8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented : -
CommonwealthBank Act- Commonwealth
Bank of Australia. - Aggregate Balance Sheet at31st December, 1920; together with Auditor-General’sReport thereon.
– In view of the shortage of material of the kind that has tobe imported for postal requirements from America and England, will the Government offer inducements for itsmanufacture inAustralia?
– Yes. We are now arranging a contract for the manufacture of cables.
Speechof Mr. Kennedy
– Withreference to the reply of the Minister for Trade and Customs yesterday to aquestion about a statement made by a Mr.Kennedy in Launceston to the effect that theGermansystem shouldbe adopted of organizing a gang of 70,000 strike-breakers for the purpose of crushing the workmen, I ask the honorable gentleman ifhe is not nowaware that Mr. Kennedy was a delegate to the Conference at which he spoke. According to the Launceston Observer, a newspaper published in the townwhere the Conference was held, Mr. Kennedy was a Tasmaniandelegate.
-I understand thatMr. Kennedy came from Hobart, and that the
Hobart Chamber of Commerce is notaffiliated withthe bodies represented at the Conference; that, consequently, Mr. Kennedy could not take his place there as a delegate, and was only a visitor. Iexpect to have further information on the subject by to-morrow, but I am assured by persons whowere present and heard the speech that, immediately it was made, its statements were emphatically repudiated by delegates, and that the Conference in noway indorsed them.
-Is the statement in this morning’s newspapers, that the Treasurer intends to deliver his Budget speech not later than September next, true?
– It is perfectly true.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
asked thePrime Minister, upon notice -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.LAVELLE asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– -The members and manager of the Australian Wheat Board are proceeding to Sydney, where a meeting of the Board is tobe held to-morrow. On their return to Melbourne steps will be taken to furnish a reply to all these questions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the effects of the late disastrous drought in New South Wales and other States and the present reported bad position of Australian primaryproducers, owing to falling prices and the stringency of the money market, will the Government endeavour to afford some relief or assistance to enable many of them to tide through andsave their homes?
– Much as if regrets the position which has arisen, the position of the Commonwealth finances prevents the Government from rendering financial assistance to individuals. The causes which affect the individual incomes of the people affect also the public revenue.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the great importance of the oil industry being established in the Commonwealth and the promising possibilities said to be disclosed by the boring for oil in South Australia, will the Government consider the desirability of extending some assistance and encouragement to those who, at such great expense, are endeavouring to pioneer this oilprospecting venture to success in the Commonwealth?
– The Government have, at present, under consideration certain proposals regarding the question of encouraging the development of oil prospecting in the Commonwealth.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
Whether he will inform the House when the underground cableat Wellington, New South Wales, which was promised in December last, will be laid?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible. soldiersettlement.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House if the Government of New South Wales is unable to complete the purchase. of T. H. Simmons’ property at Fifiefd, New South Wales, for soldier settlement purposes, owing to the delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government in providing the necessary funds?
– i do not know. The Commonwealth Government is not made aware of the details of the expenditure of these large sums.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Loan by Commonwealth.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In reference to the sum of £2,000,000, which it is reported the Queensland Government is seeking to borrow from the Commonwealth Treasury, said to be for the purpose of developing the Upper Burnett River lands, Queensland, will the Treasurer, before acceding to this request, make it a condition that a portion of the loan, say, 50 per cent., be expended in the settlement and development of lands in tropical Queensland, preferably in the far north ?
– I shall consider this matter if and when such a loan is contemplated.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– There is no Federal Dairy Branch in each State. If the honorable memberwill state the precise information he requires, I shall he glad to furnish it, if obtainable.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If neither the Treasurer nor the Cabinet has any power to control Sir Denison Miller, of the Commonwealth Bank, in connexion with appointments and commission charges relating to the Bank’s architectural work, will the Prime Minister state whether he will, before leaving, request his cabinet to prepare and introduce a Bill to place the Governor and management of the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a directorate representing the six State Governments, in order to secure the moneys of the Australian people from any possible unfair or unjust manipulations?
– Under the present constitution of the Commonwealth Bank, there need be no fear that the moneys of the Australian people will be subject to unfair or unjust manipulations.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House the papers and correspondence in connexion with the departmental inquiry into the circumstances connected with the forging of the name of the honorable member for Barrier to a bogus telegram handed in atHaymarket Post-office, Sydney, on or about the 18th March, 1920?
– This question anticipates notice of motion No. 17, in the name of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine).
– On 21st April the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
How many cigars were manufactured in Australia during the year 1919-20 -
What was the amount of Excise paid -
How many persons are ‘ stated to have been employed in the manufacture of cigars during 1919-20 -
I am now able to furnish the following replies : -
. -(By leave.) - I crave the indulgence of the House on this occasion, because I have to speak of matters of the gravest importance withoutthe opportunity for preparation which would have enabled me to be more concise and effective than is possible under the circumstances in which I find myself. The House will readily understand the reasons which have prevented me from devoting to these particular matters that close attention I should have desired to give to them.
Yesterday I said that I would make a statement to honorable members in regard to some aspects ofthe more pressing domestic problems confronting the Commonwealth, and that, among other things, I would deal with finance, wheat, and wool.
As I have pointed out on previous occasions, the circumstances of Australia are in a more or less intense degree almost identical with those that confront every civilized country in the world to-day. We are suffering the consequences of the war. The Government fully realize the necessity for economical administration. At Bendigo, the other evening, I set out what I thought was the position in which we were placed in regard to both expenditure and production, and also the disposal of our products, particularly our primary products. To-day I shall be as brief as possible. First of all, I shall deal with the financial position from the stand-joint of expenditure.
I emphasize once more what I have said just now, and what I said at greater length at Bendigo, that the Government have long recognisedthe necessity for, and, as the Treasurer will be able to tell the House, when opportunity affords, have practised, economy. I am not unaware of those wild, ill-advised, and unpatriotic statements made in the press in regard to the position of Australia which, if they receive credence abroad, must inevitably damage the credit of the country. Every man who gives the matter a moment’s consideration must know that it is impossible for the Commonwealth to meet its financial obligations out of revenue alone. Therefore, it is compelled to go on the local or the foreign market for loan money, and anything said that has the effect of besmirching the reputation of Australia, and of creating the impression that it is governed by a set of reckless spendthrifts, must have very serious consequences - if the statements are accepted as being a true indication of the position existing here to-day - upon our credit in the money markets of the world. Criticism directed against the Government’s financial policy which is merely of a destructive character does not help this country at all. Criticism of a constructive character in regard to this matter, which isthe very foundation of our national existence, the Government invite. Statements have been made for which there is no justification whatever.
Before I turn to the details, which I hope to have the leisure to set before this honorable Chamber, I shall makea few wide generalizations. Out of £98,000,000 of expenditure for the current year, £90,000,000 is absorbed by the statutory and unavoidable obligations imposed on the Government by the Legislature; and while the law stands as it is, the Government must meet them. This statement, which no one can refute, is a complete and crushing answer to the reckless assertions that have been made against the handling of the finances by this Government. If the Legislature, in its wisdom, thinks it proper to repeal any of the Statutes which impose upon the Government the duty of meeting the obligations created by them, then let the
Legislature do so, and the Government will give effect to its decisions; but, in the meantime, the Ministry must deal -with things as they are. This Legislature, carrying on, as it does, the traditions of other Parliaments, has deliberately imposed certain- burdens upon the people of the Commonwealth. For instance, of the total of £98,000,000, a sum of £63,000,000 has to be devoted to meet obligations which this Legislature has deliberately imposed on the people of the country in respect of soldiers alone. I speak, of course, of expenditure out of loan and revenue. Furthermore, the payment of invalid and old-age pensions absorbs £5,250,000, and the payment of the per capita grant to the States absorbs £6,750,000. These three items alone total £75,000,000. Let me ask the House, and those of my fellowcitizens who come to this task of dealing with groat national affairs in that spirit which is proper in the circumstances of this country, whether they are prepared to repudiate any of these expenditures. They are not. ‘ I venture to say that if all Australia were polled, it would be impossible to hope for a majority that would be in favour of touching any one of them.
I would remind the House that; although the war. is past, we are dealing with expenditure arising directly out of the war. When I contrast the circumstances of this country with those of Britain, I think every citizen who looks at the two pictures will congratulate himself that he is .a citizen of the Commonwealth and not of Britain at this moment. I do not say that in extenuation of any act of extravagance by this Government I deny that this Government has been guilty of extravagance. I simply put before my honorable friends a plain statement of a fact which confronts the Government, and confronts them. There are statutory obligations, or obligations to which this House has assented, ‘ amounting to £14,478,000 in respect of the Departments of the Postmaster-General, Defence, and the Navy. Is it suggested at this moment that there should be retrenchment in any of those directions? I am. not going to declare that what I now say in regard to the expenditure of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is necessarily a complete* answer to those who say that the telephone system is unsatisfactory, or that improvements are possible. I do not say that for one moment, but I do put forward the view that, so far as expenditure in respect of that Department is concerned, what .the House asks _ is not that less, but that more money shall be spent. I think that every honorable member admits that the dearest wish of his heart is for a new Post Office in his electorate, or for increased telephone facilities, or increased payments to those in charge of allowance offices. Only the other day we were asked to grant an increase to mail contractors because of the increase in the cost of fodder; and the House approved of our doing that. Thus it will be seen that the expenditure on the Postmaster-General’s Department cannot easily be cut down. I do not say that tho House should not criticise, wherever it thinks proper, the deficiencies, if any exist, the modifications of service, or the shortcomings of the Department. I apeak only of the amount of money expended by it.
As for the Department of Defence, and the Department of the Navy, I say deliberately that unless and until we have some guarantee - such as we hope to get from the Conference to which I am about to proceed - that peace in the Pacific is assured, I would not vote for cutting down” by even the one-thousandth of a penny the expenditure on Defence. Nor would any patriotic citizen of Australia do so. I have said plainly that our fault, if .any, in that direction is that we have asked for too little .and not for too much in respect of naval defence. I hope that we may be able to effect reductions of expenditure on naval and military, defence; but we must be prepared to face what appears at this moment to be even a probability - that, we may have to provide an increase. Certain it is that, upon no equitable system of allocating responsibility for the defence of the Empire, can Australia hope to escape payment for a complete naval defence on her island continent with, a beggarly £3,250,000. We must let that matter stand, however, until the Conference has concluded ite labours,) and we know the position and see exactly where we are. Meantime I give the House the positive assurance that this Government will not spend on defence or anything else one penny that is not absolutely called for.
Suggestions have been made outside that we should reduce the salaries of our public servants. I am going to speak quite plainly about that proposal. Honorable members know the circumstances under which the. Parliamentary Allowance Amendment Bill was introduced in this House, and they know who was responsible for it. But I say that before I would bring down a measure to reduce the salaries of the public servants in this country I would first introduce a measure to reduce our own. That, I think, is only fair. I am not attempting for one moment to excuse the action taken in regard to the allowances of members. I would do the same thing again. This Legislature requires to be independent, and when you lift a man to the dignity of a representative of this great Commonwealth it is proper that you should adequately pay him. So fur as the salaries of public servants are concerned, this House directed the Government, at the close of last year, to grant increases to public servants. Not one honorable member has yet risen in his place and said that we have given too much; but there are some who have said we have given too little. That, then, disposes of two other great avenues of public expenditure. My honorable colleague, the Postmaster-General, reminds^; rae that the newspapers arc demanding speedier and more costly oversea mail services. We have been in negotiation during the- last week or two with the Orient Steam Navigation Company in this regard, but we cannot get a service even as fast as that which existed before the war at the same price, or anything like it. The reason is exactly the same as that which is responsible for the. increase in the cost of ‘all commodities and services. There is an item of £3,000,000 for shipbuilding, representing commitments entered into during the war. This Legislature agreed to that expenditure, and whether it was right or wrong the Legislature must share the responsibility. There are the commitments, and the contracts, good contracts, are there; if we cancel them we must pay for their cancellation. We can be sued in a Court of law if necessary, and, therefore, no retrenchment here is possible.
I shall briefly recapitulate the items I have already touched on as follows -
So that out of a total of £98,864,836 of expenditure for this year, £3,297,362 only is not included in the unavoidable expenditure to which this Legislature, as s result of the Great War, is committed. So much for the financial position, and the Government’s intentions’ thereto.
On behalf of the Government I say that we shall insist on getting twenty shillings’ worth of value for every twenty shilling? we spend. We recognise the necessity for cutting down expenditure to the last penny. My right honorable colleague the Treasurer ((Sir Joseph Cook) has addressed a letter to me, with a view- to its communication to every public Department. It is as follows : -
I have been considering the whole matter of inter -departmental financial control since the Cockatoo incident occurred, and . I have come to the conclusion that in all the Departments a new and effective arrangement could be made for securing proper financial control. What I suggest will be found in a report of the Public Accounts Committee in the Imperial Parliament, lately presented to the House of Commons. Perhaps I gould focus the thing more effectively and quickly by transcribing some paragraphs from that -report for the benefit of my colleagues: - “ The foundation of the financial system of the country, so far as departmental control ever expenditure is concerned, lies in the position of the not very happily named’ ‘ Accounting Officer,’ appointed in each Department to render account of its expenditure. He is not to bc confused with the accountant or bookkeeper, but is charged with the higher duty of seeing that the transactions accounted for arethemselves regularly conducted, and of appearing before the Public Accounts Committee toanswer for anything that may give rise to question. That he may exercise this responsibility effectively he has a power of veto onany expenditure which he believes to be fare- “ gular. In particular, he has to secure that nothing for which the regulations require Treasury sanction is done without it, and in this way he is the foundation on which the whole elaborate structure of Treasury control rests. His veto can be overridden only by the order, in writing, of the Minister or other supreme head of the Department, who then becomes personally answerable for the ‘ consequences of his act. Given the necessary independence on the part of the Accounting Officer, this live control of expenditure before it takes place is far superior to any post-mortem disallowance by an auditor. But the veto can be used only on grounds of irregularity, whether in the sense of something repugnant to honesty or in the technical meaning of failure to comply with some Act of Parliament. Royal Warrant, Treasury order, or other regulation of authority superior to that of the Department itself.” “ It has been decided that the Accounting Officer should be an official of the Department itself, and not (as the National Expenditure Committee had proposed) a Treasury official; that where a special financial critic exists, he should be also Accounting Officer; that financial criticism should not be silenced by the plea of policy; and that the consent of the Prime Minister should be required to the appointment or removal of the principal financial officer of any Department.”
As to who this Accounting Officer should be will be a matter for serious consideration. It goes without saying that he should be a man of high calibre and character, of great knowledge and experience, and au fait with the Department of which he is to be the financial critic. It is quite clear from recent happenings that something of the kind should be done at the earliest moment. Moreover, this is somewhat on the lines suggested by our own Economies Commission, and, in my judgment, should be put into operation at the earliest possible moment in all the Departments. It strikes at extravagance at its source - its really only vulnerable- point - and aims at prevention rather than cure.
I commend these considerations to my colleagues.
The Government will take the earliest opportunity of presenting the Budget. The House will be given the fullest opportunity for discussing the Estimates, and the Committee of the whole House will be afforded the widest freedom in regard to them. I say without any qualification, and I speak for myself now, that I shall be only too pleased if the House can show, and will take the responsibility, too, of indicating where economy can be secured. However, we shall afford the House the amplest opportunity. The Government will make vital only those matters which are clearly those to which the whole country is committed - I speak, of course, of those obligations towards our soldiers, old-age pensioners, and expenditure of a similar character. These, I venture to say, this House will not for one moment question.
I leave that subject, and now desire to turn to the question of wheat. First, let me make a statement as to the present position of the Pool. The information I am going to give is-, of course, supplied to me by the Board, and must be accepted as such -
Wheat sold (including reasonable provision for margins), 55,425,000 bushels.
Total f.o.b. value, including payments by millers, f 25,7 15,000.
Equal per bushel, 9s. 3.3d. per bushel.
Freight per bushel (on c.i.f. shipments), 3s. Id. per bushel.
Insurance (c.i.f. shipments), say, 0.55d. per bushel.
Commission, 0.45d. per bushel. Exchange, 0.34d. per bushel.
In addition to above sales, arrangements have been made for sale at market price, about time of arrival, of certain quantities (some of which’ have been already shipped) amounting to, say, 7,900,000 bushels.
I commend those figures, on which I have not now time to further dwell, to the attention of this honorable House, and of the people of this country. They certainly do refute, in the most complete way, the suggestion which was made yesterday, in a newspaper, that the amount of commission paid exceeds the total profit, I think it was said, on the wheat sold before the war, for they show that the total commission on the overseas sales is 0.45d. I should like the following table to be included in my speech: -
As I have pointed out, the value of oversea sales is equal to 9s. 3.3d. per bushel. There is also the following table : -
All I wish to add before turning to the consideration of the 1922 Pool is that the figures I have quoted show conclusively that the people of this country have not paid for wheat more than the world’s parity: they have paid less, and if they had had to buy the wheat every day at the daily rate of London parity they would have been, on the average, 3d. per bushel worse off than they were under the arrangements that were made.
It has been suggested that the Commonwealth Government should state its attitude in regard to the 1921-22 Wheat Pool. That I shall do very briefly. Honorable members will recall the circumstances under which the Government entered into the present Pool. It declined to impose any restrictions upon the farmers exporting their wheat or flour, and declined also the responsibility of forming a Pool; but the States having for all practical purposes acquired the wheat, and having, along with the farmers, extended to the Commonwealth an invitation to join the Pool, the Commonwealth did join it, because it was assured, by the States and the farmers, that unless the Commonwealth did cooperate the Pool would probably not be successful. First of all, let me state the attitude of the Government towards the Pool as a principle. The Government is of opinion that the world position in regard to wheat is now sufficiently normal to warrant a return to the pre-war methods of marketing. It thinks that there should be no Pool; at any rate, it will take no steps to form a Pool. To that attitude it is committed by its hustings pledges. But if the States re-enact the legislation that is now in operation in regard to wheat and invite the Commonwealth to ioin with them, the Common wealth, having first ascertained that the farmers desire such a Pool and the cooperation of the Commonwealth, will cooperate on the following conditions: - Firstly, that sufficient wheat is reserved for the purposes of Australia; secondly, that the price of wheat for Australian consumption shall be the London parity as declared from month to month; and, thirdly, that the amount advanced by the Commonwealth to the grower shall be not more than 50 per cent. of the value as ascertained by the Wheat Board on the day on which the wheat is delivered at the siding. Honorable members will be able to follow these remarks more closely when they see them in print.
The position in regard to wool is very serious. I am extremely sorry that the time at my disposal does not enable me to deal in detail with the grave position in which the greatest industry of the Commonwealth now finds itself. Shortly put, this is the position : Before the war the world was able to consume, approximately, 2,500,000 bales of Australasian wool, of which about 1,800,000 bales were of Australian origin, whilst the balance came from New Zealand. As a result of the agreement made between the Commonwealth and Great Britain, and between New Zealand and Great Britain, the clips of Australasia were sold for a number of years, and the accumulation of those clips now amounts to about 2,100,000 bales in London, 800,000 in Australia, and about 500,000 inNew Zealand, making a gross total of well over 3,000,000 bales. This wool that has been accumulated from previous clips must be distinguished from the clip which is referred to as the 1920-21 clip, but which is really the 1920 clip. The world, which was able to consume only 2,500,000 bales per annum before the war. is now able to consume less, because of the difficulties of exchange and the disorganization of industry, and because Germany, Russia, and other European nations are not in the same position as they were before the war. Thus, whilst there is a smaller demand for the wool, there is an accumulated surplus sufficient to supply the world on a pre-war basis for two and a half to three years, and that tower of wool threatens to topple over and crush the industry utterly. The present position is this : What iscalled free wool -that which comes from the last clip - has to compete with the accumulated carry-over wool. The decline in the value of wool tops gives a very fair indication of the general decline in the value of wool. Wool tops, which about ten months ago were worth 14s., are now worth only about 4s., and it is no exaggeration to say that it would not be profitable to export from this country a great deal of our lower grade wool. The value of that wool would not pay for carbonizing and the expenses of transport.
About a year ago, I made certain propositions to the pastoralists of this country. I pointed out to them the danger that had been created by the huge accumulation of wool over a series of years, and suggested that it was necessary to keep that wool off the market until the free wool had been sold. Although I urged that course very strongly I got no support for it.
– Yes, you did.
– I did not get the support of the representatives of the great pastoralists. Looking back over the year that has since elapsed, I ask the wool-raisers of this country whether their counsel or mine was the better. They contemptuously spurned my advice, declaring that they did not wish for Government interference or assistance of any kind. Thereupon I washed my hands of the business, but placed myself at their disposal for the carrying out of their suggestions. What cablegrams they wished sent to initiate the negotiations which they thought would be crowned with success I agreed to have sent, and whatever they suggested I had done immediately; but the scheme for a free market for all wool failed miserably. Later a great company was formed, which is now known as the “ Bawra “ or the British Australian Wool Realization Association, its object being to take over the accumulated wool of England and Australia, and for all practical purposes it will also control that of New Zealand. That company was formed with the approval of the British Government, and conducts the affairs of, I understand, the holders of 90 per cent. of the wool of Australia. But, despite every effort, the price of wool has continued to fall rapidly. In February last, speaking from memory; it was about 11d., or, perhaps, a little more; but it must be recollected that wool has been sold in this city for¾d.,1d., and1½d. per lb., and that sheep which were bought a month or two ago for 30s. each cannot now find buyers at 16s. each. The company, by reason of the width of its scope of operations and the fact that it represented those interested in the carry-over wool as well as the new clip, was thought capable of regulating the market by offering for sale only such quantities of wool as could be absorbed, and the arrangement was made that two bales of “ Bawra “ wool was to be offered for one of free wool.
– In London.
– Yes. That is where the great accumulation is. Early in April the company put a reserve of10d. per lb. on the wool that it offered. The war price of wool was 15½d., plus half the profit of any sum obtained for it over that amount, and the reserve price of the company was not higher, but probably less, than the average obtained during the five years preceding the war. Now thecost of producing wool, like the cost of everything else, has increased by reason of the increase in wages, freights, and other charges. The reserve price was not considered satisfactory by the buyers, and the market dropped by from 10 per cent. to 25 per cent.
I wish to add a word or two to connect up what I have been saying. Australia is now confronted with a position which may affect every working man in it just as much as it affects the holder of vast estates. Obviously, the foundation of our prosperity is the pastoral industry. The profits of our railways, the value of our land, and all other values depend on its success. It does not matter whether money is invested in stocks, in mercantile concerns, or manufactures - if the pastoral industry sinks, all else sinks with it. There can be no doubt about that. The banks are greatly interested in this industry, because they lend money on wool and on land. What will be the position if the market breaks completely, and wool is unsaleable? Thousands of growers have now to wait their turn before their wool can be sold, and many of them have not realized a penny on the present clip. The banks, of course, will lend money on wool only so long as it hae value, just as they lent us money for advances to the wheat-growers when we had fixed the value of the wheat. But who would advance money on an article subject to the vagaries of the world’s fluctuating demands, which, to-day, might be worth £1, and, to-morrow, 6d. ? Nobody ! Thus we are in a very serious position. I was asked by Sir John Higgins to assist the “ Bawra. “ Company. He suggested a certain course, and I asked that I might be fortified by an* expression of opinion upon it from all sections of the industry. He told me that it was the attitude of some of the Australian banks, whose head offices are in London, that had brought about the collapse of the Bawra reserve. Therefore, I asked that representatives of the Bawra Company the Wool Growers’ Association, the Wool Brokers’ Association, and the Associated Banks should wait on me. They did so yesterday afternoon, and proposed that the Government should not permit the exportation of wool except upon the guarantee that the shipper would not sell it under the Bawra reserve. I asked that that reserve should be a fixed one, so that we should know exactly what was involved, and without discussing the merits of the case, or expressing a view as to the efficacy of this remedy for what I believe to be an incurable disease, I said that the price fixed must not exceed the bare cost of production; that is to say, that it must not leave a profit. The deputation agreed to that, and I said that I would put the matter before my colleagues, and after I had done so would bring it before the House, provided that all parties were in agreement in the matter. The representatives of the Victorian banks had not seen the proposal in detail, and Mr. Wilson, speaking on their behalf, said that he would consult his colleagues about it. He did so, and this morning I received the following letter from him: -
Referring to the conference held yesterday in connexion with the proposal that the sale and export of wool should be subject to certain limitations. I have consulted the Victorian banks in regard to the matter. As they were not aware, however, prior to the meeting, of what was to be discussed, there has not been time to communicate with the banks in the other States, and the Victorian brinks regret therefore that, in the meantime, they are not in a position to join in the proposal.
I have nob the time to finish all that I should like to say, but I wish the House and the country to understand that they are confronted with a position which has in it potential elements of the greatest danger to every section in the community. Yesterday I asked the representatives of the banks what they would do in regard to their clients’ overdrafts if the wool market broke. Very diplomatically, they did not reply in any direct way,, but every one knows what they would do, and if this begins, where will it end? What will be the effect upon the finances of the Commonwealth and upon its industries, upon employment generally, and that stable condition of things which alone makes business and enterprise possible. Therefore, I want to express my own opinion, while leaving my colleagues to deal with the matter. I do not care literally two straws what people say about the action of the Government, whether it is right or wrong. If I am convinced that there is a likelihood of disaster to this country, any action taken by the Government is justified. But what I am not convinced of is that the remedy suggested by Sir John Higgins can cure the disease.
What is the disease 1 There is a mountain of wool, and while that lasts the value of the present clip and of the clip now beginning to be shorn in Queensland must be depressed. To my mind, there is but one solution, that which I tendered twelve months ago, namely, to keep the Bawra wool out of the marketaltogether. I think Australia and England would be well advised to accept that proposition, and let the new clips find, their own level, without being ‘overwhelmed by this mountain of Bawra wool, which cannot be disposed of, and which is an economic impasse. However, as I do not wish to set up my opinion against the views of men whose interests are more directly involved, I do not propose to say, “ I shall do nothing because you did not take my advice or because I believe this remedy, you suggest will not cure the disease.” Nevertheless, I do not believe the remedy will hold the market up beyond preventing a complete collapse for the time being. It will prevent a complete collapse, but, in my opinion, no other remedy will serve except to get rid of the Bawra wool by attempted absorption, and in that respect Australia is faced with an impossible position, because there is no market that will absorb 3,000,000 bales of wool plus the existing clip and the new clip which will be in England long before this mountain can even be scratched. I am placed in a difficulty created by the circumstance that I am going away and am dealing with a situation without having ample opportunity of giving it with my colleagues the consideration it deserves, but, after alii it does not concern the Government any more than it does every honorable member in the House. If this is not a non-party question, what is ? Therefore, I ask honorable members to think over the matter to-day, and discuss it to-morrow. Sir John Higgins has suggested a reserve of 9d., which is Id. below the pre-war price when wool could be produced much cheaper than it can to-day. I insisted that the basic price should be one that left no profit, being only just sufficient to cover the cost of production, so that the Englishman would not be able to say that we were endeavouring to exploit him. I suggested for the consideration of Sir John Higgins and Bawra that, perhaps, it would be better for them not to stand too rigidly to a reserve of 9d., and that, perhaps, they might be prepared to fix a price Id. or so lower if by doing so they could achieve what, after ‘all, is their real object. Their purpose is not so much to sell their wool at a price that leaves them no profit as to prevent the bottom falling out of the market. A reserve of Sd. would do that as well as would 9d., providing the market is prevented from slipping any further. However, we have an opportunity of meeting the situation. I ask honorable members to limit the operation of this prohibition of export until I have the opportunity of discussing the matter with the Government of Great Britain, which, after all, is vitally concerned in it. Of course, if it is possible to deal with the situation in any other way it will probably be the better course to adopt, for every one knows that tinkering with the matter is like the efforts of a man who, when threatened by a flood, puts up temporary ramshackle obstructions to prevent himself from being drowned. That is exactly the position of the pastoral industry to-day, and that is why I am prepared to do anything which, although I know it will not prevent the flood, will at any rate prevent it from doing damage, and will serve to save the industry. But if I am allowed to discuss this matter in Great Britain I think it will be possible to arrive at a better solution of the trouble. I hopethat honorable members will look at the matter fairly in every aspect of it, and 1 ask my friends opposite not to forget who are always the first to suffer from a financial panic. It is true that some rich men lose their money, but some poor men lose theirs also. I remember the year 1893 very well. It did not appeal to me at all. It was an appalling time. I ask honorable members to discuss this matter on the basis I have suggested, and limit the operation of the prohibition of export to two months. That period will allow the Government and myself the opportunity of seeing, as Bawra will see, exactly what effect the suggestion T put forward will have. Further, it will also give all interests in this country an opportunity to express their opinion. In the meantime, immediate trouble will’ be prevented. I invite the House to accept the position without prejudice to the reservation I have made that, although the remedy is no cure for the disease, ir, may act as a palliative. At any rate, the application of the suggested remedy, whether it be on a 8d. or on a 9d. basis, for two months only, will allow me time to reach England and advise my colleagues here as to the position, and will also afford the Bawra people here, and in London, as well as the banks, an opportunity of considering the situation. At the end of the two months, the House can approach the matter again without prejudice, and decide whether the period shall be renewed or not. The prohibition I refer to :is that wool may be sold by any person here to any one in any part of the world, but there must be a guarantee that it will not be sold below the gross Australian Bawra reserve. Other than this guarantee, it must be clearly understood that there will be no embargo on wool. Of course, out of the reserve comes the commission and various other charges, but the amount is not to exceed 9d. f.o.b. at any Australian POrt. I shall not deal with the matter any further.
I thank the House for the manner in which it has given me its attention on matters of the greatest possible importance. I have now to hurry away, but before doing so I desire to say that I wish honorable members during my absence every good thing, and hope that I shall be able later in the year to inform them that I have carried out the mission on which they have been good enough to send me in a way that is conducive to the best interests of the Australian Commonwealth. I move -
That the following paper be printed: - Wool - Resolutions of a meeting of wool-growers held at Parkes (Kew South Wales) on the 23rd April, 1921, with reference to the Wool Growing Industry.
Debate (on motion by .Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
– In order to enable honorable members to say farewell to the Prime Minister on his departure to Great Britain, I shall leave the chair until 5 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 3.50 to 5 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 27th April (vide page 7820), on motion by Mr. Greene -
That duties of Customs and duties of Excise (vide page 726), first item, be imposed.
.- My attitude towards the Tariff now before us will be one of sympathetic consideration to all those industries which can be proved to be capable of supplying the requirements of the people of Australia. With the exception of a few items, it meets with my approval. I intend, however, not to generalize, but to take advantage of this opportunity to bring before the Committee the position of the banana growers of Queensland and New South Wales, and I hope to be able to convince honorable members that the industry is worthy of a measure of protection which it has been denied for certainly the last ten. years. Item 52a provides for a British Preferential Tariff of ls. 6d. per cental in respect of bananas. I do not know whether that rate of duty is intended to apply to imports from British Crown colonies such as Fiji but from Fiji comes the fruit which is in direct competition with the Queensland and New South Wales product.
– The growers in Fiji have cheap land.
– I am said, to have slipped on bananas when the first Federal Tariff was before us. For Heaven’s sake be careful !
– -By the time that I have concluded my remarks, there will be no doubt in the minds of honorable members as to where I stand in regard to the duty on bananas. I hope the Committee will be in no wise alarmed when I say that the .growers in New South Wales and Queensland ask for a protection of 10s. per case, which is equal to 13s. 4d. per cental. I do not know .whether the duty now collected on Fiji bananas is the British preferential rate of ls. 6d. per cental.
– No. A duty of .2s. 6d. per cental is being collected on Fiji bananas.
– I am glad to have that information; but even a duty of 2s. 6d. per cental does not give the growers in ‘Queensland and New South Wales anything like the protection to which they are entitled. I hope, before I resume my seat, to give ‘ honorable members much information which they do not now possess, and to put such a case on behalf of the banana growers of the two States that, when we come to a vote, we shall have honorable members’ practical sympathy. On previous occasions when the Tariff has been under review in this Chamber the principal objection to any increase in the duty on bananas has been that the industry is in the hands of Chinese. I propose to quote a brief paragraph from a report by the Inter-State Commission, which will show that such an objection no longer applies. In the course of its report on Tariff matters, the Inter-State Commission, in dealing with the banana-growing industry, stated that -
In the south the industry is in the hands of white people almost exclusively; -in North Queensland 80 per cent, of the bananas are grown by Chinese.
At the present time no fruit from the northern part of Queensland comes to the southern- market. In support of that statement, I shall quote from, a pamphlet entitled The Banana in Queensland, written by Mr. A. H. Benson, Director of
Fruit Culture in the Department of Agriculture, Queensland. In a preface to the fourth edition of his pamphlet, published in October, 1919, Mr. Benson writes -
Since my revision of the third edition of The Banana in Queensland, in 1916, the banana industry has undergone such changes that a further revision of this pamphlet is necessary.
The banana industry in Northern Queensland is now practically extinct, at any rate as far as the export of fruit to the Southern States of the Commonwealth is concerned; and at present there is no indication of any recovery.
At page8 of his pamphlet Mr. Benson writes -
Formerly the commercial cultivation of bananas in Southern Queensland was confined to such favored spots asRedland Bay, Mount Cotton, Samford Ranges, Buderim Mountain, Pialba, and several other less important producing centres; but now many new districts have been and are continuing to he opened up, and bananas are being planted wherever the soil, situation, and rainfall are favorable for their development. This extension of the industryin the southern part of the State is highly satisfactory, as it is in the hands of white growers, and the fruit produced is fuller and plumper than the northern article, as it can be allowed to become more fully developed before it is cut.
– Does the honorable member think that the farmers of Victoria will help their brother farmers in Queensland in this connexion?
– I certainly expect to receive the support of members of the Country party, as well as that of honorable members generally. The objections advanced in the past no longer exist. Mr. Benson’s statement is corroborated by a report made by the Under Secretary of Lands in 1920, in which it is stated that during the year 1919 there were 7,694 acres under bananasin Queensland. Of this area 548 acres were north of Rockhampton, and 7,146 acressouth of Rockhampton. The production north of Rockhampton, in 1919, was 75,069 bunches; while south of that city the production was 880,975 bunches. From these figures it will be seen that North Queensland no longer plays an important part in the production of bananas.
During the last three years the marketing conditions of the growers have undergone a very material change. Previously the growers acted independently, and their fruit was sent by coastal steamers to the southern markets. In such circumstances it was frequently dumped into the holds of vessels, or carried on deck, where it was subject to sun and rain, and to all sorts of adverse weather conditions, with the result that, when it arrived here, it was often found to be unfit for human consumption, and was accordingly condemned. Some two or three years ago, however, the growers in my electorate called a Conference, as the outcome of which what is known as the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers Association has been registered. This associationconsists of fifty-three affiliated organizations, and is representative of the industry from Rockhampton down to the Tweed. It is not a profit-making concern, but exists solely to remedy some of the difficulties to whichthe growers were subjected because of want of organization. This association has made arrangements with the State Railways Departments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and at the present time is running weekly fruit trains to the southern markets. These trains are of great value to consumers, as well as to growers. Their running means that the fruit is landed in, say, the Melbourne market, within fourand a half days from the time that it is cut on the plantations. They also mean a more matured fruit, and with the supervision now exercised, there is better handling, packing, and grading. As much as 546 tons of Queensland fruits, consisting principally of bananas, have been sent away weekly by train from Queensland to these southern markets.
In the admirable speech which he delivered in opening this debate, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said that it was the policy of the Government, not only to protect new industries, but to do something for those already established. The banana industry has been established for some forty years in Queensland, but has never received the measure of protection that it deserves. This, I believe, is largely because the conditions have been much misunderstood. Growers in Queensland and New South Wales do not ask for an increased price for their fruit, but they do ask and expect that this National Parliament shall put them on exactly the same footing as that of growers in other countries where cheap black labour is employed. The present duty, as I hope to prove, is not nearly sufficient. The competition with which our growers have, to contend comes principally from Fiji. In order that honor.able members may know exactly of what the competition consists, I shall quote from a little booklet entitled Lands and Products, issued by the Government Printer of Fiji. In this booklet it is stated that -
Fiji is comprised of a group of about 250 islands, of which some eighty are inhabited. . . The distance from Sydney to Suva, the capital, on the Island of Vitilevu, is 1,743 miles, and from Auckland 1,140 miles.
The total population in 1916 was 159,321, including 4,552 Europeans, 89,562 Fijians, 56,853 Indians, 2,515 Polynesians, 2,621 halfcastes, and 3,218 others.
The labourers employed in Fiji are of three races - East Indians, Fijians, and Polynesians. The Indians have been hitherto introduced on indentures for five years, and cost about £25 per annum, including cost of introduction, while Indians and others in the colony can be employed under agreement for a period not exceeding one year at a cost varying from £25 to £30 per annum.
On page 36 we are told -
It is generally reckoned that one labourer to 6 acres of land is sufficient for clearing, planting, weeding, and harvesting.
A rough estimate of the cost of opening and bringing into bearing 50 acres of bananas ‘is as follows: -
On page 39 there are these very suggestive words -
Many growers dispose of their fruit to ship- , pers on the plantation or on the steamer, thereby saving much trouble and thus securing a certain and quick cash return for their fruit without taking the risk of the outside market.
That explains exactly why the agents in the southern markets prefer handling Fiji fruit, rather than fruit from Queensland and New South Wales. The fruit is bought at the Island, shipped frequently over here, and is entirely in their hands. I do not think any honorable member will question the statement that we can grow sufficient bananas in New South Wales and Queensland to supply all Australia, and that they are superior to the Fijian production.
– I question that.
– If the honorable member will take the trouble to get fair samples of both fruits, he will be forced to admit that the Queensland article is the superior.
– The trouble is that our best fruit is being sold as Fijian.
– Exactly; it is claimed by growers that agents often sell Queensland bananas as Fijian.
– They ought to ‘ be prosecuted !
– I cannot account for this, unless it is that the Queensland article is so good, and the agents, being anxious to handle the Fijian fruit, that they wish to create a public demand for the imported product. The facts can be easily ‘ proved. Trains arrive in Melbourne every Wednesday morning, and, if honorable members care to get up early enough to meet one, I am certain I could secure a box of bananas, which they could test for themselves. Surely no honorable member will say that the trade of the Pacific Islands is worth more to the Commonwealth than is the trade of Queensland.
I have prepared tables showing the number of centals, and the value cf the fruit imported into Australia, and ako. showing the area and the amount of fruit grown in Queensland and New South Wales. It is useful to remember that, with Queensland bananas, a case usually contains, on the average throughout the year, from thirty to thirty-five dozen, and that a case means two-thirds of a cental, with, .usually, three bunches to the case. There are not many figures, and I shall read them,, because I am anxious to present the case as f -illy as pos’sible, seeing the importance of the matter to the Australian banana-growers. Those growers have every confidence that, once the position is properly understood, Parliament will see their produce is given a. fair chance against the imported article.
These are the figures relating to importations for the last five years : -
That means that nearly £750,000 of good Australian money has been going to Fiji and other islands to employ black labour. The figures I have as to production in Queensland and New South Wales are official, supplied to me by the Department of Agriculture m Queensland, and the Government Statistician of New South Wales. They are as follow: -
It will be seen that in the case of Queensland there has been practically no progress, so far as the area under cultivation is concerned. The long drought experienced in that State in the last three years i6, to some extent, responsible for the falling off in area and production. The present position is in part due to competition from Fiji, but is principally owing to the fact that this National Parliament ten years ago did not extend to the industry the solid protection that the growers had a right to expect. As a matter of fact, in 1908 no fewer than 4,500,000 bunches were produced in Queensland, principally in the northern parts, chiefly, I admit, by Chinese; and probably that was the reason Parliament did not give the industry the favorable consideration that it is entitled to, at any rate, at the present time. Production fell away until the outbreak of the war in 1914, when, owing to the scarcity of shipping, the outbreak of influenza, strikes, and other. causes, the growers enjoyed an unnatural protection, which encouraged and induced them to increase their acreage.
– Did the strikes encourage them?
– Owing to strikes, influenza, and scarcity of shipping, the growers of Fiji were unable to get their fruit here. We hear objections raised that bananas are too dear. If that be true, it is due to the absence of a decent Tariff to encourage growers to produce, and send supplies along regularly. When, as happened last week, we have a monthly boat arriving from the Pacific with no fewer than 27,000 bunches of bananas, we cannot be surprised that growers are disheartened. Queensland growers cannot send their fruit for three weeks and drop out of the market in the fourth week, when the Fiji boat arrives, so the result is an irregular market.
The Minister has received many petitions for and against an increase in the duty, and he has also received a number of deputations on the subject. In 1919 the selling agents in the trade supplied particulars of the cost of bringing a case of bananas from Fiji to Melbourne. The particulars are given in this way -
The cost of production of a case of bananas in Fiji is given as 4s. 6d. When I saw those figures I wrote to Mr. Ellison, the secretary of the Southern! Queensland Fruit-growers Association, and he informed me as to the cost of conveying a case of bananas from Gympie to Melbourne. His figures are as follow: -
It will be seen that the cost of bringing a case of bananas from Queensland is 5id. more than in the instance of Fiji. When it is further considered that in Fiji labour is plentiful at 2s. 6d. per day, whereas in Queensland it costs 12s. and 14s., it will be seen that the Australian growers labour under a great disadvantage, and they therefore ask for a duty which will give this old-established industry a chance to exist. The growers, as I have said, ask for a duty equal to 10s. per case, or 13s. 4d. a cental; and I have ‘shown very good reasons why their request should be granted.
– What is the value of a case?
– So far as production is concerned, it is 16s. The Tariff proposes, on citrus fruits, a duty of 8s. 4d. a cental, and 1 suppose that all citrus fruits that come here are grown by white labour. It is further proposed to give a duty equal to 6s. a cental on apples, also grown by white labour; and yet it is proposed that bananas, which are subject to the greater competition of black labour, shall be admitted at 2s. 6d. The Minister was recently in Brisbane, and met a deputation of growers, whom he received very kindly, promising sympathetic consideration of their request. Recently a deputation of growers waited on the Department of Agriculture, Queensland, and met Mr. Gillies, with the result that Mr. Theodore, the Premier, has asked the Commonwealth Minister to give the industry the protection I have suggested this afternoon. In addition, the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers), while in Brisbane recently, met. a deputation of soldier settlers, who pointed out to him the difficulties under which the)’ labour as growers. There are, I suppose, some 200 returned soldiers who have taken up banana lands, and to a great extent their future depends on the Tariff. The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) also has asked the Minister to give favorable consideration to this request. In addition, the central executive of the Returned Soldiers Association has written to the Minister, and petitions from the growers in Queens-‘ land and New South Wales have been filed in his office. These facts show that there is a general agitation by the growers in those two States, and I expect that the Committee will take a good deal of notice of their requests rather -than the objections of the selling agents, who have gone so far as to ask that the duty on bananas be struck out. I think I have put the case before the Committee fairly and temperately; I have not the slightest wish to exaggerate the facts. I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to the information I have submitted, and that I shall have the sympathy and help of honorable members in getting further assistance for an old-established industry, which is capable of immense development. There is not the slightest doubt that Queensland and New .South Wales have suitable land for the banana-growing industry, and there are plenty of men willing to engage in it. There are excellent reasons why they should receive sufficient protection, not to prohibit outside competition, but merely to place the local grower upon an equal footing with his most serious competitors.
– I should like., to see the growing of tropical fruits encouraged. I have been through many agricultural districts, but I have never seen intense culture so perfect as it is in the fruit-growing areas of Queensland. I marvelled at seeing men endeavouring to make a living on farms of five and six acres. They employ little labour, doing most of their own work, which is very hard.. I shall assist them in their endeavour to get .greater protection for their industry. If ‘Queensland had more of that intense culture, and were encouraged to produce with white labour the products for which it is best adapted, it would ‘be better for Australia. I think also that if the Queensland growers were to follow their bananas to Melbourne and control the marketing of them they would escape the unfair treatment which they now get from the agents, who seem to desire to give a preference to the Fijian product. It is only natural that the ship-owners should .be interested in the development of the Fijian bananagrowing, industry, .and should desire to sell the imported fruit in .preference to the Australian. It seems peculiar that the agriculturist of .Queensland .should be talking Protection, while the agriculturist of Victoria is talking Free Trade.
– The honorable member is a going to extremes.
– I am not. A duty which is not effective is not Protection; it is either Free Trade or a revenue duty. I admit that the farmer has many sound reasons for his present attitude on fiscal matters, because the local manufacturers and the press; especially the Victorian press, have not treated him fairly. It may be safely said that the manner in which the Protectionist press of Australia has treated both the farmer and the man who works for the manufacturer has brought Protection into contempt. Many farmers during the war were annoyed over the fixation of the price of butter. They admitted that they were doing very well at that price, but they said, “ Why should we pay excessive prices for the commodities we have to buy? Why not fix those prices also?
– A minimum price was fixed for the farmer’s product, and the maximum price for the things he had to buy.
– I admit that. A good deal of the opposition to Protection ahc! the local manufacturer is due to a lack of understanding, because, bad though the local manufacturer may be, the importer is ten times worse. That can be proved conclusively. What happened in regard to the stripper harvesters fairly illustrates the grievance under which the farmer suffers. A duty of £12 was placed on stripper harvesters upon a promise made by H. Y. McKay, on behalf of the agricultural implement makers, that those machines would be sold at a. certain price, and that certain wages- would be paid to the employees in the factory. But as soon as the duty was imposed, a case was taken to the High Court, the- understanding was declared ultra vires, and the manufacturers1 were able to rob both the farmer and the employee. That robbery has continued ever since. But the farmer is more to blame than is. the manufacturer, because when the Labour party asked that power should be given to this Parliament to deal with unjust trading of that kind, the farmers would not support us. Why, I do not know, unless it was that they were misled by the press as to the powers for which we were asking. Unfortunately,, the Protectionist- press of Victoria is unfair to both Protectionists and non-Protectionists. If I were contesting a parliamentary seat against the most conservative Free Trader on the Ministerial side of the House, the Age, the great Protectionist organ, would support him in preference to me; and, stranger still, a manufacturer who had hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in an industry, and who was demanding from me my vote for a protective duty that would enable him to carry on his industry, would also vote for the Free Trader so long as he was anti-Labour. The Age never loses an opportunity of bringing Protection into discredit. . Its arguments are vitriolic and splenetic, and never fair. In fiscal matters it tells the truth only by accident, and instead of helping the cause of Protection it has by its one-sidedness and bitterness made the people hostile to that policy. A similar attitude is adopted by the Industrial’ Australian and Miling Standard, the official organ of the manufacturers of Victoria. As the paper is maintained by their money, they are justified in controlling its policy ; but while they demand my vote for protective duties, and know they will get it, they make all sorts of charges against me and those who sent me into Parliament.
– That paper makes worse charges against members of the Country party.
– But the people who control it vote for the honorable member’s party, and against me. Last week, the- Industrial Australian and Mining Standard published a cartoon which was an adaptation of. that picture in the Art Gallery showing the ravens gathered about a dying lamb. In the cartoon, the manufacturer is represented as the lamb, and the ravens are the Labour party, the Industrial Workers’ of the World, the go-slow advocates, and so on. All these birds of prey are waiting to batten on the carcass of the poor manufacturer. But that journal never utters a word that will expose the enormous profits made by the manufacturers. If it did that, it would do credit rather than discredit to the policy it advocates ; but it attacks those members from whom it knows it can get support for Protection. I am sorry to say that I vote reluctantly for the policy advocated by that journal, but I have to do it in the interests of the men who sent me here, the employees in the factories. Much good might be done to the Protectionist cause if the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard would tell the manufacturers that they were not justified in extracting such high profits from* their industries. Similarly, when the Country party attacks manufacturers, whilst allowing the importers to go scotfree, one is forced to regard them as selfish, and to believe that there is an understanding between them and the Flinders-lane interests. The importers filched from the pockets of the people millions of pounds during the war, and they had control of the sale of locallymade woollens. By their method of handling woollen goods,, and the extortionate prices they charged, they brought great discredit upon local manu- v facture. The same cause of complaint exists in regard to> almost every other commodity; and I say to the manufacturers here, as I do to the fruit-growers of Queensland, that they should themselves control the sale of their products and cut out the middlemen importers. When the farmers’ representatives attack Protection, they should also expose the enormous profits made by the importers and other commercial firms. I have read that Huddart,, Parker and Company made a profit of 38 per cent, during the last year. Why charge the manufacturers with profiteering, when no word is uttered against the shipping interests which are making such “enormous profits? I 6ay to our honorable friends in the corner that, in endeavouring to look after the interests of their supporters they should not forget this fact, that it is not the Protection given to local manufacturers that makes prices high, but the want of laws to prevent the charging of high prices. We should deal alike with manufacturers, importers, and shipowners in this respect. But those with vested interests would not agree to that. In the early days of my membership of this Parliament the manufacturers of my constituency told me that the shipping companies, by charging very high freights, prevented them from extending their trade to the other States, and also, having control of the -coal business, hampered their industry by charging them too much for coal. The evidence in sup- port of these complaints was undeniable; but, when I admitted it, and asked for their help to enable ns to get power to deal with these individuals, they declined it, because they knew that if we prevented the shipping companies from making abnormal profits, we should also try to prevent them from doing so, and they preferred to be robbed to being prevented from robbing others. That is only human nature. We shall not have scientific Protection until we can control the prices at which articles manufactured locally are sold. There is as much profiteering and roguery in the sale of commodities as in their manufacture. On three or four occasions I have fought for a duty on superphosphates, the use of which has done so much to increase the productivity of our farms. Naturally, the farmers would like to get superphosphates as cheaply as they can, and they should be able to obtain them cheaply, so long as those engaged in the industry are paid a fair wage. This industry is not a pleasant calling ; it is worse than agriculture. Years ago, when I first tried to get a duty on superphosphate, the men employed in it were being paid 6s. 6d. per day; but, now, through organization, they are getting more. Had not superphosphates been made in Australia in large quantities, they would to-day. cost more than they do. In 1912 I was spreading the gospel somewhere in the Indi division, when certain farmers asked me to introduce a deputation to the Minister to advocate compelling the sellers of superphosphates to deal directly with the users. An organization which they had formed wished to buy 300 tons of superphosphates direct from the manufacturers at a lower price than was charged by theagent; but the manufacturers said, “ We cannot sell to you direct; our agent must get his 7s. 6d. per ton. Our trade is in its infancy, and we must therefore have agents all over the country, and they must be paid.”
– To-day one can deal directly with the manufacturer.
– That is so; but similar trouble has arisen in connexion with other commodities. It might be thought that it would suit the manufacturer to deal directly with the retailer, or the consumer, but it does not always’ do so. Twelve or thirteen years ago a hat manufacturer in Victoria had to go out of business because he endeavoured to sell direct to the drapers. They were willing to buy hia hats, but found that, if they stocked them, they could not get hats from any one else, and they could not alford to confine their business to the goods of one particular maker. . One of the reasons why manufacturers do not wish to deal direct with retailers is that they are unwilling to sell in very small quantities. There are, indeed, many difficulties in the way of simple distribution, and these should be recognised. The man on the land is not the only person in the community who follows a difficult occupation. Every business has its own difficulties, though each man is apt to think that his troubles are greater than those of another. When the farming industry is badly hit, all industries suffer, because of the lack of purchasing power in the community. The manufacturer has among his difficulties the paying of remunerative and decent wages to the nasty working man. The worker is determined to get fair wages and conditions, but he should not, therefore, be abused by the manufacturers and the press. On he other hand, the manufacturers should not be abused by the farmers unfairly. Another of the manufacturers’ difficulties is caused by dumping.
– Does not every one do that if he can?
– That does not make it easier for the person who has to compete against dumped goods. Overproduction will always cause dumping. The representatives of the farmers may not care to admit it, but farming products, for the last twenty-five or thirty years, have been sold more cheaply overseas than locally, which means that the far.mers have been dumping them in other markets. If you go to a seaside place like “Hastings, you find that you cannot buy fish and oysters mere, these being sent away to Melbourne for sale. And so in the great fruit-growing districts of America you cannot buy fruit. All producers try to dump when it s aits them to do so. Then, when the wages overseas are lowered the competition of outside manufacturers will be more difficult to meet. There are many industries in Australia that would be killed if dumping were allowed.
– Do not Australian manufacturers dump their products elsewhere?
– We have been told that Australian sugar has been sold more cheaply in New Zealand than here, and that the same remark applies to Australian boots and hats. Last January, Victorian-made boots cost 20 per cent, less in Perth than in Melbourne.
– You cannot have dumping within your own boundaries.
– -The boot manufacturers of Western Australia were complaining of the dumping on their markets of the products of Victoria. “The people of Western Australia have frequently complained that they had to go into Federation before they were ready, because their manufactures were not sufficiently developed to compete with those of Victoria.
– Have the purchasers of the boots complained ?
-No; but the people of Victoria have cause for complaint that they are charged so much for boots. The war drove us to make many things which we had not dreamed of making. The Prime Minister has had a great deal to say this afternoon about the wool position. The wool-growers of Australia have always been Freetraders, their stock argument being that, to secure a low freight for the carriage of wool from Australia it was necessary that ships should be able to get cargoes for Australia. But, had they encouraged the making of woollens in this country, their position now would be much better than it is. To-day, in Melbourne, rough tweeds of local manufacture cost from 15s. to 16s. per yard, and imported tweeds from 26s. to 27s. 6d. per yard, although there is not more than lj lbs. of cross-bred wool in a yard of tweed. Rough socks are 4s. 6d. per pair, and the roughest of flannel is 3s. per yard. None of these woollen commodities have come down in value, despite the fact that the raw material is sold at a minimum price; in fact, some of it has been sold at Id. per lb. If . we are to have a scientific Tariff, we ought to admit the weaknesses of a protective policy and take the power to prevent them. Overproduction and dumping control market prices anywhere. It is quite natural that the miner in a low-grade proposition should want to get his machinery as cheaply as possible. He is afraid that he will be called upon to pay more if a duty is imposed upon the tools he requires for carrying on hi3 work, and the farmer holds the same views; but, despite what may be said by members of the Farmers’ party, it is an undoubted fact that the local market is always better for the producer than is any overseas market.’ No country has ever become important by relying entirely on agriculture. All -sections of the community ought to be interested in the local manufacture of articles. The war has taught us conclusively that every country ought to be as self-contained as possible. For one thing, we ought to manufacture our own explosives. In Victoria an explosives factory, which has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds” on an establishment which is fairly up to date, is asking for higher duties.
– Let the honorable member apply his scientific Tariff, and say what protection he would afford the local manufacturer of explosives.
– As the local manufacturers cannot at present turn out all the explosives necessary for the mining operations carried on in Australia, I would not be the one to block importations; but I would do so immediately they can show that they can produce all the explosives likely to be required here.
– And compel the miners to use the locally manufactured article, whether it is good or bad.
– Does the honorable member contend that explosives manufactured by black labour in South Africa are likely to be -better- than those manufactured in Australia under the same test? No explosive can be put on the market until it has been subjected to the standard test. Therefore, the question of inferiority does not arise. It is merely a question of price. The Australian manufacturers of explosives are now producing 10 to 12 per cent, of the local requirements’. I know that the working miner in the coal mines would oppose me in this matter. He works under a contract system, and has to pay for the explosives he uses. He realizes that if their price is increased his wages are reduced.
– I thought that the honorable member contended that the effect of the duty was to make the article cheaper. ‘
– A scientific form of Protection would not permit the price of the commodity made by one white man to be raised as against an article made by another white man; but I would not care if the- price of the article made by black men were raised to the extent of 50 per cent.
– Nobles of Hamburg and Nobels of Glasgow, that is, the German and the- British manufacturers, entered into a combine to raise the price, and succeeded to such an extent that a company was formed in South Africa, and that company gave us explosives at a reasonable price.
– The South African firm 13 the only manufacturer which kept down the price of explosives during the war.
– I have always said that capitalism has no accent. British and German will always unite to 1 raise prices. Did not they unite to raise the price of armour-plating with the result that at the outbreak of the war their operations were so intertwined that they could hardly break away ? We ought to manufacture explosives here if the raw material can be obtained im Australia. The article to be used by white men should be made by white men; the white men of Australia should see that they use the article made by white men, and not that which is made by black men anywhere.
– Regardless of the fact that in doing so they might knock out a superior industry? Is not. the mining industry superior to the manufacture of explosives?
– Certainly, but the local manufacture of explosives will not knock out the mining industry.
The people of Australia have neglected the opportunity to take to themselves the power to frame a scientific Tariff. If we had a different social system we would require no Protective Tariff, but until we get rid of the fat men, the vampires and the capitalists, we must continue to impose heavy Customs duties. Some people contend that it is against the interests of Australia to prevent the importation ,of commodities, because it is likely to lead to the demand for “inordinate prices for the locally made article. But if that should be the case the fault is entirely our own, because the people have not chosen to give the Commonwealth the power to prevent excessive profits being made. Manufacturers in Australia have made high profits, but I do not think that they are as high as those that are made by importers. We can tackle the local man who may seek to rob us, but until the people give us the ample powers we need in this direction we must insist on the highest protective duties possible on every commodity capable of being manufactured locally. I shall vote for the highest duties in the schedule, not that I believe that high Protection is a panacea for all the ills of humanity but because it is an essential in the absence of a better social and economic system.
.- On the general discussion of the Tariff I desire to speak in generalities upon the broad question of Free Trade against Protection. I was bred until my youth in Victoria. It is well known that any one brought up in a Victorian environment for any length of time is professedly a Protectionist. Because, as a Victorian, I believed in having a high Tariff I regarded myself as a good Protectionist, but when I got to other parts of Australia and saw how the adoption of a high Tariff affected industries, and my own pocket as a worker, I began to realize that the narrow groove in which I had hitherto lived was not of much use to me.
– And so the honorable member got into another narrow groove.
– I shall endeavour to show that I am viewing the Tariff through Australian and not merely Victorian spectacles. I find that the policy of high duties which, in the opinion of so many honorable members, is calculated to benefit the worker, is having the very opposite effect. The question has been raised this afternoon as to whether it would not be better to have the monopolies that may be created in our own country under a high Tariff than to be compelled to use the products of monopolies in other parts of the world. In my opinion monopolies, wherever they may be, are undesirable, and if the views voiced by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) are adopted by this Parliament we shall have created in Australia many monopolies, which will be just as detrimental in their effects on the worker as are monopolies in other parts of the world.
– But we can deal with any monopolies that exist in our own country. We can control them.
– Unfortunately, we cannot do so.
– The people could deal with them if they were given the necessary power.
– Our Constitution does not give us the requisite power to deal with monopolies, and I agree with the honorable member that such a power should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament.
In opening this debate, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) expressed the opinion that if the policy of a high Tariff was to obtain, some restraining influence or safeguards should be provided in the interests of the consumers. With that I agree, and I am sure that honorable members generally do. If we could arrive to-night at a determination as to what those safeguards should be, and could provide for the creation of a Board to give effect to them, there would not be much need to discuss the different duties operating in Australia. I hope that the Minister, when replying, will state specifically in what way he thinks he, as the Minister controlling the Department of Trade and Customs, can provide the consumers with the safeguards which at the present time they do not enjoy.
– I shall endeavour to do that.
– I thank the honorable gentleman for his assurance. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports spoke a few minutes ago of scientific Protection, and, in the course of his remarks, referred to the duties on explosives. I hold the view that the duty already imposed on explosives is altogether too high. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), by way of interjection, said that there was a Combine controlling explosives in South Africa. That Combine consists of two firms, which for many years have been supplying the great bulk of the explosives used in most of the mines in Australia. The majority of the explosives employed in mining in the Commonwealth are used in my own electorate. As one who has worked in both goldand coal mines, I think I san safely say that for every plug of fracteur that is used in a coal mine a carton of it is used in a gold mine.
– Not at all.
– I think my statement is correct. I worked underground for twenty-three years, and consider myself lucky to have come out of the industry fit and well. Few of the men who have worked in the gold mines of Western Australia, have come out of the industry with lungs as sound as mine- are at the present time. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), I am sure, has great sympathy for all miners, and my heart goes out to the men who are working underground, and have to use explosives. They cannot be protected by means of a high Tariff. They are no more protected by this Tariff than if we had no Tariff at - all. The disabilities under which they suffer are not to be cured by the imposition of duties. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) said that the duty on explosives was necessary to encourage their manufacture in Australia, and that with that object in view he was prepared to vote for a high Tariff. It is essential to the health and safety of our miners that they should be supplied with first-class explosives, and if those manufactured abroad were bettor than those produced here, it would pay all miners to buy them even if they were double or treble the price of the locally manufactured article. The companies which for many years have practically had a monopoly in the supply of explosives in Western Australia, and practically throughout the Commonwealth, have now combined. For what purpose? During the war period it was impossible to obtain the glycerine which is necessary in the manufacture of explosives in order to make them as little deleterious to health as possible. Supplies, however, are now forthcoming, and if honorable members wish to safeguard, as far as possible, the lives and limbs of miners who have to use explosives, they will vote for a reduction of the duties on them. Whether the explosives which are made in Australia are manufactured by a Combine or a company or not, I know that there are not many middlemen in the business. Imported explosives are obtainable here as cheaply as in .any other part of the world. The price whatever it is has ultimately to be paid, not by the mining companies, but by the working miner. If the duty be increased as now proposed, it will hit the miner in the pocket - a very good place in which to hit your enemy, but a very undesirable spot in which to be hit yourself. Fracteur is purchased by the mine-owners at a certain price and sold to the miners at that price, plus freight charges only. It is absolutely necessary that the men should be supplied with the very best that it is possible to obtain, and my fear is that if by reason of a high Tariff the price is raised unduly the industrialists - the workers - will have to foot the bill.
– Why should it not be manufactured in Australia ?
– It is not made here, so that by the imposition of this duty we merely hit the miner in the pocket.
– The gold miner is not the only man who is affected.
– Quite so; but I propose to point to certain instances in which those engaged in the gold-mining industry are taxed under this Tariff, whereas the coal miners are not. Before doing so, however, I wish to show how harmful the operation of this duty on explosives will be. Most of the work in our gold mines is carried out under contract, and if, as a result of the increased duty on explosives, it costs 35s. a foot to break ground which could formerly be broken at 32s. a foot, we may rest assured that the men will not do the work for less than 356. a foot. In that way the cost of getting out the ore may be put up until at last it will not pay to work many of the mines, with the result that they will close down, and many hundreds of men will be thrown out of employment.
– The same argument will apply to coal mines.
– That is so, but the coal-mine owners under this Tariff enjoy an advantage which is not extended to the gold-mining industry. In the schedule coal-cutting machines, on which there was a duty of 40 per cent., are, by means of a regulation passed by the Minister, placed on’ the free list.
– But that does not help the working man.
– Quite so, but in this respect the coal-mine owner is in a better position than are the gold-mining companies. While coal cutters are made free by regulation, rock-drilling machines are dutiable at 40 per cent. Why should there be this differential treatment? Why should rock drills, which are used largely in gold mines, be dutiable at 40 per cent. while coal cutters are free ? Gold miners working under contract have to pay, not only for everything they use, but for all breakages. If, for instance, a miner breaks a spring in a machine, or a screw case, a ratchet, or a valve, he has not only to pay the cost of repairing it, but to suffer loss in respect of the time that he remains idle while the machine is sent to the surface to be repaired. I shall ask honorable members who represent coal miners and others, the machinery used by whom is on the free list, to come to the aid of their brothers in the gold-mining industry by placing rock drills on the free list. I have worked under contract in the gold mines, and could, if necessary, produce contract slips showing that a man has to pay for everything he uses.
– Are rock-drilling machines made in Australia ?
– Some twenty-eight or thirty years ago one of the; best rock drills that I have ever handled was made in this State. Its only defect was that the length of its stroke was too short to allow of its satisfactory use in super schist country such as that met with in Western Australia. . A machine with a longer stroke was required,but, although the manufacturers of the Victorian article had been enjoying the benefits of an almost prohibitive duty under the Victorian Tariff, they had not the enterprise to improve on their machine, with the result that manufacturers abroad stepped into the breach, and put on the Australian market a machine that could be used in any class of country.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I think I have said enough about explosives and rock-drills to convince honorable members that the least this Committee can do is to allow the duties on these commodities to remain as at present. As one representing a mining community, I study the interests of the mining industry as an industry, and my own opinion is that, so far as these commodities are concerned, there is no need for the present high duties. Last October I prepared a list of every essential from a mining point of view, in ore reduction or production; andI find that there has been a large increase in prices. It is not the individual mine-owner or mining company that feels the pinch, but the mining industry itself. On every one of these essentials, numbering about sixtyone in all, it is proposed by this Tariff to raise the duty. But by no argument can it be shown that we are protecting the mining industry by such a policy. The products of the mines have to be sold in the world’s markets; and mining has reached such a standard here that that can be done, and a very decent profit made. One only has to look at the figures of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company over a given number of years to see that some of the mines have not only held their own in competition with outside countries, but that at least three or four of them, and especially one, have made vast profits. No man who is a good Australian deprecates the fact of a business man making money. We all desire to obtain as large a return as we can for our labour, and on no occasion does the question arise of the worker obtaining the fullest results of his labour so much as it does in a Tariff discussion. If, by reducing the scope for profit making, an industry is killed, the scope for work is curtailed, and unemployment results. The manufacturers here have not always considered the well-being of those working for them. The Minister proposes to impose some safeguarding principle in the case of the imposition of high duties. I do not know exactly what that means, but I take it that the consumer will be pro- tected. I am an honest and firm believer in Mr. Andrew Fisher’s new Protection policy; and if we cannot get that Protection, I hope the Minister will take some alternative, though I trust the one he proposes will be in the direction of conserving the interests of consumers. As to the mining and other industries holding their own in competition with the outside world, I may say that in 1914-15 the profits of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company were £321,000, and the dividends £177,000; in 1915-16, the profits were £486,000, and the dividends £236,000; in 1916-17 the profits were £426,000, and the dividends £177,000 ; and so I could go on quoting the figures right up to date.
– What percentage did those profits represent?
– A bigger percentage on the capital invested than in the case of any other mining property in Australia. The miner must use the two commodities of which I have spoken at length, and, in the interests of the industry, he should be able to purchase them at a much reduced rate. If the proposals of the Government regarding this Tariff are carried into effect, a further impost of £26,000 will be placed on the mining industry of Western Australia, and it will mean an increase of pretty well £50,000 when compared with the conditions under the previous Tariff. If, further, we add to this the increased price of every other commodity that is used, it will mean, in the case of Western Australia, as I showed in the Parliament of that State by figures I quoted, an impost of something like £100 000 on the industry there. In my opinion, it is impossible for the industry to bear such a burden. I know that my friends in the Opposition will say, “ Let them have the mines; mining is no good for the worker.”
– Why should we say that?
– I say that honorable members opposite might say that, because I have heard members in different Parliaments saythe same thing. There are some mines in Western Australia on the down grade now, and I remind the high Tariff advocates of Victoria that, when those mines were at their zenith, it was money extracted from them that lifted Victoria out of the mud. If honorable members opposite wish to do a good turn for their fellow workers of Western Australia. - and I do not doubt for a moment that they do - they will vote in the direction oflowering the duties, at any rate, on these two commodities, which are so vital to the interests of the mining industry.
It was said that the various Governments of this Commonwealth were wrong when they assisted the farmers in the matter of the disposal of their wheat, but I believe that the Governments acted quite rightly. The Parliament of which I was a member at the beginning of the war period voted every available shilling to assist the man on the land, first over a drought, and then to meet the adverse conditions created by the war. I remind the members of the Country party that, when the world’s parity meant practically nothing, becausethere were no available ships to take the wheat away, the various Governments came to the assistance of the farmers, and gave them an absolute assurance that at least they should not starve. I have never been able to find out what the world’s parity is, if it does not mean the best price that can be got; but the Governments made a parity of their own, and, in the case of Western Australia, guaranteed the farmer a living wage of 9s. per day, and gave an assurance that their wheat would be paid for at a certain rate. These farmers were worthy of being given this 9s., with which to build up an asset for themselves, as they did; and, under the circumstances, I contend that our friends who represent country interests here, and who claim to look at these questions from a national stand-point, should at least give the Government their support. We heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) say to-day that the question of the Wheat Poolswas going to be dealt with, and that the States would have to face it in the near future. In my opinion, those Pools were a great protection to the farmers during the war period ; they were a better protection to primary producers generally than a high Tariff, which might result in depriving them of the opportunity to make a profit.
– Where would the Commonwealth be without the farmers’ wheat at the present time?
– Where would the wheat be but for the Commonwealth? I am not speaking in any spirit of carping criticism. I believe that each industry is equally essential for the well-being of the country; and I say quite definitely that if our primary producers can produce only what is consumed in Australia, there is a bad outlook for our primary industries. They should have an opportunity to sell under the best possible conditions; and I do not believe that exceptionally high Tariffs are instrumental in bettering the conditions of the farmer. The protected harvester ofHugh V. McKay was sold at a certain price; it was protected, as Victoria knows Protection, with a high. Tariff, though I, personally, do not. call that Protection. Although the harvesters were protected by the Tariff, they were not sold. to the farmers at the lowest price at which they could be pro- fitably produced - not by a long way ; for when the Western Australian Government embarked upon the manufacture of harvesters they were able to undersell McKay considerably, and he was forced to reduce his price. That showed that the Tariff was not benefiting the user of the harvesters, but was enabling the manufacturer to make a pile of money. It is a strange fact, however, that although the article manufactured by the State Government was the same in every detail, and was equally as good,- as the McKay machine, many of the farmers who were opposed to the high duty, and protested against- the exorbitant price which McKay was . charging, refused to buy the other machine because it was State made. I contend that there should be no Tariff discrimination against an article which is up to standard, no. matter by whom it? is made. There are many Australian manufacturers that can prosper without the aid of a high Tariff. My idea of Protection is that an industry which cannot compete successfully with the products of overseas manufacturers should be helped by the imposition of a duty sufficiently high to enable the local article to have a winning chance against the other; then let the better article win. An Australian Agent-General said in my hearing a few days ago that Australians should apply themselves to primary production, and send their products to other countries for manufacture. There is not one honorable member who will indorse that view ; any man who advocates such a policy is a bad Australian. We know that the Government require money, but when they place a high Tariff wall around an industry they are putting money into the pocket of the community with one hand and taking it out with the other. That is not Protection. But if we impose a Tariff which gives the local industries a fair chance against the imported goods, we are giving genuine Protection, and are not giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The Committee can do a great deal to improve the Tariff schedule, and I ask honorable members to realize that there are many Australian industries that are operating on good lines, paying good wages, allowing good conditions to the workers, and yielding a fair return on the capital invested. But we should take care not to encourage the building up of a monopoly like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Even that evil can be coped with by giving to the Commonwealth Parliament greater power to deal with trusts and combines.. I believe that there are just as many honorable members on this side of the House as on the Opposition, side who are prepared to advocate the giving of that power to the Commonwealth,, and I predict that it would be f found more effective and more equitable to the consumer than the policy of erecting a high Tariff wall around our industries.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) was rather amusing in his proposals for controlling monopolies, after they have been created by the Tariff, by giving greater powers to the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member’s applause confirms my opinion that the proposed’ remedy, if not worse than the disease, will certainly be as ineffective as it has been proved to be in the United States of America. The Sherman Anti-Trust Law, which was introduced for the purpose of dealing with monopolies and combines in restraint of trade, has been operated only against the labour organizations for the purpose of strike breaking, and the experience of the working class in Australia leads them to the conclusion that any antitrust legislation that might be enacted in this country with the aid of honorable members opposite would not be utilized for any other purpose.
– It might come home to roost. Mr. CONSIDINE. - It might recoil as the War Precautions Act recoiled on honorable members on this side of the House, who were responsible for placing it on the statute-book. To enact a law to deal with a specific evil is one thing; its administration by men whose interest is to maintain the evil is another thing. We have heard the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) preaching the new gospel of Imperialism and preferential trade within the Empire, and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) making a speech which was reminiscent of the controversy ‘between the Cobden-Bright party and the landed class in Britain at the time of the agitation for the, repeal of the corn laws. The latter referred lo the large profits made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) gave the Committee a resumé of the same figures, presumably to prove that that particular class of exploiter does not need protection. Nobody willaccuse me of looking after the interests of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in respect of either the mines at Broken Hill or the steel works at Newcastle. The controversy between honorable members opposite is merely another family quarrel between the different exploiting interests. The manufacturing class naturally seek to utilize the machinery of government to build up a home market in which they may exploit the community; whilst the importers, on the other hand, together with the men of many acres, the big pastoralists and agriculturists, advocate, if not Free Trade, at any rate a minimum Tariff. It is a matter of tweedledum and tweedledee. The issue is whether the working class shall be robbed by the importers of the manufacturers. From the point of viewof the worker, it is immaterial to his economic interest whether there is a high Tariff or no Tariff.
Mr.Jowett. - It makes a difference.
– It is a question of high wages and high prices, or low wages and low prices, The honorable member will not contend that without the Tariff the wages will remain as they are.
– We have England’s example - low wages in a Free Trade country.
– As an advocate ofProtection, the honorable member could not have quoted a worse instance. If he has given any attention to the subject he must know that England occupied a specially advantageous position for the development of her manufactures. When the Industrial Revolution took place, England had the benefit of being the premier manufacturing country. During the American Civil War and the wars on the continent of Europe, Britain established herself in a foremost position. That, together, with her strategic position in the world, and her command of the seas, enabled her to develop her manufactures under Free Trade. But those countries that came later- France, Germany, America, and now Australia - have to travel another road. Protection and Imperialism go hand in hand.
– Not bad things either !
– From the honorable member’s point of view they probably are not, but I am here to look at matters from the point of view of the working class. The sections of the community that honorable members opposite represent may benefit from the Tariff, but I ask on behalf of the working class, “ Where do we come in?”
– Whowas the better off ten years ago: the worker in Protectionist America or the worker in Free Trade England?
– That question might have some bearing if addressed to an advocate of Free Trade, but to me it is immaterial. I say to Free Traders and Protectionists alike, ‘ ‘ A plague o’ both your houses.” The working class, to whose opinions I attempt to giveutterance, are interested, not in perpetuating the economic system of either of you, but in nutting an end to both as speedily as possible. The working classes are not parties to the imposition of a high Tariff, and will not take sides with the manufacturers or the importers. We shall be well advised to adopt what was the economic policy of the Labour party, policy of the Labour party when Sir George Reid termed its members “ Fiscal atheists.” A change has come over the Labour party since then. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) said that the party is now pledged to New Protection. In other words,its members are allied with the manufacturing interests, with whom they have compromised. Their position is not unlike that of the Social Democratic party in Germany when it compromised with the Kaiser’s Government. A state of affairs has come about here similar to that in Great Britain. During the years when Great Britain had a monopoly of manufacturing and exporting, the Labour movement was quiescent, and the slogan of the Liberals was this : “ Peace, retrenchment, and reform.” But when the competition of France, Germany, and America began to be felt, Imperialism arose in British politics, and the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain put forforward his policy of “ preferential “ trade. That was in the early years of this century.
– Chamberlain was a good Englishman.
– Whether he was or was not has nothing to do with my argument; the movement which he 6et afoot synchronized with the recognition by Great Britain of the Seriousness of the competition of ‘ her economic rivals. Thereupon , the policy of the Manchester school, which was largely the creation of the textile interests of England, fell into disfavour, and the agitation for preferential trade and Tariff reform began. Since then there has been a marked change in the political conditions of Great Britain. The metal interests, those concerned in the production of steel, armaments, and similar goods, have dominated British policy, and the textile group has been displaced. The foreign and domestic policy of the country has changed in harmony with its changed economic condition. In Australia much the same thing has happened. The driving force behind this Tariff, and behind the Australian Industries Protection League, is Broken Hill steel and kindred interests. It is the persons who are governing those concerns who are supporting this agitation with their money, and it is they and not the workers who will benefit by the Tariff.
– You do not suggest that this is all a question of money 1
– I would not expect the honorable member to take any interest in it if it were not.
– I take interest in the honorable member whether he is speaking or silent.
– If so, it is to safeguard your own interests against my proposals. In any case, I should like the honorable member to show his appreciation of my remarks by remaining silent now. Members cannot be ignorant of the powerful influences at work to secure the imposition of this Tariff. “Imposition” is a word which the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) used inces.santly throughout his speech, and is the word that best fits the case. The working classes have not been consulted with regard to the Tariff. Speaking this afternoon about the wool position, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us that the various sections of the ‘ exploiters, the representatives of the wool jobbers, the wool brokers, the wool growers, and the banking institutions, had interviewed him to suggest a way of dealing with the grave crisis with which the pastoral industry is faced. He directed the attention of members on this side to the gravity of the crisis, and warned us that the classes whom we represent would suffer most if the worst happened. Yet representatives of the workers have not been consulted to devise a means of preventing it. The people whom I represent are appealed to only when it is necessary to get out of the trouble which those behind members opposite have not brains enough to extricate themselves from. Members opposite are never tired of declaring that were it not for the captains of industry, with . their superabundance of intellect, the affairs of the country would be in chaos.
– That is pretty right.
– Members opposite are demanding increased production, and complaining that the workers are going slow. Yet the pastoralists are yelling out because they hav? 3,000,000 bales of wool which cannot be sold. Is the glut in the wool market due to the fact, that members of the Australian Workers’ Union went slow on the job ?
– The honorable member is very rough on the members of the Australian Workers Union.
– I agree with the honorable member that the workers should produce more, but I disagree with him as to what they should do with what ‘ they produce. The honorable member thinks that they should give it to him, whereas I think that they should keep it for themselves.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) has been beating the air about explosives. He has told us that he did not mean that the mine-owners were affected, and that he was referring to the mining industry, whatever that means.
– He means that there are a lot of men out of work who might be in work.
– The honorable member and his friends are always thinking about the fellow who is out of work. The only time they do so is when no one is producing for them, and then when men are producing they are not producing enough; they are slowing down on the job. Some people are never tired of pointing out that the country is being ruined because the workers do not produce enough in a given period.
– There is a good deal of truth in that assertion.
– Then it would be interesting to explain how the surplus of wool has’ been brought about by the slowing down of the workers.
A few days ago the Argus published a leading article dealing with certain statements made by the Hon. W. L. Baillieu about the base metal industry, and blandly informed its readers that the people at Broken Hill were in trouble because they had followed the advice of Mr. Considine.
– Did not the honorable member advise them ?
-I have been blamed for a lot, but I have never been blamed other than in the columns of the Argus for the price of metals in Europe. Are the miners of Broken Hill responsible for the collapse of the market in Europe for zinc and lead ? No one is stupid enough to suggest it.
– But the miners at Broken Hill lost twelve golden months last year.
– Of course they did, but when I asked in this House for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the condition of the men who were dying from miners’ pthisis and lead poisoning at Broken Hill, and who were being forced to leave their employment while they still had health in their bodies to do so, not only to save their own lives but also for the sake of the unborn children, the honorable member voted with the exploiters of the country to keep these men where they would be poisoned with lead.
– Did not a Labour Government in New South Wales appoint a Commission ?
– No. It appointed a body of technical experts, the result of whose inquiries has been that about 400 men have been prohibited from working in the industry. These men were debarred from finding employment on the line of lode, and were also held up for three months without compensation.
While honorable members, like their confrères in all the countries of the world, are clamouring for increased production, the Prime Minister tells us that there is a surplus production of wool. Has that come about because sufficient wool has not been produced, or because too much has been produced?
– It is because we have not enough customers with money to buy our wool.
– You should not have started the war.
– I am not concerned as to who started the war; all I am concerned about is to prevent the possibility of future wars. They will certainly not be prevented by tinkering about with Tariffs. The various countries of the world that have become commercialized are competing with one another in the same good old fashion; the Allies who fought Germany mainly and principally because of that country’s competition with Great Britain are now proceeding to build up huge navies, and to accumulate great armaments, and are commencing to quarrel amongst themselves, treadingthe same old paths that led to the recent world war. Andnow we are told by those who stand behind our Tariff that it is necessary for Australia to join forces with Britain by means of preferential duties and so forth ; by more contributions in the shape of ships and money towards the building up of a Navy, and by altering the Defence Act in order to impose the British Army Act. upon Australians. These are signs which appear to me as plain as a pikestaff, indicating that all these preparations have but one purpose in view, and that is to combine the forces of the British Empire against some other competitor in the world’s markets.
– Surely the honorable member does not say that that is the object of the present Tariff?
– Of course it is. I have listened to the speeches of quite a number of honorable members. They are all concerned, either with building up the manufacturers of this country, or with conserving their own special interests. Not one honorable member has voiced the view-point I am endeavouring to put forward, namely, the position of the Australian worker, who will continue to be exploited just the same, whether a Tariff is imposed or not. I fail to see how he can benefit.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) says that he is in favour of the new Protection policy as enunciated by the honorable Andrew Fisher, but that policy boiled down simply means that one section of workers will make an arrangement with manufacturers for which all other workers will be obliged to pay.
– The honorable member subscribed to that policy for a number of years.
– I have never subscribed t° it.
– The honorable member signed the platform containing that policy.
– Certainly, I did sign the platform ; it was necessary for me to sign it in order that I might come to this House; but, when I was a candidate in 1917, I repudiated the Labour party’s manifesto. The honorable member may not see any difference between my election speeches and the policy put forward by the labour party, but the Barrier Daily Truth was fined £100 for publishing my speeches, which were all frankly working class in character. I do not think that the speeches of the honorable member for Hindmarsh were ever objected to by the people who run this country. Any honorable member could see the difference between my speeches and the policy for which the honorable member for Hindmarsh stood, although we may have signed the same platform.
– When the honorable member signed the platform did he not agree with every principle contained in it?
– Did the honorable member ? Mr. Makin. - Yes.
– The honorable member “ scabbed “ on his mates.
– Any one who says that I “ scabbed “ on my mates is a liar !
– The honorable member must’ not make use of that expression.
– If I am not given the protection of the Chair when an honorable member insinuates that I “ scabbed “ om my mates, I must take my own method of protecting myself.
– If the honorable member for Barrier takes exception to a remark made by another honorable member, the Chair will certainly protect him. To what remark does the honorable member take exception ?
– The honorable member for Bass said quite loudly that I had “ scabbed “ on my mates.
– Then I must ask the honorable member for Bass to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– Seeing that the honorable member withdraws his remark, I withdraw my statement that he is a liar. May I be permitted to remind the constituents of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who takes exception to my attitude, that the only time he has done so is when I am objecting to the Labour party being used for the purpose of assisting the manufacturers of this country.
– The honorable member misrepresents me.
– If so, I am sorry; but the fault, lies with the honorable member.
– I merely desire the honorable member to be as consistent as he was anxious to be when he was a member of tho Labour party.
– The only remark I can offer to the workers of this country, whose opinion is the only opinion I value, is that, until I severed my connexion with the Labour party, there was no question as to my consistency or loyalty to the working class. Objection was taken to my presence in the Labour party only when I stood up for the principle of the On© Big Union - a principle I had advocated ever since I was a member of that party. It was then, and only then, that I was threatened with expulsion. So long as I am in this chamber, however, I shall ‘ continue to emphasize the point that the interests of the workers are not, and never can be, identical with those of the employers. The party that represents the workers of this country will not be concerned with the imposition of a Tariff will not be divided by questions of Free Trade or Protection, but will be interested in putting an end to the profit-making system which breeds these antagonisms between different classes of the community arid makes it essential that the people shall be fooled and robbed all the time, while the manufacturers and importers are fighting for their respective shares of the plunder. What have the working classes to do withthe Tariff?
– A great deal.
– Perhaps so, from the honorable member’s point of view; but his point of view is not that of the workers. Some time ago, when we were dealing with the war-time profits tax, honorable members opposite were moved to laughter when T said that the working classes did not pay taxes; aud even some honora’ble members on this side said they would be very pleased to learn that’ they did not. I repeat that statement to-night. The working classes are robbed not through taxation, but at the point of production.. They are robbed in the factories, the workshops, and the mines. It is over the surplus value that is wrung from the working classes in the places where they are exploited that the importers and manufacturers quarrel, and they attempt to use the workers and the political representatives of the workers to aid them in securing their respective shares of the plunder for their own particular sections.
I referred just now to the agitation in Great Britain for the repeal of tha Corn Laws. If honorable members have studied that agitation they will know that Bright and Cobden, representing the manufacturturing interests- of the -country, endeavoured to ‘rope in the workers behind them by raising the cry of a cheap loaf-cheap food for the people. On the other hand, the agricultural interests, headed by Lord Shaftesbury and others of his class, appealed to the workers, saying, “ Look how these manufacturers are exploiting you in their1 factories. They work you twelve hours a day,” and so forth. In various ways they held the other side up to ridicule. Was this done in the interests of the workers? No. Each of these appeals was made to the workers not in their own interests, -but because people who were striking at the economic interests of the other side had appealed to them. While the representatives of the agricultural interests pointed out that the workers were being exploited by the manufacturers and required to work twelve hours a day, the representatives of the manufacturers pointed to the conditions under which the agricultural workers were labouring and said to the masses, “If you working men will only help us to repeal the Corn Laws you will have a cheap loaf.” They did not tell them that when they got that cheap loaf their wages would also go down, so that after they had pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for the manufacturers of Great Britain they would be just where they wore before. We have the same position in this country. The intelligent worker in Australia, however, recognises that, whether a Tariff be imposed or not imposed, his interests are not going to be advanced one iota. In any event, he must work from Monday morning till Saturday afternoon.
– The manufacturer has to do the same, and he works more than eight hours a day.
– The manufacturer who engages in either mental or manual labour is a worker in so far as he works, but in so far as he exploits other people’s labour, he is an exploiter,and does not work.
– I get the honorable member’s view-point. He does not mind the foreign manufacturer benefiting in this way, but no manufacturer in Australia should be allowed to do so.
– That is not so. My argument leads to no such conclusion. I object to exploitation, whether it be foreign or local. If I am robbed, the only question which concerns me is as to the robbery itself, and not as to the individual who has robbed me. And so I am concerned in putting an end to the robbery or exploitation. If the honorable member cannot appreciate that viewpoint it is not my fault.
– I am not going to say that the honorable member is robbed.
– Then the obvious inference is that the honorable member does not know whether ho is right or wrong. Honorable members opposite can afford to smile. They have the numbers and they know that this Tariff will be passed regardless of what I or any one else on this side may say. The position in regard to all other legislation is the same, and serves only to confirm the opinion which I have, enunciated both here and outside as to the value of this place as an institution at all.
– But the Parliament is the expressed will of the people.
– The honorable member says that this institution in which we meet and exchange our views - in which laws are enacted and give rise to the necessity for the enactment of further laws in order that the “will of the people” maybe given effect to - is the “will of the people.” And this notwithstanding that all the time we have conferences with the financiers, the woolbrokers and others, who, when they meet together, decide that a certain course of action is in the interests of whom - the people?
– The “ will of the people “ is expressed by the wool brokers and thebanks and other financial institutions of the country.
– We have 80,000 wool-growers, and the hulk of them are only in a small way.
– I know that, but the fact remains that the “ will ofthe people” is expressed through these organizations whose interests are bound up in their own particular industries. When the workers of Australia come together to look after their own interests - when they organize along the same lines and endeavour to put their views before the Governments of the day - it is suggested that they are guilty of disloyalty.
– Not at all. They are good men.
– I am sure that the honorable member has no desire to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
– Meantime there is a little Tariff schedule before us.
– I have not noticed any one touching the Tariff schedule. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman is anxious that we should deal with it, and I have no objection to his getting on “ with the will of the people,” if he chooses so to describe it. I do not suppose it will affect the real issue. The real rulers of this country will not be perturbed. Their interests are safe in the hands of honorable members opposite. I expect that when the base metal people think that the miners in Cloncurry, Mount Lyell, Broken Hill and other districts have been sufficiently disciplined and starved - when the arrangements are sufficiently ripe in the opinion of these people who own and rule the country - they will decide that the mines shall be opened up once more. Meantime, while this institution can go on, it will not do very much more harm than it has done. As the workers of the country, by force of circumstances and the logic of events, have their intelligence sharpened, while their stomachs are getting pinched, I think they will have a different outlook. Ibelieve they will come to recognise that the more attention they pay to their organizations outside this Parliament- the greater the determination shown by them to take the con- trol of industry into their own hands-
– Direct action?
– Certainly direct action. What is wrong with the working class adopting the methods of the honorable member’s class? If direct action is good for the honorable member’s class and “delivers the goods,” then direct or any other kind of action, as long as it “ delivers the goods,” must also be good for the working class.
– Order! I am afraid the honorable member is departing too widely from the question before the Chair.
– Yes. I can well understand that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro’s incitement to direct action is quite out of order. So long as it is covered by legal phraseology or parliamentary procedure there will be no objection on the part of the employing interests, or those who represent them in this Chamber. I remember, on a former occasion, when we were discussing, not wool, but fruit trees, hearing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) advise those who were affected to cut back the trees so as to retard production and restrict output. Of course, in that case, such a procedure was not called “ going slow on the job “; but if tramway men strictly carry out the rules and regulations, that is the charge made against them, and they are regarded as being guilty of most reprehensible behaviour. When it is a case of creating an artificial scarcity of wool, or any other commodities that honorable members opposite may be interested in, it is, of course, a different proposition altogether ; all that honorable members opposite desire is that the worker shall go on peacefully working from Monday morning till Saturday afternoon, producing surplus value, and the employers and those interested will settle amongst themselves, in a gentlemanly fashion, the question of who shall Have the biggest Share of the Wag.”
– We will settle it; we will not fight;
– If you do settle it we shall expect it to be settled in - a gentlemanly fashion. I fail to see, from the point of view of interest in the country, where the working men come into the picture at all. Why should they worry their heads about the disagreements of honorable members opposite and their friends ? The workers are concerned most about getting rid of the lot of them .
– Order! Will tho honorable member deal somewhat with the Tariff?
– Of course I do not know whether it is so or not - whether it is a. coincidence - but on every occasion when I address myself to a subject before the House I seem to be rather unfortunate. I listened very attentively to honorable members who preceded me, and I did not notice any restrictions being placed on their utterances. .
– I do not know if the honorable member intends that remark, as a reflection on the Chair, but I think that if I am to be accused of one thing more than another it is giving too much latitude to honorable members.
– I never noticed that you do that with me !
– I have given the honorable member the same privileges as I have given to every other honorable member, and I shall continue to do sp while I occupy my present position. I remind the honorable member that there are several stages in the discussion of the Tariff. The matters he is dealing with now are altogether outside the scope of the schedule; and if he desires to give his opinion on those matters he should avail himself of other opportunities. Tho custom has been to allow a general debate on the first item, of the schedule - to deal with the Tariff as a whole - but the honorable member is going altogether outside the question, as he must admit if he wishes to be fair and reasonable. He is dealing with matters that are not contained in the Tariff ; dis agreements between parties have nothing to do with our present subject. I wish to remove from the honorable member’s mind an impression, indicated by his remarks, that I have placed on hiin restrictions that I have placed on no other honorable member. I assure the honorable member that he is wrong. He ‘has had, and will have, just the same privileges as are extended to any other honorable member. I ask honorable members to observe the Standing Orders and discuss the Tariff.
– I was not alluding to differences between parties at all; I was pointing to the economic divisions that exist between the manufacturing interests and the importing interests, and the gentlemen opposite who represent them. I understood - and in listening to the debate. I had the impression borne out - that this is the only opportunity for a wide discussion on the Tariff. When we come, to the various items, T understand we shall be restricted- to the’ particular item under discussion.- From my point of view, there is nothing good in the Tariff ; the question of the value of the Tariff, of whether it is -a good Tariff or a bad one, or whether we should have Free Trade or Protection, does not, as I was trying to convey to the House, matter a “ continental “ so far as the workers of this country are concerned. I was endeavouring to give reasons for the adoption of that view. If, because I do not conform, to either the Free Trade or the Pro- tectionist school of thought - if the discussion is meant only for Free Traders and Protectionists - then, of course, I should not have spoken at all. I thank the Chairman for his assurance that I shall have all the privileges to which honorable members are entitled in this House. I do not think I shall bo getting too much when I get that consideration to which I think I am’ entitled us my right. I regard it as my right, not because I am speaking, but because the people who sent me here art entitled to have their views expressed, and the same privileges extended to their mouthpiece as are extended to other honorable members. I never intended, and do not intend, to ask for more. I simply said that T appeared to bo rather unfortunate in being pulled up or questioned, simply and solely, as it seems to me, because I do not favour the Free Trade or the Protectionist school of thought. From my point of view,, and from the point of view of those I represent, it is immaterial whether Free Trade or Protection is adopted in this country. What we wish to do is to convince the workers of this country that their interests do not lie in either of those schools of thought, but lie in substituting for the profit-making system, with its inherent evils - a system which breeds all the trouble and causes all the waste of time - another system which will administer industry without the ridiculous results we have at present.
.- It is, I am sure, satisfactory to all of us that this debate is not being conducted on party lines, tait that we are free to exercise our thoughts and our votes as we think best for the Commonwealth of Aus-* tralia. We have to remember, however, that a great deal will depend on our actions in this chamber within the next month or so. We are to be complimented on having such an able Minister in charge of this Bill. It will be admitted that he has placed the Tariff, ‘and all it means, very clearly before us. I am one who desires every section of the community to have fair-play under the Tariff. I have always been in favour of Protection for the primary producers, as given in the past, and, as I hope, will be given in the future. The industries that I have in my mind are those associated with the production of dried fruit, which is, perhaps, the most highly protected industry in the Commonwealth, maize, bananas - these two require further protection to save the industries - preserved milk, arrowroot, hams, eggs, honey, onions, tobacco, glucose, cotton, and other commodities. The duties on some of these products will, I think, after consideration by the Minister and the Chamber, be somewhat increased. In the matter of maize, we are certainly “ up against “ production in other parts of the world by cheap black labour; and, with the slump in freights, which we know is certain, even more Protection than in the past will be required on this and other primary products. In the case of cottongrowing in Queensland, although there i3 a guarantee of 4d. a lb. on production, there is not the protective duty there should be. I believe in all the interests of Australia being considered, including the interests of the workers and their families; and there ought to be a Protection, of 15 per cent, on cotton. Some! honorable members may not know that at the present time raw cotton in being imported from India and. China - the lowest quality grown anywhere - where it is grown more cheaply than it can be in Queensland, but it is of very inferior quality to that which is being produced, not only in the northern State of Queensland, but also, I believe, in South Australia, New South Wales, and Western Australia. This is not the first time that cotton has been grown in Queensland. I can remember large cotton plantations in Queensland fifty years ago, and during the Civil War in America that State had a large trade. As soon, however, as the war was over, the American people, with their cheap coloured labour, were able to take the trade from us. I firmly believe that if there had been a protective duty of 15 per cent, at that time, the cotton industry would have, progressed up to the present day.
– Queensland was one of the most highly protective States in Australia.
– I shall show, I think, that Queensland was not highly protective. As the cheap and poor quality of imported cotton is used chiefly for mixing with wool in the manufacture of woollen fabrics that are highly protected, it is only just to impose a duty on the . cotton used in that way as well as on the wool in goods. Thirty years ago the production of cotton at Ipswich clearly proved that if there had been a protective duty of 15 per cent, in operation, the industry would not have collapsed. This season the Queensland Department of Agriculture distributed enough cotton seed to plant 5,000 acres. More was applied for, but was not available. It is estimated that the area now under cultivation amounts to 3,000 acres of productive cotton, which will yield a return of 1,500 tons of seed cotton, from which, according to the calculations of experts, will be produced 500 tons of lint of better quality than we are importing from overseas, and 1,000 tons of seed.
– I do not know of anybody in Queensland who is rushing those Eldorados of which the honorable member is speaking.
– The honorable member lives far out west, and if he does not know of these industries, that does not prove that other parts of Queensland are not developing them. He will find that cotton is being grown south of Rockhampton, but most of the cultivation is in the southern portions of the State, from Bundaberg southwards. In the old days I saw large plantations of cotton near Maryborough. It is on record that fifty years ago there was 14,000 acres under cotton in Queensland. To-day there is no obstacle to the industry in the way of labour cost, because the price of cotton-picking in the United States of America is as high as the wages we are paying in Australia, and if we could only secure a protective duty of 15 per cent., and place under cultivation the same area as was planted with cotton fifty years ago, returned soldiers and others could with a far less capital expenditure be more profitably engaged than they are to-day in fruit-growing and other industries. An area of 14,000 acres under cotton would give employment to 1,200 men, women, and children in taking off the crop. We ought to do something to encourage the growth of our population. It is a standing disgrace that a country bigger than the United States of America, and with possibilities greater than that country had years ago, should have only 5,000,000 people, whereas in America there are 112,000,000 people. If our industries were properly encouraged and protected, and immigrants could feel that their interests would be safeguarded when they came here, we should soon have a much bigger population than we have to-day. And what would that mean to Australia? We are weighted down with a load of taxation owing to the late war. If we doubled our population, we should halve our taxation, and that would offer a greater encouragement to people to come here to develop this great country. Before the last drought there were 93,000,000 sheep in Australia, and notwithstanding the export of mutton and lamb, that number will soon be reached again! To-day the primary producers are complaining that they are losing money because there is no competition outside Australia for their raw material.
Would it not be to the interests of the community if that raw material were converted in Australia into manufactured goods, which would find a ready sale on the other side of- the world? I am not pessimistic in regard to the wool position. Before the war there was not more wool produced than was necessary to supply the world. At the present time we are cut off from many of our markets, and the action which has been taken to protect our interests until normal conditions are restored is wise. The time is not far distant when countries which are at present out of the market will be again seeking our wool. A few years ago Russia had 72,000,000 sheep. I wonder how many she has now. Surely, if the product of those sheep is not available, there must be a greater demand for Australian wool to replace it. If we can only safeguard the interests of our producers in the -meantime, we shall soon return to a safe footing.
Encouragement should be given to the cultivation- of the castor bean. Beans of …… highest quality are being grown on hundreds of acres in Queensland, and expert tests prove the average oil contents to be 50 per cent. The cost of production is very low. For years I grew a few castor bean and cotton plants in my own garden, and I know that they do not require nearly as much attention as does fruit, and are not subject to the ravages of fruit fly and other pests. If returned soldiers and immigrants were directed into enterprises like the growing of cotton and the castor bean, they would have better prospects than are offered by many of the activities in which they are engaged to-day.
I am anxious that the primary producers should have, a fair deal. Their interests should be protected. But the secondary industries also must be considered, for without them Australia cannot possibly thrive. We have heard a lot of talk about the manner in which Great Britain prospered without Protection in the early days. What necessity existed for Protection, when she had the markets of the world at her mercy? Her industries were -well established, tremendous reserves had been established, many of the large plants had been written down 70 per cent., and what chance had other countries to compete with them when starting they had to pay interest on the full capital cost of buildings and plant? We are in precisely the same position as were those countries years ago. The primary producers complain of. the unfairness of a duty on agricultural implements, but agree that such preference should be given to agricultural machinery produced within the Empire. That would be a mistake. Our two largest competitors in the manufacture of agricultural machinery have branches in Canada and America. If preference is given within the Empire - I favour preference to Great Britain - it will mean preference to Canada, and, therefore, in the case of these two firms, a preference to America. What has been the action of America in regard to the dumping of machinery and other goods into Australia? Although the United States of America Legislature passed a very strong law prohibiting Trusts and Combines, in 1918 the Webb Act made legal Combines whose object was the dumping of goods into the markets of other countries, and the Government arranged for the transport of raw material from the interior to the seaboard at a considerable reduction of rates, on condition that it was used for the manufacture of goods for export.
– The honorable member suggested a few minutes ago that Australia should do much the same thing - that she should manufacture her wool into clothing, and dump it anywhere she could.
– I did not suggest dumping. In February, 1920, Mr. Taylor, the Director of the Commonwealth Bureau of Commerce and Industry, stated that, although there may be difficulties, there is no real obstacle in the way of converting the greatest part of the Australian wool clip into woollen goods to be sold in other countries, and the honorable member for’ Grampians (Mr. Jowett) said the other night that he was absolutely in accord with that view, and would do all he could to give it effect, a statement which showed his sound common sense. It is said that the primary producer must not be exploited. At the same time, the complaint is made that our primary produce is being sold in the markets of the world for less than we should get for it. Why, then, should not the primary producers put their produce into local factories, and thus obtain not merely a profit on their primary production, but also a profit on the secondary production as well? To do that would give employment to man: who are now unemployed. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) says that Labour does not want Protection; but let me give him indisputable figures taken from the last Commonwealth Y ear-Book, No. 13. What would become of the men employed in our factories if we abolished Protection?
– I suppose you would get the kanakas back.
– I was one of those who assisted in getting the kanaka dispensed with; but I contended that Queensland industries should be protected, so that it would be possible to use white labour in place of black in tropical and semi-tropical Queensland and Western Australia. Had ye labour from the South Sea Islands, we could produce cotton, castor beans, and sugar more cheaply than with white labour; but no one in Queensland wishes to revert to black labour, and the people of that State are as strong advocates of a White Australia as is the honorable member for Barrier. According to the official statistics, the engines in use in the factories of the Commonwealth in 1913 had a total horse power of 610,326, and the average number of persons employed in our manufacturing industries in that year was 328,049.
– Not a great number in a population of 5,000,000.
– But they support wives and children and other dependants. The salaries and wages paid in the Commonwealth factories during the same year amounted to £38,379,268. Would honorable members deprive our work people of this amount in wages by shutting down the factories? The value of the fuel and light used was £4,732,890; the value of the raw material worked up, £146,181,866; and the value of the output of the factories, £225,753,611. In 1919 the value of our industrial output was £249,147,395. The increase in value given in 1918 to our raw material by the process of manufacturing was £97,571,745. Is it not a good thing that that money was kept in the country, instead of being sent overseas? Was it not better that it should be in circulation in Australia? How can we balance our accounts if we import all our requirements from overseas? Last year the value of our imports was £26,000,000 in excess of the value of our exports. This difference has to be made up, and the best way of balancing our trade is to reduce our importations by manufacturing more of our raw material. The value of the land and buildings connected with factories was £45,795,704, and of the plant and machinery in them £50,792,305. A great deal of that machinery was manufactured in Australia, and gave employment locally. The value of the final output of our agricultural implement works was £1,415,375; of our engineering iron works and foundries, £13,322,785; of railway and tramway workshops, £5,037,225; of smelting works, &c, £18,409,027; of bacon-curing factories, £3,538,612; of butter and cheese factories, £14,322,025; of meat and fish preserving works. £14,318,244; of confectionery works, £2,969,573; of flour mills, £13,000,000. This year, I think, the out put of the sugar mills of Queensland and New South Wales will be worth at least £14,000,000. We could not produce this value of sugar in the Commonwealth were it not for Protection, though the protection given to the sugar industry is very little. The value of our output of boots and shoes is £6,410,000; of our woollen, cotton, and tweed output, £2,024,343; and of our furniture output, £2,239,642.
The Webb Act came into operation in America in April, 1918, and eleven months afterwards the value of the goods exported from the United States of America was 6,308,000,000 dollars, as against 2,803,000,000 dollars’ worth of imports. A surplus of more than £800,000,000 was thus created. If we do not safeguard the industries of Australia against dumping they will go to the wall. The figures I have just given are to be found in the Journal’ of Commerce and Commercial Bulletin of New York of the 20th June, 1919, and show how necessary it is for us to protect this country from dumping. In a report of 137 pages which Mr. Julian Home devotes to the agricultural machinery industry, he deals with every point of the Australian market for machinery. Mr. Home was for many years a representative of the United States Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and wrote his report after a visit to Australia. During the past few year” some large implement factories in Australia have been forced to go out of business. The gross output fell considerably between 1911 and 1918, and in that period the number of employees was reduced from 5,156 to 3,336. During the war we benefited by the existence of industries which had previously been established under Protection. I do not know what the mining industry, the sugar industry, the agricultural industry, and many others would have done during the war if there had not been factories in which repairs to machinery could be made and portions of the plant renewed and new plants obtained. On one occasion twenty locomotives which were being built by Walkers Limited, Maryborough, for the EastWest Railway were held up because steel tyres were not being made in Australia and could not be imported during the war. A long while ago this firm and others appealed to the Government of the day to put a protective duty upon steel tyres that would enable a plant to be established locally for their manufacture, but the’ request was refused and the manufacture of steel tyres was not undertaken in Australia. The result was that the Commonwealth was considerably inconvenienced in regard to the operating of its railways. However, a plant has recently been established in Newcastle, New South Wales, for the manufacture of these tyres under Protection. It is regrettable that an earlier start could not have been made with it, because during the war many of our industries suffered through the inability to obtain steel products which are now being turned out successfully by Australians.
We cannot with any safety give the British Empire preference on farming and other machinery, because two American firms, namely, the International Harvester Company and the Massey-Harris Company, who operate largely in Australia and New Zealand, can sell their machines in the Commonwealth for less than they charge for them in New Zealand, despite the fact that we impose a duty of from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, on nineteen different machines, while New Zealand collects no duty on fifteen of them,, and only 10 per cent, on the balance. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding our duty of from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent., the Australian fanners pay less for these agricultural machines than do the Argentine farmers who import them free of duty. These facts show conclusively that overseas firms will, by means of the dumping process, take steps to see that they are not prevented by any 30 per cent. , duty from keeping down competition against them. Quite recently we had in Tasmania, an illustration of the evils of dumping. In that State carbide works had been started by private enterprise. Previously ‘ the price of the imported article had been £80 per ton, but the importers, upon the commencement of the operations of the local manufacturers, immediately began to dump their product into Australia at such an exceedingly low price that this House found it necessary to pass legislation in order to safeguard the interests of the Tasmanian manufacturers by making it almost impossible for the importers to dump carbide here.
I stand, as I always hope to do, for every section of the community. I am not a sectionalist It is my aim in dealing with this Tariff to see that protection is afforded, not only to the primary and secondary industries of Australia, but also to the workers engaged in them.
House adjourned’ at 10.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210428_reps_8_95/>.