8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– When we were dis cussing the limited agenda-paper for the
Washington Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised that he would tell the House later what instructions would be given to the Australian delegate at Washington, and how he would act. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to do that now?
– What I said, so far as I can recall it, is that I would take an opportunity of discussing the matter of instructions with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party, and that if there were a difference of opinion between us I would have to take the responsibility of acting for myself, or would submit to Parliament the matter in dispute. So far, no instructions of any sort or kind, either in writing or viva voce, have been given.
– Has the right honorable gentleman discussed matters with the leaders of the other panties in the House?
– No instructions whatever have been given.
– Then, has Senator Pearce a free hand?
– Absolutely Senator Pearce is a citizen of this country, who knows well the feeling of its people, having been a member of this Legislature for twenty years continuously. If honorable members desire that he shall receive instructions, let them state what they wish to instruct him about, and we can have a discussion on the subject.
Mr.RILEY. - How do we know that Senator Pearce will represent the wishes of this country in regard to disarmament, seeing that as Minister for Defence he has prepared large estimates of expenditure for armaments duringthe coming year? What guarantee have we that he is prepared to advocate a policy of disarmament?
-The question is almost metaphysical in its subtlety, and at this hour of the morning, after my labours of the past few days, I do not feel capable of answering it.
– When we were discussing the duties on cotton goods, I suggested to the Minister that he should consider the advisability of proposing a bounty for the production of cotton, and he promised to do so. Has any decision been arrived at?
– I presume that the honorable member speaks of the encouraging of cotton growing, not of the manufacture of cotton goods.
– The encouragement of cotton growing.
– The Commonwealth Government is pledged to pay a certain price - I forget for the moment the exact amount -for all cotton grown in the Commonwealth; but since it entered into this guarantee the organization for the encouragement of the production of cotton within the British Empire, which has its head-quarters in Great Britain, has guaranteed ‘ a still higher price, and, consequently, our offer lis for the time being inoperative, and no action is required to be taken by this Parliament at the present time. We are Avatching the position closely, and as it is the desire of the Government to encourage the growing of cotton in Australia, we shall take such action as the circumstances may warrant.
– Since a deputation recently waited on him in connexion with the sugar industry, has the Prime Minister come to any decision on the matters put before him then; or can he give us any information as to the intentions of the Government?
– No action will be taken by the Government without the fullest opportunity being given to the House to consider and discuss the matters referred to. A deputation, consisting of the honorable member, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), Senator Crawford, Senator Glasgow, and others, waited on me last week, and the same gentlemen have seen me on other occasions ; and I have promised that if and when the Government contemplates dealing with the sugarquestion, or considers that circumstances demand further action, it will consult the members of this Parliament who are directly interested before it formulates its policy. The honorable member may accept my assurance that that will be done. At the present time, these matters have not received the consideration of the Government; but probably some time next year they may require attention. Until then, nothing will be done.
– I ask the Minister in charge of tne War Service Homes Commission whether complete arrangements have yet been made for the building of homes in Western Australia, more particularly in the country districts of that State?
– Yesterday, I had an opportunity of conferring with the Premier of Western Australia on the subject, and of concluding final arrangements with his Government for the completion of our programme in that State. An agreement embodying the terms arrived at will be prepared and laid on the table in due course. Next week, I propose to make a statement concerning the affairs of the Department, and shall then deal more fully with this matter.
– I wish, with the permission of honorable members, to mention a matter upon which I desire the opinion of the House - an offer made on behalf of the French proprietors of land in the New Hebrides to sell their interests for a sum of money amounting to £500,000; and the option expires almost immediately.
– Shall we have an opportunity of discussing the matter ? ls the right honorable’ gentleman making a statementby leave, or is he going to move a motion?
– I am not aware whether the Prime Minister intends to conclude with a motion. If he wishes to make a statement, it will be necessary to get the leave of the House.
– If I did not mention the matter now, I might be open to censure, because it might be said that I had deprived Parliament of the opportunity to accept the offer. Honorable members know that the conditions under the Condominium are very unsatisfactory. The acceptance of this offer would place all the land in the New Hebrides under the control of British holders. Perhaps I had better lay on the table a paper which I have here giving a summary of the proposal.
– How long has the right honorable gentleman had the option?
– I could not say; but a long time. I am against the acceptance of the proposal horse, foot, and artillery; but I am only one member of the House, and honorable members may do as they please concerning it. The offer was made when I was in London, and I had the option extended.
– Until what date?
– From memory, I cannot give the date. It is stated in the paper which I propose to lay on the table that the New Hebrides Company say that, failing immediate acceptance, they must deal elsewhere. I do not know that we are really concerned in the matter as a Government; but, as the offer has been made to me, I put it before Parliament, so that honorable members can share the responsibility of dealing with it. I now lay the paper on the table.
– Why not read it, so that we may know what the offer is?
– The statement with which I am furnished is as follows : -
Australia’s Interests in Newhebrides.
Since 1902 the Commonwealth Government has spent approximately £134,000 in New Hebrides - £22,000 for assistance to settlers in preparing land claims, £4,000 in refund of Customs duties, and about £108,000 on a steamer service.
Australia naturally gets the bulk of the export trade as a result of this latter expenditure.
Our main interest, however, lies in the fact that the natives of New Hebrides are decreasing, and labour must be imported. The French own the bulk of the land, and it is understood are anxious to import Asiatic labour. The presence of any considerable number of Asiatics so near Australia, especially as we pursue a policy of exclusion in our own island territories, would be embarrassing and possibly dangerous.
The French own 600,000 hectares out of a total of 1,200,000 hectares of land. The natives own about 522,000 hectares.
A French company known as the Societe Francaise des Nouvelles Hebrides is the owner of the 600,000 hectares above mentioned, and in addition has been granted trading concessions in the group. The company is willing to sell its property and trading concessions for 25,000,000 francs (about £500,000). All the bases and ports except Port Olry form part of the company’s land, and are susceptible of exclusive private ownership with unrestricted sea rights.
The possibility of the sale to British interests has been disclosed to the French Government, and it is stated that the transaction will meet with no objection on their part.
On this point I cannot speak officially.
The purchase of this property by British interests would reverse the present position so far as dominant land ownership in the group is concerned, and such would pass from French to British control.
It is understood that Japan is pressing the sellers for an offer failing Australian acceptance.
On the 13th October a cable was received making an I offer to arrange payment by bonds maturing over five years - 7,000,000 francs maturing the first year, 3,000,000 the second year, 5,000,000 each of the three following years - bonds for full amount being deposited at time of purchase and maturing accordingly. It was added that if this offer did not suit, an endeavour to meet Commonwealth wishes would be made; but payment in francs was insisted on, or if in another currency in cash or security for which francs could be obtained now, in order to avoid possible loss of present advantageous exchange, which naturally greatly reduces the cost in sterling.
On the 21st October a cable . was received stating that the company was holding a general meeting on the 27th October, and would greatly appreciate any information available before that date. No reply to this cable has been made. A further cable in the following terms was received on 1st instant: - “New Hebrides Company state that failing immediate acceptance they must deal elsewhere. Please telegraph. Private American now trying to negotiate.”
– What opportunity will we have to discuss this offer?
– The House can have the whole of the day to discuss it. I want only to say that I am not in favour of the proposal, for the reason that I do not think that we could get a secure title to a great deal of the land.
– This matter has been brought before us at the last moment. The Prime Minister tells us that it is urgent ; but unless he moves that the paper be printed we shall not have an opportunity to discuss it.
– The House can discuss it to-day, and if it agrees that we ought to buy the land we can do so.
– I do not think we can agree to that, but we ought to have time to discuss the proposal. Will the Prime Minister move that the paper be printed ?
– Yes. The House may discuss the question to-day, but I am afraid I shall not be here, because I haveto attend the Premiers’ Conference. The reason why I am opposed to the acceptance of the offer is that I do not think the purchase of the land would place us in the position suggested in the paper. Even if it would, whether the land itself is worth the money is a matter on which I am not able to express an opinion. I do not know the land. I know, however, that the Condominium, which it is proposed to continue, is most unsatisfactory. I shall make available all the information I hare.
– It is wrong that this offer should be thrown at the House at the eleventh hour.
– The matter was brought under my notice when I was in England, and I obtained an extension of the option in order that Parliament might have an opportunity to express an opinion ‘about it. I sent out a cable-
– Does this offer cover the whole of the French interest in the Island?
– I think so. In the paper I have read it is stated that the French own 600,000 hectares, and that is the area which this French ‘company is prepared to sell to us.
– But even if we did acquire in. this way the whole of the French interest in the. lands of the New Hebrides that would not abrogate the control of the French over the New Hebrides. 1
– Quite so. The Condominium would remain exactly as before. The point raised by the honorable member is a vital one. Labour laws have been the real cause of the trouble in the past, and even if we did acquire this land the control would remain exactly as it is. It is an integral part of the Condominium. I have no doubt that the missionary societies would strongly favour the purchase of this land by the Commonwealth, but the question is whether we would be able to get a good title for it. If honorable members desire it, I will have prepared a statement giving a legal opinion, for what it is worth, as to our position in regard to this land if we acquired it, but I doubt very much whether we would get a clear title. All the titles to land must come before the Condominium Court. Honorable members know how that Court is constituted. ..If the natives said, “We do not admit that we sold this land,” and the Court held that their contention was right, I do not know that we could get a clear title.
– I suggest that the Prime Minister place on the .table of the Library all the papers dealing with the matter, so that if any honorable member wishes to take up the question he may do so.
– I will place the whole file on the Library table. Honorable members understand, of course, that there may be in the papers references to another Power that ought not to be made public.
– I understood that documents laid on the table of the” Library were available only to members, but it has become the custom to allow the press access to them in such circumstances, and the press, in some cases, publish almost verbatim copies.
– We could not allow that. A business firm has made this offer, and in this paper references are made to one of our Allies which I do not for one moment accept. That being so, if the file is placed on the table of “the Library we must say, “We do not believe these statements,” although we are going to deal with the men who make them. I have just noticed t a reference to a point I . have already made. The file shows that of the 600,000 hectares of land which we are asked to acquire, the title of the company to 376,000 hectares is established. The rest of the land is only partially marked out, and the titles to it are not established.’ I shall lay such portion of the file as is proper on the Library table. I move -
That the paper be printed.
.- 1 do not intend to enter upon a discussion of the merits of this question, since, with the scant information at our disposal, it would be impossible to do justice to it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), very late in the day, has given the House an opportunity to deal with it. He states that he has brought the matter before us now because of its urgency, that the offer was made to him while he was in the Old Country, and that he secured an extension of the option so as to enable him to consult Parliament.
– And to make inquiries.
– The right honorable member has said also that he is opposed to the purchase of the land, and since that is his view it might have been said of him later on had he failed to take this action, that he had allowed the Commonwealth to miss an opportunity to acquire this interest in the New Hebrides. The offer was made some months ago, and we should have been given a chance before this to consider it. As it is, an endeavour should be made to obtain an extension of the option for some months, so that Parliament may deliberately deal with the whole matter. I am not committing myself in any way, since it would be ill-advised to express an opinion on a proposal of which one knows practically nothing. We have not the information to enable us to discuss the merits of the question at this stage. All we know is that an offer has been made by a French company to dispose of certain vested interests in the New Hebrides. It is prepared to sell 600,000 hectares of land to us for £500,000, but, in the absence of further information, we cannot deal with the offer. I rise now merely to protest against the Prime Minister’s action in allowing this matter to remain in abeyance right up to the last moment, and then making it an urgent one.
– I do not make it an urgent matter at all.
– The Prime Minister has told us that he lays the matter before the House, because he does not wish to be charged at a subsequent date with not having taken honorable members into his confidence. But what chance has the House to deal to-day with a question of this kind?
– The House really does not wish to deal with it.
– I do not say whether the House does or does not desire to deal with the matter, but if it is one of no great importance to the country the Government should take the responsibility, and risk any strictures being passed upon them at a later period.
– The Government do take the responsibility.
– Had the Government done so there would have been nothing to say, but for the Government to place themselves in a position to say that they have consulted the House, when the House has had no opportunity to deal with the merits of the case, is a wrong procedure. Honorable members ought to be placed in possession of the fullest possible information.
– A month ago I gave the House an opportunity to say whether it was in favour of wireless, and from that day to this honorable members have never said one word about it.
– Until the Government bring down a concrete proposal in regard to wireless, the House is not in a position to discuss the subject.
– You have a concrete proposition.
– There is no proposition on the business-paper.
– The business-paper !
– The Government control the business of the House, and arrange the business-paper, and if this subject is of such urgency, it should have been there given a place.
– You have never asked any questions regarding it, and now, when I say I am not in favour of the proposal, you say there must be “ something in it.”
– I do not say that, but, personally, the proposal does not appeal to me at the moment. However, I know nothing about the merits of the proposal, and it is not fair to proceed in such a way that if the House makes a mistake, the House, under the circumstances, is to be held responsible. I merely submit that we ought to be given an opportunity to deal with the matter in the proper way.
.- In 1915 a Royal Commission was appointed at the instance of the then PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Mahon) to visit the New Hebrides, and make inquiries into postal matters generally. Many complaints had been made with regard to the manner in which Messrs.Burns, Philp and Company were conducting the mail service. A voluminous report was prepared by that Commission, and from it a good deal of information may be obtained regarding matters referred to in the document now before the House. Before leaving for Europe the then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher) suggested that the Royal Commission’s inquiry should take a wider area than that of postal services, and embrace any matters in the New Hebrides considered to be of importance; and the result was that the Commission presented two reports, which I suggest honorable members should consult.
– Like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) I have visited the New Hebrides, where a good deal of dissension and difficulty arises out of the Condominium, inthe administration of which a Spanish gentleman was appointed Chief Justice for the settlement of land claims. If Australia is not content with the vast area within her own frontiers, and desires the whole of the New Hebrides, then by all means we ought to carry out this purchase. The area is 600,000 hectares, which, at2½ acres to the hectare, means 1,500,000 acres. Considering the climate, with the heavy rainfall and the richness of the soil, the amount involved does not mean an expensive investment.
– Provided the title is good.
– In purchasing land one always takes care that the title is good, and in this case “we look to the Crown Law authorities to do their duty. At a moment like this I may be excused for speaking plainly: If we think it wise that the French flag should be kept flying there on account of the danger from the north, where there are many millions massed, then I should be inclined to agree with the view of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I shall certainly require further information before coming to a decision.
.- It is som.ewhat difficult to deal now with the questions that have been placed before the Chamber, and I hope that some honorable member will move the adjournment of the debate, so that we may have an opportunity of discussing them on a future date with fuller information at our command. It appears to me that the main question is whether theFrench company shall sell its rights and interests to the Australian Government, and we have very little information as to the real value of those rights and interests. For a considerable time there has been anxiety connected with the control of the New Hebrides. The Condominium has nob been a success, and during the last six or seven months there has been much correspondence in the newspapers, particularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the affairs of the New Hebrides. Apparently the question of the Condominium and that of general control was considered some time ago, and it is in this regard that Parliament feels some anxiety; perhaps, more than in regard to the purchase of the lands held by the French company. This purchase may be essential, of course, to proper control, but without the fullest information it is not possible for honorable members to form any opinion as to the value of the option, and what action should be taken. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) feels any anxiety about laying these papers on the table of the Library, I suggest that he might make them available to honorable members in his own office, so that any one feeling a special interest , would be able to peruse them. I feel quite sure that if this debate be adjourned, and the papers are made available as I have suggested, a good purpose would be served, the Government could then at any timeafford us an opportunity of an immediate discussion of the subject.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jowett) adjourned.
Funding Arrangement - Interest Charges - Sinking Fund
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Commonwealth pays annually £5,548,810, being 6 per cent, on the total indebtedness. The amount is applied in the first half year in payment of interest as follows: -
On £1,263,158, at 3J per cent, per annum.
On £11,500,000, at4½ per cent. per annum.
On £79,716,998, at 5 per cent. per annum, and the balance is taken in reduction of principal. In subsequenthalf-years, the amount is first applied in payment of interest at the before-mentioned rates on the balances of the principal sums outstanding, and the remainder is taken in reduction of principal. By this means, the indebtedness will be wiped out in 35¼ years, or in 1956. 2 and 3. See answer to No. 1.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
The number of postmasters in each grade at Post Offices in New South Wales, grades I. to VII. inclusive?
The average age, length of service, and salary in each grade?
The deduction made for rent in respect of each grade?
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests resumed from 3rd November, vide page 12448) :
Senate’s Request. - Ad val., British, 15 per cent.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
For a number of years past a small fixed duty per gallon has been imposed on varnishes, and by that means we have built up, to some extent, the manufacture of low-grade varnishes. But, owing to the fact that the fixed rate represents an almost infinitesimal ad valorem duty on the higher grade of varnishes, nobody attempted, until after the outbreak of war, to manufacture them locally. During the war considerable progress was made in this respect, and we decided to provide for an alternative ad valorem duty upon high-grade varnishes, that being the only effective method of protection. The mere increasing of the fixed rate of duty would not achieve that purpose, because it would provide too high a rate of protection on the lower grades of varnishes, but would not give sufficient protection on the higher grades unless it were made so high as to become an absurd impost on the lower grades. The only way to give satisfactory protection to both classes is to have a fixed rate of duty on the lower grades and an ad valorem duty on the higher grades.
– One authority points out in a letter, which no doubt the Minister has seen, that these duties range from 75 to 350 per cent.
– That cannot be so when the schedule only provides for a duty of 25 per cent. What the writer means is that the 25 per cent. ad valorem duty is a 350 per cent. increase upon the protection formerly provided. The mere fact that a 25 per cent. ad valorem duty represents such a tremendous increase as the honorable member has indicated shows the utter absurdity of the fixed rate of duty on higher grades of varnish.
– Does not the 350 per cent. increase indicate a little absurdity, too?
– No, because the duty we are imposing is only 25 per cent. The fixed rate of duty is no protection atall on the higher grades of varnish; it is merely a small revenue duty per gallon.
– Are the higher grades of varnish being manufactured locally ?
– They are now. This industry was started as a result of the war and is growing. The Committee would be taking a retrograde step if it were to do anything to destroy what has already been achieved. If the manufac-‘ turers of high-grade varnishes abroad care to come here and set up their works, as manufacturers of other commodities have done, good luck to them. The more experience of that character we can gain the better.
– How many local firms are producing high-grade varnishes ?
– At least three firms are making them in quantity. There may be other firms producing on a small scale.
– Does the Minister know what prices are being charged in Melbourne for local varnishes?
– I have not those particulars, but I think the price charged for the local article compares favorably with the price charged for the imported varnish.
– This is a line that affects the Government considerably.
– I have had no complaint from the Government.
– I am advised that the trade has sent in numerous protests against the high duties.
– I receive protests from all sides - from the manufacturers that the duty is quite inadequate for their purpose, and from the users that the duty is ruinous. Between the Scylla and Charybdis, represented by the opposing interests, the Minister has to steer what he considers a safe path. The 25 per cent. duty formerly agreed to by the Committee is reasonable ; it certainly is not excessive. I willingly admit that it is a considerable advance on the fixed rate of duty, hut I repeat that the latter is simply a revenue duty on the higher grades of varnish, and does not produce the result for which we look.
-From what countries do we import our varnishes principally ?
– I should say that Great Britain sends us the bulk of the varnishes we use, but there is also a considerable importation from America. During the war large establishments for the manufacture of varnishes were brought into existence, and high quality varnishes are being produced to-day which in years goneby the local manufacturer could not attempt to make. The Committee would do well to adhere to the duties to which it originally agreed.
.- This item provides another illustration of how the ultra-Protectionists, having, first of all, put as high a duty as they could possibly get on the raw material, use that duty as an argument for increasing the impost on the manufactured article.
– Has the honorable member forgotten that he was one of those who asked for a duty on the raw material from which varnishes were made?
– During the general discussion on the Tariff I said that I would vote for any duty which I considered fair, and throughout the schedule I have been consistent in my attitude. I have not voted to impose duties on articles simply because they were produced in my electorate, but that influence has been at work in regard to the local manufacture of varnishes. We have heard all the high Protectionists in this Committee express the desire that the manufacturers should get a fair price for their product, hut I have heard very few say that they wished the. consumer to be supplied at a fair price.
– That is the object of Protection.
– The Minister, when introducing the Tariff, said that high Protection must mean an increase of prices.
– For a time.
– That time has lasted long enough. The varnish being made in Australia at the present time is sold at, say, 17 s. per gallon. The British varnish, which this item affects, is sold at 34s. per gallon. Therefore, the consumers will be penalized by every additional penny of duty we impose. If the fact that the price of the British article is 100 per cent. higher is not sufficient Protection for the local product, . the Australian manufacturer is not worth his salt. Some honorable members seem to think that it is our duty to make’ the imposts upon all imports as high as we possibly can. They are doing nothing to protect the users of varnishes. One statement has been made with the deliberate intention of injuring the reputation of imported varnishes. It has been said that the British varnish is thinned down after importation to a consistency of one in three. British varnish is left in vats for twelve or twenty-four months and then tinned in gallon measures and exported. It would be spoiled if any attempt were made to thin it down. I am told, not only by varnishing firms, but also by people who are excellent authorities on the subject, that it is not possible to do so. The only effect of increasing the duty will be to increase the cost of the best class of work. The Minister says that he is not in favour of having a fixed rate of duty on the better quality varnishes, but the Australian manufacturer should not require more than a fair handicap in the race of competition with the British manufacturer, whose output is absolutely necessary and is used on a great deal of Government work. A very unjust differentiation will be created by the adoption of an ad valorem rate on the higher quality varnishes. The oils used in some of the local varnishes are not of good quality. Any painter will admit that the linseed oil used at the present time is quite inferior to that which was imported in pre-war days. Quite recently I had the exterior woodwork of my house painted. I already had a 5-gallon drum of the old linseed oil, but the painter I employed used the ordinary linseed oil of the present time. In two months one would not have known that the house had been painted.
– Where did the paint come from?
– It was made in Australia. I am sure that “if the honorable member who is the most hopeless Protectionist in the Chamber asked the Victoria Varnish Company whether the linseed oil they now use is as good as it was in pre-war days, he would be told that it was not.
– A painter told me the other day that he would not use it.
– The linseed oil used on my job absolutely spoiled it. I had to go over it again with some of the oil I had in my 5-gallon tin. On another occasion I bought Australian linseed oil to oil the jarrah portions of my house, because jarrah is too good a timber to paint. In three months one would not have known that anything had been done to the lattice work. 1 had again to use some of my British oil to go over that work. The duty imposed should be sufficient to put the Australian article on a fair footing, with just a slight, advantage in the competitive race with the imported article, but the present proposal before the Committee is absolute Tariff madness. The local article which is claimed to be as good as the British article costing 34s. per gallon can be sold at 17s. per gallon, and yet the manufacturers want the duty increased. It is unreasonable. We are now building motor car bodies, which require the very best quality of paints and varnishes. If Australian varnishes are used in preference to British, the difference can easily be detected in three months. My contention is that if a man is anxious to do good work and is willing to pay 100 per cent, more for the best varnishes, that 100 per cent, increased cost should be quite sufficient to give the Australian manufacturer an opportunity of establishing the varnish-making industry.
– No Tariffist can argue that this particular duty is necessary to make Australia self-contained, that general shibboleth used by high Tariffists being blown out in this case because all the raw materials necessary for making varnish have to be imported. In these circumstances, the imposition of an increased duty for the purpose of establishing an unnatural industry will merely tend to increase the cost of living. Otherwise those people who are engaged in polishing furniture and kindred occupations will be obliged to work with inferior material as against the better-quality article produced by firms elsewhere who have been established for centuries. This duty will not help Australia to build up a natural industry. - Therefore I shall vote in the direction of agreeing to the Senate’s request.
.- It is refreshing to hear the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) telling the Committee that the duty on varnish is too high and that this is a case of protection gone mad. When we were discussing the Tariff previously the honorable member, influenced, possibly, by a desire to assist Australian industry, voted to impose a duty on the raw material used in the manufacture of varnish.
– Can the honorable member show me one division in which I voted as he said I did ?
– There was no division, but the honorable member advocated the imposition of the duty. It was agreed to unanimously. He is now endeavouring, like all Free Traders, to wriggle out of his prior attitude.
– I would like the honorable member to show me in Hansard where I advocated a duty on the raw material.
– Influenced possibly by some considerations affecting his electorate, the honorable member certainly tried to induce the Minister to put a duty on the raw material for the making of varnish, and now he complains when the Committee seeks to give protection to the manufactured article. He is not consistent. He is like a lot of others who are staunch Free Traders on occasions and very staunch Protectionists when something affects them personally or affects their constituencies. My friend tells the Committee that the Australian varnish is of an inferior quality. No one would suggest that the Victorian Railways would be prepared to use anything cheap and nasty. The whole tendency in Government services in making purchases of stores is to get the very best. Yet this Department, having had the Australian varnishes analyzed hy chemists and subjected to very high tests, has accepted them in -open competition for use on railway work.
– I have also a certificate from the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Sounth Australian Railways. I hand it to the honorable member. He may quote it if he desires to do so.
– 1 was about to mention the fact that, in addition to the Victorian Railways having accepted Australian varnishes in open competition, the South Australian Railways and Tramways arc using Australian varnishes. Men in charge of these works -would not recommend the purchase of an inferior article.
– They would do so if they could get it at a cheaper price.
– The honorable member knows that that is not the case. The certificate which the Minister has handed to me reads as follows: -
South Australian Railways.
Chief Median ici 1 Engineer’s Office.
Dear sirs, - With reference to samples of varnishes received on 8.1st January, 1920, I have to advise that these were put into use for trial on carriages issued to traffic’ on 10th March, .1920, and 17th May, .1920, respectively, and they have given every satisfaction. 1 have therefore decided to add the name of your firm to my list of accepted manufacturers of varnishes in order that you may have an opportunity of tendering for this class of material when next we are in the market. - Yours, &c,
Chief Mechanical Engineer.
In South Australia Australian varnishes have been subjected to the actual test of use on railway carriages. If the firm on whose behalf efforts are being made is desirous of supplying high class varnish to the Australian public, let it establish itself in Australia. We should be glad to have it make varnishes here, but we should not, while it is merely an importing firm, give it an advantage over the local manufacturers of varnish. Surely Australian varnish is not to be condemned merely because the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. FoleY) is not satisfied with the result which he obtained by putting oil on a house in Western Australia. As the raw materials from which varnish is made are dutiable, the manufactured article should also be dutiable.
– During the Tariff discussions many misstatements have come from the Corner party, and now we have the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), a direct Ministerialist, proving that he is not particular about what he says, though a member of his long experience might be expected to weigh his remarks carefully. He said that Australian varnish is inferior to imported varnish because of the oil used in it. He found fault with the quality of Australian linseed oil. He said that that oil is not as good now as it was in prewar days. I do not know that the honorable member would recognise good varnish if he saw it. I admit that I would not, though I might be able to say whether a job done with a particular varnish was a good or a bad job. Bad workmen are accustomed to blame either their tools or their material, and the honorable member, after varnishing a house, possibly laying on the varnish as if it were whitewash, appears to have been dissatisfied wilh the result, and blames the Australian varnish for it. When he was speaking there was within the Chamber a gentleman who knows something about varnish, he being a. representative of a Victorian varnish company. This gentleman says that the local oil has been very regular in quality.
– Did he say whether the quality is medium, good, bad, or indifferent?
– Let us deal with one question at a time. T. hold that as we protect the varnish-making industry we should insist on the use of local oil in its manufacture.
– But what is the quality of that oil?
– Let me deal first with the honorable member’s statement that the quality is not as good now as it was in pre-war days; in other words, that it has been irregular. I wish to refute the honorable member’s statement that the Australian oil is irregular in quality.- My authority, who knows something about varnish, says that it is his experience’ that it has been very regular in quality. Those who use oils know flint you can get inferior imported oils; that the imported oils vary in quality.
– That is true.
– But the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would not admit it. He must have used imported, not local, oil, because, according to my information, the local oil has been regular in quality, and of a fair sample. The suggestion of the honorable member was that before the war the Australian oil was good, but that in pure cussedness the local manufacturers are now producing a poorer quality.
– I am surprised at the opposition to the duties on varnish. Varnish making is not a new industry; it is established in all the States, and gives a considerable amount of employment. I understand that upwards of £1,000,000 is invested in the industry, and that its annual output is something like 800,000 gallons of varnish. With the necessary encouragement, the local manufacturers could supply the total requirements of the Commonwealth.
-Can the best work be clone with Australian varnish?
– Then, why was the Prince’s carriage varnished with imported varnish instead of with Australian varnish?
– I cannot say, but J know that locally-made varnishes are used by the railways and. tramways departments of Victoria, South Australia, and, I think, New South Wales, and it will not be suggested that the officers responsible for the varnishing of the Government rolling-stock would use an inferior article. Locally-made varnish is also used throughout our public institutions. We are justified in encouraging this industry.
.- I have no objection to protection being given to this industry, but surely the Committee might well discuss the amount of protection to be given. I do not know much about varnish,’ but I wish to see fair play. The Minister and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) both evaded the point.We should not unnecessarily provide manufacturers with the opportunity of making enormous profits out of the public. The other day the Minister said that he had consulted various manufacturers regarding the duty on perfumed spirits. But I am afraid that he has been badly advised in regard to matters of this kind. The Minister discussed very fully the arguments advanced in opposition to the proposals iri regard to perfumed spirits, and stated that the information obtained by his Department was that the higher duties were essential. The manufacturers, he said, had been consulted. He also told us this morning that the manufacturers of varnish had been consulted. I propose to show by reference to a letter sent to the Minister by two of the largest manufacturers of perfumes here two days after the duty on perfumed spirits had been dealt with, that they were not consulted.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing a previous item. If he can show that the statement made by the Minister in regard to the Department having consulted the parties interested in this particular item is not correct, he will be in order in doing so.
– That puts me in a very awkward position, Mr. Chairman, but I shall accept your ruling. I do not blame the Minister or the Department. The Department, no doubt, has its own methods of obtaining information, and the Minister must take the advice of his officers, but I have here papers showing’ that the statement made by the Minister that the manufacturers of perfumes had been consulted, was not correct.
– I think that the honorable member’s papers must have been compiled by Free Traders.
– It is interesting to note that honorable members opposite who favour high duties are not desirous of light being thrown on the subject. I have no personal interest in this matter, and the only information Ihave with regard to it comes from an interested source. I have here a circular from W. Harland & Sons, and their agent here, who is naturally desirous of protecting Talis principal’s business. In this circular it is pointed out that under the old duty, the amount payable on 93S gallons of varnish of the net value of £1,023 would be £117, whereas under the present duty £281 would be collected. Is such a high duty essential?
– As a matter of fact, the importation of varnish ought not to be allowed.
– In other words, the honorable member says that we should not ‘be allowed to trade with the Old Country. We should live entirelyto ourselves, neither importing anything nor exporting our products. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) took up that attitude with regard to agricultural machinery, and we now have the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) expressing the same view with regard to the importation of varnishes. The suggestion is absurd. That £281 should be collected by way of duty on varnish of the value of £1,023 is preposterous. If local manufacturers cannot carry on without such an enormous duty it is time that they closed down.
– That is what the honorable member would like.
– The honorable member is the last man I should expect to be anxious to assist the exploiter. I am told that the tradesmen themselves are protesting against the high duty under the British preferential Tariff. In connexion with high-class work, varnish of the very best quality is required.
– What willthe poor man in the country do when he has to buy high-class varnish?
– The man in the country does not want varnish. Why does not the honorable member move that the importation of varnish be prohibited?
– I would if Ithought I could carry such a motion.
– It appears to me that the duty as passed by this Committee is altogether too high, and cannot be justified from even, a Protectionist” point of view. I hope the good sense of the Committee will lead to the acceptance of the Senate’s request. Surely a duty of 15 per cent. under the British preferential Tariff is sufficient. We have no objection to the higher duties under the intermediate and general Tariffs, but we think a duty of 15 per cent. as requested by the Senate is ample in respect of British varnishes of the high value shown in the invoice to which I have referred. I know that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert
Best) is a sturdy Protectionist anxious to build up Australian industry, but if the figures quoted by Harland & Sons are correct they suggest that the high duty under the British preferential Tariff would lead to the exploitation of the people, and I do not think he would support anything of the kind.
Question - That the requested amendment he not made - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item 244 -
Glass, viz.: -
And on and after 17th June, 1921 -
Senate’s Request. - General, 20 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
I dare say that honorable members know that, at the outbreak of the recent war. Great Britain found that her lens industry was very deficient.
– The duties you are proposing are not retrospective?
– No. I merely desire to give reasons for acceding to this request ; but since honorable members understand the position, I shall say no more.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Request. - Insert after the word “ drams,” in paragraph a, the words “ excepting bottles suitable for and ordinarily used for ink and gum.”
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The effect of the requested amendment is to exclude from the free list bottles suitable for, and ordinarily used for, ink and gum, these bottles being made in Australia, though in small sizes.
Motion agreed to.
Stone and marble -
Marble and granite, unwrought, including rough or scabbled from the pick, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Insert new paragraph -
White Carrara marble, for statuary purposes, free.
– I move -
That the requested amendment of sub-item
be made, but modified as follows: -
It would appear that the Senate, when making this request, was not quite clear what its effect would be. I propose to modify the request in a way which, in my opinion, will do all that is desired, and, at the same time, will not make the whole of the marble free that otherwise would he. The effect of my proposal is that white marble, imported in the rough, purely for statuary purposes and not for ordinary monumental work, will be admitted free. In this way our own marble quarries will be protected.
.- I am sorry that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has proposed this motion.I understood from him privately that he did not intend to accept this requested amendment of the Senate.
– I am not accepting the Senate’s request in the form in which it was sent.
– I see great dangerin the honorable member’s proposal, because it means that the Customs Department will have to follow every block of imported marble in order to ascertain whether or not it is used for statuarypurposes. This Carrara marble in the.’ rough costs nothing for freight, being brought here as ballast. In South Australia there is quarried white marble quite equal to the best Carrara; indeed, I have a sample of the South Australian marble which is actually better than that from Italy. In South Australia there are two distinct white marbles, both particularly suited for statuary purposes; and I fear that, if the motion of the Minister is accepted large quantities of this white marble will be imported from Italy and used for other than statuary purposes. For instance, a large quantity of marble of this class is usedin the making of tables. It was a request from the monumental masons of Sydney which induced a member of another place to have this marble made free, but I may say that no request of the kind came from any other State. I ask the Minister to reconsider his proposal. It is within my own personal knowledge that a company is being formed in South Australia to develop the white marble industry, and that already an order has been received for 12,000 table tops a year. If white Italian marble is admitted free, the Australian industry will go to the wall. It should be the duty of this Committee to develop an Australian industry like this instead of permitting the trade to go to a foreign country.
.- The amount of marble that can be imported under this proposal is infinitesimal. However, I have no strong feeling in the matter, and, after the lunch hour, if the Committee desire that the request of the
Senate be not agreed to, I shall be quite willing to act accordingly.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I am sorry that the Minister has proposed to -concur in the amendment requested by the Senate to allow marble of any kind to be imported free of duty. In South Australia, particularly in and around Angaston, and also at Kapunda and Macclesfield, there are large quantities of marble. I have here a report by Mr. L. B. Ward, Government Geologist in South Australia, in regard to the extent and quality of the deposit. There is not the slightest doubt that the quality is good, as the samples before the Committee show.
– If it is the general view of the Committee that the Senate’s request should not be acceded to I shall move accordingly.
– I desire to place certain facts on record to counter any move that may bo made in anotherplace. A company has been formed for the development of these deposits with a capital of about £10,000. In the past only about 1,000 tons of marble has been quarried at Angaston per annum, but this company will install machinery which will permit of an output of 2,000 tons per month. If marble is admitted free of duty for statuary purposes, that concession will become the thin end of the wedge for making a greater breach . in the Tariff wall. How can the Department be sure that marble admitted for statuary purposes will be utilized only for those purposes.
– There need be no doubt about that.
– The Minister has evidently great faith in his Department. If we allow the free admission of marble for statuary purposes that will be an admission of the inferiority of the Australian commodity. I am not prepared to make any such admission. Anybody who has -seen the statue of Robert Burns on Northterrace, Adelaide, which is carved out of marble quarried at Angaston, will realize that that stone is eminently suitable for statuary purposes. If there are people who think that the imported marble is better than the Angaston article let them pay the duty imposed thereon. At times I have had qualms of conscience about voting for- the imposition of duties upon bread-and-butter lines, but nobody should have any such qualms about placing a duty on imported marble. I hope that nothing will be done to hinder the development of what will become some day a very fine industry.
– In accordance with what appears to be the general view of the Committee, I ask leave to withdraw my motion with a view to moving that the requested amendment be not made.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
The quantity of marble which would be admitted under the proposal I originally made would be infinitesimal ; and even if a duty is paid upon imported marble, it will be a small amount in comparison with the value of the finished article.
– The Committee might very well accept the Senate’s request. When a man dies, he or his relatives are taxed for the timber in his coffin, the silk which lines it, the screws, and the varnish. Surely when we tax a man right up to the time of his burial, we might very well allow him a tombstone free of duty.
Motion agreed to.
On and after 31st October, 1921 -
Senate’s Request. - Amend sub-item to make it read - (a) (1) Sulphur n.e.i., per ton. British, 15s. ; intermediate, 20s. ; general, 50s. (2) Sulphur, volcanic, for manufacturing purposes, for which purposes sulphuric acid produced from pyrites or other sulphide ores is not suitable, as prescribed by departmental by -laws, free.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made, and . that the date be altered to 1st January, 1922.
The effect of it is to permit the importation free of duty of volcanic sulphur when for special purposes it is necessary to have sulphuric acid absolutely free of any trace of arsenic. As there is a danger in using pyritic sulphur for the manufacture of sulphuric acid of finding a certain amount’ of arsenic in it, it “is desired to admit free of duty volcanic sulphur for manufacturing purposes, as prescribed by Departmental by-laws.
– I hope the Committee will not accept the motion. I have no objection to sub-paragraph (1). I do not know whether it is of ‘any use to put up a fight in behalf of -the primary producers in connexion with this item. One feels that he is almost beating the air in trying to get any relief for the man upon the land. We are like men butting their heads against a brick wall - we get no further and merely injure ourselves. The item, , as re-phrased by the Senate, is rather misleading. “ Sulphur, n.e.i.,” would include sulphur for the manufacture of superphosphates, and it is in that connexion I am principally concerned with this item. “ [Sulphur, volcanic, for manufacturing purposes, for which purposes sulphuric acid produced from pyrites or other sulphide- ores is not suitable,” is not for the manufacture of superphosphates. I desire to read to the. Committee letters which have been forwarded to the Department from noted chemists, and also extracts from analyses which have been made. The manager of the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia, in a letter to the Minister for Trade and Customs, wrote -
With reference to these I would urgently impress upon you the equity of permitting of some arrangement between the companies before these duties are finalized.
The writer refers to such companies as the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia and the companies represented by the manure combine and the Electrolytic Zinc Company.
– I possess an assurance that the Co-operative Company will receive the same treatment as any body else.
– I propose to place certain correspondence and facts on record, .in order to show what has happened between the Phosphate Co-operative Company and the Electrolytic Zinc Company. The letter continued -
There have been interviews between the representatives of The Electrolytic Zinc Co. and this Company. -On behalf of the Zinc Company the statement has been made that it anticipates that after zinc sulphides are in use that this company will ‘be able to obtain a gaseous form of sulphur suitable for making sulphuric acid, at the equivalent of i’O per ton of sulphur. In other words, the Zinc Company anticipates it will do- the roasting, and the Phosphate Company will he in the position that it would be if it were paying £6 per ton for crude sulphur. This company has offered to pay a deposit (or premium) of £100 to the Zinc Company if it will legally guarantee us of that position for a reasonable term, or that this company will not be in any way prejudiced by the duties, but the Zinc Company has declined to enter into any contract.
I would point out that the Fertilizers Association and the Zinc Company has closely connected interests, and the directors of the co-operative company, which is not a member of the Association, feel that if the duties are passed, they will be forced into one or other of the following positions. That they will have to spend £100,000 extra on plant,’ which means, a heavy levy on the primary producer who .must find this additional money ; or pay 20s. (or 50s.) per ton on 5 to 20 tons of crude sulphur per day.
In laying the above facts before you’ the directors of the company feel that while they can rely on your assurance of the 2.1st July last to permit no inequitable acts towards the co-operative company, the latest position as above should be made known to you.
In the first place the Phosphate Company is not guaranteed these concentrates, and, in the second place, if it were guaranteed them, it would be compelled to erect machinery to the value of £100,000. The company has a registered capital of £300,000, and it is not yet able to start operations. In order to erect the necessary plant to deal with concentrates, it will have to increase its capital to £500,000. It is not prepared to do that. The Electrolytic Zinc Company cannot supply the Co-operative Phosphates Company with sulphur - because sulphur cannot be made from concentrates; they yield only a crude form of sulphuric acid. If we have to import- volcanic sulphur or brimstone, the primary producers of this country will be penalized to the extent of from 6s. 3d. to 8s. on every ton of superphosphates used in the Commonwealth. Before the war the farmers were able to get the superphosphates a £4 7s. 6d. a ton. The price increased year by year until to-day ifc is £6 3s. per ton, notwithstanding the fact that bags are only half the price this year that they were last year. It is said that this country should be self-contained, and that we should manufacture all the sulphur necessary for the purpose of making munitions of war, lest in the event of war we be not able to import munitions from abroad.
– What proportion of the existing output of superphosphates made in Australia, is made with pyritic acid ?
– I could not say.
– I understand that it is 30 per cent.
– That may be so, but if the Combine are to be placed in the favoured position of being able to get their pyrites, sulphur, or sulphuric acid at a price below that which the Phosphate Co-operative Company will be obliged to pay, the Committee should take off the duty.
– I have the assurance of the Electrolytic Zinc Company that the co-operative concern will be placed in exactly the same’ position as any other buyer.
– We can get no assurance to that effect from the companies. The manager of the co-operative company’s works writes as follows: -
The term ““brimstone “ shoul J be used instead of the term “volcanic sulphur,” otherwise there is a probability of American crude sulphur being held by the Customs Department to he not of volcanic origin. It has not been geologically practicable to determine the origin of the American sulphur beds. The proportion of ten tons of superphosphate to one ton of sulphur is not applicable to this company. Under our proposed system of working it is eight tons of superphosphate to one ton of sulphur. The Electrolytic Zine Company is reported to have purchased 750,000 tons of zinc sulphides lying at Broken Hill from the British -Government, which had bought them for their zinc contents during war time, and is reported to have sold them at a considerable loss. Under the practice of the metal market it is improbable that either the British Government or the Electrolytic Zinc Company paid anything for the sulphur in these concentrates, as in that form it has no commercial value. It is unfair that the farmer should be made, by duties, to pay the Zinc Company for what it probably did not pay for itself. The sulphur must, in any case, be roasted, out of -the sulphides as a preliminary to treatment for the zinc contents. In view of the stocks of concentrates held at Broken Hill and elsewhere, it is improbable that .the miner will, by increase of work, reap any benefit for many years. There is an iron sulphides deposit inland in New South Wales: but, owing to the cost of transport, such iron sulphides can have nothing but a local value.
Honorable members opposite need not imagine that bv adhering to this duty they are conserving the interests of the men working in mines. They are merely building up a huge concern that will not give a co-operative company an opportunity to live, to say nothing of reducing the cost of production. There are already sufficient concentrates on hand at Broken/ Hill to last for many years, and this duty will not improve the miners’ position in any way. The following appeared in the Argus of the 26th October last: -
The British Board of Trade announces that it has instructed Broken Hill, to supply zinc concentrates, with the view of enabling British smelters to resume work. It also invites offers of concentrates, deliveries to extend over a period. [Under the terms of a contract entered into between the Zinc Producers’ Association (of Australia) and the British Board of Trade, the Board was to take mp to 300,000 tons of zinc concentrates a year for a period of ten years after the termination of the war. Owing to the subsequent reductions in the price of zinc, the shipments to Great Britain were small, and although the concentrates -were paid for by the British Government, they were allowed to accumulate at Broken Hill. In September the Board of Trade sold 7:10,000 tons of these concentrates to the Electrolytic Zinc Co., Tasmania. Although no prices were stated, if. is understood that the British Government sustained a .serious loss under its purchase of Australian zinc concentrates. Under the contract deliveries of these concentrates to the Electrolytic Zinc Co. extend over several years. In August the British Government was stated to have 056,000 tons of concentrates stacked at Broken Hill. Private advice has been received in Melbourne that the British Board of Tradehas decided to take deliveries of concentrates, and sell them at a loss to the British smelters, with the view to the re-opening of the smelters, and thus assisting to relieve unemployment. Up to date shipments of concentrates have been small, but instructions have been received to forward larger consignments.]
It is quite plain that it is impossible to produce sulphur from concentrates. I have here some extracts from a letter written by William M. Hamlet, an analytical and consulting chemist, of 32 Elizabeth-street, Sydney, which have more application to sheep dip than to superphosphates’, but some of the arguments in which apply also to the matter now under consideration. They are as follow : -
Having given some consideration to the problem of sulphur in Australia, and from my experience in the manufacture of sulphuric acid, the question appears to narrow itself down to the two following propositions: -
) The economic production of crude and refined sulphur in Australia.
The production of sulphur from the minerals now existing at Broken Hill, Tasmania, and various parts of Australia, and also whether the product would be suitable for use in the arts and industries.
The first proposition may at once -be dismissed, because no deposits of sulphur exist in Australia.
The sulphur actually present in iron pyrites, copper pyrites, zinc blende, arsenical prites gypsum, &c, are locked up, and economically unobtainable. Commercially, it is impossible to obtain sulphur from these metallic sulphide ores.
The only use ito which these sulphide ores could bc put would be the manufacture of impure sulphuric acid for manurial purposes, and even then the process would bc dangerous to life. … [ ask honorable members to take notice of. that last statement.
– How can he reconcile that statement with the fact that in every country in the world except Australia these things are made with pyritic acid?
– They are also made here with pyritic acid.
– Mr. Hamlet also says that pure sulphur is wanted in medicine and pharmacy and in the making of gunpowder. The manager of the Cooperative Company writes -
Weak or impure sulphuric acid is practically of no importance in making modern explosives. All the plants established in England towards the latter stages of the war were for making “ oleum,” a highly concentrated form of sulphuric acid.
I am credibly informed that no oleum was produced in Great Britain during the latter part of the war from sulphuric acid. The British authorities preferred to use pure sulphur.
– I think that the honorable member’s information is incorrect.
– The letter proceeds -
This oleum when added to nitre produces nitric acid.
There is no nitre produced in Australia, so we could not possibly be self-contained in respect to this commercial commodity, even if we could produce pure sulphur from zinc or any other form of concentrates. The letter proceeds -
In the manufacture of munitions a mixture of nitric acid and sulphuric acid is added to purified cotton waste or similar material. The action of the nitric acid on the cotton .produces nitro cellulose, the main constituent of high explosives. Practically all the cotton and all the nitre used in England and Australia are imported, and in view of the comparatively small amount of explosives required for a population of,p say, 6,000,000, it is futile to propose substitutes for them. Nitre is a mineral, and there are no known deposits of it in Australia.
I have also a letter from Mr. W. W. Dods, a metallurgical chemist and assayer, of Melbourne, who writes as follows : -
Sulphur (as sulphur) is not commercially produced from pyrites, “but when pyrites is heated sufficiently high in presence of air, the sulphur which is combined with iron in pyrites is oxidized by stages .to sulphuric acid in the presence of water vapour and oxygen-giving compounds, the sulphur being evolved as a gas, and finally converted into sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid .is used largely in the manufacture of superphosphate of lime. Suphuric acid obtained from pyrites usually contains impurities, chiefly arsenic. Volcanic sulphur (free sulphur) lis used in processes of manufacture for making cattle dip, sheep dip, lime sulphur, sodium sulphide, and other products. Volcanic sulphur, or free sulphur, cannot be commercially obtained from pyrites.
It all resolves itself into this: that the primary producers of Australia are to be compelled to adopt one of two courses. Firstly, they are to be compelled to use concentrates, and this they do not want to do because of the expense attached to the erection of a plant, which would cost £100,000, and would probably not be running for the whole of the year. That would be a tremendous handicap to the primary producers. Secondly, if we cannot provide that amount, we shall have to pay duty equivalent to an impost of from 6s. 3d. to 8s. on every ton of superphosphate that we put out. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others have spoken of the machinery used on a farm, but the only rural machinery with which they are familiar is the intricate machine known as the wheelbarrow. The farmers have to pay duties on everything that they use. It is the imposts on a thousand and one things that, in the aggregate, must break their backs - as the last straw is said to break that of the camel. This may be said to be the “ last straws” We have heard a great deal of the high cost of living, and of the dearness of bread; it is not the farmer who is responsible for either. For the dearness of many commodity it is the system of distribution that is chiefly to blame. I do not say that the millers or the bakers are making too much profit, or that the workers are getting too much; but when men are being paid £4, £5, and £5 10s. a week for driving carts for the delivery of milk, bread, and meat - and there are a dozen of these carts delivering in every street of the city - the cost of the articles delivered must be high. Everything that the farmers are now producing is being produced at or below the fair cost of production. That is true of wheat, wool, butter, cheese, hay, oats, barley, onions, potatoes, eggs, milk, and fruit. It has been contended here during the past day or two that higher duties are needed to keep our workers employed. I wish to see the workers employed, and wish them to get the highest wages that industries can reasonably be asked to pay. But I give members warning that the result of increasing the price of agricultural machinery by the imposition of high duties will be that the primary producers - particularly the growers of wheat, who have had a moderately good time during the past four or five years, and have put what they made into increasing their plants - will in future buy as little machinery as they can. There will be no boycott of the machinery manufacturers, but stern necessity will prevent the men on the land from purchasing more than they can help. Speaking with inside knowledge, I say that the farmers need not buy many machines during the next ten years. The old single - furrow and double - furrowploughs and the 5 and 6 feet harvesters have been put on one side in favour of more modern appliances; but the farmers will not he able to continue to buy harvesters if they have to pay £200, £230, and £260 each for them. The proposed duty on sulphur will increase the load on the men on the land, among whom are many returned soldiers. Is that fair? I ask our friends opposite not to feed the fat men - the big men of Broken Hill and other places - to the injury of the farmers. These duties will not benefit the miners, they will merely put money into the pockets of those interested in the big mining companies.
.- I think that the Minister is doing wisely in accepting the amendment of the Senate. It seemed to be a weakness in item 275. as it left this House that it made no provision for the production of pure sulphur, or, as it is described here, volcanic sulphur. As for sub-item a (1), which deals with sulphur n.e.i., I think that the best opinion in the Department and in the trade is that the proposed duties are necessary.I followed the honorable member for Echuca in the somewhat passionate and forceful address which he made on behalf of the rural producers, whom he so earnestly represents, but I was not convinced by it.
– I do not think that you wished to be.
– As a user of superphosphates, I wish to get the best article at a low price. I think I use as much of this material as does the honorable member, and I am in a position to speak on the subject, although I do not represent a farming constituency. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) naturally, though not quite clearly, divided his remarks into two sections - the national section, in which he dealt with the economic effect of the duties, and the defence section, covering the advisability or wisdom of making the country self-contained in time of war. As for the purely economic point of view, I think there is no reason whv Australia, whose future will depend more on the wise use of artificial manures than upon anything else, should not encourage this industry. There are many things that have been done with or without the concurrence of the honorable member which are not so important.
– Has Australia manufactured all her requirements in the matter of superphosphates ?
– For many years Australia has imported superphosphates and sulfur for making them. Recently sulphuric acid has been produced in the country, and we are becoming more and more self-contained. I wish to see this process continued. As a result of the war, we authorized the Government to invest millions of pounds in partnership . with the Governments of the United Kingdom, and New Zealand in the mandated island of Nauru, and that pledges us to the support of the superphosphate industry. If we are wise we shall take our phosphatic rock from our own property. Knowing how important crude sulphur and crude sulphuric acid are for the conversion of phosphatic rock into superphosphates, should we be wise in allowing thousands of tons of sulphur to escape into the air from roasting works, to the destruction of all vegetable life in the surrounding country, when, by the application of modern scientific methods, we can arrest this waste? I was recently in South Australia, and saw the roasting work’s which treat the ores from P>roken
Hill, as well as fromWallaroo and Moonta. The waste of sulphur hitherto has been criminal.
– ls it not true that the use of this sulphur will make profitable mining ventures which to-day are unprofitable?
– But it is to be done at the expense of the primary producers.
– The honorable member has contended that because, for a considerable time to come, it is the metalliferous material from dumps that will be roasted, and not the newly-extracted ore, the mining industry as a whole will not benefit : but clearly, in the end, the mining industries throughout Australia will benefit in many ways. The more we make mining profitable by saving and using waste products, the better for all connected with mining; the greater the profits of those who have money invested in the industry, the higher and surer the wages of those employed in it. The future prosperity of low-grade ore deposits in Australia depends largely upon the selling to advantage of what have hitherto been waste products.
– Broken Hill and Wallaroo have been saving these products for years.
– Yes, but we wish to increase the saving to such an extent that we shall not have to import sulphuric acid or brimstone.
– How much will it add to the value of mining materials?
– It will benefit the mining industry to the extent of the value of the hitherto waste products that are saved. I have heard complaints of the manner in which the superphosphate companies of Australia treated the rural producers during the war : but an examination of the facts has convinced me that more generous treatment was never given to any group of men than was given to the rural users of artificial manures by those controlling the output of superphosphates. Had all those who were engaged during the war in manufacturing or in vending goods acted similarly, there would have been nothing heard about profiteering. The honorable member for Echuca complains that superphosphates are dearer now than they were before the war. Well, everything that is manufactured is dearer. Wages have risen, freights and charges dependent on the cost of wages have risen, and as wages and freight charges are both big elements in the cost of superphosphates, these are dearer now than they were before the war. That cannot be a matter of complaint.
– To be fair to the superphosphate companies, it must be said that they have shown, with each rise in price, the details of their increased overhead charges.
– Precisely! An examination of the trade should convince any one that no impropriety has been inflicted upon consumers by the manufacturers. Every rise in price has been conditioned by a definite expenditure to which they were committed. I doubt whether there is more profit now, per ton of output, than was made beforethe war; indeed, I think there is rather less. There has been no profiteering. The higher price to-day, compared with pre-war rates, can be easily understood. Here is an important feature which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and those who think with him overlook : not far from the Australian coast we have huge deposits of phosphatic rock. If we can get the other necessary clements from within our own country, and can manufacture them in combination with that rock and so produce commercial superphosphates, we shall be making sure of essential supplies for our own growers. The matter of surety is just as important to the farmer as the question of price. Germany found that out during the war period.It is my belief that the chief compelling element at the close of the Avar in Europe was the absence of superphosphates, for more than four years, in the German agricultural soil. Germany went down because tillage had become less productive, due to the absence of superphosphates. Germany was forced to her knees, apart altogether fromthe military position, by economic pressure, which sprang from restricted rural production and the consequent shortage of foodstuffs. Surety of supply is to Australia, isolated as she is, even more important than it was to Germany; for she, in her Continental situation, could smuggle at least some portion of her most urgent needs across her borders, oven in the most oppressive years of con- flict. Germany imported no nitric acid during the greater period of the war. but she made her- own nitric acid, electrically, from the air. She did not quite secure the equivalent of her former mineral importations, but, by the application of modern scientific methods, she manufactured a substitute.
– That substitute cannot be manufactured here.
– I am assured by chemists that such is not the case.
– Can it be made in Australia as a paying proposition?
– It was not done, or intended to be done, in Germany as such. It was an emergency measure forced by stress of war conditions, and I am dealing with that phase of the argument in reply to the honorable member for Echuca, who said that without importing nitric acid we could not secure our own supplies of superphosphates. I desire to see the manure industry protected, and I want to see the sulphur industry established in Australia. I do not think one genuine argument can be advanced to show why the Committee should depart from its support of the policy enunciated by the Minister and decline to encourage the establishment of an industry which would represent a great national asset. The question concerning how far the Cooperative Phosphate Company of Victoria can be fairly dealt with under this duty is an important one, though not so important as the general issue. I accept the assurance of the Minister (Mr. Greene) that the firms concerned in. the production of sulphur for manuria-1 purposes have given him a specific undertaking.
– I shall presently quote from a letter definitely bearing that out.
– I do not want to see any company, co-operative or otherwise, squeezed out of business, because, while some are able to make arrangements with the sulphur producers, others cannot succeed in so doing. This Committee, and the Minister certainly, would regard any such procedure as being unfair and invidious treatment. I have made individual inquiries concerning the attitude of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and I have been assured’ - just as the Minister has been able to assure the Committee - that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid have specifically informed the Cooperative Phosphate Company that the latter would be accorded exactly the same treatment, and be subject to precisely thesame conditions, as any other similar concern.
– I have a letter beforeme which states that at an interview with the Hon. W. L. Baillieu, at which Mr. Gepp, the General Manager of theElectrolytic Zinc Company, was present, Messrs. Morton and Wolskel - the latterbeing the general manager of the Cooperative Phosphate Company - were assured that when they wanted concentrates they would be made available to the company on the same terms and conditions as applied to other Victorian concerns.
– I think it would be well to study the situation. The Electrolytic Zinc Company has given an assurance that the Co-operative Phosphate Company will be accorded exactly the same treatment as any other firm. The answer of the Co*-operative Phosphate Company is that they do not wish to use concentrates for the reason that they would be involved in an expenditure of £100,000 in respect of machinery and the like. It will, apparently, be news to the honorable member for Echuca that the other manurial companies advanced the same argument, and that the sulphurproducing concerns undertook to find the necessary money, and moreover, that they will do precisely the same for the Cooperative Phosphate Company.
– I am not in this inner circle. They do not confide in us.
– I am not in any Combine, and have no interest in any such concern, but I have conceived it to be my duty to find out how certain basic enterprises are working, and whether their activities may be calculated to benefit or injure Australian industries. If the. Electrolytic Zinc Company are willing to deal on exactly the same terms with the Co-operative Phosphate Company; and if, in respect of the use of concentrates by the latter there is difficulty in providing necessary capital, in regard to which the Zinc Company have intimated their preparedness to offer assistance along the lines of capital charges, surely that must remove tha objection from the stand-point of the co-operative concern. However, while it may overcome the individual objection, it does not do away with the general objection; the price of manures may be increased. But the offer, certainly, has effectually “taken away the main argument of the honorable member for Echuca-, that groups of companies are to get an advantage over one company. I do not think it wise that representatives of country interests should urge the weakening of the manure trade. Their best plan would be to advocate the manufacture within Australia of all the. superphosphate which can be produced, to meet the requirements of the farming community. I have a good deal of sympathy with the farming representatives to-day, when they see prices for their products falling, and perceive this Tariff confronting them in respect of quite a number of items. But what is required is a long-sighted national view. For example, honorable members of the Opposition naturally desire to support and extend this industry in all of the industrial centres where works are and may be established. So do I. So should honorable members of the Country party, for the reason that, using our own products, the effect would be to warrant surety of supply of requisite quality, which is essential to the existence of primary industries. What would be the alternative? We would start to import foreign sulphur, which would be chiefly Japanese brimstone.
– I think the commodity can be secured more cheaply from the United States of America just now.
– That may be; but whether supplies are procured from America or from “Japan, the Australian policy should bet to use Australian raw products wherever possible. And until it has been shown to be a bad policy I shall vote for the imposition of duties which will encourage that practice without inflicting serious injury on any section of the community.
– The subject under discussion is of the utmost importance! in the national interest, as well as individually to the primary producer. The Committee is dealing with an industry which Australia has had practically in her own hands for many years - that is to say, importations have been very small. Australian agriculturists were well pleased when the Commonwealth was given control over Nauru Island, but they have been somewhat disappointed to find that their , superphosphates cannot be secured any more cheaply to-day than in the past.
– There, again, increased freights must be reckoned with.
– That is true, of course.
– And meanwhile we have a very big monetary liability to carry, which in time, however, will have been liquidated.
– I know that, and in any case we must turn to Nauru Island for our supplies. It is probably a matter of ten or twelve* years since we imported superphosphates from abroad. At any rate, very little of that product is being brought into Australia. In South Australia, the Wallaroo Company and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company have been recovering sulphur for some years. Other companies are following suit, but we are not getting sufficient supplies. The demand for superphosphates is growing, and must become even heavier. The Minister (Mr, Greene) has asked this Committee to accept the request of the Senate, the effect of which, in part, will be to- release from duty whatever quantities of sulphur may be required for purposes of manufacture.
– In cases where pyritic sulphur is not suitable.
– Am I to understand that the product is to be duty free only so far as concerns its use for chemical purposes? That will not affect the manufacture of superphosphates.
– I forgot to inform the Committee that I propose to accept the Senate’s request with a modification that the imposition of the duty be deferred until 1st January, 1922.
– The effect of such deferment, I take it, will be to give an opportunity to secure sufficient supplies on the present basis for next season. I have listened carefully to the statements of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). In fairness I am bound to say that during the war the superphosphate concerns did nob treat Australia badly. Those who know anything about this business are aware that the large companies are practically one, and provision must be made to prevent the exercise of their monopoly against the primary producer, or the public interest generally.
– Or any existing company.
– Or any existing company, and particularly the Farmers Co-operative Company.
– Why “ existing “ company ? Why not include any new company?
– Or any new company. When the matter was under discussion here some two or three months ago the Minister, in all good faith, gave us an assurance that he had received an undertaking from the big companies that those outside the Combine would have an equal show with themselves.
– That they would have exactly the same treatment.
– I accepted the Minister’s assurance, but when I returned to Adelaide at the week-end I could not obtain from the companies themselves an indorsement of that undertaking. There must he no misunderstanding.
– I have given the letter on the subject; I cannot do more.
– But the Cooperative Company has received a. letter in exactly opposite terms.
– That is not so in the case of the South Australian company. They have a sort of vague understanding in the direction indicated by the Minister, but they would not give me an indorsement of the undertaking mentioned by him. There must be no misunderstanding, but if there is the matter can be dealt with by us.
– Did the honorable member tell the representatives of the companies whom he saw of the letter the Minister had received?
– I told them what the Minister had said. He did not say at that time that he had received a letter.
– I had no letter. They waited on me at the time, and I understood from them that they had definitely fixed up an agreement. As a matter of fact, an agreement had not been definitely arranged, but as the honorable member has indicated they knew all about it. That is the position.
– The company say that they have given the required assurance. That assurance was given to the Senate.
– I do not care where it was given, but they would not give me a written indorsement of it. in Adelaide.
– They will honour it only at the point of the bayonet.
– I am not troubling about that, because thereis a way of making them honour the undertaking. When we first used superphosphates for whaet-growing in this country, and had to import supplies, we were called on to pay far more than we should have been asked to do, but that trouble was corrected by the Government of South Australia, and some of the State Governments, I believe, are . importing supplies for the farmers.
– If there is any doubt as to what these companies intend to do with the Co-operative Company, the Minister can get from them the required assurance in writing before this schedule leaves us.
– We ought to have it in writing.
– I will do what the honorable member suggests.
– My attitude with regard to the request relating to superphosphates, manufactured, will depend uponthere being a clear understanding regarding the matter immediately under review.
– I can only give it so far as the Electrolytic Zinc Company is concerned.
– I have listened with great interest to this debate, and think that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has dealt exhaustively with the position. The Country party should be satisfied if they receive an assurance that the Farmers Co-operative Company will be treated the same as all other corporations. I know that the crude material with which they will be supplied will not be of much use to thom, but if they are assured of the same treatment that is given alt others, I do not think they need “ growl.” If the companies dealt with brimstone or volcanic sulphur they would need an establishment for that purpose and would not concentrate. Honorable members of the Country party always seem to fear that local manufacturers are against the farmers. The Minister has said that the parties interested can meet and make arrangements to prevent the application of the duty on sulphur being too premature. If that is done, and an arrangement is made which will not bear harshly on any one, there will not be much room for complaint. I come now to the health side of this question. So far as the workmen are concerned, no greater disability attaches to the production of flour sulphur than is associated with the working of the concentrates. If I thought there was, I should take a stand against this proposal. I regret that it should be necessary for men to work in superphosphate establishments. The work, however, has to be carried out, and we must see that fair payment is made for it. The remuneration of the workmen in the industry is considerably better than it used to be. Those who follow dangerous or unhealthy occupations should be well paid. My desire is that the men in this industry shall receive adequate wages, and the farming section should not complain if-
– If they do pay the lot.
– The farmers should see to it that themen in this industry get a fair wage for the work they do. Honorable members of the Country party know full well that the farming section of the community was saved bv the manufacture of superphosphates in Australia. Will any of them say that the farmers would have done as well had they been left to the mercy of the importers ? Will they deny that but for the manufacture of superphosphates in Australia the farmers would have had to pay more for their manures?
– I believe they would have had to pay more, and I am glad we have local manufacturers ox superphosphates.
– Then in return for the safeguarding of the interests of the farmers in that respect, I demand fair wages for the men working in the industry.
– As long as they do not howl at the same time for cheap primary products.
– The honorable member is never tired of telling us that the farmers have to take the world’s parity for their produce and to pay for the protection . of secondary industries. The local manufacturer of superphosphates has protected the farmer, and my endeavour is to secure the same result from every protected industry. The Farmers Co-operative Company should be protected, and I hope that it will secure the whole of the superphosphate trade of the Commonwealth. If the arrangements made prevent the co-operative company from being penalized, no exception can be taken to this proposal.It is necessary also to see that the application of the duty will not operate harshly on those who are using flour sulphur. The position is an interesting one, and if the Minister’s scheme succeeds he will have achieved, in respect of this particular item, what is absolutely scientific Protection. I hope that he will carry out this proposal in a way that will benefit the whole community.
.- I approach this item with all seriousness, because there can be no question that it is exceedingly foolish, in a country like Australia, to levy a duty on either manures or their component parts. I have to congratulate the Combines and those who are interested in this industry on having obtained the able advocacy of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). They have thus brought into this Chamber a very powerful gun to be used in their interests. Prom time to time in the board rooms of big companies in our large cities various enterprises are discussed. There were working difficulties associated with the Broken Hill concentrates, and the English owners of those concentrates suggested that they could be properly treated, and their various byproducts extracted, provided that the assistance of a protective duty were secured. Who is to pay this duty ? The manufacturers of manures will pay it in the first place, but will pass it on to the farmer. We have the same procedure in regard to many new industries. Duties imposed for their protection are borne by thp man on the land. No one will contend that the farmer in Australia is too prosperous, and the spoon-feeding of this particular industry will have a serious effect on the whole Commonwealth. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) told us how Germany had found it necessary to produce manures in order to make the. country more productive. Any one who brings into this country a cheap bag of manure confers a benefit on the whole community; any one who makes it difficult to do that is an enemy to the country’s best interests. I agree that the manure manufacturers acted fairly during the war period ; they recognised the peculiar position in Australia. They experienced great difficulty in delivering phosphatic rock and sulphur to their various works, and the shortage of shipping added to their costs. But I ask honorable members to appreciate the facts. The farmers in Western Australia paid before the war £4 2s. Gd. per ton for superphosphates. I do not think that anybody can say that any of the men upon the land in that State, whether growing root crops, fruit, or grain, were over-prosperous. On account of the extra cost of freight- and other things during the war, the price rose to £6 15s. per ton; but that high price, which was the result of abnormal conditions, continues to-day, and the farmers are paying it, notwithstanding that the prices of .primary products are falling steadily, so that most of them are below the pre-war prices and many are below the cost of production. The use of superphosphates for growing wheat and other grain has revolutionized Australian production. That is the means by which we can add to the production of, not only wheat, but everything that comes from the cultivation of the land. It pays even the dairyman to apply superphosphates to his grass hinds. It would be a fine thing for the Commonwealth to make cheap manures available. We could then extend production for the benefit of all. The State Governments have recognised the importance of cheap artificial manures, and in Western Australia they are carried on the railways at the lowest ry tes in the schedule. The State Government realize that the bread cast upon the waters in this way will return to them after many days. The Committee by this impost is asked to allow the farming community to be further penalized. If the companies that are extracting sulphur ‘ are so important to Australia, let the whole people pay to help them by means of a bounty. I like to hear those honorable members who are farming in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney talk glibly, about the importance of the sulphur industry to the farmers. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to the quantity of artificial manure he uses; I guarantee that it is not enough to bury himself in. He asked where would the Australian farmers have been during the war but for the locally-produced artificial manures? What a ridiculous question!. The whole of Australia depends on primary production, and when . that ceases, Australian settlement will revert to a few scattered villages and whaling stations. I do not know what the Committee will tax next. An effort is being made to tax out of existence every form of primary industry. This item and a later co-related item - manures - should be free of duty. The benefit which would result would not only go directly to the primary producer, but indirectly to the whole community. No other factor can be regarded as of greater importance than the factor of increased primary production. Any person who sends cheap manures to Australia confers a greater benefit on this country than on the country from which the manures come. Lands which cannot be profitably cropped under natural conditions can be made profitable by the application of artificial manures if they can be obtained cheaply. If the farmers are deprived of cheap fertilizers, Australia will retrogress. I desire to move that the Senate’s request be amended to provide that sulphur or brimstone required for the manufacture of superphosphates be admitted free of duty.
– If the honorable member desires to move in that way, I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Prowse) proposed -
That the requested amendment he made, but that all the words after “ purposes “, first occurring, in paragraph (a) (2) be left out.
– I ask the Minister to agree to postpone the further consideration of this item until the undertaking which the Minister has announced as having been entered into is brought here in writing.
– I have no objection to doing so.
– Cannot honorable members accept the Minister’s word?
– Yes; but a doubt has been expressed as to whether the agreement exists or not. We should be very chary about doing anything liable to injure the manufacturers of manures in this country. They have stood up to their obligations very well, and have turned out a first-class article, and are entitled to our support if they continue to produce a good article at a reasonable price. But honorable members in the corner are afraid that, as has been the case in almost every other matter affected by this Tariff, the primary producer will still be obliged to carry a heavier burden.
– This duty will assist one branch of primary production very materially.
– If the Minister can assure us that the producers of manure will be able to meet the farmers as generously as they have done in the past, particularly during the war, there can be very little opposition to his proposal; but we want an undertaking that theprimary producer, in whom we are more directly interested at the present time, will not have burdens piled on to him to an unbearable extent.. Any one who has watched the progress of this Tariff through the Committee must recognise that the tremendous bulk of the burden imposed by it has been placed on the man who grows the raw product, and not on the man who manufactures it into the finished article. We simply want an understanding that the producers of manures will continue to treat the farmers as they have done in the past, and we want it in such a form that there will be no doubt concerning it.
– The undertaking is that the Co-operative Company will be treated the same as others.
– I am now talking aboutthe production of manures, and saying that we want an undertaking that there shall not be differential treatment towards one firm. The Minister has agreed to postpone the item until we get that undertaking in black and white.
On and after 1st October, 1921 . . .
Senate’s Request. - Leave out “October, 1921,” and insert in lieu thereof “ January, 1922.”
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is simply an arrangement to enable us to postpone still further, if necessary, the date on which the duty on caustic soda will operate.
Motion agreed to.
Drugs and chemicals, viz. -
Saccharin and other similar substi tutes for sugar . . . per lb., British, 30s.; intermediate, 35s.; general, 40s.
Senate’s Request. - Make sub-item read -
(1) Saccharin, n.e.i., and other simi lar substitutes for sugar . . . per lb., British, 30s.; intermediate, 35 s.; general, 40s.
.- The sole object of this request is that saccharin for use in hospitals be made free. I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
Drugs and chemicals, viz. -
And on and after 22nd June, 1921 -
Arsenic, arsenious chloride, arsenic sulphide, arsenates of calcium, lead, and soda, arsenites of soda and zinc, ad val., British, 25 per cent. ; intermediate, 25 per cent. ; general, 35 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Arsenate of lead, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent. ; general, 20 per cent.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
It has been shown conclusively that in this country we are making the very best arsenate of lead, and selling it at a price which compares favorably with the cost of importing. The duty, as agreed to by the Committee previously, imposed no additional burden on any one, and at the same time enabled the fruit-growers of Australia to secure one of the best chemical sprays made from our own arsenic, of which there is plenty in Australia. We should not agree to a reduction of the duty.
.- I protest against this high duty on arsenate of lead, and I propose to read a large number of facts compiled by a gentleman who understands the position better than myself in order to explain how this heavy impost will affect the fruit-growers of Australia. This gentleman is Mr. R. E. Boardman, honorary secretary of the Australian Conference of Fruit-growers.
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading a document dealing with the duty prepared by some one outside who, he says, knows the subject better than himself.
– I propose to quote from it extensively.
– The honorable member may do that.
– Unless the orchardist prospers the orchard implement maker and the fruit-case maker cannot prosper. The smaller apple crop in Victoria this year partly accounted for the lack of employment in the hardwood saw-milling industry. The fruit-grower bears more burdens than almost any other class in the community. He not only takes his own share of the general duties, but is also called upon to pay duty on the raw material of the orchard implement maker. He is burdened with increased cost of cases and increased freights. He suffers more than do others in the community by the increased price of sugar. He is at the mercy of frost, hail storms, droughts and wind-storms, and also numerous pests. The only means by which he can cope with these pests is by spraying with arsenate of lead. Mr. Boardman contends that the fruit-grower ought to be able to purchase any kind of spray, and should not be unduly penalized for using the imported article. I am not an applegrowing expert, but fruit-growers tell me that they have used the local article, in many instances with disastrous results.
– On the other hand, you will find experienced men say that they have used it with every satisfaction.
– I am quoting the opinion of the Australian Fruit-growers’ Conference, who surely ought to know their own business. However, at this late hour I shall not inflict this document on the Committee. I content myself by protesting against this high duty on arsenate of lead.
.- The honorable member says that the fruit-growers bear more burdens than any other section of the community; they certainly do bear a very fair share of them, and their troubles are mostly pests, some native and some introduced, for which they must have the very best sprays. Some people say that the locallyproduced article is good, but others, with very wide experience, do not care to say so. They are much in the same position as the men who dip sheep. When we were debating the duty on sheep dip, some honorable members contended that the locally-produced sheep dips met all requirements. Others, for good reasons, declared that they required imported dips.
– They are all too conservative; they can believe in nothing but what is imported.
– It is all a matter of what pays one best. The fruit-grower has not a very great margin to work on, and he must use the spray which pays him best in keeping his orchard clean. So far imported sprays have proved better than the local makes. Senators did not take the bit in their teeth in this instance, but, after considering the subject very carefully, decided that Australia would benefit more by having clean fruit trees than by the establishment of one or two spray factories. All along this Committee has been giving the benefit to a few at the expense of the many. The fruit industry has recently attracted many maimed men who are unfit for other occupations. Men who have partially lost their sight or have been gassed have become fruit-growers. All these men are to be heavily taxed for the sake of a few persona in the cities.
– We have given the fruitgrowers protective duties going as high as 100 per cent.
– The banana-growers, who do not require spraying machines, are heavily protected, but those who use these machines have not received much consideration. The banana-growers, and in some respects the citrus-growers, have been helped.
– So have the raisingrowers, the apple-growers, and the prune-growers.
– The raisin-growers have received too much protection, and are foisting an inferior article upon the community at a high price.
-Does the honorable member know that the fruit associations have approved of this duty?
– One of the largest fruit-growers’ associations in Australia has its head-quarters in my electorate, and they are opposed to it. They want to get an article of the best possible quality, and they are prepared to pay a reasonable price for it.
The following papers were presented : -
Inscribed Stock Act. - Dealings and Transactions during year ended 30th June, 1921.
Taxation - Royal Commission. - Statement and Recommendation of Dissentient Commissioners - The Giving to Primary Producers of special consideration as regards the Assessment of Income Tax, particularly in relation to losses resulting from adverse weather conditions.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act. - Promotion of A. M. Cameron, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Mr. FOWLER presented the third progress report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts an the War Service Homes Commission (Western Australia).
Ordered to be printed.
Dismissal of Mail-driver - Order of Business.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 wish to draw public attention to a matter about which I have spoken privately to the Postmaster-General. A returned soldier, who was employed in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for upwards of two years as a mail-driver, complied with an advertisement asking him to go up for examination as a motordriver, and, while qualifying, he broke his arm. When his arm got better, the Department told him there was no more work for him - a shabby way in which to treat a returned man. I have approached the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney and the Secretary of the Department here, but they can. do nothing in the matter. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will see that this man is reinstated, if only in his temporary position.
.- As I told the honorable member when he spoke to me on the subject, I know nothing about the matter, but I shall make inquiries, and see what can be done.
– The order of business next week, so far as I know, will be first the Tariff, and then the Works Estimates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211104_reps_8_97/>.