8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DeputySpeaker (Hon.J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer if the statement whichappeared in a leader in the Melbourne Age of the 4th June inst., to the effect that since the beginning of the war the note issue has increased from four to five fold, and that its redundancy isshown by the price of gold, is correct?
– I have already answered that question in another connexion, hut it appears uselessto reply to statements published in the Age. Next morning they are repeated, no matter how absolutely they may have been refuted. The facts are that there is a worldinflation of currency, and that it is the duty of every Government to tryto reduce this inflation in every possible way;but to suggest that our note-issue has raised the price of gold to its present figure shows either pure ignorance on the part of the man who does so, or wilful, deliberate, and completemisrepresentation. The price of gold to-day is determined by the exchanges of the world and it is complicated also by the inflation of the currencies of the world. Apparently the Age does not wish to hear anything reflecting favorably on Australia.It flouts any statement that tells for Australia. Our note-issue has continued steady since the Armistice, while the currency of every other country in the world has increased; in some cases by nearly 100 per cent.
– Is the rumour which has been published in the press, that it is intended to raise another Commonwealth PeaceLoan, based on fact? If so, is the loan intended to meet commitments of the present financial year, or post-war obligations in the new financial year?
– As the press already has an inkling of what is afoot, I may as well tell the honorable member that another loan - one of very moderate dimensions-is in contemplation. It is to be a “digger’s” loan, and purely for “digger” purposes.
-For how much?
– That has not yet been determined.
– The sum of £15,000,000 has been mentioned in the press.
– The amount has not been fixed upon.
– Is the money to be raised in Australia or abroad?
– The loan will be an Australian one ; for the purposes of repatriation, and for nothing else.
– Is it true that the Government has placed £2,000,000 of Commonwealth Treasury Bills at5¼ per cent. on the market in London, and, if so, for what purpose?
– It is true. I greatly regret that we have been compelled to place Treasury Bills on the London market instead of a small loan. The money is needed in London, largely because of exchange difficulties. It is to complete the payments for the sugar purchases that we have been compelled to make owing to the loss of our crop. It will all be repaid shortly as the sugar is sold, and will then be available for other purposes.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that Mr. Knight, the President of the Taxpayers Association, has suggested to the Treasurer that, with a view to economizing and squaring the public ledger, we should reduce the wages of our public servants to 8s. per diem?
– I have received no such suggestion; I understand that Mr. Knight is to see me this afternoon, and, no doubt, I shall hear then what he has to say.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if he will be prepared to appoint independent doctors, outside the Service, to re-examine returned soldiers who:e pensions have been cancelled or reduced on the ground that they are no longer suffering from injuries due to war service, or that their injuries have become slighter, with a view to determining whether the action that has been taken is justified)
– When the honorable member moved the adjournment of the House some time ago to discuss the administration of war pensions, the pro-‘ posal found favour with several honorable members. I am hot sure whether it originated with him or with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley). I submitted to the Commissioners the recommendation that on the Boards of Review for the various States civil medical officers should be appointed. ‘ The Commissioners have not, so far, accepted the recommendation.
– No; but they are cancelling pensions every day.
– I shall see my colleague (Senator Millen), who is ‘ now administering the Pensions Branch, and renew the request to him, and I shall ad-‘ vise the honorable member, to-morrow of the result.
– It is stated that the Prime Minister ( Mr. Hughes) has, in an interview in England, referred to the Imperial Conference, which he left to attend, as a Cabinet gathering. There is a difference between a Conference and a Cabinet, and I ask the Acting Prime’ Minister, therefore, whether on behalf of the Government and the Parliament the right honorable gentleman will inform the Prime Minister that he left Australia to attend a Conference of Prime Ministers, and that the work of that Conference must be submitted to the Parliaments of the various Dominions for indorsement!
– I do not see the need for wasting money in cabling such a statement. The proposed gathering will be, as I understand it, both a Cabinet and a Conference. The Dominions have been taken hi to the Cabinet Councils of the Imperial Government.
– What power will it have over our local Government!
– None whatever, nor will it attempt to take any such power. So far as I know, it does not intend to do so. But the question is: “ Should we deny ourselves the privilege of being taken into consultation regarding all the tremendous issues which are arising throughout the world?”- Are we to stand outside when they say “Come in “ ? I hope not.
– In view of the curtailment of country train services, which has inflicted very great hardship upon quite a number of country towns in respect of the delivery of mails, I ask the Postmaster-General what action is he taking in the matter?
– As soon as I saw that the Victorian Railways ‘Commissioners were practising economy in the railway services- to country districts, I instructed the Acting Secretary of my Department to get into touch with them in regard to the matter of the conveyance of our mails upon those days upon which the Commissioners are not now running trains. He did so, and a conference is now taking place between officers of that Department and officers of the Postal Department. As soon as a decision upon the subject has been arrived at I shall inform honorable members of it.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government have considered, and if so, whether they have arrived at any decision upon the question of the desirableness of having a Minister representing the Commonwealth in London and also a High Commissioner at the same time?
– At no time have the Cabinet considered that matter, nor have they considered the question - which I see has gone the round of all the States and information concerning which has been telegraphed far beyond them- of the future pay and emoluments of the High Commissioner. None of these things has ever been consideredby Cabinet.
– Then the press are liars.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government, prior to the appointment of a new High Commissioner, will consult the various States with a view to arriving at an arrangement whereby considerable sums of money may be saved by having Australia properly represented upon the other side of the world, not by six Agents-General, but by one officer and one good representative?
– I suggest to my honorable friend that he should address the State Governments in that connexion. It is no part of our functions to ask the States to surrender their own powers.
– Why not?
– Because we have no right to do so.
– We are all one set of taxpayers.
– I agree with the honorable member’s statement, but I suggest to him that the States are just as jealous of their own prerogatives under the Constitution as we are of ours.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether it is a fact that the plans of the hostel and Convention hall at Canberra have been received by him, and, if so, whether he will be good enough to make a statement regarding his intentions in respect of them ?
– It is a fact that a report and sketch designs have been submitted and received by me. These are now under the consideration of the Cabinet.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether the Cabinet has yet considered its policy of land settlement in the Federal Capital area, particularly in regard to making lands available for settlers who want them?
– That is a matter which comes within the domain of the Minister for Home and Territories, and I know that he has it under consideration.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has received any information regarding the whereabouts of the expedition which was despatched to New Guinea some time ago.
– Nothing fresh. All I know is that a definite communication has been sent to the Administrator, informing him that the Committee of Experts which is inquiring into matters there must not exceed the sum already determined upon, which is a very moderate sum, and not anything like the amount mentioned in the statements which are constantly being made concerning it.
– I askthe Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he can throw any light upon a communication which has been received from the Lands Department of New South Wales to the effect that a soldier’s application for land has been refused in accordance with the Minister’s decision not to accept any application lodged after 3rd July, 1920?
– I know of no good reason why the application of any soldier for land in any of the States should’ not be dealt with at the present time, and - should he he an eligible applicant - approved. With regard to the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and States, which very much governs the question of land settlement, the Commonwealth provided during the present financial year £16,000,000 for soldier land settlement. The New South Wales share of that amount was £4,000,000. Parliament approved of £4,000,000 being appropriated for this purpose in New South Wales. In addition, the Treasurer has made available a further sum of £250,000 to expedite land settlement in that State, so that I know of no reason why soldier settlement cannot proceed there.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government Reserve, at Sherwood, locally known as the Old Powder Reserve, has been handed back to the Defence Department by the War Service Homes Commissioner?
– The property in question, which has ceased to be a Defence property, has not at any time been under the control of the War
Service Homes Commission. It is at present being used by the Institute of Science and Industry for experimental purposes in connexion with investigations of the prickly pear pest.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– With reference to the request of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that the papers relating to the internment of Mr. Gus Dehle be laid on the table of the Library, I have given consideration to the matter and do not consider that it is in the interests of the Commonwealth that papers of this nature should be made public.
Consideration resumed from7th June (vide page 8874). divisionvi.-metalsandmachinery.*
*Motive power, engine combinations, and power connexions are dutiable under their respective headings when not integral parts of machines, machinery, or machine tools.
Upon which Mr. Watkins had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to subitem a: - “and on and after 9th June, 1921, per ton, British, 30s.; intermediate, 45s.; general,60s.”
.- In discussing this item to-day we may well put aside extreme considerations that have really nothing to do with the subject before us, and proceed to deal with it solely from the point of view of the merits of the proposal to increase the duty. It will not be denied that the enterprise to which the item relates is the key industry of every secondary industry in Australia. It is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary that it should be established firmly on such a basis that it cannot be successfully attacked by those outside Australia, who may have designs, not only upon it, but upon various other Australian industries. I want the Committee to realize that this industry is faced, not with the ordinary competition of countries producing similar material, but with a form of competition which to my mind calls for some adjustment of the duties if we are to put it upon a proper footing. Here we have an industry that is attacked, not merely by a combination of manufacturers who have exploited the markets of their own country, and are able to turn their attention to the exploitation of the Austra lian market, but one which, in addition, has behind it an immense capital and a highly systematized business, and has enjoyed all the benefits of a highly protective Tariff in its own country, together with the advantages which naturally follow from production in a country possessing so large a population as does the United States of America. In its endeavour to exploit the markets of Australia and other parts of the world, this combination has behind it the entire approval of the Government of the United States of America. I need scarcely remind honorable members that in 1918 Congress passed what is known as the Webb Act, which encourages combinations of manufacturers, traders, and shippers to exploit Australia and other markets. Under that Act the whole power and strength of the Governmento f the United States of America is thrown behind combinations for such a purpose, and encourages them to do in other countries that which they would not be permitted to do in their home market. In my opinion, it is one of the most immoral pieces of legislation ever passed by any Legislature.
We are now endeavouring to establish this, the key industry of all our secondary industries, and we find it face to face with the competition of a combination of Government, manufacturers, traders, and shippers designed to exploit our own and other markets. In considering what duties shall be proposed in respect of this item, we cannot view lightly that sort of competition. It has been said by some honorable members that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in connexion with its iron and steel works has already established in Australia a monopoly and has exercised an influence over subsidiary manufactories. It has been said that the Broken Hill Company have endeavoured to control the selling prices of other manufacturers, and has sought to hold a controlling influence over them. Accepting that statement as being perfectly true, the fact remains, as has been said again and again, that if we had absolute Free Trade we should be dealing very largely with combinations formed in other countries, and possessing there a far greater influence than could be exercised in Australia by our local steel works. Under Free Trade conditions we should be doing business with foreign combinations over which we should have no control or check. We should not be able by taxation and other means to get anything out of them. Thus, because of a desire to avoid the creation of anything in the nature of a monopoly here we should have this key industry crushed’ by foreign combinations. If we have to deal with combines it is better that they should be here in Australia spending their money in the development of our own resources, and capable of being controlled by us rather than that they should be foreign monopolies over which we could exercise no check. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has promised to bring in a Bill for the appointment of a Tariff Board, which will be able to deal with all such matters. With the passing of that legislation we shall have power to check and control any iron and steel combine in Australia, should it become injurious in its effects.
– It might become so strong that members would not want to touch it. That has happened, elsewhere.
– I do not think that is likely to happen here. On the whole, the public men of Australia have shown themselves to be thoroughly honest, and we have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in so far as their conduct of public affairs is concerned. Without any alteration of the Constitution it will be possible for us to control the operations of this Combine should it become injurious to Australia. All Trusts and Combines, however, are not injurious. A Trust very often can be of great advantage to a community, and especially to the particular industries which it is controlling.
Some honorable members feel that the increased duty proposed by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) is somewhat excessive, and that it involves an unnecessary increase of the duty in respect of imports from Great Britain. I agree that if any trade is to be done outside Australia it should, as far as possible, be with the United Kingdom; and to that end I would encourage British trade in every way. But, at the same time, our first duty is to develop our own resources, even if we have to impose duties that may press hardly on trade, so far as Great Britain is concerned. One of our great needs is to attract population to this country; no one will deny that that is one of our greatest essentials. There is not one State of the Commonwealth that could not, without any trouble, absorb our present population of 5,000,000 within its own borders; and one of the means of encouraging population is to build up our primary and secondary industries, the success of both pf which is necessary to our welfare. Cannot the Minister (Mr. Greene) see his way to meet the situation that has arisen ? There seems to be a strong demand on all sides for an increase in the protection afforded, though there are honorable members who regard the present duties as sufficient.
– How about reducing the British duty?
– I was about to suggest, on the other hand, that there ‘ might be a slight increase in the’ British duty, with an increase of 25s. in the general Tariff, making it 65s. instead of 4’0s. ‘ If that suggestion were accepted, I think it would dispose of a good deal of the opposition to increased duties. The American competition is a very serious menace to our industry, quite apart from the exchange difficulty. It seems unfair to select this particular industry, and in view of the exchange difficulty propose to give redress by means of special legislation. That has not been proposed in reference to other duties, where exchange and other disabilities arise. We have to consider all the facts, and realize that the competition from America is not ordinary, but exceptional, deliberately designed to capture our market at any price. To that end manufacturers are encouraged in the United States of America to take steps which are punishable by law in that country if taken in reference to their local market. When taken with the object of exploiting our market, such steps are approved by the United States of America Legislature. Under the circumstances, America ought to be called upon to face . increased duties, and the Australian industry made to feel that it is sure of a reasonable amount of protection. I think the compromise I have suggested, or some proposal in that direction, would meet the wishes of the Committee generally. We all desire this industry to be firmly established here, and we only differ as to the amount of protection that is necessary.
– I should agree with the honorable member if he consented to reduce the British duty.
– While I desire to encourage trade with Britain, I hold that our first duty is to our own industry. No doubt, whatever preference we give should be to the United Kingdom; and I hope that the Minister will agree to an amendment in the direction I have suggested.
– I hope the Committee will make up its mind to come to a vote as soon as possible. Much cannot be added to what has been already said in the elucidation of this complex and difficult subject. I should like to say, however, that this industry is not suffering.
– It has lost two con tracts.
– Every industry must lose contracts occasionally if there is to be healthy, sane, and reasonable competition. Whatever duties we impose, we must be careful not to take any industry out of the region of reasonable competition, for otherwise it becomes an overwhelming, overpowering monopoly, setting out to make what charges and impositions it chooses and so fleece the. public. The purpose of a protective duty is,I take it, to regulate competition, so as to make it fair; but once we destroy competition we set up a monopoly. I have yet to learn that my friends opposite, or indeed my friends behind me, seek to do that.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has told us that he intends to introduce legislation to prevent the exploitation of the public.
– We have been trying to do that for many years, but with imperfect success. I suggest that the best guarantee against the exploitation of the public is to put the duties on a reasonable protective basis, so as to preserve reasonable competition between our people here and people overseas. The moment that basis of reasonable competition is destroyed the efficiency of an industry itself is threatened and its undoing commenced.
I remind honorable members once more that this is a key industry, and the Government will take all sorts of good care that none of the calamities which are predicted shall occur. It is within our power to see that they do not occur; and that the Minister for Trade and Customs is bent on doing. But honorable members opposite seem to think that nothing can be done but to throw around the industry a prohibitive wall of duty. That would be easy to do if this were not a key industry, and the duties imposed did not condition and determine other duties in. the case of industries which in their very nature are not so much key industries. Honorable members misconceive this duty if they regard it as standing by itself; the finished product of these iron and steel works is the raw. material of many classes of manufacture. I have yet to learn that in any scientific system of. Protection it is our place and function to impose prohibitive duties on raw material.
– You are getting into your old form.
– No wonder “the Corner” rejoices.
– The members in the corner, and particularly the honorable member for Dampier (Mr.
Gregory), are as bad as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and those with him. We have to keep between the extremists on either side, and steer the middle course, which is nearly always, in this world, the right course. Honorable members do not approach the matter in a proper spirit unless they get it clearly into their minds that this is a basic industry - an industry for the production of raw material. They must, therefore, consider this item in connexion with all the other duties that follow it. It determines the protective conditions of the whole division which comes after.
– Is not a steel rail a completed article when it leaves the Newcastle works?
– Of course, it is completed. But this item does not deal with rails only ; it relates to pig iron and blooms.
– There is a lot of completed work turned out there also.
– The item covers many things which are, in their very essence, raw material for the purposes of manufacture. These works are also big enough in themselves, and are to-day using up all their own raw material, so that what benefit they do not get in the shape of a duty on pig iron they get, as they mould and manufacture the articles which rest upon this prime basis.
– As a matter of fact, the Newcastle Nail Works, which forms one of the subsidiary industries, cannot work, because they are not sufficiently protected. They have been idle for two months now.
– I shall come to that in a moment. I shall not omit anything so far as I can get all the facts out. I want honorable members to make their minds up when they are in possession of all the facts, and the first fact I am stressing now is that this is a raw material of manufacture, and, therefore, on any principle of scientific Protection that raw material must foe kept at a reasonable rate. The duty on it must not be such as to make it impossible to manufacture all the varied implements and other articles resting upon it as a basis.
– And that reasonable rate must be sufficient to enable the industry producing the raw material to be carried on.
– I entirely agree that it must be such a rate as will preserve this key industry.
– That is all that we want; but we think that the rate the Government propose is not sufficient to do it.
– There are many ways in which it can be done. First of all, you can secure your raw material at a reasonable rate; you can guarantee the perpetuity of the industry along lines which will secure it from undue and unfair competition from abroad-
– How can you secure raw material at a reasonable rate if you allow stuff to be imported cheaper than they can manufacture it here?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has given the honorable member a definite undertaking that he will not permit that stuff to come in so as to injure this industry. That is fact No. 1.
– He has given us no such undertaking so far as Great Britain is concerned.
– The Minister has given the honorable member that undertaking so far as any nation is concerned, and Great Britain is in much the same case as other nations regarding this matter. The honorable member knows, because he has a clear head on his shoulders, that it is all a. matter of exchange at the moment.
– Notin regard to Great Britain.
– Yes, regarding Great Britain, too.
– Does not the question of exchange affect every other item in this Tariff?
– Of course.
– Then why single this one out?
– It is not singled out. The exchange trouble is going to be corrected. All this trouble arises to-day because, with ten shillings of our money, twenty shillings’ worth of iron can be purchased in Belgium.
– More than that.
– A little more, perhaps; hut the Minister has told honorable members that he will correct the trouble in such a way as to prevent the possibility of unfair competition arising from that factor.What more do honorable members want, unless they desire to insure that there shall be no competition in this industry - that it shall be surrounded by a wall so high that nothing can come in on any terms?
– That is what some of them really want.
– I venture to say that any protection of that kind would very soon defeat itself. I remind honorable members, also, that we are dealing with these duties at a time when everything is inflated, and everything is up throughout the world. It will be a sorry case for the world as a whole if there is not to be some easement in prices at some time or other. My honorable friends opposite want prices down in relation to almost everything else.
– Exactly, and we claim that this duty will not raise them, while, at the same time, it will find work for our own people, and keep wages going.
– As prices come down in the world, so this protection automatically increases. That is the very nature of a fixed duty. A duty of £1 on an article is automatically doubled when the price of the article falls from £50 to £25.
– With the falling off of wages in the Old Country, and the lowered cost of manufacture-
– I am not talking about wages, and the honorable member will not be allowed to put me in that position. I am talking about prices.
– Prices and wages go hand in hand; you cannot separate them.
– Then, coming on to the honorable member’s own ground, will he tell me how much worse off a workman is if he has a 25 per cent. decrease in wages and a corresponding amount is added to the value of those wages ?
– But they are able to manufacture cheaper, and compete more successfully with our people who have a higher wage.
– As people in other countries become able to manufacture more cheaply, this duty automatically increases.
– In consequence of wages and raw material becoming much cheaper in Great Britain and elsewhere, if there is not a substantial Protective duty here, they will be able to import here much cheaper than we can manufacture. In order to meet that position, down come wages here.
– I tell the honorable member, in answer to that interjection, that, as these prices come down at Home, the rate of the duty automatically increases.
-It does theoretically, but not in fact. That is a good old Free Trade argument.
– May I remind honorable members that this is not the first time we have had a discussion in this House on fixed duties. I have seen many a pitched battle on this question. If the honorable member opposite will look at some of the fixed duties in this schedule he will find them mounting up to 100 and 150 per cent. on the cheap kind of caps manufactured in this country.
– But we never discussed a Tariff before in a world like this.
– That is quite true, and here we are offering fixed duties to provide for the emergencies of which the honorable member is speaking. The world is upside down economically and otherwise, but I say,no matter what occurs outside to bring down the value of imports, these fixed duties will provide ample protection.
– I have heard that argument in this House before. It was always foolish.
– This duty is a peculiar one. It is of no use to argue with reference to it as one would argue concerning the duty on onions, canary seed, bananas, and other products. It has no necessary relation to any other of such duties. This is the basic, or foundation, industry of other industrial enterprises. That is the vital difference, and if by fixing the Tariff at a moderate rate we can preserve the industry, then everything that honorable members are seeking to accomplish will be accomplished. The Minister for Trade and Customs has given a guarantee that he will correct the exchange difficulty which is causing all the trouble to-day, so the industry will then be able to compete quite easily with other similar enterprises outside.
– We do not admit that.
– It is so patent that I think everybody must agree absolutely with what I am saying.
– We say the exchange difficulty is not the only trouble. It is one of many troubles.
– It is the only trouble that is affecting this industry, and if we can cure it to-morrow the duty provided is ample to keep this huge business going. Not only has the Minister said he will correct the exchange difficulty, thus increasing the security which this key industry needs, but he has also promised not to permit any country to dump raw materials in Australia in such a manner as to injure this or any other industry. That is the second line of security offered.
– But dumping is going on at present.
– Of course, because we have not yet passed the antidumping legislation promised by the Minister, and I suggest that honorable members who are supporting the amendment and putting up a “ stone wall “ on this item are delaying the passage of that necessary legislation.
– You can bring in the anti-dumping legislation to-morrow, and we will pass it.
– The sooner this Tariff is out of the way the sooner will that legislation be introduced. The Minister has given a further guarantee which I ask honorable members to consider. He has promised that the moment this industry is threatened in any way - and I do not see how it can be if the exchange difficulty is corrected and the anti-dumping legislation passed - he will , review this duty and consult the House further in order to protect this great industry in Australia. The Government are as anxious as any honorable member in this House to safeguard the Australian iron and steel industry. Honorable members who are supporting the amendment have put up. a good battle, and I now suggest that, after all, we only differ as to the form this security should take.
– If we allow the British rate to stand, will the Government give us any relief in the general Tariff?
– We appear to be at an impasse, and I suggest that if the Committee allows the item to pass the honorable member may move to recommit it before the Tariff is finally disposed of. The Government will offer no objection to that course.
– May I suggest that the item be left in abeyance until we deal with the other items? This will allow of further time for consideration.
– No, because this is the basic industry, and the Tariff on other items must be considered in relation to the protection provided in this item.
– Nearly all members behind the Government said “ No “ to my suggestion. I suppose we know what that means.
– I am sorry that I cannot make any impression on the honorable member, although I have done my best. I can only repeat that the Government are as anxious as the honorable member to safeguard this industry, and will take care that no harm comes to it, but we will not surround it or any other industry by a wall which will make fair and reasonable competition impossible. The moment danger threatens the industry effect will be given to the Minister’s promise to consultthe House as to the Tariff, and see what can be done.
– I am quite in accord with the desire of the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) for a division on this item, and if I thought there was any possibility of a vote being taken I would resume my seat without saying a word; but, judging by the temper of the Committee last night, there is no probability of an early division,I am sorry tosay. I urge honorable members to consider again the promise made by the Minister, and repeated by the Acting Prime Minister this afternoon. The Leader of the House only repeated what the Minister for Trade and Customs definitely told this Committee, although I have heard one honorable member after another deny that any such assurance had been given. I yield to no man in my admiration for the great industrial concern at Newcastle, but I say that the offer made by the Minister to introduce anti-dumping legislation as soon as the Tariff is out of the way is of more value to the industry at this moment and in the near future than the additional duty that is asked for. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) objected to such extended powers being placed in the hands of one man, and I very often regret, on principle, that such power of wide and varying extent should have to be given to one man. But there is no escape from it in regard to a Tariff. It is done in every country, and more extensively to-day than ever before in fiscal history. In Great Britain it is being done in a very rigorous fashion at this moment, although it is supposed to be a Free Trade country. Other countries with which we do import business are adopting the same policy. I do not know whether honorable members have read that clause in the Japanese Tariff Bill which provides that-
When important industries in Japan are threatened by the importation of unreasonably cheap articles, or the sale of imported articles at an unreasonably low price, the Government may, after submitting the matter for investigation by the Unreasonably Cheap Sale Investigation Committee, impose upon them during a certain fixed period duties not exceeding their proper price, in addition to the duties provided in the Tariff. Should the articles already have been imported and be in the possession of an unreasonably cheap seller or his agent, the additional duties may be collected from such seller or agent.
That provision is the embodiment of simplicity and completeness, and if applied in Australia would make the 20s. duty on pig iron effective. Japan even follows beyond the Customs House articles which have gone into circulation extensively to the injury of local industries; for them a fair price is declared, and, in addition, a supplementary payment to the Customs Department is demanded. The Minister (Mr. Greene) does not propose to go so far.
– Why not?
– We cannot do it while the Constitution remains as it is.
– I would not care to see the Constitution altered in that respect, because I know what Customs officials are. They are prospectors, like fossickers for gold, and are always at it. Do not let them get beyond the Customs House, or Heaven only knows what they will do! No member of the Committee would see the valuable steel indus try jeopardized, and the Minister has promised reasonable protection up to the limit of a determined and definite necessity. What more do honorable members want? I ask them to turn their thoughts from pig iron and consider all the ramifications of the iron trade - the blacksmiths’ shops, machinists’ establishments, the mines - and particularly these, because the greatest Australiannecessity at this momen t is in regard to them - and the water conservation schemes now in progress, which are one of the brightest hopes of this country, and are largely dependent for their success on this raw material. I shall support the 20s. duty, and I ask the Government to stand by the schedule, plus the provision to be contained in the Bill which the Government have promised to introduce as soon as the Tariff debate is finished. In regard to the outlook of the iron and steel industry, the 20s. duty, even with the additional 10s. proposed in the amendment, is not of half as great concern to the industry as are the uncertain and erratic industrial conditions obtaining in Australia to-day. Honorable members of the Opposition said last night that wages were falling in other countries, thus making the position more difficult for this big industry and others in Australia. If wages are dropping in every other part of the world, is not the same adjustment from war conditions to normal conditions to take place in Australia?
– Now the honorable member is letting the cat out of the bag.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) let the cat out of the bag last night, when he said that these adjustments had taken place in other parts of the world, but that the workers were going to resist them to the hilt in Australia.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I wish to apply to this business the same principle as some of the leaders of the industrialists in this House and outside are applying to the idle mines, that cannot operate because the prices of metals will not pay working expenses. We cannot change from war conditions to normal conditions without sacrifice.
– Sacrifice by the workers only.
– No. I shall be surprised if these sacrifices have not to be borne more heavily by other sections of the community than by the workers. I would never be one to saddle a bigger burden upon the workers in this necessary transition stage than upon other people. But I will not, without protest, allow the Tariff to be made a barricade against the adjustment that has to come; and the sooner it comes, the better for everybody. The value of a man’s wage is gauged by its purchasing power. Many of the awards of the Industrial Courts during the past two or three years have been made to accord with the cost of living. Since that principle applies up, it must apply down ; and the sooner we get back to normal conditions, the more valuable, because of its increased purchasing power, will be the reward of a man’s labour in this country.
– Yes; but the honorable member wants wages to fall first.
– I do not want wages to come down one day earlier than is absolutely necessary. The situation, as it applies to our mining industry to-day, is this: Is it better for the employees to take the utmost that the mine can pay, even while withholding every penny from its shareholders, or to fill the streets with unemployed, and make Australia impotent before all the world? Those who reason that the men should walk the streets first are preaching a fallacy which will become a menace and a curse to Australian industry.
– If private enterprise cannot keep things going, private enterprise must go.
– If private enterprise cannot succeed, then God help Australia, for Government enterprise has not taken, and cannot take, its place.
.- When comparisons are being made of conditions existing in Australia and in Great Britain and America - wherein it has been pointed out that there have been instances of reductions of wages, by general consent - it should not be forgotten that in almost every instance there has been a preceding reduction in the cost of living. Before the Australian worker can be expected to accept lower rates of pay, there must be reduction of the cost of living.
– I want to see that pr-or condition here, wherever possible; but it is not possible in respect of our mining industry.
-.- We cannot expect men to engage in a hazardous and healthforfeiting occupation for a miserable pittance.
– No miserable pittance has ever been offered or paid in the history of mining in this country.
– I emphasize that if we are to have a reduction in the wage standard, it must be preceded by the reduction of the cost of living. As for the industry immediately concerned in the present discussion, it possesses - quite apart from the interests of employers and employees - a big national aspect. No one can separate our iron and steel industry from the interests of the nation itself. To bring into being the vast works which will be constructed, with the future growth of Australia, steel and cement will be the two great elements. If we were to wipe out the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and of Mr. Hoskins, the people most vitally interested in those enterprises, financially, might not be very great losers. But, in association with those industries there are 150,000 dependent people.
– I do not expect to see Australia’s iron and steel works forced to close.
– We must be careful. All over the world vast trade organizations are being formed to exploit the tvorld’3 markets. To some extent, a Tariff may prove a protection against foreign exploiters, but it may not be really adequate; and even an anti-dumping law may be of little service against powerful organizations having world-wide interests. We are living in abnormal times, and must legislate abnormally, particularly for the welfare of our own national enterprises. When the Public Works Committee was inquiring into the establishment of an arsenal at Canberra, one of Australia’s best-known mining engineers tendered valuable evidence. The witness was Mr. McKay, late general manager of Walkers Limited, Maryborough. He was asked why he had’ gone to India to pursue his investigations into the establishment of an arsenal in Australia, and he replied that when it was first suggested that he should proceed to India he was surprised ;but, having seen what was being done there, he was at once convinced that he had gone to the right place to secure the information which he sought. The skilled Indian employee in the great steel and iron enterprises established in that country receives a beggarly pittance compared with the Australian employee. Those Indian establishments are a menace to the Australian industry. Steel of a high class is being turned out.
– Have you seen any of it in Australia?
– I have not, for the reason that the Indian factories were engaged during the war period upon the production of war-like material. But, today, those works are turning attention to the world’s markets; and the Australian market is among the nearest. This Parliament should frame a Tariff to afford the necessary protection to white people.
Mr.RichardFoster. - The representatives of the iron and steel works have made investigations in other places.
– The workmen employed at the Newcastle Steel Works and Hoskins Limited, as well as the employers, are fearing the menace of Indian competition. If this House is going to say that we are not to grant further protection to those who have established these important industries in Australia it will indeed be a retrograde step. Putting aside private interests and even the national aspect of the question, can one deny that an industry that directly and indirectly finds employment for 150,000 should not receive every encouragement? Arewetobe responsible for practically annihilating such undertakings? If such a thing should happen it would be a sorry day for Australia ; and when the electors have an opportunity of recording their votes they will not forget those who criminally allowed such industries to go by the board. Seeing that the present party is in power, I am glad that we have the present Minister controlling the Customs Department. I am prepared to take his word. But I ask honorable members if we arelikely to do any harm to a solitary person in Australia if we increase the proposed rates to 30s., 45s., and 60s. respectively?
– Would the honorable member be in favour of reducing the British rate and allowing the others to stand?
– Why is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) so ready to make that suggestion? Great Britain is not prepared to do that with her competitors, whether they are in the Dominions or in foreign countries. Sir Robert Home, in referring to outside competition and the peculiar position of exchange, said that if Britain had to compete with other countries she would have to ask her workmen to consent to their wages being reduced by one-half, and they could never allow that. He was considering the interests of the British workmen, and we are fighting for the Australian operatives.
– One of the honorable member’s colleagues made a statement last night to the contrary. I made a note of it at the time.
– With all due respect to the honorable member, I would prefer to take the Hansard report. We are merely asking that the Australian workers shall receive fair and reasonable consideration. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Minister who has arrived at certain conclusions after, I believe, close investigation. He has submitted his case. The honorable member for Newcastle has moved an amendment, which has received almost unanimous opposition from the members of the Country party, and having received that, it appears that the Minister - I do not say it in any disrespectful way - is now prepared to adhere to the proposed rates.
– That has nothing whatever to do with it.
– Certainly some assurances have been given by the Minister, and he can, I suppose, count on the support of those behind him, with the exception, perhaps, of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley).
– I do not think the honorable member can expect me to support the amendment.
– We should have your support. What would happen if we adopted the suggestion of the honorable member and reduced the British rate to 15s. per ton? We have already lost two or three contracts, and there will be no further opportunity for works at Newcastle or Hoskins Limited to carry out the work that will be required in the future. The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) said that we are dealing with blooms, billets, and raw material; but we have reminded him that the largest manufacturer of the completed article - railway rails - is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
-If we combine the operations of other industries, there are larger undertakings than those at Newcastle. Some are manufacturing mining machinery, plant required in the manufacture of sugar, and in the construction of ships.
– Yes ; but many of the parts used in such factories are made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Angles, manufactured at Newcastle, are despatched to other works and merely bolted into position.
– The largest and best of machinery has been sent down by Walkers Limited.
– I am not depreciating the value of the work done by Walkers Limited; but if the honorable member is referring to the shipbuilding at Williamstown he must remember that much of that work was done at Castlemaine. The present condition of exchange places some countries in a peculiar position, but what will be the result when conditions become normal?
– If prices are lower the position will be better.
– Will these duties protect the manufacturers? It is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation dealing with the question of exchange, which may be the means of preventing a certain amount of foreign competition. In six months’ time, provided the exchange position becomes normal, the legislation passed by this Parliament willbe of little use. Imports will then come in under normal conditions.
– I am in agreement with the honorable member on that point.
– I would rather see the Minister bring in the promised Bill at this juncture.
– I suggested that during the general debate.
– I think that it is the proper policy to adopt, because if we knew what anti-dumping legislation was to be brought forward we would be in a position to know if real protection was being afforded. The value of the proposed measure will depend largely on the manner in which it is administered. When duties are embodied in the Tariff in black and white, they must remain until amended. If it is desirable to fix the duty on imported onions at £6 per ton, and on bananas at 8s. 4d. per cental, surely it is reasonable to fix a definite and effective rate in the Tariff schedule in respect of this industry. It is like “ beating the air “ to discuss this matter further, because the Minister has apparently made up his mind, and is not likely to recede from the position he has taken up. We have had a further promise from the Acting Prime Minister; his language was fairly definite and a little more encouraging. He said we were erecting three walls, but I would prefer to call them fences, because they cannot be regarded as walls unless they are capable of preventing goods that we can manufacture coming into this country. That is the kind of wall I want to see. We cannot speak of a protective duty as a Tariff wall unless it is successful in preventing goods coming into this country in successful competition with our local productions. We know that the old Free Traders’ argument used to be that “competition is the life of trade;” but to-day we have discovered that cooperation is better than competition. Protection is a definite expression. It presupposes complete action to protect. Can any one saythat the duties proposed in this item, represent anything like a fair measure of protection for thesteel and iron industry? There are other items in this division which have yet to be considered, and in connexion with which it will be necessary to secure such a measure of protection as will prevent the competition of Belgian productions with the products of Australian industries subsidiary to the steel and iron industry, and I remind honorable members that the duties imposed on this first item will, to a large extent, govern the protection which the Committee will , be willing to afford to subsidiary industries dealt with in items appearing later in this division.
– We have put a duty on molasses that is already seriously injuring the industry of powellizing timber an Western Australia.
– Why is that?
– Molasses is run down the rivers in Queensland, and yet it costs more than the powellizing industry can afford to transport it to Western Australia.
– If there is any one permitting molasses to run down the rivers in Queensland, action should be taken to prevent any such thing.
– That has not been done for some time past.
– I know that from this by-product of the sugar industry poweralcohol might be produced in large quantities, and it is certainly a very saleable article.
– The honorable member could not get a tin of molasses in Melbourne to-day under about 6d. a lb.
– Then some one is getting a big profit out of it, and there is all the more necessity to pass the legislation promised by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to prevent the exploitation of the people. My honorable friends opposite are prepared to rely upon one promise made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and. I ask them to rely upon the other also. I am putting my confidence in both his promises. The honorable gentleman has promised antidumping legislation for the protection of this industry if it should be found that duties imposed by the Tariff are not sufficient for the purpose. My honorable friends opposite are relying on that promise. I should like to remind those who have raised the false alarm that the companies carrying on this industry may form themselves into a combine to exploit the people that the Minister forTrade and Customs has also promised that, after the Tariff and the anti-dumping legislation is passed, he will introduce a Bill to enable him to protect consumers in this country.
– The honorable member does not always exhibit the same confidence in the promises of the Government.
– I admit that; but, like the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I am one of those who have very great confidence in the present Minister for Trade and Customs. He has promised an anti-dumping law, but he has also promised another measure to protect the consumer. I say that those who are seeking to put up a fight for the consumer have no need to fear, because should the Broken Hill Company and Hoskins and Company seek to exploit the consumers of their products the Minister for Trade and Customs, by the legislation he has promised, will come down upon them like a thousand of bricks. Why should honorable members opposite accept one promise made by the Minister with a smile and without any evidence of incredulity, and then express doubts about another promise made by the honorable gentleman?
– The honorable member accepts the word of the Minister on both points.
– Yes, to a large extent.
– Then, why does not the honorable member accept the word of the Minister when he says that the duties he proposes on this item are adequate?
– The two promises in which I have expressed my confidence are to submit legislation supplemental to the Tariff, and I may tell the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) that, particularly in connexion with Tariff matters, I like to make assurance doubly sure. Lest one should in some way fail, I like to have a second string to my bow. If I could do so I would put four, five, or six walls around industries that give employment to Australian people, use Australian raw material, and supply a great national requirement, in order that they might be sufficiently protected against importations from abroad.
– If the amendment is agreed to, will the honorable member be prepared to vote additional protection for the subsidiary industries of Australia ?
– Yes, certainly. I have received requests, and, in fact, tearful appeals on behalf of workmen engaged in industries that are believed to be in danger under this Tariff, to give those industries a greater measure of protection. I am concerned, not only about the first item of this division, but about many subsequent items, and if we consent to low duties on this first item they will become an obstacle to every proposition for the increase of duties on subsequent items in this division. I have hitherto looked upon the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) as a stalwart Protectionist. However we may differ upon various phases of politics, I have always expected to find myself on the same side as the honorable member in making ourprotective duties as high as possible. He did not have a word to say against the imposition of a very high duty on bananas.
– That is not a parallel case, because it was necessary to protect Australian bananas from bananas grown by black labour.
– And in this case it is necessary to protect the Australian steel and iron industry from the products of similar industries in other parts of the world carried on with coloured labour. I am afraid that I shall in future have to describe the honorable member for Wide Bay as a “ Protectionist of a kind,” if he will not vote with me for the amendment. I have in mind a number of schemes that are being carried out, and amongst them a great water scheme which is now nearing completion, and the pipes for which are to a large extent made by the firm of Hume Brothers, who are well known to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). The firm is now formed into a great company whose reputation, influence, and supplies are not only Australian wide, but world wide. It has been able to manufacture pipes and channels of reinforced concrete the like of which are not produced in any other part of the world. In the Mornington peninsula a great work, which is to cost £200,000, is being carried out which could not possibly be done for that amount of money were it not for the use of reinforced pipes, the steel rods for which came from the Broken Hill Company’s Newcastle works, as the manager of Messrs. Hume Bros. himself told me, and they could not have been obtained elsewhere at the time. Railway construction throughout Australia would have been held up towards the latter end of the war had it notbeen for the output of this company. It is not true to say that the consumer will be injured if the duty on pig iron be increased, because the increase of the duty will not make the products of the works dearer. I am not here to extol the merits of the Broken Hill Company; but I heard the sworn statement of the manager of an important undertaking that, had it not been for the shipbuilding material obtained from the company during war time, he would have had to pay double as much for what he needed. That was evidence that the company did not exploit the Commonwealth Government and the public when it had the opportunity of doing so.
– Let us now have a vote on the amendment.
– A number of members have yet to speak on it. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) will present facts and figures regarding the great Lithgow works that should convince even the honorable member for Wimmeraof the need for higher duties.
– I am glad that these works are in existence, and would not like to see them wiped out ; but I consider that the duties asked for are too high.
– What is to be feared, seeing that the Minister has promised to bring in a measure which will prevent the exploiting of the public?
– I should like to see that measure first.
– I dare say it would have been better had it been before us prior to the Tariff discussion.
– I have told members what the measure will contain. If undue advantage is being taken of the protection afforded to any industry, a Committee that is to be appointed will have the right to recommend Parliament to reduce or abolish the duties protecting that industry.
– I understand that there is tobe not only an expert Committee, but a non-party Parliamentary Committee as well.
– That, of course, is a matter which Parliament itself must decide.
– Yes; but that is what is in the Minister’s mind. Therefore, if we were to make the duty on pig iron 80 per cent. against Great Britain, and as high as 200 per cent. against the world, Australian consumers would still he perfectly safe. I cannot conceive why the
Country party will not accept the amendment, on the assurance of the Minister that Parliament shall have the opportunity of dealing severely with any industry that may take unfair advantage of the liberal treatment given to it.
.- This debate has now extended over five days, and I have listened closely to the speeches which have been delivered for and against the amendment. As I propose to vote against the amendment, and most of the members of the Labour party intend to support it, I desire to give my reasons for so voting. I am by no means convinced that those who claim that the iron and steel industry needs extra protection have made out a good case. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. had exported material to the Federated Malay .States, Java, and other countries. If the company can compete abroad with foreign manufacturers, why cannot it do so in Australia? Then the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) told us that if the Broken Hill Company had not manufactured certain material an important contract could not have been carried on. That statement did not assist the argument for an increase of duty. I feel that the rates proposed by the Government are adequate. Although a Protectionist, I am not rabid, and will not vote for duties that are practically prohibitive, because, as I have said previously, if we go too far, our work will re-act upon us in the future. We should accept the assurance of the Minister that he will bring in legislation that will prevent dumping. We shall do more service to this industry by preventing dumping than by increasing the duties. The unfair conditions caused by dumping and unfavorable exchanges are special circumstances which must be met by special measures, and the Minister has promised to introduce those special measures. I do not always rely on Government promises, but in this special case the pressure brought to bear will be too strong to allow the promise to remain unfulfilled. I wish I could feel equally sure that the consumers will he adequately safeguarded.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum
– I have been just a little pained by the strenuous efforts of some of my comrades to assist a very wealthy company, though I admit that their desire is not so much to benefit the company as to keep in employment the men in the industry. I ask these honorable gentlemen a question which is the direct opposite of that directed by the Treasurer to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) : Do they feel sure that if the rates of duty are increased, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company will still keep its wages at what they are now, even should wages fall throughout Australia?
– Are you not certain that if successful competition comes from abroad the workmen employed by this company will be out’ of employment?
– I am satisfied with the assurance of the Minister that he will prevent dumping, and will remedy this unsatisfactory operation of exchanges.
– Then you are easily satisfied.
– No, I am not. Do honorable members think that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, even if it obtained three times as much protection as is proposed, would be false to the other capitalistic concerns in the country by keeping its wages up when wages generally were falling? On the contrary, it will be one of the first to assist to bring down wages as much as possible. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) spoke of the great loss and inconvenience which the company suffered during the war for the sake of other industries; but I do not think that it would agree to any loss or inconvenience unless it was absolutely forced to do so. The company is not a philanthropic institution, and I do not think it has suffered either loss or inconvenience. I believe in reasonable competition. To increase these duties will make such competition impossible, and as the finished products of the iron and steel works are the raw material of other industries, their cost will be increased, and consequently the cost of the implements and machinery and other things into which they are manufactured.
.- I think that those honorable members who are proposing amendments to this item are somewhat ill-advised. The Government have brought down a Tariff schedule which offers a very substantial measure of protection indeed to the iron indus-try - probably a much larger protection than the promoters of the industry themselves expected a few years ago. I do not suggest for a moment, having regard to the abnormal conditions which prevail throughout the world, that the proposals of the Government are in the nature of too high a protection. I make that statement as one who looks with some amount of regret upon the fact that Free Trade has practically disappeared from the world. There is scarcely such a thing as international Free Trade at the present time.
– It is not possible to give effect to it.
– That is not the reason for its disappearance. Rather is it due to the tremendous concentration of capital and labour in particular directions, which has caused the control of production to pass into the hands of a comparative few. This is a condition of things which obtains the world over. Some of these large organizations operate far beyond the limits of any one country, and, in view of the abnormal conditions which pertain to industry throughout the world, I am perfectly prepared to give Australia that measure of . protection to which she is reasonably entitled. This afternoon we heard something about the necessity which exists for protecting the highly-paid workers in the iron industry in the Commonwealth against the lower-paid workers in that industry in other parts of the world. May I remind the Committee that in the past the great competition to which Australia has been subjected in iron manufactures has come from the most highly-paid labour country on the globe, namely, the United States of America? Yet the industry here has grown and flourished, notwithstanding that it has been paying much higher wages than were paid in any other country except the United States of America, until the war produced the present abnormal conditions. To-day, it is somewhat amusing to find that Japan- the country in which wages are probably lower than they are anywhere else in the world- finds it necessary to protect its low-paid artisans from the competition of other countries.
– Competition from where ?
– From those countries which pay ten times the wages which Japan is paying at the present moment. I simply mention these matters to show that wages have not always a relation to the cost of production.
– It is often more a question of the quality of the products.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– But the wages paid have a great influence in Australia.
– They exercise a certain influence, I admit, but they are not the dominating factor. It is always better to pay for a high degree of efficiency than to get decreased efficiency as a result of the payment of low wages. I do not desire to see the worker in Australia suffer a reduction in wages. But wages are necessarily determined by the cost of living, and I agree that the workman of Australia has a right to demand a very much greater reduction in the cost of living than has yet taken place before submitting to a reduction of his wages. Whilst the iron-worker here is getting a substantial wage, it must be remembered that the iron-worker in Great Britain was in receipt of even a higher wage during the war. The reduction of wages which has taken place in Great Britain has not brought the wages of the iron-worker in that country any lower than the wages being paid in the Commonwealth at the present time. Yet the cost of living in the Old Country is declining rapidly, whereas in Australia, particularly in regard to bread, meat, boots, and clothing, there is more profiteering to-day - taking into consideration the cost of the raw material - than occurred during the war. Consequently it would be unreasonable to expect any reduction of wages in Australia until there has been a corresponding decline in the cost of living. Some little time ago I heard one representative of Barrier interests affirm that all that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company feared, in connexion with steel production, was the dumping of goods from other countries. Whilst there is just a possibility, that dumping may be practised in Australia, I am inclined to think that those who have the materials to dump will look for a larger market, because, other things being equal, there would be less likelihood of a drop in price in a large market than there would be in a limited market. But, in any circumstances,I regard the proposals of the Government as sufficient to meet any menace of that kind.
– The Government themselves admit that they are not, and that they must introduce special legislation to deal with dumping.
– I am suggesting that the proposals of the Government will meet the position.
– The proposals set out in the schedule will not.
– The schedule has nothing whatever to do with the matter. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that the Government intend to betray the House in regard to their dumping proposals? . I am prepared to do all that lies in my power to insure that our manufacturers shall be effectively safeguarded against the abnormal conditions which obtain in the outside world.
– After that statement, there is hope for the honorable member.
– I hope that I have always acted sensibly.If the world would only revert to sensible methods in regard to trade, I would be prepared to revert to my old fiscal ideas. May I remind honorable members that the Broken . Hill Proprietary Company is in an excellent position in regard to the production of the raw materials of the iron and steel industry? It is admitted that with coal and possibly the best iron ore in the world within easy conjunction of one another, and with sea carriage, that company is absolutely at an advantage over the manufacturers of other countries like Great Britain, where the prices of coal have soared beyond anything we have experienced in Australia, and where the iron ore has to be brought consi der able distances from other parts of the world. So long as it gets the measure of protection proposed by the Government, and the special legislation which has been promised to safeguard it against unfair competition from outside countries, I feel sure that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company will be quite satisfied, and that the interests of the workers in the industry will be amply protected.
– The honorable member knows that when the general manager of that company was before the Public Accounts Committee he affirmed that the company needed protection.
– He said that it was necessary to protect the company from dumping.
– The two things were in conjunction.
– Admitting that the honorable member’s statement is correct, the company is getting as much protection as its then manager ever anticipated it would get, and in addition it is intended to enact legislation to protect it against dumping. In view of all these facts I feel justified in supporting the proposals of the Government.
– I am another of those very foolish Labour representatives who intend to support monopolistic concerns like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works, and the works which are conducted by Hoskins and Company. I have been told that the former company possesses a capital of about £6.000,000, of which £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 represent profits. These facts, however, will not prejudice me in my attitude towards the company, because if it had not made these profits the importers would have made them. I am very much more concerned about the men who are unemployed at the present time.I am one of those who will endeavour to raise wages whenever it is possible to do so, and who will consistently seek to provide work for those who are unemployed. After listening to the debate upon the Tariff, I am satisfied that every honorable member agrees that it is essential that Australia shall be a self-contained country. Upon this occasion I recognise that the Government are up against it. We all admire the masterly way in which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has handled the Tariff, but when the Acting Prime Minister became involved in the debate it was evident that the Government had seriously to consider the situation which has been created byour attempts to obtain a higher measure of protection for the iron and steel industry. In my judgment, Ministers would have acted wisely if they had consented to the postponement of this item for a week, in order that they might consider the duties which should be levied upon manufactured articles if the duties for which we are pressing are imposed upon iron and steel. I cannot understand why some honorable members refuse to realize that the local production of our requirements is good from the point of view of every interest. On one occasion I visited the Ivanhoe mine at Kalgoorlie, and saw there a very complete machine shop. The manager of the mine was proud of it, and said that the company was able now to do all its own repairs on its own premises. In days gone by, he added, when they had to trust to outsiders they did not know where they were, and while the establishment of the machine-shop had cost them a good deal, they were now reaping the full benefit of having a self-contained establishment. That, to a degree, is what all Protectionists are seeking, in so far as Australia is concerned. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), who has always been an out-and-out Free Trader, during the war, in common with others, had an opportunity to realize how much better off we should have been if we had been a more self-contained country. As a matter of fact, it would have been much better for the Empire if Australia had been a very large producer of iron and steel.
– Before Federation, was not Free Trade New South Wales quite as far advanced, so far as the iron industry was concerned, as was Protectionist Victoria ?
– When was New South Wales a Free Trade State? The honorable member knows that prior to Federation Sydney was outclassed by Melbourne as a manufacturing centre. Under the Federal Tariff, however, Sydney’s industries have expanded to such an extent that in many cases they now exceed those existing in Victoria.
– Queensland is ahead of both New South Wales and Victoria as a manufacturing State.
– I am glad to hear these claims on behalf of the different States; but, as a matter of fact, all
Queensland’s manufactories could be put into one part of my electorate without swamping it. The howl of the Free Traders in the days gone by was that with Free Trade we could do this and that-
– The howl used to be for protection for our industries. Many of those industries are now grey-headed, so to speak, but they are still clamouring for additional protection.
– I am foolish to argue with the honorable member who knows, but will not publicly admit, that my contention is correct. I well remember the eloquence and energy that he used to throw into the Free Trade campaign to open the ports of Australia to the dumpers of the world. He used to indulge in all the old clap-trap arguments invariably used by Free Traders, but his onetime enthusiasm in the Free Trade cause has departed from him, and he has come now to recognise the inevitable.
Has the Minister (Mr. Greene) conferred with the Acting Prime Minister as to the extent to which it will be necessary to raise the duties on other items in this division if the duties on pig iron are increased? I may as well say at once that unless the duties on the higher manufactured articles coming within this division are to be raised, I shall not vote for the increase proposed in this case.
– Another inconsistent Protectionist!
– The honorable member may say what he pleases. I have entered into this debate with a full knowledge of what is desirable in regard to the’ protection of the iron and steel industry; but I should be an ass if I voted for this increase without knowing that the duties on the higher manufactured articles of iron and steel were also to be raised. I am not one of those Protectionists who claim that the imposition of a duty will not in any case lead to an increase inprices. If these increased duties did raise the price of pig iron their imposition would still be wise from the stand-point of Australia’s interests. I speak for the people of Australia, and not for any particular section of the country.
– I have already stated that if the Committee decided to in- crease this, the basic duty of the whole division, the increase would necessarily carry with it increased duties on all the iron manufactures. These duties have been arranged, as far as possible, with due regard to the relative value of one to another. If one duty is raised, that relative position must be maintained.
– Quite so. In other parts of the world wages are being reduced.. An effort in the same direction is being made here. That is the object which Mr. Knight and Mr. Ashworth have in view, but I hope the effort will be frustrated. In Great Britain and other parts of the world, wages have been lowered; but if we desire to maintain our civilization, such as it is, we shall have to fight the attempt to reduce wages, and it will be necessary for us to prevent the entry into Australia of commodities from countries where wages are being pulled down. We see in to-day’s press that Japan, despite its cheap labour of which we hear so much, is bringing in legislation to prevent dumping.
– To protect her cheap labourers from the competition of the higher-paid labourers of other countries.
– Exactly. Mr. Ashworth, who is now a “ buttoner “ for the Age - I do not know how he got the position - was at one time an ardent Free Trader, and used to tell the people that we were endeavouring to protect ourselves against the more highly-paid workmen of the world. As the honorable member for Perth has said, J apan is bringing in legislation to “prevent her poorly-paid workmen being thrown out of employment by imports from other countries where higher wages are paid. This only goes to prove that manufacturers in many countries having, like our farmers, got the best prices -from their own people, are prepared to sell for much less to the people of other countries. During the present year, while we have been paying 9s. a bushel for wheat, our farmers have been dumping it into other countries at a very rauch lower price. The South African Government had to take measures to protect their people from dumping on the part of Australia. We, too, must protect ourselves from dumping. At the end of a season in Great Britain, manufac turers, having fully satisfied the local market, can dump their commodities in Australia.
– That hardly applies to iron.
– It might very well apply to manufacturers of iron and steel. There might be, for instance, an overproduction of agricultural implements m Great Britain, and at the end of the season there the manufacturers might say, “ We have done very well here this season and can afford to dump the balance of our stocks in Australia.” Honorable members of the Country party have been howling about the increased cost of agricultural implements. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) made himself ridiculous in the eyes of his hearers the other day when he referred to the position in Canada. Honorable members in many cases lose sight of the fact that, in so far as manufactures are concerned, Canada and the United States of America arp, to all intents and purposes, one. The honorable member for Indi complained that a certain agricultural machine for which Australian manufacturers were asking £104, was being sold in Canada for £61. He did not tell us that the Canadian machine was being sold at £95 in Great Britain and at £97 in New Zealand. Nor did the honorable member tell us that the article itself was not so heavily built, nor so strong, as the Australian product at £104. Of course, I know that somebody “ sold him a pup “ ; he was told something which he repeated to us without investigation. It does not matter to me whether the price is increased; if we desire to keep up our standard of living here, we must have duties against importations. I am always for a promotion of purely Australian ideals, and those who wish to represent other parts of the world ought to leave this country. If others are concerned about the profits of the capitalists’ section of our community, I am concerned more about what foreign capitalists make out of. this country. If the Government so far forget themselves as, for any reason, tq leave unfulfilled their promise to legislate in order to prevent manufacturers from overcharging, I am afraid that we, on this side, will not receive much assistance from the members of the Corner party in our efforts to prevent the consumers being robbed. Indeed, I think we should have more chance of receiving assistance from honorable members sitting immediately behind the Government.
– Surely you do not refer to all the members of the Corner party?
– I refer to a great many of them ; and a little circumstance within my knowledge affords a general illustration of their attitude. At Shepparton, in the constituency of Echuca, is the well-known firm of “ Furphy’s” the biggest manufacturers in the country districts of Victoria, whose water-carts are to be seen all over Australia.
– And the firm is complaining bitterly of the cost of their raw material. Do you want to close down the works ?
– I merely mention this firm in order to inform honorable members that a man, who had been employed by it for twenty-two years, was dismissed because he had the impertinence to run against a sitting member for Echuca, the late Mr. Palmer, as a Labour candidate. The farmers and others of Shepparton and the surrounding districts said, in effect, that if this man was kept employed the firm would get no more of their orders ; and while the firm, in my belief, did not wish to “sack” him, it had to do so because of this local pressure. I merely mention this to show what may be expected from the crowd represented by the Corner party when it comes to dealing with the worker. I trust, however, that the Corner party will help honorable members on this side to compel the Government to keep the promise to which I have referred, and to see that manufacturers who enjoy protection sell their products at reasonable rates.
Dumping is the problem we have to consider and solve. I address myself to this question in no kindly feeling towards the capitalistic section of the community; my object is to make . Australia what it ought to be - a manufacturing country. That object, I contend, can only be achieved by excluding imports from other countries. I look forward to the establishment of more companies for the production of pig iron. I also anticipate great railway extensions in Australia, and I do not desire the community to be at the tender merciesof one or two companies for the supply of steel rails. Our hope is that, by the imposition of increased duties, we may encourage the development of manufacturing, not only in this, but in many other directions. That development can only be achieved by means of an adequate Tariff.
.- I support the amendment because, in the first place, I believe that duties should be placed on articles that can be manufactured in Australia, and, in the second place, because I desire to see the whole of the employees engaged in our various industries properly safeguarded as to their standard of living. I do not speak now on behalf of the employers, who, in my opinion, are quite capable of safeguarding their own interests. The commodity under discussion can be well and truly manufactured in this country. We have the whole of the raw material close at hand, with proper facilities for carrying on the industry ; and it can be carried on, I do not say as cheaply, but just as easily, as in other countries. Australia should not be permitted to become the dumping ground for cheap surplus products from overseas; and it appears to me that the present duties on iron are not sufficient. Conditions have so much changed since the Tariff was first introduced as to warrant further increases in the duties. I may be permitted to quote some figures showing the increased cost of production of iron in Australia. The price of coal has increased by 4s. per ton, and, taking 2 tens of coal as necessary for the manufacture of 1 ton of pig iron, the increase really amounts to 8s. per ton of iron. Then harbor dues have increased by 4½d. per ton for iron ore and limestone, while the Board of Trade has awarded an increase of 8s. 6d. per week for every employee in the industry. All this means, of course, a very considerable reduction in the Tariff; indeed, it practically means that imported iron is allowed free into Australia. Is it not evident that this country is not in a position to compete with other countries which do not pay the same rates of wages and observe the same conditions,? The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) stated quite recently , that he was prepared at all times to safeguard the interests of such a gigantic industry as the iron and steel in- dustry, and, further, to see that continuity of operations was maintained. That being so, there does not appear to me any reason why the honorable gentleman should refuse to accept the amendment.
There is another point to be considered. Germany can manufacture iron at a much lower rate than it can be manufactured at in Australia, as the following table will show: -
It has always been the view of the Government that the industries of this country should be protected; and the only way is to impose a duty that will prevent foreign manufacturers, who pay smaller wages than are paid here, from dumping their material into Australia. If nature had not provided us with all the necessary raw material for the manufacture of this commodity, there would be a reasonable excuse for allowing importations at lesser rates of duty; but, while the present Tariff remains, we can be sure that no speculator will invest in the iron industry, for the simple reason that he is given no guarantee of security. If there were such a guarantee, there are, scores of investors fully prepared to embark in the industry. There is ample room for new industries of this character; but people will not invest if foreign countries are allowed to dump their products practically free of duty. The Government have paid to Hoskins Limited a huge amountof money for the production of iron. That can be easily obviated by imposing an additional duty of 10s. per ton. I am certain that if the duty is not increased in the near future, the iron industry in Australia will become practically paralyzed, and that from 150,000 to 160,000 employees will be thrown out of work.
– That is like the extravagant prophecies made at the time that the Commonwealth Parliament decided to do away with black labour in Australia.
– I am not speaking about black labour; but there is the possibility that the black-labour problem will operate very severely in the shape of competition from other countries unless the Government do something to establish those industries which have already been started in Australia. Two commodities which are most essential to this country are cement and iron. The cement industry is certainly deserving of the same protection as the iron industry. The two industries work with one another. Unless something is done to protect the interests of the people who are already engaged in the manufacture of iron, I am afraid that something serious will happen. Every possible class of iron can be manufactured in Australia, but not much corrugated iron is made here at present, simply because the Government have not sufficiently protected the interests of the industries which are capable of making it. If sufficient protection were given, there would be no necessity for its importation, because we have the raw material at hand to make it. I am particularly anxious to see the industry protected, because, in my electorate, quite a number of employees are engaged in the manufacture of iron, and if anything should happen to throw them out of employment, it would be most difficult to replace them. I hope the industry will receive from the Government the attention and protection which should be given to it. The Minister for Trade and Customs has assured the Committee that he is prepared to protect it, but assurances of that description have been given before, and in many cases have not been honoured. In this case, let us see that the Minister’s assurance that sufficient protection will be given to the iron industry is made effective.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) held out no hope to-day for any increase in this duty so far as he was concerned. We have been contending all along for an increase in the duty in the general Tariff and the British preferential Tariff, because we are confident, from our knowledge of what has taken place in other parts of the world, that unless something of the kind is done, we shall have a very large number of unemployed, and a commencement of a reduction of wages which will not end until it extends from one end of Australia to the other. The Acting Prime Minister endeavoured to make it appear that he was making some concession when he said that the Government were quite prepared to deal with the exchange question. We understood that from the Minister for Trade and Customs before the Acting Prime Minister spoke at all. He also said that the Government intended to deal with the question of dumping. The Minister for Trade and Customs has never yet definitely stated what he intends to do about the question of exchange. I think he said that he intended to bring in a Bill dealing with it before this portion of the session came to an end.
– Certainly. We have to do it as the complement of the Tariff. The only thing I am not clear about at the moment, and I am getting advice from the Attorney-General’s office on the subject, is whether we can incorporate what we propose to do in the Bill of which this Tariff forms the schedule, or whether we shall have to get a fresh resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, and then introduce a special Bill to cover it.
– Does the Minister intend to do that before we adjourn ?
– Most certainly.
– The question of exchange is going to be very difficulty to deal with. I do not quite know how it is to he met. That is why I submit that those measures should have preceded the consideration of the Tariff. We should have had them before us so that we could know exactly where we stood in dealing with the duties.
– I have fought for that from the beginning.
– Yes, and it should be done even now. This item should he postponed pending further investigations by the Minister and his staff, and the introduction of the other measures referred to. It is not satisfactory to the Committee, when dealing with a question of this kind, to be told that, some time before we rise, we are to be asked to deal with the questions of exchange and dumping. They will be very difficult problems to handle. The following quotation from the Ironmonger bears on the point: -
The year 1921 starts with two very serious problems. First of all, how can the puzzle of the fall in exchange be solved?The violent fluctuations of the rates of exchange rob all international commercial enterprise of stability. At present they are combined with speculation, and often bring us face to face with unforeseen situations. Take an example: A German firm buys copper at £100 a ton when the price of marks is 180 to the pound. The metal, therefore, costs 18,000 marks per ton. The rate of exchange falls to 260, and the German dealer is able to sell the copper for which he gave £100 at £75 a ton, and still make, in his own currency, 1,500 marks, or about 8 per cent. profit.
The fluctuations affect the labour situation even more. Throughout Western Europe wages are at least double what they were in 1913. In Germany wages always were lower than in England. but supposing that a man earned 1 mark in 1913, and now gets 10 marks for the same work, the higher sum still works out in English currency to-day at only 9d. per hour, against, say, 2s. an hour earned by a British workman for similar work for which he was paid1s. in 1913. A British factory employing 200 workmen forty-fivehours per week, therefore, pays out £900 in wages, against £337 10s. paid in Germany, and is unable to compete. Nowadays production cannot bo absorbed, and Germany herself, although producing only 70 per cent. of her normal output, instead of consuming a good part at home and exporting to the East at least one-half of the balance, consumes very little, and throw’s nearly all her surplus on the Western markets at priceswith which the Western factories find it impossible to compete.
How are we to meet a situation of that kind ? No proposal is before us, and the Committee are asked to accept the duty on pig-iron because the Government intend to do “ something “ later on to correct differences in the currency. We do not know what that “ something “ is, or whether it will be successful.
– In any case, we could not cure the difficulty of which the honorable member speaks by an increase in these duties applying to the world at large.
– I quite admit it; but we ought to know exactly what the Government intend to do to meet the situation, and whether it is likely to be effective. We have no inkling of it yet. We are left in the dark, and the question was never raised until the debate took place on the duty on pig-iron.
– The reason is that this is the only commodity that I know of on which that question has really become a definite factor in the situation.
– It may quite possibly become a definite factor in other matters as time goes on.
– Quite possibly.
– There is the position we have to face. Until we deal with it, we do not know whether or not we are providing ample protection for the iron and steel industry. Everything has to be taken with a certain amount of doubt.
– We cannot deal with the question on this item.
– That is whyI suggest that the item should be postponed. If that had been done we could have been a good deal further through the Tariff. When we have the fullest information available, we shall be ready to deal with this item. We have had promises, which I am sure the Minister will endeavour to fulfil. We may have faith in him, but it is quite possible that the remedy the Government propose will not meet the position. It may be a more difficult problem than the Minister imagines.
– Decidedly! But I think we have a satisfactory solution.
– We ought to know what it is, so that we may decide whether it is satisfactory.
– It is a problem by itself, and we must settle it by itself.
– I admit it. The Acting Prime Minister’s attempt to make so much of the intention of the Government to deal later on with the questions of exchange and dumping counts for nothing so far as the Tariff is concerned, because those are matters that stand by themselves. The exchange question does not affect every item, but it may be found to affect various items as time goes on. We know that a good deal of dumping is going on to-day in connexion with more than one article. This is made possible because of the conditions existing abroad. The bottom is falling out of things in other countries. They are not coming down gradually, but everything is tumbling down, and if we are not careful the same state of things will occur in Australia. If we do not protect our people and preserve the market for our own industries, the same position is sure to arise here. The Acting Prime Minister tried to make it appear that the Government would do everything possible to protect this industry. He said, “If we find, when the Tariff is passed, that the industry is being injuriously affected, or is likely to be affected, we will bring proposals before the House to deal with the position.” Who is going to decide whether the industry is being injuriously affected or not ? How is the Acting Prime Minister to know? How are we to know? Is the right honorable gentleman going to takethe opinion of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company? Must they come to him and say, “ We cannot compete now with the foreign market and the British market, and, consequently, we ask you to honour your pledge to see that noinjustice is done to us” ? If that is to be the position, a good deal of exception will be taken to it. It will not be satisfactory to honorable members. They will want some tangible proof that such is the case.
To-day we have sufficient proof to justify us in asking for an increase in the duties on this item, because already two contracts in Australasia have been taken at cheaper rates than the stuff can be produced here. That is absolutely true, and it is, therefore, our duty to do something to save the industry. If they can to-day produce so much cheaper in the Old Country as to be able to compete successfully with us, is it not fair to say that the duty is not adequate? If we desire. that sort of thing, then we ought to admit that we do not want the industry in Australia, and that it ought to be closed down, because it cannot sell at the same price as its products can be obtained at from abroad. If we take up that attitude, either the industry has to close down, or there must be a general reduction in wages in that industry.
– Where were those contracts let?
– One was let in Western Australia, and the other, I believe, in New Zealand. We have been discussing for some considerable time the effect upon prices of a reduction of wages in the Old Country, where they are fixed on a sliding scale, which is governed by the price obtained for the output commodity. On this point I find the following information in The Ironmonger -
The examination of the books of the employers in the Scottish malleable-iron trade, for the purpose of ascertaining the selling price in connexion with the regulation of wages in the industry, shows that the average net selling price for January and February was £27 16s. 6.04(1. This means a decrease in the wages of the workmen of 22$ per cent, on basis rates.
The effect of this reduction upon the protection offered in this schedule, which was laid on the table of the House fifteen months ago, is very important. Clearly the advantage must be with the British manufacturers -
The Conciliation Board for the manufactured iron and steel trade of the North of England has been informed by the chartered accountants appointed to carry out the ascertainment that for the two months ended 28th February the average net selling price was £26 19s. 7.97d. On this figure the sliding scale gives a reduction of 25 per cent, on puddling and other forge and mill wages.
In view of these facts, honorable members surely will realize the motives actuating honorable members who are supporting the amendment. We do not want to see the same industrial depression in Australia. W!e want if possible, to maintain the present high standard of wages, otherwise I am firmly convinced that we shall not be able to meet our war obligations. The higher the wages the more employment there will be for the people.
– But will this proposal find employment for people? The honorable member’s figures are hardly fair, because in March of last year, when this schedule was introduced, wages in this industry in England averaged from £6 to £25.
– I am not referring to the particular amounts received as wages in Great Britain. Wages everywhere were high during the war period, and it is our purpose to keep them as high as possible here. This statement which I have just quoted shows that wages are coming down very rapidly in the Old Country, and if the iron and steel industry in Australia is to live there must be some corresponding reduction here, in the absence of more adequate protection.
– Can you tell us what was the average wage in the industry in Great Britain? It may have been very high.
– Whilst I cannot give the honorable member that information, the fact remains that if there has been a drop of 25 per cent, in Great Britain, the cost of .production there must be appreciably lower, and if the Australian industry is to be in a position to compete, without the higher duties now asked for, wages here will have to come down to something like the same extent, or else our mills will have to close. The position is so clear that I am surprised the Government do not realize the danger, and give us something more on the British and general Tariff. The request is a fair one. What has happened on the other side of the world is perfectly plain to every one who understands the position. The Acting Prime Minister endeavoured to prove that a reduction of wages in Great Britain to Bie extent of £1 would be equivalent to so much additional protection under the fixed duties; and by interjection I asked what would be the position of the Australian industry, under this Tariff, if the cost of production in
England came down to such an extent as to enable the manufacturers there to send products to Australia at a lower price than the locally manufactured article. Clearly the reduction must be in favour of the British manufacturer. I could understand the Acting Prime Minister’s argument if he had said that if wages in Australia fell 25 or 50 per cent., it would be equivalent to an additional protection of £2 for the Australian manufacturer. I believe that all honorable members are desirous of seeing our existing conditions maintained. “We know that prices are gradually coming down everywhere, but we have no desire to see them come down to the pre-war level. Unless we make some provision safeguarding us against this contingency, where shall we be? Wages here will come down at break-neck speed if the movement starts inthis key industry.
– But if we increase the Tariff, every other allied industry will be likewise affected.
– I am satisfied that an increase in the Tariff on this item will not affect other industries to any great extent.
– Can you fairly say that of Mount Morgan, Mount Cuthbert, and Mount Lyell?
-I do not think it will make very much difference to any of them. I believe that with adequate protection for this key industry the manufacturing concerns of the Commonwealth would be able to supply all our requirements at a reasonable price, because, as their turnover increases, so will their production costs decline. That is the history of the industry in the United States of America.
– That might be a good argument if our population were increasing at the same rate as in America.
– How can we expect to increase our population unless we make provision for the employment of those who may come to Australia? The honorable member, I suppose, is in favour of the proposal to induce people from the Old Country to come here, but how can we absorb any additions to our population if the main avenues of employment are closed ? Already we have a large number of unemployed in the different States, and unless we do something to encourage these industries, the position will be intensified.
– I think the policy of the Government is doing that already.
– The policy I advocate will provide more employment in the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth.
– How can that be so if our productive industries are closing down?
– That is what I am trying to prevent; but, unfortunately, the honorable member will not assist me. I am endeavouring to preserve our industries, and if the honorable member would only take a broad national view of the situation he would indorse my policy.
– I think you are wrong ; that you are taking a narrow view.
– Of course, the honorable member has a perfect right to his own opinion. I am merely contending that we should be in a position to manufacture all our own requirements. The honorable member, the other night, said something about this industry in Canada, I was not then conversant with the Canadian position as regards bounties and duties, but I have since obtained the following statement concerning the Canadian Tariff of 1910 : -
Proviso. - Provided that the bounty shall not be paid on steel ingots from which steel blooms and billets for exportation from Canada are manufactured.
That shows that Canada has paid bounties in addition to imposing duties.
– That may have happened, but it does not alter the fact that Canada has assisted that industry. Let me state what is happening in other countries in regard to these matters. This extract is from The Ironmonger of January, 1921 -
Belgian Iron and Steel Trade Figures. - In The Ironmonger of 18th December, p. 109, the exports of pipes and tubes from Belgium during the first ten months of 1920 was given as 168 tons. This should have been 3,481 tons.
Belgian Ironmongers and German Trade. - There was a discussion at the last meeting of the Belgian Ironmongers’ Association on the resumption of business relations with Germany. The general opinion was in favour of a renewal, on the ground that trading with the Germans was a necessity if the economic equilibrium of the world is to be re-established. The British and the French, it was pointed out, had already started dealing with the Germans, and there was no reason why Belgium should continue to pay high prices for British and French goods when she could buy better from the Germans. Belgium was now actually buying goods in France and Britain which had been imported there from Germany.
Britain gets the material from Germany, manufactures it into goods, and exports them to Australia, and our local industries are expected to hold their own with competition of that kind -
For some time past Belgianironmongers had recognised the necessity of resuming relations with Germany, and many transactions had already taken place, usually through the intermediary of a third party resident in Belgium, as it was thought patriotic to avoid all direct contact with the German manufacturers.
That shows how deceitful the manufacturers are. They buy in a roundabout way to cover their tracks, but after the material has been manufactured into goods in Great Britain it is re-exported to compete with Australian products -
German Competition in Denmark. - The underselling of local manufacturers by German competitorswho are taking advantage of the depreciation in the value of the mark in foreign countries is not only felt in Britain, but all over the world, except in some of the minor States of Central Europe where the local currency is worth still less than the German. The director of the United Danish Ironfoundrics has just been complaining bitterly of German competition in Denmark in a Copenhagen newspaper. The director points out that in 1908 a Customs duty was placed in Denmark on castings of three oere per kilo., which then represented from 15 to 20per cent. of the value. The price of castings is now six or seven times as high as it was, so that the protection affordedby the duty only amounts to 2 or 3 per cent., and is no longer of any use in keeping out German competition.
The position is exactly the same here, and we have been arguing for the last week that the duty which the Government have imposed will be useless in the face of what is happening abroad. Our industries will succumb to foreign competition or the conditions ofour workers will have to be reviewed -
The director also states that wages in Denmark are higher than in “ any other country in Europe,” with the possible exception of Norway ( this statement presumably refers to the European continent; it will hardly be contended that wages in Denmark are in excess of those in Britain). Thewages in the foundry trade in Denmark average 2.50 kroner an hour, whereas the maximum wage in Germany, converted into Danish currency at the present rate of exchange, is only one-quarter of that amount. He foreshadows a general fall in the prices of raw and manufactured articles, followed by all-round reductions in wages.
Those who choose to look for it can find ample evidence of what is happening abroad.
– The Minister has promised to protect Australia against that competition.
– The only effective protection he can give is by consenting to increase the duty. The Minister may endeavour to deal with the exchange, but even if he does that effectively, in what position will our manufacturing industries be if production costs fall in Great Britain, so that goods may be manufactured there at 50 per cent. less than in Australia? When Australians invite tenders for supplies, and get the lowest tenders from Britain, will they not accept them?Will our manufacturing industries have any show at all? The Bills which the Minister has promised will rectify only certain phases of the problem; without an increase in the duties the industry will be at the mercy of foreign competition. We are promised that when the industry is in danger Parliament will be asked to express an opinion. How is Parliament to know when the danger arises? Must we wait until the industry is languishing? Speaking from experience, I know that only when the pinch comes is it possible to realize what is taking place. Then prices begin to fall, and either the workers have to suffer a reduction of wages or the industry must go to the wall. If the workmen accept low wages in a particular industry, those in other industries must follow suit. I warn the Committee that if that happens this country will suffer. Our duty as representative men is to protect the country against such a development, and see that it becomes self- contained.. Has the war taught us nothing? I am fast being driven to the conclusion that our memories are very short; in a year or two we forget everything that has happened in the near past. How many times have I heard honorable members opposite say that Australia should be in a position to supply its own requirements in time of war? We hope there may be no more wars, but we never know what will happen. And if this country isagain embroiled in an international conflict, what will happen to us if we have not our industries fairly established and conditions obtaining under which men may live and rear their families in comfort? Are we to go backwards or to allow things to remain as they are? Even if living is dear when wages are high, what does it matter, because the money is spent here, everybody is doing well, and is able to pay his way ? I speak not as the advocate of any particular company or combine. I am opposed to all combines, but if there must be a combine I would sooner that it were in Australia, so that we could deal with it, than in some other country beyond our control, where it might be sucking the lifeblood out of the workers in order to carry on a cut-throat competition with our own people. It is our duty to extend the avenues of employment, and we can only do it by means of a Tariff which will enable us to retain our own market, establish new industries, keep the country as prosperous as possible, and avoid the developments that are occurring in the Old Country. If we do not protect the iron and steel industry we shall be helping to repeat in Australia the lowering of industrial conditions that is taking place in England. I am prepared to debate this Tariff from the workers’ point of view on any platform in Australia, and I know there will be only one answer to my attitude. Make the country selfsupporting; give our workers decent wages so that they can live in Letter conditions than the workers in other parts of the. world. Why, in the face of what has happened during the last twelve months, the Minister still refuses to grant an increase in the duty, I cannot understand. I would not be wasting my time and my strength in prolonging this debate if a big principle were not at stake. That for which I am fightingmeans everything to the workers of this country. I used at one time to think that it was only men holding extreme views who hinted at certain members sticking up for certain companies. But I find, even in this House, men who stood behind the monopolies during the war and never raised their voices to prevent the exploitation of the people charging men like myself, who have at least endeavoured to be consistent on this matter, with fighting the cause of some company. I stand for no company. I am here as a representative man to defend the interests of the country and its people, and I hope the time will soon come when this Parliament will have sufficient power to prevent exploitation of the people by monopolies. But the immediate necessity is for this Parliament to impose such a duty as will protect the iron and steel industry, increase employment, and prevent that surrender of wages and conditions which is taking place in other countries. If we succeed in doing that we shall have done good work. The promise made by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to-day represents no concession at all. The Bills to regulate’ exchange and dumping will be all right in their place, but the position in regard to British competition will be the same unless the duty is increased. British manufacturers are getting orders from Australia now, and what will happen if a further reduction of wages and conditions takes place? We have to guard against what is happening abroad and keep the conditions in this country as they are to-day. I can speak from experience of the effect of cutthroat competition in the mines. As a result of cut-throat competition to secure trade, every cost bearing on the industry was reduced to bed-rock, and the employees were unable to procure the necessaries of life. Since that could be brought about from internal causes, the same might happen because of external pressure. If we permit foreign countries to overwhelm us with their favoured competition, we shall be guilty of a great national wrong. Now is the time to erect an adequate barrier.
– I asked last night why you had waited so long, namely, from 1914 until the present moment, before proposing to do so.
– There was no need to suggest the building of the barrier during the war years. All the protection that Australia’s industries could have asked, was being effectively provided by German submarines. But the position has altogether changed. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is as keen as any other honorable member. He knows what is happening abroad, and must see that if we do not raise an effective wall there will bo a general falling away in the conditions of life among our people.
– I think that in the interests of the people there must be more competition and higher development of our industries.
– If we intend to become a self-contained nation, we must foster our basic industries. Are we doing so? Conditions to-day are different from those of even (fifteen months ago, when the existing Tariff was imposed. The Minister then decided upon the rates set out in the schedule because he had at heart, apparently, the welfare of Australia’s industries. Has his attitude changed? Should we not endeavour to meet the situation as it exists to-day ? I have no special brief for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, but it has sought to do a fair thing. The fact that it refused to accept the bounty furnishes proof of that. It demonstrates that the firm was doing all right, and wanted no help by way of a bounty. Now, however, it is faced by an invasion of ex-‘ ploiters from all over the world. Are we going to let this Australian enterprise be killed, or shall we protect it as it should be protected? In speaking so, I am not standing up merely for the company, but for Australia, and the people of Australia. If the Minister cannot see his way clear at this moment to grant further increases in the rates of duty, why should he not defer the discussion? If he will agree to. do so, I am certain that the pressure upon the industry from outside will have become so acute as to make the danger apparent to all. I believe that if the Minister were now to consent to pass on to other features of the schedule, and let time argue with him, he would eventually concede something reasonable. But if we are to be met with a blank refusal, it will mean an indefinite prolongation of the fight. If the amendment is defeated, I shall move another. This schedule will not be done with in a few weeks. The Prime Minister will have returned .before we are through with it, if - the Government do not agree to a fair thing.
– The honorable member will get nowhere by that kind of talk.
– I would impress upon the honorable member, and the Government, that we are in earnest.
– The honorable member and his colleagues show no respect for the views of the majority.
– Such is our respect that we intend to carry on until we shall have converted a majority to the correct view. I perceive that there are certain honorable members who are sympathetic, and who would agree to the adequate protection of Australia’s great industry; but since the Government have taken a certain stand, they are content to sink their own opinions and range themselves behind the Minister.
– You want your own way, and imagine that nobody else ha3 a right to his. The Government have done a fair thing.
– Up to the present we have been very quiet. We have assisted tho Government with the various items of tho schedule.
– Because you got all you wanted.
– We have asked for nothing. We have got nothing. The only people who have got anything for which they have asked are the honorable members in the Corner. I again appeal to the Minister to do the fair thing, and postpone further consideration of the item
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) upon his speech and upon the earnestness of his arguments, t regret, however, that I cannot agree with him, and do not intend to vote as he desires that a majority of the Committee should do. Repugnant as it is to me to range myself, even in division, with the Government and with the representatives of the “ Foreign Country party “ established in the Corner, I intend to cast my vote against the amend ment of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). I believe in the adequate protection of every Australian industry. It is high time we put an end to the bad old practice of producing our own raw material, exporting it overseas to have it made up into the finished article, and importing it back here for retail sale and consumption among its own original producers. We should rear a sufficiently high Tariff wall to enable Australia to become truly self-contained and self-sustained. I cannot go so far, however, as to support the amendment. The degree of protection granted under the schedule is ample. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) placed his finger upon the weak spot in his own argument when he remarked that it was impossible to dissociate steel from th<; well-being of the Australian nation. If the amendment is carried, it will be found that we have forced up the cost of the raw material so high that it will bt- impossible for subsidiary industries to carry on. I repeat that I find it unpleasant to be compelled, for the first time, to vote for the Government against my colleagues.
– In other words, you are disinfecting yourself. -
– I do not have to declare that I am no supporter of the Government. Yet, if the Government introduce any measure, or take any action, which is in accord with my own views and principles, I am bound, in the circumstances, to support them.
.- In the course of the first speech which I made upon the Tariff I stated that the Country party was prepared to support any reasonable endeavour to maintain the industries of Australia. And, in spite of the jibes and aspersions hurled at us - including the reference to the “Foreign Country party” - honorable members in this corner have done their best to keep up some of the duties, at any rate.
– Hear, hear! Bananas and onions.
– But we have never received any kudos for our efforts. On the present occasion I shall be satisfied to follow the lead of the Minister (Mr. Greene). No one has suggested that he is a low Protectionist, or a “ foreign country “ man, or a Free Trader I regret to note the trend of the discussions in Committee at the present stage. There should be no obstructionist tactics in an effort to secure something which is beyond the necessities of the situation. The fight which is now going on is not for the purpose of protecting our iron and steel industry, but is an endeavour to prevent any possible reduction in wages, however necessary that course may be by reason of the general decline in the price of raw products, and which decline - it should not be overlooked - must materially affect the cost ofliving. The prices of raw products in all directions are now approximating to pre-war rates; and everybody would be better off if wages also were, at the same time, tending to prewar standards. It seems absurd to suggest the erection of what might be termed a Chinese wall to prevent the importation of foreign goods in one industry merely because conditions abroad differ considerably from those prevailing in Australia at present. If we were similarly protecting every industry, the proposition might have my support.
– You were prepared to protect the banana industry.
– That is so, but we are now being asked to impose a heavier duty than was found necessary in Canada, adjoining the United States of America, with its huge steel works. Distance gives us a natural protection.
– The proposed duty is not higher than it was in Canada when they commenced operations.
– They began with a bounty.
– But duties were added later.
– There is no natural protection. It costs more to bring timber from the honorable member’s district than it does to import it from America.
– We are not dealing with the timber industry at present; but iron has to be brought thousands of miles. There are other means of protecting this industry than by high protective duties, and one is by giving careful consideration to the question of power. It is remarkable that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, who are producing the bulk of the steel, are not asking for this protection.
– Are they not?
– They have not asked for it unless it has been within the last few days.
– The Minister admitted it only yesterday.
– If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, through their representatives in this Chamber, are asking for the imposition of higher duties, they are guilty of a gross breach of faith with their customers, because on the 4th April of this year they notified their customers throughout the Commonwealth that they would be unable to meet the local requirements of iron and steel owing to a strike. It seems remarkable that the company should have requested their customers to purchase abroad, and at the same time have asked for increased duties, because they must have known that if the rates wereincreased those who had purchased abroad would have to pay additional duties. In the Hardware and Machinery Journal of 4th April, 1921, the following statement appears : -
The Broken Hill Pty. Co. have advised the trade that no new contracts will be accepted during the next six months. - Buyers wanting to effect forward contracts should look to overseas sources.
According to a letter written this month, this company is still unable to meet our requirements. The letter reads - . . . I confirm my advice that various merchants have placed with us since the notification from the Broken Hill Co. indent orders for steel material totalling approxi mately 2,500 tons. I know of considerable other businessplaced through otherhouses, and estimatethat at least 7,000 tons of steel havebeen ordered for Melbourne and Adelaide alone. Very little of this has arrived yet, although large quantities are now on the water. If the Ministry’s proposal to increase the duty is carried, merchants and users here will be penalized. It was not until after they had obtained assurances from the Broken Hill Co. that they placed orders for indent.
When one analyzes the position and considers the request that has been made for higher duties, really to enable increased wages to be paid, it is worth while comparing the pre-war prices of certain articles with those ruling to-day. The pre-war and present prices show this difference - rails, £8 16s., £17 15s.; fishplates, £11 2s., £21 15s.; fish-bolts, £21 6s., £56 10s.
– Why does not the honorable member quote the British prices for the same period?
– The increase in price is more than equivalent to the total increase in wages during that period. The Inter-State Commission, when it dealt with this matter in 1916, pointed out that any basic industry protected by duties, and which supplies raw materials to secondary industries, involves a very heavy burden, not only on the secondary industries associated with it, but on the whole community. The InterState Commission recommended a general duty of17s. 6d. and a British preferential rate of 12s. 6d. High duties seriously affect secondary industries, as will be seen from a letter I have received from an engineer in Ballarat, who is constructing6½ horse-power engines. These small industries should be encouraged throughout the Commonwealth, because it has already been admitted that their establishment means a proper distribution of population and the creation of local markets. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) emphasized the point that the main object of the Tariff was to assist decentralization. But what is occurring? The manufacturer to whom I have referred points out that the prices of the materials used in the manufacture of his engines have increased in this way : Cast-iron, which cost £4 to £5 per ton, is at present £13 per ton. Steel channels have increased from £12 to £38 per ton, and bar-steel from £10 to £30 per ton. Bright shafting, which cost £17 per ton before the war, is now being sold at £56 per ton. This manufacturer uses about 30 cwt. of iron in a 6½-horse-power engine. These figures represent an increase in price of £1 per cwt., and a direct tax on this little engine of £30.
– What is the duty on such engines?
– We have not yet dealt with the duty upon engines, but I have no doubt that when we do so this manufacturer will be content if his industry is treated in a reasonable way. When such aburden as I have indicated is placed upon a subsidiary industry, when the people concerned in the iron and steel industry have not protested against the Tariff under which they have been working for nearly eighteen months, and when there is no opposition to it in the Committee, I cannot account for the amendment.
Mr.Watkins. - The honorable member’s party is opposed to the Tariff as introduced by the Minister.
– I do not think so.
– We have been told that they intend to move for a reduction of the proposed duty.
– It is true that the Country party desire a slight alteration of the duty in the British preferential column, but they are not opposed to the duties proposed in the intermediate and general columns. I do not see why, in the circumstances, these duties should be raised 50 per cent. and the secondary industries using steel and iron penalized, as they must be if these duties are increased. It has been suggested that this is the proper way in which to deal with this matter and the way in which it has been dealt with in other countries. I find that in Canada the policy adopted was to give a bounty of $1 to $3 per ton on iron from 1883 up to 1910, during which time the production increased from 526,000 tons to 740,000 tons.From that time there was a duty imposed in Canada of 8s. 9d. in the British preferential Tariff and 14s. 2d. in their intermediate and general Tariff. The output of the industry increased in the next three years to 1,128,000 tons. I am inclined to dispute the statement that wages are very much higher in Australia than in Canada or America, and I have to inform honorable members that, with the experience to which I have referred, the Canadian Parliament, in 1919, proposed that -
Boiled iron or steel hoop, band, scrollor strip, number fourteen gauge and thinner, and rolled iron or steel sheet, when imported by manufacturers for use only in their own factories inthe manufacture of galvanized iron or steel hoop, band, scroll, strip or sheet- should be admitted free.
-free from any country ?
– Yes, free from any country. Surely it is worth our while to accept the protection offered by the Minister for Trade and Customs in view of the fact that, underour Tariff, so far, the steel and iron industry here has reached its present prosperity. The Broken Hill Company has had a series of successful years, and we might give the duties proposed by the Minister a trial before deciding to penalize the secondary industries using steel and iron. It seems to me that the time has come when we should not only build up industries by putting Tariff walls around them, but should also rather try to improve our methods by more economical management, and by making proper use of all the power available. I understand that in the Newcastle district there are ten or eleven power plants, each one of which has a horse-power production almost double what would be necessary if one central power plant were established, which could provide all the power necessary at the Newcastle works at the present time. Sir Arnold Gridley, when in Australia last year, told me that in England it was proposed to adopt means of this kind. He said that by concentration and co-ordinating power plants, using sixteen central plants instead of 643 overlapping plants in use at the present time, they expect to save the consumption of 100,000,000 tons of coal in England this year, and by that means rehabilitate the whole of the British manufacturing enterprises. This concentration of power is a factor of future development which should be given consideration. Certain honorable members have talked of holding up the Committee for weeks on end because others do not see eye to eye with them in connexion with these duties, but if that course were to be adopted in connexion with every proposal submitted, we might be in session for ten or twelve years if an election did not intervene.
.- I do not propose to say very much more on this item. The discussion upon it has shown that there is a. determination on the part of the Government and of the Country party to frame this Tariff entirely in the interest of people on the land.
– The honorable member should take a broader view, and should not think only of the Newcastle steel works.
– I say this because of the way in which the Tariff has so far been dealt with. Every increase of duty that has been accepted has been for the benefit of industries which honorable members of the Country party desire to protect. The honorable member fori
Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) had not the advantage of hearing the previous discussion of this item, or he would not have made the speech to which we have just listened. He gave us a little lecturette on the operations of the industry in my electorate, and suggested what might be done by a concentration of electric power and economic management all round. He told us that he is satisfied with the duties proposed by the Minister, and considers them ample to enable the industry to be carried on successfully.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Notwithstanding the diversity of the opinions expressed in this debate, I think that honorable members generally are prepared to do the fair thing by what is the national industry of Australia. I have drawn attention to the fact that practically all the increases of duties that have been approved so far have been in connexion with items protecting primary production. I agreed to those increases because I am at all times willing to assist the man on the land, and I see no force at all in the contention that to increase the duties on pig iron for the protection of the iron and steel industry will prejudice primary producers. It is on that point that we who support the amendment are at issue with the members of the Country party. The Minister .(Mr. Greene) told us that he will take steps to rectify the position caused by unfavorable exchanges; but, as I have said before, this cannot be done by increasing duties, and my claim, for the proposed increases is based on other grounds. I have stated that conditions have altered so materially since the Tariff was brought down that the rates proposed in it are of almost no effect on many items, and give absolutely no protection on many more, and I have produced figures to support that statement; yet it is glibly said that no case has been made out for the amendment. Had conditions not so altered, I would not ask for increases. At the present time there is unemployment in one of the subsidiary industries coming within this division of the Tariff, and the competition of socalled Belgian steel, which I believe tobe of German origin, is such that in tendering for contracts the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has, within the last few weeks, been beaten both in Australia and in New Zealand. Is there any industry more entitled to protection than the iron and steel industry, which is the biggest in the country? Members have voted for an increase of 500 per cent. in the duties on some of the items of the Tariff, and now will not vote for an increase of 50 per cent. to make effective rates which at the present time give practically no protection at all. I have no desire to establish monopolies in Australia. I do not know a shareholder in the Broken Hill Company, and all I know of Messrs. Hoskins Brothers’ concern is that it is a very big organization. I have always felt that the iron and steel industry cannot be established in this country unless as a Government enterprise, or by a company strong enough to meet the financial strain of the enterprise. None of the amendments to which the Minister has agreed have had the support which is being extended to the proposal I have put before the Committee, yet the Government will make no concessions. There was hope a day or two ago that some relief might be given, but now we are asked to be content with the promise of the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) that something will be done in the future. I do not know whether the “ whip “ has been used, but certainly a change has come over the scene. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) admits that the iron and steel industry employs between 30,000 and 40,000 persons, directly and indirectly.
– The proposed increases of duties will prejudicially affect those indirectly connected with the industry.
Mr.WATKINS.- How can that be so ? The increases will benefit them. Because, at the time of the stewards’ strike, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company notified its clients throughout Australia that, as it was not able to get supplies, and saw no probability of getting them within a reasonable time, they should buy what they wanted where they could get it, the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has suggested that the company was not in a position to meet the require ments of Australia under normal condi tions.
– His argument was that the duties should not be increased for a couple of months to come, because of the shipments now on the water that were ordered under those circumstances.
-We are prepared to hold off for three months.
Mr.WATKINS . - Yes. What the company did was done with a view to helping its clients at a time of trouble; its action on that occasion is no evidence that in normal times it could not supply their wants. I am with the Minister in desiring to preventdumping, and hail with satisfaction his statement that he intends to prevent it. It is not the fear of dumping which necessitates action along the Lines which I have indicated, but the fact that the existing duty is practically inoperative, and that during the past few weeks our own manufacturers have been beaten for contracts upon ordinary commercial lines by importations from overseas. Of course, the Acting Prime Minister has pointed out that all companies must be unsuccessful in their tenders from time to time. I admit that, but I deny that it is a fair thing for the head of a Protectionist Government to argue that our manufacturers, when they tender at bedrock prices, should be beaten by manufacturers overseas.
-The difference in freight along our coast was almost the difference between the British and Broken Hill prices.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie illustrates the urgent need which exists for the increased duty for which I am asking. The honorable member has supplied me with a very potent reason why an increased duty should be leviedupon pig iron to protect the industry in Australia. Why have we sought protection for any of our industries ? Need I remind honorable members that very frequently pig iron comes to Australia as shipping ballast, and thereby pays no freight whatever? We all know that this particular commodity can be obtained cheaper abroad. But during the war period there would have been financial chaos in this country had not the iron and steel industry here sold its products to our people at less than half the price at which they could have been purchased abroad. Nearly the whole of the transcontinental railway line was built of Australian steel.
– Not nearly the whole of it.
– Yes. I was under the impression that honorable members would be proud of the fact that we had reached, that stage when we could practically build the transcontinental line out of ores produced in the Commonwealth, and at a price which shewed that our manufacturers did not take advantage of the abnormal conditions which prevailed at the time of its construction. We have been told that the increased duty proposed would penalize the men upon the land.
– It was the secondary industries to which we chiefly referred.
– I do not believe that an increased measure of protection would make agricultural implements, such as harvesters, any dearer than they are to-day. But, even if it is so, the purchasers of those implements would pay the duty only once in perhaps twenty years, whereas we have already levied imposts upon articles upon which the great mass of the people will haveto pay duty every day of the year. I ask the members of the Country party to realize that if our primary industries are to be granted fair conditions, equal consideration should be meted out to those other industries in this country which employ quite as many workers as they do. The iron and steel industry has already been established at two places in one State, and I hope, in the near future, to see it established by the State Government in Queensland. In view of what has been done, I submit that we have no right to jeopardize the future of the industry by permitting competition from outside. Do my honorable friends in the Country party imagine that if our Australian industries were completely wiped out they would be able to purchase agricultural machinery from the Trusts, which we cannot control, in other parts of the world any cheaper than it can be purchased to-day? Why, we should then occupy a position ten times worse thanwe shall do if we offer every legitimate encouragement to the genuine industries of this country. I have endeavoured to explain the position which obtains in my own electorate, where men are in need of work and cannot get it. I am anxious to see that the condition of the 30,000 or 40,000 people who are interested in the iron and steel works there is not made worse by importations from abroad. . I have always stood for the best conditions procurable for the working men of Australia. But I recognise that it is unreasonable to expect any employer to grant them those conditions if we allow him to be robbed of the local market by cheap importations from overseas. Believing that there is a real need for the increased duty which I have proposed in order that this particular industry may be kept going, I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision and to afford it the relief which I seek. His speeches have clearly expressed his anxiety to do all that he can for Australian industries, and yet for some inexplicable reason he will not consent to the proposed increase of duty in respect of this item, which will largely govern the duties which will be levied upon succeeding items. In order that justice may be done to the thousands of men who are interested in the industries, I ask him to agree to my amendment.
– I rise at this late stage to appeal to the Minister (Mr. Greene) to adopt a more reasonable attitude towards the amendment. I know that this question has been debated very fully from both sides of the Chamber, and certainly the Minister has been afforded every opportunity to fully appreciate the arguments which have been submitted in support of the proposal of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). From a perusal of the Minister’s speech in Hansard, I, too, have arrived at the conclusion that the Minister himself is really in favour of the amendment.
– I do not think that the honorable member could gather that impression from a perusal of my remarks, though they certainly show that I recognise the importance of the industry and the necessity which exists for maintaining it.
– I thank the Minister for his interjection. Possibly I may be wrong in the conclusion at -which I had arrived, but his speech certainly conveyed to me, not merely the impression that he realized the importance of the industry, but that he was personally in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Newcastle, which has been so ably supported by other honorable members. In saying that, I do not wish in any way to detract from the very able and cogent arguments in the same direction which have been used by some of my honorable friends opposite. I rise now not to make a long speech, but to appeal to the Minister to take a reasonable attitude upon this question. I have no fault to find with his statement of the issue. The question he says, is whether the duty proposed in the schedule is adequate. A large portion of the debate,, however, has not been directed to that issue. I have listened to irrelevancies, coming, particularly, from some of my honorable friends of the Country party, dealing with all sorts of things except the real issue before the Committee. I am pleased to see the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in hispl ace.
– He is more interested in bananas than steel.
– Still, I know that he is of a very high order of intelligence, and I should like to hear his views upon this very important question.
– I spoke just before we adjourned for dinner.
– I regret that I was absent ; it is my loss. I take it that in dealing with the question of whether the existing duty is adequate, what we have to consider is, “ Is the duty set out in the Tariff, and supported, up to the present, by the Minister, such as will enable the steel works in Australia to be fully and profitably employed in supplying the complete requirements of the Commonwealth?” Is it sufficient to do that?
– I believe it is.
– I hear from my honorable friends on this side, who, I am sure, are in possession of all the evidence on the subject, that it is not so. I have listened to the able and eloquent appeals of the honorable member for Newcastle, in which he has referred to large numbers of men in his constituency who are unable to obtain employment, or are threatened with unemployment in the near future, because the Minister refuses to give that meed of protection which, it is contended, is necessary.
– We must not lose sight of the fact that in this same industry in the competing countries there are far more men unemployed.
– I do not know what attitude the honorable member takes up.
– I am prepared to give the industry adequate protection, but not such protection as will enable it to profiteer in Australia.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the increased duty proposed by the honorable member for Newcastle would prove to be more than adequate protection?
– I think it would.
– I should like to hear the honorable member’s reasons for. that view. I am prepared to give every honorable member credit for his views, but we are dealing now in a non-party manner with a very important question, and it behoves us to put forward the grounds upon which we come to a conclusion such as that just stated by the honorable member forIllawarra. It may be that he has given his reasons to the Committee. I have not had an opportunity of hearing them.
– I think that upon those who ask for the increased duty there is cast the onus of showing that it is necessary.
-That may be, but I do not think it is quite a. question of onus. We may conclude that the onus is not upon any particular party.
– Not upon a party.
-By party I mean the honorable member proposing the increase. The onus should be upon the Minister to show that the duty that he proposes is sufficient to enable this great key industry of the Commonwealth to be developed to its fullest extent.. After all, we are here actuated only by patriotic motives - by a desire to develop this vast continent as a great self-contained nation. If we are not here for that purpose, then we have failed utterly to learn the lessons of the war.
– But if, in attempting to help one industry, we place an undue burden upon others, we shall also fail in our duty.
– I do not propose to do that. I do not subscribe to the arguments of those in this chamber who say, “What does it matter if another£l per ton is put upon galvanized iron? It will not make much difference in the cost of a house.” I am not arguing from that stand-point. My contention is that if we impose a duty which is sufficient to developthese great secondary industries, in the final analysis the sum total of advantage to the individual who buys that galvanized iron is more than the additional cost which he pays for it. That is to say, as an individual in the community - considering the community as a wholethe preponderance of advantage to him is greater than the actual additional price that he may have to pay for the particular article. Does my honorable friend object to my statement of the case?
– No; I agree with it.
– Then we come down to the question of whether or not this duty is required in order to enable that development to take place. My honorable friends of the Country party will not suggest that it is the intention of any one who is advocating this increased duty to damage any section of the community.
– The increase might have that effect.
– That is all a matter of inference. Will my honorable friend ad- mitthat we must have secondary industries in this country?
– We have proved in our speeches that an increased price for this commodity would damage secondary industries.
– It may be one of those half proofs. You may have to pay a little more for the thing that you require, but the sum total of advantage to you as an individual in the community is greater than the additional amount you have to pay for that particular thing.
– We suggest what the Inter-State Commission suggested was the proper way of dealing with a basic industry - that we should deal with it by way of bounty.
– I am not borrowing phrases from the Inter-State Commission.
Mr.Greene. - And the Inter-State Commission did not make that statement.
– I thank the Minister for his interjection. Does the Leader of the Country party suggest that if this duty is raised the primary producers will be damnified out of proportion to the advantage which they will reap as members of the whole community? My honorable friend is silent.
– If the honorable member had heard his speech, he would not have asked such a silly question.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) may leave his Leader to answer for himself. I want it to be clearly understood that I will not take second place to my honorable friends of the Country party, or any one else, in my desire to benefit the primary producers. I have always said that, both here and in another place. I believe that it is essential to the welfare as well as to the development of the country as a great self-contained community that the interests of the primary producers shall be adequately protected. They must, however, obtain their manufactured articles somewhere, and the only question is as to whether they are to obtain them in this country, where they have been made by our own workmen, or get them from abroad. If they are obtained from our Australian workmen, we shall build up a great local market, which, after all, is the best of all markets for our primary producers.
– The honorable member is forgetting the subsidiary interests, which are quite as large as those of this basic industry.
– I am trying to look at the interests of the community as a whole, and I should fail in my duty as a member of this Parliament, if I voted for one section to the detriment of another.
– What guarantee can the honorable member give us that we shall get additional protection for all the subsidiary industries? Every foundry in Australia would be affected by this proposed increased duty, and there are more men employed in our foundries than are engaged in the Broken Hill iron and steel works.
– The raising of this duty will not close up those foundries.
– I do not know that it will not have that effect.
– I have heard no evidence that it will. If any honorable member can show me that the carrying of the amendment would result in the closing up of foundries and other subsidiary industries, I will listen to him.
– It is stated that the price of iron in Australia to-day is 300 per cent. above the pre-war price. Is the honorable member prepared to increase the duty so that that price may be continued?
– I am now addressing myself to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Newcastle, and the very cogent arguments that he adduced.
– His arguments were directed to show that, in order to maintain the present price, this increased duty is necessary.
– I take it that it is in order to maintain the industry, and to secure to those engaged in it suitable labour and wage conditions. I have heard quite a number of irrelevant arguments. I have beard the gibe thrown across the floor of this chamber that the Labour party are supporting the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
– I have heard the Labour party say some very unkind things about the company.
– Very likely. That only goes to show how impartial the Labour party are on this question.
– It goes to show that the Labour party can, if necessary, trim their sails.
– No. I am prepared to criticise the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, or any other corporation, if I think they are doing wrong. In such circumstances, I will attack and expose them.
– That is one of the advantages of having them here instead of getting supplies from overseas.
– Exactly. We have them here under our control. I am not going to he deterred from doing what I conceive to be my duty by the gibe that this proposed increase is to promote the interests of some large corporation or company. Have I not heard honorable members of the Country party say from public platforms that there ought to be a better understanding between labour and capital - that labour and capital should co-operate? Yet now the gibe is thrown at us that, because labour is co-operating with capital, we are not acting in the in terests of the country. This is not a question of some big corporation, but a question of the welfare of Australia itself. I have had too much experience of the judgment of the people of Australia to believe that they are going to give any weight to a suggestion that we are acting in the interests of a great corporation. It is not a question of trusts and combines. There are trusts and combines overseas, in America and on the Continent of Europe. Do honorable members opposite wish to buy from those distant combines over whom we have no control? The fact is that a vast amount of irrelevancy has . been imported into the argument. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are carrying on their business without giving the community and their customers a fair deal, if they are building up a trust or combine, it is the duty of the Minister (Mr. Greene) to take steps to counteract their action. The honorable gentleman says he proposes to take such steps, and I understand that he thinks he has power to do so.
– We have power to take the duty away.
– You have more power than that.
– The iron and steel corporation are absolutely in control now in Melbourne.
– The remedy for that sort of thing is not to remove the duty and so render it impossible for the industry to bo profitably carried on in this country. This can only drive the trust or combine overseas, and leave it at liberty to send its products here all the same, with the result that we shall lose our own market and the country will suffer.
– And we shall have to buy at a highly increased cost.
– Quite so. I may say that I speak under great difficulty, having been suffering from a severe cold for quite a month. Otherwise, I should have taken a more active part in the debate; but I could not allow this occasion to pass without making an effort, in conjunction with my colleagues who have fought here so ably, determinedly, and reasonably.For they have fought reasonably. There has been no threatening or domineering, no overweening attitude; on the contrary, the Minister has rather been appealed to to take a reasonable position. The honorable gentleman said that if honorable members would let this item pass, they could raise the question again on the general Tariff. What did he mean by that? Surely he meant something? Surely it implied that he was prepared to give reasonable consideration to the matter if it was raised on the general Tariff ? But he has given us no assurance that even he himself will exercise the great influence he undoubtedly possesses with his party to induce them to agree to the raising of the general Tariff. Will he give us any such assurance?
– Will the honorable member give me an assurance that he will seriously consider the matter?
– I have given it every consideration.
– Does that mean that the doors are closed to any further consideration, even of the general Tariff?
– I am afraid it does, so far as I am concerned.
– The honorable gentleman does not say that very emphatically, and I am sure there is still hope. If some of my honorable friends opposite, who are in better voice than myself, will place their views before the Committee, they will probably have more influence with the Minister than I have. Has the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), for example, put his views on the matter ?
– I have, indeed!
– I have not heard the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). Will he be good enough to argue the matter? May we hope to again hear the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) or the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell)? I have received no assurance that we shall have the pleasure of listening to any honorable member behind the Minister in support of the motion of the honorable member for Newcastle, though, perhaps, we may hear some of our honorable friends in the Corner with some arguments against the amendment.
– You will, if you can, show us that under the present Tariff this “ infant, struggling “ industry cannot carry on. There has not been one argument to show that the industry cannot be conducted under present conditions.
– Have we not listened during the last few days, over and over again, to clear, convincing, and repeated arguments from honorable members on this side to the effect that conditions have so changed since the Tariff was imposed that, comparatively, it is practically equivalent to no Tariff at all.
– You cannot say that!
– The effect of the Tariff has been entirely obliterated in some instances.
– Is that statement by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) denied?
– It is perfectly clear that there was no justification for the duty when it was put on.
– Then why was it put on ? Does the Minister say there was no justification for it?
– There was not a cent of it required at that time.
– The Minister agrees that there was no justification for putting the duty on.
– No, I do not.
– If there was no justification for the duty, the Committee should have been told.
– I have told the Committee three or four times.
Mr.RYAN. - In any event, the honorable member for Newcastle and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who have spoken mostly on the question, based their position on the argument that conditions have changed within the last eight months ; indeed, they have gone further and contended that if this were a new question, now raised for the first time, the duties proposed in the amendment are required in order to properly develop the industry. I believe that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) proposes to move a reduction of the duty.
– Only in the case of the British duty.
– Then ought not the honorable member to place the whole of his reasons for this proposed amendment before the Committee? There seems to be a general protest from honorable members on all sides against my invitation to the honorable member for Dampier, but I do not share their view. I would listen with the greatest pleasure to the honorable member, and promise to keep an open mind. If he can furnish cogent and convincing reasons why this duty should not be raised, or, moreover, why it should be lowered, I shall main tain an open mind as to how I shall cast my vote. But, at the present time, there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence in favour of the amendment that has been moved from this side. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will reconsider his position,’ and give us an assurance that the door is not closed to any proposal for raising the general Tariff. I do not intend to. delay the Committee any further at this stage, but I trust that some honorable members opposite will advance reasons such as I have asked for, in order that we may further discuss the question.
– I make one further appeal to the Committee to come to a vote. I do not propose to go over the whole ground again. I have covered it on several occasions already. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) complains that there are certain men out of work in his constituency, and says that their idleness is because of the inadequacy of the duty. That is not the reason for the unemployment. I know what the real reason is, and it arises from circumstances which I desire to see put right at the first possible moment. I suggest to the honorable member that every hour we spend unnecessarily over this item postpones the time when we can deal with the unemployment matter.
– Let us hope the time is not unnecessarily spent.
– I simply state the broad fact that every hour we spend unnecessarily debating this item postpones the period when we can deal with the real root cause of the unemployment in the Newcastle constituency. I know all about that unemployment, and I am only too anxious to put an end to it at the earliest moment.
– What is the real cause of the unemployment?
– The real cause arises out of the exchange position.
– That is too indefinite for me!
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has said that the onus is on the Government to show that the duties in the schedule are adequate. I believe the duties to be adequate, and I shall tell the Committee why. In the first year of the war - 1914-15 - we imported 51,189 tons of pig iron, and the average price was £3 8s. If honorable members take the trouble to work the figures out, they will find that the duties proposed mean 29 per cent. United Kingdom rate, and 59 per0cent., practically, general rate. I do not suppose we shall see pig iron sold at that price again.
– The Tariff was not in force then.
– Of course, it was not in force. I am simply giving what the rates in this Tariff represent approximately on the pre-war values of pig iron. Even though we shall probably never see those values again, these duties do represent on that raw product of many subsidiary industries probably one of the highest rates in the whole Tariff on the base material of any industry.
– What is the price of imported pig iron to-day? That is the question.
– About £8 per ton.
– Then base your percentage duties on that and no’t on the pre-war price.
– I do not think we are going to see pig iron remain at £8 per ton indefinitely, nor do I think it is necessary to have that price to keep the industry going on thoroughly sound lines in Australia. I believe the duties we have laid down in this schedule are adequate. They are those to which we gave in the preparation of the Tariff, perhaps, more detailed consideration and thought than to any other series of duties in the whole schedule, because we recognised the basic nature of the industry and its tremendous importance from a national point of view in whatever way and from whatever stand-point it was considered. It was because of our desire to see the industry established on a thoroughly sound basis that we fixed the “rates set out in the schedule.
The Acting Prime Minister (Sir JosephCook) to-day pointed out that not only are we proposing these duties, but we also propose to make provision against direct dumping.We propose to make provision against dumping caused through the extraordinary position of the international exchanges. Further than that, the Acting Prime Minister gave the Committee a definite pledge and undertaking that if, after these duties are passed in the Tariff, and after we have had experience enabling us to ascertain definitely whether or not the provision made is adequate from every conceivable stand-point, we find that it is not, then the Government will bring down a further schedule of duties in connexion with these items.
– He said “instantly.”
– At once; that is, when we have definitely ascertained what the position is. If there is adequate proof, then, that these duties are insufficient, the Government have given to the Committee that definite pledge of what they will do. I appeal to the honorable member for Newcastle(Mr.Watkins) and those who have fought with him to obtain this increase to recognise, in view of all these circumstances, that they have secured from the Government such pledges for the future of this industry as can leave no reasonable doubt in their minds that the Government are just as anxious as they are to see the industry definitely established on proper lines and maintained in this country for all time. Seeing that we have given that pledge, I appeal to the Committee to come to a vote now and let us proceed with the business.
– I am one of those who were in the House when we had the first great discussion on the establishment of the iron industry in Australia. At that time a small bounty was asked for, or, in lieu of the bounty, a duty of 12½ per cent., but the House in its wisdom declined to grant the duty, and offered a substantial bounty. I have had the pleasure of going through the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works. They are a credit to Australia.
– And you want to wipe them out!
– I do not want to wipe the industry out, but I do not want to place it in a position to wipe out other and kindred industries. I have had placed in my hands some figures bearing on this question. I will take the iron and steel bar as an example, because it is used from one end of Australia to the other in every blacksmith’s shop, and on every farm that does its own blacksmithing work. Before the war, iron and steel bars from 1½ inch by½ inch, were £11 per ton. To-day that size and over is £34 per ton, Melbourne price, while for smaller sizes the Melbourne price is £70 per ton. Yet men have the conscience to tell us that the industry cannot stand. I honestly believe there is a combination at work. Those prices could not possibly obtain otherwise.
It was pointed out the other evening that when tenders were called by Mr. O’Malley, the then Minister for Works and Railways, for steel rails, a uniform price of £8 per ton was by an extraordinary coincidence quoted from America, Great Britain, and Europe. That, we were told, was the Combine price. The price to-day for the same rails manufactured in Australia is £17 10s. per ton. My honorable friends opposite say, “We know there are trusts and combines, and that high duties encourage them.” Any one who has read what the Iron and Steel Combine has done in America knows that if there is one industry in the world that has been exploited it is this,, and that if any body of workers has been treated in an infamous fashion it is the ironworkers of Pittsburg.
– But the unfortunate part about it is that a lot of people insist on having the cheap goods which are made out of the blood of the workmen.
– Yes, and those who made their blood-stained millions out of the blood of the workmen in America were theCarnegies and the manufacturers who entered into a Combine, and by their arrangement with the. trade unions there robbed the people of America and became millionaires.
I want to see this industry continue in Australia, and I believe it can continue, but we can do no greater injury to an honest industry than to load it up with duties which enables it to live on the Tariff alone, instead of by the energy, industry, and ability of the manufacturer and his workmen. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) talked about the very desirable combination of labour and capital. That is a combination which I should be pleased to see, but when it is a combination between the Chamber of Manufactures and the trade unions to rob the people of Australia, it is something whichI am very sorry to see brought about. I ask my honorable foriends opposite, who are trying to force up these duties still higher, to read what their confréres in Great Britain are doing on this very subject. They are protesting against the manufacturers who exploited the people of Great Britain during the war. The Labour leaders there are saying, “ This exploitation must cease, and we shall not allow any combination to continue to rob the people as they have been doing.” Prices such as I have just quoted must make any one consider. There is not a country district in Australia where this material is not used. It is the bedrock of the whole of the industry in every smithy in the Commonwealth, and when the price has been raised from £11 to £70 per ton-
– If that is for steel bars, it is not correct.
– That is the price payable in Melbourne to-day for 1½ inch by½ inch and smaller.
– It is not a third of that.
– That is the price that has been handed to me.
– Does the honorable member mean ordinary bars and rods - merchant bars?
– I am talking of theordinary1½ inch by½ inch steel bar. These are the prices sent in to me by another hand by a trader who purchased quite recently. These figures represent the prices ruling to-day in Melbourne.
– For ordinary merchant bars the price that the honorable member has been given is entirely wrong. The price is about £27 or £28 per ton.
– I am talking of the bar which I have quoted, and which is used in practically every smithy in Australia. These prices have come to me from an authentic source. They simply mean that every country district is being called upon to pay tribute to the wealthiest company in Australia. I do not care very much what the Tariff is against some of the outside countries, but I submit that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) will give the Broken Hill Proprietary Company proper protection, and at the same time will afford the Committee at least some opportunity of giving trade to the Mother Country which we talk about so much. It would be very amusing, if it were not sad, to see men who will hoist and flap the flag on every occasion, and who say that they will “live for the flag and die for the flag,” plainly showing that they will not trade with the flag.
– I have here the price lists of the Broken. Hill Proprietary Company for the year 1920. Rounds, flats, squares, and rods, which are what are generally known as merchant bars, were priced for the year 1920, taking the average, as follows: - Rounds, £19 16s. 8d. per ton; flats, £19 16s. 8d. per ton—
– That does not cover 1½-inch rods.
– I shall get the price for the particular measurement mentioned by the honorable member, and will undertake to say that it is nothing like £70 per ton. According to the price list supplied to me, squares are £19 16s. 8d., and rods £18 17s. 6d. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the figures.
.- The figures quoted by the Minister (Mr. Greene) only go to show the effect of the combination in Melbourne. The information which I gave to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) was supplied to me by a reputable trader in the country only a few moments ago. He gave me the most definite information in regard to the operations of the Combine in Melbourne. If honorable members are not satisfied that there is a Combine, and if the Minister thinks it is a beneficent Combine, let me read, for the information of the Committee, a copy of the gentlemanly agreement entered into between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and the Steel Associations for Victoria,. New
South Wales, and South Australia. It has been, in force for some time -
It is agreed -
– What is the charge made by the honorable member in regard to that document?
– It shows that there is an honorable understanding between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and the Steel Associations of the States mentioned, by virtue of which the latter undertake to buy all their steel supplies from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and thus to enable Broken Hill to fix their prices.
– I have listened with interest to the honorable member reading the document, and I want to know what conclusion he draws from it.
– I say it evidences the existence of a Combine which might be similar to the Combines that have proved such a menace to the” United States of America. This trader, who supplied me with the information regarding wholesale prices, also gave me figures concerning other products which I am not permitted to discuss at this stage. For instance, he pointed out that white lead was quoted at 70s., but when the embargo was put on, it rose to 105s. Similar movements took place in connexion with axles, shafting, and many other items which I am unable to quote off-hand, but all of which showed enormous increases on pre-war prices. He gave me the figures that the Steel Association were charging him for the iron and steel required for his workshop, and he advised me that they have what is called a base; that is,1½-in. by 1½-in. x ½-in. iron, for which they charge £34 per ton, while for smaller sizes,½-inch and rounds, the price is 70s. per cwt., or £70 per ton, as compared with the prewar price of £11 per ton.
– And now the honorable member wishes to wipe out the industry here.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that I realize its value to the country, butI do not wish it to become a dictator. I want a small duty and a bounty, if necessary, to encourage its development. From information which has been collected by the Department, we can see that there has been an enormous increase in nearly all duties. We had a Protectionist Tariff in 1908. The rates were increased in 1914 under a Labour Administration, but no duty was imposed on these items, and Hoskins were able to carry on then, and as a matter of fact, we were exporting pigiron as far back as 1907. In 1914 it was not even suggested that a duty was necessary on this particular item. I suggested that the British Tariff should be 15s., and that the rate fixed by the Minister for other countries should remain, basing my argument on the conditions that obtain in Canada. Our workmen surely are as intelligent and as efficient as those of other countries.
– How is the document which you have just read relevant to the motion ?
– I was replying to the Minister’s statement concerning prices. Honorable members want my reasons for a reduction in the duty. I have been endeavouring all through to point out that ifCanada, notwithstanding her difficulties about coal supplies, could build up a big industry with a duty of 10s. 5d. per ton on this item, there isgood ground to ask for a reduction. I have been further examining the Canadian Tariff, and I find that in 1909 there was a reduction in duty of7½ per cent. on ingots, blooms, slabs, billets, and items of that description.
– That was because of an arrangement between United States of America and Canadian firms.
– I find, also, that sheets less than 14 gauge, for the manufacture of corrugated galvanized iron and tin plates are on the Canadian free list. I believe the BrokenHill Proprietary Company’s works at Newcastle are the most up to date in the world. They have coal at their very doors, cheaper than the Canadian coal, and have immense ore deposits at Iron Knob, assaying as much as 68 per cent. iron ore; whereas most of the other manufacturers in the world have to use 2 tons of ore to equal 1 ton of ours.
– Do you say that Newcastle coal is cheaper than the Canadian coal?
– No, I cannot say that.
– Then why did you say it was cheaper? You do not know.
– I can tell the honorable member that, according to the last return (1918), Canada imported 4,500,000 tons of anthracite coal, and also 14,000,000 tons of bituminous coal, and that upon the latter she paid 35 cents per ton duty.
– If I tell you that Canadian coal is cheaper than Newcastle coal, will you dispute the statement ?
– How could it be? If Canada can import coal, paying a heavy duty, cheaper than it can be supplied at Newcastle, there must be something wrong with the administration of our local coal mining industry.
– Does the honorable member , say that there is anything wrong with this official document in regard to Canadian coal?
– I do not know what is in the document, but my statements are based on reports in the Canadian YearBook. The gentleman who supplied me with my information relating to iron and steel prices is a most reliable trader, and I intend to ask him to send me official documents in regard to this matter. I shall then be able to show that the statement I made was correct, and that those exorbitant charges are being demanded here.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) made a statement, which was repeated by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), on the information ofa “ reliable” trader. It is only fair to the Committee that we should know the name of that trader in order to test the statemen that he is reliable. If the honorable member for Dampier can give no better testimony in support of his statement than that of some anonymous writer-
– He was not a writer, but a gentleman whom I interviewed.
– If he has not put his statement in writing he evidently does not wish his name to be associated with some unreliable statement. Both the honorable members to whom I have referred made a definite statement that the price of certain bars had risen from £11 to £70 ner ton, and I take it as a sample of the arguments and information put before the Committee by those who are opposed to the amendment. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) asked that the opponents of the amendment should express themselves, and I am glad that he brought them to their feet, because they have given their case away. I shall refute their statement that the price of the bars rose from £11 to £70, not by the statement of an anonymous informant, but on testimony that can be substantiated. The accountant of th§ Broken Hill Proprietary Company states that the price of these bars to-day is £21 103. at the works.
– What size?
– From 1$ inches downwards.
– The prices of the different sizes vary a little, but I understand that the highest does not exceed £30.
– The accountant does not refer to the bars that have been under discussion.
– No bars are made at the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works the price of which in any way approaches the figure quoted by the honorable member for Franklin. Statements such as have been made by honorable members in the Corner should not be placed before the Committee unless they are backed by some reliable authority. The fault I find with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is that he supports his statement by no authority that can be depended upon.
– There is such a thing as a commercial boycott.
– When I obtain the vouchers from my informant I shall take care to remove his name before showing them to honorable members..
– If they are put before us without a name we shall brand them as bogus.
– I take second place to nobody in my consideration for the interests of the primary producers, and if by any set of facts that could be adduced, if f ran “anything I have heard or read, I could believe that the building up of this great key industry, the maintenance of our Australian workers in useful employment, and the driving of a nail into the coffin of that overseas Combine that has been a curse to this country for many years, would detrimentally affect the man 011 the land, I would think a thousand times, and hesitate before I would vote for the amend.ment.
– Does the honorable member think that the amendment would make a great deal of difference to the industry 1 The Minister says it would not.
– I not onlY listened to the Minister (Mr. Greene), but I read his speech, and’ I was fully prepared to hoar him conclude by accepting the amendment. He stated that the rates of exchange were in favour of the importers, and he admitted that the price of coal had risen, and that there have been two wages awards in the industry within the last twelve months, whilst overseas costs of production have been reduced. If these things are true, and the Minister admitted that they are, the argument in favour of the amendment is unanswerable.
– The honorable member also heard the Minister say that he was making provision to deal with the exchange.
– We say that this schedule provides the opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– He also said that he was satisfied that a duty of 20s. was adequate.
– If that is so it kills the argument of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that he would not support the amendment, because it would help the Broken Hill Proprietary Company to profiteer and build up a Combine in Australia. If the Minister intends to appoint a Tariff Board to watch the operation of the duties the argument of the honorable member becomes invalid. I do not desire to see Combines established anywhere, but if I have the choice between a Combine here that we can deal with under our own laws, and one that has grown up overseas and has been operating to our detriment for years past, I prefer the local one every time. Honorable members in the corner know that the Steel Trust tried to thwart us in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway and when the then Minister for Home Affairs tried to purchase rails outside the Combine, he was unable to get freight, because the Shipping Combine was in league with the Steel Trust. The two were acting together, for no doubt the same parties were interested in both. Therefore, I repeat that if we must have a Combine, I prefer the one that will be subject to our own laws. It has been; said that there is a danger of reaction upon our subsidiary industries. The production of galvanized iron may be mentioned as one of these. How have the people out-back fared at the hands of importers of galvanized iron? They have had to pay as much as £80 and £90 per ton. They have been in the grip of the importers.
– When there was no shipping.
– That is the best argument possible for building up our own industry.
– I want to help to do so.
– For then we would not be at the mercy of the Shipping Ring or any other Combine. We should now see to it that if ever war broke out again Australia would be free from the clutches of foreign Combines, and our basic and subsidiary industries assisted to become so flourishing as to make us self-contained. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) made a speech at Elsternwick yesterday, where he is reported to have dealt with the need for a -Protective Tariff upon iron and steel, and with the urgent necessity for building up a self-contained Australia. It is recorded in the press to-day that the honorable member said also that iron and steel manufacture were the best industries of a country, and that it might safely be said that no nation had risen in. the past, or could rise now or in the future, without building up her iron and steel industries.
– Can the honorable member say whether the honorable member for Balaclava is in favour of the amendment, or against it
– I judge that if a vote had been taken yesterday, upon the conclusion of the honorable member’s speech, he would have supported the amendment.
– If I were to suggest that the honorable member for Balaclava has paired with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), would I be right?
– I do not know what arrangement has been made. i understand that the honorable member for Balaclava stated definitely, but in the course of private conversation, this evening, that he would vote against the amendment. I wish he had seen fit to stand up in this chamber and explain his Elsternwick speech. I conclude, however, that he has had a chat with the Minister, and has decided that the best thing for him to do is to vote against the amendment.
– You know that nearly every honorable member will vote against it.
– All the honorable members on your side will not.
– All on your side will not vote for it.
– The honorable member for Wakefield is a good party man.
– Unfortunately, I have to be.
– Yes, when the whip cracks he falls into line. I sometimes find myself lost in wonder concerning the position of honorable members in the Corner. What is their real fiscal attitude? Upon such an issue every one must surely be one thing or another. I cannot understand or appreciate the mental state of an individual who is a whole-hogging .Protectionist on onions, and, at the same time, would throw open the doors of Australia to foreign makers of the implements with which he cultivates his onion patch - giving the workmen of this country, who are his best customers, since they provide the home market, no opportunity to build up Australian industries. To say the least, such a policy is inconsistent.
– We are standing by the Minister, the greatest Protectionist of all.
– The trouble in gauging the attitude of honorable members in the corner is that sometimes they are found standing by the
Minister, and sometimes against him. I cannot see how they can be Protectionists in one breath, moderate Protectionists in the next, and Free Traders in the next after that. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has described himself as a moderate Protectionist. The essence of Protection lies in that it protects. If it does not fully protect, it must be called by some other name.
– What would the honorable member call Sir William Lyne and those who, with him, built up the 1908 Tariff? Were they not Protectionists?
– Yes ; Sir William Lyne always voted for the highest form of Protection he could get. He was consistent. The attitude of honorable members in the corner, however, takes the form of “ Now you see me, and now you don’t.” They are all for a high Tariff on one thing, and for a low Tariff on the next. How can any one be a moderate Protectionist? A man who is wearing a hat and nothing else may be said to be only moderately clothed. How can one speak of a moderately burglarproof safe, or of a moderately fire-proof building? I recently inspected the great terminal silos in Sydney, and was inspired by what I saw there. I learned that fully 95 per cent. of everything that had gone into that great work was made in Australia by Australian workmen.
– Can the honorable member draw my attention to any definite request on the part of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for increased duty?
– Yes, they are extremely anxious about it, as also are the working people. The Minister, who has strong Protectionist tendencies, will surely meet honorable members in some way. If he is not prepared to go the whole distance, perhaps he will be prepared to agree to some increase. He has already assured us that an effort will be made to prevent profiteering and any abuse of the privileges enjoyed under a Protective Tariff by the appointment of a Board; but he should also be prepared to assist an industry which is of such great importance to the Commonwealth.
.- It is not my intention to take up the time of the Committee - -
– Why not let us take a vote?
– If no other honorable member wishes to speak I am quite prepared to let the matter go to a division.
– I think it is time.
– There are others on this side who desire to speak.
– As I believe there is a possibility of a vote being taken at this stage, I shall reserve my remarks until a future occasion.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-item a be so added (Mr. Watkins’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- During the discussion on this item various opinions have been expressed. Some honorable members have been in favour of increasing the duties all round, and others are in favour of a reduction in the British rate. The vote just recorded still leaves the question in doubt as to what the Committee really favours. The honorable member for Dampier-
– In view of the vote just recorded, it is not my intention to press my amendment.
– I am anxious to ascertain if there is a way out of the present difficulty, because I do not want the Committee to sit all night if that can be avoided. During the discussion the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) stated,- by interjection when I was speaking, that he was not particularly concerned about the general rate so long as the British duty was not increased. Honorable members- on this side have not been putting up a fight for nothing. We are endeavouring to assist a very important industry. It has already been shown by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) and other speakers that the wages paid in other countries are considerably below those ruling in Australia, and that the cost of materials is also lower. In these circumstances it is impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete with industries abroad. It has frequently been mentioned during the discussion that we have a natural protection by means of long sea carriage ; but it must not be overlooked that at present some vessels are unable to secure any freight at all. There are ships in almost every port seeking cargoes, and in consequence of a bounteous harvest there is a good deal of loading from Australia, although there is practically little offering on the other side. Sailing ships and steamers must have ballast, and when they are coming to Australia to pick up freight they are often prepared to take pig iron as ballast in preference to sand, because it is more easily handled. The position has changed entirely during recent years, and instead of exorbitant freights being charged, vessels are prepared to carry anything they can secure at ridiculous rates. It is quite possible that ship-owners would be prepared to accept £1 per ton for carrying pig iron to Australia.
– Cast-iron pipes have been, carried for 7s. 6d. per ton.
– Yes . A few years ago charterers were prepared to carry certain material for nothing when it was suitable ballast. There is no natural protection to-day, and surely it is fair to assist manufacturers under the general Tariff. If the Minister is prepared to increase the general Tariff from 40s. to 60s., I do not think the members of the Country party would object, because they would not be in favour of Germany or Belgian imports competing unfairly with our own products. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) to meet us in some way.
– After fighting for a week !
– I have been fighting in the interests of an important industry, and I am sorry we have been defeated.
– It is merely wasting time.
– It is not. It is of the utmost importance to the welfare of the country, or I would not persist. I have my opinions on this matter, and it is unfair of the Acting Prime Minister to say that I am wasting time when I am endeavouring to perform the duties for which I am paid.
– The honorable member is wasting time, and certainly not doing the industry any good.
– I am not doing it any harm.
– I think you are.
– I am endeavouring to protect the industry, and by that means keep a large number of workmen employed.
– You have not a monopoly of sympathy for them.
– I know that, as there are other honorable members who are just as sympathetic towards the workers as I am. It is unreasonable of the Acting Prime Minister to say that I am wasting time.
– It is a waste of time.
– The right honorable gentleman has not been here, and so he cannot very well say if time has been wasted or not. He is seldom in the chamber, and when he does appear, he adopts the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr.
Hughes), and expresses opinions on something he knows nothing about.
– I have done six times as much work to-day as the honorable member has.
– There is no reason for the right honorable gentleman to accuse me of wasting time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I know the Acting Prime Minister leads a very busy life, but he must give some one else credit for working hard also.
– I was merely stating a fact.
– It is not a fact.
– That is not like the honorable member.
– I admit that it is not; but it is only because I am compelled to do so that I adopt this attitude. I think it is only a fair thing to ask the Minister to give this industry additional protection in the general Tariff, and I believe that ho will do so if he is left to his own discretion. I do not know where he is now.
– The honorable member has talked him to death.
– The right honorable gentleman will stand a lot of talking before he is talked to death. He has been here a long time, and has stood it well. I see that the Minister for Trade and Customs was not far away, and I now appeal to him to give this industry some additional protection under the general Tariff. As apparently he is not prepared to do so, I move -
That the following words be added to subitema : - “ And on and after9th June, 1921, per ton, British, 20s.; intermediate, 30s.; general,60s.”
I submit that amendment to test whether the Committee is in favour of. doing anything to protect this industry from importations from foreign countries.
– A duty of £3 per ton on pig iron ! It was never beard of in the world before.
– The duty would be aimed at a country like Germany. The right honorable gentleman has had a good deal to say about Germany, and recently the Government said that they would not trade with Germany again. Now they are being forced to do so, and the trading is done in an underhand way.
Every one knows that iron and steel are being imported from Germany into Great Britain, and exported to this country to the detriment of our own people. In spite of this I am twitted in the way I have been by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook). I am not disposed to permit the Germans to send goods into this country to the detriment of our own productions.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-item a be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Apparently the Committee is now prepared to pass all the sub-items of item 136 with a rush, but before that is done I should like to have a statement from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to the effect that if he finds, in connexion with industries affected by the sub-items with whichwe have not yet dealt, that the duties proposed are not effective to prevent importations, we may rely upon the pledge which he gave in connexion with sub-item a, that should dumping be attempted, steps will be immediately taken for the protection of the industries affected.
– The honorable member has had that assurance several times.
.- I do not know whether the Minister (Mr. Greene) is now prepared to report progress.
– He will if the honorable member asks him to do so.
– No; he will not.
– I intend to submit an amendment in paragraph 1 of subitem d. I think that the period provided for in that paragraph should be extended from 1922 to 1923 or 1924. I do not think that it is at all possible that before 1st January, 1922, we shall be able to make plate and sheet iron up to and including 1-16 of an inch in thickness. These are very light sheets. I have mentioned that in Canada, under the 1919 Tariff, all these small plates are allowed to come in free. I do not want that, but I think that the period within which they should become dutiable as proposed in this Tariff should be extended. If we extend the period to 1st January, 1923, and I should be prepared to consent to that, there will be ample time between now and then to consider the effect of this Tariff. We shall not have an opportunity to do so between this and the 1st January, 1922. The Minister must realize that he is proposing duties of from 65s. per ton up to 100s. per ton on sheet iron required for secondary industries; for instance, in the manufacture of all sorts of tubs and tanks. In several instances the Minister has had to extend the period for the operation of duties, because, in his opinion, the industries they affected would not be able to take advantage of them on the dates first fixed. We should make certain before imposing such enormous duties as are here proposed, that the smaller manufacturers will not be prejudiced, and I therefore move -
That sub-itemd, paragraph 1, be amended by omitting the figures “1922,” and inserting in lieu thereof the figures “ 1923.”
.- I hope that the honorable member will not press the amendment. This is one of the first of the deferred duties. I expect that by the 1st January, 1922, practically all the black sheet of this class required in Australia will be rolled in this country. The duty proposed is not excessive. All the duties on iron are on a proportional basis. We have tried to work them out with due regard to the actual prices charged in pre-war days.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That sub-item d, paragraph 2, be amended by omitting the figures “ 1921,” and inserting in lieu thereof the figures “ 1922.”
– I move -
That sub-item e be amended by adding the following words : - “ And on and after9th June. 1921-
Wire of No. 14 or finer gauge, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent. ; general, 35 per cent.
Wire, other, per ton, British, 52s.; intermediate, 72s.6d.; general, 90s.
All gauges of wire down to the very finest are now being drawn in Australia, and the specific duties which are sufficient to protect the manufacturer of the heavier gauges are insufficient for the finer gauges.
. -I take it that the wire used for making nails comes within sub-item e, and I wish to point out that nail works have been standing idle for two months because the protection afforded by the Tariff is not sufficient. I have been informed by men connected with the industry that they can get no orders.
– The whole troubleis the Belgian wire.
– How many men are employed in the industry?
– About 600.
– The Minister says that the trouble is. due to the Belgian wire.
– It will be settled as soon as the exchange position has been rectified.
– Would it not be a good thing to increase the duties?
– I do not think that that would make any difference. Locally manufactured wire cannot be sold, because so’ much has been indented, and is to arrive, which has been bought at a very much higher price than is asked for Australian wire.
– The exchange position enables this to be done?
– Honorable members have wondered why we, on this side, are so concerned about these duties, but in the nail-making industry alone 600 men have been out. of employment for two months.
– The honorable member is delaying the application of the remedy.
– I wish to give protection to their industry.
– You cannot cure the trouble in that way.
– If I made the duty £8 a ton, it would not improve their position.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of the Tariff; but this is a bread-and-butter matter to very many persons, and complaints about the present position are general.
– What is meant by under No. 14 gauge ?
– No. 16 gauge is a finer wire than No. 14 gauge. Nos. 8, 9, and 10 gauge wires are fencing wires.
– Nails are not made of 14- gauge wire and under?
– As has already been pointed out, the works to which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has referred, have now been closed down for a couple of months, with the result that 600 men are out of employment. Those works are being compelled to sell the stock which they had on hand at an absolute loss, in order to supply their customers. This action has been rendered necessary by the large importation of this class of wire from overseas. They were obliged to close down because they could not get any sale for wire which they manufactured from local products. Cannot the Minister see his way to impose slightly higher duties than those which are proposed ?
– I think thatthey are sufficient.
– Those interested in the industry are asking for a duty of 35 per cent. under the British preferential Tariff, of 40 per cent. under the intermediate Tariff, and of 45 per cent. under the general Tariff. Upon the finer class of wires, I hope that the Minister will consent to the imposition of higher duties.
.- I desire honorable members to realize how far-reaching the proposed duties will be. The Minister (Mr. Greene) wishes to levy a duty of 25 per cent. under the British preferential Tariff, of 30 per cent. under the intermediate Tariff, and of 35 per cent. under the general Tariff. Presently we shall have to consider the duty upon wire netting. In Western Australia, we have been settling a number ofreturned soldiers upon the land in places where rabbits and other vermin are pretty bad, and the Minister should therefore let us know the duties which he proposed to levy upon wire netting. I take it that that article will have to bear still heavier duties than those which we are now considering.
– No, because all wire netting is drawn from rods manufactured locally. So long as I allow the duty upon wire rods to stand as it is at present, I shall not have to interfere with the duty upon wire netting.
– I desire to secure a reduction of these duties, because I recognise the difficultites of men who are making a start in life, and who at the outset of their operations have not even a fence round their holdings.
– Australian wire netting is as good as is the imported article.
– But it is a question of price. If we impose a duty of £4 or £5 per ton upon wire netting, the men to whom I have referred will be labouring under a heavy handicap. I desire to know how the Government proposals will affect the farmers. It seems to me that, in the future, for fencing wire, he will have to pay 52s. per ton under the British preferential Tariff, 72s. 6d. per ton under the intermediate Tariff, and 90s. per ton under the general Tariff. The protection which is extended to fencing wire at the present timo is a pretty large one. There is a duty of 90s. per ton upon foreign wire, and this, with freight, insurance, and exchange, represents a natural and Tariff protection of £8 6s. per ton, which is a most unfair impost. We have been putting on the land recently a great number of men, and I am afraid that this will probably mean a demand for an increase of the duty on wire netting.
– It does not mean that.
– When wecome to that matter I hope the Minister will agree to a rebate. I think we can put up a big ease for thenew settler, the orchardist, and many others on whom the present price of netting is a very severe tax.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr.Greene) agreed to-
That sub-item v be amended by omitting the figures “ 1921,” and inserting in lieu thereof the figures “ 1922.”
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
Income Tax Prosecutions at Darwin.
Motion (by Sir Josephcook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Sir JosephCook) a question with regard to the position that has arisen at Darwin. I have a communication from there to the effect that three residents have been sentenced to twenty-eight days’ imprisonment for refusal to pay taxes, and alsothat a large number of other prosecutions are likely to follow, I gauge from the tenor of the telegram that feeling is running very high in connexion with the matter, and I should like to knowwhether the Acting Prime Minister can give us any information on the subject, or whether he will have inquiries made in regard to it before it is further discussed ?
.- Allthat I know is that as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has indicated, there are at Darwin individuals who are openly flouting and defying the law. That the Government will not permit either at Darwin or anywhere else. The law must be carried out. There is nothing more to be said. If these men will not pay their just dues they will have to be made to pay them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House . adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210608_reps_8_95/>.