8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received the following messages relative to the death of the honorable member for Maranoa, Mr. James Page! The first is a cablegram from the- Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in these words -
Deeply grieved to learn death of my old and esteemed friend, the Hon. James Page, who for solong ‘ ably - represented Maranoa in the Federal Parliament.
Mr. Taylor, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, has telegraphed -
Will you convey . to the relatives and friends of the late Mr. Page and members of your House my very deepest sympathy in their very sad loss.
This message is from Senator Payne-
Deeply regret Mr. Page’s death. Kindly convey sympathy to relatives.’
The funeral cortege will leave the building at. a quarter past 3. I shall resume the chair at or about 6 p.m.
Sitting suspended from3.3 to 5 p.m.
Taxation Without Representation
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that considerable discontent exists in the Northern Territory in consequence of residents there . be ing called upon to pay income tax and other taxes although they have no direct representation in this Parliament? If so, is the matter receiving consideration at the hands of the Government ?
– I have observed that a few residents of the Northern Territory are objecting to pay taxes. I have only to Bay that if they do not like to pay taxes up there they can come down here and pay them. There is no trouble in that regard.
– I have often felt that this Parliament ought to be made acquainted by the Imperial Government with foreign affairs. In that connexion, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, with a view of informing the minds of those persons in Australia who are advocating the creation here of a Communism, such as has been established in Russia, he will ascertain whether there is any truth in the statement which appeared in the press of yesterday that the Russian Soviet Cabinet has indorsed proposals by the Prime Minister (M. Lenin) for returning to their owners commercial and industrial . businesses taken over by the State from private enterprise?
– I have not seen the statement, but should think it very probable that M. Lenin is at last displaying a little common sense. I am reminded of the story of the Yankee who said that platforms were made to “get in on,” M. Lenin is “ in,” and, I suppose, has no further use for his Communistic programme. Either that is the case, or he is discovering that Communism does not work out even amongst the simpleminded peasants of Russia. I should say that there is no more fruitful ground for experiments of that kind than that offered by the people with whom he has to deal. If Communism has broken down there: that should be the best of all reasons why we should not attempt any such foolish experiment here.
Lack of Cargo
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information to supply the House in regard to those vessels tff the Commonwealth line of steamers which are said to he held up owing to lack ofcargo? The last of the line to be tied up, I understand, is the Eur alia, which is now lying alongside the Williamstown pier, and is to remain there until cargo is available. Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House of the real reason why no cargo is available for ships owned by the Commonwealth Government ?
– If it be trne that there is no cargo available for these vessels, I am quite unable to inform the honorable member why that is so. After all, it is only an assumption ; but I shall be glad to make inquiries. I should imagine that the Commonwealth line of steamers is susceptible to the same influences as is every other line. There is not that trade going on up and down the world that one would like to Bee. Maybe the position will improve byandby; but from all that I can learn about the Commonwealth line of steamers, they are doing as well as any other ships.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state when the Government intend to submit definite proposals and legislation for the future administration of German New Guinea ?
– I am unable tosay at the moment when we shall do so. Things are beginning to take shape up there; civil administration has been set up; but just when we shall be ready to proceed with legislation I cannot say at the moment.
-Has the Acting Prime Minister any official information as to the League of Nations and the Commission which is proposing certain amendments in the articles of the Covenant? If le has not that information, will he endeavour to obtain it from the Imperial Government and acquaint the House of it?
– I think the better plan would be for me to consult my honorable colleague the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), who has just returned from Geneva. He may know something of the matter. I am aware, of course, that a Commission was set up to deal with amendments’ of the Covenant. It appears from the press - and that is the only information I have at the moment - that the Commission has already got to work and has made some rather drastic proposals for the amendment of the Covenant. If those amendments result in the United States of America coming into the League, that, I should imagine, would be about the . best thing that could happen.
.- (By leave.) - I had thought it pro-, bable that some other’ - honorable member would address himself to. the matter I am about to discuss. Since, however, no other member has risen to do so, I crave the indulgence of the House for a few moments whilst I speak upon a. subject which I consider deserves some attention. But an hour or two ago we met to poy the last sad- rites to a late member of this Chamber, and itcomes as a shock to me, as I am sure it must to every rightminded person, to know that, whilst the body of our late friend is. even yet en route to the place of burial, rumours are current as to who. are aspiring to fill the vacant seat. ‘ Surely, sir, it would’ have been more, decent and more becoming had the people who are responsible for these rumours, even though it may have tried their patience somewhat, waited until the body of Mr. Page reached its final resting place before voicing their anticipations. Above all, sir, I say that even the press should have some regard for the amenities of public and private life, and should have refused to give currency to rumours which in this connexion are current at the moment. To me . it seems an outrage against decency that’ individuals or the press should, at such , a moment, give utterance to their hopes and ambitions in regard to the. vacant place. One gentleman whose name during the last day or two has been associated with the Maranoa scat is very much hurt. He has had no communication from, any one on the subject, and he himself has said nothing wi th regard to it. It has been very painful to him to have his name connected in even a remote way with the question of filling the vacancy at this juncture.
– Has the Attorney-General’s attention been’ drawn to the fact that the New South ‘ Wales Taxation Commissioners are discriminating between the salaries of Federal and State members of Parliament, allowing State members ten times as much by way of expenses as they allow to Federal members? If so, does the honorable gentleman consider that such discrimination is within the powers conferred upon, the Commissioners by the Commonwealth Act governing the matter?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, but I promise the honorable member to have it looked into.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice - .
– I have not the information.
Transfer of Patients
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister forRepatriation, upon notice -
– The . answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
” DIFFERENCE OF EXCHANGE PUMPING.”
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No.1 of 1921 - Australian Postal Linemen’s Union.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1920-21 - Dated 1st June. 1921.
China - Correspondence respecting the New Financial Consortium in. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Berri, South Australia - For postal purposes.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended-Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 64. 72, 83, 90, 91, and 92.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of P. A. Edwards, Department of the Treasury.
Promotions of F. G. Duesbury, R. R. O’Brien, and H. W. Waters, Department of the Treasury.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at-
Beech Forest, Victoria.
Granville, New South Wales (2).
– I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall sit on each Tuesday at 3 o’clock p.m.; on each Wednesday and Thursday at half-past 2 o’clock p.m.; and on each Friday at 11 o’clock a.m.
When I gave notice of this motion the other evening there was a very general agreement regarding it, and, therefore, I do not propose to detain the House now. I shall be glad if honorable members will allow the motion to go through with as little delay as possible, so that we may get to the . real business of the House.
.- It is quite true that there was very little opposition shown to this motion when notice was- given of it at our last sitting. There seems to be an impression amongst honorable members that by sitting on Tuesdays we may be able later on to have two or three weeks’ recess before resuming what we may expect to be a long and arduous session, inasmuch as we have the Constitution Convention and other legislation which will practically keep us employed all the year. I do not know whether it is intended that we shall meet on Tuesdays during the whole of the session, or merely until we have com- pleted our consideration of the Tariff, f it is intended to sit on Tuesdays all through the session, I would point out that this may prove to be not necessary.
– The motion is that we shall sit on Tuesdays, “unless otherwise ordered.”
– Am I right in assuming that the matter will be further considered when we have completed our consideration’ of the Tariff?
– We have previously taken a similar course.
– Quite so; I only desire to have the” position made clear.
.- I quite understand thatthe motion is intended to afford further time for dealing with the Tariff, but I wish to take advantage of the opportunity to say a word on behalf of representatives from distant States. I think that we should sit at least four days a week, and thus complete our business at an earlier date, and afford those honorable members an opportunity to visit their homes. Personally, it is very seldom I can visit Western Australia, and I think that honorable members generally, and particularly Melbourne members, might give a little more consideration to those who come from a distance. I sincerely hope it will not be necessary to have any more allnight sittings.
. -Ido not know whether my position is different from that of other Melbourne representatives, but, as a matter of fact, while the Tariff is before us, I really dare not leave the chamber. The discussion on the metals and machinery items has been protracted ; but, as a rule, if an honorable member leaves the chamber, he may find that, in his absence, perhaps a dozen items, in some of which he may be interested, have been passed. I suppose we all have special business . which we regard as most important, and one of my difficulties is to impress others with the fact that there is business of equal importance with their own in the world. At the risk of laughter, and ridicule from the press, I must say that, as it is, I have more work than I can get into the week, and if we sit another day some of that work must go by the board.
– What about those honorable members who have to travel two days in order to get to and from their work?
– No doubt members from other States also have their difficulties. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is anxious to visit Western Australia, and I fancy we could very well allow him to go now, for, in his absence, we might be able to make some progress with the Tariff. Even at the risk of being charged with posing as a hard-worked member of Parliament - and I do not mind the ridicule of the press or of other people - I say most emphatically that in expecting members to spend another day per week in this chamber the Government are asking them to do more than they can do - that is, if my experience is that of others.
.- During my parliamentary career I have always been of the opinion that parliamentarians should sit at least four out of the six working days. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) said that he had a lot of work to do outside. So have others. It is of no use for any one of us to endeavour to bluff members inside about the work we have to do.
– You have damned little to do, anyhow!
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
– I withdraw it; but I have watched the honorable member for a good while, and know that he does nothing.
– We all have work to do outside, but I still contend that at least four days of our time should be given weekly to the work of Parliament. If a public man in Parliament cannot give four days a week to the public business for which he is paid-
– I have no private business. Mine is all public business. I am not talking of private business.
– Nor am I speaking about any private occupation; but if a member of Parliament cannot give four days a week to public business in this chamber, then he is not doing himself justice in that regard. If we give four days a week to our work here, we shall have, a lot of time when the session is over to do the necessary public business outside. We should consider also the members of the Government. We all know that Ministers have to work at their public duties in their offices all day, and then come here to attend the sittings of Parliament. It is especially arduous on them to ask them to sit four days a week.
– How many of them are here?
– I have noticed that generally quite a number of them are present. We . could assist materially to get the business of this Chamber finished more expeditiously if we sat until 11 o’clock every night instead of finishing at 10. I have every sympathy for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in regard to the public work he has to do outside, but I submit that the work which he and other members representing nearby constituencies have to do does not take up nearly the time that is required for the work of members who represent more remote portions of Australia. Men in their position have to do a great. deal of their work by correspondence, whereas members who represent Melbourne constituencies may do a great deal of it by personal interviews. I would not put up a confidence trick on any one, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) suggested might be done, in regard to this motion. I take it that the words “ until otherwise ordered “ in the motion means “ until the Tariff is finished.” If, however, it is the intention of the Government, when the Tariff is finished, to continue the Tuesday sittings, they should bring down a definite motion, and give honorable members an opportunity of discussing the question of anextra. day’s sitting on its merits. If that opportunity is given, I shall vote for sitting four days a week whilst the business of the House lasts.
– I have always been in favour of sitting four days a week. It is hot fair to members from at least three States in the union to have to wait about in Melbourne after the House rises on Friday afternoon until the following Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock, whilst more fortunate members are able to go to their homes. Those who live in Victoria can reach their homes by Saturday at least, but it is impossible for members from three States to go home at all. It would take me just one week to go to my home and back again, and I would have less than one day there when I reached it. It would not be any hardship for members to sit for four days in the week. I am hopeful that by so doing we shall be able to get through the work and so obviate these protracted sessions which take up practically the whole of the year. I have always thought that, taking the work of the Parliament generally, and speaking by and large, there is no reason why this House should be in session more than six months in the year. We could do all our work in that time, and members would be given a chance, which does not occur now, of going into their constituencies to learn the requirements of their own peopleThere are members from Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania who practically have to neglect their constituencies personally.
– The honorable member will admit that there are other requirements besides sitting here?
– I do admit it. I know there are very great requirements, but these press just as heavily, and indeed a great deal heavier, on members from far-distant States than on those who have the good fortune to represent Victorian constituencies. I would urge the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to take the course suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) ; that is, that if this motion is to apply only while the Tariff is before the House, the Government should give the House an opportunity, as early as possible, to decide whether we shall not continue to sit four days per week until the session ends.
.- We have to consider whether the carrying of the motion and the institution of an extra day’s sitting per week will push Government business ahead any quicker. My parliamentary experience leads me to believe that the extra sitting day gets the Government no further ahead at all. By granting an extra day, the House is really only giving the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) a further opportunity of talking at large upon Tariff matters.
– Has he not a right to speak?
– Of course; but he has no right to entail hardship upon other members because he is not capable of explaining himself in a few words. If the honorable member for Dampier feels that it is his burning duty to talk upon every item in the Tariff at length, it is about time the House took steps to stop him doing so. The Tariff has to go through, and, as parties are constituted to-day, and with our present system of government, I admit that what the Government desire in the Tariff is what will go through. That being so, why should the Government permit any honorable member to talk so repeatedly in Committee? During the present and previous sessions the Government have thought fit, on certain occasions, to impose a time limit to the debate, sometimes unduly restricting debate ; but I really think it is advisable to take some such action to expedite the discussion of the Tariff, in which it appears an honorable member may get up and talk as much and as often as he likes on almost any subject under the sun. The Tariff should be dealt with on practical’, common-sense lines. The Government should conduct the business in this way.
– But we do not know your way. That is the trouble.
– If the honorable member for Dampier were over on this side of the House, he would soon know my way of doing business. If the Government were not obliged to depend on the votes of honorable membersof the Corner party to keep them in office, we would hear nothing of this extra day’s sitting. They would apply the guillotine to the honorable member for Dampier. If they believe that the Tariff is good, why not get it disposed of quickly?
– How many minutes have you been in the chamber since the Tariff was introduced?
– I have been here as often as possible. Of course, if the representative of His Majesty requires me to perform certain duties as a member of a Royal Commission, I feel, in duty bound, as a loyal subject of His Majesty, to obey.
– But we are all in favour of the motion, so why not allow it to go to the vote?
– I am not in favour of it. The Acting Prime Minister, as one of those who are obliged to make the week-end journey by train to his own State, must know that this train travelling is killing in its effects, so- the extra day’s sitting may ultimately mean the death of very many honorable members. And surely we do not want to kill one another in this Parliament? The Leader of the House knows how he intends to vote on these Tariff items. So do I and otherhonorable members; therefore all the talk in the world from the honorable member for Dampier will not have any effect upon the Committee. If we have an extra day.’s sitting I fear that the grim Reaper will cause more, vacancies, iu the ranks of honorable members, and so I put it to .the Government that in their own interests it would be well for them not to insist upon the extra day. They already have ample power to expedite the .passage of the Tariff. I invite, them to use this power. That would be a far more sensible thing to do than to require honorable members to sit an extra day each week. *
.- I feel confident that the more days we sit the less work we shall do. Ministers, I am sure, with Parliament sitting three days a week, have already quite enough work to do. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that a great deal of the work donts by an honorable member for his constituency is performed, not in this Chamber, but elsewhere. Every honorable member knows how his’ correspondence piles up, if it is not attended to promptly. I recollect on one occasion aw honorable member who was continually making speeches in this House asking me why I did not speak more frequently, and in reply I gave him what I thought to be good advice. I said to him, “ If you keep your tongue quiet and use your pen, you may stay here for some time.” Honorable members have a great deal to do outside the sitting days of Parliament. Person- ally, four days a week will suit me, as I am always in Melbourne on a Tuesday, but I sympathize with those honorable members from the more distant States. They cannot get to their homes on Friday afternoon, and for their sake I shall be prepared to vote for the motion. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has told us of his difficulties in regard to travelling to and from his home, but I think the day is not far distant when he may be able to reach his home in a few hours. I believe that before long the Tasmanian mails will be taken over by aeroplane, so that the honorable member may then, if he chooses, go across to Tasmania in the evening and return to Melbourne on the following morning.
.- It seems to me, from the course of the debate, that in the future honorable members will be required to say whether they are full-timers, half-timers, or quarter-timers. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) lives a greater distance from Melbourne than many other honorable members, so it would be impossible for him to go home each week-end, but I think some of the Tasmanian representatives could return to their homes as frequently as do honorable members from New South Wales, and their mode of travelling would be far healthier than a train journey of about 600 miles to Sydney. It would be wise, I think, to take the Tariff in globo, and later, if there were discrepancies, the Minister could introduce legislation piecemeal to deal with them. The Board which the Minister proposes to appoint could report to the Minister if undue profits were being made by any manufacturers, and suggest other Tariff items for the consideration of this House. A matter more important than the Tariff is the dumping of foreign goods on account of the special opportunities offered by the adverse exchange. The High Court has decided against the policy which the Minister desires to carry out in order to prevent dumping, and Australia is left open to dumping of a kind that the world has never before known. My parliamentary duties are much easier for me when the House is sitting than when it is not. If any honorable member doubts that statement, I invite him to visit my office, preferably on Mondays or Fridays, at 10.15 a.m., in order to see the amount of work I have to deal with. Some important notices of motion by private members appear on the businesspaper, and, if necessary, I would be prepared to sit every day in the week for two or three months rather than continue the present half-and-half system. A continuous sitting like that would be much more healthy for those who have to travel to other States at the week-ends, and I say candidly that if I were the medical adviser to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) I would forbid him travelling to and from Sydney each weekend. Amongst the private notices of motion is one. relating to the destitute allowance for which I would like a day, another relating to Anzac Homes, another dealing with the metric system of weights and measures, another relating to the burden of eternal interest forced upon Australia by the late accursed war, another relating to the need for economy and the necessity for doing away with the High Commissioner’s Office, thus effecting a saving of £1,100,000 per annum; another relating to appointments unjustly made in the Public Service by which officers have been promoted from positions carrying £1,000 to others carrying £2,000, while others have had. their salaries raised from £500 to £1,500. The House has never yet had an opportunity of dealing with those appointments, but if the opportunity were afforded, it would express itself seriously upon the subject. I should like to add another to the many suggestions I have made to the different Ministries during the years I have been a member of this House. Why cannot we work solidly for a month or two months, following the example of a country that has far greater difficulties to contend with than has Australia? The members of this House, whether they come from the distant parts of Western Australia, or the north of Queensland, or Tasmania, all think, read and write in the same language. The little nation of Switzerland uses three languages in its Parliament. In the name of common sense, how would we get through our work if three languages were employed in our debates, and we prolonged our sessions as we do now? If a member spoke in one language, another member who spoke a different language would be entitled to demand a translation; thus the nine hours’ speech delivered by Mr. Webster on one occasion, if expressed in three languages, would probably extend over thirty-six hours ! Why is it that the Swiss Parliament can get through its work with two sessions of three weeks each, although speaking three languages? That Parliament meets in summer at 8 a.m., and an absent member is fined. A. majority of the House is necessary to constitute a quorum. The House adjourns for lunch at 1 p’.m., resumes at 2 p.m., and adjourns at 4 p.m., until 8 a.m. next morning. The only difference in the winter session is that the House meets one hour later. If the Ministry choose to proceed with this motion, I shall vote for it. I would like to see the Tariff disposed of in globo, on the understanding that the proposed Tariff Board would refer to Parliament those items which required adjustment. If that were done, we could immediately apply ourselves to the dumping evil which endangers every factory in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 2nd June (vide page 8834). division vi.- met als and machinery.*
*Motive power, engine combinations, and power connexions are dutiable under their respective headings when not integral parts of machines,- machinery, or machine tools.
Item 136 -
Iron and Steel -
Upon which Mr. Watkins had moved, by wayof amendment -
That the following words be added to sub-, item a: - ‘“.and on and after 8th June. 1921, per ton, British, 30s. : intermediate, 45s. general, 60s.”
.- I had anticipated that after the overwhelming arguments adduced on Thursday last in favour of an increase in these duties, the Minister would have opened the discussion to-day with an announcement of his intention to accept the amendment. The Minister (Mr. Greene) is placing considerable reliance on his anti-dumping proposals; and, although, perhaps, the Tariff itself may not generally come up to the level to which he had hoped to raise it, it would appear that he is looking hopefully to his antidumping measure to insure the protection of Australian industry. The world today is exceptionally troubled commercially. There is great agitation and organization going on abroad to exploit every market. In the interests of Australia we should provide ample safeguards, or our industries, old and new. may be swamped. As a first step I trust that the Minister- will- yet accept the amendment of the honorable member, for
Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). And, as a second means, I hope Parliament will clothe the Minister and his Department with considerable powers to prevent dumping. I have noted with regret the tremendous revenues which are nowadays derived by way of Customs duties. The existing Tariff has been in operation for about fifteen months - more than covering the current financial year. ‘ Notwithstanding that fact, however, imports have risen in value from a total of about £70,000,000 per annum a year or two ago to a figure which will possibly reach £150,000,000 for the present year. It is true that the values of very many of the imported lines are higher than formerly; but, making a liberal allowance, it must be apparent, even to those honorable members with pronounced Free Trade views, that there is far too much importation of goods, most of which should be manufactured by our own people in our own country. Under the present Tariff schedule the Commonwealth will receive an increase in revenue, arising from Customs duties, amounting to more than £10,000,000. It is a very serious matter that goods of practically double the value of those imported a year or so ago, are now being brought into the Commonwealth. I chance to be one of those who buy farming material and implements nowadays. I ask the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) how those who carry on rural activities have been benefited at the hands of the importers of galvanized iron and fencing wires ? He knows full well that in recent times the farmer has had to pay three or four times the values of a few years ago for all his farming requisites.
– And he still has to do so.
– Yes; but the situation must be altered, and here, is the opportunity; for if the Committee does not agree to the amendment’ immediately under discussion it will be difficult to confer any greater measure of -protection than exists at present in respect of the new subsidiary industries of Australia.
– The higher you . build the Tariff wall the greater is the opportunity afforded to the exploiter inside of Australia.
– The greatest exploiter ..is the importer.
-Undoubtedly. Every farmer in Australia has been and is being “fleeced” by the importer of galvanized iron and wire and’ barbed wire. Although I am not, perhaps, in sympathy with the political ideals of Australian men of wealth, I say, unhesitatingly, that if there are Australians who are prepared to put, their money into industries of the. kind which are now under consideration, and to provide fair conditions of employment at fair rates of wages, I will do my share towards granting those manufacturers adequate protection, while at the same time safeguarding and protecting the worker and the consumer.
– You cannot protect the consumer.
– We can, and the Minister is pledged to take steps to do so. I have confidence in the Minister and faith in the adequacy of his proposals. I believe they will be effective against the “fleecing” proclivities both of the importer and of the local manufacturer. I have confidence, further, in the efficacy of the Minister’s proposed anti-dumping law. Although I have no brief for the English firm of Lysaghts Limited, I call attention to what is being done in connexion with the founding of its galvanizediron industry in Australia. The company has . already . spent about £90,000,000 upon the housing of its workmen. I again plead with the Minister to relent from his. attitude- of opposition to the amendment, and I stress that unless he does so it will be. very difficult for this Committee to grant f urther necessary protection to the subsidiary industries which depend upon Australia’s iron and steel industry., The capital invested in ‘the iron and steel works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited up to 31st December, 1920, amounted to £5,639,365. The amount paid ‘ in wages at the limestone quarry, the iron ore deposit, and at the iron and steel works up to the same date was £1,230,000. That sum has been- distributed among 5,709 workers, which averages £213 per man per annum by an industry which is as yet in its initial stages. If it had not been for the operations of the Newcastle Steel Works railway construction in Australia would have been held up.
– *It would have’ been- held 0,Up entirely.
-I believe it would. We have/ arrived at a stage when we should cease importing rails, fishplates, and bolts now that we are in a position to manufacture them in the Commonwealth, particularly when the manufacture of these articles provides employment for a large number of our own people. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited endeavour to exploit the people to whom they dispose of their products we shall, under the proposal of . the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), be able to make it so uncomfortable for them that they will not dream of committing” the offence twice. At the iron and steel works 4,886 men are employed, and at the ironstone deposit and limestone quarry 8,823 men are working. All of these men have dependants, and therefore a large number of people are at present depending upon the operations of this industry for their livelihood. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) made a special Dent of the fact that when this industry was established the late general manager, Mr. Delprat, who with bis expert knowledge and general organizing ability ‘may be regarded as the “ king pin “ of the undertaking, said that the industry would not require any assistance by means of protective duties. If Mr. Delprat made such a statement in 1932 he has since corrected it. When the Joint Committee of Public Accounts was inquiring into the question of shipbuilding Mr. Delprat was called to give evidence. For the information of honorable members I shall read the following extract from the report presented by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the 17th November, 1920. It reads-
The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited “have decided upon a considerable extension of their works and plants, including a mill for rolling the large plates for shipbuilding, which hitherto have had to be obtained from abroad. The general manager of this company was confident that all Hie materials for shipbuilding could be produced in Australia as cheaply as anywhere else, if protection by a Tariff were afforded against the powerful corporations in other countries, which might otherwise _ wipe the Commonwealth industry out by dumping.
That is the opinion of Mr. Delprat when he was- general manager of the company which is now conducting extensive opera tions at Newcastle. During the war nearly every manufacturer exploited the people more or less. The general manager of Walkers Limited said that instead of charging the price ruling on the other side of the world they actually delivered the goods at half the cost. The report which I have quoted was signed by the Chairman of the Committee, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), who has a decided leaning towards Free Trade. Here is another extract from the report which has a bearing on the’ matter now before the Committee -
The cost of shipbuilding has jumped up as the result of the war to three times the prewar rates. For ships that were once built for under fit) per ton, builders in Great Britain have been asking and getting as much as £35 per ton, while in America prices were still higher. Under these circumstances, the opportunity of entering into the production of ships in Australia was a favorable one. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited were prepared to supply sections and angles, and the price of these has been from £17 10s. to £19 per ton. Adding the freight to the oversea prices for similar materials, we find that buying from the local manufacturers certainly gave an advantage of several pounds per ton. One manager expressed the opinion that if he had been obliged to go abroad for these materials, they would have cost, including price and freight, something like £35 per ton, not to speak of the inevitable delay, which, of course, meant added expense. -
The manager for Walkers Limited, Mr. Farquhar, who has, I understand, been selected as Chairman of a Committee to go into the question of ship construction at Cockatoo Island and elsewhere, tendered very valuable evidence. He possesses exceptional qualifications, and when he appeared before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, stated that he had been engaged in some of the principal shipbuilding yards in Great Britain. I have already stated that one manager expressed the opinion that if he had been obliged to go abroad for sections and angles, they would have Cost him, including price and freight, approximately £35’ “per ton, quite apart from the unavoidable delays, which would have meant additional expense. There is the testimony of the manager of a private firm. I consider that it is an argument in favour of this industry that when in war time they might, according to some, have legitimately charged more than they did for their material, they did the fair thing by the people of Australia, and called upon them to pay for the steel they used only half what they would have had to pay if they had imported it from abroad. That is a justification for asking for some protection for the industry in peace time. I may be told that it is intended now to carry out only a certain programme of shipbuilding, and that ship plates will not be required ; but honorable members are aware that most of our railways are being equipped with long iron trucks, and rolled sheets of steel and iron will be required for the sides and ends of these trucks. It is intended to turn out these sheets as well as ships’ plates, if they should be required, from the rolling mills that are now being . laid down at the Newcastle works. I have said, I think, enough and more than enough to convince even honorable members in the corner, including the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), that it is essential to preserve this key industry. I am satisfied that the Minister for Trade and Customs will submit effective legislation for the protection of the consumer, and that under that legislation the industry will be carried on in future practically under departmental supervision. In my view no harm would be. done by doubling the duty proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs if, at the same time, we have a Board to protect the interests of the consumers and extra protection in the way of anti-dumping legislation. I am not in this matter falling on the neck of the Broken’ Hill Company, as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). suggested the other day. I am aware that there is another firm engaged in this industry, and I might quote from remarks made by Mr. Hoskins, the manager of that firm, at a picnic given to the employees, to show that it is the intention of the firm to lay down a plant atPort Kembla which is to cost something like £2,000,000. We cannot lightly ignore the establishment of great industries of this kind in our midst. I speak as one politically opposed to capitalists, but when I find men prepared to invest capital in the establishment of big industries and to give fair conditions and wages to their employees I should be recreant to my Protectionist principles and anti-national in spirit if I did not do what I could to encourage and protect them, especially when I am assured that the interests- of the consumers are also to be protected. Honorable members are agreed that the lesson which we should have learned from the war is that an island continent likeAustralia must be self-contained, and yet there are members of the Committee who are prepared to reduce Tariff duties to such an extent as would prevent the establishment of key industries, and the subsidiary industries dependent upon them, which are absolutely essential to the wellbeing of this community. I remind honorable members that we have made arrangements for the establishment of an Arsenal, under Government control. Though I hope it will not be found to be necessary, if it is established it will require considerable quantities of steel and iron. Hoskins and Company was in existence for some time prior to the war, but was in a struggling condition for a number of years. That firm and the Broken Hill firm are now well established, and the producers of this country should be amongst the first to welcome any extension of their operations. Many railway lines in Victoria’ which have come to the assistance of producers who, for many years, had’ to struggle against the difficultiesof heavy road ‘ haulage, could not have been constructed had we, not been able to obtain rails from the Broken Hill Company. I am satisfied that the producers would agree that these are the industries which we should foster in’ every possible way.
– We need to be able to obtain rails at a fair price, otherwise we cannot build railways.
– The honorable member cannot complain about the . price of rails.
– I can, and I have quoted the price.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that hut for the rails turned out by these companies railroad construction in Australia would have been held up.
-Rails cost £8 16s. per ton f.o.b. Port Augusta before the war, and they cost to-day £17 15s. per ton.-
– What did rails cost before the war in other parts of the world ?
– If to-day we are paying £17 per ton for rails, and could get them for £10 from America, or some other country, would th<» honorable member for Dampier consider that that was a sufficient reason for abolishing this duty? If the Broken Hill Company and Hoskins Company were wiped out, and jio rails were being manufactured in Australia, will the honorable member tell me how much we should then have to pay for imported rails? I have had some experience of the difficulties of producers ?n other lines. I know that importers are prepared to keep their prices down exceptionally low in order to kill the local industry, so that they may have their own sweet will with the consumer afterwards.
– The honorable member has not explained the discrepancy between Australian and British prices.
– I do not think we could get rails from Great Britain to-day at £10 per ton. I am reminded by the interjection of a contention urged by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), which he will excuse me for saying was, in my opinion, anti-Australian. He has said that people in Western Australia might obtain goods more cheaply from Great Britain than from the Eastern States of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member is a broad-minded Australian, and believes in the establishment of Australian industries, why should he seek to foster enterprises across the seas? I believe that the honorable member is better than his words, and that if it were a question of the life or death of an Australian industry, he would join with other Western Australians to keep that industry going. I want to see high protective duties imposed for the assistance of essential industries in Australia. That is the way in which the prosperity of other countries has been built up. If Australia is to be a nation, and we are. to be worthy of the name of Australia, we must, whether we are Free Traders or Protectionists, do all that is necessary to. make Australian industries secure.
Mr. LISTER (Corio) [6.201.- The concluding sentences of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) should carry weight with all who have heard them, and with all who will read them. If Australians are to make the most of their country, they must do all that may be necessary to protect its industries.
Many honorable members who have spoken have regarded this question from the personal rather than from the national stand-point. In my judgment, we ought to view it from a very much wider angle. I wish to state, briefly, the reasons which induce me to support the amendment of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). I believe that we should give the iron and steel industry additional protection, seeing that it is our key industry. We ought; therefore, to regard it from the view-point of our duty to Australia. I specially desire to stress its importance to the man upon the land. Throughout the entire Tariff debate, the Deputy Leader of the Country party has advocated the imposition of .low duties. He belongs to a party which is supposed to represent country interests. But may I remind him that were it not for the protection which has* been ‘ afforded the iron and steel industry in Australia, we would not have been able to extend to the man upon the land in Victoria the facilities which he enjoys to-day.
– To what facilities does the honorable member refer?
– During recent years, land settlement in this State - and, doubtless, in other States- has been considerably extended as the- -result of the establishment of the iron and steel industry. In Victoria alone, I understand that more than 300,000’ acres have been settled by soldiers during the: past few years. The Victorian Government found it necessary, for developmental purposes, to construct certain railway lines; and it was. able to build these only because of the establishment of the iron and steel industry. The rails which were used in the construction of the lines from Piangil and Manangatang towards the Murray, and also in the line linking up Horsham with Portland, were manufactured in Australia.
– Many of the recently constructed lines were built for the purpose of assisting soldier settlement.
– That is the point which I am endeavouring to emphasize. These men would not be enjoying the facilities which they are enjoying to-day but for the protection which has been extended to such enterprises as those conducted by the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company and Messrs. Hoskins and Company
– In most industries, the conditions which obtain to-day are vastly different from those which obtained prior to the war. There are many reasons why this particular industry should be fostered in every possible way. I have here a table which convincingly demonstrates the assistance which it has rendered in the development of this country. I gather from the table in question that between June, 1915, and 26th May, 1921, no less than 47,057 tons of rails and fishplates wore manufactured for the Commonwealth railways. During the same period, rails and fishplates manufactured for the various State Governments amounted to 222,441 tons, or a total of 269,498 tons. The pig iron manufactured for use by the Commonwealth and State Departments represented 24,468 tons, and the structural material 20,974 tons. Sundry products manufactured for the same Governments during the period indicated amounted to 13,139 tons - a total of 58,561 tons, and a grand total of 318,059 tons. These figures relate to the quantities manufactured by one firm alone, and I have full authority for saying that they may beverified by any honorable member who doubts their accuracy.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I may be pardoned for drawing special attention to the great value of the services rendered to the Empire by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in the later years of the war, and subsequently. It will be remembered that as the war progressed the Mother Land became very short of material for railway construction and other purposes, and was getting supplies wherever these could be obtained. This company contracted to manufacture a considerable quantity of material for war purposes ; but, as it was recognised that it would be difficult to transport that material to Europe, an arrangement was made between the British and South African Governments under which the latter sent all the material it could spare to Europe, the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company by arrangement replacing such material. The company manufactured 17,900 tons of ammunition steel for the British Government, and 21,338 tons of rails and fishplates for use in Prance, or 39,238 tons of material altogether. Those opposed to any increase of the duties on pig iron have based their opposition in part upon the likelihood of such an increase prejudicing agricultural operations. Later 1 shall show how small a percentage of the output of the company is covered by the demand for steel for agricultural purposes; but in the period between June, 1915, and the 25th May last the company produced 27,033 tons of special plough steel and similar material. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and other speakers have touched upon what has been done by it in furnishing dockyards and supplying shipbuilding material. At considerable inconvenience and loss the company has supplied material at prices lower than those at which it could be obtained from overseas. It has also sent its productions to New Zealand and to the Federated Malay States. Steel plates and sundry products amounting to 29,863 tons were forwarded, for shipbuilding and dockyards. The New Zealand Government Departments have been supplied with 5,906 tons of rails and fishplates, and 9,000 tons of sundry other material. To the Federated Malay States the company has sent 11,849 tons of rails and fishplates. The company has manufactured 70,604 tons of wire rods for fencing wire and wire netting, and the Minister has told us that in April. 1920. the price of wire f.o.b. Newcastle was £24 10s., and that similar wire from Englandcost £42 f.o.b. A member asked what it cost in the United States of America, and I have since ascertained that in March, 1920, at Pittsburg, wire for domestic use cost £24 10s. 6d.
– Of the same gauge?
– Yes. Many charges would have had to be added had the users of wire in this country been supplied from Pittsburg. Thus it will be seen that the Broken Hill Company was supplying the farmers of this country more cheaply than they could buy wire manufactured abroad. The company has exported 45,696 tons pf fishplates and rails, pig iron, and sundry other products to Java, Japan, the East Indies, &c, and has supplied Australian and New Zealand merchants and manufacturers with 193,087 tons of material, its total output for the period with which I am dealing being 743,347 tons. These figures are striking evidence of the importance of the company, and justify its encouragement. Of its output in this period 43 per cent, was represented by fishplates and other materials for Commonwealth and State railways and other national works, 5 per cent, by war material, 4 per cent, by material used for agricultural purposes, 4 per cent, by material for use in shipbuilding and dockyards. 1 per cent, by material for the New Zealand Government Departments, 2 per cent, by material for the Government of the Federated Malay States, 9 per cent, by wire rods for fencing wire and wire netting, 6 per cent, by material exported to Java and elsewhere, and the remaining 26 per cent, by material used in Australia and New Zealand. The capital invested in the company amounts to £4,500,000, to which must be added an estimated expenditure of between £1,000.000 and £1,500,000, making a total of £6,000,000. The company pays between £27,000 and £30,000 a month in wages, and its men are not underpaid.
– We hope to get still more out of it.
– It cannot pay more unless it gets the protection that it needs. The company gives direct employment to over 5,000 persons, and the indirect employment it causes is so great that it would be foolish to do anything to retard its progress.
It has been suggested that this and other similar companies are huge profiteers. I have no figures to prove the extent of the alleged profiteering.
– The honorable member did not expect the company to supply him with such figures!
– I would ask the honorable member what he regards as profiteering? I know a man who invested his money in a certain undertaking, and within nine months had returned to him the whole of his capital. He is a returned soldier, and I say, “ More power to him.”
From one season’s crop he got sufficient to return to him the whole of the money he had expended on his property, his implements, and machinery. I do not say that he was a profiteer.
– He was a “ poor struggling farmer.”
– Exactly. I know of few sections in the community who, proportionately, are able to ride about in motor cars to a greater extent than do the “ poor struggling farmers.” I have quite a lot of them in my electorate. Any man who, by using the brains that God has given him, together with his strength and his capita], is able to acquire a competency, is deserving of credit. This Committee will be well advised in supporting an increase of these duties.
– So that the “ cockies “ cannot have motor cars?
– Not at all. Despite all that we hear of hard times, there is more real prosperity in this country than ever before. Undoubtedly many men on the land have been hard hit as the result of drought and other adverse conditions, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that more people in the community have credit . balances in the bank than ever before.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) did not say that the other day.
– If the honorable member wants confirmation of my statement, ho will find it in the Commonwealth Y earBook.
– The honorable member is speaking now of Victoria.
– The honorable member can think only of sugar and the poor sugar farmers.
– The sugar farmer has done very well.
– I think he has. The Committee ought to hesitate before casting a vote that would jeopardize an industry of this importance.
.- I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will state what he intends to do. We desire to push on with business, but we realize to the full that this is a most important item, and are emphasizing our views with the object of securing increased duties in respect of it. The discussion has shown beyond doubt that the iron and steel industry is the key industry of Australia ; that it needs to be fostered, and that’ during the war it was of considerable assistance to us. That position having been established, surely the Committee should be prepared to take such steps ‘as will prevent the industry . from going under as a result of outside competition. I know that some honorable members think the present duties are sufficient ; but, as I said last week, the conditions to-day are altogether different from what they were some fifteen months ago, when the Tariff schedule was first submitted. Everything that goes to make up the manufacturing costs has increased in price. I spoke last week of the increases in respect of coke, harbor charges, wages, and other items. I find that Mr. Hoskins, in referring to this matter at a social function held at Wollongong last week, announced that -
All arrangements were now complete for proceeding with the construction of up-to-date iron and steel works on a site purchased by his company at Port Kembla. He referred to the large increase which had taken place in the price of coke, as a result of the increase in coal miners’ wages during recent years, the price having advanced from 13s. 6d. to 33s. 6d. per ton. In addition, as a result of the increase in the price of coal, freight on coke from the South Coast to Lithgow had increased from £35,000 per annum to £60,000.
Here we have the statement that coke today is costing 33s. 6d. per ton as against 13s. 6d. That is a very big increase.
– Over what period has that increase taken place?
– I think it is since the last increase in the price of coal.
– It covers a longer period.
– It may be that it covers the period dating from the beginning of the war. I cannot say exactly, but I know that the last increase in the price of coal was a large one, and must have led to a considerable addition to the price of coke.
– Is Mr. Hoskins asking for increased duties on iron and steel?
– All the iron and steel manufacturers are doing so. Mr. Hoskins said that if the position were not improved he would have to dispense with the services of a lot of his employees.
– It is only a little while since that he said something very different.
– But conditions have changed since then. It is because of the changes that have taken place in other parts of the world that we must do something more to protect our own industries. Wages have decreased in practically every industry in Great Britain, and the position here must be affected by that fact. It has been argued that we should make no increase in the general Tariff on iron and steel. I read this evening a statement made by Mr. ‘ Claxton, President of the Iron and Steel Manufacturers of Great Britain, that material for the manufacture of iron and steel in England to-day was being largely imported from Germany, France, and Belgium. Surely that in itself is sufficient to warrant an increase in respect of the general Tariff with the object of protecting our own industries. Circumstances have so changed since the Tariff schedule was laid on the table that it is a fair thing to increase these duties.
– Has the honorable member over heard of circumstances arising that warranted a decrease?
– The iron and steel duties in the United States of America have been decreased, and the same thing may happen here once the industry is thoroughly established. The point we hate to consider is whether we .ought not to firmly establish such industries in our own country.
– The older they get the hungrier they become.
– That is the cry of the Free Trader. I have no desire that additional costs shall be heaped upon the community, and I remind the Committee that the Minister has promised to appoint a Tariff Board which will be able to deal with excessive charges made by any industry. In that Board we shall have security. It has been argued that if we increased these duties, prices would go up. I am not convinced that they would. If British manufacturers of iron and steel, because of the reduction in wages and other costs there, are able to tender for supplies here at a rate below that possible to local manufacturers who have regard to and observe reasonable labour conditions, they will cut into the local market. If they can quote a few shillings per ton below the local prices, contracts will go to them, with the result that our industry will be ‘left stranded. The imposition of additional duties would not necessarily mean additional prices. If British manufacturers could sell at 5s. per ton below the price ruling here, the imposition of an additional duty of 10s. per ton would mean that they would have to increase their tender by that amount. Our local manufacturers would then be able to secure tenders by putting up their prices to the extent of only 5s. per ton. Those of us who support increased duties in respect of this item are actuated only by a desire so to protect the industry that it will be able to expand and supply all local requirements.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has referred to the inquiry made by the Public Accounts Committee into the shipbuilding industry. I took part in that inquiry, and we had evidence that but for the establishment of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works no shipbuilding would have been done here during the war. There was great difficulty in obtaining plates. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company at the time did not have the requisite plant, but went out of its way to help the country in its time of need. It is now getting the necessary plant for rolling the sheets. Surely we should do something to insure that this industry will go ahead. I am speaking in the interests, not of the company, but of Australia and its development. Those who invest their capital in works of this kind ought to be assured of a market. The Minister would shorten the debate by stating exactly what the Government is prepared to do. When I was speaking last week, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) interjected that he would not object if the duty under the general Tariff were increased.
-I said I was not working so much upon the duties under the general Tariff.
– The honorable member said he would not object to the duties being increased in respect of imports from countries outside the Empire. He is working for something else.
– I want my amendment for a reduction to be carried.
– There ought to be a further increase in the Tariff as against Great Britain, whereas the honorable member desires a reduction. Any . reduction which would permit Great Britain to compete successfully in Australia would mean taking the market from our o wn people.
– You must remember that our iron deposits are richer and better than those of the Old Country, and that we pay less for our coal, while the wages in the two countries are pretty much the same on the average. Then, in addition, there is the natural protection.
– The natural protection does not count for much.
– It amounts to £38s. 6d., or £3 10s. per ton.
– I do not know that it does if we take into consideration the freight for carrying iron and steel from, say, Newcastle to Western Australia.
– Do not forget that in the steel trade there are hundreds of items that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company cannot and will not supply for years. Our requirements in regard to these are very small.
– I do not know that there are hundreds of items that the Broken Hill people cannot supply. That proprietary is increasing its fine plant, and subsidiary industries are being established in close proximity. I do not think there are any items amongst those before us that the Broken Hill people cannot supply.
– There are some.
– Not many.
– Yes, there are items in this division, but not embraced in the sub-item before us.
– Where it is shown that items cannot be manufactured here, we do not desire duties to be imposed. The Broken . Hill Proprietary Company are making provision for increasing their plant in order to produce plates.
– Up to 6 feet.
– Whatever we can manufacture ought to be protected and Australia made self-contained at the earliest possible moment. I am surprised that there are honorable members who have not had that lesson impressed upon, them by the war. How often have we discussed what Australia would have done had it not been for the establishment of works like those of the ‘ Broken Hill Proprietary Company, Hoskins, and others? We should not have been able to get supplies, the factories on the other side of the world being kept engaged meeting the requirements of the nations at war. In the event of another war overseas, even if the Empire were not directly involved, we should be entirely without supplies unless we manufactured them here. In such event, I venture to say that Australia would suffer as much as if we were actually at war. The Minister has had the week-end to consider the matter, and I think he ought to be able to say whether he can now meet us.
– The duties in the subsidiary industries would have to be raised in the same way as those on pig- iron.
– Quite so. We cannot increase the duties on pig iron without making similar provision for the finished article. The basis is the production of pig iron for the manufacture of steel and so forth, and once we have laid the foundation, we may deal with the other products according to the necessities of the position.
– UnderFree Trade we exported a considerable quantity of pig iron.
– I do not know that we exported a great quantity at any time, but I know that to-day it will take these industries all they can do to supply the requirements of Australia. With the present conditions abroad, I see no prospect of an export trade. There are reductions of wages in almost every calling.
– We exported pig iron in 1920, and we have been exporting it since 1907.
– It would be very unfair to take the exports during the war period, or the year or two immediately following.
– Or the import prices. ;
– I never found an argument on what happened during the war, when the conditions were abnormal. Conditions are now returning to what may . be called normal.
– The only fair comparison is between pre-war prices and present prices.
– I never expect conditions in this country to return to what they were before the war.
– I do not think that we shall again see the pre-war conditions even in England.
– Quite so, and I hope that throughout the world conditions will be better than they were then; if they are not, the war has been in vain so far as any gain to the great masses of the people is concerned. To-day prices are falling rapidly, and my object is to create and maintain such conditions here as will conduce to general contentment. I have no desire to see prices and values tumbling down too fast, for that only means suffering. If ever there was a time when we should have a buoyant revenue it is the present.
– Could we not assist the industry by a. bounty, when the burden would not all fall on one section of the community?
– I prefer a duty to a bounty, and in my opinion a duty does not fall on one section of the community, but on every section.
– In the case of iron and steel, the duty falls all round.
– There is no doubt: about that. . I do not think, however, that the community will be asked to carry any additional load.
– Then, why increase the duty?
– Because at the present time there is a rapid fall in the cost of labour, coal, and freight, and we must adjust our affairs to meet the altered circumstances.
– You cannot argue that way on present prices.
– Yes, I can, and I repeat that we ought, as far as possible., to make this country self-contained.
– ‘What would you do with surplus production?
– As to that, I should wait until we have surplus production.
– There is big surplus production sometimes, you know.
– The industries in which we have surplus production have done fairly well during the war.
– But you say we must cut out war prices!
– If we should have surplus production I do not think we could hope to compete with other parts of the world. My idea is that we must manufacture for our own home markets, for the reason that the working conditions abroad are altogether different from those in Australia. Wages are lower, for instance.
– In America and Canada?
– The honorable member has selected probably the country where the best conditions prevail; but, even so, I do not think the conditions in America are to be compared with those in Australia. .
– How about the man who has to export other products?
– Those are mainly staple products in demand all over the world, and the exporters have done very well during the last few years. I refer to wool, wheat, and commodities of that kind.
– The small graziers in New South Wales are worse off now than I have ever known them to be during the last thirty or forty years.
– I believe that is so in the north-west of New South Wales, but that arises chiefly from drought. When these graziers were doing badly, graziers elsewhere were doing well.
– As a whole, the small graziers of New South Wales are worse off to-day.
– We cannot prevent visitations of drought; and, while certain parts of the Commonwealth suffered from that cause, other portions, more fortunately situated, were doing exceedingly well on account of the prevailing high prices.
– That may be so in regard to a few of them, but the majority have not done at all well in the last five or ten years.
– I sympathize with those who suffer on account of drought; but, as the honorable member knows, ls. 3½d. has been paid for wool, and there : is still all the Bawra wool.
– We are millions of sheep short.
– In certain parts of the country.
– Taking Australia as a whole, we are millions of sheep short.
– That may be so, but it does not follow that we are short in every part of Australia. Those who produce wool have been getting the best prices they ever got.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company, in the last five years, has made as much profit as nearly all the graziers in New South Wales put together.
– We may dispense with what happened in the last five abnormal years; in any case, did not everybody who could do so make as much profit as possible? Did the importers not do the best they could for themselves, and realize huge profits? Why single out one industry in abnormal times?
– The industry which thehonorable member desires to bolster up with higher duties has made more profit than other producers who have to sell in the open market.
– It is easy to make statements. I am not here to “ bolster up “ the Broken Hill or any other company.
– You are making a very good attempt!
– Quite so, for the purpose of protecting those who are engaged , in the industry, and because I know how vital it is that Australia should be self-contained. I cannot understand how men who went through the recent war can say that they are not in favour of establishing industries here.
– Because the manufacturer took full advantage of the war to bump up his prices.
– Supposing we admit that, who has said it oftener than myself in this House? I pointed but in this Chamber during the war that manufacturers, importers, and everybody else had increased their prices without justification. I advanced a scheme here with which nobody else was in sympathy in order to prevent that sort of thing, but because that was done, and because this Parliament permitted it to be done, is that any reason why, at this juncture, we should allow our industries- to be strangled, especially when- we have from, the Minis- ‘ tera guarantee that he will appoint a Board to- keep an eye on these things, so far as the Constitution will permit him? What greater- safeguard can we have -than that, unless it be the granting of further powers under the Constitution than -we have at present?’ The-‘ position to me is unchallengeable. I do not know how . any one can-‘ argue against the fact that we. must be self-contained and keep our own industries going. Take, as an example, one of the subsidiary industries. A couple of months ago I met a man’ who -had been working at the nail works. They were then idle, and are still idle. ‘ I asked, him why, and he replied, “ Because we cannot get orders; and unless the Tariff protects us our industry will be a dead letter.” A great deal of money has been put into that particular company, which did not make big profits during the war,., because it has. only been established since the war ended. Are we going to allow works of that kind to become . defunct, or shall we impose a Tariff- sufficient to keep. them in existence? . There is no. other question- to be answered.
– How will this Tariff help those nail- works people?
– If we. put on a duty sufficient to . prevent foreign goods from coming in, they will, have a chance to capture the local market. .
– And they will not put up their prices, will they?.
– I could not say that, so far as the nail works are concerned.
– If they do- put up their prices, will not the consumer payf .
– Of course, the consumer will pay. That is always the Free Trade argument. Who else will pay but the consumer ? Who pays for everything ?
– The producer, generally.
– The producer also happens to be a consumer, and- the consumer pays for everything. The whole question is whether we should produce all that we require within Australia. If we do; and if we keep the- conditions of the Australian people up to such a level that . they can have everything necessary to rear families in reasonable comfort, we shall be doing good work. If We take the duties off, as’ the honorable, member’ for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley)- would infer that we should, we shall allow cheap stuff to come in from outside, and provide no employment for our own people: ‘ Someof those’ who advocate that ‘course are, ‘strange to say, in favour of bringing immigrants to Australia. If we bring them here, what are we going to. give them to do?’ The representatives of the producers say that they are doing nothing, and that it is of no use to put immigrants on the land, because there’ is no outlet for their produce: ‘‘If we are not going to settle them on ‘ the land, where are we to employ them if we do not establish industries? Do honorable members want to see 100,000 men walking abouf the streets looking for employment in the next six months, while with -our money we give employment to people on the other side of the world ? That’ is the effect of their argument. They say, “ It does not matter about populating Australia so long as we can get things a little cheaper from abroad, -even if -by so doing we give employment to the foreigner who is working under worse conditions than our own people.” I hope the Committee will not adopt any such policy, and that we shall not go back to conditions prior’ to the war when we ‘ were dependent on people abroad. We can be self-contained; We ‘ have these industries fairly well” on their feet, and it- would be. a retrograde step to permit the free entry into this” country from abroad of materials manufactured under conditions much worse than our own. If we do not have a reasonable Tariff, one of two things must happen. Either these works will have to make a reduction so far as their- work-‘ men’ are concerned, or they will have to close down.
– Oh, no!
– What other result is possible when we have evidence to-day that contracts are being accepted here from Great Britain, because that country can supply . certain materials cheaper than they can be manufactured here? We can expect that condition to become intensified . during the next six or twelve months, because, judging by what is happening abroad, there will be still, further reductions. Everything is coming -down.
– But you have the’ evidence’ that Canada, although she has to import’ a great quantity of coal and pay duty on it as well, has still been able to build, up her industry with far less protection against America than we. have against England.
– I am not familiar with what Canada has done, but the history of the . United States of America shows what . that country did to establish her. iron and steel industry. “We also, have, to go through the mill. “We have_ to do what the United States of America has done. The records show that in America, as time went on, the industry became established, and the products from the local factories became cheaper. That is an answer to the statement made just now by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, by interjection, that the Tariff would increase prices for all time. If we establish industries on a proper footing, they will have a market, and the greater their output the lower will be their selling price. If the Minister has control over the manufacturing^ industries and . is able to see that everything is fair and above board, what else can we ask for? I do not- know what we have to complain about. I hope the Minister will make a plain statement of his intentions. I trust that he is prepared to increase the general Tariff and deal adequately with the question of exchange 80 aa to prevent Belgium and other countries dumping their stuff here. If he does that, he will be doing good service for Australia, and will not increase the cost of these articles to any extent, if at all. We ought to conserve this market for our industries, and make sure that we do not- allow competition from abroad, because the competition I have indicated is really out-throat competition. Nobody can say that it is fair competition. Everything is falling in price on the other side of the world, as we see in the cables day by day, and it is our duty as legislators to protect this young country from that sort of thing happening here. I hope the Minister will make a statement now regarding his intentions, in order to shorten the debate, and that he will submit proposals more favorable than those that appear in the schedule as it stands in the Tariff at the present time.
.- Having listened to the very earnest address of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), I wish to put an other side of the case.. The honorable-, member has made out quite, a goodcase. for the iron- industry and the. employees in it, but in doing so he has attempted to. lay a very heavy tax on people who at present cannot afford it. . When I interjected-,, in the course of his speech, . that quite a number of men on the land, had been hay-, ing a hard time, and. that increased duties on iron would press on them with undue severity,, he doubted my statement, that so many men were suffering.. It. so happens that to-day I received a letter, from an agent in one of the very best districts in New South Wales. This is a district that I know well, and I know the writer personally. He has lived there for over thirty years, and has been a stock and station agent in the township and the district for over twenty years. He knows the conditions of the small man on the land there very thoroughly. I shall read what he has to say, because I do not want the honorable member for Hunter or the Committee to think that I am trying to exaggerate the distress of the people in the country districts., I shall read it inorder to show that men actually in the business, whose interests , are in it, and who understand it from beginning to end, realize to the full the severity of the present pressure on the small holders. If we pile taxation on them, or go on imposing duties for the sake of bolstering up other industries, I do not see how these men are going to continue.
– I doubt whether their position is not worse under the Bawra scheme, which the honorable member supported.
-I was against the Bawra scheme.
– I know; but a number’ of the honorable member’s colleagues supported it. .
– The House made a grievous mistake in supporting that scheme. The letter to which I have referred is as follows: -
Almost every man to-day owes some one money. As arule, in the country districts the small grazier and farmer owes the produce merchant, the general storekeeper, and the stock and station agent considerablesums of money. The agent, merchant, and storekeeper owe this money to the bank. This in normal times would not matter, as the money is not remaining stationary, a dead debt, as it were, but is being passed round one man to another; in debt to-day and out to-morrow, and so on, money changing hands and being turned over daily. But in abnormal times like the present, the banker Bays to. the storekeeper or merchant, or whoever is the first borrower, “ You must reduce your overdraft, or, at any rate, you must not exceed your limit.” He, in turn, hands the bad news to the next borrower, and it comes back to the man on the land, big or small. He makes all sorts of efforts to meet the calls on him by sacrificing his stock, which is his capital, by doing without almost everything usually considered a necessity of life, and by not employing any labour at all, and the casual labourer goes to swell the unemployed.
The fact cannot be too strongly emphasized that the small man on the land continually goes without what the average person in the city considers absolute necessaries of life. These men live in a very much harder way than the wage-earner in the cities; yet all the time the House seems to be going in the direction of bolstering up the city wageearners, whom we can protect, at the expense of these men who are living a much harder life, and whom we cannot protect. The writer continues -
Now if you will read the last September speech of the chairman pf the Bank of New South Wales you will find that he says every ewe saved in Australia is a national asset worth at least £3. The Minister for Lands, in the New South Wales Parliament, said the same thing, and almost every man in the Commonwealth agreed; and we find that good ewes are being sold at every fat stock market in the State at 10s. to15s. per head. I have Been them sold in the last few weeks at 3s. each. The only reason is that people are being forced to sell to meet engagements, and the man with money is also selling his fat stock at the present low prices because he can replace them from less fortunately placed men as stores, at prices so low as to make one wonder whether it is worth while to hold land at all.
– Does the honorable member intend to show that the duty on pig-iron affects the people to whom he has referred ?
– I am trying to answer the argument of the honorable member for Hunter, who advocated increased duties on iron and iron products. As the honorable member for Barker (Mr Livingston) rightly interjects, the man on the land cannot manage his property without using iron wire. As a matter of fact, to-day, country which has been well improved is falling into a state of disrepair because of the high cost of wire, wire-netting, and iron; yet to-day we in this House are going the. right way to make them still dearer. What this man states in his letter are, to my knowledge, as well as his, absolute facts regarding the position as it now exists throughout a gTeat portion of the Commonwealth. Australia to-day is millions of sheep short. It has a few more cattle than it had fifteen or sixteen years ago, but despite the fact that we have had a smaller increase in cattle than in population, and that our markets have widened throughout the world, the price of cattle to-day is worse than it was ten or fifteen years ago. Despite the fact that we are millions of sheep short, and that our market for sheep has widened, sheep art not worth as much to-day as they were ten or fifteen years ago.
– The public arc not getting the benefit.
– Nor is the grower. Wool to-day is at such a price that every practical man knows that it will not pay for the growing.
– Would you ask that, because of the bad position these people are in, we should have no Tariff at all. in order to allow what they require to come in cheaper?
– No, I have never advocated any such thing. I have advocated Free Trade within the Empire as far as possible, but I have never advocated free imports from the rest of the world. We can do a very great deal to keep the iron and steel trade within the Empire, because Great Britain has been and is one of the greatest iron producers in the world. We do not want to see the introduction of cheap German and Belgian iron products, but we can go a very long way towards keeping down the terrible costs that are being imposed upon our struggling primary producers. Even if British products do cost a little more, the quality will make up for the difference. Any man who has had to do with fencing wire will prefer the British product every time if it can be obtained at anything like the same price as the product from other countries. That is what I stand for in this House. I rose particularly for the purpose of impressing on the Committee the fact that there are two sides to this question. It is very easy for the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) . and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) to be impressed with the conditions that obtain in Newcastle. Every one knows how important the iron and steel industry is to the welfare of that city. I have been over the works myself, and I appreciate their value as a national asset, but we cannot afford to destroy other assets, which may be even more important to Australia, in order to bolster up that particular industry.
– Will you show how my proposal will do that?
– I understand the honorable member proposes to increase the duty on pig iron by 50 per cent. If that is done the primary producer will have to pay more for his material and machinery, and in some cases may be unable to carry on in competition with producers from other parts of the world. Unless we can ease up the burdens that are pressing on the primary producers of the Commonwealth a tremendous number of them - and they are the mainstay of Australia - will go under. Unfortunately, our primary producers cannot be protected, so that all we can do by means of this Tariff is to. make the burdens as light as possible and enable them to get the best price possible for their products in the open markets of the world.
.- During my remarks upon this item last week I made certain statements with regard to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s operations that were doubted by honorable members opposite. I have the greatest respect for the enterprise of that company, and last week I said I was prepared to support the Tariff provision proposed by the Minister (Mr. Greene) in order to help in building up the iron and steel industry in Australia; but that, at the same time, I was opposed to the creation of any local monopolies or combines which might prejudicially affect the welfare of the Commonwealth.
– When you spoke last week you were not aware of the Minister’s proposal to appoint a Board?
– That is quite true. I said that the Austral Nail Company was one of the subsidiary industries which, I thought, was under the thumb of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Honorable members opposite challenged the statement, and asked for the name of the manager, which I said was Mr. MacDougall, and I was thereupon told that he had never appeared in the Arbitration Court, and had not made any statement. I have gone to the trouble of examining the minutes of the Arbitration Court, and for the information of honorable members I desire to read the following, which is an abstract from a transcript of evidence given in the Court of Industrial Arbitration of New South Wales, before His Honour Judge Curlewis, on Thursday, 24th February, 1921 : -
Re Wire Makers, &c. (Austral Nail Proprietary Co. Ltd.) award. - Application by wire netting workers of New South Wales for variation.
Re same. - Application by Australian Steel Industry Union for variation.
Re Wire Makers, &e. (State) Board. - Application by wire netting workers of New South Wales for award re wire makers and’ wire drawers.
Re same. - Application by Australian Steel Industry Union for award re barbed wire and wire nail makers (Austral Nail Pty. Co. Ltd.).
Re Wire Netting Makers (State) award. - Application by wire netting workers of New South Wales for variation.
Ronald Malcolm MacDougall, sworn, examined, deposed.
To Mr. Braye. - I am the director of the Austral Nail Company Ltd. That company carries on its work at Port Waratah, Newcastle, on the Broken Hill Company’s land.
To his Honour. - We don’t pay rent for the land, but the buildings belong to the Broken Hill Propty. Co. Ltd., and ‘we pay interest to them on the cost of the buildings. That is equivalent to rent.
To Mr. Braye. - Our industry is the manufacture of iron and steel wire and wire nails.
To His Honour. - Wire rods are our raw material.
To Mr. Braye. - That is drawn from the Broken Hill Co. The raw material is brought from within a quarter of a mile of our works. There is no other means by which we could manufacture there except by drawing steel from the Broken Hill Propty.’s works.
To His Honour. - Under our agreement with the Broken’ Hill Co., we are bound to buy from them for a period of ten (10) years, of which two (2) years have expired. While we are there we have to draw the raw material from them on account of our agreement.
To Mr. Braye. - We canget our material into the works … by rail by courtesy of the Broken Hill Propty. Ltd.
His Honour. - You might as well, say that they are subsidiary to the coal industry because they set coal from it.
Mr. MacDougall. The Broken Hill Co. put down the rod mill for drawing the wire rods.
In conference with us they decided that they did ‘ not want to carry the manufacture any further themselves, if we would do it for them. Under those circumstances we entered into the agreement’ with them. There was no interchange of capital. The Broken Hill Co. supply all sorts of people with all sorts of tilings; but they have a say in the management of our company in the question of all sales policies. It is all referred to their sales committee.
I may have been guilty of an exaggeration last week when I said that the Austral Nail Company could not sell a pound of nails without the permission of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. What I really meant was that they could not alter their selling price without permission. While I admit it would be advantageous if the subsidiary industries could be developed by means of cheap raw material, we must be very careful not to encourage the creation of monopolies such as exist to-day in the United States of America. I accept the Minister’s assurance that the existing provision in the Tariff is ample, and if the Board which the Minister has promised to appoint at any time advises that the industry is not being sufficiently protected, I should be prepared to give any recommendations it might make careful consideration.
– Is this Mr. MacDougall mentioned in the Arbitration Court proceedings the Mr. MacDougall you referred to last week ?
– Do you know what is the cause of all the trouble? The raw products ought to be nationalized, so that they may be obtained at a reasonable price.
– As I have already pointed out, we must be very careful that local monopolies do not exercise too great an influence over subsidiary industries. One has only to look, at present prices for spelter to realize this. We are producing the raw material for spelter in the Commonwealth; the local price is £36 per ton, but the London price is only £24 per ton. This is not fair to the Australian public.
– And the same applies to copper; the local price is 25 per cent, above open-market rates.
– As an Australian, I desire to support these industries in order that Australia may become a selfcontained nation ; but 1 do not intend to allow my vote to be used to create combines or trusts that may operate unfairly against the general community.
– Last week I denied your statement that the managing director of the Austral Nail Company had made that statement. Now you say it is the same gentleman. They are not one and the same. In justice to him, this should be made clear.
– I am perfectly aware of all the facts. When I made the statement, Mr. MacDougall, senior, was in the gallery, and he said he had never been in, Court. 1 never said he had. Honorable members were at cross purposes with me.
– How is the formation of a combine relevant to the amendment to raise the Tariff on this item?
– My contention is that if the Tariff is raised above what I consider to be a fair thing, there will be grave danger of allowing control of key industries to pass into the hands of a privileged few. I have listened carefully to the speeches made by honorable members on this important industry. Up to the present their arguments have not convinced me that it would be wise to increase the protection. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) spoke in favour of a reduction rather than an increase. However, I am glad the subject has been fully ventilated. I admit that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has done a great deal for Australia up to the present, and, as I have already said, I am prepared to help that company and Hoskins Brothers to develop this industry; but we must be careful not to allow trusts and combines to become operative in Australia.
– I must ask the Committee to allow the matter to go to the vote. Every member of the Committee, I am sure, realizes that the iron and steel industry is of vital importance to the welfare of Australia, and agrees that nothing should be done to jeopardize its future. Our national security depends, in great measure, upon its satisfactory development.
– You are flattering some of them.
– I cannot bring myself to believe that any member of the Committee would wilfully take up any other attitude. Some honorable members may believe that the industry oan do without this duty; I do not believe that it can. The whole question is whether the proposed duties are adequate. I am of opinion that if the industry is faced with genuine competition from any other country they are adequate, but by themselves they are not adequate protection against dumping. If it is a question of coping with the exchange position I still say that the duties in the schedule arc inadequate, and so are those proposed by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). That situation has to be met by special legislation.
– I am basing my amendment on the ordinary increased costs during the last twelve months.
– I wish the honorable member to realize that at the time these duties were .proposed they were not required at all, and the proof of that is that there is not a single iron or steel product turned out by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company which was not being sold at less than the world’s price. The duties were designed to meet not the then existing conditions, but conditions which are fast approaching. Every instance which has been quoted in support of the amendment has arisen not from competition under normal conditions, but from the abnormal conditions of exchange. If we were to attempt in this schedule to meet those abnormal conditions, where should we land ourselves? We should require to put on a rate of duty against America, for instance, which is not required at all, and which would absolutely prohibit any imports from that country.
– According to to-day’s paper there i3 a big drop in Pittsburg prices.
– We should not attempt to meet these extraordinary conditions by this schedule, but by special legislation. And it seems to me that, whether the competition arising out of the exchange position comes directly from the country in which there is a depreciated currency in relation to our own or indirectly through some other country, we should be prepared to meet it in both cases by somewhat similar provisions. That is to say, if the iron and steel manufacturers of Great Britain say, “We cannot produce our own iron and steel and export it to Australia in competition with the local article, so we will use the exchange position to buy German blooms, and roll them into Tods and bars for export to Australia,,” w<-> should be prepared to meet that competition in exactly the same way as we would cope with direct competition from Belgium. I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee now. I ask honorable members to proceed to a vote, and I suggest to the honorable member for Newcastle that if his amendment is defeated it will be competent for him to test the opinion of the Committee again on the general Tariff. I hope honorable members will feel perfectly free to vote as they deem desirable on the question of raising the general Tariff, and leaving the British Tariff as it is in the schedule.
– After all these days of fighting that is no concession at all. I say that we should continue to fight on.
-I suggest to honorable members that they should decide the question by a vote.
.- 1 cannot accept the Minister’s su!»e:est,ion.
– Does the honorable member wish to “stone-wall” the Tariff?
– I do not.
– That is what the honorable member is doing.
– I occupy the time of the Committee only when there is work to. do. I am not always “ gabbing “ to the gallery like some of the honorable members who are now saying that we should take the amendment to a vote. If, after the long debate we have had on this question we on this side of the House, who have tried to help the Government in getting the Tariff through, are to be flouted simply because of a request from the Corner party, who have caused trouble all through the piece, the Government will find that they will not make as good progress in future as they ‘have made so far. It is surprising to hear men, who call themselves moderate Protectionists, using the same old Free Trade arguments which we have heard from others whose attitude we can respect, because they are believers in Free Trade. Such arguments, coming from the lips of men who say that they stand for the development of Australian industry, hut will not help big industries like the steel works because they may become a combine and tyrannical, disgust me. Those honorable members have always some excuse for their attitude; for instance, they allege that, on some occasions, local companies could not supply this or that little thing. I shall tell the Committee the struggle men have had in starting the iron and steel and other industries on account of the tactics adopted to kill local enterprise. In asking for increased duties, I am not thinking only of the big key industries at Broken Hill and Lithgow, but they have been mentioned because no iron and steel works Would have been possible if undertaken by other than the Government or companies which were financially strong. The attempts by smaller people to establish this industry read like romance. When Mr. Sutherland tried to persuade the merchants of Sydney to stock the iron and steel which he said he could produce in the mountains, and to accept payment as they sold the goods, they replied that they would buy him out, but would not buy his steel. He thought he could start the industry with his own capital; but, in disgust, he blew up his furnace with a charge of dynamite. Here is a request that has been forwarded to the Minister (Mr. Greene) from a small engineering firm in my electorate, but one of the oldest established in Australia -
We regret that time would not allow of your making an inspection of our works at the above address, so we take .the liberty of informing you that we have been following in active operation engineering works, foundry, and rolling mill. With regard to the latter, we do similar work to the Lion rolling mills of Melbourne, and manufacture iron and steel bars. ….
In view of this, it would be impossible for us to keep the mill going should Belgian competition continue as it is doing, and this would mean a number of men thrown out of employment. Wo respectfully submit that assistance should be given to the industry by increasing the duty to allow us to develop this industry.
– It is Belgian competition of which they complain.
-But my figures have related not to the exchange position, but to the general increase of costs.
– Those people will require ft protection different from that for which the honorable member is asking.
– All these conditions have been considered in connexion with the series of amendments which I intend to submit to the Committee. When a person buys a sheet of galvanized iron or a steel rod, or fencing wire, he expects it to last for thirty or forty years, and, even if the price he pays has been increased to the extent of the duty on the imported article, he pays it only once in that time. But on articles of food and clothing, which the people use every day of their lives, we have increased the duties by as much as 100 per cent. . I have every sympathy with the people working on the land - indeed, my own boy is making a start there - but they must have local as well as foreign markets for their produce. Apart altogether from the exchange, the duties imposed in this schedule have been practically obliterated by certain increased costs during the last twelve months. And other means are being adopted. Will honorable members believe that in tenders for State Government works the engineers require the local article to undergo about forty tests, as against the four to which the steel from Great Britain and foreign countries must be submitted. The goods that come from abroad are accepted at their own standard, and the Australian output is submitted to impossible tests in order to keep it up to the standard set up for steel produced in Australia. This is due to an evil influence bearing hard upon Australia from outside. It may be taken for granted, of course, that some special form of legislation will be necessary to deal with the matter of exchange; but these tests of the Australian product are altogether unfair. A man closely interested in the Australian enterprise was going through some great steels works in America, and he told the manager about the tests insisted upon here. The manager’s comment was, “ Do you ever manage to make a steel rail at all? We could not do so here under tests like that.” The state of affairs is one which is tending to kill a basic Australian industry. When the Government went before the country the assurance was given that they would not only protect existing industries, but would extend protection wherever it could be shown that any one was about to invest his capital in the establishment of a new industry. How have the Government fulfilled this pledge ?
– They are doing so.
– Yes; they have fulfilled it in respect of bananas and onions. But here is a great key enterprise employing, directly and indirectly,between 30,000 and 40,000 people, and the attitude of the Government is such as they might display towards a little side-show. In my earlier experiences of politics in New South Wales I recall that wheat was imported into Australia. The farmers, then, were the keenest Protectionists in all the land. They sought for the imposition of a duty of 3d’, per bushel. I voted to assist them, because I believed that I was helping the man on the land. I have assisted to increase the duties on bananas and onions; but now I am to get nothing in return. I ask honorable members to put aside altogether the factor of the Belgian product. The Australian producers have been beaten twice now in their own market by British competitors, even though the latter had to quote against existing duties, and despite that the Australian price was at bedrock. Where did the question of foreign exchange come in?
– But the British competitors were rolling German blooms.
– What sort of a Government have we? On the one hand they pledge themselves to protect Australian industries, both existing and to come. On the other hand they refuse to give the Australian industry adequate protection against British competitors who are using German material.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting me. I have told the Committee that it is my purpose to meet that position.
– Then why does not the Minister do so?
– We cannot- do so by adding 10s. to the British rate for pig iron.
– We are facing a serious position. Added to our other competitors there is the Indian menace. Australia is likely to be overwhelmed with iron and steel made by cheap Indian labour. We have been beaten in our own market by British competitors, to whom the existing duties were no deterrent. What further proof do honorable members require that we are not sufficiently protected? . In order to endeavour to defeat my amendment the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has adopted tactics which, as he gets older, he will be glad to drop.
– The honorable member was quite honest.
– I do not doubt it; but I repeat that, as the honorable member gains political experience, he will not lend himself to such tactics. I, for one, would not stand idle and watch any interest becoming so powerful as to be able to enforce unfair conditions upon smaller and dependent enterprises. But the honorable member for Parkes did not put the position fairly. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company was producing the basic product. It did not wish to go in for the manufacture of smaller lines. However, when the war broke out and this country could not get certain requirements from outside sources, the company came to the rescue and turned out numbers of minor products.
– The company only did so when outside enterprise would not or could not supply the demand.
– That is true. Its policy has been to produce the big thing, and to encourage and assist subsidiary activities to group themselves around it.. There was nothing in the particulars which the honorable member for Parkes quoted beyond ordinary business methods. I recall that a week or so ago the honorable member for Parkes made an allusion to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company “ pinching “ some other industry. I have the facts contained in correspondence before me; these demonstrate that there is a very considerable difference between giving preferential treatment and conceding ordinary fair play. The type of industry which makes a country great is that which keeps numbers of sub-industries supplied with their basic requirements. Quite apart from Belgian competition, owing to the unusual conditions which have prevailed during recent months, the duties in the schedule are practically inoperative. The Minister put the position very unfairly when he said that when the present rates were agreed upon they were not required at all. It is quite true that at one period we had natural protection, as very little shipping space was available, and, consequently, importations were not coming forward; but that is not the position today.
– I said that because the honorable member had been contending that owing to the changed conditions in Australia the duty had been voided.
– Twelve months ago we were not so concerned with the duties imposed, because Australian industries were in a position to compete with manufacturers abroad; but wages have increased, hours have been reduced, and coal has gone up in price. While conditions in Australia have been altering in that direction, wages abroad have been reduced, as also have freights, with the result that the protection we enjoyed has been removed.
– If Australian manufacturers had adequate protection in consequence of high freights, or the absence of freight, that would have to be calculated against increased costs from that time up to the present.
– There is no shortage of freight to-day.
– Assuming that the shortage of freights gave the Australian manufacturer protection to the extent of 35 or 40 per cent., we would have to add that to our present rates.
– It would have to be added to put them in a similar position.
– No; they have gone back 50 per cent., and not 25 per cent.
– The Minister has gone back 100 per cent.
– Why does not the honorable member quote figures in regard to the rail contract he mentioned?
– In dealing with this matter last week, I pointed out that coal had increased in price by 4s. per ton during the past twelve months.
– We all know that. We want further information concerning the contract for rails which the Australian manufacturers failed to secure.
– I have not the figures before me, but I have received other particulars from an expert who has given the matter close attention.
– Then, why not get the difference in the price of the tenders from the same authority?
– The honorable member will not bamboozle me. I have already informed the Committee that the Australian manufacturers submitted a bedrock price.
– Yes; but we want to know the difference in the tenders submitted.
– The honorable member knows the ordinary conditions of tendering, and must realize -that there would not be any conditions which would specifically favour an Australian manufacturer. I was informed that manufacturers who had to pay duty on their products secured the contract; and, quite apart from exchange or anything else, that should be sufficient to prove that higher duties should be imposed. It has been said by some honorable members that, if we agree to additional imposts, trusts and combines will be created, and prices increased. But if we destroy our own industries, from whom shall we have to purchase? The Australian consumer will be at the mercy of the foreign trusts, and will have to pay probably ten times more for his goods than he is paying today. I ask the Minister not to depend too much upon the legislation he proposes introducing, but to amend the duties. If it is desirable to increase the rates on bananas to 8s. 4d. per cental, and on onions to £6 per ton, surely it is of greater importance to protect the iron and steel industry of the Commonwealth. The iron and steel industry was of inestimable value to Australia during the war period; and now that it is developing and reaching a stage when it can meet the whole of our requirements, it is unreasonable to suggest that the protection it shall be afforded shall be governed by legislation to be introduced at a later date.
– The honorable member voted for the increased duties to which he referred.
– Yes, and I am supporting increased duties on imported iron and steel.
– But the imported bananas were produced by coloured labour.
– Yes, and rails manufactured in India are made by black labour.
– The honorable member conscientiously voted for an increased duty on bananas?
– Then, does he not think that we are acting similarly?
– If the members of the Country party supported higher duties on the commodities I have mentioned, and refuse to help an industry of the magnitude of the one I am endeavouring to defend, they are anything but consistent.
– When did the honorable member realize that this industry required fresh protection?
– I have always supported the establishment of such an industry in Australia.
– Originally, the company asked for a 12^ per cent. duty.
– Yes. The request was very modest, and the same can be said of the one I am now submitting. The present duty, at the time of the introduction of this Tariff, was equivalent to an increase of about 22 per cent., but, commercially speaking, it is now of very little effect; whereas honorable members of the Country party asked for and received protection to the extent of 100 peT cent, on other industries. In comparison with the American Tariff, the rates I suggest are very reasonable.
– Does the honorable member wish a high Protective Tariff to have the same result here as it had in America?
– Honorable members know that I am not sympathetically disposed towards trusts or combines; but I have an interest in the welfare of the people engaged in this industry and in the conditions under which they have to work. If we are to have trusts and combines, let us have them in Australia, where we can deal with them. I again ask the Minister to consider the conditions prevailing, quite apart from the question of exchange, and to realize that, although the duties in the schedule may have been effective twelve months ago, they are practically useless to-day.
– What goods are being imported now?
– I have already shown that iron rods, presumably from Belgium, are coming to Australia.
– The consumers were asked to purchase abroad.
– That would not account for the whole quantity. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) did not speak in that strain the other evening, when he endeavoured to prove that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company could not supply our requirements.
– I quoted from an article which stated that consumers were requested to import their requirements for six months. I also mentioned that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company did not submit a tender for the iron and steel required in connexion with the Morwell electrification scheme.
– I understood the honorable member to use the argument the other night that we are not yet selfsupporting in the matter of the products of this industry. I admit that during the shipping strike the Broken Hill Proprietary Company told their customers, and very fairly, I think-
– Yes, very fairly. T think they are a good firm.
– They told their customers that they could not get shipping around Australia, and advised them to buy wherever they could in the meantime. But the material required by their customers during that time did not represent more than a fraction of the imports of that material within the last few months. There are items following the one now under discussion which are related to it, and in connexion witu onn of those items I am in a position to inform honorable members that a lender by another Australian firm was beaten by an importing firm in one of the southern States. That was again an instance of the defeat of the Australian industry in spite of the duties imposed by this Tariff, and without any reference at all to rates ot exchange. Honorable members are aware that some of the subsidiary industries established in the neighbourhood of the Newcastle works have had to close. I read a letter tonight from a firm that must shortly close. There are thousands of unemployed walking about the streets of Sydney, and hundreds in my own electorate. These things cannot be accounted for by the operation of the rate of exchange, and I once more ask honorable members to remember that we are dealing here with a most important industry, and that increased duties are necessary to protect its interests. I trust, therefore, that they will support my amendment.
.- I do not think that I am called upon to express any very great sympathy with, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) ; but I do say that the honorable member for. Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has not been as fair to him as he might have been in connexion with this Tariff. I cannot see that conditions in Australia in regard to foreign trade have changed during the past night or ten years so much as has been suggested. We have had to meet far greater difficulties than at present exist. We know the demand that there was after the war for iron and steel, and that manufacturers were unable to supply the world’s demands.I have said that, the honorable member for Newcastle is not quite fair in his complaint that the Minister for Trade and Customs has not proposed a sufficient duty on this item. I have prepared some statistics to show what the duties now proposed represent on the basis of the imports of 1913 for the sub-items a, b, c, and d of the item now under discussion. They represent in all over £700,000, and so far as the iron and steel industry is concerned the proposal means something like £2,500,000 extra that the people of Australia would be called upon to pay, and on the top of that they must pay the profits of the retailers. I should like to know where the honorable member for Newcastle and other honorable members of the party opposite were in 1914 when the Labour party brought down the 1914 Tariff? I have that Tariff before me, and could quote from it item after item. It is sufficient to say that under that Tariff iron and steel were “ free.” Hoskins had been fighting a battle in New South Walesto establish the industry for years before the introduction of that Tariff,. and the Broken Hill Company had established . their works for some years before 1914.
– There was a bounty paid on steel and iron at that time.
– I say that in 1914 the Labour party brought down a Tariff under which iron and steel were free, but as the Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted these industries went off with a spring. They had a magnificent market and a glorious opportunity. They had no competition, and should have been able to establish themselves so firmly as to be in a position to compete at least with Great Britain without the assistance of this duty. Where was the honorable member for Newcastle in 1914? Where was the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) in that year?
– What does this prove?
– It proves that honorable members opposite realized at that time, from the reports from the Tariff Commission, that a duty on these goods was not necessary.
Mr.Fenton. - Not a single line of the 1914 Tariff was discussed, and the honorable member knows that. We never had a chance to discuss it.
– I know that the 1914 Tariff was not discussed. But surely the members of the Labour party at that time had some say, not, perhaps in regard to details, but in the framing of the Tariff generally.
– The honorable member must know that that is ridiculous.
– Ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if his party decided the Tariff now under consideration.
– The Tariff of 1914 was the Tariff of the Fisher Government.
– Yes; the Tariff of the Labour party.
– We never expressed an opinion upon it.
– No; you dumbly accepted it from 1914 to 1920, and saw the industry progress under Free Trade. I have no doubt that it was brought by the Labour Minister for Trade and Customs under the consideration of the Cabinet of the day before it was submitted to the House.
– Did the present Minister for Trade and Customs tell honorable members opposite what he proposed to do before he introduced this Tariff?
– Most decidedly not.
– The Ministry did not know it, much less members of the Ministerial party.
– I am satisfied that the Minister for Trade and Customs put the Tariff before the Cabinet, and it was discussed in Cabinet. I have been advised that that is so.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
-I was asking where honorable members opposite were when the Tariff of 1914 was introduced. Was there one honorable member opposite who then said a word in regard to this great industry? From 1914 up to the time of the introduction of the present Tariff, is there one honorable member on the other side who ever said that duties were needed for this industry to prosper and flourish? In the 1914 Tariff, it will be found that item after item affecting this industry covered articles that were to be admitted free.
– I have already said that the Tariff was never discussed.
– I say that it was the Labour party’s Tariff, brought in by a Labour Administration.
– Does the honorable member think that any party in this House makes the Tariff a party question?
– I am not too sure of it now.
– The voting on the Tariffs will show that it is not made a party question.
– Does the honorable member mean to tell me that the Tariff is not a Ministerial matter, or that every member of the Ministry is not a party to the Tariff introduced by that Ministry; or, further, that . he has not made his amendment a party matter? In my opinion the Minister for Trade and Customs has proposed in this case more than a fair thins; for the benefit of this industry. With the exception of the honorable member for Newcastle, there has been no honorable member opposite who has attempted to show that higher duties are necessary on this item.
– There has been no request made for higher duties.
– It is only within the last’ few days that any such request has been made. It is many a year ago since the iron and steel industry was started in this country, under practically Free Trade conditions. Let me inform honorable members that in 1907 we exported from Australia 21,060 cwt. of pig iron, at an average of £3 12s. per ton. In 1908 we exported 40,270 cwt., at £3 8s. 9d. per ton, and in each following year, up to 1914, we not only manufactured pig iron for sale in Australia, but exported it at an average rate of from £3 8s. 9d. to £3 13s. 4d. per ton.
– What was the rate of bounty per ton in the years referred to?
– I am not sure; but the honorable member can say what it was if he remembers it. In 1920 we exported 19.229 tons of pig iron at an average value of £8 13s. per ton. So that we have been considerable exporters of this material. It is right that we should consider the subsidiary industries of this country. We must remember that merchants dealing in iron and steel will, in the prices they quote, add their profits to the duty, and that in every case the price of the local article will be brought right up to the cost of the imported article. The honorable member for Newcastle has spoken of a local firm losing a tender in competition with an importing firm. The other night I quoted the prices charged for steel rails. I showed that, prior to the war, the price charged for Australian steel rails was £8 16s. per ton f.o.b. at Port Augusta; and the present price is £17 15s., or an increase of over 100 per cent, on the pre-war price. I showed that the price of fish-bolts before the war was £21 6s. per tonf.o.b. Port Augusta, and the present price is £56 10s. per ton, or an increase of nearly 300 per cent.
– What are the American prices?
– I have not the American prices before me. I have received several letters from manufacturers in connexion with this matter, and one in particular from a manufacturer at Ballarat, in which he points out how these duties are affecting manufacturers of oil engines. He is a manufacturer in the country, and is interested in this matter. He shows how people are being exploited under the present Tariff. He writes -
We will give pre-war prices and present prices of the raw materials used in the construction of a 6½ h.p. oil engine, the engine which is in the greatest demand for farm purposes.
-What duty does he want on oil engines?
– He wants them to be admitted free.
– The letter continues -
Cast iron, delivered at Ballarat, £4 to £5; present price, £13 10s. Steel channels, £12; present price, £38. Bar steel, delivered at Ballarat, £10; present price, £30. Bright shafting, £17 10s.; present price, £56. Brass tubes, ls. 6d. per lb. ; present price, 5s. 6d. per lb.
These figures show, in some cases, an increase of 300 per cent. The writer of the letter points out that on a 6½ h.p. oil engine, the weight of which is 30 cwt., the prices quoted represent a direct tax of £30. He says that the same figures and remarks apply to all farm implements manufactured in Australia, and that it must be evident that the Tariff must have a serious arid detrimental effect upon the agricultural progress of Australia.
– How could this Tariff raise prices by “300 per cent.?
– Because the markets of the Old Country are not yet supplied, and huge prices are now prevailing for almost everything required for various industries, and particularly for metals. I have quoted the prices of many of these commodities. Before the war tne price of bar and rod iron was £18 10s. per ton, its maximum price was £36 per ton, and to-day it is £30 per ton. The price of fencing wire before the war was £7 10s. per ton, its maximum price was £42 per ton, and its present price is £23 per ton. I do not desire to see prices decline to their pre-war level; but they certainly must come down somewhat, because there is only a certain purchasing power in this country. “When we get beyond that purchasing power, other industries cannot be successfully carried on. If we close down our primary industries, we might as well close down the whole of our secondary industries. In the matter of iron and steel products, for many years we cannot hope to become an exporting country. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company would not lay itself out to manufacture the 200 or 300 items which are required in connexion with the steel industry.
– That difficulty can easily be overcome.
– Not unless the Minister is clothed with power to say that this item shall be admitted free, whilst that item shall pay a duty.
– And that is what I intend to propose.
– The Committee will take care that the Minister is not clothed with that power. There is just one other matter to which I wish to direct attention. At the present time the freight upon these products amounts to £3 per ton, whilst insurance, exchange, &c, represents an additional 8s. 3d. per ton, so that already they enjoy a natural and Tariff protection varying from 58 per cent, to 100 per cent, upon their values. That is an enormous protection, and I hope that honorable members, before granting any increase in that direction, will consider these facts.
– The honorable member has already said that he is not opposed to an increased duty upon the products of countries outside the Empire.
– I wish the duty under the British’ preferential Tariff to be 15s. per ton, and I am quite willing that the other duties shall remain unaltered. I fear, however, that the Minister will succeed in retaining 20s. per ton under the British preferential Tariff, and that he will then give way to honorable members opposite by sanctioning the imposition of larger duties upon foreign products. To my mind there is a grave danger that monopolies will bc created in this, country. The paper which I hold in my hand is a gentlemanly agreement which has been entered into between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and the Steel Association of this country, and we appear to have already reached the stage when . a Combine will control the prices at which these goods shall be sold to the community. The information which has been supplied to me is of so serious a character that the Minister should make prompt inquiries as to whether or not such an agreement is still in existence. Some ‘means should be devised by which the duty upon these commodities can be abolished immediately it can be shown that the manufacturers have entered into an agreement with the wholesale people for the purpose of fixing prices. It is the Minister’s duty to make complete inquiries into this matter, in order that he may be in a position to advise us whether such a combination exists. If it does, it should be squelched immediately. We should do all that is in our power to prevent combinations exploiting the public.
– A combination is not necessarily a bad thing. It is only when it becomes predatory in its action that it is bad.
– When the producers of these articles fix the prices at which they shall be sold by the retailer to the public, there is an element of grave danger. I shall put the papers in my possession before the Minister, and if he does not choose to take action, I shall be compelled at a later stage to make a full statement regarding this matter to the Committee.
.- The Minister might well have given more consideration to the request which has been preferred by honorable members upon this side of the chamber that further assistance be granted to the iron industry. Throughout the whole of the Tariff debate, those who have really supported the honorable gentleman with the object of making the Tariff a truly Australian Tariff, have been members of the party to which I belong.
– A most unholy alliance.
– The honorable member may think so. The members whom the Minister has had to fight, and whom he will have to fight in the future, are those whom he is now endeavouring to placate.
– I am not endeavouring to placate anybody. I am merely attempting to do what I believe to be right.
– We ask that a reasonable measure of protection shall be extended to the iron industry, and the Minister has refused to give our request further consideration. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) ‘and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) have dealt with this question very ably indeed. They have shown what; will be the effect upon the industry of lower duties, and how those duties will affect the great mass of the workers who are engaged in it. This matter mustnot be lightly dismissed, because the problem of unemployment, and of a reduction of wages, involving a lowering of the standard of living, is one which is confronting the entire world to-day. As a result, the workers in industries are fighting to maintain conditions which were fought for on the fields of Flanders. We desire that a cerrtain measure of protection shall be given to the iron industry.
– It has a certain measure of protection.
– But it has not a sufficient protection to enable it to maintain the present standard of wages in competition with the outside world.
– Who says that?
– I do; and so, also, do the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has never said so.
– Has it not?
– No. It has not made any representations to us at all.
– Does the Treasurer say that the industry does not require this protection ?
– It has not said any thing to us.
– Then, because the representatives of the industry have not approached the Government, the Treasurer assumes that they do not require further protection ?
– That is a fair inference.
– If the representatives of the industry approach the right honorable gentleman upon this matter, will he be prepared to gv.ve favorable consideration to their claims ?
– Not necessarily.
– Then what does the Treasurer’s statement mean? Honorable members have, had facts placed before them which go to show what will be the effect upon the industry if the amendment of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) be not carried. I ask the right honorable gentleman to remember that the friends of Australian industry are the members of the Opposition. What do the members of the Corner party say? When it was a question affecting themselves, as, for example, when a duty was proposed upon onions, they exclaimed, “ Oh, yes ! We will grant a duty of 100 per cent.,” and the Government were prepared to placate them by imposing that duty.
– The Country party will put the acid upon the honorable member in Balmain.
– I invite its members to come along and try to do so. These are the gentlemen who asked that the ham and bacon curing industry should be protected. We do not object to that. But when we urge that assistance shall be granted to establish upon a firm basis one of the greatest industries which any country can possess - the iron industry - they exclaim, “ Oh, no! Pig iron must be free,” because it is the other fellow that is to be benefited this time. Members of the Corner party are ready to vote for duties on lucerne and millet, on bananas and onions, on pigs and hams and bacon, and on butter; but when we ask for assistance to establish the iron industry in Australia they say that it cannot be given.
– The iron industry is already established here.
– It is only in its infancy, and needs protection from the competition of the world.
– If these increases we’re granted, would there be an application for higher wages?
– I do not know; but if the industry be not adequately protected, there must be a big slump in the wages of those it employs. We on this side are prepared to assist the Ministry in making this an Australian Tariff; but if we are turned down upon a vital proposal affecting the welfare of thousands of men, women, and children, we must seriously consider our attitude towards the Tariff. Because a blank cartridge has been fired from the cross benches, Ministers seem prepared to drop their guns and to run away.
– I thought that there would be a split in the alliance sooner or later.
– There is no alliance; but members on this side desire the establishment and encouragement of Australian industries. Do we not know that when the war broke out Great Britain and the Dominions were unprepared? “ That being so, we should see that the same thing cannot happen again. The iron industry is a basic one. On it all other industries are built up. To show what the effect of refusing protection to it will be in the reduction of wages, let me draw attention to what is happening in other parts of the world. According to the Iron Age of the 6th January last -
The Bethlehem Steel Co. has announced a reduction of wages at the South Bethlehem plant of from 10 to 20 percent.,effective 16th January. The announcement was made following a joint meeting of the company officials and representatives of the workmen under the employee representation plan in effect at the plant.
The reduction is similar to the one being made at the Lebanon plant. A 10 to 20 per cent, reduction is also, announced for the Sparrows Point plant, effective on the same date. The company employs from 5,000 to 6,000 men under normal conditions.
We require adequate protection against that sort of competition. . Without it the wages of our workmen must come down. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has said that the present high standard cannot be maintained. Certainly it cannot be maintained if the Tariff protection is low. For a proper duty on iron and steel it is impossible to depend upon the support of honorable members of the Country party, who, in respect of items affecting themselves will vote for duties of 100 per cent., but in respect of items affecting the industrialists want no duty whatever. Their remedy for the situation is to bring down wages. They would have the industrialists accept lower wages, and their wives and children wear shoddier clothing and eat coarser food. The representatives of the workers, however, stand for adequate’ protection for the maintenance and building up of Australian industries. We are fighting for the maintenance of proper living conditions for the workers of Australia. We are not prepared to stand idly by while the interests of the workers are being slaughtered.
– Are they being slaughtered now?
– No, but they will be if we are not careful.
– The workers in this industry have been carrying on under the present Tariff for twelve months. Have they been slaughtered?
– But wages in other countries have come down since the Tariff was submitted.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has said that he will cure that trouble in another way, but the Opposition apparently will not accept his word.
– If the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) will give reasonable consideration to our request we shall be satisfied.
– The Opposition have been told that the Minister will take care that no harm comes to this industry.
– That reply is typical of the right honorable gentleman. We want something more.
– What do you want? You are asking for a 50 per cent, increase in the duty on a raw material.
– But the Government have not offered to give us even a smaller increase than that for which we ask.
– If the Acting Prime Minister would agree to report progress at this stage I am sure that when wo met to-morrow he would see the reasonableness of the request of the Opposition. 1 can readily understand that it may not be the policy of the Government to accept holus bolus the amendment moved by the honorable member for Newcastle, but we should have an assurance that the Government are prepared to give reasonable consideration to the request for an increase.
– The Opposition are not the only members who want an increased duty.
– Quite so. I have been pointing out that it is men like the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) on the Government side of the House who are joining with us in the effort to make this a truly Australian Tariff. The only honorable members who are standing against our proposal, and to whom the Government are bending the knee, are the bitter enemies of Australian industries.
– That is not correct.
– May be it is not quite correct. Honorable members of the Countryparty areinfavour ofAustralian industries where their own interests are concerned, but not in favour of those conducted bv others. Willthe Acting Prime Ministergive some consideration to this matter?
– Honorable members opposite know nothing of consideration. They have been trying to bludgeon us; they have been threatening us for nearly a week over this one item.
– Give some reasonable consideration to our representations and we shall be satisfied. If the Acting Prime Minister is not prepared to do that I shall have to proceed with my quotation of figures showing how wages have fallen in England and the immediate danger threatening our own workers.
– The inference to be drawn from what the honorable member is saying is that as wages fall in England and America the cost of production there will be cheaper. May I point out to him that as that takes place the protection for which the Tariff now provides will automatically increase?
– How does the honorable member make that out?
– Because it is a fixed duty, and a fixed duty on a low rate abroad is very much higher than a fixed duty on a high rate.
– The honorable member is putting his point very nicely, but that is not fixing the price-
– I am putting the facts.
– And I am putting the facts as they affect this country.
– As the prices of these materials come down abroad so the protection automatically increases.
– I point out that there is a world-wide conspiracy to reduce the wages of the workers.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Undoubtedly there is, and we see instances of it in other parts of the world. It is our duty to protect Australia from that sort of thing, and to see that industries are established on such a sound basis that we can maintain our present decent standard of living. I understand there are other honorable members on this side who desire to address themselves to this question, and I shall defer the figures in proof of what I have said until a later hour. If Australia is ever to take its place amongst the nations of the world, the one industry which must be built up is that of iron and steel.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member; the iron and steel industry has been, and is being, built up.
– To that end, there must be adequate protection. To-day, prices are rapidly falling.
– The people “who know most about the industry have.never, I repeat, asked the Government for any increased duties.
– If the representatives of this industry approach the Government and ask for increased protection, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to their request?
– Oh, that is easy!
-“ Yes “’ or “no”will you, or will you not?
-I have already replied to that very silly question.
– There might be some little sense in my question, but there is absolutely no sense in the right honorable gentleman’s reply.
.- The Treasurer must realize that honorable members have been travelling all night. I am desirous to present my views onthe question before us, and I think it would be only fair if progress were reported now.
– I do not wish to sit late, but the honorable member must realize that when we have debated a single item for a week, the Committee ought to be ready to make up its mind.
– There has never yet been such rapid progress made with a Tariff as on the present occasion, and the item before us involves great interests. Apparently, there are members of this Chamber who are Protectionists so far as their own industries are concerned, but Free Traders in regard to all other industries. They are prepared to say that, because they have to compete with Japanese labour, they must be given 50 per cent, increases on particular duties, and the item of millet presents a case in point. Those members of the Country party have not hesitated to add 50 and 100 per cent, to duties in the case of industries with which they are themselves concerned; but the moment we have be fore us an item which concerns the workers in, the cities and towns, they oppose any attempt at effective protection. The position these honorable members take up is, in my opinion, most inconsistent. One member of the Country party has argued that an increase in the duty before us is not justified, because primary producers will “ have to pay,” meaning thereby that any burden created by increased protection in. secondary industries falls wholly and solely on their backs. They take up the position that they are the one section in the community who ought to be considered. I realize that the primary producers are absolutely essential, but so are those engaged in the great secondary industries of our cities and suburbs; both branches of industrial enterprise require all the protection and assistance that can be given to them. As a matter of fact, the primary producers are not the majority of the population of this country. Do honorable members realize what the industries with which we are dealing at present have to put up with, and what competition they have to face? We are trying to build up big industries here in competition with countries that have had similar undertakings established for years and years.
– May I suggest that that also is the aim of the overwhelming majority of this Parliament? Will the honorable member devote himself to the real point at issue?
– Judging by the speeches we have heard to-night, I do not think it is the overwhelming opinion of this Parliament. Certain members have been very anxious to vote for other increases where there might have been some doubt as to whether they were justified, but no one raised a question about them.
– Yes, they did.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) stands out as the one shining exception. In the case of some of the increases that were made honorable members did not even call for a division. As one who is going to support the amendment, I suggest to the Government that it is reasonable to report progress now.
– I am perfectly willing to allow the whole of to-morrow for this item, if we can take a vote at the end of the day. But this is a hold-up, because those who support the amendment say that unless they can get what they want they will “ stone-wall “ the item.
Mr. BLUNDELL. So far as I am concerned, I am willing that a vote should be taken some time to-morrow, but I cannot answer for others.
– We suggested last Thursday that the debate on this item should be adjourned for a week, and that in the meantime other items should be gone on with, while the Government were considering whether they could not give us something better.
– The whole argument put up by the Corner party this evening, with the exception of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), to whom w© must give credit for largely opposing these things on principle-
– The most unfortunate thing about thi 3 argument is that it has developed into a duel between the Corner party and some of the members of the Opposition.
– It is essential to realize that the iron and steel industry is different from any with which we have dealt up to the present.
– I think we had better agree to the adjournment.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I appeal to honorable members to come to a vote on the item of pig iron to-morrow. If we cannot get a vote to-morrow night at a reasonable hour, I hope honorable members will make up their minds to sit a little late. We have been over a week on the one item. No one can say that it has not been threshed out thoroughly, or that reasonable time has not been given to its consideration.
– Hear, hear! and we all have our minds made up.
– I think so. I do not know why the matter is being held up in this way. I sincerely hope that we may take a vote to-morrow at a reason* able hour.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) is too old a parliamentarian not to know that there is a determination on the part of the Committee to get at least some kind of a compromise during the debate on the item. That desire does not arise from any wish to hold up the House or the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) suggested this afternoon that the matter might again be raised on the general Tariff. May I urge on him and the Acting Prime Minister that, if they would consider what position they are going to take up on the general Tariff, and give an intimation .to the Committee, it might help to facilitate the passage of the item?
– The Government have given it more consideration than any other item in the Tariff.
– But the Minister has given no intimation of what attitude he is likely to take up if the question is again raised on the general Tariff.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has suggested that if the matter is allowed to go to a division now, the question can again be raised on the general Tariff. I urge this upon the consideration of the Government, with the intention of facilitating the passage of this and kindred items. We have had a long debate, and I admit that there has been a tremendous amount of irrelevant talk upon the subject. I admit, also, that the Minister has stated the issue clearly enough - that it is a question of whether the Tariff is adequate1 - but the Minister has not given any definite intimation of the attitude of the Government if this subject is taken up on the general Tariff. If the Minister seriously intends, and I gather that he does, to consider raising the general Tariff, the sooner we know it the better, because I am sure the business will be much facilitated.
.- Even at this late hour, I desire to bring before the Government the case of a returned soldier. He states in a letter to me that as a miner before the war he was receiving a wage of £1 2s. 6d., and since his return he has been getting 16s. 6d., the lowest wage paid to a miner. In addition to bad legs, due to trench fever, he has had two or three weeks off, and is not likely to work again. He has received a letter from the Repatriation Department informing him that his pension has been cancelled, and, on top of that, he has been notified by the War Service Homes Department that unless he pays £27 19s. 4d., . representing eight months’ instalments in respect of the property which he is occupying, he must quit the premises. This man has a family of six children, and is not likely to work again this winter. His position is a very serious one indeed, and I trust that something will be done for bun. We are constantly bringing cases of this sort under the notice of the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210607_reps_8_95/>.