8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker. (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Combined Commonwealth and State Court
– I ask the Prime Minister, in regard to the decision come to at the Premiers’ Conference to grant power to the Commonwealth Government to establish an Arbitration Court composed of Federal ‘and State Judges, which would vitally change the present procedure, whether he will, before giving legislative effect to the proposal, place the details before the recognised industrial unions for their consideration?
– May I refer the honorable gentleman to the paragraph which precedes the proposal, and which states that its acceptance is conditional upon preliminary conversations or conferences with the organizations of the employers and of the employees. I shall be glad if those organizations that are interested, or conceive themselves to be interested, in the matter will take this as an official statement of the position, and make such arrangements for a conference with me as may be convenient to both parties.
– In view of the fact that large public meetings were held in the capitals of Australia last week-end, representative of various Christian institutions and public bodies, at which resolutions were passed favoring disarmament, will the Prime Minister have these resolutions communicated to the representative of the Commonwealth Government at the Washington Conference, and instruct him that the desire of the people of Australia must be respected, and that he must use his best influence to obtain the total disarmament of all nations?
– I do not know that anything we can send to Senator Pearce will convince him, should he not be already convinced, that the people of this country desire disarmament. When the matter of Australia’s representation at the Washington Conference was being discussed, I set out my own opinions about disarmament; and I venture to say, with all deference to the resolutions of which the honorable member speaks - which I have not seen - that my views went as far as any contained in them. I should not have been a party to asking Senator Pearce to represent Australia at the Washington Conference had I not been persuaded that he would give effect to what I believe to be the almost unanimous desire of the people of this country. Immediately on arriving in America he made a public statement which ought to remove all doubt as to his own views on the subject of disarmament. Shortly put, his statement was that, conditional upon securing the safety of Australia and preserving the policy in which most, if not all, of us believe - the White Australia policy - he was a whole-souled advocate of disarmament. May I remind honorable members and my fellow citizens outside that, when speaking of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, I mentioned a factwhich in this connexion is most suggestive, namely, that the members of that Conference were unanimously in favour of disarmament. Therefore, not only the Australian delegate of Britain itself, but also the delegates from India, Canada, and New Zealand go to the Washington Conference in favour of disarmament. I have no objection to sending a copy of these resolutions to Senator Pearce, but I cannot conceive that to do so will have any other effect than to inform him that we in this country have not changed our opinions about disarmament.
– In view of the large amount of work before the Chamber, and so that we may avoid all-night sittings, will the Prime Minister seriously consider the need for meeting on Tuesdays ?
– Not only have I considered it; -but, as the amiable advice which I tendered to my fellow members earlier in the session fell upon stony ground, I propose to recommend it, and hope that the proposal will secure the support of a sufficient number to have effect. There is a great deal of important work to be done; and, if members desire to do it, they must sit more frequently, and attend a little more closely to the business. I intend to propose that we shall sit next Tuesday and on each succeeding Tuesday during November. If at the end of the month we have not made sufficient progress, I shall have to ask members to sit yet another day.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a copy of a circular-letter sent to honorable members, asking for some measure of protection for those who are engaged in the meat industry, in view of the almost inevitable disaster which must otherwise overtake them through the unprecedented accumulation of frozen meat in Britain ? I would like to know if the Government have given any consideration to the question of forming a Meat Pool, or to any proposals or suggestions which might have, the effect of allaying the fears of the graziers and all others directly or indirectly engaged in the meat industry; aud if such consideration has been given, I would like to know what action the Government have taken, or contemplate taking, in the matter?
– Quite recently I had the honour of telling the House the position in regard to meat. Shortly, it is this: While I was in England I made very strong representations to the British Government in regard to the position of Australian meat exporters, which was substantially then what it is to-day. It may be a little worse now, but it has been substantially the same for some months past. I urged, among other things, that the ‘British Government should take its own supplies for the Army and Navy from Australia, and that the policy of preference to Dominion products, a policy which had been deliberately adopted by the British Government, should be applied to meat in such a way as to give us a real preference over our competitors from the Argentine and elsewhere. The British Government were most sympathetic, but their difficulties are not to be lightly brushed aside. At the present time there is a great carry-over of meat. How much it is I do not pretend to say, although at the time of these conversations I knew the general position. Australian frozen meat has to compete with beef on the hoof, and with chilled meat from countries closer at hand to the British market. The distance between the United States of America and England is about one-fourth of that which separates Australia from England. Freights, which are also a vital item, are much, more favorable to the Argentine than to us. But perhaps the greatest difficulty confronting the producers of Australia to-day is the fact that they are opposed by, perhaps, the best organized and most powerful combine in the world. I discussed this matter with the various State Premiers the other day, and, as a result of our deliberations, I am despatching a further cablegram to England on the subject. Various suggestions have been .put forward. One is that Great Britain should be asked to increase the preference to Dominion meat. There is, however, very little prospect of that being done. With such widespread unemployment in Great Britain and a falling market, British
Ministers arc not likely to do anything which might tend to increase the cost of the people’s food. The honorable member asks whether the Government has given any consideration to the question of forming a meat pool. They have not. I submit that a careful examination of the whole question will show that it is impossible to frame any. such device to deal with the question in a satisfactory way. The remedy lies in other directions. First and foremostthere is the element of time. The carry-over meat has to be consumed - the position of meat in this respectbeing similar to that of wool. Then we must endeavour to fight the opposition in a business-like manner. When I put forward such a proposal, I am told that the producers can attend to that part of the business themselves. But the fact remains that they have not done so, and it is useless to attempt to fight the Beef Trust in a half-hearted way. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) knows that the Trust has a hold over the distributing as well as the wholesale trade of Great Britain. I am sure my friends who represent rural constituencies will see that a meat pool would not provide a remedy for the trouble which exists to-day. If it would da so I would support it whole heartedly, but I am not in favour of having a pool unless the circumstances of the industry demand it. The Government recognise the gravity of the position, and are prepared to do everything in their power to alleviate it by representations to the British Government and in every other way. To-morrow or the next day I am to receive a deputation from the meat industry introduced by the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers). The position presents an almost insoluble problem, but whatever it can do the Government will do.
– In view of the serious news which has been cabled with regard to wholesale ptomaine poisoning in Great Britain through the eating of tinned beef, will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain where the beef came from, so that if Australia is innocent it will not be unjustly blamed?
– I shall be very pleased to make the inquiries desired.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware of the fact that in the case of twenty-five farms surveyed in the Samford Range district, in Queensland, and selected by returned soldiers, twentytwo soldiers after two years’ work have been forced to abandon their holdings, and that the £40,000 spent on subdivisions and road construction in that district has been practically thrown away? I would also like to know if the Repatriation Department is accepting any responsibility for these failures, and, if not, whether the Minister will get a report on the matter and make it known to the House?
– The Commonwealth Government does not accept any responsibility in the matter. It is the direct responsibility of the Queensland State Government to effect soldier settlement in its own. territory according to its own policy. In accordance with an agreement between the Commonwealth andthe States, the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility is to find the funds which will enable the soldiers to be settled by the State Governments. We cannot dictate what policy the States shall pursue. The honorable member is evidently referring to soldiers who have embarked upon banana culture in a certain area. It is a matter which is quite unknown to the Commonwealth authorities, and although the failure to which he refers is to be regretted, it is entirely a responsibility which attaches to the Queensland Government.
– In view of the recent disastrous bush fires in New South Wales, which have destroyed large numbers of stock, many thousand miles of fencing, many homesteads and outbuildings, and millions of acres of grass, will the Prime Minister be sympathetic towards any request for advances to those settlers who have been burnt out in this way if they desire assistance?
– I can quite appreciate the desperate position in which some of the settlers in the fire-stricken area must be placed; but it is to the State Government, which is directly responsible for land settlement and has complete control over such matters, that the settlers must in the first instance look for relief.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Repatriation state whether it is the intention of the Government to bring in during the present session amending legislation with regard to war pensions, in order that injustices that have been done to many deserving men under the existing law may be remedied?
– There is on the notice-paper a question resembling that just put by the honorable member. Without desiring in any way to anticipate that question I may say that the Government has under the most careful consideration the whole position in regard to pensions, and that during the forthcoming debate on the Estimates a matured statement will be made giving the intentions of the Government with regard to certain desirable amendments.
Alleged Boycott: Idle Shippingof the World.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that several vessels of the Commonwealth Line of steamers are being laid up because they cannot be profitably employed, and whether he has any reason to believe that there is a boycott of Commonwealthowned ships by London exporters?
– It is a fact that some ships of the Commonwealth Government Line are laid up. I have some information with regard to the position which will be of interest to the House. Excluding five wooden ships which are permanently out of commission, three vessels of the Commonwealth Line are laid up - in Sydney the Toromeo and Australmount, and in Melbourne the Dinoga. In addition, the Eudunda and Erriba, built at Williamstown, have not yet been taken over, one of the reasons being that there is no profitable work in view for them.
It is only right to emphasize the fact that this condition of thingsis common the world over; that it is affecting not merely the Commonwealth Line, but ships of every line and of every country. In addition to the vessels which I have just enumerated, nine Australian-owned vessels of substantial tonnage and a large number of Australian-owned vessels of smaller tonnage are also laid up in Australia. One New Zealand company has upwards of thirty vessels laid up. In America, according to Fair Play of 16th June, there were at that time 733 steel steamers, in addition to hundreds of wooden steamers, tied up. The total dead-weight tonnage laid up in America in April last was 4,279,581 tons. In Scandinavia in August of this year 338 ships, of a total dead-weight capacity of 922,648 tons - a percentage of 27.1 of the total sea-going tonnage - were laid up. In Antwerp, in July and August last, there were laid up approximately 200 vessels, including vessels of 10,000 tons and over. Among these was the Indarra, a vessel recently owned in Australia. Thenumber of vessels laid up in the United Kingdom is very considerable. I have not the exact figures, but a statement made at the annual meeting of Furness, Withy and Company Limited in August of this year is most illuminating. The chairman, Sir Frederick Lewis, stated that throughout the world there were upwards of 10,000,000 tons of tonnage idle. He attributed the non-employment more to a general falling off of the world’s oversea trade rather than to freight rates. That is to say, thetrade was insufficient, and these vessels had to be laid up. A rather significant fact was published in the London Times of May, 1919, to the effect that nine large ex-German steamers allotted to Great Britain by the Reparation Commission had been bought by British firms, and that some of the recent buyers of these ships had no intention of trying to find employment for them, as in any case the task would have probably proved impracticable. It was stated further that-
Ships are being sent to be moored in sheltered waters until there is a prospect of using them. It is understood that in one case the buyers estimate that the ships will be laid idle for at least two years.
In Japan, in September last, of ships of 12,000 tons deadweight, down to 2,000 tons deadweight, there were laid up twenty-nine of a total deadweight tonnage of 130,302 tons, which would represent about 6 per cent, of the total. According to the Trans- Pacific journal of September last there were laid up in Japan, in August or September last, fifty-one vessels, of a gross tonnage of 153,129 tons.
All this indicates that the position here, which it is sought to be shown is singular and confined to the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, is common to the whole world, and that per head of population or tonnage of vessels the United States of America has a comparatively greater percentage of tonnage laid up than has any other country.
– In view of the danger to the public health by the threatened invasion of plague and other diseases, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the desirableness of directing the Commonwealth Health Department to issue, a leaflet of pimple instructions for the guidance of the general public and supply the State Education Department with the same or other information for publication in the School Paper?
– At the beginning of next week a Conference between the Commonwealth and State Governments is to be held in Sydney, at which members of the British Medical Association will be present. I shall be very glad to bring the honorable member’s suggestion before that Conference.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an incident which took place at a garden, party the other day, when, one of Lady Forster’s antique salt sellers disappeared?
– Order !
– I think you will allow me, sir, to finish my question.- Mr. SPEAKER.- Order ! The matter may afford the House some little amusement, but I must remind honorable members that questions can be addressed to Ministers in regard only to matters of which they have official cognisance, and that frivolous questions are not in order.
– I think I ought to be allowed to say that I was not present on the occasion in question.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the information now available as to the large quantity of idle shipping at the present time, the Government intend to reconsider their shipbuilding policy?
– I have said very many times that I propose to give the House an opportunity to express its opinion on the whole matter. I was asked a question by an honorable member, and I gave all the information I could, but the only result seems to be to provoke other honorable members to ask more questions. I shall answer no more questions without notice to-day.
Income Tax Returns
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I find that section 9 of the Income Tax Assessment Act precludes any information being supplied by the taxation officials in this matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
With reference to the cases of wounded and invalid returned soldiers whose pensions have been reduced or cancelled in what appears to be a very harsh manner, with the result that many of them, with their families, have been Buffering keenly, and are practically in a destitute state, does the Minister intend to grant any relief so as to improve their condition? If so, what does he propose to do?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
A war pension is only payable when an exsoldier is suffering from a war disability. No pension is cancelled unless the war disability is deemed to no longer exist, and no pension is reduced to a lower rate than the proportionate degree of his disability; any such action is only taken on definite medical evidence.
All war pensioners whose pensions have been reduced or cancelled have the right of appeal. In every case where an appeal is made the circumstances are fully inquired into, and all the evidence submitted by the pensioner is fully considered, and any further medical examinations deemed necessary are made. Appeals are determined in the light of all available information, and, where any doubt exists, the Commission gives the benefit of such doubt to the pensioner.
It is not within the power of the Repatriation Commission to grant pensions or to make provision for the maintenance of ex-soldiers who after discharge become disabled from illness, etc., incidental to civil life, and which cannot be deemed to be caused by, or the result of, their war service.
It is the intentionof the Government at an early date to carefully reconsider the representations which have been made regarding the existing provisions, together with other suggested alterations of the Act.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked the following questions: -
I promised the information would be obtained, and now furnish the following replies : -
Commonwealth and State Arbitration Tribunals - State Instrumentalities - Darwin : Unemployment - Military Pensions - Post and Telegraph Department: alleged reduction of Expenditure - Returned Soldiers : War Service Homes and Unemployment - Commonwealth Public Offices - Port Adelaide Mail Arrangements - Telephone Construction Delays - Leasing of Ferry Boat “Biloela” - War Gratuities - Invalid Pensions - Immigration of Employeesin Jewellery Trade.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1921-22 a sum not exceeding £2,742,205.
I regret very much that I have to break in again at this inconvenient moment with a further Supply Bill.
– It is all right. You need not make a speech !
– I should very much like to avoid a discussion at the moment. We have just spent nearly a fortnight on the Estimates, which are to come up again the moment the Customs Tariff Bill is out of the way. This Supply Bill is as urgent as it could possibly be; and, in the circumstances, I think I may appeal to the House to pass the Bill at once. There is nothing unusual in it. It provides for three pays of the Public Service, and will take us up to about the 21st or 22nd December, by which time, I hope, the Estimates-in-Chief will be passed in some form or another. The votes in the Bill are well below the provision made in the main Estimates, and I see nothing whatever to which exception can be taken. Supply must be through both Houses by to-morrow afternoon in order that advices to pay may be sent by telegraph to the different States, and the wages of the Public Service paid on the due date. The total expenditure provided for by the Bill is £2,742,205, and this is the fourth Supply Bill since the commencement of the present financial year. The total of the four
Bills reaches £12,360,270. If from this is deducted interest and sinking fund, £1,319,881 payable to the British Government; £1,750,000 for Treasurer’s Advance; and £200,000 for arrears in connexion with overseas mails - the last I have already explained to honorable members - it will be seen that the total of ordinary items is £9,090,389. That is about £1,900)000 less than the appropriation for the corresponding period of the last financial year ; so that it will be seen that every attempt has been made to keep these votes well under the original Estimates. This Bill, I should add, contains a further £250,000 for Treasurer’s Advance. This is in order to keep going works already authorized by the House, and in process of completion. Large calls have been made on the Treasurer’s Advance ; but the moment the Works Estimates are through, I shall be able to recoup the Treasurer’s Advance by a large sum. In the meantime, this is the only way I have of keeping ordinary current works- going, and it explains why I am obliged to ask for this further £250,000. It really is borrowing for the time being in anticipation of the Works Estimates.
– When are we to proceed with the Works and Buildings Estimates ?
– At the earliest possible moment. The trouble is that the consideration of the Senate’s requested amendments of the Tariff Bill is holding up other business and throwing our finances out of gear. There is nothing unusual in this Supply Bill, and I hope it will be agreed to without much debate.
– I agree that the Treasurer should be granted Supply as early as possible, in view of the fact that honorable members will shortly have an opportunity of discussing any grievances when the Estimates are dealt with. In addition, we desire, if possible, to avoid’ late sittings. There is a disposition on the part of pertain honorable members to sit on additional days and late, but a good deal of our time might have been saved, and we might have been further ahead with our business, but for the attitude of those very honorable members. In view of the promise of the Prime Minister that, before bringing in legislation to give effect to the decisions of the Premiers’ Conference in regard to amending the arbitration laws he will consult the trade union bodies, my remarks will be very brief. I shall be careful not to condemn the proposal in view of the fact that the details are not before us, but the scheme does appear to be far reaching and to involve a complete change of arbitration procedure. In the past there has been no appeal from the finding of the Arbitration Court. Now it is proposed to establish a Court composed of Federal and State Judges, which will have power to deal with two of the most important questions which arise in connexion with arbitration, namely, the basic wage and the hours of labour. If they have complete jurisdiction over those matters, there will not be much left for other industrial Courts to deal with. In addition, we are told that the Court will decide what are State disputes and what are Federal.
– There will be a lot of appeals.
– I am afraid there . will be, and probably the effect will be to break down the system of arbitration. I hope I am wrong.
– The honorable member is right, and I am afraid that is the intention of those who proposed this scheme.
– An intention cordially concurred in by two Labour Premiers.
– I do not feel bound to indorse their concurrence. In addition, provision is to be made for State instrumentalities to be removed from Commonwealth jurisdiction. For years we have been appealing to the people for power to deal with State instrumentalities in view of the ruling of the late Chief Justice Griffith and his colleagues that we have not such power. Recently, however, the High Court, differently constituted, decided that the Commonwealth had power to deal with State instrumentalities, and now the Government propose, of their own volition, to surrender that power. I did not wish to discuss the merits of these proposals at this stage, but I am in duty bound to point out the facts I have mentioned, be- cause I have heard comments upon them by men who take a leading part in arbitration proceedings.
– Did the High Court decide that the Commonwealth had power over State instrumentalities?
– The High Court gave a broader decision than had ever been given previously, and now the Government propose to hand back to the States the power for which we have been asking the people for years.
– That is the State Premiers’ price.
– I do nOt know what it is, and I shall not discuss the merits of the proposal until the details are before us, but, on the face of it, it appears as if it is not likely to be satisfactory. However, until the different unions have had an opportunity of presenting their views to the Prime Minister and the legislation is actually before us for consideration, I shall refrain from further comment. During the last weekend I received the following telegram from the Town Clerk of Darwin : -
I am directed to convey Prime Minister resolution passed meeting Darwin Town Council held 7th instant as follows: - “A largelysigned petition by the unemployed of Darwin, received by the mayor, praying that the Federal Government be requested to provide immediate employment as the present state of the unemployed is very acute, amongst whom are many married men with large families, who are on the point of absolute starvation. The council wishes to point out that Christmas - and the wet season is .close at hand, making the position worse, and sad, indeed. A copy of this telegram handed Administrator.”
Apparently, many men at Darwin are in a sorry plight, and they should receive special consideration from the Government, because they are practically isolated. They are not in close contact with the rest of Australia, Darwin is a most difficult place to get away from, and there is no employment for them - probably through causes over which they had no control. I ask the Government to give consideration to their circumstances, and see if anything can be done to relieve them. We are approaching the Christmas season, when everybody likes to have a little money to make conditions as bright as possible. Unemployed men cannot do that, and I am. satisfied that there would not have been a public meeting and a resolution such as I have read to the House unless the conditions justified that action. As the people of Darwin have no representation in this House, I deem it my duty to place this matter before the Minister for Home and Territories, with a request that .he will make inquiries and do what is possible to relieve the distress at present existing at Darwin in consequence of unemployment.
The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) stated, in answer to a question to-day, that the Government propose to introduce during this session amending legislation relating to soldiers’ pensions. I am very pleased to hear that pronouncement, and I hope that the legislation will be presented to the House reasonably early so that we can give the fullest consideration to this matter and have the opportunity of amending the Bill if necessary. The returned soldiers’ cases call aloud for consideration by this Parliament, and I hope that the measure introduced by the Government will be liberal and will not permit the administration to deprive of their pensions men who were sent overseas after having been medically examined and accepted as fit for military service. The quibble about incapacitation not having been due to warlike services should be swept aside. The mere fact of the Government having accepted the services of any man after a medical examination ought to be sufficient to entitle him to a pension if, during his period of service, he suffered incapacity from any cause. I hope that the measure will be a full and comprehensive one, and will do that justice to the returned soldiers which they so much deserve.
.- In view of the fact that the Estimates are to be discussed at an early date, I agree that this short Supply Bill might be allowed to pass speedily. I desire to emphasize the request made by my colleague to meet four days instead of three per week. The more speedily we dispose of the business of. the House the earlier will honorable members be able to return to their homes in order to spend, at any rate, a short period at Christmas with their families.
– Why not sit five days per week?
– I am prepared to do that if it will mean expediting the business. My further remarks I will defer until the Bills which have been promised are before us.
.- I indorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) with regard to the treatment of those men who were sent overseas, became incapacitated, and subsequently were deprived of their pensions. I trust that the Bill to be introduced by the Government will propose to give substantial relief to those men. To-day, however, I am concerned particularly with the case of Frank Dunn, of Marrickville. My brother brought the matter before the State authorities, but could get no satisfactory reply. This man has made certain claims against the Defence Department. He says that he is entitled to a pension of -which, he has been deprived ; but he has been told by correspondence over the name of the Secretary for Defence that he has no right to a pension. He has asked for leave to appeal to the Military Board, and I made -the request to the Department that the matter might be brought before the Board for early finalization ; but in a letter dated 1st July, 1921, this request was declined. Consequently, the man has not been able to make his appeal, ‘and complains that he is being illegally prevented from- putting his claim before the Board. I do not know what the procedure is ; but if the man has the right to appeal to the Board no official .should prevent him from making the appeal. He says that his pension has been illegally taken from. him. His discharge, which I have now before me, is a first-class one, in which his conduct is referred to as exemplary, the reason given for ‘it being medical unfitness. It has been said by honorable members in all parts of the chamber that justice should be done to our returned soldiers, and I appeal to the Acting Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to allow this manto bring his case before the Military Board. If he is allowed to do so, he will be more satisfied than he is now, even should his claim be disallowed. But he , is confident that if he can put his case before the Board his pension will be restored.
– It has come to my knowledge within the last day or so that the Government has inaugurated an economy stunt which takes the direction of curtailing expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and that it is likely that the erection of telephone exchanges in the outer suburban areas of Melbourne and the other capitals, and other important postal works, may be held up.
– That is not economy.
– It is not true economy. I repeat what I have said before, being careless of press criticism on the subject, that if this or any other Government will come to Parliament with proposals for the expenditure, even of millions of pounds, for the extension of postal and telephonic communication in country districts and city areas, I will support those proposals. The Railways Commissioners of Victoria, headed by a man imbued with American ideas for saving money, seem to be acting in a manner similar to that in which the Postmaster-General is acting. So long as the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is a Federal one, and the Railways Commissioners, who control State concerns, work for the development of the country, I do not look for them to make a profit.
– What the honorable member is referring to is the legitimate investment of’ capital, to which no one is opposed.
– Had not the Prime Minister shut down on questions without notice to-day, I would have asked the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that the Government have inaugurated this economy stunt.
– It is not a fact.
– I am prepared to back the Government in regard to all proposals for legitimate expenditure on the Postal Department, even though there should be a deficit, so long as that expenditure will have .the effect of sending the country ahead. I am glad to have the assurance of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). I had understood that deputations had been told that the right honorable gentleman was sitting so tightly on the Treasury chest that there was no possibility of erecting telephone exchanges in the outer suburban areas.
– In consequence of the prevailing unemployment, a number of returned soldiers are without, work. Some of these men occupy War Service Homes, and 1 was surprised the other day to read a notice sent to one of them by the Commission, intimating that unless his obligations to the Government were met promptly, he would be turned into the street. Such treatment should not be meted out to these unfortunate men, and I hope that the Minister responsible for the policy of the Commission will see that generous treatment is given to them. It may be said that the Commission is administering a commercial undertaking, but it is also a Government undertaking; and to turn men out of these homes at this critical time would not benefit the Government, which must have regard - for the welfare of the citizens.
I direct attention also to the desirability of the Government acquiring a block crf land in Sydney as a site for Commonwealth offices. There has recently been presented the report of the Public Works Committee on a proposal to erect a building in Castlereagh-street for the accommodation of the Taxation officers and some other branches of Commonwealth Departments, and the proposal to move the General Post Office to another site is under consideration. Premises for the accommodation of Commonwealth officers are rented in all parts of Sydney. They coat us a considerable sum in rent, and it is most inconvenient for those who have occasion to visit a number of Commonwealth Departments to go from one to another. I therefore strongly urge Ministers to consider whether it would not be the truest economy to acquire a considerable area, if not a whole block, not in the most central situation, but in a position easily accessible, where all or most of the Commonwealth offices ‘could be concentrated. The waste of public money in the renting of premises in all the capitals is known to every member, and the erection of buildings on scattered sites will continue the inconvenience to which those are put who have business with Commonwealth Departments. It should be possible to direct a citizen wishing to go to a Commonwealth, office to the Commonwealth buildings in the city in which he may be. It would greatly convenience the public, and mean a large saving to the taxpayer as the years went by, if most, if not all, of the Commonwealth offices in each capital were placed under one roof.
– While the Treasurer and PostmasterGeneral are both present, I wish to bring a matter of great importance and urgency before the Committee. ] have here a number of letters, resembling scores of others which I have been getting recently from the country parts of my electorate, complaining about delays in the erection of telephone lines. I cannot understand the departmental attitude towards these cases. Let me mention one that is typical of many others. When I make complaints to the Department on behalf of my constituents, I get the reply which I am sure goes to other country members as well, and probably to city members, too, that the line asked about cannot be proceeded with because material is not available. That excuse is a subterfuge, as I shall show by reading a letter sent by the Department to two of my constituents who wished to connect their homestead by telephone with the Narrandera Tost Office. The extension was agreed to by the Department on the condition that they should erect half the line at -their own cost, the Department erecting the other half. They had no trouble in getting material, and erected their half of the line; but when, on their behalf, I asked why the Department was not going on with its half, I was told that material was not available. These gentlemen then asked me to get permission for them to erect the other half of the line themselves, because they could find the necessary material. I obtained permission from the Department for them to do that which the Department said it could not do because of lack of material, and within a month the line was finished. This is a portion of the letter to them which was sent by the Departments -
With reference to your application for service to Narrandera Exchange from-
Station, I have to inform you that the material is not yet available to ‘erect the departmental portion of the line. As an alternative, the Department is prepared to allow you to provide the material and erect your private line on the Government poles to within 1 mile of the Narrandera Exchange, under Part XVI. of the Regulations.
Every day we get the excuse from the Department that they cannot provide these facilities, which mean so much to people in outback places, because they cannot get wire. I want to expose that position. Private people can get wire. There seems to be no scarcity of it.
– Private people may very well have made use of some of their f encing wire.
– They cannot use wire which does not come up to the standard laid down by the departmental regulations. I want to show how urgent the matter is, and how many people are affected, by reading a reply forwarded to me in answer to representations I had made concerning the delay which was taking place in regard to another case. The following report upon the application was forwarded by the sectional engineer: -
Mr. Cox submitted his application on the 4th August, 1921, and the shortage of wire is causing delay. At present it cannot be stated’ when a supply of wire in sufficient quantity will come to hand to enable this line and the many others of prior application to be completed. This line is third on the list for Wagga, and seventy-sixth on the list for the whole engineering district.
If there are seventy-six outstanding cases in one district, what must be the position all over Australia? It must be appalling. It is bad enough for people to have to live in the country, and face the adverse conditions there, without also being seriously hampered by the inability ofthe Postal Department to provide these works. But here is where the Treasurer comes in : The last letter I have received from the Department deals with an application submitted by Mr. Kensitt, of Tarcutta. I had complained thatthe inability of the Department to carry out these works could not be due to shortage of wire, because private peoplewere getting supplies. The reply of the Department was that the work for which Mr. Kensitt had made application could not be carried out because of the scarcity of material- and the lack of funds. I want the PostmasterGeneral to tell the House and the country the real cause of the delay, and I want the Treasurer to say whether it is due to lack of funds. I am heartily sick of getting these letters every day. They cause me no end of worry. It is most unsatisfactory in every way to be told that there is no wire when I know that such is not the case, and now to bo also informed that there are no funds available.
– The honorablemember knows that nearly £1,750,000 has been placed on the Estimates for expenditure in the Postal Department this year.
I undertake to say that when the Department has done its best it will not spend nearly all that money.
– Whose fault will that be?
– The Treasurer is quite innocent in this matter.
– It is only fair to let him put his point of view, because, naturally, the people will blame him when the statementis made that works are delayed owing to lack of funds.
– There were unexpended balances last year.
– Then the fault must lie with the Department of the Postmaster-General. The Postmaster-General says he is anxious to provide these facilities incountry districts, and if, therefore, they am not supplied there must be something wrong somewhere. There is no Department more capable than his of providing opportunities for making life worth living in country districts, and a strong guiding hand is urgently needed to cope with the hopeless state of chaos which exists. I would have no hesitation in cutting money out of the Defence vote, and spending it in providing postal facilities for rural areas. We could very well spend in this direction half of the £7,000,000 which it is estimated to spend in the Defence Department this year. But the answer to such a proposal is that money already voted for expenditure in the Postal Department has not been spent.. At any rate the grievance I have put forward to-day is indeed serious, and I shall keep on protesting until the people living in country districts are treated fairly, and given the facilities of which they are now deprived. At any rate, I hope we shall hear no more of these false statements that material is not available - a subterfuge too long used by the Postal Department to cover up its ineptitude.
.- I do not intend to delay the Treasurer’s Supply Bill,but I avail myself of the opportunity of again bringing before honorable members the tremendous disadvantage the people of Albany are suffering through the operation of the Navigation Act. Their position is more awkward to-day than it was even fifty years ago. I have submitted many appeals to the
Minister who administers the Act, but, because of certain technicalities, he cannot afford the port any assistance. When this Parliament passed the Navigation Act it did so on main principles which doubtless were very right and proper, but it vested in the Minister certain discretionary powers in respect to portions of Australia which were likely to be placed at a serious disadvantage through the operation of the measure. Albany is certainly one of those” places. It has no direct communication with other parts of Australia except in a roundabout way, and has always secured its supplies and means of communication with other parts of Australia by vessels, some of them calling in casually and others calling in regularly. In this way it was able to do a fair amount of trade and had good means of communication with other places; but these facilities have now been practically out out and the port has been indefinitely set back. All sections of the community there have appealed to me. One section which suffers particularly heavily are the wharf labourers. They will be obliged to seek employment elsewhere.
– Has any application been submitted for an exemption?
– I have repeatedly applied for exemption on behalf of the port, and I have a sheaf of letters from all quarters in reference to the subject. It has been suggested to me that I have only to say the word and a huge petition, signed by hundreds of people of all classes will be forwarded to me. I have appealed to the Minister in every conceivable shape and form, and I have brought the matter forward in this Chamber, and shall continue doing so until the House listens to me or until something is done to place Albany on as good a footing as it occupied before the Navigation Act was brought into force.
– Move an amendment to the Supply Bill, and the Minister will very quickly listen to what you have to say.
– I do not believe in hanging up the business of the Government,but if Albany is not properly treated I shall be obliged to move the adjournment of the House. I want the Government to exercise the powers they already have under the Navigation Act on behalf of a huge district which isso much hampered and prevented from carrying on its ordinary business. The White Star boats and other vessels which formerly called at Albany partly served the purpose of the people there, but they have all been cut out now and have not been replaced by others. I have received appeals from the Albany Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the State members for the local districts, and the people generally crying, “One boata month for a place like this, ninety years old, is altogether inadequate.” I can imagine how the people of an eastern port would growl if they were treated in the same way, but, apparently, because Albany is in the west it is to be neglected. I urge the Government to consider the matter seriously and exempt the port. No Albanyite can now come to the eastern States without having to undergo the expense of paying railway fares over a 300-mile slow-run railway to Perth. It is absurd to place such an embargo upon a community. It is dastardly.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has referred to matters in connexion with the Postal Department. A number of the requests I have submitted for works in my electorate have been attended to, others have not been acceded to, and others, although acceded to, have not been carried out owing to lack of material, shortage of funds, or some other cause. I cannot understand why, while that state of affairs exists, there should be any unexpended votes in PostalEstimates. One always receives courtesy at the hands of the authorities of the Department. There is no complaint in that regard, but one would think that a special effort would be made to extend these various time-saving appliances which are so essential to the development of the country. The people are ready to make their contributions in respect of various lines - and the requirements of the Department in regard to the deposits to be made have lately been reduced - but the Government are not prepared to proceed with these works. I understand that there is now available in Australia sufficient wire to meet the requirements of the Department, and that the supply of other telephone and telegraph materials is sufficient.A few days ago I received from the Department an intimation that it was not in a position to carry out a certain work, for which some of my constituents were asking, although the Department had agreed that it ought to be done. .1 do not know for what “ not in a position to carry out the work “ stands for in the vocabulary of the Postmaster-General’s Department, but looking at these enterprises from a commercial stand-point, it is difficult to understand why they are not carried out. Although I stand for economy, I say deliberately that it would be false economy to cut down the provision made for exbending the means of communication with those who are producing the money on which Australia lives. I would not stand for anything of. the kind. Every telephone line erected in a country district, to say nothing of many of those erected in metropolitan areas, is a distinctly economical proposition, and, therefore, I will not vote for a reduction of the Postal Estimates in respect of the provision made for the extension of telegraph and telephone facilities.
– I indorse the complaint made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) with regard to the delay in supplying postal, telegraph, and telephone requirements in country districts. In my own electorate, three different telephone lines, the construction of which was sanctioned and the deposits in. respect of them paid some months ago, cannot be erected this year, we are now told, because the money is not available. I give the Government warning that when the general Estimates are before us I shall require from the Postmaster- General (Mr. Wise) a full and clear statement as to why something cannot be done to prevent the holding up of works in this way. Even if city requirements have to go short, these country facilities must not be cut down. If the Department carefully examines its. Estimates I am satisfied that it will find a means of so re-allocating its votes that justice can be done to rural districts. It is not fair that the Department should agree to carry out a certain work, and that months later those who have raised the necessary deposit should be told that it cannot be done, and asked whether or not they desire that the deposit shall be returned. If a stop is not put to this sort of thing we shall have to take action.
– Action of what kind?
– I am prepared to take just as strong and sensible a stand as is the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart).
– The honorable member did not do so when a recent opportunity offered.
– I did. The honorable member cannot say that I have not always done my best to secure proper postal facilities for country districts.
– The honorable member has frequently warned the Government.
– I have not only warned them, but have made suggestions. I give the present Postmaster-General credit for having undertaken works which his predecessors could not be induced’ to take in hand. He has shown an inclination to meet the position, but ‘he will have to do a little more, and if he requires more funds for the purpose I, for one, shall be prepared to vote them. The provision of proper postal, telegraph and telephone facilities for those who are producing the wealth of the country is true economy. I hope that before we resume the consideration of the Estimates the Postmaster-General will go carefully into this matter, and will propound a scheme by which, at least, telegraph and telephone lines which have already been sanctioned can be constructed during the present financial year.
.-I wish to ask the Minister in charge of shipbuilding (Mr. Poynton) whether he has yet an explanation to offer with reference to the leasing of the ferry-boat Biloela to a company promoted by Mr. Scott Fell, of Sydney? I desire to know, first of all, why the boat was leased to that company in such a secret manner?
– There was no secrecy about it. The workmen at Cockatoo Island were consulted, and I understand that a lease of the boat has been offered to the honorable member.
– If the Minister will offer me a lease of it, I will give the offer very careful consideration. I have made in this House definite statements with reference to the leasing of this boat to the company in question, but up to date the Minister has not seen fit to furnish an explanation.
– I have replied to several questions on the subject.
– Yes, and the replies given by the Minister to questions which I have put to him have served only to mate the case for him and his Department worse than ever. His answers to my questions show that the boat was leased to the company promoted by Mr. Scott Fell during the first week in September, that it was supplied with coal, oil, cotton waste, and water by the Department, and that up to last week, at all events, not a penny had been received by the Department from the company. Surely that calls for an explanation!
– Perhaps the Department has not yet sent in its bill.
– If that is so, what a commentary it is on the business methods of the so-called Business Board which is in charge of operations at Cockatoo Island!
– They are good men.
– That may be, but there is more behind the leasing of this boat than we know. Mr. Scott Fell is a political friend of the Government; he is chairman of theReception Committee which entertains the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he goes to Sydney. A company promoted by him could obtain a lease of the Biloela behind the backs of the people for £15 per week, and although some eight weeks have elapsed since the running of the boat was given up by that company, the Department has not received a penny in respect of the lease or of the materials supplied. Over 8 tons of coal were supplied by the Department for the use of the boat during the time that the company ran it. Surely that warrants an explanation! Let me show honorable members an even worse and more sinister side to this question. Mr. Scott Fell’s company could obtain a lease of the boat for £15 per week, but when the citizens of North Sydney, who are represented in this House by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) applied for a lease of it in order that they might run it in opposition to the monopolistic Sydney Ferries Company, which, within the last few weeks, has increased its fares by over 100 per cent., they were told that they would have to pay £60 per week for it. That demand for £60 per week was made a few weeks after Mr. Scott Fell’s company had been given a lease of the boat for £15 per week.
I do not want to make any insinuations. I wish only to state the bald facts. It is for the Minister to explain them.
– If the facts are as stated by the honorable member, they speak for themselves.
– The facts are as stated by me. I await an explanation from the Minister, and shall bring this matter forward again and again until he furnishes one. The people of this country demand that the matter shall be cleared up. I. want to know why the Department, after leasing the Biloela to the company promoted by Mr. Scott Fell for £15 per week, a few weeks later asked the people of North Sydney £60 per week for a lease of it.
Within the last few weeks I have alluded to certain cases in which, in my opinion, soldiers and soldiers’ dependants have been treated in an unjust manner by the War Gratuity Board. The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) was handed the papers in these cases, and he promised to have an investigation made of the charges. I have received a reply this morning; and I think it is about time that honorable members took steps to see that more notice is taken of their representations. The reply in reference to the first case I spoke of is merely a departmental one, to the effect that the matter had been referred to the Board by the Minister, that careful consideration had been given to it, and that the decision of the Board could not be altered. The letter goes on to say that, in view of this, no good purpose would be served by again submitting the matter to the Board. That is exactly the kind of reply of which I previously complained, and I then quoted facts which, to my mind, showed that those interested had not received a fair deal. Surely the Minister is something more than a “ rubber stamp.” In regard to the other cases, the replies are similar, the Board simply refusing to re-open them. Apparently, these replies from the Chairman of the Board put an end to the matter. The Minister, in his letter which I received to-day, after quoting these replies from, the Chairman of the Board, says that, speaking generally, the Central Gratuity Board represents the “ final court of appeal,” and on its ultimate refusal to alter its decision, it is impossible for any further action to be taken. What a confession of weakness that is on the part of a responsible Minister ! What justice can a soldier or his dependants obtain under such circumstances? The Board may treat a man in the most unfair manner, and it can simply refuse to make any further inquiries. In my opinion, the Minister himself should be the final court of appeal. I mention these cases in the hope that when the Estimates come before us some drastic action may be taken by honorable members; at any rate, it is about time that an end was put to such replies as I have quoted. It seems to me that the time has arrived when honorable members who desire a reform in these matters should take steps, when the Estimates are before us, to cut off the supplies which are necessary to keep such a Board in existence. I have in my mind the case of the lady whose son was killed at the war, and who was granted a pension of 10s. per week. Since then her husband has died, and this pension represents her only source of income. I communicated with the Department, pointing out that this sum was wholly inadequate; and the reply I received was to the effect that she could not be regarded as being without sufficient means for her maintenance. Such treatment is beyond my comprehension altogether. I cannot understand how any sane, reasonable man could send a reply of the kind. However, as I say, I am merely mentioning these cases in the hope that some action will be taken when the Estimates are before us.
.- Some explanation is due from the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in regard to the expenditure of the Postal Department. I understood the right honorable gentleman to say, by way of interjection, that he had allocated more money to this Department than it was likely to spend.
– That is my belief.
– Then how is it that, when we ask for the postal facilities, the departmental officials, in Victoria, at any rate, declare that there is a shortage of material, and that the shortage of material is due to the shortage of money? Many telephone extensions are held up owing to the lack of wire, although, if I am rightly informed, such wire is now manufactured in Australia. It seems to me that the whole postal business is in a complete tangle. If I quoted individual cases, I could occupy the attention of the Chamber for an hour. In my electorate, there have recently been three railway extensions into the dense Mallee scrub, where soldier settlements have been created. There we find whole communities utterly without telephone or telegraphic communication, isolated from the rest of the State. If I send a telegram to any person there, it will be wired to the nearest town,and then carried on a three-days-a-week mail service to the person for whom it is intended. This, to my mind, is a scandalous state of affairs. I have been agitating and interviewing departmental officials until I am tired; all I get in reply to my complaints are stereotyped departmental excuses. I am sick and tired of keeping up this agitation in order to obtain facilities which should be provided without the asking.
– We have all been indulging in such agitation for thirty years - you must be patient!
– So long as the conditions remain as they are in my electorate I shall keep on agitating. In any case, an explanation is required of the seeming contradiction - that the departmental officials cannot get the money to buy material, while the Treasurer, according to his own statement, has provided more money than he thinks the Department can spend.
. - We have had the somewhat ridiculous spectacle this afternoon of three of the economy “ stunt “ crowd asking for further expenditure. The attitude of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), is past understanding.
– What about the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) ?
– The honorable member for Swan can himself deal with the honorable member for Hume. These honorable members I. have named have attacked the Postal Department, but, in my opinion, no blame attaches to the officials.
– I have not blamed any official.
– The whole trouble arises because honorable members opposite keep howling for economy - false economy - and the Government have not the pluck to stand up to them. So long as money is spent in his own electorate, each of the honorable members I have named regard the money as well spent, whether the lines they suggest pay or not, but the moment any money is spent on a paying line at Melbourne Ports, it is regarded as badly spent.
– Do you not think that the people inthe country require these facilities?
– I have always advocated the spending of money on postal facilities in the country. I am merely pointing out the peculiar methods of economy advocated by honorable members opposite. The situation arises, as I say, purely from the lack of courage on the part of the Government. The members of the Country party ought to have been spoken to inthe most straight way when the want of confidence motion was before us a little time ago.
Mr.Mc Williams. - It was too close!
– The closer it was, the more courage was necessary.
– What did you do then?
– I voted to put the Government out. However, I leave the economy crowd on one side, and’ now propose to ask the Treasurer to spend more money. I understand that the right honorable gentleman is leaving shortly for the big Australian building in London, there to carry out certain duties which some people are uncivil enough to say are unnecessary. But before he leaves the office of Treasurer I wish him, to do something for the relief of certain people who endeavour, without success, to obtain the invalid pension. I think action can be taken by regulation. There may be two families, in each of which there is an invalid daughter suffering from tuberculosis. One f amily gives the invalid all the care possible, impoverishing itself in buying necessary medicines and comforts. Application is made in her behalf for the pension; but. because of what her family have done for her, the application is refused. The other family regards the sick daughter as a nuisance, and turns her out of the house. Application is made in her behalf for a pension, and because she has been thrown in the gutter the application is successful. This discrimination is made under a regulation relating to “ adequate maintenance.” If a family tries to adequately maintain the invalid she cannot get a pension. I do not care how honorable members may howl for economy, or what the granting of these pensions would cost the Government the continuance of this anomaly is a blot upon Australia, and we should take steps at once to remove it. The officials say that they are bound by certain regulations made in accordance with the Act itself. If that be so, the Act should be amended; but I believe that the necessary action can be taken by an amended regulation. I have worried the Treasurer upon this question often. I do not pretend to have finer feelings or wider sympathies than he has, but the injustice of which I have spoken exists, and I believe that every honorable member would be agreeable to its removal. When the Government proposed to extend the invalid pension to the blind, honorable members practically agreed that the Bill should go through without opposition. I appeal to them to show similar sympathy for the class of people to whom I have referred. It will be to our honour if we remove this blot from our pensions scheme, and we shall be rising another step in the ladder of civilization. I ask the Treasurer to again consider if somethingcannot be done to assist families which impoverish themselves by the maintenance of an invalid, in view of the fact that this Parliament intended, when it passed the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, to provide against any family being burdened to the ground by sacrifice for an invalid dependant. Belief should be given, even if it costs the country £100,000 or £200,000. If the Treasurer will do what he can to give the help to which these people are so justly entitled, we shall always think more kindly of him.
– I sympathize with and support therequest made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). Every person who is imbued with a desire to assist his suffering fellow creatures must realize the strong claims of these unfortunate people of whom the honorable member spoke.
– I do not think there is one member of the Committee who objects to the pension being granted in those circumstances.
– I think all honorable members appreciate the necessity for righting this wrong, and I hope that the House will take an early opportunity of doing that. Similar cases m my own district have been brought under my notice, and I recognise fully the burden placed upon families who are struggling to maintain an invalid, and can get no assistance from the pensions scheme.
I rose mainly for the purpose of supplementing the remarks of the honorable member who advised the Government to concentrate Commonwealth activities in the city of Sydney. The same claim can be made in respect of every capital city and large town throughout Australia. In the various cities where I have had to do business with Commonwealth Departments, I have experienced great difficulty in locating the officers. I have had to go to one end of the city to see a Commonwealth official, and in an opposite direction to consult another Department. In the chief seaports of Australia the same disability is experienced, and in my own electorate, it is particularly in evidence. The District Naval Officer is in one locality, the quarantine office is somewhere else, the electoral officer is hi another quarter, and the Customs House in yet another. All the Com.monwealth Offices are scattered in different parts of Port Adelaide, and that means not only inconvenience for those who have to do business with the offices, but also inefficient and uneconomical administration. For the last twelve years the people of Port Adelaide have been agitating for better postal conveniences. The present Post-office is in a most unsuitable building in a very inconvenient locality, and is an absolute disgrace to the Commonwealth. The room in which the whole of the public business is transacted measures not more than 8 feet square, and, in addition, it contains private letter boxes. At 6 p.m. this office is closed, and business people who subscribe for private boxes are unable to get access to their correspondence arriving by the late mails. The patience displayed by the people of Port Adelaide is marvellous and beyond my comprehension. I pay a special tribute to the Citizen’s Committee for their untiring efforts. Certainly, the Post master-General has offered additional facilities, but the people of Port Adelaide, having seen the plans and specifications of the proposed building, regard them as inadequate, and not in keeping with the importance of the city. They prefer the present inconvenience to be continued for a time, rather than be saddled with an insufficient and unsatisfactory building located upon a site not acceptable to the citizens. They particularly desire a suite of offices established in the Port to accommodate all Commonwealth activities, including the new Post Office. If that desire were gratified, visitors to the Port who have to do business with any of the Federal Departments would know where to find them. I am sorry that the Government have removed from the Estimates an amount that was placed there for the purchase of a site for the new Post Office building; and I trust that the Minister may yet have an amount included; but I do not desire this remark to be regarded by the Minister as a justification for proceeding to erect a. building on what is known as the morgue site. Rather than that should happen, we would prefer to wait longer, in the hope of securing a greater measure of satisfaction. The only site which can be regarded as suitable for the purpose and which is universally approved of by the citizens’ business interests, and public officials is what is known as the Police Station corner, but there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Chief Secretary of South Australia and the Postmaster-General as to the price to be paid for this block. It is a grave anomaly that a deadlock regarding the transfer of a block of land required for the convenience of the community should occur between two public men serving the same taxpayers. For the continued unsatisfactory circumstances, I blame, largely, the exmember for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald). He did not press the claims of the people as he should have done, but seemed rather desirous that they should accept anything that the Government might be prepared to give them. The claims of the city of Port Adelaide ure sufficiently strong to merit the closest attention and consideration, and the citizens of that place have had their patience so sorely tried by a delay which has extended over a long period of years that they should at once be put in possession of a building which would suitably house the Commonwealth officials stationed there, thus conveniencing, not only the people of Port Adelaide, but also the population of South Australia at large, and the visitors to that State. The carrying out of this work would effect economy, and give the efficiency which is necessary, in the Commonwealth interests.
.- I draw attention to a matter of grave importance, on what is perhaps the last opportunity that I shall have of bringing it under the notice of the Treasurer before he leaves for Great Britain. Yesterday afternoon, in Sydney, I was interviewed by a number of immigrants, who had just arrived from England. They showed me ah advertisement in a jewellery trade journal, published in Birmingham, stating that ten men used to watchmaking, clock-making, and gold ring drawing were required in Australia. Those who answered the advertisement were supplied with forms, in which it was stated that their destination was Melbourne, but at the last moment Sydney was substituted for Melbourne. Of course, knowing nothing of Australia, this meant little to them at the time; but when they got to Sydney they found that nearly 100 peisons belonging to their calling were out of work there, and were informed that eighty men, following the same occupation, were out of work in Melbourne. I saw Mr. Shearer, a much respected gentleman, whom I have known since boyhood, who is secretary to the Jewellers’ Employees Union, and heard particulars of the case from him. These immigrants are ex-Imperial Service men, who followed the trade before the war, and took it up again on being discharged. They wish to know how they can get back to England, because they think it is of no use to remain here, seeing that there arts more men i;i the trade here than there are positions for. Moreover, gold, the commodity in which they work, is not easily obtainable now. Many gold mines are closed down because their ore is of low grade. These are craftsmen skilled in the fine work of watch-making and ring-setting, and although a man like myself, should the necessity arrive, could take up hard manual labour, they are not able to do so. There should be some one responsible for the advertisements which appear in trade journals, which are regarded as reliable sources of information about the doings of a trade all over the world. I do not oppose immigration, but I think that men should not be brought out here to work in callings in which there are already many out of employment. The men whom I saw seemed to be between forty-five and fifty years of age, and were thus at a time of life when they could not start again in another avocation. Besides, they have behind them their training, and the skill that they have acquired in a particular business. The Treasurer will do good work if, when he gets to England, he makes it his business to see that wouldbe immigrants are not deceived by advertisements. When persons come here there should be employment for them; they should not be left to walk the streets in search of it. I do not know what these particular immigrants will do. They have been fixed up for the present by the secretary to their union, and will not want for the necessaries of life. If my remarks are brought under the notice of the Department concerned, they may have some effect in preventing, in the future, the sort of thing to which I have drawn attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph .Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : - Defence - Estimates of Expenditure, 1921- 22 - Explanatory Statement prepared by direction of the Minister for Defence.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 192], Nos. 202, 203, 204. Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at - Cootamundra - For Defence purposes. Mascot - For Defence purposes.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 200.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at - Kogarah, North Bondi, Waratah, and Wee Waa.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests resumed from 4th November, vide page 12497) :
Drugs and chemicals, viz. -
And on and after 22nd June, 1921 -
Senate’s Request. - Arsenate of lead, ad. val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved -
That the requested amendment be not made.
Postponed item 275-
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.
Upon which Mr. Prowse had moved -
That the requested amendment be made, but that all the words after the word “ purposes “ first occurring in sub-item (2) be left out.
.- Honorable members will recollect that on Friday last when the further consideration of this item was postponed, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked whether the Phosphate Cooperative Company would be treated by the Electrolytic Zinc Company just the same as other companies were to be treated by it in the matter of supplies of zinc concentrates, and I undertook to get a written statement from the Electrolytic Zinc Company that they would do so. I have here a copy of a letter forwarded by the Electrolytic Zinc Company to the
Phosphate Co-operative Company. It is as follows: -
Phosphate Co-operative Co. of Australia Ltd., 440 Little Collins-street, Melbourne.
Dear Sirs, - As arranged at the interview with your deputy chairman, Mr. Morton, and your general manager, Mr. Augustus Wolskel, this morning, we enclose herewith copy of a letter which we are sending to the Minister for Customs.
This is the letter forwarded to me as the outcome of that interview -
I am instructed to advise that zinc concentrates will be made available to the Phosphate Co-operative Co. of Australia Ltd., of 440 Little Collins-street, Melbourne, on the same terms and conditions as are now offered, or may be subsequently arranged with other Victorian manufacturers of superphosphate. The terms now under discussion with the manufacturers of superphosphate at Yarraville provide that the Electrolytic Zinc Co. shall erect the equipment and handling appliances required in connexion with the roasting of zinc concentrates, or shall arrange that this work shall be done at their expense. The Electrolytic Zinc Coy. is willing to make the same arrangements with the Phosphate Co-operative Coy. We are advised by the Phosphate Co-operative Coy. that their first requirements of zinc concentrates will be in about eighteen months or two years’ time, and will then be at the rate of 20 tons daily (equivalent to approximately 5 tons of sulphur). These requirements may increase during several following years to an estimated maximum of 20 tons sulphur daily, should the Phosphate Coy’s initial efforts on the business side prove successful. The Electrolytic Zinc Coy. is willing to allow this offer to remain open for two years from this date, by which time the Phosphate Co-operative Coy should be in a position to determine its future policy.
The Electrolytic Zinc Company thus pledge themselves to make available to the Phosphate Co-operative Company full requirements.
– Will they make them available to all companies?
– They will make them available to this particular company, the only concern which so far has raised the question.
– But other companies have protested against the increased duties.
– This is the only concern which has raised the question with the Electrolytic Zinc Company, but I have not the slightest doubt that the same terms can be obtained by any other company.
– Are they the terms whichapply to private companies?
– Is there any mention of price?
– There will he a price, of course, in the final contract when it is drawn up;but it will be exactly the same as that which applies to private companies. That is to say, whatever terms are applied to private companies in respect to conditions and prices will also apply to this co-operative concern. In every case the Electrolytic Zinc Company will erect the plant. It must be remembered that the Electrolytic Zinc Company is not the only concern which can supply pyrites and concentrates capable of being used for this particular purpose; but so far as it is possible for them to deliver concentrates to any outside firm they are willing to give them the same terms and conditions.
– Does the question of price come in at all?
– I will deal with that in a moment. The point raised by the honorable member for Echuca, as explained by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) , was that the Phosphate Co-operative Company would be obliged either to pay duty on imported sulphur or to undergo the expense of erecting a big roasting plant, and putting in the necessary handling appliances to enable them to deal with local concentrates, an expense which they did not wish to incur. However, the Electrolytic Zinc Company are prepared to extend to this co-operative concern the terms and conditions applying to the fertilizer firms at Yarraville. That is to say, they will erect the necessary roasters. It may seem an extraordinary step for them to take, but they are in the position that they must put up roasters somewhere to treat their concentrates.
– Then why is it that theyare not putting up their own roasting plants and offering to supply sulphuric acid?
– The probability is that the Electrolytic Zinc Company, being in a position to manufacture their own sulphuric acid, might also undertake the manufacture of superphosphates, and thus compete with the existing fertilizer firms.
– There is no probability of that, because the farmers might in that way get something cheap.
– Seeing that there are already fertilizer plants in existence, I do not think from the company’s point of view it would be an economical proposition. This roasting is to be done for this particular purpose, and for other reasons, which I shall deal with in a moment or two, it is far better to have this working understanding between the various companies by which a roasting plant shall be put up in association with the existing fertilizer plants. In that way economical use can be made of the sulphur contents of the concentrates. Ifit is not done, the Electrolytic Zinc Company will be obliged to erect roasters to turn the sulphuric contents of their ores into sulphuric acid, and sell it as such - and it is a very difficult thing to handle- or they must dump the whole of these sulphur contents into the atmosphere, which would be an enormous economic waste. It is best, of course, to bring the ores to the roasters at the fertilizer plants. The question has been asked whether all this will lead to an increase in the price of superphosphates, a very important matter to the farmer. Superphosphates are used in large quantities in Australia, and without them it would be practically impossible to till large areas of our lands.
– What quantity of superphosphate is manufactured each year in Australia?
– Speaking from memory, it is about 400,000 tons. There are 40,000 tons of sulphur used, and the proportion is about 1 ton of sulphur to 10 tons of superphosphates. There has been a rise in the price of superphosphates, and, naturally, the farmer is looking for a fall. I was very anxious to know what would be the result of the imposition of the duty on sulphur in respect to the treatment of concentrates and the making of pyritic acid, because not nearly as large a quantity of superphosphates is being used as should be used in Australia to-day, not merely for the fertilizing of cultivated land, but also of grazing land and pasture land. I am quite confident that, provided a suitable superphosphate is used, according to the climate, very great benefit would be achieved by applying superphosphates to dairying land. The gentlemen connected with the fertilizer industry saw me this morning in company with representatives of the mining industry, and told me that although they had been opposing the proposal for a duty on sulphur they had now come to a definite basis of agreement with the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and were prepared to withdraw their opposition to it. A member of the deputation, who put the case at greater length than any other, was Mr. Swinburne, formerly a member of the Inter-State Commission, and I think that honorable members will agree that when that gentleman expresses an opinion it is a considered one, and his judgment on matters is entitled to every consideration. I put a certain question to him. I cannot mention the figures, because they are confidential. I said, ‘ ‘ You are manufacturing now on a certain basis for sulphur. That being so, and this arrangement being on, the basis of so much per ton - considerably lower than the price at which you are manufacturing now - taking the existing price of sulphur if freights and wages do not rise from what they are to-day - could you say it would not lead to a higher price for super, than is being paid?” That is a clear, definite question, free from ambiguity, and to it Mr. Swinburne replied, “ Undoubtedly; it would be a considerable reduction on super.” In considering Mr. Swinburne’s statement that it would mean a considerable reduction, we have to. remember that the extent to which the price of sulphur enters into the price of super hposphates is not very great. Taking the generally accepted basis of ] ton of sulphur to 10 tons of superphosphate, every £1 variation in the price of sulphur means a variation of 2s. per ton in the price of superphosphates. Consequently, if the price of sulphur under this arrangement fell, let us say, for the sake of argument, to the extent of £2 below the existing price, that would make a difference of 4s. per ton in the price of superphosphates. If the fall were £3 per ton, it would make a difference of 6a. per- ton in the price of superphosphates. I want honorable members to be quite clear that, while Mr. Swinburne talks of a “ considerable reduction “ in the price of superphosphates, as the result of this arrangement, it cannot amount to more than about 2s. per ton. As the price of sulphur enters into the price of superphosphates to the extent of 2s. for every £1 in the value of superphosphates, that is the full extent to which the fall or rise in the price of sulphur can affect the price of superphosphates.
– If that is so, it would not affect very much the cost per acre of fertilizers.
– As the quantity of fertilizers used in wheat-growing is somerwhere about 75 lbs. pen acre, a fall or rise of 2s. per ton in the price of superphosphates would make a difference of a little more than 1½d. per acre in the cost of fertilizers. Here we are talking of a fall, and not of a rise.
There is one other factor in this situation to which I wish also to direct the particular attention of the farmers’ representatives. Under the arrangements which have been entered into by the Electrolytic Zinc Company and the fertilizer companies, the Electrolytic Zinc Company undertakes, no matter what may be the price of sulphur outside Australia, not’ to raise the price of the concentrates to the fertilizer companies above the actual cost of working.
– Where is that agreement ?
– I have not the agreement.
– Who is going to define what the cost of working is?
– Honorable members may be sure that the terms of the agreement between the fertilizer companies and the Electrolytic Zinc Company will be such as would constitute a proper business arrangement between business men. When that agreement is drawn up, we may be very certain that the fertilizer companies will see to it that its terms enable them to fully determine what will be the actual cost of working, since they are bound to pay that particular sum whatever it is, although not above a certain maximum.
– I should be glad if the Minister would repeat his last statement with regard to the price or costs not being above a certain amount.
– The point I was endeavouring to make may be readily put. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that Japan and the United States of America were to go to war and our outside sources of sulphur were entirely cut off, with the result that the price of sulphur outside went up to £20 per ton, as it might do in those circumstances, under the arrangement which is being made between the fertilizer companies and the Electrolytic Zinc Company, no matter what the price of sulphur outside may be, unless there is some special factor in the shape of shipping freights, or some- thing of the sort which raises their costs of working, they may not advance the price of the concentrates to the fertilizer companies.
– They can advance it as the price of sulphur outside Australia goes up.
– No; that is the point that I am putting.
– But we have not seen the agreement.
– In answer to that interjection, I would point out that among the gentlemen who came to my room this morning were Mr. Wischer, Mr. Swinburne, Mr. Cuming, Mr. Haynes, Mr. Baillieu, and Mr. Jepp.
– Why did not the Minister have also present representatives of those who have to pay for the superphosphates ?
– They are not parties to this agreement. When these gentlemen tell me that they have made an agreement on this basis, I accept their word, just as I think the honorable member would do if he were in my place.
– I am not questioning that.
– I am telling the Committee as much as I may of the terms of that agreement. This is a very important matter, from the point of view of the farmers. Here is an agreement under which, if any untoward happening outside Australia leads to a tremendous rise, such as occurred during the war, in the price of sulphur, we have a definite assurance that it shall not affect the price of sulphur here so far as it enters into the manufacture of superphosphates. That is a very valuable position from the farmers’ point of view.
– On what basis is the price arrived at, since it bears no relation to the price of sulphur outside Australia?
– It has some bearing on the price of sulphur to-day.
– TheMinister said there was a maximum above which, in the event of an abnormal rise outside, the price could not go. Is that fixed in the agreement?
– Can the Minister tell us what supply of concentrates we have in Australia ?
– There are many millions of tons. I was about to point out that this arrangement is going to be not merely a benefit, as I hope it will be, in. the long run, to the farming community of Australia, but of enormous benefit to the mining industry. What we are endeavouring to do and, I believe, with wisdom, is not only to assist the fertilizer companies, the Electrolytic Zinc Company, and smaller companies, but to materially assist the mining industry of Australia. When I tell honorable members that the use of the sulphur contents of many of our ores means an additional value of 30s. per ton for those ores, they will recognise that if such ores are utilized instead of being thrown away, as in many instances they are, because the sulphur contents cannot be utilized, the effect will be to put on a payable basis many mining propositions that to-day are utterly unpayable.
– And to do so at the farmers’ expense.
– I think I can convince any reasonable man that this is not going to increase the price of superphosphates to the farmer. I believe that in the course of time it will be shown that this arrangement has been of immense benefit to the farming community, and also to the mining industry. In Western Australia, for instance, quite a number of mines have sulphide ores. Those mines to-day are idle, but I believe that if this arrangement is carried out, the necessary roasting plants put up, and the sulphur contents of those ores used, those mines will soon be going once more.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that that has been tried in Western Australia? Is he not aware that it has been tried ?
– Thirty-five per cent. of the superphosphate that is made in Western Australia at the present time is manufactured with pyritic sulphur. It is a question not of what has been tried, but of what is actually going on at the present time. The metallurgical side of this work has progressed very materially in Australia in the last ten years. Our metallurgical processes for treating these ores are probably as good as those followed in any other part of the world, and as the metallurgical side develops we will see side by side with this scheme a very considerable expansion in the mining industry. I certainly hope, and, indeed, believe, that that will be the effect of it. What we are endeavouring to do here is being done in every other country.
– What is the cost of these roasting plants?
– It depends entirely upon the size and capacity of the roasters and the number of furnaces put up.
– The sum of £100,000 was mentioned by somebody - is that the amount?
– It depends on how much sulphur and sulphuric acid they require, and the capacity and output of the works.
– Was there not some figure mentioned?
– There was not any particular figure mentioned, but they are prepared to put up roasting plant to meet the capacity of the works, whatever that capacity may be.
– There is plant lying idle in some places.
– That may or may not be so, but what I have stated is the position.The matter is in the hands of the Committee. I believe that what is proposed is not detrimental to the farming interests, but will be found to be an advantage. I have no doubt whatever that these proposals are definitely to the benefit of our great primary industry of mining, which is languishing to-day.
– I am quite prepared to go all the way with the Minister in his statement that this is a big and exceedingly good arrangement for the Ring. The manufacturers of this manure have already formed a fairly substantial Ring in Victoria, as a glance at the prices will show. There is a cooperative company in South Australia, where the price is quoted, I am informed, at £5 9s. per ton for next year.
– Will you quote the strength?
– It is exactly the same as we get in Victoria.
– There are three strengths.
– I am trying to be quite fair. The price given is the standard for Victorian fertilizers of 18 per cent. My authority is the manager of the co-operative company. If we compare the prices in Melbourne and Sydney we see that there is practically a difference of £1. Now, an offer is made by the Ring to finance a co-operative company to compete against the Ring itself. We have heard of the lion and the lamb lying down together, but in this instance the lamb will certainly be inside the lion. We have a co-operative company started by farmers, as in South Australia, in order that they may manufacture their own superphosphates at a less price, and we have the cool proposal, “You must take a semi-raw product, and we will finance you.” The moment the co-operative company is financed by the Ring, the co-operative company loses all its usefulness.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong only in one fact - the superphosphate “Ring” of which he speaks has nothing whatever to do with the offer to the co-operative company.
– I shall presently deal with some of the statements made by the apologists for the Ring. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) says that if we put this duty on sulphur we shall be able to have all our explosives made here, and to fight the imaginary foe that is coming.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member says that when the British Navy has disappeared, and we are surrounded by enemies, We shall be able to provide sustenance for ourselves by the production of wheat, if we place a duty on sulphur. The honorable member forgets that we have to export about threefourths of our wheat production. I believe, however, that this duty will aid the mining industry.
– Do you know the price the company charges in South Australia?
– Of course. Why can the Ring sell for £5 9s. in Adelaide and charge nearly £1 more in Melbourne ?
– Is it doing that now?
– Yes. The price is £6 15s. in Western Australia; £6 7s. 6d. to £6 9s., I understand, in Sydney; £6 3s. in Melbourne: and £5 9s. in South Australia.
– There is a difference of 14s. between South Australia and Victoria.
– Why can the Ring sell at 14s. per ton less in Adelaide than in Victoria?
– Does it?
– There are the figures.
– Where did you get them ?
– From the manager of the Co-operative Company.
– Did you also get figures from what you call the “ Ring “?
– I took the figures from honorable members here who have bought during the last few weeks.
– Then all I can say is that it is advisable to have the figures checked.
– I prefer to take the word of members of Parliament who themselves have purchased. The manager of the Co-operative Company gave me those figures to-day, and if my authority is wrong, there are honorable members who can check them. How is it that where there is a co-operative company, financed by the farmers themselves, the price is less than is charged in Victoria, where there is no co-operative competition?
– There is going to be some co-operative competition.
– Yes, there is going to be some “ co-operative competition “ in a way which will absolutely muzzle co-operative competition. If the Co-operative Company has to go to a Combine in order to be financed,and this in order to compete against the Combine itself-
– The honorable member is wrong in his facts; they are not going to the Combine to finance them.
– Then to whom ?
– To the Electrolytic Zinc Company.
– I have the greatest respect for those who are responsible for the management of the Electrolytic Zinc Company.
– You ought to have !
– Yes, I think I ought; I happen to know some of the gentlemen in control, and there are none whom I hold in higher esteem.
– Why do you say it is a Combine ?
– Because I believe it is practically the same company which is controlling and influencing all this work.
– Is it controlling the fertilizer companies, too?
– I believe that all the fertilizer companies have, at the least, one of these honorable understandings by which the price is the same, no matter from which we purchase.
– What has that to do with the Electrolytic Zinc Company?
– And what are the grounds for the honorable member’s belief?
– I have the ground that the price quoted is the same. If I am wrong, let the honorable member contradict me.
– That is not the question. You say that the Electrolytic-Zinc Company and the fertilizer people are identical. What grounds have you for that?
– Not the fertilizer companies. I am making the statement, and the Minister or the honorable member for Balaclava may explain why, if there is no Combine, understanding, or mutual arrangement, this co-operative company of South Australia can sell at 13s. or 14s. per ton less in South Australia than is charged in Melbourne, where there is no co-operative competition, while the Combine sells there at the same price.
– That is not the question you are arguing. I do not know as to the latter.
– The honorable member can find out the facts for himself. I hold that the only hope of salvation for the primary producers of Australia is co-operation.
– That is an argument for no duty.
– I am not in favour of a duty.
– If the Ring is treating the farmers badly, let us break down the duty.
– If the honorable member will assist me I shall try to “ break down “ the duty.
– What about dumping by Japan?
– There we have the old “ gag.” Can the honorable member show that the price to-day exhibits the slightest sign of dumping ? The price is 50 per cent. higher than it was before the war.
– It is the lowest rise in the case of any commodity you can mention .
– We have to remember that we have taxed all the tools of trade of the farmer, and these fertilizers represent the bedrock of the prosperity of the agricultural interests of Australia.
– Do the South Australian manufacturers get their raw material from the same source as the Victorian manufacturers ?
– Yes. We tax practically everything the farmer uses, and while there is a 50 per cent. rise in the price of phosphates, everything that the farmer produces has experienced a reduction in price of about 50 per cent. on last year. I should say that 4s. 6d. f.o.b. is about the best price that the farmer can look for during the coming season for his wheat.
– If he gets that he will be well satisfied !
– Yes; and just now, when prices are tumbling about the farmers’ ears in the case of his butter, meat, wheat, oats, hay, and everything he produces, we are imposing a Tariff to tax, as I say, practically everything he uses. Unless the farmer can get superphosphates at a reasonableprice - they are the very essence of life to the wheatgrowers, especially on the lighter soils - a great proportion of the light lands will go out of production. The figures to-day show a serious decline in the acreage under wheat. This year there has been a slight increase,” but for the two preceding years the decline was, as Isay, serious. I repeat that this proposal may help the mining industry to a small extent. It is a good thing for us to be self-contained; but if this is a national industry, is it fair that one class, and one class only, should pay for establishing it? I am now speaking for myself, and not for my party, and I say to the Minister (Mr. Greene) that I am quite prepared to vote a reasonable bonus for the creation of such industries. I am prepared to support a reasonable and fair, and even a generous, bonus on sulphur to enable the industry to be established, for then every class in the community will bear its share of the cost. We are told that the manufacture of agricultural implements is an industry which must be established in Australia. We are told that the iron and steel industry must be established in Australia, that the manufacture of rabbit traps is a key industry which must be established, and that the establishment of sulphur works is also essential; and one class of the community is asked to bear the whole cost. Is it reasonable or fair?
– The statement does not happen to be correct.
– The Minister has put the syndicate view as it was supplied to him. He stated the case quite fairly from the stand-point of the manufacturer of superphosphates. I am stating it from the stand-point of the man who uses the superphosphates. The manufacturer does not care what duty is imposed, because he will pass it on.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that those who produce the sulphur are among the primary producers of Australia?
– I have admitted that to a limited extent this duty will assist the base-metal industry, which is in such a condition that anything we can do to help it should be gladly done. But anything done to assist the mining industry should be at the expense of the whole community, and not only of one particular class. If the Minister will introduce a Bill to provide for the payment of a generous bonus for the establishment of the sulphur industry, I will support it. If that were done the whole of the people would contribute according to their means towards the cost of establishing a national industry. And, surely, if a national industry is tobe established for the benefit of the whole of Australia, it is right that the whole of the people should pay the cost.
– The whole of the people are contributing very liberally to support the man on the land. A great deal is done by the Federal and State Governments.
– We have heard a great deal within the last few days about a prospective reduction in the price of wheat, and a corresponding reduction in the price of bread. Have the men who are mouthing most loudly about a cheaper loaf said that the Milling Combine and the bread carters should pay a copper towards the reduction in the price of bread? No. It is a fine thing to get a reduction in the price of the bread if the whole of the expense is borne by the man who grows the wheat. If the wheat were obtained for nothing, the consumer would still pay a considerable price for his loaf. When honorable members are rejoicing about the prospect of cheaper bread, are they prepared to make a proportionate reduction’ throughout all the processes that intervene between the growing of the wheat and the delivery of the bread ? Are they prepared to demand that the miller, the baker, and the bread carter shall contribute a farthing towards the cheap loaf? No; the whole sacrifice is to be made by one class only. The attitude of honorable members is not fair. While the consumer is to get a cheap loaf, the -men on the sun-baked Mallee country, and in the interior of New South Wales and Western Australia, are working below the living wage; for a man who has to cart his wheat any distance cannot profitably sell it at 4s. per bushel f.o.b. Melbourne, or even at 4s.” 6d. A sweating wage is being paid to the man who is producing on the land, and he is being taxed on everything he uses; even on the manures that are necessary to enable him to live at all, he has to pay tribute to the Combine. I desire to help the sulphur industry, and I again ask the Minister not to proceed with this duty, but to bring in a Bill to provide for the payment of a bonus on the production of sulphur, and I will assist him to the point of generosity. Experience in South Australia, where there ls the only cooperative company handling superphosphates, shows that this duty can be used to the detriment of the producer. Do not further load one class of the community that is bearing its full share of every duty imposed in this Tariff and a supercharge also. Already we tax everything the farmer uses ; do not go to the extent of penalizing him by an impost on the fertilizer that he must use in order to live and give the people the cheap loaf they are so anxious “to eat.
.- I hope the Committee will not agree to the imposition of this duty. The people interested in mining, electrolytic work, and the manufacture of manures may have decided, in consultation with the Minister, as to what is a reasonable duty to impose, but those who use the manures also have a right to be heard. The Minister stated that he obtained an assurance from the manufacturers that this duty would not increase the cost of the manure, but I do not know whether the Minister bore in mind that they had a very big margin upon which to work. In Western Australia we were paying, at the commencement of 1914, £4 2s. 6d. per ton for superphosphates of the same standard as those for which we are paying to-day £6 15s. I have already stated that the manufacturers had, in the additional cost of freights, a reasonable excuse for the high cost of fertilizers during war time. We forgave them for that increase, and endeavoured to pay the ‘ price they demanded, but we confidently expected that when the war was over and a greater tonnage of shipping was available, and also in view of the fact that the Commonwealth is a partner’ in the Nauru Island deposits of phosphatic rock, the farmers would be able to purchase cheaper manures than even in pre-war time. To say that manures will become no dearer than the price to which they rose during “war time is no argument in favour of this duty. The Government, who have promised so much to the man on the land, and talked a great deal about encouragement of primary production, as a means for paying the national debt, now ask the Committee to impose a duty on sulphur to assist the firms which are making money out of the sale of zinc concentrates. There is no objection to them doing that, but not at the expense of the primary producers, and I remind the Committee that it is not the natural sulphur that is best for manures. The manufacturers are now using a considerable amount of natural sulphur, and it ‘ is not coming from Japan, but from America, which ‘can supply us even cheaper than can Japan. There is no reason to fear opposition from Japanese manures. As a matter of fact, no country is foolish enough to sell cheap manures. The Government, however, seem to be foolish enough to refuse cheap manures. I repeat that cheap fertilizers would benefit everybody, and I would not vote to increase the cost of manures by one farthing. The Minister (Mr. Greene) was quite correct when he referred to the importance of fertilizers to the Australian producer, for they can be used with advantage, not only in the production of grain and wheat crops, but also, if they are cheap enough, on grass lands. The field for their use, however, becomes limited when they become too costly. In South Australia and other States land that is not regarded as suitable for producing wheat has been brought under crop solely through the use of fertilizers. In Western Australia the Government so realize the importance of cheap fertilizers that they carry them on the railways at the lowest rates in the schedule.
– I think they are carried at the rate of¼d. per ton per mile.
– They do that in order to benefit by increased back freights in the form of wheat and other commodities. I ask the Minister to realize the difference between pre-war and present prices. Cannot he regulate the price in some way? At what price do the manufacturers get their phosphatic rock from Nauru Island?
– They are paying more now than they paid before.
– Then what is the good of the Nauru deposits?
– The benefit will come later. The manufacturers are paying higher freights now than they paid formerly.
– There shouldbe no hindrance to the farmers securing the fertilizers they need. This proposal seems tobe intended for the betterment of the mining industry; but the primary producer should not be burdened to effect it. All primary productions are nearly back to pre-war prices, hut the primary producer has to pay at least 50 per cent. on pre-war costs for this and other requirements. In eating houses they are still charging on the war tariff.
– They have no right to.
– Still, they do, although they are getting their meat, butter, and all the other primary produce that they use, at 50 per cent. less than was charged during the war. The primary produceris levied on by nearly every item in the Tariff, and the proposal to increase the cost of his manures is about the last straw. I hope that the Committee will determine that sulphur and manures shall have free admittance into Australia. If superphosphates were sent here from Japan, that would benefit Australia, and would be a loss to Japan; but they are likely to come not from Japan, but from America, and as we ex pect the Americans to buy so much from us, we should purchase something from them.
.- This is the first item during the Tariff discussion in connexion with which the Minister has expressed any anxiety concerning the mining industry. The Tariff has increased the cost of raising ore in Australiaby 6d., and probably 7d. or 8d., per ton; but the big mining companies of Broken Hill, Mr Lyell, Mr Cuthbert, Mr Morgan, and the others, have not protested against the imposts. At the same time, they have asked their employees to accept lower rates of wages, notwithstanding that the cost of living has been increased by the duties.
– The honorable member knows the reason.
– They are in the swim. The present proposal is almost wholly in the interests of the Broken Hill people. Hitherto the mining companies have been in the habit of dealing directly with their products. Copper ore might be sent to Port Kembla, and other ore might be sent to the Electrolytic Zinc Works in Tasmania for treatment; but in either case it was paid for at its value, or a charge was made for its treatment, the mining company taking the results. But Parliament is now asked to interfere in most intricate’ and delicate financial and business arrangements for the treatment of ore, and the disposal of resulting products. Ore which requires roasting is not to be dealt with by the company which raises it, but by another company, which, in the process, will extract sulphur from it, and make sulphuric acid from that sulphur, using this by-product and returning the ore to the mining company; but the connexion between the two concerns is too intricate for honorable members to understand. Manufacturers of superphosphates have told me that they have recently been importing sulphur rock from America containing 99 per cent. of pure sulphur, from which they make sulphuric acid. Australian mining companies have for many years been making sulphuric acid. The Mr Lyell works, fourteen or fifteen years ago, commenced to manufacture superphosphates, and began also to make sulphuric acid, mostly from the copper pyrites that the company was mining. Messrs. CumingSmith bought a copper mine at Murren Murren, in Western Australia. Iwas Minister for
Railways in that State at the time, and agreed to the rate of %d. per ton per mile for back loading, so long as the metal contents of the ore should be not worth more than £1 per ton. They found, however, that the business was not profitable. I understand that to-day the Mount Lyell Company imports a great deal of sulphur from America.
– The Wallaroo Company has been making sulphuric acid for over twenty years.
– But at the present time they are importing sulphur.
– But they make all they can.
– Then why not all, if the method is a success ? There is danger in accepting the proposal before the Committee, because it has not been proved that a sufficient quantity of sulphuric acid can be economically made from the locallyproduced sulphur. There is plenty of raw material, but the percentage of sulphur which this contains is small comparr-1 with the sulphur contents of the imported raw material, being about 25 per cent., as against 99 per cent.
– There is much more sulphur in the New South Wales ores, other than those of Broken Hill.
– I do not know of any large production of sulphide ores in New South Wales other than that of Broken Hill. Some time ago Mr. Garland, the president of the Zinc Producers Association,’ assured me in a letter that good business could be done in the manufacture of sulphuric acid from the pyritic contents of some of the mines, if a duty were imposed on sulphur; but I think “that whatever might be done would be on a small scale. For many years they have been using zinc blende, that being the usual term applied to the zinc concentrates from Broken Hill.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– The process of which so much has been heard in connexion with the agreement under review is still in the experimental stages. In the Argus of 13th August last the following report was published: -
The stoppage of mining operations at the Wallaroo and Moonta Company’s mines prevented the delivery of sulphuric acid by that company to the Wallaroo-Mount Lyell Fer tilizers Limited lest year. Still, the roasting of zinc concentrates as a source of supply of sulphur has been carried on at Fort Adelaide continuously, and the roasting of the same material was begun at Wallaroo in the middle of April. Consequently, the Fertilizer Company has been enabled to carry on operations steadily, with the result that Australian sales of superphosphates were maintained during 1920-21 at about the same total as in the preceding year. The result is that after writing down goodwill, and allowing for depreciations on buildings, plant, &c, a profit of £28,535 is shown, against £23,348 for 1919-20. The dividend for the year is 8 per cent., and absorbs £26,952.
My information is to the effect that these people, although they have the plant working in connexion with the treatment of zinc concentrates, are also purchasing sulphuric rock, imported from America, for the purpose of making sulphuric acid. I understand that the Mount Lyell people are doing the same. It is many years since that company started to manufacture sulphuric acid from its pyritic ores. The firm of Cuming Smith and Company were doing the same very many years ago in Western Australia; yet, at the same time, all these people are importing sulphur rock . from the United States of America. If a duty of £2 10s. is imposed on sulphur the effect will be to make superphosphates ‘ just that much dearer to the farmer. I desire to know whether the present process has been fully demonstrated as commercially practicable, or whether it is regarded as being still on its trial.
– The experiments have gone so far that there is no doubt as to the success of the enterprise.
– With mechanical appliances, or by medium of hand furnaces ?
– With mechanical appliances; and the fact that the fertilizer companies have agreed to the arrangement affords proof that they think the experiments are conclusive.
– If the farmers have to pay for them, yes.
– But the farmers will not have ta do so.
– I understand that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), when speaking on Friday, emphasized the importance of establishing works of this nature in Australia, more particularly because of their great value in the eventuality of war. I shall now read a letter from Mr. A. Wolskel, manager of the Phosphate Co-operative Company of Australia. He writes -
There are several grades of sulphuric acid. The only ones of practical value for munitions manufacture are those of high grade, and particularly the variety called “ Oleum,” which was manufactured by the English Government at all the plants that it erected during the latter stages of the war. It is known that the English Government used sulphur for making this acid (oleum), and not Broken Hill sulphides, though it used the latter for making zinc. English experts will have been fully aware that it was chemically possible to make highgrade acids from the zinc sulphides, but by a roundabout process. I asked Mr. E. Leighton, Director of Munitions, whether he would purchase from this company (should it make it) sulphuric acid of the chamber or scrubber type for use at the Commonwealth arsenals. His reply was, “No, the oleum type is required.” I have had over thirty years of general experience as a technical chemist. I know the Broken Hill sulphides, and I have been engaged as a consultant on munition works (though not of recent years). I know of my own knowledge that high-grade acid is a requisite in munition manufacture. The preparation of low-grade sulphuric acid (scrubber and chamber acid) from zinc sulphides of one kind or another has long been known to the chemical profession, and has been utilized in practice for more than fifty years, the acid being used for metallurgical and like rough purposes. Until the last few years the processes were operated with handworked furnaces. Latterly, efforts have been made to introduce mechanical furnaces for -roasting zinc sulphides. The Electrolytic Zinc Company claim to have recently succeeded in this roasting. The two separate processes, viz., the manufacture of low-grade acid from Australian sulphides mechanically roasted .and the manufacture of high-grade acid from Australian sulphides are experimental matters. While I regard the two processes as being within the limit of near future attainment, they are not commercial processes, and much experimental work remains to be done. The onus of making the acid from concentrates should be taken up by the Zinc Company. -
– The company takes the responsiblity.
– I say that it does not. These people desire to forward their concentrates to the various companies manufacturing fertilizers. The latter are required to receive the concentrates, pass them through the furnace treatment, extract the sulphur, and then send the resultant ore back to the Electrolytic Zinc people. That is to say, they roast the ore and extract the sulphuric acid; and then, I presume, they are required to pay a percentage on the sulphuric acid which they have extracted.
– Yes, the equivalent per ton of sulphur.
– Instead of a company establishing its own works, say, in each of the principal cities of Australia, and extracting the sulphur and selling the acid to the various fertilizer companies, the proposition is to ask each individual concern to do the work for itself, extracting the acid from the concentrates. The writer of this letter continues -
Superphosphates can be, and mostly are, made from low-grade acids. Against this the modern tendency is to produce high-grade fertilizers from purer acids, the object being to avoid the possibility of adversely affecting plant life by metallic poisons.
There is a doubt, in connexion with the use of sulphuric acid made from zinc concentrates, whether there is not danger of poison.
– If there were danger to plant life in the use of these poisons, such as the honorable member suggests, it would have been demonstrated long ago.
– The claim is made here that the process is merely in the experimental stage. Mr. Wolskel says that they have been using the hand-worked furnace, but that the mechanical appliance is still in its experimental stage. He continues -
I have advised Mr. W. C. Hill, M.P., as regards munitions that it is not practicable to make Australia self-contained at the present time. It will probably be at least twenty years before this can be done. I base this opinion on the position as to nitre, of which there are no known supplies in Australia. I am aware from general chemical knowledge that nitric acid and ammonia, each of which are compounds of nitrogen, have been obtained from the atmosphere, but such processes are not fully -developed, and are highly technical.
He then proceeds to deal with experiments made in America, and at Oppau, in Germany, the scene of the dreadful holocaust of a few weeks ago; and he refers to the uselessness of constructing a plant of the kind in Australia. The point is that it is’ doubtful still whether the process, as outlined by the Minister (Mr. Greene), is going to prove successful. This country is to be asked to pay a duty of £2 10s. per ton on sulphur. The farmers are informed that if this duty is imposed an impetus will be given to the production of sulphur in Australia.
– Is not the imposition of the duty to be contingent on the- local production ?
– Experience proves that, if a duty is once imposed, it remains. During the past Wo years we have been exporting superphosphates from Australia. Some 13,000 or 14,000 tons were exported the year before last, and about 20,000 tons last year.
– Very likely to New Zealand.
– Probably. I think, however, that the Australian annual output of superphosphates can be estimated at 400,000 tons, and allowing 6s. or 7s. per ton extra cost entailed by the imposition of this duty on sulphur, it means an additional expenditure of £130,000 by the farmers of Australia.
– How much would that amount to per acre of tilled land?
– That is a calculation we have had from the moment we started dealing with this schedule. For instance, when we were considering the duty upon reapers and binders, the Minister told us what a small percentage per acre the increased duty would mean.
– On the present tillage the increased cost of superphosphates would not amount to more than 2d. per acre.
– But we are paying excessive duties on every item we require ; however, we are looking forward to an increased cultivation. In 1915 we had 18,528,234 acres under cultivation. That area had decreased to 13,332,393 acres in 1919, the latest figures available; but since then I believe there has been an increase, and that the area now under crop is 20,000,000 acres. We are exceedingly hopeful that in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia there will be a considerable increase in land settlement. Strong efforts should be made to open up the Mallee country of Victoria. We have enormous areas of splendid country in Western Australia, and I am hopeful of seeing a steady immigration from Great Britain to the three States I have mentioned. The possibility is that, within three years, we shall have from 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres under cultivation. That will mean in itself an increased demand for superphosphates, but we also know that by means of narrowing and using superphosphates a marvellously increased production has been secured from ordi nary grazing land. In all these circumstances an earnest effort should be made in this Parliament to provide the farmer with cheap superphosphates. We know the wonderful results that have followed the researches of Professor Lowrie. Farmers in South Africa who, twenty-five years ago, were suffering trials and tribulations, and were hardly able to make ends meet on impoverished farms, are now possessed of beautiful homes and motor cars, all being due to the use of superphosphates. When I was Minister of Railways in Western Australia,I not only reduced the railway freight on superphosphates to¼d. per mile, but also induced the manager of the Midland Railway Company to do the same on his line. I pointed out to him the possibility of increasing the value of the lands through which his railway ran. As a result of our joint efforts, the railways of Western Australia paid better in the few succeeding years than they had ever paid previously.
– Those low freights on superphosphates do not pay.
– Not directly, but they do indirectly. Any sane Administration would do all it possibly could to give the farmers cheap superphosphates. Four years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that the Imperial Government had made a special grant to enable plants to be erected in Australia for the purpose of treating electrolytic zinc. I do not know whether the Hobart Company have obtained any of that assistance.
– I do not recall anything of that nature.
– I think the Prime Minister mentioned on one occasion that it had not been applied for.
– No assistance had been applied for up to the time I asked a question on the matter two years ago ; but if this Parliament is especially desirous of fostering the treatment of zinc concentrates, why does it not give a bounty for the production of sulphuric acid?
– Does not the honorable member believe that we can do anything in Australia?
– We should have quite as good chemists here as are to be obtained in any other part of the world, and I am sure we could produce anything here, as well as it can be produced elsewhere, if honorable members opposite would only let labour alone. Furthermore, we could do it without these enormous duties. The honorable member wants to draw £2,500,000 from the people of Australia for the purpose of establishing the iron and steel industry and a few subsidiary industries at Newcastle, and here again we have a proposal to impose taxation that will strike a blow at that immigration policy which we hope will do so much towards developing our country, and which we should be careful not to endanger. Let us come to bedrock in regard to the proposal before the Committee . The sulphur rock imported into Australia contains, so I am informed, 99 per cent. of sulphur, whereas zinc concentrates, according to the average assay, contain not more than 25 per cent.
– It is more than that. The recoverable result from the first roasting process is about 25 per cent.
– The manager of one of the South Australian factories informs me that only two men are required to make sulphuric acid from the sulphur rock he obtains ; but that he saw six men employed upon the Electro Zinc Company’s process of making sulphuric acid. Another gentleman, however, says that there must have been something wrong with the plant at the time of the other’s visit, and that not more than four men are. required upon the process.
– My information is that the Electrolytic Zinc Company’s process requires two men per shift.
– The Minister is simply repeating what he has been told. I am doing the same. In addition to the fact that four men are required in the process, it must also be borne in mind that they have to handle four times the quantity of material for the purpose of getting the same result that can be obtained from the treatment of imported rock sulphur. Therefore, the process must be ever so much more expensive when the enormous handling charges are considered.
– Is sulphuric acid the only extraction from the process?
– It is the only extraction that the fertilizer people get. They do the roasting, extract the sulphuric acid, and then return the concentrates to the Electrolytic Zinc Com pany, who again treat them for their own purposes. It is not fair to tell the Committee that an agreement has been made for the handling of this product. To my mind it should be the responsibility of the Electrolytic Zinc Company or others who are treating concentrates to produce their own sulphuric acid. Their metallurgists and chemists have been working on the problem for years.
– Theyare still only in the experimental stage.
– Yes ; my advice is that the whole matter is still in the experimental stage so far as mechanical appliances are concerned, and that the highgrade sulphuric acid required for the purpose of making superphosphates can only be obtained from zinc concentrates by a very laborious process of extraction.
– What has the laborious process to do with the honorable member’s side of the agreement?
– In dealing with the agreement referred to to-day, we should look to the Electrolytic Zinc Company to manufacture their own sulphuric acid and name the price at which they are prepared to supply it. The whole matter is so mixed up between various companiesthat it will be impossible to know what will happen in a few years’ time. It is not a question of the present only. I think it only fair, at this stage, to mention that the superphosphates manufacturers of Australia acted very fairly to the consumers during the war period, considering the increased cost of their raw material. But while we express our. satisfaction at this fact, we cannot forget that the price of superphosphates is now higher than it was in pre-war days. Then they could be bought at £4 2s. 6d. per ton, whereas the cheapest superphosphates procurable in any part of Australia to-day are being sold at £5 9s. per ton, and. that is only in South Australia, wherethe manufacturers have special advantages for supplying at a cheap price.
– For high grade superphosphates, before the war, the prices in Victoria ran as high as £5 5s. per ton.
– In some cases today the price is as high as £6 per ton, and it will not be reduced by the imposition of a heavy duty on one of the chief ingredients in the manufacture of these fertilizers. We were justified in anticipating that, after the huge expenditure the Commonwealth had undertaken at Nauru Island, the cost of phosphatic rock would be considerably reduced, but I understand that we are not getting it any cheaper than are other parts. I think it is a matter that ought to be inquired into. The Government ought certainly to tell us how it is that, after the heavy expenditure upon the purchase of these phosphatic rock deposits, we have not so far reaped the benefit of a substantial reduction in the price of the rock. That is no concern of the Minister’s at the present moment. I think we shoud get some advice as to whether the article cannot be supplied more cheaply to this country.
– A very slight difference in the price of phosphatic rock would mean infinitely more to the farmer than the proposal now before the Committee.
– We want both. I want the Minister to understand that, while we hope to get cheaper sulphur, we also hope for cheaper superphosphate.
– This proposal will give you cheaper sulphur.
– It will not. It is preposterous to say that a higher duty on anything will give us cheaper goods.
– All I said was that this proposal would give you cheaper sulphur.
– Then let the Minister strike off the duty at once. Let him foronce be sensible, and with the extra competition that will result, the article will be considerably cheapened.
– Why does not the honorable member ask the Minister to bring down a Tariff that will give us omelettes without breaking the eggs ?
– When the Minister says that to increase the duty one hundredfold will give the people cheaper goods, it is very hard to believe that he is not sometimes talking with his tongue in his cheek.
– I have given the honorable member the assurance of gentlemen who know infinitely more about the subject than he or I.
– The gentlemen who gave you the information were, perhaps, very largely interested either in the manufacture of sulphur, or in the production of phosphate. I have obtained my information from two managers of phosphate companies. Their one desire is to get cheaper materials, and justifiably so.
– Does the honorable member not think that Parliament should have a desire higher than the production of cheaper sulphur?
– Such desires are not attributes of the honorable member. I do not think there is the slightest danger that Australia will suffer as a result of outside competition in the production of superphosphates. We have been exporting this article, and I can see no reason why we should not continue to do so.
– If we take the duty off, does the honorable member not think there will be danger of Japanese competition ?
– I do not think so.
– It is a danger ; but the honorable member for Dampier would not “think so.”
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has tried to use the bugbear of Japanese and German trade to make everything in this country as dear as possible. I wonder that he does not consider the interests’ of the people of this country, who find it hard to make ends meet, in view of the enormous increase in the cost of commodities. I would have liked to see all sulphurs admitted free under this heading. I am going to support the amendment. I hope that honorable members will realize that a very big effort is being made to increase settlement in this country. We are asking immigrants to come here. We do not want them to go to the towns, but to the country districts - to increase production, and the only way in which we can do that is to give them facilities for production. One of the most important things we can do for them is to provide them with cheap superphosphates. They will get very little assistance from the Tariff schedule generally, but this is one item by which we can do something of some value to them. I hope the Committee will agree to allow sulphur rock to be imported into this country free of duty.
.- I do not desire to bring forward any fresh facts to bear upon the situation, because facts “ cut no ice” in a debate of this kind.
– I have been thinking that for a long time.
-It is my opinion that, throughout this debate, individual arguments are not worth a snap of the fingers. The result depends upon the direction from which the greatest amount of pressure comes. It is pressure that counts.
– Pressure is coming from the Country party now.
– If pressure from this party can alter the Minister’s proposals, then, as far as I am concerned, they will be altered. The Minister, remarked a few minutes ago that this duty would cheapen the price of superphosphate. That statement is on all fours with statements that he and other members behind him - and not only those behind him, but those who sit on the Opposition side of the House - have made during the course of the Tariff debates. If increases in duties will bring down the prices, I cannot understand, for the life of me-
– Why he does not double the duty.
– I do not know whether this Committee realizes the value of superphosphate to this country, or realizes the extent to which experiments in the use of superphosphate have emphasized its value to the agricultural industries. I have conducted wheatgrowing experiments, and, included in those experiments were plots of wheat with various amounts of superphosphate added to the soil. The same variety of wheat was sown in the same soil, under exactly the same ‘conditions. In one plot no superphosphate was added; in a second plot, 30 lbs. ; in a third plot, 60 lbs. ; and in a fourth plot, 90 lbs. to the acre were used. It was commonly held, even amongst experienced wheat-farmers, up to recently, that, .in the dry areas of this country, the addition of too much superphosphate had a tendency to burn off the crop. To test these beliefs we set to work and experimented. As one who had charge of the experiments in my district, I am in a position to state what the results were. I found that, even in the driest years, the commonly-held theory, that a generous application of superphosphate to the wheat crop had a tendency to burn off the crop, was entirely wrong.In the driest years the application of 80 to 90 lbs. of superphosphate to the acre gave the greatest yields. We found that it was not profitable to apply superphosphate in excess of 90 lbs. to the acre. Although when more than 90 lbs. to the acre was applied a greater yield was obtained, it did not pay for the extra amount of superphosphate. In the northern Mallee country, which is being opened up in Victoria very largely for closer settlement, where the rainfall is about 12 inches, we have found that from 60 to 80 lbs. of superphosphate per acre is the most profitable dressing. The average amount applied is from about 40 to about 50 lbs. per acre. Farmers are realizing the value of this extra application of superphosphate, particularly on well-cultivated ground. Undoubtedly, the tendency in the future will be to use more superphosphate to the acre if superphosphate can be obtained at a reasonable price. If Parliament is going to load this industry with extra duties, with the object of enabling local manufacturers of superphosphate to increase their prices, and if Parliament is going to put a duty upon sulphur, which will work out at an increase of from 6s. to 8s. or 9s. per ton in the price of superphosphate, then I, as a farmers’ representative, am not going to allow this item to pass without entering my protest, even though I know before I speak that my protest will be of no avail.
– Suppose it can be demonstrated that the duty will not operate as the honorable member suggests?
– We have heard that argument in connexion with every item that has come before this Committee. We heard it in connexion with sheep dip, agricultural implements, wire netting, and all the other items of the Tariff schedule in connexion with which burdens have been placed upon the primary producer. In each of these instances we have had the same old parrot-cry that “ the duty will not increase the price to the consumer,” or, if it would increase the price, that it would increase it only 1½d. per acre, or 6d. per bag.
– The honorable member is far more interested in raisins. He has 100 per cent, duty on his raisins.
– We hear a good deal to-day about the necessity for increasing production. We hear the parrotlike cry of “ Produce’, produce, produce.” We hear talk of a great immigration scheme that is going to open up “ the waste spaces of this great and glorious country of ours.”
– “ A million farms for a million farmers.”
– Yes; that is the cry, but the one thing that is going to save this country, the one thing that is the country’s sheet-anchor, is its primary industries. To impose burdens upon the primary producers at the present time, above all times in our history, is disastrous. The Government that is responsible for such a Tariff as this ought to be booted, neck and crop, off the Treasury bench. If I had had my way they would have been off it long ago. They tell me that this duty will mean to the company directly interested £60,000 or £70,000 per annum. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) says that it will mean a present to them of about £100,000. I wonder how much of this amount will find its way into the fighting funds of the National party at the next elections.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I do not think the honorable gentleman is justified in imputing improper motives.
– The primary producers have not the facilities for lobbying that are possessed by other sections of the community. The men who are going to foot the bill are a long way from this chamber at the present moment. We are told again and again that the primary producers are our best citizens, but when a burden has to be placed on some section of the community it is the “poor old backbone of the country” that gets it in the neck every time. My. honorable colleagues have complained that this burden will be placed upon the shoulders of the primary producers.
– May I remind the honorable member that the Minister for Trade and Customs is as big a primary producer as is any member of the Country party.
– He may be a primary producer. I have not suggested that he is not; but I do not know what the primary producers of his constituency think of the Tariff which he has fathered. I do not know what the primary producers represented by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and other members of the Labour party think of this Tariff. I do not know what they think when they see the representatives of organized Labour joining forces with the representatives of orga nized capitalism and commercialism, and helping them to bludgeon through the Parliament a Tariff of this kind. We are told that it is necessary to have these duties in order to protect our infant industries from the Combines and dumpers of other countries. The old cry was, “ Give us a little protection in order that we may build up our industries, and as soon as they have been built up you can remove the duties.”
– Is the honorable member prepared to reduce the duty that protects the raisinsand currants of Mildura ?
– That industry is established, and it enjoys a protection of 100 per cent.
– That is true. The duty referred to by the honorable member has enabled the primary producers in that industry to play the same game that the manufacturers of this country have played.
– And that, you have said, is robbery.
– No. That duty has enabled those engaged in the dried-fruits industry to charge within Australia a price which represents, not the export, but the import parity of dried fruit.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order ! We are not now discussing a duty on dried fruits.
– I was led aside by the Minister in charge of the Bill.
– It is all right; the Chairman has rescued the honorable member.
– I need no rescue. I was pointing out when interrupted by the Minister that in days gone by the cry of the manufacturers was, “ Give us a duty in order to enable us to get on our feet, and when we have done so, you can take it away.” We still hear the same cry, but it is not used to the same extent as in years gone by. Four or five Customs Tariff Bills have been passed by this Parliament, and every one of them has provided for increased duties. Can it be said the agricultural machinery and implementmaking industries are in the infantile stage? What has been the result of the impositionof duties to protect such industries? The larger the works grow, the bigger the industries become, the more insatiable is their appetite for higher and yet higher duties. That is my reply to the parrot cry: “ Give us a duty to enable us to get on our feet.” That is my reply to all the humbug indulged in in regard to the protection of infant industries. The greatest industry of all - the one industry that can save Australia - is having burden after burden imposed upon it. What is to be the result? Do honorable members think the primary producers can continue to carry onunder conditions as they exist to-day?
– They cannot pass on these imposts.
– They cannot. I enter my protest against this item. Having regard to present conditions, I do not think the agricultural industry can hope for a rosy future. The people who are slaving out back are not going to continue to work for nothing, as they are doing to-day. They will flock to our capital cities; they will join with those already in the labour market there, and compete with them for employment. They are going to come to this city and others where theatres and picture shows, public gardens, art galleries and museums offer them amusement and interest. They will come to this city, where they will be able to visit this House and listen to the speeches of the Minister and others who talk about the necessity for developing the great waste spaces of Australia. They cannot continue to pay Protectionist rates for everything they use in production, and at the same time sell their produce at Free Trade rates.
I enter my protest against this proposal. I consider that, so far as the farmers are concerned, the imposition of these duties is plain robbery. The farmers have been robbed, cheated, and lied to by a Government, the individual members of which are never tired of talking of the great value of our primary industries to Australia. When the Government were floating their war loans or peace loans - whenever they were appealing for money in this country - to whom did they apply? They issued placards and posters showing illustrations of what? Did their illustrations relate to factories? No. The illustrations depicted flocks of sheep, herds of dairy cows, or fields of growing corn, and printed across every such poster were the words : ‘ ‘ Invest in the Loan ! Australia’s security is behind it!” It was the great primary industries that stood behind Australia during the war. They are standing behind Australia to-day, and the imposition of a duty such as this is a blow at the very industries to which we are looking to pull Australia through her present financial difficulties. I could say a good deal more, but as I remarked at the outset, “ facts are of no avail; talk is useless.” I know that I am only wasting my breath; I know that the item will be passed as proposed by the Minister. I, however, make these few observations of protest, and I hope I shall be followed by other members of the Country party. Nothing could bring out more clearly than does this proposal the necessity for having in the Commonwealth Parliament a separate party that will put up some kind of a fight for the men and women out back - far removed from our capital cities - who are unable to fight for themselves, and who would look in vain, at the present time, to either the National party or the Labour party to champion their cause.
– I have already spoken to this question, but feel that I should be lacking in my duty if I did nob again address myself to it, particularly as the position has somewhat changed since Friday last. I am very disappointed that only the members of the Country party, who havebeen taunted times out of number by honorable members on both sides of the House with the fact that they claim that they alone represent the primary producers, have raisedany opposition to this duty. Where are the members of the Nationalist party or the Labour party who have the courage to stand up and say what they ought to say in defence of the primary producers in connexion with this item? With one exception, not onemember of those parties has discussed this item. The exception I refer to is the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and he spoke as the champion of the huge Combine which is carrying on operations in Melbourne at the present time. Not one honorable member on either side has said a word against this item. The opposition to it has come alone from the Country party. Many of you have no principle.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that observation.
– Very well, I do so. The Minister (Mr. Greene) stated this evening that the imposition of this duty, as the result of the arrangement made, would give us cheaper sulphur. While the Minister was making his opening statement there was such a din that I was unable to hear the contents of the letter read by him. If the Minister knows that this proposition is going to give us cheaper sulphur, he should not only say so, but should tell us what the price of sulphur is going tobe.
– The Minister spoke of cheaper “ super.”
– No; cheaper sulphur.
– I said cheaper “super.”
– I took a note of what the honorable gentleman said. He said it would give us cheaper sulphur.
– I said cheaper “super.” I went on to point out the extent to which sulphur enters into the production of superphosphates, and the extent to which a reduction in the price of superphosphate would be broughtabout by a reduction in the price of sulphur. I could not have been more careful than I was in pointing out what was the position.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s explanation. I certainly understood him to say that the proposition would mean cheaper sulphur. He said he was in possession of certain figures indicating that sulphur would be supplied at a price somewhat below the present market Tate. Those figures should be made available to us. If they were, we would know what we were doing. If I knew that sulphur, or its equivalent, made from concentrates was going to be supplied to the Farmers Cooperative Company, or to any of the private companies, at a price equal to the landed cost of sulphur to-day, that would take away a good deal of the objection I have tothe proposition. But that has not been made plain to me.
– I do not know that I have the authority of the persons concerned to give those particulars to the world.
– Unless the Minister can satisfy me that, as a result of this proposal, we shall be able to get sulphur, or its equivalent, sulphuric acid, at a price equal to the landed cost of volcanic sulphur or brimstone, I shall have to vote against the Minister’s proposal, and in favour of the amendment.
It is proposed by the Electrolytic Zinc Company that, after paying the cost of operating their furnaces, sulphur equivalents are to be made available at a price. Provided that that price, plus the cost of operating the furnaces, is not in excess of the price at which sulphur can be landed here, less the duty, we should have no cause to complain. But if the price is to be equal to or more than the cost of sulphur, plus the duty, I object.
– I can assure the honorable member that it will not be that price.
– If the Minister is in possession of any figures or facts which will show that we can get the sulphur contents from the concentrates at a price as low or lower than the price of imported sulphur, less the duty, he should put them before the Committee, and I will be satisfied.
– How can he show that?
– I have to-day been informed, and I believe it is a fact, that brimstone can be landed here from America at £5 per ton. The Minister said that Mr. Swinburne this morning, in considering this proposal, stated that the present proposition would mean a considerable reduction in the price of superphosphate. Assuming that 2½ cwt. of brimstone is used to a ton of superphosphate, and brimstone costs £5 per ton, this would mean that the sulphur contents of a ton of superphosphate would cost 12s. 6d. If what Mr. Swinburne says is correct, and this process would really result in a considerable reduction in the cost of superphosphate, I should say that a considerable reduction would be something in the way of 12s. 6d. per ton. I would notregard 10s. or 7s. 6d. per tonas a considerable reduction.
– I explained several times that the considerable reduction must be governed by the extent to which sulphur enters into the manufacture of superphosphate in. the shape of sulphuric acid. If 1 ton of sulphur is used in the manufacture of 10 tons of superphosphate, each £1 in the price, rise or fall, can affect the price of superphosphate by not more than 2s. per ton.
– Then it seems to me that there is no possibility of effecting any considerable reduction in the price of superphosphate.
– The honorable member says that the price of sulphur is now £5 per ton. If it could be obtained for nothing, it would not affect the price of superphosphate more than 10s. per ton.
– It would to the extent of 12s. 6d. per ton if 2½ cwt. of brimstone is used to the ton of superphosphate.
– The quantity of sulphur used per ton is not 2½ cwt.
– I am informed that 2&1/3 cwt. of sulphur is used to each ton of superphosphate. I say further that, in my opinion, what is proposed is a very wasteful system. The concentrates have to be carried by rail and by water and landed at the works on the Yarra, and a considerable amount of labour in handling must be paid for. If these people desire to make sulphur or sulphur equivalents available for the manufacture of manure, the concentrates should be treated at the mines. The primary producer should not have to pay the huge expense involved in conveying the whole of the concentrates by land and by sea to the works in which superphosphates are manufactured.
– It is open to the honorable gentleman’s company to put up a proposition on those lines.
– We do not desire to have anything to do with them. We say, “ Give us the sulphur free of duty.”
– The Minister has not made it clear to me that the primary producer is not going to be mulct in from 6s. 3d. to8s. per ton on the superphosphate he must use.
– It could not possibly be that much.
– The Minister proposes a duty of 50s. a ton on sulphur, and assuming that 2½ cwt. is used in the manufacture of a ton of superphosphate, that works out at 6s. 3d. I was speaking to the manager of a co-operative company in South Australia this morning, and as an expert he told me that if we had to use concentrates the probability was that it would increase the price of superphosphates from 8s. to 10s. per ton. I take the increasedprice at 6s. 3d. per ton, and assuming that the average user of superphosphate in Victoria uses 8 tons, this means a tax upon him of £2 10s. a year. This will be an annual recurring tax on the primary producers of this country, large and small. Not only will the primary producer be required to pay annually this tax on superphosphates, but he has to pay heavy taxation on eight implements which every farmer must use. On a cultivator the duty imposed is £8 10s. ; on a grain drill the duty is £30; on a disc harrow it is £4 12s. 6d. ; on a stumpjump plough it is £16; on a reaper and thresher the duty is £80 ; on a reaper and binder, £22 ; on a mower, £8 2s. 6d. ; and on a hay rake, £5.
– What has this to do with sulphur?
– I am showing honorable members how the Committee is heaping duties on the man on the land until they will absolutely crush him. The total duties imposed on the implements I have mentioned, some of which have not a life of more than four years, amount to £157 5s.
– If we wipe out the duties will the farmer get those implements any cheaper?
– Yes, he will. The case for the farmer in this instance is so good that one might speak upon it for a considerable time.
– As the honorable member is strong, he should be merciful.
– I am asked to be merciful, but I have frequently in this chamber had to listen to and endure long speeches from certain honorable members that were not very elevating. The prices for practically everything produced from the land are to-day down to bed-rock. They are either at or below the cost of production. If some of my honorable friends opposite were at Newmarket yesterday, or at the Bendigo yards the day before, they would have seen good edible lambs sold at from 5s. to 8s. This was not the sort of lamb that is served up in some of the restaurants. It was not old stag, or some old mother of lambs, but real spring lamb, and it was sold at about 2d. per pound. That indicates the position in which the wheat and sheep farmers are placed to-day. The price of wheat is down to practically below the cost of production, and it is about the same with lamb, beef, mutton, and almost every other primary product; and yet we have a Government in power that, while it pro fesses a desire to foster primary production and help the man on the land, proposes excessive duties on articles required by the farmers of this country. Blessed is he that expecteth very little from the present Government; he shall not be disappointed. I should like to see the whole of this duty wiped out, and when the vote on the motion is taken I am going to see who are the friends of the primary producers on both sides of the Chamber.
.- It has been rather amusing to listen to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart).
– I thought I would draw the honorable member.
– That is not surprising when the honorable member has confirmed the views I have expressed every time I have spoken on the Tariff. I have said that all that discussion on the Tariff in this Chamber amounts to is a conflict of interests between the representatives of the primary producers and those of the manufacturers.
– What about the honorable member’s own primary producers?
– There are many primary producers in my electorate, and they have sent me here to represent them. The workers are left out of the discussion on the Tariff. The honorable members for Echuca and Wimmera have been trying to prove that prices for wheat, meat, wool, and other primary products are on the slump. They complain that the effect of the Tariff will be to increase the cost of living and to ruin the primary producers. At the same time, they ask that the industrial worker should be prepared to take les3.
– Less what? Less sulphur ?
– The honorable member will get all the free sulphur he wants in due time, if there is anything in the Book from which he is fond of quoting. It interests me that honorable members in the Corner should complain about the Government. I represent the agricultural and industrial workers, whose interests are not served by honorable members in the Government corner or on the Government benches. Honorable members opposite claim that agricultural in terests are not fairly treated by the Government, whom they alone support and keep in office. If it were not for the representatives who are called the “ Country party,” the Government would now be out of office.
– I must ask the honorable member not to proceed further on those lines.
– I am merely showing the inconsistency” of those gentlemen who complain that the interests of their constituents are not served by the present Government, which, however, they keep in office. I can quite understand that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is not anxious to displace the Government. He is excellent as a “farmers’ “ representative. On this side also, there are many representatives of the genuine farmer.
– Where are they tonight ^
– They are in front of the honorable member.
– I have not heard them.
– Interjections are disorderly. The item before the Chair is sulphur.
– The honorable member for Echuca says that lie has not heard the farmers’ representatives on this side; and the reason is that the farmers’ representatives opposite have monopolized all the time so far. I am endeavouring to impress on those honorable members who are so much concerned about the interests of the primary pro- ducer that there is only one way in which those interests can be served; that is, by recognising that the interests of the agricultural worker and the industrial worker are identical, and by the genuine farmers’ representatives joining forces with the representatives of Labour in order to get rid of their common exploiter.
– There is no such combination on this Tariff !
– No, because the honorable member and those with him are in favour of the Tariff only when, it is in their interests - when, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) says, if it “ costs “ them anything, they are against it. If the agricultural and the industrial workers are alive to their own interests they might well say, “ A plague on both your Houses,” for whichever side wins in the contest between agricultural interests and manufacturing interests, the workers lose. Honorable members opposite are the advocates of cheap labour when it comes to the case of agriculture.
– I must again ask the honorable member to address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I submit that the question is whether this duty is to be imposed on sulphur in order to benefit the industry in Tasmania and other parts of Australia. The Country party claim that the duty will adversely affect the man on the land, and I think I am entitled to point out that when they use that argument they should remember that they have also claimed that the industrial workers in the factories and workshops should take less wages in order that the agricultural interests may be benefited. They ignore both the agricultural and the industrial worker, and are, in common with the manufacturers, merely trying to get the best they can for themselves. It is a case of “ Codlin’s your friend, not Short.”
– How are you going to vote? .
– I shall take no part; I am simply utilizing the opportunity to point out that the sincerity of the representatives of agricultural interests is on an equality with that of the representatives of manufacturing interests. The workers, whether engaged in agriculture or manufacturing, will note that the representatives in this Chamber may be broadly divided into the two classes I have indicated, each’ voting for its own hand, not concerned with the interests of the workers - they put their own interests before those of the great mass of the people of Australia, who are the working population.
– You cannot say that we are wrong in saying that we are unduly taxed.
– But the trouble is that the honorable member, and those with him, desire to “ take it out “ of the wage-earners. Only the other night, the honorable member pointed out that in the various metalliferous centres there are mining companies which are seeking to reduce wages by 20 per cent.
– Do you think a duty on sulphur will re-open the mines at Broken Hill?
– I must ask honorable members to cease interjecting. Unless they do so it is impossible for me to keep order.
– I do not think that a duty on sulphur will have the effect of re-opening the mines at Broken Hill. As a matter of fact, there are about 3,500 men, or 50 per cent. of the normal number, working there at the present time. What will determine whether these and other mines shall be kept working is whether it suits the interests of the proprietors to work them; and what applies to the proprietors of the mines applies equally to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) in his own particular industry. If he considers that it will pay to employ labour he employs it, but, if not, he disbands his workers. The question whether this duty would mean the re-opening of the Broken Hill mines does not enter into the discussion. It is not a question of how this or any other item affects the people of Australia. There is scarcely an item, including the present one, on which we have not heard members like the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), declare that the particular industry affected was necessary for putting the defences of the country on a proper basis. As I said when speaking on another item, there is not an industry in Australia to which the same argument could not be applied.
– What about chewing gum ?
– That is a subject with which the honorable member is more familiar than myself.
– I do not use it.
– Then the honorable member, apparently, knows as much about chewing gum as, by his silence, he shows himself to know about this item.
– I must ask the honorable member not to take notice of interjections.
– It is impossible if you, sir, do not keep honorable members in order.
– It is impossible to keep order if the honorable member replies to interjections.
– I am sorry if you, Mr. Chanter, object to my taking notice of interjections, but you will understand such interruptions throw me off the subject for the time being.I have no wish to transgress the rules of debate, or to offend the Chair, but simply to point out that, as the honorable member for Wimmera said, there are interests in this country which desire Tariffs, and those interests, being very powerful politically, generally gain their object.
– Particularly if the workers’ representatives back them up occasionally !
– The workers seem to be satisfied with their representatives, and until they change them they will get just what they send their representatives here to obtain. I am showing what I believe to be in the interests of the great mass of the workers, and the fact that I disagree with honorable members on this side with reference to the Tariff does not affect my contention. Honorable members who believe that Protection is a good policy do so because they think it encourages industries and gives more employment. At the same time, I believe that if not one honorable member on this side voted for the Tariff it would be passed all the same; to oppose it here would be no more effective than attempting to extinguish a fire by pouring oil on it. The interests to which I have referred are powerful enough to secure a Tariff, and if this Government will not provide one, those interests will secure a Government which will, and the chances are the Country party would support it. If this Government were displaced, its successor, whether headed by the honorable member for Balaclava or anybody else, would not interfere with the Tariff. Those interests are just as powerful here as they are in so-called Free Trade England, where they have managed to secure a Protective Tariff today. This item only illustrates what has taken place in every country where industrial development is going on. A country becomes Protectionist because it wants the home market, and as soon as industries have developed into powerful companies, the duties are more likely to be increased than repealed. Then the exporting interests arise, and the workers are told that they must accept less wages in order to compete with low-wage countries. So the effect is always detrimental to the worker, whether we have a high or a low Tariff. It is immaterial from the worker’s point of view whether there is a Tariff or not, so long as the present gang run the country.
– It is unseemly for the honorable member to refer to the Government in power as a gang, and I ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I have simply used a term employed frequently in the House of Commons - the “ old gang.”
– I think the honorable member applied the term “gang” to the Government in power.
– I referred to the “ gang” that was running the country; I never accused this Government of running the country.
– They are the Government of the country. The Standing Orders must be upheld, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw the expression, because it is unparliamentary.
– If you think I was referring to the Government in an offensive manner, I certainly withdraw the remark.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Prowse’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : -Read “ on and after 31st March, 1922,” in lieu of the words “on and after 31st October, 1921.”
This is one of the deferred duties, and in deferring the application of this duty to the 31st March next the intention is to permit the importation of all the volcanic sulphur that will be required for the manufacture of superphosphates next season. It is hoped that between that time and the time when it will be necessary to manufacture for 1924. the necessary apparatus will be erected, and all the treatment works will be sufficiently advanced to supply the whole of the sulphuric acid required for the manufacture of superphosphates. If not, it will be open to thosein control of the Customs at the time to make such alterations as are necessary.
.- I want a further extension of time granted. The statement of the Minister shows that these duties are proposed without any definite knowledge as to when the works for the manufacture of sulphuric acid will be ready. They may not be ready by March next. I move -
That “ 1922 “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ 1923.”
That will give ample time to see whether sulphuric acid can be manufactured at anything like a reasonable rate. We should not take a leap in the dark. We have not the slightest idea what the cost of the acid will be under the process referred to.
Question - That the proposed modification be amended (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion agreed to.
Postponed item 281 -
Drugs and chemicals, viz. : -
Senate’s Request. - Arsenate of lead, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be not made.
Item 281 -
Drugs and chemicals, viz. : -
Lactose, ad val., British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent. ; general, 30 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Add to the duties “ or per lb., British, 6d. ; intermediate, 9d.; general, 1s.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.”
.- The Senate has asked us to agree to an alternative duty at a fixed rate of 6d., 9d., and1s. per lb. I do not know whether honorable senators realize what is involved in this amendment; it means a duty of over 100 per cent. on the general rate. I think that is unnecessarily high. The manufacture of lactose has been undertaken by more than one firm in Australia; I think it is made principally in the electorate of Corangamite.
– During the interruption following the division several honorable members did not hear the previous re quest relating to arsenate of lead put from the Chair. As the Minister’s motion was agreed to without the full knowledge of the Committee, I ask that the item be recommitted.
– It is not my fault that the matter was not debated further; but if after we have completed the consideration of these requested amendments honorable members desire to record their votes upon the arsenate of lead request, I shall move that it be recommitted for that purpose.
– I am sure that the Minister would not wilfully interfere with the desire of the Committee. I heard the previous request put, but there was such a noise that I thought I heard the Minister propose that the requested amendment be made.
Tho TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bamford). - At the instance of the Minister the Committee agreed, on the voices, that the Senate’s requested amendment be not made.
– On Friday we postponed until to-day item 275 (Sulphur), and disposed of the two following items. When we reached the request relating to arsenate of lead I moved that the requested amendment be not made. On resuming to-day we continued the discussion of the sulphur item, and when it was disposed of by the division the Chairman put to the Committee the arsenate of lead item, and declared carried my motion of Friday that the requested amendment be not made. It is not competent for me to recommit the item now ; but I shall have no objection to moving for its recommittal at the end of the consideration of these requests in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to record their votes.
– That is not helping us at all. We ourselves can move that the item be recommitted, and the Minister can oppose it if he wishes.
– During the debate which took place at great length on Friday, honorable members had ample opportunity to state their views on the arsenate of lead duties ; but if my motion that the Senate’s requested amendment be not made has been agreed to to-day under a misapprehension, and honorable members desire to put themselves right in the eyes of the public and their con- stituents, I shall be perfectly willing to provide them with an opportunity to record their votes upon these duties.
– On a point of order. The arsenate of lead request having been put to the Committee and disposed of, and the Minister having commenced to speak to the following requested amendment, is it competent for honorable members to re-open the reconsideration of the arsenate of lead duties?
– That is in the discretion of the Minister.
– If honorable members will be satisfied with my promise to provide an opportunity for them to record their votes upon the Senate’s requested amendment, and will not hold up the business indefinitely, I will move to recommit the item when all the other requests have been disposed of. Reverting to the Senate’s request in regard to lactose, which is a product of sugar and milk, I am prepared to meet the Senate’s wishes to some extent, and I move -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : - “ Instead of ad val., British, 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 25 per cent.; and general, 30 per cent.; or per lb., British, 6d. ; intermediate, 9d. ; and general, ls. ; whichever rate returns the higher duty, read, ad val., British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, ‘ 35 per cent. ; general, 40 per cent.
I think that modification will meet the Senate’s view without unreasonably raising the duty, and will place on solid ground those factories which engage in the manufacture of lactose. The duty was not too high before.
.-. I want to make myself right with the Committee. I was not present on Friday afternoon when item 281, which includes arsenate of lead, was being debated, and I was under the impression that you, sir, were putting the Senate’s requestedamendment No. 54, caustic soda.’ I have been watching these items very carefully. Honorable members will remember that when the duties on arsenate of lead were being considered we put up a big fight. As our friends in the Senate were able to get that Chamber to request a reduction, we wanted to have the opportunity of taking a division to see whether the Committee were of the same mind as formerly. Personally, I was not aware that the item was being called on, otherwise we would have debated it, not, perhaps, at great length, but with the object of making our position clear. In the circumstances we are prepared to accept the Minister’s undertaking.
– I should like to know what the representatives of the primary producers and the poor children are doing with regard to the item now under discussion. I am surprised at their apparent dereliction of duty. Surely the interests of the primary producer ought to be considered.
Motion agreed to.
Drugs and Chemicals, viz. : -
And on and after 22nd June, 1921-
Drugs, crude : -Roots, viz. : - Calumbae, Dandelion, Gentian, Ipecacuanha, Orris, Rhubarb, Sarsaparilla, Senegae and Squill ; Barks, viz. : - Cascara Sagrada, Cinchona and Wild Cherry; Leaves, viz. : - Belladonna and Buchu; Ergot; Pyrethrum Flowers, in packages containing not less than 28 lb. net, British, free; intermediate, free; general, free.
Senate’s Request. - Amend sub-item to make it-
Drugs, crude, viz. : - Boots, Barks, Leaves, Seeds, and Flowers, Ergot, Pyrethrum Flowers in packages containing not less than 28 lb. net,as prescribed by Departmental By-laws, free.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The effect of the amendment is to make the item very much more inclusive than it was when it left this Committee. The list then was not sufficiently comprehensive, and did not include quite a number of drugs which it is necessary should be introduced free.
Motion agreed to.
Timber, viz. : -
Senate’s Request. - Per 100 super feet, British, 3s.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The request is for a reduction in the British preferential Tariff. I do not know what the object was in requesting this amendment, but I see no objection to it, because it will not affect the position materially.
.-There must have been some reason for the requested amendment by the Senate. If the Minister knows of no reason why it was made, then I see no reason why the sub-item should not be allowed to stand as it left this Committee.
Motion agreed to.
Timber, viz. : -
Senate’s Request. - Per 100 super feet, intermediate, 6s. ; general, 7s.
Mr.GREENE (Richmond- Minister for Trade and Customs) [10.9]. - Honorable members will recall that we had a very long and strenuous discussion when this sub-item was last before the Committee. I have no desire to prolong the debate on this occasion, because I have really nothing to add to what I then told the Committee. I do not propose to agree to the Senate’s request, as a whole. Perhaps it would be better if I indicated what I propose to do with regard to this sub-item, and also sub-item l, which relates to timber, dressed, n.e.i. I admit that as these items were passed by this Committee an anomaly was created by the fact that the duty on undressed and dressed timber was fixed at 6s. in the general Tariff. That is to say, dressed and undressed timber carried the same rate of duty. It is necessary to make some difference in the duties and allow something for dressing. If we raise the general Tariff on the sub-item now before the Committee to 7s. - and honorable members will recollect that it is the general Tariff which counts, at all events, until such time as we may be able to make reciprocal arrangementswith other countries - some additional duty should be allowed for dressed timber. If they will bear this in mind they will, I hope, be guided in their attitude towards the subitem under consideration. The requested amendment, in my opinion, is unnecessarily high, particularly when viewed in its relation to the requested amendment in the duties on dressed timber. Therefore, I move -
That the requested amendment be made with the following modification : - Instead of 7s., general Tariff, read 6s. 6d.
If this modification be agreed to I shall move that the duty in the general Tariff on dressed timber be 7s. 6d. instead of 8s. 6d., as requested by the Senate.
.- I take it that the British preferential Tariff stands.
– I do not know why the Minister could not see his way clear to accept the Senate’s request. When this matter was before the Committee previously, many honorable members held that the duties on timber were far too low, and it is a well-known fact that many saw-mills have closed in different parts of Australia. Since the Tariff was passed timber has been getting cheaper.
– Does the honorable member attribute that fact to excessive imports?
– I do not know, but it has been argued all along that the imposition of duties always leads to an increase in prices. That does not always apply. Here is a case in point. Timber prices have been falling lately. I want to see the Tariff sufficiently high to protect our own people, to enable our millers to keep their mills in operation and employ our own people in our own forests. We have far too many unemployed at present. The Minister has split the difference. I am not going to complain or move in the matter. In my view the Senate did the proper thing, and it would not have been out of place if the Minister had accepted the request.
– As the duties on dressed and undressed timber are of vital importance to the timber industry, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) if he is prepared to report progress at this juncture.
– I think we should make further progress.
– The operation of the Tariff is causing considerable consternation in the timber industry, and if the proposed duties are adopted, the boxmaking industry particularly will be seriously affected. In the Parramatta district alone one large firm has discontinued operations and sixty hands have been dismissed, and there is every probability of other manufacturers acting similarly. It is difficult to anticipate what the result will be if undressed timber is admitted at the same rate as dressed timber used for boxmaking.
– I have suggested an amendment to overcome that.
– Since the Tariff has been in operation, timber suitable for boxmaking has been imported from Sweden, Denmark, and other countries, cut in sizes for boxmaking, with the result that supplies which previously came from New Zealand and Queensland have been practically cut off. The Queensland suppliers have to pay higher wages than sawmillers in other parts of the world, and as freights prevailing are fairly high, they find itpractically impossible tocompete with the imported article. Foreign suppliers are also ship ping timber suitable for boxmaking which has been cut from waste timber, and as it is the desire of the Australian sawmillers to use their own waste timber in this way, consideration should begiven to their interests. If timber is allowed to come in at the existing rates, it will be ruinous to the Australian industry. In many of our large sawmills planing machines, band and circular saws, and cranes are employed, and large sums of money have been invested in the industry. If the Minister will consent to an adjournment at this juncture it would give honorable members an opportunity to consult with those who are vitally interested, and as there is, I believe, a general desire to put the position very plainly before the Committee, time would be saved if the Minister would agree to report progress.
.- If we are to postpone consideration of the timber items we should postpone them all; but if that is done, we must be prepared to give consideration to some of the others, and discuss the timber duties tomorrow. I believe it is the desire of the Committee to give attention to these items.
That the further consideration of the requested amendment, and the consideration of requested amendments Nos.64 to68inclusive be postponed until to-morrow.
And on and after 30th June, 1921-
(1) Clocks, n.e.i. : time registers and detectors; opera, field, and marine glasses; pedometers; pocket counters and the like, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
Watches and chronometers, n.e.i.; ad. val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Omit - “ Time registers and detectors “ from subitem (1), and insert in sub-item (2).
.- The Senate has requested us to take time registers and detectors out of this item where they would be dutiable at 25, 30 and 45 per cent. respectively, and place them in a separate item where they would be dutiable at 10, 20 and 30 per cent. respectively. Imove -
That the requested amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
Item 318 -
Senate’s Request. - Insert new paragraph -
.- The Senate hassubmitted a request to reduce the duties on watch movements to enable the Australian watchmaking industry tobe carried on. At present watch cases are made in Australia; and if we accede to the request in regard to the importation of watch movements at a lower rate of duty, it may be of some assistance to those who are actually making watch cases, becauseif they are able to import the watch movements at a lower rate of duty the industry will be able to proceed on a more satisfactory basis. The net effect of the alteration will be to reduce the general rate of duty which, of course, is a revenue duty at the present time. I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
And on and after 30th June, 1921 -
British, intermediate, and general, free.
Exposed or developed films representing dramatic or Australian subjects -
Senate’s Request. - (b) Other, per lineal foot, intermediate and general, 1½d.
.- A lengthy debate ensued when this item was last under consideration. The Senate has requested us to reduce the duty to the rate of l½d. originally proposed, and which I considered fair; but the Committee decided against me. As this request is in keeping with my ideas, I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Hides and skins, viz.: . . .
Senate’s Request. - Insert new item “(c) Hides, green, per lb.,1d.”
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
No doubt the request made by the Senate was sent to uswith the intention of getting protection for the local producer of hides, but I am satisfied that if the amendment were made it would not have that effect, and that if there were a duty of1s. per lb. on greenhides, there would still have to be imported as many as are now imported. Green hides are imported because there is a shortage in Australia of a particular class of hide.
– What class is that?
– The heavy or stout hide. Because of our climatic conditions, the hides produced here have not the body and substance that is required for certain kinds of leather, but there is a superabundance of light hides, of which we export annually a vast quantity. If we tanned all the light hides we produce, we should still have to import as many heavy hides as are how imported, or their equivalent in leather. That being so, the only effect of a duty on green hides would be to increase their price, and to increase the price of the leather made from them. The duty would be an impost on the raw material, which in the subsequent processes of manufacture would greatly increase the cost to the users of particular kinds of leather. It would injure the tanning industry without benefiting our primary producers; indeed, it would injure the latter, so far as they may use those kinds of leather for the making of which heavy hides are required.
– What is the difference between Tasmanian and New Zea land hides, the climates of the two countries being practically the same?
– A certain number of heavy hides are produced in the Commonwealth, but not sufficient to meet our requirements.
– For what purpose are they needed ?
– For the making of sole leather, belting leather, and the heavier classes of harness leather, and a certain number of clean skins are needed for upholstery work, such as that in this chamber, in which whole hides that do not bear a mark of any description are necessary. Wherever possible, the local hides are used, but the imposition of the proposed duty would not diminish the importation of green hides.
– That is generally admitted.
– In no way would the proposed duty assist the primary producer. If it would, I should, without hesitation, urge the Committee to agree to it, even though it might burden a secondary industry.
– Could you not define heavy hides by some limitation as to weight, or the like?
– I do not think so. A big hide, weighing a great deal, might not be a heavy hide within the meaning of the trade - that is, it might not be suitable for the making of the kinds of leather I have mentioned. I have looked into the matter very carefully, with the desire to help the primary producer if possible, and have come to the conclusion that it is not possible. The proposed duty would be, first and last, a revenue duty of the worst kind.
.- The Senate’s recommendation raises an exceedingly serious question, and while I am prepared to debate it at length, I do not think that it would be fair to the, primary producers of Australia, or to those engaged in our great tanning industry, to do so at this hour of the night. I do not think that there is any prospect of concluding the debate within several hours.
– I thought that the honorable member supported my proposal?
– I support it strongly.
– So does every one.
– If that be so, I shall be delighted to see a vote taken immediately, but I understand that certain members intend to advocate the amendment for which the Senate asks. However, on the understanding that the proposition of the Minister will be accepted without further debate, I shall not have anything more to say at this stage.
– I am surprised that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has not agreed to the request of the Senate, particularly seeing that it was made unanimously. I am surprised also that members of the Country party, who represent pastoralists, I presume, as well as farmers, should have cheered the Minister when he said that the effect of the duty would not be to help the primary industry in which pastoralists are engaged. Surely the latter are the best judges, and they are asking, through their various organizations, for the imposition of this duty of1d. per lb. The Minister has stated that it would be purely a revenue duty, and that its imposition would not make any difference. The same might be said about quite a number of things. There is a duty of 3d. per lb. upon cheese, but although Australia still continues annually to export millions of lbs. of butter and cheese the duty is retained because it is desired to protect the local industry. Why not give this very small measure of protection to the pastoralists, who have been experiencing such bad times in recent seasons? The pastoralists are surely entitled to the local market.
The Minister has stated that New Zealand hides are necessary because of their thickness. In certain parts of Australia - in the Dalgety district of New South Wales, and on the high tablelands, for example - where the temperature is quite as low as in New Zealand, the hides of the cattle are as heavy as those of the New Zealand beasts. I understand that the tanners have made representations to the Minister, but the position of the pastoralists should not be lost sight of. A year or two ago they could have got as much as £4 each for their hides, but the quotations have recently been as low as 4s. 6d. Are not the pastoralists worthy of consideration to the extent of1d. per lb., particularly seeing that the imposition would not affect the price of footwear ?
– I have been advised that this duty would not help the pastoralists.
– It would help them, and could not do much harm to any one else.
– It would handicap the export leather trade immensely.
– The honorable member is misinformed. We import some thousands of pounds’ worth of hides from New Zealand annually.If the Dominion had shown a friendly spirit to Australia, this country might have been disposed to make concessions and permit New Zealand hides to be imported free. During the wax New Zealand played her part proportionally as well as did Australia; but when the question of the protection of New Zealand industriescomes before the Dominion Legislature selfish motives hold sway, and heavy duties are imposed on Australian goods which may compete with local productions. No complaint can be made by New Zealand, therefore, if this Legislature, in a desire to show practical sympathy with the Australian squatter pioneers, imposes a small duty on New Zealand hides. It will make very little difference to the price of belts. On that ground alone the Senate’s request should be made. I am sure if it is not we shall get it back and back again. We want the Tariff before Christmas. We do not desire to come into conflict with the Senate over it, but L am afraid we shall have a conflict on this point, because while there were many divisions on other items in that Chamber, no vote was taken upon this request. All senators united to request this House to place a duty upon hides. According to the Minister the fact that there was a great demand for New Zealand hides mattered very little, and he says that despite any duty they will come in just the same, but there are considerable importations from this source. For the period from July to September, in one year they did not exceed £4,719, and the total importations for 1920 amounted to £26,588, but from April to June, 1921, the value had increased to £32,000. What reason has the Minister for refusing to foster an industry which is in such a bad way at the present time that the graziers cannot even sell their cattle? Almost every other industry in the Commonwealth has received its fair measure of protection, and, in some instances, the Minister has refused to reduce the duty because revenue is required to carry on administration .
– Does the honorable member know that Australia has exported over £1,000,000 worth of hides per annum ?
– Yes; and I could also furnish the quantity of butter, cheese, bacon, and other produce exported ; and yetwe have import duties upon them. The Minister argues that the duty will not help the pastoralists, because hides will be imported, but why cannot he give those pastoralists the benefit of the doubt ? In any case, even if hides are imported, what difference would1d. per lb. make in the price of boots or belting? It would probably not amount to more than 2d. on a pair of boots. If pastoralists are not entitled to protection, neither are the manufacturers, but, as a good Protectionist, I consider that every industry should be given whatever protection it needs. We should not compel any portion of the community to labour under an injustice. Sir Joseph Carruthers is appealing for 1,000,000 farms for 1,000,000 farmers, and all our public men are saying, “Get on the land,” and complaining that every one is coming to the big cities, where life is comparatively pleasant. If we want people to get on the land, here is an opportunity of encouraging pastoralists. We are hoping to get a large flow of immigrants to Australia, and we do not want to put them in the cities, where there are already large numbers of unemployed. We want them to go out into the country, and develop this immense continent of ours, which is nearly as large as Europe, but the men who have already gone out into the “ Never Never,” and taken up land 200 miles or more from a railway terminus, subjecting themselves to all sorts of hardships and to the deprivation of social comforts, are refused a simple request for1d. a. lb. duty on hides. I am afraid our expenditure upon immigration will be wasted if we do not protect the primary producers. We have thousands of pounds upon the Estimates for advertising Australia. It is a very fine advertisement to refuse the pastoralists the protectionaffordedtootherindustries.
I hope that the Minister will see fit to report progress, because I feel very strongly upon this point, and as honorable members seem tobe very obstinate, it will be necessary for me to speak longer than I might do to-morrow.
– We must get on.
– Very well. There are about 800,000 people in Melbourne, and over 1,000,000 in Sydney, whom we are protecting at the expense of those who are not residing in cities. Any industry, whether it be the making of boots, hats, or cloth of various kinds, is protected, but the pastoralists who go out into the back country and deny themselves all the comforts of the big cities are to be ignored because they are numerically a small portion of the community. The pastoralists have not many votes. If there were a few thousand of them in South Sydney or the Grampians, the request of the Senate might get the support of honorable members. I believe that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) went to Queensland some years ago. He did some pioneering work there, and knows the hardships that pastoralists have to suffer. A man may be ruined in one year, and in that event he can only hope to pull through if he has the good fortune to enlist the confidence of a banker who has trust in his capacity and integrity and will advance money without any other than personal security. In drought times the rain is sometimes so scarce that children have been known to reach seven years of age without seeing rain. Honorable members know what happened in the drought of 1902.
– That is a mighty bad advertisement for Australia. It is not a correct statement.
– The honorable member, who comes from a pastoralist district in South Australia, ought to give me his support.
– We have heard talk about “ a million farms for a million farmers,” and then the honorable member makes a ridiculous statement about there being no rain for seven years.
– My work in the interests of Protection was done many years ago- in 1902 and 1906-7. The work of the Protectionist in those years was_ so successful that it is very difficult to-day to find a Free Trader. We laid the foundations of a good Protectionist spirit in Australia. I am astonished that the Minister for Trade and Customs is ignoring the pastoralists on this occasion. The honorable member for Barker is angry because I said that sometimes when we get a drought in the back country children have been* known to be seven years of age without seeing rain.
– Never in the history of Australia.
– There are areas, as the honorable member knows, in this huge Australia which is as large as Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, and France, in which there is quite a good rainfall; but there are some portions of the country where the rainfall amounts to perhaps only 5 inches a year. On occasions of drought, no rain may be seen in those districts for seven years. That does not mean that this Australia of ours is not rich in resources. One has only to look at the production of wheat, wool, mills, butter, cheese, gold, and other metals to know what a wonderful country this is. My remark, which appears to have annoyed the honorable member for Barker, was intended to illustrate to this Committee what pastoralists have suffered in the past, and will have to suffer in the future. I regret that some honorable members are prepared to support the Minister in his lapse into Free Trade. But for this lapse his name might have gone down in the history of Australia, a3 President McKinley’s name has gone down in the history of America, as a good Protectionist. The Minister is throwing away his reputation by refusing to concede this modest request of Id. per lb. on green hides. If the request of the Senate is not agreed to, there will be great dissatisfaction in the pastoral industry. The grant ing of the request cannot possibly affect the people of New Zealand. If the people of the whole world were Christians, and were engaged in a co-operative partnership in which everybody would do the fair thing, then we might have Free Trade. That happy state, however, has not yet been reached. It is because there are farmers and pastoralists in .the district of Capricornia that I feel it my duty, even if honorable members are annoyed and irritated at this late hour of the night, to put in a plea on their behalf. This is a small request on behalf of a numerically small, but exceedingly influential, section of the community. I would say to honorable members, “Harden not your hearts;” you know that the pastoralists, on behalf of whom this .duty is sought, paid more by way of income tax during the good years than any other section of the community. They have now fallen on evil times. I have no desire to impose on the good nature of the Committee; I can see that I am only talking to deaf ears, but I hope that honorable members who have any of the milk of human kindness will on this occasion cast their votes in favour of the duty.
.- I wish only to point out that the item is not correctly set out. We have in it a reference to “green hides.” As a matter of fact, no green hides are or have been imported into Australia. What we import are “ salted hides.” The Minister (Mr. Greene) and others who have spoken have said that the -item relates only to heavy hides. Are we to place a duty on heavy hides alone, or to allow all classes of hides to come in free? As the item stands, -green hides of any weight will be liable to a duty of Id. per lb. I presume, from what the Minister has said, that he proposes that all hides - kip, light, and heavy - shall come in free.
– They always have done so.
– I do not wish to place any duty on them, but the item should be correctly set out.
.- More consideration should be given at the present time to what is one of the great industries of Australia. A very large number of squatters and others, including those who have been engaged in dairying, are feeling the pinch of these hard times. I do not suppose that any industry in Australia is suffering to-day as much as the pastoral industry is doing, and I am convinced that a very large number of pastoralists and dairymen could not at the present time obtain for their stock one-fourth of the price at which they were valued for income tax purposes last year.
– This proposed duty will not help them.
– I cannot understand the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who professes to be thoroughly familiar with everything relating to the pastoral industry. He may be familiar with sheep-farming, but he cannot know anything about cattle-raising, otherwise he would not have given utterance to the remarks just made by him. I prefer to accept the opinion expressed by the United Graziers Associations in Queensland, who have written to honorable members pointing out the absolute necessity of giving them a protection of this kind on hides during these strenuous times. I do not know why the Country party, who profess to be the friends of the primary producers, are not prepared to stand up for the pastoralist and dairy farmers in connexion with this proposal. They advocate duties on dried fruits, potatoes, onions, and also wheat, in the interests of certain relatively small constituencies, but everything else must be free of duty. They are not prepared to champion the cause of the primary producers who have gone into the back-blocks, and who, having purchased stock at very high prices three or four years ago, are now faced with a tremendous slump in the price of cattle. Surely the Country party should be prepared to assist them, by agreeing to the imposition of this duty of Id. per lb. on imported hides at the unanimous request of the Senate.
– Surely the honorable member knows that the price of Queensland hides is not affected by the hides that are imported from New Zealand.
– The honorable member does not know as much about this sub ject as do the Pastoralists Association of Queensland. He imagines that he knows a great deal more than the public generally give him credit for. The men engaged in the industry in Queensland know more about this matter than he does, and I hope the Committee will take into consideration the representations the interested associations have made to us. I have voiced my objection to the Minister’s proposal, and I hope the Senate’s request will, in common justice, be agreed to.
.- It is unnecessary that I should repeat what has been said by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), but I should like to say that I entirely agree with their remarks. I represent one of the largest cattle districts in Queensland, and I know the hardships which the cattle people are going through at the present time. The bottom has fallen out of -the stock market, and in many cases cattle owners do not take the trouble to send their hides to market. If we are going to import hides the result must be that ‘they will come into competition with those produced in Australia, and the price of local hides must come down. Every cattle association in my district has written to me on this question, as has the United Graziers Association. Some honorable members have asked how members of the Country party intend to vote on this question, and as a member of that party I say that I am entirely in favour of the request made by the Senate. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has said that he does not think that the imposition of a duty of Id. per lb. on hides would do any good, but, if so,, it would not do any harm. Under the description “ green hides,” all classes of hides might be imported, and their importation must- tend to reduce the price of hides grown here. It is time that the pastoralists received a little in the way of protection. They have been loaded .with duties on wire and wirenetting, and even the few extra shillings which ‘this duty would represent upon a hide is being refused them. I repeat that I entirely indorse the remarks which have been made by the honorable members for Capricornia and Wide Bay.
.- I do not know why the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) should have assumed that the members’ of the Senate were not well informed when they proposed a duty on hides. I think their action was very deliberate, and I fully expect that this request will be sent back to us again. During the discussion, it has been assumed that the hides which are imported are such as cannot be produced in the Commonwealth. It is generally admitted that hides grown throughout the greater portion of the Commonwealth are not as heavy as those which are imported from New Zealand; but I desire that it should be remembered that Tasmania is a part of the Commonwealth - though I fear that is very often forgotten - and it is well known that the best hides produced in the Commonwealth are those produced in Tasmania.
– And they are all used in Australia.
– I am not in a position to say that they are equal to those used in New Zealand, but I think they are.
– I also think they are.
– Then surely, in the interests of the whole ofthe Commonwealth, it is reasonable to afford the producers of hides the protection asked for. If the £25,000 worth of hides imported from New Zealand were obtained from Tasmania it would make a very great deal of difference to the pastoral industry in that State. It is well known that all kinds of skins produced in Tasmania are of better quality than those produced in other parts of Australia. This may be said of wallaby, kangaroo, and rabbit skins, as well as of cattle skins. Even the Tasmanian member has a thicker skin than members representing other States of the Commonwealth, and it is very often necessary that they should be so endowed, because of the jocular remarks about Tasmania which they are called upon to endure. I think this request from the Senate should be taken more seriously than it has been. I am satisfied that hides produced in the Commonwealth can be used for the purposes for which imported hides are used. I should be glad if the Minister would report progress, in order that the matter may be given further consideration.
Question - That the requested amendment be not made -put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Government hope that honorable members will come to-morrow prepared to finish the Tariff. It has been a long time “ on the stocks,” and we know that it is a very important measure affecting profoundly all the interests of the country. Still the time has to come when we must get rid of the Tariff one way or the other.
– Have a private talk with the Minister (Mr. Greene) in the meantime.
– I shall do my best to persuade the Minister to be sweetly reasonable, and I hope that honorable members! will come to-morrow in the same spirit, prepared to sit on until we are able to put our complete approval on the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211109_reps_8_97/>.