is the precise degree of assistance necessary.
– It is contended that in the absence of these duties, glucose in many cases would be substituted for sugar. ‘ ‘
– I disagree with that view. Glucose is used in many cases as a substitute for sugar, but I do not think the difference in the respective duties on sugar and glucose is likely to affect the degree to which glucose is used. Glucose is not as sweet as sugar.
– Experts say. that it has half the sweetening properties of sugar.
– It has a gelatinous quality which sugar does not possess, and which, commends it for certain purposes to manufacturers and others. I think we could very well abolish the Excise duty, and in that event I should be quite willing to vote for a reduction of the import duty to £6 per ton, if no good reason were shown for maintaining the higher dutv.
.- The Treasurer, I think, was in error in saying that glucose is produced in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member corrected that statement, saving that efforts had been made without success to produce glucose in Australia.
– Some attempts may have been made, but my information is that glucose is not at present being manufactured in the Commonwealth.. I am prepared to support the duty proposed by the Government, because I believe that this is an industry which ought to be established in our midst. We produce unlimited quantities of potatoes and maize, which form the basis of glucose. The process of manufacturing this article is comparatively a simple one. The article itself enters into a great many processes, altogether ‘apart from the fact that it is used as an adulterant in some cases. I entirely disagree with those who claim that glucose is unwholesome. It is true that in some processes of manufacture there remains a residue of arsenic or sulphurous acid. But I am of opinion that none of this unwholesome glucose is used in connexion with any food productions within the Commonwealth. So far as confectionery is concerned, I believe that in its manufacture one staple brand of glucose is used, and one only. I think that it is known as the “Buffalo A” brand. It is American glucose, and is preferred by confectioners chiefly because of the absence of colouring matter in it. They require a material which is free from colour, and this particular brand of glucose is produced in large quantities by a, firm in America, principally - if not entirely - for the purpose of being used in the manufacture of confectionery. It is quite true, as has been pointed out by the Treasurer, that a recommendation was made - not by both sections of the Tariff Commission, but by certain members of that body - that the use of glucose in sweetmeats should be prohibited. I was not able to sign that recommendation, because I was of opinion that no evidence had been adduced to justify such drastic action being taken. If any danger is to be apprehended from the use of impure glucose in confectionery, the matter is one which the States Governments “ought to remedy.
– The same objection can be urged to the use of impure glucose that can be urged to the use of rotten fruit.
– Precisely. The honorable member has stated the case very well indeed in regard to this commodity. I have very little to add except that I desire to indicate the position which I took up in regard to the recommendation of the Tariff Commission. I was unable - as I have al ready said - to support that recommendation. I think that it would be grossly unfair to confectioners who use a pure quality of glucose to impose upon them such a tax as is proposed by way of Excise. While I am prepared to support the imposition of a Customs duty of 8s. per cwt. upon that article in order to encourage its production within the Commonwealth, I certainly think that no disability should be imposed upon confectioners who use glucose in good faith, and who take care that it is of the right quality;, especially as its consumption is not attended with any injurious results.
.- We are asked to impose a duty of 8s. per cwt. upon imported glucose and to levy an Excise duty of 4s. per cwt. upon that article. The recommendation of the Tariff Commission is based upon the answers given to questions numbered from 98,705 onwards. Now I defy -any honorable member to find those questions in the report of the proceedings of the Commission. . In other words, we have recommendations from that body, which are based upon evidencethat has not been submitted to Parliament. Of course, I am aware that the evidencein question was given by Mr. Smart, one of the departmental officers, and we havebeen informed that it is necessary that that evidence should be kept secret.
– I do not think that Mr.. Smart’s evidence has anything to do with the recommendation of the Commission.
– The suggestion that anExcise duty should be imposed must have emanated from Mr. Smart, arid him alone. Personally, I trust that the Government will agree to abolish the Excise. _ So far as. I am aware, there is no Excise” duty imposed on glucose in any other part of the world. If we prohibit the importation of that article, we must prohibit the importation of confectionery, which contains glucose. I do not think that the corifectionersof Australia would be slow to take advanage of that position of affairs. The effect of the use of glucose in the manufacture of confectionery is to keep it moist. We all know that the confectionery of to-day is not of the hard, brittle character that it was years ago. Those of us who, in our callow days, used to indulge in a littletoffee making upon our own account, know that by the use of butter and sugar we could make a pretty hard toffee - so hard’ that it had frequently to be broken witha hammer. The use of glucose acts as a preservative in keeping confectionery moist,. because, resembling a gum, it will not granulate as sugar will. If we “prohibit the use of glucose by our own people, we have a right to prohibit the importation of any confectionery containing glucose. Honorable members have been led to believe that the recommendation of the Tariff Commission in this connexion is based to some extent upon the evidence tendered to that body by the Government Analyst of Victoria, Mr. Wilkinson. But I would point out that his latest information upon the subject dates as ‘far back as 1889. Upon page 527 of the report of the proceedings of the Tariff Commission, Mr. Wilkinson makes a translation from the German Journal of Foods and Products. What he says in regard to glucose will be gathered from the following extract from the report - 3105. On the whole, can you say that the use of glucose is injurious ? - No, provided it contains no large proportion of sulphurous acid. In Switzerland, one of the Cantons, in 1899, passed a law dealing with its use, on the ground that starch sugar syrups had frequently shown a high content of sulphurous acid. 3106. Is it a fact that considerable quantities of foodstuffs are imported from America and the United Kingdom containing glucose ? - Yes. 3107. That is undoubtedly so? - It is. 3108. Have you any knowledge of how it happens that the German glucose is nearly twice the price of the American? - No; I have no knowledge of that. 3124. They can bring in any kind of glucose and use it all ? - Yes. There are very low grades of glucose imported here - very low grades. 3125. Are these low grades introduced into foods which are consumed by the public? - I do not know their exact destination. 3126. Have you any reason to believe that they enter into the production of confectionery? - I have no proof whatever on that point.
He admits that the cheap class of glucose is probably used in the manufacture of leather. But the most important question which he was asked was put to him by the honorable member for Perth.
You know the process of methylating spirit which makes it unfit for human consumption? -Yes.
Do you know of an v ‘equivalent process that could be applied to glucose to make certain that it would not enter into consumption when it was inferior? - We could easily devise means for that. There would be no difficulty there at all.
The Customs Department should frame regulations to prevent the importation of inferior glucose, and I have no doubt that the manufacturers are agreeable to the imposition of reasonable restrictions. The honorable member for Batman informs me that there is a standard for glucose’, so that an impure article need not be used. I’ hope that the Government will agree to reduce this import duty to 6s. per cwt., and strike out the Excise duty. If the rates remain as they’ are, they will be a serious handicap upon persons whose business requires them to use glucose.
.- Honorable members will agree that, if a man goes to a grocer and asks for sugar, he does not expect to get sand mixed with it, and, similarly, if he asks for glucose, he should - not be given an impure article, containing ‘ deleterious substances. Unfortunately in these days, food-stuffs are often improperly prepared, and things that would be wholesome in themselves become unwholesome, and even dangerous to life, because of the’ impurities which they contain. The “Buffalo A” glucose, which, it is said, is that used by confectioners, has a density of 45.5 degrees, an ash of 3”5i cent., contains no arsenic, and only 14 per cent, of water; whereas under the Victorian Pure Food Act regulations, glucose must be of a density of from 41 to 45 degrees, have not more than 1 per cent, of ash, contain no arsenic, and not more than 21 per cent of water. Thus it will be seen that the “ Buffalo A “ glucose is purer than the standard set und’er the Victorian Act. By the courtesy of an official of the House, Goodchild and Tweney’s Technological and Scientific Dictionary bas been placed in my hands, and I find in it the following definition of glucose, which is otherwise called dextrose, or grape sugar -
A white crystalline solid, anhydrous when crystallized from strong alcohol, containing one molecule of water when crystallized from water. .. _ It occurs in honey and many sweet fruits, always along with laevulose.
Glucose is merely another name for” grape sugar, and is found in fruits and in honey.. It is not as sweet as cane sugar, but if the medical ideas in regard to the process of digestion are correct, all starchy food must be changed into grape sugar to be properly digested. Laevulose - or fructose or fruit sugar - according to the same authority is -
A white crystalline solid (fine silky needles) ; melts at 95 degrees ; readily soluble in water ; sweet taste, as sweet as cane sugar. It occurs along with dextrose in all . ripe fruits, also in honey.
If it be a fact that all starchy foods are changed into grape sugar by the action of digestion, glucose in its pure form should not be unwholesome.
– All starchy foods are not changed, though they should be changed.
– If - the digestive organs are not in good order, or too much is eaten, the proper changes will not occur, the stomach being very much like a furnace from which, if you put too much coal into it, you will not get the best results. But while pure glucose is not harmful, the use of impure glucose should be prohibited by an Act like the Pure Foods Act of Victoria, which, although not perfect, goes a long way in the direction of perfection. If the Treasurer insists, on a duty of 8s. per cwt., he will have my vote, because I am a protectionist up to the hilt ; but I think it would be a wise thing to reduce the Excise, in order to give greater inducement to the local manufacture of glucose. We know that potatoes are produced in Australia as cheaply as in any part of the world. According to Mulhall’s Dictionary of Statistics, revised to November, 1898, page 478 - potatoes in Great Britain, in the period from 1881 ‘to 1889, varied in price from 5s. 5d. to 8s., the average being less than 7s. per cwt., or £7 per ton. But I have known the finest potatoes to be sold in Victoria for£1 10s. a ton, and even less.
– Potatoes are being sold for £1 a ton in New South Wales now.
– Sometimes they cannot be given away.
– I have “ known potatoes to be so cheap that they cannot be given away. They, and other surplus products, might well be used for the production of glucose.
– We ought to be able to export a.nv quantitv of glucose.
– Germany is the greatest producer of potatoes in the world, her ‘ production in 1.897 being about 31,800,000 tons, while that of France was only . 12,900,000 tons, that of Russia 20,700,000 tons, that of the United Kingdom 6,100,000 tons, and that of the United States 6,300,000 tons. Great Britain, Austria, and the United States, have not as large a production of potatoes as Germany. In that country, potatoes are largely converted into glucose and spirit, and they might be used it) that way here. So, too, might the grain surplus which we have in seasons of great plenty, which now is sold at prices giving but a scant profit to the growers. If the glucose industry were started in this country, it would provide a market for surplus products, and the use of pure glucose is by no means unwholesome. When glucose is pure, it is good to use, and, when impure, bad, which may be said of any food product.
– I hope that the Government will adhere to its proposals. I do not altogether agree with what has been said as to the desirability of encouraging the use of glucose as a food product, though I admit the truth “of a good deal that has been said regarding the effects of its use. Honorable members would do well to read the evidence on this subject given before the Tariff Commission by Mr. Wilkinson, one of the best chemists in the State. He has given special attention to the question of the adulteration of foods, and has followed, as closely as one living in this part of the world can, the developments of latter-dav science in this regard. He has made some very emphatic statements about the use of glucose. The proposed duty is not a differential one. High class glucose will be charged at the same rate as inferior or impure glucose, and glucose imported for use in confectionery will have to pav as much as glucose imported for the adulteration of leather, for which purpose _ most inferior glucose is used. I should like to see the use of glucose in connexion with the preparation of leather prohibited altogether. It is to be regretted that our leather does not hold a better place in. the markets of the world : but the fact that it is not as goodas it should be is due to the use of barium and glucose in its preparation. We should do good service to our primary industries if we took such action as would secure an improvement in the quality of Australian leather. As has been pointed out, confectioners use glucose, not because of its sweetening properties, which, it is said, are only one-half - and, according to German chemists, only one-third - as strong as those of cane sugar, but because it does not crystallize so easily, and has, therefore, better keeping properties.
– Isthere not 6 per cent, lost in evaporation in using glucose ?
– Yes. It is dearer than sugar.
– No ; it is not.
– The duty on sugar is only£6 a ton, while that on glucose is £8 a ton.
– There is no uniform price for glucose, some qualities being purchasable for half what other qualities would cost. Inferior glucose can be bought for much less than sugar. Last year we imported nearly 3,000 tons of glucose. According to Mr. Wilkinson, the use of glucose is absolutely prohibited in Switzerland, that country which is so admired by the honorable member for Melbourne.
– Because of the frequent presence in it of adulterants and impurities. Glucose of itself is not objectionable.
– Pure glucose could be obtained for Switzerland from Germany very easily.
– The Swiss authorities have taken the maximum precaution by prohibiting the use of glucose whether pure or impure. I think that they have gone too far.
– This is . what the authorities in Switzerland say about glucose -
The examination of numerous starch sugar syrups intended for use in confectionery and in the manufacture of artificial honey, has frequently shown a content of sulphurous acid. The sale and use of starch and sugar syrup containing sulphurous acid is prohibited for hygienic reasons.
– The Swiss do not discriminate.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the adjournment for lunch I was speaking of the necessity for some inspection in connexion with the manufacture of glucose, and suggesting that, while adhering to the duty of 8s., the Government should reduce the Excise.
– I think we shall be agreeable to reduce the Excise.
– There has been some talk of abolishing the Excise, but I do not agree with the suggestion. Although I am a protectionist, I feel that, in order to have some inspection of the local manufacture., it is necessary to have an Excise duty ; and in support of that view I may quote from the evidence given before the Tariff Commission by Mr. Wilkinson, to whom I have already alluded - 3122. Is glucose quite as wholesome as cane sugar? - Physiologically, there is little differ-, ence if the sugars are pure, as far as’ I know, but weight for weight the alimentary advantage lies with cane sugar. Glucose is so seldom pure; like starch syrup, it invariably contains more or less dextrine, which is less easily absorbed than sugar.
That explains the reason why French confectionery is of a much more harmful character than that which is generally known as boiled confectionery. Sweets made from pure sugar are very much less harmful than the more attractive and more expensive sweets retailed under the name of French confectionery. The dental troubles to which Australians seem specially liable are in no small degree traceable to the use of those sweets. As already stated it has been found necessary in one part of Switzerland to prohibit the use of glucose ; and the reason is a very simple one. Glucose does not ferment like ordinary cane sugar, nor does it crystallize when dried or submitted to the evaporating process. That is the reason why confectioners and jam makers prefer glucose; and it is in this connexion that there is the greatest danger to our people. The following is a further extract from Mr. Wilkinson’s evidence - 3190. Do you think there is any danger of briquettine being used, for instance, by confectioners? - Mr. Thompson assures me that that would be utterly impossible - that glucose is only one ingredient. I presume there are many other ingredients.
I take my present attitude, in the first place, because I desire to restrict, as far as possible., the use of glucose, and, in the second place, where it is made locally, I should like the manufacture to be under proper supervision. Honorable members are aware that at present-and I fear we shall be in the same position for a very long time - this Parliament has no control over the adulteration of foods. That matter is administered in a more or less - and, I am very sorry to say, in most cases a less - effective fashion by the States. I am afraid we shall not find the States, as a whole, prepared to hand over that important duty to us. But, at the same time, I feel that until the administration is handed over to the Federal Parliament we shall not have that effective supervision necessary in the interests of the health of the people.
– Does the honorable member say that the use of glucose is unhealthy ?
– Certainly I do.
– When manufactured under proper conditions? .
– I think that absolutely pure glucose, manufactured under proper conditions, and administered in proper quantities, is not injurious. But the unfortunate fact remains that the most attrac-. tive confectionery in the market is composed very largely of glucose.
– In what way is glucose injurious ?
– It is injurious in so far that it is a frequent cause of extreme indigestion. I am speaking now of the ordinary glucose of commerce.
– The honorable member says that there’ is too much glucose in French sweets?
– In any case, that is not the right kind of glucose.
– As I have already pointed out, a person may eat three times as much sugar as glucose and not suffer in the same degree as he would from the latter. In the first place, three times as much glucose is required to secure the same degree of sweetness, and, in the second place, the process of the manufacture of glucose is, unfortunately, not always under, such supervision as to conduce to the elimination of the dangerous products, arsenic and sulphurous acid. My suggestion is that we should agree to a duty of 8s., and reduce the Excise to is. This would secure the local manufacture, and afford some guarantee that only a high-class product, which is not so dangerous, will be used. I wish, however, that there could be some differentiation with regard to quality. I do not know how that could be brought about.; but I suppose the only way would be to impose an ad valorem duty. My feeling is that, if possible, we should altogether prohibit the importation of inferior glucose, which is not used as an article of food, but for the purposes of adulteration..
– Will the higher duty not exclude glucose of inferior quality ?
– There is some glucose which is worth less than £2, as compared with pure glucose worth ]£’].
– The inferior glucose is used for dealing with leather.
– That is what I meant when I spoke of glucose being used for the purposes of adulteration. Glucose is forced into the pores of leather for the purpose of increasing the weight, and, when the unfortunate consumer goes out in a shower, the glucose disappears, and leaves him with the open pores only. I shall be very glad to- support any reasonable proposal which has for its object the prohibition of the importation of inferior glucose.
.- I hope the Committee will accept the duty as it appears in the schedule, because, in my- opinion, it will encourage local manufacture, and enable us to have some control in regard to quality. I quite agree with the honorable member for Laanecoorie as to the ills caused by the use of glucose in large quantities in “ the manufacture of lollies ; but I think the honorable member’s argument fails him when he suggests a reduction of the Excise to is. Any reduction of the Excise below 4s. would bring, glucose into direct competition with pure sugar, and tend to displace the latter.
.- If we support the proposed duty from a’ protective point of view, we must get rid of most of the Excise. A movement was made last year with a view to forming a cooperative company, composed of growers of maize and users of glucose, for the establishment of a factory for the manufacture of the latter. At that time the import duty on glucose was 8s:, and so far as was known there was no Excise duty ; but the recommendation that there should be an Excise checked the movement. . It has been pointed out to me by those connected with the proposed company that they have to pay about £2 a ton more for maize in Australia than in America,- so that really there would be a duty equal to about 2s. only, which, of course, is of no use for protective purposes. At the present time, I am informed, some ^£30,000 worth of glucose is imported, and’ this is made entirely out of maize in the corn States of America.
– The Customs revenue amounts to a very large sum.
– -I am quoting figures which have been given me. If the duty as proposed is imposed, and the Excise is reduced, there is no doubt that a glucose industry will be established straight away, to the great advantage of maize-growers.
Item agreed to.
Item 28. Sugar, the produce of sugar cane, per cwt., 6s.
.- I cannot allow this item to pass without a protest against the proportion of the sugar duties to the Excise. The Government almost promised to give some indication of a new policy. When the honorable member for Swan was Treasurer there was some idea of abolishing the Excise, and, I think, of lowering the import duty, though I am not sure on the latter point. It would be just as well for honorable members to consider the position in regard to sugar.
– May I interrupt the honorable member for one moment? I did not quite understand that item 28 had been put to the Committee, and I had intended to ask honorable members to postpone all intervening items, in order to deal with the Excise on glucose, as the more convenient method of conducting the business. If I can get permission, I shall submit a motion to that effect, as, it will beremembered, I did in the case of tobacco.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Treasurer have leave to submit the motion he has indicated ?
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the remaining items of the Tariff be postponed until after the consideration of the Excise on glucose.
.- Before we consider the question of the Excise on glucose, I should like some information as to why the importation of saccharin is prohibited ?
– We have already passed the item “ glucose,” and item 28 is now before the Committee ; but the Treasurer has moved that all the. remaining items be postponed until after - the consideration of the Excise on glucose.
– Saccharin until quite recently was dutiable, but its importation is now prohibited. T have scores of testimonials from doctors and others to the effect that it is not iniurious to health, and manufacturers of cordials complain that its prohibition is a serious menace to their industry.
– I think that it will be open for the honorable member to deal with this question when we reach item 278(b), which covers saccharin.
– Then I shall be satisfied to deal with it at that stage. I wish to ascertain the grounds upon which the Government have been induced to issue a proclamation prohibiting the introduction of saccharin except for medicinal purposes.
Motion agreed to.
Glucose, per cwt., 4s.
– I am inclined to think that the proposed Excise on glucose would do more harm than good. If glucose is to be used in Australia, it is desirable that it should be manufactured here, so that we may see that a pure article is supplied.
– Would it not be better to encourage the use of pure sugar?
– It would not come into competition with sugar.
– Even if the Excise were removed ?
– Under the old Tariff there was no Excise an glucose, and it did not compete with sugar. Last year only about 3,000 tons were imported, and I believe that for the most part it was used in the manufacture of confectionery. We should be far more likely to obtain a pure glucose if we supplied our own requirements. For these reasons I am willing to agree to a reduction of the Excise dutv to 1s. per cwt. By imposing an Excise duty we shall give the Customs authorities power to supervise the industry in a way that would not otherwise be possible.
– And make the industry more amenable to the new protection.
– That is so.
– What would be the effect on the revenue?
– The revenue will not be seriously affected.
– Will glucose, if manufactured locallv, be more expensive than sugar?
– I understand that there is a difference of about per ton between the price of the two commodities.
– A difference of one-third. Glucose is now worth £22 per ton.
– I understand that it can be obtained in America - and I think this is the German article - at about £10 per ton, but here the price is£22.
– That is because there is an import duty of £8 per ton.
– There was no Excise duty under the old Tariff, and the adoption of my proposal will not seriously affect . the revenue. I therefore move -
That the following words be added, “and on and after nth October, 1907, per cwt,1s.”
.- During this debate, a number of surprising statements regarding the unwholesomeness of glucose have been made.
– Did the honorable member hear what the honorable member for Laanecoorie had to say on that point ?
– I did, and although I do not pretend to be an authority on the subject, I do not agree with him. It cannot be -denied that in England some years ago, owing to attempts to prepare this commodity in a certain way, arsenic was introduced, and carried into the glucose and from that into beer, with very serious consequences to the use of, not only glucose, but of beer. That state of affairs, however, has passed away. It is a. well-known scientific fact that glucose can be produced in a perfectly wholesome way. The manufacturers would be the last in the world to produce an unwholesome article.
– We have heard that story before.
– I do not know why the honorable member should make that observation ; the fact is that glucose is a purely chemical production.
– The trade in glucose would absolutely disappear if it were made in an unwholesome way.
– Quite so. It was nearly lost owing to the incident to which I have referred, and some time has been occupied in restoring the trade. The best authorities assert that glucose made in the ordinary way is as wholesome as sugar.
– At all events, it must be an exceedingly slow poison, since the greater proportion of confectionery made here, as well as in Europe, is composed largely of glucose. It is made from materials that are largely produced in Australia. In Germany, it is made chiefly from potatoes, and in the . United States of America from maize. The starch from potatoes and maize yields exactly the same chemical product known as glucose. An Excise duty may be justifiable from a revenue stand-point-
– It will enable us to exercise some supervision over the industry.
– Supervision is unnecessary. The process of manufacture is a purely chemical one. First of all, the maize has to be treated in a certain wayto extract the starch which it contains, and to that starch certain chemicals have to be added to produce the sugar. I am not going to advise the Committee to adopt one course or the other, but I think honorable members should know that the alarmist reports with regard to the effect of glucose, and the necessity for supervising its manufacture, are beside the question.
– If we made sufficient glucose for our own requirements, what would it mean in the way of employment?
– I cannot say. The Treasurer said just now that last year about 3,000 tons were imported. My impression is, however, that the average importation is about 2,300 tons, and I am sure that the small local demand would not justify a large expenditure on the plant necessary to produce the article. If the industry were established here, I see no reason why we should not in time be able to export glucose just as well as do the United States of America or Germany. The honorable member for Laanecoorie referred to an inferior class of glucose which is a special product made for certain industrial purposes, and which cannot be used in the manufacture of confectionery.
– What would prevent its being used for that purpose?
– Its colour for one thing.
– The inferior glucose to which I refer is used amongst other things for the preparation of leather. I am not an expert in leather, but I am informed that, whilst the use of a large quantity of glucose in the preparation of leather is objectionable, a certain proportion is necessary. -The inferior glucose is made only for a special purpose. But MacRobertson and other confectioners would never dream of using in the manufacture of their confectionery glucose which was made for the purpose of stiffening leather.
– The Government Analyst of Victoria admits that a. means can easily be devised to prevent inferior glucose from being used for confectionery purposes.
– Exactly. It can be methylated. It seems to me that if we reduce the Excise dutv to1s. per cwt. it will not produce much revenue, and Excise supervision is not necessary. I should have preferred to see the Customs duties lowered to 6s., and the Excise abolished. When honorable members talk lightly about levying an Excise duty they apparently forget that its imposition involves a great deal more to the manufacturer than the mere payment of the Excise. They forget that the manufacturer has to pay for the services of a Customs officer., that he is obliged to work during Customs hours, and that he is subjected to many incidental disabilities. As a matter of fact, he is called upon to pay, in charges of various kinds, a considerable sum in addition to the amount of the Excise. If the Excise upon glucose is fixed at£4 per ton, it may easily happen that these charges will represent another £1 per ton.
– The same remark applies to all other duties.
– No. When a manufacturer is working under an Excise system he must have a Customs officer upon his premises.
– Not always.
– If the Government’ have not a Customs officer in charge of these operations they run a considerable risk of being swindled. I repeat that when honorable members talk lightly about levying an Excise duty they should remember that its imposition may represent a burden which is too heavy to be borne by the industry which they desire to establish.
– The honorable member for Mernda has affirmed that the best authorities have given certain evidence in regard to glucose. In opposition to his statement., I intend to quote the evidence of a man who occupies a very high position in scientific circles in the Commonwealth - I refer to Mr. Percy Wilkinson, the Government Analyst of Victoria. From page 528 of the report of the proceedings of the Tariff Commission, I find that the following question was put to Mr. Wilkinson -
There was an impression in Parliament that the use of glucose as an article of food was injurious. Was there any foundation for that impression?
His reply was -
It contains occasionally fairly large quantities of sulphurous acid, which is used for bleaching purposes - for improving its colour. I examined two samples of glucose taken from Melbourne confectioners in July, 1902, and I found that one contained 5.32 grains of sulphurous acid per lb. of glucose ; whilst the other contained 6.59 grains per lb. of glucose.
– Is that quantity injurious ?
– Then the health, authorities will deal with the matter.
– The honorable member for” Mernda is now changing his ground. He declared just now that glucose was wholesome.
– I did not say that sulphurous acid was wholesome.
- Mr. Wilkinson continues -
The presence of arsenic in glucose has been recorded on several occasions, but at the present time I think there is very little probability of arsenic being found in it. Most commercial glucose contains plaster of Paris (Calcium sulphate), which arises from the chemicals used in the conversion of starch into glucose.
Is it desirable that, in the consumption of confectionery, our people should be treated to doses of plaster of Paris, which is a favourite poison, used largely for the destruction of rats? It is absolutely indigestible, and it also has cumulative effects.
– But Mr. Wilkinson does not say that he found any plaster of Paris in glucose used in Victoria.
– He continues-
Under the new standard fixed by the United States Government for starch, sugar, and. glucose, they place limits to the amount of ash that the glucose may contain. That is to prevent an excessive amount of inorganic matters, which consist principally of calcium sulphate, with a small amount of chlorides.
I should not have read this evidence had not my own statement ‘been challenged. I stated that, in my opinion, a large quantity of the glucose imported into Australia is unfit for human consumption. That opinion is confirmed by Mr. Wilkinson, who found that both of the samples which he examined contained an inordinate quantity of sulphurous acid.
– Has not the Pure Foods Act in Victoria overcome that difficulty?
– No. I do not believe that any satisfactory solution of these difficulties will be found until the Commonwealth assumes control of such questions. Any honorable member who has special knowledge in regard to this question is not treating the country fairly if he withholds that knowledge. I wish the Committee to understand that I have not been ibriefed by anybody. But I feel that a certain responsibility rests upon me, and I have, therefore, done my best to give honorable members the benefit of the information in my possession.
– I speak upon this question with considerable diffidence, because I recognise that a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. Upon general principles, I think it would be a mistake to impose heavy Excise duties upon articles in conjunction with high protective duties. If our object is merely to protect local manufacturers, surely it is better to increase the Customs duties than to bring an Excise system into operation. During this debate the point has been raised as to whether an Excise should not be imposed upon glucose, with a view to prevent the circulation in our midst of injurious materials. I cannot see that we possess power under the Customs Act 10 examine such materials from the standpoint of quality. My own impression is that it will be far better for us to impose upon this article a sufficient mea’sure of protection. Undoubtedly glucose ought to be produced in Australia. I regret that the Treasurer has come forward with a new proposal. Surely, when he submits a proposal, he should stand to it. Certainly he ought not to abandon it the moment it is attacked by honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber.
– Why is the honorable member always “ pitching “ into the Government?
– The moment that the Ministry are attacked they climb down. Surely the various items of the Tariff have been properly considered by them. To my mind, those items resemble a piece of mosaic, in that, if one point is disturbed, the whole structure is disturbed.
– Why is the honorable member so anxious to fight for the interests of the men across the sea?
– I wish to protect our own people. But the Government urge that by imposing an Excise duty we shall be able to determine whether the glucose used in Australia is of a deleterious character. I know of no power by which we candetermine that.
– This is base ingratitude after the way in which the Government supported the honorable member last night.
– Nothing of the sort. I desire to help the Government. I wish to help them to secure an effective working Tariff, which will assist our industries and enable manufacturers to pay proper wages to their employes. But I cannot understand their inconsistent attitude. When their proposals are attacked, I do not expect them to surrender the position in the way that they have done.
– They should consult the Opposition corner party !
– They would be acting wisely if they did, because they would then get the benefit of some sound commonsense.
– Is the honorable member speaking for that party now?
– The Opposition corner party are, unanimous in their desire to do what is best in the interests of the people. We have come here to serve the Commonwealth as a whole, not a mere section of the community. In my opinion, nothing will be gained by imposing an Excise on glucose, and I advocate allowing it to be made free, in order to encourage its manufacture within the Commonwealth. We have all the raw products necessary for making it.
– I wish to read to the Committee a little more of the evidence of Mr. Wilkinson. The question and answer following the last quotation of the honorable member for Laanecoorie are as follow -
On the whole, can you say the use of glucose is injurious? - No, provided it contains no large proportion of sulphurous acid.
– Does the honorable member consider 6 per cent, a large proportion ?
– Six grains in the 1 lb. is not 6 per cent. According to a return furnished by. Mr. Wilkinson to the honorable member for Wide Bay, when Minister of Trade and Customs, 84 of 100 samples of foodstuffs he analyzed in Melbourne were found to be adulterated. “
– To an injurious extent?
– All the samples of milk were adulterated to an injurious extent.
– I am desirous of placing no impost on the manufacture of glucose, because I think that it will be better to have it made in the Commonwealth, in accordance with the requirements of our health laws, and under the best conditions, than to continue to import it. According to a letter which has been handed to me by the honorable member for Herbert, an attempt is to be made to establish a glucose factory in Australia. To manufacture the glucose now used in the Commonwealth, 200,000 bushels of maize would be required. Therefore the industry would enable our farmers to get rid of their surplus produce, and its establishment would be of immense advantage to a district like Gippsland. So far as I am aware, in no other part of the world is an Excise imposed on the manufacture of glucose. I could understand the imposition of an Excise to secure proper labour conditions, but without a statement from the Minister that this Excise has been imposed for that reason, and will not be levied where fair condi-tions are observed, 1 shall vote against the proposal.
– The honorable member for Mernda said that he believes that the use of glucose is essential for the production of good leather. We know that a good deal has been heard about our leather being refused in England, and I believe that the Board of Trade had some dispute with the Minister of Trade and Customs in regard to it, because of the quantity of glucose in it. As a matter of fact, the best leather is made without glucose, which is used by tanners to load hides in order to make them heavy.
– It is used as a dressing.
– The grain side is that on which a finish is put, but glucose is applied to the flesh side of sole leather. It is used, not to stiffen or dress the leather, but to bleach it, to give it a light colour, and to add weight to it. A side of leather will take as much as 3 lbs. of glucose. At one time, glucose was not used in Australia, and there was then a great demand for Australian leather, English importers buying it, and making a good profit by loading it with glucose. Now, however, it is loaded here. But the best leather is not loaded. Glucose is applied when the leather is practically finished. The honorable member for Mernda said that there were different qualities. That is true of almost every commodity. But he told us that the quality applied to leather is different from that used by brewers. Yet I know from personal knowledge of brewers arid .tanners being supplied from the same consignment. The same class of glucose as is used for loading leather is used in the manufacture of beer. The honorable member for Laanecoorie read the evidence of a Government analyst to show that glucose is injurious to health if it contains certain impurities. But its unwholesomeness is a question of degree. Last week, on visiting a confectionery factory, I learned that 20 per cent, of glucose is contained in the sweetmeat known as “milk kisses,” while in French confectionery there is even more. As children’ will consume as many sweets as they can obtain, it is undoubtedly injurious to allow them to eat- lollies in which there is a large quantity of glucose. As for the sample exhibited in this Chamber, it seems to me to have been diluted. Starch and sulphurous acid are used in the manufacture of glucose. Sulphuric acid is volatile, but if diluted with water it causes the pores of the skin of’ both human beings and animals to open, and when used for rapid curing, enables alum, salt, and other things to be worked into the leather very quickly.
.- I am surprised at the position in which we find ourselves in this matter. Those of us who are protectionists desire to do what we can to give reasonable opportunities for the establishment of industries, but we shall be placed in a very strange position if we follow the Government. It is pot necessary to refer to what took place last night in regard to the wire-netting duty ; it is sufficient for my purpose to point out that, although for the last six years there has been an import duty of 8s. per cwt. on glucose, and no Excise, not 1 lb. has ‘been manufactured in Australia, and yet the Government propose to f urther encourage the industry by leaving the import duty as it is, and imposing an Excise of 4s. per cwt., which would be equivalent to reducing the import duty by one-half.
– The Excise has been proposed in accordance with the recommendation of both sections of the Tariff Commission.
– The Minister is very ready to throw the blame on to the Commission whenever one of his proposals meets with criticism, but he had not much regard to the Commission’s recommendations in framing the Tariff.
– A large number of its recommendations have been adopted.
– We have already seen how little disposed the Government is to stand by its proposals. Ministers abandon them as fast as thev can. We saw that yesterday. I was desirous of imposing an import duty on wire-netting which would encourage the manufacture of that article in. Australia.
– The honorable member knew that nothing more could be done in that matter.
– Nothing will be done if, as soon’ as opposition is threatened, Ministers hoist the white flag, a.nd say, “ Don’t shoot ; we will come down.” The chances of getting a good protective’ Tariff have been considerably reduced bv the action of the Government. I have always objected to the conduct of those who, calling themselves protectionists, will vote only for such duties as will suit the interests of their particular constituents.
– What is the honorable member going to do in regard to the machinery duties?
– We are not now dealing with machinery duties. When we come to them I will vote for a sensible proposal. I intend to vote against the proposed Excise on glucose, so that we may have some semblance of an intelligent Tariff.
– According to the honorable member’s intelligent ideas, I suppose !
– At any rate, the Treasurer appears to be moving in the direction of acting on those “ intelligent ideas.” As soon as a little opposition is set up, the Government drop from 4s. to is., and, perhaps, if there be a little further protestation, they may be prepared to abolish the Excise altogether. This appears to me to be a most extraordinary state of affairs ; because, on the merits of the proposal, there seems no justification for reducing the protection given to this industry, either by reducing the import duty, or imposing an Excise. I am not prepared to say whether large quantities of glucose are advantageous to the community; scientists and analysts are the only persons who can decide the question with any degree of accuracy. But if the industry has not been established with a duty of 8s. without Excise, it is absurd to expect to establish it by imposing an Excise duty.
.- The suggestion of the Treasurer is a step in the right direction, but he does not go far enough. I am inclined to agree with the ‘honorable member for Kooyong that there should be no Excise duty. Glucose is an important portion of the raw materials of the confectionery industry, and it is desirable that it should be obtained as cheaply as possible. If we impose an Excise duty, it must affect the price; and that is a fact we must bear in mind. If I proposed to commence the glucose industry, I should pay regard to all the surrounding circumstances; and an Excise duty will act as somewhat of a handicap. In the first- place, an Excise officer will either be permanently at the factory or call from day to day. Then the representative of the State health authorities will look in to see whether the product is being manufactured under proper sanitary conditions, and thev will be followed by the inspectors under the Factories Acts, who- are concerned about a proper rate of. °wages, and so forth. Finally, the manufacturer will have to comply with all the requirements of the new protection. If we really desire to encourage the manufacture of glucose - and I am one who has that desire - it would be better to have no Excise duty, when, at any rate, one visiting official would be rendered unnecessary. This is a good, clean industry, which does no harm to anybody, and it might well be encouraged, with a view to insuring a regular and cheap supply of glucose, so that those engaged in the confectionery industry may be able to compete on fair terms with the outside world. I do not feel very seriously as to the Excise of is., but, for the reasons I have stated, it would be as well if it were not imposed.
.- The question appears to be whether an Excise duty is necessary in order to give the Commonwealth Government the right to supervise the industry. In my opinion, an Excise duty is not necessary on that ground, though, of course, I suppose I must accept the Treasurer’s assurance to the contrary. In my opinion, all that is necessary to give the Commonwealth the control desired is an import duty, which will bring the industry under the terms of the new protection. It seems to me that if there is to be ameasure. to counteract the iniquities of protection, -per se, the provisions of that measure will be quite sufficient to cover the case of glucose, and., therefore, no Excise duty is necessary. I understand that the Government are anxious to encourage, and not to handicap, the glucose industry, and that the Excise duty is proposed merely in order to give Federal control. But if it is necessary to have an Excise duty for that purpose in the case of glucose, it is necessary in the case of every product the manufacture of which we protect. I have never conceived that to be the case, and I cannot conceive it to be the case now. I ask the Treasurer to make it quite clear to honorable members whether it is necessary to have an Excise duty as well as an import duty, in order to give proper control over the manufacture. My own idea is that the new protection scheme outlined by the Government ought to be comprehensive enough to meet all cases.
.- There is no need to enter on a discussion of the chemical and other properties of glucose. We have already agreed to a duty of 8s., and we now have the Excise proposal before us ;’ and the whole is resolved into a question of protection. We are attempting to impose an Excise duty on a commodity which, we have been authoritatively informed in the House, is not yet manufactured in Australia. The policy of the country is to induce the establishment of any and every possible industry ; and when industries are established and successful, let us then, if circumstances justify the step, apply the principle of ari Excise duty. The position is one which the Government ought seriously to consider. What is the use of imposing an Excise duty on a commodity which is not yet manufactured here, and which,, as we have been told on good authority, involves a large and expensive plant?
– Who says so?
– The ‘honorable membe’ for Mernda. This industry is calculated to give much employment/ and to use large quantities of maize and potatoes; and, under the circumstances, an Excise duty will, I am afraid, act as a deterrent, rather than prove an encouragement.
– The Government desire to retain the Excise duty of is. in order to give power to the. Customs authorities to inspect and control the industry wherever it may be started within the Commonwealth. If that power be not given, the industry may be carried on under unwholesome conditions ; arid, as a matter of fact, this is not an Excise duty in the true sense df the word, but merely a means of conferring the power I have indicated.
.- I desire to correct a misapprehension into which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie appeared to fall when he said that a duty of 8s. for some years past had not proved sufficient to establish this industry, and that it was now proposed to practically re-, duce the protection to 7s. As a matter of fact, inquiry discloses the fact that there has been an Excise duty of 3s. imposed previously, and ‘ I should like to read the following letter from the firm who made an endeavour to establish this industry “last year -
At the time we were recommending this project to the maize growers the import duty on glucose was £& per ton, and there was no Excise duty. Both Mr. Schumacher and ourselves waited upon Mr. McLean, who intro duced us to Sir John Quick as Chairman of the Tariff Commission. Sir John Quick informed us that there was no likelihood of the import duty being reduced, and that there was no Excise duty on the article. Apparently, however, in view of the proposed manufacture here, the Customs Department arbitrarily inserted a ^3 “Excise duty in the then schedule, thereby decreasing the protection to £5 pet ton. This had the effect of checking the formation of the company at the time.
Therefore, it is not right to say that a duty of 8s. has not proved sufficient to induce the formation of a company.
– Is that true about the Excise of 3s. ?
– I understand now the Excise duty of 3s. was charged under a regulation.
.- If the Government desire to obtain knowledge of the conditions under which this manufacture is carried on, there ought to be an Excise duty. I would point out, however, that this Excise duty will not give control over the process of manufacture. This duty falls under the general Excise Act, which is different from the Distillation Act and some of the other measures. In the Distillation Act, for instance, there is a distinct provision as to the percentage of wine necessary to secure a certain standard of purity. In the only case in which the Courts have tested the matter, the decision was against the power we are assuming in proposing this Excise. But, assuming that we may have control, the Government are not securing it, because all that they are doing is to provide for observation. If they wish to control the industry, so far as we have power, they ought to have two. classes of Excise, one to fall at a lower rate, or free, on glucose manufactured according to departmental by-laws, and the other to be ordinary Excise on glucose not so manufactured. There is a similar provision in regard to other items in the Tariff; and it would cover the possibility of the manufacturer of glucose laughing at us on the ground that, under the Tariff, we have no power to control the manufacture itself.
.- I am in the same difficulty as the honorable member for Macquarie. The Treasurer ought to tell the Committee distinctly whether, if we pass this Excise, the manufacture of glucose will come within the new protection scheme. ‘ Will this Excise prevent our placing the glucose industry amongst those which will come under the new protection?
– No, it will not.
– That was the point raised by the honorable member for Macquarie, and I do not think it was mentioned by the Treasurer when he replied.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that, apart altogether from the question of whether or not it is desirable to encourage the local manufacture of glucose, or whether the Tocal consumption would enable the industry to be successfully carried on here, this Parliament has already decided that encouragement should be given to the production of sugar, and glucose where used is a substitute for that commodity. That being so, surely the treatment of each item should be the same. We have an Excise of 50 per cent, on sugar, whereas it is proposed that, this article, which is substituted for sugar-
– It is a sugar.
– Quite so. I have no hesitation in saying that, no matter how pure it may be, it is not as wholesome as sugar. I base that statement on my own experience, as well as on the views of authorities upon this subject. I do not suggest that if it be free from the impurities’ to which reference has been made, it is a highly deleterious article, but I’ do say that it is not as wholesome as sugar. Under the Customs Act, poweris given to the Minister to direct that substitutes for any dutiable article shall be liable to the duty chargeable on that dutiable article; yet we propose to extend entirely different treatment to glucose, a substitute for sugar. To impose an Excise of only £1 per ton would be to give a premium tp the production of what is not as good an article of consumption as is sugar, the growth of which we have encouraged at a very large expenditure.
– Whilst I have every respect for the views of the honorable member for North Sydney, I certainly do not think that the use of glucose is likely to seriously affect the consumption of sugar. The import price of glucose is £22 per ton.
– The quotation for glucose at Buffalo. New York, is £1110s.
– I believe that it can be purchased at£10. per ton in Germany, and in the United States of America., but T have just learned from a gentleman who is interested in local’ confectionery works that he pays £22, or £4 per ton in excess* of the price of sugar.
– £19 per ton is the price of Queensland sugar.
– At all events, the gentleman in question, who was verv anxious that the import duty on glucose should be reduced, has informed me that he pays £22 per ton for it. The duty on glucose is £8 per ton, whilst sugar is liable to an import du’tv of £6 per ton. The import duty on this commodity will yield some revenue, and at the same time afford some protection to the industry. I understand, however, that glucose cannot be produced as cheaply as sugar.
– We use only a small quantity in Australia.
– Last year 3,000 tons were imported, and therefore itdoes not seem probable that glucose will seriously compete with sugar. Under the Tariff of 1902, there was no Excise duty upon it, but the right honorable member for Adelaide, when Minister of Trade and Customs, issued an order that it should be liable to an Excise of £3 per ton. That subsequently . was’ found to be ultra vires. I think it is desirable to impose an Excise duty, and to have some supervision over the industry.
– There was an Excise duty of £5 per ton.
– I have just said that the order issued by the right honorable member for Adelaide, that an Excise of£3 per ton should be collected, was found to be ultravires. It has been said that it interfered with any serious attempt to manufacture glucose in Australia. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has twitted the Government- I hope in no spirit of real antagonism - with altering its own Tariff. He has made that statement more than once, and I do not think it is altogether fair. It is true that, in regard to the item of wire-netting, concerning which there was a very serious difference of opinion and a great agitation, we offered to make a reduction ; but the position is different in regard to the other items with which we have dealt. We rearranged the divisions relating to tobaccc and spirits in order to improve them.
– If, during a debate, a defect is pointed out, why should it nofbe remedied ?
– I was just about to mention that point. Iri framing a Tariff, the responsible Minister can have only the assistance of his officers, since absolute secrecy has to be observed. As soon as it has been introduced, however, we are able to bring to bear upon it the experience of the people generally, . and a Minister who refused to rectify what was shown to be a mistake would not befit to remain in charge of such a measure. I recognise that the Minister in charge of a Tariff should stand by his principles, but surely he should be prepared to make any reasonable re-arrangement that is calculated to improve his proposals. Now is the time to make such alterations. It is impossible for the Ministry to be familiar with every detail in the working of the Tariff.
– Even the experts do not know everything.
– That is so.
– If the import duty remained as before, and an Excise duty of £4 per ton were imposed, the protection would be reduced.
– I heard only to-day that there had been an Excise of per ton on glucose, and that the order issued by the right honorable member for Adelaide, under which it was levied, was found to be ultra vires.
– Did not the officers of the Department know of the order ?
– Then it should have been withdrawn.
– When they learned that it was ultra vires they did withdraw it.
.- Will the Treasurer state whether the manufacture of glucose in Australia, in. the absence of an Excise duty, would come under the operation of the Bill which he proposes to introduce to provide for the supervision and control of protected industries?
– It certainly would, unless the manufacturers were exempt in any shane or form. As I have already stated, a Bill will be submitted dealing with the factories to which the new protection is to apply, and it will be for the Parliament to say what factories should be covered bv. it.
– If this item were omitted, should we still be able to bring the glucose-making industry under that measure ?
– Yes, because it would be a protected industry under this Tariff.
.- I should like to move that the Excise on glucose be struck out.
– It is a good thing to have control of manufacture.
– Am I to infer from that statement that the Treasurer thinks that he will not have control of it under the proposed legislation relating to the new protection? I should like the Excise duty to be removed, but since the Minister is nor prepared to agree to that being done, it would be futile for me to move an amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 28. Sugar, the produce of sugar-cane, per cwt., 6s.
– When the Treasurer made an incidental reference just now to the sugar industry, I was about to ask him to say whether, there was any possibility of a change of policy regarding the method of protecting Queensland sugar. I saw, some time ago, a report of a deputation which waited upon the ex-Treasurer at Brisbane, and suggested that the Excise provisions were not the best for that State. I am speaking of what I read in the newspapers, and I say that a deputation waited upon the honorable member for Swan, at which the suggestion was made that possibly am import duty without any Excise would suit the Queensland sugar industry better than does thepresent arrangement.
– It would suit the employers of black labour better.
– I know nothing whatever about that matter. The members of that deputation mav have since changed their minds, but certainly they made a suggestion to that effect.
– They did not make a suggestion to that effect.
– They said that they would prefer it.
– Not onlv did I see the statement made publicly, but men who are directly connected with the industry have assured me that they would prefer to have an import dutv without the Excise. I have been informed that as the result of the protection which is given to the industry in Queensland - and I do not for a moment suggest that the planters get the full benefit of that protection - sugar is being sold by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Australia at a much greater price per ton than that at which it is being sold in South Africa. I have had what appears to be proof of that statement supplied to me by a. man on whose abilitv and integrity I can place absolute reliance. I ask the Government to see that, inasmuch as we are protecting the sugar industry in Queensland and New South Wales, the people of the Commonwealth get the benefit of any possible reduction in price. The only reasonable deduction which can be drawn from some of the invoices which I have seen is that sugar is being entered at Durban, by purchasers from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at £11 per ton. The freight charges from Australia to that port amount to £r 4s. per ton. The price of this article in Durban ought to be the price at which it is sold in the Commonwealth, plus the freight charges.
– Is the honorable member referring to Australian sugar, or to Fijian sugar?
– I am very careful in my choice of words in this connexion. I merely say that sugar is being sold by purchasers from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at Durban for £11 per ton. An officer in the Customs Department has, I understand, suggested that possiblythe company may have imported this sugar, refined it, and then exported it. But nothing to that effect appears in the infor-. mation which hasbeen supplied to me.
– Is it refined sugar ?
– Yes. Of course, it may be said that it is not sugar which has been manufactured by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That may be perfectly true. All I can sav is that one of the Customs officials was so astounded with the fact that he suggested that possibly the company had imported the sugar, refined it, and then exported it. I merely ask that the matter should be inquired into. The position is that sugar is being sold by the company at £11 per ton in South Africa. If we deduct from that amount the cost of the freight charges, namely, £1 4s. per ton, it will leave £9 16s. per ton. If we add to that sum the £4 per ton Excise - and I am not sure that the Excise is not rebated - that would make the price of the article in Australia. £13 1 6s. per ton, as against £20 per ton, which I am informed is about the actual price. If, under the newprotection scheme proposed by the Government, we are to provide not only for the protection of the workers in various industries, but also for that of the consumers, I say that it is far more necessary to regulate the local price of sugar than it is to regulate that of some of the implements in regard to which legislation has been suggested. T am not asking that we should return to the ridiculous idea of endeavouring to control prices byAct of’ Parliament. . I simply say that there is far more necessity to regulate the price of sugar in the home market than there is to regulate the price of some other commodities which will probably be dealt with under the scheme of new protection. In- 1905, under the adjustment of an Excise duty of£4 per ton, subject to a rebate upon sugar produced by white labour of £3 per ton, it was estimated that we should receive a net revenue from this commodity of , £560,000. But, like all our estimates in connexion with the sugar industry, it proved very wide of the mark. The net revenue anticipated during the present year - as I stated during the course of the Budget debate - will be £241,000 - not £560,000, as was estimated in 1905. The Excise will amount to £746,000, and the import duty is expected toyield £68,000, or a total of , £814,000. From that sum we. have to deduct £573,000 for the bounty, and thus we arrive at the net result to. the States of , £241,000, as against a revenue of £780,000 in 1901-2. Seeing that, we are expending such a large sum of money in connexion with the sugar industry, we are entitled to know that the price charged for that commodity within our borders is a fair one, or, at all events, that we are not paying away this huge sum to enable people in other parts of the world to get cheap sugar’ at our expense. I trust that the Government will make inquiries into this matter.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the condition of the Cobar Post
Office. Some eight months ago the residential portion of that office was partially destroyed by fire. Nothing has since been done to put it into a state of repair, notwithstanding that the local postmaster, with his family, is compelled to reside there, and that the Department expect him to pay rent for the building. Constant complaints have been made in reference to this matter. I am informed that some . proposal has been made to erect additions to the structure. If that be so, it might have been a good thing if the office had been entirely demolished by fire,- so as to compel the erection of a new building. I should like the Postmaster-General to consider whether it is worth while patching up this office, again. I understand that in connexion, with the additions contemplated, plans were prepared by the architect - I do not know whether this officer is under the control of the State or of the’ Commonwealth. In his first plans’ he did not provide for access to the postmaster’s quarters, except through the window. Further, although he was in Cobar for a couple of days, I have been unable to ascertain that he ever inspected the building. If that sort of carelessness is to be exhibited in connexion with our public works, it is a strong argument infavour of . establishing a Commonwealth Public Works Department. Of course, I do not pretend to allocate the blame in connexion with this matter. But I would specially urge upon the Postmaster-General that it is questionable whether additions should be made to the present structure.- In my opinion, lt would be better to erect a new office.
.- Owing to the late sitting last evening, I was prevented from making a few remarks that I had intended to make concerning the duties which have been levied upon wire-netting.
– I have already pointed out on three or four occasions that the business which is done in Committee of Ways and Means cannot be debated in the House until that Committee has reported: Therefore, I am unable to allow the honorable member to discuss that matter now.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Darting, I merely wish to say that if he will see me privately I will go into the matter with him and ascertain what can be done.
Question resolved !in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071011_reps_3_40/>.