3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
.- I desire to notify you, Mr. Speaker, and the members of this House, that, owing to the unsatisfactory condition of my health, I have been constrained to resign the position of leader of the Labour Party. I also wish to mention that the honorable member for Wide Bay has been chosen by the party to take my place. I extend to him my congratulations, and express the belief that in that position he will do good work for the partyof which we both are members.
– The occasion is so unprecedented in the history of this House, and the circumstances attending it must make such a strong appeal to honorable members, that I feel it impossible to pass by the characteristically simple and straightforward statement of the honorable member for South Sydney with reference to the change in the leadership of the party to which he belongs. Every honorable member will have heard with the sincerest regret the cause assigned for the step which the honorable member has thought it necessary to take. Any other reason would have been more welcome to those who have been associated with him. I say, without fear of challenge, that he has not a single personal antagonist in the House. The grounds on which he retires appeal to all, because we cannot fail to recollect how many of those who have borne the burden and heat of the first seven years of Federation have either left the political arena, or are likely soon to do so. No one’s task during this period has been more difficult than that of the honorable member. Not only has he had to face the obligations imposed upon him as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament during the process of organizing the Federal Government, but he has also had to establish his party under extraordinary conditions in Parliament and confused conditions in the country. The time has happily not yet come for us to attempt to sum up his career as a leader in this House and in the country. For my own part, I devoutly trust that his political duties, though interrupted,will only be suspended for a short time. It would be one of the greatest losses that this Parliament could sustain - an almost irreparable loss - if the honorable member were to withdraw from political life. We hope to see him remain, if he so pleases, as a private member, but in any capacity, so long as we retain his services. I know that Australia cherishes the same hope. May I add a word of congratulation to the honorable member for Wide Bay upon having succeeded to the leadership of the Labour Party. He already knows by experience the added responsibilities which it imposes. He receives this honour from the hand of a member who has lent it weight, dignity, and power, making it one of the highest posts in the House in the gift of his fellow members. This office magnifies his possibilities for work and influence greatly beyond those which fall to the lot of most among us. I congratulate the honorable member upon his election to the position, and have every confidence that he will maintain the high - the very high - traditions created by his predecessor.
– On behalf of the direct Opposition, I do not wish the occasion to pass without expressing our assent to the words of the Prime Minister. I am quite sure that every member of the House, much as some of us may have differed from the honorable member who is retiring from the leadership of the Labour Party, and seen it necessary to oppose his policy, has always felt a kindly regard for him personally. We regret that he has cause for resigning the leadership of the Labour Party, and shall still more regret his absence from Parliament should he find it necessary to leave political life. Our regret is accentuated by the fact that it is the condition of his health which has caused him to take the present step. I think I need say no more. All the members of the House indorse the utterances of the Prime Minister, though our regret at his resignation is to some degree tempered by our knowledge that the honorable member for Wide Bay has been appointed to succeed him. I trust, with the Prime Minister, that the high standard of leadership set by the honorable member for South Sydney will be followed by the honorable member for Wide Bay. If it is, however we may differ from him and oppose his policy, we shall continue to have the same personal regard for him that we had for his predecessor.
. -I feel the responsibility as well as the honour that has been imposed upon me by the members of the Labour Party in electing me to succeed the honorable member for South Sydney as their leader. I am saying no more than is in my mind and heart when I state that no man who has seen his work, and knows what he has done, and is capable of doing, would lightly undertake the task which has been set me. But the duty of leading the party has devolved upon me by thechoice of its members, in whom I have the greatest confidence, and with whom I desire to work to the end of my political career. I trust that you, Mr. Speaker, the members of the House, and the people outside, will always place the most favorable construction upon anything I may say regarding political matters. I hope to have the sympathy and good-will of every honorable member who desires that theCommonwealth Parliament shall conduct its business with the dignity which should characterize it. I thank the Prime Minister and the honorable member for North Sydney for their kind expressions regarding me and our highly respected retiring leader. All that the Prime Minister has said regarding the honorable member for South Sydney finds an echo in the hearts of the members of the Labour Party, who sincerely wished that his health would allow him to remain leader as long as he was willing to occupy that position.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs made inquiries regarding the reported attempt to introduce into Australia a disease which would have the effect of destroying the rabbits? If so, can he give the House any information on the subject?
– I shall be glad to furnish to the honorable member to-morrow what information we possess on the subject.
– Have steps been taken to form a survey party to survey the route of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta?
– No steps can be taken until the motion now before the South Australian Parliament has been dealt with, lt was submitted last evening.
– Is it proposed to organize a survey party as soon as the necessary permission is given by the States of South Australia and Western Australia?
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in favour of fixing. the same hours and the same rates of wages for the postal officials in Launceston that are fixed for those in the Melbourne Post Office?
– Following the action of my predecessor, I have already taken steps to secure uniformity in the matter of hours throughout the Commonwealth, so far as that is possible, and a similar policy will be followed in the matter of wages.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs say how many distilling firms have furnished the information required by the Government as to conditions of labour?
– The dis-. tillers have been asked to furnish declarations by the end of this month, which expires to-morrow. I hope, therefore, to have information from all “of them within a day or two.
– When will the Bill to carry out the new protection policy be introduced, so that the trades likely to come under it may have an opportunity to ascertain how they are likely to benefit by its provisions ?
– It depends on the progress of the Tariff. The Bill is well advanced, so far as its general lines are con’cerned ; but, as I have already remarked, much criticism to which it must be subjected relates to the particular trades and employments to which it will be applied.These may need differing provisions. The Bill cannot be introduced until we have a fairly complete idea as to the industries which will be brought under it; but we are preparing for its application to all the industries likely to be affected ; and will thus be able, at short -notice, to lay it on the table.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that an order for the supply of uniforms, placed by the Corowa. Cadet Corps with the Parramatta Woollen Mills, has not yet been filled, although the clothing has been paid for, and that, as a result, considerable annoyance and irritation have been caused ? Can he expedite the matter in any way?
– I shall make inquiries, and hope to be able to inform the honorable member within a day or two.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that delays in the. transmission of telegrams in New South Wales have become very general, and that in many cases press telegrams have not reached their destination until hours after the newspapers for which they were intended had been published? I desire to know if the Minister will take steps to prevent a recurrence of the delays ?
– I am aware that there have been some delays. I “am also aware that my predecessor gave instructions, which are being carried out, for extra facilities being afforded where delays have taken place. ____ o
– I desire . to ask the Postmaster-General if he is aware that sweating is going on in various country post offices in New South Wales, and whether he will deal with specific cases if they are brought before him. I also desire to know whether, if specific cases are mentioned to him, the fact will prejudice the officers concerned?
– A number of cases have been . mentioned, but I have to say that this is a matter not within my absolute control. I have to consult with the Public Service Commissioner, and also with the Treasurer, who has to provide the funds ; but I am endeavouring, as far as possible, to deal with every case as liberally as I can.
– Supposing an honorable member were to bring a specific case before the Minister, would the fact prejudice the officer concerned?
– Certainly not- not in any way.
Duties on Curios and Shearing Machine Gear.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has asked me to answer the honorable member’s questions as’ follows -
Nothing is known in this Department of any refusal to admit free any collection of curios, but inquiry will be made. The Tariff, items 330 and 431, expressly exempts this class- of article from duty, and in interpreting these items the officers have been instructed to take a liberal view in favour of institutions like the Sydney Museum. ‘ It is believed that the collection referred to formed the subject of correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales, who was informed that the collection was apparently free, and also in terms of the last paragraph above. As to (3) (in question) only certain articles are free - see Tariff.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are. as follow -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What were the numbers of school cadets in New South Wales and Victoria respective! v for 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906?
– Some of the information it will be necessary to obtain from New South Wales.” Possibly in the course of a day or two I shall be able to’ lay on the table replies to the honorable member’s questions.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed - from 29th October, vide page 5283). .
Item 54. Fruits and Vegetables, viz. : - Fruits, Dried, viz. : -
Fruits and Vegetables, including Ginger (preserved in liquid, or partly preserved, or pulped) -
– I move -
That after the figure “ 2d,” paragraph b, the words “ and on and after 31st October,1907, free,” be inserted.
While I am’ quite willing to support the Government in regard to spirits and various other items for revenue purposes, I cannot vote for a duty on dates, which, when fruit is scarce, form one of the substitutes used by the multitude. If the date industry were one peculiarly suited to Australia, or one that had established a footing here, I should be willing to vote for a small duty, but not for a duty of 2d. per 1b. I am afraid, however, that the possibilities of the date industry in Australia are so very remote that it is not worth while imposing a duty.
– We can produce in Australia dates as good as any that can be produced.
– I should be willing to vote for a good bonus on the production of dates; but I would point out that date trees have to be planted many years before anything like an adequate return can be expected.
Question - That after the figure “2d.”, paragraph b, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, free “ proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Page) proposed -
That after the figure “2d.,” paragraph b, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb.,1d.” be inserted.
.-I desire to point out that prior to Federation, the duty on dates was 3d. per lb. in Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia.
– Is the honorable member in favour of a duty of1d., or what duty does he favour?
– I am in favour ofa duty of 2d. per lb., for the reason that dates come into serious competition with raisins, currants, and other dried fruits, and that they can be. produced in Australia, if the necessary encouragernent be given. I make an appeal to the Labour Party in connexion with this item, seeing that dates are produced in Persia and. Italy under the worst sweated conditions in the world. Every ton of dates imported means that, so far as other dried fruits are concerned, there is £16 or £17 per acre less paid in wages. The quantity of dates imported into the Commonwealth has increased from 2,803,910 lbs. in 1901 to 4,239,611 lbs. in 1906. These dates are produced under the most insanitary conditions, and the wages paid to the employes in the industry are practically nil. I think that if honorable members were to travel through the countries in which dates are grown they would resolve never to eat a date again. Seeing that we produce dried fruits under clean conditions, and that we pay fair wages to those engaged in that industry, we ought to hesitate before we break through our White Australia policy.
– Is not a protection of 100 per cent, sufficient?
– I hold in my hand an extract from The Mildura Cultivator, -which reads -
There are Mildura residents who have had considerable experience on steamers engaged in the transport of dates from Turkey, Arabia, and Persia. They can bear testimony to the filthy insanitary conditions under which this fruit is shipped. At Bassorah, on the Euphrates, the dates are dumped into the hold like coals, And when the space is filled up to within six feet or so of the top, rough matting is spread over them and emigrants are accommodated. These dirty vermin-covered and half-dressed specimens of the refuse of humanity are there confined during the horrors of a tropical journey. What with their sea-sickness, the bad ventilation, and the necessary incomplete sanitary provisions, these matting floors become scenes of indescribable filth.
If honorable members will take the trouble to peruse Mr. Beale’s report upon secret drugs, cures, and foods, they will see that that gentleman indorses the statements which I have read in this connexion. I thought that it was my duty to place these facts before the Committee.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera has failed to explain why, under the operation of a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates, Victoria has not been able to supply even her own requirements. I should like to know what assurance we have that operations will ever be started at Mildura to supply us with this fruit. I have consistently voted for protective duties to industries which are already in existence. But here is an industry which has not grown to any proportions worth mentioning. It seems to me that people do not trouble very much how their fruit is made up. If the conditions surrounding the importation of dates ure as bad as the honorable member Has pictured them- to be. we ought to prohibit the introduction of this fruit into the Com- . monwealth. Personally, I think that a duty of id. per lb. upon dates is quite sufficient.
– I should like honorable members to understand the duties which have been operative upon dates in the .various States. The duty originally proposed by the right .honorable member for Adelaide was 3d. per lb., and under -the. old Victorian Tariff a similar rate obtained.
In New Zealand the duty, which was formerly 2d. per lb., has been reduced very recently. Under the preferential Tariff in Canada, the impost upon dates is is. 8d. per 100 lbs. under the lower Tariff, and under the general Tariff, it is 2s. 7d. per 100 lbs. These are the duties levied in the countries I have mentioned. I realize that there are not very many dates grown in Australia at the present time,- but I fail to see why there should not be a large quantity grown here. Of course, if the Commonwealth continues to be inundated by importations of foreign dates, not only will the prospect of our ever being able to grow sufficient for our own requirements be diminished, but the sale of some of our other dried fruits will be injured. The Government think that it is a proper thing to increase the duty to the rate which was levied in some of the States prior to Federation.
– But the proposed duty is only 2d. per lb.
– The duty which formerly obtained in New Zealand was 2d. per lb., and in Victoria it was 3d. per lb. Under the first Commonwealth Tariff, the honorable member for Adelaide proposed that it should be 3d. per lb., but Parliament reduced it by id. per lb. I repeat, that the importation of dates prejudicially affects the production of other dried fruits in Australia. The Government will stand by the proposed duty.
– I thought that the Treasurer was going to agree to a reduction.
– I did not sayso. I did not say that I would agree to a duty of id. per lb.
– I thought that the Treasurer was going to allow the amendment to be agreed to upon the voices.
– No. The. honorable member himself stated that if I would accept a duty of id. per lb. he would vote with me. But I did not agree to ‘accept any such rate. The Government, intend to stand by their proposal. Those who desire either that dates shall be admitted at id. per lb., or that ‘ they shall be placed upon the free list, will vote accordingly. If the Committee reduce the rate proposed to id. per lb. U trust that the> payment of the bounty which Parliament has authorized will be of some assistance to the industry:
– We do riot mind the payment of -a bounty.
– Will the honorable member vote for the Iron Bounties Bill when I introduce it? If lie and those surrounding him would consent to do so, I do not know that I would not accept the duty of id. per lb. upon dates. The Government will stand by their proposal.
– I had thoroughly made up my mind to vote for a duty of id. per lb. upon dates until I heard the honorable” member for Wimmera make certain revelations regarding the insanitary conditions under which they are packed for export. His statement has somewhat disconcerted me. Honorable members ought to be a little bit careful as to what they say in this Chamber regarding the daily food of the people. Most terrible- revelations are made in this connexion from time to time. Quite recently a member of the party to which I belong informed me that he had been eating oysters, and that as a result he had been quite prostrated: To me there does not appear to be any reasonsable prospect of stimulating the industry of date production in Australia. Certainly Victoria is not suited to the industry, and a similar remark is applicable to New South Wales. At all events, there are practically no dates grown in the Commonwealth. But I desire chiefly to point out that for years past persons have been eating without any ill effects whatever dates which are alleged to be imported under insanitary conditions. The statements of the honorable member for Wimmera remind me of the story of Pasteur, who may be regarded as even a greater authority upon microbes and germs than is the honorable member himself. After having pointed out to some of his guests that it was extremely dangerous to consume, cherries without first dipping them in a finger bowl and washing them, Pasteur, in a fit of abstraction, drank the whole of the water in which he had been bathing his cherries, and lived, I think, twenty-seven years afterwards, to the. very great advantage of mankind. The honorable member for Wimmera has wandered along a. very well-beaten track, and I think that we ca,n well afford to disregard his representations in connexion with dates and to vote for a duty of id. per lb.
.- I feel in considerable doubt as to how I- shall vote until I receive an assurance from the Treasurer that he is not making a Cabinet question of this matter. When he declares that the Government intend to stand firm upon dates, I trust he is not intimating that any serious consequences will ensue if honorable members assert- that liberty of action which they occasionally desire to assert. The statement of the honorable member for Wimmera was a very impressive one. I think it was Lord Beaconsfield who said that every man in the course of his life must eat a certain quantity oof dirt. If that be so, I do not think that we can eat our proportion in any more agreeable form than that of dates. In the Australian bush these articles take the place of the chocolate creams which are consumed by the children in our cities. In this matter I. am speaking from practical experience. I used to indulge very freely in dates, and without any evil consequences. I should like to point out - and the representatives of country constituencies will corroborate my statement- that in far distant local?* ties dates are more the luxury of Australian children than is anything else. Under these circumstances, I trust that the Treasurer will allow us to vote according to our own consciences. -
.- I would point out that it is in the far distant localities of which the leader of the. Opposition has spoken (hat dates are produced. It is the residents of the backblocks who are interested in the maintenance of the present duty. Right on the extremes of settlement in the centre of Australia
– Is the honorable member speaking of the half-dozen date palms to be found on the South Australian border?
– I had the pleasure of visiting the date plantation at Hergott Springs a few months ago, and of sampling some of the fruit produced there. It is the oldest plantation in Australia;, though it is not the only plantation.
– Are the dates produced there of good quality?
– They are of splendid quality. In the plantation at Hergott Springs probably there are a thousand or two of trees, but at Lake Harry thereis a very much finer plantation. Theseplantations are Government institutions - the industry is entirely a socialistic one, inasmuch as the plantations were planted ana are owned and worked by the South Australian Government. Since the reduction. of the duty which was formerly levied the plantations have somewhat deteriorated. Possibly this is due to the fact that under the operation of a duty of id. per lb. it is scarcely worth while to cultivate dates. Of course the’ date palm takes a considerable time to come into bearing. The land within the artesian area of central Australia cannot be put to much use, and, I think, we might well consider the desirableness of encouraging the industry to the extent proposed by the Government. The impost would not press heavily upon the community.
.- This item relates to an industry within my electorate, and, naturally, like many other honorable members, I was disposed, at first sight, to support the higher duty. I find, however, that the value of our imports of this commodity last year was ,£21,556, upon which duty amounting to £16,699, or about 75 per cent, of the actual cost, was paid. If the industry at Lake Harry could not succeed with the old duty of id. per lb., plus the bounty, its outlook, cannot be a very good one. I do not intend to be inconsistent by voting for the higher duty.
Amendment agreed’ to. .
Item 55 (Fruits, n.e.i.)’ agreed to.
Item 56. Fruits, citrus, per lb., id.
.- Lemons and oranges are the only citrus fruits that we import, and they come principally from Sicily, at a time when the local growers cannot supply the market. This duty would absolutely prohibit imports. In 1906 we imported 41,422 centals, the duty paid on which amounted to £4,117. The value per cental was about 15s. 2¼d. The old duty was 2s. per cental, so that the duty now proposed is an increase of more than 100 per cent.
– We have adopted the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission.
– The Government proposal amounts to 4s. 2d. per cental as against a duty of 2s. per cental under the old Tariff. I do not wish at present to move an amendment, since the Minister may be able to give a satisfactory reason for the increase; but I think that we ought to revert to the old duty.
.- I intend to vote for the Government proposal. When one visits the Sydney wharfs and sees immense quantities of citrus fruits being landed from California, one cannot but be surprised that a heavy duty has not been imposed to encourage the local industry.
– This duty is more than double that which prevailed under the old Tariff.
– Quite so. I do not think that it is a fraction too high, and I hope that it will be agreed to. I. have seen immense consignments of citrus fruits from California.
– They generally come in during the off season.
– I am referring more particularly to lemons, which come in all the year round.
– They cannot compete with the locally grown lemons.
– They do. As a matter of fact, a large quantity of locally grown lemons is forced out of the market by these imports.
Item agreed to.
Item 57 (Ginger, green) agreed to.
Item 58. Peel, preserved in liquid, including the weight of the liquid, per lb., id.
.- The duty on this item is the same as that imposed under the old Tariff. I recently received through the Agricultural Department of South Australia a letter from the Secretary of the South Australian Fruitgrowers’ Association, suggesting the advisableness of increasing the duty from id., to 2d. per lb. in- the interests of the citrus fruit-growers of Australia.
– They are now profitably engaged in making peel.
– The industry is not very profitable. The Secretary of the South Australian Fruit-growers’ Association, writing under date 23rd September, 1907, states -
At present thousands of bushels of lemons are rotting in this State.
Most honorable members are aware that every year in most of the States thousands of bushels of lemons are allowed to rot. The lemon tree is a prolific bearer, and lemons are sold at almost any price, while a .great many are allowed to go to waste. The letter continues -
There is practically no demand for citrons or for preserving oranges. We can and do make good candied peel here, but labour in the south of Europe is so cheap that we cannot compete with them with only. id. per lb. duty on the peels imported in brine. The preparation of the peel involves a good deal of labour, hence our difficulty ; but I am informed by one in the trade that with a duty of 2d. per lb. they can more than hold their own, and could then find a use for all, or nearly all, the lemons grown here.
In a further letter on the subject the Secretary of the Association writes -
We hope that you will be able to secure an extra1d. duty on peel - especially peel in brine. This will probably increase the cost of the local peel from, say,5¾d. to 6d. per lb. (present rates So 6½d. or 7d.). When one considers that families use peel by the quarter pound it will be seen that this would really not be felt by any one; yet it will enable the local article to compete with the imported.
We cannot do very much for the primary producers, but we have in this case an opportunity to assist a fairly large section of them.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That the duty be increased to 2d. per lb. I think that the Committee will be with me in this. The industry is one well worth protecting. At the present time much of the lemon crop is often unsaleable, but if the peel were candied here a market would be found for the fruit, and a good deal of labour employed. I believe that the present price of candied peel is from5¾d. to 6d. per lb., but even if it were raised to9d. or10d. per lb., the increase would not be much felt, because a lb. of candied peel goes a long way in the cooking operations of an ordinary household.
– I hope that the Minister will not propose to increase the duty. A strong argument against compliance with the suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby is that an ultra-protectionist Ministry has not seen fit to propose a higher rate, and that, when in 1901 the right honorable member for Adelaide proposed a duty of 3d., the Com- mittee laughed at the proposal. It is all very well to say that consumers will not be affected by a slight increase in the price of any particular article, but it must be remembered that the sum total of small increases in the prices of articles which are practically luxuries to those whose earnings range upto 40s. a week is considerable. If we increase the price of bananas, dates, candied peel, and other fruits, which ina climate like this are. necessaries, rather than luxuries, it becomes a, serious matter to those whose incomes are small.
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby. According to the honorable member for Angas, the Ministry, in connexion with every other item, has made the mistake of proposing duties which are too high. Surely, then, it is possible that in this instance it may have made a mistake in the other direction. When at Mildura, about two years ago, I saw thousands of bushels of lemons - magnificent fruit - rotting. But I understand that things are a little better now, because in Melbourne they have started to preserve lemon juice and to candy lemon peel. It would be absurd, however, seeing that lemons are so plentiful here, to allow peel candied in Sicily by the cheapest labour to be imported.
– The honorable member would not listen when I used a similar argument in support of a duty on treacle.
– Treacle is not imported.
– That is so. But 600,000 lbs. of peel are imported.
– Surely a higher duty is not needed for the protection of the industry here, seeing that lemons are so plentiful that they are allowed to rot?
– It costs a good deal to bring lemons from Mildura to a manufacturing centre, and wages here are higher than they are in the places from which we import peel. Whenever labour in other parts of the world is as well paid as it is in Australia, I shall be willing to cease subsidizing our own industries, but under present conditions I think it better to vote for protection, even though it may slightly increase the prices of some articles, because it gives employment to our own people, and allows our food to be manufactured under sanitary conditions. In other places it is not always so manufactured. According to the Mildura people the increase of this duty would give a larger market for lemons.
– There is already a duty of 3d. per lb. on candied peel ; the suggested increase is in the duty on peel, imported in pickle or brine, and, I suppose, candied here. As the value of the imported peel is less than1d. per lb., the present duty of 1d. per lb. gives a protection of over 100 per cent. Surely there must be some mistake about the figures.
– There is no mistake. The peel that is imported can be candied here. In passing item54, we agreed to a duty of 3d. per lb. on imported candied peel.
– As the Government has proposed a duty of1d. per lb., and as that was the duty under the old Tariff, and the recommendation of theprotectionist wingof the Tariff Commission, I think we ought not to disturb the rate.
– I believe in encouraging manufactures which can be carried on here, so long as the duties which are imposed are not abused by the manufacturers. In such cases, I am in favour of lowering the rate. I am opposed to the imposition of duties on commodities, such as dates, which we cannot produce here. I think, however, that there should be a duty on currants, which we can produce in abundance, while every one knows that in New South Wales lemons grow prolifically, so that thousands of cases of fruit often go to waste. Under these circumstances, a higher duty may stimulate the present industry without increasing prices. If, in consequence of the duty, prices are raised unfairly, it will be competent for the Government to step in. We should not encourage the importation from abroad of raw material such as could be produced here. The honorable member for Wimmera tried to disparage the date imports, but I find that dates are put up largely in London. The candied peel which is imported, however, comes direct from foreign countries, where we cannot be sure that the mode of manufacture is the most cleanly, and we should insist that the greatest care be taken in the manufacture of food supplies. The honorable member for Hindmarsh seemed to suggest that things which are produced abroad by. cheap labour are sold here cheaply, but, as a matter of fact, the importers often so fix prices that the consumers pay out of all proportion to the cost of production, and it does not, therefore, follow that cheap labour means low prices.
.- As the honorable member for Angas has shown, the Committee is taxing both the necessaries and the luxuries of the poor, adding1d. here and1d. there, without giving them anything in return. In the older countries of the world, notwithstanding their high protection, there are thousands ofpersons who cannot get meat to eat once a week, while here few are satisfied unless ‘they have it three times a day. Our people also burn the best of candles, and enjoy at a cheap rate luxuries which are beyond the reach of those who have to bear heavy Tariff burdens. We in New South Wales have enjoyed these advantages because of our free-trade. Now, we are unwisely binding ourselves with Tariff shackles, but the day will come when the name of the Treasurer will be execrated.
– I shall take all the responsibility.
– That is a common cry. Every man who blunders along in his public work declares that his back is broad enough to bear the responsibility. But what relief is that to the people who suffer ? This industry, of all others, is one which needs no duty. As a matter of fact, the market for this class of goods is not in Australia. The trade, being an export one, the competition of the world has to be faced. I had the pleasure of making a. trip to Mildura at the same time as did the honorable member for Hindmarsh ; and, on that occasion, I was presented with a small pamphlet, entitled Souvenir of Mildura, from which I should like to make the following quotation -
There are also nearly1,000 acres under orange and lemon trees. The fruit produced by the Mildura citrus groves is of a quality unsurpassed in Australia, and, generally speaking, with proper attention to the trees, good crops are secured. Instances are known of lemon orchards yielding from 500 to 600 cases of fruit per acre, and 200 cases per acre is a not at all uncommon yield for either oranges or lemons. There does not appear to be much inducement for further extensive lemon planting.
– Of course not.
– And why?
– Because we are not manufacturing.
– Because we are not. manufacturing ! We are only 4,000,000 of people; and is it contended that manufacturers of candied peel could find a market here?
– Will not Australia expand, and thus provide a market?
-The expansion will come later, when the population has increased ; at present it is our primary industries that we desire to see expand. Let me proceed with the quotation -
Theredoes not appear to be much inducement for further extensive lemon planting, as there is no export market for this fruit, but given sufficient enterprise -
The pamphlet does not speak of protection or anything of thatsort, but of enterprise, and it is enterprise that we ought to encourage. The quotation proceeds - to secure the tapping of the London market from September to December, during which months the quantity of oranges at present available to the Imperial metropolis is insignificant, the orange industry should be capable of great expansion.
I, therefore, urge that this is one of the industries which does not need any increase in the duty.
.- The request for an increased duty is not confined to the fruit-growers of South Australia, but is general throughout the Commonwealth. The fruit-growers of New South Wales, when making their request that the duty should be raised, stated -
We would draw your attention to the fact that we produce sufficient citrous fruits (lemons in particular) here at the present to supply the whole requirements of the Commonwealth, and that last year thousands of cases of lemons rotted under the trees -
It will be seen, therefore, that there is no want of enterprise - and yet under our present Tariff, Italy and America have been able to continue their competition with us, even in these depressed circumstances.
Does not the honorable member for Hunter see that the principal use of lemon trees is “to provide the raw material for the manufacture of candied peel- - that the object of growing lemons is to ultimately produce the manufactured article? Of course, there. is a market for lemons for drinks, and so forth ; but there is a much greater market for lemon peel, of which some 600,000 lbs. was imported last year. If a protective duty were imposed, and some handicap placed on the Italian and ‘American manufacturers, Australian lemons would be used for the making of peel. That would mean a better price for the grower, though I do not know whether the price would be raised to the consumer ; that might, or might not, be an effect.
– If lemons are rotting on the ground, why cannot we compete, if there is not a want of enterprise ?
– What is the use of the honorable member taking that view? The lemons are rotting on the ground simply because there is no use for them so long as the candied peel is imported. If a duty be imposed, such as has been suggested, the local lemons will be turned into peel. If ever a protective duty were justified, it is in such a case as this; and I am rather surprised at the attitude of the Government and of honorable members, after the action we have taken in regard to dates, which represent comparatively a minor enterprise. The request of the growers all over Australia has, apparently, been neglected or overlooked; and I appeal to the Treasurer to show that he has the interests of horticulturists at heart. I think the Treasurer must admit that a duty such as I have suggested would be of infinitely more assistance than other duties which have been proposed. In the Progress Report, signed by both sides of the Commission, there is the following: -
Only one of the fruit merchants who appeared before your Commission gave any information concerning this article. He said that the jam and candy peel manufacturers imported very large quantities of peel in brine from Sicily. . . The preference shown for the imported peel was not due to damaged local lemons being turned into peel in brine. It was impossible to turn- a damaged lemon into peel; it was only fit for pulp. An extra duty would impose a handicap upon manufacturers.
An extra ‘duty certainly would impose a handicap on manufacturers who desire to use only the imported article. I urge that this is a fair case for an increased duty ; and I should like to know whether the Treasurer proposes to take any action. An extra duty would mean the employment of a considerable amount of labour, and the utilization of what is at present a waste product.
– I do not desire, unless under very exceptional circumstances, to alter any of the proposals I have submitted. The honorable member will recognise that it is a serious matter to propose an increase of duty. This, question has been considered by the Department in its relation to the other items to which I have referred, and on which a duty of 3d. is charged; and, under the circumstances, I do not think that the Government can support an increase. The honorable member knows that I desire to give all the protection I can.
Item agreed to.
Item 59. Bananas, per cental, is.
. -I move -
That the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, free,” be added.
Perhaps the shortest way of giving my reasons for this amendment would be to read the following letter which I have received : -
Sydney, 2nd August, 1907.
In view of the -importance of the recent visit of the Colonial Secretary of Fiji, the Hon. A. W. Mahaffy, M.L.C., to the Federal Minister of Trade and Customs, and the representations then made by him on behalf of his Government in favour of establishing reciprocal relations in regard to the export and import of commodities between Australia and Fiji, I have the honour by direction of an important meeting of merchants and others associated with the Fijian trade, held at New Zealand Chambers, Georgestreet, Sydney, on Friday, 2nd August, to place before you what the meeting considers to be cogent reasons why the specific request made by the Hon. Mr. Mahaffy for the removal of the duties now imposed upon bananas particularly, and other fruits and produce coming to Australia from Fiji, should receive serious consideration by you when the Tariff is being revised in the Federal Parliament : -
I earnestly commend the foregoing to your earnest consideration. Establish a great trade with Fiji and it will also gradually grow in bulk and extend in the groups of the Pacific. Now that the Government has been approached by the Fijian Administration the opportunity should be seized to extend our trade and influence throughout the Islands of the Pacific, and particularly with Fiji.
I beg to remain,
Yours faithfully, thomas Jessep.
Of course I recognise that I must speak with bated breath upon the subject of bananas in the presence of some of the representatives of Queensland, but I would point out that this industry is really not a while man’s industry, and that it chiefly affords employment to Chinese, who are said to have formed a combine. Consequently the protection which it is proposed to ex tend to it is a protection to the employment of Asiatics, who in Northern Queensland possess a monopoly of the banana industry.
– I trust that the Committee will not agree to the amendment. The price of bananas at the present time is a very low one. Good bananas can be purchased for about 4d. to 6d. per dozen.
– They are being retailed at 1s. a dozen in Sydney.
– I purchased them very recently for 4d. and 5d. per dozen. The statement of the honorable member for Lang that the industry is a cheap labour one is utter nonsense.
– It is a Chinese industry.
– Any white man can grow bananas.
Colonel Foxton. - White men do grow them.
– The statement that white persons are unable to cultivate this fruit is sheer nonsense.
– Why do they not do it?
– They do. In Queensland the bulk of the bananas are grown by white labour. The plant has simply to be planted and looked after in the same way as has an apple tree. I trust that the Committee will not agree to the reduction of the duty. The Government have not proposed any increase in the old rate. They have adopted the recommendation of the A section of the Tariff Commission, and there is really no reason why protection should not be accorded to the banana industry in Queensland and in any other tropical part of Australia.
.- The reasons advanced by the honorable member for Lang in favour of a reduction of the proposed duty are not sufficient.
– I could advance a few more.
– The honorable member might advance arguments all day, and even then they might not be sufficient from the stand-point of being convincing. His principal point was that a reciprocal treaty should be arranged between Fiji and the Commonwealth.
– That may come afterwards.
– I merely wish to point out that if we abolish the duty upon bananas it will be impossible to arrange for reciprocity in connexion with this item. The honorable member might therefore allow the duty to remain as it stands with a view to subsequently arranging for reciprocal treatment.
.- I shall certainly support the amendment of the honorable member for Lang. As we had a big fight upon this matter some five or six years ago I think that we ought to compress our remarks into the smallest possible compass. In 1901 Fiji did exhibit a great dea of discontent owing to the taxation imposed upon her exports. In a cablegram which appeared in the Argus it was pointed out that the trade between Fiji and Australia was a growing one. Surely those islands are not such formidable competitors that we ought to attempt to fight them upon the principle of retaliation. It was also pointed out that the fruits that we ought to consume largely, such, as peanuts, figs, and bananas, ‘ were -the principal exports from Fiji. As a matter of fact, I. hold that bananas should be admitted free, because of f. the’ very low place ‘ which they occupy in the. scale of. food products. Viewed from the stand-point of their nutritious properties, peanuts head the list,whereas bananas occupy only a middle place. An ordinary child, to obtain a reasonable amount of nourishment from 1-ananas, would require to consume about a dozen. . As a matter of fact, no man could possibly carry within “his hold a sufficient quantity of bananas to keep him alive.
.- Having recently visited the northern portion of Queensland, I know the conditions under which bananas are produced there, and I know that white men can grow them. But I wish specially to point out that during last winter Sydney residents were called upon to pay as much as is. 6d. per dozen for extra choice bananas. A shilling per dozen had to be paid for fruit of an average quality, and gd. a dozen for what was practically rubbish. These high prices were not due to the operation of the Tariff. The fact is that there is a Chinese combine in bananas. I should like the Queensland representatives to give us a little information concerning that combine. The fact that such a combine exists does not say much for our White Australia policy. I want to know if it is not possible to smash this combine, and to hand the industry over to white labour?
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [4-40] - I view with scepticism the statement of the honorable member for New England that a Chinese combine exists which regulates the trade in bananas.
– There is no doubt that it does regulate the trade from Queensland to South Australia.
Colonel FOXTON.- I doubt that statement, and I will tell the honorable member why. The bulk of the bananas which come from Queensland are not grown by Chinamen. South of Mackay, one can scarcely find a Chinaman who grows bananas. How, then, can the trade be under the- control of the Chinese sufficiently to permit of them dominating the market?
– The Fiji bananas probably do that.
Colonel FOXTON.- In Queensland, bananas are chiefly grown in the neighbourhood of the Logan River, and principally by Germans. If a combine does exist, it is probable that it is a combine amongst the fruiterers rather than amongst the Chinese. I understand that a combine exists amongst the Greek and Italian fruiterers.
– There is a combine amongst them in the matter of fish and fruit.
Colonel FOXTON.- I cannot understand how the trade in a fruit, which is largely grown by Europeans and principally by Germans, can be so manipulated by Chinese as to permit of them controlling the market, when, as far as I am ‘ able to judge, they have no means of securing a monopoly.
– They might purchase the bananas wholesale.
Colonel FOXTON. - The growers would have nothing to do with that. Of course, the Chinese might form a combine in that way, just as well as .the Greeks. But there is no reason to suppose that there is a combine amongst the Chinese which is responsible for the increased price of bananas.
– Then, how does the honorable member account for the extraordinary price?
Colonel FOXTON.- The off-season will account for it. The honorable member cannot expect to fee able to purchase bananasall the year round at the same price. The prices of other fruits besides bananas are subject to fluctuations consequent upon their being out of season. I rose chiefly to combat the statement of the honorable member for’ Lang that the bulk of the bananas grown in Queensland are’ produced by Chinese. Undoubtedly, in the Far North a good many Chinese do grow this particular fruit, and I suppose that it is not possible to arrive at any certain conclusion as to the proportion which is grown by Europeans and by Chinese respectively. At the same time, I imagine that, in Queensland, the greater quantity is produced by European labour.
.- I shall certainly vote for the proposed duty of is. per cental upon bananas, and I hope that the Government, in framing their Excise proposals, will provide that unless this fruit is grown by white labour, the growers shall be required to pay an Excise of is. per cental. Why should not the Chinese growers in Northern Queensland be subjected to precisely similar conditions to those imposed upon the blacks who are producing bananas in the Pacific Islands? I trust that the Government will act in the way I have suggested, and if they fail to do so, I hope that Parliament will take the necessary action.
– This question excited a good deal of attention in a previous Parliament when the first Commonwealth Tariff was under consideration. We were then assured that by the imposition of a duty upon bananas we should develop the industry to a sufficient extent to insure an abundant and cheap supply. Yet the fact remains that we still have to import a considerable quantity of bananas. The honorable member for New England has very justly complained of the high prices which] obtain in Sydney for this fruit during portion of the year. When the Tariff of 1902 was under consideration, we were assured that there was not a great deal of genuine competition between Queensland and Fijian bananas, for the reason that the seasons differ in the two countries. We were informed that the Fijian bananas were introduced at a time when the Queensland banana was not on the market. . .
Colonel Foxton. - Who made that statement ?
– It was made by several honorable members, who seemed to be fully seized of the facts relating to the industry, and was referred to as a possible reason for, the very high prices obtaining in Sydney and Melbourne during portion of the year. Last year 146,250 centals of bananas were imported, on which duty, amounting to £’.319 was paid. In the circumstances, therefore, I think we should reduce the duty, so. as to cheapen.) the price of this product at a time when the Queensland banana cannot be placed on the local market, or at all events cannot besold at a reasonable rate. There is another: aspect of this question which strongly appeals to me. The Commonwealth is, or should be, in very close touch with the South Sea Islands, including Fiji and the New Hebrides. Large importations and1, close commercial relations which obtain between Fiji, the New Hebrides, and the southern parts of the Commonwealth, however, have been disturbed by the imposition of this duty. If we can do so without injuring a local industry, we should endeavour to encourage these trading relations with the islands, rather than -allow them to be cultivated by other peoples whoare possibly hostile to Australia and the Empire generally.. I hope that the Committee will agree to this item being placed on the free list, or at all events to se reduction of the duty
– Since the honorable member for Brisbane appears to doubt the existence of a combine in connexion with the distribution of bananas in the Commonwealth, I would* point out that there is not a white man inSouth Australia or Victoria who can sell a bunch of. bananas that has not passed through the hands of a Chinese:
Colonel Foxton. - Not a Greek nor an< Italian?
– Neither an Italiannor any other white man iri Victoria or SouthAustralia can sell a bunch of bananas which has not been passed through the hands of a Chinese. I have gathered this information not only in Adelaide and Melbourne, but also in Queensland. I understand that the whole trade, from Brisbane northwards, is in the hands of Chinese.
Colonel Foxton. - That is not so.
– I am speaking not of the growing, but of the distribution of bananas, and I think that in imposing aduty we should endeavour to ascertain if steps cannot be taken to break up this ring of .coloured men. I should prefer the Commonwealth to draw the whole of its supplies of bananas from’ Queensland, and I hope that if this duty be imposed .for the protection of the local industry, the Minister of Trade and Customs will take steps, if possible, to exclude the Chinese from the4 trade. I have proof that there is a -com-, bine of coloured men in .connexion with the distribution. .of bananas. . . Our policy should be to encourage not only the white producer, but the white distributor, and I hope that the honorable member for Brisbane and others will support any effort that may be made in that direction.
.- The question of the desirableness of imposing a duty on bananas was completely threshed out in this House some five or six years ago, when the first Federal Tariff was under consideration. That being so, I do not propose to occupy the attention of the Committee for more than two or three minutes. I rose principally to confirm the statement made by the honorable member for Brisbane, that the cultivation of bananas south of Mackay is wholly in the hands of Europeans. It is true that on the Johnstone River in North Queensland, as well as in the Cairns district, a large number of Chinese’ are to be found, and I should be glad if the Parliament would take the step which I suggested when the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was under consideration, and legislate for the deportation of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asiatics. I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that not many Chinese are employed in cultivating bananas in Queensland. Certainly no Chinese are so engaged in Southern Queensland, and there are very few, if any, south of Mackay. I do not think that the duty of is. per cental seriously affects the selling price of bananas. It has been said that there is a difference between the seasons in Queensland and Fiji, but I am under the impression that when bananas are plentiful in the one place they are plentiful in the other. If there be such a combine as has been suggested, I am inclined to.think that it has nothing to do with Australian grown bananas.
– It has.
– I hope that is not so. A very large quantity of bananas is grown in’ the northern parts of New South Wales, so that representatives of that State should be interested in the desire to preserve the industry.
– I have never seen any growing in Northern New South Wales. I believe that efforts to cultivate the banana near Brisbane have failed.
– Bananas are grown from Brisbane down to the Tweed River. The honorable member for Moreton will confirm that statement. When I was travelling through the electorate of Moreton some time ago I saw large areas of land under bananas, and I feel confident that the. Committee will agree to this item.
– - I would suggest to the Committee the advisableness of allowing this- item to go for the present. I understand that the Prime Minister has definitely promised to make a declaration of the future policy of Australia in regard tb the whole of the surrounding islands, and particularly with respect to the New Hebrides. Naturally all kinds of trade with the islands, including the trade in bananas, will, when the declaration is made, come under review, so that I think we might very well defer the consideration of this item until the proposals in question are submitted to the House.
.- I favour the reduction proposed by the honorable member for Lang. Since the imposition of this duty about five years ago the price of bananas in New South Wales has been practically doubled. Bananas that we used to get for about sd. per dozen now cost od.
– They can still be bought for 5d. and 6d. per dozen.
– They cannot be obtained at the present time for 5d. or 6d. per dozen in any shop in Sydney. Firstclass bananas now cost from is. to is. 6d. per dozen. To my mind the Fijian bananas are superior to the Queensland production, and the duty has caused an increase in price of the higher-class article. Prices have advanced from 50 to 100 per cent, since the imposition of the duty. The consideration mentioned by the honorable member for Calare also strongly appeals to me. We should endeavour to promote the trade between Australia and Fiji ; but New Zealand is hankering after it and trying to divert it to her ports. We desire tq do all we can to bring the Commonwealth into close touch with the South Sea islands,, and if we are to have a definite policy in relation to the islands we must be careful not to do anything that will hamper our trade with them.
.- I wish to read two or three lines of the evidence given on this subject before the Tariff Commission. At page 830 of the Minutes of Evidence it will be found that Mr. Lancelot Lewis Earl said -
Without such importations at certain seasons of the year it would be impossible to continue the distributing business. .
In answer to question 25,600 the witness, dealing with the duty on bananas, said -
The duty on fruit is actually higherthan it appears to be. For instance, although the duty on bananas is only1s. per cental, the duty on the fruit itself is really much more, inasmuch as the stalks are weighed in.
The duty on the fruit itself, therefore, is perhaps 50 per cent, higher than it appears to be.
Item agreed to.
Item 60 (Vegetables n.e.i.) agreed to.
Item 61. Vegetables, dried, drysalted, concentrated compressed, or powdered, ad val., 20 per cent.
That after the word “ powdered “ the words “ herbs dried (not medicinal),” be inserted.
As the Tariff stands, the duty on dried vegetables is 20 per cent., and that on dried herbs - item 70 - 4d. per lb. I cannot see any reason for this distinction. Both vegetables and herbs can be grown and dried in the Commonwealth, but dried vegetables are used directly by the consumers, whereas dried herbs are the raw material of the butchering trade and other manufacturing industries.
– Is it necessary to import dried herbs.?
– It must be necessary, because they are imported, the consumption not being large enough to make it profitable to produce themhere. Surely the Treasurer does not wish to handicap manufacturers.
– I have not been credited with paying consideration to the reports of the TariffCommission, although in many cases, as in this instance, I have given effect to its recommendations. The “ A “ section of the Commission point out that the soil and climate of Australia are admirably adapted for the production of herbs of all kinds, and recommend the imposition of a duty of 4d. per lb. on dried herbs.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
– Am I too late to move that dried herbs be admitted free ?
– The honorable member cannot move that now.
Item 62 (Onions) agreed to.
Item 63. Potatoes, in their natural state, per cwt,1s.
.- The Treasurer has given no reason for the proposed duty on potatoes.
– No increase is proposed.
– That is no reason why the consumers should continue to be burdened with this duty. The honorable member for Wilmot has been very desirous to remove duties on the necessaries of life when the industries of Tasmania have not been affected.
– I did not wish to take off the duty on sugar.
– I should like to take off the duty on sugar, but I am a believer in the White Australia policy, and know that protection is necessary to give effect to it. But no such reasons can be adduced in support of the proposal now under discussion. I therefore move -
That the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, free,” be added.
– I hope that the Committee will see the wisdom of retaining the duty on potatoes: It was unanimously recommended by the Tariff Commission.
– The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission recommended a duty of 20 per cent.
– There is very little difference between a duty of 20 per cent. and a duty of1s. per cwt. in many cases. The proposed rateisa fair one, and should be agreed to by the Committee for the reasons for which we agreed to the duty on sugar, it being understood, when Federation wasinaugurated, that existing industries would be protected. I look upon that as a bargain to which we are in honour bound to give effect. The matter is a small one, because, although there are seasons when the duty may operate, it has not been operative since the union of the States. This season potatoes have sold in Tasmania for as little as£1 a ton.
– Now they are selling at £6 a ton.
– That is because the season has been such a peculiar one. I hope that the Committee will give effect to the compact entered into with the farmers of Tasmania when Federation was agreed upon.
Mr. STORRER (Bass) [5.13). - I intend to support the proposal of the Government, especially since some of our neighbours have been to Tasmania for seed potatoes, and are likely therefore to come into active competition with Tasmanian farmers unless we protect the latter. I believe that the rate proposed is quite high enough, in the interests of both producers and consumers.
– I am opposed to this duty ; but the attitude of the honorable member for Wilmot in regard to it astonishes me. He was an enthusiastic opponent of the duties on currants and raisins.
– I was not in the Chamber when those duties were being discussed.
– Some cataclysm mayhave overturned the cherished convictions of years, so that the pyramid no longer stands upon- its base, but upon its apex, tottering to its fall ; but I know of nothing which will account for his conversion. In times gone by we have known members to be free-traders in regard to all things but salt, and the honorable member for Wilmot has made a similar fall. I represent a -densely populated district, where the price of food is of great importance. Potatoes are a, very important part of the daily diet of the greater portion of the people of the country ; and I emphatically protest against- the notoriously and obviously selfish conduct of such honorable members as the honorable member for Wilmot. I can understand, appreciate, and even admire men who, from conviction, are in favour of a protective .policy ; but I utterly fail to either appreciate or admire the action of the honorable member. I remember when, a few weeks ago, I intimated my intention not to vote for the taxation of food products, the honorable member, who was sitting near, said that he would stand by me in that attitude. This was the Horatius who elected to hold the bridge with me. Now, however, without any apology or explanation, he proposes to impose a tax on a primary article of consumption. The honorable member says that this is “ part of the bargain.”
– So it is.
– The honorable member holds that it is part of the bargain that primary products shall be protected; and this while his words are scarcely cold in which he spoke in favour of removing- the duty from currants and raisins. Happy is the lot of the primary producer when he is represented by such a convenient, advocate as the honorable member 1 His idea isthat the primary producer shall have all his commodities free, while on all he sellsthere shall be a thumping duty.
– Can the honorable member show that a duty of is. has ever increased the price of potatoes to his suffering constituents?
– The honorable member has entered into a discussion of the merits of which he knows absolutely nothing. The price of potatoes is now £6 or ^7 a ton, and is rapidly rising. There is every prospect of a drought throughout the land, and the value of all kinds of foodstuffs is being enhanced; and yet this free-trader comes forward with his trumpery proposal for a tax on potatoes, on the ground that it is “part of .the bargain.” It was never part of the bargain that an honorable man should betray his principles; and I do not hesitate to say very seriously that, if there is one thing we ought not to be asked to do, it is to tax the basic food products of the people. That I shall never do; and surely the people of Tasmania will not reecho the sentiments of the honorable member for Wilmot. I do not think that the people of Tasmania desire to make money in such a way at the expense of the people of Australia. I much grieve at the attitude of the honorable member for Bass, but evil example contaminates the best, and it was certainly owing to the honorablemember for Wilmot that the honorable member for Bass fell. I call upon the honorable member for Wilmot to do what he promised some weeks ago, and stand by me in order to guard the bridge, which is fast disappearing under the thunderous blows of the protectionist party. I hope later on to be able to give the honorable member another chance to distinguish himself in regard to food products. Personally, my attitude in regard to this item shall be as hitherto; I shall not vote for any increase in the duty on potatoes or other food products. I shall, so far asfood products are concerned, vote for a removal of duties, or for the lowest duties compatible with, obtaining revenue for the carrying on of -the business of the country >.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney contendsthat the honorable member for Wilmot isnot the “clean potato,” >so far as the item before us is concerned, and would have usbelieve that he himself is the only-“ clear* potato “ in regard to all food products. But if we take the trouble to look at his own column we can see that it is broken in several places. On many occasions I have, with the brutal selfishness of afreetrader, voted for the lowest duties on food supplies, and have openly said that, when protection affectsmy own electorate, I shall be a bit of a protectionist ; and I have sustained that attitude consistently throughout. The honorable member for Wilmot has toldus that Federation would nothave been accomplished without protection for the potato industry - without protection for the primary industries. I think the honorable member is in error, because I do not remember that the acceptance or rejection of the: Constitution was said to depend on any such understanding. There is not the slightest doubt that the drought is increasing prices; and, under the circumstances, I do not see why we should impose a duty of this character. The Treasurer for once has told us the naked truth - that he will accept the recommendation of both sections of the Tariff Commission. But it is remarkable that the honorable gentleman should accept the recommendation of the Tariff Commission in this respect, and reject those of their recommendations which affect many other commodities in general consumption. I shall vote for the proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa. I can see no reason why the potato industry should be encouraged, in view of the fact that it is an industry natural to the country. If a drought should come, we must get our supplies from New Zealand, or anywhere else we can ; and it is only in time of drought that a duty of this kind can operate.
– The New Zealand people cannot grow enough potatoes for themselves.
– Then why is a duty necessary ? Surely it isnot contemplated that potatoes will be sent here from Ireland? I regret thatthe honorable member for West Sydney should have gone out of his way to attack the honorable member for Wilmot, who is a member of the party to which I belong.
– Although we desire this debate to progress, a speech of the nature of that delivered by the honorable member for West Sydney requires a few words in reply. Thehonorable member has had the audacity to lecture another member of the Committee for inconsistency. But if we observe the votes given by the honorable member for West Sydney, we shall not be able to find greater inconsistency exhibited in this Parliament. The honorable member has just now told us that he has determined not to vote for duties on food products - that he has not done so, and is not going to do so. But from the division-list last night, I see that the honorable member voted against a proposed reduction of duty in the case of what is certainly a food, namely, dried or preserved fish.
– Order !
– I allude to that division only incidentally, because the honorable member for West Sydney spoke of inconsistency.
– That is only a secondary kind of food.
– I should regard it as a primary and necessary kind of food, especially when meat is dear. However, if we refer to the votes of the honorable member for West Sydney on this Tariff, and on the previous Tariff, it will be seen how utterly inconsistent he has been. Yet he ventures to lecture another member of the Committee who, in one instance, has departed from what the honorable member for West Sydney chooses to assume is the policy of that honorable member. I think we have had quite enough of this. We desire more consistency and fewer comparisons made by those who are inconsistent. I understand that the honorable member for West Sydney, during the late elections, assured his constituents that, while the Tariff is, in” his opinion, high in some respects, he is not responsible for that fact; but that his responsibility would be to reduce the excessive duties as far as. he could. I have looked in vain for his fulfilment of that promise. Certainly, as regards his statement that he has not voted for. duties on foodstuffs, I refer honorable members to his vote last night; and, in regard to other articles, which, though foods, may not be . considered so necessary as fish, he has also voted for higher duties. Under these circumstances, he should be the last to claim consistency, or to attack another on the ground of inconsistency.
– I hope that the Committee will agree to the proposed duty, which, viewed from the stand-point of our small importations, has proved fairly effective. Further, potato growing is one of the industries into which small holders can enter. I know of many instances in which persons are growing potatoes upon 10-acre farms. I do not think that the imposition of a small duty upon potatoes will have the effect of increasing their price. Experience has shown that the very reverse is the case.
Item agreed to.
Item 64 - Potato flour, per lb., 2d.
.- Will the Treasurer be good enough to inform the Committee what potato flour really is? I know that it is some form of starch largely used for dressings, but in view of the fact that both sections of the Tariff Commission have recommended the imposition of a duty of½d. per lb., which was the rate operative under the old Tariff, I should like the honorable gentleman to explain why he proposes an increase amounting to about 400 per cent. This is not a laundry starch.
– In reply to the honorable member, I may say that potato flour is a substitute for starch, and that it is very difficult to differentiate between the two substances. Consequently, it should be placed in the same category as starch, which, if a product of the Mother Country, is dutiable at 2d. per lb.
– Is not potato flour also an edible compound?
– It is used as starch, but I do not think that it is used much for anyother purpose.
Colonel Foxton. - It is used by confectioners for moulding and dressing.
– My information is that it is chiefly used as a substitute for starch, and that consequently it should be placed in the same category. That information was obtained from the Department.
– The Department does not know everything.
– It knows most things. At any rate, that is the information which has been supplied to me.
.- When the previous item was under consideration the Treasurer stated, as a reason why the proposal of the Government should be supported, that they had adopted the recommendation of the
Tariff Commission, and also the old rate of duty. But in respect of potato flour, the Government have ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which was½d. per lb., and also the old rate of duty,, and have proposed an increase to 2d. per lb.
– More trouble is experienced in distinguishing between starch and potato flour than is experienced in the case of almost any other item on the Tariff.
– Potato flour is a starch, but it is not used as a substitute for laundry starch. It is chiefly used by confectioners for moulding purposes, and there is no reason why the duty upon it should be increased to the extent of 400 per cent. I therefore move -
That the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb.,.½d.,” be added.
.- If potato flour is really a form ofstarch, why is it not incorporated in the Tariff under the heading of starch?
– The Department experience great difficulty in preventing it from being imported under a lower rate of duty than that levied upon starch.
– I have received a letter from an authoritative source in reference to this item, an extract from which reads -
Under the old Tariff the duty was½d. per lb., and this, with transfer charges, &c, amounted to an impost of about83 per cent. Potato flour, so far as we can ascertain, is not made in Australia, nor likely to be made, as the consumption is very small. We beg to state that such a duty as 2d. per lb. on an article costing £10 per ton f.o.b. shipping port - and often under said price - is a decided hardship on those manufacturers who use it for moulding and dressing purposes.
In the absence of fuller information, I shall be compelled to support the amendment.
– I hope that the honorable member will not do that, because there is very good reason for the imposition of the additional duty.
.- Evidently the Treasurer does not understand anything about this particular item. He does not know what potato flour is. If two substances which are almost identical in their composition are sought to be imported, it is for the Customs experts to decide what those substances are.
– The honorable member is not an expert.
– I may tell the Treasurer that potato flour is imported in very small quantities indeed, and it is chiefly introduced for the purpose of imparting a polish to various ropes and cordages, such as window-blinds, which, under the Tariff, are dutiable at 25 per cent. Yet the Government now propose to levy an increased duty upon an article which is not made locally, and is not likely to be. Both sections of the Tariff Commission recommend the imposition of a duty of Jd. per lb.
– Are we to be tied always to the recommendations of the Commission, even if good reason can be shown for departing from them?
– The members of that Commission acted in a judicial capacity, and, after taking voluminous evidence upon the various items of the Tariff, have given us the benefit of their deliberate judgment. This the Treasurer, upon the statement of one officer only, the Comptroller-General of the Customs Department, wishes us to set aside. I think that he owes the Committee an explanation as to why this duty should be increased to 2d. per lb. I hold in my hand a letter which I have received from a gentleman in the trade, who says -
Under the old Tariff the duty was id. per lb., and this, with transfer charges, &c, amounted to an impost of about 83 per cent. Potato flour, so far as we can ascertain, is not made in Australia, nor likely to be made, as the consumption is very small. We beg to state that such a duty as 2d. per lb. on an article costing j£io per ton f.o.b. shipping port - and often under said price - is a decided hardship on those manufacturers who use it for moulding and dressing purposes.
Any reasonable man would hesitate before advocating an increase upon the old rate.
– Under the old Tariff, potato flour was imported as starch, which, in reality, it is. It is being used by confectionery manufacturers, who declare that its use is not at all injurious to their -workmen. But I would point out that where it is used the conditions which obtain resemble . those of a flour mill. To my mind, nothing is more prejudicial to the” health of the operatives than the conditions which prevail in a flour mill. The honorable member for Hunter will find, by reference to statistics, that the lives of employes in flour mills are very much shorter than those of employes in most industries. The manufacture of potato flour is carried on under conditions that are very similar to those obtaining in ordinary flour mills, although they are not quite so injurious to health. It would be an an om n 1 v to impose a duty of only Jd. per lb. on potato flour, which is really a starch, whereas starch made from other products has to bear a duty of 2d. per lb. I approve of the object which the Government have in view, but I think that the duty of 2d. per lb. on ordinary starch is too high. When the first Federal Tariff was under consideration the honorable member for Mernda said that he did not desire such a duty, but it was forced upon him. This potato flour can be mixed with ordinary starch, and I think that we should have on starch an all-round duty of Jd. per lb.
– I wish to offer a few remarks-
– Is potato flour a starch?
– It is a starch produced from potatoes, and is used in Australia chiefly for moulding, as well as for other confectionery purposes. The quantity imported is very small. . It can be and has been made in Australia, but the local consumption is so trifling that its production is not profitable. I have just been informed by the Treasurer that the reason why the duty has been raised is that the Department have found very great difficulty in differentiating between starch dutiable at 2d. per lb. and a starch flour dutiable at Jd. per lb., which can be used to adulterate it. The item is not worth five minutes’ consideration. Even if the duty proposed by the Government be passed, it will not have any appreciable effect on any industry using potato flour, whereas if the duty -be reduced to _d. per lb. the door will be opened to its substitution for an article on which a duty of 2d. per lb. must be paid. It has been said that the Government proposal is the result of a recommendation made by the Comptroller-General of Customs.
– At the instance of the Commission.
– I have no doubt that it is a purely departmental matter. Germany produces an enormous quantity of potato starch, and since we grow potatoes to perfection there is no reason why byandby the industry in Australia should not be a large one. In good seasons, when we have a bountiful crop of potatoes, a large quantity could be manufactured into flour for export.
– The explanation given by the Treasurer has not removed the difficulty in regard to. differentiating between this and ordinary starch.
-The item appeared previously under the heading of “ starch flours,” and the Commission recommended that a distinction should be made.
– The duty on starch, from countries other than the United Kingdom is 2½d. per lb., and I think that in connexion” with this item we have some light thrown on the construction of the Tariff. Evidently, when the Tariff was being prepared, it was proposed to impose a duty of 2d. per lb. on starch. The Comptroller-General of Customs then desired that in order to overcome the difficulty to which reference has been made, potato flour should be raised to the same level. Apparently that was done, but subsequently the duty on starch was raised to 2½d. per lb.
– The honorable member is absolutely mistaken.
– Considering the value of the article, this is a very heavy duty. I admit that there maybe a difficulty in distinguishing between potato flour and ordinary starch, but even if the Government proposal were adopted that difficulty would not be removed. The duty should either be reduced to½d. per lb., which would compel a distinction to be made between the two, or raised to 2½d. per lb., which would render a differentiation unnecessary.
– I would suggest to the Treasurer that if the reason for the alteration was a purely departmental one - -
– The best course to pursue would be to strike out the item, and to place it under the heading of “ starch flours.”
– The course adopted in this case has been due entirely to departmental reasons. The Comptroller-General has just informed me that the item was dealt with in this way on the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which, thought that it should be distinct from ordinary starch. As there is very little difference, however, between this and the other item relating to ordinary starch, I am quite prepared to strike it out, and deal with it when we reach thegeneral item of starch.
Item 65. Grain and Pulse, notprepared or manufactured -
.- The Government have increased the duty on barley from1s. 6d. to 2s. per cental, and if their proposal be adopted we shall have to raise the duty on malt, sincebarley is the raw material of the maltsters. I have had some experience in growing barley, and know that in good seasons far more barley is. produced than is required for malting purposes. The result is that prices fall. Barley is a very precarious crop, and the farmers generally do not cultivate it.
– In all the northern districts they are giving up the cultivation of barley.
– They are cultivating it largely in the Tamworth, NewEngland, and other districts of New South Wales.
– This increased protection will do no good to the farmer, since in good seasons prices fall, and we cannot export it as we do with wheat. It is not worth while departing from the old duty of1s. 6d. per cental. The Australian farmer does not need the higher duty ; he can grow barley against the world. Something like 60,000,000 lbs. of malt are annually consumed in the Commonwealth, and this increased protection will not cause an increase in the production of barley.
– The farmers have to put up with the rabbits. Why should we not help them?
– Barley is not grown very largely in Tasmania.
– It is grown there considerably.
– I repeat that this increased protection will not help the farmer.
– It will.
– I am surprised to hear a free-trader from Tasmania speaking in that way. If I thought that the increased duty would assist the farmer, I should be the first to agree to it, but I do not think it will, and I consider that we might well revert to the old duty.
– I hope that the Committee will not agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Fawkner. When I was in Sydney the other day, a gentleman who grows a great deal of barley, and intends to plant a great deal more in the New England district, told me that the present rate is absolutely necessary, and will bring about a large increase in the crop. Barley should be grown more extensively than it is, especially in Tasmania. It has not been grown more largely, because it is subject to attacks by caterpillars, and is easily destroyed; but it is a good crop, and we should grow other things besides wheat and oats. Honorable members have spoken in high terms of the Tariff Commission, and I would point out that this duty was recommended bv it. A great deal has been said about the need for doing something for the manufacturers, but here we have an opportunity of doing something for the farmers.
.- I would point out that the proposed duty is higher than the rate which, has been in force for several years under the Kingston Tariff, and if it is agreed to, a corresponding alteration should be made in the duty on malt. I am not an advocate for the consumption of malt, and ha.ve no interest in the brewing industry; but it seems to me that the proposal to increase this duty needs justifying.
– The importation of barley is its justification.
– That importation is not very large. Last year it amounted to only 105,000 centals. I shall support the amendment.
.- I am surprised at the want of consistency displayed by the members of the Opposition corner party. They have professed an interest in those on the land, and were very anxious that rabbit-proof wire netting should be imported as cheaply as possible; but in this instance, they are showing no consideration for the agriculturist. Some time ago, they stated that they would adhere strictly to the recommendations of the protectionist section of- the Tariff Commission, but they have voted for rates 30 and 40 per cent, higher than were recommended, and now they are going to vote for a lower rate. I think that we should give the farmers some, encouragement ; we should not concern ourselves only with the manufacturers of Melbourne. I do ‘not think that barley is grown in my district, and I am not interested in the production of beer; but the Tariff should be fair, in treating all the producers of Australia alike. Having protected manufacturers, we should give the farmers protection.
– The proposal of the members of the Opposition corner party seems to me a barefaced piece of business. As barleygrowing is an industry which is established in Tasmania, gentlemen who are interested in brewing stocks in Melbourne see that if the brewers have, to pay more for their barley, the dividends will be lower. If barley were grown in Victoria, these honorable members would be so sensitive to the criticism of the Age that they would vote for an- even higher rate, or, indeed, any rate that might be proposed. ‘ The Committee should resent an attitude of this kind. It seems to me that these honorable members have cornered themselves. They are in a rat-traD. Although the Minister says that the proposed rate was recommended by the Tariff Commission, he omitted to tell the Committee that their recommendation was that of the protectionist section only, the free-trade section wishing to continue the old rate which was imposed at the instance of the right honorable member for Adelaide and Sir George Turner. I shall support the reduction of the duty to is. 6d.
.- If ever there was a brewers’ question, this is one. To reduce the proposed duty would suit a small combine of brewers, who have treated the barley farmers of Australia most shamefully. I have had a lot of experience in connexion with this matter. There are very few buyers of barley, and they are chiefly maltsters, who give such prices as thev choose. If for no other reason, I shall vote for the proposed duty to prevent the farmers from being at their mercy.
Mr. FOSTER (New England) [6.12I- I apologise for speaking so often on these items, but I am a representative of a country constituency, in which there are agricultural districts, and having loyally voted for the protection of manufacturers, I wish to urge the Committee to give similar treatment to the primary industries. It is a disgrace to a country like Australia, which can grow a thousand times more barley than it needs, that’ we import so much. In supporting the proposed duty. I am thinking, not so much of the interests of my own constituents, although in parts of New England barley grows to perfection, as of those of Tasmania. The other day, in voting for the paraffine .wax duty which the Tasmanians wished to see reduced, I suggested that the people of Tasmania should go in more for primary industries,and therefore I feel that we should protect the farmers who grow barley there.
.- The barley growers have had an exceedingly bad time in the past, having for years had to contend against a brewers’ combine. After a man has grown barley, perhaps at the request of a brewing company, he has been told that it is not quite up to sample, and he has had to take1s. a bushel less for it than he expected to get. In no industry have the producers had to fight a more uphill battle, and, as it is a question of protecting the barley-grower against the brewer, I shall vote for the duty.
Item agreed to.
Item 66. Grain and Pulse, prepared or manufactured, viz. : -
.- There is a substance known as ground barley, which is a most valuable preparation for infants’ food. It does not appear under this or the last Item, and I should like the Treasurer to tell us under which item it is included.
– It comes within paragraph b, wheaten flour.
– In times of drought quantities of maize, oats and so forth are imported ; and I should like to know under which item these commodities are included. Under ordinary circumstances there is very little importation, but during the drought of 1902-3 large quantities were brought in, with the result that the revenue under this head was increased from something like £20,000 to about £500,000.
– That item is passed.
– I do not think that the Committee understood that was so.
.- I move -
That after the figure “2d.,” paragraph C, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb.,½d.,” be inserted.
My amendment, if carried, will impose the duty which was fixed on cornflour in the old Tariff. The proposed new duty means an increase of 400 per cent., and is equivalent to an increase of about 100 per cent, on the invoiced price. In 1906 the total imports were 1,857,937 lbs.., of the value of £20,092. Of this 1,557,463 lbs., of the value of £16,986, were from the United Kingdom, the balance being almost entirely from the United States. Here is another instance in which a duty is largely increased mainly against British imports. This is essentially a white labour and high-wage industry ; because, I think, nobody will contend that the wages in the United Kingdom and the United States can be objected to from an Australian stand-point. Australia is a natural country for the manufacture of cornflour, because we have all the advantages of soil, climate, and labour conditions; and there is no necessity whatever for the degree of protection proposed. The local production immensely exceeds the importations, the former amounting to about 5,500,000 lbs. per annum. This expansion took place under the old duty of½d. per lb., and this proves that, not only was the protectionthen extended quite sufficient, but that no protection at all was needed. I gather that the local production is not equal to the local consumption, and this probably accounts for the imports I have mentioned. If imported cornflour be excluded, as I presume it would be under the excessive duty proposed by the Government, there would be no check against any increase of prices by the local manufacturers. So far as I can see, there are two leading manufacturers in Australia who will be principally benefited by any protection that may be afforded; and, in view of the local production,. I should like the Treasurer to give some justification for the increase in the duty. When we are first asked to impose protective duties we are always told that they are intended to give industries a start and some assistance until they are strong enough to stand alone; butour experience has ever been that the more protection is given the more is asked for - that the stronger industries grow the greedier they become. The monster of protection in Victoria is becoming absolutely insatiable ; and it is about time to ask ourselves when these demands are to stop. I have heard the Treasurer himself on the platform on several occasions urge that protection is required only for the purpose of encouraging the establishment of industries.
– And to assist in carrying industries on.
– Nothing was said on those occasions about assistance being required for the carrying on of industries. All that was asked was protection to the extent of perhaps 10 per cent, until the industries were strong enough to do without assistance of the kind. But such industries apparently never grow strong, and .duties have gradually risen to 20 per cent., then to 40 per cent., and now we have increases proposed up to 400 per cent, upon existing protective duties, as in the case of the item under discussion. It is becoming nothing short of a public scandal that certain people should be permitted to dip ‘their hands into the public Treasury, not for the purpose of assisting them in establishing industries, which would be bad enough, but simply for the purpose of still further inflating their immense profits. This, I think, is an item in regard to which we ought to make strong resistance, seeing that cornflour is, perhaps, more than any other flour, used as a food for infants and invalids. Particular attention has been directed to this matter by the Child Study Association and other institutions, which have for their object the care of the sick and the young.
– What did Mr. Beale say about cornflour?
– I have not Mr. Beale’s ‘ report before me, but I have the report of the Tariff Commission and the old Tariff, under which I find this industry made very good progress. In 1906 there were .exported from Australia 51,913 lbs., valued at ^485, and I may add that the price charged’ for the exported produce is only 2jd. per lb., as compared with 3d. charged for the product consumed locally.
Sitting suspended ‘from 6.30 to J.45 p.m.
– I merely wish to emphasize the fact that as a food product, cornflour really ought to be placed in the same category as sago and tapioca. It is used by the poorer sections of the community more largely than the articles which I have mentioned because’ it is cheaper. Yet, whilst sago and tapioca are dutiable at _d. per lb., it is proposed to levy a tax of 2d. per lb. upon cornflour - a very anomalous condition of affairs. I would also point out that macaroni and vermicelli, cognate articles, are dutiable at id. per lb, and they are imported mainly from Italy, whereas cornflour is imported principally from Great Britain. Thus, whilst the duty upon articles of foreign origin is id. per lb., that upon the product of the United Kingdom is 2d. per lb. Cornflour, I need scarcely remind honorable members, is very largely used by confectioners who find that the additional supplies which they obtain chiefly from Great Britain come in very opportunely when the local supply is not equal to the demand. That is another argument against the increase of the duty. Only a few days ago the Committee exhibited great sympathy with the confectionery industry, yet it is now seriously proposed to heavily tax an article which forms one of the main bases of confectionery. Under the old Tariff the persons engaged in this industry did remarkably well, and consequently there is not the shadow of an excuse for the proposed increase of duty.
– The Government proposal simply gives effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Commission.
– Only to the recommendation of a section of it.
– The A section of that body has recommended the increased duty proposed. There is no doubt that the manufacture of cornflour is an industry which can be established in Australia, and which ought to be protected. Probably I should not have proposed an increase in the old rate but for the recommendation of the A section of the Commission.
– The Treasurer Kas stated that- it was not necessary to impose an increased duty upon this article.
– I .did not say that.
– the honorable gentleman said that if it had not been for the recommendation of the ‘A section of the Tariff Commission he would not have proposed an increased duty.
– Because my attention would not have been directed to the matter.
– The Treasurer has proposed an increase of 300 per cent, upon the old rate. Whilst he is following the recommendation of the A section of the Tariff Commission, he should not ignore the fact that the B section of that body recommended the retention of the old duty, namely, Jd. per lb. The members of that section did not frame their recommendation as freetraders, but as members of the Commission. This is an industry which stands almost alone. Corn can be grown all over Australia, and corn meal is produced within the Commonwealth to the extent of 5,000,000 lbs. annually.
– Corn meal is an entirely different commodity from cornflour.
– In Australia we are able to obtain various kinds of corn food for the breakfast table. I know that there are several qualities of this product. There is no end to the supply of maize in Australia, and, consequently, the industry has been well established. Cornflour is imported because it is necessary to meet the heeds of those persons who cannot digest the ordinary corn meal.
– Cornflour is not used as a porridge, but merely for infant preparations.
– It is a flour which passes into general consumption. Even if it were subjected to double the duty which it has hitherto borne, there would still be a large importation of this cornflour. At the present time about 2,000,000 lbs. are imported annually, which, at Jd. per lb., would yield a revenue of £4,000. At 2d. per lb., the revenue collected under this heading would be £16,000.
– But we shall not collect any duty whatever if we manufacture all the cornflour necessary for our own requirements.
– It is absurd to impose an increased duty of 300 per cent, upon this article. I would suggest to the Treasurer that he might agree to a fair compromise, by making the duty id. per lb. At a later stage, I shall move in that direction, expecting that he will agree to the proposal.
– In the progress report of the A’ section of the Tariff Commission - page 20 - I find the following -
A Queensland manufacturer of cornflour, who said that he had spent £3,000 on his factory, built in 1897, and established to supply the demands of his State, without reference to InterState markets, informed your. Commissioners that as a result of the Tariff he had not been able since Federation to work more than six months in the year. When his factory was built the import duty was 2d. per lb., and the selling price 5d. per lb. When the duty was altered to id. per lb. the foreign manufacturers reduced their prices to 2fd. per lb., apparently with a view to preventing the manufacture of cornflour within the Commonwealth.
– - The Treasurer has frequently alluded to the original proposals submitted in connexion with the first Commonwealth Tariff as a justification for the Tariff proposals of the present Government. . But I find that, under the old Tariff, the duty originally proposed upon cornflour was id. per lb., that in New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia the article had previously been upon the free list, that in Victoria and Queensland it had been dutiable at adper lb., that in Tasmania it had been subjected to a duty of id. per lb., and that in Canada it was dutiable at 20 per cent., or something less than id. per lb. The fact that New South Wales produced and still produces more cornflour than does any other State is, no doubt, due to the fact that larger quantities of maize are grown there. I can see no reason for this increase of 300 per cent., which must necessarily mean an increased price to the consumer. It has already had that effect. I have here an invoice showing that since the introduction of this Tariff the price has increased by £d. per lb., and I am told that there has since been a further advance of Jd. per lb.
– That is not the result of the Tariff. The honorable member might just as well .say that the increase in the price of wheat is due to the Tariff.
– Whether it is or is not, can it be said that this duty is necessary, having regard to the’ fact that we are already producing in Australia four-fifths of the cornflour consumed? Surely that is an indication of the sufficiency of the duty, and that the industry which lived under free-trade conditions in New South Wales is a natural one, capable of holding its own against foreign competition, at all events with the assistance of a very low duty. There are sure to be some import ‘ions irrespective of what duty may be imposed. We know that there are preferences for certain brands. An imported, or a locally manufactured article is often preferred, perhaps not because of its superiority, but because the people have become accustomed to it.
– If Australian cornflour is not good enough for them let them pay for the imported article.
– The people generally will have to pay more in one or two ways. This duty will have the effect of raising the price of the imported cornflour, while it will also give local manufacturers an opportunity to increase their prices. There should be some limit to these increases. In this case we have a duty increased by 300 per cent, for no apparent reason. The industry apparently was carried on satisfactorily in New South Wales under free-trade, and a duty of½d. per lb., which represents a high percentage on the value of the article, ought to be sufficient. The Committee should not desire to impose a higher duty, which is sure to lead eventually to higher imposts on the people. I do not suggest that we can always attribute the rising or falling of prices to a Tariff. The question of supply has to be considered. Occasionally when the Australian maize crop is poor, some manufacturers of cornflour are glad to import cornflour in bulk for their packet trade, and in the circumstances I think that the Treasurer might very well agree to the duty being reduced to1d., if not to½d. perlb. A duty of½d. should be sufficient. Having regard to the cost of labour, the manufacturers would be well protected under it.
– I hope that the Treasurer will not accept the amendment. The very fact that the honorable member for Lang has proposed to reduce the duty from 2d. to½d. is, to me, a plain indication that he has no expectation of its being carried.
– That was the old duty.
– The old duty was not sufficient to enable the industry to be carried on successfully. A few weeks ago I presented to the House a petition from manufacturers of cornflour in the Pimpama district of Queensland, who pointed out that they were just able to make ends meet, that they were paying the highest rates of wages ruling in the district, and that, during the last twelve months, wages had increased to a considerable extent, owing to the demand for labour for the sugar-fields of North Queensland. They felt justified in asking the House to give them a little additional protection.
– Do they want an increase of 300 per cent. ?
– I do not say that; but they want a little more protection than a duty of½d. per lb. would afford. These men, who are establishing a valuable industry deserve everyconsideration. It is well known that maize, which is the raw material of this commodity, is grown in all the States, and I trust that the Committee will give the manufacturers of cornflour in Australia reasonable protection to enable them to carry on the industry with some degree of success.
– I hope that the Treasurer will stand by the Go- . vernment proposal. Nearly 2,000,000 lbs. of cornflour were imported last year, and every representative of a farming district should support this duty. The honorable member for Lang has said that about 5,500,000 Lbs. of cornflour is annually produced in Australia. I have often endeavoured to obtain statistics as to the local production of various articles, and have not been able to do so, except in respect of goods to which an Excise duty applies. I realize we need a Bureau of Statistics, from which such information could be obtained. I have been unable to ascertain the extent of the local production of cornflour, and I think it possible that the figures quoted by the honorable member are exaggerated.
– I have been informed that the output is what I stated.
– As we can probably make cornflour under better conditions than obtain elsewhere, I hope that the Minister will stand by the duty in the schedule.
.- Since the honorable member for Oxley urged that we should grant reasonable protection to manufacturers of cornflour, I think it necessary to point out that the duty of 2d. per lb. proposed by the Government is equal to 100 per cent, on the invoice value of this commodity. When the protectionists are able to show that an article affected by an item in the Tariff is being largely imported, theymay have some ground for asking for increased duty. I find, however, that whereas under a duty of½d. per lb. on cornflour we had an importation of 1,800,000 lbs., no less than 5,500,000 lbs. were locally produced. Surely that is evidence that the industry is doing well. At present we have practically only two large factories producing cornflour. I refer to the establishments of Harper and Company and Parsons.
– What- about Wade’s?
– I am speaking of the large factories. These two firms have already increased their price from 2½d. to 3d. per lb., and other firms have stated that there is to be an increase in their price. I desire that the food of the people shall be made as cheap as possible. We have fixed the duty on sago and tapioca at Jd. per lb. These are articles which are consumed chiefly by those who are fairly well-to-do. Why, then, should we put a duty of 2d. per lb. on cornflour, which is used mostly by the poorest classes? We have heard a good deal of the dear old Mother Country - not recently. I admit - because- when honorable members opposite come to items affecting commodities which are largely imported from Great Britain, they are silent on the question of preference. Our importations of cornflour come largely from the United Kingdom, but it is not suggested that she shall receive preferential treatment. Why is it proposed to place a higher duty on . cornflour than on commodities such as vermicilli and macaroni ?
– They are nearly all made in Australia now.
– If they can be made in Australia with a lower protective duty, why is a duty of 2d. needed to protect the manufacturers of cornflour? Maize is grown abundantly in Australia. The honorable member for Oxley has shown that the local production is over 5,500,000 lbs. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I realize that a great deal of what the honorable member says is true, and that the use of cornflour should be encouraged rather than discouraged by an increase in its price. I accept the statement that the local manufacturers have increased their prices.
– Some of them have done so; not all.
– The price of maize has increased from 2s. 6d. to 4s.
– I am willing to consider the reasons governing increases ; but in- voting on the amendment I shall be guided by what I believe to be a much higher principle. The use of cornflour should be. encouraged, because it is more easily digested than are many similar foods. If it were used for certain purposes instead of wheaten flour, there would be fewer cases of dyspepsia, which brings in its train so much unhappiness, and interferes so much with the temper, at times, even of honorable members. Personally, I have derived much benefit by substituting cornflour for wheaten flour. As a protectionist, I am guided more by a consideration of the benefits likely to follow the adoption of that fiscal policy than by mere geographical prejudices. There ‘is too much of the personal element in our discussions. I am prepared to vote to assist any industry, whether it exists in Carpentaria or in Tasmania. I shall never support an industry merely because it is Victorian or is in my own electorate. It is because my. protectionist principles are founded on a sure basis that I am going to support the Government proposals in this matter.
.- I rise to correct the totally erroneous impression which may have been caused by the speeches of the honorable members for Dalley and Laanecoorie. The former said that the poorest classes live on cornflour, while the latter made the astounding, but contradictory, statement that, if they did, they would be much better. If the honorable member for Laanecoorie could induce his opponents to adopt the cornflour diet for a period of seven days, they would never trouble him again. He appears to have not the slightest idea of what the commodity under discussion is. It is not flour, the product of maize, but the inside of the maize when the husk and all but the starch has been taken away.
– It is pure starch.
– Yes. We make very good maizena in this country, and I see no reason why we should not thus encourage the growing of maize. I desire that the people shall get cheap food, but I would cheerfully vote for a duty of 2d. or 3d. on cornflour. On one very unhappy occasion a number of men and myself had to live on cornflour’ for three days, at the end of which period we could not walk a hundred yards. The magnificent physical condition of the honorable member for Laanecoorie is a plain and palpable contradiction of his statement as to the value of cornflour as a food. Did I not know him for what he is. I should shrewdly suspect him of being connected with the cornflour industry. ‘
– As to the dietetic value of cornflour, I prefer the advice of the honorable member for Laanecoorie to that of the honorable member for West Sydney. The latter could with advantage take a little cornflour, if it would have the same effect on him’ as it has had on the honorable member for Laanecoorie. A little while ago he was chiding the honorable member for Wilmot for voting for a small duty on potatoes, the food of the people, as he called it; but now he himself is prepared to vote for a duty of 2d. per lb. on cornflour, which is unquestionably the food of the poorer classes.
– I would as soon live on plaster of paris.
– Then the honorable. member is beyond the reach’ of argument. It seems to me that the honorable member for Laanecoorie is not consistent in this matter. He began by urging that cornflour should be as available as possible to the poorer classes, an admirable sentiment in which I concurred ; but he went on to say that he would vote for a duty of 2d. per lib., and that in the face of the fact that the local manufacturers, who are doing well, are increasing their prices. I cannot understand how honorable members, who profess to have so tender a regard for the poor, can be willing to increase by 300 or 400 per cent, the duty on a necessary of life.
– Will the duty increase the price?
– The price has increased.
– The dry weather on the coast has made maize dearer, and that naturally affects the price of cornflour.
– I do not think that the rise in the price of maize can have affected the price of cornflour to the extent of id. per lb. The local production of cornflour is between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 libs., while the importation is only about 1,750,000 lbs., so that the local manufacturers hold the field. Therefore, the industry cannot be said to be strangled, or to need this special treatment. We have been told that in Queensland it has not done so well ; and on this point the honorable member for Oxley made a statement about it which I did not understand. I should think there must be some local or personal reasons which prevent the Queensland producers from making the progress which others have made in the southern parts of the Commonwealth. In the face of a production of nearly 6,000,000 lbs. per annum in parts of Australia where maize does not grow so prolifically as in Queensland, we must seek for some other reason than the absence of a duty.
– The Royal Commission recommend a duty of 2d.
– Yes; and the singular fact is that there is very little evidence on which to base such a recommendation.’
– There is none at all.
– I suppose it was considered that as the bulk of the cornflour consumed is already made in Australia, it was desirable to erect an absolutely prohibitive barrier. That, however, is not my idea of protection, because I take it that those who desire to effectively protect Australian industries do not aim at shutting out the possibility of reasonable and fair competition. In view of all the facts, there seems to be no reason whatever for this exorbitant duty on a food of the poorer classes of the community. It is a thousand pities that we have not here any member of the Tariff Commission who recommended the duty of 2d. ; and the Minister can give no reason for the proposed duty except that it is recommended by the Commission. In cases where the Commission recommend the lowering of the duty, the Treasurer refuses to recognise the recommendation, but the moment a high duty is suggested, he, without any further inquiry, immediately adopts it. The honorable gentleman proposes the highest duty in every case without affording any explanation to the Committee. All the facts show that a more moderate duty would provide all the protection needed to make the industry prosper; and I hope the Committee will see their way to cut down the proposed duty by at least half, if they do not agree to the proposed amendment.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta has told us that there is no demand for this duty; but I find, according to the report of the Tariff Commission, that - Mr. Francis, a Queensland manufacturer, stated in the course of his evidence that in 1897, when there was a duty of 2d. on cornflour, he spent ,£3,000 on plant.
– Where does Mr. Francis, carry on business?
– I do not know; but the protectionist section of the Commission base their recommendation on his evidence. I happen to know something about this industry ; and some time ago the honorable member for Oxley was kind enough to present a petition on my behalf from the growers of arrowroot and cornflour in the Albert District. The petitioners set out -
I do not know how the honorable member for West Sydney can compare an article of that description to plaster of paris. The petition proceeds -
– They do not suggest any particular duty.
– No; but this petition is signed by quite a number who are engaged in this industry. I certainly am at a loss to understand why the Treasurer proposes a difference of1d. per lb. in the duties as between cornflour and arrowroot ; but we have now an opportunity to assist the primary producers, not only in Queensland, but in many parts of the Commonwealth. It is rather amusing to notice the smile that comes to the faces of honorable members in the Labour corner whenever we speak of trying to protect or help the primary producers; but I sincerely trust and believe that the Committee will afford reasonable protection loan industry which really needs it.
.- I had not the opportunity of hearing the remarks of the Treasurer in connexion with this item.
– The Treasurer has not made any remarks.
– I understand that the Treasurer bases the proposed duty on the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Commission.
– And on the necessityfor the protection of this industry.
– With the honorable member for Parramatta, I regret exceedingly that the Chairman of the Tariff Commission is not able to be in his place during these discussions ; and I feel sure that every honorable member regrets the circumstances which have led to his absence. I ask the Treasurer whether, in the whole of the evidence given before the Commission, there is any justification for the proposed increase of duty.
– I am not questioning the recommendation of the Tariff Commission.
– Even if the Treasurer does not question the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, he ought, before he proposes this increase of duty, to give the Committee some reasons.
– I have given a very good reason.
– I understand that the sole reason that the Treasurer has given is that the protectionist section of the Commission recommend the increase; andI think it is only right that honorable members should know the whole of the evidence which was given on this point. The honorable member for Moreton stated that the applicant for the increased duty had spent £3,000 on his establishment; but the honorable member had to admit that he does not know where the establishment is. The applicant was Mr. Walter Francis, of Messrs. Francis and Sons, cornflour manufacturers, of Lawnton, Queensland, and he gave evidence before the Commission at Brisbane.
– Was he the only witness in regard to cornflour?
– Yes; according to his evidence, the total quantity of maize consumed by him is 4,000 bushels per annum; and in the manufacture of cornflour he employs six people, consisting of four men arid two girls. The big manufacturers in the Commonwealth did not think it necessary to appear before the Tariff Commission and to ask for an increased measure of protection. The fact is that they are doing so well that they do not require it. The Treasurer has based his proposal upon the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, who relied solely upon the evidence of one small manufacturer in Brisbane. As a matter of fact, our big manufacturers are making four-fifths of the cornflour consumed in the Commonwealth today. Under these circumstances the Committee will be inflicting a gross injustice upon the poorer classes of the community if it sanctions the increased duty proposed.
.- If I thought that the effect of levying the proposed duty of 2d. per lb. upon this article would be to increase its price to the consumer I should not vote for it. But the assumption of the honorable member for North Sydney and of the honorable member for Illawarra does not appear to me to be based upon any logical reasoning. At the present time we are producing an abundance of corn, arid under such circumstances there is bound to be sufficient competition to regulate prices. Even if a combination were formed amongst the big manufacturers, that would not prevent the establishment of small factories, which would act as a healthy corrective. Surely we are not going to sacrifice all our industries because of any evil results which may accrue from granting them increased protection. But the Ministry have promised to introduce legislation to deal with any abuses that may arise, and I am prepared to accept their assurance upon that point. If they do not give effect to their pledge, I shall be quite willing to assist in displacing them from office. I fail to see any justification for a reduction in the duty proposed. At the present time we are importing nearly 2,000,000 lbs. of cornflour annually which ought to be made in the Commonwealth. I do not think that the imposition of the proposed duty will increase the price of this article to the consumer. The enhanced price about which honorable members of the Opposition rave so much has been chiefly due to a shortage of supply. Of course, I recognise that they are’ merely playing to the gallery in desiring to attribute to their political opponents results which are directly attributable to natural causes. That is a very old game.
.- If the manufacture of cornflour were a languishing industry, there might be something in the statements of the honorable member for Macquarie. But seeing that we already manufacture four-fifths of the cornflour consumed within the Commonwealth, the proposal to increase the duty upon that article from½d. per lb. to 2d. per lb. is tantamount to imposing an absolute prohibition upon its importation.
– Where does the honorable member get his figures?
– The honorable member for Oxley told us a rather pitiful tale about some Queensland manufacturers. Their failure was probably due, not so much to foreign competition, as to the fact that upon the imposition of a uniform Tariff the fiscal barriers between the States were abolished and interState free-trade was established. The small Brisbane manufacturers were thus called upon to face the competition of large Melbourne and Sydney firms. In my judgment, we have already extended ample protection to this industry, and I should very much regret to see a prohibitive duty imposed upon this article.
Question- That after the figure “2d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb., id.,” proposed to be inserted (Mr. Johnson’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 30
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) put -
That after the figure “2d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb.,1d.,” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) put -
That after the figure. “ 2d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per lb.,1½d.,” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That after the figure “ad.,” paragraph C, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, (United Kingdom), per lb.,1½d.,” be inserted.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation regarding the vote which I gave on the last division. When the honorable member for Lang moved that the duty be reduced to ½d. per lb., I said that I should be prepared to support a proposition to reduce the duty to1d. per lb., and I voted for the amendment that the duty be reduced to that extent. But I voted against the further proposition that the duty be reduced to 1½d. per lb. on the ground that it was a mere waste of time to submit such a proposal. I thought that the proposition that the duty be reduced to1d. per lb. enabled us to fairly test the feeling of the Committee.
– I am sure that the honorable member’s explanation will commend itself to any reasonable individual. From the honorable member’s point of view, a reduction of the duty to1½d. per lb. would be frivolous, whereas a duty of1d. per lb. would be reasonable. I congratulate him upon his idea of propriety.
– I should like to point out to the honorable member for Parramatta, who has referred to the absurdity of the position taken up by the honorable member for Balaclava, that the proposition he has just submitted is absolutely ridiculous, since it is well known that maize cannot be grown in Great Britain. That being so, a proposal to grant a preference to Great Britain in respect of cornflour is simply farcical.
– If the honorable member will look at the schedule which has been supplied to us, he will find that last year over 1,800,000 lbs. of cornflour were imported from Great Britain.
– I do not suggest that they cannot grind corn in Great Britain. They import com, probably from India, where it is grown by cheap coloured labour of the worst kind, and grind it into cornflour. Does the honorable member think thatwe should give preference to a productionsuch as that?”
– As the honorable member for New England has been rebuking other honorable members, I wish to point out to him that he is apparently unaware that the second column of the schedule fixes the Tariff on “ goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom.” Cornflour is such a manufacture.
Question- That after the figure “ 2d.,” paragraph c, the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907 (United Kingdom) per lb.1½d.” proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
– It is proposed to increase the duty on grain and pulse, n.e.i., including phos.phorised wheat, from 2s. 6d. to 4s. 2d. per cental. In my opinion, we should vote for the old rate, and I therefore move -
That the words “ and on and after 31st October, 1907, per cental, 2s. 6d.,” be added.
According to the information prepared for us, the importations under this heading last year were 1,500,326 lbs. the old duty producing a revenue of £3,226. I should like, therefore, to know to what preparations .the rate is applicable.
– The duty applies to phosphorized wheat, ground oats, millet, and a number of other preparations imported under different names.
.- I understand that under grain and pulse, n.e.i., are included many of the so-called breakfast foods, preparations of oatmeal, and other meals. We should congratulate ourselves that upon the breakfast tables of Australia at the present time such a large variety of these foods appears. I, for one, shall not vote to increase a duty when it may have the effect of lessening this variety. The old rate seems to have been sufficient to protect the local manufacturer, so much so, that I understand that the Scotch oatmeal has been almost driven out of this market, which is not to be regretted seeing that the local article is so good. But if we increase the duty, we shall give the local manufacturers an opportunity of which they are always ready to avail themselves to raise their prices. Porridge and similar foods, which help so greatly to build up our young people, should be made as cheap as possible. . Therefore, I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Calare.
Item agreed to.
Item 67 (Animal Foods, n.e.i.) agreed to.
Item 6S. Hay and Chaff, per cwt., is.
, - Under ordinary circumstances very little revenue is derived from this item, the amount last year being only £39. As a matter of fact, this duty comes into operation only in times of very general drought, such as we experienced in 1902-3, when the total revenue collected was about £500,000. This shows what large importations become compulsory under drought conditions; and in that year the estimate of the revenue ,was exceeded by a considerable sum, which the then Treasurer, Sir George Turner, attributed largely to the importation rendered necessary by the shortage of fodder. Of course that revenue included the duties on cereals as well as on hay and chaff ; but all the ‘ importations were for food purposes, in order to preserve stock arid tide over a serious period. This duty does not in any way benefit the farmer, but, on the other hand, is an additional burden on him, seeing that in times of drought, he has to buy imported fodder at enhanced prices.
– Those prices are not owing to the duty.
– Not altogether, but they are partly due to the duty, which operates in the direction of preventing general importation, and confines the market to a few importers, who are thereby enabled to charge almost prohibitive rates. Hav and chaff, which, under normal conditions, sell at ,£3 to £4 per ton, were at that time retailed at about £10 per ton; but I may say thai; the Government of New South Wales made an endeavour to meet the circumstances by carrying this fodder for starving stock over the railways at only a nominal rate. According to the present outlook in New South Wales, and,. I regret to say, in most of the other States, the conditions approximate, more nearly to those which obtained in 1902-3 than have the conditions of any of the intervening seasons. Unless the present rains be general, and of a character to produce grass, though late in the year, very serious times are in front of stock-owners; and the crops, even under the most favourable conditions, cannot now be half as great as they otherwise would have been. In the State of New South Wales, where there does happen to be some green food, the country is being devastated by a grasshopper pest so serious that .it is interfering with the railway traffic. In view of the fact that it may be necessary to import fodder in order to keep stock alive, it is unreasonable to impose a heavy duty. Nothing tended more to discredit protectionist principles in 1902-3 than the unnecessary tax on fodder.
– If that be so th’e honorable member should riot object.
– The honorable member quite misjudges me if he thinks that, for the sake of a principle, I should be found ready to punish a multitude of people. As those fodder duties discredited protectionist principles in 1902-3, so will the duties on wire netting in the present year. I am not so hostile to the present Government as not to offer any suggestion which appears to me to be reasonable; and I think that the Government, and particularly protectionist members of the Labour Party, would be well advised if they devised some means by which, in times’ of drought, the duties on fodder may be suspended for a stated period, by resolution of Parliament or otherwise. If that suggestion were adopted, the great producing community would be much relieved. I do not see much hope of abolishing this duty, because, I suppose, protectionist members desire to be able to go before their farmer constituents and tell them that they have not been neglected in connexion with the Tariff. Some farmers are so shortsighted as to fancy that they are helped by duties of this kind ; but, in my opinion, it would be much tetter for all concerned if this proposed duty were struck out. The graziers, and those who combine agriculture and grazing, are the backbone of the “Commonwealth ; and, under such extreme conditions as I have indicated, they ought to receive every consideration. In order to. test the question, I move -
That the words “mid on and after 31st October, igo;, free,” be added.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Treasurer) (“9.38]. - I hope that honorable members will accept the item as it appears in the Tariff. I have listened very attentively to the honorable member for Calare; but I may tell him that there is not. a drought in ‘every part of Australia.
– The drought extends nearly all over the. Commonwealth.
– That is not so. In South Australia, Western Austra-Iia, and Tasmania this is the best season for many years, and it will be a fair season over the southern portion of Victoria. I do not think that it is wise to legislate hysterically; we ought to frame a Tariff to last, and not for exceptional seasons. The honorable member for Calare suggested that some provision should be made for suspending this duty in times of drought; but the power to suspend the operation of a duty is a very dangerous one, and, in any case, such power should not be given in the Tariff, but must be conferred by an amendment of the Customs Act.
– Power has already been taken to suspend the Tariff in regard to some items, for instance in Division VIa., which deals with certain metals and machinery.
– But any provision of this kind should be made bv an amendment of the Customs Act, and not by means of the Tariff ; arid, in any case, such power should be taken only in very extreme circumstances. Australia is so extensive a country that there is never a drought in every part,; and, as I say, there is no drought now in two or three of the States. The condition is bad in some parts, but I hope that the present rains are extending. It is most unwise to make any hysterical provision, of the kind suggested, seeing that it might prove prejudicial if applied in an improper way. I have had placet; in my hands a return of the imports for 1903, when the conditions were severe. I have not the figures for 1902. I find that in 1503 the imports of hay and chaff into New South Wales from other States totalled 2,365,955 cwt, whilst those of foreign origin aggregated 16,776 cwt.
– Those figures include cereals also?
– But can the Treasurer tell us the revenue which was collected under this heading during that year?
– I have not the figures before me. In 1903, the imports’ into the Commonwealth of hay and chaff of foreign origin may be thus summarized : - United Kingdom, 6 cwt. ; New Zealand. T-l-.-573 cwt.; Straits Settlements, .11 cwt.: Argentine, 2,180 cwt; Chili, 498 cwt. ; United States, 76 cwt.; a total of 17,344 cwt. In the following year, the imports’ from the United Kingdom represented only 62 cwt., ‘those from New Zealand 975 cwt., from Ceylon 3 cwt., or a total of 1,040 cwt. In 1903, the Victorian imports of Australian origin were 67,531 cwt., and those from foreign sources 3.801 cwt. During 1903, the importations into Queensland were 243,446 cwt. of Austra’lian origin, and only 12 cwt. from foreign sources. During the same year, only joo cwt. of Australian origin were imported into South Australia. At the present time it is not likely that we shall experience a similar drought to that which prevailed in 1901-2. Where -is the necessity for suspending the operation of the Tariff in respect of fodder when the whole of our stock requirements can easily be supplied from Tasmania and South Australia, if not from Victoria?
– The Treasurer has made out a very poor case indeed for these fodder duties. As a matter of fact, during the memorable drought of 190 1-2 we collected £500,000 in duties levied upon fodder that was required for starving stock. That amount had to be paid by the stockowners.
– It was returned to the States, and they returned it to the stockowners in the shape of reduced freights.
– The money had to be returned to the States, but the fact that it was so returned did not relieve the stock-owners of their burden. They did not receive a refund of the duties which they had been called upon to pay.
– Does not the honorable member know that their stock was carried ‘ st reduced rates?
– Of course they were. Does not that show the straits to which the stock-owners were reduced? Thev had to move their stock from place to place, and those which did not die in transit had to be kept alive with fodder upon which the stock-owners had paid half-a-million sterling by way of duty. At the present time a most disastrous condition of affairs prevails throughout the Commonwealth. Even in Melbourne, lambs were to-day sold for 9d. each and two-year old heifers at 17s. 6d. each. What is the reason that they have practically to be given away? In New South Wales, the same story has to be told. The dairymen all over the country are selling their stock because they cannot afford to keep them alive.. To do so they would be required to pay excessive prices . to the successful farmers of .South Australia, who would take advantage of the situation by demanding £7 per ton for their fodder.
– Where is the price of fodder £7 per ton?
– The price of lucerne hay to-day in Sussex-street, Sydney, was £7 per ton.
– For lucerne hay.
– Is not that fodder for stock? Is it not required by the dairymen?
– I am talking of fodder for starving stock, not of fodder for dairymen’s stock.
– May not the dairy farmers’ stock, like any other stock, die from the want of fodder? I say that our dairying herds must be kept alive at any cost.
– With lucerne hay?
-With lucerne, tran, and other fodders. Evidently the honorable member does not understand this question.
– The honorable member does not understand it.
– I know it is a fact that all around me in New South Wales the dairy farmers are selling their stock at famine prices, because they cannot afford to keep them alive.
– It is pure madness to feed them upon lucerne.
– Why does the honorable member oppose the introduction of fodder free of duty in times of drought ? During last year, when there was no drought, only £39 was collected in duty under this heading. As a matter of fact, the duty is operative only during ‘periods of drought. I believe that the honorable member for Calare has made a very proper suggestion. I know that in England the operation of certain duties is sometimes suspended for specific purposes. If the Government will undertake to suspend the operation of this particular duty, I shall not ask them to reduce it.
– Then the honorable member should limit his proposal to twelve months.
– If any feed is available in New Zealand: - and I believe that there is very little - let us obtain it at the lowest possible rate. Let us endeavour to save our primary industries in this way, otherwise they must go under. It takes fully a year, if not longer, to replace a dairy herd, and, in some instances, it takes many years. Many of our dairy farmers - if they, lose their well-bred stock - will be unable to replace them. To-day stock which three months ago was worth £20 a head is being sold for £3 a head. Why? Because its owners know that it is only a matter of weeks when they will be glad to get rid of it at any price, rather than to see it die. I hope that the Treasurer will agree to the suspension of the duty.
.- I trust that the amendment will be agreed to, because, despite what the Treasurer has said, the condition of things obtaining in Australia to-day is a very serious one, and is likely to become even more so. It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to say that the Commonwealth is so extensive that a drought is never anything more than local. But surely he must be aware that the present drought is coterminous with New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, and that until recently it had invaded South Australia. I know positively that to-day the condition of things over the greater portion of New South Wales is, at least, as serious as it was during the memorable drought of 1902.
– More difficulty is being experienced in moving stock this year than was the case in 1902.
– So far as the facilities for feeding stock are concerned, they are absolutely non-existent. To-day milk is being sold at a price which it never touched during the great drought. In Sydney it is realizing £d. a quart.
– Sixpence a quart.
– It is being sold to the distributors for nd. per gallon, although its price, with the exception of a few cases on the south coast, has never previously exceeded 8d. per gallon. I say that even 1 id. per gallon will not pay the dairy farmer under existing conditions. Hay is realizing £7 per ton, and its price is increasing every day. I have in my possession a letter from a man who has been engaged in the business for many years, and he informs me that prices are as high now as .they were during the great drought, and that they are increasing. There is no immediate prospect of such fodder supplies coming from Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia as will reduce prices. Under these circumstances it is idle for the Treasurer to say that we are capable of supplying our own requirements. We are not. If fodder increases in price, it will be absolutely impossible for nine out of every ten men upon the land to maintain their stock. It has already been pointed out - and the fact does not need to be emphasized - that the duty upon hay and chaff is operative only during times of great distress. At the best . it simply offers a premium to a few fortunate individuals to reap a reward at the expense of the greater portion of the Commonwealth.
– And they are already reaping their reward in the high prices which obtain.
– The vast majority of stock-owners are, so to speak, living from hand to mouth, and if the drought is not soon broken up our position will be more serious than it has ever been. Food for both man and beast in New South Wales has never been so high as it is to-day, and I dare say that the same remark will apply to Victoria. The day before yesterday the Master Bakers’ Association decided to still further increase the price of bread, pointing out that they would be justified in raising it to 7jd. or 8d. per 4-lb. loaf, having regard to the rise in the price of flour. They state that it is only because they have large stocks of flour in hand that they are able to sell at the present rate. In Sydney, meals which for the last twenty years to my knowledge have been obtainable at 6d. each, are now 7d. That imposes an additional expense .of is. 9d. per week on every working man who lives at a sixpenny restaurant. Then, again, every family has now to pay something like is., 2d. per week more for milk than was necessary a little while ago. The price of .milk depends upon the price of fodder, and I think that the Treasurer will show some little consideration for the welfare of the whole community by remitting this duty. During the last drought he refused to do anything for the farmer, and if he were to grant this reduction he would not lose much revenue. A great deal has been said about granting bonuses to this man and to that, but in this case we have a proposal which will involve every squatter, dairyman, and stock-owner in an additional expenditure of from is. to 5s. per head per week in order to keep his stock in fair condition. In the circumstances, I hope that the Treasurer will at least be prepared to reduce, if not to’ remove, the duty.
– I do not think that the honorable member for West Sydney knows very much about this question. Had he travelled through any of the farming districts he would know that artificial feeding is not being resorted to in many parts of the Commonwealth. On the occasion of the last drought the cost of artificial feeding was greater than the value of the stock so saved, and rather than resort to that system stock-owners are now paying a higher rate than ever they paid before for the rental of grass areas. Only in a few cases are stud sheep being supplied with artificial food.
– What was the price of hay during the last drought?
– I do not know.
– And yet the honorable member said just now that I knew nothing about this question.
– Lucerne hay brought from £6 to £7 per ton.
– Why has the price of fodder gone up?
– Because the supply in some centres is not so large “as it was.
– Stock-owners are, so to speak, falling over each other in their efforts to obtain fodder.
– The honorable member was never a farmer, and knows nothing about the matter. Not one-% tenth of the artificial feeding which took place on the occasion of the last drought will be resorted to during the present dry season. In . the Albury district stockowners, in some cases, are paying £1 ‘per acre for a “ six months’ lease “of grass lands-; and a ‘ property just below Albury has been leased at 30s. per acre for stock-feeding purposes. ‘ All this points to the ‘ fact that stock-owners ‘ are not using artificial food; as they did on the occasion of the last drought.
– Does it not point to the seriousness of the position?
– It is not usual to vary a Tariff in order to meet a special condition of affairs, which may not have a duration of more than two or three months. It would be ridiculous to do this. If this reduction foe agreed to, it. will destroy the effect of legislation ‘ which has been in existence ‘for a considerable time, and deprive “ many ‘ farmers in Tasmania, South Australia, and the south of Victoria of an opportunity to make a little money, which they can do by selling as’ cheaply as’ oversea importations are sold. When the price of wool goes up, the squat’ters do well. In many cases, I do not feel very much for them, since they fail in times of plenty to make provision for a drought. There is a station fronting the Murrumbidgee, near Wagga, which is an object- lesson to all the station-owners of Australia. There crops are raised, and large stacks of hay and straw, as well as of preserved natural grasses, are put up in timesof plenty, sci that a drought never troublesthe manager.
– Talk is very cheap.
– My statement, is absolutely true- No trouble is experienced on that station. It is the owners of very large properties who suffer most.
– And the daisy farmers also suffer.
– A great many of them are leasing grass lands instead of resorting to artificial feeding! I wish to impress upon the Committee the fact that unless we insert in an Act of Parliament a provision empowering the Minister tosuspend duties- and honorable members of the Opposition have asserted before to-day that that is a dangerous provision - the situation cannot be met. lt would be wrong, in order to meet a state of affairs which might disappear in a day, to abolish duties ‘ which, perhaps, could not be re-“ imposed for many years. We have been protecting the manufacturers in the cities, and we have now an opportunity to grant some protection to the farmers. I cer’tainly hope that we shall not have a. serious drought; but I hold that the Commonwealth should be better prepared to cope with such a contingency than it is today. Owners of large properties have only themselves to blame for the trouble by which they are assailed. It is the suddenness with which the drought has come upon them that has landed them in difficulties, since many of the large holdings are overstocked. Whilst I should like to help them, I think that we have ‘something more to do than consider the effects of a drought which may disappear to-morrow morning.
.- I support the amendment, and trust that it will be carried. The Treasurer seems to absolutely .ignore the fact that this duty can be of no service whilst we enjoy good seasons. Last year, we derived from it a revenue of only about £39- Under normal conditions we can supply all our requirements in this respect, but in a time of drought, such as we are at present experiencing, the duty presses heavily upon stock-owners. Whilst the States Governments ‘are seeking to help them to avert a national calamity, this Government is pre- ‘ pared to do nothing: The States always assist the farmers by means of cheap railway freights, but at a time when millions of our stock were dying - when the herds and flocks of New South Wales were reduced by more than one-half - the Commonwealth Government was collecting hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue in the shape of a duty on what was an absolute necessity to stock-owners. I object to this duty because it falls upon the people at a time when they are least able to bear it. There might be some argument in its favour if it had to be met in seasons of prosperity, but honorable members must recognise that it will add to the financial difficulties of many people who now have to purchase fodder in order to keep their stock alive. The picture of the dire effects of the drought has not been overdrawn. Although the Treasurer makes light of it, the distress is very real, the present drought affecting the dairy farmers of the coastal districts of New South Wales even more than did the last one. At such a time Parliament should do what it can to help those who are in trouble. The Minister says that ‘it is their own fault, that they, should have made provision against drought. I wish he had said how it is to be done. Ensilage can be made in certain favoured districts; but there are hundreds of thousands of acres in the western districts of New South Wales in which it has been impossible to store food for the live stock. In many cases an abundance of water has been conserved, but the country is destitute of feed. I, therefore, plead with the Committee to help those who need assistance, and to take off a duty which so much oppresses them.
– There is no gainsaying the fact that just now a drought prevails in certain parts of Australia ; but it is useless to become hysterical concerning it. It has lasted for only a few months.
– And is not universal.
– Of course, it may become very serious, and is very serious to some persons now.
– In Sydney bread is 3½d. a loaf, and milk 6d. a quart.
– To my mind, that interjection is irrelevant.
– The facts show how dry the season is.
– The price of flour is high, not because of the drought in New South Wales, but because of the high price of wheat in the world’s markets, which governs its price in Australia.
– Only so far as our exports are concerned.
– I do not pretend to teach the farmers how to conserve fodder; but as the drought has been very short, having lasted for only three or four months–
– It has not yet ended.
– I hope that it has ended, though neither the honorable member nor myself knows, at the present time, whether it has ended or, if it has not, when it will end. It is not unreasonable, however, to expect stock-owners to save enough food to keep their animals for a few months. That is done by good farmers, though perhaps it cannot be done universally.
– Such stocks have already been used up.
– In South Australia almost all the farmers have stacks of hay sufficiently large to tide them over a drought of more than a few months. They have been taught by experience that droughty conditions prevail at very frequent intervals. There has been a fair season in South Australia, Tasmania, parts of Victoria–
– In Western Australia.
– Yes, and, I believe, in some parts of New South Wales.
– Droughty conditions have prevailed for the last six years along the New South Wales coast.
– That makes it all the more necessary, when a good harvest comes, to provide against future droughts. In parts of South Australia, droughty conditions have prevailed for twelve years, country which, under normal conditions, produces fair crops of wheat, not having produced more than enough for seed.
– The historic Cowpastures of New South Wales is a district in which there has been a drought for practically seven years.
– Then those who go into that district in future must prepare for droughts. There is always a drought somewhere in Australia.
-All this girding at the farmers will not help them.
– The honorable member is, as usual, insulting.I am not girding at the farmers; but it is not unreasonable to suggest that in localities subject to droughts supplies of food sufficient for a few months should be stored.
– The honorable member has said more than that.
– I have said nothing to which exception can be taken by those who are suffering from the drought. I do not wish to exult over those who are down, or to play the part of the candid friend, and say, “ I told you so.” Agriculturists have to face droughts in every State. If there were a drought in South Australia, and good seasons in all other parts of the Commonwealth - quite a possible occurrence-would honorable members be willing to set aside this duty?
– If the potato crop in Tasmania were a failure - which would be quite as serious a matter to the farmers of that State as is the present drought to the agriculturists of New South Wales - would honorable members be prepared to take off the duty on potatoes? Would they remove the duty on fruit if there were a shortage in the South Australian fruit crop?
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– The analogy is complete. If it were impossible for Australia to supply its needs, there would be a reason for taking off the duty ; but it cannot now be urged that it is impossible. It may be found, when the harvest is gathered, that it is more than ample for our requirements.
– The duty is not of much use in a good season.
– It is inoperative when there is a good season throughout the Commonwealth, but that is not usual. There is generally a drought somewhere.
– That is not surprising, considering the area of the continent. It is the same in other parts of the world.
– Yes. Although agriculturists in places are suffering from the effects of the drought, persons engaged in other businesses also suffer from time to time from various causes; but we cannot therefore set aside the Tariff. I am glad that the Government is standing by its proposals. I hope that the drought will soon break up, and ample rains fall.
– Pious hopes will not feed our stock.
– Nor would the adoption of the honorable member’s policy help the farmers. The free-trade policy of the honorable member for Parramatta would half depopulate Australia if it were carried into effect. If we believe in a protective Tariff, we ought to adhere to a protective Tariff ; but I repeat the hope that it will not be long before the present conditions in Australia will have entirely changed.
– I represent a district which, perhaps, benefits more than any other in South Australia by the retention of this duty, but, nevertheless, I am going to vote against its retention. I certainly will oppose to the utmost any proposal to give the Government any power of suspension ; the only way to meet the case is to have no duty whatever. The duty has been objected to from various points of view, and I shall simply mention one or two which have hitherto not been presented. One is that a duty of this kind is continually varying in its ad valorem incidence ; at one time the incidence is heavy, and at another it is exceedingly light, which indicates a great weakness in any duty. It cannot really operate for the purpose of protecting ; that is, for the purpose of inducing growth. Whether we are to have corn or hay depends on the elements, and, to some extent, on the world’s price for wheat, and not on the existence of any protective duty. We remember the turmoil right through Australia when there was a talk of suspending the duties some years ago. Telegrams were received from all parts, some begging that the duty should be retained, and others that it should be taken off ; and the proposal led to a great deal of trouble, which will no doubt be again experienced if power be given to suspend the duty. Any suspension of the kind would interfere with contracts ; and it is unfair that contract prices should be upset by the exercise of such a power. If there is a regular duty, people know what they are doing. Farmers and the general public are prepared for the possibility of a duty being struck off when a Tariff is under consideration, but they are not prepared for the possibility of a Minister suddenly exercising an extraordinary power at the bidding it may be, of the majority of a particular section. There is a provision in regard to contracts in section 152 of the Customs Act, but it applies to sales as between importers and local purchasers, and not to such circumstances as we are now considering. That provision does not give any cover to local sellers and purchasers whose contracts would be affected by the suspension of the duty. For those reasons I hope the duty will be struck out, although I believe that about two-thirds of the district I represent, where there has been an abundant harvest - particularly in regard to hay - would be for the moment benefited by its retention more than, perhaps, any other portion of South Australia.
– I am unable to follow the Government in their proposal in regard to this particular duty. I notice that last year, when there was an abundant harvest throughout most of the eastern parts of Australia at all events, only some 895 cwt. of hay and chaff were imported; and it appears to me that this is one of those duties which has application only when the necessity of a community is at its utmost limit. In my earlier days I lived amongst farmers on a small station, and, notwithstanding opinions that have been expressed to-night, I am prepared to say that there are conditions in a farmer’s life which make it impossible for any amount of foresight or preparation to avoid the evil consequences of a droughty season, Preparation in the way of ensilage and fodder storing certainly reduce those consequences, but–
– It is not every small farmer who can afford the 10s. per ton, or whatever may be the cost of laying down ensilage.
– That is so, but I believe it would be better for Australia as a whole if farmers were more provident in this connexion. At the same time, it seems an outrage on the part of any Parliament or Government to impose a Tariff that will inflict further hardship when farmers are visited by a disaster arising out of natural causes.
– The farmer is not so much affected as is the grazier.
– I think the farmer is just as much affected as is the grazier ; and the dairyman, who is engaged in getting the greatest results from a small area, is “hit harder” than any one by the present drought. Chaff and hay are bulky and are certainly very expensive commodities to import; and if they are imported, they are not open to the objection that they are the product of cheap labour. In all probability the countries against which we may have to compete in this connexion are conditioned pretty much as is Australia.
– New Zealand is the only place from which hay and chaff could come.
– New Zealand is very likely the country which would supply
Australia in time of drought. We have to bear in view the great hardships which numbers of people have had to endure in consequence of droughts in the past, and also the fact that in their dire necessity, in 1902-3, they handed to the Treasurer something like £500,000 in fodder duties. We have now an opportunity, of which we should avail ourselves, to so frame the Tariff as not to injure our producers in times of plenty, and to offer advantage to them when they are sorely stricken in bad seasons; and it would be a graceful act on the part of the Government to fall in with the suggestion to abandon this duty. It appears to me most inhumane to impose a duty that can apply only in times of dire necessity, and I shall certainly vote against the proposal.
. If the duty be put as at present proposed, I shall certainly vote for it; but I suggest that, perhaps, a compromise might be arrived at by suspending its operation for twelve months. I think that there can be no doubt that the State which I have the honour to represent will receive the greatest amount of benefit from this duty if it is retained. I am well aware that the Tasmanian producers reap their best harvest in times of drought on the mainland. It has sometimes seemed to me to be almost like taking blood money that people who have been blest with a good season themselves should be able to make an unusual profit out of the necessities of those who are suffering in other parts of the Commonwealth. But I do not believe that the people of Tasmania want to make an extraordinary profit out of those whose stock is dying by thousands, as will be the case if the drought of five or six years ago be repeated. There can be no doubt that what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said is correct, namely, that in ordinary years this duty is of no advantage to the producers of Australia. In a good season Australia produces more than sufficient hay and corn for its own use. But when misfortune comes upon us - such as it is feared we are about to undergo - I maintain that it is the bounden duty of this Committee to take steps that will permit those who are suffering, and will suffer, at least to receive whatever advantage may be secured from importing fodder from wherever they can get it. There is not the slightest doubt that the people in some parts of Australia are now suffering materially. During the last few days I have heard of sales of stock at prices which would shock many honorable members. Good sheep are being sold at from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per head, and only to-day I heard of one sale of lambs in Victoria at from od. to is. per head. From these figures we can form an opinion of the exceedingly bad’ time that is feared by some people.
– Does the honorable member not think that the hay and chaff dealers rob the graziers to a far greater extent than the duty will affect them?
– At any rate, by keeping on the duty we give the dealers a better chance of taking advantage of the market. I want to give no one a chance of making a profit out of the troubles of others. If the Committee is not prepared to strike out the duty altogether, I trust that, at any - rate, honorable members will agree to add to the words moved by the honorable member for Calare the words “ until 31st October, 1908.” That, at any rate, will allow this produce to come in free during the next twelve months. I move -
That the amendment be amended by adding the words “ until 31st October, I 008.’
– This is a matter of some importance to the producers of Australia. As one who represents a district which suffered severely during the drought of 1902, I can assure honorable members that I can well remember the appeals that were made from that district and from other parts of New South Wales to the Federal Parliament in relation to the duties on fodder. If this were a protective duty in the true sense of the word, and if it were effective in all years, and under every condition - if it had the effect of protecting our farmers - I could understand honorable members adhering to it. But, as a matter of fact, it is not an effective protective proposal at all, because it operates only when the necessities of the people are keenest, and when adversity is upon them. In times of national prosperity no fodder is imported. During the drought of 1902 I was constantly in correspondence with people who’ were on the verge of ruin, and some of whom were hurled over the brink. Only those who have had the misfortune to go through a drought can understand the gravity of the situation. I had personal experience in a district which suffered more than did any other district from the drought of 1902. When a national adversity overtakes a community, there is no law, no system, no principle, which should be permitted to shut out of it that which is essential to the salvation of a large section of its citizens, and the preservation of that live stock which is required in the interests of the general welfare. Our position was bad enough in 1902, but what is it to-day? If the drought continues, the situation will be ten times worse than it was in that year, when the system had not been developed which is going to ruin the pastoralists and graziers in New South Wales. I allude to the creation of a ring in leases which should be available to men when their own pastures give out. In 1902, any man who sought to secure a lease of land where there was grass or water could do so, because there was no combine operating against his interests. But, to-day, the growth of a gigantic commercial cancer in our midst places power in the hands of individuals who, as a combine, levy blackmail upon the necessities of men, and take up every lease which it is possible to secure whenever the occurrence of a drought is anticipated. Such makes the position of the pastoralists and graziers ten times worse than it was in 1902. Then they could always travel their stock to places where grass “and water could be obtained, but to-day they are shut out from land with grass and water, except at blackmail prices, and yet it is proposed to prevent them from getting fodder. If by the suspension of this duty fodder sufficient to sustain our flocks could be imported from New Zealand, we, as patriots, should not hesitate to take that course.
– There is nothing to prevent New Zealand fodder from coming in when prices go up.
– I am not dealing with the question of potatoes, but with the question of fodder for starving stock. I ask the Minister, not to abandon the imposition of the duty, as such would be an injustice to the farmers of the Commonwealth, but -to suspend its collection for six months; or while the drought lasts, and thus relieve those who are now face to face with serious trouble.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.55 P-m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071030_reps_3_40/>.