3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he can say when the House may expect to be furnished with a full statement of the Government’s policy on the question of the Naval Agreement, and concerning Australian Naval Defence generally.
– As soon as the business now on hand is completed.
– Cannot the honorable and learned gentleman give me a more definite reply? Will the information be forthcoming before the Christmas adjournment? I have a particular reason for desiring it.
– I hope that a complete statement will be made before the Christmas adjournment, though I am afraid that time may not be foundso soon for its discussion by the House.
– Referring to a question which I have already asked, I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if he is in a position to state whether any of the rifle barrels ordered from the Old Country have yet arrived?
– They came in the China, and I have given instructions that they shall be distributed at once to those requiring them.
Colonel FOXTON. - I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether it is correct, as stated in the press, that only two out of four tenders received for the carriage of mails between England and Australia are in regular form, and that those two are for a service having Brisbaneas a port of call ? Can the Minister yet give an assurance that only such tenders as specifically provide for the steamers calling at Brisbane will be entertained by the Government ?
– The press report is merely speculative. I hope within a week or ten days, the period mentioned last week, to make a complete statement to the House.
– Has any communication passed between the Government and the Government of New South Wales recently regarding the Federal Capital Sites question, and has the Government received any additional information respecting the Canberra Site? If so, will it be made available to honorable members?
– Information respecting the water supply has been, or is to be, immediately forwarded; but I do not know of any other recent communication on the subject. However, I shall look through the papers, and, if there is anything to add to the information already possessed by honorable members, shall be pleased to lay it on the table.
– Will the honorable and learned gentleman make available to honorable members the report in reference to the Canberra water supply?
– I have just undertaken to do so.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has noticed the report in this morning’s Age that the proposed Commonwealth trawler is almost sure to be built atthe Fitzroy Dock? If so, will he say whether the statement is correct ? Can he inform the House exactly how matters stand in regard to the trawler ?
– A reply from the New South Wales Government arrived to-day, and will, I think, complete the papers sufficiently to justify the laving of them on the table.
– Has the Treasurer yet obtained information as to the conditions of labour in the distilling industry, and, if so, are the replies which he has received satisfactory?
– Replies have been received from some of the distillers, and I hope to receive the whole of them within a few days, when I will inform the House as to their nature.
– Does the Minister intend to take steps to collect the Excise in respect of distilleries from which replies are not received within a reasonable time?
– Every effort will be made to carry out the law.
New South Wales Government Importation
– The honorable member for Riverina, on the 17th October - Hansard, page 4842 - asked for information regarding the importation of wire netting by the Government of New South Wales. He wished to know the names of the ships which brought the netting to Sydney, the quantity imported, the countries in which it was manufactured, the values per ton landed in Sydney, and whether it was up to the standard gaugeas invoiced. The replies to his questions are these -
– The following return shows the number of officers of the indoor branch of the Customs Department who were required to work overtime during the six months ended 30th September last. The information was asked for by the honorable member for Coolgardie, on behalf of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, on the 27th September last, his question appearing on page 3969 of the Hansard report -
– The following statement is made in a leader which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 2 8th inst. -
Sussex-street and the railway market have become scenes of excitement, and we have only to contrast the prices of feed-stuffs there with those rulingat this time last year to realize what is involved. Usually fodder is fairly cheap in this country, because, though our live stock are numbered by tens of millions, hand-feeding is not much resorted to. But now, as compared with a year ago, we find that lucerne has advanced 200 per cent., bran and pollard 130 per cent., maize 100 per cent., chaff80, wheat 72, oaten hay 65, oats 60, and straw 50 per cent. ; and if the drought continues, these prices will be altogether distanced.
In view of these facts, will the Prime Minister take steps to have the Tariff suspended, so far as the duties on fodder and foodstuffs are concerned?
– No alteration of the duties obtaining under the Tariff of 1902 is contemplated. The duties now in force were operating last year at the period with which the comparison is made. Therefore I do not see the relevancy of the inquiry.
– Is the honorable and learned gentleman aware that a drought now prevails in New South Wales, and that the fodder duties bear heavily upon the owners of stock in that State?
– I understand that part of New South Wales-
– A very large part of it.
– Is suffering from want of rain. I deeply regret it, and trust that the want may be transient. I do not see any reason at present for reconsidering other items of the Tariff than those before us.
– Stock are dying for want of food.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a statement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last, to the effect that a combination of manufacturers of confectionery was recently formed in that State, as the result of which the prices of confectionery have advanced from 10 to 15 per cent. ? Has he also noticed in today’s Age a reply in which it is stated that retailers have been chargingfrom 25 to 150 per cent. on manufacturers’ cost prices? Does he propose in his scheme of new protection to afford any protection to the consumers of confectionery, and, if so, how does he propose to do that?
– I ask the honorable member to postpone the question for a short time, because I have every reason to expect that action will be taken by the Government which will prove that, so far as the law allows, no such combine as that to which he refers will be permitted to operate.
– I desire to inform the Minister of Defence that the central authorities have ordered that the instruments in connexion with the Public school cadet bands be sent in for the purpose of redistribution, and to ask whether he will agree to a postponement of the execution of this order, so that he may have an opportunity to consider some suggestions, by which the redistribution can take place without practically disorganizing the cadet bands?
– I was not aware of the fact to which the honorable member has referred. Without a knowledge of the position, I do not like to say whether it is possible to stop the execution of the order. I shall look into the matter, and. if it is possible to delay action, I shall do so. Under any circumstances, I should think that we could carry out departmentally a matter of that kind without unduly interfering with the organization of the cadets.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether at the week-end he stated in a speech, in Sydney, that the imposition of Excise duties on manufactures, under the new protection, was simply a matter of form, and that they would not be collected ?
– I do not know what newspaper the honorable member has been reading. I have not thought or heard of anything of that kind, and the report must have been the invention of some enemy.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice - in reference to question re rations asked on Friday, 18th inst. -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow-
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it not possible to appoint a Committee, composedof not less than two members of each party in the House, who shall examine the Tariff Schedules and report to the House a list of items which can be passed without debate, thus terminating unnecessary discussion ?
– If it were practicable I should like to carry out the honorable member’s suggestion, but I fear it could” not be done. I hope honorable members will now proceed without unnecessary discussion?
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answers have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner : -
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 25th October, vide page 5236) :
.- I desire to correct a statement which I made at the last sitting of the Committee, and which might, perhaps, have conveyed a wrong impression to many persons. It will be recollected by honorable members that they cheered my statement that a large chocolate manufacturer had refused an order to supply any . troops in South Africa. I misapplied the credit, and I want to give credit where it is due. I hold in my hand a letter from the manager of Messrs. Cadbury Brothers Limited, and if I read it perhaps it will explain the exact position. It reads as follows: -
Melbourne, October 29th, 1907.
Dr. W. Maloney, M.H.R.,
With further reference to the subject of my letter of Saturday last. I beg to report receipt of the following cable from my principals in England, namely : -
Government orders declined. Queen’s gift troops never declined but executed at cost.
You will thus see that while not absolutely correct as to details, the statement in my former letter was substantially correct This is all I need concern myself with at this time. If required, I will put the original cable in your hands.
Very sincerely yours,
Cooper. (Manager in Australia for Cadbury Bros. Ltd.)
I gave the credit to Messrs. Rowntree Brothers, instead of to Messrs. Cadbury Brothers Limited, for having refused the order. Naturally, the order for the Queen’s gift to the troops had to be taken by a manufacturing company as a command. Therefore, the three companies desired to share the work, and each one manufactured about 30,000 boxes of chocolate at cost price. In this way their principals, who belong to the Society of Friends, did justice to their consciences in not trying to assist in any way in a war in which they did not believe. They supplied the chocolate to the troops by the Queen’s order at cost price. It is only fair that the credit should be given to Messrs. Cadbury Brothers for having refused, not the com mand to supply the Queen’s gift, but the order to supply the troops.
.- I move -
That after the figures “3¾d.,” paragraph A, the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907, (General Tariff), per lb., 2½d.,” be inserted.
I do not want to speak on the subject, as it has been debated at considerable length.
– The honorable member is jumping my claim.
– I donot know how the honorable member can claim that, seeing that it is on my list of amendments of which I gave notice weeks ago; but, all the same, if the honorable member desires to move it I will cheerfully give way to him. I only wish to point out one little matter which has not been brought under the notice of the Committee, and that is that in his evidence before the Tariff Commission Mr. MacRobertson presented from the associated manufacturers a petition in which they asked for a duty of only 2d. per lb. on confectionery. That rate cannot now be proposed because it has already been rejected. But, seeing that the manufacturers themselves asked for a duty of only 2d. per lb., I think that in giving them an extra duty of½d. per lb. we shall be doing all that even the most rabid protectionist members of the Commission can expect the Committee to do.
.- I am rather surprised at the action of the honorable member for Lang, as I intimated on Friday that it was my intention to move that the duties on confectionery be 2½d. and 2d. per lb. respectively.
.- I shall ask leave to withdraw my amendment so that the honorable member may move accordingly. I did not hear his statement on Friday.
Amendment,by leave, withdrawn.
– I am willing to assist any manufacturers so long as they are willing to sell their goods to every one; but when I find that they are inclined to enter into a combine and to exclude certain persons from participating in the sale of their goods, I think it is only fair and right that we should impose moderate duties. Therefore, I move -
That after the figures “ 3¾d.,” paragrapha, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb., 2½d.,” be inserted.
.- I quite agree with the
Treasurer in his desire to dispose of this and other items as quickly as possible. It will be recollected that on Friday last I stated that one Sydney manufacturer at least was in favour of the present duties. I wrongly credited him with having made his representations in this connexion to the Tariff Commission. In reality he made them to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I propose to quote a short extract from the statement signed by three confectionery manufacturers of Sydney - Messrs. Jas. Stedman, Jas. Henderson and Sons, and W. A. Hogarth-and also by Mr. H. Medcraf, of Rockhampton. It reads -
We, the undersigned manufacturing confectioners of Sydney, New South Wales, would respectfully submit that we consider the proposed duty on confectionery of 3½d. per lb. to be excessive, and we would strongly urge that no change be made beyond bringing chocolate into line with ordinary confectionery. viz. - by making the duty a uniform one of 2d. per lb. all round. Working even under the old Tariff, we have extended our factories, increased our hands, and enjoyed general prosperity. With the anomaly removed under which chocolate has hitherto been brought in under a lower duty than confectionery, we shall receive an additional stimulus, and we ask for nothing more. If the new Federal Tariff has been framed with a view to fostering our industry, this object will be more readily obtained by remitting, or largely reducing, the duties onourraw products, such as gelatine, glucose, cocoa butter, caramel paste, &c, also on almonds, desiccated cocoanut, as well as” on machinery, by which we are heavily handicapped.
– The statement which has just been read by the honorable member is like a good many of the statements made by men who have their plants in readiness and who do not desire competition-. I know something about Mr. Stedman’s business, and I know Mr. Stedman too, and I am not quite sure that he is not an importer as well as a manufacturer. I pay not the slightest attention to requests which emanate from such established gentlemen. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Bass declare that he submitted the amendment because of the existence of a combine. I submit that it is very much better to have a combine locally, where we can deal with it, than to have a combine at the other end of the world where we cannot deal with it. To argue that because a combine exists we should not impose a protective duty upon confectionery is one of the most fallacious methods of reasoning of which I have heard. I will not agree to the amendment of the honorable member.
The proposed duties are ridiculously low, and as far as the Government are concerned they intend to stand by them.
– The manufacturers themselves ask for a duty of only 2d. per lb.
– The honorable member is “dotty” against the manufacturers. He is a strong representative of the foreigner, and he wants to introduce the foreign element here. The Government stand for Australia and not for the foreigner. I sincerely trust that the Committee will not agree to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bass. I am reminded that quite a different tone was adopted the other day by certain members of the Committee when the sugar duties were under consideration. Upon the last division taken the other evening, some Queensland members, who were strong in their desire to impose a protective duty upon sugar, rushed into the chamber to vote against the proposed duty upon confectionery.
.- It seems to me that the declaration of the intention of the Government to stand firm upon this item is a little belated. I do not agree with the honorable member for Bass that the existence of a confectionery combine has anything to do with the question under consideration. But if we are always going to be told that we can deal with these combines by means of special legislation, which the Government allowto become a dead letter, the position will be a very unsatisfactory one. If the confectionery Combine is to be dealt with in the same way as the agricultural implement makers have been dealt with under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, at the end of twelve or eighteen months, we shall find ourselves in exactly the position that we occupy to-day. The Treasurer has stated that the proposed duty on confectionery is ridiculously low. I think that a duty of 2½d. per lb. upon confectionery of foreign origin, and of 2d. per lb. upon the manufactures of the United Kingdom would represent a very fair compromise. I should not vote for those duties but for the fact that by reason of our White Australia policy we have imposed an embargo upon manufacturers and prevented them from purchasing their raw materials in the’ cheapest market. . Those who do not believe in our White Australia policy are perfectly justified in voting as they please. If the Government propose to stand by the original duties, despite the fact that on Friday last they entertained a very different intention, I shall be very much surprised.
.- It must have struck you, sir, that the Government proposals undergo many changes: When the Opposition corner party is strongly in favour of a duty, the Treasurer declares that the Government intend to be firm with regard to it. The strength of the Government’s determination depends upon the solidity of .the corner party. The Treasurer expresses the opinion that honorable members on this side of the chamber are “dotty on the manufacturer.” I retort that the Minister is “dotty on the importer.” The imposition of high duties will have the effect of creating combines. The higher the. duty the greater the ease with which monopolies can be established, and combines are the outcome of monopolies. We have evidence that a combine exists in the confectionery trade to-day, not only in Victoria, but in New South Wales. The result has been a remarkable increase in prices to the retailer. I should like to draw the attention of the honorable member for Fawkner, who suggests a duty of 3d. per lb., to the Tariff of 1902. Under that Tariff the duty on cocoa and chocolate was id. The honorable member for Bass asks for an allround increase of 150 per cent, beyond the Tariff of 1902. Surely that is a sufficiently large increase for any rational protectionist. ‘But the honorable member for Fawkner is not satisfied even with that, and wants an increase of 200 per cent. I shall vote for the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, namely, for an allround duty of 2d. per lb. A little while ago the Government made a declaration of their undying love for the Motherland, and of their intention to grant preferential treatment to her products. What do they propose with regard. to chocolate and cocoa? They propose a preferential duty of only A. per lb.
– The honorable member says “ only £d.” : why does he not put it in percentages?
– It amounts to a preference of I / r 2 th or 8 i/3,rd per cent. I hope that the Treasurer will not make any more personal attacks upon honorable members because they refuse te> listen to the statements of either importers or manufacturers. As I. have previously said, I have steadfastly refused to read the circulars of manufacturers, or to take any notice of what importers say. I shall vote accord ing to the evidence taken by, and the recommendations of, the Tariff Commission, and according to my view of the way in which consumers ought to be treated.-
– That is a peculiar way of making up one’s mind - to refuse to read anything !
– The recommendations of the- Tariff Commission are surely of more value than any brief handed to an honorable member by either importers or manufacturers. The Commission sat for months examining witnesses, and those interested in the trade declared that thev would be satisfied with a duty of 2d.’ per lb. all round. I hope that the amendment, of the honorable member for Bass will be carried.
.- Several statements have been published in the newspapers attempting ‘to contradict the evidence which I adduced last week as to the increase of prices by manufacturers to the retail confectioners. I have before me a copy of an advertisement which appears in two of the Svdney newspapers, and which goes to support my statement. I mav mention that I do not know Messrs. Bass and Company, and have never met any one connected with them in my life. The advertisement is as follows -
We, the Undersigned. Bass and Co., hereby agree to forfeit to the New South Wales Manufacturing Confectioners? Protective Society, of Vickery’s Chambers, the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty pounds if we fail (while trading solely as retailers), to produce invoices to ourselves extending over many years, substantiating the figures quoted in our telegram to Mr. Poynton of the 25th. inst. We, however, reserve ourselves in the one item, Jelly .Tubes, the price of which had remained unaltered, at 3d. to us for ten years prior to September of this year.
Bass and Co
I think that when a firm will go to the extent of making an offer of that kind there cannot be much doubt about its statements. The same firm furnished me this morning with information from a number of firms with which they have been dealing, and which goes to show that they did not tell a lie to me. They have also sent to me a copy of a circular signed by a number of the manufacturing confectioners of New South Wales. and which reads as follows -
We, the Undersigned Manufacturing Confectioners, beg to notify you that in view of the genera! high prices now ruling for raw materials, we have found it necessary to revise prices and discounts for all goods manufactured and supplied from our respective manufactories; for your information a price list will be sent you in a day or two.
The circular also contains a note that the giving of Christmas presents and gratuities of any kind “ will be discontinued byus in the future.” The Government were successful on Friday last through promising a number of honorable members that they intended to consider a reduction of the duty. Hence they induced a number of honorable members who were not in favour of the present duty not to vote. I shall now say no more than is necessary to support the proposition of the honorable member for Bass. All I ask is that we shall do now what we are promised that we may do under the new protection scheme, and, where it is proved that a combine is imposing unjust conditions, and so increasing prices, reduce the duty on the commodities which it manufactures. Let us show that we mean what we say, and reduce the duty when a clear case has been proved.
– The Treasurer has shown considerable impatience with the honorable member for Bass moving for a reduction of this duty.
– Oh, no.
– The Treasurer delivered a little lecture to the honorable member for Bass, because, I presume, that honorable member sits behind the Government. In the face of all the facts, however, I cannot understand an honorable member taking any other course than that adopted by the honorable member for Bass. I do not agree with the argument which the honorable member advanced in support of his view; but I presume he is influenced by what he has heard in the course of the debate. The argument of the honorable member is that his motion is necessary because there is a certain combine. In my opinion, however, it does not matter what the duty may be, a combine, which has control of the market, can charge any prices it likes. There is a law at present in existence, passed at the instigation of the Labour Party, to deal with circumstances of the kind, and, if the members of that party are in earnest, why do they not urge that that law shall be put into operation ?
– Did the honorable member not hear the answer given by the Prime Minister to-day to a question in regard to combines? The Prime Minister said that steps would be taken.
– The Minister of Trade arid Customs now says that the legislation to which I refer will be put into operation. It will be a great disgrace to the Government if the law is not put into operation, always supposing, of course, that a case has been made out for action.
– The Prime Minister has said that immediately there is evidence that there is a combine he will take steps.
– I have heard no evidence that there is a combine. If there is a combine I should be one to endeavour to put it down; but I wish to see legislation, at present inoperative, put in operation. Why should laws be passed as a placard? The law to which I have referred was introduced as urgent, and, if there is any necessity, it ought to be put into operation. There are, it may be, proposals for a combine; and any combine that is formed will do just what is being done by a score of other people who do not call themselves a combine. It is necessary that some one should investigate the matter and put the law into operation, if any combination of manufacturers or traders is fleecing the public. However, I support the proposal to reduce the duty; and I agree with the honorable member- for Bass, that, when the question is not one of free-trade or protection, he should be at liberty to do justice, notwithstanding any duty which may be proposed by the Government.
.- We have been told by the honorable member for Grey that if we find a combine formed with the object of robbing the public the duty ought to be reduced. That, however, is very misleading to honorable members. I do not think there is any intention, under the new protection scheme, to reduce the duty all round, but merely to impose a sort of fine on those people who form combinations injurious to the public interest.
– Hear, hear ! We should not punish a good man for the misdeeds of a bad man.
– As protectionists, it is our duty to establish industries in Australia; and I contend that, even in the case before us, there is not sufficient evidence of a combine.
– There is something very like it.
– There may be evidence of a sort; but, in any case, does the alleged combine extend to New South
Wales, Queensland, and the other States of the Commonwealth.?
– Does it embrace the whole of the confectioners?
– The principal confectioners.
– But if the duty proposed by the Government is imposed, who can say that other confectioners will not spring up ? We have heard much of the ‘ firms of Fry and Cadbury, and of the splendid way in which they treat their employes ; and if protection be given to the industry, how do we know that those firms will not establish branches in Australia, and teach local combines a lesson, involving the loss of their trade? In my opinion, the question of combines should be dealt with separately from the Tariff. We have quite enough to do to pass a Tariff without dealing at the same time with combines and their dangers. The taunts of the Opposition, in their efforts in this connexion, have no effect upon me. Even if I, as a purchaser, be injured by a combine, I would sooner be injured by a combine in Australia than by one in England and the Continent, because, at any rate, an Australian combine pays wages to men in this country. No one abhors a trust or a combine more than I do myself ; but I protest against the waste of time which is involved in the present farcical, ineffective way of dealing with the Tariff.
– I was not aware that the honorable member for Bass had intimated his intention of submitting this amendment, or I should not have risen to make the proposal I did. As I before stated, I had given notice” of amendment on this item weeks before. When I reminded the Treasurer that the Manufacturers’ Association in Australia had not asked for a duty higher than 2d. - -
Mx. Tudor. - They asked for a duty of 3d-
– No. It was suggested by a protectionist member ‘ of the Commission that the manufacturers might ask for a duty of 3d., but they asked for a duty of only 2d. When I reminded the Treasurer of this fact,ohe, in his customary insulting manner to myself-
– Order f
– With his customary rudeness and_ incorrectness, at any rate, the Treasurer stigmatized me as a foreigners’ representative. I propose to read from the evidence given by one of the manufacturers associated in. the Combine, and it will be seen that what I have stated is absolutely true in every particular. Some honorable members desire evidence of the existence of a combine, and let me give it to them out of the mouth of Mr. Robertson himself, who, in presenting the resolution from the Manufacturing Confectioners’ Association, said, as reported at page 51:7 of the Tariff Commission’s report -
When I was previously examined I said, in the first place, that I was here as the representative of the Manufacturing Confectioners’ Associations of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria.
The witness was not asked to make that statement. He made it voluntarily, and it proves the existence of a combine amongst the manufacturing confectioners even if there were no copies of agreements, rules, regulations of prices, and other evidences of the fact. When the Treasurer was speaking, I referred to the Manufacturing Confectioners’ Association, and the honorable gentleman; denied its existence, and tried to make the Committee believe that this was a view put forward by the importers, whom the Treasurer contemptuously refers to as foreigners. This is the resolution, that was submitted by Mr. Robertson -
That this meeting of the Manufacturing Confectioners’ Association of Victoria views with alarm the large increase of imported chocolate confectionery on the local market, and in the interests of Australian manufacturers they consider that chocolate containing any ingredients whatsoever should be classified under its correct heading, viz., confectionery, and pay a duty of 2d. per lb.
Not 2fd. or 3d., honorable members will note.
In our opinion chocolates containing sugar, milk, or other ingredients is pure confectionery, and should be thus classified, as it is bought and sold as such, and handled only in the confectionery trade Clause 16, division 4, of the Federal Tariff is, in the opinion of this Association, intended to cover the duty on cocoa and chocolate, which is used as a beverage.
I have read that resolution because of the statement made by the Treasurer, and because it shows conclusively that the Associated Confectionery Manufacturers in this Combine expressed themselves as perfectly satisfied with the duty of 2d. per lb., which is an increase of 100 per cent, on the old duty.
.- I shall vote for the amendment mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner with some regret, because of the existence of this Combine. Some honorable members have said that we have no evidence of the existence of a combine in this trade, but I have here .a copy of the agreement between the wholesale manufacturers of confectionery, which clearly shows that there is a combine. No one will deny that it is a very difficult matter to deal with combines and trusts. I find that as early as the vear 1848 an Act of the English Parliament was passed against combines and trusts. It soon became a dead letter, and it would appear that the Anti-Trust Act passed by this Parliament last session has also become a dead letter. I know something of the operation of trusts arid combines and boycotts, because I am interested in woollen mills at Ballarat, and we had the audacity fifteen years ago to sell some of our goods direct to clothing manufacturers. From that day to this we have been boycotted by the wholesale houses ot Melbourne. Only recently I saw in the Argus a statement by the principal of one of these houses, who said that the mills were working at high pressure and asked why they did not sell to the houses in Flinders-lane. For fifteen years the houses in Flinders-lane have refused to buy one yard of cloth from our mills. That ;s merely an illustration of what is likely to happen in connexion with- the confectionery trade as a result of the combination of these manufacturers. If something is not done -no less than 1,300 retailers of confectionery in Melbourne will be under the thumb ot the manufacturing firms. Although I am a strong protectionist, I do not wish to make these manufacturers so independent as to -give them a monopoly, and enable them “to squeeze the retailers. If thev do obtain a monopoly every one of the retailers in the trade will have to conform to their rules, or they will refuse to supply them with goods. I have here a copy of a letter from a wholesale manufacturer in Sydney refusing to supply retailers in Melbourne with confectionery, because he was ordered to refuse to do so by the Combine here. The manufacturing confectioners in both places are acting hand in hand. The Melbourne confectionery manufacturers refuse to supply Sydney retailers, and the Sydney manufacturers reciprocate by refusing to supply Melbourne retailers. Parliament must keep the duties down sufficiently low to permit of competition in the trade, or must enforce the anti-trust law in such “’ a manner as to prevent any wholesale manufacturer from refusing to supply a bond fide purchaser of his goods. We have in our midst a Tobacco Trust, and we know that in the same way they have their hands on a great many of the retailers in that trade. I am sure honorable members have no wish to see the small men squeezed by the -big men. The honorable member for Yarra has said that he has sympathy with one class, the workers, and I am quite sure that a good-natured man like the honorable member will have some sympathy for the 1,300 retailers of confectionery who are being squeezed by the local manufacturers. Thev have asked Parliament to protect them, and I think it is our duty to do so.
.- I am anxious that the Committee should go to a vote, but as so many misstatements have been made dealing with this item, I think it would be well to say a few words on the other side. Honorable members should know that last year we imported chocolate to the value of ,£215,672, and confectionery to the value of .£116,305, or a total of ,£331,977 - -almost a third of a million sterling. I have here a copy of a report of the Tariff Commission sitting in England at the present time, published on 12 th August of this year, and I shall refer honorable members to some of the evidence given by manufacturers of confectionery. I take this from the evidence given by R. S. Murray and Company, Limited, Fleet Works, Turnmill-street, London, E.C., confectionery and chocolate “manufacturers -
We find Germany and America doing some dumping in the colonies to our disadvantage.
This firm objected to Germany and America doing the dumping, and wished to do it themselves.
– The extract the honorable member has quoted does not say so.
– The firm claimed that the dumping by Germany and America was to their disadvantage. It is evident they had been dumping themselves, and desired to continue to do so. When we come to deal with the duty to b» imposed on potatoes, we may deal with it in such a way as to allow New Zealand growers to do a little dumping ]q the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member may do what he pleases.
– No doubt the honorable member would be prepared to deal with that item as some honorable members representing Queensland dealt with the duty on sugar. They supported the highest duty for the benefit of ohe of the biggest monopolies we have in Australia, whilst they were prepared to vote for the lowest amount of duty on goods of which sugar is the raw material. I can appreciate the votes of honorable members opposite who are consistent free-traders, but I cannot stand men who vote for protection on items in which their constituents are concerned, and are prepared to vote for the lowest duties on other items. We have heard a lot about the wages paid in this industry, and I think it was in the Age of yesterday that I saw a letter referring to the question of wages. The writer of this letter, a working man named Regan, whom I do not know, sets forth the wages that have been and are still being paid in England in the confectionery trade, amd they are not nearly as good as the wages paid here, or even as good as those quoted by honorable members last week. Amongst the firms who furnished replies to questions issued by the British Tariff Commission was a manufacturer who spoke of the competition which the trade there had to meet, and it must not be forgotten that we in turn are (suffering from their competition. He said -
As far as the labour is concerned we are able to compete with foreign countries.
He did not suggest that the workers in foreign countries receive much lower wages than rule in England. Another manufacturing confectioner, Mr. Shlehover, of 3 Hammersmith-road, London, W., chocolate, confectionery, and preserve manufacturer, said -
We are subject to adverse competition owing to lower wages and longer hours of labour on the Continent, but chiefly because of the scarcity of skilled labour.
He admitted that there is a scarcity of skilled labour in England: and, in glancing through the report of this Commission, I discovered a statement that there is no trade union in the confectionery industry in Great Britain. That mav be news to many honorable members. This manufacturer went on to state that -
During a recent visit abroad I noticed a marked increase in wages and a shortening of the hours of labour.
Another firm of manufacturers, Messrs. Southwell and Company, of Idol-lane, London, E.C., manufacturing and export confectioners, stated that -
It is well known that wages, hours of labour, &c, are generally to the advantage of the foreign manufacturer. This is indicated by the fact that
English manufacturers have removed and are removing their works abroad, to avail themselves of such advantages.
Still another firm of chocolate makers and confectioners, described by the official number of ‘13839, said -
Tile Factory Acts compel us to restrict employment. We doubt if any other country is so handicapped. Swiss and German wages are lower and longer hours are worked ; our hours are 54 per week.
Those who favour a reduction of these duties desire that our workers in Australia shall have to compete with men in Great Britain who have to labour fifty-four hours per week. This witness went on to show that manufacturers in Great Britain could not compete with the ‘German manufacturers of chocolate. A firm of chocolate manufacturers, described as No. 3059, asked for a duty on cocoa and chocolate, saying -
There should be an import duty on cocoa and chocolate of 3d. per lb. to 6d. per lb., according to quality. Such a dutv would make no advance in prices, but would increase trade, and so reduce cost of production. There would be corresponding increases in employment and wages.
– All these witnesses were manufacturers.
– Yes; they have a duty of 2d. per lb., and that is all the protection the honorable member is prepared to extend to the manufacturers of confectionery in the Commonwealth.
– What about preferential trade?
– I have already explained my attitude. If preferential trade means a reduction of duty, so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned, I am opposed to it.
– The honorable member would raise the duties.
– I would raise them as high as possible, because I know that we can make these goods for ourselves. As the honorable member for Robertson has pointed out, we ought not to consider, in connexion with these duties, the question of whether or not a combine is in existence. The two matters should be separately dealt with. No doubt honorable members of the Opposition are anxious to cloud the issue. They desire the duties to be reduced as low as possible, believing that many years will elapse before the Tariff is again revised, and that by reducing the duties they will thwart the efforts of the Combine if there is a combine in existence, whilst even if there is no combine the importers will still stand to win.
– What a pity the manufacturers did not ask for a duty of 1,000 per cent. Had they done so they would have obtained it just as easily as they will secure the passing of the Government’s proposal.
– No doubt the honorable member thinks that the manufacturers should not ask for anything, but at the same time he is willing to allow importers to make a profit of 1,000 per cent. He knows full well that in many warehouses the employes are treated far worse than are . those in factories. Employes in warehouses who have to work overtime receive nothing more than tea money. They have no union to protect their interests, and it is quite possible they submit to this state of affairs for the sake, apparently, of being able to wear a better suit than dees the ordinary working man. It has been said that there is a combine amongst the manufacturing confectioners. As a matter. of fact there is in connexion with the industry an association such as exists in connexion with every other trade. In last Friday’s issue of the Melbourne daily newspapers there appeared a statement that two associations connected with the wholesale grain trade in this city had decided to increase prices. Then again, we know that the Master Bakers’ Association recently determined to raise the price of bread by Jd. per 2-lb. loaf. Is any action to be taken against it on the ground that it is a combine ? I can assure honorable members that that additional impost of Jd. per 2-lb. loaf will press far more heavily upon every family than will any duty we impose on confectionery).
– They must do these things.
– Of course they must. They have to increase prices because of the increased cost of their raw material. The Wholesale Milk Vendors’ Association also decided recently to increase the price of milk, yet we do not hear any one complaining of their action as being that of a combine. The manufacturing confectioners have as much right to form an association to preserve a high standard of manufacture as I have to join a union to keep up a high standard of labour. Owing to the absence of such associations we have had manufacturers cutting rates with the result that sweating has been rampant. The honorable member for North Sydney quoted a letter from several manufacturing confectioners in
New South Wales stating that they would be- satisfied with a duty of 2d- per lb. conditionally on the duty on glucose being reduced. That duty, however, has not been reduced. They also made the further condition that the duties on nuts, gelatine, and other raw materials of the industry should be reduced. I do not know that they will be lowered.
– They did not stipulate such a condition; but suggested that the duties should be reduced.
– That corresponds with the statement I have made. They said they would be satisfied with a duty of 2d. per lb. on confectionery “ if”-
– They said that the better direction to take would be a step towards the reduction of the duties on their raw materials.
– That is precisely what I have. said. I trust that honorable members on the other side “will vote for the decrease in- those other duties, but I am not sure that they will. The honorable member for Grey read last week a list of fifty-eight lines of confectionery, the prices of which, he said, had been increased. He also read an advertisement which tad been sent to him bv Messrs. Bass and Company, of Sydney, but they did not state that the prices of those fifty-eight lines read by the honorable member for Grey had been increased.- I should like the honorable member to produce invoices, for those fiftyeight lines. I am sure that no honorable member would divulge the name of any retailer if he was afraid that the Association would deal harshly with him for supplying invoices. The Association should (be dealt with if it is inflicting unfair conditions upon the community-, but that question should be considered entirely apart from the Tariff. The list of price’s quoted by the honorable member for Grey appears on page 5163 of Hansard. The honorable member stated that it was issued immediately after the Tariff came into operation. I am assured that those alleged increases have not taken place in the following lines -
Cocoanut lee; Chocolate Ice; London Mixtures ; Marzipan Walnuts ; Lion Mixtures ; Cough Mixtures ; Plain Chocolate Drops ; Empire Caramels; Eucalyptus Diamonds; Turkish Delight; Milk Rock; Excelsior Nougat; Best Mints; Matrimony Rock; 6d., Butter Scotch; 3d. Butter Scotch ; Rob Roy Butter Scotch ; Chocolate Sticks ; Chocolate Cream Tablets ; Chocolate Medallions ; Frisco Jubes ; Boiled Goods No. 1 ; Chocolate Fig Pieces; Chocolate Date’ Pieces; Crystal Jubes; Cocoanut Squares.
The prices of sugar and gelatine have gone up, and simply for that reason the price qf about a dozen lines was increased prior to the introduction of the Tariff, and the price of other lines has been increased since.
– As’k any small retail confectioner what he thinks about it.
– I have just as much sympathy as the honorable member has with the small retail confectioner, who, if the honorable member had. his way, would be in the hands of an importing combine to just the same extent as he is now said to be in the Hands of a local combine. If a local combine exists we can deal with it, but we have no power in our Anti-Trust Act to deal with an importing combine.
– The Government cannot, or do not, deal with local combines. What about the harvesters?
– We can improve the existing legislation with the help of honorable members opposite.
– We can take that course, and I have no doubt that the honorable member for Dalley will assist us. But importing combines can use faked invoices, as they have been known to do in the past. If they had to pay an ad valorem duty on these items, they would probably not show the same invoices as they might show if it was a question of proving the amount of profit which they were getting out of any line. The value, before the duty was paid, of cocoa and chocolate imported into Australia last year averaged is. 4d. per lb. Adding the duty and warehouse and other charges, it will be found that the average cost of imported cocoa and chocolate was more than is. 6d. per lb. This is shown by the Customs statistics of last year, which honorable members will find on page 36 of the Commonwealth Official Statistics for 1906. The quantity imported was 3,201,653 lbs., of a declared value of £215,672. That works out at an average value in bond of just upon is. 4d. per lb. The wholesale price would probably be is. 6d. per lb. Yet we are asked to impose a duty of 2d., or one-ninth, which is equal to 11 per cent., although we compel the local manufacturers to pay a 50 per cent, duty on all the sugar they use, a duty of over 33 per cent, on their glucose, and duties on their cocoa butter and other raw materials. We impose a duty on everything which they require, but when they, request protection for their products we are asked to give them a protection of only 11 per cent. I trust that the Government will adhere to their original proposals, and that they will be agreed to.
– I am in favour of the amendment, although I am at new protectionist on principle. There are, in this case, reasons why the principle should be waived and the amendment supported. In the first place, those engaged in the industry have abused the protection which they have received. The evidence has satisfied me that that is so. Confectionery is now quoted at from id- to 4d. per lb. dearer than before the Tariff was introduced. The honorable member for Yarra spoke of manufacturers’ raw materials being higher in price, but I notice that the duties on sugar and glucose are the same now as they were under the old Tariff. It is, therefore, useless to talk about heavy imposts having been put upon their raw materials. Those duties were imposed to encourage the production of those articles here. We know that they can, and will ultimately, be produced here. There has been no justification for the Combine to show its claws as it has done. I have no objection to combinations, which I know are necessary to prevent competition from running mad, but when a combine begins to exploit the people as this Combine has done, it is time to withhold from it any further measure of protection. It is not as though the industry was struggling or starving, because it is a flourishing one. Those engaged in it have made money lately. I know people who have made fortunes in recent years out of the confectionery industry, and, therefore, they are sufficiently protected already from outside competition. The only consideration which, if local manufacturers had not already abused the protection which they have had, would have led me to concede increased protection, is the thought that it might induce such large manufacturers as Cadbury’s or Fry’s to establish branches in Australia. They are the people whose confectionery is most likely to come into competition with the local article. With a view to inducing them to come out here, I would favour a higher protection, if the local manufacturers had not abused the protection already extended to them. The whole question involved is our power to regulate the business methods and actions of these protected industries. The Government would have been on much better ground if they had shown us how they were going to regulate these matters. As I said when spea’king on the sugar duty, our only weapon of defence is the right to lower or raise duties. When we -see that impositions are being placed upon’ the people by combinations of this kind, it is our duty to put our hands upon the only lever which we are at liberty to grasp in order to regulate prices. If the Government will bring down some definite measure, showing in what other way they propose to regulate these matters, I shall be with them. With regard to the duty on paraffine wax, I had a distinct promise from the Commonwealth Oil Company that they would not take advantage of the protection to increase prices, and agreed to be bound not to do so. They ask for protection only to save them from the unfair competition of the Standard Oil Company, which does not do business on fair lines, but will make prices as low as possible in order to secure the market. To prevent that, I would protect the industry as much as I could. I will also support a duty on kerosene for the same reason.
– If other persons producing kerosene combined together, would the honorable member vote to reduce the duty?
– Not if the combination did not take advantage of it to oppress the people. Combination is perfectly legitimate up to a certain extent, but when it goes beyond reasonable bounds, and we have no other means for resisting it, we must resort to the lowering of duties, not so much as to cause persons to be thrown out of employment, but sufficiently to bring about that measure of competition of which members of the Opposition are so fond of talking. I do not subscribe to this as a regular practice; but we must protect consumers from imposition, and, failing any better means of doing so, must lower duties. The Government appear to fear the complexities which are apparent when this matter is considered ; but they must be faced as similar difficulties have been faced in other countries. Although the railways of the United Kingdom are not owned by the Government,, they are very closely watched, and aTe legislated for to an extreme degree. The British Parliament compels the railway companies to provide what, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, is a due and sufficient proportion of accommodation at fares not exceeding id. per mile. That is an interference with private enterprise which takes place in the free and glorious England about which the members of the Opposition are so fond of talking.- Then the companies have to run proper and sufficient trains for the workmen between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., at such fares and times as the Board may consider reasonable, and must prove to its satisfaction the need for every advance in goods rates. Further, under such measures as the Railway Employment Prevention of Accidents Apt of 1900, it can make rules affecting even hours of work. A Board of Trade inquiry is held after an accident, and the company affected is expected to carry out the recommendations of the report, often involving points of discipline and conditions of labour. As this is done in England, I ask why the Government should hesitate about bringing down an effective measure which will enable Parliament to regulate the operation of combines in other ways than by reducing the duties, a remedy which I am loth to have recourse to. But when the measure of protection already granted is abused, as it has been, I see no alternative. Some of the States have passed legislation regulating matters quite as complex as this, and quite as irksome in its incidence, as any needed to deal with these circumstances. . Only the other day some 40,000 gallons of wine were ordered to be confiscated at Maitland, because those who made it had sold some of it in is. lots to different people. That was an interference with private enterprise. The Legislature of New South Wales, however, has passed a law which enabled the Government of the State to compel the forfeiture of this wine because the makers had infringed a regulation framed for the protection of small salesmen. It is quite competent for, and the duty of, this Government to bring “in a measure by which we can regulate the operations of trusts without having recourse to the lowering of duties, an antinational policy, which I am sorry to have to support in this instance.
.- Reference having been made to the duties on confectionery in force in the United Kingdom, I wish to refute, by a quotation from the British Tariff, certain misleading statements which have been put forward. The Tariff is published in The Shipping World Year-Book, which is corrected to the 15th December, 1906, on pages 837 and 838 of which appear the following; statements regarding the British confectionery duties -
Cocoa, raw, per lb., id. ; husks and shells, per cwt., 2s. ; cocoa or chocolate, ground, prepared, or in any way manufactured, per lb., 2d. ; cocoa butter, per lb., id.
Confectionery - hard, such as sugared almonds,carraway seeds, &c, per cwt., 4s. 2d. ; where sugar does not exceed 72 per cent, of net weight, 3s. per cwt. ; soft, viz., A. JB. gums, imported in bulk, in barrels, or in cases, on the entry for which the importer has declared that duty on the combined quantity of sugar and glucose used in the manufacture of the goods did not exceed the
Tate of 2s. the cwt., per cwt., as. Other A.B. gums, caramels, chewing gums, jelly beans, Turkish delight, &c, per cwt., 3s. ; made from sugar only, 4s. Sid. per cwt. ; liquorice (with less than 30 per cent, of added sugar), is. 3d. per cwt.
Containing chocolate, viz., when chocolate exceeds 50 per cent, of total net weight, per lb., 2d. ; not exceeding 50 per cent, of total net weight, 1½d; when made from sugar, and containing no other ingredients except flavouring,
Tier cwt, 4s. 2d.
I understood from Mr. Robertson the other day that in chocolate confectionery only about 25 per cent, was chocolate, and the rest mostly sugar. I- shall support the amendment, because there is ample evidence that the old duties sufficiently protected the manufacturers. As a. matter of fact, some of the best manufacturing concerns in the Commonwealth are confectionery businesses, the dividends paid in some instances being as much as 20 per cent. Both in Melbourne and Sydney are large businesses, which have been built’ up, or have largely increased, under the old Tariff. The duties in that Tariff were sufficient to make up for any difference between the costs of wages or of material. As has been pointed out, the confectioners themselves ask for a duty of only 2d. per lb.. Why, therefore, should we give them a duty of 3^1. ? When we visited the MacRobertson factory we were asked to encourage’ local industry; but. I have it on good authority that- in the making of a certain confection which we sampled there - milk kisses - about 25 cwt. of milk is used every week, not Australian milk, but imported Nestle’s milk. For the reasons I have given, I intend to support the imposition of the lower duty.
.- I, in common with, I suppose, almost every other member, regret exceedingly that the debate on this item has lasted so long. I certainly do not Intend to occupy much time. In the House the other day I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he could not suggest a method to secure the more rapid consideration of the Tariff, and he confessed his inability to do so. At the same time, he said he would be very pleased if he could be furnished with a reasonable suggestion which would achieve that end. I have a suggestion to make, and it is that whenever an item is submitted the Government should at once state their reasons for the duty which .they have attached to that item. I am quite satisfied that if that plan had been followed the debate on this item would not have occupied one-half of the time which has been consumed. According to a report in yesterday’s Argus, the Treasurer, when- speaking in Sydney the other night, said -
As to effective protection, it was the manifest duty of the present Parliament to see that duties were scientifically imposed.
In view of the lengthy debate on this item, I ask what possible chance is there of our arriving at a conclusion based on any sort of scientific premises? It cannot be done. The only way in which a scientific policy can be secured is by the Government acquainting the Committee with the reasons which we may assume they had for fixing the duty on an item at a certain rate.
– We make our own science.
– That appears ‘ to be about the position. At one stage of this debate, the Treasurer did indicate how this duty of 3d. per lb. on confectionery had been arrived at. I ask honorable members to consider whether his explanation disclosed a scientific reason. He stated that the Government had taken the duties on confectionery in the States prior to Federation, and struck an average, which came out at 3§d. per lb. But it should be borne in mind that those duties were fixed” “at least ten years ago. Certainly, it is ten years since the last State duty on confectionery was determined.. So that we are asked to go back a period of ten years in order to arrive at a scientific basis for determining what duty shall be imposed on confectionery at the present time. If any blame rests with any one for the delay in passing the Tariff, it rests with the Government, who have either failed to give reasons for the imposition of certain duties, or have given reasons which have been ineffective or incomplete. I venture to apply to the reasons of the. Treasurer the language of Shakspeare -
His reasons are two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them: and when you have them they are not worth the search.
I, as a new member, protest against the delay in the passing of the Tariff. I lay the blame for that delay upon the shoulders of the Government, who have failed to furnish that information which the Committee had a right to receive.
.- It is not my intention to delay the taking of the division very long. The other day, the honorable member for Grey made some statements which I think should be contradicted. In the first place, he said he was prepared to prove that there was a Confectionery Combine, as he had the documents which were signed. I hold in my hand the documents which were signed, and no one else can produce them. When the honorable member made his statement the other day, he held in his hand a proposed agreement, and not the original agreement. In the second place, he said that the alleged Combine had decided not to supply their goods to a Mr. Fergusson. He read a letter in which Mr. Fergusson stated that no member of the Combine would supply him. Now, Mr. Fergusson has always been, and still is, supplied with goods.
– Iread his letter.
– Mr. Fergusson is being supplied to-day with goods from the alleged Combine.
– Will the Combine continue to supply him ?
– The firms are continuing to supply Mr. Fergusson. In fact, they have never refused to supply him. I had that information from Mr. Fergusson himself to-day. The honorable member for Grey also read a long list of items. On twenty-six lines of confectionery which he mentioned the confectioners have not increased the prices by a single penny.
Mr.Hume Cook. - Let us vote.
– It is all very well for the honorable member to make that remark when only one side of the case has been put. I want to put the other side of the case before a division is taken.
– It has already been put.
– No. Unfortunately, an amendment has been moved from this side of the chamber to reduce the duty. I was surprised to hear an honorable member state that, in order to burst’ up a combine, he wanted to reduce the duty on the article. Is that a proper sort of argument for a protectionist to use? Recently, the honorable member for Fawkner presented to the House a petition, in which it was stated that 732 retailers had lodged a protest against the increased duty on confectionery. One of the leading men who signed the petition was an importer. What did he do? For the protection of his own industry he asked the Government to impose a duty of 25 per cent. Another petition, signed by 1,432 workers, has been presented asking that a further measure of protection should be granted to the industry. Surely we should pay some heed to the representations of these operatives as well as to those of the retailers. In regard to the question of wages I may mention that in one factory alone eighty-two men are employed, two of whom receive £6 per week, one £5 per week, another £4. per week, and still another £3 10s. per week. Five operatives each receive £3 5s. per week, eight get £3 per week, seven get £2 15s. per week, five receive £2 12s. 6d. per week, and five get £2 10s. per week. We are told that if we levy an increased duty upon confectionery employment will be provided for an additional 500 or 600 hands. Some members of the Labour Party have asked the Government when they intend to introduce their new protection scheme. If the honorable member for Grey had his way there would be no need to extend to the industry any protection whatever, because ourfactories would be closed. Under free-trade conditions we should have no industries to protect. I trust that upon this occasion the Government will adhere to their proposals and throw upon honorable members who were sent here to vote for a protective policy the responsibility for rejecting them.
.- The honorable member for Batman said that . under free-trade conditions we should have no industries to protect. I take exception to that remark. Surely our (primary industries deserve protection in preference to many of the secondary industries which we are now endeavouring to foster. If I were a protectionist I should hesitate before I attempted to protect such an industry as that of confectionery. I have been waiting patiently for some time to hear honorable members speak upon the unhealthiness of this particular trade. We have been told that the increased measure of protection proposed will provide employment for an additional 800 or 900 hands. What is the reason that under existing circumstances the number of operatives has not increased ? Mr. Geddes, one of the witnesses who ap peared before the Tariff Commission, stated that the reason the industry was not likely to be over-run with young men was that it was a particularly! unhealthy one and that a confectioner was a man who did not live long.
– Where is that stated ?
– If the honorable member had taken the trouble to read the report he would have seen the statement in black and white.
– Did the honorable member read that part of the evidence relating to an attempt by the Employers’ Federation of Victoria to” boycott a certain, individual ?
– That is a long question, and I will ask the honorable member to give notice of it. Mr. Geddes was such a reliable witness that, although he occupied the whole of one day in giving his evidence, the Tariff Commissioners requested him to attend upon the following day. ‘He de- ‘ clared that owing to the unhealthy conditions surrounding the trade - owing to the fact that the operatives have to inhale a steamy atmosphere and to work in heated chambers - they do not live to a very great age. He was then asked if Victorian legislation would not prevent the industry from being carried on under unhealthy conditions, and his reply, was that it would not. He added that the factories in this State are quite up to date, but notwithstanding this fact the operatives suffer. The honorable member for Laanecoorie and the honorable member for Melbourne interjected a few minutes ago that no votes will be influenced by the speeches of honorable members upon this item. In the face of my remarks I challenge them to vote for the proposal of the Government.
– Does the honorable member think that the effect of the amendment will be to kill the industry? .
– If the honorable member votes to extend protection to this industry he will be ‘failing in his duty to the country. I note that only this morning the Age calls upon the Government to take drastic action in the matter of curtailing debate upon the Tariff items, but I challenge the Treasurer to apply the “ gag “ to honorable members.
.- I should not have risen to speak upon this item had it not been for the remarks of the Treasurer. I think that the taunt that the sugar industry has received a special measure of protection and that the- Queens land representatives voted in a certain way on Friday last, came with very bad grace from one who professes to be an ardent protectionist.
– The honorable member has voted for the lower duties throughout the consideration of the Tariff.
– Of course we know the measure of protection which has been extended to the sugar industry, and we all recognise that that protection has been reduced by an Excise duty of ^4 per ton. The duty on sugar, which is the principal raw material of confectionery, is nominally £fi per ton.
-The honorable member must not discuss the duty on sugar. He will be quite in order in making a reference to it, but he will be distinctly out of order in discussing it.
– I rise to order. Do von rule, sir, that the honorable member is not in order in referring to the duty on sugar, which is the chief raw material of confectionery? Can he not refer to the price of sugar and the effect that the duty on it will have on the price of confectionery ?
– I have pointed Out to the honorable member that he will be quite in order in making casual reference to the quantity of sugar that may be used in the manufacture of confectionery, but in discussing the duty on sugar he. would be out of order.
– Surely he can compare the two prices.
– My point is that imported confectionery would, under the proposals we are now discussing, have to pay duty to the extent of .-£18 per ton. which is exactly three times the amount of the dutv on sugar.
– What duty has the New Zealand confectioner to pay on his sugar?
– We are legislating for Australia, not for New Zealand.
– But the New Zealand confectioner can get free sugar and then come and fight our manufacturers.
– We were threatened a few minutes ago that the item sugar would be re-committed with the view of lowering the duty if the duty on confectionery is lowered. I think it is a pity that some honorable members should’ desire protection only for the industries within a certain ring. We are here to legislate for Australia, and I hope that the trend of our legislation will be for the benefit of the industries of the whole Commonwealth. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission has recommended a duty of 2d. per lb. I am prepared to go as far as that. Such a duty will be a large increase upon the old Tariff, to which I came here pledged to adhere except in regard to the removal of anomalies. If we are going to increase the cost of raw materials it is quite right to afford additional protection to the industries affected, and. therefore I am going to vote for an increased duty on confectionery as compared with that on the 1902 Tariff.
– I had not intended to say anything further with regard to the amendment which I have submitted, but as certain accusations have been made, it is right that they should be replied to. I have no objection to combines, so long as they do not adopt objectionable methods of doing business. But when they seek to tie down business and to restrict traders their methods are wrong. I know of a manufacturing firm in Victoria which, when it commences to do business in a town, will sell its goods only to one firm. That principle is wrong. If there were only three manufacturers in Australia and there were six traders in a town, and if all the manufacturers adopted the same principle, three of those traders would be prohibited from obtaining goods manufactured in Australia. Whenever a combine of manufacturers shows a disposition to impose objectionable conditions I would not encourage them. As the honorable member for Moreton has pointed out, the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission has recommended a duty of 2d. per lb. on the. item under discussion. The honorable member for Echuca has suggested that we should find a means of expediting business. Well, if the Government will closely follow the recommendations of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission we shall be able to do business rapidly.
– It would not be common-sense for any protectionist to advocate that.
– I think I am as capable of talking common-sense as the Treasurer is. I was returned to this Parliament as a protectionist, but I am not going to support prohibition. I believe that the recommendation of 2d. per lb. would meet the case. It has to be remembered that the duty under the old Tariff was only1d. per lb. I think that the necessities of the case would be met by a duty of 2½d. against the foreigner and 2d. against the Britisher. Those duties would afford considerable protection to the industry. I consider that my amendment affords fair and reasonable protection, and if any industry in Australia cannot carry on with such support as that it shows that there is very little ability engaged in it.
Question - That after the figures “3¾d.” the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb., 2½d.” (Mr. Storrer’s amendment) proposed to be so inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed
That after the figures “3¾d.” the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb., 3d.,” be inserted.
.- I understand that the highest duty for which we shall have an opportunity to vote will be 3¾ d. per lb. I hope the honorable member for Fawkner may see his way clear to withdraw his amendment, so that we may have a vote on that duty, when an opportunity will be afforded him to vote for a duty of 3d. as against the United Kingdom.
Question - That after the figures “3¾d.” the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb., 3d.” (Mr. Fairbairn’s amendment) proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) put-
That after the figures “3½d.” the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907 (United Kingdom), per lb., 2d.,” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Majority … …20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment(by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That after the figures “ 3½d.” the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (United Kingdom), per lb., 2½d.,” be inserted.
– I should liketo know what the Government think of this amendment?
– I have said that I accept it.
– Then I wish to say that where the duty in the general column has ‘been altered, the Government should see that the duty imposed on imports from the United Kingdom) is made to bear something like the original proportion as compared with the duty in the general column. We should not have private members rising in different parts of the chamber to move such alterations. The Government should lead the Committee.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That after the words “ 25 per cent.,” paragraphb, the words “ and on and after the 30th October, 1907, 20 per cent.,” be inserted.
This duty covers ornamental confectionery of a high class, which cannot be readily made in Australia. It may be looked upon to a certain extent as a luxury, but I see no reason why, on that account, the fluty should be increased. Many of the goods covered by this item are not luxuries’, but are, in fact, absolute necessities. People have been accustomed to use them for so long, that they find it impossible now to do without them, and I think no one would wish to see people compelled to do so. Honorable members are aware that with most of us there is a certain very interesting experience connected with our lives which does not, as a rule, occur very frequently, and that is when one is a participant in a wedding ceremony. It is on such occasions that we give rise to the use of this material. Ornamental confectionery for wedding cakes is made of plaster of paris,andisnotedible,andI certainly think that it is undesirable to subject it to this duty.
– I move -
That after the figures “ 2¼d.,” paragraphc, the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb.,1d.,” be inserted.
Cocoa is an absolute necessity in the sick room and the nursery, and it is essential that goods of the highest quality should be obtainable for such purposes. Under the old Tariff, cocoa and chocolate for potable use were subject to a duty of1d. perlb., and the total imports for 1906 were 3,201,653 lbs. The Government have imposed a duty of¼d. per lb. in excess of the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, and no reason for that increase has been given. It is difficult to understand why the additional duties should have been imposed unless the explanationis that the Government have proceeded upon the general principle of asking for higher duties than they really desire, in the hope that that which they wish will ultimately be obtained by a process of reduction.
– Surely we can produce in Australia cocoa as good as that made elsewhere?
– It is said by competent judges that we cannot produce cocoa and chocolate of such excellent quality and character as is that of British manufacture. One of the reasons advanced for this is that the’ climatic conditions are unfavorable. The old duty has been increased by 125 per cent. - an increase that goes beyond the bounds of reason. It is only by a lifetime of careful chemical research, as well as by the employment of the most up-to-date machinery and the most skilled workmen, that it is possible to obtain such a high standard of excellence as that which the British manufacturers have achieved. I trust that honorable members will show that they are sincere in their desire to grant a preference to the Mother Country by not making the duty on these commodities prohibitive, as it practically will be, if the Government proposal be adopted.
.- I do not know why this additional duty has been imposed. The evidence given before the Tariff Commission clearly shows that no desire was expressed that the duty should be raised. Mr. Thomas Geddes, a manufacturing confectioner, when asked by the Commission whether he desired an increase on cocoa or chocolate imported for use as a beverage, distinctly said, “ No.” The manufacturing confectioners look upon cocoa and chocolate in powdered form as a raw material. It cannot be made here.
– It is made here.
– The local manufacture is not of such high quality as is that produced in the Old Country.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I have been distinctly told that cocoa of such purity as that made in Great Britain cannot be produced in this country. The process of manufacture is, to a certain extent, a secret, and, in addition, I understand that climatic conditions are against its manufacture here. It is made in very large quantities by the use of a superior class of machinery, and is, in fact, a species of raw material. As has been said, the use of cocoa in the sick room is general, and it is most important that a pure article should be used. Icannot understand why the Treasurer wishes to impose an increased duty, when the evidence distinctly shows that the increase is not asked for.
.- I desire to say a few words with regard to the incorrect information given by the honorable member for Hunter. I can assure -him and others who spoke before him that this article is and has been produced for years in this country of a quality equal to anything produced in any other country.
– Is the honorable member interested in the manufacture of cocoa?
– I understand its manufacture. Whether I am interested or not is beside the question. I speak with authority, knowing what I am talking about. I doubt very much whether the honorable member is in that position. I could easily substantiate what I say by demonstration.
– Did not the analyst say that the Australian article was the purest?
– It can be produced equally as well in this country as in England. The raw material has to be imported into England. It is also imported into this country, and can be manufactured here equally well, because the same skill is employed and the same machinery is. used here as in the Old Country.
– That is not so.
-Ibegthehonorable member’s pardon. When honorable mem bers tell the Committee that an article cannot be produced here equal in quality to the imported article, I say that they are mistaken. It is not fair that such an impression should be created against a local article. I say nothing about the duty, which is a matter for the Committee to decide.
– I do not suppose that my protectionist friends would call me anything but a very rabid free-trader. Yet I am sorry to hear freetraders stand up in this Chamber, and, without any particular evidence on the subject, cast reflections on Australian industries. By so doing they only damage their own cause. I have heard the honorable member for Hunter refer frequently to the superior quality of the imported article as against that of local manufacture, evidently using the statement as a mere political argument, and forgetting altogether that that is a kind of boomerang which will return on himself and his party with redoubled violence. I am quite sure that the Australian cocoa for potable use, and, I believe, a good deal of the high class chocolate confectionery, is equal in. quality to the imported article. I understand that the process of manufacture is comparatively simple, and is carried out in all respects identically with “that adopted by the best chocolate and cocoa makers in the world. Whatever may be our opinion with regard to the duties that should be imposed, I cannot too strongly deprecate the insinuations against articles of Australian production, unless there is really good evidence in that direction. In this case I am perfectly certain that there is no such evidence.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Perth, that an excellent article can be and is made in Australia. I should be sorry if it were thought that honorable members on this side, in moving for the reduction of duties, are casting reflections on Australian productions.
– They did so.
– Any honorable member may be mistaken as to the quality of an article produced here. I am merely showing that that is not the attitude which honorable members on this side take up. An honorable member who might think so would say so, but. generally, that attitude is not taken. We are not even trying for a free-trade Tariff. If we did we should prolong the debates very much more. But when we think that an article, even from a protectionist standpoint, has quite sufficient protection, we try, in the interests of the consumer, to maintain the lower rate. I would suggest to the honorable member for Lang that he should move that “11/2d.” be inserted in the general Tariff column, and “1d.” in the United Kingdom column. In that way quite sufficient protection would be given to local manufacturers, and we should also havea better test of the feeling of the Committee than if an amendment to insert 1d.” in the general Tariff column were put.
– I shall be glad to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney if the Committee will agree to my making the alteration, as it is quite evident there is no chance of carrying a duty of1d. I should like to correct a misapprehension which has arisen. Whilst I was insisting on the necessity of having goods of the highest possible quality, when they are used so much by infants and invalids, and, in that connexion, was speaking about the excellence of the productions of the British manufacturer, I did not wish it to be inferred that I was casting any reflection upon the quality of the Australian product. As a matter of fact, when speaking last week on the subject, I laid special stress on the excellence of the local article. Still, while one may admit that a local product is excellent, it is quite permissible to say that another product is still more excellent. It is a question of degrees of excellence, and. not of a bad, as against a good, article. It is only right that this misapprehension should be removed when honorable members opposite try to twist the meaning of an argument. I desire now, by leave, to move for a general Tariff duty of11/2d.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- Are the Government accepting the amendment ?
– I am opposed to a reduction of this duty. Another and even more important matter is involved. We have a great tin mining industry. If we allow articles of this kind to come in free in bulk, the necessity for tinning them here will give a great stimulus to the manufacture of tins and packages. I visited the
British Oil Company’s works at Williamstown recently, and can assure honorable members that the most interesting thing I saw was the manufacture of tins. The large amount of machinery that the company have imported to make the tins is an eye-opener. If cocoa is to be brought here in the best shape, it will have to come in in tins. I hope that the Committee will retain this duty, with a view to encourage other industries such as I have mentioned.
Question - That after the figures “21/2d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb.,11/2d.” (Mr. Johnson’s amendment) proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committeedivided.
Ayes … … … 13
Noes … … … 43
Majority … … 30
Question so resolved in the negative..
Amendment (by Mr. J. H. Catts) negatived -
That after the figure “ad.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (United Kingdom), per lb.,1d.,” be inserted.
– I desire to ascertain from the Treasurer the reason for increasing the duty on cocoa butter, caramel, caramel paste, and caramel butter, from1d. a lb. to1¾d. under the General Tariff, and1½d. under the Preferential Tariff. I observe that, in their reports, both sections of the Tariff Commission recommended that the duty should be retained at1d. a lb. If the Government have any good reason for raising the duty on caramel paste, I should like to know what it is. I for one will move in favour of the old rate.
– The article is manufactured here now.
– It is manufactured in Sydney.
– Oh, that does not count.
– I think it is manufactured in Melbourne, too, but I can say positively that it is made in Sydney. It is really the fat of the cocoa bean, which is duty free.
– There are about 20 tons made here, and over 150 tons are required.
– I think that the manufacture of the article is being increased. It was considered that the old duty, in comparison with other duties which we were proposing, was not sufficient, and, therefore, it was brought into unison with those duties.
.- This article is the fat expressed from the cocoa bean in the process of making the potable cocoa, the duty upon which has just been fixed by the Committee. The more of that potable cocoa that is made here - and I trust that the additional duty will have the effect of increasing the production - the larger will be the quantity of cocoa butter produced. There is no reason why, when we have raised the duty on related items, we should not raise the duty on this item.
.- Cocoa butter does not represent the whole of the line before the Committee. We have merely had an explanation in regard to that article. No reason has yet been given for increasing the duty on caramel, caramel paste, and caramel butter. No matter what the Minister says, not one of those articles is made here. They are the raw materials of certain industries, and I decline to be a party to increasing the duty.
– Caramel is produced in. Sydney, and, if it is not produced in Melbourne, is the honorable member for Yarra that sort of local protectionist who cannot look beyond the area of his own city or State? I am prepared to vote with the honorable member if an amendment for reduction is submitted, for I do not alter my attitude on an item merely because the article in question is. made in Sydney. I would move for a reduction of the duty if I thought that it could be reduced. After the last division I do not see any hope of reducing the rate, and it would be. perhaps, only wasting time to submit an amendment.
.- I am not a local protectionist. I am prepared to vote protection in respect of any article which can be manufactured in any part of Australia. But I am given to understand that caramel paste is not being madein Australia.
– Yes it is.
– The honorable gentleman has made that statement in regard to other matters. In their report the Tariff Commission distinctly recommend a duty of1d. per lb. I am reluctant to propose an amendment in’ that direction, because I fear that honorable members on the other side would be only too ready to do their utmost to kill Australian industries if they could. I regret that the Government have seen fit to impose a duty on the raw material of many industries.
– Only £1,400 worth was imported last year.
– I did not anticipate that the Government would depart from the recommendation of each section of the Tariff Commission and the old duty.
.- Cocoa butter is simply a by-product of cocoa manufacture. It is really the essential oil extracted from the cocoa beans to enable them to be pulverized.
– The honorable member is referring to caramel paste.
– I am referring to cocoa butter, which is included in the item. It is extensively used in the manufacture of not only high-class chocolate confections, but alsocosmetiques, ointments, grease paints, and other articles. It is the basis of many other industries. Therefore in imposing a high duty on the article we are handicapping those industries to that extent. The Tariff Commission was unanimously in favour of adhering to the old duty and the Treasurer has shown no reason for increasing it.
Item 46. Liquorice, viz. : -
– On page 7 of progress report No. 14, the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission say -
A manufacturing confectioner in Western Australia, at the close of his examination in relation to a claim for an increased duty on liquorice, was asked - “ Do you intend to give evidence in connexion with confectionery ? “ and replied - “ No; it (the Tariff) does not affect us in regard to conf ectionery ; it is only the Australian competition that affects us. I do not think the oversea competition is worth considering. The confectionery trade is strong enough to stand on its own ; it is established now. It is not the Englishman who is cutting us out ; it is that we are cutting one another out: that is where our profits go.”
Although this gentleman was against granting protection to confectionery, still he wanted the manufacture of liquorice to be protected. In the course of my experience I have met many protectionists of that class. I intend to give the same consideration to this product as I do all other products, but this gentleman was rather one-eyed.
– Does he say that he manufactures liquorice ?
– He says-
In Perth, Western Australia, a confectioner strongly appealed for an increase of the present duty of 2d. to 3d. per lb. on manufactured liquorice. - (Bell, Q. 36943.) He stated that about 60 or 80 people found employment in Australia at the present time in this department of confectionery manufacture. - (Q. 36983.) Liquorice entered largely into the preparation of popular confections, the consumption of which was rapidly increasing in Australia.
– Is there any evidence that it is grown here?
– No. I simply draw attention to the attitude of this one-eyed protectionist, who wants his own commodity to be protected, and who, unfortunately, is largely represented here.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the figures “ 3½d.,” the following words be added, “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, per lb., 3d.”
Item 47. Coffee and Chicory, viz. : -
Raw and kiln dried … per lb. 3d.
Roasted, or ground : in liquid form; or mixed with milk or other substance… … per lb. 6d.
.- I move -
That after the figure “3d.,” the following words be inserted, “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, free.”
My reason for submitting the amendment is that at the present time coffee is not being produced in Australia in any appreciable quantity,
– There are tons of it being produced.
– I am opposed to the imposition of a duty upon this article, especially in view of the fact that we have already authorized the payment of a bounty upon its production for a term of eight years. The report of the State Agricultural Experts, which was prepared in connexion with the Bounties Bill, says-
The returns, however, from the plantations, are not at all alluring while the consumption of coffee by the people of the Commonwealth is on a very slender scale. The experience of the chief coffeeproducing countries of the world, and these are countries where an abundant supply of cheap labour is obtainable, does not afford much hope for the extensive and successful exploitation of the industry under Australian conditions.
The report further states that the period before the trees become productive is four years. The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission have recommended a duty upon this commodity for revenue purposes. I absolutely object to revenue duties. I find that the total area under coffee cultivation in Queensland is 167 acres.
– At least six years must elapse before the trees come into bearing.
– I repeat that the production in Australia is very limited, and in view of the fact that at least four years must elapse before the production of coffee will be stimulated to any material extent by the payment of the bounty, I submit the amendment.
.- If the honorable member could prove his assertion that this duty has been imposed for merely revenue purposes, there might be something in his amendment, but as a matter of fact, there is no duty which will have such a far-reaching effect from a protective stand-point as will that under consideration. Both branches of this Parliament, I am glad to say, have authorized the payment of a bounty upon the production of coffee in the hope that it will become a national industry. I trust that an attack will not be made upon a commodity which is likely to be grown extensively in the Northern. Territory, where we hope to expend millions sterling with a view to getting it settled by members of our own race. We must recollect that coffee is produced by the cheapest labour in the world, and that it is a commodity which can be produced in every State in the Union, except Victoria and Tasmania. The duty proposed is not a revenue duty, and therefore the Committee might very well agree to the proposal of the Government.
– During my recent visit to North Queensland I took the opportunity of visiting one or two of the small coffee plantations there, and of bringing away samples grown by white settlers. The beans provided a most excellent coffee, which, in the opinion of those who were well able to judge, was indistinguishable from the best imported coffee.
– It is only the flavour that kills it.
-What the honorable member means is that many persons who suppose that they are drinking coffee are really drinking chicory. It is necessary to create a taste for the unadulterated article before it can be sold.
– Thousands of people use the pure’ coffee.
– I can assure the honorable member, from personal inquiry, that in Victoria the number of persons who drink pure coffee is small.
-I know of halfahundred persons who grind their own.
– But although we cannot supply the whole of our demands immediately, it is quite possible that in connexion with proposals which will be. submitted at a later date, relating to the encouragement to be granted to British settlers in the New Hebrides, we shall be able to give them an advantage without raising the price to the consumer. If the honorable member for Cook will take into account the fact that we now produce a first-class coffee, thatwe can produce all that we require, and that in the meantime,at all events, we canassist settlers in the New Hebrides by a preference-
– And in Papua.
– Of course. We can avoid the danger which the honorable mem ber for Cook foresees. Besides the imposition of the proposed duty on pure coffee would make only an imperceptible increase in the price of the composite article sold.
.- It is unquestionable that there is a number of small plantations in Queensland which are producing an excellent quality of coffee. But the fact is that the trees are still young, and consequently the beans, have not acquired the strong flavour which will be imparted to them when the plants become more matured. But the industry is a most promising one, and affords employment to a large number of hands..
– It is an increasing industry.
– That is so. I believe that about 15 tons of coffee have been produced upon two estates in Queensland during the present year. No doubt the production will increase. I am very pleased with the Prime Minister’s statement that he intends to invite honorable members to consider this question in connexion with the encouragement to be afforded to British settlers in the New Hebrides. There are one or two other staples which might very well be accorded similar treatment. I can assure honorable members that the proposed duty is one calculated to establish an industry which is in every way a desirable one.
.- In view of the remarks of the honorable member for Cook, I feel constrained to make a few observations upon this question. I am perfectly certain that it was want of knowledge which induced him to make the statement that he did. I take this opportunity to say that if, as has been stated by the honorable member for Cook, the coffee-growing industry has not been fairly established in Queensland, it is owing to the fact that the Federal Parliament, when the first Tariff was under consideration, reduced the duty below the rate of 4d. per lb. at which it stood under the old Queensland Tariff. Except for that reduction the industry would be in a flourishing condition to-day. I trust that the honorable member for Cook will withdraw his amendment. I am sure that, as a good protectionist, he will be anxious to do the right thing in connexion with, the in- dustry. I point out that coffee-growing can be conducted, not only in Queensland, but also in South Australia. Two years ago a number of the members of this Parliament visited North Queensland, and saw coffee growing there. It is generally acknowledged that the beans were of a most healthy character, and that the quality was good. Every one who tasted coffee made from the local beans was delighted with it. Indeed, I have been told by those who are competent to express an opinion that the aroma and flavour of Queensland coffee are not excelled by those of any other species, not even excepting Mocha coffee. If a tin of it were opened here, it could be smelt in every part of the chamber. Both the flavour and aroma are delightful; and the industry is one which we should all desire to encourage.
.- I rise to correct a statement made by the honorable member for Cook. He said that in all probability the free-trade section of the Tariff Commission made its recommendation on revenue-producing grounds. I wish to state that the Commissioners were appointed to consider the effect of existing duties on Australian industries.
– They did not know that the Bounties Bill was to be introduced by the present Government.
– I am speaking about the Tariff, not about bounties. In connexion with the duty on coffee, we were distinctly of opinion - at least I was, and I think I can speak for the other free-trade members who signed the report - that the industry required a duty in order that it might continue and develop. The honorable member will find that the free-trade section of the Commission have repeatedly throughout their recommendations supported duties which they considered to be necessary for the continuance of industries that ought to be encouraged in the Commonwealth.
– I was glad to hear the statement of the Prime Minister that he is taking into consideration the question of production by British settlers in the New Hebrides, not only as regards coffee, but also as to other items in the Tariff. It is quite evident that if we are to substantiate our claims in the New Hebrides we must not act upon the principle or shutting out the products of the Islands.
– Of British settlers.
– I am referring to British settlers. If we are going to maintain an interest in the Islands, and to support our claim against their annexa- tion by a foreign power, we must substantiate it effectively by encouraging production. As the- principal market for the New Hebrides is Australia, and must always be Australia, it is evident that unlesswe are prepared to do something in the direction which the Prime Minister hasindicated, we shall simply cast aside our claim, and show ourselves entirely unfitted for influence or control. It is a matter of very great importance. Hitherto production there has always been barred by our excessive duties. I think that, without injury to ourselves - in some cases with distinct benefit to ourselves - we could give consideration to British settlers in the Islands. The item under consideration, and other items to be dealt with subsequently, affect the New Hebrides. I do not intend to raise the question for the purpose of initiating a debate, and shall be satisfied with the assurance of the Prime Minister that this matter will be dealt with in some other form.
– That is so.
.- There are two points to be considered in connexion with this item. One is, that we have to face the great problem o’f peopling our tropical spaces, and the other is that if we are to people them with white men, it behoves us to support every measure that will assist in the encouragement of industries in which people with small capital can en> bark. Coffee growing is one of the smaller industries. It can be earned on under conditions of severe close settlement. One acre of coffee takes a wonderful amount of looking after, and 10 acres constitute a large estate. From the point of view of peopling these districts, and of encouraging industries that will give employment to small producers, I trust that the Committee will agree to the proposed duty.
.- I think that very little ground coffee is imported into Australia.
– We imported 1,693,000 lbs. last year.
– Is not the greater portion of it imported in the form of coffee essence ?
– No; the amount of imports in liquid form was 343,000 lbs.
– Does not the 1,693,000 lbs. include the coffee essence?
– We are referring to two different matters. I am referring tosubsection b. But I’ see we are dealing only with a at present, so I will wait for the b section.
– The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended a duty of 5d. per lb. on pure coffee, and of 6d. per lb. on coffee mixed with chicory or other adulterant.
– The Pure Food and Drugs Act would apply to adulterations.
– No. Coffee mixed with chicory is a recognised commercial commodity.
– Locally-grown coffee is roasted, ground, and adulterated here.
– That may be because it is necessary to cater for the public taste.
– It is a question of price.
-We have been told by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Wide Bay that one reason why locally-grown coffee is not in favour here is that if is not adulterated to the same extent as are imported coffees and coffee essences. The public have not acquired a taste for the pure article. I should like to know why the Government do not propose to follow the recommendation of the Tariff Commission. I intend to move that “ pure coffee, roasted or ground or in liquid form,” be dutiable at 5d. per lb., so that all adulterated coffees will be dutiable at 6d. per lb.
– The course adopted by the Government in framing this item has been clue to departmental rather than to any other reasons. The Department states that it would be most difficult to distinguish between imports of pure coffee and coffee adulterated with chicory, which is commonly used and is also manufactured here.
– Do not the Government draw a distinction between pure and adulterated coffee?
– We do not ; it is not considered necessary, and it would also be difficult for the Department to deal with such a division of the item. As the result of our experience under the old Tariff, we have been able to secure a better grouping and arrangement of items to facilitate the work of Che Department. This is one of the items that have been re- arranged.
– Why do the Government propose to increase the duty to 6d.?
– The Tariff Commission recommended that a duty of 6d. per lb. be imposed on coffee adulterated with chicory, which comprises the larger proportion of the imports, and I do not think that this impost is too high.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas Brown) proposed -
That after the figure “6d.,” paragraph b, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, per lb., sd.,” be added.
– I should like to know whether, the Minister could not divide this item and allow liquid coffee to be dealt with separately? My experience would lead .me to prohibit the importation or local manufacture of coffee in liquid form, or what is commonly known as “coffee essence.” It is one of the greatest abominations that could possibly be introduced into any household. The adoption of my proposal would enable us to impose a much higher duty on coffee in liquid form. The proposal of the honorable member for Calare would not prevent the adulteration of coffee after importation. I refer to coffee ground or in liquid form.
– I have made inquiries, and am told that we could not possibly divide the item as the honorable member suggests.
– Then I shall vote for the higher duty. If I were in order, I should like to move that the duty on coffee in liquid form be 5s. per lb.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-45 -p.m.
.- May I point out, in connexion with roasted and ground coffee, that prepared in that way the article loses its aroma very quickly unless packed in air-tight tins. There is only a very small quantity df coffee imported in this form, and if it were made entirely free the importations would not be appreciably increased, as the cost, compared with the cost of locally grinding and roasting, would be practically prohibitive. Nearly all the prepared coffee is imported in a liquid form, and, although a good deal of liquid coffee is prepared in Australia, the consumption of the article in this form is not very large. The importations of prepared coffee into New South Wales in 19’oOj when the article was duty free, amounted to 14,250 lbs., valued at about £700 ; whereas in Victoria the amount of coffee essence imported in that year was 113,789 lbs., valued at £5,990, although there was a duty of 3d. per lb. imposed on the article. I point out, also, that these preparations, if made locally, would not require the employment of more than about a dozen persons, apart from the number engaged in bottling and labelling.
.- Just before the tea adjournment I asked you, sir, whether I should be in order in moving a duty in excess of that proposed by the Government. The sitting was suspended before I obtained your ruling, and I should like to know now whether I canmove that the duty on this item be 5s. per lb. ?
– The honorable member would not be in order in moving an increase of the duty.
.- I should like the Treasurer to agree to a further subdivision of the item, dividing roast and ground coffee from coffee prepared in a liquid form or mixed with milk or other substances.
– I explained, in reference to that particular point, that it is more a departmental matter than anything else. I am informed that it will be difficult to distinguish between coffee dry and coffee mixed with milk and coffee mixed with adulterants.
– I do not thinkthere should be very much difficulty in distinguishing between dry and liquid materials. My object in asking the Minister to. consent to such a subdivision of the item is, that liquid coffee or coffee essence is put up in bottles, and there is a considerable duty imposed on the bottles which must be equivalent on this item to an additional1d. per lb. Apart from its effects from a health point of view, coffee essence is largely used by people in the back blocks, who are not in a. position to obtain coffee in the ordinary form. I think it would be well to have a subdivision c to include coffee in a liquid form or mixed with milk or other substance.
– At a higher or lower rate of duty ?
– At 5d. per lb.
– Coffee essences are mostly composed of chemicals.
– The honorable member for Herbert wishes to make the duty 5s.
– I wish to prohibit the introduction of the article altogether.
– It may be that the honorable member for Herbert would support such a proposal from a health point of view. I do not know whether coffee essences are injurious to health or not. Personally, I do not use coffee in any form. I should like to see the local growers and manufacturers of coffee protected, but I think a duty of 5d. perlb. on essences would afford them ample protection. I shall not press my suggestion, if the Treasurer is not agreeable to accept it.
Question - That after the figure “ 6d.,” paragraph b, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, 5d.,” (Mr. Thomas Brown’s amendment) proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 48. Eggs, in shell, per doz., 6d:
– Is there any special reason for this duty ? When the previous Tariff was before us there was some talk of the industry of egg preservation being established in Sydney, and certain persons went to considerable expense in erecting plant. They found, however, that they had to fight a local combine; and then a start was made at importing eggs. Various changes took place in the Tariff, until ultimately those people were thrust out altogether.
– It was found that they could not compete with the. local monopolists. Of course, there is a laying season, during which the Sussexstreet merchants purchase eggs very cheaply, and keep them in cold storage until a time arrives when they can raise the prices. I know that certain representations were made to the Treasurer ; and I should like to be informed whether he has given consideration to the matter.
– The only doubt I have is as to whether the duty should not be higher. The duty was imposed originally in consequence of the immense importation from China, though I do not think that importation is carried on to such an extent at the present time. At any rate, the duty ought not to be lower than that proposed. So far as the alleged combine is concerned, that is a matter which can be dealt with most effectively under separate legislation if action is shown to be necessary.
Item agreed to.
Item 40. Egg contents, being yolk and albumen combined, dry, per lb., is. 4d.
.- Should we not adhere to the recommendation of the A section of the Tariff Commission? It is as follows -
That eggs not in shell, or when in dried or concentrated form, be prohibited.
– The duty proposed will be very nearly prohibitive; and I do not think it wise to absolutely stop importation in the manner suggested. The departmental authorities regard this as the most suitable way in which to deal with the matter.
Item agreed to-.
Item 50 (Egg yolk, dry); item 51 (Egg albumen, dry) ; item 52’ (Egg, not in shell, in liquid form), agreed to.
Item 53. Fish, viz. : -
.- I. move - . .
That after the figures “ i£d.,” paragraph a, the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907,. id.,” be inserted.
The amendment, if carried, will mean a reversion to the old duty. In 1906 the only importations of fresh fish were from New Zealand, and they amounted to 870 lbs., valued at ,£11.
– We get fish from Eng-; land.
– Not fresh fish. If the whole of the importations are valued at only £11, I think we need scarcely bother about them.
– Is this fish not brought on ice?
– I am speaking of fish not preserved in any way. In regard to smoked, dried, or preserved fish, the Tariff Commission were unanimously in favour of a duty of id. ; and here we have another case in which no explanation is offered by the Minister for his going beyond the recommendation, of the protectionist section of that body.
– We get a lot of fresh salmon from- Canada.
– That is not absolutely fresh salmon; it is treated. In 1906 ‘the total imports of smoked, dried and preserved fish amounted to 1,073,293 lbs., valued at £14,621, of which 927,922 lbs. came from New Zealand and 100,739 l°sfrom the United Kingdom, leaving only 44>532 !bs. as the total importations from other countries. The. invoice price of these importations, which, I suppose, means f.o.b. price was 3§d. per lb. Consequently the duty amounts to about 40 per cent., and the increase” on the former duty is 50 per cent. In the absence of any satisfactory explanation from the Minister of such an increase, I ass” the Committee to agree to the reduction which I propose.
– I wish to state clearly and distinctly the position which I take with regard to the items in the Tariff. In all cases where the Tariff Commission make a recommendation, and the Government exceed it and do not deign to make any statement to the Committee of their reasons for so doing, I intend to adhere to the Commission’s recommendations.
Mr. Austin (Chapman- Then will the honorable member vote in every case for the Commission’s recommendations?
– I do not bind myself absolutely to do sq. This is a case where both sections of the Commission agree. Their recommendation is the same as the rate in the old Tariff, but the Government have increased the duty by Jd. They; mate no explanation whatever, we have no data to go upon, and there is nothing to guide the Committee as to why we should go beyond what the Tariff Commission, after investigating the merits of the case, have recommended.
.- I hope the Committee will retain the duty of iki. Apparently every other class of the community is being considered but that of the fishermen, which is ‘ perhaps the hardest working, and yet has the smallest return for its labour. When we find that oyer £300,000 worth of fish was imported into the Commonwealth last year, and remember that a very small part of it was fresh fish, it is about time that we considered the .fishermen who are to be found- all round the coast-line of Australia. If they had a little more encouragement they would go in not only for supplying the community with more fresh fish, but also for smoking and preserving a great deal of what they catch. I ask the honorable member for Echuca to reconsider the decision he has come to. I point out to him that the duty of id. per lb. is no protection whatever against importations from New Zealand, because the New Zealand Government give a bounty of id. a lb. on fish exported-
– We are giving a bounty also.
– The bounty is not for the ordinary fisherman who catches the fish1 and brings it into the market. He has no protection of any Sort at present, because the duty of id.’ is paid by the New Zealand Government bounty so far as New Zealand fish is concerned. He is ‘consequently exposed to a broadside of importations. That is very unfair to him.
If we are to build an Australian , Navy we shall ‘require a large fishing class from which to draw men to man our war vessels. Weineed a population that will maintain itself, at the sea-side towns instead of being concentrated in manufacturing centres and overgrown cities such as we have now. We want people around the whole of our coastline. The more protection we give to these men the more profitable we make their industry, and the more we stop importationsfrom outside the stronger shall we make the fishing class, and the better chance will there be of the small fishing townsaround the Commonwealth coast-line maintaining themselves in prosperity. Thisduty is a matter of great importance to ai very poor class, who earn their living under hard conditions. They go out at very early hours daily, and any man who reflects upon the trying conditions of their lives must feel that they deserve this extra fillip to their industry
.- I recognise that the honorable member for Corio is well versed in this question; but another side of it has to be considered. I suppose that we are approaching about the worst drought that Australia ever had. Already the feeling is uppermost amongst the stock agents of the Commonwealth that meat is going to be at famine prices. I heard a good deal prior to Parliament meeting about the new protection protecting the consumer, and I think it is about time that the consumer received consideration. The duty was id. under the old Tariff, and both sections of the Tariff Commission have recommended its continuance. When we find unanimity amongst those gentlemen, we may be sure that they have taken into consideration all the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Corio. I ask the Government to withdraw the proposal” for the extra Jd. per lb. duty, which cannot be a benefit. The duty paid last year amounted to £”4,129. ‘ It is on the cards that more than the quantity imported last year will be sent here this year. We do not want to rob people. I think the extra ki. duty means robbing them at the present juncture.. We are at an important epoch in our history, and I think it probable that very soon many of our people will have to depend on articles of diet that Britishers are not accustomed to consume. “ I shall make a point of voting for a duty of id.
– The Government intend to- adhere to this duty. The quantity of fish imported is enormous. The value of fish smoked or preserved by cold process, imported in 1904, was £12,000 odd. I believe the honorable member for Lang stated that last year it was over £^14,000. The amount of fish preserved in tins imported in 1904 was 11,872,801 lbs., of a value of £249,054. In 1905 the importations amounted to 15,000,000 lbs., valued at over £300,000. The honorable member for Echuca, who made reference to the desirableness of following the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, represents a .district whose rivers, particularly the Goulburn and the Murray, should be teeming with fish. Surely he would like some encouragement to be given for the preservation of the fish caught in those waters.
– A very small quantity of fish is caught in those rivers.
– Nonsense.. An immense quantity’ is caught ; and if they were better looked after and better preserved than they are at present, those rivers would be a great source of supply. I intend to move the addition to this item of a new paragraph, with a view of preventing any trouble so far as concerns the importation of fish caught by our own ships. It will make fish of all kinds, caught or cured by any process on board any_ ship registered in Australia and fitted out and sailing from any port in the Commonwealth, free of duty. In the meantime, we -wish to protect our fishermen in the work which they are doing. Large sums of money have been invested in the industry in all the States. About two years ago, particulars were given to me, which showed that a very considerable outlay has been necessary to obtain from Bass Strait a supply of fish for Melbourne. We expect that the duty will protect the fishing industry, and that the trawler, for the construction of which we hope to arrange in a few days, will materially aid its .development.
– We cannot get sardines here.
– There are no such fish as sardines, those sold under that name being generally mullet or pilchards, coming sometimes from Norway.
– They are locally known as sprats in some places.
– Every year millions of pilchards come along the coast of Australia from the south-east, and striking the Victorian coast, continue northward during a period of three or four months, until they finally turn off to the east again, from the south of Queensland. It is not known exactly where they come from, or where they go to, but the catching of them is an industry which, if developed, might in time equal the herring fishery on the English coast. Then, on the Tasmanian coast, in the winter time, is found a mackerel, the catching of which should prove very profitable. At the present time very few pilchards or mackerel are caught, no doubt because the large importation of tinned fish gluts the market. Our desire is to stimulate the fishing industry, so as to provide a large supply of Australian fish for the Australian people.
– Does not the Minister think that the granting of a bounty will do what he desires?
– The bounty will help, but it will not do all that is necessary to be done. The duty also is required.
– The Minister is departing in this proposal from the policy which he announced when introducing the Bounties Bill. He then said that for the development of certain industries it was proposed to grant bounties instead of imposing duties.
– I did not say instead of imposing duties.
– The Minister said - and a similar statement was made in regard to the proposal to grant a bounty for the production of iron - that in cases in which it has not been proved that we are able to supply our own requirements, or in which it would take time to make arrangements for doing so, it is better to grant a bounty than to impose a duty for the encouragement of an industry, because the effect of a duty under such circumstances must be to increase the price of the article in respect to which it is imposed. We’ have agreed to the granting of a bounty for the production of preserved fish, but now it is proposed to impose a duty as well, for the protection of the fishing industry. A trawler is to be fitted out to ascertain what our sources of fish supply are, and, until these sources have been thoroughly investigated and the fishing industry developed, the people of Australia will have to pay more for the tinned fish which they use. My remarks .on this item apply equally to subsequent items, and I do not intend to repeat them on the latter. The members of the Tariff Commission, freetraders and protectionists, were unanimously of opinion that the rates of duty should not be altered. If the proposed duty is imposed, the importations of tinned fish will not be reduced, but the price of that commodity will be increased to the consumers, many of whom live in the back blocks, or in mining districts, and have to depend largely on tinned provisions. The tinned fish imported is largely salmon, which comes from America, and for it our people have a decided preference. We cannot get such fish here. I am with the Minister in desiring the development of the fishing industry, but, as I have pointed out, we have taken steps to improve it by arranging for the construction of a trawler, which will be an expensive matter as to cost, while its manning and upkeep will entail still further expenditure. In addition, we have granted a bounty. The experimental trawling operations may prove the existence of fishing grounds equal to supplying Australia with fish, but until those grounds are discovered, and are being profitably worked, the proposed duty, if agreed to, will only increase taxation on those who use tinned fish. In proposing the duty, the Minister is departing from the policy which he enunciated in introducing the Bounties Bill, and from the recommendation of the Tariff Commission. We passed the Bounties Bill on his statement that it would giveencouragement to industries which could not be encouraged by the imposition of duties without unduly taxing consumers, and having done so, we are asked to agreeto the taxation of consumers by voting for a duty.
– The proposed duty will seriously affect the pioneers in the back blocks, who, in the work of exploring and developing Australia, are compelled to subsist largely on tinned food. I fail to see the wisdom of imposing extra taxation upon the people in the country districts ; because this is not proposed as a revenue duty. But, while there may be good grounds for imposing an import duty on tinned fish, I think that there can be none for imposing one on fresh fish. According to a statement which, has been made to me, such a duty will injure the industry which the Minister says he wishes to develop. I have received a letter which puts the position very concisely, and I shall therefore content myself with reading it, leaving it to the good sense of the Com mittee to judge of its merits. It is dated, “ Fish Market, Melbourne, 16th September,” and the writer says -
Hon T. Brown
We have the honour to bring under your notice the following facts respecting the proposed increased duty on Fresh Blue Cod.
Trusting you will give this matter your earnest consideration on behalf of our Fish Curing Industry,
We have the honour to be,
Your obedient servants,
There is attached to the letter an account sale of 146 cases of fish which in a clean state weighed 9,129 lbs., but which, as the result of the smoking operation, weighed 7,336 lbs., showing a loss of 1,793lbs. The fish was valued in its clean state at £257 13s. 8d., and the freight, duty, commission, wharfage, and other charges incidental to preparing the article for the market, amounted to £1131s.11d.,leaving a net balance of £14411s.9d.I have no information about the industry or the statements which are contained in the letter, but, according to the writers, the business of importing and preserving blue cod is carried on in this city. It is claimed that if the increased duty be retained it will, if it does not crush out the. industry, hamper it very seriously. I ask the Treasurer what is to be gained by imposing a duty on fresh fish. I could understand the imposition of a duty on smoked or tinned fish, but not on fresh blue cod, which is coming very much into favour with the people in the States as an article of diet.
.- The Treasurer has stated that he desires to stimulate this industry. We have already voted a bounty of½d. a lb., representing a total expenditure of £10,000 to stimulate the industry of preserving fish. I agree with the honorable gentleman when he says that it is a national industry; but I cannot understand why he proposes a supplement to the bounty in the shape of an increased Customs duty. Apparently he wants to expend a total bounty of £10,000 and to increase the import duty by 50 per cent. as a supplement to that bounty. The last speaker has dealt very fairly with the question. He cannot understand why they make a plea on behalf of fresh fish, particularly when the Treasurer says that it ought to be an article of ordinary diet. We admit that it ought to be in more general consumption than it is, but that fact is due, not to the absence of a duty, but to the existence, particularly in Victoria, of powerful rings or combines who take good care that large quantities of fish do not come to the market for sale except at very high rates.
– A large quantity of fish used tobe wilfully destroyed.
– The honorable member emphasizes that fact by stating that tons of fish used to be destroyed in what I regard as a criminal manner. If we have evidence that under existing circumstances thousands of tons of fish are wilfully destroyed every year, why should we’ subject the consumers of fish to a higher duty than they had to pay under the old Tariff? Another reason which the Treasurer advanced in favour of the increased duty was that it was proposed in the interests of the fishermen. If he is desirous of helping the fishermen, the proper way in which to do so is not by imposing a duty on fish, but by the removal of the duty on netting. Fishermen who ply theircalling independently of any company would receive greater assistance from the removal of the duty on netting than from the imposition of a duty on imported fish. ‘There is another point to which I would draw the attention of the Treasurer, and which, apparently, has escaped him, and that is that every year we import 15,207,000 lbs. of preserved fish. Out of that enormous quantity we import 7,000,000 lbs. from the United Kingdom, 4,500,000 lbs. from New Zealand and 1,700,000 lbs. from Canada. In other words over 13,000,000 lbs. of our imported fish is the product of the United Kingdom and British Dominions. We have emphasized the fact that we prefer British imports to foreign imports. We are not dealing with the fish products of foreign countries in the sense in which other products have been spoken of, As the duty operative under the old Tariff was1d. per lb., and as both sections of the Tariff Commission have recommended the imposition of a similar rate, I urgethe Government to agree to it, and to extend a preference of id. per lb. to the products of the United Kingdom. It is a fact that the majority of the residents in our seaports do not take kindly to a fish diet. The reason assigned for this condition of things is that the price of fish is unduly high, and we all know that thousands of tons are wilfully destroyed every year, in order to maintain the price. I appeal for the imposition of a lower rate of duty on behalf of the residents of the back-blocks.It is generally admitted that most of the fish caught in
Australian waters are not adapted to preserving. We should never dream of preserving ‘ schnapper.
– What about whiting?
– Of course whiting could be preserved, but the rock fish obtainable in Australian waters are not adapted to preserving, as are the fish caught in colder latitudes. The residents of the backblocks like their little “spree” of salmon, or of herrings, or of . what are . called sardines. Of course, we all- recognise that very few sardines rind their way into Australia. Certainly, they do not pass into general consumption. What are commonly regarded as sardines are a species of edible mullet, known as pilchards. If the Committee are really anxious to do anything for the fishermen, who have to gain a livelihood under very trying circumstances, they will not impose a duty upon preserved fish, but will decide that netting shall be admitted free. Why is it thai the fishing industry has not been exploited by private enterprise? Is it not a fact that the fishmongers of Great Britain comprise one of the wealthiest corporations in the world? If the Commonwealth offered a suitable field for their exploitation, would they not have embarked upon the industry long ago? Had the steam trawler, which it is proposed to purchase, demonstrated that there is a sufficient .quantity of edible fish in our waters to warrant private capital being invested in the industry, I could understand the Treasurer asking for an increased duty. But at present there is no cry raised regarding a languishing industry. I trust that the Committee will support the duty of id. per lb. which was operative under the old Tariff.
.- It may appear strange that some honorable members, including myself, were prepared to vote for the imposition of a higher duty upon confectionery than we are prepared to vote upon preserved fish. The fish industry is a splendid one.
– The manufacture of confectionery is a Victorian industry.
– And the fish preserving industry has been established in Victoria. It seems to me that the confectionery industry has made a very big start, that it is doing exceedingly well, and that the increased duty imposed upon its product will not be passed on to the consumer. But I feel perfectly certain that, in the present state of the fishing industry, practically the whole of the proposed duty will be passed on to the consumer. The existing duty is a considerable one. I have here an account sale for 146 cases of fish from New Zealand. The duty collected was £57 is. id. That represents a very fair protection. We. seem to be just feeling our way in regard to this industry. I hope that the Government will pursue the policy they have initiated in reference to the’ trawler, in order that we may ascertain what fish we have in Australian waters. The Treasurer has referred to pilchards. We never seem to get any of them now-a-days. I have had no pilchards for years. What has become of them?
– They are packed as sardines.
– I think ‘ not. There used to be a little fish canning at Warrnambool and Port Fairy some years ago, but that industry seems to have died out. I agree that the fish preserving industry needs encouraging.
– The honorable member is not going the right way to encourage it in voting against the duty.
– I do not think that the duty proposed will have much effect upon the industry. Its effect will, simply be to increase the cost to the consumer. It has to be remembered that a great many people in the back-blocks of Australia, especially in our mining townships, regard canned fish, such as salmon and sardines, as almost the only change of diet they can get from the everlasting mutton and damper. I am very anxious to see the industry stimulated, but I think that the best method is to pay the bounty, and to find out, through the instrumentality of the trawler, what fish we have in our waters before -we try the effect of ari increase of duty. That is my reason for voting for the maintenance of the duty of id., and not for the higher rate proposed.
– It takes a good deal to surprise me now-a-days, but if anything would’ surprise me it is the speech just delivered. The honorable member for Fawkner has told us that he desires to oster the fish industry. Well,’ it . has not been fostered by means of a duty of id: per lb.
Importations have increased instead of diminishing. The industry is languishing. Reference has been made to the fish preserving industry of New Zealand. But the New Zealand people know how to project their industry. There the duty on fresh fish is 10s. per cwt. ; on smoked fish, 2d. per lb. ; on potted fish, 2d. per lb. ; and on fish in liquid, 2d. I am convinced that we have as good fish in Australian waters as they have in New Zealand. There is no better fish for smoking than the trumpeter. There are four kinds of trumpeter in Tasmania, and they are superior for smoking purposes to any other fish with which I am acquainted. Carp can also be caught in large numbers.
– What ! Carp for eating ?
– Yes, and it is one of the best fish one can eat. -As caught on the east coast of Tasmania, I believe, it is a good fish for preserving purposes. There are also mackerel and kingfish, the Hatter of which is one of the best fish we have in this part of the world.
– What about flathead?
-Idonotcare much for flathead, perhaps because I see so much of flatheads elsewhere. It surprises me to hear honorable members say that we have no fish here fit for preserving.
– It must be remembered that the Government are going to pay a bounty, of½d. per lb.
– But we do not know how the bounty will act.
– The Government want to double-bank the protection.
– The statements that we have no fish fit for curing and smoking are quite without foundation. Then, again, in regard to fresh fish, I should like to know what better fish there is than schnapper.
– It is not a preserving fish.
– But we have in the cooler waters of Tasmania as good preserving fish as are found in any other part of the world.
– Has the honorable gentleman ever tasted a nice fresh sole in England?
– Yes ; and I like the Australian sole better than the English sole.
– It is not in the same street with Tasmanian trumpeter.
– It certainly is not. I trust that the Committee will carry the proposed duty.
– I quite agree with the statement of the Treasurer that it is a great calamity that we have not a greater supply of fish, and I do not believe that the statement that we have not in our waters adequate quantities and a good variety of fish is correct. But my reason for supporting the maintenance of the duty of1d. per lb., and not voting for the increased duty proposed by the Government, is that this Parliament has decided to assist the fishing industry by expending money on a trawler, the original cost of which will be a comparatively small item compared with its subsequent maintenance. In addition to that, both Houses have agreed to the payment of a bounty. In view of the assistance thus afforded, I consider that the time is not yet ripe for adding this additional impost upon the fish consumers. I think that it would be greatly for the benefit of the public health if we had larger supplies of fish, and if it were consumed in more considerable quantities by our people. It is desirable, from that point of view, to endeavour to stimulate the fish supply. But inquiries should also be made in another direction. What becomes of the large quantities of fish that are already caught and landed, and that are said not to find their way to our markets for distribution? I am quite with the Minister in his desire to encourage the industry, but at the present time I think he ought to give way in reference to the proposal to increase the duty.
– If the honorable member is in sympathy with me, he should vote with me.
– But I think that the Government are taking up a wrong position. We in this corner have helped the Government over a number of stiles already, and I suppose that we shall have to help them over a good many more before we are finished with this Tariff. But that consideration does not justify me in voting for the increased duty, in view of the fact that we are already doing a fair thing by imposing a duty of1d., and by paying a bounty.
.- The fishing industry does not belong to one State more than another ; and, certainly, it has not been established on anything like a sound footing anywhere within the Commonwealth. I take it that the object of imposing a duty of1½d. per lb. is to encourage this industry.
– In every State if possible.
– Quite so. The men employed in the fishing industry follow a laborious and dangerous calling, and are deserving of all the encouragement we can possibly give them. I shall vote in favour of the duties proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Indi has told us that we are about to experience one of the biggest droughts ever known in Australia, and that, in all possibility, we shall very feoon find meat at famine prices. If that be so, there is all the more reason why we should encourage the fishing industry so as to insure an ample supply of food for the people. In the Australian waters there is abundance of fish of the very best quality ; and yet, during last year, fish, of the description now under consideration, was imported to the quantity of 1,074,163 lbs. No doubt this produced a certain amount of revenue; but, at the same time, the fish in our seas is a raw material which ought to be utilized ; and I am prepared to support any reasonable protection with the object “of establishing an industry so intimately associated with the food supply of the people.
Question - That after the figures “1½d.,” paragraph a, the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907,1d.” ‘(Mr. Johnson’s amendment) proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The members of the Tariff Commission have unanimously recommended that the fish comprised in paragraph b of this item should be dutiable at 20 per cent. ad val orem, as under the old Tariff. The Ministry propose to increase the duty to 25 per cent. Perhaps the Treasurer will explain the reason for the increase in the face of the unanimous recommendation of the Tariff Commission, and especially when it is remembered that the total value of the im-, ports under this heading in 1906 was £11,934; that of this amount we obtained from the United Kingdom no less than £11,320 worth, and from elsewhere only £614. worth. I understand that we have no fish suitable for the local production of this article.
– For caviare? Yes, we have.
– I do not profess to be an authority on that point; but those who have a right to be regarded as such say otherwise. As almost the whole of the importations under this head come from Great Britain, it is clear that the duty would be almost entirely against the importation of British products. In view of the professed desire of the Government to give the products of the United Kingdom specially favorable treatment, it is difficult to understand why they propose an increase upon the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission when the duty will operate, not against the foreigner, but against the Britisher.
.- I have no wish to debate the item, but to ask the Treasurer for some information. There is no evidence in the item of any intention to provide, in respect to paragraph b, for the preferential treatment of British imports. Does the honorable gentleman intend that there shall be no preferential treatment of British imports under this item?
– There is no preference provided for here.
.-I know of no necessity for the proposed increase of duty on this item, but if the increase is agreed to, there should still be a preference afforded to British imports.I therefore move-
That after the words “ 25 per cent.,” paragraphb, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907 (United Kingdom), 20 per cent.,” be inserted.
That would give a preference of 5 per cent. to imports from Great Britain, and would be the duty recommended by both sections of the Tariff Commission. I thinkwe might very well give British imports this small amount of preference.
– What about the first column? Will not the duty in the first column be put first?
– If the amendment is carried, I shall put the item, as amended, to the Committee.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That after the figures “1½d.,” paragraphc, the words “ and on and afterboth October, 1907,1d.,” be inserted.
Both sections of the Tariff Commission recommended that the duty on fish of this class should be1d. per lb., and if honorable members are desirous of enabling people in rural districts to obtain fish at a reasonable price ‘they should support the amendment. From my stand- point, the other provisions of this item with which we have dealt are not so important. We have large imports of fish, chiefly from Great Britain, but also from Canada, New Zealand, and several foreign countries. The value of our imports last year was, in round numbers, as follows : - United Kingdom, £93,000 ; Canada, £36,000 ; New Zealand, £4,494; France, £16,000; Norway, £22,000; Portugal, £23,000 ; United States, £102,000. I know that the Minister is anxious to proceed to a division, and as I do not think that long speeches are likely to ‘have any effect, since honorable members generally have made up their minds, I shall content myself by “simply urging the Committee to adopt this proposal. If it be rejected, I shall move that a preference of½d. per lb. be granted in respect of imports from the United Kingdom.
.- The honorablemember for Grey has reminded the Treasurer of the fact that both sections of the Tariff Commission agreed that the duty on this class of preserved fishshould be only1d. per lb., but I suppose that the honorable gentleman is determined to fight for the duty fixed in the schedule. In round numbers, we annually imported £310,000 worth of this preserved fish, the bulk of our imports coming from the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. Last year we imported 6,915,205 lbs. from the United Kingdom, 134,498 lbs. from New Zealand, and 1,682,000 lbs. from Canada, so that both in respect of quantity and value the bulk of our imports come from different parts of the Empire. The industry of fish preserving is not yet established in the Commonwealth, and, unlike the honorable member for Oxley, who pleaded that within a short time meat would be at famine prices, and then voted for the higher duty proposed in paragraph a, I plead that the very fact that meat will be at famine prices should induce us to impose a very low duty on this commodity. If the Treasurer does not accept the amendment, he will find the Committee fighting for a preference to Great Britain in the shape of a reduction in the duty to1d. per lb. We can later on make special preferential trade agreements. with Canada and New Zealand. I recognise that the Treasurer has an eye on the revenue, but it would be a gracious act on his part to concede this demand.
.- I move -
That after the figures “1½d.,” paragraphc, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, free,” be inserted.
– The honorable member has not forgotten that his proposal would mean a sacrifice of revenue to the extent of £64,000 ?
– I have not; but that consideration does not weigh with me, having regard to the fact that the imposition of this duty means an increased price in respect of a food largely consumed by the working classes. A little while ago we voted a bounty of £10,000 to stimulate the fish-preserving industry. The Government must have intended that that bounty should be effective without the imposition of a duty. If they did not, then they misled the House. I, for one, voted for that bounty in the belief that it would not be followed by aduty. In many parts of Australia preserved fish are the only class obtainable. I have been in districts where meat would not keep for an hour after being killed, and where the people had again and again to fall back on tinned fish. . I hope that . the Committee will agree to my proposal. If the bounty now proposed is not sufficient, I am prepared to go as high as the Government desire, in order to make it effective, but I object to voting for any duty on an important article of food of this description. The duty will make what is an absolute necessity harder for the people to get than it is now.
.- I would seriously counsel the Treasurer to reconsider this item, because there is evidence that his numbers are not so certain as he thinksthey are. The honorable member for Dalley gave in round figures the importations of fish from the Old Country, New Zealand, and Canada. The exact figures are as follow: - The imports in 1906 amounted to 15,270,617 lbs., of the value of £310,656. Of that quantity, 6,915,205 lbs. came from the United Kingdom; 4,534,700 lbs. from New Zealand; and 1,682,911 lbs. from Canada. Those figures show what an enormous quantity of fish is imported from the Old Country. There must be some reason for it. That fish goes into consumption in Australia because it is particularly suitable for our climate, being put up in tins, its flavour is very delectable and appreciated by Australians, and it is undoubtedly one of the necessaries of life here.
– It is very often poisonous.
– I knew an unfortunate lady of the name of Salmon who was poisoned through eating tinned salmon. But the fact that there are a few cases of poisoning is no reason why we should shut out all preserved fish.
– Is there not a great danger of ptomaine poisoning?
– No doubt there is some danger. This article is a necessary as well as a luxury in this country. In this matter, I hold a brief, not only for the working classes, to whom the honorable member for Cook referred-
– Is the honorable member speaking as a professional man or a layman ?
– I am speaking on behalf of a great many women in my electorate. In mining communities the women have to prepare meals for their men-folk at all hours, and it is a great advantage to them to have a supply of* tinned fish, and so avoid the necessity of being constantly engaged in cooking. The ground around townships in those districts is strewn with empty fish tins, which shows that the article is a great convenience to people situated as the people there are. We might be doing something to assist the fishermen if we removed the duties from the materials for their lines and nets, which are their tools of trade, but the imposition of a higher duty on the importations of preserved fish from the Old Country will not help them. That class of goods does not come into competition with the fish that they catch. It is absolutely ridiculous for the Treasurer to say that we can at present preserve and can Australian fish in the same manner as the English, New Zealand, and Canadian fish are preserved and canned.
– Because it is Australian, the honorable member thinks it must be bad.
– That is not the reason. The Australian fish is excellent like the- curate’s egg, in parts. It cannot always be caught, nor can a constant supply be depended upon here as it can be in the Old Country and New Zealand. We cannot, by means of a bounty or a duty, establish” this industry in ‘ Australia at present. The fishing grounds have not yet been discovered. The fish come here at very irregular intervals and the fishermen have to pursue their calling in the ocean, where they frequently have to face stormy weather. To impose this duty will be to add a hardship to the life of the women of Australia, who are greatly dependent for the daily food of the home upon the fish supplied from the Old Country.
Honorable Members. - Divide !
.- If honorable members are agreed to go to a division at once, I am prepared to waive my right to speak.
– I should not have risen had not an honorable member asked, “ What is up with Australian fish ? “ The object of this duty is to encourage the preserving and canning of Australian fish. I propose to read a report by Mr. A. H. Ashbolt, a member of the firm of Jones and Company, of Hobart, who have made an attempt to establish this industry in a large way. The report, which furnishes a splendid argument for supporting the proposal of the honorable member for Cook, reads as follows -
Tasmanian Fish Canning. - My firm made what I believe was the largest experiment of this in Australasia, but after two seasons’ trial abandoned it. The first season was on a small scale, but the second year we canned in different size tins the equivalent of 10,000 cases, each 72 one lb. tins, of which about. one-third was kippered and the balance fresh. We had a special fleet of local fishing boats, but the only fish we could procure in sufficient quantity per day (which is essential for cheap manufacturing, as spasmodic canning is too costly with Australian rate of wages against European and English rates) were barracouta,- colonial salmon, and mullet, all coarse common varieties, which I am confident will never take on with the Australian public or successfully compete with the English herring, which we had hoped to displace. As a competitor to American salmon we never had a look in, and knew before we started that we could only hope to sell against fresh herrings. We sold the 10,000 cases in two years merely by our selling organizations nutting a few cases into almost every retail shop in Australia during that period, but we never got 10 per cent, repeat business, even although we offered to sell down to 2s. 6d. per dozen f.o.b. Hobart for 1 lbs., which was under cost price. Unless Australia can find a large and regular supply of a better class of fish than those mentioned, and one that approximates closely the well known and largely used English herring, I am of opinion that we have very little chance of successfully competing wilh that article, or inducing the Australian public to take something they are at present unused to without a prohibitive duty on the imported article - which is, I presume, unlikely.
In the face of that evidence, I fail to see what justification there is for asking the Committee to pass the proposed dutv
.- It is inconsistent for the honorable member for Lang to read a letter which is strongly protectionist in its argument, after his declaration that he intends to vote against the proposed duty. His action illustrates his mania for reading letters and extracts which often he. does not understand. The firm whose letter he quotes has been trying to establish the herring industry in Australia, but its efforts to do so have been thwarted by external competition, and the determination of some persons not to use the Australian article. In the face of the statements made by the writer, it seems to me time to impose a duty which will, compel our people to ‘recognise the value of Australian fish. As we have already agreed to a duty of i£d. on smoked and preserved fish, I think that those who were defeated on the proposal to make the duty on that line id., might well discontinue their opposition to the proposals of the Government, because a difference is never made in Tariffs between the duty on smoked and preserved fish and that on tinned fish. Both sections of the Tariff Commission recommended that there should be one rate for all kinds of fish, and in the 1902 Tariff there is but one rate. Of course, honorable members may, if they choose, fight all along the line ; but it seems to me absurd, the Committee having fixed the rate for smoked and preserved fish at1½d., to try to reduce the duty on tinned fish. Apparently some honorable members are so much the friends of importers that they would go to the length of granting bounties for the encouragement of imports.
– There seems to be some confusion in the minds of Ministers respecting the grounds on which this duty is proposed. The Minister of Trade and Customs has interjected that he must conserve the revenue, so apparently he wishes the Committee to pass the duty to obtain £64,000 of revenue from the poor people of the back country, who are such large consumers of tinned fish. If the duty has been proposed by the Government for the sake of the revenue which it will produce, I appeal to honorable members who, likethe honorable member for Cook, are opposed to revenue duties, to vote against it. If Ministers tell us that theirs is a protectionist Government, and that the duty has teen proposed to foster the fish-tinning industry, how do they reconcile that position with the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs? Persons who live in the interior, far away from the centres of population, eat a great deal of tinned fish, not because it is a cheap food - it is really most expensive - but because a change of diet is at times necessary. I hope that the Government will not insist on its proposals. If the amendment of the honorable member for Cook is not accepted, I intend to move that importations from Great Britain be free.
.- The pleadingof the honorable member for Robertson on behalf of those who live in the interior was very touching, but I remember that in times ofdrought, when beef has been dear, the price of imported tinned fish has risen in sympathy with the increase in the price of meat. It is all very well for some honorable members to cry out that an additional duty of½d. per lb. on tinnedfish will be a severe burden. But I would remind them of the additional charge of1d. or 2d. per tin which was made by the importers and storekeepers When the price of meat was dear. Knowing the facts as we do, such arguments on their part are utterly worthless. If the importers and storekeepers had been thoroughly honest and come to the aid of the strugglers in the back blocks by letting them have cheap fish when the price of beef was so dear, the position would have been different. In my opinion the greatest argument in favour of imposing a duty on fish is that it is likely to lead to the establishment of a good canning industry which will enable us to compete with foreigners. I have no doubt that along our coasts there is an abundant supply of fish for that purpose. If the industry were established fish would be a most valuable foodto people during a drought if it could be! supplied at a very low rate. But under present conditions I do not think that they have any chance of getting cheap fish.
.- It surprises me somewhat to find members of the Labour Party willing to vote for an increased duty on articles which are necessities to a considerable portion of our population. Those who live in the interior of Australia have no opportunity of obtaining fresh fish. They are limited to the tinned article, and very excellent food it is too. The old duty of1d. per lb. was equal to about 20 per cent. on the value of the article, and that I think ought to be sufficient. I notice that the duty on tinned meat is the same under this Tariff as it was under the old Tariff, namely,1½d. per lb. By what sort of reasoning can any one urge that the duty on tinned meat, which is about the same value as tinned fish, shall not be increased, but that the duty on tinned fish shall be increased ?
– The tinned meat industry is fairly well established.
– In the interior of Australia, as well as in all the great mining centres, tinned meat is to a large extent an absolute necessity to the people. Tinned fish is not so absolutely necessary an article of food as is tinned meat, but for all that it is very necessary. There is no reason for increasing the duty on either tinned meat or tinned fish. We should have some regard to the interests and necessities of the people who leadisolated lives in the interior, and have no opportunity of getting fish unless it is tinned. It is all very well for the honorable member for Corio, with his Geelong constituents, to talk about these matters - I suppose without practical knowledge or experience of the lives of the people in the interior of this Commonwealth. Some of us have had that experience.
– HaveI not been to Kalgoorlie ?
– The honorable member has not had so much experience of the necessities of the people who live in the inland districts of the interior as some honorable members have had. I hope that the Government will not press the increased duty, as, in my opinion, a duty equal to 20 per cent. ad valorem is quite sufficient to impose upon an article of food to the people, such as preserved fish in tins.
Question - That after the figures “1½d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, free” (Mr. J. H. Catts’ amendment), proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) put -
That after the figures “1½d.,” in paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, per lb.,1d.,” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Henry Willis) negatived; -
That after the figures “ 1½d.,” paragraph c, the words “and on and after 30th October, 1907, (United Kingdom), free,” be inserted.
.- You, sir, have already ruled that it is not competent for a private’ member to propose an increase in the rates of duty levied under this Tariff. But I do hope that the Treasurer will be able to see his way to propose an increased duty upon oysters fresh in the shell.
– The honorable member has voted so beautifully on the other items of the Tariff that it is not conducive to my doing so at his instance.
Item agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new item be inserted : - “ 53A. Fish of all kinds caught from, or cured, dried, or preserved by any process on board any Australian registered Ship fitted out in and sailing from any port in the Commonwealth and imported in such ship, free.”
The object is to prevent any complications arising. We have agreed to impose a duty on fresh fish, and there may be complications in reference to our own shipping when fish are brought in from a distance.
– I understand that this amendment is proposed to get over the difficulty in reference to the trawler?
– Yes, and also in regard to other ships. It is a precautionary measure.
.- -I understand the Treasurer to say that his amendment will apply to ships fitted out solely for the curing and preserving of fish. Our vessels may, in certain cases, go into New Zealand waters to fish, but the New Zealand fishermen might evade the duty if this amendment were not made.
– Yes, that is it.
Amendment agreed to
Item 54. Fruits and Vegetables, viz. : - Fruits, Dried, viz. : -
– When I was at Mildura, I was informed there that the old duty on raisins has proved quite sufficient and has helped the industry to a very great extent. I understand that the same has been the experience at Renmark. One variety of raisins very nearly commands the Australian market. But, at the same time, I was informed that the old duty on currants was not sufficient to stop the im portation of cheap currants from the south of Europe. Several times currants locally produced have been knocked out of the market altogether. When 1 was at Mildura, I promised to make an effort to impose an extra duty of id. per lb. ora currants to help the industry. I hope that the effect of the duty of 3d. per lb.- will be to make currant growing more prosperousthan it is at present.
.- I move -
That after the figure “3d.,” paragraph a, thewords “ and on and after 30th October, 1907, per lb., 2d.,” be inserted.
I move this amendment because I believe that under the old duty the growing of currants has been increasing every year. The area under crop has been rapidly extending, both in Victoria and in South Australia. The production within a year or two will overtake the local requirements.
– I am only asking for the same duty as on raisins.
– But currants are of much less value than raisins. The present price is from 5½d. to 6d. per lb. The production varies from 2 to 3 tons per acre,, and in an average season the value of a crop at 5½d. per lb. amounts to from £50 to £75 per acre. I consider a. further increase in the duty to be absolutely unnecessary. I believe that the invoice price of Italian fruit, without duty, is about 2d. per lb. The proposed duty will be about 150 per cent., which, in my opinion, is altogether too high. My amendment is that the duty shall be reduced to the level of that proposed by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. I suppose that it would be useless in a Committee constituted as this is to move that the recommendation of the free-trade members be adopted, but I am quite willing to agree to that of the protectionist members.
– I am prepared to support the Government in regard to this item of 3d. per lb. on currants. The fruit can be grown in this country, and a reasonable duty is therefore justifiable. Sometimes I am prepared to go as far as the protectionist, members in imposing a duty for the benefit of an article that can undoubtedly be produced or manufactured to advantage in Australia. But, in recognition of the vote which I am prepared to give with regard to currants, I trust that the Treasurer will, be reasonable as to dates. They cannot be successfully grown in Australia, and I think an effort should be made to enable them to come in free.
– Has the present duty not practically excluded currants from South Australia?
– It does not matter whether the duty be 2d. or 3d., if it has the effect of excluding imported currants. I am prepared to consent to a duty of 3d., but I hope that the Government will agree to the free admission of dates, seeing that they cannot be produced in Australia.
– The honorable member for Barrier is taking up an entirely different attitude from that which he assumed when the late Tariff was under consideration. The honorable member now states that he will agree to a duty of 3d., although, on the occasion to which -I have referred, he considered such a duty too high. The opinion held by the honorable member now is that, so long as currants are being produced here, it does not matter whether a duty of 3d. be excessive or not.
– On this particular item; but I wish dates to be admitted free.
– The tendency of the -Government proposal is to give an opportunity to producers to charge prices, as they do, in accordance with the duty that protects them.
– The Mildura growers have decided not to do so.
– How recently? They have been doing so.
– No; they have not.
– Excuse me, the Mildura growers have been arranging prices.
– No; I can prove that the Mildura growers do not charge up to the duty.
– I do not know absolutely that the Mildura growers have brought the prices up to that which they might under the duty, but they have been arranging prices, and, at any rate, they are given the opportunity.
– We want a measure to stop that.
– That is all verywell, but it cannot be stopped.
– If dates are allowed to come in free, that will have a tendency to keep down the price of currants.
– It is stated, and, I believe, correctly, that the old duty was quite sufficient to procure to the producers a good and paying market; and, as I intimated by interjection, it has proved sufficient to practically exclude imported currants from South Australia. We have also been informed that there have been shipments of currants to London - at any rate there have been shipments of raisins, and, I think, of currants - and the producers have been quite prepared to accept prices in competition with the fruit from Europe. If that be so, I think that the present duty is sufficient; and as the article is of lower value than raisins, there is no reason, from the protectionist’s standpoint, to put the two fruits on the same plane. Indeed, that was decided on the previous Tariff, and I shall adhere to the view I then expressed. All the facts show that the local production will eventually overtake the local demand, and that there is nothing to fear under the old rate of duty, which amounts to about 100 per cent.
.- According to the figures which have been supplied to us, the total imports of currants last year amounted to 8,800,177 lbs., which yielded a duty of £79,257. It has been stated this evening by two speakers that the duty of 2d. per lb. on currants is sufficient protection, and that the local production is rapidly overtaking the local demand. Let me say that in 1901, the first year of Federation, the total importation of currants amounted to 8,408,000 lbs., whereas, in 1906, the importation had increased to 8,800,179 lbs., or an increase of some 400,000 lbs. This means that, under the old duty, the local production has not increased.
– The importation has been steadily increasing.
– Yes, since 1901.
– What are the exports?
– There are practically no exports.
– Oh yes there are !
– It may be presumed that, if the old duty were sufficient, the increase in the local production of currants would be in proportion to the increase in the local production of raisins. By means of the duty of 3d. per lb. on raisins, the producers have been able to overtake the local demand, and have had a fair share ofthe export trade. There is every reason to believe, in view of the great success in connexion with the production of raisins in the arid northern districts of Australia, that, in the case of currants, the producers will in a short time overtake the local demand. In my opinion the proposed duty, is one which ought to receive the support of every section represented in the Committee. The protectionist section conscientiously believe that all commodities that can be produced with reasonable success in Australia, should receive encouragement through the Customs House, and free-traders believe that we should, as far as possible, settle people on the SOl and engage them in the primary industries. In support of the duty proposed by the Government, I appeal to both fiscal parties, and also to Labour representatives, who believe that industries ought to be’ encouraged if they provide fair employment for labour. I do not desire to deal at length with the question simply liecause there is a flourishing irrigation settlement in my constituency ; but I may saythat I have taken special interest in that settlement, for the reason that it forms an object-lesson of what may be done in the development of intense culture along our rivers - development which may mean the salvation of this continent. Because of the object-lesson which I believe the settlement supplies, I feel very strongly, on national grounds, that protective duties ought to be imposed on these commodities which, as already proved, can be successfully produced in Australia. I have a quantity of matter here which I think it. unnecessary to read, as the Committee is in a working humour, and I have therefore no wish to speak at length. I might, however, say that in the production of both currants and raisins from1 £16 . to £18 per acre is expended in labour. I believe that the men employed are paid well - from 6s. per day to £2 per week, with quarters found. I submit these considerations from the labour stand-point. From the freetrade stand-point of the value of primary productions, it is, I think, evidence of an enormous production that the cultivation of a particular product will enable from £16 to £18 per acre to be paid in wages. A duty which will, have the effect of establishing an Australian industry should receive the hearty support of protectionist’s. The duty on raisins will come up for consideration later, but, in the meantime. I might mention, in reply to the honorable member for North Sydney, that the price of Australian raisins has remained steadily at from 1½d. to 2d. per lb. below the price of the imported article. This should show that the growers are not forcing the price of the local product up to the full extent of the duty. The price of the imported article at the present time is from 4d. to 7jd. per lb., whilst the price of the local product is from 3d. to 6d.- per lb. That is the position at the present time.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the local article can be bought for 3d. per lb. ?
– I should like to buy a few tons at that price.
– Those who use Australian raisins can speak as to their excellent quality. The industry is one of which we might all be proud, and I should not think it at all extraordinary if the Committee unanimously decided to support it.
. -I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera, and with some surprise to the speech of the Minister. The Tariff Commission spent two years and nine months in obtaining evidence in connexion with the Tariff, and both sections came to the conclusion that no increase in the duty on these articles was required. After the Tariff was introduced the honorable and learned member for Bendigo gave notice of his intention to move that the duty in this case should be reduced to that recommended by the Tariff Commission. Are honorable members prepared to say that Senator McGregor, ex-Senator Higgs, and Sir John Quick had not as much interest in this particular product as the honorable member for Wimmera?
– They may not have had as much information on the subject.
– It is not saying very much for the intelligence of the members of the Tariff Commission if, after an inquiry extending over two years and nine months, they were unable to obtain information which we can get here in five minutes.
– Some of them were not at the settlement at all.
- Senator McGregor knows the settlement as well as any member of the Committee. In South Australia we have been growing currants successfully for years. I shall be consistent in this matter, and, notwithstanding the fact that it affects the State I represent, I shall vote for a reduction of the duty to the rate recommended by both sections of the Tariff Commission. I am sure if the -honorable member for Bendigo were present, he would be found fighting against the proposed increase.
.- The honorable member for Grey has submitted a strong case in opposition to the proposed duty ; but the mere fact that both sections of the Tariff Commission were unanimous on this point, or that the protectionist section recommended a certain duty, has no weight with the Treasurer. Senator McGregor, ex-Senator Higgs, Sir John Quick, and Mr. Francis Clarke are, I should say, about the strongest quartet of protectionists to be found in Australian public life to-day, and yet they recommend that the duty should be only 2d. per lb. No one will complain that ex-Senator Higgs is not a thoroughbred protectionist, and he thinks 2d. per lb. a sufficient duty to impose. The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission, to show that they desire to assist Australian industries, have recommended the same duty. But, in spite of the expense of the Tariff Commission, the evidence they obtained and the conclusions at which they arrived are to be set aside. The honorable member for Wimmera has said that Mildura is a flourishing place, and I am glad to hear it. I direct attention to the fact that the area of land put under crop for the purpose of growing currants and similar products increased rapidly under the old duty.
– That was in anticipation of an increased duty.
– Does the honorable member think that we are as childish as his press companions? The old duty was enforced for about five years, and the area under crop for currants was increased rapidly under that duty before the Tariff Commission was appointed. This Tariff has only been in existence for about six months, and the honorable member would have us believe that the increase in the area cultivated over five years has been in anticipation of an increased duty. The people engaged in growing currants had no warrant three years or even two years ago for anticipating an increased duty, and yet the area under cultivation rapidly increased since 1902. Let us look at the value of this product. This highly cultivated land produces from 2 to 3 tons of dried fruit per acre per season. That represents a return of from £51 7s. to £76 per acre.
-£100 has been taken off a single acre at Mildura.
– As much as £150 hasbeen taken of a single acre, and the average is about£75 per acre.
– Then, again, there is: a trust connected with this industry, only those engaged in it do not call it a “trust.” They find it more euphemistic to refer to it as an arrangement amongst the growers. Theyhave been wise in their time, and if they have anticipated a higher duty, they have also anticipated the feeling that might be aroused by the use of the word “trust” or “ combine,” and refer to their combination as a “convention.” I should like to point out that the duty of 3d. per lb. is equivalent to an increase of 150 per cent. on the invoice price of imported currants.
– They get a duty of 100 per cent. now.
– That is so. The two States of South Australia and Victoria are interested in this matter. The honorable member for Grey, a sturdy South, Australian, says that he is satisfied with a duty of 2d. per lb.
– The honorable member would be satisfied if there was no duty at all.
– The honorable member does not desire that the duty should be increased. The honorable member for Wimmera has admitted that in a short time the local demand for the article will be almost met by the local production. I have said from the first that I am in favour of keeping the duties as low as possible on articles of ordinary consumption. Currants form a part of the food of thousands in the community, and I object to the increase of the duty to 3d. per lb., a duty of 150 per cent. Mildura currants are now selling at from 5½d. to 6d. per lb., and surely a protection of 2d. per lb. should be sufficient. The Chairman of the Tariff Commission, who is an ardent protectionist, gave notice of his intention to move that this duty be reduced, and there certainly can be no justification for it.
– No explanation has been given as to the reason which actuated the Government in increasing the duty on currants under the old Tariff. I would remind the Committee that the proposed duty is1d. per lb. in excess of that recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. The grape from which currants are produced is largely grown in South Australia, and both there and atMilduravine yards have been fully stocked. Nevertheless, in1906 therewas an importation of currants on which duty amounting to no less than £79,000 was paid. The reason for this large importation must be that the local producers are unable to cope with the demand. They can sell all that they produce and are unable to supply any more. The Tariff Commission did not think that the industry was languishing. On the contrary, the free-trade section of the Commission considered it to be in a flourishing condition, and it recommended thataduty of 20 per cent. should be imposed. We might very well take our cue from the report of the Tariff Commission and. leave things as they were so far as this item is concerned. The duty is excessive. I recognise the futility of appealing to the Government, butI believe that the common sense of honorable members generally will cause them to reduce the duty, at all events, to the rate recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission.
.- In order that there may be no misunderstanding, I should liketo explain that the Tariff Commission was requested to examine accredited representatives of the Mildura Fruit Growers’ Association with respect to these items, but replied that itwas unnecessary for the fruit-growers there to tender any further evidence. I wish it to be clearly understood that the Mildura settlers have not had an opportunity to tender evidence on this question. Although the recommendations of the Commission respecting other items may be satisfactory, those relating to the item now under consideration are certainly valueless.
– Perhaps it would be as well for the honorable member to read one of the letters received from the Commission by the Fruit Growers’ Association ?
– In a letter addressed to the Executive of the Mildura Settlers on 22nd June, 1906, the Commission wrote -
Adverting to your letter of 21st March and previous correspondence addressed to the Commission by your company, i have the honour to inform you, by direction, that the Commissioners consider that, owing to the mass of evidence already submitted to them in connexion with your industry, it will not be necessary to hear further testimony. At the same time, the particulars submitted by you in writing will in due course receive every consideration.
Can it be said that in this case the Commission made its recommendations on a thor ough investigation of the facts? It certainly did not.
– For what duty did the Mildura people ask?.
– For a uniform duty of 3d. per lb. on currants and raisins.
.- I wish to explain the position of the Tariff Commission. The honorable member for Wimmera showed me a week or two ago the correspondence to which he has just referred, and I am entirely at a loss to account for it. The letter he has read is contrary to the general policy of the Commission, which was not to” refuse any evidence from a material or substantial source. I intend at the earliest opportunity to inquire into the matter, with a view of obtaining some explanation of what to me at present is inexplicable.
– I think that all the evidence is in favour of a duty of 2d. per lb. I find it difficult to understand why this duty has been imposed, more especially as I am advised that-
The 100 per cent. (or 2d. per lb.), as prepreviously existed, has given an impetus to the growers of currants, which is illustrated by the fact that in South Australia no currants are imported, and in this State the growers make a handsome profit per acre, which is the envy of other toilers of the soil less favoured.
My correspondent goes on to point out that-
The prices for the sale of’ raisins, sultanas, and currants grown locally are fixed by a trust. There is.no competition as in other primary products; the high duty gives to this handsomely protected industry a unique position.
That is perfectly true. I learnt, in connexion with my business some years ago, that a trust was formed to deal with the Mildura products. That trust exists today. In view of the fact that the industry is going ahead, and that a duty of 2d. has been proved to be sufficient, we ought not to saddle the consumer with an increase of 100 per cent. A duty of 2d. is fair, and I shall vote for it.
.- The Victorian Year-Book for 1906-7 shows that the production of currants in the year 1904-5 was 5,974 cwt. ; in 1905-6, 6,403 cwt. ; and in 1906-7,. 11,730 cwt. That shows that there has been a steady increase, and that the industry is riot in any way languishing.
Question - That after the figure “ 3d.,” paragraph a, the words “ and on andafter 30th October, 1907, per lb., 2d.” (Mr.
Bowden’s amendment), proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following paper -
Defence Acts - Provisional Regulations - Military Cadet Corps - Amendments, section 1, paragraph 3 ; section2, paragraph 13- Statutory Rules 1907, No.111.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the House, at itsrising, adjourn until to-morrow,at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071029_reps_3_40/>.