8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– I understood the Treasurer to say last week that moneys had been made available for the recommencement of work at Cockatoo Island in accordance with theinterim recommendation of the Royal Commission that investigated matters there; but information that I have received from Sydney, from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), is to the effect thatmoney has not been made available, at all events that it is not available for immediate work on the Island. Can the right honorable gentleman make a statement on the subject?
– Money is available, and I have it on the authority of Mr. Brown that orders have been given to proceed with the work on the two vessels.
– The Mombah and the Adelaide?
– Yes. It is
Bought to create the impression that no work is being done at the Dockyard, but I wish the public and the House to know that last week 750 men were employed there. What Mr. Mahony wants, and what he is screeching about, is another matter.
– Is that the right way to refer to him?
– I know of no better word to apply to hisutterances. This morning he is screeching again, at tacking me. I am in noway responsible for any delay in commencing work at the Dockyard. It has been due to troubles inherent in the situation itself, with which he, I venture to say, has had as much to do with creating as any one else. There were 750 hands at work last week, and more are beingput on as fast as possible.
-I have been asked by a number of returned soldiers and vendors of resumed properties to represent to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation that it might not be im- possible to get rid of the impasse created by the attitude of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Ministers, and to secure finality in the arrangements for purchasing land for soldiers’ homes, if the Minister would confer with the New South Wales Treasurer (Mr. Lang).
– I was handling this matter until the end of the last financial year, but since then my honorable colleague, Senator Millen, has had it in hand. I think that the better suggestion is that New South Wales Ministers might confer with our Minister and the Treasurer. The matter would be more readily settled in that way than through the newspapers.
– The following tele gram appears in this morning’s Argus: -
Brisbane, Monday. - In London Australian meat is selling at an average price of 4½d. per lb., and as about 3d. is taken up by freights and other expenses, the London marketfor Australian cattle is not at present satisfactory It is estimated that there are about 200,000 head of cattle in Queensland that could be slaughtered if satisfactory prices were available. The high oversea freights are against the export trade. If the meatworks were in full swing large numbers of those now out of wort would be afforded employment.
Will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to have thecontents of that telegram cabled to the Prime Minister in London?
– I have no objection to communicating the substance of it to him, but I remind my honorable friend that the Prime Minister is already hard at work on this problem, and, I understand is, among other things proposing a big Empire scheme for deal ing with meat and other products. I venture to say that he is doing infinitely more for Australia in London than he could do by complying with the demand of the honorable member’s leader that he should be here.
– The honorable member’s leader did not mean that; he did not know it was loaded. That has been explained in the press since.
– I am glad to hear from the honorable member that he did not mean it. I am so simple that I believe everything he tells me.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways yet decided what he will do regarding the building of a hostel and Convention hall at Canberra?
– I hope to make a statement on the subject thisweek.
– For the past two years a good deal of correspondence has taken place in reference to the establishment of a radio station on the Willis Group of Islands, off the north-east coast of Australia; not to give a commercial service, but to send out warnings of approaching cyclones. I ask the Postmaster-General if any amount has been placed on this year’s Estimates for the station. If anything is to be done, it should be done at once, in readiness for the cyclone season, which usually begins at the end of the year or in the early months of the next year.
– I am informed that this is a matter under the administration of the Minister for Home and Territories. The honorable member might address his question to my honorable colleague tomorrow or the next day.
– The following cablegram appears in to-day’s Argus -
The first conclusive evidence of the proposal for the general cancellation of the Allies war debts was obtained when a letter from Mr. Lloyd George to President Wilson, dated 5th August, 1920, was read before the Senate finance committee to-day. The letter stated England’s willingness to consider the cancellation of all debts owed to her if America would consider the wiping out of British indebted- ness.
Has the Treasurer made any effort to secure the cancellation of Australia’s indebtedness? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the world that we are ready to forgive other . countries their debts to us if they will forgive ours to them?
– There is not much hope of such an offer being accepted. I know nothing of the proposal which has been made by Mr. Lloyd George to the President of the United States of America, it being purely a matter for domestic concern affecting Great Britain. I am afraid that in the end we shall have to make up our minds to shoulder our own debts.
Delays at Newcastle.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that recently an American ship was detained for seventyeight days at Newcastle awaiting a cargo of 2,400 tons of coal ? Is the right honorable gentleman further aware that last week a contract for coal for Bombay, which has been supplied from Newcastle for some years, passed to J apan ? Will the right honorable gentleman get in touch with the officer in Newcastle, in order to have some arrangement made whereby colliery-owners can charter boats with some degree of certainty as to their Loading, so as to, as far as possible, guard our overseas trade? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that every year our output of coal is increasing, and that there is about 1,500,000 tons of coal more than is required for our local consumption? If we are to safeguard our interests, these matters must be attended to immediately.
– I agree that it is all important that we should look after our overseas trade as far as possible. However, I doubt the honorable member’s figures when he says that we have 1,500,000. tons of coal to spare for overseas trade.
– You will find that we have.
-I tell the honorable member thatin my judgment, if all the people in Australia got all the coal they required, and which they are prepared to buy, there would be very little to spare for our overseas trade.
– We are stacking up a lot of coal just now, you know.
– If the honorable member is so anxious to preserve and develop the overseas trade, may I make a suggestion to him?
– I know what your suggestion is, and I do not agree with it.
– I suggest that there should be a greater production of coal in Newcastle, and employment given to the miners who to-day are unemployed throughout Australia.
– They are increasing the coal production every month.
– Really, all the troubles in adjusting the loading of boats arise from the fact-
– The right honorable gentleman will agree that the miners, in regard to output, have made a wonderful recovery since the war?
– Yes, but the point is that, as the output of the mines increases, so do the requirements of Australia increase.
– That is a good thing, but still we have a margin.
– The output of the mines, in my judgment, is not increasing as fast as is the demand up and down Australia. There is a margin for overseas trade, and one of the reasons for the shipping control the other day was to enable Commander Fearnley, who controls matters at Newcastle, to so arrange the loading of ships, so as to obviate the difficulties to which the honorable member calls attention. All the manipulations and re-adjustments will not get over the major fact, which is that we must have more production if we are to keep our overseas trade going.
Remarks by General Howse.
– Some time ago I called attention to remarks made by General Howse, on the question of soldier settlement in New South Wales, and asked that particulars might be obtained. I should like to know whether the Assistant Minister for Repatriation has been supplied withthose particulars?
– I am not able to say offhand, but I shall have the matter looked into, and give the honorable member an answer to-morrow.
– In view of reported cases of anthrax amongst human beings, which is alleged to have been contracted as the result of the use of shaving brushes and tooth brushes from Japan, will the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) communicate with our friendly ally, Japan, with a view to her preventing these goods coming here, in order to prevent her own trade being injured, and to safeguard the health of Australians ?
– I understand that representations have already been made to the Consul-General for Japan on the subject, and if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall give him a fuller statement tomorrow.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received any information from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or the Acting High Commissioner in London, with regard to the proposed Washington Conference ?
– Yes, I have, and to-morrow I shall tell the House all I know about.it.
– When is the Post and Telegraph Department likely to be able to fulfil the demands of the general public for telephone instruments? Is the Postmaster-General aware that there are 1,000 instruments now for sale by a certain firm in Sydney?
– This firm is very insistent on this matter. A question is to be asked in the Senate to-day, and I have to answer a question on notice here. There are about 1,000 people in Sydney waiting for telephone instruments only.
– There are 2,000.
– We expect to be able to supply these instruments within the next week or two.
Accommodation for Immigrants
– Will the Act ing Prime Minister detail some responsible officer of the Government to inspect the immigrant ship Beltana, which is now in port? I heard from a very reliable passenger, who came on the boat from South Africa, that the conditions on board were awful. If the conditions are such as alleged, it amounts to a scandal.
– Is the Beltana an ordinary liner?
– I understand that the Beltana was built to carry 350 passengers, and that on this trip she brought 1,150. There are quite a number of reputable people on board who describe the conditions as awful. If such conditions are allowed to continue they will prove to the detriment of Australia.
– Those statements are denied by other reputable passengers.
– I am merely asking for information.
– I shall have inquiries made. I advise my honorable friend not to place too much reliance on such statements. We have had several inquiries into similar cases, and the complaints have all proved more or less groundless.
Alleged Statement by the Prime Minister.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a reported statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the effect that the Dominions of the Empire have a policy of reconstruction, . but that, apparently, Great Britain has no such policy ? If such a statement has been made by the Prime Minister, will the Acting Prime Minister let the House know what is the “policy of reconstruction” of the Government? It ought not to be kept a secret.
-I have seenno such statement of the Prime Minister, either in the press or elsewhere. I do not believe he ever made such a statement.
Deputy Commissioner for Western Australia: Appointment of Mr. Black - Investigating Officer
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
State Taxation Departments in Western Australia providing for the State Commissioner of Taxation remaining a State official for the purpose of controlling State taxation interests, will the Government explain what necessity existed for the State Commissioner (Mr. E. A. Black) being appointed aDeputy Federal Commissioner ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On account of the higher cost of living in Western Australia as compared with other States, a Public Service regulation was passed, in 1907, to provide for payment of a special allowance of 5 per cent. on the salaries of members of the Commonwealth Public Service in Western Australia who were not entitled to the prescribed “ district “ (remote localities, &c.) allowances. The Royal Commission on Federal Economies invited attention to the anomaly of the payment of a bonus to officers in Perth, where, according to thefigures of the statistician, the cost of living was lower than in any other capital city. The regulation providing for payment of the special allowance was repealed as from the 26th May, 1921. No alteration was made in respect of the payment to Western Australian officers of the prescribed “ district “ allowances. As a result of subsequent representations, however, the Government have now decided that the question of the continuance or otherwise of the special 5 per cent. allowance shall be left to the Public Service Arbitrator for determination.
Basic Wage Royal Commission
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the Basic Wage Royal Commission have recommended an amplification of the Bureau of Labour and Industry statistics; and, if so, will the Government take early stops to give effect to such recommendation ?
– The Royal Commission on the basic wage drew the attention of the Government to the desirability of organizing a Bureau of Labour Statistics to undertake the work of adjustment of the basic wage to the cost of living, as suggested by the Commission. The question of extending the scope of the Labour and Industrial Branch of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics to meet the position is at present under consideration. Personally, I do not see the necessity of creating a sub-branch for that purpose alone.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In connexion with a recent regulation issued under the Customs Act prohibiting the importation into Australia of certain literature, will the Minister furnish the following information : -
– It is considered that to supply the names of the books and pamphlets concerned would be to give undue publicity to their titles.
– On the 13th inst., the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– In accordance with a promise made some time ago to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), I now lay on the table particulars of the staff solely engaged in connexion with the construction of the Federal Capital. It is presumed that the inquiry is in relation to officers engaged in connexion with the construction of the Federal Capital as distinct from general administration of the Territory. The Home and Territories Department advises that it has only one officer at present engaged in connexion with construction work at Canberra, particulars of whom are shown in the schedule. The officers in the Department of Works and Railways who are at present solely engaged in connexion with the Federal Capital are also shown in the schedule. In the head office , of the Department of Works and Railways, Federal Capital matters are dealt with incidentally by officers of the Central Administration, from time to time, as part of their ordinary duties in connexion with works generally throughout Australia.
Sydney Telephone System: Application for Telephones - Acting Postmasters
– On the 13th inst., the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) asked the following questions: -
I promised the information would be obtained. The following are the replies: -
On the 13 th inst., the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions: -
I promised the information would be obtained. The following is the reply: -
The following paper was presented : -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 6th July of motion by Mr. Greene(vide page 9726).
.- The motion before the Committee is designed to give effect to a promise made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) when we were dealing with the Tariff. During the discussion of the Tariff schedule, many arguments were advanced to the effect that the duties that were being imposed would not adequately protect our industries in view of the exchange position and the dumping that was going on. The Minister was impressed with the seriousness of the situation so created, and said he would bring down measures to deal with it. We now have before us a motion dealing with both subjects, which will be embodied in the Bill itself. The motion is divided into two parts, the one, from paragraph A to paragraph D dealing with dumping, and the other from paragraph E to paragraph H, dealing with the exchange position. As far back as 1906, this Parliament passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which was intended to deal with dumping; but it has been inoperative owing to the fact that under it the Comptroller-General of Customs, in the first place, has to be satisfied that goods in respect of which complaint is made are being dumped with intent to injure an Australian industry, and, having satisfied himself on that point, has then to establish his case before the HighCourt.
– That would be quite impossible.
– I was about to say that such a procedure is quite impossible, and that no one could have expected it to be successful. Since then practically no legislation dealing with that class of dumping has been passed, but since the war it has become more and more apparent that dumping is not only taking place, but likely to go on until it is stopped by legislative enactment. This motion is designed with that object.
It would appear that we are following largely the Canadian legislation in respect of dumping. Canada has led the way in this direction. That Dominion passed legislation in 1904, which was amended three years later. In the United States, legislation exists which was somewhat similar to that which we propose; but it was recently found advisable to amend the United States law, so that it is now practically in conformity with the Canadian Statute. The same remark applies to South Africa, while Great Britain also has to a very large extent legislated on the basis of the Canadian Act. Lastly, Australia is falling into line. For a long time Australia held a leading position with respect to advanced legislation; but, here, we are following the precedent of another Dominion. With respect to the resolutions themselves, provision is made that not more than 15 per cent. can be levied over and above the value fixed for duty under the Customs Act. That is similar to the Canadian law. Whether the specified proportion will be sufficient remains to be seen ; but, throughout these resolutions, honorable members will notice one feature which, in my mind, is objectionable. I do not know how the objection can be overcome, but there continually appears the phrase, “ if the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board.” That is to say, this anti-dumping legislation will not, by the mere fact of its having received assent, apply to any specific condition. Its application must remain a matter of doubt, all depending on what the Board may recommend. And, even then, it will be a matter of whether the Minister approves a recommendation or not.
– But the Minister may act without the approval of the Tariff Board. The Board will not control him.
– No, the Minister will control the Board. But if the B6ard makes a recommendation, it does not follow that the Minister will adopt it.
– While, if the Board reports adversely, the Minister may still act.
– That is so. Time will prove whether the Tariff Board will prove efficient, or will be worked along similar lines to certain of its predecessors. The Inter-State Commission, for example, dealt with certain matters affecting the Tariff, and occupied a good deal of time in coming to a decision. Then the Commission would make its recommendations, which, however, were not -acted upon. Suppose that there is evidence that dumping is taking place; what is to prevent serious delay, and grave injury occurring to Australian industry owing to advantage being taken of that delay ? Must a specific matter be referred to the Tariff Board ? And must all idea of action be hung up while the Board investigates, secures evidence, comes to a decision, and reports to the Minister? How long will that procedure take? If it means a matter of two or three months, goods can be dumped all the while, so that certain of our own industries may be seriously affected. There should be means, if, and when it can be shown, that dumping is being practised, of enforcing immediate activity with an idea of putting an end to the dumping, and so effectively protecting whichever of Australia’s industries may be adversely concerned. Moreover, unless immediate action follows upon the revelation of dumping, the importer is likely to be unfairly affected. I may be an importer who has taken advantage of an ordinary business opportunity to purchase goods cheaply in some foreign country, and who. has arranged : for their importation to Australia. T may have some goods on the way. other goods awaiting the chartering of freight, and still other goods purchased, but noi in hand for export from the country of origin. It may be that, just after the arrival of the first shipment, a decision is arrived at that the importation of these lines is inimical to the best interests of an Australian industry, whereupon it is decided to impose an embargo in the shape of a dumping duty. Where will the importer stand? The point is an important one.
It is well for the Committee to understand that, if it is desired to amend these resolutions, they must be dealt with at the present stage, for the reason that it will be too late to alter them after they have been embodied in a Bill. I admit that the provisions dealing with exchange are very complex; and that fact reminds me of my earnest desire to congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) upon the able way in which he has handled the whole of the Tariff matters which have came before Parliament. The -Minister has admitted that, with respect to the (exchange resolutions, the whole business has been speculative. He has had to rely on what knowledge he could gain from overseas, and to do his best in all the circumstances. This matter of exchange affects very many countries to-day, and particularly those which were engaged in the great war. The currency of quite a number of the leading countries has greatly depreciated. If we permit goods to come into Australia from certain parts at the rates of exchange now prevailing, our own manufacturers are bound to suffer great injustice. The difficulty, however, is how to arrive at a fair compromise. Everything again, just as in the case of the other resolutions to which I have devoted some attention, must be referred by the Minister to the Board; while the duty to be imposed in this instance must be specific. That is to say, duty is to’ bo levied only upon specified goods. It is at this point that- our proposed legislation differs from the Canadian. The latter, Dominion found it advisable, in the interests of its own industries, to levy aaz exchange duty upon all goods. Thus
Canadian business men know exactly what is to be paid upon everything imported. The method appears at first sight to be complicated; but I understand that, upon practical working, it has been found to be the best. The Canadian law provides that, whatever may be the condition ofthe currency of a country, 50 per cent. of the standard is taken as the maximum allowance of depreciated currency for the purposes of the payment of duty on imported goods. And having ascertained that, the authorities multiply the value of the invoice by the number of times by which such value will divide into the 50 per cent. The Customs duty is imposed upon the value of the goods thus arrived at. I do not say that the Canadian system is a good one to follow, because there are many things which Australia cannot produce, and for which we are dependent on countries abroad. Therefore, it would be a mistake to devise a schedule embracing all our imports, because that would make dearer to the people commodities which cannot be produced in Australia. Under this Bill, if any goods are being imported which the Minister considers are being sold cheaply in consequence of the depreciation of the exchange in the country of origin, he can refer the matter to the Tariff Board. The Board will investigate the matter and report to the Minister, who may declare that such goods shall be governed by the schedule to this motion. A better system, if it were practicable, would be for the Customs authorities to compile a schedule comprising the goods which Australia produces in sufficient quantities to supply local requirements, and apply to such goods the antidumping duties. If that could be done, the importer would know at once exactly what he would have to pay on his importations. The proposal now before us leaves the whole procedure in doubt. The extra duties mentioned in the schedule may or may not be imposed. An importer may arrange to import certain goods from abroad, and land some of those goods before action is taken by the Department, and the landing of those commodities may do injury to some industry in this country. It may be argued that such injury would be only temporary, but competition of that kind extending over two or three months would be sufficient to do a great deal of injury to an industry, and especially to the employees in it.
Whilst I do not advocate the scheduling of all goods, as is done in Canada, I do say that we should schedule all those goods in respect of which local requirements’ can be met by local industries, and apply the table of extra duties to them. If the application of these provisions is to be deferred pending a reference to the Board, we shall not know how long the Board’s investigation will take, whether, when a report is made, the Minister will declare that the goods concerned shall be governed by these anti-dumping provisions, or if hedoes so declare, at what date the new conditions will commence to operate. If, on the other hand, these provisions were applied immediately, they might result in injustice to an importer. If a man is putting £100,000 into the importation of a particular article, and has only landed £50,000 worth when action is taken, he might be ruined.
– Surely the first thing an importer will do before invoicing goods is to inquire into the question of exchange and the effect of the law upon hie importations.
– He does not know whether the goods will be affected by the law at all, because the whole question is left open.
– But the law will be there to warn him.
– The warning will be of very little value. The law should be in black and white, so that nobody could make a mistake. Is it fair to say that after a man has imported half of a £100,000 order he shall be required to pay these added duties on the other £50,000 worth of goods? It should not be difficult for the Customs authorities to prepare a schedule of goods that are manufactured in Australia in sufficient quantities to meet local requirements, so that the importer will know at once what imposts he will have to bear in addition to the ordinary Tariff. Under this proposal there will be nothing but uncertainty. With the exception of that one point, I do not see that there is much in this motion to discuss. I do not think that the proposed Bill would do any injustice to other countries. All it does is to put each country in relatively the same position as it occupied when its currency was at par. The schedule provides that if the bank rate of exchange between London and the country of export or origin at the date of export is greater than 25.22 (par) francs or lira to the £1, but is less than 30, no special duty shall be charged. If the rate of exchange of a country is somewhere between those ; two figures, that country may have a slight advantage, but otherwise this schedule will not do an injury to any country. I think the Minister meanswell by this legislation, and that he is honestly trying to prevent dumping by either under-selling or taking advantage of the exchange position, but the proposal to refer everything to a Board before a decision is arrived at may be found to work very unsatisfactorily. I hope the Minister will take note of this objection and consider if anything can be done to meet it. If he can show that the procedure will work fairly and expeditiously, without doing an injury to anybody, I shall have nothing more to say.
– What about the countries which have an appreciated exchange ?
– I do not think this proposal will make much difference to them. America, for instance, has an appreciated exchange, and might be under a slight disadvantage if it had to compete with Belgium, France, or Germany, which have a depreciated exchange. But, after all, it is very difficult to meet all cases, and it is quite possible that the appreciation of American exchange will not last for a very lengthy period . This legislation must operate slightly against a country that has an appreciated exchange, and if the honororable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) desires anything more done in regard to such countries, he should bring the matter up for consideration in Committee.
– We have been very good to the United States and Japan and pretty hard on Italy and France.
– I am not sure this this legislation will not put Italy and France in relatively the same position as they occupied when the exchange position was normal. It may be argued by some honorable members that no provision should be made for trade with Germany. Whatever we think in regard to trade with Germany, it is very evident that such trade is being done. If it is not being done directly, it is being done indirectly, and the sooner we realize that,war conditions having passed, the nations must again deal with each other, the better it will be for Australia. If we trade with Germany indirectly through other countries we shall pay more for German goods than we ought to pay, and the intermediate country will be getting the advantage. This measure proposes to balancetrade conditionsgenerally. No matter how much the mark may be depreciated, the balance can be restored by applying this legislation. The only objection I have to the Bill is that it leaves so much in doubt. The Board has to make inquiries, and it must recommend to the Minister, and the Minister in turn has to proclaim the application of this law. I again suggest that it would be an improvement to specify all those goods which are produced in Australia in sufficient quantity, and allow all questions affecting other goods to be referred to the Board. I hope the Minister will give consideration to that suggestion before the Committee stage of this Bill is reached.
.- I have no objection to the passing of a shortBill for the protection of the manufacturers of this country against dumping, and, no doubt, members generally are ready to give fair and legitimate consideration to the interests of Australian manufacturers; but, in my view, the Minister might be satisfied with a measure embodying the powers asked for in paragraphs A and D of the motion, allowing legislation for the regulation of exchange, and for dealing with other matters which are the subjectof the motion, to stand over until October, when we could give it full consideration. The Minister showed that he had hadextreme difficulty in coming, not to a definite conclusion, because he found that impossible, but to anything like a reasonable conclusion. After cabling to various countries for all the information available, he still found himself in the dark. At the present moment, there are only about a dozen members in the chamber. We have come to the fag end of a session in which there has been an arduous Tariff discussion, and we are not now prepared to deal with an intricate measure of this sort, which may seriously affect the trade and prosperity of the country.
– It will be necessary for the Bill you suggest to embody paragraph E as well as paragraph D.
– That is so. I overlooked paragraph E. If my suggestion were adopted, there would be a longer time for the collection of information. Until I began to study this question, I had no knowledge of if, and probably many other honorable members were in the same position. It is extremely dimcult to make up one’s mind as to the likely effects of the legislation proposed. Will the Minister accept my suggestion? What he proposes is something extremely drastic, and possibly dangerous..
– I do not see how the paragraphs you have named could be separated from the motion.
– We shall try very hard to separate them.
– The adoption of the suggestion should simplify matters.
– It would omit many necessary powers.
– I can hardly understand the Minister’s action in asking for the powers provided for in paragraph E. It is one of the most monstrous proposals that I have read. Ministers say that they want an anti-dumping measure; but they are not content with legislation like that in force in other countries, where, if goods are imported below their true value, or below the valuation that the Customs Department thinks fair, excess duties may be imposed on them. The Minister evidently intends to fix for himself what is a reasonable selling price. To the cost of the goods is to be added the ^freight, insurance, landing, and other charges, Customs duty - which might be an’ ad valorem duty of 45 per cent., .plus the customary 10 per cent. - and on top of all these there is to be an impost of 20 per cent. I have indented from the Old. Country, and know, as do many other honorable members, that it was possible to do it for about 5 per cent. Probably many indentors would only charge 6 per cent, to-day. Yet the Government’s proposal is to add 20 per cent.
– This provision would not apply to all consignments. It would apply only under the conditions set forth.
– Are we not wholly in the hands of. the Minister? The motion speaks of ““any goods sent into the country for sale.” It is all very well to say that ifr will apply only to this article <x to that, and only when the Board reports; but the Board will be the creature of the Minister. It is not to be a Board .responsible to Parliament. It is stated in a letter from,, the Consul for Belgium, which appears in to-day’s newspaper, that the Minister has informed him -
That there seemed to be an entire misconception of what the Bill meant. All through there had been deliberate misrepresentation of the worst kind.
How dare the Minister write that to the Consul for Belgium, telling him and the public that there has been deliberate misrepresentation regarding his proposal ? Does any one know anything of this deliberate misrepresentation? I have not heard it. The Minister’s letter continues -
It was almost impossible for the proposed provisions to affect the great bulk of Belgian exports.
Then what is it to deal with ? The Minister has not told us. Any firm doing a big business that was assured of a profit of 20 per cent, would be making enormous returns. This proposal is an atrocity.
– Which proposal does the honorable member mean?
– Does the honorable member think that we should not have any goods brought to this country? The other day I received word by telegram from Perth that the millers were closing their mills because they could not get vessels to take their flour away. Surely, it is proper to try to build up an export trade in flour, keeping the offal in the country. But they could not get shipping, and the Wheat Board could not get it for them. Does the honorable’ member desire that no ships shall come here?
– I was merely asking a question.
– I wish to know whether the consumer is to get no consideration. We in .this party have fought’ on his behalf, but, so far, to no effect. It is a shame that the Minister should push forward a Bill like this at the end of the session. We are prepared to vote for a Bill against dumping, on lines similar to those followed in Canada or in Japan; but it is preposterous to ask us to agree to the legislation outlined in all the parts of this motion. The Minister, writing to the Consul for Belgium, says, after telling him that it is almost impossible for the proposed provisions to affect the great bulk of Belgian imports -
There were undoubtedly certain things in regard to which, owing to the exchange position, unfair competition was likely to arise, and it was only to these that the Bill could become operative after due inquiry.
That is not correct. Paragraphs A, B, and C deal with quite other matters, and will affect imports. If they applied to agricultural machinery brought in from Canada, there would be for certain valuations, first, the cost in Canada to be calculated, and then there would be added to that the freight, which, at present, amounts to over 60 per cent. of the original value; and another 10 per cent. for Customs law, and then the duty of 45 per cent. ; and on top of all these 20 per cent. added as merchants’ profit. If the provisions are not to apply to Belgian goods generally, what are they to apply to? We get steel, glass, and many other goods fromBelgium, and we get many things from Prance and from Italy. I have been too tired to work out the exact effect of these provisions on definite importations which might come into competition with local manufactures.
– What is the urgency of the measure?
– There is no urgency for it. I am prepared to agree to a Bill to deal with dumping generally; but it is unfair to ask us now to deal with as comprehensive a measure as the Minister proposes to introduce. The examination of his proposals has given me a lot of trouble. I have found them difficult to follow, because I have not had time to get advice. It is all very well to obtain legal opinions; but we know how little value they have when it comes to matters of business details. The Canadian Customs Act says -
In the case of articles exported to Canada of a class or kind made or produced in Canada, if the export or actual selling price to an importer in Canada is less than the fair market value of the same article when sold for home consumption in the usual and ordinary course in the country when exported to Canada at the time of its exportation to Canada, there shall, in addition to the duties otherwise established there, be levied, collected, and paid on such article, on its importation into Canada, a special duty (or dumping duty) equal to the difference between the said selling price of the article for export and the said fair market value thereof for home consumption; and such special duty (or dumping duty) shall be levied, collected, and paid on such article, although it is not otherwise dutiable.
That is plain and simple, and lets the public know exactly where they stand, referring as it does to goods dumped into the country with aview to prejudicing local manufacturers. If it can be shown that a fair market value has not been placed on the invoice, there ought to be a duty imposed to bring it up to the market level. In the early stages of the Tariff discussion I showed that the Japanese had imposed regulations to deal with unreasonably cheap goods, and that in Japan there was the power, which our Constitution does not give us here, not only to follow the goods so far as the importer is concerned, but to follow them after they have been sold to the retailer. In this Bill, however, we are presented with clause after clause of matter most difficult to understand. We can see that right from 1919 until the present moment the Department of Trade and Customs has laid itself out to give special protection to certain industries and individuals. On the 3rd November, 1919, a Gazette notice was issued imposing an absolute embargo on certain goods. In. this House we have heard a good deal about the embargo on sheep dip, which represents one of the most discreditable proceedings ever taken by any Government. There was nothing but intrigue in connexion with that mat- ter, and, while I do not know who was responsible, I do know that what was done resulted in the ruin of a reputablefirm in New South Wales. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was in London, a written assurance was given byhim to those interested in the manufacture of sheep dip that the commodity would be admitted into Australia subject to their entering into a bond to pay any duty which might afterwards be imposed; but, even in the face of that assurance, no importations were allowed. Then, again, when every mother of a household in Australia was complaining of the lack of yarn, the Customs authorities sent out a notification that they would grant a licence to import it only on its being proved that itcould not be obtained in Australia. This, it will be observed, had nothing whatever to do with the matter of price. Similar action was taken in regard to rennet, and the embargo nearly ruined the cheese industry. I have here a long list of articles on which embargoes were placed, and on which, from March, 1920, heavy rates of duty have been imposed. These duties were to come into operation on and from 25th March, 1920. That action, apparently, was taken to fortify the position of the Minister when the itemscame on for discussion, and to enable him to assert that the goods weremanufactured in Australia. Never have such tactics been adopted before, and I say they were most discreditable. I shall not delay the House by showing the huge increases that have been made in the duties.
– Does the honorable member propose to move an amendment? I must say that some of his arguments are impressing me.
– I am prepared, when the general debate is over, to agree to the adoption of paragraph A, but will naturally ask that paragraphs B and C be deleted. The position is an extremely difficult one. I have here a British Dominions. Year-book for 1921, in which, in reference to foreign exchanges, we read -
The Frenchman and the German find purchases of English goods a most expensive luxury, just as the Englishman finds it greatly to his disadvantage to buy American produce with pounds sterling representing less than seven-tenths of their pre-war value.
That is the question I asked the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton)
On the other hand, the American, with his much-appreciated dollar, can purchase cheaply in Europe, just as the Britisher can buy goods on nominally attractive terms on the Continent.
And now I come to the matter of appraisement. Mr. Greatorex, a leading accountant in Sydney, last year, in a special document, showed us the effect of the Minister charging duties on the commercial rate of exchange. He pointed out that with a general duty of 50 per cent., owing to thestate of the currencies in Italy, France, the United States, and Japan, the impost would really amount to 160 per cent. against Italy, 100 per cent. against France, 40 per cent. against Japan, and 38 per cent. against the United States. The general preference of 10 per cent. to Great Britain was absolutely lost, it was shown, owing to the appreciated value of the dollar in the United States and the yen in Japan. It will be remembered that the Supreme Court ruled that the Minister’s method was wrong, and Mr. Greatorex made out an approximate estimate of the loss or gain in revenue owing to that method. He estimated that the loss of revenue through this concession given to the United States and to Japan amounted to £2,800,000, while the increased charges to France and Italy amounted, in round figures, to £800,000. It appears, therefore, that we lost about £2,000,000 in revenue by the action of the Minister in giving a preference to the United States and Japan as against Italy and France, although we owe so much to the two latter countries for their part in the war. I do not wish to reflect in any way on the United States or Japan, but can any one say that these countries made anything like the sacrifices that were made by France and Italy in the great fight for civilization? We can never forget the wonderful and heroic services of France, and I should be one of the last to do anything to her injury, while giving a fair deal to our own people. When General Pau visited Australia, the Government and the public fell on his neck, and filled him with promises. The fulfilment of these promises we see in the proposals before us. First, we had the Minister’s method of collecting the duties, and; when the High Court decision is found to be against him, he prepares these proposals.
– Does the honorable member say that the United States and Japan gained £2,800,000?
– Those countries were advantaged to that extent - we received that much less revenue owing to the difference between par rate and the commercial rate of exchange. Of course, the £2,000,000 I speak of as loss of revenue is approximate; but it is the estimate made by a leading accountant in Sydney.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this £2,800,000 should be collected now ?
– The goods were brought here in good faith, and I do not think it would be possible now.
– Very few goods really did come in; the accountant assumed that they had been imported in the ordinary way.
– No. The accountant took the records of the importations.
– He took the normal importations, and based his calculation on those.
– The honorable member knows that both theUnited States and Japan increased their imports into Australia enormously.
– Italy and France did not have the goods to sell.
– But those countries were sending goods here - motor cars and other things.
– On whose shoulders would this £2,800,000 have fallen had it been collected ?
– Itwould have increased the revenue of the country.
– But who would have paid it?
-I suppose the importers and the public .
– Would it have been paid by the people of Australia or the people of Japan ?
– It is very difficult to say who pays under the circumstances; but, as a rule, I think it is the consumer.
– I noticed a little flaw in the honorable member’s argument,that is all.
– I suppose the importer in some instances does pay some proportion; but, as a rule, it is the consumer who pays. And the consumer has to pay not only the extra duty, but profit on the duty ; no importer would pay £100 or £500 in cash for duty without adding 15 per cent. or20 per cent. in his dealings with the consumer.
– According to the honorable member’s argument, the consumers appear to have been saved £2,800,000.
– I now wish to deal with the question of currency. The British DominionsYear-book goes on to say : -
It is possible that, in course of time, anomalies will adjust themselves, and international currency values will be brought by the unequal interflow of trade nearer their pre-war levels. But no one is rash enough to suppose that this generation will witness a restoration of prewar parities.
I say that in order to show the difficulties we have to meet in considering a Bill on such a subject without the advantage of the opinions and advice of the highest authorities, who could give us an idea of what a fair exchange would be. We are rushing at this legislation pell-mell, without giving it that consideration it deserves.
– You suggest that the Minister is like a “ bull in a china shop “ ?
– I think the Minister is doing his best; but,at the same time, I am dubious as to all his promises or his discretion. I am not satisfied with the answer he gave to the Belgian Consul, nor am I satisfied with his actions towards myself.
– Doesthe honorable member mean that there is no dumping now ?
– I am quite satisfied that there is no dumping now.
– A merchant told me the other day that there is.
– I would pointout to the honorable member that under the Standing Orders, when we are in Committee, an honorable member is entitled to speak twice for half an hour or, after the first half hour has expired, he may continue for another half hour, but should he do so, he will not be entitled to speak a second time.
– Then, with your approval, sir, I shall continue. In the British DominionsY ear-Book for 1921, the latest publication on the subject I have been able to obtain, it is further stated that -
The International Financial Conference assembled at Brussels at the end of September had no more urgent problem to solve than that of fixing new bases of currency exchange. Unfortunately, it did not succeed in solving it, so that, to that extent, this foregathering of the nations’ financial experts will be accounted a failure.
The Brussels Conference, September 24- October8, was the outcome of a demand for international as distinct from independent action. The experience of the post-war period made it abundantly clear that the nations, whether recently belligerent or neutral, cannot afford to work out their financial salvation, so to speak, in water-tight compartments, and regardless of the effects of their plans upon foreign countries. The problems confronting them, it is true, are more or less similar; but their successful solution will depend in large measure on co-ordinate and co-operative effort. It was the object of the Conference to obtain as complete a picture as possible of the situation of the world, and by comparison of the situation in the various countries to make it possible to form a judgment of the importance and difficulty of the problems with which they are respectively faced. The result of deliberations extending over a fortnight was generally regarded as disappointing. The conclusions arrived at by the Conference were, in a large measure, platitudinous, while its limited recommendations were of little practical value. Beyond forming a scheme for the extension of credits through the instrumentality of an international organization, the world’s financial experts accomplished nothing., lt remains to be seen whether their solemn declarations regarding national thrift, systematic deflation, the gold standard, control of the exchanges, and other important matters, will prove to be more than counsels of perfection and pious aspirations. (Generally speaking, the. financial outlook leaves a great deal to be desired. The British Government has not yet put into practice the principles of economy it is never tired of preaching to others. Extravagance and waste still rule in various public departments, and there continues to be too ready a disposition to embark on grandiose schemes at home and hazardous and expensive adventures abroad. Unfortunately, the same may be said for most other Governments, the habits of reckless expenditure contracted in war-time not being easy to shake off.
It is also very difficult for them to shake off powers given to them during the war.
The continuance ‘of heavy public expenditure in all countries has imposed upon the taxpayers of all nationalities burdens which, judged by pre-war standards, are not only intolerable, but which, by discouraging commercial venture, are seriously calculated to arrest the revival of trade. At the same time, the attitude’ of labour, manifested* in the demand for higher wages for less work, is gravely retarding that growth of production which is the world’s sole hope of economic salvation. Moreover, the difficulties of the times have been considerably accentuated by the academic policy of officialdom in dealing with all the intricate financial problems that press for solution.
That is what we have here to-day. We have the academic policy of officialdom and the bureaucratic desire to get control of all our industries. And the more it gets control and so deprives us of freedom of trade the worse will be the position of the country.
The Government’s expectation that matters will bo righted by dictating Artificially dear money rates and the curtailment of bank credits is destined to prove a vain delusion, lt is one thing to restrict harmful speculation, and quite another thing to discourage enterprise into which speculation necessarily enters. Progress was made in the past, because Governments allowed the venturesome leaders of industry free scope for the execution of their plans, unfettered by official restrictions and punitive taxation. Only when freedom is restored are we likely to witness an approach to financial stability’ and security, under which alone ordered and progressive prosperity will be possible.
– How would the honorable member overcome the advantage that Belgium, France, and Germany have over Great Britain owing to the exchange position ?
– I have already pointed out that the increase in the cost of living in France has not been proportionately, as great) as the depreciation in its exchange. What I feel is that, having regard to the difficulties with which the manufacturers of France have to contend, the enormous prices they have to pay for everything they purchase; and the increase in the cost of living there, plus the additional duties that we have placed upon their products, to say nothing of these dumping duties, our industries, so far as importations from that country are concerned, are sufficiently protected. My desire is, however, ‘ that we shall postpone the further consideration of the measure to which this motion relates until October next. Meantime, we should be able to obtain from Great Britain and other countries information as to the methods that are- being adopted there, and we could then endeavour to do something on the same basis. The Minister told us that Great Britain had imposed a dumping duty of 33£ per cent, in respect of certain goods. I find that that duty relates chiefly to optical instruments and is to’ operate for five years. The Government during the war had specially encouraged the opening up of certain industries, and had promised that they would be amply protected. I think it was only in connexion with those special industries that this duty was brought into operation.
– The British Government do not. impose a duty of 33J per cent, on spelter?
– I do not think so. If they did they would ruin some of their own industries. Spelter is largely required for galvanizing purposes.
– According to the trade journals, Britain -at the present time is overrun with German spelter.
– We ought to be able to supply British manufacturers with all the spelter they require. The several paragraphs of this motion deal with widely different matters. Paragraph A relates to exports to Australia of goods of the class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia. I should like to add the words “ or consigned for sale to Australia,” so that if the Minister thought that any goods of the kind were being consigned here for dumping purposes he would be able to impose on them an excess duty up to 15 per cent. I would be prepared to agree to a proposition of that kind, but I think the provisions in paragraphs B and C are atrocious.
– What part of the motion would the honorable member postpone?
– The whole ,of it, with the exception of paragraphs A, D, and C. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) fully appreciates the far-reaching importance of the measure to which this motion relates. We are all tired and weary after the long and trying debate on the Tariff, and find very great difficulty in dealing with a measure of this kind, for which, in so far as it relates to the exchange position, there is no urgent need. The Minister promised the people of Australia that he would endeavour to protect the consumer. If that part of the motion which relates to exchange were postponed until October next, the honorable member would then be able to give” further consideration to that phase of the question.
The Canadian Act does not give the Minister so great a power as is proposed in this case. It provides that -
If at any time it appears to the satisfaction of the Governor in Council, on report from the Minister of Customs, that the payment of the special duty by this section provided for is being evaded by the shipment of goods on consignment, without sale prior to such shipment, the . Governor in Council may, in any case or class of cases, authorize such, action as is deemed necessary to collect on such goods or any of them the same special duty as if the goods had been sold to an importer ‘in Canada prior to their shipment to Canada.
That refers to an ordinary dumping duty, which cannot exceed 15 per cent. The Canadian Act does not give the Minister power to add all the other charges for which provision is made in this motion. We should be very careful as to what powers we give the Minister in this direction. We have provided for certain retrospective duties, such, for instance, as the duty on tin plates. A supply of tin plates is very important in connexion with the export of fruit and jams from’ Australia, but the Minister might apply a dumping duty to tin plates coming into this country because he believed that some one was about to enter upon their manufacture here, and might seriously prejudice the fruit and jam export trade. Parliament would have no voice in the matter. It might take years to produce tin plates ‘here in sufficient quantities to supply local requirements.
– Does the honorable member think this power could be used to hold up prices to enable big wholesale houses to get rid of their stocks at prices satisfactory to themselves?
– I do not go so far, but it might be done. Let us suppose that representations were made to the Minister that a firm was about to enter upon the production of tin plates in Australia. In that case the Minister might apply a dumping duty to all tin plates coming into this country before the local industry had been established on a commercial basis. That would mean a very big impost, and possibly ruin to our export trade in tinned fruits and jam. Under the American law it is provided that -
Whenever the Secretary of the Treasury rinds that any industry in the United States of America is being, or will likely be, injured, or is prevented from being established because of the importation of any article, and that such article is selling or is likely to be sold in the United States of America, or elsewhere, at less than is fair value, importers thereof shall pay, in addition to other duties, if any, an anti-dumping duty equal to the difference between the purchase price or export sale price arid the foreign market value or cost of production.
I am content with that power, but when the Minister seeks power to take into account f.o.b., c.i.f., charges, plus a profit of 20 per cent., he is making it very plain that it will be possible for him, when a. new industry sets up here, to destroy competition so that the consumer will have to pay all these extra charges ; and the consumer will suffer accordingly. The Japanese Anti-Dumping Act provides -
When any important Japanese industries are threatened by the importation of unreasonably cheap articles, or the sale of imported articles at unreasonably -‘low prices, the Government, after submitting the question to the special Committee, may impose upon such articles during a fixed period of time duties not exceeding their proper prices in addition to the duties provided in the Tariff. If the articles specified have already been imported, and are in the possession of an “ unreasonably cheap seller,” the additional duties may be collected from the seller or his agent.
I do not think we could do -the latter, but that is the procedure in that country. In no instance has any of these countries gone to such extremes as are provided in paragraphs B and C.
– If paragraph C is left out, would not the effect be to nullify the whole of the provisions?
– I would amend paragraph A by the addition of reference to goods consigned for sale. That is to say, I would make paragraph A provide for all contingencies; and that could be easily done. Had the Government taken a little care in connexion with their finances, had they taken a. little thought for the prosperity of the community, they might have made millions by way of income taxation, and so have avoided the need for putting on these special rates of duty. There are certain large firms trading in Australia, which are really subsidiary to big foreign interests, the Australian profits from which go overseas. If a tax were put upon the output of those concerns the outside interests would not continue to gain to the extent of millions of Australian money, while our revenue would be correspondingly increased, with less need for these imposts. The South African legislation provides : -
In the case of goods imported into the Union of a class or kind made or produced in the Union if the export or actual selling price to an importer in the Union be less than the true current value (as defined in this Act) of the same goods when sold for home consumption in the usual and ordinary course in the country from which they were exported to the Union at the time of their exportation thereto, there may, in addition to the duties otherwise prescribed, be charged, levied, collected and paid on those goods on importation into the Union, a special Customs duty (or dumping duty) equal to the difference between the said selling price of the goods for export and the true current value thereof for home consumption as defined in this Act : provided that the special Customs duty (or dumping duty) shall not in any case exceed 15 per cent, ad val.
Here, however, we have a 45 per cent, duty; then the 15 per cent, is charged, and a further 20 per cent, is taken on top of all that - not to mention other charges which are heaped upon the goods. Do the Government forget that there are other industries in Australia beside manufacturing interests? What real hope is there for the man on the land ? He is charged enormously for the implements which he must use in the course of his operations. The difference between the cost of his reaper and binder and the cost of the same to the Canadian farmer is really enormous. Take, specifically, the cost of fencing wires. Not long ago I received a telegram from Western Aus tralia, pointing out that the duty which had to be paid upon 14-gauge wire actually amounted to £18 per ton. Before the war we were able to buy that gauge “for £7 10s. to £9 5s. per ton. What encouragement is shown to a man to go out and open up new country? What facilities are wo offering immigrants? I suppose there is not an honorable member present who desires to see new citizens entering Australia from overseas and going into city life. We have no room for newcomers in the cities and manufacturing centres. But if we impose these dreadful cost3 upon a man who is willing and anxious to go out and battle on the land, what hope is there for the future of Australian primary industry? A man must protect his holding against the hordes of pests. Nowadays, however, our returned soldiers and others -first clear a comparatively small acreage of new country and plant it. The usual procedure is to take off a harvest or two before going to the cost of fencing and .protecting a block. What hope is - there. however, for the beginner who, in order to save his crop from the encroachment of rabbits, kangaroos, and the like,, buys fencing materials and netting, and has to pay such enormous prices? The Minister is to be given certain further powers. He desires to be known as the McKinley of Australia. There has been scarcely any limit to the duties which he has been found willing to agree to. I ask the Committee to call a halt, or, at any rate, to take a few months’ careful considerationof what these resolutions imply.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has suggested that the Committee should lay aside all the paragraphs of resolutions 1, except A, D, and E, and that A should be amended. To do this would practically render the Bill useless. The object of the first four resolutions is to deal with dumping. It is recognised that dumping may be brought about in four different ways. First, there may be a purchase of cheap goods from some foreign country, the importation of which goods into Australia may cause injury to local industry. Secondly, goods may be imported, and sold here for much less than the cost of production in the country of their manufacture ; that is to say, they may be dumped here to the detriment of Australian industry. The third method of dumping has to do with the importation and sale of goods by consignment. In Canada, no provision was made in the Act of 1904 to cope with, consignment, but in 1907 an express amendment was made to deal with this procedure. The fourth method has to do with circumstances in which goods are brought out to Australia free of the imposition of freight costs, or are transported as ballast, or in subsidized vessels. These are all distinct methods of dumping. The resolutions recognise them, and, in each instance, it is proposed to deal with them appropriately. Paragraphs B and C cannot be eliminated without practically rendering paragraph A ineffective. If paragraphs B and C are left out, the whole of the dumping which may be practised can be carried out under another of the four methods mentioned. If foreign manufacturers find that they have large surplus stocks on hand, which they desire to get rid of, they can send consignments into Australia, and sell the goods below the actual cost of production. The specific object of paragraph C is to prevent that. As for dumping by way of consignment, the parties concerned need not make any sales such as are provided for in paragraph A. If our legislation were to stop there, these foreign makers could send their goods to Australia upon consignment, and thus the provisions of paragraph A would go by the board.
– The words could be inserted, “sold or consigned.”
– It is necessary to make specific provision for consignment, as in paragraph C, in order to insure that goods consigned to Australia shall not, by reason of their being sold at less than a reasonable selling price, prove detrimental to Australian industry. We desire to make sure that goods consigned here, really with the effect of injuring Australian industry, shall be subject to dumping duty on importation, and the provision here set forth is the only effective means.
– The proposal really follows upon the experience of the United States of America and Canada.
– Exactly; and upon what is operating in Australia at present. I remind the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that paragraph
A will not apply to everything imported into Australia.
– To everything to which the Minister may care to make it applicable.
– No; the paragraph distinctly states that the Minister must be satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the imported goods are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia. That is the first thing he has to prove.
– Can the Minister tell me of any class of goods under paragraphs A, B, and C that the Minister cannot prohibit?
– Silks, for example.
– And gloves also, I think.
– Nevertheless, this restriction covers a mighty wide area.
– And it isthe hope of Australia that it may cover a wider area. The object of the Tariff is to encourage manufacture in Australia, but there axe a large number of goods that are not produced locally.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs is to be the sole judge as to what goods shall be governed by this law.
– Only within the meaning of this motion. This law can apply only to those kinds of goods that are produced or manufactured in Australia, and which have been sold to an importer at a price less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and by the sale of which detriment may result to an Australian industry.
– The Minister is to be the sole judge.
– Somebody must be the judge.
– The Minister can refuse to allow any goods to come into this country if he thinks that detriment may result to an Australian industry.
– But a precedent condition is an investigation by the Tariff Board.
– Which the Minister can ignore.
– Yes, if he likes.
– Then the Tariff Board will be nothing.
– The Tariff Board will be something. It is not to be the creature of the Minister, as the honorable member suggests. It is to be an independent body created under another Act, and comprising a responsible officialin the Department and two other persons of good standing in the community. That Board will investigate and report upon these matters.
– And the Minister may take no notice of the report.
– He may not, but we know that he will. If the Minister ignores the recommendations of the Board he will be answerable to Parliament. There must be preserved in every Act the principle of Ministerial responsibility. Honorable members know that there will be in respect of each of these matter? a complete and independent inquiry by the Tariff Board. In those circumstances it is impossible for us to consent to abandon paragraphs B, C, and D, because by so doing the Bill would be rendered nugatory. The experience of all countries shows that dumping is carried out by three distinct methods described in these paragraphs.
– When the goods have been brought up to the fair market value, at the time of shipment, why is a penalty of 20 per cent. added ?
– There is no penalty of 20 per cent. ParagraphC reads - “ A reasonable selling price “ means the price ascertained upon the following basis, namely : - To the fair market value of the goods there shall be added the freight, insurance, landing, and other charges, together with the amount of duty payable under the Customs Tariff, togetherwith 20 per cent. on the aggregate of all the items mentioned.
– But why is the additional 20 per cent. on the aggregate of all the items added ?
– If goods are imported bonâ fide for the purpose of trade, the importer intends to make, and is entitled to make, profit out of his transaction. If a man is importing and selling goods without making a profit, what is his object ? In assessing the price, 20 per cent, will be added to allow for expenses and profit.
– The Minister will fix the fair market value.
– The fair market value of goods is defined as -
The fair market value of the goods; or of goods of the same class or kind, sold in the country of export in relation to which the expression is used, for home consumption in the usual and ordinary course of trade, plus free on board duties charged in that country, but not including any Excise duties payable in that country.
– That is the ordinary Customs provision. Why add another 20 per cent. ?
– Because the goods are being sent to Australia for the purpose of being dumped, from which action detriment might result to an Australian industry.
– The Minister means goods that are being sent out at a price below their value.
– We ascertain, firstly, the wholesale selling price in Australia, and upon that basis ask what would be a reasonable selling price.
– In the operation of the Tariff the basis is the wholesale purchasing price in the country of origin; this provision is simply murderous.
– Paragraphs B and C do not apply to all classes of goods manufactured in Australia.
– They do, because both refer to goods the sale of which under certain conditions might result in detriment to an Australian industry. Having ascertained the wholesale selling price, the Department proceeds to fix a reasonable selling price.
– And to the present Tariff another 20 per cent. will be added.
– No; because the duty is not 20 per cent., but 15 per cent. on the total.
– The dumping duty is equal to the difference between the wholesale selling price and a reasonable selling price.
– Paragraph 2 provides -
The various duties specified in the foregoing paragraphs be separately charged, notwithstanding that more duties than one may apply to any particular goods ; but that the duty payable on any particular goods under paragraphs A to D inclusive of this resolution shall not either severally or collectively exceed 15 per cent. of the value for duty of the goods as ascertained in accordance with Division 2 of Part VIII. of the Customs Act 1901-1920.
That is a reasonable provision.Honorable members will see that paragraphs A, B, and C each deals with a specific kind of dumping, and I ask the Committee to support the motion as drafted.
– Does the Minister’s objection to the postponement of these matters until later in the year apply also to the schedule?
– We object to the postponement of any portion of the Bill.
– I have no objection to paragraph A of the first motion ; but I shall be no party to a superadded penalty of 20 per cent. In order to deal with dumping I am not altogether opposed to any provision that would be reasonably practicable under certain conditions; but I think the resolutions before us exceed the limit of reason. The -Minister (Mr. Groom) has explained the provisions with regard to consigning on sale, or for sale, goods of such exceedingly low value that their sale
Would be likely to be detrimental to Australian industries. Under the present Customs law the Department demands that the duty shall be paid, not necessarily on the amount for which the importer purchased the goods, but on the value of such goods at the port of shipment, and on the date of shipment. Some of the provisions of these motions are merely reimposing conditions which already exist under the Customs Act. If an invoice does not represent genuine values, the Customs Department will rectify it, but the Government are asking the Committee to impose an entirely new condition, namely, that the value shall not be less than the cost of production of a similar article in Australia.
– Who is to define the cost of production in Australia?-
– The Tariff Board and the Minister between, them. That is a considerable restriction and curtailment of the ordinary methods of commerce recognised here and in other parts of the world. It goes further than that, and provides for the super-addition of 20 per cent., an addition of 20 per cent, to the values on which duty is imposed hi the Tariff.
– Is it not an addition of 20 per cent, to the Tariff rates, plus freight and other charges?
– That is more unreasonable still. When we come to the consideration of the second paragraph, I shall move to omit it.
– I rise with a good deal of sorrow and a certain feeling of humiliation to address the Committee on this question. I think that neither the Minister who introduced the Bill nor the members of the Committee at present realize what it is proposed to do.
– We hardly realize the effect of what is proposed.
– That is so. It has become apparent during the somewhat conversational debate that we have had, that the powers which we are asked to give to the Minister are to be intrusted to him without restriction. The Tariff Board which this House has authorized is to be entirely an investigating and advisory body. It is true that before the Minister can take action, he must refer certain matters to the Board, and await its report; but nothing in the Bill passed last week, or in the motion under discussion now, compels him to take notice of the recommendations of the Board, beyond saying that he agrees or disagrees with them. If he wishes to enforce any of the penalties for which we are now asked to provide, he need only make a reference to the Board, and. await its report., and he can then put into force any decision that is allowable under the wide provisions of this resolution. But it is this Committee which will really be responsible for the acts that may be done under the proposed law by future Ministers for Trade and Customs, and I ask members to seriously reflect upon that fact. I will now deal with the provisions for allowing the Minister for Customs to impose special duties or penalties against our late .’allies, namely, France, Belgium., and Italy. And I beseech the Minister now in charge of the Bill to withdraw the clauses which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has asked shall be withdrawn, and to consider the advisability of postponing the provisions of paragraph A. of the schedule, because if that were carried grave’ and unjust disabilities might be im- posed on countries which, as allies, fought side by side with us in the war. It is to that aspect of the matter that I propose to address myself now. The honorable members for Dampier and Wakefield have pointed to serious flaws in the provisions relating to dumping, about which I shall not say anything at present beyond declaring that I am in favour of any effective method of controlling what is known as dumping; by which I understand to be meant the sending of goods to this country to undersell Australian, manufactures, and to destroy Australian industries. That I am prepared to go to the utmost length to prevent. But I shall now confine my remarks to paragraph A of the schedule. I doubt that the Minister has fully realized the enormity of the offence which he asks the Committee to perpetrate thereby. In paragraph A of the schedule the currencies of France and Belgium are specifically dealt with, and a full list of penalties is set out for imposition on the manufacturers of those countries. I shall not remind the Committee of what Belgium and France did and suffered for us, for the Empire, and for the world during the recent war with Germany ; because honorable members are fully aware of the great and valiant sacrifices made by them; but I wish to draw attention to one of the results of those sacrifices, which was the enormous and indeed colossal impoverishment of the financial resources and credit of their peoples, an impoverishment barely imaginable by any one living in Australia, or even by many in the United Kingdom. At the end of the war, Belgium and France were, in a sense, finally victorious, but their virile manhood had been greatly depleted and their financial resources exhausted. It has been implied in the speeches on this question that some special reproach attaches to a people whose currency is greatly depreciated, and it is on that assumption that the schedule to which I have drawn attention seems to have been largely based. But every recent war of any dimensions has been followed by a great depreciation of the currency of one or of both the countries that took part in it. This happened in the Civil War in the United States of America.. Neither the North nor the South had, at the time, the financial resources possessed by countries to-day, and even the North, which was infinitely the richer, found itself compelled, or thought it advisable, to make a large over-issueof paper money, which greatly depreciated its currency. The currency of the United States of America was, in the early sixties, as. much depreciated as is that of France to-day. There was the same over-issue of paper money, impelled by necessity, and it is an open question among financial historians whether the American Civil War could have been so soon brought to a successful conclusion had there not been that over -issue. Similarly, it may in future be a question whether this war could have been sustained by
France and Belgium if those countries had not, after applying every method of raising revenue that could be devised, issued paper money, and whether we as free men, instead of being the slaves of Germany, should now be discussing this method of oppressing the people of France and Belgium, if they had not, depreciated their currency. I will not admit for a moment that it is any reflection on a country that it has had the misfortune to have its currency depreciated. If there were, who are we in Australia that we should fling reproaches in this matter at the peoples of France, Belgium, and Italy ? It has been shown over and over again in this chamber - and I do not draw attention to it any more than is needful to remind honorable members of the position here and in England - that at the present moment the paper issues of Great Britain and of the Commonwealth of Australia are depreciated. The latest figures that I have been able to ascertain, the test being the sales of gold in a free market, are from my friend the chairman of the Australian Gold Producers Association, who informs me that the last quotation for fine gold in London was £5 12s.10d. peroz. The plain English of that is that the present value of the £1 note, either British or Commonwealth, is 15s.1d. when measured in gold, or as the Minister might prefer to term by the mint par of exchange. We are, therefore, living here in a country and an Empire which is carrying on with a depreciated currency. Yet the whole trend of the debate on this measure - I am not dealing with dumping, but with paragraph A of the schedule - is that there is some reproach against those three valiant countries because they have depreciated currencies, and that, in some way or other, we must impose severe penalties on their industries and manufactures in order to neutralize the effects.
– That is not a correct way of putting it.
– Will the honorablemember put the matter in a more correct way? I am giving my recollection of the arguments used in favour of the penalties proposed in paragraph A of the schedule on the industries of France, Belgium, and Italy.
I should now like to discuss more closely 1 the effects of what are known as “ unfavorable exchanges,” though I prefer not to use that term, which I regard as very confusing. When we speak of an “unfavorable exchange” cr of the exchange being “ against the country,” the meaning depends on the point of view from which the term is used. My experience is that these terms are invariably used from a banker’s point of view; bankers speak of the exchange being ‘ ‘ un- . favorable “ probably because it is not favoured by bankers, or they speak of the exchange being “ against a country,” when it is against certain interests. Therefore, I desire to avoid, as far as possible, the use of such terms1 when discussing the tendencies of .what is known as a depreciated paper currency. The effect of such a currency in favour of the country which possesses it has been very much exaggerated. I believe that if the true position could be apprehended by honorable members they would have nothing whatever to do with the proposal before us - except to reject it - the proposal to impose special penalties, or special “ duties “ as they are called, against France, Belgium, and Italy on account of the depreciation in their, currencies. I may say that what is known as the mint par rate of exchange is to-day largely theoretical. In many countries it does not- exist. The precious metals are not being freely coined in those countries. The rate of exchange between France and England before the war was, roughly, 25 J francs to the £1.’ But the old rates of exchange have ceased, to exist in all those countries which have so enlarged their paper money that they have become depreciated. Before the war, if a person in England or Australia had £100 which he desired to invest in purchasing goods in Paris, that £100 would, roughly, purchase or exchange for 2,500 francs. It is quite true that now, owing to the gradual fall in the exchanges, such a person would be able to buy with his £100 of English or Australian money, roughly, 4,700 francs in France. I could conceive an enormous advantage to the importer who wished to spend £100 in Paris on goods to import to Australia, if the fall in the exchanges took place between his buying the goods and his paying for them; that is to say, if he bought goods to the value of 2,500 francs, and expected, six months after wards, to have to pay £100 for them, it would be a great advantage to find that he .’ ad to pay only £54 for what he had purchased for. £100. But the fall has not taken place in six months. It has been gradual, covering a period of seven years; and during the whole of that period prices and costs in France have, naturally, been rising in order to adjust themselves to the increased amount of paper money and to the fall iff the exchange value of the franc compared with £1 sterling. More francs have to be paid for goods, until eventually a time arrives when, theoretically of course, one gets little more goods in France for 4,700 francs than one got before the war for 2,500 francs. Therefore, the so-called advantage to the French exporter or manufacturer gradually becomes nullified day by day. Perhaps I could place the position in such a way as to be more” clearly understood. A few days ago, a gentleman who has studied exchanges for a great number of years, and who has recently been on a mission to the East for the purpose of selling gold, said to me, “ I have come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible for any one to understand special exchanges unless he has actually gone abroad and there had to exchange the money of his own country for the money of another.” Let us place ourselves in the position of a country with a falling exchange, as in the case of France and Italy, and with dealings with a country which has a fixed rate. This is not altogether a fancy picture, for, as a matter of fact, our money has fallen in value as compared with what is really the gold money of the United States of America. Take the circulation of our own tasteful and artistic £1 Commonwealth notes; prices, goods, and costs, and all other conditions have become adjusted to the amount so represented, and a certain value is given to a £l-note, as compared with all other commodities and services. Then suppose that quite suddenly - as they say in bills of lading, “ through the act of God or the King’s enemies “ - the number of notes in circulation has become doubled, and that workmen, businessmen, bankers, and everybody else possess twice as many notes to-day as they _ did yesterday, and are still engaged in the merry process of getting rid of their money as fast as possible.
Then, speaking subject to all sorts of qualifications, the prices of all goods would be very rapidly adjusted to the increased supplies of money - prices through competition would start in the direction of doubling. This process would apply immediately to all our -exportable goods such as wheat and wool. These goods are bought here by exporters to other countries, and they pay for the goods eventually in the money of their own country. If they find, as from to-morrow, that for every £1 they have to provide in London, they can get double the number of our Commonwealth £1 notes in Australia, they are immediately able to give double as much for our wool and wheat. That is a case in which the prices of goods are almost immediately doubled. Of course, this would not apply to every commodity, nor would it apply immediately to wages; but from the moment the operation commences the process of adjustment sets in, and gradually all prices, wages, and costs are adjusted to the increased supplies of money. This means a depreciated currency; in other words, the £1 note becomes worth 10s. That is exactly the process that has gone on for the last seven years in France, Belgium, and Italy. It is a pure delusion to believe, and it is wicked to try to make others believe, that this process has not gone on in those countries. The theory on which paragraph A is based therefore, seems to me to be absolutely and fundamentally unsound. It appears to be based on the view that as we can buy for £100 of English money a larger number of francs and lire, in France and Italy, we can, therefore, buy to the same extent large quantities of goods from France, Belgium, and Italy. But that is not so; it is a pure delusion, a wicked doctrine to circulate here or elsewhere. The real position is that a process of adjustment goes on, and gradually tends to render nugatory all those theoretical advantages of a fall in exchanges. I am not prepared to say there is not some temporary advantage given to exporters in a country, the exchanges of which are falling, and the currencies of which have become depreciated, as compared with those of other countries; in many cases it has proved a valuable and healthy stimulus to industry. But it is not a perma
Mr. Jowett. nent advantage to the same extent. While the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) was speaking, an honorable member interjected, “ How can we protect ourselves against the depreciated currencies of other countries?” The reply to that question is very simple. In the first place, from the moment this depreciation in the currency of other countries sets in, there is set up in those countries a process by which these advantages are rendered nugatory. In the second place, if the honorable member were to put such a question to me with regard to the industries of France, Belgium, and Italy-
An Honorable Member. - And Germany.
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. The position in regard to Germany is dealt with in paragraph B of the schedule, which I am not at present discussing. The Ministry may do what they like so far as imports from Germany are concerned, and I shall not say them nay; but Tam dealing with imports from France, Belgium, and Italy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with a good deal of interest to the speech made, by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), as well as to those of others who have preceded him, and it seems to me that there is a very considerable misconception .with regard to the provisions of this motion. I desire at the outset to deal with one or two points made by the honorable member for Grampians. In the first place, he sought to show that paragraph A was fundamentally wrong, and was based on a misconception. He suggested that a man could take £100 sterling to France, and there buy up depreciated currency at the depreciated rate, but with the francs thus purchased he could not obtain in addition a quantity of goods corresponding to the depreciation. There is no doubt that, in that connexion the increased cost of the production of the goods would make a substantial difference, which must be taken into consideration. But, generally speaking, depreciated currency offers facilities for dumping and constitutes a real menace, and we are only proposing the usual method for the protection of our industries. We are following along the lines of the experience of Canada and the United States of America, and Great Britain, where it was deemed essential to pass dumping legislation for the protection of industry against the like contingencies.
– We are not following along the lines of Great Britain.
– Our proposals are much milder. May I remind my honorable friend that we are proposing to impose a dumping duty of only 15 per cent., whereas in Great Britain provision is made for a dumping duty of 33$ per cent.
– Only against specified goods, and not against France and Italy.
– Against France, Italy, and, indeed, the whole world, as the Board of Trade may decide. The British law provides that, in respect of specified goods, a dumping duty of 33£ per cent, may be imposed, but it provides further that such a duty may also be imposed against, any goods whatsoever that may be proclaimed.
– If manufactured in certain specified countries, and France, Belgium, and Italy are not specified.
– No country is specified in the resolution passed by the House of Commons ; it applies to France, Belgium, Italy, and every other country, in terms of the Board of Trade’s proclamation. When the honorable member complains that we are proposing to ‘treat very harshly France, Belgium, arid Italy, I point out to him that we are not contemplating the degree of harshness, if he thinks that the proper word to use, that has been adopted by the Mother Country.
– I deny that. Here is the statement. I invite the honorable member to read it for himself.
– I have read it. We are attempting to impose a dumping duty of only 15 per cent, as against a dumping duty of 334 per cent, imposed by the Mother Country on certain specified goods, the list of which may be indefinitely expanded.
– No; it is very limited in number.
– The goods are limited in number in so far as they are actually specified, but power is taken to issue proclamations applying to other goods.
– Made in certain specified countries.
– Made in certain countries. My honorable friend made the broad statement, and sought to drive it home, that it was improper for the Government of the Commonwealth to introduce a provision of this kind which would apply so harshly to France, Belgium, and Italy. The question as to the particular goods to which the provision applies is immaterial. My point is that as regards both goods and exchange we are treating those countries with nothing like the degree of severity which marks the resolution passed by the British House of Commons. We are providing for a dumping duty of 15 per cent, as against the British dumping duty of 331 per cent., and for an exchange duty of only 26 per cent, at the present moment against France, as against 334 per cent, imposed by the British Parliament. Here is the resolution of the House of Commons which the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has placed in my hands -
There shall he charged on any of the following articles imported into Great Britain or Ireland, _in addition to any other duty of Customs chargeable thereon, a Customs duty of an amount equal to 33J per cent, of the value of the article, that is to say -
Then the articles are set out.
– -Read the list. It is insignificant in number.
– But there is a further provision in the resolution of the House of Commons that -
Articles of any class or description in respect of which an order by tue Board of Trade has been made under any .Act of the present session for giving effect to this resolution if manufactured in whole or in part in any of the countries- specified in the order, or deemed to be so manufactured, may be subjected to this duty. The British provision is of the very widest range. The first, consideration, of the British Government was the protection of British industries, and as against the rest of the world, without limitation or restriction it has provided that the Board of Trade may issue a proclamation as the result of which a dumping duty of 334 per cent, may be imposed, and to meet the exchange position an additional duty of 33i per cent. I am dealing not with any particular class of goods, but with the principles involved in this motion.
– I find that the document which the honorable member has quoted does not give a list of those countries against which these duties are to operate, and there is no reason to believe that France, Belgium, and Italy are included.
– The honorable member for “Salary Grab” is not in his place. I call attention to the lack of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Grampians should persist in his interjection with respect to the case of France, Belgium, and Italy. The resolution is of the widest character and provides “as against the world.” The countries to which the honorable member has alluded may be specified, of course, in any proclamation which is made; but there is no limitation of the power. It can scarcely be held to be a reproach against us, that we are doing -something which is cruel and unfair to the countries mentioned, when we are merely taking a lead from the Mother Country, whose restrictions have not been so adjudged by those three countries. I repeat that the resolution of the House of Commons is wide enough to cover all countries, and that is all we seek. . We are not dealing with ordinary trade in goods of fair and reasonable value, but we are proceeding to impose a scheme for the protection of our industries against the disasters of dumping in the light of the experience of, and following the lines laid down by, other countries. In the United States of America, where there are very rigid anti-Trust laws, there is at the same time express provision against their application to the export trade of America. Power is provided, under the laws of that country, for the exploitation of any foreign country in order to permit America to dump its manufactures abroad. Another instance of this same specific objective may be seen in the scientific manner in which Germany went to work. By an extraordinary system of subsidies, financial concessions, railway rebates, and such means, provision was made for the export of Germany’s surplus goods. We are up against that kind of thing - a procedure which is recognised as a national process for the capture of foreign markets; and we must protect ourselves. The only question is how most effectively to do so. We admit the necessity. Are we doing so upon a fair and reasonable basis ? My opinion is that we are. We are making our dumping protection less severe than the Mother Country herself- in regard to some goods, and precisely similar to that of Canada and the United States of America in respect of other goods. I know that the honorable member for Grampians does not object to the anti-dumping provisions; but, so far as concerns the exchange provisions, I point out that they are not more severe than those of Canada and the United States of America.
– I am not prepared to look to those two countries for examples.
– I am not looking to them either, except with regard to their schemes for protecting themselves. Our objective is the protection of Australian industry; and I emphasize that it is only when the Tariff Board and the Minister are satisfied that certain importations are being made to the detriment of Australian industries that the antidumping provisions will come into force. I admit that there is much complication about the proposed legislation. The Bill seeks to impose no less than seven dumping duties. The first is known as a “dumping duty”; the second as a “dumping below cost duty”; the next as a “dumping consignment duty” ; the next as a “dumping freight duty.”
– Surely the honorable member will agree to the fairness of taking advantage of ballast rates of freight when importing ?
– I agree with the necessity for making provision against the dumping of goods by means of shipping subsidies, by freedom from freight payments, and by the help of ballast rates. I have already referred to Germany’s ingenious schemes for aiding the export of certain goods by means of shipping subsidies and the like. I do not criticise the use of ballast rates in the ordinary commercial practice; but when an effort is made by means of ballast rates to injure Australian industry, it becomes another matter entirely.
– Normal ballast rates are exceptionally low.
– And, ordinarily s a very legitimate means of transport. I repeat that it is only when resort is had to low ballast rates for the purpose of dunging surplus goods in Australia that paragraph D will be applied. I call the careful attention of honorable members to resolution (2) : -
The various duties specified in the foregoing paragraphs be separately charged, notwithstanding that more duties than one may apply to any particular goods, but that the duty payable on any particular goods under paragraphs (A) to (i)’) inclusive of this resolution shall not, either severally or collectively, exceed 15 per centum of the value for duty of the goods . . .
– That covers all objections.
– Of course ! If honorable members will bear in mind that this resolution refers only to dumping, and that, though it appears to be complicated, yet it purports to deal with several different methods of importing goods and completely differing contingencies, they will perceive that the methods set out are really a simple way of placing the necessary legislation on our statute-book. I am satisfied that the Government have exercised reasonable care and precaution in ascertaining and benefiting by the experience of other countries.
Another point made by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) had to do with the Tariff Board. I think the Board will provide assurances to Parliament which, the honorable member himself would be the first to welcome. I refer to the procedure of its undertaking investigations. The general form of our Australian Tariff, and particularly of the schedule passed by this House, contains provisions which enable the Minister to reclassify a great number of goods, so excluding, for example, certain machines and other articles from duty. The practice has been for some time to take advantage of those provisions in order to render assistance to local industries. This was really a great power in the hands of the Minister. Now, however, the Tariff Board is to have the responsibility of investigation. We even seek to go further, so that if it is alleged that dumping is being practised here, the matter will not be one for decision upon the mere ipse dixit of the Minister; the ques tion must be referred to the Board. Care must be exercised in its investigations. Then, it must report to and advise the Minister. Thus is afforded extra security to this Parliament and to the commercial community. It really amounts to an ad ditional guarantee of justice. If the Minister is satisfied that dumping is being carried on, it becomes his duty to bring the anti-dumping provisions into operation. But, unless he is so satisfied, they will not come into operation. Hence, in this extra care proposed, far more assurance is given that the Government are upon sounder ground than in the exercise of the mere discretion pi the Minister. Even as regards this matter of investigation by the Board, we are largely following a practice placed in the hands of Committees in other countries; and it amounts to a guarantee, at least, that the right thing is being done. While it may appear to be harsh in some regards, yet, on the whole, the procedure is fair. As for the suggestion to exclude paragraphs B and C, to do so would be equivalent to a deliberate invitation to importers to carry on their dumping operations by the method of consignment. Of course, paragraph A would be of no value unless paragraphs B and C were to stand. The gross liability is 15 per cent. Much exception has been taken to the consignment duty, but after all it is fair and reasonable. If a local manufacturer should ask 5s. per- gross for certain articles, and the purchaser declared that he could buy them for 3s. from another vendor, the manufacturer would immediately realize that something was wrong, and bring the fact under the notice of the Minister. It is reasonable that the difference between the wholesale price and the selling price in Australia should be imposed as a dumping duty, and the means of ascertaining it is fair.
– The honorable member has laid stress on the fact that the maximum duty will amount to only 15 per cent. Does he realize that the penalty against France, Belgium., and Italy under the schedule rises as high as 75 per cent. ?
– I shall not attempt a,t this stage to deal with the schedule; I am dealing only with principles.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that these many and varied provisions will have the effect of making the Tariff truly protective, although I doubt that they will do so. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has objected .to these proposals on the ground that they will operate drastically against our late Allies, Prance, Belgium, and Italy. The san].e plea was raised prior to a recent Court decision which overruled the practice of the Customs Department, and compelled the Department to refund certain amounts which had been collected in duty by a certain method of valuing goods imported from countries whose exchange was depreciated. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) took up the cudgels on behalf of those countries as the honorable member for Grampians is doing today. I would like to deal as leniently as possible with our late Allies, but I recognise no nation to which. I would give precedence over the Australian people. And if the operation of the exchange upon goods imported from those countries will defeat our efforts to encourage local manufactures, I must oppose the claims of France, Belgium, and Italy.
– No reasonable ground for any such apprehension has ever been advanced.
– The world to-day is in a peculiar position. _ The United States of America, with its vast wealth and resources, found itself, after the war, in an enviable position financially, but in an unenviable position in regard to the manufacture of goods for export.
– These provisions will help America.
– Whilst I am desirous of acting fairly by the people of the United States of America, I am even more desirous of establishing true Protection in Australia. And if the exchange differences would allow the manufacturers of Belgium, France, and Italy to send goods to Australia cheaper than they could be imported from America, I am opposed to unrestricted exports from those countries.
– I am not; I would give France, Belgium., and Italy a preference.
– Why? They were only our Allies, just as the United States of America was.
– But they suffered more.
– I admit that, but we have imposed high duties upon importations from our own kith and kin in Great Britain in order to encourage Australian manufacturers. Therefore, wa should not fail to protect the local product against the competition of goods manufactured in France, Belgium, and
Italy. Although my sentiments are strongly in favour of those countries, I desire this proposed legislation to have the very effect which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) fears. If the proposals which the Government have submitted will do that, the Tariff will be more effective than I thought, because it was the competition of those countries whose currency is depreciated that I feared most, just as I am afraid of America’s powers of dumping. We have to guard against goods which America’s financial resources and dumping capabilities enable her to land in Australia cheaply, and the goods from countries# whose depreciated currency enables them to export cheaply. Both forms of competition are equally detrimental to Australian industry. The honorable member for Grampians has made me more enamoured of the Bill than I was at first, because I was afraid that, not even with these provisions, would we be able to prevent dumping. The Minister (Mr. Groom) and others who have addressed themselves to the motion to-day have not dealt with the question as I think it should .be dealt with ; but this is legislation that is largely experimental, and whatever our desires may be, only experience will show whether these provisions will be effective. I hope that all that is expected of the Bill will be realized, and that it will help us to achieve complete protection and encouragement of local production. If this legislation should prove to be insufficient to achieve that purpose, I hope the Government will introduce other proposals which will be more effective.
.- When my earlier speech was interrupted I was dealing with the theoretical advantage said to be possessed by countries whose currency is depreciated so much that they have to sell their money at a lower rate in exchange for the moneys of other countries. Honorable members have attempted to show that the depreciated exchange gives certain countries an enormous advantage which can be guarded against only by this provision relating to exchange. But I have shown that the natural result of the depreciation of a country’s currency is a rise in the costs and the prices of commodities within that country. For instance, France, instead of being able to buy £100 worth of British goods for 2,500 francs, as she could before the war, now has to pay 4,700 francs for the same quantities of British goods marked at the old prewar prices. Then, as regards other enhanced costs, wages in France are now four times higher than they were at the beginning of the war. Thus, the disadvantages arising from the exchange position may approximately almost balance the advantages. The cost of all the raw material imported into France, Belgium, and Italy for manufacturing purposes has increased in equal proportion to the depreciation of the currency, and so any theoretical advantage in regard to manufacture for export is largely nullified by increased costs of all kinds. The alleged advantage that French manufacturers have over other manufacturers is largely illusory, and, therefore, I again ask the Committee to pause before doing what, in my opinion, would be a dreadful wrong to our late Allies. Another matter of the gravest importance is that these countries against whom it is proposed to impose these special duties are among the largest purchasers of Australia’s raw materials. France, at the present moment, is one of the largest buyers of Australian wool. The other day I had occasion to go to Queensland in connexion with a very important schemefor settling returned soldiers on land which is now undeveloped, and I returned in a train which was carrying a number of wool buyers, who had been attending the wool sales at Brisbane. From them I learned that of about 37,000 bales sold there, nearly half had been bought for French manufacturers. France has not imposed a special duty on Australian wool, because, the paper currency of this country has depreciated, as I have shown, to such an extent that the £1 note is worth only 15s. 1d. in gold. She has not treated us with the harshness with which it is now proposed to treat her. But, owing to the depreciation of her own currency, and an unfavorable exchange, she has to pay much more in French money for the wool that she buys from us than she used to pay, and the loss that is thus caused to her through her depreciated currency may equal any advantage that she might get in exporting her manufactures to this country. France, Belgium, and Italy all manufacture largely raw materials which they import, and for which, owing to adverse exchange, they have to pay prices much in excess of pre-war prices; and the more closely one examines the facts, the more clearly it is seen that the advantages which their exporters are said to enjoy are to some extent illusory and nugatory. The speech of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) showed that the members of the Committee are not aware of the extent to which it is proposed to penalize the industries of France, Belgium, and Italy.
– There are hardly any members of the Committee present. There is not one member of the Opposition in his place, and there are only seven members in the chamber.
– Yes. In the words of the immortal Wordsworth, “We are seven.” There are only six members listening to the discussion of a matter which, I say without hesitation, is of so great importance that the people of Australiamust stand or fall in the judgment of history by the conclusions at which we arrive. For all practical purposes, I might as well be reciting the poems of Milton, or Shakespeare, or Wordsworth, as addressing myself to the question before the Chair. It must be remembered that we cannot always profit by the services of the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), for whose judgment, generosity, and justice I have the greatest respect. Some future Minister may not desire to show to the countries that have been our Allies the consideration which the present Minister would show.No language which you, Mr. Charlton, would allow me to use would permit me to express the shame and humiliation that I feel - and that the men and women of Australia will feel tomorrow, when they read the reports of our proceedings - at the manner in which this matter is being treated by members generally. To the six members of the Committee I say-
– There are eight members present now.
– If the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) were present to draw attention to the state of the Committee, the attendance would, no doubt, suddenly increase, and in a manner that would give some idea of the ratio in which the penalties in the schedule increase against France, Belgium, and Italy.
Sitting suspended from6.28 to 8 p.m.
-It was pointed out with great emphasis by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that the anti-dumping penalties are limited to 15 per cent., and various speakers have made a great deal of that limitation. These penalties, curiously enough, are imposed against all countries from which dumped goods are supposed to come; but I draw attention to the fact that while those penalties are applied to all countries, and are limited to 15 per cent., the special penalties for which France, Belgium, and Italy are singled out, are not so limited, but range up to 75 per cent. on account of the depreciated exchange.
– Exactly; but have you ever known 300 francs to the £1?
– I have not; but I have known 47 francs to the £1.
– Then how can the duties range up to 75 per cent. if the franc has never been 300 to the £1 ?
– On page 4 of the resolutions we are told that the special penalty provided-
– Not a “ penalty.”
– It is called a special duty; in any case, it is something in excess of the ordinary duty, and may fairly be described as a penalty.
– Assuming it is 21 to 26 per cent., how does it compare with the percentage in the case of the United Kingdom and the United States of America?
– The present value of the franc is, approximately, 47 to the £1, and we are told in the schedule as set forth on page 4 of the resolutions that if the bank rate of exchange is not less than 45, but is less than 50 - that is where the 47 francs to the £1 comes in - the special duty shall be chargeable, ad valorem, at the rate of 26 per cent. Now, that is in addition to all the other duties.
– Will you comparethat with what is charged in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America ?
– I shall, indeed. I wish to impress on the Committee that, with the franc at 47, the Minister is given power to impose a special duty on goods exported from France, Belgium, and Italy, and, in the case I have cited, the special duty is 26 per cent., in addition to all the other duties.
– It is much less than in the case of the United Kingdom.
– The circumstances are totally different, as I shall show. The special duty against France, Belgium, and Italy, I repeat, is imposed in this schedule in addition to all the duties which are imposed, in common, against the goods of all other countries. These special duties are not imposed on goods from America or Japan. I have here a few figures which have been prepared and issued on the authority of the ConsulGeneral for France showing what will happen in the case of that country under the proposals of the Government.
– When were the figures prepared ?
– I suppose within the last few days ; at any rate, they were supplied to me to-day. I thought it only right before addressing myself to this subject to obtain the latest and most reliable information as to the rates of exchange and the effect of such duties.
– Were the figures prepared at your request?
– No ; I went to see the French Consul with the objectI have named, and I do not think the figures can be disputed with any success.
– My reason for asking was to ascertain whether the Consul-General really wished to make representations to honorable members as to how unfairly these proposals worked in the case of France.
– That I am not able to say.
– I have not seen any communication from the Consul-General.
– Of course, if I have done wrong in seeking this information from the French Consul, I throw myself on the mercy of the Committee ; if I have not done wrong, these figures have an added value, which I trust will be appreciated. In the document it is stated that on an article on which the Tariff duty is 10 per cent., the duty to be paid, on present exchanges is, under the Government proposals, 36 per cent. as against France, Italy, and Belgium, 12.70 per cent. as against Japan, and 13.59 per cent. as against the United States. That is in reply to those who imagine there are no special penalties against France, Belgium, and Italy. Do the members of the Committee know what is being done? I venture to say that neither the members of the Committee nor the general public know; indeed, I do not believe the members of the Government themselves know what they are doing by means of these resolutions. That is my reply to the question whether we are or are not imposing special and unfair duties against Italy, France, and Belgium, as compared with the duties against other countries who have not suffered from the war as they have in fighting side by side with us in the cause of freedom. I have placed the true position before the Committee, and I shall endeavour to. place it before the whole people of Australia before the matter is finally settled. I have been asked whether the duties against those three countries are not lower than the duties imposed by Great Britain.
– In the case of Great Britain it is 66 per cent., 33 per cent., plus 33 per cent. exchange.
– I do not see that that is the case.
– Read the British resolutions that I read to the Committee.
– I see only one 33 per cent., and, in my opinion, the British resolutions do not bear out the construction put upon them by the honorable member. The memorandum that has been circulated informs us that similar action has been taken in the United Kingdom and Canada for the safeguarding of industries, but the 33 per cent. duty is confined to a few articles in very limited use. It is probable that the whole of the articles contained in this list do not comprise one-ten thousandth part of the imports of the United Kingdom.
– The principle is that where this depreciation is affecting any of the industries of the United Kingdom a special duty may be imposed so asto preserve those industries.
– That is so; I have never denied it.
-But the honorable member is telling us that we ought not to follow that principle.
– No; throughout my speech I have dealt only with the penalties and duties to be imposed upon goods from France, Belgium, and Italy on account of their depreciated exchange.
– Is it the honorable member’s objection that these provisions unfairly discriminate against those countries or that they are unnecessary in the interests of our own industries?
– In the first place, they are quite unnecessary in the interests of our own industries. They are to apply to goods, local manufacturers of which are already highly protected.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Paragraph A agreed to.
Paragraph B -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry - a dumping below cost duty on those goods imported into Australia, which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as being goods as to which he is so satisfied, the amount of the dumping below cost duty being in each case the sum which represents the difference between a reasonable price of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price of the goods. In this paragraph “ a reasonable price” means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods plus 20 per centum plus free on board charges. In the absence of satisfactory evidence in relation thereto, the cost of production to be such amount as the Minister thinks fit to fix, after report by the Tariff Board, as the cost of production.
– The more consideration I give to paragraph B the more I am convinced that it ought to be rejected. It is a most extraordinary provision. I donot know that any country has ever gone to such lengths. It means in effect that any goods similar to those manufactured in this country shall not be admitted if it is possible in any way to keep them out.
– The Tariff would be useless unless we passed paragraph B.
– Heaven help the people if the Tariff requires this sort of thing. It gives the Minister power to impose, in addition to the existing Customs duties, a further dumping duty, and also prohibitive charges.
– After the Tariff Board has recommended that the provisions of paragraph B shall be applied.
– But the Minister may apply it in any case whether the Tariff Board does or does not recommend that it be applied. The power is entirely in the hands of the Minister.
– But the Minister is subject to this Parliament.
– Quite so; but while Parliament was in recess a great deal of mischief might be done under a provision of this kind.
– There will be mischief if we do not pass this proposal.
– I do not think there will be. Our industries must be of a poor description if they cannot stand the breath of some measure of competition.
– Steel rails are being dumped into New South Wales at the present time.
– At what price? We have given the Tariff Board power to inquire into the operation of the Tariff, to investigate existing industries, and to say whether the Protection given to any industry by this Parliament is being abused. If it finds in any case that the Protection so given is being abused, it may recommend that the duty be reduced or removed. The Board will also have the power to recommend that industries struggling against severe competition shall in the public interest receive a little more protection. We are now asked to give our industries the additional protection of these dumping duties. Paragraph B provides that if the Tariff Board reports that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, with the result that the competition to which a local industry is subjected is too keen, the Minister may direct that special precautions shall be taken at the port of shipment to see that the goods are not invoiced below the actual cost of production plus certain charges and then plus 20 per cent. The
Customs Act already provides that precautions shall be taken in every instance to see that goods are not invoiced below the actual values at port of shipment.
– Is paragraph B directed to make profiteering compulsory?
– It provides in reality for prohibition. It means that a local industry may safely go on piling up overhead charges. It will make Australia the dearest country to live in. It is about time that the people knew what the Bill to be founded on this motion is designed to do. The Government is not going to allow Australian industries to stand before the breath of fair and honest competition. Not content with giving our industries a generous protection, it is providing for what is practically prohibition. And yet honorable members opposite talk of bringing down the cost of living and creating pricefixing Boards. Paragraph B, if agreed to, will make it impossible for Australia to be a reasonably cheap country in which to live. I had intended to move an amendment, but as I understand that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has a prior one to submit, I shall refrain for the present from doing so.
.- It seems to me-
– I should like to explain the necessity for paragraph B.
– The honorable member would support a proposal to increase this dumping duty by 100 per cent.
– I would support prohibition in respect of quite a lot of things produced in Australia.
– I am sorry for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). I am sorry to think that he has such a poor opinion of his own people. I move -
That all the words after “If”, line 1, paragraph B, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “at any time it appears to the satisfaction of the Minister, after inquiry ‘and report by the Tariff Board, that the payment of the anti-dumping duties specified under paragraph A of this resolution is being evaded by the shipment of goods, or consignments without sale prior to such shipment, the Minister may in any case or class of cases, authorize such action as is deemed necessary to collect on such goods or any of them the same dumping duties as if the goods had been sold to an importer in Australia prior to their shipment to Australia.”
This amendment, if carried, will also involve the omission of paragraph C. Paragraph A deals with goods of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia and sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value. Paragraph B deals with any goods that may he imported into Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, so that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry. It covers almost any class of goods that the Minister may choose to gazette on the ground that they are being imported under conditions which are detrimental to some local industry. It will be easy for him to make excuses if excuses are necessary. The Minister is satisfied with a very reasonable proposal under paragraph A. The dumping duty imposed under that paragraph is to be merely the difference between the fair market value of the goods and ,the export price, or, in other words, the price at which the goods were sold by the exporter to the importer in Australia, including f .o.b. charges in the country of export. We aTe quite content with that. But the Minister says that, under this paragraph, a reasonable price represents the equivalent of the cost of production, plus 20 per cent.
– If importers were bringing goods in genuinely they would look for quite 20 per cent, profit.
– It would not be reasonable for them to expect to make more than from 5 per cent, to 7£ per cent. Does the honorable member say that goods should not be imported into Australia without the expectation of a profit of less than 20 per cent, upon the values? Any such profit would be unfair and abnormal, certainly in respect of large contracts. When an indent merchant is dealing with large supplies of steel, or galvanized iron, or tin-plates, it would be a . preposterous charge to add 20 per cent. As for “ a reasonable selling price,” the Minister himself can fix that. To ascertain it, there is added to the production value the cost of getting the goods to the coast in the country of export, and the cost of landing them here. Then there is heaped up every conceivable charge that can be imposed ; and upon everything else, the Minister adds a profit of 20 per cent. After which, and before the .goods reach the consumer, there is the ordinary duty of, perhaps, 45 per cent., plus 15 per cent. Where does the consumer come in? This is one of the most wicked and preposterous proposals ever placed before Parliament.
– The Bill insists upon a profit which, under the Mosey Lenders Act, might be considered unconscionable.
– Yes. I cannot understand the motives influencing honorable members, because paragraphs B and C have not the same bearing as paragraph A. The first of the series had to do with goods of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia; and it is in respect of those that the chief danger from dumping lies. We need to protect the industries which are being built up here? I was satisfied with the proposition contained in paragraph A; but honorable members are now asking for the same conditions in respect of paragraphs B and C, which deal not with goods produced in this country, but with goods the importation of which might be detrimental to Australian industry. According to the argument of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.” Mathews), no cheap goods of any kind, from anywhere, should be permitted to come into Australia. As for the letter of the Minister for Customs, addressed to the points raised by the Belgian Consul, it contained absolute rubbish, which reflected credit neither upon the Minister nor his Department.
– It is the Minister’s job, and our place, to see that Australia gets Australia’s trade. We are not legislating for Belgium, but against it, when it is a matter of competition with Australian industry.
– But surely we need not destroy our own country in the effort. Is there to be no limit to the prices which our people must pay for goods, while the Minister and honorable members pile on duties? Here is a circumstance which has come before me only to-day. The particulars are set out in the following letter : -
Re exchange dumping. - If this Bill goes through, it is going to seriously affect the man on the landas regards items whichwe sell, namely, fencing wire. We have a shipment to arrive in the Bardic, due here in about a week or ten days, which will costus landed, with the present rate of duty, about 20s. per ton more than the local article. But if the Dumping Bill goes through we will be penalized with an additional £4 10s. per ton.
– Does thewriter mean that he is deliberately importing with a view to injuring Australian industry?
– Of course not. When itcomes to a matter of exchange
– The honorable member mentions exchange. What country are these goods coming from?
– From Belgium.
– If we can produce the article here, it should not be imported from Belgium.
– How can we hope to develop this country if these enormous costs are to be piled on to the necessary materials for the man on the land? I have more than oncereferred to the enormous duty which has had to be paid by certain people in Western Australia upon 14-gauge wire. After Parliament had imposed rates of duty ranging from 25 per cent. to 35 per cent. I received an intimation from Western Australia that the duty alone upon a specific line of wire, for use by pastoralists, amounted to £18 per ton. Since that transaction the rates havebeen amended, and application has been made for a rebate. I only hope that, if it is granted, the retail buyers of the wire, and not the importers, will directly benefit. Many costs to-day are 300 per cent. higher than pre-war prices. What is to become of Australia? The primary producer is being driven off the land. Here is a measure which seeks to impose penalties that are altogether beyond reason. I can understand honorable members opposite, who are desirous of keeping up the cost of living, so that wages shall not come down, but I cannot appreciate the motives of the Government. The whole of their efforts in connexion with the Tariff have been in the direction of increasing the cost of living and. piling up the cost of production. The object of the amendment is to apply to paragraphs B and C the same conditions as apply to paragraph A. I cannot imagine any reason why the classes of goods specified in paragraphs B and C should be subjected to an excess dumping duty beyond the impost prescribed in paragraph A. I hope the Minister will see his way clear to accept the amendment.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is leaving a very erroneous impression upon the minds of those whom he is addressing, and the only conclusion to which I can come is that he has not grasped the real meaning of these two paragraphs. The view the honorable member has put is this : In the first place, paragraph A deals with all goods of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia those words do not occur in paragraphs B and C ; therefore those paragraphs can be applied to all classes of goods imported into Australia. That is not correct. Paragraph B applies only to those goods produced or manufactured outside Australia sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, and where detriment might thereby result to Australian industry. Therefore the goods imported, instead of being of any kind, must be such as will compete with an Australian industry. If they cannot, then paragraphs B and C cannot apply to them.
-“ Detriment to Australian industry”, is capable of wide interpretation.
– The industry must be one already in existence.
– Does the Minister wishto eliminate all competition?
– No; we want to eliminate unfair competition, which very often takes place with the deliberate intention of wiping out an Australian industry. Clearly, the . paragraph applies only to those goods coming into Australia which, when sold here contrary to the provisions of this law, may do an injury to an Australian industry. The object and intention of the Bill is to prevent unfair competition or unfair dealing to the detriment of Australian industry. I can- not accept the amendment for the reason that the general intention of paragraph B is to prevent imported goods being sold to people in Australia at prices lower than the cost of production in the country of origin. We must have that paragraph, because it is intended for that general class of cases. That is the worst kind of dumping we haveto face at the present time, and it hasalready been experienced here. That class of goods, instead of being bought and sold inAustralia,may be sent here by manufacturers abroad, and at prices lower than the cost of production in the country of origin.
– That would be with only one object, namely, to wipe out the local industry.
– Yes; and it could have only that effect! No Australian industry could produce and sell goods in competition with manufacturers abroad who were selling their products in Australia at less than the cost of production. Such competition must result in the wiping out of the industry, and the consequent creation of unemployment. The next question is, how does paragraph B meet that situation?I think it meets it very aptly. It provides that when the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry by the Tariff Board, that goods produced of manufactured outside Australia have been orare being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is. less than a reasonable price, and that detriment results, the dumping below cost duty may be imposed. What is the meaning of the dumping below cost duty ? The amount of the dumping below cost duty will be in each case a sum which represents the difference between the reasonable price of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price of the goods. Then reasonable price is defined as such price as represents the cost of production abroad, plus 20 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges.
– That is immoral.
– Honorable members seem to think we are imposing a 20 per cent. duty, whereas we are only assessing the reasonable price. If a man is manufacturing goods in, say, the United States of America, and those goods are to compete with goods of a similar kind manufactured in Australia, what is a reasonable price that, inlegitimate and fair trade, the importer should be charged in Australia?
– The cost at the factory door.
– In the United States?
– Not necessarily. Do manufacturers in the United States sell their product in their own country at the cost of production?
-Of course they do.
– The honorable member knows better than that. How long could any firm exist that sold its goods at only the cost of production?
– I know what I am talking about.The cost of production includes overhead charges.
– Assuming that it does, how long could a firm carry on that did not make a profit?
– The object of this Bill is to prevent illegitimate trading.
– Yes, and a reasonable price is defined as a price that represents the cost of production, plus 20 per cent., and plus f.o.b. charges.
– The honorable member could class all importations as illegitimate trade.
– I might as fairly say that the honorable member does notwish to see any industry established in Australia, but I would be wrong if I made such an allegation. These exaggerated statements carry us no further.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– We have to ascertain the cost of production, and that includes all charges other than profits. When goods reach Australia from America or elsewhere and are sold at the mere cost of production, they are doing an injury to Australian industry.
– What the Minister says is not consistent with the next paragraph, which says that the fair market value should be ascertained. That should include profit.
– It might or it might not, but we are now dealing with cases in which the manufacturer abroad sells his goods to an importer in Australia at the cost of production or less. When goods from abroad are being sold in this country at less than the cost of production, and in competition with Australian manufacturers, the cost of production is to be ascertained under this provision, and 20 per cent. added to it.
– How are you going to ascertain the cost of production; in a foreign country.?
– That might be obtained by cablegram from our officers abroad. The importing firm would be entitled to be heard, and its statements could be checked. I think that 20 per cent. is not an excessive amount to charge for the costs of warehousing, agency, distribution, and the like in the country of export.
– Firms which have been accused of profiteering in recent years have been making less than 20 per cent. profit.
– This is not a profit of 20 per cent. We say that when goods are imported into Australia, 20 per cent. should be added to their cost of production to allow for the expense of selling them here. We have endeavoured to arrive at a method of assessing the fair and reasonable price at the time of shipment in the case of certain goods brought here from abroad which may be placed on this market in unfair competition with Australian goods.
– Can you quote a similar provision in the law of any, other country ?
– What we are concerned with is the protection of Australian industries. The cost of production means the cost of production in the country where the goods are produced. To that are added the charges specified, plus 20 per cent. This is done to arrive at the reasonable export price, and covers the cost of warehousing, advertising, distribution, and so on in the country of export. This reasonable price having been ascertained, it is compared with the export price, and the difference between the two represents the dumping duty, which must not exceed 15 per cent.
– That 15 per cent. is over and above the duty specifically applicable by the Tariff ?
– Yes; it is an additional duty, and is necessary to equalize competition in Australia. It is to be applicable only in cases which have been before the Tariff Board, and on which the Board, after investigation, has reported to the Minister. The Board will look at these matters from a business point of view. If it finds that the importation is notdetrimental to any Australian industry,that will end the case. The essence of dumping is that the importa tion is detrimentally affecting an Australian industry.
Mr.Brennan. - There may not be an Australian industry.
– Then the provision will not apply.
– Yes, it will. The importation may result in detrimentto an Australian industry either now or at some future time, or in detriment to some future industry.
– If the possibility of immediate detriment to an industry does not exist, there is an end of the case.
– The existence of the possibility is the point.
– What interpretation will the High Court put on the provision?
– There is no need for considering that. The Tariff Board will make its report, and the Minister will act accordingly.
– The Board may be influenced to some extent by the folly of honorable members.
– We must assume that Parliaments are wise, regarding members in their corporate capacity.
– In paragraph 2 it is stated that the duty payable on goods mentioned in paragraphs A to D inclusive shall not either, severally orcollectively, exceed 15 per cent. of the value for duty of the goods as ascertained in accordance with division 2 of Part VIII. of the Customs Act 1901-1920. Does not that nullify the charging of 20 per cent. in paragraph B?
– No. The 20 per cent. is an amount added in order to ascertain the reasonable price of the goods. The dumping duty is the difference between the reasonable price and the export price, and cannot exceed 15 per cent.
.- In spite of what the Minister has said, if paragraphs B and C are carried there can be no competition with Australian industries. The method therein laid down for arriving at the reasonable price of imported goods is to take the cost of production, and to add to it 20 per cent., plus freight and other charges. Now, a business conducted on sound lines expects to prosper on a much lower profit than 20 per cent. Our object in protecting Australian manufacturers is to give them a greater share of the local market, not so that they may charge higher prices for their goods, but so that, because of the increasing of their output, they may lower their prices. We have contended all through the Tariff discussions that the local manufacturers should be able to sell at a lower price when their output increases, because the greater the output the lower the profit that is needed. There are industries in the United States of America whose turnover is so great that they can carry on with a profit of 5 or 6 per cent. on the cost of production ; and if, to ascertain the reasonable price at which their goods should be sold on this market, we add 20 per cent. to the cost of production, we assess those goods unreasonably. If we impose an additional duty of 15 per cent.on the goods of a foreign manufacturer, on the ground that he is selling them at a price detrimental to an Australian industry, when he sells them for a profit less than 20 per cent. on the cost of production, we do away with the possibility of competition. To brand as unfair competition the selling of goods made abroad at a profit of, say, 10 per cent. on the cost of production is absurd. Unless the Minister is prepared to modify his method of arriving at a reasonable price for goods imported from abroad, I shall support the amendment.
– The reasonable price is based on the cost of production in the country of export.
– I suggest that the reasonable price should be the current open market price at the port of shipment, and on the date of shipment.
– That is already provided for.
– Yes, in the Customs Act, but not here. That is the only fair definition of reasonable price, and the only one that the public will tolerate.
– We are dealing with the case of manufacturers abroad who are selling inAustralia at a lower price than the cost of production; and the test is - What is a reasonable price at the time of shipment in the foreign country, as compared withthe export price?
Mr.Richard Foster.- Are you not satisfied with the current open-market rate?
– There may not be a current open-market rate.
– Of course, there will be!
– There may or may not be.
.-I do not rise for the purpose of throwing any light on the subject, because I am quite in the dark regarding it. The question is a very involved one, and even after hearing the informative and instructive speeches of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), I am still somewhat without light. I may apply, however, an argument or instance which, though it has nothing to do with the Bill, will illustrate my point. In the early days of this Parliament, when we were in the throes of the controversy, white versus black labour, we passed a Bill which provided for the application of a language test. That test, I may say, was not for the purpose of letting people into Australia, but for the purpose of keeping people out. Now, what is the object of this Bill ?
– To prevent dumping in Australia to the detriment of Australian industries.
– What is such a Bill for but to prevent dumping? The language test to which I have referred was designed to prevent certain persons from coming to Australia; in the resolution now before the Committee the same principle applies, but refers to goods instead of to people. No person will bring goods here under the provisions of an effective Bill of this kind, because there will be no profit in doing so; and I ask the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) how he can pretend to be logical when he contends for low duties in order to prevent dumping ?
– I do not do anything of the kind!
– If we desire to pre vent dumping we must make this Bill so stringent and effective that no dumping will take place; and to advocate low duties with that object seems absurd; the higher the duties the more likely are they to prevent dumping.
– The Government pro posals only apply to specified articles.
-They apply only to commodities which compete with Australian industries to their detriment. The argument has been usedby honorable members opposite that this Billwill prevent inside competition ; but dumping will also kill all inside competition. There was a good deal of discussion on the timber duties when the Tariff was before us. It was said that timber is being dumped here, and the Herald published a picture of a ship at some port which was said to have brought to Australia some 3,000,000 feet. That, I suppose, would be called dumping; but if honorable members look at the figures showing the timber importations two years prior to the war and since the war, they will find that the average is very much the same. I have looked into the question so far as timber is concerned, because my constituents axe very much interested in the industry, and I desireto be able to show them that dumping is not so extensive as they generally suppose. I am sure that what I say will appeal to honorable members as a common-sense contribution to this debate. If we desire to stop dumping, this measure must be stringent enough to do so, for otherwise it is absurd.
– I wonder what would happen to Australia if Great Britain passed at similar measure to that now before us. No country in the world dumps so much of its wares as does Australia. We send practically the whole of our produce abroad, and sell it for what it will fetch in the open markets.
– We have dumped it for about half the price we gave for it!
– I have known Australian fruit to sell in England for less than the price paid for it here. There is, at present, an Imperial Conference being held, one of the objects of whichis to build up Empire trade. Every day there is much space in the newspapers devoted to what is happening in England, where our worthy representative is trying to induce the people of the Empire to trade in the Empire, and the Empire alone.
-That does not suggest dumping.
-It does; if Great Britain passed a similar Bill to this it would have a very seriouseffect indeed on the export trade of Australia in an ordinary year. In my opinion, we are attempting; in this Bill, to do the impossible. The. Minister for Trade and Customs. (Mr. Greene), when dealing with the Tariff and, kindredmeasures, made a great point of the cost of production in the country of origin. In the case of any particular line of goods from, say, France, Belgium, the United States of America, or Canada, there will, according, to the Government’s proposals, be a Tariff Board in Melbourne, and a Minister, who are supposed to ascertain in a reasonable time what is the reasonable cost of production of the commodity in these differentcountries. Honorable members may have read some information written by Jack London in connexion with the f ruit industry in San Francisco and lower California generally. He there points out that the, Dalmatians, Italians, and, to a lesser extent , the Portuguese, are disregarding the labour laws of the United. States ofAmerica by means of a system which, I am given to understand, is being introducedto a smaller degree in Australia. Under that system there are no wages men at all, all work being done on the share principle; and Jack London says that we are making a great mistake when we think that the fruit industry there is monopolized by the Japanese and Chinese; on the contrary, the Dalmatians, the Italians, and the Portuguese largely have a monopoly, and are driving Daniel O’Connell’s proverbial “ coach and four “ through the labour laws as they affect wages and conditions.
– Of what year is the honorable member speaking?
-Iam speaking of some two years and a half ago.
– There are similar examples in Australia.
– As I say,I believe that to a lesser extent the principle is acted, upon here. One of the effects of this Bill will be to further enhance the inflated currencies of the United States of America and Japan, and still further depreciate the currencies of France, Italy, and Belgium. No matter what the object may be, if a country is told that it must state the actual value of its goods, it becomes absolutely impossible to trade, and that will be the result in the case of France, Italy, and Belgium, as the hon- orable memberfor Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has so clearly shown. It isno duty of this Parliament to deal with the currenciesof foreign nations; and we oughtto be exceedingly careful notto pass legislation -with the effect that has been pointed out. This Bill will .practically throw the whole of the trade of Australia, outside the Empire into the market!; of the United States of America and Japan, with the result of enhancing their inflated currencies, and preventing Italy, Belgium, and France from appreciating their currencies in the only possible way, -namely, by means of trade.
– We have to consider Australia, and not other countries; that is what we are sent here to do*
– The honorable member is all for Australian industries, und. so far as he is concerned, every other country can go hang !
– Hear, hear !
– I do not think that this Bill will carry out the desires of the honorable member.
– i was sent here to look after Australian industries.
– i am glad to ascertain why the honorably member was sent here. I know that ever since he came he has never been able to extend his vision beyond the factories’ of Melbourne Ports. However, when i asked the Minister, by way of interjection, how it would be possible to discover the reasonable cost of production in foreign countries, his reply was, “ We have agencies.” Just fancy a Tariff Board sitting in Australia, dealing with any particular commodity which may have been dumped, or supposed to have been clumped, and setting their agencies in France, Belgium, Italy, the United States of America, and Canada to. work to discover what is the reasonable cost of production in those countries. When the cost of production in one country has been ascertained, who is going to say what is a reasonable cost in another? If it is the intention of the Board to endeavour to do what is suggested, they will be in an impossible position. If those controlling the Steel Trust of America set out to destroy the iron and steel industry in Australia, is it to be thought that a comparatively light imposition on a. few shipin ents would affect that .corporation in the slightest degree? The honorable member for South Sydney- (Mi-. Riley) said that the American Steel Trust is” already dumping steel fails in Australia, and if that corporation is going to make it its business to capture the Austraiian market the provisions of this measure will not have the slightest effect upon it. What would the extra duties he to such a corporation as the American Steel Trust? I have said on many occasions that if it can be shown that any company, corporation, or individual is endeavouring to sell goods in Australia with the deliberate object of ruining an Australian industry I would not only support high duties, but would entirely exclude their products. The honorable member for South Sydney has said that the Steel Trust has made up its mind to dump steel rails in Australia.
– I said steel parts.
– God knows, the American Steel Trust is one concerning which much cannot be said in its favour, but supposing those who are controlling it decided to do as I have said, what power will -we have over it?
– Why does the honorable member object to the Bill? The “Board will only investigate the questions submitted to it.
– My objection is that it is impossible to do as is desired. The Government are appointing a Tariff Board consisting of three mcn,- and expect it to gauge the position in all the industries of the world, so far as their exports to Australia are concerned.
– Only in connexion with the specific matters brought before them.
– The moment the Board is appointed requests will be made by persons or companies who consider that dumping is taking place. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has asked why I object to the Bill. I am opposing it because it will be impossible to secure information concerning the reasonable cost of production of goods coming into Australia from all over the world. In connexion with the question of steel rails we have to remember that Belgium is a producer, and it will not be long before Germany will be exporting to Australia, because the insane practice of allowing German manufactures to come through America and Great Britain will not last very long. Mr. Ryan. - Why does the honorable member allow the- practice to continue?
– I would not allow it to last very long if I had my way.
– The party to which the honorable member belongs has the power. Why not use it?
– Imagine a Tariff Board sitting in Melbourne endeavouring to ascertain the cost of producing steel rails in France, Belgium, Germany,the United States of America, Canada, and Great Britain. By the time that information was received it would not be worth presenting to this Parliament. Before half of the essential details had been received requests would be forthcoming concerning the cost of production of other articles. We are asking men to perform an impossible task, and whilst I am quite in favour of absolutely prohibiting the importation of any article exported to the Commonwealth with the deliberate intention of destroying an Australian industry, I cannot see how the provisions of this measure can possibly be effective.
– The honorable member would not make the intention the test?
– No. This measure will not give the Minister the power he is seeking, but will build up an. interminable amount of trouble and turmoil. It will place the whole of the manufacturing industries of Australia in the hands of the gentleman who may happen to be, for the time being, Minister for Trade and Customs. It will place at the disposal of the Minister a weapon which he should not be allowed to use, and which, if used, will cause the people, in the very near future, to regret the passing of such legislation. At the same time it will not prevent dumping. The penalties provided in paragraph B will not prevent any of the great Trusts and Combines of the world from attempting to capture an industry here if they think it worth while to make the attempt.
.- Although I do not expect that the observations I am about to offer will have the desired effect of curing the narroweyed squint which the Government appear to be giving to this very important question, I feel it my duty to deal briefly with it. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) appeared to have some anxiety as to the difficulty of ascertaining the cost of production in any country other than our own. Surely such anxious doubts” on his part are little less than an affront to theomniscient Minister (Mr. Greene) who controls the destinies of the Customs House, and who, just for the moment, has breathed omniscience into his subordinate now at the table. Surely it would be utterly wrong to suggest that one who has at his fingers’ ends all the details of the intricate ramifications of production in Australia is limited by the narrow confines of Australia’s shores in knowledge of the details of production of any article. We must assume in favour of the Minister that, having sent a cable gram to Australia House, and having had the good luck, perhaps, to send it direct to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), now in England, he would receive an answer, also by cable, showing at once what is the cost of production of any article in any country. We havejust passed what some people describe as a fairly high Tariff. In some particulars, others say that it is not sufficiently high, buton the whole it is claimed by a large majority of honorable members that it is an effective Tariff. We have dealt very industriously with the schedule from end to end, but, just when we thought we had finished with it, we find that we have to begin afresh. In this proposal we have Tariff piled on Tariff. It is a new Tariff superimposed on the old or, if I may paraphrase the words of Tennyson, “ Tax piled on tax were all too little” By means of what is known as an anti-dumping motion we have designed a Tariff, not for the protection ‘of Australian industries, because that already has been dealt with - not to prevent undue competition by cheap labour of other countries against our workers of Australia, because that, too, has been provided for, but to do something more. And in that process some think, and I share their view, that in many instances we have inordinately increased the burdens of the people, and especially of the poor. Whether that is so or not I suggest that paragraph B of the motion as it stands, in effect, is merely designed to make sure that whether the Tariff does or does not increase the cost of living no low-priced commodity shall be sold in Australia. It is designed to prevent commodities at low prices reaching the people who are crying out against the high cost of living. Let me read the paragraph -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board- and I may here interpolate that .the Minister is the final arbiter, and may regard or disregard the findings, of the Tariff Board- that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia, have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry-
I pause because we have here the first of the many vague phrases in this paragraph - ‘ ‘ Detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry.” In the general discussion on the Tariff we, at least, had the advantage of having in our minds definite industries and sets of definite conditions - wages, prices, and so on - and it has been said that some of us have been unduly influenced by lobbyists and interested persons outside. I do not plead guilty to that, because I think it is the duty of the Committee to derive all the information it can from those who are operating these various industries. In this particular paragraph we are handing the Minister a blank cheque to deal with industries generally. We are inviting him to operate the paragraph in cases where the price may operate to the detriment of an Australian industry at some future time in regard to some unnamed Australian industry which may not then be actually in existence, and possibly may not even be in contemplation. . . a dumping below cost duty on those goods imported into Australia, which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as ‘being goods as to which he is so satisfied, the amount of the dumping below cost duty being in each case the sum which represents the difference between a reasonable price of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price of the goods. In this paragraph “a reasonable price” means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods, plus 20 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges.
This part of the clause imposes on the Minister the necessity of exchanging a number of cables with some representative in England or abroad, or calling upon the consular representative in Australia to determine, perhaps in a few hours or a few days, the intricate ques- tion of the cost’ of production of articles made abroad. The clause insists upon a profit of 20 per cent. Now, we have been railing for some years against profiteering, but in this clause, so far as it relates to goods sold but not manufactured here, there is provision for a profit of an amount which, as I said by interjection, might well be regarded as unconscionable under the Money Lenders Act. It has been shown, and rightly shown, that a profit considerably below 20 per cent, might secure to the exporter a just and fair return, while the public will get a commodity at a reasonable price, with the knowledge that it is adequately protected; and so we may, therefore, form some idea of what, apparently, is the object of the Government, namely, boosting up prices. The paragraph goes on to state -
In the absence of satisfactory evidence in relation thereto, the cost of production to be such amount as the Minister thinks fit to fix, after report by the Tariff Board as the cost of production.
After the Tariff Board has reported, and after several cable messages have been exchanged with the High Commissioner in London, the Minister might be as blankly ignorant as a Chinese coolie as to the cost of production of an article. Nevertheless^ he will be entitled to say, ‘ For the purpose of my resolution, I de clare this amount to be the cost of production.” I have not lent any measure of appreciable support to the Deputy Leader of the Country party in his Tariff campaign, but in connexion with this proposal, at all events, he can rely upon my vote, because it is perfectly clear to me that we are running riot, or proposing to do so, under the delusion that we are protecting Australian industries, when, in truth and.in fact, we are doing nothing more than boosting up Australian prices.
– Assuming that the arguments of the Minister are right, he is still in an untenable position. How, in the name of conscience, can the Customs Department ascertain the cost of production in a factory in Japan or America? It is utterly impossible. The Department has no power to do that. I should like to know why the Minister did not accept the position as set out in the Customs Act and take “ fair market value” as a basis. The Minister cannot mention one single instance anywhere of a Tariff placing a further impediment to the importation of an article, as is here proposed. He should accept the recognised principle, as contained in the Customs Act, namely, the market rate at the port of shipment and on the date of shipment. That is as far as the Department should go. I am going to fight the motion paragraph by paragraph, and if we cannot get the principle to which I object struck out, I intend to oppose the Bill, which will cause a greater storm throughout the country than the Tariff, which itself will open the eyes of the people when they realize whatit really means.
– I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, sofar as members of the House of Representatives are concerned, have leave to sit during the sittings of the House.
A similar resolution has been agreed to in another place. The desire is that this joint permanent Committee shall have authority to sit during the forthcoming period when this Chamber will be in recess, but while another place is continuing its deliberations.
. -Why have not the Government placed before the Public Works Committee a proposition which has been before Cabinet for some months? I refer to the building of a hostel and conference hall at Canberra. The Government should give a definite promise in respect of these works. The Federal Capital Board has reported, and its report is in the hands of the Government. What is the reason for this delay? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), before he left for England, gave a definite promise to Parliament that the works at Canberra would be pushed ahead. It was for the purpose of ascertaining the reason for delay that I left Sydney to attend this week’s sittings of theHouse.
– I mentioned, last week, that Cabinet expects to have the complete report of the Board this week. I am anxious for Cabinet toconsider the matter as a whole, and that consideration will soon be given.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provision of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work : -Erection of Ordnance and other Defence Buildings at Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland - which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee, and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries.
These proposed works are associated with the activities of the Defence Department. I explained them in detail when the original reference to the Public Works Committee was proposed. The Committee has investigated and tendered its report. It has approved of the site for the ordnance buildings, and has made minor recommendations, which will certainly receive consideration. The total sum involved amounts to £53,041. In brief, the Committee recommends that the provision of the required buildings at Kelvin Grove be proceeded with, and the Defence Department is anxious that the work be put in hand.
.- The question of proceeding with activities at Canberra is of considerably more importance than that of the construction of ordnance sheds near Brisbane. The Government have continually “side-stepped” references to Canberra. I press upon the Minister the fairness and necessity of furnishing honorable members with a frank statement. I have been asking various Ministers questions concerning Canberra for four years, but the policy of the Government seems to be directed towards “sidetracking” all inquiries. Practically nothing has been done at the Federal Capital during the past four years.
– That is not correct.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing the Federal Capital at this stage.
– I shall vote against the motion unless the Minister undertakes to furnish a definite assurance that the Government really intend to proceed with activities at Canberra. Perhaps the Government have decided upon a policy of evasion; but they cannot continue to fool honorable members with promises.
– The Government ought not to introduce items of new expenditure at this stage..
– This is not a new item. The proposed expenditure appeared in the Estimates last year, and the money has been authorized under an appropriation measure. The Public Works Committee was instructed to inquire, and it has reported.
.- I ask the Minister to withdraw the motion. The President of the United States of America has just issued invitations to a. Conference of the nations with a view to bringing about general disarmament. In face of that fact, here is a proposal to spend a. large sum of money upon the erection of military buildings in Australia. That is not necessary until we know the result of the important conference which is shortly to be held at Washington. The proposed buildings are not required at the present time. We played our part throughout the war without these ordnance stores. Now when there is a likelihood of peace continuing for some years, the Minister comes along and incites us to expend money upon their erection. We ought to hold our hands until we know the results of the Disarmament Conference which will shortly be held in Washington. If I were a member of the Country party I should oppose the motion upon the ground of economy.
– As a matter of fact, this work will result in economy.
– Suppose that the Washington Conference should prove a success, and that, as a result, we decided to curtail our defence expenditure, should we proceed with the erection of these stores? In six months we shall know whether the Conference has been successful or otherwise. Personally, I shall vote against the proposed expenditure
.- I did not visit Brisbane with the members of the Public Works Committee, and consequently had not an opportunity of judging the merits of the site for the proposed stores. But I carefully read the evidence upon which the report of the Committee was based, Of course, it is not the function of the Committee- td con sider questions of public policy. That is a matter for Parliament to decide.. The Committee have merely to investigate the cases referred to it, and upon the evidence adduced, to formulate its report. In this instance we found that the Defence Department was utilizing an enormous number of buildings for storing its supplies. Stores were being kept in drill halls which were scattered all over the place. I am quite satisfied’ that, in the absence of proper storage buildings, the losses incurred must be enormous. Whilst our laws remain as they are, it is essential that in each capital there should be stores erected for the proper storing of goods purchased for military purposes. It would not be economic to refuse to sanction the erection of these buildings, seeing thattheir construction will result in a general saving to the Department.
.- I move-
That the consideration of this motion be postponed until after a motion dea’lirig with the proposed works- at Canberra shall have been submitted to theHouse.
Unless, we can get a definite assurance that the works at Canberra will be submitted to the House before it rises at the close of the present week, I shall not vote for any of the works proposals which appear upon the business-paper. After the months which have passed since’ a promise was made’ in this connexion, we have a right to- expect a definite announcement from Ministers as- to” when1 the works at Canberra will be submitted for our approval. There* have been months of delay when- there ought not to have been weeks; and if we allow’ the House to rise without our being afforded an opportunity of considering the matter, those works will be postponed for another three or four, and, possibly, for six months. Until the members whose constituents are concerned in this question take a definite stand, the great Public Service in Victoria, which is blocking these works at every stage, will prevent us doing anything, at all.
– I would point out to the honorable member that part of his amendment is unacceptable, inasmuch as there is nc motion on the businesspapei? in regard, to works at Canberra. It seems to me that he can better achieve the object which he has in view by moving the adjournment of the debate.
– That would not achieve my object at all. I desire to get a statement from the Minister in regard to the matter with which I am chiefly concerned.
– It would be equally improper for the Minister to make a statement that is not relevant to the motion which is before the Chair.
– Then I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The honorable member must understand that there can be no debate on a motion to adjourn the debate; therefore, the Minister will be unable to speak.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House donow adjourn.
– On the 2nd June I asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) a question regarding the number of architects, engineers, surveyors, draughtsmen, clerks of works, and clerks engaged on Federal Capital work in the Departments of Home and Territories and Works and Railways, and at Canberra; also their names, status, present salaries with allowances, and the countries of their birth. On the 13th July, I repeated the question, and added -
My information is that the cost of super vision is about 30 per cent. Will the honorable gentleman have the promised reply obtained, giving the facts as on the date of the asking of the question?
– The information in regard to the cost of supervision has not yet been obtained, but the other information I placed before the honorable member as quickly as possible.
– From the Department of Home and Territories I have always had a difficulty in getting information, and a late member of this House (Mr. Kelly) once pointed out to me how I had been deceived in regard to the answer to a certain question. I think that instructions were issued, at my request, by Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister, that the questions should always be quoted with the answer, so that the latter would be more easily understood by the inquiring member. I was looking through the reply supplied by the Minister, in order to see if any of the information could be omitted from Hansard, and thus save the expense of printing, but I was unable to come to a decision until the Minister courteously turned up the original question in Hansard. I asked for information in regard to the architects, engineers, surveyors, &c., and I wanted those particulars, and not merely the particulars which it suited the Department to supply. I desired to get the name of everybody who drew a salary in connexion with Federal Capital work.
– Does the honorable membermean men exclusively or incidentally employed in doing Federal Capital work? For instance, the Chief Architect might incidentally do certain work on a plan.
– In regard to work which occupied only a few minutes, I am not concerned ; but if I asked for the names of the men employed on a certain building I would expect to be given the names of everybody, from the architect to the stonemason. In regard to the country of birth, I did not object to Great Britain being shown repeatedly, but I would have preferred that in each case the return had shown whether the country was actually England, Scotland, or Wales. It happened, however, that in respect of one man (Murphy), who, like myself, bears an Irish name, the return showed the country of birth as Ireland. That is surely, to use a colloquialism, “ rubbing it in.” Let the return show whether the country of birth is England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Germany, or Italy. The courtesy of the Minister for Works and Railways in this matter has been extreme, and for that I thank him. I ask him if he will endeavour to complete the answer which has been furnished to me?
– Does the honorable member desire the name of every man who did any work in connexion with the Federal Capital ?’
– I desire the names of all such men who draw salaries, their countries of origin, and the amount of each salary.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster- General (Mr. Wise) the almost indescribable confusion into which business in the Sydney metropolitan area is being thrown by the failure of the Department to supply an efficient telephone service. It was admitted today, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden), that there are more than 4,000 applications for telephone connexion with the various metropolitan exchanges in the Sydney area that the Department is unable to supply to-day. That, in itself, is an exceedingly serious matter. It means that 4,000 people, presumably most of them business people, are unable to obtain an adjunct that is necessary to the efficient conduct of their business. Some of these people have been “ waiting for more than twelve months to secure connexion. One mail in one of the suburbs has been waiting for fourteen months for a connexion, and when I made inquiries in his behalf, I was told that it was highly improbable that he would be connected within four or five months from now. We are told that this condition of affairs is entirely due to the circumstances brought about by the war. How far that is true, and how far it is due to the failure of the Government to obtain supplies during war time, are questions in regard to which we could get very interesting evidence if an inquiry were instituted. It is one of the shocking examples of this miscalled policy of economy, that fs so popular in Melbourne, and is so much of a handicap to other parts of the Commonwealth in the conduct of the work of the community. We had examples of the practice of economy in the Department in Sydney. The Department wished to purchase a large quantity of telephones and equipment, but the necessary money was refused. Later, when the PostmasterGeneral wished to spend another £500,000 on the services the amount was struck off the draft Estimates, and the policy was pursued for a number of years during the war of cutting down the Estimates to such an extent that it is now impossible to start a new business in the Sydney metropolitan area in competition with an existing business because of the handicap placed on the new business by the utter failure of the telephone system. As to provision for the future, when it was proposed to establish an automatic exchange, the departmental officers asked for an exchange capable of dealing with 5,000 subscribers. Here, again, the great Economy party interfered, and cut down the estimate by half. The exchange was started as one capable of handling 2,500, services. I am not quite sure as to the number it is now able to handle, but it is not more than 3,500, and it may be only 3,000. On the day on which the exchange was opened there were more applications for connexion than the exchange could cope with. One would think, in the face of this experience, that’ immediate steps would be taken to provide for new exchanges. I understand that authority has been given to extend the North exchange to 5,000 wires. If that is so it will take some time to do. At the rate at which buildings are put up under the Federal Public Works Department, it will probably take a couple of years. If the exchange were opened to-day, it would be unable to accommodate a number of people who wish to get connexion with it, but if it is not completed for another year or two there will be another year or two’s accumulation of applications. Years ago a site was secured to establish an exchange to be known as South. That block, is there to-day, but when some inquiries were made about it recently we were informed that the Department has not yet made up its mind whether it is going to build on that block or not, and apparently nothing is being done to meet the requirements of this rapidly growing city. When I mention that in my electorate the population has almost doubled within ten years, and that the great suburbs outside Sydney are growing so’ rapidly that even with the greatest forethought their requirements “are difficult to meet, one wonders what will be the condition of the metropolis of- Sydney within the next four or five years if the policy of half measures is allowed to continue much longer. I hope some effort will be made to get the new exchange started, and many of the suburban exchanges enlarged. There are cases in the metropolis within 5 or 6 miles of Sydney, where if a man moves from one street to another in the same municipality he is kept waiting- thirteen weeks, and frequently he has to wait three or four weeks before he can get his own telephone transferred from one address to another. The whole service on its developmental side appears to have broken down. - I hope an effort -will be made to put some energy into the officers who are charged with the duty of looking after the future of the city. Nearly £20,000 is waiting to come into the Department for telephone services, and the Department is unable to take the business. The position is deplorable. Unfortunately it is not confined to Sydney, but I speak of Sydney because it is, perhaps, growing more rapidly than any other city, and it is further behind because of the repeated reductions of the expenditure which the officers of the Department have from time to time declared to be necessary. The very men who made the recommendations, not this year .or last year, but many years ago, for extended and adequate service, are the men who to-day are being blamed because that service is not there, while the fault lies with those who refused to provide sufficient money to enable the work to be done, and who, when the opportunity is given to purchase material at a reasonable price, decline to provide the money, and subsequently find that other people have been more shrewd and have obtained the material which ought to have been used in the development oT the Sydney exchanges. I emphasize the necessity of immediately proceeding with the South exchange, and of considerably accelerating the rate of speed of completion of the North exchange, as well as extending many of the suburban exchanges that today are overloaded.
.- I rise to ask the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) what the intention of the Government is regarding the order of business for to-morrow and the balance or the week ?
– The Anti -Dumping; Bill. / S
– When are we likely to hear the statement of the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) regarding War Service Homes?
– I want, at the earliest moment, when the Anti-Dumping Bill is out of the way, to bring down a Supply Bill, and then the Minister will immediately make his statement on the War Service Homes.
– It would convenience honorable members if the Acting Prime Minister would get on with the contentious matters as soon as possible, and postpone a non-contentious matter like anti-dumping till later. We had an illustration this evening of a member sitting behind the Government holding up his little finger, and the Government crumbling before it. Immediately 4ie spoke everything was adjourned and put off. The threat was held out to the Government that unless they made a statement on the question of Canberra they would be allowed to do no other business. That was a plain threat, and the Government collapsed in front of it.
– Every honorable member can do what he thinks he ought to do. We cannot stop him. It is a case of “ rights, rights, rights.”
– I quite understand that, but it is as well for us to know where we are. Some important public works are listed on the notice-paper. There is one in the name of the PostmasterGeneral for the construction of a trunk telephone line from Brisbane t”> Sydney.
– And another from Sydney to Melbourne, but we were told by a New South Wales member to-night that they would be held up till the Canberra business was settled.
– I should like to see these things gone on with, but at the same time I understand the reasonableness of asking for a definite pronouncement in regard to Canberra. In that respect I am with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that, a definite statement should be made, without any backing and filling, so that we may know exactly where we are. It is obvious that a Government supporter is of the opinion that the Government behind which he sits is not candid about the matter.. Otherwise a method such as has been adopted this evening would never havebeen taken. It was one of the most drastic steps I have seen taken in my experience of Parliament, and the collapse of the Government was as complete as any collapse I have ever seen. I hope the Government will make some definite pro»nouncement on Canberra at the earliest moment, so as to save us from the shock of the sudden jerks that we sometimes get at the time the Home is about to adjourn, and so that a large number of the public who are anxious to have a statement on the subject may be satisfied.
– I agree with the complaint of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that there are. a large number of people throughout Australia waiting for telephonic service. It is useless now to discuss whether it was a wise or unwise policy to starve the Department, as the honorable member phrases it, during the years of the war. We have to deal now with the present situation. I told the House in November last that almost immediately after I took office the Treasurer gave me authority at once to call for tenders for a large amount of works. He gaveus about £900,000 last year for those works, and in order that the matter might be expedited, he gave us permission to anticipate this year’s vote to the extent of another £900,000, so that we could get the orders out during last year, and they would be coming to hand during the present year. In November of last year we had £1,130,000 worth of orders out. At that time we had orders for 636 miles of cable, 19,354 miles of wire, and 45,628 telephone instruments for all Australia, besides a large quantity of accessories and other material, but none of this could be got for same time. I think the first delivery of telephone instruments under the contract was in May last. Theyhave been coming to hand reasonably well ever since, and the supply is well up tocontract time. There are in Sydney and its suburbs about 1,000 subscribers who are only waiting for instruments, and these will be supplied within the next two or three weeks, There are others who are waiting for cable wire and other material, as well as instruments, and their cases will be dealt with as soon as possible. The Department is anxious tohave these subscribers, because the telephonic service is a good business proposition; but we cannot make bricks without straw. I explained last year that owing to the great demand for telephonic material in other parts of the world, and in places near to where it is manufactured, none of the tenderers would bind themselves to supply us within any particular time. All we could do was to try to expedite orders as much as possible. Material has been coming to hand, and during the next few months is likely to come more rapidly. The commercial men of Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne have appealed urgently for the erection of an additional trunk telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, and for a trunk telephone line between Sydney and Brisbane, there being none now. Both proposals were referred to the Public Works Committee for report, and had not the business of the House been held up to-night we would have endeavoured to obtain the necessary parliamentary sanction for them before the House rose, but we were told by the honorablemember for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) - a New South Wales member - that he would oppose all these proposals until he had obtained a satisfactory explanation about Canberra.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210719_reps_8_96/>.