3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 4.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire 10 ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether in view of the complete consolidation of the many trusts and financial combines such as the Coal Vend, Tobacco and Sugar Trusts, Inter-State Shipping Ring and other commercial blood-sucking monopolies organized to plunder the producing masses, the Government will, under the Customs Smuggling Act, seize, confiscate, and sell the products or property of all monopolistic combinations, acting in restraint of trade while in transit between State and State, and thus effectively test the efficacy of the anti-trust law.
– So far as I am aware, the present law does not permit ns .such bold enterprises. Following the question put to me yesterday by the honorable member for Maranoa, I have received the following letter from the Colonial Oil Company
Dear Sir, - Referring to your remarks in the House yesterday, in regard to the increase in price charged for kerosene cil, on account of the duty of 3d. per gallon, I would say that : - At the time we increased our price, we promised our- customers that we would refund to them - provided the duty were not ratified - -the excess of price which we charged on all. deliveries from free stocks. While we had plenty of free stock at Melbourne and Sydney, our stocks at other ports were’ small, and we have” paid over ^8,000 duty. Our promise to our customers holds good.
As I certainly by implication acquiesced in the statement that the company was charging increased prices,- although it had npt paid duty,’ and since I had no knowledge that it was intended to make any refund, it is only- fair to read this letter.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in. view of the fact that freight and other ‘ carrying charges on maize, potatoes, - and such products from coastal and other districts of New South Wales are fixed and charged at a rate per bag of 240 lbs., and that the farmers hold considerable quantities of that size, he will postpone action to reduce the standard size of sacks to 200 lbs. capacity until they have had an opportunity to rearrange such freight and carrying charges with shipping firms and others on the reduced size?
– I pointed out to a deputation which waited on me this morning with reference to the standard size of bags that the only action which the Government could take was in relation to the weight of bags for import and export. I showed the members of the . deputation a letter from the Premier of Victoria intimating his intention to introduce legislation providing that the standard size of sacks should be 200 lbs. capacity. That standard has been adopted in New Zealand, and the Commonwealth Government have also determined that the weight must be reduced. Ample time will be given to farmers and others to make the necessary arrangements, for there are large stocks of bags in the country, and it is desired to bring about the change without inflicting any injustice. But the one thing certain is that the Government have determined that the present practice of allowing bags to be filled without any restriction as to weight must be stopped, and that the State Government have intimated their intention of taking similar action.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, in connexion with his reply to a deputation concerning an alteration in the size of wheat bags, which was to come into operation in April next, whether there is any intention to vary the determination ?
– No; I do not propose to alter the determination. A very serious statement was made to me this morning, to the effect that to alter the size of these bags from 240 lbs. to 200 lbs. - an alteration which I am very strongly in favour of - would involve a cost of ^7 10s. per annum to a farmer having 500 . bags of wheat to ship. I asked the gentleman who made that statement to let me have the figures, because, so far as I can understand, the expense involved in the alteration could not possibly amount to anything of the kind.
– When the item relating to pianos was under consideration yesterday, it was alleged that information supplied by Mr. George Allan, of Messrs. Allan and Company, in what had been made official documents in the Department of Trade and Customs, had been improperly disclosed. Will the Minister cause a searching investigation to be made to determine the cause of the leakage, if any ?
– Every inquiry will be made.
– I desire to ask. the Prime Minister how far we are from Socialism, and how much of private ownership will be left to manufacturers and producers if the scheme of new protection, as outlined by the Government, and submitted to this House yesterday, becomes law?
– Is that one of Walpole’s questions ?
– No; it is a genuine production.
– In that respect, at all events, private enterprise flourishes here. Without asking the ‘ honorable member for his definition of Socialism, but interpreting it in the ordinary fashion, I contend that the fixing of fair and reasonable wages, under equal conditions, and the assurance of fair prices, even if undertaken by State action, brings us no nearer Socialism, in the Continental sense of the word, than we have ever been. The honorable member will probably say, “It is another form of State interference ‘ ‘ ; but even our Courts of law, in doing justice as between man and man, interfere for similar purposes with individual freedom on- the authority of the State.
– Will the Treasurer take into consideration the position of casual employes in the Government Printing Office who work all night when Parliament is sitting, and arrange to grant them two weeks’ leave such as is annually enjoyed by permanent employes?
– I cannot say on the spur of the moment what hours are worked by casual employes in the Government Printing Office; but I shall at once make inquiries, and if it be possible to grant them a holiday, I shall not be against it.
– As the Prime Minister was unable to give me definite information on. the subject yesterday, so that honorable members might make final arrangements for returning to their homes, I wish to ask whether he is yet in a position to make a definite statement as to when he intends that the House shall rise for the Christmas adjournment?
– The Tariff appears to have been so far disposed of that without being unduly sanguine I think we can count upon settling it at the present sitting. After it is dealt with, I propose to ask honorable members to take the next two measures on the paper - the Excise Procedure Bill and the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I hope also, if time will permit, to induce honorable members to consider the Senate’s amendments - for that is all we have to do in connexion with the measure - in the Quarantine Bill, in order tha.t its new administration may be got under way, and pressing causes of friction removed.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will not persist with that.
– I should not have been inclined to ask honorable members seriously to consider the whole of these measures at this date were it not that in each case circumstances have arisen outside and beyond our control which make their passage into law imperatively necessary. In the case, for instance, of the Excise Procedure Bill, the situation with which we are confronted in enforcing the measure now upon the statute-book is such that without this Bill it is doubtful if we can take the effective action called for at the present rime. It deals with a real emergency which can be met in a perfectly legitimate way by altering existing procedure, without raising any new principle. In the case of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, it will be admitted that the closing of the Sandford Ironworks is a matter of importance, not only to New South Wales, but to the whole of the Commonwealth. It might be taken for granted, and in fact I have reason to know that the action taken by the New South Wales Government recently- was to some extent affected by the knowledge that this House had passed the second reading of the Manufactures Encouragement BillIf we were in a position before we rise for the Christmas adjournment to indicate to the country the form the bounty would take, and the conditions under which it would be payable, the information might have a most excellent effect in the direction of rehabilitating this great enterprise.
– That cannot be finally settled in the absence of the Senate.
– That is so; but there would be, at all events, an indication of the feeling of this House which would go a long way in the direction I have stated.
– There, would be stilt room for a good deal of difference of opinion as to details, even though the principle should be accepted.
– There are differences as -to details. In regard to the Quarantine Bill, honorable members familiar with the papers know that complaints have been exchanged between New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania on matters connected with quarantine. This makes the passage of the measure urgent, because it will be some months after the passing of the Quarantine Bill into law before it can become operative.
– I hope the Prime Minister will not persist with it.
– At this stage I must bow to the will of the House, but it does appear to me that we ought to deal with the Quarantine Bill.
– Will the honorable gentleman say when he hopes to adjourn the House for the Christmas adjournment?
– Though the hope is somewhat weaker than it was, I still think we might manage to adjourn on Saturday ; but there must be sacrifices on the part of individual members if we are to do so. The practically unlimited freedom which every honorable members enjoys, and exercises according to his own conscience, renders it possible for a few occupying time legitimately to prolong the sittings unduly. It is only bv honorable members refraining from the full exercise of their privileges that we can conclude on Saturday. I hope, with their co-operation, that we shall be able to close in time for the Saturday trains.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister, in reference to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, to which He has just referred, whether he is aware that there is a clause in the contract be- tween the New South Wales State Government and Mr. Sandford that any bounty paid in connexion with the industry shall be paid over to the State Government of New South Wales.
– That is in respect only of Government contracts.
– I understand that is so with respect to Government contracts; but if the honorable member -sees any objection to the provision, there will be a proper time to point it out.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether he is now in a position to give the House any information, in accordance with the promise he made a few months ago, with regard to the alleged working of overtime in the Sydney General Post Office?
– I am not at present in a position to give the honorable member the information referred to. The return called for involves a very large amount of work. I have issued an order that on no account, except in connexion with specially urgent work, is overtime to be worked.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether it is true that the telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney is not earning working expenses and interest on the cost of construction ; and, if so, how came the work to be undertaken without the usual guarantee for as- sumedly non-paying lines being insisted upon?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No. The telephone line in question, which has only been opened for a period of five months, has so far - allowing for its use as a telegraph line - paid at the rate of over 9 per cent. on the cost of construction, and there is every prospect that by the end of the twelve months, it will have paid not only working expenses and interest on cost of construction, but also cost of maintenance and sinking fund. No guarantee was asked for, because it was estimated that the revenue would more than equal the amount usually required. No guarantee is ever asked under such circumstances.
asked the Minister of Trade and Custom’s, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have, so far, been unable to obtain any information on this head, but inquiries will be made. If the state of affairs to which the honorable member has called attention is found to exist, the Government will endeavour to see whether the . facts justify them in taking action.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Calare asked me the following questions -
January and 30th November, 1907, and what was the value of the same?
I promised to reply as soon as the information asked for was obtained. I am now in a position to supply the following information in answer to the honorable member’s questions : -
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN laid upon the table the following paper -
Rabbit Destruction. - Dr. Danysz’s experiments. Third report on experiments made with the Danysz virus for the destruction of rabbits - by Dr. E. Angas Johnson, and W. J. P. Giddings, honorary Commissioners for the South Australian Government.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from nth December, vide page 7413) :
Postponed item 425 as amended). Articles imported or purchased in bond for the official use of the Governor-General and declared as being for such official use - Free.
Articles imported or purchased in bond for the official use of the State Governors, and declared as being for such official use, on and after 12th December,1907 - Free.
Upon which Mr. Batchelor had moved by way of amendment -
That the following new paragraph be added - “d. Articles imported or purchased in bond for the official use of the Lieutenant-Governors, and declared as being for such official use, on and after 12th December, 1907 - Free.”
– When, a few hours earlier to-day, I moved my amendment upon the Treasurer’s’ proposal, my object was that we should either extend the freedom from taxation proposed to be conferred on the Governors of the States somewhat further down the social scale, or else draw the line at the Governor-General of the Commonwealth. I do not wish to discuss the matter at any length, but, whatever reasons there are, if there be any good reasons at all, for free ing the Governors of the States from Customs taxation, must apply with equal force to Lieutenant-Governors. The question as to where we should draw the line becomes very difficult to answer if we once depart from the principle that it should be drawn at the King’s representative in the Commonwealth - the Governor-General. Our supply is granted to His Majesty, and it would be a contradiction for the King to be taxed, because all the taxes are paid by the people to the King. Still, that power should not be delegated to all His Majesty’s representatives in every case. If we grant that we cannot tax the King, it follows that we should not tax the King’s representative, who, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is the GovemorGeneral. The States are sovereign, but only in their own spheres. They have no sovereign rights so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Customs taxation is exclusively a Commonwealth matter, with regard to which it cannot be said that the States have any powers. Therefore, the better plan in these matters is to allow the representative of the King, in Commonwealth legislation, to stand in the same position as the King, and then stop there. Once we go beyond him and bring in the Governors of the States there is absolutely no halting place, and we must go still further and grant the Lieutenant-Governors freedom from Commonwealth taxation. We should also have to exempt all representatives of the King acting in any small local capacity. Perhaps that can hardly be said to apply to the mayor of a municipality, who represents the citizens, nor to a member of Par- liament, who represents the people of his constituency. But all persons appointed by the King to act as his representative in any capacity, and to whom he delegates his authority, are equally entitled willi the Governors of the States to this privilege, once we go past the Governor-General. As we go clown the scale, we find that the King’s authority is, in a manner, delegated to the policeman. It would therefore be better to limit this freedom from taxation to the representative of the King in the Commonwealth - the Governor-General. I understand that the Prime Minister proposes to address the Committee.
– To address the honorable member.
– I shall be most ha Di)v to hear the honorable gentleman.
– Although the honorable member for Boothby is perfectly entitled, if he so chooses, to take the line of argument and precedent which he has adopted, or to argue that an inconsistency can be discovered in this’ proposal or develop his theory of the position which the Governors hold, the reason why I, for one, am anxious that this should be acceded to is that this act will be accepted in the States, and by those affected, as an act of courtesy and civility on the part of the Commonwealth. I put it, so far as I am concerned, on no wider ground than that on this occasion.
Mf. Batchelor. - -Why did not the Government propose it, instead of leaving it to a private member?
– Because the former exemption seems to have been struck out of this -list of exemptions under the direction of a previous Minister in some other relation, and, so far as I “know, its absence was not noticed until the Tariff was on the table. However, it represents an inconsiderable sum; and I have found when travelling through the States that it is regarded as a significant indication of the- attitude of the Commonwealth Parliament towards the States through their chief officers. It was an act of courtesy which, not having been abused, there is no reason to withdraw. Why should we pay the Governors less consideration than has been the custom in the past?
– A kind of Christmas box !
– As the honorable member happily says, it would, in present circumstances’, be an appropriate Christmas box. That is the ground on which I am happy to take this opportunity of putting my view. This will be a graceful act of courtesy to the gentlemen affected, and does not necessarily raise important questions appropriate if it had a wider bearing. ‘
– I suppose this is a matter we are not supposed to discuss at any great length ; but it seems to me very proper that, if the Governor-General is to receive all his requirements through the Customs duty free, the same privilege should be extended to the Governors of the States. However, my chief purpose in rising is to suggest that the Government representatives in such places .as Port Darwin, and in Papua, who have to dispense a good deal of hospitality,” should be placed on the same footing as Lieutenant-Governors: I should like to know whether the Prime Minister approves of the suggestion.
– I do not know the temper of the Committee, but I am altogether opposed to this item ; and, in my opinion, the offer of a concession of the kind amounts almost to an insult. I know we are not supposed to discuss the Governor-General, and I do not propose to discuss him as an individual, but to confine my remarks to the office he holds. I have arrived at that stage of life when I have ceased to. believe in foolish com.plimentary language to gentlemen who occupy positions of the kind. The GovernorGeneral has a certain . allowance, and if it be not sufficient, after the proper tribute to the Customs has been paid, let it be made larger. The present GovernorGeneral, I understand, takes a kindly interest in Australian manufactures, and is endeavouring to set the fashion in regard to the use of them; and what I now say must not be construed into an attack upon him personally. If we call ourselves a democracy we should see that every citizen contributes fairly to the Customs. .Why this exemption? Is it to enable the GovernorGeneral and Governors to obtain more cheaply champagne and other necessaries of their official functions? And, by the way, I hold that the GovernorGeneral and the Government should not be called upon to give those entertainments. I know that we are not supposed to discuss these questions ; but I see in the Governor-General no more than I do in any other public official. I have not reached that stage of personal idolatry when I feel constrained to worship the
Governor-General, or any other member of the community; and. I shall be pleased to see the Committee strike out the item.
– I am rather surprised that the Government should agree to any differentiation in the case of the Governor-General, the Governor of a State, or any other citizen. We ought to see that those who are placed in responsible offices are paid sufficient salary to cover allcharges.I intend to submit an amendment.
Mr.Wilks. - Vote against the item.
– No; the present Governor-General and the States Governors have been brought here under an agreement to receive certain salaries and have the goods imported for their own use admitted duty free. I am willing to respect that contract, though I feel that an arrangement of the kind leaves the door open to all kinds of abuse. I do not mean to say that the Governor- General or the Governor of any State would wilfully abuse such a concession ; but the difficulty is that some Governor, coming from the free-trade Old Land, might have a very different idea from ourselves as to what ought to be brought in free. As I say, I would respect present contracts, but provide for a different arrangement in the future. If the salary of a Governor is not sufficient to cover all his expenses, it ought to be increased ; but I hope the time is coming when we shall have no imported State Governors, because I see no reason why we should. My amendment will seek to restrict the exemption to the present GovernorGeneral and Governors of the States, placing all future Governor- Generals and Governors on the same footing as ordinary citizens, so far as the Customs is concerned.
– That was passed this morning; the proposal before us deals with the Lieutenant-Governors.
– That makes the position all the worse.” If there is any justification for permitting the goods of LieutenantGovernors to come in free, there is equal justification for extending the privilege to the members of His Majesty’s Government, . the members of His Majesty’s Opposition, and so on, right down the scale to policemen. The position is absurd. We in Australia ought to see that, in regard to taxation, every citizen, from the highest to the lowest, is placed on exactly the same footing.
– I do not think that the Governor -General or any of the Governors thank us for the exemption, but rather that they may regard it as an insult.
– I agree with the honorable member. The representatives of His Majesty are well paid; and I am sure that if the question were put to them, it would be found that they had no desire for any exemption of the kind. I move -
That the amendment be amended by adding the words - “This exemption from payment of duty shall not apply to any Governor-General, State Governor, or Lieutenant-Governor appointed after 12th December, 1907.”
– I think that the Governors of the States occupy an entirely different position from other public officials, who have been! mentioned, inasmuch as within a limited period they take away whatever they may bring with them. They are here simply as visitors, and cannot be regarded as citizens of the Commonwealth in the ordinary acceptation of the term.
– All visitors pay Customs taxation whilst they remain here.
– Exactly. Butthey come here for their own pleasure; whereas the several Governors come as the representatives of the Crown. I am very glad that the Government have agreed not to make any invidious distinction between the position occupied by the Governor- General and that occupied by the Governors of the States, and trust that the amendment will not be pressed. The condition sought tote imposed upon the representatives of the Crown is one which does not obtain in any other part of the British dominions.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Hutchison’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
.- The Prime Minister has put it to us that it is a matter of grace to make this concession. It has also been said by one or two honorable members that a matter of State rights is involved. But it appears to me that whatever issue is involved, certainly State lights are not in any way affected. No one can contend that the States have any sort of right to demand that their Governors shall Le enabled to import goods duty free. Customs taxation is exclusively a subject for control by this Parliament. It has nothing whatever to do with the States. I am informed by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, who was once Commissioner of Customs in Victoria, that in this State the Governor has always had to pay Customs taxation on imported goods, just the same as any other citizen.
– The first GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth, when he arrived, was charged duty on his wines and other imports.
– Yes ; I believe that Lord Linlithgow - the Earl of Hopetoun, as he then was - had to pay duty on the taxable goods that he brought in. It is really a pity that the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh was not carried, so that we might have laid down once and for all the principle that this exemption should apply only to the present representatives of His Majesty, and not to their successors. We certainly ought not to go further than that. In fact, I do not know that we need even go so far.
– I do not think the concession ought to be made to any one.
– I agree with the honorable member. We should pay adequate salaries, and not try to “ make it up “ in a piecemeal or sub rosa fashion. The salary paid should be the beginning and end of the Governor-General’s and of the State Governors’ emoluments. The Prime Minister, however, puts it that this is a concession to the States which may allay some sort of friction. I do not think there could be any friction over a matter like this. Certainly there ought not to be. If there is likely to be any friction over such an absurd thing it cannot be allayed by making little concessions. The amount involved is merely a bagatelle. The States can, if they desire that theirGovernors shall not pay Customs duties,repay to them the amounts collectedby the Customs. But the principle should be laid down that no one should be allowed to bring goods into this country for personal use, or for any other purpose, except after paying the duties which this Parliament has imposed. Whatever reasons there are for requiring Bill Jones or Tom Smith to pay duties on goods which they import are equally applicable to the Governor-General and to States Governors. There ought to be no exception. However, as the Committee was not disposed to support our contention, it is of no use for me to challenge a division on the question of the addition of Lieutenant-Governors.
– If we exempt the goods of Governors, why not of LieutenantGovernors also?
Mr.BATCHELOR. - I assume that the Committee is determined not to extend the privilege to the Lieutenant Governors. Therefore I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed item 424. Articles imported. by or being the property of the Commonwealth, free.
Amendment (by Colonel Foxton) proposed -
That after the word “ Commonwealth,” the words “or of a State and imported for use in the Public Works or in the Public Service of such State.”
.- I hone that this proposed addition to the item will not be accepted. I think it would lead to very serious consequences indeed - probably consequences not intended or contemplated by the honorable member who has submitted the amendment. The Committee might fairly leave this question of the taxation of State property to the law as embodied in the. Constitution, and as it will no doubt shortly receive the interpretation of the highest Court recognised in such matters by the Commonwealth. The law upon’ the subject is contained in section 114 of the Constitution, which says that the Commonwealth shall not impose - any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
On the face of it, of course, the provision is fairly liberal and comprehensive in the direction of freedom and the exemption of State property of all kinds and descriptions from Federal taxation.
– Probably it means real property, all the same.
– At one time I was inclined! to give it a very wide interpretation, viz., that it might cover property of every description, including landed estate, as well as goods and chattels. I was then inclined to think that that was the real intention and most reasonable interpreta-tion of the provision, but I have seen reason to reconsider my opinion. I consider that in dealing with an instrument of government, such as a Constitution, we ought to be very careful as to the canon of interpretation and construction, and that, if we see two possible meanings or constructions of a provision, we ought to accept, and I believe that the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth, in the same way as the Supreme Court of the United States, would adopt and accept such an interpretation and construction of a Federal instrument as would be most workable, consistent with its preservation. And if there was ah interpretation which might lead to the destruction of the system of government, I think that the Court of final jurisdiction would hesitate before it accepted the interpreta tion. I firmly believe, as the result of calm and prolonged consideration, that if the word “ property “ in section 114 of our- Constitution received the widest possible meaning and interpretation, and that it included State imports, that interpretation might, in the end, lead to the breakdown of our system of Customs and Excise revenue. It might lead to a most unexpected and disastrous result, which the friends of the Constitution and the Commonwealth would not hope to see, and which they would most earnestly pray should be averted. If the view were accepted that all goods and chattels imported by a State Government were by the term “ property “ exempted from taxation-
– What would be the limit ?
– “Property.” widely construed, means real and personal estate, as well as goods and chattels.
– It might include chattels. There is no limit to which a State might not go.
– A State might supersede private imports.
– Quite so. A State might launch into all kinds of enterprises, and become the sole importer of goods and chattels, for the purpose of disposing of them to private customers and taxpayers.
– In that way it would get indirectly the Customs revenue.
– In that way it would kill the source, of revenue from Customs and Excise ‘ contemplated by the Federal law. At the same time, if we reach a stage for the federalization of all revenue from Customs and Excise, a State which went in for wholesale importation- mightescape Customs and Excise duties, and at the same time would also claim to share in the distribution of the revenue from the Customs and Excise duties paid by the people of other States. That is an interpretation which no friend of the Constitution ever contemplated. I do not believe that any reasonable interpretation would lead to that result. At any rate, I should firmly hope not. But the honorable member for Brisbane is not content with leaving to the High Court the construction of. the word “ property,” in section 114. He wants1 express Federal legislation to grant absolute immunity to the State Governments to import goods and chattels for the use of State
Departments. That is a most dangerous provision to introduce. It will lend force and sanction to the view that all State imports ought to be free. I certainly think it would be very unfair to the Commonwealth, and also to the several States which did not launch into such vast schemes and enterprises, if such exemption from duty were granted. I hope that the Committee will make short work of the amendment by summarily rejecting it.
.- There is no doubt that the honorable member for Brisbane has raised a very difficult question ; at least, I feel it somewhat difficult to say, with any emphasis, what ought to be done. But, on the whole, I think that we ought to exempt State imports until we abolish the principle of crediting the Customs revenue to the States in which imported goods are consumed. As long as we do not alter that provision of the Constitution, there is no danger, so far as I can see, of the abuse of this exemption bv a State, for the simple reason that it would besimply getting its own revenue to the extent of three-fourths. No State would become such a large importer of goods as to destrov the whole fiscal system, and the apportionment of revenue from Customs and Excise duties fairly throughout the Commonwealth.
– Suppose that they went in for Socialism?
– As long as by doing that it is diminishing the Customs revenue which has to be paid back under the Constitution
– That provision can expire in a very short time.
– When we do abolish that provision under which the Commonwealth credits a State with the duties paid on articles consumed therein, we can provide
– I refer to the Braddon section.
– Speaking subject to correction, I do not think that it touches the matter.
– I think that it does, though not on thelegal side.
– I think that what touches the question are sections 89 and 93, under which each State is credited with the duties levied onthe commodities consumed therein. In 1903 this question was raised in the case of the Attorney-
General of New South Wales against the Comptroller-General of Customs for the Commonwealth.
– -The constitutional question is pending in the High Court.
– Suppose that New South Wales, in the exercise of the right which it then asserted, if it had a right, imported very largely railway material free of duty, if we choose to exempt it. Then it is simply surrendering threefourths of the Customs revenue which otherwise would be paid to the State in case the dutv were levied. That is a check on the abuse of the exemption. So long as we do not abolish the system under which each State is credited with the duties paid on commodities consumed therein-
– Of course, under any system we would have a large proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue. That supports the honorable member.
– No doubt. Since the whole of our Customs revenue after provision had been made for our expenditure might be apportioned among the States in any way that the Commonwealth thought fit, it would be ridiculous to allow each State to defeat the equity of the division by becoming a very large importer of dutiable commodities.
– Does the honorable member think that we should in the meantime make any alteration, especially as the matter is sub judice ?
– I do hot think that the question sub judice is touched.
– What I mean is that we shall soon have a decision as to our rights and powers.
– If we determine now to grant this exemption, and. the High Court subsequently holds that as a matter of constitutional right the exemption already exists, no harm will be clone; . but on the other hand, if whilst favoring an exemption at the present time we refrain from granting it, and the High Court later on determines that the States have no exemption under the Constitution, then we shall do an injustice to the States if we do not grant it by legislation. The Committee should take action now if they believe it wise to cover the possibility of the exemption not being provided for.
– If we thought we had the power but did not think it wise to part with it, we should nevertheless abandon it by the action proposed.
– Let us assume that States’ imports under the Constitution are not exempt. It does not follow that we have not the power by legislation to make them exempt. We are asked to exercise that power, and my contention is that if the Legislature think the exemption ought to exist and the Constitution has not granted it, now is the time to give effect to that belief.
– If the Constitution has not granted it, how can we grant it?
– The question before the High Court is not whether we can or can not exempt States’ imports, but whether the Constitution, apart from our legislation, grants the exemption.
– That is what I said.
– I did not understand the honorable member to say so. If he holds that view he cannot possibly differ from the position I am putting. There are two alternatives. The exemption may exist under the Constitution ; if it does, we need not legislate on the subject. On the other hand, it may not exist under the Constitution, but we have the power to grant it by legislation. If we think, that we ought by legislation to grant this exemption to the States, now is the time to take action. If we desire to grant the exemption, but omit to do so because the High Court is considering the question from the point of view of the Constitution, then if the exemption does not exist as a constitutional right, we shall not have granted it bv legislation although we believe that it ought to be granted.
– We do not believe that it ought to be granted.
– Some do and some do not ; I am merely endeavoring o help the Committee to a judgment in the matter by putting the legislative and constitutional aspect of the question before it. Whilst with some doubt I think that we ought now to grant the exemption, I hold that as soon as we begin to distribute the Customs” and Excise revenue upon some other principle than that which has regard to where the commodities on which duties were paid were consumed, we ought not to do so.
– Why grant it at all?
– That, is a perfectly sound position.
– Is it the honorable member’s conclusion that we ought not to grant it at all?
– No. I say with some diffidence that we ought to grant it whilst a check against its abuse is imposed by the fact that the State which importsgoods free of duty will be surrendering revenue.
– The honorable member thinks we should grant the exemption as long as the existing system of distribution of surplus revenue remains in. force ?
– That is so. If we can. thus place ourselves in a perfectly logical and sound position, I think that we ought to do so, for reasons which I shall explain.
– To that extent only ?
– Yes. We have to deal with a time at which the relations of the States and the Commonwealth are somewhat delicate and timid. They sometimes almost remind me of one of the characters in Little Dorrit, Old Dorrit, who - if I may be allowed to put the States in this position - was always suspicious that some one was reflecting on his honesty when no reflection was intended, and that something was to be done to his detriment. Under section. 13T of the Customs Act we have exempted the Commonwealth, but not the States, from the payment of Customs duties. That seems an invidious distinction as against the States. If the Commonwealth chose to become a very large importer of commodities it could avail itself of that exemption to defraud the States, so that whatever pertinence there is in the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo applies, to a large extent at all events, to the exemption already granted to the Commonwealth, not merely under the Tariff proposals, but bv the Customs Act.
– The Commonwealth, however, has power over the Customs’ and Excise duties, and may increase or diminish them.
– What has that to do with the question with which I am now dealing - the point that the’ Commonwealth is at present creating an invidious exemption in favour of itself, and that under that exemption it could, if it chose to abuse its power, lead us to the unfortunate position assumed to be possible in the case of the States? Let me put an even stronger case in favour of our granting for the present an exemption of State imports, and one that may hold to some extent, although with weakened force, when we adopt some other principle of distribution. When a State borrows, say,£1,000,000 in London, it brings out that money in the shape of goods - generally in the form of railway material or other of the larger commodities consumedby the States. In such circumstances, the Commonwealth immediately takes one-fourth of the revenue raised by way of duty on goods representing those loan moneys. Is it right for the Commonwealth, by taxing the imports of the States, which in ninety-nine out of a hundred represent loan moneys, to diminish the amount so raised in London.
– I do not think that is the position.
– It is. I would remind the honorable member that some years ago South Australia, in order to remove a false impression, exempted its imports from the payment of duty, recognising that its loan moneys were diminished to the extent of the Customs duties collected on imports representing them. Under the old system of taxing the imports of the States, the loan balances in the books were never at their true amount.
– That difficulty would exist just as much after the adoption of a new system of distribution as it does at the present time.
– It was because I. appreciated that fact that I said just now that this case would hold, perhaps with weakened force, after we had adopted some other principle of distribution.
– I do not think that the difficulty would be diminished.
– I merely suggested that the difficulty would exist with perhaps diminished force. In hitting off a conclusion on the spur of the moment, one does not like to be emphatic.
– Having once granted the exemption, would we be able afterwards under the pooling system to take the money from revenue?
– I think so. If we merely provide that whilst the present conditions exist the exemptions shall apply, the States will not have any cause to complain if we say later on that under the new conditions of distribution they ought not to apply.
– I do not wish to elaborate the question. I have endeavoured to give reasons for a temporary exemption of State imports. I think that, in the circumstances, to be logical and consistent, we ought for the present to exempt State imports. I put that conclusion not, perhaps, with the cocksuredness of some who hold the contrary view, but merely for the consideration of the Committee, acknowledging that I had some difficulty when I read the amendment in making up my mind as to what ought to be done.
– Should we act in a matter that involves millions of money when we have a doubt?
– Does the honorable member mean a doubt as to the policy or as to the power?
– As to the policy. .
– Judging by the debates that have taken place from the first in the Federal Parliament, not a single policy that has been postulated or made the subject of legislation has been free from doubt. I have never known thedeputy leader of the Opposition, fair and able as he is, to agree to a Government proposition without some qualification. Parliament is an assembly where people are supposed to speak their minds. If they have not a mind on a subject, they often extemporize a pretence of one. When a proposal is put before us, we generally agree to its adoption with a good deal of travail and disquietude as to whether we are doing right or wrong, and. that being so,. I do not think that the existence of a doubt as to the expediency of the policy ought to prevent us from deciding that the balance is in favour of an exemption for the present of State imports.
– At this stageit would require a long debate to enable us to determine whether or not it is a wisestep to take.
– I am sorry that my arguments are so untenable as to suggest the- impossibility of our arriving at a conclusion without a long debate.
– Not at all. The honorable member has made a very able speech.
– Assuming the humility that ought to embellish the argument of a member of Parliament,but seldom does, I put these considerations before the Committee, acknowledging that with a. considerable degree of doubt and hesitancy I have decided to support the amendment if it be pressed to a division. At the same time, I would suggest to the honorable member for Brisbane that he should consider whether he ought to press it. If he does, he should certainly limit the operation of the proposed exemption until we legislate under the powers preserved to us bv section 93 of the Constitution.
.- For a variety of reasons I hope that the amendment will be rejected. In the first place, we have the constitutional aspect of the question that was urged by the honorable member for Bendigo, but another consideration which leads me to this view is that as soon as the Braddon section is superseded, either by a fixed arrangement with the States, or by effluxion of time, this proposal would involve in most cases a probable discrimination against local’ manufacturers in tendering for Government supplies. Suppose a duty qf 30 per cent.” were imposed on a certain article, and a State Government called for tenders for supplies of that article, the position might be that the local manufacturer would not be able to supply it at the price at which it could be imported.
– Is that the way the shoe pinches ?
– That is one way.
– The local man might not charge more, but he would be deprived of the protection which this Parliament intended he should have.
– And to that extent the fiscal system of the Commonwealth would be rendered inoperative.
– And inoperative by reason of the act of some one else, and not of our-
SG I ves .
– That is so.
Colonel Foxton. - Does not that apply equally in the case of supplies required by the Commonwealth Government?
– So far as the Commonwealth Government, is concerned. I do not think it is in the same position in relation to Customs and Excise taxation as are the States Governments, because the exclusive power to deal with that taxation has been handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament under the Constitution.
– Still, the effect would be the same from the fiscal point of view.
– I do not think so. It is to be assumed, I think, that this Parliament will insure that the administration of the Commonwealth Government is in consonance with the policy embodied in the Tariff, whether it be a free-trade, a revenue, or a protectionst Tariff. I say that if we put in a provision of this description a distinction must be drawn as between the Commonwealth and the States Governments in that the fiscal policy of the country might be rendered nugatory by the action of some of the States Governments. As to the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas, to allow these exemptions to run until the bookkeeping section ceases to operate, I suggest that the honorable member might very well reverse the position.
– If anything of the kind were done, it should be as part of a general financial arrangement.
– I quite agree that the only justification for it would be that it was a part of a general financial arrangement. I point out that the section to which the honorable member for Angas has referred might be repealed or modified to-morrow, but we do not anticipate that the Tariff will be altered to-morrow. If the honorable member’s contention is that the exemption during the period of the operation of the bookkeeping section would involve no injustice, I would ask him to put. the matter in the other way, and say whether while the bookkeeping section con- tinues in operation the States Governments would suffer any real injustice from the imposition of the duty when three-fourths at least of the amount collected by means of this taxation is returned to the States.
– There must always be a return to the States of a substantial proportion of the Customs and Excise taxation.
– Only under the Braddon section. We might make a return of ninetenths to one State.
– I admit that we might do that, but it is not very likely that we would. When the honorable member for Angas admits that once the bookkeeping section is rendered’ inoperative by the action of this Parliament, the whole situation will be changed, it does not seem to me that he advances his case when he points out that under the Braddon section ninetenths might be returned to one State. It seems to me that the honorable member would be on safer ground if he were to assume that no injustice was likely to be done to the States while the bookkeeping section continues in operation, and we know that as soon as it ceases to operate his proposal would not remedy the objection.
– I hope the Committee will agree to the item as it stands. In the first place, because to do otherwise would so complicate the finances of the States and the Commonwealth that no Treasurer in Australia would know where he was. In the next place, of what use is it to carry a protective Tariff if the States imports are to be admitted free ? Again, it should be remembered that the Commonwealth is paramount, ‘ and we should not permit it to become subordinate to the States. Another point is that we are testing before the High Court the question whether the Commonwealth possesses this power to levy taxation on States’ imports, and if we now admit that we have not the power to do so, we give our whole case away. If this Parliament is going to surrender, why should we fight the case in the High Court? I trust that the honorable member, for the sake of his own reputation as a lawyer, will withdraw the amendment.
.- There is one difficulty in connexion with this matter which has struck me, and which arises from the fact that the system of Government adopted in the various States is not uniform. For instance, in one State the municipal system may be carried out in its entirety, and in another very imperfectly and incompletely. The result might be that in a State in which its municipal system of government is incomplete, imports to a very much greater total value might be treated as States imports, as compared with the imports to another State where the municipal system is complete. There is a danger of this unfair discrimination as a consequence of a lack of uniformity in the system of government prevailing in the different States.
.- From some of the speeches to which we have listened, it would appear that certain honorable members are disposed to look upon the States as foreign powers, and upon the Commonwealth as a. dominant power overriding subject States. The people of the States are also the people of the Commonwealth, and anything that affects them affects the people of the Commonwealth. We have to ask ourselves whether they would be any more likely to act unjustly towards local manufacturers than the Commonwealth Government would be?
– Would not that argument apply with equal force in the opposite direction - why not trust the Commonwealth ?
– It is assumed that the Commonwealth Government would not give a preference to a foreign manufacturer in the purchase of goods required for. public works and services ; but I do not see why it should be assumed that the States Government would act differently. Why should we make a distinction, and say that goods required by the people of the Commonwealth shall be admitted duty free, whilst goods required by a section of the people of the Commonwealth shall be subject to taxation ? I say that all Government importations should be free, or all should be subject to taxation. Why should we create friction by putting the States Governments in the posivion of subjects dominated by the Commonwealth Government? As the honorable member for Angas hasstated, money borrowed bv the States is introduced in the form of goods. If a State borrows £1,000,000, why should . £250,000 ofthe amount go to the Commonwealth Government ?
– The amount which the Commonwealth Government would receive would not be £25.0,000, but one-fourth of the duty . collected on £1,000,000 worth of goods.
– Assuming an average impost of 25 per cent., if a State Government imports £1,000,000 worth of goods, it will realize only £750,000, because onefourth of the amount must be paid in taxation, and would be retained by the Federal Government.
– But the States Governments would get; three-fourths of the £250,000 back again.
– Why should we take one-fourth of the duties levied on States imports when the States Governments derive no. benefit from taxation on Commonwealth imports? I think that in this matter we should treat the Commonwealth and the States on exactly the same basis. We should not let the people of the States rest under any feeling that they are being unjustly or unfairly treated. To do so is to lessen the feeling of sympathy in the States for the Commonwealth. I believe that the people in one State are as loyal to the Commonwealth as the people in another. Tasmania might require to borrow money for railway purposes. The existing system is hard enough on that State; and why should we make its position still harder? It ought not to be our policy to oppress the people of those States which are loyal to us and anxious to assist forward the Federal movement. But if we take to ourselves special exemptions, the feeling may arise that we ought not to treat ourselves better than we do the States.
– This is not a State versus Commonwealth matter, and I am sorry that certain honorable members on the other side who favour the amendment should regard those who object to it - and I am one - as opposed to the States and desirous of minimizing State rights.
– Did that idea run through mv argument?
– I do not attribute that view to the honorable member for Angas.
– I ‘ did not say a word about State rights.
– The honorable member for Balaclava, throughout his speech, made it appear that those who opposed the amendment desired to place upon the States disabilities which they were not prepared to place upon the Commonwealth. That is not the* right way to look at it. If I am here when the inevitable struggle comes, no one will be more ready to stand up for State rights than I shall be.
– Now is the time to do it.
– There is an honorable member who regards this as a matter of State rights.
– Have the States no rights now ?
– I was challenged when I said that that question had been imported into the debate. Vet already two interjectors have shown that they regard this as a matter of State rights. I regret that they adopt that attitude. I am not raising the question, nor is it necessary to raise it, as the honorable member for Angas agrees. He, with his keen debating faculty, would have advanced it if he had thought it to be a legitimate argument. I hope the amendment will be considered and decided apart from the Stale rights question. I see in it very grave dangers. If carried, it will operate in a direction which is least expected, and which would be - least relished by those who support it. Those who are most strenuous in their- ad vocacy of it, should it be carried, will afterwards deeply regret that it was ever brought within the region of practical politics. If we place this exemption within the reach of the States, it will do a great deal to destroy that feeling of amity and union which we desire to encourage throughout the Federation. It will offer an opportunity for the large States to compete, not only with each other, but with the smaller States. It will destroy that desire which the framers of the Constitution endeavoured to crystallize when they provided for an Inter-State Commission, whose duty it would be to see that the States acted fairly with each other in matters of trade. In those circumstances, I enter my emphatic protest against the question being brought up, especially at this juncture ; and I sincerely hope that the loyalty of honorable members to the Constitution under which we work will be strong enough to enable them to give a vote which will show, not that they are desirous of acting against the States or of securing for themselves something which they are not prepared to give to the States, but that they are convinced that the exemption thus granted would operate against the best interests of Australia, and that the decision of the vital issues raised should be postponed until the whole question of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States is being considered.
– Without entering into some of the forcible arguments that have been urged both for and against the actual merits of the proposition of the honorable member for Brisbane, it seems to me that the most convincing answer to the amendment is that it is unwise for us to make any considerable change in the existing relations of the Commonwealth and States until we can deal with the really difficult problem of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. It will be very unwise to deal with that question piecemeal. There is a great deal of weight in the contention of the honorable member for Balaclava that although we undoubtedly possess the absolute power under the Constitution to regulate the whole domain of Customs and Excise taxation, we ought to avoid any action, which is not absolutely necessary, that will differentiate between ourselves and the States, and that’ it would be wise to place State importations as far as possible on the same level with Commonwealth importations whether they are taxed or not taxed. The objection has often been urged - and was voiced to-day by the honorable member for Angas - that a State usually borrows money for the purpose of carrying out public works, the money comes out in the form of goods or materials, and the exaction by the Customs Department of duties on those imports really deprives the State of a certain portion of borrowed moneyand is not a taxation of revenue. There is, however, a latent fallacy in that argument. The action of this Parliament in imposing Customs duties on those imports gives State Parliaments and State Governments an opportunity of paying duties out of borrowed money, which they ought never to do. If they did right they would always arrange that the duties on goods of that kind imported should be paid out of revenue. That ought to be a part of every sound financial arrangement by a State.” so that that argument does not carry the matter very much further. We shall shortly have to face by far the most difficult and delicate problem that this Parliament has yet had to deal with. When that question comes before us it will be our duty so to deal with it that the States will be given certainty and stability in their financial position. I shall always be in favour of that; but we shall be acting foolishly if we begin to tackle that extremely difficult Dro.blem by touching n little portion of it as represented by an exemption of this kind.
– The honorable member for Flinders has on the whole expressed mv views. It is out of the question for us to give this matter the consideration it deserves at this stage of the session, although I do not think there is the slightest ground for protest on the part of the honorable member for Laanecoorie, seeing that the honorable member for Brisbane gave notice of his intention to raise it some three months euro. It is not his fault that its consideration has been left to the last hours of the session. On the other hand, I am sure that the matter cannot receive to-day the treatment that its importance deserves. I am not sure that on the whole the honorable member for Brisbane will not serve his cause better by waiving his right to have the matter decided now. The whole question must shortly be readjusted on a broad basis when we come to deal with, the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. The conviction has long been growing in my mind that1 when these relations are fixed they will not be on the basis of a purely financial arrangement alone, but will be also on the basis of a wise, broad, and far-reaching statesmanship, beyond the narrow lines of mere finance. Then will be the proper time to raise this matter. That time must come very shortly, and is it worth while to raise it now? The honorable member for Angas inclines to support the amendment on the ground that, if we do it now, there will be a sufficient check upon the States to prevent them from doing much damage. He wisely refrained from entering into the question of the wisdom or unwisdom of the proposal, and merely confined himself to a statement of what was best to do in the short interval before the final financial readjustments are made. I do not know that we ought to agree to the amendment. Once the States were permitted to get all their importations free, it would be a very difficult and delicate matter to disturb the arrangement. Taking a bone out .of a dog’s mouth would be child’s play to it, if this Parliament should afterwards decide to tax State imports.
– Is not the whole question before the High Court in New South Wales?
– The question of our powers, now before the High Court, does not affect in the slightest the question of statesmanship raised by this proposition. There is much force in the contention of the honorable member for Balaclava that if we are going to exempt our own importations, and to that extent place our local manufacturers at a disadvantage, we should treat the States in the same manner. I am not sure how it could l>e readjusted, but every one recognises that anomaly, and the sooner the Government take steps to rectify it the better. If we intend to make the States pay for all their governmental importations, we should, it would seem, set them an example. There are many considerations that weigh on one side or the other, in my mind, and make it difficult fori a layman to come to a decision as to the whole proposal. There is the fiscal view of it taken by the honorable member for South Sydnev. Here we are in the very act of framing a system of taxation which we hope will compulsorily divert the purchases of local people into local channels as distinct from channels oversea, and if we apply that compulsion” to private individuals, shall we exempt the Governments of the States under whose jurisdiction those private individuals are?
Colonel Foxton. - What about the Commonwealth ?
– The same argument applies there. I have just said that the, whole thing is an anomaly.
– Why not strike out the whole item?
– That would be wiser. I do not believe in anomalies of this sort.
– The further one investigates the position, the more anomalous it appears. From the constitutional point of view, there are a different set of conditions’. We have decided to permit the States to interfere with our instrumentalities in respect of income tax and other matters. Can the States deny us the right to similarly interfere with their instrumentalities? So the whole thing goes on. and a very interesting series of dialectical exercises is presented.
– We hold that the States cannot tax our incomes, and how. therefore, can we levy a tax on States goods ?
– We have already decided to permit the States to tax our incomes, and, surely, we have as much right, I think, to tax their instrumentalities also. We have given the States the power to tax our incomes freely, and in order to satisfy their insistent claims, lt seems to me that if we continue our present situation the States have no reason to object to our taxing their instrumentalities as they tax ours. But this does not get us nearer a wise and final adjustment of the whole question. I am inclined to think it would be better if the matter were not pressed at this moment. It ought to be left over until the whole financial adjustment comes to be made later. When that adjustment is made, I hope it will not be on any narrow financial basis, but will displaybroad, far-re?.ching statesmanship. Until then we might go on as at present. I feel that, under all the circumstances, if this matter is pressed to a division, I shall, without questioning the wisdom of raising the question, and without committing myself finally, be inclined to vote to let things remain as they have been for some years past.
– Might I, in view of the short time at our disposal, and of the vast importance of the question, appeal to the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw his amendment? There is not the faintest chance of his proposal being carried, and it deals with a question which ought to be discussed from many points of view.
.- The first Federal Parliament placed on record, in section 131 of the Customs Act, their interpretation of the section in the Constitution, which, in my opinion, ought to ‘apply “to States and Commonwealth alike. Section 131 of the Customs Act is as follows -
No goods the property of the Commonwealth shall be liable to any duty of Customs.
Evidently the Commonwealth desires to have one reading, of the section of the Constitution when applied to itself, and another reading when applied to the States
– Would it not be better to leave the interpretation to the High Court ?
– The Federal Parliament h-;s put its own construction on the section of the Constitution; and, under the circumstances, it is not surprising that there is dissatisfaction throughout the States. In ray opinion, the Commonwealth takes rather a greedy view, especially when it is remembered that New South Wales and Victoria are stronger, though not so large in area, as are some of the other States.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– If section 114” of the Constitution permits the Commonwealth to collect duties upon State imports, it necessarily follows that it authorizes it to levy a tax upon steel rails imported by the States. There is nothing whatever in the argument that the Commonwealth returns to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue collected within their respective borders. As a matter of fact, the whole of that revenue belongs to’ the States. A tax upon steel rails is a monstrous thing. I ask honorable members to compare the position of Western Australia with that of Victoria from the stand-point of their respective railway systems. The latter is practically riddled with railways, whereas the former has huge areas which can be developed only by railway enterprise. Why should the people of Western Australia be asked to pay a duty upon steel rails which are necessary for the opening up of that country ? I am satisfied that -the collection of duties upon State imports is retarding the progress of Australia. I maintain that the full amount borrowed by a State to enable it to undertake any specific public work should be expended upon that work. Under the present system, however, a portion of it is diverted - almost- by a trick - into another channel. When the electors in the various States voted in favour of the Constitution Bill, I am satisfied that they never anticipated that they were assenting to any such proposition. The goods imported by a State are the property of that State, and ought not to be taxed. I fear that honorable members are too prone to speak of a “ tax “ as a “ duty.” In this connexion I notice that at the recent Imperial Conference our Prime Minister was pulled up by Mr. Lloyd-George for making use of the word ‘ duty “ instead of “ tax.” He said, as will be seen by reference to page 360 of the official report of the proceedings -
A “duty “ on our goods? I do not mind. the word - I am prepared to substitute that word.
Merely to oblige the .Prime Minister, he w:is prepared to substitute the word “duty” for “tax.” I claim that when the word “ duty “ is defined at a gathering of that kind as a “ tax,” the duty charged upon State imports must be a tax. I wish honorable members clearly to understand that I am not discussing this question from the point of view of State rights, although I consider that there are State rights which we must recognise. Seeing that the States themselves constitute the Commonwealth, what harm can result from assisting them to develop their territory, even though in doing so we may be called upon to strain a point? But I maintain that in the present instance we are straining no point. It is the right of the States to have their imports admitted free of duty. The honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out that if the view for which I am contending be correct, the States might enter into business enterprises and import all kinds of goods for sale. I think that the very opposite is more likely to happen, and to the detriment of the States. If our industrial legislation be pushed much further, the Commonwealth will be handling all the business of Australia, or dictating to others how they shall handle it. I trust that the Committee, even if thev do net agree to the amendment,- will seriously consider it, and that the Government will do all in their power to bring about a better feeling betwen the Commonwealth and the States. The collection of duty upon State imports does not mean much from a revenue stand-point to the Commonwealth, but is has created a very bad feeling throughout the whole of Australia. There are large areas still waiting to be opened up, but that result cannot be achieved without the purchase of large quantities of material which has to be paid for out of loan funds. The residents of Western Australia do not like the idea that when they are borrowing money for lie purpose of developmental works a portion of it will be diverted into another channel for the benefit of the eastern States.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane has been rather unfortunate in having this important question discussed at such a late stage of the session. I apprehend that whatever vote honorable members may cast will not necessarily represent their matured views in respect to this question. It is not bv any means a new question here, but rather one which the ablest minds in Parliament and outside have made familiar to the public. But the time is scarcely ripe for its settlement. We are not yet in a position to measure its probable consequences. The honorable member for Fremantle seems to think that Parliament is capable of interpreting the Constitution ; but I would remind him that such an interpretation is no part of our functions. Such questions as this must be settled by the High Court.
– As a matter of fact, the question is before that tribunal now.
– The question is a manysided one, and it would not be fair to honorable members who may vote against it–
– I do not think that any honorable member will have to vote against it.
– Then I understand thai it is to be withdrawn. I think that that is the wisest course which can be adopted. I would point out to the honorable member for Fremantle, who appears to scent some danger in the Government proposal, that this tax or duty is merely a tax o’ duty upon material used bv the ‘ States in commercial enterprises. If he will recall what are regarded bv old-fashioned political economists as the true functions of the State, he will .recognise that there is no necessity for a State to import anything. According to these authorities, its proper function is the maintenance of law and order in the community.
– The honorable member does not accept that doctrine?
– Not at all. I merely say that it represents the view of certain old-fashioned political economists.
– It is a pity that the honorable member does not accept it.
– The honorable member for Echuca may accept it, but he will not find many persons - even amongst those who ordinarily think with him - adopting that view nowadays.
– Oh yes.
– I ‘do not wish to be side-tracked at present, but the honorable member must know that during recent years the functions of government have been greatly enlarged, and that it is not possible to revert to the ideas of non-interference which were entertained by our ‘ forefathers. We have accepted new duties and recognised new principles; and this acceptance and recognition must go on so long as injustice exists, and until the strong shall no longer be in a position to oppress the weak. Personally, I see no limit to the functions which the Government may be required to undertake for the good of the community. But to follow out logically the idea apparently entertained by the honorable member, one must permit of the employment of child labour in mines.
– The honorable member must not foist his ideas upon me.
– I have no wish to do so. But the honorable member desired to foist his ideas upon me. He chided me for not accepting the- views of certain oldfashioned political economists-
– The honorable member wants to go the whole hog.
– The honorable member may be thereby making a mistake. However, we need not discuss that question now. When the honorable member for Fremantle complains of the Commonwealth taxing State imports he should recollect that it only does so in so far as the States become competitors with private enterprise. That being so, we have to consider’ whether we are justified in exempting State imports while taxing the imports of traders who are in competition with the States. Such a problem lends itself to no rough.andready settlement. It does not matter whether we call the impost a tax or a duty. I think the terms are synonymous. Protectionists say that some duties are not taxes, but I find that generally the imposition of duties does mean taxation in some form or other. If it does not involve increased prices to the consumer on imported articles, it means that the local manufacturer obtains a larger price for his commodity. That, I think, is in nine cases out of ten the inevitable consequence of the imposition of duties. From my point of view it is a good thing to see the States importing goods and restricting the domain in which private enterprise operates. In Australia, we have competed with private enterprise through the agency of the States with very great advantage. The development of Australia has been greatly promoted by the work of Governments in directions which previously, and in other countries, were supposed to be the avenues peculiarly reserved for private speculators. But I hardly think that Australia has arrived at that stage of development when a proposition of this kind would be wholly equitable. I imagine that railways and tramways, water supply, and other works undertaken by States that have not reached the level of development of New South Wales and Victoria will necessarily have to be constructed from imported material. Those States will necessarily require a larger quantity of imported material than will the closely-settled States. Therefore, they will pay more to the revenue than will the more highly-developed States.
– It is a false revenue.
– It is worse than that, because most of these imports are paid for out of borrowed money. As I pointed out some time ago, the revenue of Victoria, in the boom years - say, in 1888 and 1889- - was inflated in a most dangerous manner, and the people were under the false impression that Victoria had a much larger revenue than was really the case. When the great volume of imports ceased, there was, of course, a shrinkage to normal dimensions. That is the sort of thing we have to guard against. I quite agree with those who say that we ought to be very careful as to our decision in this matter, from that point of view alone. I am glad to have an intimation that the amendment is to be withdrawn, because, as I have said, at this stage I should feel bound to vote against it; whereas, later on, when matters have developed a little further, and we have a clearer vision, the arguments in favour of the amendment will perhaps commend themselves more strongly to a number of honorable members than they do at present. I think the honorable member for Brisbane is wise in not pressing his amendment at present. I feel sure that it would be rejected, probably . largely by the votes of those who, after mature consideration, at a more favorable opportunity, would be inclined to vote in its favour.
.- With the object of putting on record a suggestion which I made as to the form in which the amendment of the honorable member for Brisbane might take, I move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word ‘’ or,” first occurring, the words “ until Parliament, in pursuance of sections 93 and 94 of the Constitution Act, alters the basis of payment to the several States of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.”
That amendment would carry out what I suggested, and what I think the honorable member for Brisbane also intends. I am aware that his amendment is to be withdrawn, but I submit my amendment upon it for the sake of placing it upon record. I should also like to mention - to show that first impressions are not always correct on these matters - that when I was speaking before I suggested that there is an anomaly, almost appearing to be an’ unfair one, in allowing Commonwealth imports to be exempt whilst we tax State imports. But immediately after I sat down I thought of a difficulty in connexion with taxing Commonwealth imports. That is, that you could scarcely determine with any approach to fairness what particular State should be credited with the duties received. One has only to think of that to see how peculiarly it would work. Suppose there was a large importation of goods into South Australia and Western Australia for the purposes of the Transcontinental railway. I am afraid that the other States would rather look askance at allowing those two States to get the. bulk of that revenue. I argued that we should treat all alike; that we should not exempt the Commonwealth if we do not exempt the States. But that argument I now see is not necessarily conclusive, because it struck mc afterwards that we should find it difficult to apportion the revenue received. That is the point. I also mentioned - as the result of a conversation with a pretty intelligent member before I spoke - that if you tax the imports of the States you will be giving the Commonwealth a fourth of the proceeds of the duties, which duties will be paid out of loan moneys. Personally I do not think there is anything in that point. But I do not think the fallacy of it has been exposed. The real fallacy of it is this - and I intended to mention it - that it does not make the smallest difference as a matter of fairness whether the import duties are the result of loan moneys or purchases from revenue. Suppose the States purchased material for public works for cash.
– But in the one case we shall be using as revenue that which is absolutely borrowed money.
– What difference does it make as regards the equities whether the import duties are paid out of loan moneys or out of cash - that is, out of revenue?
– It is not a matter of equity but of sound finance.
– I do not think it makes the smallest difference as to t’he right to tax or the equity of taxation whether the import duties are paid out of loan money or out of revenue, because in either case the same deduction would be made from State funds.
– Without entering into the interpretation of the Constitution and the changes that must take place in future, I think that as legislators we have to look at this matter from a business point of view rather than from the point of view of persons who are trying to interpret the Constitution without first applying to the High Court. The burden of the argument in favour of the amendment is that owing to the importation of railway material or other materials required by the States an immense amount of borrowed money will be spent, and an enormous revenue will be received from the Commonwealth in the form of the threefourths revenue returned to the States. It is argued that in that’ case the States will really be receiving revenue from borrowed money and that an extra inducement will be held out to them to borrow. It is likewise contended that the Commonwealth will be receiving revenue from borrowed money. If we are very exacting we shall admit that that is not sound finance. But sound financiers would see that no danger came to -a State in consequence of the system of bookkeeping that is being pursued under the Constitution. In one State of the Union just upon £1,000,000 has been paid out of revenue towards the liquidation of bonds. The Commonwealth itself has laid down a principle that is very salutary, inasmuch as we have not so far borrowed a penny, but have incurred extensive expenditure out of revenue. The State of Western Australia has set an excellent example in establishing a sinking fund, about which she has not yet changed her mind. I say that she has not changed her mind about it so far, because in some States they started out with good intentions, but when they found that they had put together a large sum of money -for the liquidation of loans the spirit of acquisitiveness seemed to assert itself, and they grasped the sum thus accumulated and spent it. Sound financiers would get over such difficulties. If large sums of money, were received by a State from taxation upon imports paid for out of loan money, it would be a duty to see that that revenue was appropriated for the purpose of the liquidation of Treasury -bills or other bonds falling due. If we wish to be sound in our system of finance, we could quite easily get over the small difficulties suggested.
– How does the honorable member discriminate between a loan for State purposes and one for purposes not under State direction?
– I take it that the honorable member refers to expenditure within a State, say for the purpose of laving down a water supply, or for reticulations of water within a city where the expenditure is controlled by a board.
– In the case of a municipality the principle is exact.lv the same.
– A municipality raises through, or without the aid of, the Government a sum for the construction of large public works, but it should be remembered that when’ municipalities have borrowed money in England it has always been borrowed with the security of the State at their back. Again, the States themselves raise loans in England on the authority of Acts of Parliament. The borrowing powers of municipalities are so limited bv Acts of Parliament that they can only borrow money in proportion to their revenues.
– But that hardly affects the honorable member’s argument. The States would still be bringing in material and paying duty with borrowed money.
– It comes back to the one point which I have just answered, and that is that the State is borrowing money and treating it as revenue. If its finances are on a sound basis it will see that the borrowed money is not used for governmental purposes, so as to release persons from the payment of the taxes which they should be called upon to pay. The State will see that the money is earmarked for the purpose of liquidating a debt which is falling due periodically, as is done in the case of South Australia.
– Does not the honorable member see that it would be necessary to trace all the trust and municipal imports which were bought with loan money ?
– That would cause no difficulty. The State is not carrying on the business of a tallow chandler, but is dealing in large sums, and it will be quite an easy matter to earmark them. It has its loan policy or its public works policy. At one time South Australia had what was called “ a broad and comprehensive policy,” which meant the expenditure of an enormous sum of borrowed money during a long period, in which they carried out the Port Victor water scheme. It is easily possible for a State to earmark any sums received from that source, and to appropriate them justly and honestly in paying off a debt. I do not see that there is any necessity for the system which has been proposed by the honorable member for Brisbane. At the present time the States import whatever materials they want, and three-fourths of the duty paid thereon, and a very large proportion of the balance is returned to them. If, however, the States do not get the whole of the fourth share, who gets it? Do the other States benefit at the expense of a particular State, or do the States occasionally benefit or live upon each other? No; we have been taught to believe by those who framed the Constitution that no one State can benefit at the expense of another State; and though in the expenditure of a given sum one State may benefit to some small .extent, yet in the long run it will be found that there will be very little gained by one State at the expense of another. So that if at the present time the States are getting back from the Commonwealth all tha money to which thev are justly entitled, less the one-fourth share, what have they to complain about? It must be remembered that as regards that one- fourth .share, the Commonwealth is. really the States, just as the States are the Commonwealth. The States form one body. If we take money out of one pocket and give it to the States , we pay it into the other pocket, and vice versa. It will be found that the States are not losers in any degree.
– Yes, they . are, because they pay a good deal for the bookkeeping.
– From a long experience I have come to the conclusion that the man who tries to save money by not keeping books is the one who will lose the most.
– But the honorable member will see that under the other system, it would not be necessary to keep the books
– The bookkeeping system is prescribed by sections 93 and 94 of the Constitution, but as soon as the Commonwealth is well established, and things have adjusted themselves in every State, it can be dispensed with. In the early years of the Commonwealth this machinery is an essential, but it will work itself out by effluxion of time. We have incurred the expense, and it will not be altered in the slightest degree by passing this amendment, because those provisions will terminate in due course. It seems to me that there is not much in the proposal. I believe that the States would like their goods to come in duty free. I am a citizen of a State just as I am a citizen of the Commonwealth. How is it possible for us to rob ourselves?
– The other States rob us more in the other way.
– I see what is troubling the honorable member’s mind. Some States think that they are being robbed for the benefit of another State-
– In Western Australia the people are paying 19s. per head as compared with 9s. per head in New South Wales.
– But it will be found that the people of that State fancy thatthey are going to be robbed for the benefit of the others. It is a fallacy. The Constitution has been so well devised that no one State can rob the others. The honorable member has interjected that the taxation per head is 19s. in Western Australia as compared with 9s. in New South Wales. Is that owing to the Constitution or the Tariff? No. It is because the children of the men in Western Australia are at present domiciled in other States. As soon as they join their parents the latter will pay exactly the same amount per head as is being paid in the several States.
– The honorable member’s point is that Western Australia is using imported goods for public works much more largely than are the other States.
– The people of Western Australia are using more railway material in opening up their territory, and more piping in the running of water into their desert and for reticulation ; they are spending enormous sums in their young country ; but does the honorable member for Fremantle suppose that the other States have ceased to carry out public works to provide for their population which is increasing in a greater ratio than is the case in Western Australia ? ‘
– Not in proportion to the population.
– We have only to look to America.
– Let us keep to Australia.
– I want to quote a parallel case. It has been found in America that young colonies will double their population in the course of twentyeight years. Sir Henry Parkes, who looked into this matter some years ago, when Federation was being advocated, laid it down that Australia was repeating the history of the Colonies which now form the United States of America. Western Australia made a little spirt the other day, and is doing very well indeed, but there is nothing to lead one to suppose that it will continue to progress at the same rate.
– Yes, there is. It is progressing faster than are the other States, and in the right direction.
– If the honorable member went to Tasmania, and it had a little spirt, in ratio it would be progressing to a greater extent than even Western Australia. It is merely a spirt which is taking place in the latter State, and those who have gone there lately have lost their heads too much to see that its population isonly a handful in comparison with the population in the other States.
– The honorable member is givingaway his case.
-The other States are increasing in population in a greater ratio.
– Do not stir up the indignation of the “corner” party.
– One gets tired of these references to Western Australia. No one is better pleased to see that State progress than are the people of New South Wales. The people of Western Australia are spending a lot of money on their railways, and are afraid that the other States may get that money, but they will not get any portion of it. Western Australia will still get back its three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue. A very large proportion of it will go back to the State in connexion with the working of the new services and also the transferred services.
– Which have not yet been ;>aid for.
– Let the honorable member remember that those services have to be paid .for here, and that there is left a small balance. The sense of justice which prevails in the States will insure that Western Australia is not robbed of one penny. Of the ,£5,000,000 which it is proposed to spend in Western Australia on a railway, and about which the honorable member is so much alarmed, the people of New South Wales will pay onethird, but I am not making any complaint on that score. Western Australia will contribute a mere bagatelle towards that expenditure. Yet the honorable member is afraid lest New South Wales may get some of the money. Why are we not afraid of Western Australia getting some of the money ? Because we have sufficient common-sense to know that it could not possibly get any of . it. If it were going to get our money,, there would very soon be a reshuffling of the cards. We would very soon get tired of the union if we thought that Western Australia was going to fatten on our millions. However, I do not think that there is much in the amendment.
– I do not think that there is, either.
– The discussion will have done.no harm.
– But the honorable member is opposed to the proposal.
– Yes ; because I do not see that it is necessary. The discussion has thrown light on many matters. Even the honorable member for Fremantle has undergone a change. Now that he finds that Western Australia will derive a benefit from the large contribution of New South Wales to the ,£5,000,000 to be spent on a railway, he begins to think that there is likely to be some advantage to his State.
– The honorable member does not know what “the Government intend to do.
– I know that they have undertaken to spend .£20,000 on the survey of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, but I predict that it will cost ,£50,000.
– And Western Australia expects the other States to build the railway, and New South Wales to contribute a third of the cost.
– The railway is estimated to cost .£5,000,000, but I believe that it will have cost twice that sum by the time they have made provision for water along the route. I have not yet said that I intend too give Western Australia an opportunity to handle the expenditure of those millions, but when the States agree to give New South Wales the Federal Capital I shall think about this proposal to construct a transcontinental railway. I do not think that it will receive any’ consideration from me until the other States have completed their part of the compactin the Constitution. This discussion will have done some good, but no harm can accrue if the amendment is withdrawn.
– I am very pleased that the honorable member for Brisbane has decided to ask leave to withdraw his amendment. I believe that it is a very wise decision on his part, and, while the honorable member for Angas is at liberty to have his proposal on record, I do not think that he put the position exactly as it stands. It is true, as he has said, that in collecting duty on railway material imported by a State, we maydiminish the amount it will receive in respect of any loan. But it is equally true - and this is the point that I desire to emphasize - that if we had a free-trade Government in power in any State it could readily destroy the protective effect of the Tariff upon many of our industries if its imports were exempt from duty.
– Why assume that a State would abuse this Pg er,
– Let me illustrate my point. The honorable member is aware that all the pipes required for the waterworks of the States are now being made in the Government workshops at Adelaide; but that not long ago we had in power there a Government which, instead of obtaining its supplies locally, imported pipes, not only from Great Britain, but also from Germany. The consequence was that a large number of men were thrown out of employment, and as their purchasing power was thereby diminished, the revenue suffered. Thus, if we allowed the States to import goods free of duty, they could not only destroy local industries if they desired to do so, but diminish the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– We were making water pipes at the Government workshops in South Australia before Federation.
– But, as the honorable member is aware, a former South Australian Government actually imported pipes that could have been made in the State. If we granted this exemption, what would be our position if we had in any of the States such a Premier as the ex-Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Carruthers, who had no sympathy with the Federation? So far as I am aware, the Premier of South Australia is the only leader of a State Government who has any real sympathy with the Federation.
– That is a mere assumption.
– Has not the Government of Tasmania been constantly girding at the Federation, and complaining of its injurious effects upon that State? It is possible that we may have a reactionary Government in power in any of the States, and if we granted this exemption there would be nothing to prevent it from importing millions of pounds worth of material from Great Britain, and probably from Germany, Belgium, and Japan, with the result that local industries would be injured, and . the Commonwealth revenue diminished. The exemption of State imports would give a freetrade Government a splendid opportunity to destroy the effects of the Tariff. In mv opinion, we ought not to exempt them. It would be dangerous, and might work injury to local industries as well as to the revenue of the Commonwealth.
Mr. mcwilliams (Franklin) [8.38]. - If proof were needed that the Com’mittee is not in a suitable frame of mind to discuss so important a proposal as this is, it would be found in the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. His mind is so impregnated with the fiscalism that we have been discussing for the last few weeks that he has altogether lost sight of the main fea ture of this question, which relates not to fiscalism, but to constitutionalism.
– It is a question of fiscalism.
– I was at a loss to understand the heat with which the Treasurer last night received the amendment moved by the honorable member for Brisbane. He declared that if it were carried it would mean the destruction of the Commonwealth.
– I said it would be the first step towards disintegration.
– I would remind honorable members that the Government have succeeded in passing a Bill which is practically on .all-fours with the proposal embodied in the amendment. If there is one section in the Constitution which is put in plain English it is section 114, which provides that -
A State shall not, without the consent of the Parliament . . . impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Commonwealth, nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax ort property of any kind belonging to a State.
– If it is so clear there is no need for the amendment.
– In a case based on this section the High Court has recently given a decision, which it had practically to read into the Constitution from precedents obtained elsewhere. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer felt so strongly on this question that they held that the States had no power to tax the income of a Commonwealth officer, and with a desire to uphold the Constitution they refused to pay income tax in order that the. question might be tested.
– That section of the Constitution had nothing to do with the matter.
– The Prime Minister, in discussing the question, directed special attention to the power of the States to tax the Commonwealth and the power of the Commonwealth to tax a State. He founded his contention on the celebrated Marylands case, and urged that if the Commonwealth had power to tax a State Or vice versa, the one, by carrying ‘that power to extremes, might absolutely crush the other out of existence. The Prime Minister urged that if a State had power to tax the incomes of servants of the Commonwealth it might tax them to such an extent as to render it impossible for a Federal officer to live within its territory. Let us consider the reverse position. If the Commonwealth had power to tax the material imported by a State it would have equal power under the Excise Act to tax the material made in a State, and -by the extreme exercise of that power it might so tax imported and locally-made railway material as to compel the States against their will to surrender their railways to the Commonwealth. The system of finance that we are adopting in this connexion is the most rotten that has ever been known in Australia. We are taking the loan moneys of the States for Commonwealth revenue purposes.
– We are not taking it.
– I am surprised that the honorable member should adopt that view.
– The statement has been made over and over again, but it will not bear examination.
– What is the position if we collect duty on, say, steel rails imported by a State, and purchased out of loan moneys? It is true that we return to the States 75 per cent, of the revenue so obtained, and that they can either use it as current revenue or pay it into a trust account for the redemption of their loans-
– Which not one of them has done.
– with that we have nothing whatever to do. The point I make is that 25 per cent, is retained by the Commonwealth Government, and used every year to meet current expenditure.
– To finance the Departments previously administered by the States.
– It might be devoted to the best possible purposes, but I still say that no system of finance was ever introduced by any Government in Australia which was so absolutely rotten in. its fundamental principles as that which treats borrowed money as current revenue.
– We do not take the money. The States. give it to us.
– They pay it out of loans, and we take it at the Customs House.
– They should pay it out of revenue, and if they do not, that is their look out.
– Does the honorable member seriously contend that, when the States have adopted the policy of de fraying the cost of public works from borrowed money we have any right to say, “ It was wrong for you to borrow this money, and because you have borrowed it we will commit the far greater wrong of taking one-fourth to meet the current expenditure of the Commonwealth?”
– Why debate the matter at length when the amendment is going to be withdrawn?
– It is most unfortunate that the discussion of this question, which is the most important that has come before the Commonwealth Parliament this session, should have been delayed until this period of the session. I wish to say on behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane that that is not his fault, since it must now be over two months since the honorable member gave notice of his amendment. As one who entirely approves of the principle contained in the amendment, I am bound to confess that I think it would be a mistake to press it to a division to-night. I wish merely that it should be clearly understood that I am thoroughly in accord with the principle of the amendment, and whether it is pressed to a division to-night, or the question is dealt with next session, I shall give it my hearty support.
– I do not propose to debate the question at any great length.
– The amendment is going to be withdrawn.
– That is the very reason why I wish to say a word cr two. With the object of moulding public opinion in a certain way, some honorable members, put motions on the business-paper on which they do not seriously propose to test the feeling of the House’ I wish to say, first of all, that the Committee need pay no attention to the constitutional aspect of the question, since this Parliament is neither the custodian nor the interpreter of the Constitution. We should, in our own interests, lie careful that we do not infringe the provisions of the Constitution, but it is for the High Court to interpret it, and to say whether this or that legislative provision is unconstitutional. The High Court has been appealed to in connexion with the matter which we are now discussing, and all v legislation which we Pass will have no effect if i.n the opinion of the Hi eh Court it is unconstitutional.
– This Parliament dealt with the payment of income taxation after- a decision on the subject had been given by the High Court.
– It is ‘still open to question whether this Parliament had the power to waive certain rights in that connexion
Colonel Foxton. - If the decision of the High Court were that the Commonwealth could not tax States imports this Parliament might still pass the exemption proposed.
– It might, but it would not be worth the paper on which it was written. In just the same way if we pass a Tariff Act imposing taxation on States imports that provision will not be worth the paper on which it is written if the High Court decides that it is unconstitutional. In my opinion it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to make the Federal Legislature supreme within its own domain. In order to bring about a Federation that would be substantial and enduring they decided to withdraw the whole of the power to impose Excise and Customs taxation from the Parliaments of the States, and place it in the custody of the Federal Parliament. The reason is apparent. A concrete instance as to what might happen has recently arisen in the State of New South Wales. Until quite recently the Government of that State paid duty on States imports, under protest it is true, but only the other day they made a demonstration against the Federation in this particular matter. They did not take a stand against the payment of duty on iron rails or the one-hundred-and-one materials imported for State purpose, but against the payment of duty on wire netting imported for the purpose of distribution to private land-holders. That is a concrete example of the difficulties which would confront the Federation if the amendment were carried, and if the High Court were to decide that States imports are exempt from Customs and Excise taxation.
Colonel Foxton. - The wire netting referred to would not be exempt under my amendment.
– I am not so sure that it would not. The late Premier of New South Wales held that it was exempt under the Constitution.
Colonel Foxton. - That is a totally different thing.
– He proposed to test the question. The wire netting was indented and imported by the State just as truly as any other material required for State purposes.
– The amendment refers to materials imported for the public .works and services of a State.
– How are we going to identify goods imported by a State for public purposes”? A State Government might import wire netting for the purpose of re-sale to private landholders.
Colonel Foxton. - That would not be for the public works or services of the State.
– Suppose a State Government decided to wire-net land before they threw it open to selectors?
– The honorable member for South Sydnev has shown how impossible it would be to define States imports. Assuming that one of the States was controlled by the Socialist Party, about which the honorable member for Brisbane seemed to be so much concerned at the time of his election, and the Socialist Government, in the name of the whole people, undertook the importation and distribution- of all articles required for general consumption, the fact . that thev would be able under the amendment to claim that those importations should be exempt from taxation shows the absurdity of the whole proposal. .1 venture to say that the man who, inside or outside of this Parliament, wishes .to stand by the Australian Federation must oppose a proposal of this kind, because it is fraught with the greatest possibilities of danger to the stability and endurance of a satisfactory Federation of any kind.
.- At this stage of. -the session, if an opportunity had presented itself to give a silent vote on the amendment, I should have adopted that course. I understand that the honorable member for Brisbane does not intend to press his amendment to a division, and I shall, .therefore, have no opportunity to record a vote on this momentous question.
– It will come up again.
– I do not think it will come up for discussion again in a Tariff. I content myself, in the circumstances, with saying that, for the reasons T gave in speaking on the Budget, I am in favour of the amendment, as proposed to be amended, by the honorable member for Angas. I see no reason to fear the evils that have been prophesied should the amendment be agreed to. In my opinion, they are based upon an assumption that, the States would deliberately set to work to thwart the object we had in view in passing a Tariff.
– Have we not had an example of what a State Government might do?
– I do not know that we have had such an example. The matter to which the honorable member refers was only a passing incident. The concession to the States which the amendment would involve would amount to very little so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and it would be worth our while to make it if by doing so we might hope to allay the friction, which is known to exist, between the States and Commonwealth, but which I do not admit is justified. I shall not discuss the question further. I have already placed my views on record, and am prepared to let the matter go.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [8.58].- I do not’ propose to reply to any of the arguments advanced against the amendment which I moved at a quarter past 5 o’clock this morning. It is unfortunate that a question of so much importance should necessarily have had to be brought on for discussion in dealing with the Tariff at such a very critical period of the session. I recognise that it would require two or three days’ discussion to do it justice, and we know that it is not practicable to devote that time to the consideration of the matter now. I said, in moving the amendment, that, for the reasons I have already mentioned, I scarcely expected to be able to carry it at this period of the session. There is a good deal I might have said at the time, and could say now, in support of it, and in reply to the arguments which have been used against the amendment. But I do not intend to do so. I fully accept the principle embodied in the amendmentof the honorable member for Angas, and would have voted cheerfully for it as part of my amendment. But, as has been intimated by several speakers, I have agreed, under the peculiar circumstances of the situation, and with a view to facilitate the rapid dispersal of honorable members to the homes which they are so anxious to reach, to withdraw the amendment.
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
Item agreed to.
– I ask the Committee to authorize the Chairman, before reporting the resolution to the House, to make the formal amendments in the Tariff which are set out in a schedule which has been distributed. These amendments in no way alter the determinations arrived at by the Committee; they merely correct errors which have accidentally occurred.
– Has the Treasurer dealt with the question affecting the specific duty on pianos, which was discussed yesterday ?
– Yes. That was dealt with at the time. I take this opportunity to announce that I have been asked by a large number of honorable members not to agree to the recommittal of items, and I shall resist any recommittal at this stage. What I am asking the Committee to authorize the Chairman to do is a very simple thing, and in New South Wales would be done by a Chairman without special authority of this kind. I think that our Chairman is supersensitive in asking for this authority. If I were in his place I should be quite ready to take the responsibility of making necessary clerical amendments.
– I offer no objection to the course proposed to be taken. As the Treasurer says, in many Parliaments mere clerical amendments are made by the presiding officers without special authority. I see nothing in the schedule beyond corrections of obvious mistakes and inaccuracies. I understand that it has been prepared by the clerks of the House.
– And the departmental officers.
– Whoever may have helped them, the clerks are responsible for it, and I am prepared to trust their judgment in matters of this kind.
.- There is not in the Tariff a definition of “ goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom.”
– Those words will be defined in the Bill.
– I was going to suggest that they be defined. That is necessary to prevent litigation and disputes.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta neglected to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, upon your conscientiousness, which furnishes an example which the presiding officers of the
State Parliaments might copy. Many of the mistakes which have occurred have been due to, not your want of vigilance, but the brutal way in which the Government have kept us sitting for long hours at a stretch.
– I understand that it is the pleasure of the Committee that I make the alterations indicated in the schedule which has been referred to.
Honorable Members. - Yes.
– I wish to say. that it seems to me an unwise decision on the part of the Treasurer to determine not to recommit any item. There are one or two distinct anomalies which will create injustice, and should therefore be remedied.
Postponed item 152. Stripper Harvesters, each, £id.
– The duty on stripper harvesters was discussed at length last Parliament. I contributed to that discussion, and, if I can, wish to avoid the delay which would be occasioned by speaking upon it at length again to-night. I interpret the verdict of the people at the last elections in favour of the decision arrived at by the last Parliament, and therefore I intend to move that the proposed duty be reduced from £16 to £12, the rate then fixed. If the Treasurer will agree to that, I shall not discuss the matter further; but, if he will not, I must, in the interests of my constituents, place their case fairly before the Committee.
– Why make the duty as much as ^12? It was increased by the last Parliament from £6 to ,£12 under conditions which have never been carried out.
– That is true ; though there are reasons which might be offered as an excuse for not carrying out those conditions, and the Government say that they intend to see that they are carried out. If the Treasurer will consent to the reduction, and allow the duty to stand as if was before, this very debatable question can be disposed of at once, and we can pass to the consideration of other subjects which invite urgent attention. If on the other hand the Treasurer intends to fight for a specific duty of £16, we who are opposed to -that must join issue with him. I should like to hear what he intends to do.
– I cannot be forced into making a statement just now.
– Then I shall address myself to ‘the main question. I hope that during the debate the Treasurer will consider the matter. I have no doubt that if he finds that the numbers are against him, as I hope he will, the debate will be terminated. There are several interests: at stake, each of which is important, and entitled to fair consideration. But none of them should be bolstered up at the sacrifice of the others. The first interest affected is that of the manufacturers. It is so substantial that they have made themselves heard in the press, before the Tariff Commission, and by representations in this Chamber. The Commission, after its inquiry last year, reported the number of manufacturers in the Commonwealth to be twenty-four. Mr. McKay in a letter 10 the press to-day places the number at thirty, so that apparently there has been an increase of six in the meanwhile. Accepting his statement as accurate, there are thirtyfirms, large and small, engaged in the manufacture of stripper harvesters in the Commonwealth. There are several large factories, of which that at Sunshine is the largest, and there are a number of small ones in country centres. I believe there is one in the Treasurer’s electorate. The next big interest involved is that of the employes. The Commission stated their number, based on Coghlan’s statistics, at 1,800. Mr. McKay in his evidence put the total at 2,000. I am prepared to assume that there are 2,000 hands employed in the production of stripper harvesters. The third interest is that of the consumers, whom it would not be wise for the Committee to ignore, for if there were no users of the machines the interests of manufacturers and employes would at once disappear. According to the latest statistics, the total number of farmers in the Commonwealth is from 250,000 to 270,000, but a considerable number of them do not use harvesters. Their use is confined to the wheat-growing interests, and is also affected by climatic conditions and the nearness of railway communication. In the damper climes, and in places with ready access to railways, the farmer finds that it pays him to save his straw, and so he uses other methods of harvesting. Harvesters are used in drier parts and in more isolated places where’ the straw is not of so much value. The great trouble which the manufacturing interest has to face is the competition of importations. We have heard a good deal about American machinery manufacturing combines, and in the last Parliament there was a scare as to the alleged large dumping contemplated by them in the Commonwealth. It was saidthat they were actively engaged in preparing large shipments for sale here so cheaply and on such easy terms that those engaged in agriculture would be tempted tobuy their machines in preference to the local article, and that as the result the Australian manufacturer would be completely crushed out, and the importers would control the trade in the Commonwealth. But how far do statistics show that the local manufacturing interest has suffered from outside competition? In 1905, 1,730 machines were imported, of which no fewerthan 1,000 came from Canada. During the same year we exported 418 machines. . I have not the figures for 1906, as there seems to have been a difficulty in obtaining them. But from statements made during the investigations last year it appears that 484 machines were exported in the first six months. The Minister to-day laid upon the table a return covering the period from 1st January to 30th November of this year, so that it is practically up to date. It shows that the total imports for the first eleven months of this year amounted to 708 machines, and that we exported 101. I tried to ascertain the number manufactured here, but the Minister had to confess that he had been unable up to the present to obtain the information. The only return of that kind in the report comes from South Australia, where 153 machines were manufactured for the eleven months. The figures I have quoted do not indicate any very serious competition by outside manufacturers. They rather show that owing to the heavy discouragement imposed by the Tariff upon the importation of harvesters, the number imported has fallen off by over 1,000 since 1905. It is hardly likely that during this month over 1,000 machines will be brought in. A new ground of objection is being taken to a reduction of the duty. The House was informed when the first Tariff was brought down that McKay and Company had expressed themselves satisfied with a specific duty of£15 per machine as a. sufficient embargo against importation. Since then Parliament, on the invitation of the Minister, has agreed to a specific duty of £12 per machine. Mr. H. V. McKay, in a letter in both to-day’s Melbourne papers, claims that the conditions attached to the new Excise regula tions place his company at a disadvantage. He states the position of his company as follows -
To the Editor of the Age.
Sir, - As the harvester duties will apparently be dealt with at anearly date, I wish to point out a few of the losses inflicted on the implement makers of Australia by the 1906 legislation, which was said to be for their benefit. Take my own case, for instance. The price of harvesters has been reduced to the extent of £20 each. My wages bill has been raised more than£5,000 per year, and my total cost of raw material has recently advanced more than £10,000 per year on an average turnover. To put it briefly, the following figures show the loss inflicted in one line alone in a normal year on the Sunshine Harvester Works by Parliament reducing the selling price of the machines, and by failing to allow for an increase of the selling price in accordance with the cost of raw material and the increase in the wages : -
The above loss refers to the Sunshine Harvester Works alone, and bears as heavily in proportion on 30 other manufactures of implements in Australia. In order to permit of wages being paid on Mr. Justice Higgins’ scale, the market would have tobe secured to the Australian manufacturers. The present cost of selling in competition with foreign trusts isvery heavy, and would be savedby an effective Tariff of £25 per harvester, as proposed by the manufacturers before the Tariff Commission.- Yours, &c.
It will be seen that this firm estimates that under the legislation designed for the purpose of helping the industry, and at the same time securing reasonable wages for the workmen, and preventing undue charges to the consumer, their annual loss will be £55,000.
– Does the letter state how many are employed?
– No; but Mr. Justice Higgins stated that his decision would affect about 500 men employed by this firm. In this letter Mr. McKaystates that if the industry generally is to be placed in a position to comply with the requirements of legis- lation, a specific duty, not of £16, but of £[25 per machine must be imposed. I undertake to say that if, under a specific duty of £25, imports continued, a request would be made for a still higher duty ; nothing short of actual prohibition, apparently, will meet the demand made by this firm.
– I would make the duty £2$ to-morrow if I had my way.
– Then, it is a good job that the Postmaster-General is not all-powerful in the Cabinet. The honorable gentleman seems to think that there is only the manufacturing interest to be considered. However, I represent other interests, and, while I have no desire to do injustice to manufacturing industries, I must do my best to see that no injustice is done to those other industries.
– My point is that if we impose proper conditions, Australian manufacturers ought to command the Australian market.
– The figures show, I think, that the local manufacturers practically control the market at the present time. In less than two years the importation has decreased from 1,700 machines to 700 machines; so that the industry has no reason to complain, as compared with other industries, which have, at least, to fight as keenly for their existence. From the report of the Tariff Commission, I find that the materials which enter into the construction of these machines is valued at £26 ; that the wages amount to 30 per cent., or about £12 ; that the sale charges amount to the big total of £22 ; and that the profit is set down at £r8, on a machine placed on the market at £78. It will he seen that the materials and wages amount to ,£38, and that the sale charges and profit amount to jf.40. I have no desire to harshly criticise this firm. I know that in many respects it is an estimable firm, which places a good machine on the market.
– The firm deserve all they can get.
– I suppose so, but no firm have so persistently presented their case to this Parliament, and their demand has ever been in the direction nf shutting out competition. First, a specific duty of j£r$ was demanded, and now they are on the doormat asking for a specific duty of £25.
– Internal competition cannot be shut out.
– I am not quite so sure about that. Not a great while ago, farmers found that the price of these machines jumped from £70 to .£80, and as high as £105. They did not know the reason at the time, but it was subsequently discovered that the manufacturers and the importers had entered into a combination which was broken up only when the firm of Martin and Company, of South Australia, withdrew. Prices then dropped again. I quote this to show to what extent internal competition can be regulated. This was an arrangement, not between men engaged in the same industry, who mav be supposed to have a brotherly feeling, but between the manufacturers and their active competitors, the importers. When this firm come to Parliament and persistently seek for special concessions, whereby their competitors may be handicapped, inquiry is invited as to how they treat the work men, who are the .prime factors in the production of the machines. If the treatment accorded to the workmen were liberal. I for one would not feel disposed to enter upon the very strong criticism that I am tempted to undertake. T. find tha,t, as far back as 1901, an effort was made to organize the employes in the Sunshine Harvester factory. A representative of the employés of the various companies visited the factory and brought the subject before the men. Subsequently, at a meeting of the men. which was held to consider the question of extending the Wages Board system to the factory. Mr. H. V. McKay was reported in the newspapers as saying that he thought the proposal, if carried out, would prove detrimental. He went on to impress on the meeting the necessity for his being allowed to conduct his own business as he pleased. That, I think, is a sentiment that will appeal very strongly to all anti-Socialists, and economic thinkers. Mr. McKay was reported to have also said that the emplovés should weigh well any action they might take, so as not to “ clog the wheels of what was now a thriving industry. “ T. emphasize the fact that the proposal before the meeting was simply to bring this company under a system to which their competitors had to submit. The whole object of the proposal was to place Mr. McKay upon the same level as that occupied by the manufacturers located in Melbourne. Mr. ‘G. McKay, another member of the firm, is reported to Bave said at the same meeting -
One effect of the trade being brought under the Act would be that improved . labour-saving machinery would have to be obtained, and this would mean the displacement of many hands. He was of opinion that under the creation of Vage3 Boards, trades should be discouraged.
The position which he took up was that he was conducting his factory by manual labour, and he could only continue to do so if he could obtain that labour at a less rate than that which the Wages Board would allow. Despite the representations of the firm, a vote was taken, and the press reports stated that no men voted for the establishment of a Wages Board and fifteen against it. In 1904 a Wages Board was established, and a portion of the employes engaged by this firm was brought under its control. After due inquiry, the Board fixed the maximum wage of ironmoulders of the best class at 60s. per week, and the minimum at 54s. per week. The wage of ironmoulderslabourers was fixed at 38s. per week. One improver was allowed to every two journeymen or fraction thereof employed in the trade. Ironmoulders were to receive a minimum of 8s. per day if employed on work other than pipe-moulding ‘work or work connected therewith. A scale of wages for improvers was also laid down. During the first year improvers were to be paid 5s. per week of forty-eight hours, during the second year 7s. 6d. per week, during the third year 10s. per week, during the fourth year 12s. 6d. per week, during the fifth year 15s. per week, during the sixth year 20s. per week, and during the seventh year 25s. per week. After that he could claim the minimum wage for a tradesman. Thus an improver, upon entering the service of this firm, had to serve seven years before he could command a weekly wage of 25s. What happened ? As soon as Mr. McKay was asked to comply with the conditions laid down by an impartial tribunal, he closed his factory. The Melbourne daily newspapers set out in great headlines the reasons advanced for this step. If honorable members will refer to the Argus of 7th October, 1 904, they will see an article headed “ Wages Board Decision. Six hundred men thrown out of work.” The article states that these operatives had been thrown out of employment as the result of what was regarded by the firm in question as an adverse decision on the part of the Wages Board. I leave honorable members to judge whether that Board was harsh in its treatment of this particular firm. Subsequently a deputation waited upon the Chief Secretary, Sir Samuel Gillott, on behalf of these unemployed, and preferred a request that the finding of the Wages Board should be abrogated. Mr. McKay also’ wrote to the Chief Secretary on the 13th October, 1904. In his communication he said - f would respectfully request that something; be promptly done to remove the embargo of Wages Board conditions from the implement and harvester business. T further request that if this cannot be done at once, you will give me an assurance that the Wages Board conditions will not come into operation at the factory at Braybrook. If you will do that, I am prepared to considerably extend the factory, and will instalmore costly machinery : while, if there is any chance of the Wages Board conditions being applied there, I do not feel justified in spending the money.
That was the attitude taken up by Mr. McKay towards the Wages Board of Victoria. As a matter of fact, it was stated by the Inspector of Factories,. Mr. Ord, that compliance with the decision of the Board did not require the payment of wages in advance of those generally paid in the trade, and that the Melbourne firms were paying to their employes the rates that this firm had been asked to pay.
– Is the honorable member “ stone- wal ling “ ?
– The honorable member claims to be a friend of the workers.
– I am as good a friend of the workers as is the honorable member. Does he wish to be insulting?
– No. But the honorable member cast what I consider an unwarranted reflection upon me. I am endeavouring to place information before the Committee with a view to showing the manner in which this firm treats its employes.
– I did not intend to castany reflection upon the honorable member, but it is very near the end of the session, and we want to get to work.
– I have had some fourteen or fifteen years’ experience of political life, and I have discovered that when a Government desire to secure the passing of an unpopular measure they have merely to fill in the earlier part of the session with the consideration of a lot of unimportant proposals, and then to force the objectionable measure through at the fag end of the session. An old employ 6 of the firm, named Weickhardt, who appeared before the Tariff Commission, stated, upon oath, that a man named Tregeniza, who was employed in the carpenter’s shop, was receiving only 20s. per week, and that another employe, named Lang, who was engaged in the blacksmith’s shop, and who was a married man with a family, was in receipt of only 27s. 6d. per week. He further stated that a tinsmith’s labourer, named Kaufmann, was paid only £1 a week, notwithstanding that, he had a wife and family to support, and that a labourer, named Campbell, who had a wife and eight children to maintain, received a similar wage. From his evidence, it also appeared that the best tradesman in the tinsmith’s department was a man named Harrison, who received only 30s. per week, whilst a competent plumber was paid only 15s. per week.
– -Is the honorable member giving the substance of the sworn evidence?
– Yes. Although an attempt was made to discredit Mr. Weickhardt’.? testimony upon the ground that he was a discharged employ6, no evidence in rebuttal of his statements was forthcoming. ,
– Was not Mr. McKay afforded an opporunity to produce his books, and to refute the statements in question, and did he not decline to do so?
– I understand that he was afforded that opportunity. Some very valuable evidence with respect to the labour conditions of the industry was given in the inquiry before Mr. Justice Higgins. The summing-up of the Judge was a masterly performance, and I am glad that the Government have given it permanence in the form of a parliamentary paper. I think that they might reasonably have supplemented Mr. Justice Higgins’ summing-up by reprinting the evidence given at ‘ the inquiry as to the wages paid and deemed by Mr. McKay to be fair and just, the wages claimed by the employés to be reasonable, and those determined upon by Mr. Justice Higgins as a living rate. By means of such* a comparison we should have been able more readily to understand the various contending interests. If honorable members will turn up Life for last month they will find a paragraph in which is given a typical domestic: balance-sheet submitted by one of the witnesses, who was a married man with two children. His weekly expenses were £2 5s. 9d., made up as follows: - Rent 12s. 6d., lodge money is. 3d., firewood 2s. 6d., milk 3s. 6d., meat 5s., groceries 10s., newspapers 6d., vegetables 3s., bread 5s., butter 2s. 66. I do not think that any one will say that that was extravagant living for a man with a wife and family. The witness went on to say that there was no provision for clothing, for gas, fares, or tobacco. The witness was paid 10s. per day. He was a pipe moulder. Can it be wondered at that under such conditions of living men are unable to save money ? Remember that this witness was a tradesman ; but there are labourers in the employment of the same firm who were working for far less and whose minimum Mr. Justice Higgins fixed at a much lower rate. The Judge stated in his summing-up that he was in doubt whether he should fix the wages for labourers at 7s. or 7s. 6d. a day. He was inclined to think that 7s. 6d. was a fair wage, but he gave the benefit of the doubt to the employers and fixed the rate at 7 s. per day. Can it be wondered at that when, after a life-time of toil, a labourer readies old age, he is without means to provide for himself and has to become a charge upon the public? Unfortunately, under our present system of civilization flesh and blood are the cheapest of commodities. But I hone that the time will speedily come when the flesh and blood of men and women of our own race will have a greater value than the mere commercial value placed upon them at present by employers. One of the objects of this new protection policy is to provide a means of securing better remuneration for those who do the world’s work. Mr. Justice Higgins found that he had to determine upon a basis for fixing the scale of wages. He had to determine whether a wages rate should be based upon what is generally known as ‘the iron law of wages - that flesh and blood is to be bought like any other commodity in the cheapest market. - or whether he should adopt some other standard. He said - “
T c:innot think of an other standard appropriate than the normal need of the average emnloyé. regarded as a human being living in a civilized community. I have invited counsel and all concerned to suggest any other standard, and thev have been unable to do so. If, instead of individual bargaining, one can conceive of a collective agreement - an agreement between all the employers in a given trade, on the one side, and all the employes on the other - it seems to me that the framers of the agreement would have to take as the first and dominant factor the cost of living as a civilized being!
It was on that basis that he determined the rates of wages. I turn to the evidence of Mr. McKay, who said, in regard to the fixing of wages -
T have endeavoured to get labour at the cheapest price that I. honestly could.
Another employer, Mr. Rigby, of the Austral Otis Company, said that his idea of a fair wage is - what the employer, on looking at the man. chooses to give him for the work.
Contrast the standard laid down by Mi. Justice Higgins and the standards of these two employers. The Judge says that you must take into consideration the wages necessary to allow human beings to live under civilized conditions. The employers say, in the one case, “ We must get labour as cheaply as we honestly can,” and, in the other case, “ We should pay a man what we think he is worth after looking at him.” Those are the distinctive lines upon which the Judge, on the one hand, and the employers on the other, thought wages should be determined. As a humanitarian, I am prepared to endeavour to maintain the standard which the Judge thought it right to fix. I believe that if employers generally would consider the needs of their workmen a little more, things would be very much better than they are in the labour world. It is the failure to observe that standard that necessitates remedial industrial legislation such as it is found necessary to pass if we are to preserve a decent standard of civilization in this country. I trust that the Government will see their way to let this proposal remain as it was determined upon By Parliament last session. When it was formulated in legislation I disagreed with it, and gave my reasons. But I recognise the conditions under which the present Parliament has been elected. I do not think that it would be right to expect the Committee to go back upon what was determined, nor do I think that honorable members would be prepared to do so. The system should be given a fair trial ‘‘“under the conditions laid down. If it is found that some alteration in the system is necessary, let it be made as the result of experience. So far, it has not had a fair trial. The firms interested have practically defied the law. We have reached a stage when the Government must do something. They should either carryout the law in its entirety, or propose to Parliament to repeal it. I must ask honorable members to consider this matter from the point of view of the great producing interest, with which I am concerned as much as with the interests of the workers. I allude to the interest of the farmers, of whom we have 250,000 or 270,000 scattered over Australia. They are the men who are developing the resources of the Commonwealth, and without whom both manufacturers and labourers would be without employment to-day. They receive no benefit from the protective policy of this country. They have to cater principally for the open markets of the world. Where they compete there is no discrimination as to whether competitors pay low or high wages. They have the handicap of long distances and great cost of transit to reach their markets. I find from the Commonwealth statistics that last year these farmers, after providing for the local consumption of the Commonwealth, exported 18,000,000 centals of wheat and 3,000,000 centals of flour, of a total value of £6,138,000. ‘ That large interest must receive consideration. Whilst I admit that in our legislation we have endeavoured to do something for them, still it must be recognised that that legislation has not yet been brought into effective operation. I hope that the Government, instead of raising the duty on harvesters by £4, will allow the old rate to stand. What is the position disclosed by the evidence given before the Tariff Commission? The natural protection which the local manufacturers receive amounts to, at least, £14 16s. 6d. per machine.
– The honorable member knows that that is of no use against the ramifications of a trust.
– If the hon.orable member had been in the last Parliament, he would know that, quite apart from the duty, it enacted a special measure to deal with trusts.
– It has not been Brought into operation.
– I suppose it was thought by the Government that there was nothing to operate upon. I remember that the Minister came down here with great enthusiasm and promised that if there was anything to operate upon he would act very quickly. *
– The Bill was going to save Australia.
– Yes. When the duty of £:ra is added, it will be seen that every machine has a protection of £26 .16s. 6d., which, if this item, be agreed to, will be increased to £30 16s. 6d., as. against a cost of £38 for material and labour.
– And when the big manufacturer got that protection, he closed down his works in order to show his appreciation.
– That is another matter which shows how little the firm I have been criticising have considered their workmen. With them it is not merely a question of pay, but a question of adopting American industrial principles of a most objectionable character. If the shoe pinches, if they want special consideration, they shut down their works at once, and bring the pressure of their workpeople to fight for their cause. Why is America controlled by the big trusts and the “ boodleirs, ‘ ‘ as the- honorable member for Darwin loves to describe the great operators ? Why is it that they are enabled to operate as they do? It is simply because they have concentrated in their1 factories large masses of men who are living under such conditions that the temporary cessation of work means the pinch of poverty. By’ the simple operation of closing their works temporarily and shutting out the men, they compel them to fight for “ boodleering “ schemes in order that they might get some bread and butter. The firm to which I have been alluding have adopted that principle. They shut down their works against the operation of the Wages Board, and scored to a certain extent. They enjoyed an advantage as against the local competitors. As soon as Mr. Justice Higgins gave his decision, the same tactics were repeated. They do not deserve very great consideration from men like myself who have real sympathy for the toilers who sweat in the shops and factories of big concerns. I move -
That the words “and. on and after 13th December, 1907, each £12,” be added.
– I hope that the Government intend to accept the reduction of duty proposed by the honorable member for Calare. I do not intend to follow in his footsteps and traverse all the. ramifications which are connected with this question, because we shall have an’ opportunity to do so when the new protection comes before us in the shape of a Bill. I believe that it would shorten this discussion if the Minister would say whether he is prepared to accept the duty fixed in the Harvester Excise Act of 1906, and to give to the new. protection the trial to which the honorable member for Calare has referred. I am quite willing that it should be given a trial, but I am unwilling to give those who, so far, have not complied with its provisions any advantage which I can help. I would ask the honorable member for Calare to help me to reduce the duty to £6, or to have no duty at all.
– Wipe it right out.
– If it were not for the fact that in going below £12 we should destroy the system of new protection, which we are trying as an experiment
– I am willing to give the new protection a fair show.
– That is very fair on the part of the honorable member, and it is all’ that I ask from the Government. The employers in the different States, at any rate in South Australia, were very anxious that the new protection should be enacted.
– I do not think that they are now.
– I do not think so either. At that time they were very anxious to help the party to which I belong, and to see that the workers received a share of any protection which was given.
– How much have they received from McKay?
– I shall come to that in a moment.
– He is paying it now, at any rate.
– I am glad to inform the honorable member that in South Australia there is a number of firms who are paying the wages which have been agreed to.
– And I presume that there are in Victoria too.
– I am assured that there are some employers in Victoria and New South Wales who are also doing so. No honorable member desires to hurt these manufacturers. On the contrary, we want to help them. I. should like them to get a higher duty, so long as I could compel others to fall into line with them. . But some honorable members have asked, “ What about McKay ?” I am astounded that a firm which on their own statement have reaped enormous profits should have paid their employes very small wages. What does a circular signed by H. V. McKay disclose? It reads -
The following figures show the loss inflicted in one line alone in a normal year on the Sunshine Harvester Works by arbitrarily reducing the selling price of the machines and by failing to allow for an increase of selling price in accordance with the cost of raw material, and the increase in the wages : -
This does not include the total loss inflicted on the Sunshine Works, where 50 to 60 other’ varieties of agricultural implements are manufactured besides harvesters, and the loss, as shown above, is a larger sum by many thousands of pounds than the total profit ever made by the manufacturer in his most prosperous year.
Here we have a statement from the firm itself that they were making enormous profits. I take it for granted that they are not, as reported in the press, going to extend their works in order to make a larger loss.
– They have denied that statement in the press, I think.
– Even if they are not, I do not suppose that if the firm get a. duty of £12 they will be likely to go under. If that is so, they ought to be ashamed of the fact than many years ago, without an award at all, they were not paying the wages which have been fixed by Mr. justice Higgins, and also giving the men large bonuses.
– The statement quoted shows that he was £5,000 a year short in his wages bill.
– Exactly, and in spite of the enormous profits admitted by himself. I am quite pleased to see a firm making as large a profit as they can, so long as they are treating fairly the consumers and the employes.
Mr.Mc Williams. - On what condition did we double theduty lastyear ?
– On the condition that the employes were to share in the protection to the industry. I am not going to say that McKay does not intend to do that now that he is compelled to do it, but I maintain that without being compelled at all he ought to have been paying much higher wages. If the price of raw material were to rise, and the firm were to come and give evidence to that effect, I am sure that honorable members would be quite willing to see that they were fairly treated and were allowed to charge a proportionately higher price for their machines. But we have had no evidence to that effect from the firm. I have had some evidence that the price of material has increased, in fact I know that it has advanced, but no appeal has been made to us. I am sure that if all the circumstances were taken into consideration and it were found that it was impossible for the firm to pay fair wages and to make a fair profit on the capital, the Government would be quite willing to give some relief to them.
– Charge the farmer.
– I am sure that the consumer would be quite willing topay a fair price. There is no farmer worthy of the name of a man who has any desire to see an employe’ sweated; I know that he would not. He is quite willing topay for his machines a price that will enable a fair wage to be paid to the manufacturer’s employes.
– The farmer always has to pay a good price for his machines.
– Exactly.. I do not think that the farmer can complain, particularly about the price of his machines, because since this Parliament intervened it has been fair. But’ I know that the price at which ploughs were then sold is not a profitable one to the manufacturer to-day. I should like the Minister to say that he is prepared to leave the duty as it is. I should deprecate any attempt to further lower it, because if we do reduce it below £12 we shall not allow the new protection to have a trial. While I consider that the Government have not done their duty in regard to the administration of the Harvester Excise Act, still I contend that we ought to give the new protection a trial. The Government have issued fresh regulations and assured usthat they intend to take action against those manufacturers who are not complying with the law. If they do that, I am quite willing to allow the duty to stand at the old rate until it reaches the Senate. If the decision of the High Court should be favorable to the employes being dealt with fairly and the Senate should recommend a duty of £16, I shall bequite willing to concur therein. I do not think it is necessary at this late period of the session when we have other matters to deal with to speak at length. I believe that I am voicing the opinion of a very large number of honorable members when I say that that will be the stand taken, and that under present circumstances they will notagree to the higher duty.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed item 153. Strippers, each £8.
– I hope that the Treasurer will agree to revert, in this case also, to the duty under the old Tariff.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “and on and after 13th December, 1907, each £6,” be added.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed item 154. Metal Parts of Stripper Harvesters and Strippers, per lb.,2¼d.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “and on and after 13th December, 1907, per lb.,1¾d.,” be added.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Question - That the schedule, as amended, be agreed to - proposed.
.- I presume that the question may be debated.
– Not unless the honorable member proposes to move the insertion of a new item-relating to the postponed items, with which we have just dealt. The schedule is practically disposed of.
– Cannot we move a recommittal at this stage?
– No; such a motion may be submitted at the report stage. I have merely proposed this question formally, because there is some doubt as to whether the introductory words to the schedule were agreed to when it was originally discussed.
– I presume that I shall be in order in moving that a new item be added ?
– I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to direct the attention of the Treasurer to an apparent anomaly which has occurred as the result of a division taken on the item “ Wire Gauze.”
– Order ! If I were to allow the honorable member to follow the line of discussion that he has just taken up, the whole Tariff would be reopened.
– I understood that I should be in order in moving the addition of a new item.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity, at the report stage, to point out any anomaly, but he cannot move the insertion of a new item at this stage, unless it relates to the postponed items, with which we have just dealt.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
In the House :
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the House will this day again resolve itself into the Committee.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the report be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I wish to urge upon the Treasurer the desirability of recommitting the schedule with a view to the reconsideration of two items in regard to which a serious anomaly has been allowed to creep in. I refer to items 353c and 355, under the heading of leather, in the schedule as amended. Item 353c includes white sheep and white lamb skins, which have been made dutiable at 15 per cent., whilst item 355 includes, amongst other articles, crust skivers, which have been made duty free. The trouble is that the Tariff, as at first introduced by the Government, proposed that white sheep and white lamb skins should be dutiable under the general Tariff at 30 per cent., with a duty of 25 per cent. on imports from the United Kingdom. These skins are used as a substitute for white kid for covering the stoppers of bottles and work of that kind, and, as a result of the proposal made by the Government in the first instance, their manufacture was started in New South Wales. A considerable number of men were employed, with the prospect that the development of the industry would lead to the employment of a greater number. The Government at the last moment accepted a new arrangement of the schedule, under which they reduced the duty on the whole item to 20 per cent. all round, except in respect of white sheep and white lamb skins, which were made dutiable at 15per cent. I say that a mistake was made in differentiating between these skins and other classes of leather originally included in the same item, and they should also have been made dutiable at 20 per cent. It does not seem to me to be reasonable to make any distinction between these various classes of leather, and as the industry which has only recently been established in New South Wales for the manufacture of these skins is one which is likely also to be established in other parts of the Commonwealth, that is, I think, a reason why the anomaly should be corrected. In regard to item 355, what I am particularly concerned about is the inclusion in the free -list of crust skivers. That was done at the suggestion of an honorable member who was under the impression that the article could not be made here.
– I am afraid that honorable members will suffer very serious inconvenience later on through being unaware of what is . going on, but it is almost impossible for them to know what is said while there are so many conversations taking place.
– In the past crust skivers have been largely imported from New Zealand, but they are now locally manufactured, and should, therefore, be omitted from the free list and placed in the same item as the other leathers to which I have referred. They une split sheep skins in an almost finished condition of manufacture. It is anomalous that they should appear in the free list, and that white sheep and white lamb skins should be dutiable only at 15’ per cent, when other varieties of leather are made dutiable at 20 per cent. As I might, if I sat clown now without doing 50, lose my right to move later the recommittal of the schedule for the purpose of reconsidering the duty to be imposed on these articles, I propose to submit the motion now.
– Does not the honorable member think that he had better leave the Senate to deal with the matter?
– Would it not be sufficient if the Minister now indicated that he would consent to what the honorable member proposes?
– I am not aware as to how far the Senate can increase duties.
– The Senate can suggest increases. The danger is that if the honorable member’s request for the recommittal of the schedule is agreed to there will be many requests of the kind made.
– I frankly admit that, and I am not any more anxious to go into the whole schedule again than is any other honorable member. It seems to me that it is right that some attempt should be made to rectify anomalies so far as that can possibly be done.
– What about the duties on hats?
– As the honorable member is aware, I am against the high duties imposed on hats. However, I formally move -
That the schedule be recommitted, with a view to the reconsideration of .items 353c and 355.
If there is any other way by which the difficulty can be overcome, I shall be only too willing to adopt it.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether another, place’ has power to request increases as well as decreases, or other variations in the items sent to them in the Tariff?
– The question which the honorable member has put is one upon which the whole House will be interested in having a ruling. My ruling, following precedents which have already been laid down by this Parliament, is that it will be becoming for the other branch of the Legislature to make a request to us for an increase, as well as for a decrease, or any other modification.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of .the Government an apparent oversight in connexion with the removal of item 225 - Wire cloth, wire gauze, ad valorem (General Tariff), 5 per cent.; (United Kingdom), free - from the schedule. It was alleged in the Committee that it covered only certain classes of wire goods which were used chiefly for doors, &c, in houses, and being made in a factory at Richmond, and the item was struck out without debate. Those articles then automatically fell under item 170 - Manufactures of metal n.e.i., ad valorem (General Tariff), 30 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 25 per cent. The duties upon that item were subsequently reduced to 25 and 20 per cent. It has since been discovered that, through the omission of item 225, battery and milling screens, and screens for cyaniding purposes and furnaces, have become dutiable at those rates. Under the old Tariff they were free, and under this Tariff, as first submitted, they were dutiable at 5 per cent., and free. The difficulty that has arisen can be got over by specifying a certain mesh. By that means the industry on whose behalf the honorable member’ ‘fori Yarra had the original item struck out will riot .be interfered with. I ask the Government to give my request favorable consideration.
I do not think that any honorable member will oppose it, as the articles which I have mentioned are not made locally. To put :myself in order, I move -
That item 170 - Manufactures of metal n.e.i. - bc recommitted, with a view to insert - “ 170A. Wire Cloth and Wire Gauze, made of Wire, and having a mesh of not less than 120 per square inch - Free.”
That will not affect the class of screen manufactured at Richmond, and its adoption will prevent the mining and milling industries being unduly penalized through a misapprehension on the part of the Committee.
.- When item 175 - Screws n.e.i. - was under consideration, - the duties were re-arranged, and an anomaly was inadvertently created. “Screws for wood” were made dutiable at per cwt. (General Tariff) 5s. 6d., (United Kingdom)’ 5s., while “ screws, n.e.i.” were made subject to a duty of 5 per cent. (General Tariff), and free <United Kingdom). The anomaly is that screws for wood were made subject to a fixed instead of an ad valorem duty. The effect has been that on some of the largersized screws a duty equal to 50 per cent. <id valorem is being paid.
– I think that was pointed out at the time.
– Yes; but the Minister recognises now that a serious anomaly has arisen, as has been shown by the ironmongery trade. I desire to move in such a way that screws for wood shall be subjected to an ad valorem rate. The Department do not want to charge the fixed duty which was passed by the Committee. The Minister has already recognised the anomaly, and I should like him to submit the matter now to the departmental officer in charge of the Tariff, with a view to framing the necessary alteration.
– Does the honorable member want a recommittal now, or a readjustment in another place?
– The item, as passed by the Committee, is doing a serious injustice throughout the Commonwealth. The Committee never believed for a moment that so high a duty as 50 per cent, was being imposed on the larger screws. On the different sizes the fixed duty is equivalent to ad valorem rates ranging from 10 to 50 per cent. The Minister has already offered to give every facility for the rectification of the anomaly, -and if it is possible to adjust the matter now,
I earnestly urge that it may be done, inasmuch as the whole of the trade is at the present moment dislocated.
.- I have a little list1 of items I should like to have recommitted, but, out of consideration for the House, and afterwards of the Committee, I shall limit my proposition to the recommittal of one item. In doing that I am taking into, consideration what I know to be the wish of some other members, for instance, the honorable member for Riverina,, who last night had a good deal to say about the unfairness of manure Bags being taxed, and a handicap thus being placed on local producers of manure, whilst’ similar bags from Japan are admitted free. Salt bags were struck out of item 114, which made them free, and became dutiable, along with gypsum and manure bags under n.e.i. That has been very strongly objected to by the salt manufacturers of South Australia, and, I think, with a good deal of justice. It has been pointed out to me, and -also, I think, to the honorable member for Boothby that to include salt sacks in the ad valorem list will mean taxation of about £1,500 or ,£1,600 a year on the salt industry.
– Salt bags or sacks are being made in Queensland.
– I am informed on good authority that salt bags and sacks are not made in Australia. Those interested in the salt industry of South Australia do not object to paying a tax on gypsum or hessian bags, if they have to.be taxed, because these can be manufactured locally ; but they do object to having to pay a duty on salt bags or sacks made from jute, which, as I say, are not made in Australia. Colonel Foxton. - They are made in Australia.
– I do not wish to inflict quotations’ in proof of my statement, but I am informed that they are not made here, and this is a very severe tax on an industry which is almost entirely confined to one State. I therefore desire to move that item 114 be re -committed with a view to reinserting salt bags.
– Will the honorable member add gypsum and manure bags made of jute?
– I -have no objection, and I move -
That item 114 be recommitted, with a view to re-inserting salt, gypsum, and manure bags made of jute.
I have on my list some other anomalies, but these may be cured by the Department, and some of them by the Senate. However, I call the Treasurer’s attention to the fact that there has been a good deal of discontent amongst merchants at the distinction made between woollen piece goods weighing over 5 ozs. to the square yard, and those which do not weigh 5 ozs. to the square yard. I am now referring to item 124A. The objection of the merchants has been supported by the Customs agents at Port Adelaide, who, I believe, have . approached the Department, along with the merchants. At present I do not desire to move the re-committal of that”’ item, because there is some hope that the matter may be inquired into by the Department, or that, on the motion of some private member, something may be done by the Senate. However, if any other honorable member move that the item be committed, I shall support him.
– I have no doubt honorable members on all sides would like to have certain items re-committed, and I have myself a pretty considerable list of anomalies. But I suggest that, in the circumstances, and with a view to terminating the business before Christmas, we might very well leave a little for the Senate to do in the way of rectification. I strongly suggest to those who have actually moved for recommittals, and- those who contemplate doing so, that they might leave these matters, as I say, to the Senate.
– Some might be adjusted very simply.
– I shall certainly resist all the motions.
– The honorable member for Corangamite has had some experience of how some “ simple “ matters are adjusted in Committee. My experience is that it is just those matters which provoke great debate. I am afraid that if all items containing anomalies are recommitted, we shall have a Tariff debate extending over next week. I am sure none of us desire that that should be the case. Personally, I feel that I have had ray fair share of Tariff discussion, and that the sooner we get away from this atmosphere the better. Under the circumstances, I intend to forego my right to propose any recommittals; and I shall be glad indeed if honorable members will take the same course.
.- I desire to move the recommittal of item 150, with a view to the elimination of the words “ discs for agricultural implements.”
– There is no necessity for that.
– The matter has been arranged.
– With reference to the articles under the heading of leather, to which attention has been drawn by the honorable member for South Sydney, I may say that to-day I received a communication from leather manufacturers in Svdney, drawing my attention to the fact that a mistake of the ‘kind indicated has been made to their prejudice, “with reference to white sheepskins and skivers. I have reason to believe that the alteration reducing the duty on white sheepskins was, to some extent, made on the motion of the Minister, in consequence of representations by myself. . Those representations were made on the strength of a communication in writing placed in my hands, signed by a leading Victorian manufacturer, in which I was assured that the manufacturers of New South Wales concurred in the proposed alteration. It now appears that the New South Wales manufacturers did not concur; and, therefore, I consider, as a matter of right and justice, that- the item should be restored to the original duty, namely, 20 per cent. I desire, also, that skivers should be removed from the free list, and treated as originally recommended by the Tariff Commission, and as subsequently proposed by the Government. These are two, mistakes which have been made through misrepresentation ; and if they cannot be put right at this stage, without involving complicated debate, then I ask the Government to take steps to see that the item is open to review by this House on a request from the Senate. I also join in the request which has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, supported by other Western Australian members, that screens pf not less than 120 mesh, should, in the interests of mining, be restored to the free list. I think that a mistake was made in removing them from the- free list.
.- I also desire to direct attention to an anomaly which has been overlooked. Under the Tariff fishing lines are upon the free list, whilst the raw material of which they are made is dutiable. I would ask the Trea- surer to see that that anomaly is rectified when the Tariff comes before the Senate.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer certain grievances under which some of my constituents allege that they suffer. Though I do not father their complaint, it is my duty as their representative to bring it forward. I consider that the present Tariff contains more anomalies than did the old Tariff, and I hope that the Senate will perform good work by arranging the schedule upon a more scientific basis. It so happens that the two largest glassware factories in New South Wales are located in my electorate, and some ten days ago they wired me -
Vote last night means ruin to our industries. Less than 40 per cent, against Germany useless. Get item recommitted.
Personally, I cannot vote for any higher duty’ in respect of item 253 than 25 per cent. The two factories to which I have referred are those of the Federal Glass Company and the Co-operative Flint Glass Company, of Leichhardt. In justice to them, I have placed their complaint before the Committee. They declare that they are worse off now than thev were under the old Tariff. I put their complaint before the Treasurer for what it is worth, and 1 ask him when he is dealing with the other anomalies not to overlook it. I regret that although the Tariff Commission was appointed chiefly to rectify anomalies, the present Tariff contains more anomalies than did the old Tariff.
.- I move -
That item 84 (Condensed Milk) be recommitted.
My object is to secure the imposition of a duty of 1½d. per lb. upon sweetened milk under the general Tariff, and of id. per lb. under the preferential Tariff. Unsweetened milk I wish to make .dutiable at 1¼d. per lb. under the general Tariff, and at id. per lb. under the Tariff for Great Britain. The existing duties on condensed milk were agreed to on a Friday afternoon very hurriedly, and without proper debate. Worse still, they were carried upon the strength of inaccurate statements made to the Committee by the Treasurer and the honorable member for Mernda.
– I did not make any misleading statements.
– I have the correction here. The Treasurer made certain charges against the importers of Nestle’s Milk, which I ‘ am assured are absolutely unfounded. He ought to be in possession of a copy of the letter which I hold in my nandi and therefore he must be aware that his statements have been absolutely contradicted.
– I would ask the Treasurer to consent to the recommittal of item 187, which relates to wire-netting.
– I intend to resist any recommittals.
– If there are to be no recommittals, perhaps another place will consider the reasons which I desire to advance on the present occasion. I wish to make the present duty upon wire-netting operate as from the 8th of August, instead of nth October. Our pastoralists and farmers are fighting a life and death struggle with the rabbit pest, and I am sure that anything which this Committee can do to assist them it will’ most willingly undertake. It would be of material assistance to them if we allowed the reduced duty upon wire-netting to operate as from the 8th August instead of from the nth October.
.- I am very glad that the Treasurer has declared his intention to resist any attempts to reopen the Tariff discussion. It must be quite obvious that if he allows one item to be recommitted he cannot consistently refuse to permit the recommittal of other items. Thus the whole Tariff discussion would be re-opened, and at this late stage of the session it would be extremely unwise to take any such step. Anomalies, of which there are very many, can be adjusted by the Senate. If the Treasurer had expressed an intention to recommit any items, I was going to bring some under his notice, including item 122. But under the circumstances I do not .propose to do so.
– The proposals for the recommittal of items, and the anomalies that exist in this new Tariff, go to show how demoralizing business of this kind is. We are quite incompetent to deal further with the Tariff until after a fresh general election. When the last election took place, the issue placed before the country in large areas of Australia was that of anti-Socialism against Socialism.
– The matter before the House is that of determining whether or not certain items shall be recommitted. If the honorable member will address himself to that subject, I shall be glad to hear him. But a debate on general policy will not be in order.
– I think, sir, that you missed my point. I should like to see the whole Tariff recommitted, and would, if necessary, propose that it be recommitted, if 0111 V for the purpose of pointing out that Parliament is demoralized, and that the whole country is to a large extent demoralized by what has taken place. Representations have been made to honorable members from all quarters with respect to duties. Some people who have received the benefit of larger duties than were formerly proposed are not satisfied because they have not got as much as their neighbours. Therefore, they want a little more. We were sent here for the purpose of removing anomalies. Many honorable members were elected expressly for that purpose. A number were sent into Parliament whose fiscal faith was not under consideration by the electors, but whose votes have, nevertheless, had the result of carrying these Tariff anomalies of which I am complaining. If another election were to take place, in all probability the new Parliament would be better able to deal with a Tariff that is simply full of anomalies which must be reconsidered within the near future. I decline to ally myself with any party that considers this to be a fair settlement of the fiscal question. Therefore, I look forward with a good deal of hope to a dissolution. I should like to see whether we cannot have a party returned to power that will endeavour to do justice to the whole country. I trust that the House will do nothing in the direction of a recommittal, but will allow the Tariff to be sent up to the Senate. No doubt it will be sent back to us with recommendations for amendment. But when this House has finally dealt with it, it will have to be submitted to the electors for reconsideration, and at the next election I earnestly hope that the whole question will be reopened.
.- I desire to suggest the recommittal of item 68, hay and chaff, with a view of having the old duty restored. There had been a drought at the time when we dealt with the item. Had the rains which have since fallen benefited the country at that time, probably a different result would have been attained when the division took, place-. . This Tariff is supposed to give protection all round, but I do not think, that the farmer has received much consideration under it. His interests as well as those’ of other sections of the community ought to be regarded. The duty in the case I mention is not one that is likely to> operate harshly. Since Federation it has not been of much use to thefarmers,, but occasions may arise when New Zealand may prove a very severe competitor in the Australian market. Seeing that New Zealand bears none of the burdens incidental to Federation, I think it only right that our own farmersshould have a modicum of protection. I hope that if there are to be any recommittals the Treasurer will not ‘overlook the item to which I refer.
– I understand that the Treasurer is de finitely opposing all recommittals. Under those circumstances it is not worth while to make suggestions in that direction. It is doubtful whether,- in face of the opposition of the Government, a motion for the recommittal of any item could be carried, and those who desire the reconsideration of some items might prejudice their case by a defeat. It would, therefore, be wiser to rely on alterations beingmade in the Senate. I rose to draw the attention of the Treasurer to item 376.
– I have made a note of (hat.
– I suggest to honorable members that it would be wise for them not to press to a division their requests for recommittals.
.- Like every other honorable member, I have had a “fair sickener “ of this Tariff.. But I donot want to lose my right to move the recommittal of some items in the event of any other items being recommitted. I donot expect that any items will be recommitted j but, in the event of the recommittal of any item being allowed, I should liketo move the recommittal of item 123, which, deals with parasols, sunshades, and umbrellas, and item 376, which deals with cycle parts, ‘with a view to remove ananomaly which I believe that I, owing toa misunderstanding, created. After we had been sitting for twelve or fourteenhours, a proposal was given to me by those who thought that they understood the business, but I, unfortunately, misunderstood one word, with the’ result that an anomaly was created. I am quite willing to forego my right to move the recommital of those items if the Treasurer will assure me that he will endeavour to have them dealt with in the Senate, as I desire. I also want to get a recommittal of a paragraph of item 303, which subjects spruce and deal to a heavier duty than has hitherto been imposed. It is practically a tax upon people who build houses, as that kind of timber is not produced here.
– I recognise that we cannot hope to succeed with any proposal to recommit’ an item, but I indulge in the hope that the Government may see their way to consider the very modest request to insert an item making superphosphates dutiable at 5 per cent, in the general Tariff and free when imported from the “United Kingdom.
– I hope that the Government will not agree to the recommittal of any items, but, if they should do so, I shall move the recommittal of the item corsets, in order that a very unjust burden which has been placed on every girl and woman in the .community may be removed,
– In the event of a motion to recommit an item being considered by the Treasurer, I intend to move the recommittal of paragraphs j, k, and l of item 234, which deals with oils.
.- Seeing that honorable members desire so large a number of items to be recommitted, may I suggest to the Treasurer that he should agree to recommit the whole Tariff?
– I am very pleased with the tone of honorable members. Of course, there are anomalies which .1 desire to have corrected, but I feel that if I were to agree to the recommittal of one item I must agree to the recommittal of all items that might be desired.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that he must agree to my suggestion, too?
– No; I do not ‘ agree to recommit the whole Tariff. So far as I can learn, the recommittal of a large number of items’ would be proposed if I agreed to the recommittal of one item. If honorable members will stand by me, as I feel that they will, we shall not have any items recommitted at the present time, be- cause it would take a long while to deal with the items desired to be recommitted and to rectify anomalies. It is quite impossible to pass a large Tariff without its containing a number of anomalies. It would not be wise on my part to pick out a few of the cases which have been mentioned by honorable members, but it is my intention to use all the persuasive influence I can with the Senate to deal with most of them. I could mention a few special items, but honorable members can depend upon it that while they are enjoying a holiday and while the Senate is dealing with the Tariff I shall be here for a great part of the time to help if I can to get anomalies removed. I am anxious that the public shall feel that every care has been taken to prevent anomalies. It is hardly necessary to say that I want a Tariff which cannot be attacked in a serious way as the last one was attacked. It has been discovered that a mistake was made in regard to discs. Telegrams have been sent to-day to Collectors of Customs to allow them to come in as minor parts, as the law allows. There will be no difficulty on that -score, and all the trouble to the farming classes in that regard is, therefore, over.
– It has been suggested on this side that the honorable gentleman might recommit the item dealing with pianos.
– I do not want to have another discussion such as we had yesterday, at any rate for a while. I hope that honorable members will support me in my action, not because I do not want to recommit any items, but because I do not think that at this particular time honorable members could stop as long as would be required to deal with all the recommittals which would be desired. Therefore, I shall not agree to the recommittal of any item.
– In view of the statement of the Treasurer the best thing which I and perhaps other honorable members can do is to depend upon the good offices of the Government in another place. I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– Perhaps the House will be pleased if I put all the other propositions in one motion, namely, that the recommittals proposed be agreed to.
Honorable Members : Hear, hear.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means agreed to.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne)- agreed to-
That Sir William Lv.ne and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in Bills to cany out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne and read a first’ and second time.
In Committee :
Clause i- (Short Title).
– With one or two exceptions, the provisions of this Bill are similar to those in the old Act. The exceptions are clauses 6 and 8. Clause 6 deals specially with the preference to Great Britain. The honorable member for Bendigo called attention to the need for such a provision, and I was able to tell him that it was already incorporated in the Bill. Clause 8 saves the South African preference. The question was raised whilst the schedule was .under consideration, and I told honorable members that such provision would be made.
– Is there any provision .in regard to the island trade?
– No. Subclause 2 of clause 3 is a provision that is new to our Tariff Acts, but common to Tariff Acts of other countries. It provides that -
The headings of -the respective divisions in the Schedule are used solely for convenience of classification, and shall not in any way affect the interpretation of the Customs Tariff.
That sub-clause is designed to facilitate the administration of the Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 9 agreed to.
– I move-
That the definitions “Sheet” and “Plate,” appearing in the heading to the schedule, be left out.
This amendment is necessary in consequence of an alteration which has been made in the schedule itself.
– The definitions have been provided in the items themselves.
– That is so, and we, therefore, do not require them in the heading.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the following definition be inserted in the heading to the schedule : - “ ‘Wool or Woollen ‘ includes all manufactures of wool or hair or combinations thereof.”
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– I propose to move, with the concurrence of the House, ‘the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
– I shall object.
Bill founded upon the resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means presented by Sir William Lyne, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
[11.50). - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
It seems to ‘me that there is every prospect of our being able to adjourn to-morrow for the Christmas vacation, and a strenuous attempt will- be made to finish our business then. I ask honorable members to assist us in doing so.
– What business is it proposed to take to-morrow ?
– There is the Excise Procedure Bill. I am not sure that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill will be proceeded with. That is a matter upon which I shall have to consult the Prime Minister. Personally, I think that not much will be gained by dealing with the measure to-morrow, because its consideration cannot be advanced beyond a certain point until we re-assemble next year.
– What about the Defence statement ?
– That will be made to-morrow. ‘ There are also the amendments of the Senate in the Quarantine Bill. I do not know what will be done in regard to that matter.
’- ‘ - In my opinion, it would be unfair to proceed with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill to-morrow. I do not say that from any hostility to the measure, although I voted against its second reading. But, seeing that it involves the appropriation of an immense sum of public money, there ought to be great care taken in the preparation of the schedule.
– I -hardly think that the Bill will be taken to-morrow.
– It would be hardly fair to ask the House to consider it then, especially as, in any case, it cannot be passed into law until it has gone through the Senate, and the Tariff must take precedence of other business there. At the present time, commercial enterprises are hung up awaiting parliamentary decision on the Tariff.
.- I expected to have an opportunity to move a motion regarding a matter of urgent importance of which I have given notice. I know that the House is very tired, but I should like to ascertain whether the Government can see their way clear’ to allow me the opportunity to move that motion to-morrow ?
– What is the subject?
– It is a motion foi? the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into certain matters affecting the - working of the postal, telegraphic and telephonic systems of the Commonwealth. In my opinion, no inquiry has ever been more urgently needed. The present state of affairs from beginning to end, is unsatisfactory, whether one has regard to the conditions under which the employes are working, the administration of’ the Telephone Branch, the sweating of the semi-official postal ‘ officials, or other phases of the matter. I have no desire to car,p at the Government. Very many of the evils which exist are due to conditions over which they have no control, though there are evils which they could remedy. The matter concerns both the public and the officials of the Department, and’ I think that the result of an investigation would be that anomalies would appear so glaring, and the true cause of difficulties so obvious, that the Government would be able to arrive at a proper solution of the whole problem. The Department would then be properly organized, the public better served,, and the employes better treated.
– The matter to which the honorable member for Gwydir has referred is one upon which. I cannot make a definite statement without consulting the Prime Minister. I hope, to-morrow, to make, a statement to the House in regard to certain proposals for expenditure in connexion with the Post Office. I do not feel disposed tO’ take the responsibility of finding the money for the proposed expenditure without the concurrence of the House, and I intend, therefore, to say what is proposed, and to test the feeling of honorable members before providing money for certain expenditure for which provision is not made on the Estimates.
– What about the increments to salaries?
– I think T have already said that they are to be paid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071212_reps_3_42/>.