4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the arrangements made with the Victorian State authorities for the berthing and refitting of the new Commonwealth torpedo boat destroyers at Williamstown are of a purely temporary character, and that the accommodation is not completely satisfactory, as disclosed by the published correspondence on the matter, the Minister will still consider the advantages to be gained by adopting the recommendation of the Naval Director and arrange to send the boats on to Brisbane, “where there exists the only Commonwealth naval depot and equipment necessary for their service and all the refitting they need after the long voyage from England”?
– The arrangements at Williamstown are temporary, so far as berthing the destroyers are concerned, but the arrangement made is completely satisfactory to the Department as it enables it to use its own shops, machinery, and men. There is, therefore, no necessity for any further action in this case. The question of the best position of proposed Commonwealth Naval bases, dockyards, &c, has been referred to Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, K.C.B., for report, and when such report is received the Government will decide what action is to be taken in regard to the question.
Overtime, Senior Officers - Mr. Da Costa’s Report - Hamilton and Coleraine Telephone Service.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will lay upon the table of the House the report upon Postal Administration of Mr. Da Costa, dated 28th February, 1910, and all papers associated therewith?
-I shall be very pleased to show the honorable member the papers referred to if be desires to see them.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Royal Commission - Sugar-making in Northern Territory.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are -
I may add the possible appointment of Dr. Maxwell, or any other person, has not been discussed, and the statement attributed to the Honorable W. Kidston, Premier of Queensland, is inaccurate in that respect.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Consideration resumed from 16th November (vide page 6250), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That Schedule A to the Customs Tariff 1908 be amended as hereunder set out (vide p. 6238).
. -I promised last night to have prepared a schedule showing in juxtaposition the rates of duty in force until 4 o’clock yesterday, and the alterations made by the schedule of amendments which I then introduced. The document has been prepared, and sent to the Printing Office, but the rush of work there is so great that the Government Printer informs me that copies of it will not be ready before about noon. All necessary information, however, is now available, if honorable members will take the trouble to compare the Customs Tariff of 1908, of which copies are on the table, with the new schedule.
– I wish to point out that I am now permitting a general discussion on the proposals of the Government, but, on its conclusion, I shall put the items seriatim, and debate must then be confined strictly to the immediate question.
.- The proposals of the Minister are very unsatisfactory to me, and, I think, to a great many other honorable members, because we understood that the Tariff would be revised to some extent, and duties raised or lowered as circumstances warranted. The schedule put before us contains merely a series of definitions and interpretations for the instruction of the officers of the Customs Department, and does not materially affect either the general public or the manufacturers.
– Why does not the honorable memberblame the Caucus?
– The honorable member knows that these proposals have not been before the Caucus. The party would not allow them to be discussed in that way.
– Why not?
– Because they do not affect our political programme. On fiscal matters every member of the party has a free hand. For example, my views on
Tariff matters are diametrically opposed to those of the honorable member for Calare, who sits next to me.
– It is only on the other side that this is made a caucus matter.
– Yes. This morning even the Free Trade journal which supports the Opposition is finding fault with the Government for not making the Tariff more protective. I . have on several occasions introduced deputations to the Minister asking for greater protection in regard to, among other things, the banana industry, but nothing has been done to help those whose views were put forward. The growing of bananas may seem to some honorable members an unimportant industry, but it is really of considerable importance, because it is one of the few that can be carried on profitably in the north, and will, therefore, assist to settle territory which, in the interests of defence alone, should be settled. Large cargoes of this fruit are so frequently brought to our ports from other places - grown too, by coloured labour - that honorable members should be easily convinced of the need for a high duty on bananas. All we ask is that the duty on this fruit should be made the same as on other green fruit, namely, 2s. per cental. The Minister has on several occasions given a sympathetic reply to requests for the removal of what is, after all, an anomaly, and only a fortnight ago half promised to redress our grievance.
– An alteration of duties would involve the revision of the Tariff.
– We were justified in expecting its revision for the removal of such anomalies.
– That would take twelve months.
– I think that such proposals, if they had been placed before the Committee, would have been agreed to at once. I desire also to point out that canned pineapples are being introduced from Singapore and Hong Kong at prices against which local canners cannot compete. We ask that the duty on this product be increased. There is at present a duty of 25s. per cental, or 3d. per lb., on dried fruit, and we think that the duty on canned pineapples should be made at least as high. I feel, however, that, under the circumstances, any appeal to the Minister will fall upon deaf ears, and I can but express my grievous disappointment at his action.
.- I think that the proposals of the Minister of Trade and Customs, which merely relate to definitions and the removal of administrative defects in the Tariff will be received by Australia with a good deal of disappointment. When I was conducting my election campaign throughout the Protectionist centres of my constituency, I was constantly assailed with the statement that the Labour party were the true friends of Protection.
– What ! Are you a Protectionist again?
– I think that the Minister of External Affairs will hardly be able to challenge my Protectionist votes during the consideration of the last Tariff.
– How does the honorable member reconcile his attitude now with his action in joining the Fusion, in which there were forty-two members who, at one time, at all events, were Free Traders ?
– At the last election the Fusionist party had in the forefront of its platform a straight-out Protectionist plank. We said, and said properly, and reasonably, that inasmuch as the House had decided on the last occasion to deal with the Tariff with incomplete information, it was necessary that we should create a Board of Trade for the purpose of making a full investigation into the operations of trade throughout Australia, in order that the House might have full and accurate information on the working of the Tariff, the operations of commerce throughout the Commonwealth, and also the relations of the Commonwealth with other countries with respect to trade and commerce. That proposal stood in the forefront of. the platform of the last Government at the election, and I venture to say that had it been returned to power, one of the first measures of this session would have been a measure for the appointment of a Board of Trade. The full term of this session would have been available to the Board for the purpose of making necessary investigations, and at the close of the session its report would have been placed before the House, and something like a systematic consideration of the Tariff for the removal of anomalies with the maintenance of the Protectionist policy of the country.
– When would that have happened ?
– I was confronted in every’ Protectionist centre of my constituency with the statement that Labour Codlin was the true Protectionist’s friend, and not Fusionist Short. I showed then that the Labour party, who were endeavouring to kow-tow to the Protectionist party to secure the Protectionists’ votes outside their ranks, had not sufficient courage to place in their platform a truly Protectionist plank. The schedule which has been placed on the table in the closing hours of the session is conclusive evidence that there was no sincerity about that Protectionist boast on the part of the Labour party at the last election. With what do we fmd ourselves faced in the closing hours of the session ? A mere piece of formality and make-believe has been laid before the House instead of a proposal for the true removal of anomalies. Notwithstanding the fact that very many important and influential deputations have waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs during the session, we learn from his statement that there will be no revision of the Tariff, or no real removal of anomalies until after a referendum has been taken in March or April next. What does that mean? It means that in all probability the real removal of anomalies will be delayed until next session. It may be taken for granted that before any attempt is made to reach anything like the position which was promised by the last Government, a period of eighteen months must elapse.
– Who says that?
– That is inevitable.
– And then it will be a fine political cry for the next election.
– Do not make any mistake about that.
– If the present Government be truly Protectionist, why should it resort to what appears to me to be a subterfuge, and that is to take the risk of the proposed amendment of the Constitution failing, instead of carrying out their duties on the basis of the Constitution as it is ? If it be a truly Protectionist party, working on the basis of the present Constitution, its bounden duty is to bring before the House some vindication of the policy which it so loudly professed at the last election. I think that when the terms of this schedule become known generally many thousands of persons who cast their votes for the present Ministry on the strength of their Protectionist professions will regret their action. If the statement of the Minister means anything, it means that if the referendum to be taken in March or April next should fail, and no amendment of ‘ the Constitution take place, the Government party will cease to be a Protectionist party, or cease even to profess to be one. A few days ago figures were published showing that notwithstanding the fact that the Tariff was revised in 1906-7, we still have an enormous increase in imports.
– And a decrease in exports.
– No, because according to the last figures available, we have an increase of over ,£2,000,000 in exports. The imports in 1909 exceeded those in 1906 by over £7,000,000, the figures being £51,171,000 and £44,744,000 respectively. That, it seems to me, has falsified all the predictions that were made whilst the last Tariff was under consideration.
– We have a big free list.
– Yes, but the increase in the imports of articles which are largely used and which carry substantial Protectionist duties is just as great as it is in the case of articles which are on the free list. I am willing to admit that we have had an unprecedented period of prosperity, which, of course, would partly account for a very large proportion of the increased importation. The increase, however, has been so substantial that it shows that, after all, some action should be taken - something more than the mere pretence of a removal of anomalies such as we have before the Committee. The real Protectionist party of Australia must be profoundly disappointed with this attempt on the part of the Minister to remove anomalies. It may cause them perhaps to regret that, unwittingly, they cast their votes for the Ministerial party on the strength of their Protectionist professions, which neither at present nor in the near future’ seem to have very much chance of being fulfilled.
– Perhaps if I were to say at the outset that I was not somewhat disappointed with the Minister’s interpretation of anomalies I should not be giving expression to my feelings. Although his interpretation is not the same as mine, yet it deceives nobody, because for many months, as the honorable member for Wimmera knows well, the Minister has held out no promise of any kind which should lead any one to expect more from him.
– That does not relieve the party of its obligation to fulfil the pledges which were made at the last election.
– What I have introduced here is in conformity with my election pledges.
– And with the Government’s election pledges?
– And with the Government’s pledges, too.
– You are not a Protectionist Government; we accept that.
– Order !
– It appears, sir, that I am not in this discussion.
– Order !
– On all occasions the Minister has emphatically taken up the position that he would propose no increased Customs duties until we had an assurance that the benefits from such an increase would be shared by the workers and the consumers of the country.
– I do not think that he has ever gone that far.
– Surely the honorable member must be aware that the Minister has given expression to that view on several occasions. He has so expressed himself to every deputation which has waited upon him.
– What he said was that there would be no re-opening of the Tariff, but a redress of anomalies.
– Although I admit at the outset that the Minister is perfectly consistent, yet my interpretation of the word “ anomalies “ is that any duty which is too small to give effective protection is an anomaly.
– That opens up the question of rates.
– It does not.
– You would not ask for that at this stage?
– To this extent, that any article on the free list which can be shown to be manufactured in Australia should be dealt with. We have the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, which should save worry or trouble. If an attempt had been made to act upon its advice, something would have been done which would have met more with the approval of the Protectionists in the House. As a Protectionist to the backbone, I cannot feel satisfied with the interpretation which has been given to anomalies. The honorable member for Wimmera has stated that, wherever he appeared on the hustings at the last election, he was met with the cry that the Labour party was the only party which would secure to the manufacturers a reasonable margin of Protection, and that consequently the electors doubted the Fusion Government. But the honorable member knows as well as I do that the principal plank in the platform of the Labour party is the new Protection. While honorable members opposite gibe at honorable members on this side for being Protectionists, I want to state emphatically that there are no Free Traders in the Labour party today. A Labour man who claims to be a Free Trader is simply in the Labour party under a false pretence.
– Oh ! What does the honorable member for Calare say about that?
– There can be no getting away from the fact that one of the principal planks in our platform is the new Protection, which means effective protection for the manufacturers, the workers, and the consumers. Those who were Free Traders in the Labour party previously were Free Traders, as against the old system of Protection, which gave no assistance to the workers and the consumers. But since we have provided for that, there can be no Free Traders in the Labour party to-day. I am certainly in the Labour party to-day, firmly believing that that is the case.
– Does the honorable member say that the old Protection gave no advantage whatever to the workers?
– In the opinion of Free Traders, I said they were justified in taking up that attitude. I was an old Protectionist before ever new Protection was spoken of. I can understand the attitude taken up by those who previously declared themselves Free Traders, because they did not see where Protection was given to the workers and consumers. This is the interpretation which I hoped the Minister would give to anomalies - that wherever the end sought to be achieved in the direction of giving effective Protection to any manufactured article was defeated by the arrangement of the duties on the raw material necessary for its manufacture, that created an anomaly. That is, I think, a very reasonable interpretation of the word. Suppose,, for instance, that there is a duty of 50 per cent, on the manufactured article, and a duty of 40, ger cent, on the raw material necessary for its manufacture, and that the raw material is not produced in the country that gives a protection of only 10 per cent, to the manufactured article, and consequently that is, in my opinion, an anomaly. I should think that that would appeal to the Protectionists here as a reasonable interpretation. Take, for example, an article which has been referred to by manydeputations to the Minister, and that is. women’s made-up material. Here we> have, if my interpretation be correct^ one of the most glaring anomalies in the.< Tariff. I find that women’s ready-made garments are dutiable at 40 and 35 per centi, whilst the raw. material used in their manufacture is dutiable at 30 , and 2 5 per cent. At the most, therefore, there is a protection of only 10 per cent, j but there is a still worse phase of this anomaly. If the raw material is sent, from the Continent to Great Britain, and there manufactured, the manufactured article is admitted here under the preferential Tariff at 35 per cent., so that there is really a. protection of only 5 per cent, to the local manufacturer. If that is. npt. an anomaly, then I confess that I have wrongly interpreted, the term. I have here a list of anomalies-
– -The honorable member has a .good, schedule, He had better introduce. it, as such.
– As a young member of this House, I find it very difficult, owing to its great volume, to obtain a grasp of all the business with which’, we deal ; but I -have endeavoured to do my best in this direction. I carefully went through what I considered to be anomalies in the hope of seeing them dealt with in this schedule.
– What are they?
– I do not know that anything is- to be gained by reading the whole list. I have cited one’ case;-
– The honorable . member will have them, all next. session. .
– I hope . so.
– We shall have none next, session.
– I desireto refer to another anomaly in respect of. wood material used in the manufacture of wheels and vehicles. Hickory, partially dressed, is subject to a duty, but if it be completely made up - if, for instance> it be imported in the shape of spokes, which have been sawn, planed, and. steamed, in the process of manufacture, by foreign labour - it comes in free. There can be no protection for Australian workmen under- such conditions. Here, again, we find that timber cut into shapes, dressed’ or partially dressed, and not elsewhere included in the Tariff is- dutiable at 25 per cent. Surely hickory spokes should be included in that category, and no longer allowed to. remain on the free list. Unless that course is followed, there can be no protection for the workmen in the trade. I, shall not read the whole of the list of anomalies that I have prepared, for I am conscious of the fact that if the referenda providing for the amendment of the Constitution are. successful next April, theparty to which I belong will provide for something more than the mere rectification of anomalies. I am confident that it will” introduce a Protective Tariff that will he “iia conformity with the expressed sentiments of the people of. this country.
Several- honorable members interjecting
– I appeal to honorable -members to maintain order, and toallow the honorable member who is addressing the Chair to give expression to- hisviews without interruption.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his . seat said -that if the late Government had ‘ been returned ‘at the last general election, , all these matters would have been attended - to,- and that we should have had a better Tariff. The honorable member knows as well as I do that it was an unwritten. if not a written, understanding that the Tariff was not to be interfered with by the Fusion Government.
– No one Knows that, and” the -honorable member ought to know that his statement is absolutely incorrect.
– Such a statement was made by the Sydney FreeTrade, newspapers, and also bv the presentHigh Commissioner for Australia. who was a party to the Fusion. I take it that he knew something . of the sentiments of the-. Fusion Government.
– He was no more a party to it than was any other honorable member of the party.
– The honorable member knows that the view which I have just uttered was clearly expressed by Sir George Reid.
– What does that matter? The policy of the Government was announced.
– The words used in the press statement were that effective Protection was no part of the policy of the Fusion Government.
– That does not matter. Such words are no more binding than is the honorable member’s statement.
– I do not want to say that they are.
– The policy of the Fusion Government was that there was to be no interference with the Tariff.
– That is not so.
– The innuendoes in which some honorable members are indulging are the result of hearsay, and at the worst it can only be said that my statement is based upon hearsay evidence. We cannot, however, shut our eyes to the fact that the Fusion party that was before the people on the hustings, consisted of forty-two members who at one time in their lives, at all events, were declared Free Traders.
– That is not so.
– I am not referring to the honorable member, who in this regard might be described as a Triton among the minnows. If we are ever to have an adequate system of Protection from the House as at present constituted, it can come from only one side, and that the Government side, of the Chamber. I believe that it will come. If the proposed amendments of the Constitution are accepted by the people, I, as a Protectionist, will not be satisfied, nor do I think the great majority of honorable members on this side of the House will be, until we have in Australia something more than a cobweb system of Protection. I unhesitatingly declare that the present Tariff is merely a cobweb system of Protection. It does not protect at all. But I hope to see adopted a Protective Tariff which will make us second to no other of the declared Protectionist countries of the world. I do not think that that is too much for a Protectionist to expect. There is only one conceivable policy for a young country like Australia, and that is a solid and sufficient system of Protection which will enable us to build up our industries - industries in which our own men can be employed at white men’s wages - and to realize the further plank of our platform, “equal pay for equal work.” Under such a system where women are employed instead of men they will receive the same wages that men are paid, and instead of women taking the place of males in various industries the men, perhaps, will be able under such a system to make them their wives and support them in comfort. I could not rest satisfied without making this statement. What I have said has been due to a feeling of disappointment that a wider interpretation has not been given to the word “ anomalies.” I recognise, however, that the Minister of Trade and Customs has been perfectly consistent. He assured, not only deputations, but .this House, that until there was some reasonable guarantee that the workers and consumers of Australia would share in the benefits of the system of Protection, he would not favour a reopening of the Tariff. Such an attitude can well be understood. I, as a Protectionist, however, had hoped that he would go further than he has done, and I trust that the day is not far distant when we shall have that degree of Protection that will satisfy the aspirations of those who claim to be Protectionists.
.- I confess to a feeling of disappointment when, in looking through the schedule, I find that the Minister of Trade and Customs has not taken into consideration a number of letters and petitions which he has received from residents of South Australia in regard to the great wattle-bark industry. It has been pointed out to him that that industry provides a great deal of employment for our people, and that it is being subjected to the unfair competition of wattle bark brought in free from. South Africa, where, I understand, it is produced by black labour, under very different conditions from those which obtain in Australia. In South Africa it is grown, ground up, and shipped by black labour, and it is brought to Australia as ballast. It is almost impossible for our people to grow wattle bark in the face of such competition. Something like 200 wattlegrowers in the southern district of South Australia signed a petition to the Minister, pointing out these difficulties,, and also drawing his attention to the danger of the introduction, in this way, of stock diseases from South Africa. As honorable members are well aware, stock infected with skin and other diseases are prone to rub themselves against wattle and other roughbarked trees, and there is thus a danger of stock diseases being introduced to Australia by means of the wattle bark that we import from South Africa. That one phase of the question alone should induce the Government at once to take action to stop this importation of bark, or, if they cannot do so, to provide for its proper inspection and fumigation. I am confident that if the Government do not give some protection to the wattle-growers of South Australia there will be a great falling off in production, and that must be detrimental to the people. The industry provides work at a time of the year when .employment is very scarce in country districts, and I hope that the Minister will do something to help it. Since the framing of the last Tariff, flint stones, such as are used in the mines, have been discovered on the south-east coast of South Australia. Thousands of these stones can be obtained there, and can be delivered to the mines all over Australia at a very cheap rate. Since .this discovery, however, the flint stones imported from Iceland and France have been reduced in price to the extent of several pounds per ton. There is no protective duty, and the result is that owing to this reduction in prices those engaged in the local industry have on their hands a great heap of stones, which have been picked over at great cost, and carted to the’ nearest railway station for delivery. There are hundreds of tons of these stones which they cannot deliver to the mines owing to the low prices ruling. Both these industries are peculiar to our own country, and for the protection of our own people I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will devise some means before the session closes of assisting them. I have placed before him all the facts, and he has been good enough to say that he will do all that he can to assist these industries. I am sure that he will carry out his promise to carefully look into the matter, and afford these industries a little Protection in the interest of the workers of Australia.
– I am too recently from a sick bed to take a prominent part in a debate of this character. But some expressions which have fallen from the lips of pre vious speakers impel me to say a few words, in justice to myself. In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Wimmera declared - and I think his statement is supported by the Leader of the Opposition - that the late Fusion was based upon a recognition of the principles of Protection, and that its purpose was to make the existing Protective Tariff even more protective in its incidence. All I know is that in New South Wales the case for the Fusion was scarcely presented in that light. There, it was intimated that the Fusion was based upon an agreement to remedy fiscal anomalies, and it was represented that those anomalies were of the character of those with which we are now asked to deal. It was not alleged that any necessity existed for the drastic changes which the honorable member for Wimmera desires to see embodied in this Bill.
– We were going to te-. move Tariff anomalies, and our course of action in that connexion was to be based upon accurate information supplied to us by a Board of Trade.
– It is somewhat refreshing to hear the honorable member’s statement of the basic principles of the Fusion. Possibly the honorable member for Parramatta will add his version to it.
– He takes up the right position by remaining silent, and smiling.
– We know that he who laughs last laughs best. I need scarcely remind honorable members that in this Chamber I have always been an exponent of Free Trade principles.
– More than an exponent.
– Perhaps. I have been the working bullock of the ProtectionistFree Trade combination which now sits upon the other side of the chamber. But from this time onward it cannot count upon me as its working bullock. I am prepared to assist Protectionists, who believe as honestly in their fiscal principles as I do in mine, to extend the present measure of Protection, not merely to the manufacturers, but also to the workers who are engaged in protected industries. I do not abandon one iota of the principles which I hold. But until the referendum has been taken, and this Parliament has been empowered to extend a measure of protection to the workers and the consumers, I intend to strongly oppose the granting of increased protection to the manufacturers. A good many honorable members who are dissatisfied with the proposals contained in this Bill desire not merely a rectification of fiscal anomalies, but a re-casting of the entire Tariff. It is all very well for the honorable member for Indi to declare that in the matter of hickory spokes importers enjoy an advantage over local manufacturers, and for the honorable member for Herbert to assert that an unsatisfactory position exists in regard to pineapples and bananas. But if we attempted to deal with such anomalies, we should require to undertake a complete revision of the Tariff, in order to do justice all round. The Minister is acting wisely by adhering to his promise not to deal with Tariff reform this session, but merely to remove anomalies - chiefly in. matters of interpretation - which have been disclosed as the result of administration. My experience in the Parliament of New South Wales, and in this Parliament, has taught me that Tariff revision is a work which occupies practically the whole life of the Parliament. At any rate, there is very little opportunity to deal with anything else. I trust that the- party to which I belong will not consider for a moment any -proposal in the nature of a re-opening of the Tariff until the referendum has been taken, and its results are known. When that has been done, if the Government are armed with power to extend a fair measure of protection to the workers in protected industries, and to prevent the consumers being exploited by monopolies, they may then be under an obligation to re-open it.
I agree with one or two observations which have been made by honorable members opposite to the effect that no revision of the Tariff should take place until a Commission or a Board of Trade has investigated alleged anomalies, and claims for increased protection. I do not think that that is a work which should be undertaken by an InterState Commission. My experience has taught me that those persons who are particularly interested in securing increased taxation for protective purposes, and who to achieve their object are prepared to bombard honorable members with circulars, or to worry them with personal interviews, frequently hesitate to affirm upon oath the statements which they make when they are not under examination. I recognise that the information which was obtained by the Tariff Commission proved of great value when we were dealing with the last Tariff.
Before any further Tariff revision is undertaken, I think that an inquiry of the character I have suggested should be instituted into its working. I hope the Government will consider the advisableness of appointing a Commission of this character, or, what would be, better still, a Board of Trade, which is urgently needed, not only in connexion with the Tariff, but in matters quite apart. There are Protectionist members who, when they are called upon to deal with industries outside their own little communities, develop into very good Free Traders. This was evident in previous Tariff debates, when purely New South Wales interests were under consideration.
A great injustice has been done to a firm in Sydney under the administration of the Tariff. A company started to make cardboard boxes, importing the raw material, which was on the free list, or subject to very low duties. When that company began to extend its operations and employ a large number of people, certain manufacturing interests in Victoria discovered that cardboard could be made here, provided it were made dutiable at a higher rate.
– What company is that?
– Firth and Company.
– Good Free Traders !
– They may be, but that does not make them any the less good citizens, who were engaged in developing a useful and important industry. Nothing was said or done until the output of the firm began to grow, and their imports of the raw material became fairly extensive. In consequence of representations made in Victoria, the Customs ‘ Department decided to charge a high rate of protective duty on cardboard, with the result that it proved more profitable to import the boxes than to make them here. Firth and Company decided to test the validity of the decision of. the Department, and instituted legal proceedings. The Department, however, instead of facing the Court, withdrew; and the fair assumption was that, discovering themselves to be in a false position, the Customs authorities had decided to revert to the old conditions. On this the company gave a considerable order for cardboard outside the Commonwealth ; but the Department framed new regulations, again placing cardboard on the higher list. This meant considerable loss to the company, inasmuch as it once more became more profitable to import the boxes. Although the Minister proposes to ask the Committee to sustain the decision of the Department, he intends to do a measure ot justice by increasing the duty on the manufactured article, thereby enlarging the margin. To ihat extent the honorable gentleman makes a departure from his declared intention to merely rectify anomalies. I submit that this method of using the Tariff in the interests of particular industries to the detriment of others is not fair. There should be an understanding that, when once a line of goods is placed on a certain duty list, it should remain there until removed by this Parliament. Such powers should not be exercised by the Department, but Parliament should be invited, by resolution or otherwise, to take action. I have not departed one iota from the Free Trade principles I have held all along; but I do not intend to allow myself. as in the past, to be made the working bullock of those Free Traders who are opposed to the Labour movement. While they work as hard as they can in their own interests, they never give me credit for the fight I made on behalf of low duties ; but, on the other hand, in the- election before the last, they told my constituents that I was . one of those who helped the honorable member for Hume, when Minister of Trade and Customs, to increase the duty on harvesters. That honorable member well knows that T was one who. in this House. made one of the strongest fights against that increase ; and vet my electors were told what I have said! - Mr. Joseph Cook. - They were told no such thing !
– I do not say that the honorable member personally told my electors so, but his party, and the press which supported them, did.
– They did not !
– That kind of treatment has caused me to decide that, while not departing from my principles, I shall not be made the working bullock, only to be met by misrepresentation. I am quite prepared to support the enlarging of the powers of the Commonwealth, so that the new Protection may be extended to the working people, while consumers are defended against monopolies. Such legislation ought to have a fair trial, and I am prepared to help the Government to pass it.
– The honorable member for Calare has, to my knowledge, been a consistent Free Trader ever since he entered public life. He has delivered, as far as he may this morning, a Free Trade speech^ and, in the course of it, has cited an instance which exemplifies what should have been done by the Government. The action taken by the Minister in regard to cardboards is just what I had expected him to propose in regard to other anomalies ; but the other proposals cannot be regarded in any way as rectification in this direction. The socalled rectification of anomalies is simply a means to make the working of the Department more easy in regard to many items ; but as to any real rectification, there is none. The honorable member for Indi, whose electorate is similar to my own, has told us that his constituents have been looking forward to some desirable changes ; and I must say that, with him, I feel that the people have been absolutely “sold.” With the one exception referred to by the honorable member for Calare, no attempt has been made to deal with anomalies ; and we are asked to let the Tariff rest until next year, or, perhaps, the year after. Of course, we know that the Minister has always declared that the new Protection must be assured, and in that I think he is quite right ; at the same time, there are anomalies which ought to be permitted to exist no longer. It is not worth my while at the present time to read out all the anomalies that ought to be dealt with, but I have here thirtythree very much like that represented by cardboard; and these, I may say, are anomalies from the departmental point of view. I have before me a list of sixtyseven instances which, from a Protectionist point of view, are mostly anomalies. The Minister is dealing with one case, but not with all the others. I will exemplify what I say by quoting an instance. Under the present Tariff, wire nails are imported cheaper than the Australian manufacturers of wire nails can import the wire. The result is that factories that have been working in this country for a long time are closing down. Why could not that matter have been dealt with just as easily as we can deal with cardboard ? The Minister has said that he intends to deal with these anomalies, but he has not yet sub- mitted proposals. Then, as mentioned by the honorable member for Herbert with reference to the fruit-growers, the Italians and Americans are capturing the Australian trade in lemons, apples, and lemon-peel which is imported pickled. As a partiallymanufactured article, lemon-peel is admitted duty free. The fruit-canners are also interested in this trade. Surely these articles are in the same category as cardboard. I do not think that any honorable member can say that the Protectionists of this country will be at all satisfied to wait for at least half-a-year or three-quarters of a year, or, it may be, a year, or a year and a half, for these anomalies to be rectified. Let me tell the party at present in power that they are there mainly in consequence of Protectionist support.
– In Victoria.
– In New South Wales also they received the great bulk of the Protectionist support. There were only a. few of the Conservative- Protectionists who did not support them. They are in power by the support of the Protectionists, not of one State only, but of every State. I think, therefore, that the Protectionists deserve to be considered. I do not say that the question of new Protection ought not to be dealt with in connexion with the Tariff. I am as strongly in favour of dealing with that matter promptly as the Minister is, because I consider that the labouring classes should have their meed of Protection as well as the manufacturers. I am referring now, however, to a matter that is really outside the question of new Protection. Whom have we to blame for the present situation? We have to blame the Opposition chiefly. Did the Leader of the late Government, now Leader of the Opposition, suppose that he could get Mr. Joe Cook, Mr. Bruce Smith, and men such as they, to frame a Tariff that would be acceptable to the people of this country?
– Poor old Bill !
– There is one thing that I think shows the state of the honorable member’s feelings in reference to this question. He has been smiling all the morning.
– He does that to hide his real feelings.
– The honorable member is rejoicing because the Tariff is not to be touched. His smiles and his interjections show how glad he is. At the time when I separated myself from the present Opposition party, we were asked to join a Fusion - such a Fusion as I knew would never give us the Tariff that we wished to have. That fact was the principal cause of the vote of 13th April last. The Opposition party disgusted the majority of Protectionists throughout Australia.
– What sort of a Government has the honorable member got now ?
– We will show later on.
– There is one thing we have not got, and that is a worse Government than the last one.
– There could not be a worse one.
– I quite agree with the honorable member that that would be impossible. At that time 1 stood to my principles as a Portectionist.I was asked by my then leader to join this Fusion. But whatdid the Fusion do? They would not propose any rectification of Tariff anomalies. I mentioned a large number of alterations that were required, and the list is recorded in Hansard. The then Ministry tried to put me down by every means in their power. We have heard from a member of the Fusion party this morning what they were prepared to do. They wanted to appoint a Board or Commission. But a Commission was appointed by a former Government, which went into the whole question of the Tariff. Did not the honorable member for Bendigo enter assiduously into the whole question, and deal with it thoroughly ? Why should we appoint another Commission? In that regard I dissent altogether from the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Calare. I do not think that we should wait for the report of another Commission. We have had enough of Tariff inquiries. The people now expect us to deal with the question in an equitable manner. We expect the present Government to do something better than their predecessors were prepared to do. I believe that in their hearts Ministers wish to do something better, but I must say that I am very much dissatisfied that the anomalies are not to be immediately rectified.
– Are not what are proposed pretty sweeping changes?
– I do not know what the honorable member wishes to sweep. The honorable member for Wimmera said that I was wrong in my statement as to the imports increasing and the exports decreasing. I was referring to figures which I quoted about a month ago. Whereas in 1906 the imports into the Commonwealth were valued at £44,744,912, whilst the exports were valued at £69,737,763, in 1909 the value of our imports had increased to £51,171,898, whilst the value of our exports had fallen to £65,000,000. What does that mean? Do not the figures show a reduction in our exports? These were the latest figures that I could obtain.
– Later figures have been published by the Statistician.
– I have seen no other figures than these, which show that too much is coming into this country, to the destruction of our own industries. The time is more than ripe for dealing with the question in such a way as to make our exports increase, and our imports decrease. There are many articles in the Tariff upon which there are small duties. Some of those duties ought to be increased. This kind of thing cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. I only refer to this point now because the honorable member for Wimmera doubted m.y statement as to ‘the decrease of exports. I consider that my figures are quite correct as far as the Statist had published them at the time I made my former statement. They were published in the morning newspapers when I gave them to the House.
– I quoted figures to show that the imports have increased during the last three years.
– But the exports have decreased.
– They have between 1896 and the present time, but not during the last twelve months.
– It is necessary to take the figures for several years in order to ascertain the general effect of a Tariff. The position now is that we cannot propose any addition to the items submitted by the Ministry. The Minister of Trade and Customs has submitted his proposals, unsatisfactory as they are, and we have to put up with them. But I do hope that the Government are not going to be controlled by the Trades Hall. What has the Trades Hall of Melbourne done? It has given Protection a slap in the face by its attitude during the last few months.
I hope that that attitude is not going to be reflected in the Ministry. I can support no Government that is prepared to reflect the attitude of the Melbourne Trades Hall ‘ upon this question. I believe that the Tariff is going to be a large factor in the politics of this country when we appeal to the electors again, and the action that the Trades Hall has taken up on the question of Protection at the last two or three of its meetings will be remembered by the constituencies. What position are we in now? I would not trust the Opposition side to make a Tariff. I would not trust them in the slightest degree.
– Would the honorable member trust anybody?
– I do not want to talk to little boys.
– There is absolutely but one honest man in the world !
– Be quiet. You are not in the pulpit now, and cannot have things all your own way. We can only depend upon the Ministry, trusting that they will bring down their proposals as soon as possible ; but I must say that the outlook is not very promising.
– The honorable member said just now that the Ministry had sold him.
– I did not say that. I said they had sold the country. I venture to say that the honorable member for Indi, for instance, would not be here now had not his constituents thought that the Labour party was Protectionist. t Mr. Laird Smith. - Hear, hear ! So we are.
– Well, I want to know. I do not like this backing and filling. I like to go straight at a question. There may be something to be said for taking the referenda first, but I must say that the Government had an opportunity of dealing with the anomalies generally in the same way as they are proposing to deal with cardboard. Why did they not avail themselves of the opportunity? If they had done so it would have been an intimation to the people of this country that the Government intended to relieve those who are staggering at the present time. There is not a sufficient margin between the duty on the imported article that has to be used in the manufacture of commodities in this country and the duty on the completed imported article. That is the great drawback in connexion with nearly all the ano- malies. There may be a margin of 5 or 10 per cent, between the duty on the imported manufactured article and that on the raw material, but that margin is not sufficient for local manufacturers to work upon. I feel very strongly upon this question. In these few remarks I have tried to comment carefully, upon the position, but I feel strongly that the greatest thing that a new country can have for its own development is a Tariff that will properly protect its industries. Honorable members can talk about this or that being a mythical thing, but when you get down to the bedrock of .the prosperity of a young country, you have to depend upon your Protective Tariff. We have in Australia the raw material for the manufacture of nearly everything that could be mentioned, and we do not want to have imported manufactures if we can help it. They are good only for the man who makes his 25 to 40 per cent, through bringing them over the border ; but the man who manufactures here employs the people of this country. People who talk about bringing population into Australia should be reminded that the place will never be pushed ahead very much simply by putting people on the lands of the country. No nation was ever made populous by that means only. People have to produce and manufacture what is consumed by those in the cities, but it is the cities and the manufactures that make any large population. Land settlement and the extension of manufactures should go hand in hand, and not be antagonistic to each other. I could have wished, in the interests of the Ministry, that the same treatment as has been given to cardboard had been extended to the other articles to which I have referred, in a way that would not have interfered with the Minister’s idea - of introducing new Protection after the referendum, while at the same time it would have given the people of this country a feeling of security with the present Ministry in power, and not the feeling of doubt which is in their minds at present.
.- ‘ I know that the Minister of Trade and Customs understands and sympathizes with my disappointment at the meagre list of real anomalies placed before us for rectification. While I am sick, sad, and sorry to see this, I feel sure that, in view of the stress of this session, which has been unequalled in any country in the world for the number and importance of the measures passed, the Protectionists of the community will be prepared .to possess their souls in patience. Therefore, in spite of my disappointment and deep regret, I indorse the words uttered by the honorable member for Hume. He referred specially to the industry of wire nails. There is also another industry in which I have taken a special interest, and brought under the notice of Minister after Minister, producing figures that have not been controverted. I say again to-day that we have in Australia men fit to make clothing good enough for any man to wear ; and women fit to produce garments to deck the most beautiful woman in the world. Let me remind honorable members of the large deputation which filled the great hall of this Parliament, and even overflowed into the hall outside, representing 7,000 workers, the vote and influence of every one of whom, to my almost certain knowledge, was given in favour of the Labour party at the last election. I know that those 7,000 Protectionist votes and the influence they represented made our majority in the Senate election in Victoria possible. I asked for them die protection that I asked for the woollen workers. When I addressed them in various factories, not one of them dissented from my statement that by no act or vote of mine would I lessen the duties on woollen goods, but would rather increase them. Every one of those worker? was loyal to that statement, and every manufacturer, at various deputations that I introduced, placed it plainly and squarely before the Minister. But when we know that goods are not made here, and our Customs officers are prepared to prove that they are not, then let us admit diem absolutely free. There is an important principle at stake in regard to the paper duties. Certain members know how villainously Sands and McDougall treated old women, some of whom had been twenty years in their employ. I know that the Tariff alteration proposed now will benefit that firm, but as a Protectionist I welcome it, knowing that when we have new Protection we shall not let that firm any longer skulk behind the Legislative Council of Victoria, which would not appoint a Wages Board for the industry. Why? Because that company owned and controlled the three factories here. The Minister knows that is an instance in which we want the new Protection to compel such a company as that to do justice to their employes. Let me get back to the question of the 7,000 workers.
We produced evidence, backed up by sworn declarations, to show that garments were imported here at “the fag end of a season. Unfortunately for those workers, the Australian season follows in sequence on the English season, and at the end of a season in England goods that had been sold at as high as two or three guineas each would be marked at a discount of 50, 70, and, in one case, 80 per cent, under the cost price. We had sworn evidence, backed up by the invoices, to show that the cloth to make those garments could not be bought in the roll in London for the amount at which the garment was invoiced. The whole of the cost of making and trimming - as the articles were splendidly, and not shoddy, made - had to be added on, and yet they were landed here at a cost, including landing charges and duty, of 8s. nd. each. The same article could not possibly be manufactured, without a ‘penny profit, under our better factory conditions, for 2 is. each. If those goods went to the citizens of our community at a small profit on that invoice price it would be a different matter, but they were sold at high prices, involving increases of from 100 to 200 per cent. That is why the importers are laughing at the manufacturers who started in this industry in Australia. To show the silver lining to the cloud, let me tell honorable members that the white workers in our factories have been increasing by leaps and bounds. The very day the Tariff was definitely settled one firm began operations, and are now employing eighty machines, and giving constant work for the white workers for the summer season. The reason is that their raw material, which, as yet, is not made in Australia, is admitted free, and the duty on the made-up garments is 35 per cent. (United Kingdom) and 40 per cent, (general), thus enabling the local manufacturers to compete. Even the goods of the great shirt manufacturers, whose collars used to flood our markets, are rarely to be seen now in the Sydney and Melbourne shops. Why, however, is a protection of only 10 per cent, given for the industry of making up women’s garments? Any one who goes to the establishment of Ward, of New South Wales, the greatest employer of labour in this line, will be shown in two or three hours that the raw material for that industry cannot possibly be made here at present. As a Protectionist up to . the hilt, with twenty-five years of fighting for the policy, and twenty years pf political life,. I say that the raw product of any manufacturer which cannot be made in. Australia should be admitted absolutely free. Upon articles that can be made here, with the check that the new Protection will put upon manufacturers to prevent them from having a monopoly, I would go rightup to absolute prohibition. In this century, we are not asking for 10 or 15 per cent., but for duties running up to hundreds per cent, if they are needed. I welcome the speech of the honorable member for Calare, who has signed the same pledge as I have with the new Protection,” plank in our fighting platform. Once that was accepted by the Labour party itswept the Free Trader into oblivion for all time. Certainly in the past the FreeTraders had a fair amount of the ethics of the debate, because it was upon thesweat, not only of men and women, but of. poor little innocent babies that the Protective policy of Great Britain’ was built up. They had no Factories Acts Such as wehave, and no power under the new Protection principle such as we shall have. Let me give the only example that I can find off a great American combine having been absolutely brought into subjection. TheAmerican tobacco combine swallowed theBritish manufacturers, and now controlsthe British market, and two large companiesin Australia which formed a stock company to make a brave fight against theAmericans, woke up one morning to find that the American combine owned thembody and soul. In Japan, however, theGovernment wanted to retain the tobaccomonopoly for itself, and offered a fair price to the Americans, but they, with their millions behind them, laughed at the effortsof little Japan. Thereupon the Japanese Government began to raise the duties, which in 1905 reached 150 per cent., while allarticles required for the Government monopoly came in free. A second offer havingbeen refused by the American combine, theGovernment raised the duties to 250 per cent., so that t a line of* cigars invoiced at- £10 a thousand would cost the combine £35 per thousand, plus landing charges inJapan, while it would cost the Government monopoly only £10, plus landing charges. The combine asked Japan to take over their business and plant, but they were told’ that they might keep them. Later on, Japan secured the machinery and business for a mere song, and they are now competing successfully against the combine from .Vladivostock round to Bombay.
– Because they have nationalized the business, and that is the only effective way in which to deal with combines.
– When I am asked what Protection has done for America, I say it has not done what it might, because of the mighty power of wealth in that country. But if the United States would take a lesson from the wise Switzerlanders, and adopt the referendum and initiative Protection, it would do a vast deal for that country, since American workers have been educated under a protective system. Honorable members will agree with me, however, that neither Protection nor Free Trade have abolished poverty in any part of ,the world. But the new Protection which we advocate will go a long way in that direction. By adopting the’ policy of Protection we shall educate our workers so that when we take over the factories’ we shall have a body of efficient workers in a position to carry out all our enterprises.
– Poverty is greater in Free Trade than in Protectionist countries.
– I can agree with the honorable member in that, because I have visited the greatest seaport in the world, which towers even above the mighty port of London. I refer to Hong Kong, which is an absolutely Free Trade port. In that city 1,100 bodies are thrown into the street every year ; 200 in each year dying from such terrible diseases as cholera, plague, and small-pox. The governing body of Hong Kong do not recognise private ownership in land, and there is being carried out there one of the most interesting experiments in land tenure to be seen in the world to-day. There are only a few private owners of small blocks in Hong Kong, whilst there are many holding land, under leases for 990 years, and a still larger number under leases for ninety-nine “years ; and in the future people there will be able to secure land only on leases for seventy-five years.
– Does the honorable member “think that what he is saying has anything to do with the question?
– I was led aside by a reference to the poverty to be found in Free Trade countries. I have made my protest in this matter, and I am satisfied that if, in the near future, a by-election should be necessary in Victoria, or even in any part of Australia, it will be found that the flag of Protection will fly high, and will have a great following. The man. who goes before the electors opposed tattle consideration of the Tariff in the next session of this Parliament will not have Buckley’s chance of a seat. I am aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs is a staunch Protectionist. I know of no better. I am sure the honorable gentleman would be willing to sit through Christmas to do what is necessary to remedy the anomalies of the Tariff. But honorable members generally would not be willing todo so, and we must accept the inevitable. I cannot understand, however, why we should not agree upon a certain number of items. I think we might divide without debate on a number of items to be considered this session.
– We should not get through until Christmas, and we should have to neglect more important legislation.
– My honorable friend will not blame me if I say that I do not entirely agree with him, in view of the fact that many of our important industries are languishing. I cannot overlook the position of the 7,000 womenworkers in Victoria alone, to whom I have referred, and the number engaged in the same industry throughout the Commonwealth must be 13,000. These unfortunate women are compelled, through an anomaly in the Tariff, to take what are called holidays. Honorable members are aware that what the worker most desires is permanency of employment. Our Factories Act secures to them good conditions, but they require also permanency of employment. That is why the Government service is so popular. For the sake of the permanency of the employment, people areglad to work for the- Government for less than they might earn outside. I confess that I had some hope that the representations of the biggest deputation that, I suppose, ever waited upon a Minister in a single room would receive some consideration. I /know that we have the sympathy of the Minister in this matter, and will have it next session, when I shall’ welcome, as amongst the first measures to be introduced, one to remedy the .anomalies, of the Tariff.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat) (12/22]. - There haw >been a few references ‘to matters of actual history in this Chamber which 1 think ought to be briefly referred to, as pertinent to this debate. Honorable members who sat in the late Parliament will recollect the very special circumstances of last session. I have heard allusions today to the stress imposed upon us during the present session, but whatever stress we have experienced up to the present time was more than exceeded by the stress of some few weeks during last session. But for the fierce and prolonged party struggle that then obtained, these anomalies, and probably many others, would have been dealt with in that session. I have refreshed my memory by turning to official declarations made in both Houses by representatives of our Government. I frequently went into this Tariff question with my then colleague the last Minister of Trade and Customs, the present honorable member for Kooyong. Owing to the struggle to which I have referred, we lost that year in dealing with anomalies, and we are now losing another year. So far as consistency with the programme of their party is concerned, there is very little for which we can reproach the present Government on this head. I say that frankly, because I was entirely dissatisfied with the attitude adopted by their leader, and their election programme, from the first in regard to Protection, and perpetually commented upon it. There was no promise on their part to place that question first, second, or third. On the contrary, it was distinctly relegated to a lower place in their programme, and was only to be dealt with conditionally at a very indefinite time. I thoroughly disagreed with that negative policy when it was announced, and disagree with it now j but I cannot pretend that I have been taken by surprise, nor can honorable members opposite who studied their leader’s programme assert that they have been taken by surprise.
Protection is one of the questions which was not, and is not, included expressly in the party platform of my honorable friends opposite. It has been left to individual members of the party, like the honorable member who preceded me, to make it, if not the first, amongst the first of the planks of their individual platforms. That was their individual attitude, but it was not the attitude of the present Government, though I think it ought to have been. They might have done very much better for us than they have done during this session if that had been their attitude. Members were perfectly well aware that, whatever place they might give the question in their programme, we only missed settling this part of it last year owing to our party struggles in Parliament. We are now missing this year, without any real necessity. I undertake to say that this measure will probably be disposed of finally in two or three hours from now, and the addition of twenty or thirty necessary amendments, which, as no one knows better than the Minister of Trade and Customs, would receive practically a united vote in this House, might very well have been proposed. Some, no doubt, would have desired higher duties than would be proposed by the Minister, and some lower; but I believe that threefourths of the members of this House would be found behind any reasonable proposal to remove the most obvious of the anomalies. The urgency of the matter now, as I took the liberty of reminding honorable members yesterday, is that we missed last year, are agreeing to miss this year, and are going to miss next year. It is perfectly well known that the two Imperial events that are to take place next year, the crowning of His Majesty and the assembling of the Imperial Conference, will require the attendance of some of the principal members of the Government on the other side of the world, and, return as rapidly as they may, there will not be time to deal with the question of the Tariff in the next calendar year.
Just as the snowball set rolling increases in size as it rolls, so every year we discover fresh fiscal demands for consideration. Necessarily, therefore, when at last we approach the consideration of the Tariff, the schedule we shall have to face will be a much longer one than it would have been if we had undertaken the work this year, and longer still than it would have been if we had been able to do the work last year. I wish to be scrupulously fair to the Government. They can claim to be judged by the utterances of their leader, and the spokesmen of their party; but I think they might have made the task much easier for many of their supporters if they had proposed to meet the simple practical necessities of the situation at once. They might have done that with advantage to their prestige, without loss of time, and with great gain to this country.
On some matters I do not pretend to judge for Ministers. The anomalies that would have been dealt with by us last session, would not have been limited to the merely departmental correction.; which are touched here. The anomalies with which we should have attempted to deal, and which ought to be dealt with now, are substantial. They were attributable to the clashing and conflicting of inconsistent duties, which were in many cases deliberately sanctioned by majorities in this House, but were due in part to the severity of a fight, which has now lasted for ten years, between staunch Protectionists and those who are either Free Traders or in- ‘ different in this matter. In every Parliament we have had an increasing Protectionist majority, and we had great hope that, after the close of the last Parliament, so marked would the expression of public feeling become at the elections, that the question would cease to be ranked amongst party issues, and that here, as in America, Protection would be adopted as the national policy.
Those who regard the recent Democratic successes in the United States as affecting in the slightest degree the national policy of that country, cannot be acquainted with the comments which may be read in the magazines on the Library table, or the opinions of American manufacturers - a leading representative of theirs ‘ was amongst us a few days ago. One and all agree that on the national policy there is no difference of opinion between the two great parties in the United States.
– There is a pretty severe fight going on against high duties.
– There is a fight concerning duties on certain articles, most of which form no part of the Protectionist policy of the country. They are being attacked by a section of the Democrats who are Protectionists, and supported by a section of the Republican party, for reasons unconnected with the Tariff..
We hoped that the party feeling which has so often told against this newer policy would have been removed in Australia and in its Parliament. Even now, if this Ministry appeals to the House in a proper way, it will get a national answer indorsing Protection. No advantage will be taken of this for party purposes from this side, but every support will be given to proposals for strengthening and applying the policy with greater wisdom and judgment.
The last Government was strongly of opinion that what we need could best be accomplished by a firmly-established business tribunal, a body composed, not of lawyers, or politicians, or interested persons, but of experts, somewhat similar to the Commission created by President Taft in America. Its business would be to keep its finger on the pulses of trade, production, and manufacture, to watch the variations of output, to inquire into the reasons for loss of commerce, for tardy increases in business, for the non-extension of our industries, and kindred matters. Those would be the practical problems to be studied and solved. Each or every other session a report would be laid on the table, giving all the facts and both sides of each proposed alteration from the practical stand-point. Parliament will always be able to supply theories. In fact, an individual member can provide more theories in a day than any country could apply in a generation. Such a Tariff report would be dealt with in a practical manner as part of the ordinary business of the year. The prospect of establishing such a tribunal has not entirely disappeared, and should be realized, despite the change in the fortunes of political parties. To involve the policy of Protection in party strife at this stage would be to strive to gain political advantage at the expense of the industries of the country. Protection should be placed on a firm basis as part of the national policy, the questions arising under it being dealt with by Parliament after Parliament, without regard to party majorities.
But for the stress of other business, this matter would have been largely disposed of last session. Now it seems certain to be relegated to 191 2.
– In 1911 we shall not meet until very late in the year, and Ministers have already promised to introduce measures then which will occupy a great part of the time available for their consideration before the end of the calendar year. The following year will be that preceding the general elections, and its session must be an extremely busy one. I am very sorry that questions affecting the trade and production of Australia are now being needlessly deferred until the crowded session of that year. If the referenda are assented to, we may expect a crop of important Bills giving effect to the immense enlargement of our constitutional powers which will have resulted, while in the alternative we may anticipate an equal amount of legislation, designed to get round past decisions of the High Court, or to more fully exercise our present constitutional authority.
Why have the Government taken up the position that the Tariff must not be dealt with until the constitutional power of Parliament in industrial matters has been enlarged? What necessary connexion is there at this time between the development of national industries and the extension of our power in regard to industrial conditions? In the period which must elapse between 4he end of this session arid the beginning ot the next, there could not be such an industrial development as would necessitate trie widening of our industrial power to control it. besides, we have powers already. If honorable members consider the subject, they must come to the conclusion that there ii, no real relation between the amendment of the Tariff in respect to existing anomalies and the widening of our industrial authority which should operate to -delay Tariff reform. There is a remote relation between the two, but no practical reason for the course which has been taken <by the Minister. I have gone probably as far as any honorable member in providing for the extension of our industrial powers, and, should it ever prove to be necessary, am prepared to go to the length proposed by the Government in providing for an alteration of the Constitution so far as it can be shown to be essential for that particular purpose.
If honorable members examine the records of what has been done and said since the introduction of the first Commonwealth Tariff, they will find a steady strengthening of feeling in favour of Protection. There has been a growing feeling, too, for federalizing our Industrial Boards. The proposals that we submitted to the electors, and to which effect would have been given had we been returned with a majority, would have greatly improved industrial conditions, and done much to prevent unfair competition. I still believe that these would have sufficed. If not, we should have gone farther. A reasonable review of the circumstances should have led Ministers to take a course quite contrary to that which they are following. They should have said, “ Whether we obtain an amendment of the Constitution or not, Parliament has already sufficient power to control industrial conditions generally, so far as -these anomalies are concerned.”
There is not the slightest justification for delay in dealing with the practical anomalies whose effects are so well known. At twenty-four hours’ notice the Minister could have laid before us proposals for removing them. They would have been accepted within a week. I take no exception to the action of the Government on the ground of inconsistency, because the course now followed was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister, but I find fault with the shortsighted conclusions to which the Cabinet has arrived. I admit that no revision of the Tariff in the ordinary sense is possible this session, but there could have been an amendment of twenty or thirty important items, with whose unequal incidence we have become well acquainted during the past three years. I do not think that the sacrifice of Tariff amendment will help to get support for the constitutional proposals of the Ministry. It ought not to help them.
– We are not going to take any risks.
– The action of the Government amounts to the offering of a bribe. Ministers practically say to those connected with industries, “ You shall not get Tariff reform until our constitutional amendments have been agreed to. If you desire Tariff reform, support the referenda.” That is unworthy of the Government, and unfair to the electors.
– The manufacturers of stripper harvesters got increased protection, and then fought their employes in the Court.
– But the employes were able to get increased wages from the Wages Board.
– The chief manufacturer concerned removed his factory from Ballarat to evade the decision of the Wages Board.
– We desire to strengthen our hands.
– I am prepared to take all necessary steps to do that, but the Government has acted most unjustifiably, quite apart from the merits of the question, in submitting four questions to the people as one by referendum, and in endeavouring to gain support for its constitutional amendments by holding out a bribe. The Protectionist case should stand on its merits, and so should the industrial case, although they are not associated in the present instance, except very indirectly. Under the proposals of the Government, the electors will have great cause for complaint, because in neither matter will their decisions be those which we ought to obtain from a dispassionate jury concerned only with national interests. For that, after all, is what we expect from every referendum, whether we are fortunate enough to obtain it or not.
This may be good tactics, but it is not fair play to the electors. I do not consider that it does them justice, or that it is liberal or democratic in any sense. A consideration of all the circumstances tends to show that, owing to the political causes to which I have alluded,, the industries of Australia have suffered very badly for the last two or three years. They have had the cup at their lips snatched away on several occasions, and on this occasion altogether without necessity. As regards those cases in which the Tariff is absolutely imperfect, an obvious injustice is being done. The Ministry have thrown away a splendid chance of remedying real grievances. I have admitted that Protection itself’ was not in their programme, but it must be remembered that their policy contained nothing to prevent justice from being done. They have missed a golden opportunity. They would have strengthened their position. They would have done work for this country which would have been felt through all its industrial circles, and have been of great advantage to those concerned ; it would have enriched Australia, and have soothed a great many heart-burnings. To that wise and just act they certainly would have looked back with great satisfaction to themselves and gain to Australia.
– While listening to the Leader of the Opposition I was almost led to forget that the present Government have only been elected about six months. It would be a magnificent thing, indeed, for the Government in one session to carry out all the reform legislation which is necessary.
– But these things were ripe twelve months ago, as everybody knows, including the honorable member.
– No one knows better than does the honorable member that the re-opening of a Tariff is always ripe for certain industries.
– In a score of cases, yes.
– It is’ admitted that the cases accumulate. Furthermore, this is a new Government with new ideals concerning industrial, financial, and other matters which must go hand in hand with the Tariff, and they may be excused if they do not attempt to deal with the Tariff piecemeal. They must also be excused if they wish to learn the attitude of the public on new Protection before they re-open the Tariff. If anybody is toblame in that connexion, it is manufacturers like Joshua, Beale, and others, who flew to the arms of the Free Traders to down every Protectionist Labour man at the last election. These are the gentlemen who must shoulder the burden of any accusation which may be brought that the Tariff has not been re-opened at this juncture. My sympathy goes out to the Government. On the attitude of the ConservativeProtectionists in the election fight, they are justified in ganging warily anyhow, and waiting to see whether or not the people are prepared to grant industrial powers to this Parliament. I, as a Nationalist, am prepared to take the broad view of building up national industries. I am an old, as well as a new Protectionist. At the same time, we have now reached a pass when, as in other countries, particularly America, we see national industries built up and protected by the Tariff, whilst the chief benefits go into the pockets of a few persons. When we see that taking place we have to go over the ground again. I desire to thank the great leader of the Protectionists in this House - I refer to the honorablemember for Hume - for his insistence in urging upon the Minister the desirability of rectifying anomalies, such as he has pointed out in connexion with the manufacture of cardboard boxes. I ask the Minister whether, after this measure is passed, he will not still have the same power as he has had to deal with the cardboard-box business? If so, we can pass this schedule, and he will, still have power to redress anomalies such as haveoccurred in that industry. I shall be glad if the Minister will answer that question when he is replying. If the statements of the honorable member for Hume be correct, it is the duty of the Minister to rectify the anomalies in other divisions where hehas power to do so, just as he has been doing in connexion with the cardboard-box business.
– The trouble is that the manufacturers of cardboard boxes deliberately altered their method of manufacture in order to get under the free list goods which should be dutiable. It was to get over that difficulty that we had to re-classify the whole item.
– You are doing it?
– Yes, we are doing it in that case, but that is the reason why. I do not know of any other case where it could be done. The honorable member for New England may rest assured that anything I can do within the law I shall be pleased to do.
– That is only what I expected from the Minister, knowing what a staunch Protectionist he has always been. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition would advocate a reopening of the whole Tariff in every Parliament.
– No. I said that there should be a permanent body to deal with a matter as it arose.
– Permanent bodies outside Parliament may be all very well from the honorable member’s standpoint, but I should prefer to see a permanent body established in each Parliament.
– What has been the result of such a body as die Senate Committee in the United States of America?
– We would have half-a-dozen Tariff Commissions.
– I am quite agreeable to the appointment of a standing body of experts within the House - who, of course, must be representatives of the people - to re-adjust anomalies, but I shall not consent to the appointment of a body outside Parliament to deal with the great question of the Tariff.
– A body appointed by Parliament, and under its control.
– I want to see men in Parliament do the work which is allotted to them. As a straight-out Protectionist, ‘ I do not desire a reopening of the Tariff in every Parliament. For the good of our industries, and for the reasonable settlement of trade and commerce, I should like the Tariff to be left secure for a reasonable number of years, but whenever anomalies can be dealt with, I shall be only too pleased to see them brought up for rectification. Strong Protectionist as I am, I would oppose strongly a wholesale re-opening of the Tariff during this session. In the first place, we have not the time in which to do justice to the subject, and I do not see why we should introduce new Protection for two or three industries and neglect all others which need help. But in the ensuing session I shall make one to urge the necessity for re-opening the Tariff. I am not by any means satisfied with this schedule, especially as we hope to secure new Protection, and with it a guarantee that not only will the manufacturers be protected, but also the workers and the consumers. We should then re-open the Tariff as a whole. We should then have a new Tariff, bearing the imprimatur of the Labour party, and so constructed as to suit its members, and also those who believe in the mixing of Democracy with Tariff reform. I hope that we shall never find on this side men less sincere than the old Protectionists in standing by Australian industries. I am pleased that the honorable member for Calare made the statement which he did. It gave me, as a Protectionist, very great pleasure, because if the Democrats, who in the past have fought the Tariff, are willing to stand behind Australian industries solidly, if we give justice to the workers and to the public, it will be a healthy sign as regards the future success of Australian industries. I have never doubted the sincerity of even the so-called Free Trade members of the Labour party to do the best they could, according to theirlights, for those industries.
– No doubt the Minister has heard some grumblings from this quarter as regards the schedule. I was hopeful, as I have said both here and elsewhere, that when the time did come to deal with Tariff “anomalies,” a very liberal interpretation would be placed on that word. The schedule includes only about fifty items. Items on the Tariff are so inter-related that the schedule will affect a larger number of items than appears on the surface. Although the schedule was only issued to honorable members yesterday, and published in the press this morning, I have already received intimations that, owing to the alterations which have been made, and which, will lead to smoother working from both the official and the manufacturing stand-points, some of the items which may appear insignificant to honorable members will have very considerable influence on our trade in many connexions. We do not realize exactly what the effects of the amendments are likely to be. I am pleased to announce that men who have been engaged in manufacturing industries for quite a number of years have stated that some of the slight alterations, although they ap- pear to be quite insignificant, and not likely to have a beneficial effect, will lead to the Tariff operating in a much smoother fashion than it has done hitherto. I am very pleased to get that assurance, because no person who scans the schedule can say that any greater measure of Protection is being conceded than is given in the existing Tariff. I join with the honorable member for New England, the honorable member for Indi, and quite a number of Other Protectionists on this side, of both the old and the new type, in hoping, that, before the expiry of 191 1, we shall have, if not on the statute-book, near completion, a Tariff modelled on the most up-to-date lines, and conducive to the proper conduct of various industries, favorable to the workers, and very much more favorable to the consumers than the present one. Instead of being almost one-sided, the new Protection is three-sided. I do not mean to imply that the workers and the public generally have not benefited by the old Protection. I should be untrue to long-held ideas if I made such a statement. I know thousands of workmen who can testify that the old Protection has had very considerable influence in building up immense industries in our midst, from which Australia, as well as the workers, benefits to a very large extent. The new Protection is, I repeat, threesided. It involves protection for the manufacturer at the Customs House, protection for the workers who are engaged in manufacturing, and protection, as far as it can be afforded, to the consumers. That trinity of protection has taken the wind out of the sails of what is known as the old Free Trade party, and to-day we find quite a number of Free Traders, not only on the Labour side, but also on the other side in politics, rallying behind what is generally termed the national policy.
– It is mathematically impossible to get the three.
– I do not know. Some mathematicians say that certain things are impossible.
– Show us how it is possible to get’ the three.
– We know that a mathematician can be as much a faddist as anybody else. In various walks of life we are carrying out certain operations with a smoothness which is almost a miracle when viewed from the stand-point of days gone by. I suppose that if at the inauguration of the Commonwealth a person had predicted that before the expiry of ten years a Labour Government would be in power, he would have been laughed to scorn. But, as honorable mem-: bers know, that is an actual fact.
Sitting suspended from z to 2.30 p.m.-
– I beg to call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– When we adjourned for lunch, I was dealing with the question of the old Protection. For a number of years the Labour party have had as the second plank of their platform the policy of the new Protection, and we told the people at the last general election that that policy involved an amendment of the Constitution to insure effective Federal legislation. For some years - and particularly in connexion with the last general election - we have associated the new Protection with the old.
– But there is nothing about the old Protection in the Labour party’s platform.
– Could we have the new Protection without the old?
– If the Labour party believes in the old Protection, why should not that fact be stated?
– The old is naturally included in the new Protection. We emphasized the word “ new “ because, under the old system of Protection, whilst the workers did receive some benefit from the imposition of protective duties, a very large number were practically left out in the cold, and did not reap the advantages that they did under the policy as we knew it in olden times.
– The honorable member does not deny that Wages Boards have done some good?
– I have been associated with a union for practically a quarter of a century, and I know that, prior to the institution of the Wages Board system, quite a number of trades, through their unions, combined with the policy of Protection, obtained redress for a considerable number of their grievances. A large army of workers, however, do not come within the scope of Wages Boards, and do not enjoy the full benefit of the old protective system. In order that the great mass of the people may -participate in the benefits of Protection, we propose what is known as the new Protection. .
– Did those who came under the Wages Boards get their fair share of the old Protection?
– In some cases they did not ; but I do not wish to be “side-tracked “ by. the honorable member.
– Will the honorable member tell us what he means by the new side of Protection?
– The honorable member will find ample information in the Bills that we have passed this session, and more particularly in those providing for referenda to obtain the sanction of the peopleto an amendment of the Constitution, which will give the Federal Parliament greater powers in industrial matters. We believe that if we secure those wider powers, we shall be able to carry out a system of Protection that will be of all-round benefit. Those who have espoused Free Trade principles in this and other countries have certainly had some peg. on which to hang their arguments. They have been able to point to glaring instances where, as the result of the imposition of high protective duties on certain lines, manufacturers have become bloated -capitalists, while their employes have not been treated as human beings ought to be. I hold, therefore, that new Protection is -amply justified. We desire to bring about equal conditions in all the States, so that no one manufacturer shall be subjected to special advantages or disadvantages in respect to the Wages Board system. If the honorable member wishes a further illustration of what I mean, let me refer him to a concrete case - that of the bootmaking trade. In all the States - with the exception of Tasmania, where the system has not been introduced - there are separate Wages Boards. Mr. Justice Higgins was able to show that, in Brisbane, bootmakers were receiving10s. a week less than were those in Melbourne; that in Sydney they were receiving 2s. less per week than their fel-. low workers in Melbourne; and that in Adelaide a different rate was also observed. In order that the whole of the boot manufacturers and their employes may be placed upon a sound and equitable footing, no matter in what State they may be carrying on operations, we hold that it is absolutely essential that we should have power to impose uniform conditions.
– What uniform conditions would satisfy the honorable member’s idea of new Protection? I wish to know what is in his mind.
– I have not time this afternoon to give the honorable member the benefit of all that is in my mind, or at the back of it. There is such an accumulation of evidence bearing on this question that hours would be spent in detailing it, and I do not intend to take up much of the time of the Committee this afternoon.
– It is a great pity that with all the honorable member’s talk about new Protection he cannot, or will not, tell us what the new side of it means.
– In my opinion it means absolutely better conditions for those who are working in protected industries, and if we obtain the wider power for which we ask, it will mean a better time forthe consumers generally.
– What kind of a time will it mean for the manufacturer?
– Is it not reasonable to assume that if the workers receive higher wages they will have a greater spending power - that they will be able to buy more and pay more for the products of the manufacturers ?
– Who provides the spending power?
– The labourer is worthy of his hire.
– That is a very general statement.
– It is a general reply to a very general question, but is exceptionally true.
– We all believe in it, and that being so, what is the virtue of the point that the honorable member seeks to make?
– I am glad to hear that the honorable member does think that the labourer is worthy of his hire.
– The honorable member dare not tell us what his new Protection is.
– The honorable member, as usual, is taking up a standanddeliver attitude, and is making an emphatic pronouncement on the point as if he had solved the whole problem that is agitating the minds of honorable members. He sums it up in one sentence, and says, “ That is the case for the Government.” I cannot accept his view. Those of us who are ardent Protectionists are not well satisfied with the schedule, but, notwithstanding that the Tariff is faulty and exceptionally ineffective, I am thankful to know that it is administered by an ardent
Protectionist Minister. Even a faulty Tariff sympathetically administered may sometimes be more beneficial than an effective Tariff unsympathetically administered. Some of the best legislation passed by this and other Parliaments has been either crippled or rendered ineffective by reason of unsympathetic administration. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in response to a query put this morning by the honorable member for New England in regard to a certain specific question, said that, so far as the law would allow him to treat any item in a fair way, he would be prepared so to treat it. Although the schedule which we are now discussing has been in the possession of the public for only a few hours, some people have already come forward and declared that under it business will run more smoothly than has hitherto been the case. They say that it will mean a saving of time and of energy, and that means a saying of money to the manufacturers of the Commonwealth. Anything that will conduce to the simpler working of the Tariff must be desirable. Whilst I regret that a more liberal interpretation has not .been given to the word “ anomaly,” and that the schedule is not three or four times larger than it is, I believe that the fifty items which it contains will have a beneficial effect on a far greater number of items in the Tariff itself. Some doleful prophesies have been indulged in by the Opposition and it has been said that we shall reach the vear 1912 before anything like a general Tariff revision scheme is submitted to this Parliament. I hone that that prophesy will not be borne out. and that before the end of ion we sh-ill have placed on the statutebook one of the mast effective Tariff measures yet enacted.
– The honorable member is very optimistic !
– I am; more so, perhaps, than some honorable members who are in the clouds.
– My trouble is that new Protection appears to be “in the clouds “ !
– The honorable member ought to ask his leader, who introduced new Protection in this House.
– The honorable member is prepared to live on the demerits of other people. He has nothing else to live on just now.
– The honorable member for Parramatta knows that, from time to time, we have had pronouncements, and some very emphatic pronouncements, from various members opposite on this question, and I have a very lively recollection of the memorandum introduced and read by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. At that time some one interjected a question as to when it was expected the Government would give effect to the memorandum, and the reply was, “ Certainly not later than the next general election.” One of the referenda we expected on 13th April last was one with the object of bringing about, not to the same extent, but almost, the state of affairs we desire to create by a referendum next year.
– Honorable members opposite turned the Government out !
– The Government resigned when the people turned them out !
– The honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Swan, and others “ turned down “ the pronouncement made in that memorandum owing to the Fusion.
– At any rate, we do not howl when we are put out 1
– I admit that honorable members opposite take defeat very cheerfully.
– I felt in coming over here like coming home !
-No doubt, there is a great attraction about a place if one has resided for a long time in it. The honorable member for Ballarat has practically admitted to-day that we should make the arm longer and stronger - should reach out in connexion with the new Protection for the benefit of our workers.
– But the honorable member for Ballarat never gets beyond wishes !
– That is the unfortunate part of it ; when the honorable member for Ballarat got certain associates he “ turned down “ his very democratic proposal, ‘and it was only natural that on the 13th April the people should “turn down “ him and his associates.
– And now honorable members opposite have “turned down” the whole scheme of new Protection !
– Unfortunately, we are turning over only one small leaf when we ought to be turning over many.
– The honorable member for Hume says that the Government have “sold” the country.
– The honorable member for Hume says some very true things- -
– Hear, hear.
– Let me finish my sentence: the honorable member for Hume says some very true things, especially when be is addressing his remarks to the honorable member for Parramatta. I suppose that if we were to talk from now until Christmas there would be no chance of altering any of these items; and I only desire to say - and I am glad of the emphatic Protectionist tone of the honorable member for Wimmera on the point - that before this time next year we shall, I believe, be erecting a Tariff wall that will be for the lasting benefit of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member L? a real optimist !
– I am; and I know that the Minister of Trade and Customs would have been’ delighted to submit an exceptionally extensive schedule.
– Why has he not done so?
– If the Minister of Trade and Customs had done so, I can well imagine the torrent of passion with which the proposals would have been received by the honorable member for Parramatta. We have endured a very strenuous session, in which we have been dealing with highplane legislation almost “ from the jump,” and I believe that, in due time, the people will be prepared to acknowledge the splendid work done in this first session under a Labour Government.
– Is any work of the session more important than this?
– I did not say that.
– Then what the honorable member says is no excuse.
– At this stage of the session, and considering what we have gone through, it would be almost impossible to deal with an extensive Tariff schedule. I trust, however, that next session, the first measure to be introduced and passed will deal with the Tariff, and I believe that my importunities on this point are not falling on unwilling ears.
– If not, what will the honorable member do?
– Carry on high jinks !
– The honorable member would find some more excuses 1
– I am not finding excuses; and I have already expressed my regret that the schedule is not larger. I want the whole Tariff considered from A to Z, even without the assistance of an Inter-State Commission or a Board of Trade. There are one or two items now before us which present attractions for discussion, but, under the circumstances, I shall not deal with them. I regret the absence of certain items in the schedule, but I suppose we must just now be thankful for small mercies. I repeat that I have already heard appreciative remarks in regard to the way in which this schedule will assist in the operation of the old Tariff. I am a strong believer in triple Protection - the protection of the manufacturer, the worker, and the consumer - and that Protection I shall support, in season and out of season.
– I have been listening in the hope of gleaning from honorable members opposite what is meant by the kind of new Protection they advocate, but it appears that nothing more is contemplated than was proposed by the previous Government. Honorable members opposite are supposed to be the “ true blues “ in regard to new Protection, and to regard the system of the late Government as a squelching of the whole question.
– Hear, hear ! So it was !
– But what more have honorable members opposite to offer? We have asked that question, and, for the life of them, they dare not answer it.
– Let the honorable member vote for the alteration we propose to make in the Constitution, and he will soon see !
– We shall see what we do see. In the meantime, honorable members opposite are making one excuse after another, and for none of these is there a shadow or tittle of foundation. The Tariff is open to them to shape as they will; and it is of no use their trying to bluff the country into the belief that there is no opportunity to deal with some of the existing anomalies. I hope I shall not be blamed for the failure of the Government, as I was blamed all last session. The honorable member for Gippsland regarded me as the beginning and end of all political iniquity ; but I hope that he is not disposed to still regard me in that light. He seems, however, still inclined to blame his former chief.
– Hear, hear!
– But what has his former chief to do with the matter now?
– He is responsible for the present position.
– For the bringing in of this schedule in its present form?
– For the whole present position - for the position of parties at the present time.
– For this schedule?
– I do not say that.
– Well, now, that is something. Who is responsible for the disappointment and “selling” of the country that has been so bitterly denounced ?
– The Leader of the Opposition.
– In what way?
– By his action in fusing with the honorable member last year.
– Then it seems that there are some things that the 13th April did not wipe out. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition is so influential even in this Parliament, notwithstanding all the taunts and jeers as to what happened when we went to the country. Apparently, though, his offences are not wiped out; and that is not fair. When, a man has paid the penalty, he is supposed to have expiated anything he has done amiss ; but the honorable member for Gippsland is persecuting and pursuing the Leader of the Opposition for that for which he himself is really responsible. The honorable member is there supporting the Government.
– Does the honorable member think I could support him?
– Nobody has ever asked the honorable member to support me, and he should wait until he is asked.
– Exactly; and I have to support this Government.
– The honorable member is compelled, in spite of himself, to do wrong ? Eh !
– I do not say I am compelled to do wrong.
– Poor little innocent 1 I hope he will convince the Gippsland people that no other course is open to him than to continue to do great wrong to the country. I-
– I very effectively convinced the people of Gippsland last election against the Fusion efforts, even with the Leader of the Opposition “ thrown in.”
– Order. Will the honorable member for Parramatta address himself to the question?
– I desire to show what the position was a few months ago. I have no quarrel with the honorable member, but he-
– I do not think that the honorable member has any reason to laugh !
– Because he has ruined the old Liberal party, and his present leader.
– What rubbish ! The honorable member ought really to stop this.
– I shall not stop it 1
– Order 1 Will the honorable member for Parramatta address himself to the question?
– the Tariff is a very thorny question, and I do not think that we ought to be pulled up too sharply in discussing it. On 2nd September of last year the present Minister of Trade and Customs made a speech in this House. At that time he was strong in the belief that the Tariff anomalies should be corrected at once. There was no time to waste, and things were going to the bad. He said that if honorable members wanted to know the particulars of the case they had only to study the returns of imports published by the newspapers from month to month when they would see that in some lines the Tariff was not operating in a Protective sense. He added -
I understand that honorable members have expressed an opinion that, in the case of some of the anomalies, revenue duties should be imposed -
I invite the attention of the honorable member for Gippsland to the following passage from the speech made by the Minister on that occasion - and, after all, a motion of this kind reopens the whole question. I take it that once the Tariff is before us it is within the province of every honorable member, as in the case of a schedule to a -Bill, to move amendments.
That has been ruled by Mr. Speaker to be so, whether the effect is to lower or increase duties, so long as the Tariff is before us. The Minister has given honorable members plenty of scope in the motion now before the Committee. There are about seventy items in the little schedule which he has brought down, and if the Protectionists of this House, who believe that the country is dying for further import duties, let this occasion go by, they will not be able to blame the Minister altogether, but will have to blame themselves. They may talk as much as they like about the Minister having sold the country, but he has furnished them with the opportunity to do what they want, and if they do not take it they also must take the responsibility after the. schedule is passed. On page 2960 of Hansard of last session, Mr. Crouch asking a Question, the Minister said -
I shall support what I think best. The sooner we consider these anomalies the better I shall be pleased, and the less some honorable members opposite will be pleased. I hope we shall have an opportunity of dealing with anomalies before the next election.
The honorable member when “on this side of the House wanted to deal with the anomalies right off. They could not and must not be permitted to wait, as importations were pouring in, and they ought to be dealt with that session. He said -
There are in the Tariff many glaring anomalies in respect of items on which I endeavoured to secure the imposition of higher duties. No one can say that I have wobbled on the fiscal question.
I fancy the Minister is wobbling a little now. Here is the opportunity for which he was then longing, and he is wobbling right out of it. He said that he was not a wobbler on the fiscal question, but had invariably supported the imposition of the highest duties.
– He was not in office then.
– Does that make any difference ?
– There is a remarkable difference in the attitude of the Minister then and now. He declared then that the Tariff could not wait, as industries were languishing. Now he says it must wait, and, moreover, that its amendment must be conditional upon the result of the referendum. There was no talk of that kind then.
– Yes, there was.
– He declared in most unmistakable language that the rectification of the Tariff should take place that session, and before the elections. There could, therefore, have been no attempt then to associate the new Protection with the question. Now that honorable gentlemen are in power it seems that there is no hurry about the thing at all. The industries can languish, and importationscan pour in.
– The Minister is quite comfortable.
– Of course, he is. Why should he not be? Why should the wicked trouble him? The weary are at rest now, and this matter can afford to wait, and also be contingent on what is done in some other direction.
The honorable member for Gwydir also spoke on that occasion, but there is not a word from him to-day. He was particularly concerned then about braids, laces, ribbons, and ostrich feathers, all of which, I sup: pose, mean a tremendous accession to the comfortable condition of the workers. The honorable member for Herbert was particularly troubled at that time about canned pineapples, declaring that hands were being discharged because the requisite duty was not imposed on those articles. The honorable member declared that we were paltering with this question, and trying to evade it. Now that his champions are in office they are finding every conceivable excuse to tide them over this session, and well into the next year. It must be distinctly understood that what the Minister is now proposing is the postponement of the Tariff anomalies question for at least another year. It cannot be got through before then, and by that time we shall be so near the elections that the Government will be quite sure to make the question of higher duties their trump card for the next election, as we are told to-day they did at the last. We were told in the most unmistakable language by the honorable member for Hume that the Government got the Protectionist vote on the last occasion in the belief, and on the distinct promise, repeated throughout Australia, that the Tariff would be reopened and these matters rectified.
– Why did we get the votes ?
– Because the honorable member’s party promised the people that they should have Protection ; but now that the party are in power through the votes of the people, there is no hurry about Protection. I say it serves the people right for being so simple as to trust with fiscal matters people who, all their political lifetime, have made the fiscal question, whether on one side or the other, the plaything and football of their caucus operations.
The honorable member for Gippsland spoke very strongly on that occasion, saying
A Tariff passed under circumstances such as attended the passing of that now under consideration must necessarily be full of anomalies and defects that require to be remedied at the earliest opportunity.
Here is the earliest opportunity, and yet the remedy is not forthcoming. The honorable member still sits cheek by jowl with the Government. He said that he would have nothing to do with the Fusion, as they were selling Protection, simply because we could not reopen the Tariff before we had made inquiries to ascertain of what the anomalies consisted.
– The Fusion sold more than Protection.
– The honorable member is in a somewhat tight corner. Every one knows, and admits, that he has always been a good Protectionist; but just how he can square himself to support the present Minister, who is letting pass the one opportunity which he declared should be taken at the earliest moment, I do not know. However, I am sure he will do it in his speech. He said, further, on that occasion -
It appears to me that it should be the duty of a Protectionist Government to compile a list of anomalies as well as of the duties that were lost by one vote as soon as a Tariff comes into force, and, having ascertained what, anomalies could not be dealt with by Ministerial action, to lose no time in introducing a Bill to rectify them.
The honorable member has been very quiet about this matter all the session, and now be hears the Government making the excuse that they have had other things to do, and could not touch it. The honorable member should explain why, believing that the Government should have taken the first opportunity to rectify the anomalies, he has not said a word about it the whole session. He is now sitting behind a Minister who intends to put the question off still further.
I listened very attentively to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, to find out what he meant by the new Protection. The only instance that he could give us was the boot trade award, which operated in some States, and could not operate in, say, Tasmania. That is exactly the case which we pledged ourselves at the last election to remedy at the earliest moment. Therefore the honorable member has cited the very case which we had in mind, among others, as arguing the necessity for a Fede- ral co-ordinating power, which would make the awards fair as between State and State, and go even, further by instituting Wages Boards, where a State declined to do so. Before honorable members opposite make out their case as the “ true blues “ of the new Protection, they must go further than that, because that is precisely the length to which the Fusion intended to go. If that is all they want and mean by the new Protection, they would have got it all from the Fusion which they so much despised. We are now in the last days of the session, and the matter has been put off until it cannot be put off any longer, lt is put beyond the power of. this House, by the deliberate act of the Minister, to remedy existing anomalies, and honorable members must find some further excuse for sitting behind and voting for a Government who are thus delaying what they declared a year ago to be the most urgent . thing in Parliament.
I have to look elsewhere to find what the new Protection really is to be. The honorable member has pointed me to the Bills which have been put through the House, and which will be sent to the country in the shape of referenda. The Minister also points me to the same source, and I take it, therefore, that the part of die new Protection which we did not quite compass in the memorandum which we sketched for the country is that which relates to the manipulation of the manufacturers’ profits. This was laid down very clearly by the Acting Prime Minister in the following passage: -
The only thing that never goes down is the profits; but we must teach these gentlemen that there is nothing sacrosanct about profits - that profits, like wages, are subject to fluctuation ; that it is not wages only that may be attacked, and profits that may not be, but that profits as well as wages are susceptible to legislation. When, therefore, we hold out our hand to the people and ask that we shall have power to make laws in respect to these matters, we ask it’ in respect of a sphere the most important of all, embracing as it does trade and commerce, corporations and combines, industrial legislation, and monopolies…..
What happens after the determination of a Wages Board, or the award of a Court that raises wages? If the wages are pushed up, say, from 7s. 6d. to Ss., immediately prices are raised. It is said by these philanthropic gentlemen, “ The price is raised in sympathy with, or as a consequence of, the increase of wages.” Nothing is further from the truth.
He went on to say that power would be taken to regulate the prices charged to consumers, and the profits which should be made. That is where the new Protection of honorable members opposite differs from ours. Protectionists outside should understand the inward meaning of the policy of the Labour party, and not be led away by the general statements of those who have climbed into office on their backs. They should know that they are not to get increased Protection until they have consented to the regulation and control of their business to the extent that the rate of profit and prices will be fixed. Furthermore, they are to trust the Labour party. No doubt they will think that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The redressing of anomalies is to be delayed until provision can be made for the regulation and control of businesses to which I have referred.
I shall be ready to do all in my power to provide for the highest wages and best conditions being given to the workmen of Australia, because they are entitled to the best treatment that can be given to them ; but it is to go too far to say to those who are conducting business enterprises, “ Your profits and your prices shall be such as Parliament may direct.” The business man is to have nothing but die responsibility connected with his enterprise.
– That is the honorable member’s interpretation of our policy.
– It is the statement of the Attorney-General, who says that these men are to be taught that profits are not sacrosanct, and that prices are not to be such as may be charged” in the ordinary course of fair competition.
– Does the honorable member say that profits are sacred?
– I believe that men are entitled to the profits which they can make in fair competition. The Labour party would control profits and prices, and leave to those engaged in commercial occupations merely the responsibility and the liabilities connected with them. When, therefore, Protectionists are asked to trust the Government, they should remember that they are expected to hand their businesses over to the control of the Caucus.
– I congratulate the Government on having introduced this measure, which, though not exhaustive, is an honest attempt to remove Tariff anomalies. 1 do not think that more can reasonably be expected at this stage of the session, in view of the work that has already been done in providing for land taxation, a Commonwealth note issue, Constitutional changes, and other important reforms, by a Government which has been only a few months on the Treasury bench.. It is proposed to deal with about seventy anomalies, and no one who is not in posession of the reports of the Customs officials can say whether there are still more to be dealt with.
– The honorable member for Hume had a list.
– The alterations which he wishes to provide for do not affect anomalies in the sense in which I use the word. Commercial men will tell you that what they chiefly desire is some fixity regarding duties ; they object to frequent alterations of the Tariff, because of the uncertainty which is thus caused. That is generally acknowledged, as those who are acquainted with the literature of Tariff reform in America are aware. The Minister is best informed as to the difficulties of administering the Tariff. It is not surprising that friction should arise out of conflict of opinion as to the nature of the importations, but it is desirable to do all that is possible to remove causes for friction. It is not to be assumed that every merchant and Customs House agent is a rogue. But, do what we will, we cannot get rid of all sources of disagreement. I can understand that in Victoria the representatives of Victoria should desire the reopening of the Tariff, because for the last forty years the Age, in and out of season, has preached Tariff reform. Hardly a week elapses without the publication of one or more leading articles directed to that end. No doubt that newspaper has had a great deal to do with the creation of the strong Protectionist sentiment which has made Melbourne the leading manufacturing centre in Australia. But the Government has not time this session to deal with Tariff reform generally, and Victorian representatives must therefore possess themselves in patience a little longer. I represent the chief port of South Australia, and come frequently into contact with merchants and shippers., and therefore know the difficulties which they have to meet. I give the Minister credit for a desire to do all that can fairly be done to remove, these difficulties, and assume that he has dealt with all the most important, if not all, the anomalies which create friction in administration. Even at this stage of the session we can profitably occupy time in consider- ing these proposals- There will never be a perfect Tariff. The attitude of merchants towards Customs legislation is like that of lawyers to legislation generally. Whenever an Act is passed, lawyers take advantage of the possibilities for evading its provisions, and thus the legislator has constantly to turn his attention to remedying defects. Where there are ad valorem duties at so much per cent., it is easy to deal with the invoices. The trouble is caused by the importation of articles whose nature it is difficult to determine.
– Does the honorable member prefer ad valorem to fixed duties?
– Does the honorable member think them easier to define?
– They are easier for the Customs officials.
– That is not the experience of the Department.
– Difficulties chiefly arise in this way : Duty is imposed on a certain line of woollen goods, and a manufacturer then deliberately makes an article which it is difficult to deal with, because no one can say whether it should be regarded as woollen or cotton, both materials forming part of its composition.
– We have, fixed duties to meet difficulties of that kind.
– I should like to know how the honorable member would impose fixed duties that would overcome such difficulties. Manufacturers who study these questions are just as ingenious as is the honorable member. They would be just as capable of getting over a certain provision as the honorable member would be of drawing it up-
– There” is more roguery, as the honorable member terms it, in connexion with ad valorem duties than there is in connexion with fixed duties. That is the experience of every Customs officer.
– I would describe it, not as roguery, but as trade ingenuity. Politicians are charged with a great many faults, and many of their actions are said to be not as straight as they ought to be; but I think that the worst amongst us is considerably superior to the average commercial man or manufacturer. I wish, however, to get back to the point that I desire to emphasize. I want to point to the difficulty that we shall always have in framing a Tariff that will not of necessity be subject to a desire for alteration from time to time on the part of public men. We have to guard against altering the whole of the Tariff when only a few items need to be dealt with.
– Does the honorable member contend that there are only a few items in the present Tariff that should be dealt with?
– No ; I understand that before the last Federal Tariff was framed a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the whole question ; and that, after making exhaustive inquiries, it submitted various recommendations which Parliament failed to act upon. The logical conclusion is that, in such circumstances, a hotch-potch, mixed-up Tariff must have been passed. No doubt, if a Royal Commission were appointed next year to inquire into the Tariff question, its recommendations would be disregarded, and honorable members would be influenced by the pressure brought to bear upon them. I do not wish to suggest anything unfair on their part. I refer merely to the1 unconscious bias by which honorable members would be influenced. An honorable member is apt to be unconsciously biased by the feeling of his constituents in regard to the duties that should be imposed on certain lines. We hold strong opinions, but it does not follow that, because we hold strong, yet differing, views, we are not honest. And so with commercial men. As practical men we have to deal with difficulties as they arise, and I, therefore, contend that the Government are justified in asking that this measure shall be passed. They are justified from the point of view of the Department of Trade and Customs itself in submitting this schedule, in order that the proceedings under the Tariff may be simplified. I think that the officers of the Department themselves are a good deal to blame for much of the unnecessary friction that occurs, lt often arises, not because of the Tariff itself, but from reasons which we may discuss on the Budget. Undoubtedly, however, the officers experience a great deal of difficulty in determining to what item of the Tariff a certain article belongs, and the authorities above the officers immediately concerned find it difficult to arrive at a decision. The more we can simplify these matters, therefore, the better. I do not feel disposed to discuss to-day the general question of Protection. To my mind, it is not raised by this schedule. It has been discussed for years, and will stand discussion for many years hence. I doubt whether the whole question will be solved either in our time or in the days of our children. We are particularly anxious to build up the manufacturing and other industries of this community, and in a new country that cannot be done except upon a protective basis. A country that is devoted entirely to farming and grazing pursuits can never be truly great. No country which devotes its attention solely to those industries is more than a second or a third-rate nation, and we must be prepared to see a development of manufactures, and of all branches of arts and science, in the Commonwealth. That can be brought about only by means of a protective policy. We can well afford to leave alone doctrinaires, ‘ schoolmasters, and others who have written and dealt with this question from a purely academic point of view; but from a practical point of view, as members of this National Parliament, we must see what we can do on protective lines to make the Commonwealth that which it is capable of becoming.
– Why is not the old Protection on the platform of the Labour party ?
– The policy of. the new Protection is included in our platform. The honorable member laughs. The Opposition do not seem to know what the new Protection is. Let me tell them what the old Protection is, and what they want. They fooled with the real Protection. They never honestly tried to do anything with it. If they wish to know what the old Protection, as they understand it, is, let them read the reports of Commissions in the United States of America. There they will find stories of princely fortunes built up by plundering the people of America. There they will learn of a corrupt Parliament in the interests of the old Protection, and of princely fortunes having been built up by plundering the people.
– The honorable member ought to be over here.
– No; I am in the right place,’ and so are honorable members opposite. If they believed in the real Protection, they would be on this side of the Chamber. They believe, however, in American Protection just as they, believe in their Yankee Constitution. Of course, they are quite right, and they are welcome to stand by their own views. The new Protection means that profits shall be subject to review.
– And prices.
– Yes. I do not object to that; but let us take it that the new Protection means that profits shall be subject to review. Profits always have been subject to review by Parliament. Let any particular interest become too strong in the Mother Country, and action is taken-
– Then why speak of this as new?
– I do not. I have said that this is as old as the hills. But in order that there may be no misunderstanding on the part of the public, I wish it to be known that honorable members of our party are not Yankee Protectionists.
– The Labour party go further than the honorable member has said. Profits are to be open, not only to review, but to monopoly and control. That is the statement of the Acting Prime Minister.
– The Acting Prime Minister can look after himself. If he made such a statement, and I very much doubt it, he will be able, I am sure, to give a very satisfactory explanation. I am referring now, however, to the opinions which I, and I think the rest of our party, hold. The difference between the old and the new Protection is that we who believe in the new Protection are prepared to see that a man who invests his capital in. a business shall obtain a fair return from it. We are prepared, also, to allow a man who has a trade secret in a business to secure a profit from it-
– Would not the Labour party nationalize it?
-The honorable member seems to be one of those able men who can have two ideas in his mind at the same time. I have not had the advantage of a university education, and it is very, likely that we shall not be able to define the new Protection. We have already been told that we cannot define what is a monopoly. The people of Australia, however, will need no definition of the new Protection. They will know what it is. Make no mistake about that. We are more interested in what the people understand - because they know where the shoe pinches - than we are in obtaining the definitions of learned professors. Such definitions may be very interesting to students, but they are utterly useless, from a practical point of view, so far as the government of the country is concerned. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this measure, and hope that next session the Tariff question will be reopened, and dealt with in a more satisfactory manner. I do not hope that we shall be able to frame a perfect Tariff next session, but I trust that we shall, at least, be able- to set to work upon it, and finally to build up a Tariff that will be satisfactory and beneficial to all sections of the people of this great Commonwealth.
– The one illuminating feature of the address to which we have just listened is the admission - for which I am afraid the honorable member for Hindmarsh’s brother members of the Labour party will not thank him - that what is known as the old Protection is a delusion, a fraud, and a snare, or, to use his own words, simply a method of plundering the people.
– And he does not know what the new Protection is.
– As to the new Protection, of which the honorable member is such an ardent advocate, he is not able to assure the Committee that it will not also result practically in a plundering of the people. He does not even know what it is to be, how it is going to be applied, or of what it is to consist. He has left the Committee entirely in the dark, for the good and sufficient reason that he himself does not know what the new Protection is. He says that he thoroughly believes in it, but he has no idea what it means, and he is going to leave it to the people to say what it is.
– Honorable members opposite do not know what it is, but they are going to have it.
– Exactly ; and if the honorable member himself is unable to tell the people the meaning of the new Protection, which he asks them to adopt, they, in turn, will have some difficulty in informing him what they understand by the term, when the coiners of the term do not know what it means. From a protectionist point of view it is rank heresy to say that the old Protection is robbery and plunder. Honorable members on this side, who think as I do, and declare Protection to be plunder and based on robbery, have been held up as objects of scorn to whom the term “madmen” might very properly be applied. Many years of argument and elucidation of facts have been spent by those opposed to the Protectionist policy in demonstrating that the effect is simply to rob the consumer and not to benefit the worker, and that the only people who can possibly benefit are the Tariff-protected employers of labour. There never was anything in the Protectionist principle to compel the employer to share the benefits with the employes. That has been one of my greatest objections to Protection, apart from the fallacy of the principle itself, and there is the further objection that Protection always places an added burden on the poorest classes of the community, those who depend on a daily wage. The honorable member for Maribyrnong declares that Protection is required for the manufacturer, the worker, and the consumer. Why has not Protection, wherever it has operated, had the effect of benefiting those three classes? We have always been assured that that was exactly what Protection was going to do ; but now we have Protectionists, one after another, confessing that their pet policy has been an ignominious failure, and that the Free Traders have been right all along. How are we to protect the three classes in one process ? The only way in which an employer can be benefited is by increased prices which the Tariff enables him to charge. There is no obligation on him to share those increased prices with his employes; but as soon as there is an obligation imposed by legislative means, he can only do so, by either further increasing the cost to the consumer or reducing his own profits. Whether he will consent to the latter course remains to be seen; it is not’ in human nature to expect him to do it voluntarily. The only way to protect the consumer is to reduce prices ; but as soon as that is done, the Protective Tariff is of no avail to the employer, for that is the last thing he desires, and we practically come back to the position from which we started, when there was no Protection at all. Protection can operate only to the advantage of one or two sections of the community at the expense of the rest of the community, by taking more out of the pockets of the people than they would otherwise be asked to pay - the consumer has to foot the bill all the time. Investigations show that the cost of living in late years has increased by 33^ per cent., or even more, with no corresponding increase in wages; and the natural result is a demand for legislation to compensate for the difference in the cost of living.
– To what does the honorable member attribute the increased cost of living ?
– To Protective duties, and the tendency of such duties to create monopolies, which arise out of restricted competition, and force up prices. Where prices are not actually forced up, the articles supplied are not of the former standard of quality, notably in the case of wearing apparel. I” should have liked to hear, from the honorable member for Maribyrnong in particular, how he would propose to keep up profits and increase wages in protected industries and, at the same time, safeguard the consumer from increased prices. He and others, apparently, forget that the consumers are principally the wage-earners. I always understood that the object of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts was to secure a larger measure of benefit for the wage-earners in both protected and unprotected industries. These Wages Boards were called into existence to prevent the sweating that had grown up in the protected industries in Victoria. I have always been an advocate of the highest wages possible, because I recognise that the higher the wages the greater the spending power and the more prosperous the bulk of the people. The experience of other countries teaches us that the lowest wages prevail in countries where there is the highest’ measure of Protection - where Tariffs are highest wages are lowest, sweating most pronounced, and the conditions of life, generally, least desirable. I should here like to read one or two quotations from an article which was originally contributed to the English Socialist newspaper, the Clarion, by Mr. W. Potts, one of the delegates of the British Tariff Reform League, and was subsequently reprinted in the Sydney Worker of 27th January this year. This article describes industrial conditions in Germany, which is one of the most highly protected countries in the world. We have heard much from newspapers like the Age of the prosperity of the people of Germany ; but direct news from that country does not justify the roseate pictures painted by local Protectionist organs. Mr Potts says -
As you are aware, I am a Socialist, holding no brief for either Protectionist or Free Trader.
With reference to the unemployed, we have still abundant resources which the Germans have exhausted.
I am convinced that protection does not provide a satisfactory solution of the unemployed problem. The organized efforts of employees, trade unions, and the municipalities have almost been perfected, and yet the records show that in Germany the evil is as great in proportion to the population as in England.
That, I think, is a pretty heavy indictment of failure, so far as the workers of Germany are concerned.
For instance, Berlin, with a population of less than three millions, has 140,000 unemployed in the records for 1909 - figures supplied to me by the officials.
The records of the Labour Bureau, and the people we have seen waiting -in the rooms, prove that it is difficult to get work, and very difficult to keep it. The concentration of competitors at the bureau, the constant changing of men (as shown by the “ situations filled “ record), without diminishing the volume of unemployment, leave no doubt on this matter.
Wages are lower for skilled and unskilled.
He states some of the wages earned, referring, for instance, to a small arms factory -
At a small arms factory, on piece work, carpenters, turners, fitters, and joiners would make from 4d. to 6d. per hour. Women - 3,000 hands - were working capstan lathes from milling machines at 2d. to 3d. per . hour, 200,000 out in building trades fighting for £d. per hour advance.
That is not a very exhilarating picture of prosperity.
The spending power is reduced by large and increasing taxes on tea, coffee, corn, flour, coal, electric light, beef, matches, and clothing.. Bread is a mixture of wheat and rye.
In Berlin, horse beef sells at 4d. to 7d. per lb. ; cereals are about the same price as here y boots, clothes, hats, caps, &c, slightly clearer than English for same quality.
The food is dear, coarse, and unpleasant.
We certainly have not much to complain of on that score in Australia at present ;. but, as like causes produce like effects, I take it that it is only a question of time, as population increases the pressure on subsistence, when Ave shall probably reach the same standard of deterioration. As to the conditions of the workers themselves, Mr. Potts says -
Every workman is drilled and reduced to the machine stage, or drilled and educated up to it, and in the healthiest and. most commodious work-shops there exists an industrial despotism which would be intolerable to an English workman - servility strained to a degree.
Apparently that is one of the results of their protective policy. We do not want to see conditions of that kind prevail here.. We have been reared in an atmosphere of freedom, which, I am sorry to say, is being gradually encroached upon year by year by some of those who, unfortunately for the best interests of this country, sit upon the Treasury benches of the Federal, and one or two of the State, Parliaments. I. am afraid that that great measure of freedom, about which we have been able to boast with so much justification in the past, is gradually being undermined, and that presently, if we have a continuance of the domination of political labour unions, as at present constituted, and with their present restrictive and coercive ideals and aims, we shall see our boasted freedom grow less and less, until very little of it is left. It is a peculiar thing that while labour men in this country are calling out for Protection, those who have lived under a protective regime in other countries are crying out just as emphatically against it. I find the same authority says -
I went to Germany a Socialist, and a Socialist I remain on my return.. I saw nothing whatever whilst I was away to convince me that the Tariff benefited the workman, and all the Labour men and Socialists I met or heard from were disbelievers in Protection.
The men who have had experience of a protective system all their lifetime are denouncing it, and asking for a change to another system, under which they can get more freedom and less restriction. I realize the futility of debating the motion now before the Committee, where I am as one crying out alone in the wilderness, but I take this opportunity of raising my protest once more against the cost of living being further increased to the people by means of added burdens in the form of protective duties. The complaint already is that the cost of living is far too high - that it has been unduly increased by the Tariff legislation already passed by the votes of Labour representatives in this Parliament. Although this Bill is said to be only for the rectification of anomalies, I see that in one or two instances advantage has been taken to introduce indirectly, and, in some cases, directly, increases in the Tariff. I have always protested against protective Tariffs, because I do not believe that they conduce to the benefit of the country. Rather do they unduly harass, hamper, and place burdens’ upon the backs of those sections of the people who are least able to bear them. Tariff taxes invariably fall, not upon the wealthy, but upon the poorer classes of the community. Where revenue has to be obtained by means of a Tariff, the taxation must be put upon articles which go most generally into consumption, and that means articles ‘which are most generally in demand by the wage-earning classes, who form the great majority of the people. While I object to it as an unsound principle and an interference with the liberty of the subject, my greatest objection to Protection, which has hitherto been purely in the interests of the manufacturers, has always been that it has imposed heavy burdens upon the poorest classes, whom we ought to do our best to relieve of taxation, and in whose interests we ought to legislate, in order to give them better wages and better conditions of life. However, one voice on this side of the question has, I recognise, very little weight in this Committee, where the great majority are pledged to Tariff Protection up to the hilt. But I take this opportunity of recording my protest against the iniquitous Tariff burdens that so heavily press upon the wage-earners of this country, and asserting again those principles which I have espoused ever since I. entered political life, and of stating that my belief in them remains unshaken. I am convinced that they are as sound to-day as ever they were, and that ultimately, after we have passed through various stages of oppressive restriction, there will be another swing of the pendulum in the direction of freedom. That day, will, I hope, dawn at no very distant date.
.- I congratulate the Minister on simply bringing down this measure at this late stage of the session. We have had much more important .matters to deal with than the one now before the Committee. We have passed the Bills dealing with them, as we told the electors that we should. That task has taken nearly all the session ; and that is the reason why the Minister did not bring this proposition down earlier. We are prepared to put up with the consequences of our action, and I feel sure that at the end of three years the electors will have fully realized that neither Free Trade nor Protection will prove a panacea for all the ills from which the people of our party have been suffering for so long. I listened to the tirade of abuse against Protection uttered by the honorable member for Lang ; but let me ask honorable members what Free Trade has ever done for the masses in any country where it has been, adopted. In Great Britain a large number of the workers are on the verge of starvation. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Balfour argued the point ‘whether there were 8,000,000 or 12,000,000 people in the Old Country in that condition. Blatchford told us that there were 12,000,000. Mr. Bryce, now British Ambassador in America, said there were 13,000,000. Surely those figures are sufficient to prove that Free Trade is of no use to the workers. If we’ turn to the United States and examine the conditions under which the worker is working there, as described by Upton Sinclair, or by Mr. Stead in his work, // Christ Came to Chicago, or Satan’s Invisible World Revealed, we find a state of affairs almost intolerable for any citizen to live under.
– Protection has not cured those evils.
– I admit it; but Free Trade has not done so.
– Protection has intensified them.
– That is not so. The old Protection has simply built up manufactories within the country and made it possible for us to regulate them within our own borders. That is the advantage of Protection over Free Trade; but we propose introducing. a system of Protection that will enable us to deal effectively with the whole problem. The new Protection will protect the wage-earner and the consumer as well as the manufacturer. Although the honorable member for Hindmarsh could not define the meaning of new Protection, I am sure we shall have no trouble in putting our principles into practice. An honorable member on the other side of the House interjected, “ Who provides the spending power?” My reply is that the worker provides it every time, meaning by the worker either the captain of labour or the man performing the work on the lowest rung of the ladder. It is the worker that produces the wealth of the country. Any master can get a man to work for him for a week for nothing, with the promise of a reward at the end of the week. The master has the value of the labour done in the early part of the week for the whole of the week free of interest. Some of them have it for a’ month. 1 know a firm in my electorate that do not pay their hands until the end of each month. The Government are also sinners in that respect. Employers who pursue that principle have the full use of the wealth produced and pay the men no interest for it. Let us see how much the workers are getting of the wealth produced. Sidney Webb, lecturer on political economy at the London College, tells us that they get only one-third of what they actually produce. Michael Flurscheim says that in protected America they get only one-tenth of what they actually produce. That is altogether unfair and unjust. In our so-called protective country Mr. Knibbs tells us that raw products of a value of ^52,000,000 go into the fac tories of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, and are turned out at an enhanced value of ^86,000,000, representing an added value of ^34,000,000. Of that increase of. value only ^15,000,000 goes in wages, ^3,500,000 is absorbed in interest, and over ^15,000,000 goes to the gentleman from whom we want to get a little back - the man who is reaping the benefit of the protective Tariff. By our new Protection policy we propose getting at that gentleman, and I think it is nearly time we did. Of course the Protectionists voted for us at the last election, because they knew they could get nothing from the Fusion. Nature has demonstrated that no hybrid can produce progeny ; neither can a fiscal hybrid Government produce any policy that will protect a country or its manufactures. The Protectionists Of Australia voted for the Labour party because they knew that when we had placed our most important measures on the statute-book we would turn our attention to Protection and carry out the policy that we told them we should carry out if they did us the honour to place us in power. I ask any fair and reasonable man how the Minister could frame an amended Tariff suitable for all concerned and deal with every existing anomaly in the short time at his disposal this session? lt is practically impossible for him to do so. I have listened attentively to the criticism of the honorable member for Parramatta, but of course he wants something with which to go to the ladies’ meetings and on to the hustings. He tried to put into our mouths statements not warranted by the facts. We are prepared to go on the platforms of Australia and justify the new Protection. We have no fear of the result. When I interjected that it would not be wise for us to give the Protectionists all that they want before we took the referendum, I did so because I know the apathy displayed by the people if they are contented. They will not vote when they are quite satisfied. We are told repeatedly by members on the other side that it is owing to the apathy of certain classes of the people that we are in office, and I want to take care that that apathy shall not prevail in the ranks of our own supporters. I wish to be able to say to the people, “ If you desire Protection you must assist us to place on the statute-book the new Protection, which will give you the assistance that you desire, and will provide for the regulation of prices, wages, and conditions.” There will be nothing to com- plain of under the system which this new Protection will bring about. It was unfair and unjust of the Leader of the Opposition to say that we are offering a bribe to the Protectionists. We are dealing straightforwardly with the electors. We have no desire to put on the statute-book a measure which will benefit only the manufacturers. Our wish is to improve the condition of every member of the community. An Irishman, in New York, when asked a dollar for some potatoes, said, “ I could buy them in Ireland for sixpence.” The reply was, “ Why did you not stay in Ireland then?” to which he answered, “I could not get the. sixpence.” I ask, What is the good of Free Trade if there is not work enough for the people of the country under that policy? What is the use of cheapness and freedom if the people have not money with which to buy what they need? the old Protection and the old Free Trade were tweedledum and tweedledee, and I am a fiscal atheist in regard to both. But that is not my position in regard to the new Protection, which I feel sure will do all that we desire. I am glad that the Minister has not brought down a larger schedule of alterations. We shall be able to go to the people, and tell them on the word of the Government that, after the constitutional changes have been agreed to, the Tariff will be remodelled so as to make Australia what the Labour party desires it to be, the home of a prosperous nation.
Mr. WISE (Gippsland) [4.19I.- As a Protectionist I indorse what the honorable member for Hume said in expressing his strong disappointment with the measure. The honorable member for Parramatta quoted from a speech which I made last year on the subject of anomalies. My views have not changed since then. I am not surprised that the Bill has such a restricted purpose, because the usual answer given by the Minister to deputations was that it was his intention to provide only for the removal of office difficulties. There are two kinds of Tariff anomalies, those which cause office difficulties, and those which prejudice local industries, such as the nail industry, the making of apparel, and others that have been mentioned. I hoped that the Minister would have provided for the removal of anomalies of the second class to some extent. Last year the honorable member for Hume read a long list of anomalies compiled by Customs officials. Had those anomalies been dealt with, great relief would have been given to many industries which are now suffering. As for the anomalies rectified by the Bill, they might very well have been left over until .the Tariff could be dealt with on wider lines. It is a pity that we should have this discussion regarding a proposal affecting merely administration, and instituting alterations which could have been deferred, for another twelve months. I agree with the honorable member for Hume that the Protectionists of Victoria cast their votes either for ‘members of the Labour party or for candidates standing in the interests of Protection ; they saw no hope of getting a Protectionist revision of. the Tariff from the Fusion Government. It is not surprising, however, that the Labour party is dealing with this matter in the manner under discussion. When the last Tariff was under consideration, a large number of Victorian members returned as Protectionists, did not consistently vote Protection, and many of the higher duties were carried by the votes of. Labour members who were Free Traders, but were induced, to support protective proposals because of the promise of the Deakin Government that new Protection would be provided for. On several occasions inquiries were made as to that Government’s position as regards newProtection by the then Opposition, the present High Commissioner” asking -
Whether in considering the Tariff and the duties fixed from day to day the House is to regard the system of new Protection as part of the understanding upon which the duties were determined.
To that, the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister, replied -
The Ministry put forward the matters referred to by the honorable member as a united proposal, the duties on the one side and the new Protection upon the other.
That was a bargain, and it was deliberately stated, on more than one occasion. The Free Trade members of the Labour party who voted for high duties performed their part of the contract, and, as a member of the party by which the promise of new Protection was given, I have always felt ashamed that the other part was never performed.’ Unsatisfactory though the Tariff is, the duties would not have been as high as they are, had it not been for the promise given by the honorable member for Ballarat, which was repeated by other Ministers. Memoranda were laid on the table showing what was intended in regard to new Protection, and setting out the terms of a proposed amendment of the Constitution to give effect to it. In March and April of last year, when the honorable member for Ballarat was going through Australia - followed by the honorable member for Parramatta, who denounced these other proposals made by him - he pointed out that he desired the amendment of the Constitution to increase the power of the Parliament to deal with industrial matters, while his opponents were satisfied to try to persuade the States to pass legislation which would enable us te. do what was needed; and, speaking in Queensland, -he said -
Judging by our experience in the past of the States, we know there is nothing to hope for from this policy of persuasion.
When negotiations took place between these honorable members, with a view to the fusion of parties, they were abortive at first. We were told by the Argus that -
On all minor points of policy they were agreed, but on three leading planks they failed to agree.
One of the “ three leading planks “ was the new Protection. It was known that on these three matters one or other of these gentlemen would have to sacrifice his views. A few days later the Fusion was formed ; and that killed our hopes for the new Protection, because we found the honorable member for Ballarat had surrendered to the honorable member for Parramatta. It can hardly be wondered at, therefore, that the Labour party should now refuse to do more to the Tariff until the bargain that was made three years ago is carried out. While I regret that the revision of duties has been postponed, I cannot feel surprised at the action of the party. The honorable member for Parramatta has asked what this new Protection is. I am surprised at the question, because new Protection was part of the policy of the Fusion party prior to the last election.
– I asked to be informed what there was ‘ additional to what we proposed.
– I took a note of what the honorable member said. His leader, speaking .at Ballarat, stated -
I must now pass on to the great issue relating to new Protection, and which relates very intimately to the ascertainment of all the facts surrounding our industries. New Protection, as you know, means securing fair conditions to all those employed in industries which receive the care of the State.
That is what I have always understood by new Protection.
– It is not what is proposed by this Government.
– It will be very satisfactory if, before we prorogue, a Bill is .introduced to define new Protection, so that there may be an end to the promises which have been made on the subject. The honorable member for Parramatta twits me, as a Protectionist, with supporting the Government ; but, with two other members, I form the’ Independent party, and, as I stated on the hustings, and have said here, I shall support good measures, no matter where they come from, and oppose measures of which I disapprove. He says that it is open to us to move amendments ; but he knows that we cannot move amendments to increase duties.
– I quoted the Minister on the point. Mr. Speaker has ruled that a private member may move to increase a duty.
– I know that the present Chairman will promptly rule out of order any proposal that I make to increase a duty.
– Mr. Speaker Holder laid it down on two occasions that a private member could move to increase a duty.
– We have to deal with the present Chairman. When the honorable member twits me with supporting this Government although I am a Protectionist, I am constrained to ask what I am to do if I do not sit on this side of the House. Have I any hope of securing a greater measure of Protection from the Opposition than I have from the Government? I can see no reason for such a hope. Protection was no part of the Fusion party’s policy.
– lt provided for the maintenance of the existing Tariff.
– I am dissatisfied with the existing Tariff, yet I am asked to cross over to the Opposition side of the House because the present Government are not going fast enough. What did the Fusion Government propose? Let me read a statement made by Sir George Reid, as a member of the Fusion party. The honorable member for Parramatta will probably say, as he did this morning, that we are sheltering ourselves behind the statements of a man 12,000 miles away; but I made this quotation in July of last 3’ear, when Sir George Reid was present -
Every Free Trader in the fusion is left at liberty to fight for his convictions, if any pro- posal is brought forward which he thinks will raise the fiscal controversy.
Observe the sneer at the members of my old party and the present leader of the Opposition in Sir George’s Reid’s next remark -
This is a great climb down for those who talked of admitting us into the ranks of the Liberal party.
He went on to say -
Before the fusion the Free Traders in the direct Opposition requested Mr Joseph Cook to make our position under the clause perfectly clear to Mr. Deakin. We pointed out that if an alteration in the Tariff was proposed which raised the fiscal issue as between Free Traders and Protectionists, that we Free Traders held ourselves perfectly free to vote according to our convictions. To make assurance doubly sure, when the united party met, I then defined our position again before the whole of the members of the new party. I pointed out to them that it would be most undesirable to leave any room for future recriminations as to the observance or non-observance of the basis of fusion. I told them that it must be understood distinctly that in becoming members of the new party we have agreed to a fiscal truce, and if the Tariff question is re-opened to rectify any alleged anomalies -
He would not even admit that there were any anomalies - we have reserved our right to vote in accordance with our own convictions and those of our constituents. The fiscal truce is not to last only during the present Parliament -
That was the last Parliament - but during the next one.
Notwithstanding this statement, the honorable member for Parramatta thinks that I should join the party on behalf of which such a declaration was made. The Government party is the only party in the present Parliament in respect of which Protectionists can have any hope, and before I condemn them I am prepared to wait and see what steps they will take next session to amend the Tariff. I can only hope that the referendum will be successful, and that, as the result of it, they will be able to carry out the policy of the new Protection, and with it give us a satisfactory protective Tariff. It will be remembered that last session, whilst the Fusion Government were in power, the honorable member for Hume submitted a motion in the following terms -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should proceed, without delay, to introduce a Bill for an Act to remove the anomalies existing in the present Customs and Excise Tariff Acts, and to add such other duties as may be deemed necessary.
To that motion, the honorable member for Fawkner moved as an amendment-
That all the words after the word “ House “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Government’s declaration that consideration is being given to the adjustment of anomalies in the Tariff, and any Bill on the subject would, as a matter of course, safeguard the interests of the producers and manufacturers of the Commonwealth. Each anomaly will be dealt with according to its character, the general policy of the existing Tariff being maintained,’ is satisfactory.”
Speaking to the motion, the honorable member for Fawkner said -
I hope that the Government will not lose any time in bringing forward their proposals ia regard to them.
That was in July of last year, and the Fusion Government had the whole session before them. He went on to say -
The anomalies are more likely to be dealt with if the amendment be carried than by the adoption of a quasi hostile motion like that of the honorable member for Hume. I have great sympathy with the desire to have anomalies rectified ; and I shall always impress upon the Government the necessity of dealing with them as early as possible. We ought to help those who are at present suffering, many of them, I know, considerably.
Yet, although that speech ‘ was made in July of last year, nothing was done by the Fusion Government. What hope had the honorable member of securing from that Ministry any amendment of the Tariff? The position taken up by Sir George Reid was emphasized in the course of that debate by the honorable member for Parkes, who said -
It is a matter of common knowledge that one of the terms of the fusion is that ‘ the muchvexed question which has divided the House for nine years shall be left at rest for a time by honorable members sitting on this side of the House, except so far as the rectification of anomalies on some future occasion is concerned. No doubt the Prime Minister, who has the ordering of the Government business, will presently deal with that matter.
Even the honorable member for Parkes, a Free Trader, thought in July of last year that the then Prime Minister was going to be true to his promise to rectify Tariff anomalies. That promise, however, was not fulfilled. The honorable member went on to say -
I have always seen great difficulty in the use of the word “ anomalies.”
He was asked what was the interpretation placed upon the word by the present Leader of the Opposition, and he replied, “ His supporters will have opinions as to that.” Later on he said -
Knowing that his party includes a large number of strong Free Traders, he will see that the proper interpretation is placed on the word.
These quotations clearly point .to the fact that any proposal made by the Fusion Government to deal with Tariff anomalies would have been to deal with them in the most restricted sense of .the word, especially as the Leader of that Administration, as the honorable member for Parkes pointed out, would have known that he had behind him a large number’ of Free Traders. Indeed, I think that the majority of his party were Free Traders. Even the honorable’ member for Parkes was surprised that the whole of last session passed without an attempt being made to deal with Tariff anomalies. I shall not detain the Committee any longer. I wished only to make it perfectly clear that I was dissatisfied with this Government, as I was with the Fusion Government last year, for failing to deal with the anomalies in the Tariff. Unfortunately, however, I must put up with the dissatisfaction. I certainly have no hope of securing redress from the Opposition. The bulk of the Protectionists are on the Government side of the House, and 1 am confident that if the Ministry carry their proposal to amend the Constitution, so as to enable them to give effect to the new Protection policy - a policy which the old Liberal party promised the Labour party would be carried, when they voted for our Protective Tariff - we shall have a satisfactory Tariff. If they do not pass such a Tariff, then in the next Parliament we shall have once more a large third party comprising men who will give effect to the views of Protectionists throughout Australia, and carry the policy of Protection to a satisfactory conclusion.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for Gippsland for the statement which he has just made, and which leaves him without a tittle of justification for the fierce attitude of hostility which he takes up towards his old Leader. Here is his definition of the new Protection, and I am much obliged to him for it. It is quite evident that the honorable member attaches to it the same definition as does his old Leader at this moment.
– But his old Leader will do nothing.
– He attaches to it the same meaning as does every member of the Opposition at this moment, but a meaning different from that which the Government gives to it. There is no more likeness between the two forms of new Protection than there is between the sun and the moon.
– Hear, hear. I am glad to hear it.
-“ Hear, hear “. is the answer from the Government side of the House. Honorable members opposite know the difference.
– The new Protection which we favour is real, whilst that which the Opposition favour is a sham.
– The Government mean not “new Protection,”- but “ new possession.” Their “ new Protection “ policy is to take possession of industries, and then they will be able easily enough to fix prices and regulate profits, because, paradoxical though it may seem, there will be no prices and no profits. When they use the term “ regulation and control,” in reality they mean possession. That is their ultimate object so far as industries are concerned. The honorable member for Gippsland is defending his position as a reasonable one, whilst at the same time he votes with the Government to carry out a policy which will prevent effect being given to his desires, and will. lead, in the end, to the possession of these very industries by the State.
– That is pure prophecy on the part of the honorable member. He made the same kind of statement about his Leader’s protective policy.
– I have said about the new Protection what I say now - that any attempt to interfere unduly with the prices and profits of an industry carried on under fair competition seems to me to be a madcap scheme. I cannot conceive how it can possibly be done, except by the method proposed by the present Government, and that is to take power to acquire an industry from the owner, and to vest the ownership in the Government. T have always said, as I say now, that I am as much in favour of securing good conditions to those employed in industries as is my honorable friend.
– The honorable member is opposed to industries.
– That may be an intelligent interjection, but I do not understand it.
– The honorable member says that the honorable member for Parramatta does not believe in Australian industries because he is a Free Trader.
– Half my time in this House, and out of it, is occupied in running to earth the lies uttered by honorable members who are opposed to me. 1 cannot keep up with them.
– ls not the honorable member a Free Trader?
– The honorable member knows what I am.
– Do not ask him anything unpleasant.
– There is nothing unpleasant about that; far from it; but I object strongly to the statement that I am against Australian industries. But evidently the honorable member has a nasty taste in his mouth. I am very much obliged for his definition of the new Protection, although I cannot lay my hands upon it at the moment.
– I quoted from the speech delivered at Ballarat by the Leader of the Opposition.
– However, these are the ‘ words, as I took them down - “ The securing of good conditions for those employed in the industries.” Does the honorable member not see that that does not get us much more forward in respect of what honorable’ members opposite mean? That definition confines the new Protection to employes in industries, but the Government propose to prevent employers making more than a certain profit. The AttorneyGeneral said the other day, “ We will teach those gentlemen how much profits they shall make “ - that is, the profits must rise and fall as wages rise and fall. That is not what the honorable member for Gippsland means by new Protection; he means exactly what his late leader means.
– But he will not do anything to give effect to it.
– The honorable member will not let him do so.
– I let him !
– The honorable member for Gippsland will not give effect to that idea. He has come here by the votes of men who repudiate the new Protection that he says’ he desires.
– The Leader of the Oppoposition proposes and the people dispose 1
– The honorable member is here to-day supporting a Government who are totally opposed to his idea of new Protection. What we on this side propose, satisfies all the requirements of the honorable member for Gippsland.
– Honorable members opposite propose and the people dispose !
– Exactly, but the peculiarity is that, while the people disposed of us they “disposed” the honorable member for Gippsland to the support of the Government, who want to go further than he himself desires or intends. I take it that the honorable member has no idea of taking control of profits or prices in these industries?
– I shall discuss the measure when it is before the Chamber.
– I am sure the honorable member has too much sense - too much of what we Australians call nous - to commit himself to any such proposal. But that is the proposal to which the AttorneyGeneral has committed himself and his party. We on this side would take care that the workers of Australia get all that the industries ought fairly to give, while honorable members opposite desire to run the industries, leaving the proprietor only the responsibility of payment of interest on his capital. I am obliged to the honorable member for showing in a brief quotation now little basis there is for all the gibes that have been made throughout this session at his late leader, and honorable members on this side. The honorable member’s position on this question is ours; but it is not the position or meaning of the Government.
– The Government mean the nationalization of the means of production 1
– The Government mean that they are going to dictate profits and prices, holding over the manufacturers, at the same time, the whip of nationalization. According to the AttorneyGeneral they are taking power to say to the employers, “ You must earn only so much profit and charge such prices ; if you do any more, we shall take your industry away altogether.”
– The idea is to stop the fleecing of the public !
– That is the phrase used - that they are going to stop the “ fleecing “ of the consumers of the country. But much more is meant; and my only object in speaking now is to associate the referenda with the proposals which are at the back of the mind of the Government. I desire the people to know exactly what the referenda mean - that they mean the power to control the industries of Australia, to actively manipulate and interfere with them, leaving the responsibility of the businesses on the part of those who nominally own them. I desire to do the honorable member for Gippsland justice, and to say that he does not believe in doing any such thing. That being so, his place is not behind this Government, but anywhere else.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta has been good enough to make a second speech ; and I do not desire my position to be misrepresented. When the Government choose to bring in a Bill to nationalize or control industries, in some way I do not approve, I shall be prepared to vote against them. I am not prepared at the present time to consider the details of such measures. We are now only at the stage at which we have been, I am sorry to say, for the last three years - the stage of promising and of stating what ought to be, and shall be, done. The fault I find with the Leader of the Opposition is that he gave his pledge in the House that he would place the new Protection alongside the old Protection as a united proposal. He induced honorable members on this side to vote for the old Protection on the promise that he would give the new Protection. He cajoled them - no, I shall not say cajoled them, because I believe he was absolutely sincere - but he brought down a proposal, and stated that it would be absolutely necessary to have an amendment of the Constitution in order to carry out his promise; indeed, he gave the actual words on which he was prepared to appeal to the people. The fault I find with him is that his subsequent action took away the opportunity to carry out his promise ; and that is why I do not sit behind the honorable member, and never shall as long as he is in his present company.
– I must admit that I am disappointed that there are not more items in the schedule. The electorate which I represent contains, I am proud to say, a large number of factories; and, consequently, many Tariff anomalies have been brought under my notice. The question, of course, is what is an anomaly; and I have before said that, in my opinion, there is an anomaly when a commodity does not bear a high enough protective duty. I suppose, however, I must give way to num bers, and content myself with the schedule laid before us. I agree with the Minister that, when we find a duty on the raw material, and no duty on the manufactured article - although the raw material in itself may be a manufactured article - we have an anomaly ; and the Minister has contented himself with attending to some such cases, and making changes tending to the smoother administration of the Department. We have to admit, perhaps, that the language of the honorable member for Hume to-day was, at times, pretty strong, and, owing to that honorable member’s peculiar position, some latitude may be allowed him in this respect. The honorable member has made this question his principal study; and, while we may differ from him, we can quite understand some strong feeling on his part. Of course, a proper revision of the Tariff at this stage is impossible. We have neither the time nor the temper for the work, after an arduous session of four or five months, in which the physical endurance of all of us has been severely tested. There cannot be a revision of any thoroughness until, in March next, this Parliament is given power to make industrial laws for the regulation of wages and conditions.
– Then, if the referenda be not carried, there will be 110 more Tariff revision?
– The honorable member would, doubtless, like me to give an answer which, on some future occasion, might be used to my confusion ; and, at an earlier period of my political life, I. might have fallen into the trap.
– That is answer enough !
– However, if it will be of any use to the honorable member, I shall say that, while I agree with the Minister in his present proposals, unless the industrial power we desire be given to us, not one vote of mine will be cast for any increase of Protection in any manufacture whatever.
– That is very strong !
– It is nothing new on my part, for so I told the electors during the election ; and I was returned by a majority of 9,000. The people of my constituency recognise that a Parliament which can protect one section of the community and not another, is in an anomalous position ; and, until we are given the desired power to afford Protection all round, we shall go no further. If any section of the manufacturing community, who are now satisfied with the Tariff conditions, attempted to thwart others not so favorably circumstanced, I should be prepared to give them a taste of their own medicine in the shape of a reduction of the duties. There are protected employers who have no regard or sympathy with others who are not protected, and the same may be said’ in regard to workmen ; and it will behove the people, next March, to extend a helping-hand, so that the benefits of the Tariff may be extended to all. I should like to mention one or two items, representing anomalies, which require rectification. I made out a list of seventy-three; and, notwithstanding all I could do, I could not reduce them below forty. It will be realized that, if every honorable member came forward with forty anomalies, we should be called upon to make a thorough revision of the Tariff. However, I should like to call attention to 6-inch iron pipes, on which there is a duty of 20 per cent. They came in under manufactures of metals, n.e.i. The last Parliament recognised that those duties were not sufficient to prevent the importation of iron pipes, which are brought here in many different ways. .A large importing firm in Brisbane used to bring out a great deal of drapery and other articles, and imported iron pipes as ballast. The manufacturers in the Old Country turn out iron pipes at very little above the price of pig-iron, and ships are willing to bring them out practically as ballast. Parliament then made the duty £2 on the general Tariff and £1 15s. for the United Kingdom ; but the anomaly is that it takes about three and a half wroughtiron pipes to weigh as much as one castiron pipe; and those who import wroughtiron pipes get them in at not much over one-fourth of the duty which the cast-iron pipes cany. That is an anomaly which the Minister might have taken in hand, but he has not done so; and I do not expect that any argument of mine will lead him to alter bis decision. The question of wearing apparel might also have been considered. Manufacturers of wearing apparel in Australia are at a great disadvantage at certain periods of the year. The manufacturers and retailers in Europe are willing to get rid of their stock at the end of the season at any price. It is brought out here, and interferes to a great extent with the manufacture in Australia of women’s garments and also of men’s overcoats. The Minister says he does not call that an anomaly, but I think it is, as we have not made sufficient provision to prevent that sort of dumping in our markets. I was on a deputation that waited on the honorable member for Kooyong when he was Minister of Trade and Customs, to show him that the existing Tariff was nol sufficient to meet the needs of Australia in that regard. I admit that once we trench on questions of that sort, the reopening of the whole Tariff might be demanded; but I think that case might have been considered as an anomaly. Another matter is” that of corks. Many people deride the idea of protecting the cork industry here, saying that we do not grow the cork, and that it simply means importing machines and employing certain individuals to cut the material. There is, however, an anomaly, inasmuch as corks for very large bungs, which come out altogether unworked pay the same duty as finished corks made for medicine bottles. We might attempt to define the difference between an irregularity, and an anomaly in the Tariff; but I shall not attempt to do so now. Some people have charged me with not being a sufficiently strong Protectionist ; but, on the other hand, I have been accused of being a Prohibitionist, and I would prohibit the importation of any article which was manufactured here of a sufficiently high standard, and in sufficient quantity, to commercially supply Australia. While I am disappointed that this motion does not go further, the Minister can safely promise us that, after next March, when he is empowered to extend Protection all round, and pass proper industrial laws, he will bring down a real revision of the Tariff. I do not think it will be necessary to have anything like the last revision ; but, where experience has shown that importations are going on as merrily as ever, I should like to see fairly heavy protective duties imposed. Knowing the Minister and the Ministry, I do not think we shall be disappointed. I am sure that, in the interests of the people, the question will be grappled with in no uncertain way next session. In spite of what the papers say, I do not blame the Opposition for twitting us and gibing at us on account of what has happened in this case. I remember when i was in Opposition, and am willing to* allow to others the same liberty that I then! demanded for myself. I am more concerned with the interests of the people outside; and I can assure them that, afternext session, when we have acquired the right to make industrial laws, they will he gluttons if they are not satisfied with the
Tariff which the Minister of Trade and Customs will give them.
– I shall not indulge in ancient history in my reply, and purposelv refrained from doing so in moving the motion. I thought it far better to take the position exactly as it is to-day, and I distinctly announced that this proposal was not considered by the Government or by myself to be Tariff revision. I have made mv position perfectly clear in reply -to deputations, stating that, before revising the Tariff, I would wait until this Parliament had asked the people what they intended to do when the referenda were submitted to them. I also made that perfectly clear on the hustings, when I appealed to the people for votes at the last election. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that he intended to submit a great number of anomalies. . I have no doubt that other honorable. members could do the same, and once we began the work of Tariff revision, pure and simple, instead of dealing with what can be defined as anomalies from a departmental point of view, we should be landed in a re-opening of the whole Tariff. T said the same thing when speaking last session to the motion of the honorable member for Hume. The Ministry thought it advisable, in the interests of carrying the referenda which they intend to submit to the people, that that revision should not be now undertaken. I move -
That item 4 be amended by omitting the whole of the item and inserting in its stead the following item : - “ Amylic Alcohol and Fusel Oil :- (a) Denaturated in accordance with Departmental By-laws, free ; (b) not denaturated in accordance with Departmental By-laws, per gallon, 14s.”
That provision is exactly the same as far as the 14s. per gallon duty is concerned. At present amylic alcohol is being delivered free for use in a licensed warehouse in the manufacture of ore concentrates, and the object of introducing this amendment is to give the mining industry an opportunity of using the alcohol without having the trouble of keeping a Customs officer there all the time. We, therefore, provide that it may be denaturated in accordance with departmental by-laws.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in items 71, 72, r06A, 107 (with a verbal amendment), 115, and 121 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That item 123 be amended -
By omitting from sub-item (d), the words “ Ribbons, Galloons not being bindings “, and the words “ Boxed Robes when not shaped or sewn “.
By inserting in sub-item (d), after the words “ Lace for Attire “, the words “ exceeding eighteen .inches in width “.
By inserting in sub-item (d), after the words “Lace Flouncings”, the words “exceeding eighteen inches in width”.
By inserting in sub-item (d), after the words “Millinery and Dress Nets”, the words “exceeding eighteen inches in width “.
By inserting in sub-item (d), after the words “ Embroideries in the piece “, the words “ exceeding eighteen inches in width “.
– This amendment involves very considerable alteration of existing items. The idea is. to make item 123 apply only to those goods which exceed 18 inches iri width, and to bring goods ‘not within that category into item 134A, under the higher duties of 25 and- 15 per cent. That will be a source of the greatest difficulty to merchants and warehousemen. While the amendment may rectify some difficulties and anomalies, it will create a large number of others. If we discriminate as to the width of laces for attire, lace flouncings, millinery, and dress nets, and such articles, it will be found necessary to examine a large number of packages,- and open up great quantities of goods to see that the width is not exceeded. I suggest that items 123 and 134 be amalgamated, and a common duty made applicable, in order to bring about greater uniformity, and facilitate business operations. I suppose about seven-eighths of the importations under those two items would consist of goods which cannot be manufactured in Australia. I am desirous that if any of those articles by- their importation injuriously affect Australian industries they should be made subject to a protective or higher duty, and that the balance should be subjected to a revenue duty at the rates of 15 and 10 per cent. Whilst we desire to assist, if possible, the local makers of badges and ornaments, yet at the same time we wish to tax as lightly as possible such things as ribbons, galloons, laces for attire, flouncing, braids, and so on. which are the raw material of die makers of apparel. I shall not move an amendment, because of the difficulty of dealing satisfactorily with the matter, but I think that the Minister’s views coincide with mine, and I ask him to re- consider the items to which I have referred. If he can do what I suggest, the Tariff will be greatly improved.
– I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong as to the undesirability of taxing heavily raw material. But those who have approached me on this subject have admitted that it is difficult to -specify in every case what is raw material, and what is a manufactured article.
– I have asked that the expert of the Department be instructed to make a selection.
– It will have to be very carefully done. By the present-day fashions a great deal of work is given to our own people in connexion with the braiding of women’s garments, and we should be careful not to -allow this to be taken away by the use of imported gimps and trimmings which are not raw material.. Braid is, in itself, a raw material, but when it has been worked into an ornament it is a finished article. Importers are not- too particular, and the interests of our local people must be considered. I think that it would be safest ito adopt the suggestion of the Customs officials, who are wellinformed in this matter. I agree that there is a wide distinction between raw materials and finished or partly finished articles.
– The honorable member for Kooyong was good enough to submit his proposal to me this morning, and I have obtained some information on the subject from the Department, and will have the amalgamation of items 12 3D and 134a considered. If we can in any way lessen the burden of makers who have been injured by unfair competition from abroad, we should do so, allowing raw material to come in as cheaply as possible. I shall have the matter reconsidered in the light of what the honorable member has said.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in items 126, 134, 137, 139, 141, 156, 162, 165, 1.69, 170, 175, 178, 187, 190, 191, 195, 198, and 200 agreed to.
.- I move-
That item 206 be’ amended -
By omitting the whole item and inserting in ils stead the following item : - “ 206. Pins (not being partly or wholly of gold or silver or gold .or silver plated), viz : - Gimp, short toilet, plain safety, hair; also Hooks and Eyes and
Crochet Hooks - (a) When in fancy boxes, ad vol. 30 per cent. General Tariff; 25 per cent. United Kingdom. (b) When not in fancy boxes, ad vol. 5 per cent., General Tariff ; Free, United Kingdom “ - but that after the word “ gimp “ the word “ solid-headed “ be inserted.
Unless the ,item is amended as I propose, British manufacturers will really be at a disadvantage, because of the- operation of the duties imposed by item 387B, which deals with fancy boxes.
. -I would draw attention to the use of the word “ short,” which is likely to give us some difficulty, since these pins vary in size from inches to 12 inches. A question may be raised as to what are to be regarded as short pins.
– I understand that the amendment inserting the word “ solidheaded “ disposes of the difficulty which the honorable member suggests.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in items 217, 222, 229, 230, 236, 253, 261, 279, 286, 295, 338, 344, 347, and 353, agreed to. .
.- A printer’s error has been. made in paragraph 1 of the amendment of item ‘356, which deals with papers, by the omission of the letter “ s “ from the words “ wrapping, brown, cap, casing, sealing,” and so forth. The plural should be used.
– The honorable member is right. I move -
That the amendment in item 356 (Paper) be agreed to with an amendment omitting the words’ “ brown, cap, casing, sealing, nature or ochre, brown, sulphite, sugar,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ browns, caps, casings, sealings, nature or ochre browns, sulphites, sugars.”
Motion agreed to.
– In the schedule to the Tariff Act, the following words occur in item 3 5 /a, “ Cards . . . including printers, visiting, menu,. programme, wedding, funeral,” and it has been suggested that those words be deleted and that a new paragraph be inserted making “ Cards, n.e.i.,” dutiable at a higher rate in order to compensate for the increased ‘duties on cardboard. I shall not propose such an amendment at the present stage, but if, on consideration, I deem it necessary. I shall have it made in another place.
Amendments, in items 357, 364, 370, 373, 395; 398> 4Z5> and 443 agreed to.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Naval Appropriation Bill.
Patents Trade Marks and Designs Bill.
Land Tax Bill.
Land Tax Assessment Bill.
Northern Territory Acceptance Bill.
Shale Oils Bounties Bill.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it had agreed “to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in this Bill.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
After Mr. Justice Isaacs’ decision the other day in connexion with an application by the defendant in the case of the Crown against the Coal and Shipping Vend, it was thought desirable and necessary to insert a new clause, in order to . make the clause apply to a case in which a penalty is involved, and which would not be otherwise covered. We shall, by this amendment, be able to obtain such information as is thought desirable and necessary to establish the case for the Crown in every instance.
– Is this to get discovery in case of penalty?
– Yes; and honorable members will see that the amendment is absolutely necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. HUGHES laid upon the table the following paper : -
Insurance - Royal Commission report - Part II. - Fire Insurance.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is simply a little referendum machinery Bill providing for voting at a referendum, independently of a general election. The Bill is rendered necessary by section 64 of the Electoral Act, which relates to the closing of the rolls; and the object is to evade technical and administrative difficulty in the way of closing the rolls on the day that the writ is issued, just in the same way as if there were a general election. Persons entitled to vote will be enrolled prior to the issue of the writ, in the same way as under the Electoral Act, and those who are not then enrolled will be as soon as possible afterwards, and so lose none of their rights. Supplementary rolls containing the names of all electors which do not appear on the principal rolls will be issued. Without indulging in any loose talk at this late stage of the session, I submit the motion.
– I do not desire to incite the Minister to any “ loose” talk; but I hope he will not ask us to pass a “loose” Bill. I shall be glad to be informed what provision is made, if any, for scrutiny during the voting. On each of the two occasions on which a referendum has been taken, it has been associated with the election of members, and the scrutineering on behalf of the rival candidates has been available, in order to check imposition. In the present instance, however, there will be no candidates, and, consequently, no scrutineers representing, candidates. The Bill contains no power on the part of the GovernorGeneral, this Government, or any one else, to appoint scrutineers ; and the Minister will see that, without safeguards of the ordinary kind, the door is left open tq possible abuses which cannot be discovered or checked. This is a serious matter, inasmuch as all the ordinary agencies attending an election contest are absent, and, apparently, there will be nobody present but the returning officer and the poll clerk.
If some precaution is not taken it willmark a most extraordinary departure.
– Will not the returning officers act as scrutineers?
– I do not see how they will find time to do so in the face of a steady stream of voters.
– In remote country districts there will only be the presiding officer present.
– There will not be much of a rush in such places.
– So far as I can see, the scrutiny already provided for is when the votes are being counted. The Governor of each State may appoint scrutineers to act after the papers have been placed in the ballot-box, and are being counted.
– At elections are there not a large number of booths where no scrutineers are present?
– Only a certain number. That, of course, is a matter for the candidates, who can have no ground of complaint if they suffer.
– This Bill is only to enable us to close the rolls.
– This is the only time we can make the necessary provision.
– It will be just the same as an election- - if either side desires, there can be scrutineers..
– But no power is given by the Bill to appoint scrutineers, and I think that, under the circumstances, we ought not to go beyond the second reading to-day. Doubtless the officers of the Department will be able to see more clearly than I do the series of complications that may arise and perhaps cause the whole referendum to be questioned. The ordinary precautions should be taken in the interests of the public to secure that the voters who present themselves are the persons they claim to be.
– This makes a referendum, to all intents and purposes, a general election.
– But a general election without candidates.
– And, therefore, without scrutineers. The honorable member for Angas has just pointed out to me that there is a further provision that the Governor of a State, or any person authorized by him, may appoint one scrutineer at each pollingplace; but I suggest to the Minister that there ought to be a Federal scrutineer as well.
– Why should the scrutiny depend entirely on the discretion of a State Governor?
– Each State has power to safeguard itself, but there is no provision for safeguarding the interests of the Federal Parliament, or of Australia as a whole, in this poll. It seems anomalous that a State Governor may appoint a scrutineer while the GovernorGeneral may not. The risks may be of such a character as to jeopardize the validity of the referendum irrespective of the result. I am sure the Minister desires, in the first place, an honest expression of opinion, and, in the second place, an expression of opinion that is unchallengeable. I should like the Minister to submit the point to the Law Officers and the electoral officers together, in order that they may consider what steps,’ if any, are necessary to put the Commonwealth in at least the same position as the States. The Minister at present appears to be able to throw no light on the question. As the AttorneyGeneral is now present, I should like him to look into the matter.
– Very well. Shall we take the second reading, and discuss the point in Committee?
– Unless the absence of scrutineers for the Commonwealth would make the referenda invalid, I do not see the necessity for their appointment. The power with respect to the States was put into the Act in order to preserve the rights of the States, seeing that an alteration of the Constitution will almost always involve a curtailment of the powers of the States, but for the Commonwealth to appoint a scrutineer would simply mean adding another Commonwealth officer to those already present in the -persons of the presiding officer and the poll clerk.
– In some remote districts, there is no poll clerk.
– But in those places there is no rush of voters.
– But is it .safe to allow one man to conduct an election?
– I have always taken exception to that practice, and would agree to the appointment of an extra man where there is only one officer present. As a matter of fact, scrutineers have no power, except to bring under the notice of the presiding officer matters which they think require attention. If a man says “ No, “ when asked by the presiding officer whether he has voted before, no one is able at that stage to prove whether his statement is correct or not. In ordinary polling-booths, in large centres, where there are two men at each table, I should like to be convinced of the necessity for the appointment of a Commonwealth scrutineer before I agree to sanction the extra expense.. Of course, parties could not be so definitely divided as to allow them to appoint scrutineers, and if the appointment is made by’ die Federal Government it will simply mean the. addition of a third Commonwealth official, where two can do all that is necessary.
.- I think it would be a good thing to have scrutineers. Although the State Governor has power to appoint a scrutineer, he may net exercise that power. It is optional with ‘ him. In . all matters of this sort, especially where the wishes of the States may not be in accord with the wishes of the Commonwealth, it would be reasonable for both to be represented by scrutineers. I do not say that there is any likelihood of wrongdoing, but there ought to be security. I have always thought that the system which we have adopted, and which is to be continued in this instance, offers almost a premium for wrong-doing, inasmuch as there is no scrutiny whatever as to whether a person votes wrongly or more than once. I have called the attention of the Minister to that great flaw in our procedure, and yet he proposes to perpetuate it in this case. He told the House that he was going to make an examination of certain districts to see if there was any cause for complaint. I do not know whether he has done so or not.
– I have.
– If so, the Minister has made no report to the House on the subject. In Western Australia, a procedure was adopted which we might very well follow. The returning officer for every division, in addition to certifying the result, had to make a report on the election, stating whether any one, so far as he could judge by comparing the rolls at the different polling booths, had, apparently, voted twice. If any one had, apparently, voted twice, he would give the name in his report, and the matter would be handed over to the Law Officers to deal with. Several prosecutions took place, and I think there were some convictions ; but even if no convictions followed, the practice would be some check upon those who are not too particular what they do. In a system like ours, where tens of thousands of people vote, it seems to be absolutely necessary to have a careful scrutiny of that kind. I do not say for a moment that wrong-doing does take place, but it is a fact that we have no check of any sort to ascertain Whether people vote once, twice, or twenty times at different polling booths, as unknown persons could easily do in a big city. Under present arrangements there is no chance of their being punished for doing it. I thought the Minister would give his attention to the matter, as he seemed to be very anxious to look into it; but if he has done so, he has never told any one what conclusions he has come to, or whether he found that anything wrong did take place. I only hope that he can report that everything is all right.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– The same procedure is to be perpetuated in the taking of the referenda. If we desire to do everything properly, we ought to have a scru-tiny, so that it may be known whether people do vote where they are not entitled to vote, or vote more than once. I hope the Minister will let us know the result of his investigations, and if they are satisfactory I shall be very glad to hear it.
.- What is desired might be obtained by an amendment of section 17 of the Referendum Act of last year. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, parts of which are incorporated for the purposes of the taking of a referendum, the returning officer may permit extra poll clerks, or any persons he likes, to be present at the polling, but they will not have defined duties. T do not think the Act contemplates persons in the nature of scrutineers being present, unless express permission is given. Part XI. of the Electoral Act, including section 1 94, is incorporated in the Referendum Act. That section empowers returning officers to appoint all necessary poll clerks.
– And section 135 which deals with scrutineers.
– The provision regarding scrutineers is hardly applicable, because the scrutineers there referred to are appointed to represent candidates. The ob- jection might be met by amending section 17 of the principal Act, which authorizes the Governor of a State, or any person appointed by him, to appoint scrutineers, by inserting at the beginning the words “ The Governor-General, or any person authorized by him, may appoint one scrutineer.” He could then appoint a person for each State to make appointments within a State.
.- Part XI. of the Electoral Act is incorporated in the principal Act, but I see no objection to extending the provisions of section 17 of the principal Act as the honorable member for Angas suggests. If this is done, the Government will not be committed to the making of any appointments ; the exercise of the power must remain at our discretion.
– That will be of no use. It is in the public interest that a scrutineer should be appointed.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that it is for him to say whether scrutineers shall be appointed or not ? The exercise of any of these powers is discretionary.
– The law should not be a dead letter.
.- Honorable members generally are desirous that nothing shall occur to invalidate the voting for which we are providing, and it seems to me that the non-appointment of scrutineers would not have that effect. What benefit will be gained by appointing extra representatives of the Commonwealth? To do so would merely increase expense. Of course, in the case of a prosecution there might be a second witness to identify or to give corroborative evidence, but the voting will be scrutinized at the central electoral office.
– What was the result of that on the last occasion?
– Corrections were made where necessary. If the Opposition desired to appoint scrutineers in the interests of State rights, I could understand the proposal, but nothing is to be gained by merely duplicating the Commonwealth representation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-9 is amended by inserting therein after section10, the following section10a. . . .
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That the following words be added, “ and by adding at the commencement of section 17 the words ‘ The Governor-General or any person authorized by him may appoint one scrutineer and.’ “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I gave notice last week of my intention to introduce this measure in this House, but subsequently withdrew the notice, and caused the Bill to be introduced in another place, which passed it with but one slight amendment. I have circulated for the information of honorable members a memorandum explaining the alterations proposed to be made in the principal Act. The words proposed to be omitted from that Act are printed in erased type, whilst the words proposed to be added are printed in black type. I had occasion yesterday, in submitting a resolution relating to Tariff anomalies, to point out that my predecessor in office in all probability had gone over the whole ground relating to the matter, and doubtless the same remark will apply to this measure. The questions with which this measure deals were brought under his notice when he held office, and doubtless had the Ministry of which he was a member remained in power, he would have introduced a somewhat similar measure. The original Customs Act was introduced by the late Honorable C. C. Kingston, and under it we took extensive powers to deal with imports. The Department of Trade and Customs, under sections 50, 51, 53, and 56 of that Act, has control over all classes of goods imported into Australia, but it has practically no power to deal with exports. Some time after the Act had been in operation it was found that some of its provisions in regard to the prohibition of imports were rather weak and that once prohibited imports had gained entry into Australia we had no power to follow them up. This Bill will give the Department greater powers in regard to certain classes of imports, and it will also give power to deal with exports. At this stage of the session I shall not detain honorable members by making a lengthy speech, but will content myself by pointing out as briefly as possible the chief amendments of the principal Act which this Bill is designed to meet. Under sections in and ii2 of the principal Act we have power to deal with the export of arms and munitions of war - a power similar to that which is taken by the Government of other countries - but our control over exports practically ceases there. Since the passing of the Customs Act in 1901, our export trade has increased by leaps and bounds, and other countries to which we export largely are becoming more and more strict in their supervision of imports. Deputations which have waited on me in regard to other matters have incidentally -urged that we should secure uniformity of action in respect of exports oversea, and from one State to another. I believe that it is the desire of every honorable member that die name of Australia should stand high in. other countries, and if it be our wish that our exports shall continue to maintain a high standard, we must recognise that uniformity of action in this regard is absolutely necessary. 1 do not want honorable members to think that under this Bill we propose to take any power to deal, for instance, with our butter exports. We have power to deal with them under the Commerce Act.
– Does the honorable member disclaim any idea of dealing with butter exports under this measure?
– I do not say that, but we have power to deal effectively with them as well as with other products under the Commerce Act. The honorable member for Wentworth recently drew my attention to the fact that certain meat exported from Australia to the Philippines was found to be below the standard required by the American authorities there, and that the shipments in question have had the effect of seriously damaging our trade with that market. It was urged upon the Department by the American authorities that if we were able to prescribe a standard of inspection that would satisfy their requirements, they would readily admit our meat into the Philippines, and I certainly think that if we open up new markets for our exports of meat we shall have done well. Some time ago there was a shortage of the meat supply in the United States of America, but we were unable to place a pound of Australian meat on the American market, for the reason, amongst others, that the American Consul was practically called upon to sign a certificate to the effect that meat so exported by us was free from .all disease, and had been killed under the best sanitary conditions. As foreign countries to which we are exporting our products are becoming more and more stringent in their supervision of imports, it follows that we must increase our supervision over exports. If a single shipment of .Australian produce were found to be deleterious or unfit for human consumption, that fact would be most .prejudicial to our trade. One of the objects of this Bill is to enable the Department so to deal with exports as to secure effective inspection. We shall be able, on the passing of this measure, to establish standards of quality. Unless we do this - unless we establish standards of quality as well as make certain provisions in regard to accurate trade descriptions - our trade with other countries must suffer. Under the Commerce Act we have power to deal with imports, and I was asked a ‘few days ago by the honorable member for Laanecoorie a question in regard to the power of the Department to exercise supervision over the importation of patent medicines. We require not only that such medicines shall be true to name, but that no extravagant claim in regard to them shall appear upon the labels. We insist, further, that any trade description given shall be accurate. Since we demand compliance with these conditions on the part of those who import goods into Australia, we should insist upon the observance of similar standards in connexion with our exports. The Commerce Act deals with exports, but does not enable us to prevent the exportation of inferior or even diseased foods, provided that they are accurately described. That is a fault that we ought to remedy. The Commerce Act is administered by the Department of Trade and Customs, which has been able to secure the best advice of experts in carrying out its provisions. As I have mentioned, under the principal Act we have power, so far as exports are concerned, to deal only with arms and munitions of war, but under clause 4 of this Bill we propose to enable the Governor-General, -by proclamation, to prohibit the exportation, amongst other things, of any goods the prohibition of the exportation of which is in his opinion necessary for the preservation of the flora or fauna of Australia.,
There has been a great outcry in Australia, as well as in other lands, in regard to the necessity for preserving bird life. Honorable members are at one, I think, in the belief that we should take steps to protect, as far as possible, our native birds, which have hitherto been ruthlessly slaughtered, and that we should, if possible, prohibit their exportation. Then again, the statement has been made that gold stolen from some of our mining fields has been exported to the East and elsewhere. Under this Bill we shall have power to deal with the illicit export of that mineral. Not long ago a case was brought under the notice of the Department where a traveller booked his luggage from one capital city to another, and thence to another, and an inspection of his luggage showed that in this way he had been evading the payment of certain Customs duties. We shall be able- by means of this measure to assist in the maintenance of certain laws now in operation, and to prevent losses of revenue which have occurred in this way. We take power to prohibit the export of certain goods from one State to another. If it is wrong for certain goods to be exported to an oversea destination, it is certainly wrong that they should be sent from one State to another. .
– Will not that power interfere with the Quarantine Act? It is a new provision.
– It certainly is a new provision, but I do not think that it will clash in any way with the Quarantine Act. The power to which I refer is contained in clause 5. At the present time we have no power to deal with adulterated goods. We may say that they shall not be imported into Australia, but we have no power to prevent their manufacture here, or to prevent goods that are unfit for human consumption or use being sent from one State to another. Clause 5 repeals section 167 of the principal Act, and I am sure that legal members opposite will agree that it is an improvement in the procedure. It will give importers the power, practically, to have their cases dealt with by any Court of competent jurisdiction other than the High Court, to which they are compelled to go under the present law. The High Court has decided that the section, ‘in its present form, is useless for all practical purposes - that importers are not advantaged by its retention, and will not be prejudiced by its emission. Another objection to the section is that all deposits paid in when the Tariff was introduced had to be paid to a Trust Fund, to be transferred periodically to the Consolidated Revenue ; and this has caused a great deal of unnecessary trouble to the Department.There were rendered necessary a number of unnecessary entries, and additional bookkeeping; and it was quite possible, while the Tariff was under consideration, for importers, if they so desired, to put the Treasurer in such a position that he would have no revenue at his command. The clause will enable the money to be paid direct into the Consolidated Revenue, and if the importer, after due notice, desires to have his case heard by any Court other than the High Court, and he is successful in his action, the money can just as readily be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue as out of a Trust Fund. If a question of constitutional import arises that should be dealt with by the High Court, the Department will have power .to select that tribunal. The clause also provides that any action must be taken within six months from the passing of a new Tariff. Under clause 6, power is given to question persons in the case of prohibited imports and exports in the same way as they may be questioned now in regard to dutiable goods. This is to repair what was evidently an omission in the Act; and clause 7 extends the powers of search in the same manner. Clause 8 extends the time for warrants issued by the State collectors from one month to three. There has been a considerable amount of trouble and annoyance caused from time to time, in distant parts of the Commonwealth, owing to the warrants issued having operation for only one month ; and the extension is to meet cases in the northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland. Clause 9 repeals section 210 of the principal Act, - and may be regarded as one of the most important in the Bill. Under the present law an officer of Customs may, without warrant, arrest any person whom he has reasonable ground to believe to be guilty of smuggling ; - and the clause extends that power to persons who are believed to be exporting or importing any prohibited exports or imports, or unlawfully conveying or having in their possession any smuggled or prohibited goods. Some honorable members may be of opinion that the Department is taking too much power in this respect, but it is really necessary for the vindication of the law and the protection of the revenue; in any case,- it is. merely an extension of the powers at present exercised.
– If such a clause be applied to some of the fauna prohibited from exportation, surely it is extraordinary to give the officer the power of arrest ?
– The power is not likely to be exercised in such a case. .
– Is the Department not taking too much power ?
– Personally, I do not think so. I am sure my predecessor will agree that, in view of the increase in opium smuggling, some effective power must be at the command of the Department. Some time ago about .£3,000 worth of opium was discovered on board a launch at Sydney; and clauses 10 and 11 enable us to deal with such cases. These clauses are directed against the opium traffic only, and, in view of the extent and injurious nature of that traffic, no stone should be left unturned in our effort to suppress it. A doubt has been raised whether the. Department is able to collect any of the fines imposed from time to time, unless the Order in Council was published in the Gazette over each specific fine. The Department has hitherto taken French leave and published the notification over the signature of the Minister ; but the Law officers have held that it is very doubtful whether the Department could recover, and that if any person liked to institute proceedings it would be necessary to publish in the Gazette the order setting forth the Minister’s power. The Bill gives legal sanction to the course the Department has adopted in this connexion. Honorable members know that some four or five years ago the honorable member for EdenMonaro, when Minister of Trade and Customs, took power to standardize, if I may use the word, the size of sacks . in which wheat is exported. The honorable member, however, was unable to do that by a direct method. While there was power to deal with the size of the sack in which wheat was imported, if the sacks were imported, or the material from which they were manufactured, was imported, we had no power to deal with the manufacturers here. While we could prevent sacks coming in over the standard size, or the piece goods from which they were manufactured, there was not the power to deal with the matter in the right way; and the Bill proposes to give power both in regard to imported and exported sacks. At the present time huge sugar sacks are coming in from Java, and there is the possibility of these going into use. We trust, however, that after the passing of the Bill the “backbreaking bag,” which no human being should be asked to carry, whether in’ the oversea or Inter-State trade, will go entirely out of use. When in Queensland about eighteen months ago, I saw some huge maize sacks from Java, which held nearly 400 lbs. each; but the Department was helpless to interfere, and they could be used for other commodities. In addition, clause 14 of the Bill lays down the - conditions of preparation or manufacture for export of any articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture of articles used for food or drink by man.
Conditions are also laid down as to the purity, soundness, and freedom from disease of goods for export. This latter provision is in harmony with an earlier clause, under which the Department takes power to deal with exports. It is felt that we ought to insist on the same standard of purity and soundness in exported goods that we adopt in the case of imported goods. We have found some difficulty in this connexion in regard to some of our contracts ; and one of the largest importers in the Old Country has informed the High Commissioner that unless goods from here conform to a certain standard, showing that the inspection has been efficient, no more will be taken. Realizing the importance of the matters dealt with in this Bill, the Government decided, even at this late stage of the session, to introduce it, feeling confident of the support of honorable members.
– I can confirm much that has fallen from the lips of the Minister, of Trade and Customs. This is essentially an administrative Bill, intended to deal with a considerable number of questions which have arisen during the last- few years, and which call for immediate settlement. Most of these were under my consideration when I was Minister of Customs; and had I continued in office, it would have been my duty, in the public interest, to introduce a similar measure. I do not say that that measure would have contained all the provisions that are in this Bill, and I should have endeavoured to at least limit some of the powers the Minister has set out. All these provisions are good so long as they are prudently and wisely administered, but they cover such a wide range that it behoves the House to be fully seised of (heir extent. To show the possibility of abuse, one provision gives the Governor-General power by proclamation to prohibit the exportation of any goods the exportation of which would, in his opinion, be harmful to the Commonwealth. While, as a rule, a Court has the fullest power to deal with regulations, and to test their reasonableness, if a specific provision in an Act gives discretion to a Minister, the Court will not interfere with its exercise, and that would be the case under that clause. Suppose that’ it was determined that, in the opinion of the Minister, it was harmful to the Commonwealth that greasy wool should be exported. It might be contended that if greasy wool were scoured and prepared in Australia it would give employment to the people of the Commonwealth. That argument might be advanced a step further to the preparation of tops, and from that to the preparation of yarn, and from that to the actual manufacture of the fabric, a most desirable achievement, if practicable. By this means, it might be determined, by the imposition of embarrassing conditions, to discourage the export of greasy wool, and deal a reeling blow to the greatest of our industries. It is. difficult to believe that any man charged with the responsibility of administering a great Department like the Customs Department would be guilty of such a short-sighted policy, but if any Minister, by the strength of his prejudice, came to that determination, it would be most difficult to dissuade him.
– Does the honorable member think that any Government that did that would live?
– I cannot ignore the fact that, during the last election, I was asked at several meetings whether I was in favour of the imposition of an export duty on wool.
Mi. Tudor. - Was the honorable member ever asked that in the State days?
– I cannot remember such a question being put in those days, but I was asked it on several platforms during the last Senate election, and deputations have waited on some Ministers urging them to impose export duties on various articles of produce. I have been invited to impose them on hides and skins. It has even been suggested in certain well-known circles that we should impose export duties on wheat and butter. It is unwise for us in these days, when suggestions of that sort are put forward as almost coming within the region of practical politics, to repose in any Minister such a sweeping discretion. I would suggest that, so far as that particular clause is concerned, and perhaps as regards other clauses relating to exportation, the proclamation should be brought officially under the notice of Parliament, and that it should be within the power of either, or both, Houses, by resolution, to modify, or even nullify, it. The’ power now proposed goes far beyond any hitherto reposed in a Minister under the Customs Act.
– We have precisely the same power over imports.
– I am referring to exports, and showing that it is possible under a clause, of this kind to bring about the most harmful results. The idiosyncrasies of a Minister may possibly assert themselves to a most injurious extent, and in view of the serious injury that may be done to the ‘Commonwealth, some restriction or limitation should be imposed. Those remarks have special reference to paragraph b of proposed new section 112. I am in complete agreement with the remarks of the Minister with regard to the export of meat and other products with which he dealt. It has come under his notice, as it came under mine, that it is necessary to give the fullest power to follow products of that kind from the time and place of their manufacture or preparation to their actual exportation. Our export trade is likely to be seriously injured unless some power of inspection and rigid supervision is reposed in the Department. Such a power is being more and more exercised in other communities. We rely on them in many cases to accept our goods, and we have been notified that unless an official certificate of soundness, and purity, and freedom from disease accompanies the article, its importation into those countries will not be permitted. My honorable friend and myself know of various articles in regard to which appalling revelations have been made as the result of investigations which I originally caused to be made by the Department into conditions of manufacture and carriage from the place of preparation to the slings of the ships. Those conditions, if they had been allowed to continue and become known abroad, would have most alarmingly injured one of our most valuable trades - a trade which may amount to something like £2 ,000,000 per annum. Important reforms have been made during the last seven or eight months in those directions in consequence of the inspection made by the Department and the reports furnished to the Minister. Consequently, I .agree with my honorable friend that, in the interests of our export trade, it is essential that we should be in a position to certify to the purity and freedom from disease of our goods if they are to be received with confidence abroad. We are naturally proud of our production. We are capable of producing articles of the very highest standard, and securing the highest prices abroad, and, therefore, we should have the fullest power to insure their purity. I admit that we have, in this connexion, to fight against vested interests. We have the strongest vested interests to contend with as regards grading and other supervision of that character, and the Minister requires the fullest encouragement and strength of purpose in order to enable him to do justice to our productions.
– To what vested interests does the honorable member refer?
– I have one particularly in my mind, but I am not referring to butter.
– The honorable member was the cause of all the trouble with regard to butter.
– I made certain proposals to decrease the moisture in Australian butter, with a view to having its standard equal to the best on the London market.
– That is not dealt with in this Bill.
– It could be dealt with. Power is taken in the Bill to control the export of butter, but it is specifically controlled already by the Commerce Act.
– I can promise honorable members that I shall do nothing with regard to butter outside the commerce regulations, which they will have a full opportunity of discussing. Butter is not dealt with in this Bill.
– It would be most unfair to deal with it under these provisions, because by the commerce regulations we give the fullest notice to farmers and others as to the standards required and the degree of moisture beyond which they will not be permitted to go, and upon the faith of these the butter is prepared for export. I was only too anxious when in office to call conferences with a view to getting the soundest, advice, in order that the best results might be achieved in the butter trade. The Minister referred to the question of deposits of duty where there is any dispute or protest. The present law, as embodied in section 167 of the Act, is most unsatisfactory. It gives me satisfaction to remember that, owing to a recent case which was before the Court, where I deemed it necessary to take up a particular attitude, thousands of pounds have been saved to the revenue of the Commonwealth. This clause is most concerned with refunds. I have at all times taken up the position that the merchant, having collected the duty already from his customers, should not be permitted to come upon the Consolidated Revenue for a refund. He may have already paid the money- to the Customs, but, as a matter of fact, he has collected it from the public. With regard to outside packages, which were the subject of dispute during my term of office, a decision was given in favour of the Department, resulting in the saving of many thousands of pounds to the revenue. I admit that we have to do justice all round, and that when there is a fair and reasonable dispute regarding the payment of duty a definite means of settling it should be prescribed. That means is provided by the Bill now before us. I go largely, if not completely, with the Minister as to the more rigid steps that are being taken to prevent smuggling. The country has determined that the importation of opium shall be prohibited. This step has been taken in the interests of public health and morals, and costs us something like £60,000 a year in loss of revenue. Therefore, although it is next to impossible to put a stop to the smuggling of opium, we must not be discouraged from making every effort, including the imposition of most rigorous penalties, to prevent it. The provision for limiting the size of the bags used for the conveyance of wheat and other produce, and the weight which may be put into them, is one which must have our support. Hitherto the humane object aimed at has been sought to be attained by the prohibition of the importation of jute and other bags of any but specified sizes, which has seriously interfered with one of our industries; but by empowering the Minister to prescribe the maximum or minimum weight or quantity of goods which may be contained in any one package, we shall attain our end much more easily, and prevent the heart-burning which we have had in the past. The method adopted in the Bill is much mote satisfactory than that which it supersedes, coupled with an agreement with the States for the regulation of packages carried by the railways. Subject to the suggestion which I have made regarding clause 4, I welcome the Bill as an old friend. 1 testify to its value from the administrative stand-point, and have pleasure in corrobo-rating much that has been said by the Minister He will have my willing assistance in placing the measure on the statutebook.
.- There is every reason for doing all that is possible to set a high standard of purity and general excellence for the exports from the Commonwealth, so that they may retain their hold on the markets of the world, and so far as the Bill will enable that to be done, it will have my support. But it gives power for the making of restrictive regulations which might be very detrimental to the producing interests. The Intentions of the present Minister may be the best in the world. I know from personal experience that he sympathizes with our producers, and has given a great deal of attention to representations made to him regarding at least one class of exports. But although I wish him no harm, it must not be forgotten that he cannot hold office for ever, and may be succeeded by men less sympathetic with the producers. Therefore, the proposal to grant the powers covered by the Bill is a serious one. The provision to’ which the honorable member for Kooyong has referred could be used as I hope and think this Minister would not use it; that is, it could be exercised ii: such a way as to prevent the export of any commodity. Recently there was a movement to prevent the exports of hides.
– Hear, hear.
– No doubt the honorable member would like to see that brought about, and if a Minister holding his views were in power, it might be done. If there were a shortage in any line of production, and the. world’s prices were high, the Minister might in the interests of local consumers prohibit the export of a particular commodity.
– The powers asked for regarding exports are not so great as those which I now possess regarding imports.
– The prohibition of imports does not affect the community so greatly as the prohibition of exports would do. The Minister stated that he does not intend to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill in order to provide for the grading of butter.
– That is so, though I have power under the Commerce Act to deal with that if I desire.
– Under the Bill, the Minister could refuse to allow butter which had not been manufactured under the prescribed conditions to be exported.
– That is a necessary power.
– It depends upon the conditions.
– The regulations would merely provide for production under sanitary and clean conditions.
– The Bill imposes no limitation in regard to the regulations which may be prescribed. The Minister may make any regulations he likes. I wish to know what his intentions are in the matter.
– The Senate amended paragraph d of proposed new section 112 to provide for the prohibition of the exportation of goods - which have not been prepared 01 manufactured for export under the prescribed conditions as to purity, soundness, or freedom from disease; ot which do not conform to those conditions.
– No regulation should go further than to set up a standard; no provision for grading should be made. The business of the Government in these matters is to prescribe conditions relating to purity, cleanness, and production, but not to grade. When the Government has laid down the conditions under which production shall take place, and has fixed standards, it has done all that is required. For the Government to grade our exports would be practically for it to determine their value in the world’s markets, and as one who has had considerable experience in the export of one of our staple” products, I say that this would be detrimental to the best interests of our producers. It is riot the duty of the Government to mark our exports in such a way as to practically determine their value in other countries. That should be left to those who purchase them from us. Having fixed a standard and conditions of production, all that the Government should do is to mark our goods as “ passed for export.”
– I have not had an opportunity to make myself familiar with the details of the Bill, but I recognise that there is need for a measure to clothe the Minister with very large powers. I do not suppose that the present Minister would use unreasonably any powers which we might confer upon him, but in passing legislation of this kind Parliament cannot consider the character of the officer who is to administer it, as it will be administered by all kinds of Ministers, and under all sorts of conditions. It seems to me, therefore, that these very large powers should be safeguarded to some extent, and that Parliament should have some control over their exercise.For instance, as the honorable member for Richmond has just pointed out, the Minister might choose to exercise his power under this Bill to prohibit the exportation of skins and hides, or, as was at one time suggested, the exportation of wheat. Such an exercise of power might result in serious injury to a very deserving Australian production, whilst conferring no benefit upon the community. In order to safeguard the rights of the Parliament, and to protect the interests of the people, there should be inserted in the Bill a clause requiring the Minister to report to the House every action taken by him to exercise a power under this Bill, and to furnish a statement of his reasons for taking that action. If such a provision were inserted, we should thus have an opportunity to review the action of the Minister, and to express an opinion upon it. There is undoubtedly a call for increased powers in this direction. For instance, the Minister requires to have further power to insure compliance with the regulation in regard to the use of a standard cornsack. Hitherto the Department has been ableto secure the observance of the standard by means of its power of control over imports. I have been informed, however, that there has been established in one of the leading States of the Commonwealth a factory for the manufacture of sacks, some of which will not conform to the required standard, but will be of a larger size. Under the law as it stands, the Minister would be unable to prevent the use of such bags in connexion with the export of grain, and, therefore, in this respect, the Bill will serve a useful purpose. Hitherto some of the States have intervened to give effect to the Federal policy in this respect, whilst others have not done so. Thus it is only possible to prevent the defeat of our object by clothing the Minister with power to deal with- the export as well as the import of cornsacks. Again, it is very desirable that the commodities which we export shall be creditable to the Commonwealth, and shall be what they are represented to be. One of the great objections raised in connexion with the Customs Tariff Bill was that, whilst some countries had stringent laws to secure the purity of food supplies for local use, that local domestic legislation did not apply to foods for export. In this way, it was said, Australia was largely being made a dumping-ground for inferior goods, differing very materially from those produced for consumption in the countries from which they were exported. We have to protect ourselves against such unfair trading, and it is also very desirable, if we are to secure the best possible market for our products, that we should be careful to insure that our exports are of such a character as will be creditable to the reputation of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, therefore, I am prepared to support the Minister in his desire to secure wider powers. I feel, however, that the extensive powers which will be conferred upon him by this Bill should be safeguarded in the direction which I have indicated.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fuller) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
.- We have been told by the Minister - and his statement has been corroborated by the exMinister of Trade and Customs - that this is a purely administrative measure, and I have no doubt that, with this indorsement, a large number of its provisions, such as those relating to smuggling, and certain other matters, will be readily agreed to. To my mind, however, the powers taken by the Minister under this Bill are extremely wide, and their unreasonable exercise might do great damage to some of the most important of our industries. Under it the Minister will have power to issue certain regulations, and if he relied unduly upon officials possessing only a very .partial knowledge of the subject with which they were dealing, the result would be disastrous. Some of his officials in connexion with a very important industry have shown the possession of an imperfect knowledge of the facts, and upon that imperfect knowledge have based a strong report upon which the Minister seems inclined to act. I, like the Minister, am very anxious that our Australian products should retain in the markets of the world the high position and reputation which they now occupy. I would point out, however, that the leading position which our butter exports occupy in the London market, as well as the markets of ether countries, has been secured without Government interference or help. The men who represent the industry have established a great export trade, and have placed it upon a magnificent footing. They manage the business from this end, and also have a committee of management in London, and they command in the markets of the world a price for their products which is very satisfactory to all connected with the industry. The development of the dairying industry saved Victoria a few years ago, and it is now adding millions to the wealth of Australia. All this has been done without Government interference. I am quite with the Minister and others in their anxiety to maintain the purity and soundness of the products that we export, and should not like anything to occur that would be calculated to diminish their high reputation. In that respect we cannot be too careful. At the same time I disapprove of Government interference, with a view to fixing the values of our products by a system of grading. If certain proposals are carried out, we shall have an army of Government officials engaged in grading our products all over the Commonwealth. If these officials, under the regulations which the Minister will no doubt issue, are to be allowed to grade our produce, so as practically to fix its value in the markets of the world, they will undertake a big- responsibility, and the system, I feel confident, will be disastrous to the best interests of the dairying industry. The honorable member for Richmond and myself, who have both been closely connected with a certain industry, know that, while New Zealand has been pointed to as an example of success, grading is absolutely futile in the way of insuring any particular standard of price in . the markets of the world. Time after time, butter regarded here as second grade has obtained first class prices in London; but, if it is graded here as superfine, first class, 01 second class, that will practically fix the value of the product abroad with disastrous effects to the pockets of the farmers here. The honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member fpr Cowper, and myself, have all attended deputations to the Minister from those who are most largely interested in the butter industry ; and, as I have said before, we were always received with all courtesy and afforded every opportunity of presenting our views. These deputations were representative of those who practically governed three-fourths of the butter trade, which, under a system of co-operation, has reached its . present eminence. I regard with a great deal of misgiving the issue of regulations by any Minister in the direction suggested. I have no desire to attack any Government official ; but I cannot help- observing that the report by Mr. Lockyer, the ‘Acting Comptroller of Customs, on which, I understand, the Minister proposes to act, was based on imperfect and inaccurate information. If this Bill be passed, there will always be a danger of industries being prejudiced by the reports of officials who are not- conversant with the conditions. Who are the men most likely to be capable of judging as to what is best for the industry, not only in regard to its conduct in the Commonwealth, but in the markets of the .world? Surely those who have made it a lifelong study, and who have raised it to its present high position in the face of great difficulty and prejudice abroad. I am certain that even the Minister does not claim any knowledge of this industry beyond what he has gleaned from the departmental officials, and various deputations that have waited upon him. This legislation affects the whole of the people on the land in my district ; and the same may be said in regard to the constituency of the honorable member for Richmond ; and anything that prejudices the development of the butter industry must prove disastrous to the Commonwealth as a whole. Although the Bill has received the indorsement of the late Minister of Trade and Custome, I sincerely hope” that the present Minister will not proclaim any regulations in connexion with the grading of butter, because, as I have said, that will affect the value before the product leaves Australia, and prevent the producers obtaining the best prices. There is no objection,’ of course, to insisting on the industry being carried out on the most up-to-date system ; and all that is necessary in the way of cleanliness and so forth is insured in New South Wales, of which, of course, I can speak with greater knowledge. This great private enterprise has done much for my own State, Victoria, and several of the other States ; and I am certain that if the industry be placed under Commonwealth supervision, we can only expect disaster.
.- I have very attentively followed this debate; and I realize that this is a Bill more for Committee discussion than for secondreading speeches. We are indebted to the honorable member for Illawarra for his vigorous address, and to the honorable mem- ber for ‘Richmond for his clear exposition ; but I see that the measure affects far ‘more than the butter industry, or the other industries which have been subject to careful scrutiny under the Commerce Act passed some time ago. The important clause is that which deals with prohibited exports ; and the authorities certainly take very extensive powers, some of which, of course, may be necessary. I do not like to say, at this” juncture, that the particular powers are taken in a way that is advisable. The retaining in the Bill of the proposed amendments to section 112 would probably rejoice the soul of a bureaucrat ; but I am not quite certain that it would be altogether safe to allow it to pass as drafted.
I am told that Ministers are not altogether to blame for the ambitions and actions of their departmental heads. We have it on the authority of no less a person than the Minister of Home Affairs that Ministers are usually only “animated rubber stamps “; and I suppose we may take it that the tremendous power under the clause referred to will be exercised by the departmental heads, and that the Ministers will be their humble instruments. This makes the position rather difficult, because the wording of the clause is very broad ; for instance, it is provided that the Governor-General, i.e. the Minister, may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of goods, the exportation of which will, “ in his opinion, be harmful to the Commonwealth.” We may get some “ animated rubber stamp “ who will take the view that the exportation of our best wheat would be “ harmful to the Commonwealth.” I have heard of statesmen in embryo - of collections of budding statesmen - meeting together in solemn conclave, and denouncing the exportation of wheat as harmful to the country.
– If there were a drought, would it not be a good thing to prohibit exportation?
– If there is a drought in any part of Australia, is the export of produce to be immediately prohibited ? If that is the meaning of the Bill, we ought not to pass it, because when occasion arises to take such stringent steps, the Parliament of the country should be consulted, and not merely the opinion of some departmental officials whom the people of Australia do not know.
– It is only a latent power which every Government possesses.
– If the power is to be abused in the way suggested by the honorable member, it is one which the Customs authorities should not possess.
– We at . present have a greater power than that over imports.
– The Minister has a number of very stringent powers over imports, and those powers I have always resisted. I do not, however, think there is a power fraught with such far-reaching consequences as the proposed power to prohibit the exportation of goods which, in the opinion of the Ministry of the day, would be “ harmful to the Commonwealth.”
If it were said that the exportation of certain goods would be harmful to Australia, inasmuch as being deleterious in quality, or for some other reason, they would prove a bad advertisement for outproduce, then I would be entirely with the Bill, because I know the damage that has resulted - for instance, in the meat export trade - from this cause.
– Would it not have teen a good thing if we had had the power to prohibit the exportation of a couple of cargoes of meat to the Philippines ?
– It would have been excellent, but those cargoes w’ould have been prohibited, because they were infected with pleuro. The landing of those cargoes in the Philippines has jeopardized the export trade in meat with that country
-“ Jeopardized “’? Trade has been absolutely stopped !
– It is stopped for the time being, and jeopardized for the future. The absence of some power to prohibit such exports has done Australia some harm in that case, and may in others. I would gladly support any power to remedy an evil of that kind.
– What harm is there in the power asked for under the Bill ?
– That goes a great deal farther.
– What other provision could we make than that the export may prove harmful in the opinion of the Governor in -Council ?
– The ground of the prohibition is not necessarily that the goods are bad, and may damage the reputation of our produce, because the goods prohibited may be of the best quality. The Minister for the time being might be a fanatic, and regard all exports as bad for the Commonwealth. He might be a member of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, and object to the exportation of wheat in any circumstances.
– Have they been doing that?
– I think the Melbourne Trades Hall Council passed a resolution on those lines.
– Did Senator Barker agree with it?
– In these days it is rather unsafe to say that Senator Barker does anything in a political sense. At any rate, Senator Barker was not then in Parliament, and I was so busy watching the doings of much more important persons that I did not attempt to find out what particular persons were guilty of that lunacy. The fact remains that the Trades Hall Council did pass such a resolution, under the stupid idea that if the exportation of wheat were prohibited, the Australian farmers would still continue to grow as much as ever, and that the people of Australia would get it cheaper.
– The honorable member is not making an accurate statement.
– To the best of my memory, it is accurate.
– The question that has been raised in a certain case is whether the remark was made at a deputation. There is no doubt that it was said at the Trades Hall.
– I am convinced that it was, and that the matter . which is sub judice relates to another point altogether.
– The Indian Government have stopped the exportation of rice in a famine.
– My honorable friend will probably go round the streets next week saying that there is a famine in Australia, and that, therefore, the farmers are to be compelled to dispose of the whole of their wheat locally. Only half of it finds its market here now, and, therefore, in the opinion of the honorable member and of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, the price of wheat in Australia will come down by half accordingly !
When we know that these various evidences of lunacy are abroad in our political life, and that views of this kind may shelter themselves behind a pair of the most eminently wise spectacles, and, unsuspected, evidence themselves when that pair of spectacles is sitting as an “ animated rubber stamp “ behind the protection of the permanent head of the Customs Department, we should pause before we give these wide powers to any Minister. If we are not careful, the producing community of Australia, upon which the whole community lives, may find that they are to be denied their markets because certain persons happen to occupy a position of power in the Commonwealth, and do not understand the rudiments of political economy.
I shall vote for the Bill, in order to take it into Committee, but there its provisions will have to be most earnestly scrutinized in order to see that powers altogether beyond what are required are not vested in the Customs Department. I regard the measure in a. friendly light, and am anxious to see some of its provisions carried into effect, and the Minister of the day given sufficient power to prevent the exportation from Australia of diseased produce, which may be damaging to our export trade.
.- The Bill, as the honorable member for Kooyong has pointed out, covers a very large area of valuable powers. Every opportunity should be given to the Commonwealth to see that our exports are properly supervised and placed on the markets of the world as productions which can be depended upon. The power proposed to be given over the exportation of goods is very far-reaching, and might easily be abused if any Minister undertook to exercise it to the full. In fact, such powers would be likely to be used much more detrimentally to the interests of the Commonwealth than if the Minister were given power to impose export duties on certain articles. I could quite conceive of a Minister refusing, ostensibly in the interests of the Commonwealth to allow certain hides to be exported, and such a power might even be used to prohibit the exportation of hides altogether. If that were done it would destroy the outside markets for our producers in that direction, and destroy the value of the local market where the hides are being treated. A few months ago I had the honour to introduce to the Minister a very influential and representative deputation, attended by accredited delegates from every State, to protest against the proposal to place an export duty on hides. The exporters and growers of hides were represented, and there were also present several of the master tanners, who said’ that the section of the tanners that were asking for an export duty on hides did not substantially represent the tanning industry of Australia.
– Some of those on that deputation were practically represented on’ the other.
– At any rate, that statement was made by the master tanners on that occasion, and, so far as I am aware, has not since been contradicted. It was pointed out that the hides and skins industry was of the greatest importance to Australia, and that it is related to almost every other phase of primary production. Knibbs states that during the last five years no less than £11,174,000 worth of hides and skins was exported from Australia. Our production per head is greater than that of any other country in the world, except New Zealand. Our total production amounts in value to over £160,000,000, of which no less than £100,000,000 is represented by what is known as primary production. That is classified as follows : Pastoral £47,000,000, agricultural £37,000,000, and dairying £15,000,000. Of that total £45,000,000 worth of primary products are exported, mostly to Great Britain. Those figures show the importance to Australia of her primary industries, and emphazise the necessity of a proper system of supervision over our exports before they are placed on the markets of the world, in order that the maintenance of the prestige of Australia may be effectually guaranteed, and the highest prices assured to our producers. Another clause in the Bill gives the Minister power to deal with the exportation of cornsacks. The question of the size of cornsacks was fully discussed in the last Parliament and dealt with by a previous Minister. The Minister has declared that the prescribed sacks should hold 200 lbs. of grain, but, as a matter of fact, they are only three-bushel sacks, holding not more than . 185 or 186 lbs.; I introduced certain deputations to the Minister regarding this matter, and both sides of the question were fully threshed out. I believe the smaller sack is giving general satisfaction, although wheat-growers generally would have preferred to be allowed to use a sack holding 200 lbs. of wheat instead of 186. Under this clause the Minister will have the power to prohibit the exportation of cornsacks over the prescribed size. If he intends to bring in a regulation in pursuance of that power, I hope he will remember that large numbers of cornsacks used for various purposes are already within the Commonwealth which he should allow to be exported, so long as they are not beyond the old standard size. I hope he will give breathing time to those who are using them. It would mean a serious loss if they were compelled to destroy them, or to place them on one side.
– I notified in the press six months ago that it was intended to introduce this Bill. Therefore they have had breathing time.
– A newspaper paragraph may be read and forgotten, and may not be seen by two-thirds of those interested. I do not ask for an unreasonably long notice,’ but the intimation should be given that the regulation will come into force after the expiration of a certain period. I hope that the Minister will announce his intention regarding the proposal to place ah export duty on hides and skins. He told a deputation some time ago that he intended to consult the Cabinet about it.
– In answer to a question by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I said that’ the Cabinet was averse to the imposition of an export duty on hides and skins, but that .whether an inquiry would take place was another matter.
– That is satisfactory, and I hope that, before reversing that decision, the Minister will give due consideration to the great importance of the export trade in hides and skins.
– I wish to offer a word in protest against the slandering of the Labour party by the honorable member for Wentworth, who stated that we have striven to place an export duty on grain and other produce. He must be aware that that was merely an election canard, circulated with a view to injuring us.
– I am not certain that the honorable member for South Sydney did not advocate such a course. .
– No member of the party has advocated it, either here or on the hustings. Such tactics are beneath contempt. The charge is as false as it is stupid and absurd, and I hope that no more will be heard of it.
– Will the honorable member say that the Trades Hall did riot discuss the matter?
– The discussions of the Trades Hall have nothing to do with this party. Its masters are the political Labour leagues,, of whom all workers, including producers, may be members. It will be a sorry day for the Commonwealth if an attempt be made to put an export duty on our staple products, such as grain, butter, meat, and hides.
– The Cabinet took months to consider whether an export duty should be placed on hides.
– The Minister has just stated that it is averse to that. It might be a good thing to put a duty on the hides of those who repeat absurd stories about the party.
– The proposal referred to emanated from those who create the policy of the Labour party.
– Our party is the creation of the people, but we cannot be responsible for the utterances of every individual in the community, though we are willing to shoulder our own sins. If any Government proposed an export duty on our produce, I should try to make its position a difficult one. I am proud that the Labour Government, notwithstanding its conflicts regarding constitutional amendments, and its efforts to establish other reforms, has not forgotten the men who produce wheat and wool and butter., Honorable members opposite would like the producers to believe that we are not fighting for them, but they have not been forgotten, and this Bill has been introduced in their interests.
– What has been done for the producers this session?
– I shall not take up time by recounting now all that has been done for them, but I hope to have the pleasure, before many weeks have passed, of telling the producers, thousands of whom vote for me, what has been done, and I shall refer to this measure, amongst others, as one introduced in their interests.
The Government has taken a two-handed grip of their concerns. It behoves us to jealously safeguard the reputation of our produce. Australia can produce the best wheat, the best butter, the best cheese, and the best of everything; but careless handling and marketing, and a negligent Government, might injure the good name of our productions in the markets of the world. The Government must watch over those nefarious tricksters, the farmers of the farmers’ produce, who do business in Sussex-street, Sydney, and in the other capitals. Unless we watch them carefully, and regulate their operations, the producers’ interests will be greatly injured. Some years ago an industry was growing up in Australia which has reached enormous dimensions in America, because there the Government takes control until its products reach the markets of the world. It was thought that the great wealth in the Australian flora would be the source of “ ari enormous trade in honey ; but some very clever export gentlemen, the farmers of farmers’ products, got to work on a shipment of Australian honey, and added to it a large quantity of eucalyptus oil, a substance which is practically a poison, and possesses an .abominable flavour. They placed the adulterated honey on the London market, thinking that it would have a special taste, which the consumers would like, but the effect was to do an injury to the industry from which it has never recovered. The Government should see that only the best goes from Australia, and should assist, by grading and branding, to establish a name for our products, and thus advance the interests of those whom the honorable member for Wentworth wishes to alienate from us.
.- While this measure is before us, we are the masters of the situation; but when it has become law, the Minister will have immense powers vested in him, and it is of the utmost importance to the great exporting industries that their exercise shall be properly safeguarded. I have, on several occasions, waited upon him in connexion with deputations from those interested in the production of butter, asking him to hold his hand in regard to the proclamation of regulations. These regulations have not yet been gazetted, but probably they will be brought into force directly Parliament prorogues.
– I gave the assurance the other day that if I could not lay them or the table before the prorogation, I wouk not bring them into operation until Parliament met again.
– That is a most satisfactory statement, and I am glad to Have it from the Minister.
– I made it the other day to the honorable member for Illawarra.
Mi. Fuller. - 1 did not understand the honorable member to say exactly that.
– I hope to place the regulations on the table before we prorogue.
– The honorable member said that he had not obtained the consent of his colleagues to them yet.
– As to the proposal to place an export duty on wheat, a resolution in favour of it was carried by the Trades Hall, and I am assured that the honorable member for South Sydney, when a candidate, advocated it.
– - Will the honorable member connect his statements with the question before the Chair?
– Paragraph b of ‘ the proposed new section covered by clause 4 empowers the Minister to issue regulations prohibiting exportation which, he may consider harmful to the Commonwealth. There has been an agitation for an export duty on wheat, it being alleged that the exportation of that commodity is harmful to our consumers.
– To the millers, not to the consumers. It is .the millers who advocate the duty.
– It has been stated that an export duty on wheat would reduce its price to the consumers. But should a Minister choose to do so he can, under this measure, prohibit the exportation of wheat. The fact that this has become a question of importance to a section of the community brings it well within the scope of this debate, and it is a possibility against which we are entitled to guard ourselves. I should like some information from the Minister as to his object in providing in proposed new section 112a -
A proclamation under the preceding section may prohibit the transfer from any State to any .other State of any goods the exportation of which is prohibited by the proclamation, unless the transfer is carried out under and subject to the regulations.
– At present we may prohibit the exportation of adulterated goods, but we cannot prevent their passing from one State to another. I think that we ought to have such a power, and the provision to which the honorable member has referred will supply it.
– Will such a provision apply to adulterated flour?
– I hope so. I hope that it will enable us to deal with all such matters.
–The Minister’s answer, seems to be satisfactory. I should like to know whether under clause 4 the Minister of the day will have power to deal with a matter which has been brought before the House on several occasions during the present, session? Complaint is made that if goods produced in one State are objected to on any ground in another State their introduction may be interfered with, by means of vexatious regulations. Will the Minister have power under the clause to compel the free interchange of goods as between State and State? At present one State may assert itself to prevent the importation of goods from another State, and so to interfere with Inter-State Free Trade, which is a fundamental principle of the Constitution.
– I do not think that this Bill will give the Minister any power in that regard, but we have certain powers under the Quarantine Act.
– The Minister should have taken power under this Bill to cope with what is an admitted difficulty - a difficulty which he has complained before today he is unable to meet. I am very glad, however, to have obtained from him the admission that the export butter regulations are not to be issued until Parliament again assembles.
– I did not say that. What I said was that if the regulations were not laid on the table before the prorogation of Parliament they would not be introduced before Parliament re-assembled.
.- I compliment the Government on the introduction of this Bill, which I believe will make for the enhancement of the reputation of Australian produce in the markets of the world. To-day there is a wave of public opinion, supported by scientific authority, that foodstuffs should be as pure as possible. Hitherto it has been possible to send from our shores oleomargarine uncoloured, so that it can be sold abroad as butter - sold as a lie to the detriment and injury of Australian produce. We have power to prevent the im-
Imitation of oleomargarine unless it is so coloured that it cannot be passed off as butter upon unsuspecting people, and I claim that we should have the same power in regard to the export trade. The Government should have power to insure that Australian produce shall be what’ it is reputed to be, and not a fraud and a sham, as some of it has been in the past. I am pleased to know that under this Bill the Minister of Trade and Customs will have power to control the sale of adulterated foodstuffs. I should vote for this Bill, no matter by what Government it was introduced, and my only regret is that it does not go even further. Under paragraph c of proposed new section 112 power is taken to enable the Governor-General by proclamation to prohibit the exportation of any goods - the prohibition of the exportation of which is, in his opinion, necessary for the preservation of the flora or fauna of Australia.
No one can say to-day what will be the result of the destruction of bird-life upon the insect pests of Australia. Wise men who have given much study to the diseases that decimate our crops and destroy our vintages and fruitages, have come to the conclusion, however, that the ruthless destruction of bird-life that has taken place may be the cause of the unwonted increase of these insect pests. This Bill will give the Minister power to control the export of birds, and will so render utterly useless the present destruction of birds of beautiful plumage. As to the power taken under this Bill to .regulate the size of packages, I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Wimmera pleading for delay, and yet more delay. The records of the surgeons of this city show that the hearts of many men have practically been broken by reason of the heavy weights that they have been called upon to carry. Is not the honorable member aware that the honorable member for Eden- Monaro, who gave his name to the Chapman bag, was a member of a Ministry which has been succeeded by three different Governments-
–I am not objecting to his action.
– Then, what was the honorable member’s reference to a newspaper paragraph?
-The honorable member is misconstruing my position. I am making no objection at all in that connexion.
– Perhaps 1 misunderstood the honorable member. T thought that he complained that a mere notice, by means of a newspaper paragraph, of action on the part of the Minister was insufficient.
– I simply asked the Minister to give notice, and reasonable breathing time, before he brought such a regulation into force.
– If that is not a plea for delay, I do not know what is. Three Ministries have succeeded that of which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was a member when he provided for a standard cornsack ; and before and since then men of humane feelings have urged from many platforms that the workers should not be compelled to carry these large and heavy bags. Some of the old grain bags were capable of holding no less than 350 lbs. Samples were exhibited in this building, and not one honorable member was -strong enough to carry one a distance of 100 yards. There are on our wharfs men who have to carry these heavy weights up narrow planks and on board ship. Whilst they are on the wharfs their arms have full play, and the position is not so bad as it is in the hold of a vessel, where sometimes leverage has to be used, and men strain their backs in carrying these heavy weights. If I had the power I would not allow any package to exceed 1 cwt. On the West Coast of America, I believe, that is the law to-day. The honorable member for Wimmera knows that bags capable of holding 5 cwt. can be made in this community, and yet he would ask for more delay in dealing with this question. No wonder his majority was reduced at the last general election if he advocated such a policy.
– Not one association advocated the continued use of the larger bags.
– Whilst the late Sir Thomas Bent held office as Premier of this State he was pestered day after clay by deputations asking him to fight against the action taken by the Commonwealth in regard to the use of a standard cornsack Ask the honorable member for EdenMonaro how strongly he had to oppose the movement. It was chiefly the friends of the honorable member’s party who constituted the deputation to Sir Thomas Bent, as he will find if he hunts up the records in the daily press.
– Order 1 The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the House.
– He is doing special pleading.
– No. I have been taken off the track by the special pleading of the honorable member’s interjection. Neither the Minister nor any member who attended the deputation suggested in the slightest way that an export duty should e imposed on wheat. This clause will not give that power to the Minister. The canard which has been sent throughout Australia that the ‘ clause confers the power is absurd. Certainly the Minister could prevent the export of wheat, which was proved to be unfit for human consumption, or adulterated with seeds which would be dangerous to the community to which it was to be exported. The other point which has been mentioned is too absurd to consider. I must compliment the Government. We are getting to, the end of .the session with a record which has never been equalled.
– Order !
– This measure will he a splendid addition to those which have already been passed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House tlo now adjourn.
I desire to make a statement upon the policy of the Government in connexion with the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, .and particularly in relation to the Postal Commission’s report. The Government has given very careful consideration to the recommendations of the Commission. Its report covers very considerable ground and deals very exhaustively with all matters connected with the administration and management of the Post Office. As many of the recommendations involve the expenditure of very much money and changes of a radical and almost fundamental character in the management of the Department, the Government have decided to consider these matters very carefully, at the earliest possible moment, with a view to give effect to such of them as it can approve. But in regard to some of the more important matters it has arrived at a determination to which it also proposes to give effect at the earliest possible moment. Amongst these the position of the postal employes may be regarded as the most notable. The’ Parliament has lately approved of a measure which will be submitted to the country in April next for ratification whereby it will be clothed with very much wider industrial powers, enabling it to deal with the rates of wages and conditions of labour of workmen, including State railway employes, throughout the Commonwealth. Under these circumstances, the Government consider it would be anomalous and illogical to deny to our own employes access to that tribunal which is open to all others. We think it advisable to make, all persons throughout the Commonwealth subject to the same tribunal, and, therefore, we propose, in respect to any disputes which may arise in connexion with rates, and conditions in the Post and Telegraph Department, to clothe the Arbitration Court with sufficient power to determine such disputes. We intend at the earliest possible moment next session to ask the House ‘to agree to such legislation as is necessary to enable the postal employes to refer their disputes to the Arbitration Court.
– Has not the Parliament the power to do that without the referenda ?
– Certainly. We have ample constitutional power, but we cannot do it without legislation. At this stage of the session - I hope that 1 am expressing the opinion of the House - it is inadvisable to attempt to introduce legislation of that character.
– Then, I do not quite follow the reference to the referenda in this connexion.
– Because we shall, if the people approve them, have power through the Arbitration Court to determine, if necessary, the rates and conditions for all workmen in this country, we consider that that is the tribunal, and the only tribunal, which ought to settle disputes if any there be in connexion with our own employes. I come now tb another matter. In regard to the employes in the lower grades of the Post and Telegraph Department we are of the opinion that something should be done to improve their conditions at an early date, and the Postmaster-General is now asking the
Public. Service Commissioner to look into the matter with that end in view.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by the lower grades ? Below what salary ?
– I mean those receiving the lower rates of salary.
– As, for instance?
– The honorable member can supply his own instances. I come now to the question of the contract or semiofficial offices. The policy of the Government in regard to them is this : We consider it to be incompatible with our principles that there should be paid to persons in charge of those offices such salaries us are now paid. It is, therefore, the intention of the Government to pay in all cases a salary of not less than £110 to those in charge of semi-official offices.
With regard to other matters dealt with in the Postal Commission’s report, it is the intention of the Postmaster-General to convene a conference of the Deputy Postmasters-General of all the various States at a very early date, for the purpose of considering and giving effect to such recommendations of the Postal Commission’s report as permit of adjustment without legislation, and are of such a character as the Postmaster-General and his deputies can immediately agree upon.
A word now upon a most important matter, namely, the developmental policy of the Department in the direction of further extending facilities to the country districts, and throughout Australia. The Government intend to push on vigorously with all works now in hand and for which money is available, realizing that it is their clear and unmistakable duty to the people in the more remote districts that we should provide better and more effective facilities for communication, telegraphic and postal. It may be pointed out here that a larger sum of money has been placed upon the Estimates for such purposes this year; and that it is the intention of the Government to include in the next postal Estimates provision for two years, instead of for twelve months, thus obviating resort to the present practice whereby a vote unexpended after the year for which it was voted becomes incapable of utilization.
Lastly, we propose to amend the Public Service Act next session, giving greater power in the direction indicated; and wherever, in carrying out any or all of the recommendations of the Postal Commission, the Government, during the recess, come to an agreement, they will submit proposed legislation to Parliament at the earliest possible moment next session.
.- I have listened with some degree of pleasure, and with some curiosity, to the statement that has been made by the Acting Prime Minister. Whilst I have no reason to complain as to the manner in which the Government are at least using the Postal Commission’s report as a guide to the initiation of reforms which they have discovered to be necessary in the Department - as, for instance, with respect to the recommendation to increase the remuneration of those in charge of non-official offices to £110 a year, and also with regard to the recommendation as to the lower-grade officers of the service - I may also indicate that there are ether recommendations, permeating the whole report, which it is necessary to carry out, in order that fair treatment may be secured to the officers.
– Can the honorable member tell us what is meant by “ lowergrade officers “ ?
– I cannot tell the honorable member what the Acting Prime Minister means by the term, but I can tell him what I mean by it. While something is to be done to improve the condition of the lower-grade officers, I may point out that something has also to be done with respect to the grades that are not usually so described. It is not my intention to enter on this question at length. I shall, before the session closes, furnish the Government with some reasons why they should do more than skim the surface of the Royal Commission’s report - why they should go into the whole document, fully discovering its weaknesses, if there are any, and considering the recommendations which affect the welfare of the service.
– Did the Royal Commission make a recommendation with regard to the increase of salaries ?
– Oh, yes; we dealt with practically every grade of the service.
– Suggesting increases ?
– Suggesting what we considered to be fair rates of payment according to the evidence which we obtained and the general observations which we made throughout Australia. We suggested increased rates of pay in cases where the remuneration at present is not in accordance with those paid to persons outside the service.
– Is that the full extent to which die Royal Commission has gone? They did not actually -value the services performed?
– Yes; it may be said that practically we sat as a Wages Board dealing with the whole service.
– And now the Government are going to have another inquiry !
– No; it appears that the Government are going to appeal from Caesar to Cesar. According to the Acting Prime Minister, they intend to ask the Deputy Postmasters-General to guide them, although they have the Royal Commission’s recommendations and evidence before them. I venture to say that none of the Deputy Postmasters-General - I am judging from their evidence, and the manner in which they gave it - will be able to give the Government such concrete information as has been obtained by the Commission, which sat for two years taking evidence on oath, and examining many witnesses who had no object to serve but to guide the Commission in the best way possible.
– The honorable member has misunderstood me. I merely said that we intend to give effect to certain portions of the Commission’s report.
– The honorable member said that the Postmaster-General proposed during the recess to call the Deputy Postmasters-General together to sit in judgment upon the postal services and the Royal Commission’s report.
– Nothing of the sort; I said the very opposite.
– I understood the Acting Prime Minister to say that the Deputy Postmasters-General were to be consulted as to how effect could be given to the report.
– Exactly so. If the Deputy Postmasters-General are called in to consult with the Postmaster-General, I take it, from what the Acting Prime Minister said, that the report will be laid before them, and that they are going to attempt to divine what, in their judgment, is essential, and what is non-essential.
– They are to consider to what extent effect can be given to the recommendations immediately.
– I fully realize that ; but if the honorable member had had the experience that I and other members of the Royal Commission had in making this inquiry, and if he knew what I shall have perchance to declare later on in connexion with this new tribunal, to which the Acting Prime Minister says he is going to appeal - if the honorable member and the Government knew what could be said on that question, not as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of evidence - I say that he would hesitate, before looking to that source for guidance in moulding the policy of the Ministry on this question.
– The facts are not in question. The point is, to what extent, and at what time, can effect be given to the Commission’s recommendations?
– I am merely expressing my opinion upon the matter. With regard to die establishment of an Arbitration Court, I have nothing to say, except that I question whether, under the existing law, the Government have power to submit the grievances of our public servants to such a tribunal.
– I thought that the honorable member said just now that the Commission had suggested certain rates of pay for some branches of the service.
– Exactly. We have suggested rates which we think represent a fair remuneration. I do not wish to quarrel with any proposals which may be made by the Government. I merely wish to see the service made a credit to the Commonwealth. But I know that a previous Attorney-General, in the person of the honorable member for Darling Downs, expressed the opinion that the grievances of our public servants cannot be submitted to an Arbitration Court.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that legislation is necessary to enable it to be done.
– He does not. He maintains that the present law is adequate.
– He says that we have the constitutional, but not statutory, power to do so.
– It is as to the constitutionality of that procedure that the honorable member for Darling Downs differs from the Acting Prime Minister.
– There is not the slightest doubt that we have power to make any laws we please affecting our own employes.
– In the’ Postal Commission’s report, provision is made for what would constitute an Arbitration Court. It recommends the appointment of a body of men who understand die ramifications of the service, and who have a thorough grip of the questions upon which they will have to adjudicate. The Acting Prime Minister has merely dealt with the report from a superficial stand-point. He has not said whether the Government intend to deal with the king pin of that document, namely, the re-organization of the management of the Department. In my judgment, unless its management be thoroughly re-organized, all that may be done in a piecemeal fashion will result only in the breeding of further discontent in the service. The Commission hold that certain structural alterations’ are absolutely necessary if the Department is properly to discharge its functions. I know that the Acting Prime Minister has not had sufficient time to thoroughly examine the report of the Commission. But I can assure him that that report is not of a piecemeal character, and that all its recommendations are dovetailed one into the other. I ask the honorable gentleman to do the Commission the justice of looking into that report from the aspect which I have presented, during the recess. If we are going to reform this Department, let it be reformed in a way which will do credit to the Government and the Commonwealth. The mere extension of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities in country districts is entirely dependent upon the financing of the Department. The changes recommended by the Commission will involve an expenditure of money. Seeing that the Department has been managed in such a way as to bring about the condition of affairs which exists to-day, ought we to trust that management with the solution of the great problems which confront it to-day? I repeat that the Commission’s report must be dealt with from a comprehensive stand-point. I do not propose to detain honorable members ; but when the Estimates are under consideration, I will endeavour to deal with this question more exhaustively. If there be one subject which should merit their attention, it is that of the administration of this great Department, upon which we are annually expending nearly £4,000,000.
– The Department needs to be reformed, lock, stock, and barrel.
– I hope that the honorable member will read the Commission’s report. This is not a party question, but one which affects the welfare of Australia. 1 have always regarded this as a question above all party considerations. This great Department must be put on a sound basis if we are to prove ourselves worthy of conducting the affairs of the Commonwealth.
– I should like the AttorneyGeneral to say what the business is for tomorrow. While I am oh” my feet I suggest that the honorable gentleman is unnecessarily testy whenever I ask him a question. I was perfectly sincere ; and I should like to know even now what the honorable member has in his mind as to the lower grades of the service.
– If I had known definitely I should have told the honorable member.
– If the honors able member had said so that would have ended the matter ; but he is so fond of turning everything to somebody’s disadvantage that he ‘cannot even be courteous. From what I have heard from the AttorneyGeneral, it seems that he proposes to set us another Court. There has been an inquiry at the cost of ,£4,000 or £5,000, and every rank and grade of the service has been investigated, and their work valuated and assessed ; but we are now told that all that must go for nothing, and the men must bt: sent on to the Arbitration Court for another inquiry.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member said the Government proposed to create by law an Arbitration Court which would settle the remuneration of the lower grades.
– But I did not say that that involved no re-adjustment of existing conditions. I said that any dispute that may arise in regard to the conditions, present or future, must be settled by an appeal from the Commissioner’s decision to an Arbitration Court.
– Quite so; but what has that to do with the point of the honorable member for Gwydir? Is the Attorney-General going to submit the recommendations to the Commissioner at once for further report? I take it that the report of the Commission has been as much on the Public Service Commissioner as on anybody else.
– I said we were going to bring in a Bill to enable us, if necessary, to give effect to certain recommendations of the Postal Commission.
– Why is a Bill required for that? If the AttorneyGeneral has decided in his own mind that the recommendations are right and fair, he does not require a Bill, but an estimate and some money, so far as the lower’ grades are concerned.
– I said that in regard to the lower grades it was not proposed to wait for legislation, as that was not necessary; but that we should proceed at an early date to give effect to the recommendations.
– And the honorable gentleman denned what he meant by a reference to semi-postal officials.
– The two things are quite distinct. ‘
– Those officials are to receive ^110 a year. Is it proposed to carry out the recommendations in regard to the lower branches?
– I have already said to what extent we propose to go; for the rest we must be permitted to carefully consider a question of such extreme importance which demands more time than we have been able to give to it. I do not think anybody would expect more.
– I have no quarrel with the honorable gentleman ; I am trying to understand- what he did mean ; and it seems to me he has not made the matter very clear. I do not know where the Arbitration Court is to begin, and how far it is to modify the report of the Commission. Certain recommendations have been made which have nothing to do with the Public Service Commissioner, and, therefore, need not, unless the Government feel so disposed, be referred to him. If they be so referred, that ran mean nothing but an appeal from the Commission which has just dissolved.
– The decision of the Commissioner subject to the law is final’; and what we propose to substitute is an Arbitration Court to enable the Commonwealth employes to appeal from the Commissoner’ s decision. Until the law is amended that cannot be done.
– That is very clear so far, but have the Government made up their minds about the report of the Postal Commission?
– I have already said as much as I propose to say; and I think I have said sufficient.
– Then I do not know what the honorable gentleman has said;
– I am glad the Attorney-General has made a statement as to the intentions of the Government in respect to this report, which has excited a good deal of interest both inside and outside the service. We in Parliament know that the Government cannot deal all at once with the far-reaching recommendations in the report; and the Minister has indicated what is proposed to be done immediately, what it is proposed to hold over for consideration in recess, and what is to be dealt with next session. I am glad that the Government propose to at once do something for the lower grades. There is some difficulty, so far as legislation is concerned, inasmuch as legislation prescribes the salaries, and the Public Service Commissioner cannot make or recommend increases. I understand, however, that the Government propose to give those increases by asking for a special vote to cover the expenditure. The probabilities are that the difficulties which the Public Service Commissioner and the Government experience in this connexion will be remedied by legislation in the near future.
– The precise extent to which the Government propose to go immediately in this direction will be more definitely stated by the Postmaster-General on the Estimates.
– The report of the Postal Commission shows that a large number of the public servants in the Department are doing substantial work for a remuneration which does not represent what may be termed a living wage;’ and the Government propose to ask for a vote to enable those wages to be increased.
– We have already been involved in an expenditure amounting to £23,000 in bringing the wage up to £110.
– I am glad the Government also propose to deal with those who may be considered outside the regular service, particularly those who do what is known as semi-official postal work. Under the present regulations, an official post-office must have a minimum income of £400 a year, and a semi-official office an income of, at least,. £200 a year. The semi-official offices include all offices in which the income earned ranges from £200 to £400 a year. I wish to remind the House that in New South Wales, until not long ago, practically the whole of these semi-official offices were regarded as official, and were under the control of Government officials. When their status was reduced to that of semi-official offices, the Government officers in charge were transferred elsewhere, and private persons were given control of them. In this way the action of the Government created an army of persons outside the service the whole of whose time is taken up in the work of the Department, though they have not the status of officers of the Department. By raising the salaries of- the persons in charge of these semi-official offices to the minimum of £110, they may again be dealt with as officers of the Department, and, without reflecting in any way upon the present management of the semi-official offices, I have no doubt that the action recently taken will result in greater satisfaction to die public. Whilst I think it is wise that the Department should continue the present semi-official offices, the Government should, in the future, consider the advisableness of bringing them more largely under the control of the Department by appointing recognised Government officials in charge of them. This might be done by reducing the minimum annual income required for an official office. I hope that something will be done in that direction, and that these offices will be restored to the status they held in New South Wales prior to Federation and until a little while ago, when the change to which I have referred very naturally caused a great deal of friction and dissatisfaction.
– There is a matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister, and I take advantage of this opportunity to do -so. Complaints have been made to me that the sorting staff in the General Post Office in Sydney, when required to work overtime, are given no allowance for tea-money, though such an allowance is made to members of the clerical staff working overtime.
– We have recommended that that should be abolished.
– My information is that members of the clerical staff working overtime receive tea-money, and members of the sorting staff in similar circumstances do not. I do not take any responsibility for this statement, but that is the information conveyed to me.
– I was on a deputation to the Minister when he gave instructions that they should receive tea-money.
– It appears that they are not receiving tea-money. They have had to work on until 8 o’clock at night, and, though they are allowed twenty minutes off, between 4.40 and 5 p.m., that does not give them sufficient time to go to their homes or anywhere, except in the immediate neighbourhood of the Post Office, to get their tea. As they are put to expense in providing their tea, it is only reasonable that the Department should give these men an allowance to cover that expense. In view of the fact that the Christmas season is approaching, when, owing to the increased volume of business, overtime will have to be worked to a greater extent than at present, I trust that the Minister will give instructions that, these men shall receive the tea-money to which they are justly entitled.
.- In the course of the debate this evening upon the Customs Bill, the honorable member for Wentworth made a statement concerning me which I had not an opportunity to contradict. I understand that he stated that I had advocated from the public platform an export tax on wheat. That is an utter untruth. I never, to my knowledge, advocated such a thing. I do not doubt that the honorable member may have read in some newspaper a statement that I had done so, but if I had seen such a statement published I should have taken steps to contradict it. I take advantage of this opportunity to do so now.
.- During the evening, in making reference to the power of the Minister to prohibit the export of wheat in bags above a certain size, I stated that, representing, as I do, what, I believe, is the largest wheatgrowing constituency in Australia, that the decision of a previous Minister of Trade and Customs to reduce the size of the bags had met with general approval, though the wheat-growers would have preferred, instead of a bag holding 186 lbs., a bag holding 200 lbs., as promised by the Minister. I also stated to the Minister that I hoped that, if he intended to put a regulation into force prohibiting the exportation of wheat in bags other than the size stated, he would give the farmers reasonable notice of his intention. We have at present no regulation prohibiting the placing of wheat in - sacks above the regulation size for distribution within the States. It is possible that, at the present time, in certain stacks of wheat, there are bags larger than the regulation size, and possibly some people might inadvertently put wheat into bags above the regulation size for export, seeing that there is no regulation to the contrary. I ask, in the circumstances, that farmers should be given timely notice of the intention to bring the regulation into force. The honorable member for Melbourne, in commenting later upon what I said - as it appeared to me, for political purposes - made some reference to my connexion with the matter. I make this explanation in order to make it clear to the honorable member that he misconstrued my remarks in the first place. No association or body, in my opinion, has ever advocated the use of very large sacks, or would at the present time countenance their use for any purpose.
.- I am very glad to receive the assurance of the honorable member for Wimmera, but I must still say that I consider that, by his action, he seems to seek delay. As I pointed out to him, four Ministers-
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to a previous debate.
– I wish, as a personal explanation, and I am sure the honorable member for Wimmera will accept my assurance, to say that 1 had no desire to misrepresent him in thought or deed. WhatI stated was that there were continual deputations to Sir Thomas Bent, asking him to bring pressure to prevent Mr. Chapman, the then Minister of Trade and Customs, fixing 200 lbs. as the maximum size of cornsacks. Those representations were followed up by every association that I am aware of connected with the wheat industry of Victoria.
. -I wish to tell the Acting Prime Minister that I shall expect upon the Estimates some statement in regard to the congestion of the construction branch of the Post and Telegraph Department, especially with regard to telephone lines. 1 am heartily sick of receiving from the Department a notice stating that, although such-and-such a work has been agreed to, it cannot be proceeded with at once, on account of so many other works of a similar character having also to be constructed. That sort of congestion should not exist; and I trust the Government will tell the House how they intend to remove it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101117_reps_4_59/>.