3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. STORRER presented a petition from the Wornen’s Christian Temperance Union of Tasmania, .. praying the House not to provide for compulsory military training.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following papers: -
Papua - Leases under Land Ordinance of 1906, up to 13th September, 1907.
Commonwealth Literary Fund. - Resolutions as to distribution. &c.
The Clerk laid upon the table :
Defence Forces- Permanent Officers. - Return to an Order of the House, dated 2nd October, 1907.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In reference to the numbers of attempted enlistments and rejections in the Commonwealth Military Forces given by him on the 8th October, if the information -is available, will he give similar figures for each of the Victorian - permanent and militia - Corps, stating separately the different regiments and arms?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Return of number of applicants for enlistment in the Permanent and Militia Forces of Victoria, by arms, who were medically examined during years 1904, 1905, and 1906, and also number of rejections on account of physical unfitness : -
The full detail, as asked’ for, will take some considerable time,’ as all recruit forms will have to be brought in from country districts.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
No ; but a decision was given a few days after the introduction of the present Tariff, placing internal hat bands of real or imitation leather on the free list of minor articles for hats.
These goods were admitted free as such minor articles under the old Tariff, and had been inadvertently omitted from the minor article bylaw under the new Tariff.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
An officer who was found to be responsible for the improper use of stamp “ Detained by interruption to line” in connexion with two messages was dealt with for the irregularity.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If the Judge in the Excise Harvester case decides that the manufacturers of agricultural implements have to pay a higher rate of wages than that previously paid by them, will the Customs Department collect the Excise duty as from the1st of January, 1907, on the agricultural implements made by them while paying less than a fair wage; or will the manufacturers have to pay. their employes their back money from 1st January, 1907?
– Pending the decision of the President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration it is not practicable to say what action may be found to be necessary.
Distillers Wages and Hours
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether the rule under which guarantees are required before the extension of telephonic connexions in cases where the lines may not at once pay has been abolished or modified in respect of-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What was the capital cost of the telephone line between West Maitland and Sydney ?
– £2,300 2s. 4d.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 15th October, vide page 4704) :
Division nr. - Sugar.
Item 28. Sugar, the produce of sugar-cane, per cwt., 6s.
Upon which Mr. Mahon had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ and on and after 16th October, 1907, per cwt.’ 4s.,” be added.
.- I was surprised to hear last night the admission of certain protectionists that the burden placed upon consumers by the imposition of a duty on sugar must continue for all time. Hitherto the contention of protectionists has been that duties ultimately reduce the price .of commodities, and, having firmly established the industries which they were designed to protect, become unnecessary. Now we have a confession of the fallacy of that argument. It is well known that the Commonwealth loses an enormous amount of revenue by the legislation which it has passed for the encouragement of the sugar industry ; but both protectionists and free-traders have expressed themselves willing to make concessions in order to further the establishment of a White Australia. Still, I do not understand why a protection of £2 per ton should be given to sugar grown by black labour. That is an anomaly which I have not heard any one attempt to explain. At the same time, I do not feel that it would be wise to vote for the proposal to reduce the import ^ duty. The honorable member for Coolgardie might have accomplished his object without danger, to the white grower by increasing the Excise on black-grown sugar to jf.6 per ton. By doing that, we should get a white industry much more quickly than we ‘ are likely to get it under the present system. I have risen chiefly to refer to the monopoly in sugar possessed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In my opinion, it is a menace to good government and to the public interest. During my electoral campaign I was informed by a number of storekeepers that they could not buy sugar from the company unless they agreed to purchase from no other vendor.
– That is so.
– I have no reason to doubt my information, and therefore I regard the position as serious. The Colonial
Sugar Refining Company is practically the only Australian wholesale buyer of sugar, including the imported article. No doubt the conditions which it imposes on its customers brought about the disastrous collapse of Mr. Poolman’s business, and the probability is that in the near future no one will be able to buy sugar wholesale except from the company, and every one will be compelled to first enter into an agreement to purchase only from it. Such a state of things should not be permitted to exist.
– We can deal with it by our anti-trust legislation.
– A similar state of affairs exists in connexion with the kerosene industry.
– Any monopoly of the kind is dangerous to the interests of the community. A member of the Opposition yesterday expressed the opinion that Queensland growers are absolutely satisfied with the treatment which they are receiving from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. But when I visited that State recently, seven out of ten of the growers whom I met told me that the establishment of a Commonwealth refinery is necessary, because of the impositions of the company, That view was strongly announced at Port Douglas, on the Mossman, on the Greenhills estate, and also further south It seems to me that, at an early period, a thorough inquiry should be made, not only in regard to the position of the company, but also in regard to the effect of the bounty. The present condition of affairs cannot be allowed to remain ; there must be a new arrangement.Seeing that the Minister has admitted this, and that we have entered into a compact, I do not feel justified in voting for the amendment, although I admit that we are paying very dearly for our sugar, and for a White Australia.
– And not getting it.
– That is so. The production of sugar by black labour has decreased very slightly, although our legislation has been in force for some years. At the same time, I admit that there has been a great increase in the number of planters using white labour.
– Then the honorable member is prepared to continue the protection to black-grown sugar? That, at all events, is what he is proposing to do.
– I would suggest the imposition of an Excise duty of£6 per ton on that sugar. If the honorable member for Coolgardie moved such an amendment, I should support it. If that were done we should grant no protection to black-grown sugar, whilst at the same time we should not injure growers of sugar by white labour. The honorable member for Coolgardie, however, proposes to reduce the protection granted to the grower of sugar by white labour, in common with producers of sugar by black labour, by £2 per ton.
– Does not the honorable member think that a duty of 25 per cent, is sufficient protection for the sugar grower ?
– That is another question.
– It is the question.
– I have no doubt on that point, for I do not think that the growers are reaping the advantage of the duty.
– They are obtaining a little of the advantage.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is robbing both the grower and the consumer of sugar. I am satisfied that it could sell at considerably less than£18 per ton, and still secure a fair margin of profit. At the same time I do not wish any vote of mine, given with a view of finding a solution of the blacklabour problem, to be construed into an attempt on my part to repudiate the obligation which this Parliament a few years ago entered into with the sugar growers. It is only fair, however, that the planters should know that the present arrangement cannot continue.
– Three years hence they will be demanding either a continuance of the present bounty, or an increased bounty.
– Several honorable members of the Opposition declared last night that there would be a demand for the continuance of the bounty, and that the duty of £6 per ton would be added to the price of the sugar.
– I think that is highly improbable, if not absolutely impossible.
– We have to consider the effect of this duty on fruit-growers. It is doubtful whether the sugar industry is worth what we are paying for it. The high price of sugar is a serious handicap to fruit-preservers, and whilst we are bolster- ing up the sugar industry we are to a large extent crippling the fruit-growers and fruitpreservers of Australia. It should be our endeavour to enlarge the field of employment, and to encourage land settlement; but I am not prepared at this stage to repudiate the arrangement which this Parliament a few years ago deliberately entered into with the sugar planters.
– That is a “Yes-no” position.
– The honorable member, if he pleases, may so describe it.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie did not protest at the time.
– It would not be fair to take away from the sugar growers without a moment’s notice the bounty and the duty granted them only a few years ago.
– Did we agree not to alter the duty ?
– We agreed not to alter it till the end of 1912. That, at all events, is the position I take up, and I am prepared to accept the full responsibility for what the honorable member for Coolgardie has described as my “Yes-no” attitude.
– Having spoken briefly to this question last Friday, I should not have risen again to address myself to it but that I desire to ask the honorable member for Coolgardie, who gave us an excellent exposition of the position from his point of view - and it is generally recognised on all sides of the House as being a fairly strong one - not to press his amendment at the present juncture. I take the same interest in the question as he does, and from the first division on the subject, which took place in this House in 1901, have opposed this solution of the question as being too expensive. I remember moving in- 1901 that the Excise should be continued after 1907, but that proposition was defeated. The honorable member for Dalley also moved - as the honorable member for Coolgardie has done - that the import duty be £4 instead of £6 per .ton, but this motion was defeated by a majority of two to one. The fact that there were thirteen or fourteen honorable members in favour of it shows, however, that even then there were in this House honorable members who thought we were likely to “pay too much for our whistle” in the matter of sugar. The honorable member for Coolgardie has made out an excellent case for the guidance of a Government which has sufficient intelligence to accept it and patriotism enough to look a little more deeply into this question. That being so, I trust that he will be content with the good service he has done, and not press his motion to a division. If he does, I shall follow the course I have consistently observed and vote with him. I should be pleased, however, if the honorable member would refrain from asking, the Committee to deal with this question without full consideration of the possible solutions, and until ample notice has been . given to the big interests in Queensland, as well as to the consumers who are concerned in this matter. One would be tempted to devote a little more time to this question in order to deal with the delightful deductions from figures which are sometimes given by Ministers, if it were not that we all desire that this debate shall close without delay. Our debates, however, are occasionally prolonged by some honorable member who in order that the true position may be placed before the Committee, tries to clear up the inferences which Ministers seek to deduce from their figures. We were told yesterday, for instance, by the Treasurer, that it was immaterial what the States paid by way of bounties, since we were getting it back in the shape of revenue. In other words; he asserted that it was of no concern to the States that their revenue from sugar, instead of being, as it was in 1901, £780,000, had shrunk to £241,000. net, because although we paid away a large sum by way of bounty, we secured the Excise in return. According to the honorable gentleman, the fact that the revenue from sugar - judging by the increased consumption - would have been to-day .£1,000,000 had we not adopted this policy does not matter twopence to the States. I trust that he will put this proposition to some of the school boys who are preparing to take, our places ‘in the shaping of Australia’s destiny. If a man can lose money out of his pocket and at the same time be better off so much the better.
– We have lost halfamiillion in the shape of revenue from the grain duties.
– That is not an analogous case. In a famine year - a year of drought - by means of a duty on grain which pressed heavily on the consumers, we secured a very large revenue which has since fallen to zero. But that is not a test of the morality of our losing £1,000,000 a year on sugar. The Treasurer also pointed out yesterday that everything was all right so far as the success of our White Australia policy was concerned, since either the acreage under sugar-cane or the output of sugar by white labour was increasing. The returns supplied with the Budget papers show that that increase is accounted for to a considerable extent by an increase in the output of sugar in New South Wales. That State is not affected by the question of the substitution of white for coloured labour, although we are generous enough to give her , £73,000 by way of bounty for doing nothing.
– An absolute present.
– We are really making the planters of New South Wales a present of that amount, simply because Ministers chose to make a mistake of law, and to think that unless we did so we should not fulfil some rule of uniformity necessary under the Constitution. All that we require to do, however, so far as any rule of uniformity is applicable to the granting of bounties is to make a general law; we have not to secure equal effects from it. I showed last week - and my statement has since been establishedby admission - that sugar from Australia was sold at the port of entry in South Africa at £1110s. per ton, whereas it was saleable here at about £20 per ton. If we deduct from the £1110s. a sum of £1 4s., representing the cost of carriage, and add £4 per ton as representing the Excise, we get - assuming that the South African price was the test of the value of the sugar - a price of a little over£14 per ton in respect of sugar selling here at about £20 per ton. I suggested that this sugar, although sent from Australia might not have been manufactured here - that it might have teen purchased elsewhere by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It now appears that it was a surplus of about 30,000 tons of Java sugar, which, the company had in hand, and exported for sale at a cheap rate to South Africa. It was, however, imported for sale in Australia, and by assumption its value was not much less than was the value of Australian sugar. Its introduction into the Commonwealth created the surplus which enabled sugar to be exported and to be sold at a lower rate abroad. Whether it was Javan sugar which was brought here tobe sold in the local market, and was not sold here, or whether it was Australian sugar, seeing that it was a surplus against the consump tion of colonial sugar last year, the argument to my mind is not substantially affected. As to the suggestion that this Parliament has entered into a contract with the planters of Queensland, I may say at once that I do not think such a contract has been entered into. In 1901 we initiated a policy which was to be continued until 1907. The only implied promise that might be assumed from the decision then arrived at is that after 1907 there was to be no Excise. No doubt the policy initiated in 1901, and which we decided should be continued until 1907, covered a provision that the Excise should expire in the lastnamed year. But it was stated in this House, in answer to questions put by several honorable members, that we could, at the end of 1907, impose an Excise if we desired to do so, although it would be contrary to the usual procedure to declare that the Excise was pot to expire in that year. The proper course to pursue, we were told, was to re-impose the Excise by Act of Parliament. I do not think that any contract was entered into. In 1905, on a report by Dr. Maxwell that our policy of 1901 was not a complete success, we gave further concessions. I fail to see that those further concessions could be said to be in the nature of a contract. Even Dr. Maxwell in his report held out no hope that by 1913 - when the concessions were to terminate - the policy would be successful. He said that the whole matterwould then have to be re-opened.
– The sugar planters regarded that action on the part of the Parliament as a sort of contract or understanding.
– If they chose to misapply the intelligence which the Almighty gave them we cannot be held responsible. Queenslanders - and even some honorable members - have undoubtedly assumed that althoughin 1892 the State Parliament extended for a term of ten years the time within which the employment of kanaka labour was to cease, a, vested interest was thereby created. I dispute that contention. As it is desirable that we should curtail the debate upon this question, I do not intend to do more than put these few points to honorable members. I ask thehonorable member for Coolgardie not to embarrass the Committee by pressing his proposal.
– I refrained from saying anything upon this question last evening in the hope that we might arrive at a division upon it.
I should not have risen now but for some statements which have been made regarding the effect of the policy which has hitherto been pursued in respect of the sugar industry. In my innocence, I had been led to believe that the policy of encouraging a White Australia had already been successfully established. But, after looking over the figures, I am bound to say that the matter has not yet by any means been decided. We must still look to the future to ascertain how the policy will work out. Since I have looked into them closely, I confess that the figures are a disappointment to me. Whilst the relative proportions of white and black-grown sugar have been made more pronounced in the direction of a preponderance of the former, there does not appear to have been a corresponding diminution of the black labour employed in the industry. That I submit is the final test of whether or not the policy has been successful. When imposing these duties, and providing for the payment of bounty and Excise, we did not set out to encourage white-grown sugar any further. Our object was to save the industry from extinction. We also intended to do our best to diminish the number of those employed in the industry who were not of our own race. The statistics now available show that only a very slight diminution has taken place in the coloured labour employed in the industry. All that we have done during the past seven years is to deport 4,000 kanakas. But, while we have done that, their places have been largely filled by other Asiatics.
– That is not so.
– From the memorandum prepared by Dr. Maxwell, and presented to this House in 1904, I learn that there were then 9,958 coloured persons engaged, in the industry, and the figures supplied by the Treasurer last evening show that there still remain in the industry 7,90/ coloured persons.
– They are not engaged in field work at all.
– Will the honorable member look at the figures for 1901, and see the quantity of labour which was employed then?
– We were told that in 1904 there were 9,958 coloured persons employed in the industry.
– We were assured in 1901 that white men could not possibly work in the cane-fields.
– I have taken the two sets of figures which are available to me. If the Attorney-General has figures relating to the position in 1901, I shall be glad to hear them. According to the statistics presented by the Treasurer last evening, there .are nearly 8,000 coloured persons still engaged in the- sugar industry. Clearly, therefore, there has been a diminution in the number of coloured labourers of only 1,900. In other words, 4,000 kanakas have been deported, and 2,000 other coloured persons, have taken their places.
– Is it not a fact that all the sugar grown this year has been registered for the purpose of securing the bounty ?
– That is a fact.
– Does not that show that black labour is not being employed in the industry ?
– I admit that the figures are puzzling to me.
– The honorable member has been quoting the figures relating to 1906.
– I have quoted the . figures which were presented to the Committee by the Treasurer last night.
– The growers who were employing coloured persons last year were not. eligible to register for the bounty payable in respect of this vear.
– That may be the explanation. At any rate, the figures do not look healthy at all. Are four or five thousand more coloured workers to go out of the sugar industry this year? I should like to know if the Treasurer has any information of the probabilities in that connexion ? It seems strange that 4,000 or 5,000 coloured workers should go out of the industry this year, because they represent more than the total number who have gone out of it during seven years. 1 hope that the suggestion conveyed by the figures in question is well founded, because I am anxious to give the White Australia policy a reasonable trial. Indeed, I believe that we ought to see that Australia is kept for the white races, and I shall do my best to achieve that ideal. For that reason it appears to me that the import duty. the Excise, and the bounty all form part of a carefully-devised scheme. They are all part of an undertaking which was entered, into with the Queensland sugargrowers, which it would be very wrong to break at the present time. The period when this question should have been raised was last year, when we extended the bounty till 1 91 2, and provided that at the end of that time it should vanish. We have entered into a definite understanding with the sugar-growers that after 191 2 they must not expect a continuance of the treatment which they are now receiving at the hands of this Parliament.
– They will expect it unless we make a protest against it upon every opportunity.
– If they do expect it they will have no grounds for doing so, inasmuch as the statutory contract provides that at the end of 191 2 it shall cease to exist. To begin to disrupt the present relations in the way that has been suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie would be a very inadvisable thing.
– Does not the honorable member think that a duty of 25 per cent, is sufficient for the sugar-growers?
– That is not the question which we have to consider. The question is, “ What are we going to do about the arrangements which have already been definitely made with the sugar-growers of Queensland?” The time to have asked whether 25 per cent, was not a sufficient duty to levy upon sugar was twelve months ago. We are definitely committed for a certain period to much more than 25 per cent. - whether for good or ill - and until the expiration of that time we should not interfere either with the duty, the Excise or the bounty except for some very special reasons. One of those special reasons was hinted at last evening by the honorable member for North Sydney. If it should happen that a tremendous increase took place in the production of Australian sugar, thus making a huge surplus available for export, I should be ready to reopen the whole question, because I do not think that Parliament contemplated that we should pay a large bounty to the growers of Queensland to enable them to dispose of their commodity at cheap rates oversea. The whole arrangement was entered into for the purpose of preserving the industry from extinction and of enabling it to maintain itself under the conditions which then existed.
– It was a case of protection without destruction.
– As the honorable member for Parkes says, it was a case of protection without destruction. I do not think this Parliament ought to dream of breaking the contract which was entered into with the sugar-growers.
– I intend to say only a very few words upon this question, because it seems to me that the discussion cannot have any real effect at the present time. I am not in accord with those honorable members who have declared that this Parliament has entered into an arrangement with the Queensland sugar-growers - an arrangement amounting to something in the nature of a contract. Ifwe had entered into an arrangement in the nature of a contract it would be wrong of us to break that contract at any time, even under the stress of special circumstances.
– The honorable member is aware that a period is fixed during which the bounty shall continue to operate?
– I am aware of that. But any Tariff law stands upon exactly the same foundation as any other law, inasmuch as it does not enter into any contract by means of legislative enactment. If we say that the arrangemententered into with the sugar-growers of Queensland is a contract, and therefore ought not to be disturbed, we must recognise that every person who has vested interests which are affected by the Tariff occupies exactly a similar position, and that it would be unjust on our part to interfere with those interests.
– But this item is treated differently from any other item in the Tariff.
– I quite agree that there are very special circumstances surrounding the imposition of the duty upon sugar, because that duty forms part of a general policy which can be dealt with effectually only when all the other matters involved in that policy are being dealt with. That is the real reason why it is impossible for the present discussion to have any useful result.
– It was never suggested that we should pay an export duty upon sugar.
– The Excise and the bounty payable in respect of sugar necessarily hang together to some extent.
– It was never intended that our hands should be tied in this matter.
– I believe that it may be necessary for us - even before the expiration of the period to which reference has been made, namely, 191 1- to reconsider the whole of this question.
– But we ought not to alter existing arrangements during that period.
– We shall have a much freer hand in dealing with Excise matters after the Braddon section has expired.
– Exactly. But it is quite probable that the financial exigencies of the Commonwealth may render it necessary for us to reconsiderthe whole of this policy before the expiration of that period.
– We must recollect that some persons have embarked upon enterprises upon the strength of the special legislation dealing with this matter.
– Persons have embarked upon enterprises upon the strength of everything contained in the Tariff.
– But there is a limit to the operation of the Sugar Bounty Act.
– That does not make any difference whatever. What I desire to make clear is that when Parliament comes to deal with this matter it will deal with it, in my opinion, absolutely unhampered by any pledge or any bargain. It is a matter of good faith.
– Even an Act of Parliament is to be set aside without a blush ?
– I do not see exactly what that consideration has to do with the matter. Every Act of Parliament is passed, not with a view to contractual obligations, but subject to the fact that the policy and the necessities of the State may at any time induce us to alter it.
Mr.Groom. - In any alteration we must take into consideration the fact that people have been induced to act on the faith of the duties.
– I quite say so; and that applies to almost every item in the Tariff. For instance, suppose the Tariff imposed a large duty on woollen goods, and people were thereby induced to enter upon the manufacture of woollens, that duty ought not to be altered without our seriously considering their position. A similar principle applies to the duty under consideration, possibly even in a greater degree, because it is only a matter of degree.
– The honorable member’s opinion was quite the reverse in regard to the Bounties Bill.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. I join with the honorable member for Angas in urging that this amendment ought not to be pressed to a division at pre sent. I, for one, should certainly feel that, under the circumstances, the amendment being introduced at this time, I should have to support the Government proposal ; but I am not at all sure that many of the arguments of the honorable member who submitted the amendment are not arguments that at the proper time ought to be given effect to.
– In order to prevent any misunderstanding as to the vote I shall give, I desire to occupy a few minutes. I am entirely in sympathy with the honorable member for Coolgardie in any proposal which has the effect of cutting down duties; but, in this matter, there are other considerations to which we cannot shut our eyes. The honorable member for Flinders has contended with some force that Parliament cannot enter into an obligation or a contract ; and that is quite true. We know that one Parliament cannot bind the next Parliament. If, for instance, this Parliament were to appoint a High Commissioner for seven years, the next Parliament could, as soon as it met three years later, ignore the decision, and appoint some one else. But although Parliament cannot enter into a contract, Parliament does enter into moral obligations.
– Parliament enters into a mail contract, which could not very well be broken.
– We could break a mail contract only by subjecting ourselves to very heavy damages outside. But we have many instances in political life of moral contracts. We know very well that when a duty is placed on a particular commodity, and when on the strength of that duty a number of manufacturers start business, no one cries out more than do protectionists about vested interests. The term “ vested interests “ is always taken to convey a sort of moral obligation. A number of people with capital enter into particular industries, not under a. contract with Parliament, but under a sort of understanding that Parliament will not suddenly cut the ground from under their feet by removing the duty.
– Without serious reasons.
-Without some notice, or serious consideration. A similar position arises in the case of public-house licences granted in the States. It is frequently said that once a licence has been granted, it cannot be suddenly taken away without some sort of reason. It is recognised that whatever Acts may have been passed in the States Legislatures having the effect of reducing the number of public houses in a neighbourhood, there is always allowed five or seven years in which those interested may make arrangements for some substituted venture. I have heard two or three honorable members, who were not in Parliament when this bounty was passed, speak of Parliament as not being bound by what was then done. I admit that, legally, Parliament is not bound, but I think that those who embarked on the industry at that time were clearly given to understand that the bounty would not be suddenly taken away. At that time it was stated over and over again that the bounty would not bev suddenly removed, but that if removed1 at all, it would be gradually reduced from its present rate to nothing. As I say, I am in sympathy with the principle which the honorable member for Coolgardie is seeking to emphasize; but, as a member of Parliament, who’ assisted to give this bounty, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that people were then led to understand clearly that the bounty, which was offered because of the obligation to employ white labour, would, before abolition, be gradually reduced. If we in this Parliament were to suddenly take away , the artificial crutch which we ab that time gave to those engaged in the industry, without adopting what is called a sliding-scale, we should be committing a moral breach of undertaking. The difficulty I feel is that, whereas as a free-trader, I am, of course, disposed to follow the honorable member for Coolgardie in his desire to cut down the duty, I see, as everybody else sees, that the duty and Excise are inseparably connected, as are also the Excise and the bounty. Therefore, it is quite impossible for us to deal practically and equitably with the question without taking into consideration the three items - duty, Excise, and bounty. Inasmuch as the change from black labour to white labour has only recently come about - at all events, has only recently been consummated - it would be almost hysterical on our part to suddenly change front and sweep away part of the bounty, part of the Excise, and part of the duty. I know very well, as a practical politician, that people outside do not judge us in Parliament by our real motives in all cases, but by the motives that appear on the surface. It is quite possible that a vote by me against a proposal to reduce the duty, as suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie, would, without some explanation, be taken as a failure on my part to adhere to my free-trade proclivities. I desire to say that my reason for hesitating to support the honorable member is not that I do not sympathize with his desire io reduce the duty, but because I see that those three items in; our fiscal arrangements are so inextricably connected with one another, that we cannot deal with one without dealing with the whole in a comprehensive way.
.- It has often been said that a’ wise Chairman of Committees never gives reasons for his rulings, and I think that a similar principle applies equally to honorable members in regard to any reasons they may have for a particular course they propose to adopt. I am not so surprised at the vote which will, we are told, be given by two or three honorable members who have spoken, as I am surprised at the reasons they have given, those reasons being to me an argument for voting in an opposite direction. Honorable members say that they have sympathy with the amendment of the honorable member for Coolgardie, and so have I, but my vote goes with my sympathy. That may be an unusual attitude for a politician to adopt, but as you know, Mr. Chairman, I am an unusual “cuss,” and, as I say, my vote shall go with my sympathy. The honorable member for Coolgardie has certainly made out a strong case for his amendment. The honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Parkes have suggested that reasons might be shown for Parliament departing from a moral obligation or contract. To that I say, in the first place, that this Parliament and country are under no moral obligation to the people of Queensland. The idea of moral obligation is attached to that of replacing black labour with white labour, but according to the returns, the increased areas put under sugar cultivation are not in those parts of Queensland where black labour was employed, but in the temperate portions where white labour has always been employed. It must not be forgotten that any moral obligation there may be is on both sides ; and yet, as a matter of fact, in those areas where black labour predominated, the land under sugar cultivation is decreasing. I have stated on several occasions that I shall always vote for the lowest duties on the necessaries of life, and that, of course, is a strong reason why I should vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Coolgardie. That honorable member has shown that, even after his proposed reduction, there will remain a protective duty equal to 25 per cent., while he does not propose to touch the Excise or the bounty. The difference of £2 in the import duty will not affect the employer of white labour, but will affect the employer of black labour, because it is the latter which is receiving the protection at the .present time. A duty of 25 per cent, is more than my high-water mark of protection, and on that ground alone I shall vote for the amendment. Very many industries in the Commonwealth are affected by the duty on sugar. I need only mention the jam industry, but, as a matter of fact, there is hardly an industry mentioned in the Tariff in which sugar is not an important factor. It is somewhat remarkable that iron and sugar enter into nearly all the industries concerned with the production of the necessaries of life; and that affords another reason for supporting the amendment. A third reason is supplied by considerations of revenue ; and on that point I quite agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie. The honorable member for North Sydney, next to the honorable member for Coolgardie, .presented the strongest possible case for the reduction of the duty, showing clearly that to-day Australia has nearly overtaken the demand in the Commonwealth, and mav in a short time be an exporter. The honorable member asked the pertinent question why we should give a bounty, and impose a high duty in order to encourage the sale of Australian sugar at a cheap rate outside the Commonwealth. In that view I think that the honorable member for North Sydney is quite accurate. If. the ‘bounty and high duty be continued, Australia will be placed in a position similar to that of Germany, where the people have to bear heavy taxation in order that Great Britain may be supplied with cheap sugar. This is not altogether a matter of black labour or white labour. The honorable member for Parramatta quoted figures showing that there has simply been a transfer of alien labour from the kanaka, who was the least objectionable of all, to the Assyrian, and the Afghan” Mr. Valder, commercial agent for New ‘South Wales in South Africa, left this country an opponent of the White Australia policy, but- has re; turned as a strong advocate of it in consequence of his experience when in the performance of his duties abroad. The aliens now engaged in the sugar industry are of a class which may drift into other occupations, and become competitors with white people. I hope the honorable member for Coolgardie will persist in his amendment, so that I may have an opportunity to vote for the lowest possible duties on a necessary of life. As to our moral obligation, the honorable member for Parkes has stated that we are morally bound to recognise the licences given to hotelkeepers.
– The obligation is recognised by Parliament.
– It is not recognised in New South Wales.
– A four years’ period has been fixed there.
– The moral obligation has not been recognised by the people of New South Wales. What the honorable member speaks of was a compromise agreed to by the State Parliament. In any case, one Parliament cannot bind another. That is made evident by the fact that we are now engaged in altering many .Tariff items agreed .to by a previous Parliament. Have those affected by the changes the right to complain that vested interests are being injured? When we were last dealing with the sugar . industry, the representatives of Queensland said, “ Surely you will not put an end to the bounty payments without giving notice of your intention to the growers?” In recognition of the justice of giving notice, we agreed that in 19 11 and 1912 the bounty should taper off, and then cease. But if we agree to the proposed duty now, without protest, we shall be told later on, “ In 1907 you agreed to the duty, and thus gave us reason to believe that you intended in 191 2 to continue the present system.” I hope that a large number will be found supporting the amendment. My ‘ opinion that it should be supported is strengthened by the statements made by the honorable’ member for North Sydney, as the’ result of a careful study of the question.
– He is going to vote against the amendment.
– Because he adopts the view of the honorable member for Parkes, that the Commonwealth has made a compact with Queensland. I do not consider that there is a compact. The maintenance of a White , Australia policy should be dealt with by legislation, quite apart from our sugar legislation, which has not had the effect that we desire, and has caused the small States to lose a considerable amount of revenue.
– I agree with honorable members who think that growers employing coloured labour should not enjoy the same privileges as those employing only white labour, and I hope that the Excise on sugar the product of coloured labour will be increased to 6s. per cwt., making it equal to the import duty. I believe that the honorable member for Coolgardie is at heart a true and conscientious free-trader, and therefore think that he should have moved the aboli-‘ tion of the import duty. Apparently, however, free-trade is now eliminated from the political catalogue, and in this Parliament, we have only revenue tariffists.
– I am a member of the Labour Party first of all.
– That is so. While the members of this party may have their little differences, they are all, whether freetraders or protectionists, loyal to the flag under which they serve. Although some honorable members have complained that we pay too dearly for our sugar, according to Mulhall, in i8ii, and again in 1820, the British duty on sugar was £27 a ton,, and the price of the commodity £90 per ton in the firstnamed year, and £63 per ton in the second, while as late as 1890 the French taxation was 3s. 7d. per head of population, so that Australia pays very little to make sugar-growing a white, man’s industry. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the price of sugar for table use is £20 a ton wholesale, which works out at 2.i/7d. per lb., and I know that sugar of splendid quality has been sold in Victoria retail for 2s. 6d. for 12 lbs. The view is held by some that sugar- is entering too much into the diet of human beings, and many medical men are prohibiting its use in some diseases, but it is certainly cheap enough. According to the Economist, the London prices of refined sugar, on the 7th September last, were as follow -
I hope that the honorable member will withdraw his amendment. The adoption of my suggestion to make the Excise on sugar, the product of coloured labour, equal to the import duty, would do more to bring about what, as labour representatives, we both desire - the providing of more work for our white population. I hold that if we agreed to the amendment, sugar produced by coloured labour in other parts of the world would come into this market. Furthermore, a reduction of the duty on beet sugar would do more to gain the honorable member’s end than would the carrying of the amendment. Even the people of the West Indies, who for generations have been growing sugar cane, have quite recently been compelled to accept assistance from the Home Government, because their black labour product could not compete with beet sugar, a white labour product.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne asks me to do an impossibility. The difficulty cannot be solved, as I shall show presently, by making the Excise duty on Australian sugar equal to the import duty on sugar from abroad, nor can a private member propose an increase in duty. Furthermore, no Excise is proposed in the schedule, the Government assuming - wrongly, I think - that the rate of Excise being fixed by an Act passed in 1905, it is unnecessary to prescribe it in the Tariff -schedule. I presume, however, that they acted under legal advice. For both reasons the request of the honorable member for Melbourne cannot be complied with, the privilege of increasing a duty resting with the Government. Nor can it be shown that the adoption of this course would solve the difficulty. I freely admit that by raising the Excise to the level of the import duty and increasing the bounty to the grower of sugar by white labour, we should seriously penalize the grower of sugar by black labour, and assuredly drive him out of the industry. We have to remember, however, that under the Braddon section three-fourths of the amount raised by way of Excise must be returned to the States, and hence this proposition, if adopted, would result inserious financial embarrassment. In other words, if we adopted the proposition suggested by the honorable member for _ Melbourne and others, that the Excise should be raised to the level of the import duty, we would raise £1,200,000 - estimating, the productionof white-grown Australian sugar at 200,000 tons - and as three-fourths of that amount would have to be returned to the States, we should have to give away the whole of the revenue, with £700,000 additional. Is that statement doubted ? If so, I shall prove it in detail. We must return three-fourths of the Excise revenue to the States, the amount of such refund being £900,000. Unless it is intended to penalize the white grower, you must increase his bounty by a sum equivalent to the increase in his Excise. The increase in Excise suggested is £2 per ton, the bounty is at present £3. Hence, if you raise the Excise to £6, you must make the white grower’s bounty £5, which, on 200,000 tons, means £1,000,000 per annum. Thus you receive £1,200,000, and pay away to the States and to the planters £1,900,000, leaving a net loss to the Treasury of £700,000 yearly. These figures defy challenge. The white grower will be no better off than before. The only alteration in his position is that, instead of receiving £3 as bounty and £2 per ton as protection, he would receive the whole £.5 in one lump payment from the Treasury. The’ remedy is. therefore, worse than the disease. We add to the complexity of our already complicated machinery to deprive the black grower of any Tariff advantage, whereas we can do it at once and directly by reducing the import duty to £4. The excuse of the honorable member for Grey and others, who attempt to justify their support of the black grower by pretending that I am taking the wrong method, is thus shown to foe hollow and theatrical. The true way, and the only way, to deprive the black grower of his present advantage is to reduce the import duty. We have heard a good deal about an alleged contract made between this Parliament and the planters, the assumption being that we have given the planters something in the nature of an assurance that the present arrangement will not be disturbed before the end of 191 2. The attempt to make out a case in favour of the existence of such a contract or understanding has been fairly well met by the honorable member for Angas.
– And by the honorable member for Flinders.
– That is so. They clearly showed that there is no warrant for such a contention. Whilst I have never denied that to a large extent the. import duty, the Excise and the bounty are interwoven in the one broad general policy, such an admission does not affect my position. My contention is that if the amendment
I have submitted were adopted the planter would still enjoy as large a measure of protection as he is reasonably entitled to receive. If we were starting afresh - if we had in Queensland no black labour, and no Excise or bounty were required - should we think it fair to burden the masses of the community with more than a 25 per cent, duty on sugar ?
– Perhaps we should not impose, even a 25 per cent, duty.
– I am confident that the common-sense of honorable members would lead them to fix the duty at a slightly lower rate, or, at all events, not to exceed it. If th’at be so, my contention that we shall be perfectly justified in reducing thisduty to 25 per cent, is unassailable. There has been no agreement that the planter should have undiluted and continuous protection. I must thank the honorable member for Brisbane for having told the Com,mittee last night what he regarded as the undisguised truth, and in view of his statement, those who vote against the amendment, for the reduction of the duty will do so with their eyes open. The honorable member said that the protection and bounty now granted to the planters would alwaysbe required in respect of sugar grown in> the tropical districts of Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - By white labour.
– Quite so. Such an admission occasioned me some astonishment;, but, at the same time, I recognise thecourage and the frankness of the honorable member in making it. The honorable member went further, saying that even if the cultivation of some other product weresubstituted for sugar in the tropical districts of Queensland it would require fromthe rest of Australia equal protection and’ assistance to enable it to be carried onby white labour. That is a very valuable admission, more especially- since it comesfrom an honorable member who is thoroughly familiar with the conditions of tropical agriculture in the State of which heis a representative. In the circumstances it must be regarded as an authoritativestatement; and, therefore, those who vote for the retention of the duty can hardly complain if, in 1912, or in the interveningyears, they are confronted by their words and their votes on this occasion. They arevoting now in full light of the knowledge that we shall be called upon to continue this coddling of the industry after 1912 ; and if” at the end of that time they’ are ‘asked to continue this protection,. I fail to see how they will be able, logically, to refuse to do so.
– The same may be said of other industries.
– Perhaps. One of the unfortunate features of the protective policy is that those to whom it is applied are, like Oliver Twist, continually asking for more.
Colonel Foxton. - The period of which the honorable member speaks has only to do with the bounty and the Excise.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that the argument to-day is that we cannot interfere with the one duty without interfering with the other - that the Excise, the import duty, and the bounty are interwoven. Those who are against a reduction of the import duty are in favour of protecting the black grower.
– But would not the honorable member’s proposal interfere with the white grower?
– It would reduce to the extent of £2 per ton the protection enjoyed bv him, but it would still give him the assistance of a 25 per cent. duty. Had the honorable member been present a few moments ago he would have heard me inquire whether, if we were starting afresh and no bounty or protection were required, we should be prepared to impose more than a duty of 25 per cent.
Colonel Foxton. - I think we should probably impose the. duty which the States before Federation almost unanimously granted - a protective duty of £5 per ton.
-The duty, imposed by the States was for revenue, and not for protective purposes. Does the honorable member imagine that Victoria imposed such a duty to encourage the sugar industry in this State?
Colonel Foxton. - It was a protective duty in the case of Queensland.
– I fail to see how the honorable member for Grey and others can logically take up the position that whilst thev are anxious to deprive the grower of sugar by black labour of any protection, thev are justified in voting for the retention of the present duty. That is the position thev take ur>, and thev are welcome to it.
– It is not the position.
– None are so blind as those who refuse to see. The honorable member cannot successfully contend that I have misstated the facts.
– The attack made by the honorable member is on the -white grower,’ and not on the coloured man.
– I have attacked neither class of grower. . My attack is on the unfair privileges enjoyed by the grower of sugar by black labour, and although I would incidentally reduce the protection granted to the white grower, I hold that he would still enjoy as large an advantage as he ought in fairness to receive. The honorable member for Angas has appealed to me not to press this motion to a division, urging that the moral effect of my protest is in itself sufficient. I should like to comply with his request, but I. do not think it would be wise to do so. Whenever hitherto this duty has been under the consideration of the House, the honorable and learned member has delivered forcible and eloquent protests against it. His strictures were, in fact, unanswerable, and must have carried conviction to every unprejudiced mind. But, effective as the honorable and learned member was, he never for a moment disturbed the serenity of the planters. Now, the reformer who would destroy class privileges must be prepared to do more than merely denounce them. He must act, and that is what I propose to do in demanding a division. I want to give these planters overt proof that there is at any rate a section in this Parliament prepared here and now to drag their hands from the pockets of the taxpayer. We shall be defeated, of course - badly defeated - but the division list will be no true reflex of the opinion of this House. Let the planters understand that many of the votes which sustain their privileges to-day are given under the duress of circumstances ; that these votes are cast by men who deplore the necessity which compels them temporarily to condone the enormous plunder that the sugar-growers axe extracting from the masses of the community, and are determined, at the first opportunity, to put an end to the system. This division will be a danger signal from which, if they are wise, the planters will take warning that the doom of the sugar tribute cannot be.. much longer postponed. Last night the honorable member for ‘South Sydney, in reconciling his conscience to his vote for the higher, duty, stated that, upon the strength of the legislation that we enacted at- the end of 1905, a large number of persons had. purchased land and entered upon the cultivation of sugar.
– They have taken a speculator’s chance.
– Exactly. Having taken a speculator’s chance, they cannot complain if they meet with a speculator’s fate. But this pretence is akin to the others advanced on the part of the planters. Remember that the special legislation dealing with the sugar industry was passed at the end of 1905. The planters must have known then that that legislation would terminate in 1912. That is, indeed, clearly stated in the law. Is it reasonable to suppose that any sensible man would pay a big price for land, and enter into occupation of it, knowing that the profits accruing from it might be determined seven years hence? We must further recollect that eighteen months would elapse before he could secure any return whatever from his land. I hold that it is very unlikely that any individual would embark upon the industry when he knew that the profits accruing from it were likely to be terminated within a few years. The honorable member for Parramatta appeared to think - judging from his remarks - that the honorable member for North Sydney had first discovered that Australia was likely to be called upon to pay an export bounty upon sugar. Had he listened to what I said last evening, he would have known that an export bounty is being collected upon Australian sugar at the present time. If a ton of jam is exported, one half of which is sugar, and the exporter obtains a rebate of the Excise charged upon that sugar, I showed that he virtually gets a bounty upon the sugar conte’nts of the jam. Take the case which I put to the Committee last evening. Let us suppose that a man combined the two businesses of sugar-growing and jam-making. Let us assume that he produces a ton of sugar, upon which he would receive a protection 01 If he Put that sugar into jam he would obtain a rebate of £3 upon it from the Customs when it was exported.
– He could sell that sugar in the market. It makes no difference to him whether he is a manufacturer or not.
– Does not the honorable member see that it makes a difference to the Treasury?
– Therefore, we are virtually paying a bounty on export of sugar.
– Not exactly.
– It is beyond me to detect any difference between the two operations.
– The rebate is supposed to represent a remission of duty which has actually been paid. It is a drawback, not a bounty.
– That may be so. But upon every ton of sugar exported in the form of jam, the people of Australia, and the Treasury combined, are losing £6.
– Oh, no. What nonsense !
– I will prove it to the honorable member.
Colonel Foxton. - If it is locally-grown sugar, the people of the Commonwealth lose only the Excise.
– No. Sugar enjoys a net protection of £5 per ton. If that sugar is sold to a jam-maker, the latter pays that amount to the sugar-grower. The jam-maker puts that sugar into his jam and collects £3 per ton upon it from the Treasury when it is exported. Now, deducting £2 per ton increased value given to the sugar by Tariff protection, on every ton of sugar exported in the form of jam, the Treasury and the people of this country lose £6.
Colonel Foxton. - Oh, no.
– Let the honorable member get up and refute my statement. I have given the matter some thought, and I confess that it surprised me when I made the discovery just as much as it surprises the honorable member. The grower of the sugar has already had his £3 bounty ; and when the jam-maker who bought the identical sugar at the enhanced price sends it abroa’d in. the form of jam, the Treasuryremits him £3. Thus the Treasury loses j£6 per ton on the sugar exported in jam,
– The honorable member is not deducting the amount which the Government have received upon it by way of duty.
– The Government have received no duty upon it.
– They get the Excise.
– But they have to return three-fourths of it to the States. It is undeniable, therefore, that we are paving what is equivalent to an export bounty upon sugar.. As the Treasurer appears to be rather restive, and as I have no desire to take part in morning sittings of the House, I shall not detain the Committee any further. I have no feeling whatever against the sugar-growers, my impulse being merely that justice may be done to all classes of the community.
– I have already brought under the notice of the Treasurer the danger of the people of Australia being taxed as the result of a heavy export of Australian sugar. Of course, I am assuming that the usual practice is followed of remitting the Excise upon sugar exported, and also of paying a bounty upon its production. I do not think it was the intention of this Parliament to do more than support the industry to supply the requirements of Australia. We did not intend to support it to the extent of enabling it to supply other people with sugar at a cheap price, as the result of our contribution to the industry. As , it seems probable that during the present yearthe industry will reach an exporting level, I desire to know whether the Treasurer has yet given consideration to the question of whether he will continue to allow the remission of the Excise upon exported sugar. If hehas not given it consideration, I desire to know whether he will do so without delay, because the questionmust almost immediately become a very important one. We must recollect that every 25,000 tons of sugar that we export will necessitate a contribution of £75,000 by the people of Australia for the supply of cheap sugar to countries oversea. I ask the Treasurer whether hehas given this matter consideration, and if he has not done so, will the Cabinet consider it at an early dale, so that a conclusion may be arrived at upon a very important matter ?
– I do not wish to utter one word to prolong this debate. In answer to the question put by the honorable member for North Sydney, I merely desire to say that we may well wait until we are exporting sugar before we decide the matter which he referred to. It will be quite time enough for us to take the fence when we come to it. I wish to say, however, that I quite disapprove of any arrangement under which the price of sugar will be kept up internally, whilst being lowered externally. If this debate has served no other purpose - and the present occasion is about the fourth rehearsal that we have bad of the debate upon the duty on sugar–
– Seeing that it involves taxation to the extent of £1,250,000, it is a very important matter.
– I am not disputing that.
Mr.Page. - Does not the Treasurer think that new members wish to hear the matter discussed ?
– The honorable member must recollect that we have a Hansard, and that new members can read the reports of previous debates in that publication. At the present time, we allow a rebate upon sugar exported in the form of jam. When we are exporting largely, I certainly think that there must be a reconsideration of this matter. I say that, in view of what I regard as an undertaking - if not an absolute bargain - which we entered into with our eyes open, that the existing conditions should continue until 1912–
– They disappear in 1913.
– They will terminate at the end of 191 2. The decline which will take place in the bounty during the two years immediately preceding its termination constitute an intimation, which was deliberately inserted in the Sugar Bounty Act, to those in New South Wales and Queensland who are receiving that assistance at the present time, that it is not to be continued. If honorable members will read the debate upon this matter which took place in the Senate, they can have no two opinions as to what were the intentions of Parliament in this connexion. I was surprised to hear it suggested - if that was what was intended - that we should have to continue for all time the payment of the bounty upon sugar, and also the system of charging Excise upon it.
– Nobody has ever suggested that.
– The honorable member for Brisbane did so.
– I interpreted his remarks to mean that to prevent the importation of sugar produced by cheap labour, it would be necessary to retain a border duty upon that article. That is . what I understood him to mean, and I quite agree with him. Certainly I could not indorse the opinion that the Excise and the bounty should be continued after the term specified in the Sugar Bounty Act.
Colonel Foxton. - I was not referring to that matter.
– I wish to emphasize the fact that it is a scandal - if I may be permitted to use that strong word - that at the present time the price of
– Monopolies cannot be dealt with too early.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– Nationalization is the only way to meet the position.
– We cannot go into that question at the present moment. Although I should not like to crush a company, I would not hesitate to crush a monopoly, whether by the Government taking over the industry or by some other legislative act. It is a scandal that the price of sugar to-day is at least£3 higher per ton than it ought to be.
– We will bring the price down by £2.
– No, we shall not. This amendment will not be carried ; and if it is, it will not have that effect.
– We shall have a try.
– I have no desire to prolong this debate, but I must say that all this talk about bringing the price down by £2 is most absurd, as coming from those who support the White Australia policy. What the Company would like today would be to see the whole of the duty taken off, because they practically own the sugar estates in Fiji, where labour can be obtained for a song, and their complaint is that Fijian sugar cannot be introduced without payment of a duty. If the duty be reduced, we shall destroy the White Australia policy on which we have spent so much, and which stands to the credit of the Commonwealth. This policy has cost us a large sum in the past, but if we can, by any action of ours, assist in the development of our country by means of white labour, the object is worth the money. But there must be no monopoly standing in the way. I promise that the matter of price, and also the Excise and the bounty, in view of exportation, will be taken into consideration.
– Is the Minister referring to the new protection ?
– I do not wish to be drawn off the subject.
– No one desires to “ draw “ the Treasurer off the subject.
– No doubt the new protection will have an important bearing, but, in the meantime, there are other considerations, if it be found that a monopoly is producing ill-effects on the consumers of Australia.
Question - That the words “ and on and after 16th October, 1907, per cwt, 4s.” (Mr. Mahon’s amendment), be added - put. . The Committee divided.
Majority … … 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 29. Invert sugar and invert syrup, including brewers’ priming sugar, per cwt., 6s.
– Under the old Tariff the duty on this commodity was 8s. per cwt., as contrasted with the proposed duty of 6s. ; in other words, we meet in this item what we do not meet in any other, namely, a reduction of duty. Under the circumstancesI think the Committee are entitled to some explanation from the Treasurer.
– Invert sugar is sugar-cane mixed with water, to which a little sulphuric acid is added, which converts the cane sugar into grape sugar. It is used by brewers because it dissolves very much quicker and better than does the ordinary sugar. That is the explanation given to me of the appearance of the item in the Tariff. There is no strong reason why the duty should be reduced, but the Department considers that it ought to be brought into line with that on ordinary sugar.
– It ought to be brought into linewith glucose, on which 8s. per cwt. is charged.
– We wish to bring it into line with sugar.
– It is commonly known as brewers’ crystals.
– Yes. Duty has never been collected on it as glucose.
– Is it not imported from Java?
– I believe that some is. The Department wish to bring it into linewith sugar, it never having been regarded as glucose. If it is desired to make the rate 8s., the Government will have no very strong objection. It is not a matter that we are going to make a stand on. I leave it entirely to the Committee.
.- As a matter of fact, a considerable quantity of invert sugar produced by black labour, is imported from Java, and I see no reason why the duty should not be raised to the old rate of 8s. a ton. That will give the Commonwealth more revenue. I move - .
That the figure “6” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “8.”
– I accept the amendment, because I understand that the rate of 8s. was levied under the old Tariff, and, therefore, I do not regard it as a proposal for an increase.
– Is not 6s. being charged now?
– No ; 8s.
– What position would you take up, Mr. Chairman, if an increase were proposed? Mr. Speaker has ruled at least twice, to my knowledge, that increases may be proposed.
– By a Minister.
– No; by a private member.
– The point has not yet arisen. When it does, I shall rule on it, I hope to the satisfaction of the Committee.
.- There seems to be no good reason for reducing the duty on this article. I have ascertained that invert sugar is an amorphous saccharine substance produced by the action of diluted acids on cane sugar, which converts the sugar into equal parts of dextrose and laevulose. Invert sugar is the chief ingredient of honey, its name arising from its property of turning the polarised rays of light to the left insteadof to the right, as is the case with ordinary sugar. Invert sugar is used chiefly for brewing purposes, as inferior sugar is made more useful in the brewing process by inverting it. These remarks apply also to invertsyrup. I think that if there is any justification for having a high rate upon any article, that justification exists in this case, for it is only a concession to the brewing interests.
.- I hope that the Committee will agree to the amendment. The Government propose a concession to the brewers for which I think honorable members should not vote. The fact that invert sugar turns the polarised rays of light to the left instead of to the right, in itself gives a sinister aspect to the Government proposal.
Question - That the figure “6” proposed to be left out, stand part of the item - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Item 30. Sugar n.e.i., per cwt.,10s.
– I should like the Minister to explain the meaning of this item.
– It relates to beet sugar.
– Is any beet sugar being produced in the Commonwealth ?
– I do not think so.
– This item relates to the famous industry of which we have heard so often and which we are protecting at such infinite cost. Has anything been done to galvanize it into existence or is the Maffra Beet Sugar Mill still closed down.
– I think that it is still closed down.
– Then had we not better abolish this duty?
– No; let it remain.
Item agreed to.
Item 31 (Golden syrup and sugar syrups n.e.i.) agreed to.
Item 32. Molasses, per cwt.,1s.
– I move -
That the words “and on and after 17th October, 1907, free,” be added.
I can see no justification for this duty. In times of drought molasses is largely used for stock feeding purposes. There is every indication that fodder will be very dear this season, and that many stockowners will have to resort to what is known as cocky chaff for the feeding of their herds and flocks. Only 698 cwt. of molasses were imported last year, and since a very large quantity is constantly running to waste in the sugar-growing districts of New South Wales I fail to see why we should impose a duty.
.- I gave notice some time ago that I intended to move that certain items be placed on the free list, and that now before us was amongst the number. I rose with the intention of moving accordingly, but the honorable member for Grey forestalled me. I therefore support the proposition. Molasses is most largely used as an article of food by the poorest section of the community. It has very nutritive properties, and unless good reason can be shown to the contrary it should certainly be on the free list. It was. free under the old Tariff, and both sections of the Tariff Commission recommended that it should not be dutiable.
.- I wish to add my protest against the imposition of this duty -
– If the honorable member will pardon me, I wish to say at once that I am prepared to accept the motion.
– I am surprised that a protectionist Government should have agreed to this item being placed on the free list.
– Do not talk nonsense.
– It is remarkable that as soon as a little opposition to an item is displayed by the Labour Party the Government are prepared without any further reason to withdraw it. Instead of abolishing this duty I would increase it. We shall really tend to cheapen the price of molasses to the consumer by increasing the duty. In the annual report of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock for 1906-7 the following paragraph appears -
Molasses. - The output of this by-product last year was returned at 8,373,581 gallons. Sucha relatively small portion is put to direct profit that it is probably the full quantity is not recorded. Of that appearing on the returns, 1,486,767 gallons weresold; 737,108 were fed to live stock; 1,050,776 gallons were utilized as fertilizer; and 569,094 gallons reported as still on hand; and 4,529,836 gallons, or more than one half, “ run to waste.” In view of its proved value as an article of diet for live stock of all kinds, this appears to be a matter for regret. The planters of the Wide Bay and Burnett division appear to be able to dispose of by far the most of this commodity. . .
Since an enormous quantity of molasses is now running to waste, there is not much prospect of the price to the consumer being raised by the imposition of a duty. The sugar-grower is entitled to some modicum of protection in regard to this by-product of his industry, and I shall therefore oppose the placing of the item on the free list.
– The quotation made by the honorable member for Moreton constitutes a very strong argument for the placing of this item on the free list. So far as the Government are concerned, there is no strong reason for the imposition of a duty on molasses. A very large quantity is annually running to waste in Australia, and as only 698 cwt. were imported last year, I do not think the item is one about which the protectionists need have much concern. If it be found later on that molasses can be more generally used, then we should be able to impose a duty. At present, there is no great object to be served by the imposition of a duty, and, as I do not wish a long debate to take place in connexion with this small item, I am prepared to save time by accepting the proposition made by the honorable member for Grey.
– I do not wish to prolong the debate, but it is curious that the Government should have proposed the imposition of a duty on molasses when such an enormous quantity at the present time is running to waste in Australia. I am in favour of placing the item on the free list, believing that, by doing so, we shall cheapen the cost to the consumer. This is a commodity which, for aught we know, may be very largely used later on. It is well known that Australians are very large meat eaters, and the belief is spreading that meat-eating is one of the causes of cancer. Several cases have occurred in which molasses have been found efficacious in the treatment of that disease, and as I am in favour of reducing the cost to the consumer of anything that will assist in alleviating human suffering, I support the placing of the item on the free list.
.- The fact that, whilst in one part of Australia immense quantities of molasses are running to waste,some people in the Commonwealth see fit to use the imported article constitutes, to my mind, a strong reason why this duty should be imposed. For that reason, I join with the representatives of Queensland, who, believing that we should encourage Australian industries, support this item.
– There are practically no imports of molasses.
– Last year there was an importation of 698 cwt., and I think that the duty should be retained.
.- I am surprised that the honorable member for Bass should support this duty. Protective duties are designed to assist manufacturers and others - to encourage them to increase their output; but, as something like 4,000,000 gallons of molasses are annually wasted in Australia, it would be ridiculous to impose a protective duty to increase the production. It is regrettable that molasses cannot be supplied more cheaply, but nothing we could do in the way of imposing Customs duties would improve the present position.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the remaining items be postponed until after the consideration of the Excise duties on invert sugar and invert syrup, saccharin and golden syrup.
Invert sugar and invert syrup, per cwt., 3s.
– I should like to learn from the Minister whetherthis duty will harmonize with the import duty on invert sugar which we have passed.
– The proposed duty upon invert sugar is the corollary to the Excise upon sugar. Under the old Tariff, duty was charged according to the sugar contents, but it is thought very much better to have the amount of duty specified,and the Department consider that it is absolutely necessary to retain the item in its present form.
Item agreed to.
Saccharin and other similar substitutes for sugar, per lb., £5.
– I would suggest to the Treasurer the wisdom of postponing the consideration of this item until after we have dealt with the Customs duty to be levied upon saccharin.
– I have no objection to com plying with the request of the honorable member.
Golden syrup, and syrups n.e.i., per cwt., 1s. 6d.
– I take it that this Excise will practically be a tax upon the consumer. Golden syrup is very largely used by persons of small means. Residents in the. bush consume immense quantities of it, as it is considered a good substitute for jam. The item is therefore of importance to a very large number of persons of moderate means, and, under the circumstances, I should like to know whether in levying this Excise the Treasurer has any particular object in view ?
– For the reasons given by the honorable member for Capricornia, and in order to save the time of the Committee, I move -
That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, free,” be added.
– I think that the Government might very well consent to the amendment. The whole of the golden syrup consumed in Australia is produced locally. The only possible effect of the Excise proposed would be to add to the living expenses of those who use this article. Seeing that it is a good food product, I do not know why we should increase its cost. The amount of revenue that would be derived from the duty cannot be very large.
– At this rate, we had better withdraw the Tariff altogether.
– Surely the Treasurer does . not pretend that this Excise duty is part of the protectionist policy of the Government. From a protectionist stand-point, there is no argument in favour of the imposition of the duty. If a matter of policy were involved, I could understand the Treasurer taking up a strong position upon it. But the duty is rather against the policy professed by the Government, and, therefore, I strongly urge him to agree to the amendment.
– I am very pleased to hear the honorable member for South Sydney pleading for the remission of this duty. His appeal, however, is somewhat belated. When the duty upon sugar was under consideration, I should have liked to hear him pleading for its reduction in the interests of the consumers.
– We do not admit that an import duty necessarily increases the price of any article.
– It is remarkable that, time after time, we get sly admissions that certain duties will have the effect of increasing the price of commodities. My position is that I intend to vote for placing the food supplies of the people upon the free list. Where I am not successful I shall endeavour to secure the lowest possible duty upon them.
.- The argument of the honorable member for Dalley would have been very much more effective had he omitted all reference to the honorable member for South Sydney.
– If we touch one member of the Labour Party all the others rush to his assistance.
– The honorable member for South Sydney does not require anybody to defend him. The imposition of the Excise proposed will not bring any industry into existence. It will merely be a revenue duty. Fortunately a large amount of the golden syrup used in Australia is produced locally. The effect of the Excise has been to increase the price of the article. As the honorable member for South Sydney has pointed out, that duty can in no way touchthe protective policy of the Government. I hope that the Treasurer will agree to place the item upon the free list, as it will mean a substantial benefit to the consumer.
– Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Wide Bay, had already spoken to me in reference to this duty, and I was considering what course I should adopt in respect to it when the honorable member for Parramatta submitted his amendment. I find that the remission of the duty will involve a loss of revenue, but not a very great loss. The proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta - with which I intend to agree - is a protectionist proposal, inasmuch as the remission of the duty proposed will confer a greater measure of protection upon golden syrup. I must congratulate the honorable member upon having submitted a protectionist proposal with which I am in entire agreement. The loss which will be caused by the abolition of the duty., need not be seriously considered from a revenue stand-point. I am glad to hear that the whole of the golden syrup consumed in Australia is produced within the Commonwealth.
– Practically the whole of it.
– The bulk of it is produced in Queensland, I. think. I am very pleased to notice the tenacious way in which the representatives of Queensland fight for the industries of that State. When we reach other industries in which the other States are interested, I hope that they will continue to give us their support. I have no desire to occupy the time of the Committee unduly, and therefore I intend to agree to the amendment.
– I desire to congratulate the Treasurer upon the speedy manner in which he has agreed to the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney. Only five minutes ago he declared that the Government might as well withdraw the Tariff if amendments to their proposals were to be persisted in. Am I to understand that when the Treasurer threatens the withdrawal of the Tariff he does not mean it? I trust that he will agree to amendments proposed by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber with as much alacrity as he has exhibited upon the present occasion.
Amendment agreed to.
Division IV. - Agricultural products and groceries.
Item 33. Animals, living ; (except for stud purposes), viz. : -
– I desire to know why it is proposed to levy this taxation upon stock?
– A similar practice is followed in every other country, and the impost is so small that it is really not worth talking about.
– I intend to move that the stock specified in this item should be admitted free. As honorable members are aware, the live stock imported into the Commonwealth is chiefly im ported for stud purposes. The Commonwealth is a large exporter of stock, both live and dead, and the only occasion for many years when there has been any importation was in 1902-3 during the prevalence of the memorable drought. It was then found necessary to import stock from New Zealand for food purposes. Under similar circumstances why should the starving people of the Commonwealth be required to pay an impost upon cattle, sheep, or pigs? The duty proposed would be a charge upon the food supplies of the people under the most exceptional conditions. It would operate to the detriment of the whole community, including those engaged in the stock industry. I move -
That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, free,” be ‘added.
– The principal reason why there should be a small duty of this kind is that it gives the Customs authorities a knowledge and control of animals which are imported.’ It is most important that there should be investigation by the Customs; and I am surprised that the honorable member for Calare should object to the imposition of a duty, which, under the circumstances, may almost be described as paltry. Under the old Victorian Tariff, there were duties of 30s. and £2.
– That was as between States.
– The duties also operated against the outside world. In New Zealand, at present, there is a duty of 10s. ; in Canada, under British preference, there is a duty of 15 per cent., an intermediate duty of 2 2 *</inline> per cent., and a general duty of 25 per cent. ; and in the United States of America there is a duty of 8s. 4d. per head, if the animals are less than a year old and valued at 58s. 4d. or less, and of 27
– There is no duty on horses.
– There is no duty ‘on stud horses, but, supposing a hunter worth £200 were imported?
– There is no duty at all on horses.
– In any case, it is desirable to see that imported cattle, sheep, or pigs are not diseased in any way.
– Why are horses not included ?
– I do not know ; I was under the impression that horses were included. This, however, is not really a duty, but merely a toll such as is imposed in other countries, in order that some control may be exercised over the imports.
– The explanation of the Treasurer only serves to put the duty in a worse light than that in which it appeared at first. Such a charge as he indicates would be perfectly justifiable if made in connexion with quarantine, for example, in the case of animals imported for stud purposes. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, that all stud animals are excluded from the operation of the Tariff ; and most of the highly-priced animals are for stud purposes. As I said before, the only occasion on which animals have been imported for food purposes was in the drought of 1902-3, when it would have been perfectly justifiable to suspend the operation of a protective Tariff. The Victorian Tariff, the Canadian Tariff, and the United States Tariff are all samples of protective Tariffs.
– This is intended to be so, and I hope it will be.
– If that be so, I wish the Treasurer would be as reasonable in regard to other proposed protective duties. But if this is a protective duty, why does it not apply to stud animals ? Why is it applied only to animals imported for use as food ? The proposed duty will not benefit in a protective way the stock-owners of the Commonwealth ; indeed, it will be as detrimental to them as to the consuming public. I hope the Committee will reject the item.
.- I notice that stud animals are exempt from the operation of the duties; but I question whether a declaration has been thought necessary hitherto, because when there is no duty it is immaterial for what purpose the animals are imported. I take it, therefore, that all, or nearly all, importations are for stud purposes, and if animals which will come within the operation of the duty are wanted in Australia for other purposes, it will be at a time when there has been a failure of our own stock, and they are wanted for food.
It cannot possibly be good to impose a duty which can operate only at such a time. I cannot see what reason there is for such an absurd impost, which is not high enough to be protective, or to be of any importance from a revenue point of view. I suppose that at the very outside the revenue under this item would amount to £50 a year, unless, of course, people are in the habit of importing such animals as pets.
.- I do not think that this duty would be of any service from the point of view of either protection or revenue. The Treasurer, I take it, does not desire to make this Tariff longer than can be helped ; the shorter it is, so long as it meets his views, the better. I do not think that the Treasurer can look on this as in any sense a protective duty.
– Yes, I do.
– According to the returns, only161 horses and twenty-four pigs were imported in 1906.
– Under the old Tariff a lot of pork was imported to compete with our farmers’ produce.
-But living animals are contemplated in this item.
– Pigs are imported and killed here.
– Where from?
– New Zealand.
– The expense of carrying live stock on board ship is very great, seeing that it is subject to special rates’. The total importation of cattle, sheep, and pigs is nominal. Of course these animals must appear on the manifest; and the Customs officials are just as particular in the case of free goods as in the case of goods on which there is a heavy duty. There are State laws to protect our herds and flocks against diseased cattle; and, since stud animals are not dutiable, it seems to me that the Government might very well let this item be struck out. However, it is not a question on which to have a long debate.
.- I hope the Government will not give way on this item.
– I do not intend to.
– It is only right that in this connexion there should be some protection against the outside world. The honorable member for Calare has told us that these imported animals are used for food purposes, and that they ought to be free, because they are required mostly in times of drought. In times of plenty cattle and sheep can be sent from the mainland to Tasmania; but if a drought should occur on the mainland, and there were no duty, a supply would come from New Zealand, with the result of shutting Tasmanian stock breeders out in the cold.
– The stock of Tasmania would not feed Australia.
– No; but it would assist. The mainland does not feed Tasmania at the present time, because in Tasmania a good deal of stock is raised. However, it is only right that there should be protection for the whole of Australia in regard to imported animals. Duties are imposed on carcasses -on pork, ham, bacon, and so forth, and I do not see why there should not be duties on the live animals.
– I cannot agree with the view of the honorable member for Bass. I have heard a good many arguments in this House, but none so feeble as that just advanced by the honorable member. Heaven protect us from our friends ! Has the whole of Australia to be saddled with a protective duty on the off chance of a drought, which will enable a few farmers in Tasmania to make fortunes ? I am not in favour of protection under such circumstances. I can remember when the Commonwealth Government, although the stock of New South Wales was dying by thousands, refused to reduce the fodder duties. I should be sorry to see a return of those times, and to find ourselves dependent on Tasmania for our food supplies. During the election, I said that if any of my electors particularly wished that certain strangled industries should be aided by means of a little protection, I saw no reason why they should not be protected. I also told them that I was waiting for the reports of the Tariff Commission ; and when those reports were issued, I found that both the freetrade section and the protectionist section recommended that there should be no tax whateveron horses, cattle, sheep, or pigs. Yet we have these heavy duties now proposed. The Ministry were not recommended by the Tariff Commission to impose duties of this kind, and, therefore, I shall vote against them.
.- It seems to me that the indignation of the honorable member for Hunter must have been assumed, because it cannot matter greatly whether these duties are retained or abolished.
– It may matter if we have a big drought.
– Australia is so large a country that it is not possible for a big drought to affect our food supplies. Droughty conditions will never prevail all over the continent at any one time, rendering it necessary for us to import cattle and sheep for food. It seems to me that the Minister might very well have imposed a duty on horses other than those imported for stud purposes. Last year, 406 horses were imported, some for stud purposes, and others for racing.
– And some as carriage horses.
– Yes. A duty on carriage horses would be a duty on luxuries. Horse racing, too, is a money-making concern.
– I do not think that those who have had experience of it take that view.
– I suggest to the Minister that he should impose a duty on horses imported for racing or other purposes, except stud purposes.
– I am surprised at the opposition to these duties. As the honorable member for Bass has pointed out, Tasmania does not rear sufficient live stock to supply herself with food, her supplies coming chiefly from New South Wales and Victoria.But, as the vessels trading between New Zealand and Australia have become larger and more powerful, I have expected the Dominion to commence sending stock to Tasmania. Cattle could be taken from New Zealand to Hobart almost as easily as from Twofold Bay. Why should we not impose a duty to protect Australian interests in this matter? The mainland should have the advantage of supplying stock to Tasmania,just as in times of drought Tasmania supplies fodder to Australia.
– Why should not stock raisers as well as other persons be protected ?
– Quite so; though very often, while desiring protection for themselves, they wish to get their requirements as cheaply as possible. That was shown during the wire-netting discussion. Then, again, it is desirable, in the interests of securing preferential trade arrangements, by negotiations with New Zealand, that we should have these duties on the statute-book.
– Then the Minister proposes to put on these duties in order to take them off again?
– The honorable member knows that, in negotiating, if you have nothing to give you will not get anything. This is only one argument for the duty ; the other I have already stated.
– The Tariff Commission has not recommended these duties.
– We were not confined to the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. I thought that stud horses were included in the item. Both stud horses and stud cattle should be included. It is nonsense to say that, because animals are imported for stud purposes, a slight impost should not be paid on them.
– If the honorable member thinks that there should be a duty on stud animals, why has he expressly exempted them from duty?
– I was not aware of the exemption. I cannot be expected to remember every item in the Tariff.
– Will the honorable member propose a duty on horses other than those imported for stud purposes?
– A duty of10s. on an animal worth £2,000 would not be very much.
– It would be very little. A similar charge, when imposed by Sir George Dibbs, was termed, not a duty, but a toll. If honorable members desire me to do so, I shall propose a duty on horses other than those imported for stud purposes.
– Why does not the honorable member propose a duty on other animals - asses and Angora goats?
– And elephants.
– I shall not do more than propose a duty on horses.
.- The honorable member for Boothby speaks of taxing luxuries, but horses imported for racing purposes are worth probably £200, £300, or £500 each, and it would be absurd to impose a tax of10s. per head on such valuable animals. If revenue is required, why not put on a tax worth speaking of? A tax of10s. would hardly pay the cost to which the Department would be put in sending a man round to ascertain whether the importation was a horse or a cow. The proposed duties would do nothing to prevent the importation of animals of value, and the Minister’s remarks about the probability of importations from New Zealand were absurd. I shall vote against these duties, because they will not increase our revenue, and will merely lend colour to the statement of those who decry our methods by saying that we are imposing duties on everything, without rhyme or reason. The Treasurer tells us that he did not originally propose a duty on horses because he thought that horses were provided for ; but I fail to see how horses can be taken to be included when “ horned cattle, sheep, and pigs “ alone are mentioned.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) put -
That the words “(d) horses, per head,10s.,” be added.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I propose again to move -
That the wortis “ and on and after . 1711 October, 1907, free,” be added.
So far as I can judge, this item is not required for checking purposes. If it is, surely the Government should have thought it necessary to apply it to the high-priced animals that are imported for stud purposes as well as to animals intended for our food supplies. If, on the other hand, this is regarded by the Government as a protective duty, I would point out that the stockowners of Australia are exporters, and that it is only under exceptional circumstances that animals are imported for food . supply purposes. The only occasion on which I remember stock being imported for such purposes was during the drought of 1902-3, and I think the Committee will agree that it would be unwise to impose a tax of this kind not upon the active producing operations of the country, but upon the poverty of the people. It would press upon the people at a time when we should most desire to assist them.
– I propose to put the question “ That the item as amended be agreed to.” The Committee has alreadyagreed to an amendment providing for a duty on horses, so that if the usual form of amendment - “and on and after 17th October, 1907, free “-were adopted and the question were put in that way, the decision just arrived at might be negatived.
– The honorable member could make his proposal refer to a day later.
– If that course were followed and the amendment were defeated, a further amendment, providing that the item from a still later date should be free, could be moved, and finality would be practically impossible. On the other hand, if I put the .question, “That the item, as amended, be agreed to,” the honorable member for Calare and those who share his view on this matter will be in a position to vote against it.
– If the question were put as suggested by you, Mr. Chairman, and were carried, it would be carried as against the proposal to make the item free, and it would not be competent for an honorable member afterwards to move that the duties in the item be reduced by one-half.
– There is no amendment to reduce them.
– No; for the reason Mint we invariably start by moving that an item be placed on the free list, and in the event of that proposition being defeated gradually work upwards. I wish to move that these duties be reduced by one-half.
– I would point out to the honorable member that he would be in order in moving that. the duties on horned cattle, sheep, and. pigs be reduced by one-half, but that it would not be competent for him to move that the duty on horses, to which we have just agreed, should be similarly reduced.
– In dealing with the first Federal Tariff, as well as in our consideration of that now before us, we have never departed from a fixed rule. I do not suppose that the proposition . submitted by the honorable member for Calare will be carried, so that in this case no difficulty is likely to arise, but if we adopted your suggestion, Mr. Chairman, we might, create a precedent which would work badly in relation to a motion that was likely to be carried. The duties under this item have been levied from 9th August last, and if we omitted them from the Tariff we should make the- whole of the collections up to the present date illegal. On the other hand, by following the course which we have hitherto pursued we should preserve the interests of the Department, and keep it free from such a situation. We should make the collections legal up to the date on which we determined the duties should cease. For the first time in my experience we are proposing- to adopt a form of procedure which is wrong, and might prove most , inconvenient as a precedent. Hitherto we have always accepted a duty up to the date on which an amendment has been proposed, and the amendment has always removed or reduced the duty from the date of its being carried. It would be rather inconvenient, for the sake of overcoming the little difficulty which you, sir, have foreseen, to depart from that practice.
– We cannot get behind a decision of the Committee.
– No, but the honorable member for Calare could move that from a certain date, say, two days later than the date on which it has been decided that under this item ‘horses shall be dutiable, all stock coming under the item shall be free. That would not be inconsistent with the decision just arrived at. My only interest’ in this matter is in relation to the establishment of a precedent.
– The leader of the Opposition has pointed out the procedure followed throughout the consideration of the last as well as the present Tariff, but, as we have just affirmed the proposal that horses should be included in this item, when the honorable member for Calare submitted his proposition, it occurred to me that it would not be desirable first of all to affirm a principle and, immediately afterwards, to negative it. I would suggest that, in order to overcome the difficulty, the honorable member for Calare should alter his amendment to read, “ That the following words be added : - ‘ and on and after 1 7th October, 1907, except horses, free.’ “
– That would meet the difficulty.
– I was going to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if my amendment were varied in the way you have indicated, the difficulty would be met.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– What is the motion with which we have just dealt?
– That on and after 17 th October, horses should be dutiable at10s. per head.
– No. The amendment, as received and put by me, was as follows : “ (d.) Horses, per head10s.” That amendment was agreed to. I then put the question, “ That the item, as amended, be agreed to.” The honorable member for Calare has now moved, “ That the following words be added,and on and after 17th October, 1907, except horses, free. ‘ “
– All that the Committee has done has been to insert a new sub-section in an item which has not yet been passed. I submit that there should be another affirmative vote on the item as amended, before it can be said to have become the law of the land. If the question, “That the item, as amended, be agreed to” were adopted it would not be competent for an honorable member to move that the duties be reduced.
– After the amendment moved by the Treasurer had been inserted, I put the question. “ That the item as amended, be agreed to,” upon which the honorable member for Calare moved a further amendment, viz. : “ That the words and on and after 17 th October, 1907, except horses, free.’ be added.”
– I desire to ask whether it will be competent for any honorable member to move for a reduction of the duty in paragraph (d) of this item?
– It will not be competent for any honorable member to move in ‘the direction indicated, because the Committee have already affirmed that there shall be a duty of10s. per head levied upon horses.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to say that my vote upon the recent division was given under a misapprehension. I was under the impression that I was merely voting upon a proposal to amend the item so that we should afterwards be at liberty to discuss it, and to vote upon it.
– Would it not be better to permit of the addition of an item in cases of this kind?
– I would point out to the honorable member that when an item has been amended, I can only put to the Committee the question, “ That the item, as amended, be agreed to.”If that be carried, the honorable member must see that no further amendment can be moved.
Question -That the words, “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, except horses, free” (Mr. Thomas Brown’s amendment), be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 34. - Sago and Tapioca, per lb.,½d.
.- I move-
That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, per cental 2s.,” be added.
I would point out that the import expenses upon these commodities already amount to a protection of 10 per cent., and that neither sago nor tapioca is produced in Australia. The duty is intended to be a revenue duty only. Further, these articles are very valuable foodstuffs, which are absolutely indispensable to the nursery and the sick room. They are largely used in foods for infants, and the proposed duty is equivalent to quite 50 per cent, ad valorem. In 1906, the importations of sago and tapioca amounted to 76,067 centals, and the duty paid upon them totalled £13,416. Probably, with a reduced duty operative, there would be larger consumption of these commodities, and thus the revenue would be benefited. I know that most honorable members are desirous of disposing of the Tariff as quickly as possible, and with that object in view, I intend to state my reasons for submitting any amendments that I may move as briefly as possible.
– I would point out to honorable members that the duty proposed is that which was operative under the old Tariff. It is similar to the impost which is levied in Canada, and in the United States. It is true that tapioca and sago are not grown extensively in the Commonwealth, but there are commodities produced here which take their place. I believe that these articles are produced in some parts of Australia, but in very small quantities. The duty of½d. per lb. is equivalent to 4s. 2d. per cental. It is better to make these commodities dutiable at id. per lb. than at 4s. per cental. Honorable members will notice that both sec- tions of the Tariff Commission recommend the adoption of a duty of 4s. per cental.
– That fact does not weigh with the Treasurer when the members of the Tariff Commission do not happen to agree with him.
Item agreed to.
Item 35. Biscuits, per lb.,1½d.
.- I move -
That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, per lb.1d.,” be added.
I claim the support of the Government to my proposal, inasmuch as the Tariff Commission do not recommend any increase in the old rate of duty. On these grounds, the Government, judging from their recent action,should offer no objection to a reduction of the duty.
.–I support the amendment, having myself given notice of one to a similar effect. Flour being cheaper in Australia than in the older countries, biscuits could be manufactured here at a lower price than almost anywhere else, were it not for the duty on sugar, and, in a lesser degree, the duty on currants. The importations of biscuits in 1906 amounted to 219,198 lbs., on which duty was paid to the amount of £1,122. Of the 219,198 lbs. imported, 201,185 lbs came from the United Kingdom, so that the proposed duty will be really operative, almost wholly, against the British product. The foreign importations in the same year amounted to 18,013 lbs.; and most of the imported biscuits went to Western Australia. The importation of biscuits was very small under free-trade in New South Wales before Federation.
– There was a duty on biscuits in New South Wales then.
– The export of Australian biscuits is very large, and is constantly growing. In 1900, the importation of biscuits from outside Australia into Victoria amounted to 11,610 lbs., and into New South Wales to 10,000 lbs. In the same year, the export of the domestic product to countries outside the Commonwealth from Victoria, amounted to 2,017,020 lbs., and from New South Wales to 654,064 lbs. Of the exports from Victoria, 1,070,000 lbs. were sent to South Africa on account of the war. Biscuits, it will be seen, are very largely exported, and, so far as the manufacturers are concerned. I do not think they are asking for any higher duty. The export of biscuits for last year totalled 3,423,091 lbs., whilst only 219,198 lbs. were imported, and these were nearly all of British manufacture. One manufacturer, when before the Tariff Commission, in reply to question 7183, said -
As to our biscuit industry. … If you can give us no relief in the duties on any of our raw materials, it would be wise to reduce the duties on our own manufactures, at least by one-half. The duty is absurdly high; it is not wanted - 2d. per lb. I believe we could go almost so far as to ask you to make it freetrade at once, but I think it better to go down to that by steps, and I should ask for one-half.
Then, in reply to question 12,337, the same manufacturer said -
Biscuit manufactories were started in Victoria in 1854 on a very small scale; as they went on, imports went off. In 1856 we imported£34,650 of biscuits; in 1857 the imports were£9,273; in 1858, £6,073; 1859, £9,879;1860, £9,046 ; 1861, £3,775; 1862, £1,241 ; 1863,£1,173; 1864, £ 1,426; 1865,£615; and 1 866,£432 - that was when the first duty was imposed on biscuits of 1d. a. lb. That shows that the imported article was beaten out of the market before the protective duty was put on biscuits at all.
So far as I can ascertain, there has been no increase in the imports ; and on the evidence of those primarily interested, I think we should be perfectly justified in making this item free. However, as the honorable member for Grey has moved a reduction of the duty to1d., presumably for the purposes of revenue, I support his proposal.
– I hope honorable members will not adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Grey. I find that a duty of1½d. per lb. was the idea of the honorable member for Adelaide, when he introduced the Tariff of 1902. I also find that in New Zealand there is a duty of 3s. per cwt.. on ship, plain, unsweetened, and dog biscuits, and on all other biscuits 2d. per lb., or one half-penny more than the duty now proposed. In Canada the British preference duty is 22½ per cent., the intermediate duty32½ per cent., and the general Tariff 35 per cent., the latter of which may be taken as representing, perhaps, 2¼d. per lb. In the United States the duty is 20 per cent.
– The last duty is not much.
– It means1½d. or1¾d. per lb., the price of biscuits, although it goes as high as 9d. and10d. per lb., being on the average about 6d.
– That would be 25 per cent.
– This is one of the items on which the Tariff Commission were unanimous.
– I do not agree with the Tariff Commission in reference to this item. In New South Wales, before a duty was imposed, the price was at least one-third higher than afterwards, when Arnott’s factory commenced operations in Newcastle. Arnott’s biscuits came into competition with the imported biscuits, and brought the price down to the extent I have mentioned:
– The imports have gradually been getting less.
– The imports, amount to 219,198 lbs. What I find is that those manufacturers who have secured the run of the market do not desire competition. While preparing the Tariff I found that all those manufacturers desired was sufficient duty to establish themselves, and, when they were established, they did not desire any others to come in and share the trade. I want to prevent that state of things. I desire to increase competition so that the price may be made still lower than it is at present.
– Only one manufacturer was examined before the Tariff Commission, and he said he did not want any higher duty.
– That is because the manufacturers now in business do not wish to face any competition ; and the same feeling has been found in other industries, for instance, in the case of Hoskins’ ironworks. As a protectionist, I have, in preparing the Tariff, always tried to so arrange duties as to induce more competition. Not a single biscuit ought to be imported into Australia.
– More combines !
– Before the Tariff has been completed the honorable member will find that we shall deal with combines. Part and parcel of the object of the Tariff is to stop combines; and if we cannot devise means to that end, a great deal of the interest I take in this protectionist Tariff dies. I desire to stop combines, as I said ; and they shall be stopped if the machinery of the law can stop them.
– Then why give manufacturers duties that they do not want?
– The manufacturers say that they do not want the duties ; but, on the other hand, the public say that the duties ought to’ be imposed because cheaper biscuits are wanted. I intend to stand by the duty as proposed, and thus carry out what the honorable member for Adelaide intended in 1902. Even the present duty has done good; but we do not desire manufacturers, who have .reaped the benefit, to entrench themselves behind a stone wall, and resist the admission of others into the industry. The great object of a protectionist policy is to create increased demand and increased competition ; without these the proper results of a protectionist Tariff are not obtained. In New Zealand,” Canada, and the United States the duties are, in some instances, more than those now proposed; and if that measure of protection is good for those countries, it cannot, I think, be bad. for Australia.
– What is the justification for ignoring the unanimous recommendation of the Tariff Commission?
– I am not guided altogether by the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, although those recommendations may be very good in most instances. In some cases the evidence given to the Commission was very meagre.
– A duty of 7s. 6d. each on chairs is proposed.
– That may be ; but how did the honorable member vote on the item of wire-netting the other night ? Whenever the Tariff Commission make protectionist recommendations the honorable member desires to reduce the duties.
– But on this item the Tariff Commission were unanimous.
– Then the proposed duty must be half a revenue duty.
– Nearly all the biscuits imported are from the mother country.
– As I said be-, fore, I do not think that Australia ought to import a single biscuit.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-4.5 -p.m.
– I should not have risen to speak again on the amendment had it not been for the action of the Treasurer in regard to the reports of the Tariff Commission. Both sections of the Commission were of opinion that the duty on biscuits should not be altered.
– Upon what evidence did they arrive at that conclusion ?
– I presume that men who for two years and nine months devoted themselves to a minute examination of the effects of the Tariff of 1901 would not have made a recommendation like this without being able to justify it by the evidence which they had taken. This is a striking instance in which the free-traders and protectionists were unanimous, but in. the face of their recommendation the Government propose an increase in the duty of 50 per cent. On another occasion when the members of the Tariff Commission were in agreement, the Treasurer was only too ready to use that fact as an argument in. support of his proposal, but when it is pointed out that the Commission unanimously recommended that this duty should not be altered, he said in effect, “I am not going to take notice of the recommendations of the Commission.”
– I cannot allow the remarks of the Treasurer to pass without pointing out to the Committee that, if we give to the manufacturers of biscuits the opportunity to increase prices which is covered by his proposal, we shall arrive at a. most extraordinary position. He does not profess that any pressure has been put upon him by the trade to increase this duty ; in fact, he admitted that the trade, generally speaking, does not desire an increase; but, he says, he is determined that there shall be more competition. The only way to increase competition will be to increase the selling price of biscuits. If the selling prices remain as they are, there will be no attraction for fresh competition.
– What about increased sales ?
– I shall presently show what the possibilities of increased sales amount to. According to the Treasurer, competition will be increased if the duty is raised ; but the mere raising of the duty will be ineffective except as givingan opportunity to increase prices. Apparently he desires to give the manufacturers an opportunity to increase their prices because he thinks that this will attract other persons to enter the business of biscuit manufacturing.
– The duty will have the effect of lowering prices.
– The higher a duty, if it is unnecessary, even from the protectionist’s point qf view, thegreater the inducement to the formation of trusts, to take advantage of the opportunity for increasing profits.
– Of course.
– Australian biscuit manufacturers have practically command of the local market. I do not say that their position is due to protection. As a matter of fact, the growing of wheat and the making of flour the industries on which biscuit-making depends, are natural to Australia, and, therefore, the industry itself must be regarded as a natural one. But, whatever the cause of their prosperity, our biscuit manufacturers have practically captured the Australian market.
– No. All the better classes of biscuits are included in the importations.
– The importations are so small that, with a duty of1d. per lb., they yield an annual revenue of only £1,122. As a matter of fact, it is only certain varieties of specially made biscuits that are imported. There is not a sufficiently large demand for these biscuits in Australia to make it worth while for local manufacturers to produce them. They are fancy biscuits which the British manufacturer can turn out cheaply, because of his large local market and his export trade, but it would be unprofitable for our manufacturers to make them. The imposition of an extra½d. per lb. on these biscuits would make little or no difference to their importation. But surely we are notgoing to increase our duties to give Australian manufacturers an opportunity to increase prices, when they already command the local market. The Minister has stated that he wishes to impose a Tariff like that of Victoria, which was a really protective Tariff.
– I did not say anything about the Victorian Tariff.
– The Minister has said that he would like to impose a. Tariff as protective as that of Victoria. He has said on more than one occasion that the Victorian Tariff was protective. But he has not told the Committee that the Victorian duty on biscuits prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff was only1d. per lb.
– What was the Queensland duty?
– Two- pence per lb. But Victoria and New South Wales were the chief biscuit-making States, and in the former the duty was only1d. per lb., and in the latter,½d. per lb. Surely no better reason could be given for continuing the present rate. It is higher than is needed for the protection of most biscuit making. That is shown by the fact that the prices of the local biscuits are not 1d. per lb. above the prices at which Britishmade biscuits of the same kind can be bought, and, in some instances, Australian biscuits are as cheap as British biscuits. Moreover, our manufacturers are doing an export trade which is increasing; they are meeting the competition of the world in other markets. Even from the protectionist stand-point, the Australian market is supplied by the local manufacturers as fully as it is possible for any market to be so supplied. No market can be entirely supplied by local manufacturers, because there must always be certain classes of goods of very limited consumption which can be produced more cheaply outside. Then, as I pointed out, no request for a higher- rate has been made by the trade. An increase in the rate cannot attract competition unless prices go up, and surely we do not wish to encourage our manufacturers to increase their prices at the expense of the consumers.
– I am willing to support a duty of1½d. per lb. on biscuits as the general Tariff, and of1d. per lb. in respect to importations from Great Britain, because I think that preference should be given to that country. The Committee has already affirmed its desire to give preference, and as Great Britain provides a market for our surplus wheat, it is only right that we’ should give her some preference in regard to the biscuits which she sends back manufactured from our flour. As a matter of fact, our importations of biscuits are very small, not much exceeding 219,000 lbs.
– Of which over 200,000 lbs. are of British manufacture.
– Yes. The duty received from these biscuits is a little over £1,100. These figures showthat the local manufacturer has practically overtaken the Australian demand. It is not the wealthier classes who buy biscuits, so much as the prospectors and pioneers in distant parts of the country. The working miner in Queensland or Western Australia uses biscuits very largely.
– If there were no duty, he would have to pay more for them.
– I do not think, so. The two sections of the Tariff Commission recommended that the duty should not be altered, and I think that effect should be given to that recommendation, with the exception that a preference should be afforded to Great Britain. If I shall be in order in doing so, I shall move an amendment which will give the preference which I have indicated.
– Should the amendment of the honorable member for Grey be carried, there will be a duty of1d. per lb. on biscuits, and the honorable member for Grampians will not then be in order in moving that the rate in the general Tariff be1½d.; but if the amendment be negatived, he can move the amendment of which he has spoken.
– The Tariff Commission was appointed to report upon the effects of the rates of duty fixed in 1901. The right honorable member for Adelaide originally proposed that the duty on biscuits should be1½d., but Parliament reduced the rate to1d., and the Tariff Commission recommended its continuance. By what reason or logic then does the Government ask us to reverse our former decision, and to set aside the recommendationof a body specially commissioned to inquire into the subject?
– If the Treasurer is prepared to adopt the. suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians that we should grant a preference to Great Britain in regard to this item, I do not think there will be much difficulty in the way of its passing. The fact is that Great Britain is our only competitor in’ respect to biscuits, and she competes with us to only a very slight extent. When we begin to tax items as to which our annual importations are only 219,000 lbs., whilst our exports are 3,500,000 lbs., we aresimply playing at Tariff tinkering. There can be no legitimate object in view, except the imposition of a tax which has not been asked for, and which is simply a make-believe. The Treasurer, who recently went to London and made great speeches on preferential trade immediately upon his return has imposed on biscuits a higher duty, as against Great Britain alone - a duty which is not necessary, and has not been demanded. That is how he shows his regard for the mother country. I challenge him to mention the name of an individual who has asked that the duty on biscuits be increased. The history of the biscuit-making industry is in this respect peculiar. The only witnesses who have given evidence with respect . to it, either before the Federal Tariff Commission or any Victorian Tariff Commission, have asked for a reduction, and not for an increase of the duty. The industry to-day is more flourishing than it has ever been, and I fail to see why we should impose this tax when the manufacturers themselves profess to be quite satisfied with the conditions of the trade. If there is any complaint it should be on the part of the manufacturers of other countries where we are dumping biscuits.
– In spite of what has been said on this subject by honorable members of the Opposition, I would point out that only high-class fancy biscuits used by the wealthier sections of the community are now being imported. I have already said that I look with great suspicion upon manufacturers who have the control of the market, and desire no opposition. That is the position in regard to this and some other industries. Prior to Federation New South Wales had a revenue duty of½d. per lb. That was imposed by the present leader of the Opposition.
– There was a big biscuit manufactory there.
– It was started under the Dibbs Tariff.
– It did not raise its head until the Dibbs Tariff wasimposed. Queensland, South. Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia - and I presume that the right honorable member for Swan was answerable for the duty in force in the last-named State - prior to Federation had a duty of 2d. per lb. on biscuits.
– Things have changed since then.
– Except in the one State where, through the action of the leader of the Opposition, our industries had not gone ahead, there was a duty of 2d. per lb.
– Is the honorable member going to raise the old controversy? If he does I shall have to reply.
– I do not wish to make any further reference to it.
– According to the comparative table circulated by the Government amongst honorable members there was not a duty of 2d. per lb. on biscuits under the Victorian Tariff.
– I am quoting from the Year-Book of Australia, which shows that the rates of duty I have mentioned prevailed in 1899. I wish to em- phasize the fact that in Western Australia, prior to Federation, there was a duty of 2d. per lb.
– That was imposed in 1893.
– And it remained in operation until 1899. My object in proposing this duty is, if possible, to give rise to more internal competition. Honorable members will find that, prior to the imposition of a duty, importing rings charged one-third in excess of the price at which biscuits have since been obtainable. That was the position in New South Wales, and I have no doubt that the same thing was done in the other States.
– And yet the local producers ran the importers out of the market.
– The honorable member, if he could have his own way, would have no duty in force.
– My statement is borne out by the evidence given before the Tariff Commission.
– That evidence was given by manufacturers who have the plant and, ro a large extent, the trade, and do not want interference from inside.
– There was practically no evidence given before the Tariff Commission in regard to biscuits.
– Only one or two witnesses were examined. I hope that the Committee will agree to this duty. The right honorable member for Adelaide embodied it in the first Federal Tariff.
– But the House - rejected the duty he proposed.
– The House today is very different from what it was at that time, and we ought not to be guided solely bv what was then done. If this proposed duty were imposed the price of biscuits would be lower than it is now. I hope, therefore, that honorable members will support the imposition of a duty of 1½d. per lb. I am not prepared at the moment to give ari answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Grampians, but before we have finally disposed of the item I shall probably be able to do so. 0
– If the Treasurer will assure honorable members that the d. per lb. will go as a preference to Great Britain we shall be prepared to vote with him.
– If the debate proceeds foi a few moments longer I shall be able to reply to the honorable member’s suggestion before the item is dealt with.
– The Minister has the matter in his own hands, and ought to be prepared to go ahead.
– I do not wish to adopt a proposal without considering whit its effect might be.
– Does the honorable member still say that under the Victorian Tariff the duty on biscuits wa’s 2d. per lb. ?
– According to the Year Book it was.
– The ComptrollerGeneral says that it was id. per lb.
– If honorable members are satisfied, well and good, but I quoted from the Australian Year Book, and the information supplied by it ought to be correct. I almost feel disposed to affirm the proposal made by the honorable member for Grampians; but I do not desire to hurriedly arrive at a decision which I may subsequently regret. Within a few minutes I shall inform the Committee what I intend to do in regard to the question of preference.
.- In order that the consideration of the Tariff may be expedited, I hope that the Treasurer will not take long to make up his mind. If he would at once decide what he intends to do with respect to this momentous issue there would be an end to the debate. The duty collected on biscuits imported into Australia last year was £1,122, and as the honorable member for North Sydnev has said, the situation will not be altered if prices remain unchanged. There can be a greater inducement to competition only when the prices go up; and I do not think we desire the prices of commodities of this kind to increase. Not a manufacturer in Australia has asked that the duty on biscuits be increased. In Victoria, where the imposition of protective duties was done pretty thoroughly, the last duty, prior to Federation, was id. per lb., whilst in New South Wales it was Jd. per lb. If the Minister will accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians a long discussion will be saved. In spite of the attitude of the British Government - an attitude which they had to take up in view of the general election through which they had just passed- representatives of the Commonwealth Government assisted to pass a resolution re-affirming the principle embodied in the resolution of the last Parliament in favour of granting a substantial preference to the products of the mother country. This is one of those cases in which the Treasurer may fairly give effect to his own promise without doing the slightest harm to a single vested interest in Australia.
– Upon the condition that the members of the Opposition will support me, I shall do as the honorable member for Grampians suggests.
– I shall accept that promise. 5
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “and on and- after 17th October, 1907 (United Kingdom) per lb., id.,” bc added.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 36, Blue, laundry, per lb., 2d.
– I move -
That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1907, per lb., id.,” be added.
Under the old Tariff ‘the duty upon this article was id. per lb. The value of blue at the port of shipment is 5½d. per lb., so that the proposed duty is equivalent to about 40 per cent, ad valorem. The cost of importation represents an additional 15 per cent., and, consequently, the total measure of protection that would be afforded local manufacturers under the Government proposal would be about 55 per cent. The principal ingredient in blue is ultramarine, which is imported from Germany. The mixing of this dye with flour is the only process in the manufacture of blue, and provides employment for scarcely any labour. Some. so-called local manufacturers import bulk blue from Reckitt’s and other British makers, and after putting it through a slight treatment - which is really a process of adulteration - sell it as their own product. The proposed duty is practically prohibitive. I may mention that the quantity of blue imported into New South Wales in 1900 Was 682,546 lbs., and into Victoria, 47,911 lbs. The price raising influence of the duty may be seen from the following fact: - Messrs. Lewis and Whitty manufacture blue in Melbourne and issue price lists in Melbourne and Sydney. , According to a price list issued by them on 24th May, 1900, the price of blue squares, “ Vienna Brand,” in 8 lb. parcels - 128 lbs. constituting a case - was 4½d. per lb. in Sydney, and 6Jd. per lb. in Melbourne. The price of Keen’s blue, made in England, was quoted on 12th March, 1901, in the Svdney *Trade Review, at 6£d per lb., and in the Melbourne Journal of Commerce, on 16th March of the same year, at 8^ per lb. From the Sydney quotation of Messrs. Lewis and Whitty it is obvious that no protection is required to enable manufacturers to compete.
– What is the present quotation ?
– I do not know, as- 1 have not the price lists at hand.
– Those were the prices of imported blue?
– Yes. But I would point out that practically all the blue used in the Commonwealth” is imported. As I have already explained, it simply undergoes a simple- process of adulteration and is then sold as Australian blue. Ultramarine is a German production, and is really the finished product of the German manufacturer. In 1906, the import of laundry blue into the Commonwealth was 237j384 lbs., valued at £5,493, of which 237,008 lbs., valued at £5,483.. came from the United Kingdom. It will thus be seen that the proposed duty would simply be another tax, almost wholly upon British manufacture. The Government, which professes to be so greatly in favour- of extending a preference to goods from the United Kingdom, is actually proposing to levy a prohibitive duty upon British blue. The persons who would be called upon to pay this duty would be primarily, the small householders of the poorest class, who cannot afford to send their linen to laundries and, secondly, ‘on the laundry men and women. They cannot increase their prices on account of the duty, and thus the impost would fall principally upon the poorer classes of the . community. I am’ well within the mark in affirming that 9.5 per cent, of the proposed duty would be borne by the smaller householders who are in poor circumstances. Consequently, I hope I shall receive the assistance of honorable members in securing a reduction of the duty by onehalf. ‘ ‘
.- In this instance the Government propose to increase the old rate of duty by 100 per cent. No information has been supplied by the Tariff Commission to warrant any such step being taken.
– One section of the Tariff Commission has recommended an increase.
– It has done so upon very little evidence. The amount of duty collected in 1906 upon blue was less than £1,000. Judging by the statement of the honorable member for Lang, it is not outside competition which is to be feared in connexion with this industry so much as internal competition between the States. Apparently New South Wales has made a speciality of the manufacture of blue, and is making inroads upon the market of other States. In speaking upon the last item under consideration the Treasurer declared that he dearly loves competition. If he is sincere in that statement, why should he desire to impose a duty of 2d. per lb. upon blue? That is the way to foster the creation of trusts. A duty of1d. per lb. has been sufficient to prevent serious importation in the past, and why, therefore, should we increase the impost to 2d. per lb? We had a similar experience in regard to starch a few years ago. The honorable member for Lang has shown what are the component parts of blue, and he asserts, on trade evidence, that it is impossible to manufacture without importing the material. I, therefore, urge the Treasurer to reduce the duty to the original 1d. It cannot be said that the industry has not grown in Australia, because the importations are considerably less than they were, and there is a large output of the article in New South Wales.
.- Although there is a number of blue manufacturers in Victoria and New South Wales, only one of them, the representative of Messrs. Lewis and Whitty, of Victoria, gave evidence before the Tariff Commission. On that evidence there is no justification for an increase of 100 per cent, in the duty. The whole of the importations practically come from the old country, namely, 237,008 lbs. out of a total importation of 237,384 lbs. ; and we have here another example of the Government’s desire to place what is practically a prohibitive duty on the products of the old country. The representative of Messrs. Lewis and Whitty said that the whole of the raw materials for the manufacture of blue have to beimported, and when asked what had been the effect of the Tariff of the Commonwealth as compared with the old Victorian Tariff, he said there had been no improvement in the trade. He was then asked whether the trade had suffered to any extent, and he replied, “ Well, we have not progressed as we should, have done.” That question was asked the witness on several different occasions, but he never said that the trade had suffered - the most he would say was that it had not progressed as it ought to have done. The whole source of the trouble, so far as the Victorian manufacturers are concerned, is that, in consequence of the establishment of the industry in New South Wales by Reckitt, the well-known manufacturer of England, and other smaller firms, Inter-State competition has come largely into operation. It is not importations from outside from which the Victorian manufacturers are suffering; they are feeling the effect of that competition which all Australian manufacturers must meet under, Inter-State free-trade. I submit that no case was made out before the Tariff Commission by Messrs. Lewis and Whitty to justify any increase in the duty.
– On this question we have the evidence taken before the Tariff Commission, and the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Commission, that the duty be increased. Last year there was imported £5,803 worth of blue, as compared with £4,740 worth imported in 1905 showing an increase of £1,063. This increase is evidence that more protection is necessary. Mr. Lewis, when before the Tariff Commission, was asked, question 4025-
Is there any difference between the labour conditions in the production of blue in Australia and in foreign countries ? - Yes.
What is the difference ? - There must be nearly 100 per cent.
According to this witness, there is a difference of nearly 100 per cent, in the wages paid in the blue industry, as between Australia and foreign countries.. Honorable members opposite, when wire netting was under discussion, relied on the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, and I now invite them to pay regard to the recommendation of one section of that Commission that there should be an increase in the duty on blue. Only two men gave evidence before the Tariff Commission in reference to blue.
– The other witness was in strong oppositionto a duty.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [8.37]. - The question appears to be whether or not sufficient protection is given under the old Tariff. I have in m.v hand a letter from a well-known firm of Brisbane merchants, from which I read the following passage -
The highest quality of imported blues, viz., Keen’s, formerly paid duty at the rate of id. per lb., which with landing charges amounts to the solid protection of 35 per cent. The new rate of id. per lb. means the prohibitive rate of 55 per cent. This blue sells retail at 9d. per lb. Generally speaking, the very best colonial blues sell at the rate of 6d. per lb., which proves clearly that there is no necessity for the increased duty.
Not being in the trade,’ I cannot, of course, vouch for the correctness of the figures, but the firm I quote are very large importers, and in a position to know what they are writing about.
– I got exactly the same figures from another source.
Colonel FOXTON. - Apparently it pays to produce blue locally and sell it 3d. per lb. cheaper than the imported article. It would appear that what is required is, not more protection, but an improvement in the quality of the Australian blue.
.- The honorable member for Batman quoted from the evidence of Mr. Lewis as to the difference in the labour conditions as between Australia, and foreign countries, and read an extract showing that Mr. Lewis, when asked what the difference was, replied, “There must be nearly 100 per .cent.” I said a. little while ago that out of an importation nf 237,384 lbs., there came from the old country 237,008 lbs. I presume the honorable member for Batman does not regard England as a foreign country ; and, therefore, the whole importation from foreign countries is only 376 lbs.
.- This is another case in which the Treasurer might carry out the principles of the Government in regard to preference to the mother country. I do not know that there are any more magnificent efforts of eloquence in the language than those of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on the subject of preference to the dear old mother land. Here we have an opportunity to show the practical nature of our patriotism, because the whole of the importation of blue comes, not from Japan, China, Malabar, or any of those other cursed places, but from the mother country. The English blue does not crush out the Australian blue, because, as shown by the honorable member for Brisbane, the former sells at 3d. to 4d. per lb. higher than does the local product ; and this must be a strong inducement to the poorer classes of the community to purchase the cheaper article. This is not one of of those items on which the Committee need go rabid. Blue is an article of general consumption, and enters into a form of Australian industry, which, I am sure, no one wishes to discourage. Mr. Lewis, in his evidence before the Tariff Commission, very properly referred to the twenty hands he employs ; but we must not forget that blue is an article used in an industry which employs thousands of hands amongst the women of Australia. I notice that, according to Mr. Lewis’ evidence, his firm has invested some thousands of pounds in the industry, and that they employ about twenty adult hands, at wages ranging from 15s. to 50s. weekly. Now, 15s. a week for an adult certainly does not indicate a very healthy state of things. This is an item in connexion with which much time would be saved if the Treasurer would accept the suggestion which has been made to him. This suggestion has the advantage of meaning a genuine preference to the mother country, because there are only a few cwts. of foreign blue imported. I hope honorable members will, seeing that it would not involve the sacrifice of their principles, or the crushing of any colonial industry, give the preference suggested. The Government ‘ have created very large expectations in the mother country in this matter, and by adopting my suggestion they will have an opportunity to give effect to them without injuring the local industry. The Treasurer proposes an increase of 300 per cent, on the present Tariff, and the revenue- involved is less than j£i,ooo. A long debate will be saved if he accepts the same treatment in regard to this item as he did in regard to the preceding one.
– I shall support the Government proposals as they stand, and I hope that Ministers will resist these specious appeals for preference, which are intended really to secure the reduction of duties. The present position is what I anticipated when the Government determined to consider simultaneously the framing of the Tariff and the giving of preference.
– The Prime Minister is pledged to preference.
– On the last item the Government allowed a preference of hd. to Great Britain, although practically all the biscuits imported into this country come from there. As for our importations of blue, last year ,£5,493 worth was imported, and of that £5.. ,491: worth came from Great Britain and £p. worth from the United States of America. Therefore the giving . of preference in this instance will mean merely the reduction of the duty. As has been stated by Mr. Asquith, very frankly, effectively, and properly, it is the duty of the’ Commonwealth to develop its resources without considering the commercial interests of Great Britain. I am a preferentialist, but I think that we should consider the question of preferences in a businesslike and orderly manner. We should first frame our ..Tariff against the whole world, with a view to the speedy development of Australian industries, and then deal with the question of preference either by increasing or decreasing duties.
– Canada did both.
– That was a statesmanlike way of dealing with the matter. What was considered an effective protective Tariff was1 passed, and then Sir Wilfrid Laurier brought down a schedule containing a list of the items in respect of which preference was to be .given to Great Britain.
– Last year Canada reversed its previous decisions in this matter.
– The honorable member for Wimmera has given the show away, so far as the preferentialists are concerned.
– If the Govprnment think that preference should be given to
Great’ Britain in the matter of blue, they should have proposed two rates of duties, as they have done in -regard to other items. We have heard little or nothing about the recommendations of the Tariff Commission in this matter; but I am not convinced in my own mind that we should wholly ignore the Commission, and vote as if its investigations had never been made. Still, I hope that the ‘Government, when duties are necessary for the protection of Australian industries, will resist what I regard as specious methods of obtaining reductions. Ministers should not allow the sentiment for preference to be used as a lever for the reduction of duties.
.^- I am- glad that the honorable member for Wimmera has pricked this little bubble of preference. Some honorable members seemed to be pulling the Treasurer’s leg, and I was afraid .that he did not notice what was going on.
– He has any number of nurses, both inside and outside the Chamber, and will have .a lot of admirers, too, while the Tariff is on.
– No doubt. This item is not a very important one. I do not scrutinize my domestic expenditure very closely, but I think that a lb. of blue would supply an ordinary household for a year. Whenever I have done my own washing in the bush, I have had to be content to do without- blue.
– The honorable member does not look like a bushman.
– I have done, as much roughing it as has any other honorable member, with the exception of, perhaps, the right honorable member for Swan. This is a small item to delay the progress of the Committee, and I think it would be well to let the Minister have his way in regard to it. Those who are not content with colonial blue, and want something superior, will not, I am sure, mind paying an extra id. per lb. for the imported article.
.- The two preceding speakers have made it very plain that the professions of protectionists in favour of preference to the mother country do not proceed from any genuine desire to give her a substantial advantage. The proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera is that we should pass a high Tariff against the world, fixing rates which would keep out both British and foreign importations, and then, as a pretended preference to the mother coujntry, raise the rates against foreign countries still higher. If there were any proposal to lower rates what hope would there be of protectionists agreeing to reductions ? None whatever. The whole Tariff question would be reopened, and would have to be rediscussed. Therefore, the loud-mouthed protestations of protectionists in respect to preference are merely so much humbug. While the Tariff exempts from duty machinery for woollen and hat mills, no advantage is to be given to the washerwoman of Australia. The honorable member for Wimmera has complained that no reference has been made to the Tariff Commission’s reports- on this subject. Although the protectionist section recommended a high duty on blue, this is what the free-trade section said on the subject -
The only complainant before the Commission enjoyed a monopoly of the blue trade in Victoria before Federation (Shrimpton, Q.4132). “ They enjoyed 85 to 90 per cent, of the blue trade “ (Shrimpton, Q.4132).
– Who is Shrimpton?
– The only witness who appeared before the Tariff Commission to make a complaint about the existing duty on blue. The report continues - “It is not so much Reckitts as the other manufacturers (in New South Wales) that are competing in Victoria” (Shrimpton, Q.4134). “ Messrs. Reckitts, my chief opponents, have established a business in Sydney for making blue. There are two or three small manufacturers there, and they have been attacking the Victorian trade for several years. That, primarily, in my opinion, is why Messrs. Lewis and Whitty’s trade has decreased considerably “ (Shrimpton, Q.4132).
In the face of those statements, honorable members will have great difficulty in justifying any vote that they may give to increase the duty on blue. I hope that the Committee will have some consideration for the two large sections of the community who- have to seriously look at every farthing they have to spend, and who will be the greatest sufferers from this impost.
– Let us get on with business.
.- Although the honorable member for Riverina says that we ought to get on with business, I wish to point out that the items in Division IV. are those which chiefly concern the working classes and the poor, and if we are to make reductions for their benefit, we should make them in this division. Blue may not appear a very important commodity, but if we agree to the duty without demur, allowing the proposed high rate to be fixed, we shall be asked to take the same course in regard to other items. I hope, therefore, that the honorable member for Lang will press his amendment. Honorable .members, both in the Chamber and on the platform outside, are always speaking of their interest in the wage-earners, and to-night they will have an opportunity to give effect to it by their votes. Honorable members have said that the original duty imposed under the Tariff of 1902 was equal to 56 per cent. If that duty is to be increased by 100 per cent, we shall have a total protection of 150 per cent, in favour of the local manufacturers of blue.
– It will not amount to that.
– My estimate is based on statements that have been made in regard to the percentage rate of the old duty. The honorable member for Wimmera has referred to the question of preferential trade, and it would seem that the views of many honorable members upon that question differ according to the item with which we are called upon to deal. They are very glad to grant Great Britain a preference in favour of goods which we do not obtain from the old country^ but in this case they have an opportunity to do something for her. The whole of our imports of blue come from Great Britain, and I understand the honorable member for East Sydney to suggest that the old duty of id. per lb. should stand as against the mother country, and that. a duty of 1½d. per lb. should be imposed against the rest of the world. I hope the honorable member for Lang will persist with his amendment, for I should like to see a vote taken upon it. The whole of this division - from item 34 to item 105 - is of concern to the poorer sections of the community, and if we are going to put up a fight on their behalf it should take place upon these items. If we allow what is practically the first of them to pass we shall have no justification for opposing the remainder. No. one will contend that an increase of id. per lb. in the duty on blue is likely to bring disaster to Australia, but we_ have to remember that this constant piling up of taxation - penny after penny - has a serious effect upon the workers. Their wages are not a fixed quantity, and the man who receives £2 or £2 1 os. a week feels the effect of such duties as these. If we are going to enable them to make any saving in their household accounts we should make a start in connexion with this division. I have said here, as well as on the public platform, that I intend to fight for the imposition of the lowest possible duties on the necessaries of life, and that, so far as other items in the Tariff are ‘concerned, I shall take a free hand. When I see the honorable member for Riverina going in for a good pinch in the interests of his electorate, I feel that I cannot be blamed for doing the same for my constituents. I shall certainly fight for the lowest possible duties on necessaries of life.
– So many statements have been made as to what this dutv means that I have taken the trouble to refer to the Journal of Commerce, in order to ascertain the price of the imported article. I find that the price of Keen’s Oxford blue in the Melbourne market is 7jd. per’ lb. If we deduct from that price the duty of 2d. per lb., we find that the price here is 5^d., or about sd. per lb. at the other end of the world. Thus the duty of id. per lb. is equivalent to a duty of about 20 per cent., whilst a duty of 2d. per lb. would be enual to 40 per cent, on the price of the article. I am not going to argue the question of preference in connexion with this item, but I hope that when we reach the item of candles, a general debate on preference will ensue. That will be the time to make some reference to the statements made by the honorable member for Wimmera. I mav say, in passing, however, that I think that he totally misrepresented” the attitude of Mr. Asquith. After looking at the masterly speech delivered by that gentleman at the Imperial Conference I am forced to that conclusion.
– I have not by any means misrepresented his attitude.
– At all events on the item of candles we shall be able to deal with the question of preference.
– We shall have it before us throughout the consideration of the Tariff.
– It is inseparable from the arrangement of the Tariff as framed by the Government. Why did they not omit from the Tariff the question of preference as they originally intended to do and actually did? The preference schedule was an after-thought after the Tariff had been scattered broadcast.
– That is absolutely in corxGC t
– It is a fact, I believe, that some Tariff schedules containing no reference to preference were sent to Queensland.
– So far as I am aware no schedules that did not make provision for preference were issued.
– The honorable member is wrong. If he makes inquiries he will discover that schedules in which no provision for preference was made were sent out and withdrawn at least twenty-four hours later, when revised schedules containing preference provisions were distributed.
– That is incorrect.
– What took place was sufficient to indicate that in the framing of this schedule no sober thought was given to the question of preference.
– That is incorrect.
– I must accept the honorable member’s disclaimer for what it is worth. I believe that he is saying that which he believes to be correct, but he has told us so repeatedly that he does not know much about the Tariff - that he has not had much to do with the framing of it-
– I never said so.
– It is impossible to take the Minister very seriously when we have already had evidence that he did not know whether the Tariff applied to horses. He knows nothing about the Tariff, and that is why he is able to discourse so intelligently upon it. However, he is sitting tight and bullocking his proposals through. I appeal to the Committee to revert for once to reason in connexion with the poor woman’s blue - a commodity that is used by an army of hard-working people in Australia. Twenty men at the most - from the manufacturing point of view - will be affected by this duty. For every man engaged in the production of blue in Aus tralia, there are at least 100 vitally’ interested in the use of it. A great army of people engaged more particularly in laundries, as well as those who, in the humble homes of the country, have to do their own laundry work, have to purchase blue.
– How the labour millionaires laugh !
– They would laugh at anything.
– I like to hear the honorable’ member sympathizing with the poor unfortunate workers.
– The honorable member sympathizes with them when on the public” platform. He and other honorable members of his party keep their sympathies and their crocodile tears for platform purposes.
– I could talk a lot of nonsense just as the honorable member is doing if I wished to do so.
– I cannot stand this any longer.
.- A case for this increase of duty on blue has not been made out. The item, after all, is a small one, for even if the old duty were doubled the revenue would not be increased by £1,000 per annum. It seems to me that to double the duty on blue would be indefensible. A duty of id. per lb. is equal to an ad valorem duty of between 20 and 25 per cent., and I think that that is high enough. If we doubled the duty it would be equal to about 45 per cent. If instead of a fixed duty of 2d. per lb. an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent, had’ been proposed would honorable members have supported it?
– This is the same rate of duty that the honorable member proposed.
– Where did I propose such a duty ?
– Under the Kingston Tariff introduced in 1902.
– I do not want to tell tales out of school, as the honorable, member seems to want to do. I -hear in silence a good .many statements which rather astonish me.
– Do not talk about telling tales out of school. The right honorable member is at liberty to tell what he likes about me.
– I shall tell no tales.
– Do not threaten.
– I do not know why the honorable member should be annoyed. I beg his pardon if I have said anything to annoy him.
– I am not annoyed. The honorable member talks about me telling tales out of school.
– That was merely a jocular observation, which was not seriously intended. If this item had been dutiable at 45 per cent, instead of at 2d. per lb., honorable members would have’ looked at it twice before supporting it. I am inclined to think that the rate is too high. I am aware that the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission has recommended it, and though I think that we should not, if it can be avoided, ignore their recommendations, I cannot help thinking that in this instance the proposed duty is excessive.
.- The discussion of this matter seems to have assumed a very important aspect.
-:- It is a very important question.
– It is important to those who have to use blue. But, to my mind, it is chiefly important from the point of view of the preference which we are prepared to extend to the products of the United Kingdom.
– True blue.
– There are some honoiable members upon the opposite side of the’ Chamber who are not true blue. They proiess to be actuated by a desire to safeguard the interests of labour, but many of their actions are diametrically opposed to those interests. Upon wire-netting we have’ extended a preference of 5 per cent, to the manufactures of the United Kingdom,’ and- upon biscuits we have granted to the mother country a preference of Jd. per lb. Why should we not apply the same principle to blue? The dutv proposed on this commodity is 2d. per lb., which accords with the recommendation of the protection-* ist section of the. Tariff Commission. I in- tend to support that duty, but, at the same time, I urge honorable members to recollect the statement of the Chairman of the Tariff Commission upon the question of preference. He declared that so far as he was’ concerned, any duty which that body re-r commended, would represent the maximum” for which he would vote, and that any preference extended to Great Britain must be in the nature of a reduction. It is notlogical for us to grant a preference to some articles of commerce and to refuse it to. others unless there is good reason for making such a distinction. I have no desire to occupy the time of the Committee needlessly, but I do urge the Government to extend a slight preference to Great Britain.
– I should like to put mvself right with the Committee regarding the accusation of the honorable member for Swan that I was guilty of telling tales out of school. ‘ . < Sir John Forrest. - I did not mean it. 1 withdraw the statement.
– What I stated was that the honorable member had supported a duty of 2d. per lb. upon blue. I learn that this article was originally dutiable at 2d. per lb., and that on and after 20th November, 1901-, the duty was fixed at id. per lb. That fact shows that the honorable member was a party to bringing forward a dutv of 2d. .per lb. upon blue. I do not wish to rest under the imputation that I would interject anything which could possibly be regarded in the light of telling tales out of school.
.- In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca, I would point out that what the Chairman of the Tariff Commission really did say in respect of preference was that the recommendations, of the protectionist section of that body were of a substantially protective character -designed to protect our industries against the whole world, including Great Britain. He added -
I am not prepared to agree to a reduction of duty upon any class of goods - even in favour of Great Britain - which would be prejudicial to Australian manufactures.
.- I have not the report of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Bendigo before me at present, but I am quite certain that it contains the statement which I have attributed to him.
– The sooner that we learn the value of the proposed preference proposals of the Government the better. Apparently, we are expected to protect Australian industries against the outside world, including Great Britain, and then to make a slight reduction in favour of the Empire.
– It is hypocrisy.
– It is nothing more than a pretence. We are part and parcel of the Empire, and we. should deal honestly with the Empire. Seeing that we have extended to the mother country a preference of Jd. per lb. upon biscuits, why cannot we adopt the same principle in reference to blue? I find from Mr. Knibbs’ statistics that, whilst £5,479 worth of blue was imported into the Commonwealth in 1906, only about £10. worth was of foreign origin. Is that the reason why no preference is proposed?
Mr.- Reid. - It is the only reason.
– I ‘ desire to call the attention of honorable members to the summary of evidence (prepared by the Tariff Commission upon the item of blue. In- the first place, Mr. Lewis, a Melbourne manufacturer, favoured the imposition of’ a duty of 2d. per lb. upon that article. He declared that his request was based upon the fact that the industry was affected to a considerable extent by importations. His attention was thereupon called to the circumstance that a great deal of this importation came from the -other States, notably from New South Wales, and in reply, he stated that he was disposed to doubt the accuracy of Mr. Coghlan’s statistics. He added that he thought Mr. Coghlan was in error in attributing to New South Wales a quantity of (produce which was transferred to Victoria in 1903. Another witness, Mr. Shrimpton, submitted that the contention of Mr. Lewis that the dutyshould be increased to 2d. per lb. was not warranted by the facts of the case. He pointed out that between 19021 and 1904 the imports of British blue into Victoria had declined from 100,000 lbs. to 16,000 lbs., while during the same period, the transfer of Australian blue from other States had increased from 25,000 to 71,000 lbs. English blue had always been very much higher in price than the local article, and therefore did not compete with it; it sold at from 8id. to’ is. per lb., against the Melbourne price of 6Jd., and the Svdnev price of 7 Jd. . for Australian blue. If we are in earnest about preference, this is an item on which the principle might be verv well applied, seeing that we deal so largely with the old country in this commodity. As the honorable member for Swan has shown, the old duty meant 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, ad valorem, whereas under the proposal before) us the protection will amount to 40 per cent, or 50 per cent. Blue is an article which enters verv laxgely into domestic consumption, especially in the homes of workingmen and farmers, and such a duty as I have mentioned, is not warranted under the circumstances.
Question - That the words “ and on and after 17th October, 1.007, per lb., id.,” be added (Mr. Johnson’s amendment) - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the words “and on and after 17th October, 1907 (United Kingdom) per lb., i^d.”
I make this proposal in order to test the question whether there is any real desire in the Committee for preferential trade with the old country. Personally, I am a thorough believer in preferential trade; and if that be secured, I do not care how high the duty may be against countries which close their ports to. us.
– The honorable member does not vote that way.
– When the honorable member has known me a little longer, he will know that I vote absolutely as I like. After the speeches we have heard to-night, it is time that this farce of pretended preferential trade was ended - that we decided whether the farce is to continue throughout the consideration of the Tariff. According to the honorable member for Wimmera, the preference to be given is on all goods which
Great Britain does not send to us, while, on all goods which Great Britain does send, but which compete in the slightest degree with Australian products, the duty must be such as to shut them out of our market. The Government, by their votes to-night, have absolutely refused to listen to any suggestion of preferential trade ; if we are not to have preferential trade, let the consideration of it be removed . from this debate, and a Tariff be framed suitable for Australia, without consideration for any other part of the world. The Prime Minister, when at Home, in eloquent speeches, led the principal men of one political party, at all events, to believe that when he returned to Australia he would propose a Tariff including preferential trade ; but, as a matter of fact, our dealing with the question has become farcical.
– The honorable’ member’s proposal is a farce.
– My proposal is. to test the question whether we are prepared to give preference to the old country. All the goods we choose to send there are received in open ports; but if Great Britain retaliated with a Tariff similar to that now before us, Australia would be on her knees, asking for preferential trade.
Sir WILLIAM lyne (Hume- Treasurer) [9.42]. - It is all very well for honorable members to air their eloquence as: the honorable member for Franklin did just now, but there is really no preference which could be given in connexion with this item. Nearly the whole of the imported blue comes from Great Britain now, and. the Tariff proposed is the standard Tariff throughout the world. The other night, in reply to the honorable member for Barrier, I said that the Government did not desire a catch vote on the preference question, but would select an item on the Tariff on which it could be decided. That will be item 40, candles.
– Why candles?
– Because we do not import any from the United Kingdom.
– Item 40 is selected because the importation of candles, is large.
– - Where from?
– From India, mainly.
– It is not from England, and that, I suppose, is the reason preference is proposed.
– Preference is’ proposed to stop importation from other countries; not to stop it from England. The question ought to be debated properly, and decided in a fair way.
– Will the decision on the item of candles apply to the item of blue?
– No, because there is nothing to give preference on in the item of blue.
– We get blue from Great Britain, but we do not get any candles.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. However, I do not desire to discuss the question of candles now. The Government are as earnest as it is possible to be on the question of preference. There is no room for preference in regard to this item. Prior to Federation, the duty in all the States, with the exception of New South Wales and Western Australia, was 2d. per lb., the Western Australian duty being 15 per cent., while in New South Wales there was no duty. The right honorable member for Adelaide proposed a duty of 2d., the rate now proposed.
– The duty was a. revenue one in all the States but Victoria.
– Does the honorable member say that a dutv of 2d. per lb. was not a ‘ protective one ? I heard it spoken of to-night as prohibitive.
– It was a revenue duty because the article was not produced here.
– At any rate, the Government will not give way on this item. When we come to the duty on candles, we shall be prepared to deal with the question of preference, and have the matter thoroughly threshed out.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Franklin is a hollow mockery. We have heard from the members of the Opposition a great deal about their desire to protect the poor ; but now they want to give a preference for the benefit of those who can afford to buy the dearer kinds of blue. I am in favour of preference to Great Britain, but I wish to give her real advantages ; I do not desire to benefit merely the wealthy.
– Both dear and cheap blues are imported from England.
– According to the Tariff Commission, the prices of imported blue range from 8jd. to is. per lb., while locally-made blue can be bought in New
South Wales for from 6Jd. to 7d. per lb. It stands to reason that the poor washerwoman will not use the dearer blue. I think that hollow shams like these should’ be exposed.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh thinks that hollow shams should be exposed, and it is very easy to expose the weakness of his argument. Persons do not pay is. per lb. for blue when they can get locally-made blue more cheaply, unless the dearer blue is the better article. The Treasurer has. spoken of his love for and attachment to the mother land, and while there expressedhis readiness to do all that he could to help her. But now that he is back, he proposes, to increase the duty on English blue by 100 per cent., and says that he cannot give a preference to Great Britain “because all the blue imported into Australia is the manufacture of that country. As a matter of fact, the local manufacturer, under the old Tariff, had a protection of nearly 50 per cent. It seems to me that the true protectionist cannot be a preferentialist. I could understand the Treasurer, as a protectionist, saying, “ Australian industries must be fostered at any cost, and importations, wherever they come from, must be stopped but it is inconsistent to say in one breath that he wishes to give a preference to Great Britain, and, in the next, that a duty of 100 per cent, must be imposed on blue, because all our importations come from ‘ that country. I am a preferentialist, and, therefore, will vote for the amendment. I hope that the question of preference will be thoroughly fought out at an early opportunity, so that the sham professions of protectionists may be. exposed. Mr. WYNNE (Balaclava) [9.54].- The Treasurer having stated that lie is willing to take a test vote on the subject of preference when we are dealing with the duty on candles, it is unfair for honorable members to force a division on this amendment. The blue trade is of practically no value to Great Britain. But in this division there are a large number of items on which we might well impose heavy duties to protect our manufacturers from competition from both Great Britain and foreign countries, while in other divisions there are’ manv items in respect to which we could well t»ive Great Britain a preference without im’uring ourselves. Tn mv view, we should protect our own industries in respect to such articles as we can manufacture ourselves, and assist Great Britain against the foreigner in respect- to articles which we cannot manufacture and have therefore to import. In this way we can be true protectionists, and give a real preference to Great Britain. But it is not fair to deal with the question of preference on a side issue. .
.- I think that preference proposals are entirely out of place on a Tariff schedule like this. I. am against preference, because I think it inconsistent with protection, and for other reasons, and, therefore, I cannot support the amendment. While it is proposed to give preference to Great Britain, the same treatment is denied to New Zealand, whose people are pur own kindred, and must share our fate, and it is also denied to Canada, and to all other British Possessions.
– New Zealand and Canada shut out our products, but Great Britain does not.
– The people of the old country, if they could better themselves by so doing, would adopt a protective policy.
– At any rate, they have not done so.
– Is it a special virtue in the people of Great Britain that they have adopted that fiscal policy which suits them best? They gave us a free Constitution, allowing us to govern ourselves for our own benefit in our own way, while they do the same. They do not adhere to free-trade for our good.
– They protect us for our good.
– Good luck to them.
– And good luck for us. ,
– If the honorable member assumes that that protection is given only for the tribute we pay, he strikes at the foundation of self-government.
– It is the tribute that the people of Great Britain pay that gives us our protection.
– The honorable member’s preference is a serious attempt to undermine the free Constitution - of the Commonwealth. If the desire is to help the, toiling millions of Great Britain, let us collect the duties, and return them to the workers employed in the production of the goods on which they are levied.
– Let us do anything that is impossible.
– The people of Great Britain have not asked for tribute. We are the poorer partner.
– Australia is far richer, per head of population, than is Great Britain.
– In my opinion Great Britain suffers from an excess rather than a lack of wealth. By providing for two rates of duties, the Government have given unlimited opportunities for debates, because it is possible to move three or four amendments in regard to each item in the Tariff. In mv opinion, the general Tariff should first be framed, and Parliament should then decide what preference should be given.
– How could we frame a general Tariff without knowing the items in respect of which preference was to be proposed.
– A general Tariff could be framed in accordance with our needs, and we could afterwards determine what generosity we should show to the mother country and our kith and kin in other parts of the world. That is the position which I take up, but the Government have adopted a different attitude.
.- Although the honorable member for Wide Bay is opposed to preferential trade he has put in a rather ungracious way his attitude towards the mother country.
– Then I withdraw everything that is ungracious.
– As the honorable member has truly said, the mother country gave us this continent, , but she gave us something far more precious - the right to. manage our own affairs. We have used that liberty as we thought best for the advantage of Australia, and incidentally we have availed ourselves,, of it to shut out to a very large extent the trade of the mother country from the country which she gave to us. There has never been a word of complaint on this subject from the old country, but you can well understand, Mr. McDonald, the impatience of the people of the mother country when representatives of Australia go there and insist upon the whole foundation of her fiscal relations and policy being altered in order that the products of Australia may compete with those of British farmers. We have this extraordinary state of things : that whilst the giant power treats us in the way to which I have re- ferred we treat it in a wholly different manner. There was never a greater violation of the laws of hospitality than that of which the representatives of Australia were guilty, not by the speeches at the Imperial Conference, where they were entitled to speak in the freest and most fearless way, but by their speeches at various functions during their visit. They entered the troubled waters of party politics and created a feeling of irritation in the mother country which although it has not appeared on the surface is still very real. It is the irritation of a people who having escaped from grinding taxes upon the necessaries of life, find prosperous people from Australia urging that those obnoxious taxes should be imposed upon the crowded millions of the mother country for the benefit of Australian farmers who are ten times better off than are the farmers of the old land. One would have expected a true protectionist to suggest that Great Britain should impose heavy duties on wheat in order that the farmers there might have some protection.
– I thought that the right honorable member, when we were dealing with the duty on wire-netting, said that the man on the land was badly off.
– Some of them are. Every man is liable to adversity. The honorable member to-day might be rolling in wealth, and a year later, as the result of a drought, might become an object of sympathy. I think he will admit that comparisons between the conditions of the” people of the old country and those who are here are not in favour of the first-named.
– But they are worth £302 per head whilst we are worth only £266 each.
– The honorable member is worth much more than that.
– I am including the right honorable member in the average.
– I feel that the attitude taken up by our representatives at Home in endeavouring to tear up the cherished Policy of the people of the mother country m order that Australian products might obtain free admission, and at the same time making professions of an honest desire to secure more power for British trade and British manufactures in the markets of Australia was a sham. We sometimes talk of wholesale shams’ and mockeries, but that was the hollowest sham of all. I cannot understand a man being a genuine protectionist and at the same time a genuine pre.ferentialist
– When we are not imposing prohibitive duties we ought to be prepared to give Great Britain an advantage.
– If the Government proposal be put in a fair way it is not worth much. I admit that preference, even if it be limited in the way proposed by the Government, is worth something, and such a proposal, coming from protectionists, is a revelation of relaxation which is refreshing to me. But I wish to point out that it is a hollow sham to tell the people of the mother country that if they will consent to their food supplies being taxed Australia will give their products a substantial advantage in their entry to Australian markets. There is not one protectionist - from the Prime Minister down to the humblest man in the rank’’ and file - who would give any preference that would endanger the stability of the protected manufactures of Australia. I do not blame them for that. The protectionist I blame is not the man who says, “ We are building up our manufacturing industries, and not even for the sake of the mother country can we relax our attitude or open our ports to enable British manufactures to imperil the stability of our own protected manufactures.” I can understand such a , position ; but I have an infinity of contempt for the man .who is determined to keep the door shut to British manufactures, and yet goes to the mother country and professes to be ready to open it, endeavouring to persuade the millions of the people of the old country under absolutely false pretences to put taxes on their” food supplies. If the straightforward de- .finition which has just been uttered had been given in England the proposed preference would have been laughed at in so far as it was urged as a reason for upsetting the established fiscal policy of the mother country. I recognise that my honorable friends opposite in connexion with the Tariff before us, may, in a number of cases, give some useful preferences to the mother country. I do not want to den, that, although they do not propose to give half as much as one could hope to see given. It is, however, a cruel wrong to let the people of the mother country believe that Australian protectionists are ready to open the door and allow British’ manufacturers to imperil the soundness of Australian protected industries. That sort of sham ought to be at once dismissed. One of the good effects of this Tariff is that it will give people at Home a better idea of what we really mean. The Treasurer has said that he is going to seriously test the question of preference on the item of candles. I thought we had already tested it on two occasions. We certainly tested it in connexion with- the item of wire netting, and also on the item of biscuits. To affirm the principle twice, and then to test it, is a rather curious procedure. It would have been more convenient to test it at an earlier date, or else to have refrained from testing it until later on. It may be convenient to have this decision now, although I take it that the Ministry have affirmed the principle by the way they have framed the Tariff.
– If we granted a preference to Great Britain, and, in time of difficulty, took it away again, would it not be said that we were disloyal or unreasonable?
– We need not foe anxious on that score, since the people of the mother country have taken without resentment all the knocks we have given her. As Gladstone said on one occasion, the Australian people have a right to buy their experience in whatever market they please, and they are buying their experience in the protectionist market. Notwithstanding the admitted majority of protectionists in this Chamber, I am very glad to see, on the part, of the Committee, every trace so far of a desire not to push this Tariff to extravagant proportions. I fully recognise that; but in this particular case, I think that Ministers might” well have accepted the preferential arrangement proposed, since the item of candles will be a very unfortunate one on which to test the question of preference. We have with the mother country no trade in candles that is worth mentioning. This item affords a better opportunity to test the question, since comparatively speaking, there are enormous imports of British blue, and the suggested preference of Jd. per lb. is a very modest one. The effect of this preference would be really to leave a 50 per cent, increase of the old duty as against the mother country. That is to say, the duty under the old Tariff has been increased by 100 per cent., and it is proposed that, as against imports from the mother country, it shall be in-‘ creased by only 50 per cent.
– British blue is already largely excluded from Australia.
– That is so, and under this proposal the old duty will be raised by 50 per cent, against the mother country and by 100 per cent, as against the rest of the world. I think that the proposition of those who do believe in preference is, in this instance, one that might well be supported by protectionists, since it would at the same time afford a substantial increase of the duty. I must certainly support the proposition of the honorable member, because it is one to grant preference in a very reasonable form.
.- I have an honest desire to assist the Government in passing an effective Tariff, and certainly share the wish of the Prime Minister that a reasonable preference shall be granted to Great Britain. On the last division, I voted with the Government for what I consider is a very full measure of protection, but they are placing me, and, I am sure, other honorable members in the Opposition corner, in a false position by resisting the proposal that this duty foe reduced as against British imports from 2d. per lb. to 1½d. per lb.’ On- the score of consistency, as well as on the ground that the passing of the Tariff should be expedited, we have some claim for consideration at the hands of the Government. They readily gave way when it was proposed that a preference should be granted to British manufacturers of biscuits, and the principle underlying the proposal in this instance is the same. Although most of our imports of blue come at present from Great Britain, every one knows that no nation is more expert than is Germany in the manufacture of commodities of this kind, and it is quite possible that we may have, next year, large importations from such a country. I urge the Government not to place honorable members of the Opposition corner, who desire to assist them in framing this Tariff on effective protective lines, in a false position when we are endeavouring to help them. If honorable members are to be compelled to rise in this Committee upon every conceivable occasion to explain their reasons for voting in favour of certain duties, this debate will be inordinately prolonged. There is not a single honorable member who does not desire to see. the confusion which exists throughout the Commonwealth consequent upon the introduction of a new Tariff terminated at the earliest possible moment. The Government must assume a consistent attitude, if only to obviate the necessity for honorable members rising, from time to time, to explain their positions. In view of the inconsistent attitude of the Ministry upon the question of preference, I shall be compelled to support the amendment. If the Prime . Minister or the Treasurer intends to-morrow to outline a distinctive policy on the part of the Government in connexion with the whole subject of preferential trade, it would be a reasonable thing to report progress now, and to allow the House to adjourn. At present, we are merely floundering in the dark. I repeat what I stated upon a previous occasion, that it would have been better if we had settled the duties imposed under the general Tariff before dealing with the preferential proposals of the Government.
– The preference proposals should have been considered first.
– At any rate, the two questions should have been considered separately. Unless we know what is to be the policy of the Government in regard to preference-
– Surely that is set out clearly enough. No preference is proposed to be granted in respect of blue, because it it not necessary.
– The position of the Government is an absolutely inconsistent one. They are making a farce of the whole situation. The sooner the present position is ended, the better, inasmuch as the action of the Ministry is, to some extent, responsible for honorable members recording votes which conflict with their election pledges.
Question - That the words “and on and after 17th October, 1907 (United Kingdom) per lb., ijd. ; (Mr. Mcwilliams’ amendment) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Item agreed to.
Item ‘37 (Broom corn millet and rice straw) agreed to.
Item 38. Rice root, per cental 2s.
.- Will the Treasurer explain why there is an increase of duty of 2s. per cental in this case ?
– This item refers to the root of the rice plant, which is generally used in making whisks and brooms. It is used for the same purpose as corn millet and rice straw, and, under the old Tariff, was charged the same as those articles named under item 37. Although it was considered that it could still be charged under that item, the Department considered it better to include it in a separate line in this Tariff.
– Is the rice root from the same plant as the rice straw?
– I do not think thev refer to the same plant, but one article is used as a substitute for the other.
.- Rice root is a fibrous growth, used, like .millet, for the manufacture of an inferior class of broom. It is. not produced commercially in Australia.
Item agreed to.
Item 39 (Butter and cheese) agreed to. Progress reported.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I asked this afternoon whether it was a fact that the duty upon leather used in hat-making had been removed, and, if so, why the exemption was made. The answer which I received was that after the Tariff was tabled it was discovered that leather used in hatmaking had inadvertently been omitted from the free list, and that it was placed upon the free list by an order issued under the Customs Act. It is a significant fact that hat-making has again received preferential treatment. I admit that the Customs Department have the power to do what they have done, but why did not the Government, when they discovered that exorbitant duties had been placed on other articles, such as chairs, use the same power to reduce the duty, say, from 7s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per chair? It is no argument that, because hat-making requisites were on the free list in the last Tariff, they should also be on the free list in this Tariff. If that is a valid argument, the whole Tariff might be dealt with in the same way. If the Government had used the same power to make reductions of exorbitant duties, they would have simplified the debate, and obviated a good deal of trouble. While the answer which I received this afternoon was very courteous, it did not supply the exact information which I wanted, and I shall be pleased if the Minister will deal with the position which I have now placed before him.
– I should like to assure the honorable member for Dalley that this decision was not given for reasons of our own. This is one of the many decisions given in regard to what we term minor articles, whiph, in our opinion, ought to be, and were intended to be, on the free list. In such cases the Customs Act gives the Minister a discretion ; and the decision was not with any idea of giving particular preference to the hat-making industry.
– There are no other items on which this action has been taken.
– There are riianv items on which similar action has been taken.; and if the honorable member likes I shall supply him with a list. If the honorable member looks into the matter carefully, he will see that the hatmaking industry, instead- of being favoured, does noi receive that treatment which, according to the figures, it might receive. The importation of hats has gone up year by year since the imposition of the Commonwealth Tariff. This is an industry which might very well be encouraged, because it is one which may be described as natural to the country, seeing that the raw materials are nearly all produced in Australia. It can be shown that the price of the finished article is not getting dearer, but cheaper ; and yet the importation is going up by leaps and bounds. In Australia good standard wages are paid to white men ; and it dois seem strange to me that this industry should be picked out for attack, seeing that it is one of the best, and that its extension might very well be promoted.
– It is not more important than mining, is it?
– I ask the Minister not to trench on any ^Tariff questions which may come up for discussion later.
– The machines used in the hat-making trade, have received favoured treatment.-
– It seems like favoritism.
– Political favoritism.
– If the leader of the Opposition thinks there is any favoritism, he ought to make some definite charge.
– Not in a matter of this sort.
– If the leader- of the Opposition thinks there is favoritism, it is his duty to bring some charge.
– I have been making the charge for the last three weeks.
– Such a charge would be scandalous if it were true.
– It is one of two industries the machinery for which is on the free list.
-^The only reason given for these attacks is that a balance-sheet of one company engaged in the industry was brought down, showing that’ it is paying. But it is desirable that the industry should pay.
– What has this to do with the Customs decision ?
– An accusation of favoritism has been made by the leader - of the Opposition and by the honorable member for Parramatta; but the latter knows that the same treatment has been meted out in relation to many minor articles. I challenge the leader of the Opposition to prove his statement that there is favoritism. The honorable member for Dalley said that the decision was given “ for some reason of their own,” meaning the Government. What construction can be placed on that statement?
– If there were favoritism, it would be good ground for a vote of censure.
– I remind honorable members that no debate can take place in the nature of an anticipation of the Tariff discussion later on. If I permit this discussion to continue there will be a multiplication of debate which can serve no purpose. I ask the Minister not to. refer to any matter in anticipation of the Tariff discussion.
– I only desire to show that the decision to which the honorable member for Dalley referred is similar to decisions given every month, every -week, and, in fact, almost every day ; indeed, ‘ in order to make the Customs’ ‘Act’ Work smoothly, such decisions must be given. I have no knowledge of how the decision in question came to be given ;’but I know that it is one of many of a like character. I repeat that if there is the slightest susDicion of favoritism, the leader of the Opposition ought to make some definite charge.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta^ [10.38]. - I make a charge of favoritism in as definite a wav as I can. I sav there has been favoritism in connexion with the treatment of the hat industrv and the woollen industry, as is abundantly proved by the simple schedule at the end of the Tariff-
– The honorable memmust not debate the Tariff. -
– A similar schedule has been in every Tariff. .
– There has not been a similar schedule in every Tariff.
– Practically there has been.
– I Droved only the other night that there was a similar schedule in the last Tariff.
– I desire to show that the Minister deliberately misled the leader of the Opposition in this matter.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The’ honorable member is encroaching on the Tariff discussion, and that I cannot permit. I ask him not to refer to matters which will come up for consideration later.
– It is unfortunate that we may not reply to a debate which has been going on for the last quarter of an hour.
– I called the Minister’s attention two or three times to the fact that he was on dangerous ground ; and I cannot allow the honorable member for Parramatta to proceed when I refused permission to the Minister to do so.
– The Minister got in his speech all the same.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071016_reps_3_40/>.