3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– As I notice that the despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies relating to the re-arrangement of the Colonial Office has been made public in Great Britain, I now wish to lay it upon the table of the House.Those familiar with the proceedings of the recent Conference in London, who appreciate the. importance of the proposals submitted by the Dominions over-sea for a re-adjustmerit of their status, and who then read this document will be irresistibly reminded of the mountain in labour which brought forth a mouse. Let us hope that its. appearance will remind the peoples’ of the Empire of the contrast betweentheir needs and this outcome, while consoling them with the reflection that the mouse is creeping in the right direction. I lay upon the table the following paper -
Colonial Office. - Despatch . from the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies in reference to a re-arrangement of the Colonial Office in respect to the conduct of Business of Self-Governing Colonies.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the colliery combine lock-out for the purpose of perpetuating starvation wages, and of the irreparable loss which the whole community must thereby sustain, and also in view of the SunshineHarvester lock out, resulting from the fact that the corporation has been notified that it must obey the law, will the Government introduce legislation to empower the Common-, wealth to operate, under the law of eminent domain, the plants of all the corporations . or industrial institutions immediately concerned, during the period over which the disputes extend, inorder that the whole community may not be compelled to suffer owing to the intolerance of a few?
– I do not know whether to treat the honorable member’s question as one relating to a strike or a lock-out. Viewed from either stand-point, it places me in an equally embarrassing position.
-i think that it is a “knock-out.”
– The question, however, is one that under no circumstances can be treated in a light fashion. The situation is too profoundly serious. It is because we have every desire to remain quite apart from the affray in the hope that a means of settlement will be speedily foundthat I must ask the honorable member not to press his question, and other honorable member’s not to press similar questions. Judging. by the reports which appear in this morning’s newspapers, there is every, prospect that action will, betaken by the State of New South Wales, where the dispute has arisen, which will, happily, relieve us all at an early period of this grave and impending danger. If the effort in New South Wales should fail, it will probably fall to the Commonwealth to intervene. Whatever possibilities exist in that direction are being carefully scrutinized, not with a. desire to interfere; but in the firm hope and belief that no interferenceor our part will be necessary.
– I desire to present a special report of the Printing Committeein reference to a petition which was presented to the House on 18th September from certain electors in the electoral district of Hume, New South Wales. As the report concludes with a recommendation, I would suggest that it be read.
Report read by the Clerk as follows -
The Printing Committee, to which was referred a Petition from certain electors of Hume, presented to the House on the 18th September last, for immediate investigation as to its accuracy and the alleged forgery of certain attached signatures, have the honour to report as’ follows: - .
YourCommittee have examined the Petition and signatures, or what purports to be the signatures, attached thereto. Of these there are sixty-six.
Letters have been written to Messrs. Heath and Mitchelmore, the solicitors who prepared the Petition on the instructions of Mr. James Beveridge, of Gundagai, to Mr. Beveridge, and to Messrs. Edmondson and Co., of Wagga Wagga, to whose premises, according to Mr. Beveridge, the Petition had been sent for signatures to be obtained and replies have been received giving the information requested so far as available.
Your Committee are of opinion that the following names attached to the Petition purporting to be signatures are not genuine signatures, but are, in fact, forgeries, viz. - “ Alfred Deakin, Melbourne.” “ Harry Foran, Dom., Sydney.” “ May Francis, Crown-street, Sydney.” “ Beattie Booth, Reservoir-street, Sydney.” “ H. C. Walker, Customs House, Sydney.”
Your Committee find that at the bottom of page 2 of the Petition there has been written in ink what purports to be “ W. J. Lyne, Sydney.” An attempt has been made to cover this writing with ink, notwithstanding which the name, and address are still visible in outline. Your Committee are of opinion that this also is a forgery;
The information received in reply to the let ters above referred to in the opinion of your Committee points to a certain individual as the perpetrator of the forgeries. It is recommended that the Crown Law authorities should be requested to take action with a view to a criminal prosecution of the offender, and that the correspondence in the possession of the Committee be placed at their disposal for that purpose.
Committee-room,14th November, 1907.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to proceed with the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Bill at once. I understand that the adjournment of another place depends upon the passing of this measure.
– I recognise the urgency of the Bill, and hope to ask the House to give it some attention next week.
– In reference to the answer which the Prime Minister has just given, I wish to ask him whether we cannot arrive at a more immediate determination of the question involved in the measure thanhis reply would seem to indicate?
– The measure was only laid upon the table of the House to-day.
– I am quite aware of that. I believe that it is possible that the Senate will adjourn at a very early date for a prolonged period, and if we make any amendments in this Bill, unless they are dealt with by the other Chamber before that adjournment takes place, the settlement of the whole matter will be deferred. Seeing that theSenate has agreed to refer the matter involved in the measure to the High Court for decision the sooner it is determined the better, in justice to both parties.
– I entirely agree with what the honorable member has said. The Senate is to be asked to continue sitting for a sufficient time to enable this House to dispose of the Bill.
– Its consideration would not take long.
– I know that. But honorable members have only just been placed in possession of copies of if.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Bill embodying the new protection proposals of the Government has yet been drafted, and if so, when will copies of it be made available to honorable members ?
– I may inform the honorable member that the difficulties in connexion with the Bill proper have been almost surmounted. The important questions now awaitingdetermination lie in the schedule tothe measure,and that is receiving very careful consideration.
– About a fortnight ago the Prime Minister was good enoughto say in reply to a question by me that he would place on the table a memorandum setting out the salient features of the proposed legislation on the new protection. I ask now when that memorandum will be produced, and whether it will be accompanied by a schedule of the industries to which it is proposed to apply the legislation?
– I have had the memorandum prepared so far as it can be from the legal side, and it has been sent on to the Department of Trade and Customs in order that it may be checked.
– I should like to know, from the. Prime Minister, whether there is any doubt in. the mind of the Government as to the constitutionality of the legislation relating to the new protection, and, if so, whether steps ‘will be taken to have the question tested before we dispose of the Tariff?
– The Government is quite satisfied, on the advice of its law officers, of the validity of the measures which have been introduced, sometimes referred to as the new protection legislation. An invitation has recently been publicly given - though not by any member of the Government, or by Parliament - to those who feel themselves in any way aggrieved, to test the constitutionality of the existing legislation. No doubt that invitation will be responded to; indeed, to use a Hibernianism, it would doubtless have been responded to if it had never been issued.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to take the House into his confidence with reference to the new mail contract ?
– As soon as a cable has been received from London, and the signatures have been affixed to the. contractwhich may take place to-day - its terms will be communicated to the House.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has observed the complexities which are arising in connexion with the fixing of wages under the Excise Tariff Acts. Quite a number of tribunals are now determining the wages conditions of various industries. In the first place, I understand that two different rates have been fixed by the Justices of the High Court. Then the Minister of Trade and Customs is discharging a similar function. Further, Parliament may fix wages in certain industries if it wishes, and, in addition, a similar duty is being performed by the Wages Boards of the States. I am sure that the Prime Minister will recognise the complexities which this condition of affairs is creating. I should like to know whether he has observed it, and, if so, whether in any contemplated legislation, means will be taken to avoid it. .
– In the absence of my honorable colleague, Mr. Lockyer, the Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs consulted with me yesterday and again this morning in connexion with some of the complexities to which the honorable member has called attention. So far as I can form a judgment at the present time, it will be necessary, when the House meets after the Christmas adjournment, or as soon after as the information in our possession will admit, to submit a short measure dealing with these different standards of wages, and also with the retrospective operation of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act prior to the declaration by the President of the Arbitration Court of the scale of wages which he has approved in the agricultural implement industry.
– In the meantime what will be done?
– In the meantime that branch of the Department will be busily occupied in communicating with the different persons concerned with a view to obtaining from them a full statement of each case. All concerned have already been invited to send in these communications. This morning I saw a small country manufacturer for the purpose of explaining the position to him, and he has, in the frankest fashion, put his position beforeme. It will be necessary for others to do the same. The Government will then be prepared to submit a proposal which will inflict no hardship upon those who have honestly done their best to comply with the law.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the complicated position arising out of the industrial laws - as shown by the honorable member for North Sydney in the question which he addressed to the honorable gentleman just now - the Government will take the earliest possible opportunity of bringing forward a Bill for the amendment of the Constitution, so that we may obtain uniform industrial laws throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I think the honorable member will find that there is already a motion to that effect upon the business paper.
– In any case a motion dealing with the question was submitted by a private member on a previous occasion.
– That motion was carried. The motion now on the paper seeks to. refer the matter to the States, asking them to pass legislation.
– I notice that the motion on the business-paper is as follows -
That, in order to give the industrial classes the full benefit of the protective policy adopted by the people of the Commonwealth, this House is of opinion that industrial legislation throughout Australia’ should be of a uniform character, and that, in order to secure such uniformity the State Governments should be asked by the Federal Government to introduce legislation which would give the Commonwealth Parliament the necessary power, as provided for by the Constitution, to enact such industrial legislation.
What the honorable member desires to indicate is that there is another course open, namely, to appeal direct to the people for an amendment of the Constitution. Without expressing any opinion on the motion, which I have just read, and without, of course, on the spur of the moment, committing the Government to any course, I am free to say that, personally, the suggested transfer is becoming obviously necessary.
– I ask the Prime Minister, whether, as he has stated his purpose to introduce legislation that will deprive the present Excise Tariff Acts of their retrospective tendency, he will give an assurance that the excise will not be collected until the House has had an opportunity to deal with the question.
– I did not intend to outline any repeal of artv retrospective provisions; but a means for the consideration of individual cases of hardship under the retrospective provisions. It may be said that there is a generalhardship ; and, if so, that will require to be dealt with by general provisions. But there may be specific cases of hardship in the application of the Act in, country districts, or where there are two sets of wages, as across the borders of States, to which the honorable member for North Sydney has called attention.
– If the Government goes on with the Excise Procedure Bill, it will necessarily raise, by some of the provisions, the whole question of how far the original Acts ought to be retrospective.
– It can raise that question.
– It must.
– I hope that it will not be thought necessary to raise the question, in view of the fact that we are well advanced into November, and that it will be impossible to deal with the subject without the information which we , are now acquiring with the utmost rapidity possible, from all over Australia. Having obtained that information, we shall be able to propose to the House means of meeting cases of hardship which exist, whether they be close at hand or in remote districts.
– In view of the situation which has been indicated by the Prime Minister - that he and his colleagues may have to submit some measure dealing with possible hardships, it would, I think, be only fair that those manufacturers of harvesters should in some way or other be made to know that it will be a substantial element, in any possible consideration of their cases, that they should at once conform to the rates which have been decided by the Justice in the case of the Sunshine harvesters. Whatever we may do as to the past, the manufacturers have now a clear indication from the Court of what are considered fair and rear sonable rates, and I think it would be only fair-
-Is the honorable member asking a question ?
– I intend to finish my remarks in an interrogative form. I- think . it is a matter worthy of the consideration of the Government, or, perhaps,I should say, it is a matter worthy of consideration by the Prime Minister, that there should be some indication that, if the manufacturers do not at once conform to the new standard their position may, perhaps, be prejudiced.
– The right honorable gentleman has, perhaps, not observed that my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in whose Department this matter lies - who is, unfortunately, absent this morning owing to domestic bereavement - a few days ago, when receiving a deputation said, in so many words, that the attitude which would be adopted towards the manufacturers would greatly depend on their immediate and frank acceptance of the rates of wages fixed by the Court. I may add that yesterday, and again to; day, I saw the head of the Department; and authorized him to convey to manufacturers, who were not present at the deputation, an exactly similar intimation - that from the date of the publication of the award, the scale of wages therein must be observed.
– Why not, at the same time, state that the award will not be retrospective in any case.
– At the same time, we intimate that if any manufacturer considers himself aggrieved by the retrospective operation of the scale, he is invited to lav before the Government any reasons which appear to him to justify his request for consideration.
– The manufacturer is convicted first, and afterwards it is considered whether the prerogative of mercy is to be exercised.
– People who pay duties do notget their money returned if Parliament abolishes the duties.
– I do not think the expression from the honorable member for Flinders is apposite, namely, that we convict first and afterwards consider the exercise of mercy. The law operates, and has been operating; and the manufacturers were warned.
– I donot mean to say that the Government convict first and consider the exercise of mercy afterwards, but merely that that is the effect of the Act.
– If it is intimated to the employersinthe harvester trade that they are expected to conform to the decisionofthe Justice as,to wages, I think they ought also tobe told that they must conformretrospectively before their applicationforany exemption can be considered.
Mr.Tudor.-They ought to pay up. arrears.
– The employers have been robbing -the men to the extentof the shortage in wages.
– There isa fair credit and debtor account.
– What the manufacturers have been informed is that the law has.been inoperation since the1st of January last, and they are asked what they aredoing to comply with. the law.
– The Prime Minister in reply to the honorable member for Flinders, has said that he will take into considerationthe question whether the Excise Tariff legislation should be made retrospective. , -I now ask the Prime Minister; - and, perhaps, the honorable member for Flinders will take notice of the point - whether he will consider the advisability or otherwise of also making retrospective the operation of the Bill, which we have just received from the Senate, dealing with the recent elections in South Australia.
– The Excise Tariff Act imposes certain Excise duties on manufacturers who have not complied with the conditions now laid down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As none of the manufacturers had any standard on which to base the wages of their men, and as none of them could tell what was in the mind of Mr. Justice Higgins,I should like to know whether the Government -would be justified in discriminating as between manufacturers throughout the States.
– I do not think that the Government would be justified in discriminating until it has laid before the House any proposals it may have to make in this regard. Relations between the Government and individuals in any employment in this respect are to be avoided, until they can be dealt with on principles laid before Parliament and sanctioned so as to represent the judgment of Parliament.
– The trouble is that we are asked to deal partially with the matter.
– -I think the course that has been f ollowed this morning is most undesirable. Questions are asked in due form, and then other questions are interposed every now and then by honorable members who continue to keep their seats -; and by this means there are, contrary to the Standing Orders, two or three consecutive answers secured to questions by the same honorable member. If honorable membersask questions in proper form, they will receive all theinformation they desire.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he now in a position to inform the House whether any proceedings have begun in the English Courts for the. recovery of the£25,000 security for the performance of the late abortive mail contract?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No proceedings have been commenced, but final instructions have been given for the recovery of the amount claimed.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice- .
– It is impossible for me to answer the honorable member’s questions at present. A Committee of Inquiry has been sitting in connexion with this question of stamps, and I have the report of that Committee before me. I have not had time, however, to deal with the matter, or to consult the PostmasterGeneral in regard to it. On the class of stamps determinedupon, and how they are printed, will depend the answersto nearly the whole of the questions- asked; and when a decision has been arrived at in this connexion, I shall answer the honorable member. I desire to consult the PostmasterGeneral before any action is taken by the Treasury.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether any decision has yet been arrived at in regard to the site of the new post-office, Lithgow, New South Wales?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No decision has yet been arrived at. The matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In the absence of my honorable oolleague I have , to give the following answers to the honorable member’s questions-
In Committee of Ways, and. Means (Con-. sideration resumed from 14th November, vide page 6056) :
Item 165. Machinery and parts thereof; viz. : -
Steam-engine Indicators and ‘ Recorders; Patent Porcelain and Steel Rollers for Flour Mills; Roll Shells; Typewriters (including Covers); Zinc Refining Retorts;Fire Engines;– Stitching Machines; Sewing’ Machines (including Cabinets and Covers) ; Button-hole Punching and Sewing Machines; Darning Machines; Straw Envelope-making Machines (General Tariff),10 per cent., (United Kingdom), free.
.- It is difficult to know why this item has been placed in the schedule. These machines either constitute minor articles of manufacture, or they are the means of livelihood of alarge section of thecommunity.
– This item was recom mended by the free-trade section of the Tariff Commission.
– But it has already been explained how this item came to be recommended by that section of the Commission. To my mind, it was foolish for the free-trade section of the Commission to attempt to frame a Tariff. However, they did so, and the duty recommended in this case being part of a general scheme was to go for nought if that scheme were not adopted. The honorable member therefore, was hardly fair in alluding to this as the recommendation of the. free-trade section of the Commission, without qualifying that statement in the way I haveindicated. Most of the goods in this item are either minor articles used in manufactures, or for ordinary household purposes or are used by women reduced to the unfortunate position of having to battle for their existence. This statement applies more particularly to typewriters and sewing machines. The Government propose a preference of 10 per cent. on goods imported from the United Kingdom, but as a matter of fact, we,.; do not import sewing machines in any quantity from the Old Country. The total value of imports under this heading in . 1906 was £140, 877, of which only £13,608 came from the United Kingdom. But -that sum of £13,608 covered few, if any, sewing machines. For the most part, it represented stitching and knitting ; machines; whichare included inthis item. The bulk of our importations of sewing machines come from America and Germany, and are excellent productions.
– And the honorable member wishes them to still come from those countries. Anything to foster foreign industries.
– I certainly wish them to continue to come from those countries, seeing that we get practically none from any other country. The Treasurer will, perhaps, be surprised to learn that his pet newspaper, the Age, has very strongly denounced this tax upon sewing machines.
– I do not care what the Age says. It does not affect me.
– The honorable member and his followers generally tune their political fiddles to the note struck by that newspaper. It was in recognition of the fact that sewing machines are used chiefly by thepoorer classes of the community, and are necessary to enable many poor women to earn a living, that, in response to a tremendous protest, the New Zealand Government removed the duty of 10 per cent.
-i have a record that most of these items under the New Zealand Tariff are dutiable at 20 per cent, or are free.
– I have the following statement on the subject :
On 23rd August, 1907, the Commissioner of Customs in Wellington (New Zealand), The Hon. J. Millar, struck out of the Preferential Tariff the following : -
The preferential duty of 10 per cent, on sewing machines was abolished because sewing machines are almost entirely imported from America and elsewhere, and the imposition of a preferential duty would simply raise the prices to the public without diverting trade in any substantial measure to the British manufacturers.
If this duty is intended to encourage the local production of sewing machines, it is just as well to point out that none of the best class are made here. Sewing machines are the subject of patent rights.
– The parts are assembled.
– And most of the parts are made here.
– I am afraid the Treasurer knows as little about this subject as . about most others connected with the Tariff. Most of the sewing machines are still protected by patents, and are not made locally.
– The patents now in force relate to very few of the parts ; they apply only to some special adjuncts.
– Will any honorable member say that sewing machines are made in any quantity in Australia?
-i think Mr. Beale makes them.
– If the Minister went through Beale’s factory he would find that all the parts are not manufactured there, and I believe even. Mr. Beale has given up the sewing machine business entirely.
– The bulk of them are.
– Some of the minor parts may have been made here.
– Does not the honorable member think it possible for sewing machines to be made in Australia?
– Probably we shall manufacture them when we have a larger population, but not yet. I would call the attention of the Treasurer to the following quotation from evidence given before the Industrial Appeal Court in Victoria in connexion with the starch trade dispute. A starch worker gave evidence -
I am 36 years of age, employed at Harper’s, at 36s. per week.
Replying to the question “ How do you live ? “ he said -
I have a sewing machine on time payment. My wife earns from 8s. to11s. per week with it. ‘ The children are aged 6 years, 3 years, and 8 months.
Another employe states -
I receive 30s. per week. Am a married man, with one child. My wife makes all the clothes for all of us. Shehas a sewing machine on time payment, at 2s. 6d. per week.
The Age, the great protectionist oracle of the home of protection, in an article published some time ago, denounced this duty. It wrote -
How , often in these modern days have we not heard the phrase as applied to some poor woman left suddenly to her own resources : “ Help her with a trifle of money over her immediate necessities, furnish her with a sewing machine, and she will be able to get along” ; or, “ Help her to get a sewing machine, and she will be well content.”….. Careful inquiry made in connexion with the preparation of this article goes to prove, by actual extracts fromthe city ledgers of a leading firm of sewing machine importers, that it is the “ working “ and poorer classes who are the principal purchasers of sewing machines, especially on the extended payment system. An analysis of the last thousand town customers in this direc- “tion (farmers and country folk generally not appearing in the list) give the following results : -
The foregoing clearly proves that fully 90 per cent, of purchasers of sewing machines on the extended payment system are in positions likely, to say the least, to be seriously affected by the “seven lean years” through which the colony is now passing . . . and yet, in the face of all this, the Government proposes a tax of 10 per cent, on sewing machines, a tax which; with interest and profit superadded, must eventually fall upon the purchaser - a tax never yet levied in any European country ; a tax not even now proposed to be placed’ on knitting and stitching machines ; a tax in the very nature of things unfair, unjust, and which must be forthwith abandoned if the Ministry desires to pose longer as the “poor man’s friend.”
This quotation covers all that I need to put before the Committee in regard to the matter, and if it does not convince the Minister that the duty ought to be removed nothing will. I move -
That the words “ typewriters (including covers),” “ sewing machines (including cabinets and covers), button-hole punching and sewing machines, darning machines,” be left out.
– - Personally, I do not think that it matters much whether we do or do not impose a duty of 10 per cent, on foreign importations of sewing machines, to give a preference to Great Britain; but I am surprised that the honorable member for Lang and the members of the party to which he belongs have not shown more concern about the robbery of sempstresses and other poor persons who need sewing machines, and have to pay extortionate prices for them. When Parliament was considering how best to protect certain local manufacturers from unfair competition from abroad, tons of documents and protests were produced, and the members of the Opposition were perfervid in their declarations’ against the iniquity of the proceeding, because, they alleged, prices were being charged for the locally-made articles quite disproportionate to their cost. But, in this instance, apparently because it is the importers who are making exorbitant charges, not a word is said on the subject.
– Have I ever advocated the charging of exorbitant prices?
– The honorable member has spoken about the hardships which poor people will suffer if a duty of 10 per cent is charged on imported foreign sewing machines ; but he has not said a word about the deliberate robbery of these poor people by the combination of importers.
– I tlo not uphold such practices.
– The honorable member is not individually responsible for them ; but, as he expressed so much concern foi poor people, because they will have to pay a duty of 10 per cent, on foreign sewing machines, he might have said a word or two about the much more important matter to which I am drawing attention.
– Honorable, members wished me to curtail my remarks.
– I did not suggest ‘that the honorable member should refrain from saying what it was necessary to say in this regard. Sewing machines which are sold for ^12 and ^15 each are invoiced at about £2 and £2 10s. each, the average invoice cost of sewing machines with their appurtenances and fixings being less than £2 each, so that the purchasers are robbed to the extent of about 500 per cent. The honorable member for Lang is wildly excited by the proposal to charge a duty of io per cent, on the invoice cost of foreign machines, which would come to about 4s. each, but he and other members of the Opposition seem to regard it as of no importance that the importers’ make a profit of from £10 to £12 on each machine.
– It is not fair for the honorable member to suggest that we. advocate the charging of extortionate prices.
– What I said was that the matter appears to be of no importance to the members of the Opposition.
– We are as anxious as is any other honorable member to prevent extortion.
– The honorable member did not protest against it.
– That was through an oversight, because I desired to curtail my. remarks.
– In any case,- what can we do in the matter? I do not see that the charging of 10 per cent, on imported foreign sewing machines will make either them or the imported English machines any cheaper.
– to my mind, it does not matter whether the proposed duty is or is not carried. Even if the whole of it had to be paid by the purchasers of the machines, it would not increase their cost by 4s., which is as nothing compared with the exorbitant profits of the importers.
– If we impose a duty, the importers will add it to their prices, and charge profit on it as well.
– They have already fixed the prices for their machines, especially for those bought on the time payment system.
– They have fixed the prices at which they can make a fair profit.
– I hope that the honorable member will refrain from displaying his ignorance on the subject. The margin of profit is enormous.
– So is the cost of distribution. This gives work to the people whom the honorable member is supposed to represent.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it is to the advantage of the poor that they should have to pay £10 or £12 profit on sewing machines?
– These machines should be sold for £5 or £6.
– They can be bought for £6.
– Yes; I have bought a machine at that price.
– Only certain brands are sold at that price.
– Good brands are sold at that price.
– The Singer and Wertheim machines are sold at much higher prices.
– Beale’s machines are just as dear.
– Beale does not make machines.
– The Minister has told us that he does.
– I have seen them.
- Mr. Beale found that the manufacture of sewing machines did not pay him, and therefore gave it up. I do not wish to put in a word for. Mr. Beale or for any one else ; but it seems to me that the prices of sewing machines are out of all proportion to their cost, and I am surprised that honorable members who have made such a noise about the proposed duty have nothing to say about the action of importers in charging so much for their machines.
– Where machines are sold on time payment there must be a margin to provide for losses.
– I admit that.
– I was rather astonished at the fierce attack of the honorable member for South Sydney on the honorable member for Lang. We are dealing with a proposal’ to impose a duty onforeign sewing machines, and the question of selling price did not arise. But may I point out to the honorable member for. South Sydney that, when it had been pointed out by the Opposition that Australian manufacturers had by combination been taking advantage of duties, and would do so still further if rates were increased, he and those with him, merely said “ We can. deal with combines.”
– We fixed the selling prices of harvesters.
– I am referring, not to harvesters, but to other manufactures protected by high duties. Similarly, I would point out that there is on the statute-book an Act to prevent what the honorable member for South Sydney has complained of, and therefore it seems to me that the honorable member for Lang is not to be blamed for not having referred to the matter. I am not here to support the importers, but, in reply to what the honorable member has said, I would mention that I have myself bought good family sewing machines for £6 each. Of course, there may be much more highly-priced machines.
– I spoke after having seen copies of invoices.
– I. know that the honorable member would not wilfully misrepresent the matter. But if prices are as high as he says, why do not Australian manufacturers take advantage of them, and, by importing and assembling here the parts, which they can bring in free of duty, share in the enormous profits. It is not necessary to erect an extensive plant for the manufacture of sewing machines ; all that has to be done is to assemble imported parts.
– Could an Australian manufacturer obtain parts?
– Yes ; anyone can , get them. The proposed dutv is not protective in its incidence, because there is no duty on British importations, and it is admitted that we cannot compete with’ them. The honorable member who has- moved the amendment wishes to prevent the price of imported foreign machines from being increased, and I think that he is right in the action which he has taken.
.- This is an old subject with me. I remember that, when the last Tariff was under discussion, the honorable member for Adelaide gave way on the duty on sewing machines without calling for a division, while the proposal to make stands dutiable was negatived on division. I have been informed that machines which cost £13 10s. are invoiced f.o.b. at , £4 17s. 6d. It must be remembered that machines vary a good deal - some, are very plain, while others have a lot of fancy work about them.
– Some are invoiced at as little as 30s. each.
– I know my authority to be reliable. In any case, the public would not get machines more cheaply if we imposed a duty of 10 per cent. on importations from foreign countries. The effect of the duty would be to increase the prices.
– It would not increase them by more than from 2s. to 2s. 6d. each.
-The duty would come to much more than that on a machine invoiced at £4. It must be remembered that the parts of machines can be imported free of duty. I ask the Treasurer whether sewing machines are a fair subject for taxation? Hundreds of other tools of trade have already been placed upon the free list and I do not know why the women workers of the Commonwealth should be subjected to a special disability in the shape of a duty of 10 per cent. As a matter of fact sewing machines comprised one of the items in respect of which the Premier of New Zealand on the representations of the Labour Party of the Dominion refused to accord preferential treatment to the Mother Country. In almost every village throughout the Commonwealth women are operating these machines as their tools of trade. I trust that the Treasurer will see his way clear to place them upon the free list. When we were discussing the duty upon cream separators yesterday the honorable gentleman requested the postponement of the item because he practically admitted that there was a consensus of opinion amongst honorable members that these articles should be admitted free. I venture to say that sewing machines are used to a much greater extent in the Commonwealth than are cream separators, and if it is fair to place the latter upon the free list surely the former should be included in the same category. I ask the Treasurer whether he seriously desires to levy this duty of 10 per cent. upon sewing machines ?
– I do not care very much whether sewing machines are made dutiable or not, but I am opposed to their importation from foreign countries when we can obtain them from Great Britain. I find that the importations under this heading are valued at £179,000, of which only £14,000 worth are of British origin. The balance comes chiefly from Germany and the United States.
– What quantity do we get from Canada.
– Very little. There is one article in this item that I wish to eliminate - I refer to “ roll shells “ - which I understand are made very largely in the Commonwealth. I shall afterwards propose to add to the free list a long list of machines which were inadvertently omitted by the Department.
– It is a very serious matter for the Department to overlook articles of that character.
– These articles were inadvertently overlooked by the departmental officers.
– I do not think that the names of officers ought to be introduced into this debate at all. Ministers should accept the responsibility which belongs to them.
– I intend to move -
That thewords “roll shells” be left out.
– I find it most difficult to accept the statement of the Treasurer that an important lot of machines, which were admitted free under the old Tariff, were inadvertently made dutiable under this Tariff. I cannot accept his statement that, as the result of inadvertence, important machinery like printing machinery, which under the old Tariff was admitted free, was taken out of the free list and placed under a dutiable item. I cannot believe that the Department is in such a state.Blackfellows would not make a mistake of that kind. It is a monstrous thing. Was it the result of a mistake that a schedule was inserted in this Tariff under which hat and woollen mills were granted a refund of the duty which they are called upon to pay on their machinery?
– That provision was contained in the old Tariff.
– The old Tariff did not provide that they should first pay the duty and then get it back. I have too high an opinion of the officers of the Customs Department to imagine that they could make an omission of this kind by accident. They must have done what they did by design. We do not expect mistakes of this sort to be made in a Tariff. In reference to sewing machines, I hold in my hand a publication which was issued upon the day that the Tariff was introduced, and which sets out hundreds of the tools of trade of protected industries upon the free list. But amongst these I can find only one connected with the farming industry - I refer to scythes. That is the only implement of the agricultural industry which has been exempted from duty. I ask honorable members to get a copy of this by-law, and to compare all the tools of trade of industries enjoying a protection of 30 and 40 per cent. which have been put upon the free list with the tools of trade of the agricultural industry which are being made free. Sewing machines are undoubtedly a tool of trade of the weakest portion of the community. I observe that about fifty different machines used in the bookbinding trade, and about 100 tools and machines used in the paper-finishing, saddlery trades, and so forth, are free; I suppose that, altogether, about 1,000 tools and machines of trade are made free by departmental regulation. I am glad that the Minister intends to accept the amendment which has been proposed.. The high prices which are charged for sewing machines represent a most odious sort of extortion ; but imposing a duty would not mend matters.
– The duty would make no difference.
– There was a most enterprising manufacturer of sewing machines . in Sydney, in the person of Mr. Beale; but he has given up that branch of business. One would have thought that, if there had been profits such as have been mentioned, he would have continued the industry.
– We must remember, however, when considering the high prices of sewing machines, that much of the profit is absorbed in canvassing and advertising.
– That is so; just as in the harvester industry, the two articles being sold under similar conditions. But even after all allowances the difference between the cost of manufacture and the price to the consumer is too great.
– Then private enterprise is not always efficient?
– Like everything else human, private enterprise has its imperfections. The honorable member’s argument might be used against the existence of mankind, seeing that none of us are perfect ; but we have to. make the best of human nature as it is. I do not know much about time-payment systems, except what I have learned in my professional capacity; but my impression is that the people of Australia are about the safest “marks” in the world to honour obligations of the kind.
– Has. the Treasurer really made up his mind to make this item perfectly free?
– Yes, with one exception.
– Then we are united in our desire to make sewing machines as cheap as possible.
-Abolish the middle man.
– That is an heroic action which I am afraid is too much for me. The Treasurer, I understand, intends to see that the people of Australia get their sewing machines as cheaply as possible.
– I would rather there was a duty, but I do not wish to waste time.
.- The Treasurer has consented to omit roll shells, and I suggest that steel rollers for flour mills should also be omitted. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has gone into this question; and it was his intention to move an amendment to omit steel rollers in order that they might be made dutiable under manufactures of metals generally. In the absence of the honorable member I wish to move -
That the words “ steel rollers for flour mills” be left out.
– I am glad that the Treasurer has consented to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Lang, and thus place sewing machines on the. free list. The Treasurer has told us that he desires to put a number of other items on the free list ; and, in view of that fact, seeing that item 155 has been postponed, I suggest that the item now under consideration should also be postponed. I desire to say a few words on behalf of the engineering industry, considering that so much consideration and protection has been extended to the woollen, hat and other industries. Speaking from memory, I should say that the engineering establishments of Australia could produce some, if not the whole, of the items which the Treasurer has intimated his desire to place on the free list.
– I cannot find that many of the items are produced in Australia.
– High protection is given to the woollen industry and to the hat industry, and yet those who benefit from the high duties grudge protection to the local makers of tools and machinery. I should say that any one who posed as a protectionist would give the utmost consideration to the iron and engineering industries, which are the basis of all other industries. Yet we find the Treasurer proposing to place on the free list many articles which are made by moulders, brassworkers, blacksmiths, and others. These men arid their families have to pay heavy duties on apparel and other necessaries of life, and yet they are denied any assistance under the Tariff.
– This is a good protectionist speech.
– I have already said that probably I could make a better protectionist speech than could the Treasurer, and honorable members know that my stated intention was, if the policy of the Commonwealth had to be protection, to see that the industries in my electorate have a share. Under the Tariff the jewellery trade is highly protected, and yet jewellers’ lathes are to be admitted free, although such lathes are a finished product of an industry within the Commonwealth. Surely it cannot be pretended that Australia cannot produce rolled shells or steel rollers for flour mills.
– I am proposing to make those articles dutiable.
– I thought the Treasurer would not say that steel rollers could not be made in Australia, seeing that only a very little time ago he performed the baptismal ceremony on one manufactured in
New South Wales. I am very strongly tempted to move that this item be postponed. Surely the Treasurer will admit that there is good reason to believe that some of the machines that he proposes to exempt could be made in Australia. The matter is worthy of consideration, and the artisans and mechanics concerned who have to pay a duty of 100 per cent, on hats will certainly be anxious to know what he has done to assist them. The Treasurer ought to be prepared to do for the secondary industries that which he is ready to do for the primary industries.
– The question of the duty on sewing machines is not now of any importance since the Minister has agreed to place them on the free list ; but it seems to me that the general policy of exempting machines known as tools of trade from any duty is being carried by the present Government to what from a protectionist stand-point is an extraordinary extreme. It will be found that quite a number of machines included in the list referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney are not difficult to manufacture. They have not been made locally, because no encouragement has been offered to local engineers to produce them. They have been free, and have been so easily obtainable from abroad that no manufacturer in Australia has cared to embark upon the enterprise of making them. Some tools of trade, however, have been made in Australia. If the Treasurer pays. a visit to the Newport Railway Workshops, he will find that a large proportion of the machine tools in use there were made on the premises. In the same way, quite a number of engineering firms in Sydney make their own tools. Whilst I do not think it would be justifiable to impose a high duty upon machines that are not generally made here, I think it is equally unwise to exempt them. In doing so, we give no encouragement to Australian engineering firms.
– The list before us does not relate to machine tools.
– I refer to machine tools as affecting the general policy of exempting these mechanical appliances.
– The honorable member has seen the list of exemptions in the regulations ?
– I saw it some time ago. A large proportion of the machines that are looked upon as patented are not entitled to protection under the patent laws. The word “ patented “ still appears upon many of them, but in a number of cases the patent rights have expired. Protection should not be granted to manufacturers abroad unless within a certain time they set up manufactories in Australia.
– We have in operation a patent law of which I disapprove.
– Quite so ; but, holding these views, I do not sympathize with the idea that we should necessarily exempt from duty anything patented abroad. It is all very well for those who believe-wi certain machines, such as those used in hat making, being free from duty to refer specially to them, but we must not overlook the fact that these exemptions in the aggregate affect to an enormous extent the possibilities of development in the engineering trade. Machines of the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds are exempt as “ flop Ls of trade,” or as not being made in Australia. If we are to have any adequate development of the secondary industries in iron we must impose some duty.
– =Does the honorable member suggest a high duty ?
– No. I admit that at present many of these tools are not made in Australia; but protectionists cannot overlook the fact that we are unlikely to have any development of the engineering industry if we persist in putting all tools of trade on the free list.
– The honorable member suggests an experimental duty?
– Practically that. A duty of 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, would probably be sufficient to give a start to the local manufacture of many machines at present on the free list.
– That would be only a revenue duty.
– In some cases it would not be sufficient; but in any event it would not be a serious tax upon those who use such machinery. I do not think that protected manufacturers should complain of a desire on our part to give a little assistance to engineers who can manufacture the machinery which they use. For that reason I would urge the Government in regard, not to this item alone, but to the exemption, of machinery generally, to consider; the desirability of imposing a moderate duty. T.o view the matter from another stand-point, I would remind the Committee that we have -imposed a - number of - revenue duties upon articles which are in daily demand by the general masses of the community. If we» need revenue duties, it is much better to impose them on articles which may be produced in Australia, although they are not being made here at present, than oh actual necessities of the poorest section of the population. From that stand-point alone the Government might fairly well reconsider the position in regard to these exemptions.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney has raised a point which undoubtedly ought to be of considerable interest to protectionists., but of which protectionists, as a rule, have fought shy. I was very glad to hear the honorable member indorse what was practically the opinion expressed by the freetrade section of the Commission in regard to the exemption of tools of trade. We were struck by the anomalies in relation to these exemptions. We found that whilst tools of trade used in certain industries were on the free list, others were taxed. The anomaly appeared the more extraordinary when we found that almost invariably those industries which derived no advantage from protective duties were taxed in respect of their tools of trade, whilst protected industries obtained them free. The honorable member for South Sydney has said very forcibly that if the engineering industries of Australia could only secure the making of a proportionof the tools- of trade, which, for the benefit of protected industries, are allowed to come in free, there would be very little complaint of depression amongst them. The quantity of machinery so introduced is enormous. Undoubtedly there is force in the observation that whilst, perhaps, a prohibitive duty would entail hardship on those who must neces-sarily obtain their tools of trade from abroad, still a moderate duty could be imposed which would produce revenue, and at the .same time lead to an expansion of production in the engineering trade of Australia, in those directions where any chance of success is probable. Although the freetrade section of the Commission, according to the comparative table circulated amongst honorable members, recommended a duty of 10 per cent, on this item, its intention undoubtedly was that it should remain, as under the old Tariff, free.
– Then why did it recommend a duty of 10 per cent. ?
– We did not. We did not interfere with the exemptions under the old Tariff. Possibly we may have been at fault in failing to distinctly indicate that fact; but such was the intention of the free-trade section, and I intend to show that it was by voting if necessary for this item being placed on the free list.
– The honorable member for South Sydney has anticipated a great deal of what I had intended to say, and I shall not repeat his arguments. The iron industry and its associated manufactures come next in importance to the primary industries, and are probably the most helpful that any country could possess. There is a good deal in the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney that practically all these tools of trade should bear some duty. There are some machines, such as printing and’ sewing machines and a few others, so complex that it would be idle to tax them, because their output in Australia would necessarily be very limited.
– What a fine old time I should have if I imposed a general dutyon the tools of trade!
– Very many tools of trade which are now on the free list could be made in Australia, and their manufacture here would give far more employment than many of the industries for the encouragement of which the Treasurer has been fighting so hard. Every additional tool of trade made in the Commonwealth means the introduction of special machinery,’ and the possibility of still more machinery being produced in the Commonwealth. The introduction of one machine perhaps enables a number of others to be produced here. For what reason have fire engines been placed on the free list? They could be made here as well as most mining engines, and we make locomotives, which are the most complex of all engines.
– On three occasions we have tried to get a sample engine made, calling for tenders and offering a premium, But without result.
– No manufacturer would put up machinery for turning out one engine, and under free-trade conditions.
– There are- too few fire engines required in Australia to make it profitable to manufacture them here.
– I am surprised that the Postmaster-General would allow a fire to be put out with any but an Australian-made engine.
– We will remind him of his argument when considering the duties on mining machinery.
– Most mining engines are as difficult to make as arefire engines, and the sale for them is not much greater. I should like to see a moderate duty imposed on fire engines, to encourage their manufacture here. There may be parts which we cannot profitably make but I think that most of the parts could be made here. I urge the Government to take fire engines out of the free list.
.- I am in the main in agreement with the general policy in regard to tools of trade adopted by previous Governments and followed by this one. No doubt the Australian people wish to endeavour to produce as much as possible of their own requirements, and I think it a good thing to give reasonable protection to local manufacture. But if we penalize the importation of machine tools necessary for manufacture of one kind or another, we shall be hampering instead of encouraging local production. Many machine tools are turned out by firms which have specialized their production, and have the world for their market.
– Let them come here and manufacture.
– For certain lines the Australian market is so small that it would not pay them to do so. We could manufacture battleships or any other propositions if we were prepared to pay sufficiently for them ; but it is wiser to centre our efforts on the production of what we can make economically, and to give our manufacturers an opportunity to take advantage of the skill and specialization of manufacturers abroad. As our plants extend we shall extend our manufacture, even of special tools ; and patent rights will expire. But it would be bad policy to penalize now the importation of tools of trade whose manufacture is protected by patent rights and carried out by specialized processes. There are many articles in the list of the Treasurer which could not be made without a special plant, and for which the demand is too small to make their manufacture in Australia profitable. I intend not to vote for revenue duties, and I shall oppose duties which, while giving a little protection, are really revenueproducing in their incidence. ButI am willing to give reasonable protection to the encouragement and assistance of manufacture, though without hampering our manufacturers or primary producers by imposing duties on tools of trade and other necessaries of the mining and agricultural industries which cannot profitably be made here. The Minister has consented to place sewing machines, typewriters, and other similar machines on the free list, because there is no reasonable expectation that they will be made here in the near future.
– They would be made here now had a duty been imposed thirty years ago.
– It is easy to make an assertion of. that kind, but, as men of affairs, we must be guided by experience in determining what is possible. In my juvenile days I started out to make a steam engine, but I am satisfied that, had I completed it, it would not have been suitable for driving some of the plants which are used by our great primary industries. I am in thorough agreement with the proposals of the Government generally ; but I believe in exempting tools of trade and other machinery which cannot be made here, set out in this and in subsequent items.
.- I desire to point out that although importations from Great Britain are free, the effect of a duty of 10 per cent, on foreign importations of patent porcelain’ and steel rolls for flour mills will be to tax one of the large manufacturing industries of Australia, because the tempering and other processes necessary for the manufacture of these rollers have been perfected and patented by continental manufacturers,- and they are not made in the United Kingdom. In a letter which I have received from the Otto C. Schumacher Mill Furnishing Works - the only manufacturers of flour-milling machinery in Victoria - it is pointed out that-
These steel rolls are the principal parts of roller mills, and’ are at present not manufactured in Australia, and but very few indeed in England, and these, by the way, are inferior to other makes.
When the Bounties Bill was before us we were supplied with a report in which attention was drawn to the great value of the flour-milling industry, an industry of such value to the country that it was stated that there was a desire to recommend a bounty for the production of flour for human consumption and offals for the use of agriculturists and dairymen. We recognise the advantage of manufacturing all that we can, and I am prepared to give reasonable protection for the assistance of manufacturers. But we shall depart from the. true principles of protection if we levy taxation on articles which cannot be manufactured here. The Schumacher Company advocate a duty of 25 per. cent, on steel rolls ; but it seems to me that they do so on purely selfish grounds. They urge that if the duty upon this article be retained at 10 per cent., and if the frames of the machines are subject to a 25 per cent. rate, the machines will be imported in parts, and the parts will be assembled here. That will provide a certain amount of employment, no doubt.
– It. is only playing with the question.
– I -admit that Messrs. Schumacher and Company turn out excellent machinery for flour mills.
– With the exception of the steel rollers.
– The rollers are not manufactured locally. Even Messrs. Schumacher and Company do not manufacture them. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports poses as an advocate for a. gentleman who, in his own letter, says -
So far from these rollers being manufactured in Victoria they are only manufactued in England in a very small way, and they are inferior to other makes.
Until some evidence is forthcoming of a desire to enter upon their manufacture, we should not penalize other manufacturers.
– We want to make the flour mills pay something.
– I am not arguing this question from, a selfish stand-point, because I have a flour mill which is equipped with everything that is necessary in the way of machinery. But if the manufacture of flour ought to be encouraged, it should be. encouraged by admitting free those articles which cannot be manufactured locally. I should like to add that my sympathies are. entirely with the .sempstresses and otherswho -are required to use sewing machines. As we do not manufacture these articles, it seems to be a very harsh proceeding to levy a duty of 10 per cent, upon them.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports>- [12.34]. - So far, we have not attempted to manufacture porcelain rollers for flour mills, but there is a plant at Port Melbourne for the manufacture of the steel rollers. I admit that the firm in’ question? is not making them now. The reason is that its members resemble certain other protectionists who, whilst desiring their own industry to be protected, wish to obtain their raw material - which Is the finished article of another industry - as cheaply as possible. Surely the mechanical skill required, to produce a steel roller is not beyond Australians. These rollers are not being manufactured to any extent in Great Britain, and the whole of those used in the Commonwealth are imported from Germany.
– Do they not come from Buda-Pesth?
– Yes. But, in this connexion, I regard Austria and Germany as one country. Of course, we have been told that it is impossible to properly temper the steel in Australia. That is all moonshine. A good deal has been said in reference to subjecting the users of sewing machines to a disability by levying a 10 per cent, rate upon them. Are honorable members aware that if a duty had been placed upon these machines thirty years ago, they would have been selling in Australia to-day for half their present price? I know perfectly well that in Sydney and Melbourne ‘there is a firm which alleges that it manufactures sewing machines. But, as a matter of fact, it merely imports the parts and puts them together here. I admit that it also “does a certain amount of moulding work. The reason that the price of sewing machines in Australia has not been reduced is that they are not manufactured here.
– They are.
– They are not. Of each machine alleged to be made within the ‘Commonwealth, not one-fourth of the parts are so .made. A machine which is sold for £12 10s. upon the time-payment system cannot be purchased for £10 cash. Yet that machine landed in Australia costs only about 5s. The position in regard to’ the price of rollers for flour mills and printing machines is an exactly similar one. If these articles were protected the imported article would be much cheaper than it is now. I hold that there is nothing remarkable in the process of manufacturing these rollers. Some of them are turned out plain, and others are corrugated, but as a matter of fact the corrugation upon them does not last. What do the Victorian millers do? They send their rollers to be re-corrugated and re-set bv a firm in my electorate. Instead of imposing a duty of 10 per cent, upon these articles, the Treasurer should have subjected them to a 25 per cent, rate under the General Tariff, and to a 15 per cent, duty under the Tariff for the United Kingdom. Experience has shown that wherever a duty has been levied upon an article which has encouraged its local production, the result has always been to reduce- the price for the imported article.
– As in the case of sugar, for instance:
– I do not hold a brief for sugar, but I am willing to encourage the employment of white labour, even if by so doing we are required to pay a little more for our sugar.
– The honorable member is prepared to protect black, labour?
– If we wish to. exclude black labour, it is essential that we should impose high duties upon articles in the production of which it would be engaged. What is the use of protecting a whole machine if we allow its parts to be admitted free? Unless we can manufacture the articles specified in this item, it is useless for us to talk about becoming a nation, especially in view of the fact that the iron industry is the most ‘stable industry that we can establish. We should be very careful about admitting free of duty parts of machines which can be manufactured locally. Seeing that the manufacture of steel rollers for. flour mills and for printing machinery would absorb such an enormous quantity of iron, I hope that the Treasurer will see his way to transfer this line to another item, under which it will be dutiable at a higher rate than that proposed.
.- I think I can claim to be a fairly strong protectionist, but, at the .same time, in imposing protective duties on tools of trade or parts thereof, a certain amount of discrimination should, in my opinion, be exercised. If we accept the advice of the honorable member’ for South Sydney, and impose a duty, with a view to some possible speculative effect, we may thereby place a heavy burden on industries already established. The time may come when- we can expand the area of tools of trade, on which protective duties are imposed, but, in the meantime, it is a fair proposition to place duties on such tools or parts thereof as can be fairly and reasonably produced or manufactured in Australia.
– Can steel rollers not fairly and reasonably be produced here?
– Up to the present, steel rollers have not been fairly and reasonably produced here; and, therefore, I think that the proposal to eliminate porcelain and steel rollers for flour mills is unfair and unreasonable, and ought not to be entertained. There is a duty of 25 per cent, on flour roller machinery - that is, on the machine itself - and if porcelain and steam rollers are embodied in the complete machine, they are liable to that duty.
– But importers are cunning enough to bring the rollers in separately.
– If the rollers are introduced separately, then they are free; and that, in my opinion, is perfectly justifiable, because it may lead to the establishment of other mills besides that conducted by the honorable member’s friend, Mr. Schumacher. If a duty be imposed, it will only tend to give Mr. Schumacher a monopoly, and I am not disposed to give him or any one else a monopoly in regard to this or any other kind of machinery.
– There are other firms besides that of Mr. Schumacher.
– And those other firms desire to have -porcelain and steam rollers free, and I am prepared to vote to make them free, as under the old Tariff. I shall never be a party to placing a duty on any part of a machine or tool of trade that cannot fairly and reasonably be made in Australia. There is such a limited demand for porcelain and steel rollers, which are only required in connexion with new machines, that it would not pay to lay down the necessary special plant. Mr. Schumacher desires a duty merely to suit his own purposes.
– That is not correct.
- Mr. Schumacher is the only man who asked for a duty, and I know, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not know, the case which Mr. Schumacher presented to the Tariff Commission. It is a selfish request that Mr. Schumacher makes through the honorable member.
– He has not made the request through me.
– I aporehend that thehonorable member is Mr. Schumacher’s mouth-piece. There is a. duty of 25 per cent, on the complete machine, and that ought to be enough. I utterly disagree with the view presented by the honorable member for South Sydney that we ought to place an all-round duty on machine tools and parts. We ought to exercise a certain amount of discrimination and judgment. Item 166 covers the whole of the applications which were made for protection ; and I am not prepared to support any. duty which has not been applied for by manufacturers in Australia. We should only comply with applications which are fairly and reasonably supported by evidence. The principal maker is Mr. Gideon James, of Melbourne, and he has obtained nearly every duty he asked for ; and I do not think we ought to go further and grant duties on tools of trade, and so forth, which at present are not made in Australia.
– Why not encourage manufacturers to make a start?
– I am not prepared to grant speculative duties but only to deal with circumstances as they arise. And, in my opinion, ample provision has been made for the protection of machine tools and tools of trade.
– Is the honorable member in favour of a duty of 25 per cent. on soap cutting machines ?
– On the last occasion the honorable member desired to make those machines free.
– Yes; but I have changed my mind.
.- It appears to me from the discussion that a number of honorable members’ desire the Treasurer to completely remodel the tariff. Seeing, however, that, after a long discussion, we have disposed of about one-third of the items, it is too late in the day to make any such . change. The Tariff has been arranged on general lines which are very well understood ; and it comes before us as the result of a Commission appointed to inquire into the operation of the previous Tariff on existing industries. But some protectionists seem to have an idea that we have only to impose a duty to have, like the result- of a stroke from a fairy wand, industries springing up all round us. While I look upon private enterprise as one of the failures . of our social system, I may noint out that -no one engages in. commercial business as a mere matter of philanthropy, especially when it is sought to introduce a new line, which has to come into competition, with the existing supply. Tools of trade are supplied in . a certain . way already ; and it would be a big undertaking to now endeavour to secure the market by. means of a new venture, apart altogether from the question of being able to produce the commodities at a competing price. Firms have their connexions and financial arrangements with wholesale houses, and sometimes these arrangements are such as to place them in the grip of the big manufacturer or importing firm, as the case may be. Under such circumstances; a firm takes the line that is most profitable. Any one with capital to invest does not go round looking for some direction in which he may do a good turn to the community, but embarks on the enterprise which is likely to prove the most remunerative. I support the views expressed by the honorable member forBendigo. Tools of trade have to be replaced, and this cost has been calculated in the imposition of the duties. To impose a duty on tools of trade would have much the Same result asimposing duties on raw materials ; and I hope the Treasurer will adhere to the principle of confining his attention to industries already in existence. If it be desired to impose a protective duty, with a view to encouraging the starting of an industry, that duty ought not to become operative until the industry is started. I have a strong objection to duties on articles which are not made or are not likely to be made profitably in Australia. Until our population is much greater we cannot hope to make Australia self-contained or selfsupporting. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has urged rthat the imposition of a duty immediately lowers prices.
– I did not say so.
– I mean that the honorable member said that the imposition of a duty immediately lowers prices after an industry has been started.
– But if a duty be imposed, and the industry is not started, then the public have to pay the higher price ; and I have a decided objection to revenue duties.
– The plant for making these tools is in Australia.
– Of course, we know that firms and establishments, like the Newport workshops, for example, make their own tools of trade; but that is very different from making tools for sale by merchants and retailers. I support what has been said in favour of making sewing machines free. We know that sewing machines invoiced, here at 50s. are sold at fourteen guineas. There is no doubt that the organization of vendors is very complete; and I think it is a cruel system which insists on the breaking up of a second-hand machine, however good it may be, so that prices may be kept up. This is only one of the cruel wastes of the competitive system. I would be prepared to vote for the Government proposal of preference, because the great Singer company manufacture in Great Britain ; and, as atool of trade, the sewing machine is just as important as any other.I do not know that a duty would make any difference in the prices, but I am glad that the Treasurer is prepared to give way.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- As I understand that the Treasurer wishes to move a prior amendment, and that he is willing to put the articles in this item, in addition to some others, on the free list, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “roll shells” be left out.
– The honorable member for Bendigo seemed to infer from my remarks, prior to the adjournment for lunch, that there had been some arrangement between Mr. Schumacher and myself that roll shells should be made dutiable. I think that Mr. Schumacher would, as a matter of fact, like them to come in free.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the words “ 10 per cent.” the words “ and on and after 16th November, 1907 (General Tariff), free,” be inserted.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to - .
That the following new item be inserted : - “ 165A. Machinery, not including mo tive power, engine combination or power connexions, ‘ if any, namely - garment drafting machines, jewellers’ polishing lathes, knitting, linotype, monotype, monoline, ond other type composing machines ; printing machines and presses ; machines used exclusively for and in the actual process of electrotyping and stereotyping ; aluminium rotary graining machines, free.”
Item 1 66 (Machinery and Machines) postponed.
Item 167. Machine tools, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, free.
– I understand that we shall have another opportunity to deal with this matter.
– I propose later on to revise to some extent the list which has been given. It includes some items which I do not think should appear in it, and I desire therefore to revise it to a slight extent. Honorable members will then have an opportunity to deal with it.
– Our only chance of dealing with the list will be by allowing this item to be postponed.
– Then I am prepared to postpone it.
Item 168. Any dutiable machinery, or machine tool, or any part thereof specified in any proclamation issued by the Governor-General in pursuance of a joint address passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of the Parliament, stating that such machinery, machine tool, or part cannot be reasonably manufactured within the Commonwealth, and that it should be admitted free, Free.
.- I thoroughly approve of this item, but later on shall make some reference to machinery in respect of which the advantage of securing a remission of duty is secured without having to go through this ordeal.
Item agreed to.
Item 169 (Tools of trade of artisans and mechanics) agreed to.
Item 170. Mixed metalware and platedware, n.e.i. ad val. (General Tariff), 30 per cent.; (United Kingdom), 25 per cent.
– I move -
That after the words “ 30 per cent.” the words “ and on and after 16th November, 1907 (General Tariff), ad val., 20 per cent., and after the words “ 25 per cent.,” the words (United Kingdom), ad val., 15 per cent.,” be inserted.
Such a reduction would be in accordance with the duties under the old Tariff and with the recommendation of the protect tionist section of the Tariff Commission.
– I am agreeable to make the duties 25 per cent, and 20 per cent, respectively.
– Very well; I beg leave to amend my amendment accordingly.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Item 171 (Manufactures of metal, n.e.i.) and item172 (Saws, n.e.i.) postponed.
Item 173. Brass work and gun-metal work for general engineering and plumbing, and other trades, ad val. (General Tariff), 30 per cent.
.- Is not the Treasurer prepared to grant a preference of 5 per cent. in this case to imports from Great Britain?
– Very well; I move -
That the words “ and on and after 16th November, 1907 (United Kingdom), ad val., 25 per cent.,” be added.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 174 (Type, printers’) postponed.
Item 175. Fire extinguishers, hand, ad val. (General Tariff), 20 per cent.
– I fail to see why the word “hand” should appear in this item. All classes of fire extinguishers should be made here. Why should we not be able to make fire engines in Australia? Some honorable members have peculiar ideas as to the capacity of our artisans and mechanics.
– This item does not relate to fire engines.
Item agreed to.
Item 176 (Screws, n.e.i.); item 177 (Mining engines and machinery, n.e.i.); item 178 (Electrical machinery); item 179 (Electrical and gas appliances); item 180 (Electrical materials); item 181 (Rails); item 182 (Iron pipes), postponed.
Item 183. Iron and Steel Tubes or Pipes (except riveted or cast) not more than 4 inches internal diameter; including Flexible Metal Tubes ; Galloway and Vertical parallel Boiler Tubes; Water Bore Casings; Wrought Iron fittings for pipes, free.
– Under the old Tariff iron and steel tubes or pipes of not more than 6 inches internal diameter were free. I should like to know why the diameter of pipes to be free has been reduced to 4 inches ?
-It is thought that the proposition to confine the item to pipes of only 4 inches diameter is far more reasonable than it would have been when the old Tariff was under consideration, and that the larger pipes should be dutiable.
– What change of circumstances has since taken place ? I am not aware that wrought pipes of 6 inches diameter and under may be made in Australia. Thelarger pipes are made here, and their manufacture is protected. If pipes of up to 6 inches in diameter are not made in Australia, then the duty will add to the cost of many undertakings the price of which it is not desirable to increase.
– Brass pipes and the larger wrought iron pipes are dealt with in item 182, which has been postponed. I am agreeable to this item being postponed, But do not agree to an alteration in the diameter of the pipes.
Item 1 84 (Rolled iron or steel beams); item 185 (Bolts); item 186 (Barbed wire).; postponed.
Item 188 (Electrotypes and stereotypes) agreed to.
Item 189. Ammonia condenser coils, and coils for sugar boilers and the like ; corrugated cylinders for boilers (General Tariff), ad val. 25 per cent.
– This duty is not imposed for revenue purposes. There have been disputes in regard to these things, and the item has been inserted for definition purposes.
.- I think that this duty should be reduced to12½ per cent. The free-trade section of the Tariff Commission make no recommendation on the subject.
– This is purely a departmental arrangement, designed to prevent trouble, of which there has been a good deal in the past, in connexion with the importation of the articles enumerated.
– I understand from the Minister that these articles have been enumerated and placed in an item by themselves, because in the past there has been confusion in respect to them.
– They have also been the cause of litigation.
– If we agree to impose a duty of 25 per cent. on them we shall have to impose a similar duty on the other articles with which they have hitherto been associated, or if not we will be making a distinction which will cause the trouble that the Minister is seeking to a.void.
– These articles have hitherto been dutiable as machines and machinery n.e.i. If the duty on machines and machinery n.e.i., which is now 25 per cent., be altered, I shall recommit this item to bring it into line.
– I accept that assurance.
Item agreed to.
Item 190 (Plates, metal) postponed.
Item 191 (Aluminium, bronze, nickel, &c), item 192 (Anchors), and item 193 (Anodes, and hooks for plating), agreed to.
Item 194. Bolts, carriage( of an inch and tinder in diameter, and 4 inches and’ under in length), ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
.- Surely it will not be contended that we cannot make these bolts in Australia. Boltmaking machines are very simple contrivances, and the quantity of bolts used must be very large. We must use more of the smaller than of the larger sizes. I suggest that the duty be raised to 10 or 15 per cent.
– These bolts were free under the old Tariff. However, I shall postpone the item.
Item 195 (Brass), and item 196 (Capsules, metallic), agreed to.
Item 197. Chain n.e.i. not made into serviceable articles, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
.- It seems to me that this is one of the items that will.be affected by Division VI. b and the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. Therefore, I should like the Minister to postpone it.
– I cannot consent to postpone it. If it be negatived, chain will be dutiable under item 171 at 30 and 25 per cent.
Item agreed to.
Item 198 (Copper) agreed to.
Item 199. Cylinders for anhydrous ammonia and for gas, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent: ; (United Kingdom), free.
– I think that these cylinders should be admitted duty free. They are used largely in the dairying industry, in connexion with refrigerating machinery.
– They are admitted free if they come from Great Britain. These cylinders are now used in connexion with the export of carbonic acid gas from Australia. When cylinders of other than British origin are used in this trade, and are returned for refilling, the CustomsDepartment permits them to enter free, upon security being given by the importers that they will be exported within a specific period.
– I think that these cylinders should be admitted free. They cost £3, £4, and£5 each, so that they are infinitely more valuable than their contents, and the holding of a stock of them is a tremendous charge. As the Minister has pointed out, we are now beginning to export gas in them. The English cylinders are hardly used in Australia, being bulkier and heavier than the German cylinders, which latter are tested to prove that they will withstand the necessary pressure. The use of British cylinders would mean more in carriage, and would generally prove more expensive.
– That is so.
– I will admit them free. I move -
That after the words “ 5 per cent.” the words “and on and after 16th November, 1907 (General Tariff), free,” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 200. Droppers, patent steel of all lengths, ad val. (General Tariff),5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
.- I understand that these articles are manufactured here, our only competitor being England. That being so, I urge the Ministerto impose a duty on importations, or to. postpone the item.
Item 201. Eyelets, and eyelet studs, ad. val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the words “5 per cent.” the- words “and on and after 16th November, 1907 (General Tariff), free,” be inserted.
Item 202 (Machine belt fasteners), item 203 (Thimbles and block fasteners for lasts) agreed to.
Item 204. Leaf and foil of any metal, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
– I would point out that gold-leaf is largely used by signwriters and others, and that foil leaf is principally used in connexion with theatrical scenery. None of this leaf is made in Australia.
– There is a factory in South Melbourne which 4s turning out foil leaf.
Item agreed to.
Item 205. Locks, including knobs, keys, escutcheons, and staples, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
.- I ask the Treasurer to consent to the elimination of the word “ staples.” Surely we can manufacture these articles here.
– I am glad that the honorable member has directed my attention to this matter. It is true that we ought to manufacture any quantity of staples. I move -
That the word “staples” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ transom catches.”
– Surely our brassworkers ought to receive some encouragement, and as these transom catches can be made in the Commonwealth, I do not see why they should not be subjected to a heavier duty.
.- I fail to recognise the utility of levying a duty of 5 per cent. under the General Tariff upon locks. Either they should be admitted free, or a sufficient duty should be imposed upon them to induce persons to manufacture them locally. Under item 186 barbed wire is dutiable at 36 per cent.’ under the General Tariff, and at 20 per cent. under the Tariff of the United Kingdom. Does anybody seriously suggest that there is as much skill required in the making of barbed wire as there is in the manufacture of locks? Why, a Chinaman could make barbed wire, whereas the manufacture of locks necessitates the employment of a great deal of skill. There is nothing whatever to prevent persons in the Commonwealth from making keys, locks; and escutcheons, and yet it is proposed to levy a duty of only 5 per cent. upon them. Surely (here should be some system followed in dealing with this Tariff.. The Treasurer wishes to stimulate native industries, but because nobody has waited upon him,’ and told him all about the manufacture of locks, he has not bothered to ascertain whether or not they can be made locally. . As a matter of fact, they can be manufactured in the Commonwealth.
– But they are not produced here in any quantity.
– Their manufacture does not necessitate the erection of expensive machinery. Either they should be admitted free, or a sufficient duty should be levied upon them to induce their manufacture to be undertaken locally.
.- I know that locks are being made in the Common- wealth. Even in Launceston there is a lock manufacturer who supplies locks to the Tasmanian Government. To me it seems strange that the Treasurer should desire to subject locks to a duty of only 5 per cent., seeing that under item 173 brasswork and gun -metal work for general engineering and plumbing has been made dutiable at 25 per cent. under the General Tariff, and at 20 per cent, under the Tariff for the United Kingdom.
.- I remember the time when the honorable member for West Sydney could make a very good lock. He could do more than that - he could pick one, though he did not do it for burglarious purposes. There are many people in this community who have sufficientskill to manufacture locks. Upon this occasion I do not intend to put up a fight for the dear old Mother Country.
– Surely the Treasurer will not consent to locks being placed on the free list. Year after year in the United States I heard the same kind of talk indulged in by the opponents of progress as we are accustomed to hear in the Commonwealth. It was urged by certain persons in the United States that this article and that article could not be made locally. I recollect the experience of the tin-plate industry in this connexion. It was said that tin plates could not be made in America, but to-day that industry is one of the greatest in the country, simply (because Mr. McKinley gave it the benefit of a heavy protective duty. I wish to move that a duty of 25 per cent. be imposed upon this item.
– The honorable member willnot be in order in doing that.
– It is about time that we departed from the ridiculous practice’ which permits only of a Minister moving for an increase of duty. Every honorable member ought to possess the same right in that respect as do Ministers. But, seeing that I cannot move for an increase of duty, I ask the Treasurer to consent to the postponement of the item, in order that honorable members may be afforded time to consider it.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 206 (Fins, &c); item 207 (Platinum) ; item 208 (Retorts, &c.) ; agreed to.
Item 209. Printers’ Material, viz. : -
Circles, Clumps, Curves, Knives (paring), Rules, Leads, and Slugs, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
– I move -
That the words “ and ‘ Slugs “ be left out.
– What is the object of the amendment ?
– I expect that if the amendment be agreed to slugs with then fall under another item, and be subjected to a higher duty. My proposal will have the effect of bringing the item into harmony with what we have done in regard to type.
– I do not see any reason whatever for the amendment. A slug is simply a piece of lead which is thicker than the ordinary lead which is placed between the metal types. It must be a much more difficult matter to make ‘ leads of varying thicknesses than it is to make slugs, and it is easy enough to make the former. It is quite absurd to omit slugs from this item.
– But slugs will then be dealt with in connexion with printers’ type.
– This is the item in which slugs should be included.
– Leads, clumps, and slugs can all be made in Australia.
– What about rules?
– They are made of brass. If the Treasurer omits slugs from this item, he ought also to omit leads.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 210. Rabbit traps, Dog traps, Vermin traps, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
.- I cannot understand the protective policy which would allow these articles to come in free.
– Any child could make them.
– Yes; and I hope the leader of the Opposition will take a stand in regard to this item.
– I am not sure, but I think these articles can be made here. However, I think it would be better to postpone the item.
Item 211. Saddlers’ and Harness Makers’ Material, viz. : - Saddlers’ Tacks (not cut) and Nails, Snaps (Harness and Halter), Spurs (not being partly or wholly of gold or silver, or plated), andSpur Boxes, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That before the word “ plated,” line 5, the words “gold or silver” be inserted.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 212 (Scales) agreed to.
Item 213 (Scrap iron and steel) postponed.
Item 214 (Screw hooks) and item 215 (Sprinklers) agreed to.
Item 216. Standards, steel fencing of all lengths and pillars, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That after the word “pillars” the following words be inserted : - “ wedges, patent, for droppers and standards.”
.- Are these the droppers referred to in the item we have postponed ? It would appear as though, having postponed the item dealing with steel droppers, we are prepared to carry this item through.
.- Does this item include ordinary steel droppers ? In one part of the Tariff steel droppers are free, although the raw material, of which they are manufactured here, is taxed heavily.
– Steel droppers are dealt with in item 224.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 217. Steel, band or ribbon for making band-saws or band-knives, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
– I suggest that there should be’ another paragraph to this item under the heading of n.e.i. This band or ribbon steel is largely used as a minor article of manufacture.
– It is made here.
– But it is used for making patent spring roller shutters and so forth; and if we had another paragraph n.e.i., it would be made free, leaving a duty of 5 per cent. on this item.
– We do not know how far n.e.i. may carry us; those are very dangerous letters.
– I shall not press my suggestion in the form of an amendment.
Item agreed to.
Item 218 (Steel grit and steel wool, &c.); item 219 (Steel knives) ; and item 220 (Steel for chaffcutters, &c.) agreed to.
Item 221. Tin plates, plain, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
– We have some of the greatest tin mines in the world in Australia, especially in Tasmania; and yet£258,000 worth of this material, manufactured, came into Australia last year from foreign countries, which have to get their raw material from us. It seems to me that the Treasurer ought to do something to encourage the making of tin plates in Australia.
– The word in the item should be “plate,” and not “plates.”
– I am taking the item as it appears; and I suggest a postponement, there being too much at stake for us to deal with it hurriedly. I remember how the great tin industry in the United States was established under the McKinley Tariff.
– In reply to the honorable member for Boothby, I may say that the words in the item are those used by the Department to describe tin plate. This means the plate from which the plates are made after it is imported, so that there is no interference with the industry.
– But these are articles which ought to be made in Australia.
– Do I understand that this means ordinary tinplate?
– I am informed by the departmental officers that this is the plate out of which the plates are made.
– That cannot be, or, if so, it should not be described as “tin plates,” because tin plates are a well-known article of commerce. These plates are brought in as plates tinned, and if a duty be imposed the packing industry in Australia will be heavily taxed. I am sure that tinned plates are meant, because no iron plates are brought in here for tinning. If it does not mean tin plates, then tin plates must be under a heavy duty in another part of the Tariff.
– I can only say that I am assured by the departmental officers that this is the iron tinned over out of which the plates are made, and that the item shows the true trade description.
– It is tinned iron which is imported in sheets, packed in boxes of 1 cwt. each. I understood the Minister to say that these were iron plates brought in to be tinned.
– I said that this was tinned plate out of which the tin plates are made.
.- The honorable member for Darwin desires to see the tin-plate industry encouraged here, in view of the fact that enormous quantities of tin are produced in Australia. These are really iron plates covered with a strong surface of tin ; and it is with a view to encourage the industry that the honorable member for Darwin suggests apostponement of the item, so that fuller information may be obtained. I remember very well how the McKinley Tariff so built up this industry in America that the imports from England were absolutely destroyed.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne is a little wrong in his facts. Under the McKinley Tariff an effort was made to establish the tin-plate industry in the United States, but Titus Salt, the world-famed manufacturer of Wales, got into the American market in spite of the Tariff, and to-day Wales supplies the bulk of the tin plate there used. When we find that the manufacturers in a highly protected country like the United States cannot compete with the Welsh makers, how can we expect the Australian manufacturers to compete? Any duty imposed will simply be a tax on those who use the plate.
.- This item is so important that I agree with the honorable member for Darwin in his suggestion for a postponement. In the tin industry here the primary workers suffer a severe injustice, getting little more than half the value of the product. The tin dipping, at least, ought to be done in Australia, and some effort made to regulate prices in a proper way. At the present time the workers are absolutely at the mercy of agents. We have been told that the American manufacturers failed ; but, if so, that must have been on account of a trade secret, or some other special reason.
– There has been no failure in America.
– The honorable member for Darwin is quite right ; I was in England at the time the trouble occurred.
– I fail to see why, having regard to our abundant deposits of tin, we should not make a success of the manufacture of tin plates.
.- Honorable members should realize that the tin plate, to which this item relates, is an absolute necessity to many of our local industries. Preserves, butter, and various other commodities, are packed in vessels made of tin, the plate which is imported for this purpose being known on the market as the “I.C. Coke” and “Charcoal” tin. I certainly should like to see the industry established in Australia, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the cost of the necessary plant would be very great. The value of our imports of plain tin plate lastyear was £258,000, and probably a properly equipped tin-plate mill would involve an expenditure of about £250.000.
– The plant for galvanizing iron did not cost anything like that amount.
– But that is a very different industry. The proposal to impose a duty of even 5 per cent. on foreign imports is to my mind a mistake, since it is practically impossible at the present time to establish the industry here, the scope for it not being wide enough. My honorable friend was mistaken when he said that the United States of America had failed to establish the industry. They unquestionably established it, and did so by means of a duty. The difference between their position and ours, however, is that they had a market of 60,000,000 of people to work upon, whilst we have a population of only 4,000,000. We might well agree to the item as it stands, and possibly, when our population has increased by a few millions, we shall have tin-plate mills in Australia.
. -The honorable member for Dalley was labouring under a multiplicity of delusions when he said that the tin-plate industry in the United States of America was a failure. What happened was that the Welsh tin manufacturers for the time being lost their market as the result of the establishment of the industry in the States, and many of them proceeded to America and set up business there. The United States of America is now able to supply itself with all the tin plate that it requires.
– Not all.
– The Treasurer ought to agree to the postponement of this item, which has a bearing on the iron industry, until we have dealt with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. If that Bill is designed to give special privileges to a section of thepeople at the expense of the rest of the community, then I am opposed to it. I am a protectionist because the policy of protection enables the community to build up industries for the benefit of the whole of the people. I do not favour protection for any special industry or special class or corporation, but I believe that a general policy of protection cannot fail to be beneficial. I hope that the item will be postponed.
.- This item has some relation to the iron industrv. since sheet iron is the basis of tin plate. If honorable members believe that iron will be imported and tinned out here, I think they are mistaken; there would be a risk of deterioration on the voyage. On the other hand, I have not heard of any proposal on the part of Mr. Sandford or any one else interested in the iron industry to enter upon the manufacture of tin plates. I do not think we shall be able to utilize for some years our production of tin, and we must not forget that this material is used in nearly all our industries. Even the farmer requires tin for his stencil plates for branding purposes. I do not think that we should increase the duty. I should not object to the item appearing in division VI. a, so that the duty would come into operation when the industry of making tin plates had been established locally ; but I do not think that we can hope for its establishment in the Commonwealth for some time.
.- I rise to support the statement made by the honorable member for Darwin. When it was first proposed under the McKinley Tariff to establish the tin-plate industry in the United States of America, arguments similar to those just advanced by the honorable member for Mernda were heard all over England and America. It was said that it was a farce to impose a duty on tin plate, and thousands of dollars were offered to the first man who could produce a comparatively small quantity. One of the arguments used by Mr. Chamberlain during his Tariff campaign of 1903 was that the tin-plate industry in the United States of America, which was so despised six or seven years before, was actually exporting plate to Wales.
– I am prepared to postpone the item.
Item 222 (Tubes) and item 223 (Washers and rivets, copper) agreed to.
Item 224 (Wedgers) negatived.
Item 225 (Wire cloth) postponed.
Item 226. Wire n.e.i., ad val. (General Tariff), 10 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), free.
– We have dealt with the item of wire netting, and I do not think that we ought to have a duty on imported wire. I therefore move -
That after the words “ 10 per cent.” the words “ and on and after 16th November, 1907 (General Tariff), free,” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 227 (Zinc) and item 228 (Zinc blocks for marine boilers) agreed to.
Postponed item 143. Iron, Plate and Sheet, viz. : - (a) Corrugated Galvanized, ad val. (General Tariff), 25 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 20 per cent. (b) Galvanized not Corrugated, and Corrugated not Galvanized, ad val. (General Tariff), 20 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 15 percent.
– I lay upon the table-
Agreement dated 15th November, 1907, between the Commonwealth of Australia, the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited for the conveyance of Australian mails, commencing February, 1910.
Agreement dated 15th November, 1907,between the Commonwealth of Australia, the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited, for the interim carriage of Australian mails until 31st January, 1910.
With the permission of the House, I wish to take this opportunity to make a short statement with reference to the proposed mail contract between the Commonwealth and the Orient . Steam-ship Company, which has been signed during the last five minutes. Honorable members are aware that the present contract is at the rate of £120,000 a year for the conveyance of mails to Adelaide within a time not exceeding 696 hours, and that a further £26,000 a year is paid for the extension of the service from Sydney - its terminal point - to Brisbane. We thus have a total payment of £146,000 a year for a slow speed service to Brisbane, minus a number of important conditions that have been embodied in the new contract.
– The State of Queensland, with a deduction of , £4,800 paid by the Commonwealth for mileage. Having regard to our recent experience with an extremely promising contract, which was not carried out, under circumstances into which it is not now necessary to enter, the Government has reviewed all the old terms in order to obtain a contract more applicable to the conditions of the Commonwealth, and more in consonance with the desires of the representatives of the States. Instead of agreeing to pay £146,000 for a mere service to Adelaide of 696 hours, with several old boats, and a general Undertaking to provide cool storage space, we have made a more elaborate contract for an entirely new service, a copy of which I shall lay on the table, briefly summarizing its principal terms. The. proposed contract is for a term of ten years, commencing in February, 1910. A subsidy of £170,000 is to be paid for a complete Australian service, making Brisbane the final port of call. The route to be followed by the mail steamers is to be from an approved port in the United Kingdom, connecting at Brindisiprobably, passing through the Suez Canal, and calling at Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, to Brisbane, returning on the same track, subject to a condition in regard to Hobart, to which I shall presently allude. The time of journey from Brindisi to Adelaide is to be reduced to 638 hours, or fifty-eight hours less than is required by the present contract, and from Adelaide to Brindisi to 650 hours, both periods being the same as are provided for in the latest contract between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company. Consequently, under the proposed contract we shall obtain what Australia has never enjoyed hitherto-a much quicker service and uniform weekly arrivals of the mail boats, so as to permit of letters being answered, even from Brisbane, by return post. The proposed subsidy will be a little less than is now paid, taking £25,000 for an increase of speed, and £26,000 for the service to Brisbane; besides which we obtain all the further advantages which I am about to enumerate.
– The proposed new subsidy is nearly double what the company was getting a short while ago, not allowing for calling at Brisbane.
– It must be remembered that, under the proposed contract, the service will be carried on by a much better class of boats, at a higher rate of speed, and under many other advantageous conditions. The new service is to be commenced with five new steamers, each of not less than 11,000 tons register, possessing a speed of at least 17 knots an hour, and built to plans and specifications approved by the Government. In each steamer not less than 2,000 tons of insulated space must be provided, allowing 40 cubic feet to the ton. At the present time, the insulated space on the Orient mail steamers is in” some cases less than1,000 tons, and - if my memory serves’ me aright - in no instance exceeds 1,700 tons. An additional new steamer, equal in every respect to those just mentioned, is to be provided, and employed within eighteen months of the commencement of the contract, and another within six years.
– Some of the old boats are to be run for six months after the commencement of the contract, I understand.
– Yes ; the Orontes and, for a short time,the Omrah, with the Ophir as a standby.
– Will the company be paid the full subsidy while the old boats are running?
– The old boats will have to run to time.
– Yes; all the steamers mentioned are able to do so. The refrigerating appliances are to be in accordance with the most modern patents, and six of the steamers must call at Hobart in the period between February and May of each year, subject to exemptions which the. Postmaster-General may allow. White labour is to be employed exclusively, and no discrimination is to bemade between unionists and non-unionists. There is the usual provision for repurchase by the Government, and no steamship used for the service is to be chartered or sold without the consent of the PostmasterGeneral. In the event of any competing line of mail ships establishing an improved and accelerated service via the Suez Canal, the contractors shall, if so required at any time after the fifth year of the contract, provide a service equal to such improved service. Any additional subsidy and extended period of service are to be determined by mutual agreement, or settled by arbitration. Therefore, if unforeseen improvemepts, enabling, the rapidity of transit to be greatly increased, occur within the next five or six years we shall not be tied down to a slower service. All the steam-ships used under the contract, except any that may be temporarily employed, are to be fitted with a wireless telegraph apparatus when a shore station has been established in Australia. The plans and specifications of the new ships are to be submitted for approval within three months of the ratification ofthe contract by Parliament, and the building of them is to be commenced within three months of the approval of the plans and specifications, and to proceed with all reasonable despatch. The contractors have, in accordance with the conditions of tender, made a deposit of £10,000, and will, in substitution for that already given, enter into a bond for £50,000, with approved securities, to be increased to £100,000 if sufficient progress is not made with the building of the steam-ships. It will be seen that the experience of the last contract has not been lost sight of.
– That will be known only when we see how the contract is drawn.
– From the commencement of the contract these new conditions are to be observed - The maximum rate for butter is fixed at½d. per box, and for fruit 60s. per ton of 40 cubic feet; a temperature of 15 degrees’ is to be maintained in butter chambers throughout the voyage, unless any higher temperature is approved by the PostmasterGeneral ; separate chambers are to be provided when butter is carried, and no fruit, cheese, or other odorous articles are to be carried in the same chamber as the butter ; self-recording thermometers of approved pattern are to be supplied, and, as far as possible, maintained in good working condition, throughout the voyage; under normal conditions no differentiation is to be made in the rates of freight from the United Kingdom to the ports of the Commonwealth, or as between the ports of the Commonwealth in respect to the rates of freight charged for butter or fruit to the United Kingdom. All the States are put’ on an equality so far as high charges are concerned.
– Will the company be bound to carry from each port?
– How is such a condition possible of enforcement? The contractors must withdraw from any combine or commercial trust that may be determined by the Courts to be illegal under the present or future legislation of the Common wealth, and, in default, the contract may be cancelled.
– I do not know that that means much. Our Courts cannot interfere with combinations entered into abroad. I do not think that that condition would prevent the company from belonging to the existing English shipping ring.
– It might do so if the arrangement could be shown to be detrimental to the public of Australia. Speaking without having referred to the Act, I think it possible to prevent many arrangements seriously detrimental to the interest of the Commonwealth. Under a separate agreement the contractors undertake to continue the existing mail service on the present terms and conditions from February, 1908 - when the current contract expires - until the commencement of the proposed contract, in February, 1910, unless an earlier date be agreed upon. They also agree to the insertion in this interim contract of the provision with respect to combines or commercial trusts. The mail ships employed under the principal contract are to fly the flag of the Commonwealth, provided that the Imperial Government consent - we hope that there will be no difficulty about that - and the contractor’s position is not prejudiced thereby.
– Will the vessels be docked in Australia? That is of more importance.
– We need a better flag than that which is now known as the Commonwealth flag.
– The criticism of the honorable member for South Sydney with reference to the applicability of Commonwealth law, has been met, so far as present conditions aire concerned, in a manner which I shall detail. In this matter, the Commonwealth Government, though deeply interested, is not so directly concerned as the States Governments, which have made various arrangements in regard tohe export of butter. Nearly all our delay during the last week or two has been due to our desire to defer concluding the contract until the very active, vigilant, and capable Minister of Agriculture for Victoria could have an opportunity to place before the companies concerned the complaints which are being made throughout’ Australia. A combination of shipping companies, has led to the imposition, by what are known as “ the five lines,” of penal charges on goods shipped by exporters who have not agreed to send all their butter by these lines. This has followed a reduction of the butter rate to1s.10d. per box for butter shipped by a rival combination known as the “ three lines.” However we may view these arrangements, they are regarded as honorably binding upon the parties to them, and it has been necessary to allow the representatives of the Orient Company time to communicate with the five lines, with a view to securing their freedom. When they had done this, the larger question was raised whether it would not be possible, not merely to provide for the Orient Company forsaking the agreement, but to induce the companies associated with it to reconsider the action they had taken under some pressure, and thus relieve the shippers of perishable produce of certain disabilities. That has been the cause of the delay, which I have been unable to explain to the House for obvious reasons. Negotiations had to be conducted, not only with a great number of steam-ship companies upon this side of the world, but also with their principals upon the other side of the globe. Considering the difficulties by which the whole question was surrounded, I have to freely admit that it has been owing to the unremitting attention and energy which Mr. Swinburne has devoted to it that we have been enabled to arrive at what I believe will be a satisfactory conclusion. At all events, so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company is concerned, they now propose an agreement which the people of Australia will recognise as a fair one, and they have been able to induce their companions in this agreement to take a similar course. The proposal made is to come into force at once, before the principal contract to which I have referred has any effect whatever, except, of course, so far as regards the building of ships and the carrying out of necessary preliminaries. At present, or up till lately, the freight charged for the carriage of butter by the mail steamers was 2s. 6d., and by the great carriers, which were not mail steamers, 2s. 3d., per box.
– That is under½d. per lb.
– On the mail steamers it is slightly over. One half-penny per lb. would amount to2s. 4d. per box.
– Are there not 56 lbs. in a box?
– While I am not sure of the details . in this connexion, I am sure of the fact that 2s. 6d. per box represents slightly more than id. per lb.
One halfpenny per lb. would amount to 2s. 4d. a box as near as possible. The charge which has always been made by the mail steamers for the carriage of butter is 2s. 6d. per box. Had the rate been½d. per lb., the charge would have been 2s. 4d. per box. The proposed new arrangement is that, instead of the rate by mail steamers being 2s. 6d. per box, it will be a rate not exceeding 2s. 6d. per box, which, in the anticipation of several experts, is likely to mean 2s. 4d. perbox, or½d. per lb. As to the other lines, instead of the charge being 2s. 3d. per box as it was, it is proposed that it shall be 2s. per box by all the five lines ; that is, by way of the regular lines of steamers.
– Then they have come into the arrangement?
– The five lines are willing to come into it. These rates are to operate at any port of the Commonwealth. It is worth noting - to prevent any misconception - that the conditions for which we have been fighting, while we have been assisted so materially by Mr. Swinburne, are not for the benefit of one State, but apply to all the States, without any distinction whatever. The condition upon which these concessions are proposed, so far as the five lines are concerned, is that the shippers shall not use any line charging less than 2s. per box. Now, the present cutting rate charged by the three lines to which I have referred is1s.10d. per box, and it is intended to propose to them that they shall come into this agreement, and thus be placed absolutely on the same footing as the five lines. Then, instead of there being three lines and five lines charging different rates, there will be eight regular lines of steamers charging the same price from all ports of the Commonwealth. The producer will thus be able to send forward his butter without regard to the ship that is in port, knowing precisely the rate that he will be charged for its carriage and the facilities that he will enjoy. If this arrangement can be carried out - and I am assured by experts that it is most reasonable, that the price charged is low, and that the conditions offered to trade by this means are better than have ever been enjoyed in Australia - it promises to give a very great impetus indeed to the whole of the Industries dependent upon cool storage. If the three lines should persist in standing by themselves, and should rely upon the difference of 2d. per box to tout for custom, of course a different state of things may prevail. But to us the important point is that, so far as the Orient Steam Navigation Company is concerned, this fair and reasonable offer - which has been approved by all the experts to whom it has been submitted - is made by them. They are anxious - and they have proved their bona fides - to withdraw from charging a penal rate, and to substitute instead a far superior arrangement from every Australian point of view.
– Is the abolition of the penal rate contingent upon the acceptance of2s. per box by the FederalHoulderShire line?
– At present it is. I am also informed that not only is it anticipated that the three lines will agree to what is proposed, but that even if they do not, a modification of this agreement may be brought into play by the five lines.
– Does the arrangement apply to fruit, too?
– The prices which I have named apply to butter. So far as I am aware, no difficulty has arisen in regard to the export of fruit.
Colonel F oxton. - What will be the subsidy up to 1910?
– It will remain at its present figure.
Colonel Foxton. - And a subsidy of £26,000 annually will continue to be paid by Queensland?
– The £21,000 balance will continue to be paid by Queensland.I understand that a preliminary agreement in that connexion has already been settled as between the Orient Steam Navigation Company and the Queensland Government. In the interim we pay no increased subsidy. Indeed, we shall not pay it until we get improved refrigerating space, and a number of other improvements upon which I need not dwell, in place of the mere postal service of the past and present.
– Will the freight for the carriage of fruit be the same as that charged for the carriage of butter?
– The question of the freight upon fruit has not arisen, because, as I understand, the present contest between the five lines and the three lines relates to butter. Moreover, our arrangement with regard to fruit will begin only with the commencement of the new contract. If the statement which I have made has not been quite as clear and comprehensive as I desired it to be, honorable members will realize that it is because the final papers relating to this matter have only been placed in my hands within the last few moments. I do not think, however, that anything material has been omitted. When honorable members look at the new contract, which I now lay upon the table of the House, they will find that it has been thoroughly revised in every part, and that it has been brought up to date in the light of our past experience. We are under a great obligation to the Secretary of. the Postmaster-General, Mr. Scott, and to the Crown Solicitor, Mr. Powers, for the manner in which they have devoted themselves to the entire reconsideration of every line of this agreement, which I can therefore lay upon the table with the utmost confidence. It has been subjected to the strictest scrutiny from the point of view of the Post Office, from the freight point of view, and also by the Crown Solicitor. I desire to give notice that on Wednesday next-
– I presume that the motion with which the Prime Minister desires to conclude is to the effect that the paper which he has laid upon the table of the House be printed?
– I will embody the motion of which I desire to give notice in my statement. It reads -
That the House of Representatives approves the agreement made and entered into the 15th day of November, 1907, between His Majesty’s Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the first part, Orient Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Ltd. of die third part for the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which agreement has been laid upon the table of the House of Representatives.
Afterwards, perhaps, with the permission of the House, I may be allowed to put this motion on the notice-paper. In the meantime, I propose to take the proper ccfurse, which is to move that the papers be printed, and in the same resolution - I see no objection, unless you do, Mr. Speaker - to move that the interim agreement in regard to the coming two years be also placed on the table and printed, so that honorable members may have the benefit of its circulation at once, and be qualified to enter into the discussion of the question on Wednesday next. I hope that it will be plain that the time spent in drafting the contract has not been wasted, but that, considering the exceptional terms we have been able to obtain, even in regard to matters outside the mails, any delay has been well warranted. I trust that honorable members will realize that this is not merely a contract of the old post-office pattern.
– Were there any other tenderers?
– Yes; we took into account the three lowest tenders. On examination one appeared to be of a speculative character, and, therefore, we concentrated our attention on the other two. The second tender, of an advantageous character, was from a company which preferred to take only one-half of the service ; that is to say, they desired to undertake a monthly service to Australia, leaving some other company to share the work, so that we should have had three mail lines instead of two. That, at first sight, presented considerable attractions; but on inquiry it seemed very doubtful, from what we could learn, whether we could obtain from two lines the special conditions which are given in the contract now before honorable members. One difficulty was that the principal office of the second company was on the other side of the world. Honorable members will recollect that under the contract we undertake not to mention names except in the case of the lowest tender, though we may give” particulars of the other tenders.
– The offices of the Orient Company are on the other side of the world ?
– But the Orient Company have representatives here who can deal with us on the spot. On further examination the most satisfactory tender we could obtain appeared to be that of the Orient Company ; we sought to exhaust all possibilities with them before we looked elsewhere.
– It would be interesting to know the amounts of the other tenders, though I do not ask the Prime Minister to give the figures now.
– Speaking from memory, the amount of the first tender was £180,000 a year, without any of the special conditions contained in the Orient Company’s tender. That offer was afterwards . lowered, if I recollect, to . £170,000, still without any special conditions; and only within the last few days there has been an intimation that a less amount might be con sidered. But under the circumstances, the fullest examination seemed to show that the contract with an old and tried service was the one that promised most advantages; the terms we have obtained are at least as favorable - indeed, so far as we could judge, more favorable - than those to be secured from any other tenderer.
– We should like to know the terms of the other contracts.
– We ought to know the terms in the other tenders.
– Exactly. The terms of the second tender were those embodied in the advertised conditions, and nothing more.
– I understand that the second company desired to undertake only onehalf of the service.
– They put in a strong plea for halving the service. Their tender for the service as a whole was subject to the statement that they did not regard that as a satisfactory arrangement, either in our interest or in theirs. They held that the service ought to be by two lines, each undertaking a monthly service.
– The result of the joint service to Tasmania ought to be a warning.
– There were many warnings besides that. As honorable members will see, this is much more than a mail contract. It goes far beyond the carriage of mails, and carries its benefits to every capital in the Commonwealth.
– Is the Postal Department to be expected to pay the whole of the subsidy?
– That is a matter for subsequent allocation. I should say that we are paying at least £20,000 or £25,000 a year for the extra non-postal advantages we have gained.
– It would be very unfair to make the Postal Department pay the whole of the subsidy.
– It is quite certain that the service to Brisbane has nothing to dr with the Postal Department, however justifiable that service may be from another point of view.
– Under this contract we have a great gain by getting a truly Federal service, which touches every principal port during the year - that is, the vessels will call six times at Tasmania, and every fortnight at each of the other ports. These new conditions will give, shippers, and the public of Australia generally, a deeper interest in the mail service than they have ever had before. We have been met in the frankest possible manner by the Messrs. Anderson, who were charged with the negotiations. Naturally those gentlemen have studied their own interests, and there were many weeks of keen bargaining before we were able to obtain the conditions now laid before honorable members. Those conditions speak for themselves ; but I may say those concessions have been made byMessrs. Anderson, on behalf of their company, in the hope that they will lead to the recognition of the fact that they are endeavouring, as far as possible, to provide a truly Australian service in order to meet Australian conditions, and that they are relying upon the Australian public for support by way of recognising that aim.
– I think the best course would be for the Prime Minister to move that the papers be printed, so as to afford an opportunity to honorable members to offer any remarks they please. If, later on, the Prime Minister desires to give notice of motion out of due time, he may. by permission, do so, but the notice of motion could, of course, be given on Tuesday.
– I move-
That the documents be printed.
.- I have listened with deep interest to the statement the Prime Minister has made ; and the contract submitted is evidently the result of very arduous negotiations. There was, however, in the midst of the honorable gentleman’s eloquent exposition a melancholy sort of echo. The honorable member laid a much more dazzling prospect before us two years ago.
– Let us forget that.
– Can we forget it? Only the densest party spirit could lead any one to forget it. The Government have not even got the £25,000. Are they going to forget that? One of the most extraordinary announcements was made by the Prime Minister to-day in reference to the miserable fiasco of the late tender. It is disgraceful to the Federal Government that two years after this frightful piece of imposition - after this gambling with the people of Australia, as it really was - we should be told, as we were this morning, that no process has been begun in the Courts of England to recover on the bond, which was sup-* posed to be so drawn up as to be recoverable in the most summary way.
– It is nothing like two years ago - it is not twelve months.
– I was not quite sure myself, but I was supported by an honorable member in my belief as to that being the period.
– It is nothing like that.
– It may be ten months ago.
– At any rate, it is many months ago, and it is most disgraceful that in the case of a bond which was supposed to be so drawn up that it had only to be put in suit to be enforced, there should have been some mysterious difficulties in the way of action being taken long ago.
– It is just four months since the contract was cancelled.
– I am referring to the miserable fiasco months before the cancellation. Was the tender not accepted months before that?
– Yes, but we could not sue when we accepted the tender.
– In that I agree, but the tender was accepted, I think, more than ten months ago. One of the advantages of a properly drawn-up bond is that the moment default occurs, it has simply to be put in suit to be enforced without delay.
– Where was the bond drawn up?
– I do not know.
– It would appear that the English lawyer knew a little more than did the Australian lawyer.
– I do not know whether honorable members are satisfied to have this £25,000 suspended between heaven and earth for an indefinite period. I do not think that it is the disposition of honorable members. I admit that a seat on the other side of the House might lead honorable members to forget the whole affair; but our duty to the public ought to prevent that. Occasionally, when actions are begun, there are de’ ays beyond the power of the parties ; but what I complain of is that no proceeding has been taken for- the recovery of the £25,000 . under the bond. Having regard to our very unfortunate experience in connexion with the old contract, which very nearly, involved the States in a most miserable ever-to-be-regretted dispute, I am pleased that the Government have been able to conclude a contract with a company of a very different character. Over twenty years ago, I had the pleasure of playing a somewhat influential part in securing for the Orient Steam Navigation Company the prestige of a Royal mail service. In 1883, they entered into the Australian trade in competition with that mammoth concern, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and I think that the people of Australia should have a very kindly feeling towards them, having regard to the great battle which they fought against so formidable a rival.
– And they fought it with white crews.
– They so cheerfully observed the Australian view of that matter that I look with far more pleasure upon a contract entered into with them than I should have looked upon a contract made with any other company. I feel sure that in all our transactions with them we shall not have any of the miserable troubles that we experienced in connexion with the old abortive contract. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has, in many eloquent speeches, expressed an ardent desire to encourage the flow of immigration to Australia, I notice with some regret that the honorable member made no mention of any arrangement in relation to that very important subject.
– It is not included in any fixed agreement, but the accommodation provided for what were formerly known as third-class passengers is to be superior to anything that has been previously provided, and the Commonwealth or the States, whichever has the undertaking, are to be granted special rates in respect of the carriage of immigrants from the Mother Country.
– There is to be accommodation for third-class passengers?
– Yes ; and it is to be fully equal to the old second-class accommodation.
– The term “ special rates “ is a delightfully vague one.
– The rates will depend upon the number coming out.
– If we are going to impose one or two more conditions, we might as well run mail steamers of our own.
– That will be a matter for the consideration of the House when we are asked to deal with this contract. I listened with the greatest pleasure to the details given by the Prime Minister as to one or two features of the contract. In the first place, I think that the least we could do for Queensland is that which the Government have done in connexion with this contract. And so with Tasmania. We might fairly relieve Queensland at once of the extra payment which she has been making. I fail to see why we should wait for another two years before doing so, because, by the terms of this contract, we practically acknowledge that we should have relieved her of this obligation. I shall be very glad to support any movement to relieve the people of Queensland, from the present time until the new contract begins, of the special payment which they are now making to the company. I do not wish at this stage to deal with the questions of rates and freights. There are matters in connexion with the contract which require serious attention, but, subject to a fuller consideration of all its details, I wish to say that it affords me the greatest possible pleasure to know that this contract - if it prove a wise and good one - has been made with a company on whose promises and undertakings we can fully rely.
.- The statement that Queensland is satisfied, Tasmania is satisfied, and the primary producers are satisfied with the terms of this contract, sounds very well. The contract provides for something more than a postal service, consideration having been given to certain vested interests. About a fortnight ago I asked the Prime Minister to consider the advisableness of providing in the contract that the vessels of the service should be docked in Australia.
– Hear, hear.
– It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say “Hear, hear,” but whilst I believe that there is an understanding that the vessels of the fleet as far as possible shall be docked in Australia, a provision to that effect has not been inserted in the contract. The mere fact that these vessels will fly the Australian flag is not in itself sufficient to satisfy the people of Australia. Had the postal service alone been considered I should not have been justified in urging that provision should be made for the docking of the steamers of the fleet in Australia; but since the contract provides for something more than a postal service - since it covers various vested interests - I have a perfect right to put in a plea for the consideration of other vested interests. The subsidy of £170,000 per annum means that the people of Australia will have to pay nearly £500 per day for this service. About four years, ago, when the Reid-McLean Administration concluded a contract with the Orient Steam ‘ Navigation Company for a service at the rate of £120,000 per annum, it was subjected to considerable criticism by many honorable members, as well as by a section of the press. We now have before us a contract under which the annual payments are increased by £50,000, and the fact that the Australian flag is to be flown over the stern of these vessels will not prevent the people from making the arithmetical calculation that an annual payment of £170,000 represents 5 percent, on a capital of £3,400,000. I can understand the honorable member for Barrier saying in the circumstances that if we are to impose one or two more conditions we might as well have a fleet of our own. The arrangement is not such an excellent one. as it would at first sight appear. Seven or eight vessels of the type for which provision is made could readily be purchased for £3,400,000. Hundreds of thousands of people in Australia will derive no benefit from a speedy mail service, and I think that I was quite justified in asking the Prime Minister in arranging the contract to do something for the dockers, who are amongst the most illpaid of our workers. I hope that, although there is no such provision in the contract itself, there will be a distinct understanding between the Government and the company that, whenever practicable, these mail steamers will be docked in Australia. From a sentimental point of view I am pleased that the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which is a well-tried one, is the successful tenderer, and in conclusion’ would emphasize the point made by the leader of the Opposition as to the bond. I hope that it will not be so full of loopholes as was that prepared by Mr. Croker in connexion with the recent abortive contract.
.- I ask the Prime Minister to postpone the further consideration of this matter until Thursday next, so that honorable members, many of whom leave for Adelaide and Sydney to-day, and will be unable to read the Hansard report of his speech until Tuesday next, may fully inform themselves on the subject. The proposal to hand our mail service over to a private company for a term of ten years is an exceedingly important one, and requires very careful consideration. The Prime Minister gave us a great deal of information, but he’ ad- mitred that the papers from which he spoke came into his hands only five minutes before his speech was delivered, and therefore his remarks may not have been as comprehensive as they would have been, had he had more time for preparation. A good deal of additional information was elicited by questions, and I think that honorable members should have an opportunity of making themselves fully acquainted with all the facts, so far as they are now published. If we debate the matter on Thursday next, we shall probably be able to come to a decision before the end of the week, and the Senate can deal with the matter at the beginning of the following week. I hope that the House will not ratify the agreement, but will take the better and bolder course of deciding to inaugurate a Commonwealth service. I hold that two years ago the House failed to do its duty in this matter. Those who then advocated the running of a Commonwealth mail service were undoubtedly right, as events have clearly shown. The right honorable member for East Sydney has pointed out what a miserable fiasco the adoption of the alternative course was.
– I indorse many of the remarks of the leader of the Opposition. I am pleased that it is the Orient Steam Navigation Company which has made this contract with the Government. If the Prime Minister can see his way to postpone the consideration of the matter for a day or two, that course may conduce to a quicker settlement of it; but, in any case, he can be sure of my vote and support. I have watched the operations of the Orient Steam Navigation Company for the last fifteen years; but I did’ not know that it was the leader of the Opposition who helped it to start here. We owe to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, rather than to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the acceleration of transit and other advantages which we now enjoy. The company has employed British men on British ships, and has made a brave fight against a competitor which has been so unscrupulous that the President of the Board of Trade has said that the time may come when it will have to be prosecuted criminally for its wicked and cruel treatment of the lascars in its employ. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, by employing white seamen, has hurled back the insulting charge made against Britishers by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, that they are too drunken to be employed.
– The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company has not said so.
– It has said so repeatedly, and acts speak more loudly than words. The Orient Steam Navigation Company has never had the finger of scorn pointed at it for carrying German goods imported to England, and transhipped at London for Australia, for 100 per cent, less than the rates at which it carried British goods from London to Australia. Therefore I am glad that the Orient Steam Navigation Company is to have the contract, even if it be for ten years. The honorable member for Barrier knows that he can always command my vote for the establishment of a Commonwealth mail service. If the Orient Steam Navigation Company flies the Australian flag, that may be the thin end of the wedge, and we may ultimately be able to start a fortnightly service with boats of our own, to be used as cruisers in time of war, and in time of peace carrying mails as far as Ceylon. I think that a fortnightly service would be sufficient for quick despatch, in addition to communication with Europe by way of the Cape; but if more vessels are needed, I am sure that the shipping companies will supply them. I am very pleased with the contract, as I have gathered its terms from the eloquent lips of the Prime Minister. It is the fairest and best ever entered into by Australia. By requiring a bond of £100,000 we shall prevent trickery such as we have experienced in the past. Mr. Gladstone, on one occasion, when asked by Lord Tollemache if he thought that the shipping companies would assist Germany to land troops in England, said that he believed that they would carry troops to Hell if they could get filthy lucre for doing so. The Orient Steam Navigation Company, however, is free from reproach.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [4.23]. - I congratulate the Government on having made a contract which, in most of its terms, will be eminently satisfactory for the State of Queensland. Having accepted the principle of paying a subsidy for what is admittedly more than a mail service-
– The payment will not commence until 19 10.
Colonel FOXTON. - The principle having been admitted, it must be regarded as almost axiomatic that the Commonwealth should forthwith relieve Queensland of the obligation to continue the payment of the £26,000 which she now gives to bring the mail steamers to Brisbane. That sum is paid for benefits quite separate and apart from a mail service, and makes the total subsidy paid by Australia £146,000.
– Would the boats have to go to Brisbane if the Queensland Government refused to pay their share of the subsidy ?
Colonel FOXTON. - No; under this agreement, if the Queensland Government refused to pay, the boats would cease to go to Brisbane until 1910. At present a subsidy of £120,000 is being paid by the Commonwealth Government, and £26,000 by the Queensland Government, a portion of which - between £4,000 and . £5,000 - is refunded by the Commonwealth to Queensland. A total subsidy of £146,000 is being paid at present for a combined mail and mercantile service. That sum is very much less than the proposed subsidy of £170,000 provided for under the new contract to be paid from and after 1910 ; but it is, perhaps, quite as much as should be paid for the less advantageous service which will cease in the year named. In the meantime, it does seem to me the Commonwealth should forthwith relieve Queensland of the payment of this immense burden of £26,000 a year. That is the only comment I have to offer upon the proposal now made save in terms of praise. However, that is, after all, a matter which is entirely outside the mail contract, and which could be arranged between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland. Save as to that, I think the Government are. to be heartily congratulated upon the contract that has been made.
.- I wish, at this stage, to say only a word, as I think a more fitting opportunity to discuss the question will be afforded when we come to deal with the motion for the ratification of the agreement. I should not like the occasion to pass without offering my congratulations to the Government upon the accomplishment of a very desirable contract. The people of the Commonwealth, and particularly the trading community, who have been very much disturbed by the uncertainty which has existed for some time in connexion with this mat- ter, and particularly during the long period occupied by the proceedings connected with the recent fiasco, will be very much gratified at what has taken place. I hope that this agreement with a company to which the people of the Commonwealth already owe so much will be satisfactorily completed. I trust that the amount at present due by the late mail contractors will be obtained without delay, and that that nightmare will be done with and forgotten. I am glad that the Victorian Minister of Agriculture has received the commendation he deserves from the Prime Minister for the work he has done in bringing the various States Governments into line in this matter. On behalf of the commercial institutions, I express the most complete satisfaction at the accomplishment of a contract which, I trust, will be for the permanent good of the Commonwealth.
.- I do not intend to go into the merits of the proposed contract at this stage, but I wish to emphasize the protest made by the honorable member for Brisbane against the contract on the ground that it would compel Queensland, for the next two years at all events, to continue the payment of a subsidy of £26,000 - less about £5,000 refunded by the Commonwealth. It appears to me that, as all the other States will benefit under the contract in being able at once to arrange for the export of perishable produce it is hardly fair that Queens- land should be left out, even for the two years referred to. I do not intend to say any more on the subject now. It is well known that I favour the Commonwealth running its own line of steamers. When we take into consideration the elaborate statement made by the Prime Minister today, and the varied conditions he has sought to bring about, it is not unreasonable to say that he had only to go a little further to decide upon running a line of Commonwealth steamers, which, I am satisfied, would be found more satisfactory in the long run.
– I desire to express my gratification that the House should have given so generous a welcome to this proposal. The honorable member for Barrier, and those who think with him, are certainly entitled to every opportunity to consider and criticise this contract. In order that such an opportunity may be afforded, while I propose to put this matter down for consideration on Wednesday next, I shall have pleasure in arranging for Hansard proofs of this afternoon’s proceedings to be sent to every member of the House by to-morrow’s post, in order that they may have a full opportunity of considering the provisions of the contract before it is dealt with on Wednesday next. We have other business set down for Tuesday, which may possibly overflow into Wednesday.
– I hope not.
– I hope not. If without dislocating business or delaying the Senate, more consideration can be given to the contract, I shall be glad, because I have no desire whatever to take any advantage of honorable members in connexion with the settlement of so important a question. Its further consideration will be set down for Wednesday, and I hope it will then be dealt with without interruption or delay.
– There is one point which has not been raised. Must the contract be accepted in its entirety, or will it be possible for us to make slight or unimportant amendments ?
– If the contract is rejected it will be open to us to commence negotiations for some other tender.
– Can the contract not be amended in respect of unimportant details?
– It must be accepted or rejected as it stands, but if there should be any difference of opinion with regard to details, the representatives of the company being here, we shall be in a position to see whether additions cannot be made to cover unimportant amendments. I wish, if I may, to intimate through the press that we may be obliged to ask honorable members to continue to sit next week on Friday night and Saturday, and, possibly, on the following Monday, in the hope that we shall be able to conclude our proceedings.
– Why not sit next Monday ?
– Because it is only fair that honorable members should be given some notice through the press of what is intended, in order that they may make their arrangements. We must come prepared for sittings in which we can dispose of as much business as can reasonably be dealt with before Christmas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071115_reps_3_41/>.