8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- (By leave.)- I lay on the table an interim report of a Royal Commission on the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and shall read its only effective clause so that honorable members may know what it contains. The Commissioners say -
Pending a complete report on the Cockatoo, Island Dockyards, and having in view the evidence before us as regards the Adelaide and the vesselMombah, and the recent appointment of a Board of Control to deal with shipbuilding,* we, your Commissioners, are of opinion that the Board of Controlshould, within the terms of their appointment, take such steps as they deem necessary to complete the Adelaide and the vessel Mombah at the earliest possible moment.
I am glad to see the Mombah correctly described as a vessel. All sorts of notions about her are prevalent, and she has been referred to in the press as a mere coal hulk.
– So she is; absolutely nothing else.
– I must conclude that, despite the investigation in whichmy honorable friend has taken part, he does not know exactly what she is.
– Is it not a vessel in which coal is stored?
– This vessel is more than that. She is for the coaling of the Fleet.
– A coal hulk must be towed from place to place, but this vessel, I take it, will move under her own steam.
– No. She has no engines, and must be towed.
– With the Commissioners’ recommendation I have no quarrel. There never was at any time an intention to delay the completion of these vessels beyond the end of the financial year. . The only reason for stopping the work was that, until the end of this financial year, I could not advance any more money for it. By the time the new Board of Control takes over matters, which will, of course, involve the transference of the control of the dockyards to them
– The members of the Board are already appointed?
-Yes. This transference should not take long, and steps have already been taken to give effect to the Commissioners’ recommendation.
– You regard the report as a certificate of merit.
– I have not been connected with the matter at all, except financially.
– The work is waiting to be done.Why do you not go on with it?
– We are going on with it as soon as possible.
– This year, or next year?
– The honorable member, who was a member of the Commission, gibes at me. Everything he does seems to have some political bias.
.- (By leave.) - The concluding remark of the Treasurer was entirely uncalled for, and I am sure that the members of the Commission would readily admit that, as a member of it, I took no political advantage at all.
– Why do you say these things now?
– I wish to know when the work will be proceeded with, so that workless men may get employment.
– I told you that it will be continued as soon as possible.
– I should like to know what that means. The workis waiting to be done, and men are anxious to got to it. A great deal of distress prevails in many of the districts about Sydney because of the stoppage of these operations, and, as the Treasurer knows, application has been made to him by the mayor of one municipality for assistance to relieve it. I object strongly to the remark of the Treasurer.
– Then I withdraw it.
– If I were out to get a political bolt into you, I could effect my purpose very easily in connexion with this matter.
Mr.FENTON. - As it has been disclosed in evidence given before the Taxation Commission that a number of very rich persons do not contribute their fair share to the revenue, will the Treasurer amend the income tax law so that they may be compelled to pay a little more, and will the right honorable gentleman, at the same time, increase the exemption allowed to the poorer members of the community ?
– I hear complaints every day from persons who see me to urge economy in public administration, and who say that they are unable to pay their present taxes.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways say whether the report of the Canberra Board, together with plans for a hall and hostel at Canberra, have yet been considered by the Cabinet? Is he prepared to lay this report and the plans on the table for the information of honorable members?
– I answered the question yesterday. The papers have been received, and are now being considered by the Cabinet.
Constitution for the Empire.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he seen the statement in the press cables to the effect that Mr. Lloyd Georgehas invited an eminent constitutional authority to address the Imperial Conference on the question of a Constitution for the Empire - Imperial Federation- and, if the statement is correct, how does this agree with the pledge of the Prime Minister that the constitutional position and Imperial Federation were not to be discussed at the Conference this month?
– I have seen the press report that the British Prime Minister has invited an eminent constitutionalauthority to address the forthcoming Imperial Conference on various forms of constitutional government. Beyond that I am unable to say anything; Mr. Hughes’ statements madebefore leaving Australia still hold.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have seen the paragraph referred to, but am not in a position to make a statement in connexion with the matter.
The following paper was presented: -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 8th June (vide page 8927).
DIVISION VI.- METALS AND MACHINERY.*
*Motive power, engine combinations, and power connexions are dutiable under their headings when not integral parts of machines, machinery, or machine tools.
Iron and Steel -
.- When the Committee adjourned last night I intimated that I had a further amendment to move upon this item. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “ (g) High-grade carbon steels and alloy steels containing manganese, silicon, nickel, chromium, tungsten, titanium, vanadium, molybdenum, cobalt or other alloying elements, introduced to impart special qualities to the steel, viz.: - Ingots, billets, bars, die and tool blocks, and blanks, also tapered or bevelled bars and other special shapes, on and after 10th June, 1921, as prescribed by departmental by-laws - Ad val., British, 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 2D per cent.; general, 30 per cent.”
We have had a great deal of debate on the necessity for the establishment of the iron and steel industry in this country, but its development will not be complete until we have the means of manufacturing the higher grades of steel required for many purposes. From a defence pointof view it is absolutely essential that we should manufacture these higher grades of steel here. Australia is perhaps richer than any other country in the rare minerals required for the manufacture of special alloy steels. We are singularly fortunate in having in this country practically all the known rare minerals required for the purpose. During the last few years there has been considerable development in this class of work. There is a large foundry in Sydney fitted with electrical furnaces, which isdevoted entirely to it. There is another large foundry in course of erection in Western Australia, which will almost immediately employ over 100 men. An important English firm whose name is famous throughout the world as a producer of these alloy steels, and whose experience in their manufacture is perhaps greater than that of any other firm in the world, has linked up with Australian manufacturers and is investing a very large sum of money in the production of these high-grade steels in Australia. In one works in Sydney at the present time over 200 men are employed. It has been reported to me that whilst the duties I have submitted to the Committee are sufficient for the protection of steel and iron used for ordinary purposes they are not sufficient to adequately protect the manufacture of the higher grades of steel. In view of the fact that the value of the high-grade steels is much greater than that of ordinary steel and iron productions this cannot be denied. I am, therefore, asking the Committee to agree to an amendment of the item, and I have submitted it in a particular form for a special reason. I think it would be a mistake at the present time to impose these duties in such a way that they would fall automatically on all classes of alloy steel. That would be a hardship in some cases for the simple reason that there are certain classes of alloy steels, which I do not think we will produce here for some considerable time, whilst there are other classes which we are producing. This is an industry more or less in its infancy, but it is developing rapidly in Australia. I have consequently asked the Committee to agree to the amendment in a formwhich provides for the imposition of the proposed duties by departmental by-law, so that as the industry develops we shall be able to make the duties operative where they are required, and at the same time admit free such classes of the high-grade alloy steel as are not being actually manufactured here. I am given to understand that the new organization to which I have referred, which has amalgamated with a big firm in Sydney, a branch of whose business is being started in Western Australia, proposes to considerably extend the range of alloy steels now being manufactured.
– Whatretrogression for Western Australia that she should go in for manufactures!
– Not at all. Western Australia, in common with every other State of the Commonwealth, is developing along these lines. Necessarily, development there is not as rapid as it has been in some of the other States for the reason that the local market in Western Australia is not so extensive. In this particular line of industry, however, there is a very considerable opening in Western Australia.
– There was until the mines were closed down.
– The works for the manufacture of thesealloy steels in Western Australia are practically complete. I understand that they will start operations next month, and will give employment to a large number of men. The duties proposed in the amendment are moderate, and the form in which it is set out will permit of the free importation of alloy steels not manuf actured here, whilst protecting those that are manufactured here.
.- Whilst anxious to fall in with the wishes of the Committee and do my utmost to foster Australian industries, I wish to direct the attention of honorable members, and particularly of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), to the fact that whilst, as the Minister has stated, there are works making these high-grade steels at the present time, they are not being made in sufficient quantity to meet the requirements of many industries. The industry I chiefly represent is the mining industry, and these high-grade steels will be used to a very considerable extent in mining. In the ordinary course of the treatment ofour ores, we had the old battery system, and cyaniding and everything else went by the board. But to-day gold mining has got beyond that stage. It has reached the stage when the ore, after being broken underground, is handled once and then put into shoots, and that is the last time that human hands touch it, until it is carried down the flats from the various mines. We all recognise that that class of ore is now being treated better than it was under the old system of sending much gold down the flats, and putting it into slum dams. Upon one of our Western Australian mines, which unfortunately is not now being worked, owing to a disastrous fire which occurred there, the company has almost perfected its system of ore reduction. It has perfected it to such an extent that it is impossible to get out of the ore anything more than is being obtained at present. Thatore is, therefore, a greater asset to Australia than it was before this scientific method of treatment came into vogue. I am sure that honorable members generally desire that we shall get the whole benefit of all the gold which we produce. These higher classes of steel are used to a very great extent in the up-to-date scientific processes of which I have spoken. They are used, not merely in the treatment of ores upon gold mines, but also in the manufacture of reinforced cement. Upon the various cement works there are tube mills, and those mills consume a greater quantity of these steels than is produced in Australia.. I want to see as much as possible of these high-grade steels manufactured locally. But I hope that the Minister will not allow this duty to operate until such time as he is absolutely sure that sufficient quantities of them to meet our requirements are being produced in the Commonwealth, in order that the prices charged to the mining and other industries in which they are used may not be made burdensome to them. I wish specially to stress the position in regard to reinforced cement. In the Western Australian branch of the Hume pipe industry, which is assuming very large proportions, these classes of steel will be used extensively. If the Minister will give me an assurance that the duty will not become operative until a sufficient quantity of highgr ade steels is being manufactured in Australia, I will give his proposal my support.
– Upon what date does the Minister intend that the duty shall become operative?
.- I am proposing that it shall become operative from to-morrow, except in so far as the departmental by-laws exclude those particular steels which are not being manufactured within the Commonwealth. In reply to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), I say that we shall not collect the duties which are now proposed upon steels which are not being made in Australia in sufficient quantities to reasonably supply trade requirements. If the quantity of these steels manufactured locally be infinitesimal in proportion to the actual requirements of the country, I shall use the departmental bylaws to admit them free.
– Unfortunately, the merchants will avail themselves of that provision in order to import large quantities and ultimately secure enhanced prices.
– The honorable member does not appreciate exactly what I mean. We do not intend to impose duties upon all classes of steel immediately. We propose to free a number of steels by departmental by-laws. Those which are being made in Australia in reasonable quantities will be protected. That is the reason for the inclusion in my proposal of the words “ by departmental by-laws.” I have no desire to burden the industries to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has directed attention.
– The Minister will allow a sufficient quantity of these steels to come into Australia until the local manufacturers are able to supply our requirements ?
– I do not propose to regulate importations. These steels are of such value that nobody will import huge quantities of them for the purpose of holding them in stock. It would not pay to do that; Indeed, it would pay the cement, and other companies, which use these high grade steels far better to purchase their requirements from local manufacturers - even if they had to pay a little more for them - than it would to purchase large quantities of them, and hold them in stock against an emergency. If the companies which are interested in our mines and cement works can go direct to the local manufacturers when they see the special steel portions of their mills going to pieces, and order fresh supplies, it will pay them far better to do so than it will to carry heavy stocks of high grade steels.
– It is the wholesale houses which supply the individuals.
– But as a general rule the merchants do not stock these highgrade steels. It is only certain special industries which require to use them, and consequently it would not pay the wholesaler to hold stocks of them against an emergency. Thus there is no fear that these expensive steels will get into the hands of the wholesalers. I would further point out that many of the castings required in certain industries, and particularly the larger castings, are needed for special machines. Special patterns are required according to the particular class of steel which is to be used.
.- I fail to see why the Minister (Mr. Greene) could not have supplied honorable members last night with a copy of his proposal without announcingwhat the duties were to be. Should it be found that his proposition will have a more far-reaching effect than is now apparent, I do hope that he will have no objection to recommitting the item.
– Not the slightest.
– We are asked to sanction the imposition of high duties upon alloyed steel.
– When the schedule has been dealt with, if the honorable member desires to have the item recommitted, I shall not raise the slightest objection.
– The honorable gentleman’s proposal provides for the imposition of a very high duty upon alloyed steels. Such steels contain manganese. But the Broken Bill Company has been manufacturing manganese steel, and has been using manganese in the treatment of steel, for some time past. Those interested in the Barrier mines were recently compelled to get some of their supplies of manganese from Japan, with the result that some seven or eight months ago, representations were made to me by persons in Western Australia, who were anxious to ascertain whether they could not secure a market for Western Australian manganese. If a moderate priced article alloyed with manganese be subjected to the same duty as an alloy with molybdenum, the proposal may be more far-reaching in its effects than the Minister imagines.
– Because of the different values of molybdenum and manganese ?
– High grade carbon steel is produced by the electrolytic treatment. I can quite understand that those embarking upon the manufacture of these high-grade steels will, in the initial stage of their operations, require some measure of protection. I want honorable members to realize that as they increase the duties on the requirements of the mining or the agricultural community they decrease development.
– The honorable member always argues that as the result of manufacturing such things here we shall have to pay more for them. That is a great blunder.
– It is not a blunder. The honorable member shuts his eyes to the facts.
– No; I have my eyes open.
– I repeat that the honorable member is shutting his eyes to the facts. In the Argus of 3rd inst. the market quotations for octagonal steel went up to £95 per ton. These steels will be very expensive if their present prices are increased by 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. as the result of these duties, and the whole mining industry will be affected. I shall be satisfied, however, with the Minister’s promise that he will not object to the recommittal of sub-itemg if representations as to the desirableness of an alteration are made to him. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) ought to- bring this matter before the mining community. I agree with the Minister that the establishment of electrolytic steel plants at Perth, Sydney, or in any other city reasonably close to our big mining districts must be of value, provided that the prices of their manufactures are kept within reasonable limits.At the present time prices are soaring. I am aware that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has been making manganese steel for some time, and I want to be certain whether the manganese steel would come in subject to this increased duty on the same terms as molybdenum steel.
.- Large quantities of these raw materials have been sent from Australia to Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere to be turned into high-class steels, and the manufactured article is brought back to this country.
– What about the natural protection?
– It is all very well for the honorable member to speak of the natural protection thus enjoyed; but the Minister has told us that big business firms on the other side of the world are coming here to establish works, giving us the benefit of their expert advice, and bringing with them experienced men. I honestly believe that, as the result of this, those engaged in mining operations will beable to obtain these classes of materials at a cheaper rate than before.
– They should be able to do so.
– And I believe they will. The honorable member knows that when we were dependent wholly upon importations we were absolutely fleeced. If local competition were wiped out we should again become hopeless victims of the importing interests.
– The same position would arise if all outside competition were removed.
– No, because we can exercise some control over local combines, and check their nefarious operations. Does the Minister (Mr. Greene) think that he is providing sufficient protection under the general Tariff? Our local manufacturers will be subjected to competition coming chiefly from countries outside the Empire.
– I think we are providing quite sufficient protection.
– Then I have nothing more to say.
.- I am not going into the question raised by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, since it is one that might be discussed on every item. I want to deal with this proposal as it affects an industry which is of great value to Australia at the present time. In the Tariffs of 1908-11 and 1914 there appeared the following: -
Item 171 - Manganese or chrome steel parts, viz. : Parts made of steel containing not less than½ per cent, of chromium or not less than7 per cent, of manganese which are used in grinding, crushing, ox pulverizing machinery, and come in contact with the material ground, crushed, or pulverized; ad valorem, British, free ; general, 10 percent.
That line has been removed, and the parts covered by it are now being made dutiable under this itemat 20 per cent. under the British Tariff, 25 per cent, under the intermediate Tariff, and 30 per cent. under the general Tariff. That is a very appreciable increase. In most of our mining districts the great bulk of the rock is broken by rock drills, and one or other of the classes of steel mentioned in the item now under discussion is used in the manufacture of those drills. The better the steel in the drills used by men working under contract in our mines, the more they are able to make. The Minister, therefore, is putting a direct tax on a material used in the manufacture of an implement essential to the mining industry. I do not want to pull a poor mouth in regard to the mining industry, but I know that most of our mines which at one time produced tons of gold - I worked in a mine which used to produce 1 ton of gold per month - have now very reduced yields. Gold is of more value now than when our output was much larger, and the price we are getting for It depends, not upon Australian conditions, but upon foreign countries and the policy of foreigners.
– The same applies to agricultural industries.
– I am as anxious as the honorable member is to see the agricultural industries assisted, but at the present time, every penny added to the cost of mining strikes a direct blow at the only commodity that can help Australia out of the “ mud.”
– The only thing ! What is it?
– Gold. If the honorable member produced 1,000,000 bales of wool away out in the bush, and could not sell it, of what good would the wool be to him?
– Can a man eat gold out in the bush?
– Gold is the most unnecessary of all commodities.
– I have heard that argument before, but it is more necessary now to produce all the gold we possibly can than it was when we were producing greater quantities. When the production of gold was greater we had control of the price, but we have no control now.
– We are getting a premium on it now.
– From whom?
– From the people on the other side.
– And those are the people who can say how long we are to get the premium.
– We got a premium of £1,000,000 last year, and the total advantage to the country was a little over £300,000.
– But for the premium, there would not have been two mines working on the Golden Mile at the present time. If gold is as “unnecessary” as has been suggested, it is, at the same time, a handy thing to have about one.. When Victoria was suffering from the collapse of the land boom, the people of that State saw great virtue in the gold produced in Western Australia, and it was that gold which extricated the whole of Australia, tout particularly Victoria, from the financial troubles of the time. The gold we now produce is taxed to the uttermost.
– It is the same with the industrial metals. ‘
– The Minister has informed us that this duty is not to be imposed . until such time as the works established in Western Australia, and elsewhere, can produce sufficient of the commodity to meet the requirements of the mining industry, and I suggest that when he is considering that point he should, . also consider, not only the classes of steel to which I have referred, but all classes of steel, of which these metals are component parts.
– As to the point raised by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), I know that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is making steel with a certain amount of manganese in it.
– It is good steel.
– It is. The amendment is not designed to deal with this particular class of steel.
– But it does.
– The honorable member will see that the item speaks of “ alloy steels,” which are enumerated as “ introduced to impart special qualities to the steel,” as “ prescribed by departmental by-laws. ‘ ‘ Those by-laws must, of necessity, indicate the particular classes of steel to which they apply ; that is to say, they will indicate the proportion of manganese. I cannot say for the moment what proportion of manganese it is designed to deal with, but it is a greater proportion than is used in ordinary manganese steels. There is a great difference between the steels which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are turning out and the particular steels with which we wish to deal under this item. These latter are alloy steels,with special characteristics, not the class of steel which is being turned out in large quantities by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and it is proposed by the by-law to enumerate them from time to time as it becomes necessary.
The point raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) is connected with a former item, 171, and the amendment before us does not cover the articles there mentioned, and which now fall under item 170.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Aluminium and nickel, viz.: - Blocks, cubes, ingots, pigs, scrap and granulated; bars, pipes, plates, rods, sheets, strips, and tubes, not polished, plated, decorated, or further manufactured. Free.
– I move -
That the following words be added: - “And on and after 10th June, 1021, aluminium and nickel, viz.: -
If honorable members will look at the item as it stands, they will see it differs from somewhat similar items covering special metals, in that it omits from the enumeration two articles, angles and tees. This, apparently, was an oversight, and we desire to include them, because now they fall automatically under the manufacture of metal items, and are subject to a duty of 35 per cent. to 45 per cent. That was not intended, and we propose to include them in item 137.. The only aluminium product on which I desire to place a duty is aluminium wire.
– Are they proposing to make aluminium wire here ?
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 138 (Antimony, &c.), agreed to.
Item 139 (Brass, &c.)
.- Will the Minister agree to postpone this item until Item 140 (Copper) has been considered? There is a co-relation between the two.
– I do not mind postponing the item ; but, as the two are related, 1 do not see why they cannot be discussed together.
– If the honorable member desires to debate both brass and copper on this item,, I see nothing to prevent him doing so, inasmuch as one is connected with the other, and such a course will save time.
– My only object is to save the time of the Committee. We are asked to pass an ad valorem duty on a product which may be £60 per ton today and £120 per ton to-morrow. Of course, the market does not fluctuate so rapidly, but copper has been £56, £58, £60, and up to £160 per ton. If an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent. is fair now on copper wire and brass wire, with copper at from £70 to £74 per ton, what will it be if the price of copper goes up ? I am satisfied from what I have read about the copper market that prices are going to increase; and if copper goes to £120 per ton, we should be still giving 45 per cent. profit to the manufacturers of copper wire in this community.
– Perhaps the manufacturers will not take advantage of it to raise their prices.
– That is the whole point. I appeal to all honorable members who want to see telephonic communications established throughout the country districts. I shall show the Committee how the manufacturers have taken advantage of the Tariff.
– You cannot show that.
– I shall prove it by sworn evidence tendered before the Public Works Committee. Recently three big telegraphic and telephonic communication undertakings were referred to that Committee - Perth to Eucla, Melbourne to Sydney, and Sydney to Brisbane. The price quoted by the Government in the estimate laid by them on the table of the House only recently was £168 per ton. I began to inquire why that big price was being paid.
– That is drawn wire?
– Yes, 200 lbs. to the mile. I am sure the honorable member will agree that there has been a big overcharge when I relate the facts. When the Committee went to Brisbane I was not there, but we had been making inquiries into the methods of contracting. The Deputy Postmaster-General, in Brisbane, on 7th March, said he received advice that morning that the price would be £154 per ton. When the matter came before me again I was more persistent, and on 30th April, in the Government Gazette, fresh tenders were called, and the price for the same type of wire was £129 10s., or £130 per ton. In sworn evidence before the Committee it was pointed out that in prewar days the Postal Department estimated the cost of their copper wire at from £15 to £17 per ton over the price of electrolytic copper. Therefore, if electrolytic copper was £70 per ton, they would estimate the cost of their wire at £87, and that margin of £17 covered the cost of manufacture in the Old Country, its freightage here, and, in fact, all charges and profits. We were told in evidence the other day that for a small parcel £180 per ton was asked, or £80 for the drawing of the wire.
– What gauge?
– Small wire, about 50 lbs. to the mile.
– What quantity and what gauge?
– It was asmall quantity and a small size for telephonic purposes. But in the prices generally that that firm were obtaining from the Government, their average demand was £60 a ton over the price of electrolytic copper. It is fair to assume that since pre-war’ days the cost of production has doubled, and that, therefore, what cost £17 before the war costs £34 to-day. Taking even the last contract that was obtained, with wire at £130 per ton, and copper at only £74 per ton at the time, is a margin of £56 a ton fair? The Minister, when dealing with the duty on copper, pointed out that some of this had been based on the cost of production. What has the cost of production to do with Government contracts or with the Minister in fixing his Tariff regulations? A duty on copper itself is absolutely useless, except to the associations that control the output in Australia. It is of no benefit whatever to the producer, who has to depend on the markets of the world for his return. The organizations that control the output do not buy at the cost of production at all. From information which I have received from the company’s own representative, I understand that the plant which has been established at PortKembla is controlled by the Mount Morgan, Mount Lyell. Mount Cuthbert, and the Kembla people, so the duty is being imposed entirely in their interests. The Inter-State Commission stated that from £3 to £5 per ton would be a fair amount as bounty or duty for drawing the wire or making the sheets; and I should say that, allowing for the general all round increase in recent years, an increase to £8 or £10 per ton at the present time would be fair. Copper is always increasing or decreasing in value, and, this being so, how can honorable members pretend it is a fair thing to fix the duty upon the ad valorem value of the product? Five or six years ago copper was selling at below £60 per ton. During the war it rose to over £160 per ton. At present I think it is selling at about £77, and, according to an article that appeared in the Times recently, there is going to be an advance in market rates. Throughout the war there was an enormous demand for copper, so much so that the production of copper goods for the general community ceased, in order that the entire output could be devoted to war purposes; find, although an enormous quantity is stored in the United States of America, it is held in strong hands, and, as I have said, the general belief is that the market price is going to advance.
– It ought to be a good thing to buy shares on that information.
– I do not pose as an expert authority. The Minister may look up the article himself, and draw his own conclusions. If 45 per cent, ad valorem is a. fair duty with copper at £70 per ton, will it not be far too much with copper at £100 or £120 per ton? Why should all the profit arising from such an increase go to this syndicate?
– Copper cannot be produced in Australia for £70. The honorable member knows that.
– Is it not strange that an honorable member who is carrying on a manufacturing industry should be asked to pay £100 per ton for standard, not electrolytic, copper, whereas after pressure he should get a rebate of 25 per cent.? Standard copper is only £5 or £6 per ton less than electrolytic copper in price, although, formerly, it was from £10 or £12 per ton less. The small manufacturers have to go to these big people, who are. charging them £100 per ton for standard copper, which, according to the latest return is selling in the open market at £72 per ton, while electrolytic copper is sold at £76 and £77 per ton. I know perfectly well that the copper mining industry in Western Australia was strangled by the action of the Government in authorizing control of the industry by the Copper Producers Association. In the division. represented by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), the producers, instead of being able to send their product to America, where the price was very good, or to the Mother Country, were compelled by the Government to send it to the Port Kembla works, where they got £115 per ton for it, as compared with the London price of £150 per ton.
– The Government are not doing that to-day.
– I am aware of that.. I am dealing with the effect of the ad valorem duty in this item, and I am endeavouring to impress on the Committee the nature of the strangle-hold which this Combine is getting upon the industry. I want to stress the point that the duty is valueless to the producer himself and that the Mount Lyell, Mount Morgan, and Mount Cuthbert concerns, which were engaged in the manufacture of these products, are closed at the present time. Although the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia has declared that this Tariff means an added cost of over 6d. per ton on all the ore treated, yet, so far, we have heard not one word of complaint from these organizations* as to the effect of the duty on working costs. To my mind it is due to the fact that the special duties provided in this Tariff will give them a quid pro quo in the form of excessive protection.
– If the Tariff is imposing increased working costs, should they not have compensation?
– How are we to give the compensation to the smaller mines? It is not as if there were only three copper mines in the Commonwealth.
– How does the duty on copper handicap the sale of the products of the smaller mines?
– It is useless, but this enormous ad valorem duty upon this product will increase the price of telegraphic and telephonic material, copper utensils, and everything required by the smaller manufacturers, in proportion to the amount of the duty, and yet do nothing to help the copper miner. Australia produces not more than 3 per cent. of the world’s copper output, but that quantity is ever so much more than is likely to be utilized in Australia for many years to come unless our population increases fourfold or fivefold. I desire these facts to be impressed upon the Committee. America has been treating copper ore averaging 1.6 per cent. of copper, and according to the last return that I saw copper ore averaging 1.7 per cent. was being profitably handled. There are no mines working in Australia on anything like such low-grade ore. That indicates the necessity for Australian copper producers employing the most up-to-date methods and being able to get at reasonable rates the latest machinery in order to make their mines profitable. There was a magnificent copper proposition in the north-west of Western Australia, and the company spent an enormous sum of money upon a leaching plant which proved a failure. The company, instead of being permitted to send the ore abroad for treatment, was compelled to send it to Port Kembla, and when copper was worth £115 per ton, the returns from 11 per cent, ore did not pay realization and treatment charges.
– That is very low-grade ore.
– The Minister can know nothing about copper mining if he says that 11 per cent. ore is low grade. The average percentage of the ore worked in the United States of America in 1903 was 1.67; in 1914, 1.6; and in 1916, 1.7.
– Only very high-grade ore could be profitably sent to Port Kembla for treatment.
– That is what I am trying to emphasize, because the producers in Western Australia have not received very good treatment from those works. I have a list, which was prepared in November last, of the prices of copper in America, Great Britain, and Japan, and it shows that, although this duty was in operation at that time, there was only a fractional difference between the figures for those countries and those for the Colonial Ammunition Works.
Therefore, the statement that the duty does not mean increased cost to the consumer is incorrect. The people of Australia have to pay for copper an increase representing the full amount of the duty. I do not know whether copper sheets are charged for on the same scale, but the Postal Department to-day allows about £60 per ton for the local drawing of copper wire weighing 200 lbs. to the mile. The Inter-State Commission, when reporting upon copper in 1916, said -
From information, however, available in connexion with iron and steel, the Commission is of the opinion that a bounty of £3 per ton should be ample to cover the extra cost of electrolytic refining and completing the finishing processes of rolling copper plates and bars, but that an extra bounty of £2 per ton should be given for the manufacture of copper and brass pipes and tubes and the drawing of copper wire. These bounties of £3 and £5 per ton respectively are only about 5 per cent. on the price of the goods named, and there would be ample compensation for such outlay in. the initiation of the industry locally and the great benefit of having a supply of copper and brass manufactured goods ready at hand for all the varied requirements of the Commonwealth.
The Commission has no information on which it can arrive at a conclusion as to the assistance required to enable covered and insulated cable and wire to be manufactured locally, the varieties of size, weights, and covering materials being very numerous.
That the following bountiesbe granted: -
These bounties should provide a fair stimulus to manufacturers to initiate the industry, and the Commission recommends that they be continued for a period of not less than five years, at the end of which the bounties could be reviewed, as full information as to costs of production would then be available.
In order to prevent the undue inflation of the cost of refining to be paid by mining companies the Commission would suggest that a supervision of the prices charged for treatment by the refining companies should be instituted. To permanently prohibit the export of copper ores, matte, and blister without some such supervision will give the refiningcompanies an undue monopoly which may react on the copper mining industry.
-I do not propose to deal further with brass; but when the
Committee is considering the item of copper I shall move for a duty to he placed on copper imports at so much per ton.
– The honorable member wants a fixed duty instead of ad valorem ? Mr. GREGORY. - Yes.
– Is the honorable member moving to increase the duty?
– I am sorry that the honorable member was not present when I explained my intentions and my views regarding the cost of copper wire. I may say, here, that in connexion with one small parcel of copper ore, the pre-war cost was £17 per ton. In one instance, the quotation given by the Port Kembla people to the Government was £80 per ton over the price of electrolytic copper, while the average price was about £60 per ton above.With the imposition of an ad valorem duty, and copper rising another £20 per ton, we are making those people a present, as against the foreign producers, of 45 per cent. on the £20. It will not mean1d. extra for the people employed in the industry, or1d. additional cost, except solely in regard to the sum to be paid for the copper itself.
– Does the honorable member propose to make copper ingots free?
– I have no objection to their coming in free, for that would not affect us in the slightest degree.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I do not propose to deal with copper in discussing the present item. I desire now to amend the item under consideration, and, when the Committee is dealing with the next, I shall have something further to say specifically concerning copper. I move -
That the following new sub-item be added: -
Brazing and soldering alloys in any form - on and after 10th June, 1921 - Ad val., British, 15 percent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
Brazing and soldering alloys are composed of such metals as lead, tin, brass, copper, &c, and are put up in forms such as grain or hollow wire as well as in rod. We have rods dutiable at present, and it is desirable that all these alloys should be specifically included in the Tariff. There is no reason to discriminate between the various forms in which they are put up. By this amendment it is proposed to make all. dutiable.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 140- .
Copper, viz.: -
Amendment (by Mr. Gregory) proposed -
That the following words be added to subitem a: - “And on and after 10th June, 1921, free.”
.- This is one of the items in the Tariff which is approached from the wrong angle when consideration is given to the stimulation of secondary industries. The production of copper in this country is one which, by itself, has not been able to pay its way. . Mount Morgan would not be able to turn out copper at all if there were not gold in the ore there. In the circumstances, the proper way in which to deal with the matter is not by putting a duty on copper, but by granting a bonus on the whole of the copper produced. That would help all the secondary industries which have been built up with copper as their basis. The imposition of a duty of 10 per cent. on copper ingots simply means that the subsequent protection on the subsidiary secondary industries is lessened by that amount, that is to say, an apparent protective duty on brass or bronze manufacture of 25 per cent. is simply a protection of 15 per cent. To carry the duty right through needlessly increases- the cost of these secondary manufactures. This opinion is supported by the report of the InterState Commission in 1916, in which the Commissioners did not recommend the imposition of duties, but that a bounty of £3 per ton be given upon all copper or brass plates, sheets and bars, and £5 per ton on all copper or brass pipes, tubes and wire, manufactured in Australia from copper produced and refined within the Commonwealth. Most of the secondary industries which use copper at all are able to employ that form of the metal which is obtained by roasting. Unfortunately, at present, I do not think any copper is available in Australia which is not electrolytic, and the subsidiary industries are accordingly further penalized by the £4 or £5 difference in the price between standard and electrolytic copper.
– The Inter-State Commission reported on the copper industry before copper was being manufactured in this country, and with all respect to its members I say that it would have been better for them to wait for more information before making a recommendation.
– And 1916 is now a good way off.
– Yes. The Commission’s report seems to me to bear internal evidence that the Commissioners did not give the subject the consideration it deserved. 1 They recommended a bounty to establish the industry, based on the cost of rolling, and they compared the cost of rolling copper with that of rolling iron and steel. But the cost of rolling is affected by the amount of material to be rolled, it costing proportionately much less to roll many thousands of tons than to roll a few hundredweights. Consequently, in the circumstances reliance should not be placed on the report, of the Inter-State Commission as to what would be sufficient protection for this industry. The Commission had in contemplation the starting of the copper industry in a small way, to be built up gradually ; but we have now to deal with a different set of circumstances. When the war broke out the Commonwealth had not the means for manufacturing its copper requirements, and for. the making of ammunition there- is nothing so necessary as a copper manufacture. The war created such a demand for copper that Australia could not obtain the copper it required, and before the Nationalist Government was formed the Ministry of the day took steps to get the manufacture of copper started in this country as soon as possible. Thus the Port Kembla works came to be established, and there to-day a very large part of the copper requirements of the country are being manufactured. The company is willing and ready to extend its operations, because the. use of copper is increasing in Australia, especially through the extension of electrical plants everywhere. Indeed, the increase in the use of copper is something to be marvelled at, and I think that within a comparatively short space of time we shall be making all the copper we require, and utilizing every ounce of copper that we mine.
– Yes; if the copper mines remain closed.
– At present, of course,
Ave are using more copper than our mines are producing. The honorable member for Dampier, speaking earlier in the afternoon, expressed the opinion that the duties on copper should be fixed rates, one of hia reasons being the fluctuation of the price of copper. But this fluctuation of price makes me prefer ad valorem rates. The price , of copper more than that of any other metal is controlled by powerful commercial influences. Whatever the copper organization may bo in Australia, it is. an infant, both in size and in experience of the wiles of the business world, compared with the huge Combine that controls the copper market- outside Australia.
– The Australian organization has some strange rules in its articles of association.
– I do not understand the obsession of the honorable member’s mind by this particular combination. Why should we leave our producers of copper at the mercy of an organization outside Australia, which controls the markets of the world, and dictates to the producers what they shall accept for their ore ? The copper quotations are the prices at which’ this organization says tha.t copper shall be sold. I cannot say what justification there is for the fears of the honorable member for Dampier, but knowing what I do of the organization outside, I set to work to arrange first of all for the protection of the local production of copper, and then for the building up of an industry which within a comparatively short space of time will use all the copper ore that our miners produce. Hence I have proposed duties on the ingot. Every one knows that the cost of mining copper in this country is considerable. The actual cost of producing it, independent of the precious metals usually associated with it, is greater than its present market price, and often greater than the price to which the Combine outside permits the copper market to go to.
– Do you think that we can make a copper market of our own?
– I believe that we can. I felt that it was desirable to protect our miners from the ill-effects of the manipulation of the copper market outside.
– If you do that you must make the secondary duties much higher.
– We have, of course, to carry the protection right through the industry, and, therefore, none but ad valorem rates would suit. If we imposed a fixed rate of, say, £15 a ton, and the cost of producing copper in this country were £90 a ton, and its price outside Australia £65 a ton, the duty would be ineffective. Whenever the price of copper outside fell much below the Australian cost of production, the local manufacturing industry would have to import copper in ingots, or shut down. So it seemed to me desirable that an ad valorem duty should be imposed and arranged in such a way as to protect in the first place the local producer of copper, and then the local manufacturer of copper into the finished article.
– The outside organizations have the power to “bull “ or “bear” the market as they please.
– I think so. I do not know that it is necessary for me to say any more on this subject. I admit frankly that at present the use of copper in Australia does not cover the whole of our production.
– The. whole? Why does not the Minister quote some figures to show the disparity ?
– But it does cover a considerable amount; how much, it is difficult to estimate.
– Let the Minister take our pre-war imports.
– I know that the company has increased its output during the last twelve months more than five times. The manufacturers of brass, who use 60 per cent. of copper in their processes, have increased by leaps and bounds their consumption of copper. I am inclined to think, considering the various uses to which copper is applied in this country, that we have now reached a stage at which we are consuming practically onehalf of our actual production. If one could suppose, as. I think he reasonably may, that the increased use of copper in the near future will be proportionate to the increase of its use during the past few years, we cannot he far removed from the time when we shall be consuming most, if not the whole, of our total production.
– We soon will if the Clarence River electrification scheme is undertaken.
– The honorable member has reminded me that a number of works are in contemplation throughout Australia for the development of electric power, and by full development of electric power the use of copper willbe multiplied tenfold. The Morwell scheme here, even in its initial stages, will require hundreds if not thousands of tons of copper. When its operations are extended far and wide the quantity of copper that will be required to convey the electric current to the various places in which it will be used will be simply phenomenal. The scheme to which the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has referred of harnessing the waters of theClarence for the production of electricity will, I hope, be brought to fulfilment some day, and it also will require many thousands of tons of copper. We are, as I have said, rapidly approaching the time when we shall consume in Australia practically the whole of the copper produced in the country.
. - Af ter the very exhaustive debate we had on the iron and steel duties, and until stronger arguments are advanced against the duties on copper proposed by the Minister than have been so far, advanced, I shall not attempt to argue the question at length. I think that it is a misfortune that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) lived so long before the war. Since the war he appears to have lived in obscurity, as he does not seem to be able to adjust his views to the entirely changed conditions of Australia. The honorable member quotes the ‘ figures of markets before the war. His eyes appear to be entirely closed to the fact that every foundation, upon which those figures rest was shaken by the war. The position in which Australia finds itself to-day is as far removed from its position in 1914 as the Middle Ages were removed from the end of the nineteenth century. We are living now under entirely different conditions from those which prevailed before the war. Figures quoted from the pre-war period are of little or no use to us as guides in considering financial or social conditions, or in the consideration of the Tariff. The whole of our previous landmarks have disappeared, and an entirely new set of circumstances confront statesmen of to-day. The honorable member has referred us to a quotation for a small parcel of wire that went to a very high price. He would have gained more information if he had considered what our imports of copper were during the war, and how much they cost, and had further considered the record of this particular industry at Port Kembla. He would have found that the moment that industry started to produce copper wire the price of the wire to the Australian consumer commenced to tumble down. During successive years Australian consumers were charged by foreign manufacturers as high as £200 per ton, but Mount Kembla commenced the manufacture of the article, and next year the price was £170 ; in the following year it was £140, and I do not know how much lower it is to-day. Within two months of the Mount Kembla people being in a position to deliver copper wire to Australian consumers, (the Japanese manufacturers of the article cut their prices by one-half. This has been, the experience, not only of this particular industry, but of every (industry that is affected by the Tariff.’ The farmer thinks that he will get cheap agricultural machinery by importing it from abroad;, but if there is no competition in Australia he will not get anything cheap by importing it from abroad. The manufacturer abroad expects to exploit this. market, and he will get the highest price for his goods that he can obtain. That price is limited only by the ability of the industry in which his manufactures are used to pay, unless there is internal competition against his manufactures. The history of manufactures in this country has been that the goods were in the first instance introduced entirely from abroad, and subsequently manufactured here. It was only when imported productions were brought into competition with local manufactures that there was any reduction in price. By the establishment of local manufactures we do not add to the cost of the article produced, but in almost every instance the ultimate result has been to reduce to the consumer the cost of the manufactured article. If honorable members who are engaged in agriculture will consider the prices they have paid for articles they have used for the past twenty years, they will find that none of the arguments, which appear so plausible when presented in the guise in which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has presented them, carry any weight at all. I hope that, in connexion with this item, the Committee will repeat the decision at which it arrived in dealing with the previous items affecting another great basic industry. Honorable members should rejoice, as I do, that, because of circumstances due to the war, we have developed our industries to the extent we have. Nothing has given me greater pleasure during the past year than to look around and notice the enormous strides which local manufactures have made. If this Parliament can do anything to help them, it is certainly our duty to give them all the protection possible. We must bear in mind that, whilst this Parliament has the power, through the Tariff, to give local industries a fair chance, and the power by Protection to secure the establishment of those local industries, they are on the spot, and subject to our laws. While we have them in that position, if those engaged in them do the things which it is alleged by some that they will do, the fault will be ours. because it is in the power of this Parliament to prevent them doing those things. I hope that the item will be passed in the form submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- The last speaker has indulged in a lot of generalities, and has submitted no proof in support of the statements he has made. Surely the question we have to consider is whether or not the duty proposed in connexion with the copper industry is justified. I am quite prepared to do the fair thing by any Australian industry, but I say that the duties proposed in this case are preposterous, and there has not been the slightest effort to controvert that statement. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has expressed his preference for an ad valorem duty on this item instead of a fixed duty, and has told us that he cannot agree with the report of the Tariff Commission. Where did the honorable gentleman get his information ? How was it possible for him to obtain information that was more reliable than that which the Tariff Commission was in a position to secure? I do not propose to depend entirely on the opinions of the officers of the Trade and Customs Department. The Minister can secure reports on these questions, but they are one-sided reports.
– They could not be much more one-sided than were some of the reports of the Inter-State Commission, particularly the report in connexion with boots, which was not only one-sided, but quite impracticable.
– The Commission in making its investigations took sworn evidence. We have the same trouble through the whole piece. We are asked to rely upon departmental reports, because surely the Minister for Trade and Customs cannot claim that he has special personal knowledge in regard to all these matters.
– He has special channels of information.
– He has departmental channels, and may obtain information from those interested in the duties.
-Sources of information which the Commission did not exploit.
– Those interested in the various industries put only one side of the question before the Minister, and I therefore say that. I am justified in considering the report of the Tariff Commission, and putting its suggestions before the Committee. Although the Tariff Commission said that from £3 to £5 per ton was a fair bounty on this article, I say that, in connexion with the duty, that it ought to have been more on account of war conditions. I am. quite content to give a larger amount than that suggested by the Tariff Commission. The Minister has very carefully ignored a most important point. I have pointed out that officers of one of the Government Departments, in sworn evidence before the Public Works Committee, stated that they estimated the cost of copper wire in Australia at from £15 to £17 per ton over the price of electrolytic copper. The price they are paying to-day is from £56 to £60 per ton over the price of electrolytic copper, and I say that a Tariff impost of 45 per cent. is in the circumstances an unfair tax upon the peopleof Australia.
– The price of electrolytic copper in Australia is from £25 to £30 per ton more than the outside rate at the present time -a fact which the honorable member overlooks.
– I am not overlooking it. I say that there is a combine between Mount Kembla, Mount Lyell, and Mount. Morgan.
-The honorable member- says that now, but that is not what he said when referring to the Mount Morgan mine a week ago.
– But that was last week.
– I was directing attention to the, fact that by the imposition of these duties the Minister for Trade and Customs is making the carrying on of industries a very expensive matter. I do not know the. quality of the Mount Morgan ore, but I know that it is not nearly so low as the average ores that are being treated, in America. If we do not adopt up-to-date methods and decrease where we can the cost of production we cannot expect our mines to pay, and they must close down, and unemployment be rife all over the country. According to the contracts let , by the Postal Department the Commonwealthis paying £50 or £60 per ton for drawing wire. If copper rises to £100 per ton we shall, under this proposal, be placing an increased duty upon all our copper products.
– If the price of copper rises to £90 per ton, two-thirds of the honorable member’s argument will go by the board.
– -Not at all. The Minister’s statement in regard to our consumption of copper was a preposterous one. According to the Year-Book of Australia our production of copper in 1915 was valued at £4,600,000, in 1917 it was worth £4,800,000, and in 1918 its value was £4,464,000. Unfortunately, the publication which I have quoted does not give the total tonnage of copper produced. In 1913, which was the year prior to the outbreak of war, the value of our copper imports was £295,000. In fixing these duties we have to remember that our copper producers have to compete in the markets of the world. The price of copper is not fixed by a combine, but by the London Metal Exchange. There may be times when its value varies slightly, but the Minister (Mr. Greene.) must know that, although America is producing more than 50 per cent. of the world’s copper output, other countries are also producing this metal in large quantities. The proposed duties upon copper will he of no value to the ordinary copper producer, because he has to sell his product in the markets of the world. I move -
That the following words be added tosubitem B : - “ And on and after 10th June, 1921, per ton, British, £8; intermediate, £12; general, £15.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Lead sheet, and lead piping, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general tariff, 20 per cent.
.- I understand that a request has been made for an increase in the duties proposed in this item, and in view of the cost of lead production in Australia I am hopeful that the Minister will extend sympathetic consideration to it. In order to put the industry upon a stable basis, it would be a fair thing to increase the duties to 20 per cent. under the British preferential Tariff, 25 per cent. under the intermediate Tariff, and 30 per cent. under the general Tariff.
– I have looked into that complaint.
– In a circular letter to honorable members it is stated -
The position, however, at present in regard to this industry is that, owing to the high cost of lead production in Australia and the tremendous slump in metal prices throughout the world, the Australian manufacturer is paying for his pig lead £27 10s., whereas the English manufacturercan purchase his pig lead at about £6 10s. per ton less.
I fear that, unless increased protection be granted to the sheet lead and lead piping industry, it may possibly be wiped out. At any rate, I would like the Minister to consent to slightly higher duties being levied upon this item than those which are now proposed.
– I have looked into the matter which has been mentioned by the honorablemember. The position of which he has spoken is merely a passing one, and the difficulty which he has stressed cannot possibly last. That is why I do not feel disposed to interfere with these duties. Australia is one of the biggest producers of lead in the world, and what we are manufacturing is a mere bagatelle to what we actually use. As a rule, the Australian user of lead is in a little better position than are those in countries overseas.
– Then why is the Australian manufacturer paying more today?
– I anticipate that the position is that certain contracts have been entered into covering a certain period at a certain price, and that the market has since fallen. That is an ordinary trade happening, and I do not see why I should be called upon to alter a duty to meet such circumstances. I imagine it to be a purely business difficulty in which the manufacturer hasbecome involved. One cannot help feeling a certain amount of sympathy for him, but I would point out that under this particular item I have provided for duties which have not previously been in the Tariff. The local manufacturer was carrying on to some extent before any duty was imposed, and I think the duty for which I have provided in all the circumstances is sufficient.
Item agreed to.
Item 142 (Platinum), and item 143 (Scrap iron and steel) agreed to.
Item 144 (Zinc and spelter).
.- According to a document that I have before me, the price of spelter in England and America to-day is £25 per ton, whereas in Australia it is £33 per ton. If it be correct that spelter, although produced here, is dearer in Australia than in the markets of the world an explanation is required. Will the Minister state whether these figures are correct; and, if so, what is the explanation?
– I cannot say whether or not the figures quoted by the honorable member are correct, but I have had some complaints recently that spelter is costing more in Australia than outside. Here, again, we are dealing with an industry which was established in this country as the result of the war. The production of spelter before the war was almost entirely in German hands. After the outbreak of war it was considered most desirable that an effort should be made to manufacture spelter within the Empire, and with that object in view the Government encouraged a company to enter upon the establishment of the industry in connexion with the hydroelectric works in Tasmania. Spelter, like a number of other things, has been subject to very heavy market fluctuations during the last few months; but I anticipate that the position will rectify itself before very long. . I can. only suggest that probably the same difficulty has arisen in this case as has arisen in connexion with lead.
– Spot spelter is quoted to-day in England at £26 5s. per ton.
– I anticipate that the people who are complaining have entered into contracts for the supply of a certain quantity of spelter over a definite period at a definite price, and it may be that they are paying for their spelter to-day a little more than the market price. We cannot expect everybody to immediately cancel their contracts when the market falls.
– No. I fall in with that argument, because I have been using it lately in regard to wheat.
.- I have here a letter in which it is stated that the price of spelter in Australia to-day is considerably in. excess of the price ruling in England and America. This matter has some bearing on a later item dealing with galvanized iron plates. In a letter dated 19th ult., which I have before me, it is stated that spelter in England and America are selling at £25 perton, whereas in Australia the price is £33 per ton. It is somewhat remarkable that here, where we produce spelter, the price should be higher than in England. The higher price is put down to abnormal conditions.
– I have just dealt with that point. I think the position is that certain contracts have been entered into here for the supply of spelter over a certain period at certain prices, and that, in the meantime, the market has fallen.
Item agreed to.
Item 145 (Iron and steel, plate and sheet).
Mr.WATKINS (Newcastle) [4.52].- In dealing with the last item, I referred to the relation beetween spelter and galvanized iron and steel plates, which are covered by the item now before us. These plates arenow being manufactured in Australia, and are going to be turned out here on a very large scale. Does the Minister consider that the protection provided for the finished sheet is sufficient.
– It will be £5 10s. per ton under the general Tariff as from 1st January next.
– Such a duty on a finished product, on analysis, may not be found so high as at the first blush it appears to be.
– It is a very stiff duty.
– The duty under the general Tariff at the present time is only 30s. per ton. Will the Minister promise to look into this matter, with a view to determining whether the duty is likely to be sufficient?
– I will.
– A very large amount of capital has been invested in local works, and in providing for the housing of the men who have been brought out here to carry on the industry. The position in regard to shipping and freights of late has also materially changed. Ships coming out here to take our grain may be prepared to bring out material of this kind at very low rates. That is one of the dangers that our big industries have to fear.
– We are looking after that matter.
– As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr.Foley) pointed out recently, it costs more to send material from one part of our coast to another than it does to bring the same . material from the Old Country, so that the natural protection enjoyed by our industries is not what some honorable members would have us believe it to be. I accept, however, the Minister’s promise that he will look into this matter.
Item agreed to.
Item 146 (Plates, sheets, pipes, &c.) ; item 147 (Iron and steel) ; item 148 (Leaf and foil of any metal or shape) ; item 149 (Steel, rough shaped); item 150 (Steel; band or ribbon) ; and item 151 (Flexible metal tubes), agreed to.
Item 152 -
And on and after 1st July, 1921, ad val., British, 27½per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent; general, 40 per cent.
– I have an amendment to move in sub-item b.
-Will not the Minister need to amend sub-item a, seeing that those who are proposing to manufacture these tubes and pipes here are not yet quite ready to go on with the industry?
– Yes. I move-
That sub-item (a) be amended by omitting “ 1st July, 1921,” and inserting “ 1st January, 1922.”
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That sub-item (b) be amended by adding the following words: - “and on and after 10th June, 1921
Close-jointed iron or steel pipes and tubes; cycle tubing, including liners, bent-tubing and fork sides, whether plated or brazed or not, but not including cycle frames partly or wholly finished; wrought iron and steel pipes, n . e.i. ; wrought iron and malleable cast-iron fittings for pipes, and cast-iron fittings for pipes of not more than 2 inches internal diameter, ad val., British, 27½ per cent. intermediate,35 per cent.; general Tariff, 40 per cent.”
The object of the amendment is to take cast-iron fittings for pipes of not more than 2 inches internal diameter out of item 153, and make them subject to the same as wrought-iron malleable fittings. This will obviate the examination by the Customs authorities, which is necessary when the different pipes carry different rates. The amendment will bring all pipe fittings, whether cast or malleable, under one rate ; otherwise there is involved much trouble in finding out whether the pipe fittings are cast or malleable, and very often this gives rise to dispute.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Iron pipes, east, and cast-iron fittings for pipes, per ton, British, 48s.; intermediate, 65s.; general, 80s.
.- I move -
That the following words he added: - “and on and after 10th June, 1921 - Iron pipes, cast, and cast-iron fittings for pipes of more than 2 inches internal diameter, per ton, British, 48s.; intermediate, 65s.; general Tariff, 80s.”
Honorable members will notice that castiron pipes of less than 2 inches internal diameter were put in item 152, and now we are providing for cast-iron pipes of more than 2 inches.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 154 -
Railway and tramway material, viz.: - (a)Rails weighing 50 lbs. per yard and over, per ton, British, 35s.; intermediate, 60s.; general, 75s.
– I desire to lay before the Committee one or two views which I hold in regard to the manufacture and supply of this material. On a previous item much of the discussion centred on steel rails, and the opinions were many and varied as to what Australia is doing in regard to the manufacture of these at the present time. I have criticised Australian manufacturers for not producing the rails necessary in this country, and I still contend that they are not turning out what users desire. The Australian manufacturers of steel rails are doing what many shopkeepers do when a customer inquires for a certain article which they do not produce or sell; they say to the customer that, though they have not the article, theyhave something equally good.” Of course, if, under the circumstances, the salesman makes the sale, he is regarded as a valuable man; but I do not think that is what should take place here. There are many opinions as to whether the commodity which the Australian manufacturers are turning out is as good as the article required by those who use it. Recently there was a proposal to place a big order for 5,000 tons of rails with one of the steel-manufacturing companies in Australia; but that company could not supply it, because they do not produce the desired class of rails. The company, of course, offered something that they contended was equally good, and it might be, but even the composite rail offered in substitution, they could not undertake to supply under twelve months. If that be so, I contend that we, representing Australian interests, should decide to admit that particular steel rail duty free until it can he manufactured here. As to the facts of another case which I propose to cite, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) will support what’ I say. A letter in the following terms was sent to that gentleman from the Fremantle Tramway Board, which desired to purchase rails in large quantities: - 2nd March 1921.
I have been asked by my Board to bring under your notice the obstacles we have to contend with in endeavouring to obtain rails for urgent extensions necessary to our tramways. The Board and the State Government Tramways sent their managers to Newcastle in October last for the purpose of obtaining rails, if possible, or, if not, to find out the reason. We offered to place our combined order for 5,000 tons with the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., but received not the slightest encouragement. To our inquiry Mr. Delprat, the manager, stated he had no intention of making English standard rails; that he did not know when he would be in a position to manufacture the standard rail lately approved by the Sydney Tramways, and that he could not promise the composite rail within twelve months. We could not,- under any circumstances, use the latter. As rails are not manufactured in Australia, and not likely to be for some time, my Board is anxious that you should use your best endeavours to have the duty on rails re. moved until such time as we can obtain a suitable rail in Australia.
The tramway rail that was needed was a grooved rail, such as the Tramway Board had been using right throughout their system.
– Perhaps I can shorten the discussion by saying that those rails are free of duty at the present time.
– I know that the honorable member for Fremantle has been working assiduously in connexion with this matter, and my information comes from him. Personally, I would sooner see those rails made in Australia, but the manufacturers cannot make them. Some consumers of iron and steel products send their engineers to give orders to Australian manufacturing companies, and those engineers impose conditions which are not imposed on manufacturers outside this country.
– Who are those engineers?
– They are engineers all over Australia, who have the conduct of various large works.
– This matter ought to be cleared up.
– I am endeavouring to clear it up. Those engineers insist on more tests being applied to Australian pig iron than are applied to iron supplied from abroad, and this means a disadvantage or impost, representing at least 2 or 3 per cent. against the local manufacturers.
– It amounts to very much more than that.
– What I have given represents the least that this impost can represent. Even if we, with the best intentions in the world, impose a high duty, as representing a fair handicap, it is nullified by the conditions imposed by the engineers to whom I refer; and I hope this matter will be borne in mind by the Minister when he is considering another measure which, we understand, is to be introduced. If the Australian manufacturers keep to their expressed intention, we are likely to have these rails produced in Australia; but, however that maybe, I shall read the answer or explanation of the manufacturing company - 28th May, 1921.
With reference to previous communications concerning the rolling of grooved tramway rails,Ihave to advise you that the matter is receiving our very serious consideration, but, owing to technicalities not altogether overcome, we are not at present in a position to roll these grooved tramway rails. You are doubtless aware that these grooved rails are not always used for tramway tracks, the practice in. various State capitals being to lay two (2) tee rails side by side, one rail acting as the running rail for the cars and the inner rail as the check rail against the pavement. These rails, of course, we could supply in various weights and in any quantity. Again, we also roll a composite tramway section made up of an 80-lb. tee rail, to which is bolted a guardplate or check, the two making the composite section. This latter type of rail has been used by the Fitzroy Tramway Trust, the Footscray Tramway Trust, the Hobart and Launceston Tramways, and in New Zealand, and we are at present negotiating for a large quantity with the New South Wales Government. As it is possible that some tramway engineers may prefer the grooved tramway rail, we are of the opinion that they should not be obliged to purchase compound rail sections; but, in view of the practice as mentioned, the matter should be considered from this stand-point. We also desire to point out, however, that grooved tramway rails and tee rails are entirely distinct, the former being used for tramway purposes only, and the latter for both tramway and railway purposes.
I believe that a better road could be laid with the rail mentioned in that letter. It is better than the ordinary grooved rail.
– Do you think the road would be better if the composite rail were used?
– No, the road with the big rail and the check rail is the better, as mentioned in that letter.
– That is the one they can make here?
– Yes. It is the best for the purpose. If a composite rail is put down, once the grooved portion is worn out the whole rail is practically worthless for tramway purposes, but when the big rail is laid down with a check rail, if the check rail becomes worn on one side by the pressure of the flange of the wheel, it can be turned round and the other side used. In that respect the Australian article would be better. Taking that into consideration as against the cost of the other rail, I believe we should get better value, but not sufficient to compensate for the other conditions that prevail regarding the contract. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) said that two contracts were let recently - one in Western Australia, and the other in New Zealand - for which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company tendered. In the case of the Western Australian contract, the company’s tender was about £20 per ton, but to that had to be added the freight from Newcastle, bringing the price up to about £23. The Western Australian Government let the contract to a British firm, and the rails cost them, duty paid, less than £17.
– Made from German blooms.
– No. If I could put a nail in Germany’s coffin, or in anything with German sympathies, I would rush to beat the honorable member to do it. I showed this by voting for a higher duty the other night, although that vote may have appeared inconsistent with the attitude I had taken on other things. I am against Germans in every way. I would not trade with them, and I hope we never shall trade with them untilwe are forced to do so.
– What rot! How are we ever to get any indemnity if we do not trade with them?
– Nothing but “ rot “ can ever come from the honorable member. The discrepancy between the British “and the Australian price in the case of that contract was great. Can we erect a high enough Tariff wall to beat that? I say we cannot.
– Then we had better give up.
– No. AsI stated by interjection the other night, there is a big difference in the cost of freight around our coast. It would take more to bring these rails after manufacture to Fremantle from Newcastle than from Great Britain. The same is true in many other instances as regards Western Australia. Every duty that has been put on every item in this Tariff is a direct blow to Western Australia by my honorable friends, although I am sure they have not dealt it intentionally. It is our isolated position that brings this about.
– In other words, you were unfit to join the Federation when it took place.
– It would have been a good thing if Western Australia had not entered the Federation until recently. I do not think my honorable friends can erect a high enough Tariff wall to give them what they desire when dealing with the class of contract to which I have referred. I believe that, as regards Newcastle and other New South Wales ports, we shall be able to compete against outside firms with the Tariff that we have now; but, with every desire to assist the steel works and the people in the constituency of Newcastle, and to see. Australian industries spring up and keep going, I do not think that, so far as rails are concerned, we shall ever be able to put a high enough Tariff wall around the industry. If it is necessary to foster that industry, the Commonwealth Government will have to do it by means of a bounty or in some other way which will give the local manufacturer a fair handicap as against the British manufacturer. If the people of Western Australia can get these rails from the British manufacturer for just under £17 per ton, the discrepancy is too great to enable them to say that they will give the Australian article the preference..
.- It seems extraordinary that any set of engineers in Australia should impose on Australian manufactured rails a test five times greater than on rails which they accept from America or Great Britain. Have any representations been made to the Minister on that subject?
– I had some complaints quite a long time ago as to the nature of the tests imposed, but I have heard nothing recently.
– The statement has been made by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and confirmed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. (Mr. Foley).
– I do not think the test is five times as great.
– It is considerably more.
– It seems unthinkable to me that any set of engineers in Australia would handicap our Australian rails in that way, and at the same time, when tenders are being called for rails to be used in Australia, be quite prepared to accept from Great Britain or America an article which does not stand up to the tests to which Australian rails have to submit. I can hardly believe that the statement is correct, although it has been made to me by a member of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
– In the drop test we have twenty-four tests for every 60 tons, America only three, and Great Britain only one.
– The position is made even worse by the fact mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that 5 per cent. of the material is practically lost in these tests, which really means an impost of 5 per cent, of the value of the article.
– Five per cent. of the value of the bloom.
– That is a heavy handicap for an industry to stand. Will the Minister (Mr. Greene) look into the whole position, and let the Committee know the result?
– I do not wish to break in on the question of tests, although it seem3 to me that the views of engineers who are dealing with their own specifications should be considered as well. The engineer in charge of the Fremantle tramways is as strong a believer in the development of Australian secondary industries as any one could wish to meet, but in this instance the Fremantle tramway engineer and the State Government tramway engineer were unable to get from Newcastle the rails they desired, and Mr. Delprat said he was not in a position to say when the company would be able to roll the particular class of rail required.
– It is a special rail. .
– It is special in the sense that it is the British standard. Naturally, on this matter being represented to me, I brought it under the notice of the Minister personally, who, after inquiries, took action then and there to meet the Western Australian people. It was essential for them to have the rails they wanted, because the tram tracks are being laid on an ordinary macadamized road, and not in cement. The Minister, in this instance, allowed them to import these rails free. Of course, other people would be able to claim the same consideration, because the Minister cannot discriminate. I know, from correspondence that I have had from the Fremantle Tramways Board, that they were perfectly satisfied with the Minister’s action, and exceedingly grateful to him for being so prompt.
.- The opposition to any increase in the duty on pig-iron was based on the fact that it was a real Taw material. Now that we are dealing with the finished product, I wonder whether the same arguments will be used. I give the honorable member for Kalgoorlie credit for the stand he has taken from the beginning regarding the steel duties. He, at least, voted consistently with a promise he had given on the rate of duty in the general Tariff. I have here a small sketch that shows the difference between the composite rail and the other. It is a hollowgrooved rail, which is not being rolled here. The company do not admit that what they produce is a solid grooved rail, but they have put a substitute on to the market. There appeared to be a difference of opinion as to what was most suitable.
– The people who pay ought to be the judge of that.
– Yes ; some State Governments used them, but I am not in a position to offer any opinion, as to which is the best. I do want, however, to say something about the tests, because I think the practice operates to the prejudice of the Australian production. I have before me details of the tests arranged by certain associations of engineers and adopted, I presume, by the Railways Commissioners. The drop test for the Australian rail is twenty-four tests for every 60 tons of rails produced ; for the American rail it is three tests; and for the British one test per 60 tons of rails produced. The Australian tensile test is one test for every 60 tons of rails produced; American nil, and the British one test for every 100 tons of rails produced. The Australian rails specification is, I am advised, acknowledged to be the most severe in the world’s practice. This will be seen by an examination of the comparative tests for British, American, and Australian steel rails. The British test is one drop test from each cast of steel, averaging about 60 tons, and one tensile test from each 100 tons of rails rolled; in other words, about three tests per 100 tons of rails produced. The American” specification provides for only three drop tests from each cast of steel, averaging about 75 to 80 tons, or about three tests from each 60 tons of rails rolled. The Australian specification requires one drop test from each ingot, and taking an average of twenty-four ingots to each cast of steel, this means that there must be twenty-four individual tests for each 60 tons of rails produced, and, in addition, one tensile test for each cast of steel averaging about 60 tons. For the drop test the practice is to allow a block of steel, weighing 1 ton, to fall on the head of a piece of rail, laid on supports 3 ft. O in. between centres, and the rail must withstand the test without showing any sign of fracture. For the American drop test on 80-lb. rails, the block of steel weighs 2,000 lbs., and it is dropped from a height of 17 feet, as compared with the Australian practice to drop a block of steel weighing 2,240 lbs. from a height of 20 feet. In the American railway practice the axle load is very much heavier than in Australia,, but notwithstanding this, American engineers call for a very much less severe test on rails than is the custom in Australia. The actual loss of material in Australia for. test pieces to perform the drop test alone is from 3 to 4 per cent.
– It is right that there should be some such guarantee.
– I agree with the honorable member; but we should not allow rails which do not stand up to our test to enjoy any special advantages in competition with the Australian product. Can it be said that in the case mentioned by the honorable member the rails obtained are of the same value? My latest information as to prices shows that the average basis per ton for 60-lb. rails is: - British, £19 14s. 5d.; American, £17 16 s. 3d.; Australian, £17 17s. 6d. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that the British price for the contract mentioned was, roughly^ £3 below the Australian quotation, but the figures supplied to me show that the British tender was £16 7s. 6d. c.i.f. Fremantle, duty £1 15s.; total, £18 2s. 6d.
– The duty was paid.
– The Australian tender was £18 f.a.s. steel works, Newcastle; freight and insurance, £2 10s.; making the total £20 10s., so the difference between the two tenders was about £2 8s. per ton.
– But could the Broken Hill Proprietary Company supply the class of rails required?
– I have already said that they could not do so for that particular contract; but I understand that another contract has been lost since then.
– One is municipal, and the other a State contract.
– Judging from recent experiences, there is not sufficient protection for the Australian manufacturers of steel rail’s to have a fair chance when competing in the home market.
– - But can the Broken Hill Proprietary Company supply the rails? We have been told that the Now Zealand company could not be supplied for eighteen months, and that the Morwell contract could not be considered.
– It is as well to remember that this industry has been in existence for only about six years, and that no business concern can do all that may be asked of it at any particular time. Although the Newcastle Steel Works have only been in operation for a few years, they are turning out thousands upon thousands of tons of all classes of steel, including rails; but, unfortunately, there bas been some dislocation of coastal shipping lately, and it is now urged in some quarters that because of this difficulty the steel works cannot cater adequately for the requirements of Australia. I understand the Morwell contract was for the completed scheme, and that it only came under the notice of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company at the last moment, at a time when their hands were very full of other work, so they simply said that, unless the time for tendering could be extended, they would not be able to submit a quotation. I admit that the composite rail may, in some respects, be more suitable than the solid steel rail, and that the purchaser should have the right of choice. During the debate on pig iron, it was urged that the raw material should riot carry a higher Tariff. I now ask the Committee to give some relief for the manufacturers of the finished product. It is admitted that during the war period the Australian Governments were supplied with rails by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and were able to continue the construction of the transcontinental railway and State railways. Now we are faced with the competition of rails that are made, I believe, from German blooms.
– I have no doubt that they are from Germany or Belgium.
– Does the Minister say that the rails which the Western Australian Government accepted in a. recent contract were made from German blooms?
– Probably they were.”
– That tender was accepted at a time when goods made from German material were being imported. An importer, after looking over works which are turning out what I believe tobe the finest galvanized iron in the world,, said, “ I can still import galvanized irons into. Australia at £10 per ton less than you can produce it.” An official of the concern said, “ How can you do that, in the faceof present manufacturing costs in Britain?” And the importer replied, “ I am not concernedwith the cost of production in Britain; I will still import this material at £10 per ton less than the local cost.” I have not much faith in the certificates as to the country of origin. In the course of a speech which I delivered in London in 1916, I stated my belief, because of what I had heard, that there were people in England “ who would be prepared to trade with Germany to-morrow”; and, later, the man who moved the vote ofthanks to me said, “You need not wait until tomorrow; they are doing it to-day.”
– The statement by an importer which the honorable member has quoted is absurd, because if he sold at only £1 per ton less than the local price, he would probably get the order.
– He was stating what he could do. It is no misstatement to say that steel bars and ingots have been coming into Australia at prices £10 per ton less than the quotations of the Broken Hill Company; and the Minister well knows that, whilst the article is nominally Belgian, the raw material actually came from Germany. - The Minister has promised to take certain action to protect Australian industries against dumping, but we are now dealing with a finished article, and I am asking him to protect this industry as he protected smaller ones at the request of other honorable members in this chamber. If it could be shown that the local manufacturers were holding their own against the importers under existing conditions, I would not ask that the duty should be increased; but wo have reliable testimony that contracts are being lost to local manufacturers in respect of ordinary rails. I again ask the Minister if hecannot make some concession in this regard.
.- Although the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s establishment is a mere infant in comparison with other great steel works in the world, the proprietors are submitting their products to more severe tests than are imposed in other countries. Some years ago a leading Commonwealth officer deplored the fact that there was an absence of tensile tests ofboth timber and steel, and he said that a considerable quantity of inferior material, steel particularly, was being foisted on the community by importers, for the reason that no tensile test was imposed in the country of origin, and there was no opportunity of imposing it here before putting the article into use. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company is submitting its steel rails to a test the like of which is practically unknown in either British or American factories. Engineers declare that tensile’ strength is one of the best tests of the quality of steel, and because that test is being imposed by the local manufacturers, the community has a double security when it buys the Australian-made article. In purchasing clothing and other materials in daily use, we are often offered goods at a price which appears to be below their value, but only too often when a severe test is applied we find that we have paid too dearly for what is really an inferior article. That applies not only in every-day transactions, but more particularly to the purchase of a more expensive article like steel, and we should therefore be prepared to pay a little more for the better article which will last longer. I have here price lists and trade journals which show that the ordinary price in Britain for rails for overseas customers is £19 14s. 5d. per ton, but we have been told that in competition with the Newcastle Steel “Works a British firm quoted £18 2s. 6d. per ton. That was a “ cut “ price for the purpose of defeating the local manufacturer, and it is not fair, therefore, to say that the Western Australian Government have been able to buy rails from British manufacturers £2 per ton cheaper than they could get them from Newcastle. I have figures which show that the British price in 1915 was £11 2s. 6d. per ton, and rose to £19 14s. 5d. early this year, and it is unfair to mention the tender of £18 2s. 6d. as proof that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are not willing to dispose of their products at a reasonable price.
– Prices have altered within recent months.
– The honorable member knows that the trade journals and price lists that reached Australia from Great Britain by the last mail are nol two months old. The tender was accepted by the “Western Australian Government not more than two months ago when, according to these publications, the ruling price in Britain was £19 14s. 5d. It is fair to assume that because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company was likely to tender for this contract, “William Russell and Company, of England, saw a good opportunity to “biff” the Australian industry, and quoted £2 per ton below the ruling rates. I have pointed out, as clearly and strongly as possible, how experts in Australia have deplored the fact that Australians were purchasing steel goods from other parts of the world which came in here with an insufficient tensile test. My point is that the Australian firm submits its manufactures to a greater test than British makers, and to a much greater test than American steel companies. I would be doing better by paying £20 10s. for the Broken Hill .Proprietary product than £18 2s. 6d. for the same item from a British factory. That is, I would be paying a little more for a better article. Even in regard to the combination rails which the Australian company has not been able to supply for tramway purposes, I understand that the honorable members for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) and Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) would not be averse from the imposition of a deferred duty. If the local industry is able to satisfy the Department that it is able to, and intends to, supply the Australian demand for these combination rails, then a protective duty should apply in order to give the Australian firm an opportunity to meet outside competition. The present position, I understand, is that the combination rail may be imported free, but that there is power, when its manufacture is undertaken in Australia, to impose a duty. As for the British tender price in respect of the “Western Australian contract, that was emphatically a cut price, and I trust we shall see no more of that kind of thing. Meanwhile, however, we must be watchful. There is bound to be some filtering in from the Continent, through British hands, to the overseas Dominions. One of the chief competitors with respect to iron and steel lines now being made in Australia is Belgium. Although these products may have been finished in Belgium, I am sure that they were made, to a large extent, from German material. Many of the Belgian factories are to-day, as before the war, backed by German capital, and the profit derived therefrom is going into German pockets. That is where we want to be careful, and to protect our great, yet infant, industry.
– I do not think this Committee would agree to impose an additional duty upon the rates already in. existence, as the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) desires. The case which he has specifically cited is perfectly clear, and is one the like of which can be guarded against in future !by anti-dumping provisions. If it can be shown that foreign tenderers are able to quote and deliver at less than the home consumption price in the country of origin–
– And it looks like it.
– I am not able to say that it does not. But if such can be shown, then our anti-dumping law will apply, and will put an end to such a state of affairs. Again, if it can be demonstrated that foreign competitors are using German blooms, that position can be met by means of the proposed measure dealing with exchange.
With respect to the grooved rail, it is a fact that that product is not being rolled here to-day. There are two classes of rails laid in connexion with various tramway works. One is put down on a cement foundation, and the other is laid where a macadamized road is used. In respect of those works where a combination rail is used, together with the cement foundation, we do not permit the grooved rail free entry; but in cases where tramway authorities are laying their track on a macadamized road we permit free entry. It amounts to this: Are the Australian mills rolling these rails? If they are, then the similar imported rails are dutiable. But if the Australian manufacturers are not doing so, then the foreign rails may come in free.
.- All the allegations to the effect that no case has been made out by myself, or by those honorable members who are supporting me, have been disproved; and all the contrary facts have been completely answered. A clear instance has been cited where a British firm has been able to tender successfully for a contract, in one of the States, at a price amounting to £2 8s. lower than the local quotation. When freight and duty are added, it becomes all the more obvious that the British tenderer quoted a cut price.
– This time last year the Americans were putting steel rails into the west coast ports of England at a cheaper rate than the British factories could turn them out; and the British makers have had to come down since then.
– Yes ; that, again,was a case of dumping. In 1915 Australian steel rails 60 lbs. and over averaged £8 5s. 9d.; in 1916, £10; in 1917 and in 1918, £10 10s.; so that during the war the price of rails remained steady. But now that ah industry which did so much for the country during the war asks for help - and for the first time - its request is refused, although it is the most important industry in the country. I move -
That the following words be added to subitem (a) : - “ And on and after 10th June, 1921, per ton, British, 55s.; intermediate, 80s.; general, 95s.”
.- I hope that the Committee will not give the slightest consideration to this request. Surely the future development of the country is tobe considered.
– I am not going to accept the amendment.
– What is proposed is preposterous. Railways have to be built throughout the country to facilitate communication and make development possible.
.- I hope that consideration may be given to the amendment for which the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has made out a good case. We hear of what the proposed anti-dumping and the exchange legislation will do; but it seems to me that we are putting the cart before the horse, and that the action which we are told is to be taken should already have been taken. As it is, things are being allowed to drift. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has already lost a contract in Western Australia, and it has been shown that the rails which are being supplied by its competitor are being sold at a cut price, that is, they are being dumped. It is idle to talk of protecting industries if, while the Tariff is under consideration industries are suffering, and proposals for redress are not listened to. We are losing our markets, and men are being thrown out of employment. Yet we are told to wait for a couple of months for anti-dumping and exchange legislation. During the . interval, importers will make money by sending goods to Australia at cut prices, and we shall be told later that the action proposed to be taken ought not to affect goods on order and in course of transit. Ithas been admitted by the Minister himself that there is dumping. That being so, we should have legislation to prevent it.
– You are keeping us from introducing that legislation.
– It should have been introduced before the Tariff was considered. Strangely enough, we heard nothing of it until we came to the iron duties. We were not told previously that anti-dumping legislation was to be introduced.
– The exchange legislation was certainly not spoken of. Complaints about dumping are general. Prices are being cut, and a great deal of the cheap material that is being introduced is coming from Germany, the rate of exchange favouring the German manufacturers. Thus our industries are suffering, and something must be done to protect them. The measures the Government propose to take to prevent dumping and to meet the exchange positionmay or may not be satisfactory, and in the meanwhile we are asked to work in the dark. If we impose duties now to give protection during the interval that must elapse before this other legislation can be considered, those duties can be subsequently reduced or removed should Parliament consider them unnecessary. In this case the present duties are ineffective. It must be remembered that our rails are subjected to a severer test than is applied to rails anywhere else. There are no better rails to be obtained, and it is doubtful whether any rails are made to equal them.
– There is at present a duty of £3 15s. on rails.
– And there are plenty of empty ships to bring rails here cheaply.
– Yes. Our object is to keep our own people at work. We do not want a state of stagnation to come about in this industry.
– The Government intend to cure the trouble by means more effective than those the honorable member supports.
– My difficulty is that I do not know what is proposed.
– What guarantee have we that we can control the forces operating on the other side of the world?
– By operating in Australia we can and will exercise the control that is needed.
– At any rate, we do not know that what is proposed will be effective.
– The Minister said that he is willing to review Tariff items should that be proved.
– Parliament may be in recess at the time.
– Yes ; and a great deal of harm can be done to an industry in three or four months by unfair competition. I ask the Minister to give consideration during the dinner adjournment to what is a very modest proposal.
– An increase of about 10 per cent.
Mr.CHARLTON.- We wish to prevent the losing of orders in the interval between the present time and the passing of the legislation for the prevention of dumping and the regulation of exchange.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I supported the amendment moved by the honorablemember for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) for an additional duty on steel rails. I have no wish to unduly detain the Committee, and I think that in this matter all that we can say has been said. I again ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to consent to an increase of the duties proposed, in view of the fact that orders for rails are now being given abroad at cut-throat prices. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is dumping of steel rails in Australia from other countries. Much of the stuff that is being dumped here is coming from Germany. The foreign manufacturers are getting a fair return, because they are able to undersell our manufacturers by reason of the depreciation of their currency as compared with ours. I stated yesterday that they can sell at 25 per cent. less than Great Britain, and then make a profit of 10 per cent. They are now tendering for supplies for Australia, and their offers are being accepted. If this continues for any length of time it will result in incalculable injury to the industry in this country. Outsiders have already placed two orders in Australia, and we may assume that in the near future they will succeed in placing others. Even if no tenders are invited it may be assumed that they will dump their goods into this country, and hold them here until they can dispose of them. If we wait until we have passed an Anti-Dumping Bill and an Exchange Regulation Bill, there may by that time be a lot of this material on the water, and it will then he contended that such legislation should not operate until shipments ordered and on the water have been delivered. I can well understand that when we come to deal with the measures referred to honorable members opposite, and especially those in the corner who have opposed the increase of duties, will strongly oppose such legislation, if it is to affect orders previously given. It may be six months before those orders can be completed. Until we are in a position to estimate the success attending the operation of the promised legislation, I suggest to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that it would be a fair thing to increase these duties. I plead for protection for our own industries in order that we may keep our people employed. I have no desire to see Australia going backwards, as must be the case if something is not done to protect our industries. It is the case to some extent now, because we have many men unemployed, and in connexion with a subsidiary industry using iron and steel the Minister himself has admitted that there are now 600 men unemployed. Other industries have shortened hands, and it may be that those engaged in the production of iron and steel have also had to shorten hands. It is idle to talk, as we sometimes do, of bringing people here from the Old Country if there is no work for them to do. We cannot put them all on the land, and men who are not adapted for it will in nine cases out of ten make a failure of settlement on the land. We cannot bring people here unless there are openings for their employment, and to-day there are no such openings. Australia is sparsely settled; but until we have passed legislation which will enable us to absorb more people we shall not be justified in bringing them here. At present there are not sufficient avenues of employment for the people who are now in the country.
– There are numbers of returned soldiers out of work at the present time.
– That is so. I can hardly cope with the correspondence I am receiving from returned soldiers in need of employment. I get letters from them from every part of Australia. I may say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company employs hundreds of returned soldiers, and yet, apparently, this Committee is unwilling to give the company the slightest increased protection in connexion with these duties.
– I suppose that the honorable member will exhibit the same consideration for returned soldiers when we come to consider the duties on farm implements.
– I will answer that interjection by saying that when duties affecting the primary producers have been under consideration, my honorable friends in the Corner have taken a different view. In dealing with those duties, I have found members of the Country party, like myself, assisting to impose substantial duties on the products of the primary producer. These duties seem to represent to them a horse of another colour. I again appeal to the Minister to make some concession in this case. The honorable gentleman said that if he accepted an increase in the duties on pig iron that would involve some alteration of the duties on items affecting industries subsidiary to the steel and iron industry. That was a perfectly sound contention, and we agreed that if increased duties on pig iron were agreed to the duties on other items would require to be increased accordingly. We are dealing here with a product of the steel works, and I say that the supply of steel rails for Australia should be confined to the Australian industry. I believe thai Hoskins and Company, as well as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, turn out steel rails.
– They did so years ago.
– I understand that Hoskins and Company were the first to supply steel rails for the transcontinental railway. There is internal competition in, Australia for the supply of steel rails, and, that being so, it is right that we should keep these industries going. Mr. Hoskins recently pointed out the position into which the industry is drifting, and bow necessary it is that some assistance should be given to it. If an increase in these duties were agreed to, and it was subsequently found that they are excessive, there would be nothing to prevent this Parliament reviewing and reducing them if it so desired. The Minister intends to appoint a Board to consider the incidence of the Tariff, and that Board can recommend a reduction of these duties if the circumstances warrant it. Until we get the remedial legislation which the Minister has spoken of, the industry should be given some real protection through the Tariff.
.- I regret that I cannot see my. way to accede to the request of my honorable friend, for several reasons. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) said that we have done nothing for this industry. I think that we have tried to do a good deal.
– I was not speaking generally, but of what has occurred during the consideration of this Tariff.
– If honorable members will consult the previous Tariff, they will find that we have raised the duties on steel rails weighing 50 lbs. per yard, under the British preferential column, from 17s. 6d. to 35s., and the duties in the general Tariff from 25s. to 75s., the increase in the. case of the British preferential Tariff being 100 per cent., and in the case of the general Tariff 200 per cent.
– The increased duties are now in operation, and yet our people are losing orders.
– I wish, further, to remind honorable members that under the old Tariff in this item, in addition to rails we included fish-bolts, tie-plates, and sections of rails. All these things have been taken out of the item, and under this Tariff are made liable to special and addition duties in view of the additional cost of their manufacture. We have given a great deal of attention to this question, and if honorable members will compare the pre-war prices of steel rails they will find that these duties run up to 50 per cent. on those prices.
– Other things have also increased in price.
– Conditions now are altogether different from pre-war conditions.
– I am aware of that. I have shown what we have tried to do, and, notwithstanding the fact that in extraordinary’ circumstances one or two orders have been given outside Australia, I think that the duties here proposed are sufficient.
– Suppose they are not? Two orders have been sent out of the country, and there may be others.
– Here was a case where the actual price was £2 8s. per ton below the Australian price, and to cover that discrepancy we would require to raise the duty under the British preferential Tariff to 83s. I am quite sure that the Committee would not agree to that for a moment.
– When we asked for a considerable increase we were told that it was too big, and when we now make a moderate request we are told that the duty for which we ask is not big enough.
– Would the Minister agree to an increase of £1 in the duty, leaving it to the. purchaser of these goods to decide whether he is a sufficiently loyal Australian to pay an extra 18s. per ton for the Australian article?
– I think that we had better rest content with the duties proposed in the Tariff for the time being. I have promised that if they prove insufficient I shall come back to Parliament and ask for additional duties.
– The trouble is that they’ are already proving insufficient.
– Possibly the particular cases which have been stated may be met by the special legislation to which I have referred over and over again. It will be designed to meet cases of that character. I do not think that we should try to establish rates of duty in the Tariff schedule itself to cover extreme or extraordinary cases. I ask the Committee to pass these duties as they stand. We shall very soon discover whether or not they are adequate, and if they are not I have promised to come back to Parliament and ask for additional duties.
.- I should not have risen had notthe honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) said that I went to see the great works at Newcastle; that I praised them, and admitted the tremendous asset they were to Australia, and now will not help the Broken Hill Proprietary Company on the floor of this House. I’ deny that statement. No man recognises the advantage of the establishment of such an industry to Australia more fully than I do; but there are limits beyond which we cannot go. In reading and going very carefully through the Tariff I came to the conclusion that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), perhaps unlike some other Ministers who have had charge of a Tariff, had gone thoroughly into all these matters, and had given, in most instances, ample protection for local industries. We cannot foreshadow something that has not previously taken place, and I have not heard that the proprietors of the Newcastle works have asked for additional protection. If they bad done so, and made out a case as they might have done through the Minister or the press or by circularizing honorable members, there might have been some excuse for giving their industry additional protection. When I visited the steel works at Newcastle, I was not told, nor have I * been told since, that the industry requires additional protection in regard to the manufacture of steel rails. All that I have heard in this connexion is the statement which has been made by my honorable friends opposite during the past few days. It is the duty of every representative of a great territory like that of Queensland, which embraces an area of 420,000,000 acres, to see that railway construction, which is so necessary for its development, is not unduly hampered by the imposition of excessive duties upon steel rails. It is all very well for the representatives of a small State like Victoria, or, indeed, for the representatives of New South Wales, which already possesses most of the railways that it requires, to talk in the way that my honorable friends opposite have done. But Queensland requires thousands of miles of railway to develop its resources, and these lines will be constructed when that State possesses the necessary funds to construct them. It stands to reason that the higher the cost of the materials put into such railways the less mileage she will be able to build.
– Does not the honorable member think that the material which is needed for the development of a State should be admitted free?
– I do not, because we must encourage Australian industries to provide for our own requirements. The necessity for such industries was fully proved during the war. Personally, I consider that, in most cases, sufficient encouragement in that direction has already been given by this Tariff. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) will agree with me that when we visited the steel works in his constituency the assistant manager, pointing to a stack of rails, said, “ That is the last of the 600 tons which we have been manufacturing for the Queensland Government.” Included in the item which is now under consideration are other commodities which are used by manufacturers in Queensland - by those who build locomotives and ships, or who engage in the manufacture of mining machinery and sugar machinery.
– I am merely asking for an increased duty upon rails.
– I think that the existing protection is ample. It is quite as much as those engaged in tho industry ever expected to get, otherwise they would have notified us. of their dissatisfaction with it. I have nothing to say against an industry which I value so highly as I do the steel industry, but it behoves us to be careful that we do not over-protect it, and thereby penalize certain sections of the community.
.- When I referred to the visit of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to the Newcastle Steel Works, I did not intend my remark to be construed offensively. No such idea was in my mind.
– The honorable member should have told the manager of those works to pitch a tale of woe to politicians who visit them. Then things would have been all right.
– Those works speak for themselves, and any honorable membe who visits them will not be subjected to the practice of lobbying there any more than he is within the precincts of this chamber. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company have evidently been too modest. The remark of which the honorable member for Wide Bay complains was made by me by way of interjection. It was not prompted so much by his visit to the Newcastle Steel Works as it was by a speech which he made here the other evening, in which he stated that he had every sympathy with my proposal to obtain an increased duty for the industry.
– He has shown his sympathy pretty well, too.
– He showed it in his speech, but he voted the other way. His attitude reminds me of the old saying that “ sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef.” Nobody can accuse me of having, during the twenty years that I have been a member of this Parliament, talked merely for the sake of wasting time. But if I can do anything to help an Australian industry - whether it be situated in my own electorate or elsewhere - I shall always be ready to do so. Not only did the honorable member for Wide Bay in a previous speech express sympathy with the increased duty which I had submitted, but the Minister himself spoke even more strongly than I did in defence of that increase.
– If the honorable member would only work as hard for the mines as he works for the steel works at Newcastle, things would hum.
– I have been down in the bowels of -the earth, where I left my picks when I was elected to Parliament, and I am not likely to forget my experience there. To-night I have submitted to the Minister a concrete case of dumping.
– That was not a case of dumping. It was merely one of competition.
– Under the legislation which has been foreshadowed, by the Minister to cope with this evil, I imagine that a Board will be created to hear complaints in regard to dumping as against fair competition. How can that Board be approached except by the citing of concrete cases such as I have given to-night?
– The honorable member cannot call that a case of dumping.
– Is it not dumping when a tender is accepted for imported material at 48s. per ton less than the price quoted by the people who govern the industry in the country of its origin?
– In 1918 Broken Hill produced rails for £10 10s. per ton.
– Yes, and in that year the reverse position obtained in America. Last year there was an increase in their price in England. This year the price of steel rails has dropped from £27 to £19 14s. 5d. per ton. Yet, although that was their price in Britain, a tender was accepted by the Western Australian Government at £18 2s. 6d. per ton, everything paid, inclusive of duty. How can dumping be proved except by the submission of such concrete cases? The Minister (Mr. Greene) has intimated his intention of endeavouring to protect the industry by getting certificates from manufacturers in Britain that importations which come from there are of British origin. How can he do that without sending officers over there to conduct special investigations??
– Suppose that the certificates were accompanied by declarations, would not that be sufficient?
– A declaration in England affecting something in Australia ? Does the honorable member think that the British Government will so seriously interest themselves in a matter of this kind as to ascertain that all consignments of steel rails to Australia from the Old Country are of British origin?
– We are doing the same thing every day of the week. We have our officers in London, and we know what is going on there. As a matter of fact the whole of the British preferential Tariff is worked in that way - by inquiries in London.
– Then the Minister must know of this thing?
– The honorable member himself has told me of it about twenty times, so that I ought to know it.
– When I was in London I heard sufficient to convince me that the British Government will not . worry themselves very much about the country of origin of consignments to Australia. Indeed, it would be difficult for them to trace the origin of rails which are rolled on the Continent and which are re-shipped from Great Britain. Throughout the Tariff debate it has been made very apparent that no small State can complain that its interests have been in any way neglected by this Parliament. I venture to say that if this industry were in one of the smaller States it would receive more consideration than is now being extended to it by the Government. As .a member of this Legislature for twenty years, I say, unhesitatingly, that many honorable members from the smaller States take a parochial, rather than an Australian, view of matters of this kind. The location of the works affected seems to be their chief concern. It has been said by an honorable member opposite that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has not asked for an increased duty. I invite the Minister to say whether they have not done so. I have asked for this moderate increase in the duty on the finished product . in view of the facts set out in the document which I have put before the Committee. The company has recently lost another contract in New Zealand because of the same competition. It has been admitted that the tests to which the locally-made rails are subjected are such as to stamp them as being infinitely superior to the imported article.
– Apparently some people will not pay for quality.
– They are prepared to accept the tender of an outside manufacturer because it is a few shillings be. low that of the local industry.
– Two pounds a ton is a big item on a large contract.
– After all, it is a question of relative values. If the Australianmade rail is twice as safe, and will last twice as long as the imported article, the additional cost is relatively insignificant. I am asking, not for an increase of £2 per ton, but for an increase of about 10 per cent., so that this industry will not be compelled, like others have been, to throw out of employment thousands of the men at present depending upon it for a livelihood.
.- It seems to me to be quite preposterous to say that, on the facts disclosed in the papers” submitted to us, any dumping, has taken place in this case. Tenders were called, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, probably taking advantage of the market, asked too big a price. I know nothing as to the figures disclosed iu these papers, but I do know that in 1916 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s price was £9 10s. per ton ; in 1917, and again in 1918, its price was £10 10s. per ton ; and in 1919 it was £12 3s. 4d. per ton. In other words, its average price from 1916 to 1919 was under £11 per ton, whereas the tender accepted in the case referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) was for the supply of rails at £18 2s. 6d. a ton. If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company failed to get that contract, it must have been asking too much for its rails. Its latest quotation for 1921 was £17 17s. 6d., and yet this tender was let at £18 23. 6d. I think the Minister has been very kind to this company. He has granted it an increase of 100 per cent, under the British preferential Tariff, while under the general Tariff the duty has been increased from 25s. to 75s.
– That is practically one-half of the price of rails in 1915.
– Yes; in 1915 they were being sold at £8 5s. per ton. If we are to build up a Tariff wall so that local manufacturers may charge what they please, and then when they lose trade a still higher duty is to be imposed, I do not know what will happen.
Item agreed to.
Item .155 -
Boiled iron or steel beams, channels, joints, girders, columns, trough and bridge .iron, and steel not drilled or further manufactured, per ton, British, 48s.; intermediate 7os.; general, 90s.
.- I desire to know whether the Minister (Mr. Greene), in connexion with this item, has taken into consideration the almost numberless shapes of beams, joists, girders, columns, &c, that are required for railway construction and general building and developmental purposes. Having regard to the temper of the Committee, I do not propose to move for a reduction of the’ duties in respect of this item; but I invite the Minister to compare the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s schedule of products with those of some of the corporations overseas. In connexion with ordinary trading, 600 or 700 different shapes and parts may be necessary. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s schedule sets out some thirteen structural shapes that are produced at present at its works, whereas in the British catalogues 99S different shapes are quoted. The United Kingdom occupies only third place on the list of steel producing countries. Before the war Germany’s output of steel was approximately double, and that of the United States of America treble, that of the United Kingdom. The British manufacturers’ catalogues include approximately 1,000 different shapes, while the varieties manufactured on the continent of Europe and in the United States of America are still more numerous. I know that there are two or three other manufacturers here, but I do not think that they add to the shapes which are designed by the Broken Hill Company. I have before me a paper showing that, in respect of girders and beams, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company manufactures only eight different varieties, while the United States of America corporation produces 113. In the case of angles, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company produces 75 different varieties, and the United States of America corporation 425; while in respect of tees, the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company produces 3 shapes or varieties and the United States of America corporation 94. In respect ofthese three items alone, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company produces only 86 varieties, as against 632 scheduled by the United States of America corporation. I do not think it would be possible to move that these steel duties shall apply only to those sections or parts which are made in Australia. We are all hopeful that as the local works develop they will produce as many varieties as their oversea competitors; but I should like to know if the Minister has considered whether it would be possible, meantime, to prepare a free list, which could be amended from time to time, covering all those shapes or varieties which are not being produced here.
– I have had no complaint recently in connexion with this matter. A difficulty occurred some little time ago, but honorable members, I dare say, will remember that the Institute ofScience and Industry, acting in conjunction with the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, convened a conference at which this matter was fully gone into, with a view to the standardization, as far as possible, of these rolled sections of steel and the specifying of standard sizes in the various specifications. In that way a good deal of difficulty has been surmounted. The figures show that in the year before the war just on 1,000,000 cwts. of these sections of structural steel were imported. That importation has dwindled away to less than a quarter, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and smaller rolling mills, are now turning out the great bulk of the sections required. However, if any specific cases are brought before us, and it can be shown, as a fact, that certain sections cannot be rolled here, I do not think there will be any difficulty in meeting the objections raised. We have no desire to collect what is intended to be a protective duty on goods that cannot be manufactured here. I will see what can be done, so long as we do not jeopardize the industry here.
Item agreed to.
Shafting, ad val., British, 27½ per cent. ; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
.- I move -
That the following words he added: - “And on and after 10th June, 1921 -
Shafting, viz.: -
Flexible, ad val., British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.
Other, ad val., British, 27½ per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent. ; general, 40 per cent.”
I do not think the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) will object to this amendment, seeing that its object is to make part of the shafting free. What I propose is in regard to flexible shafting, which is not made here, and which is used in speedometers, dental machines, and so forth. As shafting, it falls under this item, and we do not desire to make it dutiable.
– Is there no flexible shafting made here?
.- Under the 1914 Tariff, shafting was free and 10 per cent. According to the Argus of 3rd June, this year, shafting was quoted at £52 10s. per ton, equal to, say, £60 in Australia, and this works out at £24 per ton under the general Tariff, and £14 per ton under the British preferential Tariff. That seems to me an enormous and unreasonable impost.
.- This is one of the commodities in connexion with which we found ourselves in the greatest difficulty immediately after the outbreak of the war. No one has undertaken the manufacture of bright shafting, which requires a very expensive and extensive plant. Some manufacturers were found, however, who were prepared to invest, and, by establishing the industry, come to our rescue in time of war.
– Does this include roller shafting? A factory has been established at Maryborough, Queensland, with a large steam-hammer and furnaces, to turn out roller shafting.
– That is forged shafting, which comes under this item; but I was talking for the moment of bright shafting, which, for the greater part, is that required. It is true that this forged shafting is being made not only at Maryborough, but elsewhere; as a matter of fact, I think the manufacturers are now in a position to meet, practically, the whole of Australia’s requirements. One manufacturer turned out over 900 tons of bright shafting last year.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Barbed wire, per ton, British,68s. ; intermediate, 85s.; general, 105s.
.- This is a monstrous item. In the previous Tariff the duties were 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. People do not buy barbed wire for pleasure, and this item, if passed, will mean a very heavy impost which, in my opinion, is entirely unwarranted. Most of the work in manufacturing barbed wire is done by machinery. I was surprised, when wo were dealing with wire nails, to hear honorable members talk of the number of men employed in making them, when, as a matter of fact, machinery does all the work, even to the packing in boxes.
– The Minister has told us that there are 600 men employed in one factory making nails; and if the honorable member cares to come to New castle he can visit the works there.
– I shall be very glad to do so; but, in any case, I ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to agree to a reduction of these duties, knowing, as he does, the great necessity for barbed wire in the work of developing the country.
– If the factories spoken of had been in existence during the war we should have saved many hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Does the honorable member wish to exploit the country for all time because of the war?
– It is not right to say that those engaged in the industry are going to exploit the country.
-We have been exploited. I certainly feel pleased that the Tariff has to be considered by another place, where I am satisfied it will receive very different treatment from that it has received here. Certainly, greater interest will be shown in the items elsewhere, and it will be essential for those in charge of the Tariff to explain, not only to the
Chamber, but to the country, that the duties proposed are necessary. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ And on and after 10th June, 1921, per ton, British, 40s.; intermediate, 50s.; general 60s.”
.- I support the amendment, and draw attention to the close relationship there is between this and the following item. At the present moment, a great struggle is going on in. the western district of New South Wales, and it is doubtful whether it will be possible to maintain sheep there in the future. Dingoes have been coming in from Central Australia in large numbers. This western district has been known in the past as one of the great merino woolproducing centres of Australia, and if it has to be kept as sheep country it must be possible for those interested to be able to erect wire netting and barbed wire fences. The usual dingo-proof fence is an ordinary stout fence, with, very often, higher posts raised alongside, wire netting being run along the lower portion, and, as a rule, three barbed wires along the additional posts at the top. Such fencing has, in some cases, to be carried for hundreds of miles, and this naturally consumes a tremendous weight of wirenetting and barbed wire. With the proposed additional duties there will be very much less chance of saving the great western district of New South Wales as a wool-producing area. I invite the Minister, who knows something of these matters, to look at the last issue of the Pastoralists Review, which is recognised as the great authority on primary production, from, at any rate, the graziers’ point of view. In that journal it is definitely stated that unless something is done, and very soon, to save the western district, the owners there will have to revert to cattle. And it is not only the western district that is concerned, for the Darling River would prove no more obstruction to the dingoes crossing into the central division than would a corridor of this House. People in the cities, and probably most honorable members, may think that this is wild talking, as, indeed, it is, inasmuch as it relates to a wildand wily animal. People generally have no idea how parts of New South Wales and other parts of Australia are reverting to natural conditions. It seems incredible that we here should be losing ground in this way - that pests should be allowed to overrun and destroy the greatest asset the country possesses; but the fact undoubtedly remains that it is so. I have endeavoured on more than one occasion to point out that this Tariff is helping in that direction. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). It will, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) or the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) interjected, interfere with the employment of a few hundred men at Newcastle. That is most unfortunate, and I wish it could be avoided, but it is really a very small matter compared with the enormous industry that is affected.
– Are you satisfied that it will interfere with them?
– It probably will to a certain extent, although they may be able to carry on even under the reduced duties proposed; but I know that if we accept the enormous increases embodied in the schedule many people in the western district of New South Wales will not be able to carry on. Not only the man growing the wool, but the hundreds and thousands of others employed in the western division will feel it, including all those on the land who are looking for some help to pay the taxation throughout Australia. We cannot afford now to do anything to lessen our primary production. : Every man interested in that knows that Australia is desperately understocked. Never, in my experience in grazing, in which I have been interested all my life, have I known New South Wales as a whole to be so understocked, and that is the general experience. The whole country is understocked. Yet it is now proposed to go further in the direction of destroying our chance of re-building our stocks, although the whole future of Australia depends more on their restoration than on anything else that can be mentioned.
.- One would think, to hear the arguments put forward in favour of the reduction of these duties, that we were imposing rates different from what exist- at present. This duty has been in operation for fifteen months, and now we are told, after encouraging the establishment of manufacturing industries in. our own country by its means - -
– I suppose that practically no wire netting has been bought for the outside country for the last fifteen months.
– I wish the honorable member would rise occasionally and state his views.. All he has done, so far, has been to put them very effectively by means of interjections. This industry has been established because of the protection afforded to it for the last fifteen months, but the arguments used here would lead the general public to believe that we are now imposing additional duties to assist it. The people in the western and north-western districts of New South Wales are to be sympathized with. They have had a bad time in consequence of the drought, and, no doubt, their stocks have been depleted; but that is no justification for reducing this duty to such an extent that the factories cannot live. Some honorable members say they regret that the reduction of the duties would mean displacing 500 or 600 men. Too much labour is being displaced already. Not much consideration is given to the man who has to produce in the secondary industries. We hear a good deal of talk about the producer on the land; but the fact is overlooked that everybody has to do his share of production, and to carry his share of the load, for the welfare of the community. We cannot take isolated c.-ses and do things just to suit some particular portion of the country. We must look at matters from the broader point of view of what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth generally. What is best should be the policy of this Parliament. It is unfortunate that we have to contend with dingoes. Some honorable members would be better employed if they took a gun and endeavoured to shoot them, instead of trying to injure industries already established here. If we adopted the views of the Country party, as put forward during the debates on this Tariff, we might as well have Free Trade at once, and allow the free entry of articles produced by people who work under much- worse conditions than our people do, both as regards wages and the standard of living. We might as -well say to those .people: “You «an make all we require, so long as the man on the land is all right, and can get everything he wants as cheaply as possible.” According to that argument, we need not bother about trying to increase our population from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 in a given time, because it does not matter if we have only 500,000 people here, so long as the man on the land is suited. I suppose that three-parts of my people are on the land, and if I considered my own personal interests, I should take the same view as has been taken by members of the Country party; but I must consider the question as it affects Australia generally. That is the point of view that actuates me. The Minister has been very firm in refusing to give increases when we have asked for them, and I hope he will be just as firm in refusing the requests of the -Country party for reductions. The members of that party haVe somewhat of a “ pull,” because the Government are under the impression that they must look to them for support. The members of the Country party, I am sorry to say, have been given concessions because of that fact; but we on this side of the House, no matter how good our case may be, or how well we argue it, cannot obtain the slightest concession, because the members of the Country party tell the Government that they must not concede us anything. If the Minister agrees to reduce this duty, we shall have to battle away as long as we can ; but if he stands firm to his Tariff, he will be right.
– I was rather struck with the argument of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). I remember that, a little while ago, when the dingoes were very bad amongst the sheep, the trouble was that Australia had no wire, and the men on the land could not fence them out. The honorable member now suggests a reduction of this duty. If we did reduce it, what would be the probable result? There is already a duty on wire, which is the basis of barbed wire, higher than the rates which the honorable member suggests for this item. A reduction, therefore, would mean that no barbed wire would be made here, and all that the members of the Country party would succeed in doing would be to impose a re- venue duty on the farmer. Is that what they want? Nobody would import wire to make barbed wire here.
– At the worst we would relieve the man who uses barbed wire.
– We would not. We would practically impose a revenue duty on him. For the last seven or eight days we have been discussing the iron and steel industry, and have decided to protect it. It has been admitted on all sides that it is absolutely essential to Australia. If we now decide that the industries which use the products of the blast furnace are not to be protected, where shall we find ourselves? If honorable members mean that (hose subsidiary industries which depend on the blast furnace for their raw material are not to be supported, the blast furnace will go cold, and we shall have no iron and steel industry at alL I have heard the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) say over and over again that the reports of the Inter-State Commission should be accepted by this Committee. The Inter-State Commission has reported on barbed wire, and recommended a duty actually higher by 2s. per ton than the duty in this schedule.
.- I am sorry the Minister (Mr. Greene) spoke before I did, because, now that he has said “No,” I am afraid he will not change his mind, even if one of the supporters of the Government asks him to do so. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) suggests that the Minister has more than once given way to the Country party, because the Government depend on them for their votes. If a few of the direct supporters of the Government, as well as the members of the Country party, ask the Minister to do something, I should expect him to give way. I propose, in spite of what has been said, to support the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). I cannot believe that the industry - if we may call it an industry - for the manufacture of barbed wire would not continue if the duty were reduced to the extent that the honorable member proposes. ,We have heard a good deal ofpleading during the debate on this divi-sion for the workmen engaged in these industries. I do not think one member has expressed himself other than in sympathetic terms towards them and the working people generally throughout the Commonwealth; but the honorable member for Hunter has spoken rather disparagingly of the worker, who is striving to maintain himself on the land.
– I never said a word against the worker on the land.
– Perhaps the honorable member did not mean the worker when he spoke of the man engaged in agriculture.
– I did not say a word against him.
– If that man is not a worker, I should like to be presented to one. I have some knowledge of the hardships that have been endured by some of the people on the land. They are not wealthy, and have no prospects of becoming wealthy, whether they are agriculturists or ‘graziers, because of the high cost during the last few years of material, particularly fencing, which is absolutely essential to their industry. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) that we must consider this item in connexion with the next item, namely, wire netting. I know of numerous cases in Victoria of people who have been on the land for a great number of years struggling to clear it and make a living on it, but who have been obliged finally to leave it to the rabbits. That is no exaggeration. No doubt other honorable members know of many similar instances of people who have spent the best part of their lives in this struggle with nature only in the end to be obliged to abandon their laud mainly because of the high cost of material necessary for fencing against the rabbits. It is utterly impossible for the owner of first class agricultural land to maintain his position if alongside of him there is an area of second class land overgrown with rubbish in which rabbits may shelter, unless he is able to obtain fencing material at a reasonable price. The only fence that is of any value at all against this vermin is good wire netting and barbed wire. In my own State barbed wire was used extensively prior to the war, but in recent years it has been practically impossible for the struggling selector to buy it because of the exorbitant price; and now when we have a chance of getting back to pre-war conditions, and when there appears to be some hope of the land-holder being able to get fencing material at a reasonable price to subdivide his holding, we are faced with this excessive duty to protect an industry which has flourished, and has every prospect of maintaining its present position with the protection we are willing to give it. After what the Minister has said, I do not anticipate that he will give way, but I cannot allow the item to pass without entering my protest against this high duty to give protection to one class of worker and one industry to the detriment of another. Why should not these secondary industries bear some share of the reduction in prices that is inevitable, and why should not the. people for whom I am pleading have a chance of living without being obliged to work twelve hours a day? Unfortunately we cannot protect the agriculturist and grazier, and in this House there are not enough honorable members familiar with the conditions of the people of whom I am speaking, otherwise I feel sure that they would receive more consideration.
– Put some vim into the fight. I will stand by you.
– I am glad that at least one honorable member opposite is prepared to help the argiculturists, although he may not be very familiar with the conditions under which they are labouring. I am sure, from what he has said., that his heart is in the right place, and. I hope he will support their claim for consideration.
.- I do not know if it is quite fair in the temporary absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to raise the issue, but 1 point out that both the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) have spoken of this Tariff item as imposing increased duties, and as far as I could follow the Minister he also assumed that the duties had been increased. But if we examine the position closely we find that there is no increase in duty at all.
The old rate was 10 per cent. British preferential and 20 per cent, general Tariff, and the present proposal is British 68s. per ton, and general 105s. perton.
– Surely that ‘ is a big increase.
– Let us work it out and see if it is. The present price for barbed wire.. 12 gauge, is £40 pelton. I do not think this can be regarded as abnormal, because the price has been up to nearly £80 per ton. At £40 per ton the old duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem would amount to £4, while the present duty of 68s. per ton works out at £3 8s.
– But the 10 per cent, duty in the old Tariff was on barbed wire at £14 per ton.
– Quite so; but I am taking the figures on present-day prices, and I want to see how this scientific protection operates. Under the old schedule a 20 per cent, general Tariff on barbed wire at £40 per ton came to £8, and under the present Tariff the duty amounts to £5 5s. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), because I think all these duties are too high. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) says that we who advocate these lighter duties might as well become Free Traders outright, I feel inclined to retort that members of his party might as well become Prohibitionists. It seems to me, in assuming that these duties represent an increase on the old Tariff, the arguments of honorable members have gone astray somewhat. Let us see what the position would be with barbed wire at £30 a ton, and I do not think it will go much lower than that. At that price the British duty under this Tariff would be £3 8s., as against £3 under the old rate, representing an increase of 8s.; but the duty on American wire at the old rate would have been £6, and under the present Tariff it will be £5 5s. It would appear, therefore, that with barbed wire back to £30 a tori we shall increase the duty on British wire by 8s., and reduce the duty on American wire by 15s. Whore does the scientific protection come in? Evidently there is something radically wrong, and I am sorry that at the moment the Minister is not in the chamber to explain the position.
.- I listened with very sympathetic interest to the story related by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) in regard to the unfortunate position of the men who, after being thirty years on the land, -were, as he put it, driven off on account of the rabbits. But I” remind him that prior to 1914 wire netting was on the free list,’ and if those mcn who had been on die land for thirty or forty years were starved off by the rabbits, I am wondering why they did not make use of their opportunities to import wire netting prior to the imposition of the duty.
– So they did, as far as they could.
– That excuse will not do. I am interested in land in a small way, and I have been in the market recently for barbed wire and wire netting, and I want some more. I could do with a few miles of wire netting if I could get it, but I do riot intend to oppose these duties, as I realize that we are going to manufacture the material in this country. Twelve months ago I bought barbed wire at from 52s. to 62s. per cwt.
– You got it cheaply.
– Did I? Well, I paid the market price for it, and although this Tariff had been in operation for fifteen months, instead of the price for barbed wire going up, I find I can get it at 14s. per cwt. cheaper than twelve months ago. Honorable members opposite have been talking about imported wire. I have here the fortnightly pricelist of the Victorian Producers’ Cooperative Company Limited, with whom I deal, and I find that imported galvanized wire, 12-gauge, is quoted at 40s. per cwt.
– That gauge is not used for fencing.
– In some cases it is. I am talking about good imported wire of the same gauge side by side with our galvanized and barbed wire, and I find it is 2s* per cwt. dearer.
– I am sorry to contradict you, but I am sure that you are wrong.
– Well, here is the printed price-list. The honorable member may, if he likes, go down to the company’s place in Collins-street to-morrow morning and buy this wireby the cwt. or by the ton at the catalogued price. I know that we are manufacturing barbed wire in Australia, and the price, instead of rising because of the Tariff, is 14s. per cwt. less than it was prior to the imposition of this duty.
– Does the. honorable member say that the Tariff has reduced the price of barbed wire?
– The imposition of a duty and the creation of a thriving local industry have often reduced the price of an article.
– The most unfair thing done in this Tariff was the imposition of an additional duty on 14-gauge wire.
– I was very glad to hear the Minister absolutely demolish the arguments advanced by members of the Country party. I believe in helping the producer, and I voted with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) in placing a. duty of £6 per ton on onions. I supported the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) in increasing the duty on bananas. I voted with honorable members in the corner when they asked for a higher duty on millet. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) advocated absolute prohibition of the importation of oats.
– Not oats, but hay, and for the same reason I would prohibit the importation of small-pox. Imported hay brings with it weeds, the eradication of which may cost thousands of pounds.
– Members of the Country party are willing to go as near as possible to prohibition of the importation of things which the farmer produces, but they are unwilling to give a small modicum of protection to other industries. I do not believe in calling manufactories secondary industries. The men who manufacture barbed wire or agricultural implements are, as much entitled to the term “producers,” and are as valuable to the country, as are the men who till the land and reap so many bushels of wheat per acre. Let the one producer show some sympathy with the other. The rural producer has had, and still has, the sympathy of the Labour party. We will stand by him and protect him against foreign competitors; butdo let us have a little reciprocity. Honorable members in the corner forget the foreign Combines who fleeced them under Free Trade. Sometimes honorable members from this side are in the position of protecting the farmers against their own representatives. Unless the factories are filled with vigorous workmen, supporting large families, there will be no local market for the farmers’ produce. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) inquired, by interjection, how many pounds of butter, loaves of bread, hundredweights of meat, and bags of potatoes and onions will be consumed by the 600 men engaged in the manufacture of nails and wire and their families. The workers in that and similar industries provide a home market for the produce of the land. I am confident that the Committee will support this duty, which is fair to the man on the land as well as the man off the land.
.- Honorable members who have opposed the amendment have contended for continuity of employment for a certain number of men engaged in the manufacture of barbed wire. On the other hand, those who have advocated a reduction of the duties have spoken in the interest of those workers who are employed upon the land in various avocations. I say in all seriousness to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Maribymong (Mr. Fenton) that 1 would sooner that the pastoralists and farmers were able to get the material for the protection of their holdings against dingoes, even if it meant the non-employment during the next two years of the men engaged in the wiremaking industry. It is all very well for honorable members who have lived in the city all their lives to say, even jokingly, that the dingo pest means nothing to Australia. It is one of the Commonwealth’s greatest curses. In certain parts of the north-west and central portions of Western Australia men have been driven off their homes because the dingoes have made it impossible to produce stock profitably. In making that statement I am not drawing the long-bow. I can name men who had to leave then* holdings because they could not cope with the ravenous dingoes that were destroying their slock. This menace is felt, not only by the sheep-owners, but also by the cattle-raisers. There is a great area of country in the more remote portions of the Commonwealth that could be carrying sheep but for the dingo menace. These pests can be held in check only if the settlers are able to procure fencing material cheaply. The necessity for getting rid of these wild dogs is so great that any benefit that might accrue to the Commonwealth from the employment of men in the manufacture of wire and wire netting will be nullified by the harm done to the pastoral industry if the cost of this material is increased. On the fringe of the Nullarbor Plains, dingoes are present in such numbers that it is almost impossible for men to take up land south of the transcontinental railway. The same condition of affairs exists from 100 miles north of the line to the Canning stock route, south of the Kimberleys, where there is excellent grazing land. During the good seasons in the last twelve years the dingoes .have multiplied so much that settlement is impracticable until means of fighting the pest are provided. There is no more effective, means than cheap fencing.
– What ‘do the dingoes live on in that desert?
– The country of which I am speaking is not desert, but good pastoral land, which can be utilized under favorable conditions. One of those conditions is an adequate supply of wire netting and barbed wire at reasonable prices. It would be of greater benefit to Australia if, during the next five years, this material were admitted free of duty, so that the dingo pest might be brought into subjection, than if a high duty were imposed to continue in employment a few hundred men in the wire-making industry.
.- I have never heard so much misery related to any body of men as I have heard this evening. Listening to some honorable members, one would think that men on the land are starved to death. Studying the probate returns, I find that invariably the men connected with the land leave ample fortunes to their children, whilst city men leave very little. Speakers at Nationalist meetings and the press are always advising that the immigrants shall be placed on the land. If the new arrivals were to read Hansard, and believe the statements made by some honorable members in the Corner in regard to the misery of the people on the land, very few of them would leave the cities. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has proposed to reduce the British preferential duty on barbed wire from 68s. to 40s. Apparently the honorable member is willing to inflict on the farmers the burden of that 40s. Australian-made wire netting, is. worth from £5 to £6 per mile more to the farmer than the foreign-made product, for the reason that the latter has been subjected to tight rolling. This injures the galvanized covering and opens the way to rust. There is a considerable difference in the life of the Australian-made netting and of the foreign manufacture. It seems to me that overseas makers have a wrong idea of the Australian market. They still seem to think that this is a black man’s country, and that any old rubbish will do. I hate to listen to the dreadful tales spun by ‘ country members in this House. The worst part of a country member’s responsibilities is having to open letters from his constituents in which they plead with him to get jobs for their sons on the city tramways or in the Police Force. They think that, although their own work is a joke, the city man’s life is easier still. They think that the man in town docs no work in the morning, that he attends a picture show in the afternoon, and reads a book over the fire and goes to bed early at night. I assure honorable members in the Corner, if they have not seen it for themselves, that men in the city and suburbs work a good deal harder than the farmers, and very many of them in confined spaces and amidst unhealthy surroundings. Life in the country is not work; much of it is pure pleasure in the beautiful open air. The farmer does a bit of ploughing and tosses a bit of seed about. Then he sits on his verandah and watches the rain and lets Providence do the rest, while his sons go out with guns after rabbits. Farming is ‘an easy thing for any man to put his money into. It is a different story with the patriotic city man who sinks his money in a- factory. Let him start a wire-netting enterprise. The amount of money he makes out of it after meeting all calls from every source, is an absolute moiety. ‘There is more pay-out than get-back, and a lot more risk than gain. I appeal to country members to stop drawing these harrowing pictures of out-back misery. This country cannot prosper if everybody wants to make easy money on the land. We should encourage the people who are willing to risk their wealth, in industries.
– Work in factories is much easier than the work of the man on the land.
– What nonsense! Those connected with the manufacture of wire netting have informed me that the present duties are inadequate to protect them from the competition of English and American makers. America is dumping her goods in the world’s markets as she has never done before. For a hundred years her statesmen devoted themselves to making their country self-contained, and its progress should be an object lesson to us. It is foolish to think that our people benefit by buying cheaply on the other side of the world. Our farmers get better value when they buy Australianmade wire netting and wire than when they buy imported material. As the shipping companies charge for transport by measurement and not by weight, the wire that is sent here is packed so tightly that it cannot be as good as the Australianmade wire. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has pointed out that it is only when the Tariff is being discussed that we hear of the misery suffered by those on the land. This outpouring of sympathy for the farmers and graziers can be overdone, like an electioneering cry. I do. not believe that our country population is so badly off. We should not be pessimistic in our utterances. We should encourage our people to make light of their burdens, as did the pioneers, who thought, nothing of having to go a mile for water, and who “humped their blueys” to get to places to which their successors are now carried in trains. It cannot be said of me that I have not :tried to do all I can to make Australia .prosperous and its people happy.
Unfortunately, a Tariff discussion brings out all the selfishness of human nature. The honorable member who has moved this reduction supported a duty of £6 a ton on onions, and he and others of his party would like to increase the price of wheat to 10s., and even 15s. a bushel. He should be prepared to help others as his constituents have been helped. If the spirit of mutual helpfulness prevailed, the Tariff would soon be passed, and our work would bring prosperity to the country.
– I hope that the Committee will not agree to the proposed reduction of this duty. The burden of the argument of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) was that during the last twelve years dingoes have so increased in number that if people on the land cannot obtain barbed wire disaster awaits them very soon. If that be so, I might ask what people on the land were doing when barbed wire was imported before the war, and when they had to contend with the dingoes? Probably the reason why dingoes have increased in numbers to such an extent as to become a pest is that during the five years of the war the primary producers were at the tender mercy of the callous importer who obtained stocks of barbed wire at a. reasonable price before the war, and then taking advantage of the dislocation of trade and shipping put up the price to such an extent as to place the article beyond the reach of the smaller men on the land. Do honorable members opposite desire that the man on the land should- be for ever at the mercy of importing rings in this country and combines abroad? If so, they are the enemies and not the friends of the primary producer. lh interests of the man on the land can be best served by the production in this country under reasonable protection of the articles he requires. If local manufacturers demand unduly high prices for the articles they produce the Government can protect the Australian consumer from- them. If the arguments used by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Dampier ‘ (Mr. Gregory) are sound they- should be asking, not for the- reduction of this duty by a few shillings per ton, but for the free importation of this article. To be consistent they should demand that it should be admitted free. One honorable member of the Country party, I think the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), said that this duty should be reduced even if it meant the destruction of the local industry. If that course were followed, all the barbed wire in Australia would be imported, and the duty would then be a purely revenue duty, which the farmer would be called upon to pay. There are some articles which I do not think should be liable to duty, but this is an article whichcan be manufactured in Australia, and its manufacture here should be protected. I support the duties as introduced by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and I hope. the amendment will he defeated. I rose to justify the vote I intend to give, and as one who claims to have as many primary producers in his electorate as can be claimed by any other honorable member of the Committee, I am prepared to stand by the vote I intend to give.
.- We are confronted by an anomalous position in this Tariff. I can scarcely understand what can be the desire of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). After we impose duties this afternoon of 25 per cent.,30 per cent., and 35 per cent. on 14-gauge wire, the Minister, by his proposal, makes impossible the manufacture of barbed wire from 14- . gauge wire for which there is quite as big a sale in Australia as there is for 12-gauge wire. The man who manufactures barbed wire from 12-gauge wire is called upon to pay duties of 68s., 85s., and 105s. per ton, whilst a man who manufactures barbed wire from 14-gauge wire is actually called upon to pay £10, £18, and £14 per ton duty on his wire. That position is untenable. I know that the argument is used that those who manufacture barbed wire draw the wire, but that is not so, and the anomaly that has been created plays into the hands of the big manufacturer, whilst the man in the country manufacturing barbed wire with a small plant will find it impossible to carry on . when he has to pay up to £14 per too duty for his wire. I ask the Minister to recommit the item covering 14-gauge wire. It was passed through rather hurriedly, and honorable members hadnot a chance to consider it.
– If, on inquiry, we find that we have included wires required for these other purposes, I shall recommit the item referred to. It was not our intention to include those wires. I admit that the honorable member’s contention is quite correct, if we did include them in the item referred to.
– I should like to see some consideration given to the small manufacturer. Under the duties now proposed, he will be wiped out completely.
– I repeat that if we included the wires of which the honorable member is speaking in the amendment I moved, I shall take action to remove them. We did not intend that they should be included.
– The position is that 12, 13, and 14 gauge wires are chiefly used for the manufacture of barbed wire, and the 14-gauge wire is used to just as great an extent as the 12-gauge wire. The man who is not drawing his own wire, but has a small plant for the manufacture of barbed wire, will be wiped out of existence if the present proposal is agreed to.
– I assure the honorable member that if we have done that it was not our intention to do it, and I will agree to reobnunit the item.
Item agreed to.
Wire netting, per ton, British,68b.; intermediate, 85s. general, 105s.
.-I did not press for a division upon the lost amendment, because I realized thai a majority of the Committee were Opposed to it, and because the item did not amount to a very great deal But I now ask that wire netting from the United Kingdom shall be admitted free, and that the duty under the intermediate and general Tariff shall be 10 per cent. TheGovernment should makegood with a bounty.
-The honorable member has the Inter-StateCommission against him.
– Tie Minister has taken so little notice of the recommendations of that body that it is strange he should now make a suggestion of that kind. I move -
That the following words be added to the item :- “ And on and after 10th June, 1921, ad val., British, free; intermediate, 10 pet’ cent.; general, 10 per cent.”
I ask the Minister to consent to report progress.
– If the honorable member will give me an undertaking that he will help me to get up to item 165 tomorrow I will do. so.
– I do not think there will be any difficulty in reaching that item to-morrow.
House adjourned at. 10.25 P.In
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210609_reps_8_95/>.