8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J.M. Chanter) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it has been decided to give preference to returned soldiers in making appointments for the establishment of the Bureau of Science and Industry, and if not, whether he will give us the assurance that preference will be shown to returned soldiers?
– So far as. I know, applications for positions in the Bureau nave not yet come before me, but when they do the claims of returned soldiers will receive due consideration. The work to be done is highly technical, and in the fina] selection the first consideration must be the fitness of the applicant to perform it. Subject to fitness, of course, preference will be given to returned soldiers.
-I understand that Dr. Campbell Brown and about twelve others left in October last for New Guinea and the adjacent islands asa Commission. Will the Acting Prime Minister say what has become of them; whether they are stillin the Territory, or are lost; and if they have furnished any reportto the Government on the work that has been done?
– At the moment I cannot say whether they are lost, stolen, or strayed. The number of those who went away is not so large as the honorable member thinks; less than half-a-dozen went.
-Several have drifted back on their own.
– I know nothing of that; but have sent a communication by radioinquiring wherethe Commission is, and what it is doing.
Purchase of Saw Mills and Timber areas.
Mr. FOWLER presented the report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts upon the purchase of saw mills and timber areas by the War Service’ Homes Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the statement made recently by the Treasurer that it is impossible at the present time to increase the old-age pensions, I ask the right honorable gentleman if an arrangement could not be made which would permit pensioners to earn a little more money on their own. account, without suffering a reduction of pension?
– Even that would involve a big outlay by the Commonwealth, because it would increase the number of persons eligible for pensions. If you allowed pensioners to earn another £1 per week, you would increase the cost of the pensions to the Commonwealth by about £750,000 a year.
Mr. Knibbs’ Report
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister to make available the report of Mr. Knibbs to the Prime Minister on the operation of the basic wage?
– When the honorable member mentioned the matter before, I referred the question to Mr. Knibbs, who was then onthe point of starting for Queensland, and he did not see his way to give his consent to the publication of the report, which is in its nature confidential. When he returns, I shall consult him about it again.
– As the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will not deliver correspondence addressed to Tattersalls or to the agents of the firm in Tasmania or elsewhere, I ask whether there is the same embargo on letters addressed to the directors of the Golden Casket lottery, and whether it is intended to treat in the same way letters sent in connexion with the lottery which is contemplated by the New South Wales Government.
– Our action in regard to the New South Wales lottery will be determined when the occasion arises. As for the first part of the question, I replied some time ago that we do not prohibit correspondence addressed to the agents for art unions.
– On the day that the Prime Minister left for England, he promised to refer to the Acting PrimeMinister my requestthat the names of the persons responsible for the exportation of bad wheat to South Africa should be made known. He said that the Acting Prime Minister, no doubt would give the information. Is the righthonorable gentleman in a position to do so?
– If the honor able member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall see if I can get him an answer; but the subject is full of difficulties, and I think that the less said about it until these have been cleared up the better.
– Will you make a statement about it?
– I cannot do that yet, because we are in communication with the South African Government regarding it.
– When may we expect the promised statement about the. operations and future programme of the War Service Homes Commission?
– I hope to make a full statement before the end of thepresent financial year.ThePublic Accounts Committee has been inquiring -into the operations of the War. Service Homes Commission, and has just presented a report, and. an advisory and consultative Board, with which Iam inconstant consultation, sits daily. My colleague,Senator Millen, and I have discussed many of their recommendations, and so has the Cabinet. I assure the honorable member that no half measures will be taken to put the operations of the Commission on a sound business footing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What number of War Service Homes in each State bae been built in -
– The desired particulars are being obtained.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister give me any idea when I may. beable to bring forward for debate the notice of motion which I have on the business-paper proposing an inquiry into the Wheat Pools ? In view of the wide-spread feeling existing throughout the country, is it not his opinion that there should be an investigation of the kind?
-I cannot, at this moment, fix a date for the discussion of thehonorable member’s motion. Personally, I do not seewhat is to be gained by . an inquiryof the, nature indicated. TheWheat Poolsare State matters, and only, in the remotest degree do they affect the Commonwealth.
– TheCommonwealthhas been interested in every one of the Poole, as the Minister knows.
– Interested this year, for instance, in the matter of arrangingfinances. But the Commonwealth has nothing whatever to do with the administrative activities of the Wheat Board this year.
– I mean during the past five years.
– The same remark applies in regard to the other years. The matter has been controlled by the State Governments; and, really, I object to the Commonwealth being called upon to take over responsibilities which are not ours. We have enough ofour own.
Mentally Afflicted Soldiers
– About a fortnight ago, I asked questions in this House regarding the ultimatehome to be provided for certain returned soldiers who have been mentally afflicted, and the Assistant Minister for Repatriation gave me to understand that provision was being made by the Commonwealth Government for the care of these men. Since the House met this morning, I have been informed, over the telephone, that instructions have been issued to the officials at Mont Park Hospital that, on the first of next month, the control of that institution is to be handed over to the State authorities. In the course of my questions, I explained to the Minister the disabilities under which these unfortunates would be placed should they be transferred to State control. I wish to know whether it is a fact that the transfer is to be made ; and, if so, how it coincides with the assurance given me by the Minister only a comparatively few days ago.
– I know nothing, personally, of such an instruction. The matter has not been brought under my notice, nor has my authority been sought or given. I repeat the assurance which I gave the honorable member previously, namely, that an arrangement has been made by the Commonwealth Government with the State Government for the segregation and special care of all mental cases in the Hospital. I know of no change of policy under which mental cases are to be transferred to the direct care of the State. Tho Commonwealth accepts full responsibility for the permanent care of all mental cases.
– The Minister, in reply to my questions a fortnight ago–
– Order! The honorable member may not continue to question a Minister upon the same subject-matter as has just been dealt with.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, so far as is possible.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked yesterday when we were likely to have the census return of the population in each State. I have made inquiry, and have ascertained that it is anticipated that the preliminary figures will be available for the whole of Australia by the end of this month.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 19th May (vide page 8577). division iv.- agricultural products andgroceries
Tea -(a) In packets not exceeding 20lbs. net weight, perlb.,1d.; (b)N.e.i., free.
.- Tea is admitted free of duty, except in respect of that which comes into Australia in packages. There is very little of the latter, however. The latest official returns show that only 341,000 lbs. entered the Commonwealth in that form - which is an insignificant item compared with tbe total importations of about 56,000,000 lbs.
– Why should any tea come in in packages ?
– If certain people desire to make a specialty of importing tea in that form, and are agreeable to pay the duty thereon, welland good ; and. the honorable member may move, if he wishes, to increase the duty.
– The importations in packages consist probably of ships stores and the like consumed along the Australian coast.
– The tea which we imported from within the Empire,according to tho latest official returns covering one financial year, was distributed as follows: - From Ceylon, about 20,750,000 lbs. ; from Hong Kong, 55,000 lbs. ; and from India, 8,800,000 lbs. From China, we imported 928,000 lbs.; from Java, 26,000,000 lbs.; and from Japan, 360,000 lbs. Those figures reveal that a tremendous proportion of the tea imported from outside the Empire is grown in Java, while almost the whole of that obtained from within the Empire is grown in Ceylon and India. Nowadays, we see many people waving the flag, and we hear them talking with pride and sympathy of the great and sacrificial deeds of our Empire.. Here is an opportunity to show practical sympathy, and to. express practical loyalty. Indiaand Ceylon are notable parts of the Empire; they. did their worthy share in the Great War. If tea is to come into Australia freeof duty from any part of the world; it should be that grown within the Empire ; but it is my view that we should securesome revenue from tea imported from foreign countries. Care should be taken that the tea which we may import free shall be grown within the Empire, and not merely despatched from a point within the Empire; otherwise wemay get it from Hong Kong, in which part of the Empire, however, it has not been grows. If we imposed a duty of 2d., per lb. on tea grown outside the Empire, we would receive an additional revenue of £360,000. I camnot understand why tea drinkers should not be called upon to paysomething in this direction towards the revenue. We have increased the duties in other directions, as we have to pay higher prices for our cigars, whisky, and ales; and there does not appear to be any reason why tea drinkers should not contribute towards the revenue.
– Is thehonorable member proposing an increase?
– Yes. I want it to be clearly understood that I desire to give preference to tea grown within the Em pire, whichIsuggest shouldbe free of duty, and that tea grown outside the Empire should be dutiable at 2d. per lb. I presume my amendment will have ite be made in sub-item b. Ifthe Committee decides to impose a duty on tea grown outside the Empire I should like te know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will not then have to increase the duty shown insubitem a, because that tea would come in in 20-lb. packages at1d. per lb.
– The sub-item would have to be recommitted.
– The honorable member for Dampier(Mr. Gregory), in proposing aduty on tea grown outside tbe Empire; should embody tbe whole, and then go on to lay in packages not exceeding 20 lbs. weight, say,1d., 2d., and 3d., and n.e.i. free, and so on.
– To test the opinion of the Committee, I move -
That after the word “ Tea “ the words “ grown within the Empire “ be inserted.
.- The item underdiscussion is of some importance, and, as tea is not produced in the Commonwealth I believe that it should be free of duty. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has. consistently opposed Protection for certain Australianindustries; but is prepared om this item, for revenue purposes, to imposea duty of 2d. per lb.
– I think tbe honorable member is wrong insaying that I opposed Protection. I am strongly opposed to a prohibitive Tariff.
Mr.CHARLTON.- There is a difference of opinion on that point. During the whole of the debate I have heard very little from the honorable member in support of our own industries, and I think it will be admitted that he has been doing his best in tho direction of Free Trade. In connexion with this particular item, the honorable member not only wishes to maintain the duty of1d. per lb on 20-lb. packages, but desires to go further and impose a duty of 2d. per lb. ontea produced” outside the Empire. It really comes to this: The honorable memberis prepared to support Protection within the Empire, but not within Australia, which is an integral part of the British Empire. He believes in such countries as India being given considera tion, but he has not endeavoured to give Protection to the industries within the Commonwealth. Personally,Iam opposed to a tax on tea. The honorable member said that those who consumed tea should be prepared to pay far it, but he must not overlook the fact that a large majority of the people in Australia axe tea drinkers, and it is generally admitted that, as a beverage, tea is essential in this climate.
– And the Australian people should have the best.
– Of course they should. As we cannot produce tea, there is no reason why we should impose a duty, and the Committee would be acting wisely if they removed the duty altogether. It has been admitted that only 341,000 lbs.have been imported in 20-lb. packages, and that is very little. I think we shouldremove the duty, and allow the Australian people tohave tea as cheaply as possible.
Mr.Greene. - Tea packing is an important industry in Australia.
– I believe it is.
Mr.Greene. - Tea imported in bulk is f ree, but there is a duty on consignments received in packages.
– There may be something in that, asthis small duty protects the tea packing industry which gives employment to our people, but thatdoes not get away from the position taken up by the honorable member for Dampier, who wishes to impose aduty of 2d.on tea grown outside the Empire. The Minister for Trade and Customs has said that1d. duty is sufficient to protect the tea packing industry here, but the honorable member for Dampier wishes to impose an additional tax, which means that tea consumers would have to pay more.
– My proposal is that tea grown within the Empire shall be admitted free, and that produced in countries outside the Empireshall be dutiable at 2d. per lb.
– The honorable member wishes to give Protection to those growing tea within the Empire, but when it comes to protecting Australian industries, he is a strong opponent.
– The honorable member is hardly fair in making that statement.
– If the honorable member will pay a little more attention to the requirements of Australia, he will find that there is ample room for protecting
Australian industries, and if he does that, ho will be rendering good service. I oppose the amendment.
Item agreed to.
Items 101 - (Vegetables, dried, dry salted, concentrated, compressed, or powdered) ; item 102 (Vegetables, n.e.i.) ; and item 103 (Waxes) - agreed to.
Item 104 -
Waxes, n.e.i., including stearine, paraffins wax, beeswax, carnauba, ceresine, Japanese or vegetable wax, vegetable wax, n.e.i, per lb., British, 1d.; intermediate,1d.; general,1½d.
– The Committee has agreed to an increase in the duty on candles, and the duty proposed on stearine is quite inconsistent with that decision. If it remains as proposed the stearine will be imported, and for the manufacture of candles will be required only to be moulded here, which is the simplest part of the manufacture, and thus candles made here from imported stearine will come into competition with the candle industry. Stearine is the most important element of these manufactures, and from it byproducts, are used in connexion with the manufacture of woollens and also of explosives. The manufacture of stearine, therefore is, in a sense, part of our defence system. The most important consideration is the manufacture of stearine in Australia from our own tallow. While we have increased the duty on candles, we have left what is. really the main industry still at the mercy of outside competition as before. I am given to understand that wax can be landed here, paying the present duty, at a less rate than it costs to manufacture stearine in Australia. If that is so, it proves the necessity for protecting the manufacture of stearine, in order that we may utilize our own tallow. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to look into this matter with a view to putting the duty on this article on a proper basis. The paraffine wax imported into Australia is produced by black labour, and that is an additional reason why we should put our own industry for the manufacture of stearine by white labour on a proper footing. The industry has been established in every State, and for many years has been employing a considerable number of hands, whilst the production of the article here is of benefit indirectly to numbers of people employed in other industries. The cost of production here has been checked, and the statement that it costs more to produce itthan the price at whichwax can be imported from other countries can be vouched for. I have no objection to people using wax candles where, in this country, they can be used, but so far as. their use in the warmer parts of Australia is concerned there would be ne harm done if their local production was wiped out altogether. By protecting the manufacture of stearine we give facilities for the production of oline, which is used in the manufacture of woollen goods and glycerine, which is used in the manufacture of cordite. Before I submit an amendment, I should’ like to know from the Minister whether he will agree to an increase in the duty on this article on the same basis as the increase agreed to on candles?
– I am looking into the matter at the moment.Perhaps some other honorable members desire to address themselves to the question.
.- I hope the Minister will agree to therequest of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins).
– Another convert.
– There is no necessity to convert me to belief in protection for the industries of the Commonwealth, I may be a little inclined tp go to extremes in the matter of Protection. In the production of stearine we have an essential industry closely connected with the candle industry. The Minister has very wisely consented to give some further protection to the candle industry, and that is appreciated by the manufacturers. The protection of the stearine industry does not mean the protection merely of the production of paraffine wax and stearine, but of other products manufactured from tallow which are of very great importance. If we allow paraffine wax to come in under the present rate of duty, we shall practically wipe out of existence the use of stearine for candle-making purposes. It has already been pointed out that paraffine wax, under the present Tariff, can be brought in at a price below that at which stearine can be manufactured here. We areout, therefore, to protect the Australian stearine industry. All the money used in the purchase of the material from which stearine is made, and all the wages earned in connexion with the industry, are spent in Australia ; whereas the money paid for the purchase of paraffine wax is sent outside Australia; and in the preparation of the wax, black labour is employed. As a White Australia community, we have no desire to encourage black labour. The stearine industry benefits the Australian farmer, the grazier,’ and the worker. In connexion with the manufacture of stearine candles in Australia, we produce annually 1,000 tons of glycerine, which is largely used in the manufacture of cordite, and for many other purposes; and if we do not protect the stearine industry, we shall have to bring in from overseas large quantities of that by-product. Knowing that thousands of tons of fallow are used annually in the manufacture of stearine candles here, the Minister will, I am sure, agree to increase the duty.
When we increased the duty on candles two days ago, it was said that the result would be an increase in prices - that the people outback have practically no other means of lighting,and would have to pay more for their candles. I have it on the bestauthority; however, that since we have seen fit to grant the industry a very necessary increased protection, the manufacturers have decided not only not to in^ crease, but from to-morrow to decrease, by½d. per packet, the price of candles to the . people outback.
– They ought to decrease the price. A reduction is long overdue.
– I have it, at all events, on the best authority, that the reduction I have named is to be made. There are some very interesting figures which might, if necessary, be quoted ; but I think I need say no more to convince the Minister of the wisdom of protecting the stearine industry by increasing the duty on paraffine wax to the extent of an additional1d. per lb.
.- This matter was brought under my notice quite recently, and I have been looking into it. The object sought to be achieved in arranging the duties on candles and wax has been, as far as possible, to protect the manufacturers of stearine candles as against the wax candle. If honorable members will compare the item relatingto candles with that now under discussion, they will see that the arrangement hitherto has been such that the duty on wax has been slightly below the duty on candles. There has been a difference of id. per lb. We have now raised the duty on candles to 2id. per lb. I appreciate the arguments which have been put forward as to the necessity for a slightly higher duty on paraffine wax, inasmuch as it can be brought here and moulded directly into candles without any further process of manufacturing. In that way, it must become a serious competitor with candles manufactured from the Australian raw material, unless we give an additional protection to the local stearine industry by imposing an additional duty. It seems to me, however, that the same balance as between the paraffine wax and the paraffine candles - that is a difference of½d. per lb. - should be maintained. That, in the circumstances, is just. I therefore move -
That the Item be amended by adding the following : “and on and after 21st May, 1921 : - “ 104.- Waxes-
Paraffine wax, per lb. : British,1d.; intermediate,1½d.; general, 2d.
N.e.i., including stearine, beeswax, carnnuba, ceresine, Japaneseor vegetable wax, vegetable wax, per lb. : British and intermediate,1d.; general,1½d.
– Does that mean thai wax coming from Mesopotamia would be dutiable at only1d. per lb.?
– No; it would come in at 2d. per lb. That, I think, will meet the whole position. It retains the balance that has hitherto existed under the Tariff as between the wax and the finished article! At the same time, it will give an additional protection against paraffine wax, which is the competitor of our stearine candle.
– Paraffine wax can hardly be said to be the raw material of a big industry. It comes in ready to be moulded into candles.
– There have been no complaints up to now, and, so far as I ossa see, my proposals adequately meek tile” position. However, 1 have been asked! to take vegetable’ waxes out of this item,, (trad in item 1.03 special provision has been’, made that vegetable- waxes for manufacturing purposes,, as prescribed by the departmental by-laws, are- admitted free. This, I think, fully meets all the difficulties of the situation.
– I do not see why we should have any care at all for paraffine wax or the countries from which it is imported. We shall never be short of tallow in Australia for the manufacture of stearine. In any case, candles made from paraffine wax are neither suitable nor desirable in Australia. I remember some thirteen years- ago, when thos question, was before us, the “ poor miner “ was trotted out, but certainly paraffine wax candles are not suit-, able for his purposes.
– The miner cannot use them.
– Exactly. The primary producer to-day is getting more for tallow fat in Australia than for that which he exports; taking into consideration the cost of transit from here to the Old Country, there is nearly £8 difference.
– But if the industry does not require the protection and the price has been reduced, why increase the duty?
– For the reason that wax can be landed at £fd.,.and if we got our tallow for nothing we could not produce paraffine wax at that price in Australia. The primary producer, a very good- man in his way, is, after all, only a section of the community, but he seems inclined to “ cut off his nose to spite bis face.” Some representatives in this chamber know that the primary producer would distinctly gain by an increased duty - they know it, but, at the same time, they do not seem to believe it. Under the circumstances, I think the Minister might make the duty 2 Jd., because it is no use trying to compete with paraffine wax imported from the Straits Settlements, or other countries where labour and material are cheap!
Hr. JACKSON (Bass) [11.55].- 1” support the suggestion that the duty on paraffine wax be 2Jd. Last year we voted about £7,000,000 for defence purposes*; It seems to me that suck a. vote is of very little use if we do not manufacture ;in this country the raw material - f or our ammunition ; this, is an. item which affords an opportunity, to encourage the manufac» tare of glycerine, so necessary in this eoi).?nexion. lt has been pointed out that, generally speaking, paraffine, wax is not at all necessary in the. manufacture of candles, but that the manufacture of stearine candles is of great benefit to the primary producer, and furnishes a com,modity which Australia requires and USeS If we do not prohibit the importation of paraffine wax, we should at least impose a substantial duty.
: - If I thought there was the remotest possibility of the stearine industry suffer? ing by reason of the proposals of the Minister, I should not be found supporting them. I have discussed the matter fully with the honorable gentleman, and I regard his proposals as fair and reasonable. We have to decide whether candles shall be made from stearine or paraffine wax, and to assure ourselves that there is no possibility of the stearine industry suffering by reason of importations. The Minister, as I say, has gone, into the matter, and I agree with faim that there is no possibility of the industry suffering if ‘his present proposals are’ accepted. There will be an increase in the . duty on the wax and another increase on the finished paraffine wax candles, and there is an increase of the duty on candles made from stearine, so thai, under. all the. circumstances, the balance. ..is. maintained and the industry is fully protected.
.-I am not at all convinced that the stearine industry does not need’ further protection, and the suggestion that paraffine wax may come in and compete on equal terms with our -stearine or tallow seems quite out of place. This stearine industry, and all the industries based on the manufacture of tallow, are essentially Australian. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has put the case very clearly, and there is no doubt that in all these matters we ought to keep our defence requirements in view. If there is any item in the Tariff that needs protection I should say it was this one; and the increase in duty should be at- least Id., in which direction I am prepared to move.
. I wouldlike the Minister to agree to an increase in the duty. As I previously mentioned, stearine is in a different positron from any. other raw material; because, so far asI understand the position, imported paraffine wax practically represents the finished article, save the moulding of the candles.
– I do. not think the debate should be carried on without a quorum. - [Quorum formed.]
– I was about to point to the value of the stearine as a key industry for defence purposes. In the manufacture of stearine candles in Australiathe annual production of glycerine amounts to 1,000 tons, which is sufficient to make 2,000 tons of cordite. This is sold to our explosive and ammunition works, and’ during the war, besides supplying our own requirements, a large quantity was placed at the disposal of the British Government. If the½d. increase is not sufficient, I would like the Minister to consider the advisability of advancing the duty.
.- Two requests were made to me originally by the candle manufacturers. They asked for an additional1d. on candles, and an additional1d. on wax. In this Tariff I have given them a½d. on candles,and I am prepared to give them1d. on wax, which will maintain thebalance sought in their requests. I have looked into this matter earefully, and I think I am advising the Committee properly when I say that, in my judgment,½d. is fair protection. It represents a protection for thestearine industry, as against paraffine wax, of £18 13s.4d. per ton. I think that, in tbe circumstances, what Iam doing is right.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
DIVISION V.- TEXTILES, FELTS, ANDFURS, AND MANUFACTURES THEREOF, AND ATTIRE.
– I understand the Minister intends to submit certain amendments, but before he does so, I should like to make a few general remarks in regard to the position, and to point to the big increase in duties on textiles generally.
– I should like your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as towhether the honorable member will be in order in dealing with the general heading to the division, instead of confining himself to the items.
– We are starting on a new division.
– But the honorable member is dealing with the heading to the division, and not the particular item before the Committee.
– I must uphold the point of order raised by the honorable member for Hunter. The honorable member for Dampier must confine himself to the item.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman, I shall endeavour to do so. I direct attention to the fact that there is a general increase of 10 per cent. on piece goods imported from outside the Empire.
– We have given increased preference to the British Empire of 10 per cent.
– There is an increase from 5 per cent. to 15 per cent. on piece, goods imported from outside the Empire. Honorable members should consider the probable effect of this upon the people of Australia. In a matter of this sort three parties are deeply interested, the protected employing capitalist, the employees in the protected trades, and the general public. Friends of the protected employing capitalist have been conspicuous during the debate on tho Tariff.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am afraid the honorable member is again getting away from the item.
– A great deal of latitude is usually allowed during the discussion of the items in a Tariff. No honorable member can have very much respect for the manner in which the Tariff has been debated up to the present, as item after item has gone through without even the slightest debate. Upon further consideration, I think that probably it would be better if I deferred my remarks until we are considering woollens, as I want to be able to speak generally on the high, cost of living, and to quote from reports submitted by the Inter-State Commission. I want to show how the woollenmanufacturers of this country have unduly exploited the people. However, I shall take a better opportunity of doing so.
.- I have always been strongly of the opinion that we cannot do too much in the direction of encouraging trade between the various portions of the Empire, and particularly with Great Britain. The Minister proposes to admit cotton, linen, and other piece goods, n.e.i., free from Great Britain, asagainst 5 per cent. under the intermediate Tariff, and 15 per cent. under the general Tariff, but I would like to have Free Trade within the Empire. Great Britain depends very largely upon the manufacture of cotton goods, and we ought to doall we can to give it every possible advantage in that respect, particularly in view of the fact that since the war the United States of America have been making a powerful attempt to wrest from the Old Country its supremacy in the cotton trade. It is our duty to support the Motherland, not only in times of war, but also in times of peace. Because I feel that this is our duty, and also because I am absolutely convinced that the establishment of Free Trade within the British Empire would advance, not only the interests of the Empire as a whole, but also those of Australia, I want to see the adoption of this principle as far as possible. Of course, we should not gb to extremes in anything in politics. One begins to get into trouble at once by adopting absolute FreeTrade or absolute prohibition. I advocate neither course, but simply claim that we should give the Old Land, and the various Dominions, the greatest form of preference, approaching as close as possible to Free Trade, with safeguards which could easily be adjusted to prevent the products of coloured labour from overwhelming those of white workers. Anything we can do to help Great Britain, in the cotton trade, will assist it to maintain its supremacy in that trade, and also its command of the mercantile marine. I hope the Minister, right through these textile items, will give as far as possible a free list to Great Britain.
[12115 J. - In these items I have done a great deal in the direction suggested by the honorable member. I have raised the British preference from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent. Cotton, linen, and other piece goods are free, 5 per cent., and 15 per cent, in their respective columns, as against free and 5 per cent, in the previous Tariff. I have increased the duty on cotton and linen piece goods defined for cutting up from free, and 5 per cent, to 5 per cent., 10 per cent., and 20 per cent.
– But why is it necessary to impose a duty of 5 per cent, against Great Britain on cotton and linen piece goods defined for cutting up?
– There is a little difference between that class of goods and cotten, linen, and other piece goods, n.e.i., and I thought that when they came in defined for cutting up it would be an advantage to get a little revenue out of them. However, there is in that item a preference of 15 per cent, to Great Britain. In the sub-items <the same preference will be found. I propose to make an alteration to sub-item d, covering silk, which will go back to some extent on the general in-, ten tion to give a preference of 15 per cent, to Great Britain, the reason being that the exportation of silk from that country is practically negligible, and the giving of a substantial preference to British goods would not be effective. Where there is no doubt as to Great Britain’s ability to manufacture and supply our needs in regard to textiles, felts, and furs, I have throughout increased the preferential Tariff in their favour from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent. I have given her carte “blanche to do what I recognise she can do - give us all we want; and if she cannot do it on a 15 per cent, preference she ought to be able to do so. There is a departure from that principle in regard to calico for bag-making, because Great Britain does not manufacture that particular class of goods, and to give her a preference in that respect would simply mean putting an unnecessary tax on our own people. For that reason I have taken off the whole of the duty on calico for bag-making.
– It is highly necessary to do so in the interests of eur export trade.
– That is so. The flour we export goes away very largely in calico bags. That is why I have removed the duty. The effect of an amendment that I am going to move will be to leave tubular cotton piece goods exactly where they are in the Tariff, in so far ,as they are not used for the manufacture of articles of clothing. At the present time there is a certain class of tubular cotton piece goods coming into the country which, are simply chopped up, and which can thus be very easily converted into articles of clothing. These goods are coming into competition with an established industry, and therefore it seems desirable that we should make the alteration to which I invite the Committee to agree.
– I ask the Minister why yarns, sewing cottons, and silks have been omitted from this division of the Tariff? The item of yarns is a key item for textile manufactures, and therefore should have appeared at the head of the textile division. It should be dealt with before we determine, the duty upon cloths and attire. A similar remark is applicable to sewing cottons, without which the whole of the textiles would be practically valueless. Why these articles have been placed in items 392 and 393 of the schedule is beyond my comprehension. There is one matter connected with this particular item which requires some explanation at the hands of the Minister. The ways of the Customs Department are peculiar at the very best of times. How the officers of that Department arrive at their decisions I have been endeavouring, without success, to understand for the past twenty years. It is no wonder that our importers become confused by the way in which duties are manipulated. As a matter of fact, certain goods which are imported may be placed under different headings of the Tariff, and the authorities are thus able to twist them to suit their own convenience. I know of instances in which an officer has decided that tie duty payable upon a particular article was so and so, and after the goods have gone into consumption the authorities have come along and determined upon the payment of a higher duty. It is for this reason that I desire something definite. In this schedule it is proposed that leather cloth shall be dutiable, under sub-item h (3) of the item which we are now discussing, at 5 per cent. British preferential Tariff, 10 per cent. intermediate Tariff, and 15 per cent. general Tariff. Then, under item 130a, it is proposed that duck waterproofed by treatment with any substance shall be dutiable at 15 per cent., 20 per cent., and 25 per cent. respectively. As oil baize, leather cloth, and upholstery ducks are practically identical, there will thus be three rates of duty upon similar articles. If they were placed under the one heading all difficulties of classification would disappear. I am not complaining of the duties which it is proposed to levy upon these goods. But every importer should know exactly what he has to pay upon them. It would simplify matters, both for the Customs authorities and the importers, if all these goods were subject to one duty.
– What are the items to which the honorable member refers?
– Items 130 and 105a.
– Is leather material the same thing as upholstery duck?
– Yes. Here are samples which prove that they are the same thing, the only difference being that one article is superior to the other.
– It is the use to which these various articles are put that largely determines the duty which is charged upon them.
– Suppose that I imported a suit of clothes, would the Minister charge the same duty upon it as he would charge upon the tweed of which the suit was made ?
– No, no.
– Why cannot all these articles be subject to the one rate of duty ? That is all for which the importers ask.
– Oil baize is to be admitted free.
– Yes, but thatis different from the other two articles which I have mentioned. Moreover, none of these goods are made in Australia..
– I should like to amend the item so as to make it read “ Cotton, linen, flaxen and other piece goods, n.e.i. ; oil baize and upholstery duck”, &c. I am advised that all these articles are used for the one purpose, and consequently they should all be included in the same category. I think that the three items which have been enumerated by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) should be subject to the one duty. Now there are three heads of classification - certain articles, such as oil baize, are admitted free ; others are classified as leather cloth ; and others again as upholstered duck. This diversity of classification creates an enormous amount of trouble for importers as well as for the Customs officials, and must also increase the cost of administration. I do not ask for an abolition of duty, but I think that an arrangement might be made which would lessen the difficulties that are complained of. Week after week decisions inregard to classification are made and published, so that they fill whole books. According to an article published in a Tasmanian newspaper in 1911, there were then 14,000 fluctuating decisions. The simpler the Tariff schedule, the better for the community.
.- There is great difficulty in classifying some of these articles, but were I to agree to what has been suggested by the honorable member, I should please the importer, and act contrary to the wish of the Committee in regard to the protection of Australian industry.
– What Australian industry could be affected?
– Leather cloth- not the light material that is stamped “ leather cloth,” but an article well-known in the trade - is dutiable because it competes seriously with our own leathers. The acceptance of the honorable member’s suggestion would tend to prejudice the waterproofing industry here. Canvas and duck imported from the United Kingdom are admitted free, and used locally for waterproofing material. Oil baize is not made here.
– Cannot it be used in the same way as leather cloth?
– No. It is much lighter than leather cloth ; the latter being used for upholstering furniture, and vehicles, and in other ways which bring it into direct competition with our own leathers.
– These articles are not manufactured in Australia.
– The proposed wide definition includes articles that are made here. Great care has to be exercised in the framing of definitions, and in the Department we thresh out every matter carefully so that no loop-hole may be left f or importation prejudicial to local industries. The task is an extremely difficult one, but we have done our best, and have succeeded fairly well. Any change in the items takes a considerable time to work out in all its details, but definite decisions are published from time to time which make lines of demarcation that, after a little while, the trade gets to know and to act on. What the honorable member proposes is too far-reaching.
– If I do not press my proposal, will the Minister have the matter reconsidered if necessary?
– The Customs Department desires, in its own interests, to simplify definitions as much as possible. We do not wish for friction between our officials and the public ; what we desire is satisfactory and smooth working. But all proposals of the kind I am discussing must be carefully considered before action can be taken.
– I shall not press my proposal ; but I should like to know why yarns occupy the place in the Tariff in which they stand.
– When we were going through the Tariff, my officers stressed the importance of not disturbing its general arrangement more than was absolutely necessary ; and, theref ore, yarns were left where they have always been, although the duties were altered.
-What about sewing cotton?
– Its position in the Tariff was left undisturbed. I move -
That the following sub-item be inserted after sub-item (a) : - (aa) Cotton piece goods, knitted, in tubular form, on and after 21st May, 1921 : -
For the manufacture of goods other than apparel, as prescribed by departmental By-laws, ad val. - British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 15 per cent.
Other ad val. - British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
Amendment agreed to.
. - I move -
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following words: - “and on and after 21st May, 1921, ad val. - British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.”
This is a revenue duty; but we thought that silk was more or less a luxury, or, at any rate, an article on which we might fairly impose taxation. The preference to Great Britain is not effective to any extent, because silk is not manufactured there. So what I am proposing is, in effect, to revert to the old duties in respect of silk piece goods. These latter are the raw material for some of our own industries - ties, parasols, and the like. We found that the duty under the general Tariff was so close to the duty upon apparel that there was not sufficient margin. I think, however, that the proposal to restore the former impost on silk goods will prove satisfactory to local manufacturers who work on the imported raw material.
.- I am pleased that the Minister has proposed his amendment, although, in the interests of those who manufacture from the raw material - that is, imported silk piece goods - I do not flunk the suggestion goes far enough.
– It will give our manufacturers ample protection.
– The amendment, if agreed to, will certainly improve matters. I do not intend to move a further amendment, but I wish the Minister would consent tothe imposition of a duty of 10 per cent. only upon silk imported for the manufacture of ties, parasols, sunshades, and umbrellas. I understand that there are fifteen tie-making establishments in Australia, and these employ a large number of hands. I ask the Minister to give my proposition serious consideration.
.- -The Minister for Customs has proposed a substantial reduction which should have considerable effect upon the tie and umbrella manufacturing industry. In my view, however, the duty upon the raw material could have been still further reduced. Industries which are prosperous to-day may not be in such good circumstances twelve months hence; and this
Tariff, of course, is to stand for a long time. England imports her silk free from Italy and France, and has a great advantage in competing here with Australian makers of silk ties and umbrellas. I do not object to fair competition; but we need to see that it is fair, and that we are not injuring a promising Australian enterprise for lack of reasonable encouragement. While the Minister has been generous I would like to see a slight reduction even upon the rates under the old Tariff. I have been informed that, unless Australian silk tie-makers - who deal in a raw material which Australia cannot produce - can secure increased production, or be given greater protection against overseas competition, they will be unable to satisfactorily establish themselves. I ask the Minister to postpone consideration of this item in order that he may go more deeply into the matter of local manufacture from English silk piece goods, and, perhaps, agree to an additional 5 per cent. reduction.
– Not another cent!
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Whenwe were discussing the amendment moved by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) before the luncheon adjournment, I was under the impression that it was a very reasonable one in order to meet the position. But since that, from information I have received, I believe the Minister would be acting wisely if he inserted a sub-item to deal with ties, parasols, sunshades, and umbrellas under departmental by-laws. It has been pointed out to me that some such amendment as this is necessary if our industries are to exist, which they cannot do if the Minister’s amendment is adopted.
– They all say that.
– I know that, and I intend giving some of the reasons which have been submitted to me. It is only right that we should look into these matters to see if the case submitted by interested parties is worthy of consideration or not.
– We should not take their word.
– Exactly. I think in this respect it will be admitted that I have been endeavouring to fall in with the
Minister’s views, because he has adopted a very fair attitude, and has treated suggestions with consideration. The Minister proposes to increase the British preferential Tariff on silk introduced into Australia for general purposes, which, of course, can be considered a luxury, from 15 to 20 per cent. The proposed rate is evidently for the purpose of obtaining revenue. I do not take any exception to the present rate, and I do not think I would have objected if it were 30 per cent. The position taken up by manufacturing industries in Australia is that silk is used for articles of utility that must be obtained by all sections of the community, and when we consider that phase of the question we have to endeavour, as far as possible, to protect our own industries.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– That the Minister should agree to an addition to sub-item dd, covering silk for manufacturing ties, parasols, sunshades, and umbrellas under departmental by-laws, making the rate of duty less than on other articles.That is all I require, because our own industries are not in a position to compete with imported articles.
– I think they are.
– I can contradict that statement, because I have been informed that the pre-war Tariff on raw material was, under the British preferential Tariff, 10 per cent., and 15 per cent. on foreign silks. I understood from the Minister that he was amending the rates so that they would be equivalent to prewar rates, but that cannot be so, as he proposes increasing the British preferential Tariff to 20 per cent. I am informed that the great bulk of the trade done by Australian manufacturers was in lines at two prices, namely, 12s. per dozen and 20s. per dozen. Buying with the greatest care, and being extremely keen over each item required in the manufacture, they were, in the case of the 12s. per dozen lines, just able to beat the imported ties by 6d. per dozen; but, in the case of their 20s. line, more often than otherwise they were imported at 18s. 6d: per dozen, which was 1s. 6d. per dozen less than the Australian tie. Their only Teason for getting trade at this price was because smaller quan- tities could be bought, and they were on the spot to deliver at once. Several of the manufacturers at this time imported ties, and were able to sell them profitably in competition with goods of their own manufacture. As this happened with a Tariff of 15 per cent, on foreign raw material, it requires no great foresight to understand what will happen if we are asked to pay 30 per cent, on our foreign silks, which form 80 per cent, of the trade. I ask the Minister to consider this matter, with a view to charging a lower duty on the silk we use in manufacture in Australia, and which thus affords employment to our own people.
.- This matter has been before me on many occasions, and the amendment I have moved is the result of the consideration that has been given to the whole question. If ‘honorable members will turn to the Tariff, and compare the pre-war rates with those I am now proposing as between the rate on silk-piece goods and that rate ©n apparel, they will find that there is a difference between the apparel rate and the piece-good rate of 25 per cent, which has been retained. The 25 per cent, in my opinion gives an ample protection for the manufacturer of ties.
– But they deny that.
– Honorable members must remember that the high apparel rate is on the finished article. There is not a further 25 per cent, difference, but there is 25 per cent, greater protection on the finished article than on the raw material. I do not know, but I think it would be fair to assume that the finished article, generally speaking, would be worth double the price of piece goods, which means that there is an actual protection of 50 per cent.
– The Minister must not forget that he is going to ask the Committee to impose a duty of 60 per cent, on the parasols when we ave dealing with that item.
– I do not propose to do that. The rates which I have provided in the Tariff have been carefully considered, and are in my opinion ample to give the necessary protection to manufacturers. Personally, I am not prepared to give any further concessions in this particular direction as it seems that it is ample protection as to British goods, and the rate is still greater on goods coining, from Prance and Italy.
– What does the Minister propose?
– That the rates shall be 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. Having looked into the matter very carefully, I believe that what we are doing is a fair thing in the circumstances.
.- The 25 per cent, margin mentioned by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is in reference to ties imported from foreign countries.
– That is not so, as the rate in the case of foreign countries is 30 per cent.
– I am referring to the difference between the apparel rate and the silk piece rate. tinder the amendment the British preferential rate is to be 25 per cent., and the foreign rate 35 per cent. It must be remembered that SO per cent, of the imported ties are made by .British manufacturers from foreign, silk, and they enter the Commonwealth with preference over foreign made goods, so that the manufacturers consider that there is a margin of only 10 per cent. (
– That is not so.
– It is rubbish.
– If honorable members know as. much about the tie industry as they think they do they will vote for the duties being restored to the pre-war rates. I was under the impression when the Minister very generously amended the rates to 15 and ,20 per cent, that we were going back to the pre-war rates, but I find that the position is as stated by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the duties, in those days, being 10 per cent, and 15 per cent.
– If the honorable member will compare the apparel rates with the piece-goods rates he will find the balance is the .same under the proposal I am submitting.
– But it is an increase.
– ‘Exactly. Even if we were paying 15 per cent, in those days it has been altered to 20 per cent. Surely with the protection that this industry is asking for - particularly when the material cannot be manufactured in this country - there is no one who would’ support actual prohibition by refusing the concession that the people inthe tie and umbrella industry are asking for. There are certain subsidiary items, such as silver tops, which are used in the manufacture of umbrellas and parasols, and if they come in as manufactured articles they are cheaper than they would be if introduced in bulk for manufacture here. I do not say that the tie or umbrella industry is of great importance at this juncture, but if theGovernment will give the industry sufficient encouragement the manufacturers are prepared to invest more capital in it.
– They have protection to the extent of 25 per cent. _
– It is all verywell for honorable membersto criticise my suggestions and to smile, but even if small amounts are invested in these industries we should give them some consideration.
– The honorable member would give any mortal thing.
– I may be prepared to concede more than the honorable member, and I will show him the force of my argument before I have finished.
– The honorable member is doing the industry a lot of harm.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) may have been a member of this Chamber for a very long time, but I intend to exercise my rights, and place the position before the Committee as I see it. I represent as many people, and perhaps more, than the honorable member does. We want articles that cannot be manufactured in this country to come here, but. we must give our industries an opportunity to compete, not only with Great Britain, but with foreign countries.
– On the other hand, the honorable member must not lose sight of the revenue point of view. He must remember that silk ties are a luxury after all.
– Umbrellas are ‘not a luxury, but a real necessity. I do not know why poor people should not be able to wear a silk tie as others do. If these articles are regarded as luxuries then I see no reason why we should not protect the manufacturer of luxuries in this country as against their manufacture elsewhere.
– Does the honorable member desire to wipe out the duty altogether?
– Yes, I go as far as that in the case of articles that cannot be manufactured in Australia. I am as good a Protectionist as any member of the Committee, and I again ask the Minister to put the duties on the raw material used in the tie industry and the umbrella industry back to the pre-war rates. If he does so he will be doing something to assist Australian industries.
.- I support the proposed reduction of the duty on piece silk imported for the manufacture of these articles. Piece silk is notmanufactured in Australia at all. The idea that silk ties are a luxury is fallacious. A silk tie from the economical point of view is the cheapest tie that any man can wear. I have on a silk tie which I have been wearing for two years. If I wore cotton ties I should have had to purchase twenty in the same time. Silk piece goods made here into ladies’ blouses represent the most economical apparel that ladies can wear. To argue that a duty on the raw material of these industries is justifiable because silk ties are a luxury is merely to cloud the issue by suggesting that the Government desire to tax the rich and leave the poor untaxed. Silk piece goods are manufactured here into articles of utility and the most economical apparel that can be worn. There is no factory in Australia making silk piece goods that are made up into ties, and if the tie industry is to be developed the duty must be removed from the silk piece goods used in the industry. The Minister (Mr. Greene) argued some time ago that bulk tea should be admitted free to Australia because it was put into packages in this country, and the thing to do was to make the packages dutiable. In the same way I say that silk piece goods, used in the manufacture of ties, should be admitted free, or at as low a duty as possible, because, no doubt, the Treasurer must consider the revenue aspect of the Tariff. If that is the intention in this case, why does not the Minister for Trade and Customs say definitely that he is introducing a revenue Tariff, and cut out all the nonsense he has talked about building up Australian industries?
– I have said so in distinct terms
– No ; the contention has been that in this case the Government are taxing a luxury, and I say that it is not a luxury.
– There is a protection of 40 per cent, on the finished article over and above this duty.
– That does not matter. My argument is that the Government are making the people who buy the Australian article, made out of silk piece goods, pay 15 per cent, more than they should be asked to pay for those goods, by imposing a duty of 15 per cent, on the raw material of the articles which they purchase.
– We are getting a little revenue, and are protecting the industry as well.
– It cannot be said that we are protecting the industry by making it pay 15 per cent, duty on the raw material it uses.
– I wish that honorable members would consent to go to a division on this item. We have been talking about it for a long time. I have explained the item to the Committee, not once, but half-a-dozen times, and now we have an honorable member, who was not present during the previous discussion, standing up and again repeating that the proposed arrangement of the duties does not protect the local industry. It does. It gives the local industry a protection of 40 per cent. It give3 it exactly the same amount of protection that it has ‘had all along.
– How does the Minister make out that the protection is 40 per cent. ?
– If the honorable member will look at the Tariff he will find that under the proposal I am now making the United Kingdom rate is 15 per cent., the intermediate rate 15 per cent., and the general Tariff rate 20 per cent. If he will look at item 110 he will find that the United Kingdom rate on apparel is 40 per cent., the intermediate rate 50 per cent., and the general Tariff rate 55 per cent. Our manufacturers buy foreign silk piece-goods and their com petition is with manufactured articles from Great Britain, which are dutiable at 40 per cent. This represents a difference of 20 per cent. Then members must bear in mind that the value of the manufactured article is practically double the value of the raw material.
– Not in ties.
– Yes, it is; I can prove that from the statistics of the Trade and Customs Department. Therefore the protection which the industry is given on the manufactured article is 40 per cent. I say that that is ample. The proof of that statement is that that is the protection which the industry has had all along, and under which it has been built up and has grown to considerable proportions. I am retaining that protection in the case of imports from Great Britain, and have increased it in the case of imports of these goods from foreign countries.
– That is of no value at all, because all the imports are from Great Britain.
– I have said that, in regard to ties imported from Great Britain, we are giving an effective protection of 40 per cent.
– No, it is only 20 per cent.
– Does not the honorable member realize that the value of the manufactured article is greater than the value of the raw material?
– That has always been so.
– Just so; and, as I say, we are giving the industry exactly the same amount of protection that it had before. The position, as I see it, is that, inasmuch as the manufactured ties from silk piece-goods are worth double the value of the silk with which they are manufactured, if a protection of 20 per cent, in excess is given on the manufactured article the effective protection must be doubled, and, therefore, it is an effective protection of 40 per cent, that is proposed for this industry. I am not disposed to make any alteration in the item.
.- I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the rates of duty proposed, and substituting - “ British, 10 per cent. ; intermediate, 10 per cent.; general, 15 per cent.”
I am proposing the rates of the pre-war Tariff on the raw material. I want honorable members to recognise that the silks made into ties come from France and Italy. They are manufactured in the Old Country and when sent out here compete in a disastrous way with the local industry. I hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
– I am prepared to take the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) at his word, and I ask him to revert to the same protection as this industry was given before. A difference has been brought about by increasing the duty on the raw material. The Minister is under the impression that by doing so he will increase the revenue, but I do not think he will do anything of the kind.
– He will not decrease it.
– I think that, if anything, he will decrease it. If the Minister is anxious that the people engaged in this industry should have exactly the same protection as they were given before I ask him to put the duty back to the old figure.
– Then I must reduce the apparel rate as well.
– I am talking now about ties only. The tie industry is a big one here, but the general Tariff duty of 55 per cent, is of no value to the local manufacturers, since ties are not imported from foreign countries. Our only competition comes from the Mother Country itself. As we have no silk industry the question is whether we should encourage the development of our tie industry by giving the manufacturers the raw material at a reasonable price. I suggest to the Minister that the original duties of 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, on the raw material would produce quite as much revenue as he is likely to get from the increased duties, and that a reversion to the original duties would also have the effect of substantially increasing the tie industry here. It would enable manufacturers to absorb a large proportion of the trade that is at present catered for by imports. It is true that there is a duty of 40 per cent, on made-up ties from the Mother Country, and that the honorable gentleman has added 20 per cent, to that duty. Nominally, there is a protection of 20 per cent., but practically there is a little more by reason of the greater value of the made-up article. The tie manufacturers, however, had the benefit of that difference before.
– As an alternative, would it not be sufficient to increase the duty on the made-up ties ?
– I do not think it is necessary to increase the duty on ready-made ties, provided the Minister will agree to allow the raw material to come in at a reasonable rate, and, provided also, that we can arrive at some reasonable compromise with a view to further stimulating the tie-making industry, and enabling our manufacturers to absorb the present trade in imported ties.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “linens,” sub-item (k), the words “ tinsel cloths “ be inserted.
This alteration is partly an elimination of certain materials which are used only as trimmings, and naturally should fall under item 106b at the same rates of duty. Tinsel cloth is at present included in item 106a, but there is no valid reason, Protectionist or otherwise, for its insertion there .at lower duties. No Protectionist principles are involved. The duties on both items are of a purely revenue character, there being no manufacture of. any of these lines in Australia. In addition, the respective duties on this item and on item 106b should be identical, so that there should be no confusion between the items when entering goods for duty. One covers ‘ ‘ piece goods ‘ ‘ only, while the other includes “ articles “ for similar use, namely, trimmings.
– For the moment, I find it difficult to understand what purpose the honorable member (Mr. James Page) is trying to serve. Tinsel cloth and tinsel belting are included in item 106, and are admitted free under the British preferential Tariff, whereas if they were included in item 105e, as proposed by the honorable member, they would be dutiable at 15 per cent. I do not know why he wishes to make them dutiable.
– I am willing to take the risk if the honorable gentleman will agree to the amendment.
– I cannot see any object to be attained by the amendment. Tinsel has been included in item 106, together with similar goods which are used by dressmakers and others, and I would prefer to leave it as it stands. I do not think there is anything to be gained by the proposed change.
– It would cure an anomaly.
– The trade will know perfectly well after a little while under which heading the different items fall.
– But the item as it stands causes difficulty to the trade.
– This matter has never been brought before the Department. Had there been any real need for such a change, we should have heard of it long :20. It seems to me that people very often put up these proposals, without- first consulting the Department, in the hope that they will carry them, and that they have some object to serve, of which, we know nothing at the time. If we accepted such proposals off-hand, we might suddenly discover that we had done something that we dM not wish to do. Unless we have a fair opportunity to look into these technical alterations - and they are very technical in their detail - we should not be asked to make them. We should nob be asked off-hand to take a line out of one item and to put it in another when there have been no representations to us in regard to the matter. If there was any grave reason for this change, we should have heard of it long ago. I ask that tinsel cloth and tinsel belting remain in the item in which they now stand.
.- We find that there are two items dealing practically with the same article. According to the departmental classification, tinsel, which is a metallic artificial silk, comes in under item 105e, while what is exactly the same kind of thing is classified differently, and comes in under 106a. I join with the honorable member for# Maranoa (Mr. James Page) in asking that ‘ both be dealt with in the one item. The amendment means that both will be dutiable, so that no loss of duty is involved in its acceptance. My sole desire is that we shall simplify, as far as possible, the bringing in of goods through the Customs
Department, since any expense incurred in that way must necessarily involve further cost to the people. Without desiring in any way to reflect upon the Department, I must say that it is absolutely autocratic in its methods. The classification in operation this week may be altered next week. One has only to look at the extraordinary classification book issued by the Department to realize the detail involved. I presume a great deal of it is necessary.
– Much of it is unavoidable.
– No doubt; but my object is’, as far as possible, to simplify the Customs procedure, so that every importer may know exactly what duty he has to pay. I am afraid that much of the agitation against the removal of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra is due to the fact that local merchants and others realize that, while they are able, as at present, to get readily into touch with the Department - and I am not for one moment suggesting anything improper - they have a better chance of having their cases looked into than has a business man in another State who has to interview the Deputy Controller of Customs, who, in turn, is bound by the instructions issued to him under the classification. When several classes of goods are brought out in the one package, the whole parcel has to be opened in order that the goods may be examined and classified. I am not arguing as to whether these goods should be dutiable or not - that is a matter wholly for the Parliament to decide; I simply suggest that the amendment would simplify the Customs procedure in regard to at least one line.
– I sympathize with the view which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has put. I have not had an opportunity to thoroughly inquire into this proposal, but what I think is at the bottom of it may be briefly stated. There is a provision in the Customs Act that a substitute for any particular article shall come under that article for which it is substituted.
– That is so now.
– Quite so.
– It is not a very good provision.
– It is a provision which cannot he avoided. I admit that these two articles do look something alike, though one is an artificial silk, with an artificial metallic basis, and the other is a true tinsel, having a small proportion of silk finish with a true metallic base. This artificial silk is probably a copy of the tinsel; and the reason it is put under a different item from tinsel is that it is a substitute for silk, and must, therefore, be rated as silk. These difficulties crop up in administration in a hundred and one different ways. Even if we did what is requested, and changed this from one item to the other, it would only give rise to another set of difficulties of exactly the same kind in the matter of interpretation - difficulties inseparable from the administration of the Customs law. We do our best to meet the requirements of the trade, and, though there have been no representations made up to the present, I shall do whatever lies in’ my power in that direction.
– Before the Tariff leaves the Senate, will the Minister meet the representatives of the importers? I am not speaking of Customs agents, who like this sort of thing, because it adds to their work.
– If the importers through their association make definite representations, we shall know exactly what they mean, and where their proposals may lead; then, if as a result, we find any alteration is desirable for the simplification of the law, Ishall be delighted to make it, for it will save work to everybody.
.- I am quite satisfied with the explanation of the Minister. I do not wish the honorable gentleman to think that I desire to defraud the revenue.
– I do not think that for one moment.
– Nor should I like the Minister to think I am guilty of sharp practices. My object was simplification. I looked on this as an anomaly, and as such I brought it before the Committee. However, the Minister has now assured us that if the importers can show that an alteration is desirable in their interests, and in the interests of the De partment, he will make one. I desire to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That sub-item (e) be amended by adding the following words: - “And on and after 21st May, 1921, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
– I should like to see greater preference than is now proposed given to the Old Country, and I hope the general duty will not be less than 25 per cent.
– A preference of 5 per cent. is fairly good.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. I hope that the promises we have been making “all through the piece” to give special consideration to goods from the Old Country will not be departed from.
– I am prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and make the general Tariff 25 per cent. Looking at the figures of importations, I see that the bulk of these goods now come from Great Britain. It is true that from elsewhere we get considerable quantities of certain classes or grades which cannot be obtained from Great Britain. I ask leave to amend my amendment by substituting 25 per cent. for 20 per cent. as the general duty.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
.- Does sub-item f mean woollen piecegoods ?
– -These duties are an increase on the duties imposed by the Tariffs of 1908 and 1914, and Ishould like to take this opportunity to deal with the position of the woollen industry in Australia. I endeavoured to address myself to this question some time ago, but was ruled out of order; and I take the present opportunity to raise a protest. I feel that, while the war was on, the woollen manufacturers of Australia did not “ play the game “ so far as this country is concerned, and that remark applies also to the woollen manufacturers of Canada. I address my remarks particularly to honorable members opposite, who have been very persistent in their arguments in favour of high protective duty. I think they will find it difficult to show that the worker engaged in the industry has had anything like-
– Would it not be as well to address your remarks to the whole Committee, and not to a particular section?
– I refer particularly bo the Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Charlton).
– If the Deputy Leader of the Labour party follows your example, and refers to your party and its attitude on many questions, you will be in an awkward position.
– The honorable member has not been at all particular in referring to myself, and has made statements that are quite incorrect. I am prepared to support a Protective policy.
– Why not have a “ cut “ at the high priest of Protection, “Bobby Best”?
– I propose to do so ; but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has very pointedly remarked that I am here as aFree Trader, and, of course, against Protection. This is unjust and unfair. Where it is shownby statistics that an industry is languishing, and there is a desire for higher duties, I am prepared to grant them. But has it been shown in this instance that the industry needs more protection? The Victorian State Government appointed a Fair Profits Commission to inquire as to the profits of manufacturers in this State, and that Commission, in its Report No. 13, issued last year, says -
There is one other mill, and perhaps two, in which the profits have been increased by too high a rate of gross profit on turnover. The other mills, forming a majority, have been making no more than fair profits. Of the two mills just named as making undue profits, one is a “ private “ business, i.e., not a public company, but its figures for the past three years are as notable as those of the second mill, which is a public company, and so can be freely named, as the Ballarat Woollen and Worsted Company Limited. Some further reference to this company, must be made. It has had many vicissitudes in past years, but of recent years has been very prosperous. After making all allowances for writing off capital in former years, it cannot be said - and the Commission adopts the company’s own figures - that shareholders have put more than £60,000 original capital into the business. In addition, within the last few years £30,00.0 of reserves have been capitalized and issued in shares to the shareholders. According to published statements, at an interim meeting of the company, held a few weeks ago, the following distribution of profits for the half-year was made, partly out of accumulated but previously undistributed profits, namely: -
Dividend distributed (half-year), £27,000.
Issue of shares as a result of writing-up, plant, &c. - face value, £30,000; market value, about £90,000.
Apart from the shares, the dividend is at the rate of - 45 per cent. per annum on the total nominal capital of £120,000; 90 per cent. per annum on capital subscribed by shareholders;
About 90 per cent. per annum on the capital used in the business as shown by the last annual balance-sheet.
– What year is referred to in that report?
– The report was issued last year.
– The manufacturers bled thepublic during the war.
– There was no justification whatever for these manufacturers putting up prices as they did. During the general debate on the Tariff. I read a letter sent from the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney in regard to blankets, pointing out that the Australian manufacturers could not supply all the blankets required for the people. Letters have also been appearing in the press recently on this subject. One was published in the Argus only a few days ago, from a draper, who stated that he could not get supplies of the cheaper flannels required for the poorer sections of the community.
– That, I think, was largely owing to the strike.
– It must not be forgotten that during the war our woollen manufacturers got all their wool at the appraised prices. They were not called upon to pay the high rates demanded of the English manufacturers for the same types of wool, but, nevertheless, they raised the prices of their goods enormously, especially for the articles manufactured from the poorer types of wool. The Minister has given us an undertaking that when the Tariff Bill comes down he will make an effort to insert some provision for the protection of the people in regard to items in respect of which high duties have been imposed under this Tariff.
– Will you help to do that?
– I am going to make a suggestion. I understand that the Denton Hat Mills and most manufacturers at present will only supply wholesale houses; and I suggest that if we impose duties, with the idea of making this country self-supporting, we should see to it that the people are able to get their requirements at fair and reasonable prices. I believe the Minister intends to include provision in the Tariff Bill to the effect that where protection is afforded an industry, those who control it shall be compelled to supply goods, say, for cash, to retail houses.
– He should do so, at any rate.
– Will you support us?
– Yes. We will also allow you the honour of bringing in the provision, if you like.
– I think the honorable member for Dampier will realize that he is discussing another Bill, not the item before the Committee.
– I am referring to certain remarks made by the. Minister upon this particular matter. I think I would be justified in moving to insert some such provision here.
– Not in the item. If the honorable member tried to do that, he would defeat the end he has in view, because, as he knows, any such amendment would be unconstitutional.
– The Minister knows why I want to bring this matter forward. I have some remarkable information concerning the position of the woollen industry in Canada, showing how the manufacturers there fleeced the people during the war. They paid poor rates of wages to the workers, and made enormous profits. We know, also, that during the war there was, in this country, one section of the people always ready to give everything. They were to be seen on the wharfs and in the hospitals, men and women, devoting their daily lives to the task of helping the Empire in the struggle. And there was another crowd, generally to be seen chasing around in motor cars, waving flags, and always talking about the Empire, but who, at the same time, were robbing the people for all they were worth.
– And when we tried to stop them, you gave us no support.
– I think we all indorse the remark of President Harding, that special legislation should be brought in to provide that, during war time, every person should have his allotted duty, and that no one should be allowed to make undue profits. I have no time for the man who wants high protective duties, but is not prepared to do a fair thing by the community. And yet we have evidence of this on every hand. There is the statement, in the Industrial Australian, to the effect that, although the capital invested in the woollen industry in Australia was only about £1,100,000, in three years the manufacturers made profits amounting to more than the whole of the amount invested.
– More than that. And yet the honorable member did notsay anything aboutit at the time.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is not fair to me, because I would have been only too pleased if legislation had been brought in to deal with these people who, during war time, were out to make excessive profits.
– Butwhat about . the war-time profits tax?
– That did not prove very effective.
– I think it did.
– The honorable member for Dampier was called the bridge-builder for the Government during the war.
– Yes. He did not hear the division bells.
– I think if the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) looks up the Treasurer’s statement, he will see how much was received under the war-time profits tax. I thought we would have got £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 at least. I object to these high duties unless we get some definite promise from the Minister that, at an early date, we shall have legislation to compel those who enjoy high Protection to supply their goods at a fair rate to the people.
.- It is quite refreshing to-day to hear the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) talk about the advisableness of dealing with the people who make excessive profits. His remarks are iu marked contrast to what we have been accustomed to in this House during the past few years. I agree with him. So far as woollen goods are concerned, I admit freely that during the war, and at the present time, too, the prices charged to the general public are altogether too high. I. also remind the honorable member that the people who support him - the importers of goods manufactured in other countries - also charged excessive prices during the war period.
– That does not alter the position.
– Apparently, nothing alters the position in the opinion of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster). He knows that during the war the wool produced in Australia was exported overseas, manufactured there, and when returned to Australia was sold at prices far in excess of its true value- I am not justifying high prices at all. I merely want to remind the honorable member for Dampier of the true position; and I ask him if he ha3 forgotten the very many occasions when this matter was brought up by honorable members on this side of the House during the war, and if he did anything to help us? The Government then had full power, under the War Precautions Act regulations, to do whatever they liked to stop profiteering. When we impaled the Government on this issue, what did the honorable member do? Why, he supported those who were plundering the people. Let him not forget that. He has little cause to talk at us, and to question my consistency in regard to this matter. My conduct in regard to this matter during the war was quite consistent right through. I always, complained that the Government were permitting the manufacturers in this country to rob the people. The honorable member now expresses surprise that more revenue was not received through the medium of the war-time profits tax. But, after all, that was only another device to permit those who were inclined to increase their prices to extract from the people more than they were entitled to get. They felt secure so long as the Government were able to collect something in the form of excess profits tax. That was the kind of legislation which the honorable member supported, notwithstanding that honorable members on this side of the House frequently pointed to the serious position into which the country was drifting.
– What did you propose to do ?
– We proposed that the Government should take action, under the War Precautions Act Regulations, to prevent profiteering; but the honorable gentleman, on every occasion when there was any possibility of the Government being defeated, was either not in the division, or else some reason was given why he could not support us. It is, as I say. refreshing now to hear the honorable member for Dampier talk in this way.
– What item are we on ?
– We are on woollen goods, and I am replying to some statements made by the honorable member for Dampier. However, if the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) wants to bring me back to the point, I may state that last year we imported woollen goods to the value of £3,500,000, as compared with £2,000,000 worth made up in. Australia. It appears, therefore, that there is room for improvement, so far as our own manufacturing industry is concerned. It is essential that we should be a self-contained nation. Honorable members opposite are in agreement on this question.
– It is fair that the consumer should be considered, also.
– Exactly. That is what I have been endeavouring to emphasize all the time. I said last evening and I repeat, that the Minister has promised to appoint a Board to see that justice is done to the consumer as well as the manufacturer and the employee. This policy is on the lines of our party platform. This New Protection is what we have been advocating for years. And this is what we asked of the Government during the war. It is pleasing, even at this late hour, to know that at last something is about to be done. I give the
Minister full credit. But we. would not be justified in increasing duties solely for the benefit of manufacturers. We must see to it that while they get a fair return on their capital. the workers engaged in the industry and the consumers are treated fairly. We want to be a selfcontained nation. The war has taught us this lesson. I object to the honorable member for Dampier charging me with inconsistency, because if any party has been consistent in regard to profiteering it is the party to which I belong. Had we the power when we were in office we would Save made an alteration. The power was available during the war to the Government of which the honorable member for Dampier is a supporter ; and, had the honorable member and his party been consistent, action would have been taken against those who were then robbing the people.
.- It is only fair to the Government that I should point out to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), from whom we have just heard a very interesting speech, that he was in this House for a considerable time supporting a Government which passed the War Precautions Act and enjoyed all the powers bestowed by that measure. But what action did he and his party take under that Act along the lines that he is now telling us this Government ought to have followed? We have only to turn up the public records to ascertain that the only party which exercised the powers to which the honorable member has referred was the party now in office. But, after all is said and done, this has nothing whatever to do with the case. The woollen mills of Australia before the war were not able to earn more than a reasonable return on their capital.
– They did not average 5 per cent.
– The average return on capital invested in those mills prior to the war was never high, and in some cases was very low. Undoubtedly we have the raw material in our own country, and the manufacture of it into woollen goods should be one of our great native industries. I think it will be. I know of nothing more hopeful than the development
I have seen in the woollen industry during the last few years;, and, if the duties set out in the schedule are agreed to, I have information which leads me to believe that one or- two of the great firms which have used our wool at the other end of the world are coming here to commence operations on a big scale. In fact, I believe w.e are on the threshold of one of the greatest industrial developments we have seen in this country in regard to this particular form of manufacture, in which I believe we ought to be able to hold our own with the world. I am hopeful that the duties provided will be sufficient to encourage these people to come here, and to give those who are already here that protection which is necessary to put the industry on a thoroughly firm and established basis. If honorable members agree to the item, they will have no cause for regret.
.- The manufacture of wool is undoubtedly a natural secondary industry of Australia, and ought to be most successful, seeing that we grow 62 per cent, of the world’s merino wool; but I think the Minister (Mr. Greene), in view of his experience under the operations of the War Precautions Act, must realize that he is overdoing things when he seeks to impose a protective duty of 30 to 45 per cent. It is likely to bring great profits to those who actually manufacture the wool, and those who invest their money in woollen mills. The extra impost will be absorbed by higher profits and the payment of higher wages for shorter hours of labour. In view of the experience gained by the Government during the war, they must know what profit it is possible to make in this industry. They took over twenty-two mills with a capital value of £1,144,000, and in two years and four months made a profit of £1,177,000 on the output of those establishments. That is to say, they could have paid off the whole of the capital cost of the mills and still made a substantial profit. I do not think that the making of inordinate profits is calculated to develop the woollen industry. When such’ profits are made, the people of Australia cannot be getting the advantage they should derive. I am not opposed to giving reasonable protection to any industry where it can be shown that it is necessary, but in the face of the figures I have quoted the protection asked for on this item is totally unnecessary. In any case, the -Australian woollen manufacturer has ample natural protection. He has at his command the raw material, and it is the best in the world; he has every facility for turning it into cloth - the coal, an ample water supply, and an excellent climate - and he has also the protection of freightage. With all these advantages, the Australian manufacturers ought to be in a position to manufacture every bale of wool that Australia produces, and spurn all opposition. No claim can be advanced upon this item for the imposition of high duties On the ground that it is necessary to fence off the competition of black labour, yet we are asked to impose a 30 per cent, duty against the white labour of Great Britain, where wages have risen, and where the cost of coal and other materials has mounted to a high figure. It seems to me quite unnecessary to have this increased protection for the local manufacturer. I would not mind if the duty were made 100 per cent, against outside nations, ‘but as a matter of principle I am not anxious to see unnecessarily high duties imposed, which have a tendency to make Australians inefficient and lazy in the building up of their industries.
– I am no friend of, nor do I hold a brief for, the “ boss “ manufacturer. He is usually a nasty man, who does not pay decent wages unless he is compelled to do so. Workers in woollen mills aTe among the worst paid in our community. It is true that great profits were made during the war, but we Would have been compelled to pay double the prices we did pay for our goods if it had not been for the existence of our own woollen hallS. The trouble in regard to the prices we paid during the war arose from the fact that our warehouses in Flinders-lane were not only sellers of goods manufactured locally, but also sellers of imported goods. The great mistake made by the local manufacturers was in allowing a yard of their output to be sold in Flinders-lane. During the war. a tailor who bought so many pounds worth of goods per month from a certain warehouse was not permitted to take more than a small percentage of Australianmade goods. The serge of the suit I am wearing was obtained by the warehouse from the woollen mills at lis. 6d. per yard, but when it came to be sold to the tailor the firm demanded 27s. 6d. per yard. Flinders-lane also endeavoured to pass off locally-manufactured goods for imported goods, and at high prices. Though I hold no brief for the manufacturer, I am greatly concerned as to the interests of the1 workers. For that reason I would like to see higher duties imposed. Once the importer realizes that he is about to be beaten for the local market, he will lower his prices and take less profits in order to overcome the competition of the local manufacturer. We must be prepared for that emergency. During the present year, thirty companies have been formed for the purpose of undertaking the manufacture of woollen goods, and I understand that a dozen more are in course of formation. This is no proof that the duty is sufficient. The companies are hopeful of getting further help from this Parliament. If the wool-growers had gone in for the manufacture of their own wool, there would not have been the great drop they have recently experienced in the price of their crossbred wools. Those wools could easily have been made up into goods and exported. But the pastoralists have never recognised the side on which their bread is buttered. Honorable members ask what steps can be taken to prevent the manufacturers from raising their prices. I hope that the promise of the Minister (Mt. Greene) to introduce legislation to prevent these men from robbing the consumers will be carried into effect; in any case, if the local manufacturers do attempt to rob us by putting up their prices, the importing friends of some honorable members will be more likely to rob us in the same way.
– Does the honorable member think that the Australian manufacturers are turning out as good a cloth as they should, considering the quality of the wool they are getting?
– No place in the world can turn out woollen goods equal to those produced in the west of England.
– We produce very good cloth in Australia.
– Yes; since the duties were increased in 1908, the quality of the woollen goods produced in Australia has improved enormously, and there is no valid reason why it should not approximate that of the west of England cloth, which, I repeat, is the best turned out in any part of the world. If I had the power, I would make everybody wear Australian-manufactured goods. With this end in view, I would absolutely prohibit the importation of tweeds from the west of England.
– If we destroy competition we shall increase the cost of commodities.
– We can be assured of internal competition if we enact laws to prevent the establishment of combines and the making of extraordinary profits.
– How long would the quality of goods be maintained under such conditions?
– If there were no combines in Australia the different woollen mills would certainly maintain the quality of their goods. Take a list of the manufacturers in the Commonwealth to-day. They are all deeply concerned in each other’s welfare, but legislation could prevent them from arriving at any so-called “ honorable understanding.” That would be the common-sense way of checking this evil. What is the position in which we find ourselves? Australia is the greatest wool producer in the world, and yet there is wool selling here to-day at 2d. per lb. Why should we not encourage the conversion of that wool into the cheaper forms of cloth?’ During the war the duty imposed upon woollen goods was utterly useless, because we could not have obtained those goods from overseas at any price.
– The honorable member means that the duty was inoperative?
– Yes; tailors were buying goods from the warehouses in Melbourne from 42s. to 25s. per yard, whilst others were indenting woollen goods at those prices. Yet in the years gone by I have made up thousands of yards of the same material at 8s. and 9s. per yard. To-day, however, everybody is endeavouring to restore the pre-war conditions. We all recognise that wages must come down in England and America, because manufacturers there desire to produce cheaper commodities for the purpose of supplying the oversea markets. We must take steps to prevent this dumping in Australia.
– Has the honorable member any idea of how the wages in the Old Country compare with the wages paid in Australia?
– I cannot say. The woollen manufacturers are no friends of mine, because they do not pay adequate wages to their workmen.
– At the present time the wages paid in the Old Country are higher than those which are being paid here.
– There is only one way in which we can get better wages and better industrial conditions for the employees of our woollen manufacturers, namely, by Protection through the Customs House. We all know that at the end of the season countries which produce certain commodities export their surplus to foreign markets. A case of the kind was quoted in this chamber to-day. At the present time the users of fat in Australia are paying £8 per ton more for that article than is being paid for it in England. We now have an opportunity to set our house in order. The Tariff is before us, and until that great bone of contention, William Morris Hughes, returns to upset us again, we have time to consider it from a scientific stand-point. It is up to us to see that this great wool-producing country shall also become a manufacturer of woollen-piece goods. I appeal to the Minister, in spite of the uproar that has been caused by this item, to increase the duty which has been proposed upon it.
– Put more than 45 per cent, upon it?
– Yes. ff I could compel our manufacturers to keep their prices down to a reasonable level I would impose a duty of 100 per cent, upon it. There is no reason why we should not compel our manufacturers to sell their products at a fair price. Could we not create a Department which would take into consideration the cost of labour and the cost of manufacturing operations; and which would assess the profits that ought to be made upon the capital invested ?
– If we only allowed a certain interest we should destroy the desire of the people to undertake the work.
– That is a conservative view which ought long since to have been forgotten. Some years ago the manufacturers of Melbourne Ports held a conference which I attended, at which they considered the freight which the coastal shipping companies should charge them, and also the price which should be paid for coal used in their industrial establishments. I was told that these prices were too high. My reply was, “ Very well. We want to stop that. The Labour party desires that the Commonwealth shall have power to compel the companies to charge only a fair price for their coal. Will you vote for us ?” Their answer was, “ Oh no, Mathews. The worst of your crowd is that they go too far.” These people feared that if we regulated the prices charged by the shipping companies we should also regulate the prices which they themselves charged. In spite of the capitalistic talk to the effect that labour is ruining Australia, quite a number of persons are anxious to embark upon this particular industry. I have no use for our present economic system, but I recognise that the people who sent me here have to live whilst we are effecting a change in it. I wish to give them an opportunity to live during the transition period, and the only way in which I can do that is by granting Protection to our manufacturers. I ask the Minister if he cannot see his way clear to increase the duty upon this item?
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I regret having to bring under the notice of honorable members a letter which I have received from my solicitor, in reply to a communication from Messrs. Ellison and Hewison, another firm of solicitors, which was read in this Chamber by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). During the interval which has” passed I asked my solicitor to give me his opinion upon that letter. I have no animus against the author of it, but, as he has taken up quite an unwarranted attitude upon behalf of his client, I propose to read the reply to it, which I have received from my solicitor, Mr. Joseph Woolf. It is as follows: -
Your letter of the 6th of May duly to hand. It is curious that Messrs. Ellison and Hewison persistently ignore the real facts of your speech as set out in Hansard.
They could not fail to see that the real and essential fact you set out is actually true, namely, that Colonel Walker, as may be seen at page 311 of the evidence following his previous statement on oath, then formally recanted and withdrew his sworn statement on oath. This statement was he deliberately swore that he had seen Mr. Caldwell in the presence of himself and others sign the document produced.
He said he was aware of his responsibility and the nature of an oath when he made this statement. He had previously challenged the Committee to call a writing expert who would verify the signature as Caldwell’s signature.
Your inference, therefore, is irresistible, namely, that he produced a forged document. You, however, omitted tho word “ therefore.” If you had said, “ Since Colonel Walker relied for his perjured statement on the document he produced, it must have been such a perfectsignature of Caldwell’s as to deceive a writing expert.” You would have stated a conclusion had you used the word “ therefore.” Colonel Walker evidently believed that he could commit perjury without being found out, as he impudently challenged the Committee to produce a writing expert, becausehe believed the signature was such a good imitation of Caldwell’s that he would be borne out. If a signature will deceive a writing expert it must be a remarkably good forgery of the original signature. Of course, you could not prove that it was forged by Walker or anybody else, but Walker gambled on the perfection of the forgery. You obviously knew nothing about it. Most men would agree with you had you stated this as a conclusion, but you stated it as a fact, and did not preface it with the word “therefore.” You would not he able to prove as a fact in a Court of law that this signature of Caldwell’s was in fact a forsrerv. and, therefore, that it would be a forged document. This, however, does not dispose with the real question. Colonel Walker has the unparalleled audacity to try and make you responsible on a completely false issue. He is like a cuttlefish which flings out inky fluid to prevent being followed. These cuttlefish tactics of Walker are obviously designed to save him from further prosecution for perjury. Now he turns round and says, “Although I committed perjury deliberately and in order to prove I was telling the truth, demanded a writing expert to prove it was a real signature, I now turn round and say since I committed perjury when I said it was written by Caldwell it is no longer a forged signature, and I no longer want a writing expert, and, therefore, Mr. Maloney would have independently to prove that it was a forged signature, but he cannot do this, as he is unaware of any of the circumstances.
Here, an impudent offender against the criminal law instead of being repentant and humble, actually dares to threaten a member of Parliament, who honorably does his duty, which this unrepentant sinner by threatening hopes to deter him from doing. The crime is defined in the Act of Parliament which constitutes the Joint Accounts Committee, and the punishment for this crime of perjury is five years’ imprisonment. Their duty was clearly to uphold the law of the Commonwealth. Of course, it is ridiculous to assume that a man who deliberately sets out to commit perjury does not commit it, because he is found out and forced to recant. You cannot be deterred from doing your duty by any threat or impudent challenge to surrender your parliamentary privilege. The parliamentary privilege is the highest privilege a member of Parliament has, and that is a very good illustration of its value to the community. Here the facts are absolutely true as a whole, and you have acted as an honorable man in making your statement for the benefit of Parliament and for the protection of public morality, which ought to include that no man who commits perjury, no matter how highly placed, should escape justice. The question is, what does the honour of Parliament demand if the Joint Accounts Committee have failed to observe those principles of honour which should actuate all members of Parliament for the enforcement of the law.
Sir Frank Madden, when challenged on one occasion to repeat outside statements that he had made in Parliament, refused to do so, and I shall follow his example in this case, but if a statement is wanted as to perjury, I am ready to make it. I do not know Mr. Hewison, but Mr. Ellison I have found a decent fellow. I take it that in this case he speaks as a lawyer representing a client, and wishes to make a point, because I did not use the word “ therefore.” I am fighting for an Australian native who has been deeply wronged. Had not Colonel Walker’s statement, made in the course of evidence on oath, been challenged by the crossexamination of Senator J. D. Millen, so that Colonel Walker was forced to own that what he had sworn to was not true, much injury would have been done to this man. Thirty years ago, in this chamber, I tried to secure the punishment of a millionaire who had committed perjury, as later I tried to secure redress for the Reverend J. B. Ronald, who was injured by nine witnesses who gave perjured evidence against him. Apparently, however, under our laws, if a man has money enough, he mayescape punishment for an offence for which, if poor, he would be put into gaol.
– I could not clearly follow the letter which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has just read; but it seemed to be a climb down on the part of Mr. Woolf. If it is contended that Colonel Walker has committed perjury, why has not an information been sworn against him in the Courts?
– That will come.
-The honorable member has taken advantage of the privilege of free speech which Parliament confers on a member, bub I say, advisedly, that no man under cover of that privilege should stab another in the back, giving him no opportunity to reply. All that is asked is that the statements made in Mr. Woolf’s letter, which have been voiced by the honorable member, shall be repeated outside.
– They are in the office of the Attorney-General.
– This is a fair challenge, and we have made it before. Let these statements be uttered outside, so that Colonel Walker may take action in respect to them, and clear his character definitely, or, if ‘he cannot do so, accept the consequences. This is not an unreasonable thing to ask. No man should make statements in this House which may damage a citizen for the rest of his life, and not give that citizen an opportunity to make an adequate reply.
– Colonel Walker tried to injure a real Australian.
-The honorable member is protecting a man who endeavoured, to use an Americanism, to sell the Commonwealth a gold brick.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.4. p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210520_reps_8_95/>.