8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers. .
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The information is being compiled, and will be fur- ‘nished to the honorable member as soon as complete.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, in consequence of our mineral ores being sent abroad where they can be treated more cheaply, the Cockle, Creek and other works are likely to close down, and, if so, will he consider the advisability of putting an export duty on such ores?
– I am not aware that such is the case, bub inquiry will be made, and if the position be as stated, the matter will receive full consideration.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Hughes).Correspondence by cable is still being conducted in regard to this matter, but no arrangement has yet been arrived at.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
As it is reported that many of the fruitgrowers in New South Wales have been left without resources owing to the poor prices received for many years, and that the increase in the price of sugar under Government control and the embargo on the importation of foreign sugar threatens the extinction of this important primary industry, will the Government give consideration to the request that sugar for jam manufacturing should be made available at the world’s parity plus the import duty of £6 per ton.
– As sugar is being made available for export purposes at a price which, in effect, is lower than that’ at which raw sugar can be imported and refined duty free, it is not seen in what manner the fruit-growers are adversely affected at the present time by the price of sugar. During the period of Government control, for the most part, sugar has been supplied at prices far below the world’s parity, so that if the fruitgrowers have received poor prices, as alleged by the honorable member, it must be due to causes other than the price of sugar.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act. - Appointments of E. A. Black, H. S. Trotman, W. J. E. Tate, A. E. Blakers, Department of the Treasury.
Motion (by Mr. Greene, for Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section T and repeal section 19 of the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 192o:
In Committee . (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from 5th December, vide page 13722) :
Clause 15 -
1 ) The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters: - . . (A) Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his . . . (iv) Refusing to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates…..
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out subparagraph (iv).
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
It will be within the recollection of honorable members that when the Bill was in Committee in this Chamber before, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) moved to insert the provision which the Senate has struck out. The Government opposed its insertion, because Ministers felt that it would be almost impossible, in the practical conduct of business, to give effect to it.
.- This is a very important matter, which should not be lightly dealt with. Although the Government opposed the insertion of the provision which the Senate has struck out, a majority of the Committee here was in favour of it.We voted for the insertion of this provision in order to protect would-be purchasers of the goods of local manufacturers who were receiving the protection of the Tariff. It was pointed out that unless some such provision were inserted, persons in a small way of business might be placed in a difficult position. The provision itself, if retained, will not require a manufacturer to sell to any person; all that we have provided for is that the Minister shall refer the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. After that has been done the Minister may or may not accept the recommendation of the Board; but Parliament will have had an opportunity to learn beyond doubt whether those who are getting the advantage of the Tariff are dealing fairly and squarely with small business people. I do not agree with the Minister that in practice effect could not be given to the provision, and I should like to hear argument in support of his view. If a man in business in a small way desires to place an order worth £50, is it to be said that he shall not have the right to obtain the goods from the manufacturer, who has the benefit of high protection? Is it to be left to the manufacturers to say whether they will supply the goods or not? It is probable that the manufacturer will be quite willing to supply a large firm with an order worth thousands of pounds, and deny the advantage of direct dealing to the small man. This is leaving an easy way whereby the manufacturer may conduct his business through agents or middlemen, to the detriment of the smaller trader and the public. There is a good deal of merit in this provision, and I am surprised that the Minister (Mr. Greene) should propose to accept the amendment without giving any reason beyond the fact that he was opposed to the paragraph on a formeroccasion.
– I did not wish to go over the whole of the ground again. What I said on. the former occasion was that the previous paragraphs, relating to acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, and acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods, cover the whole of the ground. This paragraph iv does not really carry us anyfurther, whereas it does create a precedent, which, I think, is unhealthy.
– It does create a precedent, and why ? Because such a provision is necessary in consequence of the way in which we know business to have been conducted. We only create precedents because of our experience; and we know that very often the trading community cannot obtain goods direct, but only through middlemen; indeed, that was the contention raised here when this matter was previously before us. Now, when it is sought to introduce a safeguard, it is proposed to reject it. If we have a protectionist Tariff, we should protect the consumers as much as possible. If these words are omitted we are simply saying to the manufacturer that he need not supply every person who applies to him for goods, but only those he prefers, possibly big wholesale firms, through which the small man will be forced to purchase.
– Would not such a provision as this enable anybody, trader or anybody else, to go to the manufacturer ?
– Yes. That is the object of it; it is to enable any one in business to go to the manufacturer.
– But would that paragraph not include everybody, whether in business or not?
– I do not care who goes to the manufacturer; if a man’s family is large enough to justify him in placing an order worth £50 he ought to be able to go direct to the manufacturer.
– Would it not give anyone the right to go to the furniture manufacturer, for instance, and buy wholesale insteadof retail ?
– I do not care whether it does or not; if a man can save a £5-note he ought to be in a position to do so, and not forced to buy only through certain channels. Co-operation is the spirit of the age; and honorable members here constantly talk of co-operation and the necessity for dealing direct with our primary producers; yet it is proposed to reject legislation which will enable a man to do so. Our primary producers, I believe, are only too pleased, as believers in the co-operative principle, to supply any one, ‘but in the case of manufactured articles, where adequate protection is given, it is proposed to compel traders and others to obtain goods, not from the manufacturer direct, but through some other channel.
– Is there anything in the paragraph to prevent the manufacturer fixing one rate for a £50 order, and another rate for a, £500 carder ?
– No; it only provides that a man, who requires, say, £5” worth of furniture, may go direct to the manufacturer, and if the manufacturer refuses to supply him, then the Tariff Board may inquire into any complaint made on that account.
– We rarely import furniture. It would be better to instance steel and iron.
– Take any article, the fact remains that there ought to be the right to go direct to the manufacturer, and if he refuses to supply, we ought to know the reason why.
– If the goods are manufactured here, docs the matter come under the notice of the Tariff Board?
– Anything comes under the notice of the Tariff Board according to this Bill; and this clause is to protect ihe consumer, and particularly the small storekeeper, as far as possible. It is not right in principle that the manufacturer shall be able to refuse the small trader, and supply the large firm; the time has arrived when that practice should be stopped.
– There must be some limitation.
– There is the limitation of £50, the object being the prevention of monopoly, a principle we have been preaching in this House for years. Now, when an attempt is made to do something in that direction, we are told it is an innovation ; but any improvement in social relations and conditions is an innovation. Once the innovation is established we have a precedent to follow ; and I cannot understand the logic of the contention that we should refuse to accept this amendment, because what it provides has not been carried out in the past. We are here for the purpose of rectifying such defects; and I hope the Committee will adhere to -its former decision.
.- I supported this provision when it was proposed in this Chamber, but it was, to my mind, somewhat vague, and- I should have1 liked it further considered. We have given the manufacturers of Australia high protection, and something should be done to prevent them taking any undue advantage of their position under the Tariff. We are well aware that quite a number of manufacturers refuse to sell except to wholesale bouses, and one or two large prominent retail firms in this city, which latter are thereby placed in a much better position than are their competitors. I do not wish to mention names, but I have been interviewed by several large country storekeepers, who bitterly complain that these great retail corporations may get their goods direct from the manufacturer, while retail traders in Bendigo, Sale, and other places are compelled to go to the ordinary wholesale houses, and are thereby placed at a disadvantage. If. we are to have a Tariff Board, it must have power to seek the fullest information, and dive deeply into the trading affairs of many manufac turers. I heard the other day of a most extraordinary case; I am not certain of the facts, but the allegation is to this effect: An Australian manufacturer formed a bogus company and registered it in another country. He sells the whole of his output in Australia to that company, and on behalf of that company he then sells the whole of his produce in Australia at very high profits, which are credited, to the bogus company. I propose to deal with this matter when the proposal for the amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act is before us.
– I think there are some importing companies who operate on somewhat similar lines.
– I do not care whether the offender be an importer or a manufacturer; I desire to prevent the Commonwealth being defrauded of revenue. I have frequently mentioned the evasion of income tax in connexion with trading in oil, and this other case which I have just mentioned emphasizes the need that exists for vesting very strong powers of investigation in the Board. I do not like Government interference with trade, but when, by a system of high Protection, ‘we destroy rivalry and competition as far as possible, we must devise some means of preventing the exploitation of the people. I do not agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that a manufacturer should be compelled to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 or upwards. Such a provision would be all right in regard to furniture, but in regard to iron and steel, it would be unfair to compel, say the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, to supply some small blacksmith or wheelwright with a £50 parcel of assorted steel comprising perhaps seventy or eighty different items.
– All this clause provides is that if the manufacturer refuses to sell the matter may be referred to the Board for inquiry.
– Quite so, and the Board will have no power other than to report to the Minister that the manufacturer is doing something inimical to the interests of Australia. Certainly, the mere fact of a manufacturer refusing to sell does not involve a penalty, but if a complaint is made to the Board that body may report to the Minister, who can then advise Parliament that the manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the Tariff and recommend that the duties in connexion with his industry be lowered or removed. Would it not be well to amend the clause so as to require an investigation in regard to any refusal to sell to the trade generally 1
– Do not the words “ acting in restraint of trade” embrace all that is required ? My opinion is that in some cases refusal to sell a certain quantity of goods would constitute action in restraint of trade, whilst in other cases, such as the iron and steel industry mentioned by the honorable member, it would not. The words “ acting in restraint of trade “ have a wider meaning, and tha provision now before the Committee is in reality a limitation of them.
– The words “ acting in restraint of trade “ are wide enough if the law is carried out; legislation to deal with restraint of trade has been in existence for a long time, but the Commonwealth has no control over trade within a State. I hear of a hotel being refused supplies of beer and whisky, because it will not sell at a certain price over the counter.
– We recognised that, when we framed this Bill, but the penalties under this measure will not be imposed by the Courts.
– No, but this restraint of trade is condoned and permitted. It is alleged that millers refuse to sell flour to bakers unless bread is sold at a fixed price, and we have come to regard action of that kind on the part of various trade organizations as permissible. I read in this Chamber particulars of a similar complaint in connexion with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and the Steel Association, but the Minister made no comment upon that case ; he seemed to think that the action of -which I complained was fair. I am under the impression that public opinion in this country condones that ‘sort of thing, and those engaged in trade assert that such action is justified, because through the keen rivalry that existed baf ore combination took place -more failures resulted, whereas now trade is more secure. I desire competition to be maintained, and the consumer to be considered more than the manufacturer. I am certain, however, that the consumer is not receiving the consideration that he should get. On further consideration I agree that it is not right that any person should be able to go to a large manufacturer and purchase £50 worth of assorted goods. If that provision were inserted, complaints would result which would only give trouble to the Board. If the Minister will assure me that the words, “ acting in restraint of trade “ will be regarded by the Board as empowering it to inquire into the refusal by manufacturers, who are protected by the Tariff, to sell to the trade generally, I shall be content. The ordinary retail trader should be in the same position as are the big dominating houses in the capital cities, and if a protected manufacturer refuses a reasonable order that refusal should be regarded as action in restraint of trade and reported to this Parliament.
– If a manufacturer received 40 monthly orders each for £5,000, and if he gave to one section of his clients a discount of 10 per cent., and to the other section a discount of only 5 per cent., that would be fair ground for a complaint to the Board that the manufacturer was acting in restraint of trade. But if a man ordering £500 worth of goods, per month, claimed the same discount as was given to a competitor who ordered £5,000 worth of goods per month, a refusal to concede that demand would not be action in restraint of trade. That would be perfectly legitimate business.
– Quite right.
– I think what was in the mind of the Committee when it agreed’ to this provision was that all persons trading on the tame basis should have the same treatment, and, generally speaking, that is a fair way of conducting business. But if a small retail trader demands exactly the same terms as are given to a man whose order is ten times, or twenty times, greater he is asking for something unreasonable; business cannot be conducted on those lines.
– This provision really does not deal with “that aspect. It is a question, not of rebates, but of a manufacturer refusing to sell to a person.
– It might be utterly impossible for a wholesale house to comply with orders of this sort. Supposing as has been suggested, that a man placed an order for £50 worth of odd lots of steel with the Broken Hill Company, the net effect would be that, owing to the extra cost of distribution, the extra bookkeeping and other overhead charges which it is impossible to avoid in the conduct of a retail business, the company would be obliged to charge retail prices for those lots.
– Then a buyer would not bother about going to the company for such lots.
– Exactly. The whole thing seems to me to be utterly superfluous. ‘
– Does the Minister think that in such a case the Tariff Board would bring in a report adverse to the company ?
– The clause deals with complaints which the Minister is required to refer to the Board for inquiry and report. He is, amongst other things, to require the Board to report on any complaint that, a manufacturer is .charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public. That is a very much wider power than that which the Senate has struck out of the clause.
– But, notwithstanding that provision, if this amendment were agreed to, a manufacturer would still have the right to refuse to supply a small trader at current market rates.
– If the Board found that a. manufacturer, by refusing to supply goods to any trader, was acting in restraint of trade, it would bring in a report on those lines. Then, again, if it could be shown that such a refusal resulted in ‘“unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods,” the Tariff Board would have a perfect right to make representations to the Minister along those lines.
– The clause deals with certain matters which must be referred by the Minister to the Tariff Board. Why should we agree to the elimination of that paragraph relating to ‘a complaint that a manufacturer has refused to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates?
– Why should that particular matter be singled out from a hundred others that might also be included in the clause?
– Why should it be eliminated while the other provisions are allowed to remain ?
– Because the others are general ir their application.
– So is this provision.
– No; it is particular in its application.
– The point is that a mill is not necessarily a distributor.
– There is no question as to that. What I am trying to point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is that the provision as to “ acting in restraint of trade “ might cover a refusal on the part of a manufacturer to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates, and that in addition it covers a hundred other things.
– But it might not touch the refusal to sell £50 worth of goods.
– It must include it if such action is in restraint of trade or results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the public. I have endeavoured to deal with the matter as I see it. I do not think that we should add anything effective to the duties of the Tariff Board by restoring the provision which the Senate has struck out. On the other hand, I see in that provision the creation of difficulties which ‘might prejudice the whole operation of the clause”.
– As a rule I disagree with the insertion of what may be termed “ definitions “ in Bills, because they very often mean limitations ; but I do not think that objection would apply in this case. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who was responsible for the insertion of these words in the clause, did not have only one case of the kind in mind when he proposed his amendment, and I am satisfied that the Committee, in supporting him. believed that there were very many oases of the kind. The Committee, by a very fair majority, decided that it was essential in the interests of small traders that they should be allowed to purchase direct from the manufacturers. An order for £50 worth of goods is, ordinarily speaking, not a small one. For the last quarter of a century the operations of business have been moving along parallel lines. We have had combinations of what we may term multiple shops, and amalgamations of businesses, running along one line and, on the other, to counteract the ill effects of such a movement on the general public, we have had co-operative effort. Between these two great movements, however, there are a host of small traders who ought to be protected. They should have the right to purchase £50 worth of goods direct from a manufacturer.
– From the Denton Hat Mills, for instance?
– Yes; if I wanted, to buy £50 worth of hats, why should I not be entitled to obtain them direct from tha t company ?
– But the honorable member could not.
– I do not think so, but as long as my credit was good I should be able to buy direct from that company, or any other manufacturing firm, goods to the value of £50. This circumlocution in business imposes a very heavy tax on the people. The consumer has to pay the profits of the manufacturer and the wholesale merchant, and often the profits of agents in addition to the retailers’ profits. How much better it would be. if a man representing, say, four or five families, could place an order for £50 worth of goods direct with the manufacturer. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and the Minister (Mr. Greene) said that a man who made large purchases from a manufacturer might be able to obtain a bigger rebate than was allowed the purchaser of a small lot. Some of the customers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are allowed a rebate of 5 per cent., 6 per cent., or even more, but others-
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company at the present time is conducting business as agent for the Commonwealth, and any man - irrespective of whether or not he is on the merchants’ list - who purchases the requisite minimum quantity of sugar per month is entitled to the full discount, and gets it.
– I was referring to ohe operations of the company in pre-war days.
– There never was a better company to deal with than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Certain customers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company received larger rebates than others did.
– That is done in every business.
– Whatever was done in the past when the Government were not responsible for the distribution of sugar as they are to-day, the position now is that whoever come along, provided they buy the minimum quantity of sugar per month, get the maximum discount for the quantity purchased.
– After all, those who complain about Government interference must recognise that certain benefits have accrued through the Government taking a hand in the distribution of sugar; because all traders, provided they buy up to a certain minimum, receive equal consideration. But. why should there be any difference between the manufacturer of clothing and the manufacturer of flour? ‘ I can go to any flour-miller if I am prepared to buy £50 worth of flour, and get it at current rates, whereas if I go to a woollen mill, and desire to buy £50 worth of cloth, I am referred to Flinderslane, or somewhere else. There are all kinds of restrictions placed on trade, and in the case of woollen goods they mean increased cost to the consumer. The Minister is perfectly safeguarded by the clause as passed in this Chamber. The Broken Hill proposition is an exaggeration. Where could we find a blacksmith foolish enough to think of going to Newcastle to buy £50 worth of assorted steel? By the time his order was lauded in his smithy the cost would far exceed the retail price. There are, however, thousands of instances in which reasonable and proper small transactions may take place in a business-like way to the benefit of small purchasers. Certain co-operative companies are now making a start in various parts of the Commonwealth. Their dealings must necessarily be limited when they are catering for the requirements of a small community. However, they are the class of people who are likely to be protected by the clause. The words the Senate propose to strike out are not superfluous. Even if they are so considered by the Tariff Board they need not be put into operation. However, it is just as well to retain them so that some protection may be afforded to small buyers. The day will come when the co-operative companies will become so strong that they will be quite independent of Flinders-lane or Yorkstreet, because they will be manufacturer’ as well as distributers of the goods they supply to the public. When that day comes I shall welcome it, because it will be the means of cutting out a long list of profits that: are now made before goods reach the consumer from the manufacturer. In the meantime, however, this provision is necessary in order to protect the small traders and the individuals who desire to make purchases up to £50 in value from a manufacturer.
.- I urge’ thu Committee to stand by the clause as we passed it in July last. I fail to see that any adequate reason has been advanced for leaving out the sub- % paragraph to which the Senate has taken exception. We had a long debate in this Chamber on clause 15, and particularly paragraph h. the whole object of which was to see that the consumers should not be charged excessive prices for goods. Honorable members are fairly familiar with the extent to which certain people of late, not manufacturers, have obtained possession of large quantities of Australianmanufactured goods, and have insisted on holding them for high prices against the consumers. In fact, this particular sub-paragraph was inserted by the Committee to protect consumers against excessive charges that might be made in consequence of the action of persons who hold such stocks which they themselves have not manufactured. Although the Minister (Mr. Greene) contends that the position is amply met by the three preceding sub-paragraphs, he has himself clearly shown that the consumers are not sufficiently protected by those three paragraphs in this respect. Under those paragraphs the Minister can take no action until he has received a report from the Tariff Board concerning any complaint referred to it that a manufacturer is acting in restraint of trade or is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the Tariff. But this subparagraph iv for which we are fighting is not aimed against the manufacturer at all. What we are asking for is that the refusal of a manufacturer to sell to any person goods to the value of £50 at current market rates is one of those matters which should be referred to the Board for report.
We require this sub-paragraph in order to protect the manufacturer against the merchant who would control the manufacturers’ output, and who would at the same time charge the retailer much higher prices than he (the merchant) pays to the manufacturer. This sub-paragraph iv will not give to any person the legal right to buy the goods which the manufacturer objects to sell to him. It would only enact that if such a refusal be made and a complaint be lodged with the Minister it can be referred to the Board. And neither the Board nor the Minister can call upon the manufacturer to sell the particular goods to any particular person. The Board must make inquiry,, and satisfy itself as to the reason which made the manufacturer refuse to sell, and! must consider carefully the conditions obtaining in the trade as a whole. It is only on receipt of a recommendation from the Board that the Minister may, if he thinks fit, take action. No hardship will be inflicted on manufacturers who have sufficient reason for refusing to sell to any person goods to the value of £50’. There are very strong reasons why this provision should be retained. One of its objects is to protect the consumers of locally made goods from . being charged1 unreasonably high prices as the result of the combination or caprice of merchants.. The Minister suggested that the consumers are already amply protected by subparagraphs i., ii., and in. of paragraph h. But I cannot agree to this. It is true that in the clause as it has been returned to us from the Senate a complaint may be made to the Board against a manufacturer who acts in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public. The Minister has said that refusal to sell to a wouldbe purchaser of £50 worth of goods might constitute action in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public. But we want something more definite than a mere “ might.” We desire that refusal by a protected manufacturer to sell goods to the value of £50 shall of itself be a proper subject of complaint to the Tariff Board. The Minister told us also, that refusal to sell £50 worth of goods might be regarded as action tending to> result in the charging of unnecessarily high prices for goods, which is a proper subject of complaint to the Board. But, again, we want something more definite than “might.” For it would be extremely difficult to prove that refusal to sell £50’ worth of goods to a would-be purchaser was an act resulting in the charging of unnecessarily high prices. The refusal to sell £50 worth of goods should in itself be a proper subject of complaint to the Tariff Board, on whose report the Min- ister might act. Some persons may think that there is no need for protecting the consumer in The manner proposed. Those, however, who read the published evidence of the Necessary Commodities Commission, presided over by Major-General McCay, must have been very much startled by the evidence given regarding the result of various arrangements for the fixing of prices in preventing retailers from buying goods freely. I have already mentioned in this. Chamber a case to ‘which I again draw attention, that of a shopkeeper in a country town in Victoria who was a shareholder in a local woollen factory. This retailer wished to buy the goods manufactured by the mill in which he was a shareholder, and to sell them to his fellow townspeople, among whom were other shareholders in tho woollen manufacturing business-. He discovered, however, that the whole output of the mill had been bought by a merchant, and when he applied to that merchant to be supplied with goods, he was informed that the merchant did not sell these goods in Victoria, but that they could be bought in Sydney. I do not know how the matter ended, but I am under the impression that the shopkeeper actually had to buy in Sydney, and bring back to a country town in Victoria for sale there, goods which, had been manufactured in a mill in that town in which he and his fellow townsmen! were shareholders. It was to prevent such occurrences in the future that this provision was inserted, and I see no reason why the Committee should reverse its decision of July last..
.- I have listened very .attentively to the arguments of the Opposition and of the Corner party in support of the retention of the provision which the Senate has struck out; but I would stress the point that if the provision is retained, monopolies will be encouraged. When a. business is started in opposition ta a wellestablished concern, it often has not sufficient capital to carry on the operations of selling, carrying stocks in numerous- centres of the Commonwealth, storage accommodation, a, numerous staff, including travellers, financing customers, &c, in addition to manufacturing operations, aud where a firm has not the capital with which to establish a selling branch - opening sale rooms, giving credits, employing travellers and the like - it has to hand over the selling of its goods to someone else. If it could not do this, it could not go on manufacturing, and the oldestablished business, which had plenty of capital behind it, would have a monopoly. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), has told us that when the selling of goods is handed over by a manufacturer to some merchant or distributing house the public has to pay more for them, but he forgets that whether the business of selling is done by the manufacturer himself or by a merchant or other distributer, the costs of it must be charged to the consumer. During the very many years that. I have been in business, many instances have come under my notice in which newly-established firms desirous of getting their goods distributed through? out the length and breadth of the land-, and without the means to arrange for the selling of them, have arranged with merchants to hold stocks in all of the States, and have given these merchants an agency commission for the selling of the goods. The business of sending out travellers, establishing credits, advertising in all the States, and conducting the operations of selling, often require a much larger sum of money than the manufacturer who is commencing operations is able to provide. I am afraid that the honorable member for Grampians has not considered that aspect of the case. In Victoria, it might not be difficult for a manufacturer to get his goods distributed throughout the State, but a manufacturer located in, say, Victoria, could not easily do this in Queensland or Western Australia without very considerable expense, and if small men could not- hand the business of selling over to others on special terms, they would find it impossible to compete with already-established concerns. I do not think that the retention of the proposed clause would effect any saving to the public, but it would probably embarrass new enterprises, and thus give ‘ a monopoly to established concerns.
.- For the past few months we have been engaged in the consideration of the Customs Tariff, which interferes with the business arrangements of the country, and I think that, in view of that interference, the regulation of trade in the manner proposed by this clause is justified.
The mere imposition of high protective duties is not all that can be done in the interests of the people of- Australia. Indeed, we find that, when a Tariff wall is raised, combines of manufacturers cau shelter behind it, and filch from the consumers very large profits. The provision which the Senate has struck out is aimed at reducing costs to the consumers by cutting out middlemen. To; that some honorable members seem to have an objection, but Parliament, having protected the local manufacturers by passing a high Tariff, should see that this protection does not allow the manufacturers to reap all the benefits and penalize the consumers. I know a large town in this State in which there is a woollen mill, and I have been given to understand that that mill, buying its raw materials in this country and manufacturing woollen goods for sale to wholesale merchants, has been able to make highly satisfactory profits; indeed, paid-up shares have been , distributed to the shareholders so that its balance-sheet may not show it to be too prosperous a concern. These goods have been sold to middlemen, who have disposed of them at an enhanced price of exactly 100 per cent, to the men who utilize them in a retail way ; and the same combination of people will doubtless ask Australia for more Protection. But our whole object is to have goods manufactured here for the use of the people of Australia; and why take such a devious and costly course to, give them the goods? The goods to which I refer were increased in price from 6s. to 24s. before they reached the consumer. That is wrong; and that is why I object to high Tariffs, which fence in combines of the kind, and enable them to filch from the people. This view must be realized by the Government, if Ministers were sincere in their preelection speeches, for we then find the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) talking about the desirability of, conducting business without the intervention of the middleman. In the city or town where this factory is situated there are many tailors in a big way, and also soft goods retailers, but they cannot buy direct; the cloth is sent by rail to Melbourne with all the double handling, and then returned and sold at a price sufficient to return a profit of 100 per cent, or more to the great wholesale house. The clause under consideration is a natural corollary of the Tariff. We create a Tariff to protect our manufacturers, and now we are creating a Board to protect consumers. This it is absolutely necessary to do, otherwise we shall perpetuate existing powerful and close corporations. When I was speaking to the woollen manufacturer, who gave me the information on this subject, I said to him, “ I suppose that the trading people in the town are able to buy from you direct,” and his reply was, “ Oh, dear no, we dare not do that!’-‘ adding that there were one or two wholesale houses which had advised him that if he sold one roll of stuff in his own town they would cease to deal with him, and go to some other manufacturer. Such action is truly in restraint of trade; yet honorable members are found to vote for a high Tariff, thus assisting in this filching process. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. ‘ Fenton) was quite right when he said that practically any one can buy a ton of flour from a miller. The primary producers have to throw their goods into the open market, but, in the case of the manufacturer, middlemen are allowed to make fabulous wealth out of the consumers. That is not right; and if we legislate for the protection of trade and industry, as we do in the case of a Tariff - if we legislate to protect one section of the community - we must protect all. I oppose the amendment made by the Senate.
.- When this particular provision was placed in the Bill orginally on the motion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), I supported it. I have listened very carefully to the arguments of those opposed to it here, and have, read those adduced in another place, and I find no reason to reverse my vote on that occasion. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that this paragraph of the clause has a good deal of merit in it. The Minister (Mr. Greene) has given reasons why it is not practicable, and he is supported by other honorable members in that view, but they are evidently opposed to the principle, and therefore advance arguments why it should not be included in the Bill.
– What principle does the honorable member find in this provision? That is what I cannot fathom.
– The principle is that those who are protected by the Tariff shall not have the right to fleece the public by dealing iu a way that is to their own. interests solely.
– Is that not covered by the paragraphs which deal with action in restraint of trade, and charging unnecessarily high prices?
– I admit that it may be covered by the clause, which allows the Tariff Board to report in case of any manufacturer acting in such a way. At the same time it would be very wise for us to let the Board know that we expect it to report where a manufacturer is selling, through his own agencies in particular, for his own benefit or for the benefit of a combination, to the detriment of other honest traders. There are manufacturers and large traders who are doing their utmost to crush co-operative companies. 1 know from what I have been told on the best of authority that certain co-operative concerns find great difficulty in making purchases from certain large trading companies. These cooperative societies have been told by the commercial travellers of the large companies that they cannot take orders, because, if they do, other traders in the district will do no further business with them. Obviously the intention is to break up the co-operative companies.
– That is not the case in Queensland.
– The honorable member may not know of any instances, but I do not think he can possibly have sufficient knowledge of the trading transactions of Australia to be able to say there are none at .all.
– I think I have.
– During my election campaign, I said that I was perfectly willing to give reasonable protection to all industries in the Commonwealth, but, at the same time, the consumer must also be protected; and this Bill appears to me one way in which the latter protection can be afforded. The examples given by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) in reference to the woollen industry, we have heard on several occasions, and I have no doubt that they are perfectly correct. It is unreasonable that a woollen manufacturer should be compelled to sell to any man in business, any trader, who wishes -to place an order. I promised to support protection for the saw-millers, if supplied with all the information necessary to show me that protection was necessary, and I pointed out that it was the duty of the millers to supply local requirements. It had been reported to me on several occasions that builders in the State to which I am referring, could not obtain supplies direct from the millers, because the timber was all sent to one distributing agency; and I told the millers that if such wa9 tho case I certainly would not support any assistance to them by means of the Tariff. The first duty of the miller or manufacturer is to supply local requirements; and if we find that they do not do so the Tariff Board should have the right to report on any complaints of the kind. The great difficulty is that our only power, after a complaint has been substantiated, is to withdraw the Protection ; and, obviously, the result of such action may he exceedingly unsatisfactory, inasmuch as all the manufacturers in Australia will be penalized because one of them is guilty of acting in restraint of trade. That is a weakness iu the Bill, but I think the provision now under consideration will be very useful; at any rate, I cannot see how- it can be detrimental. The Tariff Board will make full inquiry, and report to the Minister, and then the , Minister will report to Parliament, which is the only body which can take action, and it .is not likely to be unfair or biased.
– There is much merit in the paragraph that the Senate proposes shall be deleted, though, of course, I see limculties iin the way of carrying it into effect. But this is a day of experiment, and I do not see why we should not try. One difficulty is presented by the woollen mills. For years the tailors of Australia have been endeavouring to get their supplies direct. I agree that it would be unfair to ask the mill to sell to anybody a £50 parcel of assorted woollens.; the manufacturer could not do that at the wholesale price or anything like it. But there would be no difficulty in the way of his supplying a man with £50 worth of one particular make of blue twill, or one particular pattern of tweed. Such aan order would bequivalent to to over 100 yards of material.
– And an order ofthat size is well within the means of most of our tailors.
– Exactly, but the difficulty is this : If I went to a woollen mill and ordered £50 worth of a particular cloth the miller would say that he had none to spare, because all he produced was purchased by certain firms in Flinders-lane. And he could prove that that was so. We could not punish him for not selling £50 worth of goods to a man if he could provethat for some years he had been selling the whole of his output to somebody else. During the war we did not get the full advantage that we should have got from our local woollen mills, because the wholesale houses bought the whole output and put up the price to something like a parity with that of imported material. However, these difficulties should not deter us from endeavouring to prevent the further robbing of the consumer through the middleman. It might be necessary to support this sub-clause with a provision instructing the Board to use commonsense in its administration. During its operation, the Board will gain much experience and will be able to report to the Minister the true position ofthe protected industries, and, guided by the knowledge thus gained, we shall be able to fight the middleman effectively in the future, if we cannot do it now. ‘ Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that anybody should be able to go to a manufacturer and ask for £50 worth of a locomotive that costs £1,000, or that a blacksmith should be able to order from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company £50 worth of assorted steel. Such an order could not be executed. We are told that this provision will have no effect. I admit that there is a difficulty in the operation of new legislation, but this is the one provision in the Bill that attempts to deal with the operations of the middleman. It may not be effective; it may require to be supplemented by other powers, but so far it is the only check that we are attempting. When I fight for the imposition of heavy duties I do so in the interests of the people and not in order that the manufacturer may make abnormal profits.
– This provision will prejudice the small manufacturer.
– It will protect the manufacturers generally. I recall to the
Committee a case that happened in 1908. A small hat manufacturer was blackballed by the wholesale trade because he sold direct to one of the drapers, and he had to go out of business. If this subclause is retained it will prevent warehouses from blackballing manufacturers when they do sell direct to the retailers. The provision will have that virtue, if no other.
– And the Tariff will be of some benefit to the community in future.
– Exactly. Whilst I fought the honorable members of the Country party in regard to the imposition of duties, I agree with them that the people should not be robbed by the local manufacturer. We should show that, whilst we impose heavy duties, we are desirous of preventing the consumer from being charged undulyhigh prices. At the present time the manufacturer sells to the wholesaler, the wholesaler to the retailer, and the retailer to the public. Unfortunately, there are, also, many semi-wholesalers of varying degrees whose operations tend to increase the price of the articles they handle. If this provision is not likely to be effective, the Ministry should have, in the interests of protected industries, endeavoured to draft a sub-clause that would be effective. Until we make some- law of this kind, our Tariff cannot be regarded as scientific, and we shall not be able to get from the public whole-hearted support for local manufacturers.
– Quite recently, a fact was brought to my notice which goes far to substantiate what has been said by those who are advocating the retention of this sub-clause. During the war, the whole of the output of two of the Tasmanian mills was bought by a Sydney firm. One miller was turning out a particular kind of rough cloth for overcoats which were suitable for the climate of Victoria and Tasmania. But, through the sale of the whole output to a Sydney firm, no tailor in Tasmania could get a yard of that material without sending to Sydney for it and paying a double profit and double freight. Facts like these make one pause.
– They make men Free Traders.
-I am glad that, slowly but surely, honorable members are beginning to rebel against high Tariffs which, in conjunction with combines, make these things possible. “When one large firm swoops down and takes the whole of the output of a mill, an injustice’ is done both to the consumer and to competitors in the trade. The line of cloth to which I refer was the only one of the kind made in Australia and, owing to the shipping shortage, it was practically impossible to get any material from Europe. As a result, we had the exceedingly unpleasant and disastrous experience of people in the State in which’’ it was manufactured not being able to buy the cloth except by sending to Sydney and purchasing it at a price which gave the middleman an abnormal profit. I did not vote for this sub-clause when the Bill was previously before the Committee, but, in view of circumstances which have come to my knowledge since, I shall vote for its retention.
.- The question with which the Committee is concerned is whether or not it is right that anybody, without any ‘limitation whatsoever, should be able to go to a manufacturer and ask for £50 worth of goods at current prices. The provision in this Bill, if it means anything at all, is designed to safeguard the public against the manufacturer, who is protected by the Tariff, charging exorbitant prices. This provision can have no other bearing, but I cannot see that it will help in the least to achieve what the Committee has in mind. The mere fact of a manufacturer refusing to supply one person, or a number of persons, with £50 worth of goods, will not establish a charge that he is taking undue advantage of the Tariff and exploitingthe public. We have to remember, also, that this provision might lead almost to a persecution of any manufacturer to whom a certain section of the people were desirous of causing trouble. It would be impossible for ninety-nine out of a hundred manufacturers to supply £50 orders, but as soon as one man refused to supply, an appeal could be made to the Tariff Board. That appeal might, in the end, fail, but, in the meantime, the manufacturer might have been harassed to such an extent as to be unable to carry on his business. As a means of protecting the public, the clause will be useless. But I wish to direct my remarks particu larly to a widerquestion that has been opened up. The proposal has been made that anybody should be able to trade direct with manufacturers, and, to my surprise, it has received hearty support from honorable members of the Country party. If the doors of the factory were open to anybody, that would simply mean that the goods would be acquired from the factories by the big retailers instead of by the big wholesalers. “That is all the change that that provision would achieve.
– That would be a, big advance.
– I will endeavour to prove to the honorable member that it would not be an advance. All the big retailers are situated in the cities or big towns. They will mop up the whole of the present output of the factories, and, apparently, having regard to the rate at which towns grow, they will be able to continue to take the whole output as the mills grow. The result will be that all Australian manufactured goods will go to the big retailers in the big centres, and country districts will get practically nothing beyond the small output of their own local industries. That will not be a good state of affairs. We have to recognise the fact that in all big manufacturing countries the makers of a particular class of goods concentrate in one place, as far as possible. During the war, the Fair Prices Commission heard a complaint by several of the large retailers in Melbourne that they could not order goods direct from the manufacturers. In certain cases, however, they were getting the goods direct from the factory. The position was this: Goods were sold at the same price to the retailers in the big cities and to the wholesale merchants. The latter added their own profit when selling to the small retailer in the country - a profit which many people thought exorbitant. Yet after passing through the hands of the wholesale merchants and carrying their profits, those goods could be bought just as cheaply in the country towns as in the big city stores..
– That is wrong.
– Yes; but the point I wish to make is that by restoring this provision honorable members will not benefit the very people whom they seek to help. Instead of doing so, they will place the business in the hands of the big retailer who deals only with the city public instead of in the hands of the wholesale merchant who, with all his sins, covers every little town and district throughout Australia. We are asked why the small man is not able to deal direct with the manufacturer. Even if the mills had a big enough output to enable that to be done, and could supply all these people, the unfortunate man situated somewhere in the north of Queensland, or, say, in some small town in Western Australia, would not be able to attend at the place of manufacture, and the manufacturer would not bo able to reach him with his goods except at a. prohibitive cost.
– The manufacturer would do the same as the honorable member’s firm does. There are any number of travellers who sell more than one line.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s point, that the manufacturers would do exactly what the big wholesale merchants are now doing. We have to remember, however, that the wholesale merchant does not send out travellers with only one line. He sells a hundred different lines, and therefore his costs of distribution are very much lower than are those of a manufacturer.
– The honorable member means to say that a manufacturer would have only one line to send out.
– Yes, and unless- the country trader could go to the manufacturer he would be unable to buy at all, because the manufacturer’s cost of offering his goods in the different country towns would be almost prohibitive.
– Whereas the wholesale houses deal in many lines.
– Would not the country traders know what lines a manufacturer dealt in, and do business with him by post ?
– Any one who has a knowledge of trading conditions will realize that that would be impossible from the point of view of the successful trader. A trader, we will assume, knows that a manufacturer produces a certain line of goods - he is familiar with that line - and he therefore orders it. Subsequently, a rival manufacturer might bring out something infinitely better, but the unfortunate man in the country would be bound to take the old known line, while the man on the spot would be doing very much better. I am not pleading the cause of the wholesaler. I have every sympathy with the desire of those who favour the retention of this provision, and who say that wholesalers should not be allowed to make excessive profits and rob the country. I quite agree that that should not be allowed, but the point I am making is that honorable members will not help those in whose interest they are opposing the Senate’s amendment, by cutting out the big merchant. By doing so they will either leave the market to the big retailer or place the country trader in the unfortunate position that unless he can get all his goods from the manufacturer on the spot no one will distribute them, to him. Another consideration that must not be lost sight of is that the difficulties of small traders - people who are struggling and whose credit is doubtful - would be increased a thousand fold if their sole source of supply were that of the manufacturer alone.’ A manufacturer has not the capital or the organization to enable him to handle the weak man and to give him the financial support necessary to keep him going and so to give him ‘a chance, to make good. These are some of the facts which honorable members should keep in mind. They must have regard to the interests of the country storekeeper as opposed to the city retailer, and recognise that it would be suicidal to compel him to trade direct with the manufacturer. Such a policy would have the most disastrous effect on every storekeeper who is at any distance from the main manufacturing centres of Australia.
.- I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the observations made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I have to confess that I lack his imaginative qualities, but I shall endeavour to show that his statements are entirely at variance with the facts, and that he is a worthy representative of the wholesale houses. The object of the provision which the Senate has rejected and which we seek now to restore is to permit a small man in business to obtain his goods direct from the manufacturer. If there is one question more than another that demands the attention of the best brains of the country it is that of the distribution of goods from the manufacturer to the consumer.
– I hope the honorable member is not going to discuss this question at length. We want to get on.
– This is a most important question involving, as it does, the principle of the New Protection. A notice of motion relating to the policy .of the New Protection was on the business-paper submitted to the last conference of the Country party that was held in Perth. This provision would enable a country storekeeper to obtain £50 or £60 worth of goods direct from a manufacturer. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) has endeavoured to show that the effect of it would be to injure the country business man. When in Melbourne I put up at the Commercial Travellers’ Club, and from week to week I see the Association’s journal. In its last issue I saw several advertisements in which travellers going to the north or to the north-west were invited to take up certain lines which reputable firms desired to place on the market. It was announced further that travellers taking up these lines would receive a small salary and commission. Every one knows that many travellers representing some of the larger houses in our cities, owing to the comparatively small salary they receive, have to undertake commissions. Such men would take manufacurers’ lines just as they now accept commissions from various wholesale firms. I find it impossible to obtain in Sydney a hat made in Australia. I am told that the retailers there do not sell them, for the reason that they object to being called on to pay the profits as between the manufacturers and the wholesale houses. They are not able to buy direct from the manufacturer, and they have noi wish to deal from wholesale houses who, in addition to representing the local manufacturers, are also importers. Then, again, if a man seeks to obtain in a retail shop a piece df firstclass Australian tweed he has to wait until the shopkeeper obtains patterns from the wholesale houses, because, as a rule, only the poorer qualities and designs are kept in stock. That is common to most Sydney retail houses. I object to the output of any factory being monopolized by any one firm. Quite recently the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett,) attended here attired in a £5 suit made of Australian tweed. The man who made that suit for him claimed that he had the whole of the out put .of a New South Wales factory which produces the best tweed in Australia. If we impose protective duties in order to encourage Australian manufacturers, then the people who have to pay those duties should be able to purchase direct from those manufacturers. It is true, as the honorable member for Flinders has said, that many country traders are well known to the wholesale houses, but not to the manufacturers. That disability, however, would soon be removed. We are very far behind in the matter of transport and distribution. In Germany a manufacturer who is. overstocked and has almost exhausted his overdraft has not to shut down until he can dispose of some of his goods, because he can get an advance on his stock. That system has been introduced so as to insure continuity of employment. Proprietors do not care to- lose the services of employees who are well acquainted with their businesses. The paragraph under discussion will affect large city firms, who, nowadays, look to the country for their business more than to the cities, where the facilities for indenting have, been so much extended of recent years that many small firms have been able to import their own goods, instead of depending for their supplies on the larger importing establishments. Nevertheless, small country firms would benefit by the sub-paragraph which the Senate seeks to omit, and for that reason honorable members of the Country party should oppose the Minister’s proposal. As no doubt the gentlemen in the Senate are friends of the controllers of wholesale houses, we can easily understand how pressure has been brought to bear upon them to oppose the wishes of this Committee. We ought to give people the opportunity of buying direct from manufacturers without the intervention of middlemen. A few months ago I had the opportunity of inspecting woollen mills at Geelong, and I saw the magnificent cloth which had been produced. The wholesale people would have brought some charge against me if I had bought any of it direct; but through the intervention of a third party I secured sufficient material for an overcoat, which I was proud to display, for the benefit of the Free Traders, in the streets of Sydney. Bur I could not get the cloth without the intervention of a third party. There should be no need for any such intervention. and I hope that we shall retain the sub-paragraph, and so enable the small buyer to approach the manufacturer direct, and effect his limited purchase.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
For the purposes of this Act, any member of the Board may, by writing under his hand, summon any person to attend the Board at a time and place named in the summons, and then and there to give evidence, and to produce any books, documents, or writings in his custody or control which he is required by the summons to produce.
Senate’s amendment, inserting after the word “ may,” line 2, the words, “ on resolution of the Board,”’ agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Add the following new sub-clause: - “ (2) The Board may, in its discretion, on the application of any party to an inquiry before the Board, summon any person to appear as a witness before the Board.”
. -I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The provision which the Senate has added to the clause is, I think, a good one, because it allows any party to an inquiry before the Board to make application to the Board that certain witnesses be heard. It is left to the discretion of the Board to say whether such persons shall be summoned.
.- I should like to be sure that the Senate’s amendment means what the Minister says it does. It seems to me that, under the earlier part of the clause as amended in the manner to which we have just agreed, any one can be summoned by the Board, but that by this addition the Board’s power of summoning is limited by the condition that an application must come from a party to an inquiry by the Board.
– The summoning of witnesses under the first part of the clause is entirely within the discretion of the Board, but the effect of the addition to the clause proposed by the Senate is that a party appearing before the Board may ask that any other witness be called.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Penalty: Five hundred pounds. . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ Five hundred,”and insert “ Two hundred and fifty.”
.- I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is one of a number of cases in which the Senate has reduced by one-half the penalty provided for in the Bill. I do not propose to object to any of these reductions.
.- I protest against what the Senate has done in the reduction of penalties. To my mind, those who are guilty of offences under this measure, who will be persons enjoying the protection of the Tariff, should be liable to penalties as high as those provided for in the Bill as it left this Chamber. I shall oppose the motion.
.- I am opposed to the acceptance of the Senate’s amendment. The Minister has given no reason for the reduction of this penalty for refusal, without reasonable excuse, to attend the Board, or to produce documents, books, or writings required of him by summons. The theory of the measure when it left this House was that it would regulate the administration of the Tariff in the interests of the people of this country; but the Senate’s amendment has gone a long way to prevent it from doing so. The object of the measure would be defeated if a personwhom the Board suspected of exploiting the community could refuse to appear or to produce books or documents, and be safeguarded, as the Senate proposes, to the extent of half the penalty which we fixed. Instead of the penalty being reduced to £250,I would prefer to see it made twelve months without the option.
– If the honorable member will look at clauses 23, 24, and 25 he will see that the effect of the penalties provided for is cumulative, and, in the circumstances, we are willing to accept the Senate’s reductions.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- There is a cumulative effect where a person is found guilty of an offence for the second time; but the Senate proposes to reduce the penalty for the second offence, which we fixed at £1,000, to £500, and the Minister is willing to accept that reduction.Whatever justification there might be for reducing the penalty in this instance, there is certainly no justification for reducing the penalty for the second offence. Other clauses provide for fine and imprisonment for a long period for certain offences such as attempts to influence the ‘ decision of “ the Board improperly, and these penalties should not be reduced. I hope the Senate’s amendment will be disagreed to.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 24 -
If any person appearing as a witness . . . refuses to be sworn . . . Penalty: Five hundred pounds.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out Five hundred, and insert Two hundred and fifty.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 25 -
Where any person, who has been convicted of any offence against either of the last two preceding sections, is subsequently convicted on information by the Attorney-General of any offence against either of those sections, committed by him after the first-mentioned conviction and in relation to the same inquiry,he shall be liable to a penalty of not less than Five hundred pounds and not more than One- thousand pounds, and to imprisonment for such period not exceeding three months as the Court thinks fit to order.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out all the words after “ penalty,” and insert “ not exceeding Five hundred pounds, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or both.”
– This is a similar amendment to those we have just been dealing with. It does not decrease the period of imprisonment, but it does decrease the monetary penalty. I- move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I oppose this amendment for the same reason that I opposed the amendment in clause 23. Whatever argument there might have been in favour of reducing thepenalty in the first instance, there is none in favour of reducing it for a second offence. What is the use of pretending that this Board is anything but a farce, if we render it ineffective and useless so far as regards any benefit to the public, by telling offenders that they have practically a free hand to refuse to produce their books and to behave as they think fit? For the first offence the fine is only £250, and it may mean thousands to a person to refuse to produce his books. Then, for a glaring flouting of the Board, and, consequently, of this Parliament and Government, we have the penalty proposed by the Senate. It reminds me very much of legislation insome of the States, where a poor devil of a grocer is fined for adding a halfpenny or a penny to his price, while the large and rich trader is allowed to go free. If a person is sentenced to imprisonment under this Bill, I suppose it will not be the managing director, but some poor devil of a clerk or official, who, like the gaol editors of certain newspapers, are kept on the premises for that purpose. I hope the Committee’ will not allow any reduction in the penalty, otherwise we might as well tear the whole Bill up and put it in the waste-paper basket. Such a measure will be put in operation only against the “ small fry,” whilst the “great captains of industry,” the people who constitute themselves the inner circle, and pull the strings in the commercial and manufacturing life of the country, will go free. From time to time we shall see some poor little suburban grocer being haled up only to vindicate the majesty of the law.
.- I was prepared to accept the vote on the amendment in clause 23 as a test, but quite a different position arises under the present clause. I agree with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) that to accept this amendment will permit a person who deliberately flouts this legislation to get off with a fine of £500, the Senate having so reduced the maximum penalty of £1,000. I think that a man who deliberately flouts this law should be imprisoned without the option of a fine.
– The honorable member forgets that everyoffence is a separate offence; that is to say, as soon as one prosecution is over, another can be instituted, and imprisonment will follow.
– The two preceding clauses provide a penalty for failing to attend or produce documents, and for refusing to be sworn or to give evidence, and the clause before us refers to persons who, after having been fined, continue to disobey the Court; yet it is proposed to let such persons escape with a fine.
– The honorable member overlooks the first part of clause 25, which says -
Where any person has on any day done or omitted to do something, and his act or omission amounts to an offence against either of the last two preceding sections, and does or omits to do the 3ame thing at any meeting of the Board held on some other day, each such act “or omission shall be a separate offence.
– I have not overlooked that; but are vrc to allow any person, whoever he may be, to so flout the law of the land? The Bill as it left us provided for a fine “ and “ imprisonment.
– But the Senate have made it fine “ or “ imprisonment.
– We are now dealing with a recalcitrant witness, who refuses to obey the Board.
– It might pay him well to refuse.
– Then let the penalty be imprisonment.
– In view of the opinions expressed by honorable members, and in order to. save time,
I shall, with the leave of the Committee, amend my motion to make it read -
That the amendment be agreed to with the following amendments : - Leave out the word “or” after the word “pounds,” with a view tD inserting in lieu thereof the word “ and,” and leave out the words “or both.”
.- The Acts Interpretation Act provides that whenever a penalty is mentioned in a Commonwealth Statute it shall mean the maximum penalty. Therefore it is always within the power of the Court to impose whatever lesser penalty is thought proper. There may be cases which will warrant the maximum penalty which this Committee inserted in the clause now before us, but if we agree to the alteration made by the Senate the Court will not have power to impose that punishment. It will be a serious thing if the law can bo broken without risk of a severe penalty. For that reason, I hope that the Committee will adhere to the higher penalty provided in the Bill when it left this Chamber. In my opinion, there will be plenty of offences that will call for the most severe penalty ; otherwise it may pay a merchant or manufacturer to defy the law and pay the cash penalty. After all, commercial morality is no greater than that of the burglar.
.- In my judgment, the Senate has been wiser in considering this matter than this House was. The Senate has looked at the matter of penalties as many members of this Chamber desired to look at it when the measure was originally before us in Committee; and I think it has recognised, as we all must, that severe penalties frequently defeat themselves.
– This is not a fixed penalty.
– I admit that a severe fixed penalty is more likely than another to defeat itself; but when we are entering upon an experiment of this kind, when we are establishing a new tribunal, of the personnel of which we know nothing, and the scope of whose operations we cannot foresee, it is wise to fix reasonable penalties, so long as we visit frequent infractions of the law with imprisonment when they are clearly deliberate. We are more likely to get the willing attendance of witnesses, and frank evidence, ifwe im pose reasonable penalties than if we fix Draconian penalties, thus frightening witnesses and leading to the nonconviction of many men who otherwise would be punished.
.- It is rather refreshing to hear the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) putting up a plea for those people who try to defeat the law.
– I adopted the same attitude when this Bill was before the Committee on a previous occasion.
– I never heard the honorable member urging less drastic penalties when dealing with the penal clauses in an Arbitration Bill.
– I do not believe in them, and the honorable member has never heard me argue about them.
– The honorable member was in a Government that introduced them.
– I never spoke on them.
– The honorable member’s silence gave consent.
– It might have been so.
– The honorable member has remained silent on a number of occasions. Honorable members laugh, but the joke may not be so apparent when we are discussing one question in regard to which the honorable member remained silent for quite a long period, but we have not come to that yet.
– Is that a threat?
– It is merely a forecast which may, or may not, be proved correct. The mind of the honorable member for Balaclava is naturally very exercised with regard to the interests of his commercial friends.
– If a man will not stick up for his pals-
-I do not blame the honorable member, but I am endeavouring to do the same for the section o’f the community that I represent. When the friends of the honorable member for Balaclava defy the law, I desire them and their supporters in this House to be strong constitutionalists. I do not desire the honorable member to wander away from the law, and hold up the. enactments of this Parliament to ridicule by reducing the penalties in such a way that they may be regarded by the commercial section of the community as an invitation to defy the Tribunal we are creating. I cannot understand the honorable member terming three months’ imprisonment a Draconian penalty.
– After all, it is only the maximum.. The Court may order imprisonment for only twenty-four hours.
– Or imprisonment until the rising of the Court.
– Yes; and if the plea is successfully raised that only a technical breach of the law has been committed, not even imprisonment until the rising of the Court will be ordered. No doubt imprisonment for three months in Pentridge, or some similar institution, would have an effect upon the social standing of some of those persons whom the honorable member for Balaclava seeks to protect from the operation of these penalties.
– Their friends would never desert them.
– Sometimes people have to bow to the popular clamour, and it may be necessary to sacrifice one ewe lamb occasionally. When, however, a. member of the working class commits a breach of the law, there is no protest fi om the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), or anybody else, against the imposition of “a Draconian penalty.” I hope the Committee will insist that the very light penalty proposed in this clause shall be inflicted upon those people who .find it to their interest to flout the law.
.- I do not think there can be any objection to the Senate’s amendment, as proposed to be amended by the Minister. The penalty in this clause will then be consistent with other penalties which have been fixed. For the first offence, we cut down the penary from £500 to £250, and for the second offence we are making it a fine of £500 and imprisonment for not more than three months. When we remember that continuing offences can be charged against the offender again and again until he obeys the Court, it must be admitted that the penalty can be made as severe as is necessary to meet even the most stubborn refusal. In those circumstances, by making the imprison ment compulsory, we shall be meeting fairly the argument that has been put forward by honorable members opposite.
Motion agreed to.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds, or imprisonment for one year.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ Five hundred, insert “ Two hundred and fifty.”
– On a point of order. Is it possible for this Committee to alter the penalty in clause 33 before proceeding to deal with the Senate’s amendment to clause 34? The penalty in clause 33 is a fine of £500, or imprisonment for one year. Can I move to amend that to make those two penalties cumulative instead of alternative? The principle of a cumulative penalty having been affirmed, we should adhere to it throughout the Bill.
– This Committee can only, at this stage, consider those’ portions of the Bill which the Senate has amended.
– Is it not possible to move that clause 33 be recommitted?
– No; because the Senate has not amended clause 33.
.- I take it that I shall be in order in moving -
That the clause be amended by leaving out the word “ or”, line 8, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “and”.
This clause is designed to deal with an employer who dismisses his employee, or prejudices him in his employment, for having given evidence before the Board. The penalty for this offence, as amended by the Senate, is a fine of £250 or imprisonment for one year. If honorable members seriously desire to make this Board effective, they should make this penalty as drastic as possible, and make it a fine of £250 and imprisonment for one year. It would not be too severe a. punishment for a man who deliberately tries to flout Parliament and the Board by dismissing an employee who gives evidence at the request of the Board. An employee who fails to attend the Board when called upon to do so is liable to a penalty of £250, and if because of evidence given by him before the Board he is dismissed from his employment, I think that the employer would” be fittingly punished by fine and imprisonment.
– One or two dismissals in such circumstances would lead to wholesale intimidation.
– Yes. We know that this sort of victimization does occur in other circumstances. I hope that my amendment will be agreed to.
– I ask the Committee to reject the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). It seems to me that if in every case punishment by imprisonment were mandatory, then, unless the evidence in support of the prosecution were of the clearest possible kind, the Court would probably hesitate to convict. This is one of those cases in which the Court should be allowed to exercise its discretion. Where the Court had any doubt whatever it might be prepared to impose only a monetary penalty, but if imprisonment were mandatory, the Court in some circumstances might not convict. The whole object of the clause, and the penalties for which it provides, is the protection of employees, and I am inclined to think that the honorable member’s proposition, if agreed to, would have the opposite effect.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 34 (Dismissal by employers of witness).
Senate’s Amendment. - At end of clause add the following new sub-clause : - “ (3) Any prosecution under this section shall be commenced within three months from the date of the commission of the alleged offence.”
.- I think that in the circumstances the provision which the Senate has inserted is a reasonable one. If the dismissal of an employee is due to his having given evidence in a case of the kind covered by the clause, then the employee should be prepared forthwith to bring an action against his employer for having dismissed him. I do not think that the employee should have the right to sue his employer six, eight, or twelve months after ‘the commission of the alleged offence. I therefore mover - That the amendment be agreed to.
.- Are we to understand that under . this clause the onus of initiating a prosecution is thrown upon the employee?
– Who else should initiate it?
– Who initiates a prosecution in a case of theft ? - not the man who is robbed, but the Government.
– Quite so. According to the Minister (Mr. Greene) if a man is robbed it is his business to look for the thief. I am against this time limitation. Why is the Minister so concerned about the poor employer who victimizes his servant? Why is it unreasonable that an employer who has victimized an employee should be prosecuted six months after the commission of the offence ?
– Does the employee ever do anything wrong?
– Yes, and honorable members who look after the interests of the “bosses” take care that he shall be prosecuted. If the Government are going to make even a decent pretence of enforcing the provisions of this clause it is only reasonable that the onus of initiating a prosecution should be thrown upon the Crown Law authorities. We have provided in the Bill that an employee who fails when called upon by the Board to give evidence shall be liable to a penalty of £250. If, because of the evidence given by him before the Board he is dismissed, then the employer should be liable to prosecution without any time limitation being imposed. As it is, if this amendment be agreed to, an employer will be free to victimize an employee as long as he does so in such a way that it is impossible for the employee to take proceedings within three months from the date of the commission of the offence.
– The employee’s cause of action will arise immediately after his dismissal. Why should he delay the institution of proceedings for more than three months ?
– Why should the employer victimize him at all?
– He should not. and if he does he should be punished as promptly as possible; but why should the employee not institute proceedings within three months of the commission of the offence?
– He might be ill, and unable to do so.
– The onus of prosecuting should rest really with the Government.
– Of course it should. The Government should enforce the law.
-Who is to enforce it where an employee fails to attend before the Board?
– The Government; and why should it not do so where the employer offends against the law ? In any event, there is no reason for the imposition of this limitation.
.- On the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I said that it was worthless. I am quite in agreement with the views expressed by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), but I do not think we need occupy much time in’ discussing this question, for the reason that the Bill is not designed to serve any good purpose. It merely provides for the resurrection of the Inter-State Commission. It proposes to find billets at from £1,000 to £1,400 a year for three gentlemen who from time to time will institute inquiries, from which nothing will come. I do not think any one will be prosecuted. If we are to take the Bill seriously, then the amendment made by the Senate is certainly outrageous. An employee is liable to a fine and imprisonment if he fails to attend before the Board when ordered to do so. If he obeys the law, and because of evidence which he gives before the Board, is dismissed by his employer, the Government, which has compelled him to give evidence, should initiate the prosecution against the employer. Under this amendment an employee who has been victimized must himself initiate a prosecution, and do so within three months of his dismissal. If the Ministry has any sense of fair play it will see to it that the Government which, under pain of fine and imprisonment, compels a man when called upon to do so to give evidence before the Board, shall itself initiate the prosecution of the employer who dismisses that man because of evidence so given.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
New clause -
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert new clause : - “ 37. This Act shall continue in force for a period of two years and no longer.”
.- I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Senate has asked us to insert a new clause limiting the operation of the measure to a period of two years, and I propose to agree to the limitation, because it will be within the power of Parliament to re-enact the measure if the Tariff Board proves its usefulness in the interim. On the whole I think it is the best course to follow.
.- I think that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is making a blun- der, because the proposed limitation of the period will clearly, affect the personnel of his Board. We are not likely to get men of the business world, of eminence, probity, and wide knowledge, to forfeit their business connexions and sign up for two years only. Consequently, we shall get men of an inferior type on the Tariff Board. The more we study the question the .more we become convinced that everything depends on the character of the men appointed; and by character I do not mean merely a man’s reputation for integrity, I mean also his knowledge, his experience, his judgment, and his vigilance. I’ do not think that we can expect to get anything but “ fetch-and-carry “ men to apply for a two years’ billet. Of course, I exempt officers who are likely to be appointed from the Public Service, because they, in response to the wishes of their Minister or the Government, are not likely to object to signing up for service on the Tariff Board for two years, but, clearly, the outside men appointed would be of au inferior kind-
.-I hope that the motion moved by’ the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will be agreed to. Otherwise the members of the Board would probably be appointed for five years if they are to be men of the character that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) would like to see chosen. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Tariff Board does good and useful work Parliament will be bound to re-enact the measure. On the other hand, if the Board proves a failure, the sooner we can get rid of it the better; no one will be anxious to continue the existence of a useless and expensive body. If the Senate’s amendment is agreed to, and the Board is appointed for two years only, its members will know that they are on their mettle and that they will be judged by Parliament on their two years’ work. I am sure that we shall get better work from them under the circumstances and results that will justify the re-enactment of the measure at the end of two years.
.- If we are anxious to kill this proposed Tariff Board at its very inception, the best thing we can do is to agree to this amendment, because the members of the
Board will not have a fair show. As the honorable ‘member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has suggested we will not get good business men to throw up their business connexions for a two years’ appointment. We might just as well throw the Bill aside at once as have a second-rate Board doing second-rate work. If we do not get a first class Board, I am afraid we will have a repetition of the War Service Homes trouble.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I think we can get the services df very good men, even for two months, and get them cheaply. In fact, Mr. Ashworth or Mr. Knight, of the Taxpayers Association, would be only too pleased to take on the job for £200 a year. We have had ample evidence in the newspapers for a long time past that there are a lot of cheap men outside who want low-salaried positions in the Commonwealth Service. I shall vote for the motion to provide an opportunity for them,
.- I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will not press his motion. I differ from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). He says that if we limit the operation of the Act to a period of two years we shall not get the services of the best brainy business men, that they will not be too anxious to throw up their business connexions and accept these appointments; and we have just been discussing another clause of the Bill which limits the total expenditure on the administration of the* Act to £4,000 per annum, for which amount we would not be likely to get the services of three very good men.
– But the Committee did not agree to that limitation.
– But, at the same time, the honorable member for Balaclava did.
– I advocated the payment of big screws to ‘the members of the Board.
– It is wise to limit the operation of the Act for two years for the present. If we were studying the personnel of a Board already iu existence there might be something in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava, but this Board is about to start out on an. unknown path. There will be a great deal of preparatory work to be done, but that should not take too long if it is taken in hand by men who understand the operation of the Tariff and the effect it is likely to have. We are to have a new Board, consisting of new men, and at the end of two years, if the amendment is agreed to, we shall have an opportunity of reviewing the work it has done, and in the light of the benefit it has conferred on the community. It will then be our duty to consider whether the period of appointment should be lengthened. Everything will depend upon the result of the work of the Board during the previous two years.
.- Our experience generally is that if the Government appoint a Board they stick to it, and it grows larger and larger every year. Our experience of this Board will be exactly the same, but I do not see the necessity for appointing it. It will probably be composed of Customs officials. In fact, it will simply be a Board to enable these officials to secure higher positions, and it will create greater expense, at a time when every one is crying out for economy. We do not know what this Board will grow to at the end of two years. Instead of doing away with it, this Parliament will probably be askedto add to it. I believe in these questions being dealt with by the experienced officers of the Customs Department and the Minister. What are they there for, if they cannot deal with them? Parliament will have no power over a Board. We are elected to look after the interests of the people, and should not place our responsibilities’ on the shoulders of other persons, and pay them highly for doing what is our work.
– I hope that the amendment will be agreed to, As I have said before, I fear that unless some limit of this kind is imposed, the Board may grow unduly before we have had an opportunity to judge of its efficiency. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has said that desirable persons would not throw up their business connexions to take an appointment for less than five years.
– There is nothing to induce a business man to do that to take up an appointment on the Board.
– It has been our experience in connexion with new Departments that the officers connected with them have had no reason to complain of want of consideration or of unfair remuneration. I think that two years is a fair term to give the Board to prove itself, and to enable us to ascertain whether it is needed. I have never seen the need for the Board, and I am therefore in favour of limiting its term to two years, to enable Parliament to judge of its value.
– I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the amendment of the Senate is merely a device to kill the Board, which has never had the prospect of real life. Its Chairman is to be an officer of the Department, who will be practically under the direction of the Minister, and the Board will have no real power. It will not be able to act except under the direction of and with the approval of the Minister. It will consist of a public servant, whose salary will be slightly increased, and of two other members, who will be paid so much per sitting. It would be absurd to expect business men of experience to give up the least part of their time to take positions on the Board. No suoh man would accept a position on the Board unless he saw in it an opportunity to push his interests in a way that we do not contemplate. An honorable member has spoken of the organizing work that will have to be done. No one who has anything to do with the launching of any scheme would suppose that a man would go through months of hard work to organize an institution that had a term of only two years. I can quite understand that members opposed to the creation of the Board welcome the Senate’s amendment. The Senate has inserted limitations of the Board’s term and of the payment of its members as an indirect way of rendering the Board useless. To do good work the Board should be independent; it should be able to make investigations without direction from any one.
– Like the War Service Homes Commission.
– The Board will not be a constructing authority. If the administration of the War Service Homes Commission were to be the subject of investigation, we would not, I presume, make the investigating authority subservient to a Minister. The work of the Board should be done without direction from a Minister. It will be work of such importance that it should be in the hands of men who, independent of the Minister’s favour for the renewal of their appointments at the end of two years, will be free to conduct their investigation as they think best. If the amendment is accepted, I shall lose what little faith I have in the usefulness of the Board.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported, and report adopted .
That Mr. Groom, Mr. Laird Smith, Mr. Wise, and Mr. Greene bo appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for disagreeing to amendment No. 1 of the Senate.
The following reasons were presented by Mr. Greene, read by the Clerk, and adopted -
The limit as proposed may seriously hamper the operations of the Board, which will immediately have many important matters to investigate. The functions of the Department and the Board will be so interwoven that it will be impossible to discriminate between what is ordinary Customs business and what is caused solely through the existence of the Board.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill follows the lines of other measures already passed by this House to give effect to the Versailles Treaty. The only country with which we are not yet at peace is Turkey. The measure enables us to make regulations, and to do such things as appear to be necessary for the carrying out and giving effect to the provisions of the Treaty, and extends the operation of the Treaty to the territories under the control of the Commonwealth. It is a purely formal measure., Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the paying off, repurchasing, redeeming, and converting of loans, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Laird Smith do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising of the sunt of £4,500,000 for certain purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Laird Smith doprepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Laird Smith do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to approve the agreement made between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia in relation to the repayment of the war indebtedness of the Commonwealth and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Laird Smith do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
– I move; -
That, in accordance with theprovisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1014, it is expedient to carry on the following proposed work : - Federal Capital City - Construction of Main Outfall Sewer to Western Creek, which said work was investigated by the Public Works Committee, and on which the Committee has duty reported to this House the result of ils inquiries.
This motion authorizes the Government to proceed with the work of constructing the main outfall sewer to Western Creek. This matter was before tho Public Works Committee in 1915, and the Committee approved of the scheme, as shown by their summarized recommendations-
The Public Works Committee took evidence, and they presented their report to this House on 14th April, 1915; and, under theprovisions of the Public Works Act, it is necessary to pass a resolution to the effect that it is expedient to proceed with the work. As a matter of fact, a considerable amount of work has already been done, involving an expenditure of, roughly speaking, £35,000. Owing to the war, however, all work at the Federal Capital was suspended ; and in the meantime an Advisory Committee was appointed and asked to report on a scheme for the progressive construction and occupation of the city. That Advisory Committee, of course, had to inquire and report on the whole of the engineering services, and a fundamental work was considered to he the construction of the main outfall sewer. Included in the personnel of the Committee was Mr. de Burgh, Chief Engineer for Water Supply and Sewerage in the service of the New South Wales Government, who is regarded as one of the most capable and competent men in Australia to advise on sewerage and water supply. Recently, that gentleman went into the matter very thoroughly, and he has reported in favour of the scheme I am now proposing to the House. The cost of the completion of this outfall sewer will be higher than was estimated in 1915, owing to the increased cost of labour and material, and it is now estimated at about £50,000.
– That is £85,000 altogether.
– Yes; practically an increase of about £10,000 on the first estimate. ,
– Why not spend some of the money on the surface?
– The honorable member, as a medical man, knows that it is not much use placing a city above ground if there are not sound engineering works underground. However, when this motionhas been passed Ipropose to submit another having reference to the construction of rather a noble edifice above ground. Mr. de Burgh, in his report, says -
I am of opinion, therefore, that the works comprised in the departmental scheme should be pushed on, with the object of completing the main sewer from point “A” to Western Creek. . . .
– How will the sewerage be dealt with at Western Creek’!
– There will be biological treatment and irrigation Iworks, which the experts advise as the best method. This whole matter has been thoroughly investigated, and amongst those who are in favour of the scheme as set out by Mr. de Burgh are Dr. W. G. Armstrong M.B. Ch.M. (Sydney), D.P.H. (Cambridge), Senior Medical Officer, Department of Health, New South Wales; Mr.R. Boan, engineer, Railway Department, Victoria ; Dr. J. H. Cumpston, M.D. (Melbourne), E.S. (Melbourne), D.P.H. (London), Director of Quarantine; Mr. J. Davis, M. Inst. C.E., late Director-General of Public Works, New South Wales; Mr. T. Hill, M.V.I.E., engineer, Department of Home Affairs; and others.
.- If the building of the Federal Capital is to go on, the proposed work is essential. I should like to know, however, whether there has been any consultation between the Government and their engineers on the question of the depth of the main sewer channel that is now to be constructed. I was a.t the Federal Capital site quite recently, aud, like other visiting members, I was anxious to see whether any improvements could be made on similar works carried out elsewhere. In the case of the sewer channels I know that shafts are sunk and connected underground by drives, but my idea is that the main channel is taken too deep. That, of course, does not make much difference now, the ground at the depth chosen not being much harder than it is within a few feet of the surface; but I submit that, when the work of installing each house or unit is undertaken, the cost will be greatly affected by the depth of the channels. It is for that reason that I wish to know whether any thoroughly expert opinion has been obtained on that point.
– The whole plans and specifications were submitted to the Public Works Committee in detail. The following scheme was placed before the Committee: -
The average depth would he about 35 feet, being from a minimum of 5 feet at Yarralumla Creek to a maximum of 80 feet through some of the ridges. The fall throughout has been governed by the distance from the outfall at Western Creek to the most distant locality of the City to bc sewered, which is about 71/2 miles, due regard being paid toa contingent extension should the City expand eastwards in future. The grade also has been fixed to provide for a sufficient depth to permit of the Royal Military College at Duntroon, and both portions of the City lying to the north and south of the Molonglo, being sewered.
Evidence regarding this was taken.
– What will be the depth of the channels where the ordinary living houses are ‘i
– The figures I have given refer to ground outside the housing area altogether - to the main outfall sewer leading from theboundaries of the city to Western Creek. The question of sewers within the city boundary is to be submitted later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Sewerage, Federal Capital - construction of main intercepting sewer from centre of city to connect with main outfall sewer.
The present proposal is for the continuation of the sewerage scheme as submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1915, by whom the main outfall fromthe city boundary to Western Creek treatment works, a distance of 3 miles, was approved. It is now proposed to proceed with the next stage, namely, the main intercepting sewer on the south side of the Molonglo River, shown on plan, that is, from A to B, being from ‘the city boundary to a point approximatelyat the centre of the city and directly opposite the parliamentary group of buildings, a distance of a little over 2 miles, at an estimated cost of £66,000. From this point, in the future, will extend two main sewers as shown in dotted red on the plan, one on the northern side of the river, ultimately extending to Duntroon Military College, a.nd taking in on its way the sewerage from Acton and the Civic Centre, and one on the southern side extending to the power-house and East-lake sections. The section of the sewer contained^ in the present proposal will be a continuation of that previously submitted to and approved by the Public Work.3 Committee, and will be constructed with local material.
– Is all this work covered by the appropriations already voted by the House?
– These works will ‘be partly provided for by that appropriation, but they cannot be proceeded with until they have been inquired into by the Public Works Committee and approved by Parliament. We are now referring these works to the Committee for investigation and report. “The estimated cost of this work is- 11,000 feet, at £6 per foot. £66,000. I lay on the table the plans and other information required under the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-19.14, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report, thereon, viz. :- Water supply, Federal Capital - distributory works within the city area, Canberra.
The main water supply works were carried out some years ago, and water has been delivered to the service . reservoir within the city boundary, at Red Hill. Temporary distributory mains of small dimensions have been installed from Red Hill to the Military College, Molonglo Camp, Acton Settlement, brickworks, afforestation area, &c, mostly in 4-inch and 3-inch pipe3. The scheme now submitted for the consideration of the Public Works Committee is for the distributory works recommended in Appendix C of the first general report of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, as follows : -
Twelve-inch main (12-) miles in length), commencing from Red Hill reservoir, thence by way of Melbourne-avenue, National-circuit to Federal-avenue ; thence two 9-inch mains are taken, one (lj miles) Via Federal-avenue and Station-place to a reservoir of 1,000,000 gallons (with capacity to increase to 3,000,000); the other, 9-inch main (two-thirds of a mile) to go along Government-terraces to Commonwealthavenue, near the proposed hostel site. A G-inch branch (three-fifths of a mile) also to be taken from the 12-inch ‘pipe at its intersection ut Brisbane-avenue, and proceed thence to Interlake-avenue to command thi settlement near the power-house. From the reservoir to be constructed at Mount Russell, a 6-inch main is to be laid along the road parallel to Capitol-Terrace, a distance of 3 miles, to Ainslieavenue, to supply the settlement at Civic Centre.
The estimated cost is -
The Federal Capital Advisory Committee had to investigate the question of water supply for the Federal Capital, and its report was certainly of a most gratifying character as regards both the quality of the water to be obtained from the Cotter River and the quantity that will be available for the purposes of the city. Mr. de Burgh, after making most careful investigations, on independent lines, reported :
To summarize them on the suitability of the Cotter River as a source of water supply for the Capital, we find that the average daily flow over thirteen years was 70,000,000 gallons per day, or sufficient for the supply of 700,000 persons at 100 gallons per head per day, while the flow as regulated by the existing reservoir will suffice for the supply over the most ‘critical period of 7,000,000 gallons a day, or sufficient for 70,000 persons on a 100 gallons a day basis. *
I remind honorable members that the position in regard to the water supply is this : the weir has been constructed, a pumping plant has been installed, a reservoir has been built at Mount Stromlo, and the mains run from the weir into the city itself to the service reservoir at Red Hill. All the water works have been completely installed up to the point that we have now only to provide for reticulation through the city. Mr. de Burgh’s report continued -
A comparison of the latter figures with the 1,500,000 gallons per day immediately required for the supply of 15,000 persons (see Sec. (1), Population), shows that the river, as at present regulated, is capable of supplying a volume vastly in excess of requirements, and, if further regulated, can be relied upon as a source of water supply for a population far exceeding any at present forecasted at the Federal Capital.
– Are the works already constructed satisfactory in the opinion of the experts?
– A gravitation scheme and a pumping scheme were suggested, and the experience we have had of actual pumping operations shows that it is cheaper than the gravitation scheme, which would have necessitated the investment of a large amount of capital.
– Does that render unnecessary the reservoir already constructed ?
– No. Experience shows that the gravitation scheme would be more costly than the pumping scheme.
– That means that the other will have to be scrapped.
– No; it means that the pumping scheme already in operation is sufficient.
– The Committee reported that the money spent so far has been well spent and that it would cost more to carry out these works to-day.
– This is a scheme that will meet the requirements of the city for a long time to came, and by increasing the height of the weir we can supply a city much larger than we expect Canberra to be for many years. All the Public Works Committee has to do now is to inquire into, and report upon, the reticulation scheme suggested by Mr. de Burgh, and adopted by the Advisory Committee. I lay upon the table plans and papers in accordance with the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move–
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Common wealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its , investigation and report thereon, viz. : - The construction of a Hostel at Canberra, with necessary engineering and other services.
I ha,v© laid upon the table plans showing the plans of the proposed buildings and all necessary information. The Advisory Committee included the construction of a Hostel as part of the work that should be done in the first year. Accordingly, the Government propose to commence with this work out of the money appropriated by Parliament as soon as the scheme has been reported upon by the Public Works Committee and approved by Parliament.
– Is this Hostel to be built out of the money already voted ?
– Part of the money already appropriated by Parliament will be applied towards the cost of this Hostel. Honorable members who have visited Canberra know that there is no accommodation there for the public, and inquiries are constantly being made by people who are desirousof going into that area. As the city develops it will be absolutely necessary to have hostel accommodation for those people who are engaged in the building of the city - not only those engaged in connexion with public works, but also those who are actuated by the spirit of private enterprise and desire to construct buildings for themselves.
– Is it proposed to run the Hostel as a Government concern ?
– Not necessarily, but the Government will construct it.
– Are we now dealing with money that has already been appropriated ?
– Parliament has appropriated £200,000 towards the construction of the Federal Capital, that being half of the expenditure recommended by the Advisory Committee for the first year, and we propose to apply a portion of that money to this work.
– Is the Public Works Committee to decide Whether or not it is necessary to build the Hostel ?
– That is for the Parliament to decide. When the Hostel has been built it will be for the Government to say whether or not it should be leased. The Advisory Committee was satisfied that a hostel should be constructed, and when it is completed honorable members, amongst others, may occupy it. The plans, which are to be submitted for the consideration of the Public Works Committee, show that the completed work is designed to afford high-class accommodation for 200 visitors.
– “High-class” accommodation !
– If the honorable member would visit the Capital site, as others have done, he would become an ardent advocate of the scheme. The plans provide for a central building containing the usual public rooms, the administrative Departments, and accommodation for the residential staff. Grouped around an enclosed garden on each side of the central building are separate pavilions containing the guests private sitting and bed rooms, connected with each other, and with the central building, by verandah corridors. The plan aims at the possibility of extending the Hostel unit by unit as may be warranted by the patronage received, and at providing the requisite accommodation in the manner considered most suitable. A tentative estimate of probable cost of the completed work is £98,750. Details comprising the estimate will be submitted in evidence to the Public Works Committee. The plans have been carefully drawn by the Chief Architect of the Department, and, as submitted to the Public Works Committee, will carry theapproval of the Advisory Committee.
– This is one of the scandalous proposals that are the outcome of the bouncing, bullying, and threatening of the Government by a certain section of the House, and it portrays the Government, in the very worst light, as meekly, weakly, and blindly yielding to that threatening. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has submitted to us a scheme having for its object a unique way of wasting public money. The proposal is that the Government shall enter into rivalry with ex-Judge Heydon and other speculators, who are already submitting proposals for the erection of certain hotels and other accommodation adjacent to Canberra. Speculation on the part of private individuals may be quite legitimate and justifiable, but at a time when Parliament is ostentatiously making every effort to secure economy, we have the hideous spectacle of the Government yielding to the threatenings that have been indulged in by a section of the House, and inviting us to support the expenditure of public money in the erection of a new hostel or boardinghouse at the Capital. They have already tried their hand at hotelkeeping in the Northern Territory ; but, undaunted by their sorry experience there, we find them to-day weakly submitting to the menacing threats of certain honorable members, and deliberately proposing to wantonly spend £98,000 in the erection of this building. And for whose accommodation? This beneficent Government is proposing to incur a huge outlay which will involve a heavy annual loss in order to provide accommodation for any one who desires to visit Canberra. We ultimately had from the Minister a statement that it was also to provide accommodation for honorable members. This, therefore, is the first step towards committing the House to an expenditure of £3,000,000, and, judging by past experience, even millions more, on the building of Canberra.. It is the first step towards committing this House, in these days of so-called economy, to a wasteful expenditure of public money. At a time when industry is crushed by taxation - at a time when we have a public debt of over £400,000,000, and when our direct taxation alone amounts to £13 per head of the population - we are invited to support this wasteful expenditure.
– I have read all this in the Age.
SirROBERT BEST. - The honorable member may obtain from the Commonwealth Statistician many of the figures I have quoted. We have to consider not only this proposed expenditure of £98,000, but the expenditure of millions which is to follow. The Advisory Committed, which was appointed because of the threats of a section of the House, has recommended the building of a hostel. The hostel having been erected, it is contemplated that we should have, in due time, what is called a Conference Hall, but which I would describe as a picture theatre.
– Where did the honorable member get that information?
– I shall tell my honorable friend. The Government have been bullied into the acceptance of a scheme for the erection of a hostel, and subsequently for the erection of a Conference Hall. This was the scheme of the menacing members referred to, and by a device which is obvious to all, they have managed to get it clothed with the report of the Advisory Committee. That is what the Government have put forward.
– No. The Advisory Committee from the very first have recommended the erection of a Parliament House.
– The Conference Hall, as first proposed, is now to be known as a Parliament House, and ulti- mately is to become a picture theatre. I ask honorable members to say whether we shall be justified in agreeing to. the expenditure of £98,000 on the erection of a boarding-house in Canberra. Is it a reasonable proposition ?
– It will be a paying concern.
– We have heard too much of this rubbish about the building of the Capital proving a payable undertaking. What has already been done there is costing the Commonwealth upwards of £80,000 a year.
-How does the honorable member arrive at that conclusion ?
– Already there has been expenditure of upwards of £2,000,000 on the Federal Capital.
– The expenditure on public works there totals only £1,000,000.
– I am relying on the honorable gentleman’s own figures. The £2,000,000 to which I have referred includes £740,000 expended in the purchase of land in the Federal Territory. The Government would have us believe that the total amounts to only £1,800,000, but innumerable and considerable expenses that are not included in that total have been incurred. And so I say that upwards of £2,000,000 has “already been spent! on the Federal Capital. The income even at the present time is only £35,000 per annum, less than 11/2 per cent on the outlay. The result is that this poor, financially-stricken country is called upon to bear the brunt of an annual loss of upwards of £80,000, representing the difference between 11/2 per cent, and 6 per cent., which is the ordinary rate of interest at the present time. My friend, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), very properly suggests that the land at Canberra would not keep one goat to the acre. He is quite right.
– But the honorable member has not seen Canberra.
– The fact that I have not seen Canberra has nothing to do with the question. The site there may even be as good as Albury. I do not for the moment dispute the fertility of the Canberra soil - it may be up to the highest encomiums passed upon it by various honorable members - but my point is that at this crucial financial time we are not justified in further wasteful expenditure on Canberra in the way proposed. It does not mean only the £98,000 we are now asked to expend in building an hostel or boardinghouse in rivalry with ex -Judge Heydon and other speculators who are already providing an hotel there.
– I do not know where the honorable member has got that information.
– Does the honorable member deny that ex-Judge Heydon and another gentleman, whose name I cannot recall at the moment, are promoting a company which has for its object the erection of an hotel adjacent to Canberra ?
– Ninety miles away.
– That hotel is to be built at Jervis Bay.
– But it is one of the speculations already commenced, and others will follow. My point is that the hostel or a boardinghouse is to be erected, and I say it is out of the public revenue, but is something that should be left to private enterprise. We should never have heard of this iniquitous proposal that the Government should squander public money in erecting a boardinghouse but for the grossly improper pressure which has been exerted upon it, and to which it has weakly and miserably submitted. The manner in which the Government has submitted to this pressure is one of the most appalling spectacles I have witnessed in my public life. This unique means of wasting public funds should be arrested, even at this late hour, by the House declining to accept the Minister’s proposal. It is not a question of asking the Public Works Committee to decide whether it is desirable that an hostel should be erected at Canberra or not - that has practically been already decided on by the Government. They are now merely, as a matter of form for the sake of carrying out the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, submitting it to that Committee - the point is that the Government have decided to ask the House to agree to this motion because such pressure has been brought to bear on them that they dare not refuse to go on with the Canberra project, and they have endeavoured to save their hides and skins by yielding to the expenditure of £98,000 on an hostel there. Is it a fair and reasonable suggestion?’
– This is the most disgusting speech of repudiation I have ever heard in this House.
– This talk of repudiation is absurd nonsense, and is a wilful attempt to mislead. There is no suggestion of repudiation on the part of those who oppose this scheme. The idea does not come within the compass of consideration on a motion such as this. The point I emphasize is that the House has already declared by its efforts towards economy that there is no money available for such schemes ; but yet when pressure is exerted on the Government they are not honest or courageous enough to tell the truth, and say “ We have not the money.”
– But we have the money.
– The honorable member knows that Post Office services have been disgracefully curtailed because we have not money. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) told us he desired to spend £2,500,000, but was only granted £1,000,000. He said that he really wanted £9,000,000 for various postal and telephonic services; but the funds were not available. We have not money for the Post Office, or for increased invalid and old-age pensions, or for providing reproductive employment; but, apparently, money can be found for wasteful expenditure in this sink at Canberra, in rivalry with private enterprise.
Honorable members must bear in mind that in agreeing to this motion they are committing themselves to an expenditure, in accordance with the Advisory Committee’s report, of £3.000,000 within the next six years - that is the Committee’s definite proposal - and that the erection of this hostel is but the beginning of the transference of some of the Departments to Canberra, which will mean increased cost of administration. Instead of the central administration being concentrated in one spot, it will be divided. Some of the Departments will be at Canberra, others will be elsewhere. The cost of administration will thus be vastly increased.
– That is an argument against going to Canberra at all.
– No. The point is that, although we may be justified in applying any funds that we may have to spare towards the creation and erection of what is intended to be a Federal Capital on permanent lines, we are not justified in creating temporary accommodation at Canberra by the erection of shelter sheds and other similar structures. The Advisory Committee proposes to create a temporary and not a permanent Capital. Australia invited the whole world to furnish it with designs for a Federal Capital, and we are justified in spending any money we have to spare on creating that Capital on permanent lines, but that design, representing the best brains of the world on the subject, is brushed aside, and we are now asked to start out upon the erection of a temporary Capital only, and a considerable number of the works and buildings to be put up will ultimately need to be abolished. Such a temporary expedient will lead to vastly increased cost of’ administration in place of the economy we had a reasonable right to expect the Government to display. May I point out that the contemplated expenditure within the next six years is based upon the assumption that work which in normal times would cost £100 is now likely to cost £180. The Treasurer pointed out in his Budget speech that the cost of labour and material had increased by 100 per cent, in some cases, and, speaking generally, he said that expenditure was now over 80 per cent, above what it was in normal times.
– It shows the folly of not fulfilling the compact in normal times.
– I have never been a party to putting off the building of the Federal Capital in normal times. If our taxation at the present time had been normal I would raise no objection to expenditure at Canberra in building a permanent Capital. In fact, I actually introduced some of the measures in connexion with the acceptance of the Territory. It was the bond fide intention of the Governments with which I was connected to proceed with the building of the Federal Capital under normal conditions; but the Constitution never contemplated that when Australia was suffering from the results and reaction of war, when her industries were stifled by the burden of taxation, and when, in fact, the country was in an exhausted condition financially, the Capital should be proceeded with, in other words, whether we had the money for the purpose or not; hut now political pressure is exerted in order to bring about wasteful expenditure of public money in the creation of a temporary Capital. Those who talk economy, and yet proceed with the erection of this hostel, are utterly insincere. They are humbugging the public. The motion we have had submitted to-day is evidence of want of sincerity on the part of the Government in their so-called policy of economy. It will be a serious reflection on them if, at a time such as this, we waste money in erecting boardinghouses, and, ultimately, I suppose, picture theatres.
– If the proposed building costs £98,000, it will be in the nature of a palace.
– The intention is to put up temporary accommodation for the Parliament and part of the Government Departments. This is the first step towards carrying out the report of the Committee which was appointed to devise a scheme for the creation of a temporary Capital, to house part of the Departments, and from time to time to increase that accommodation. The expenditure now is unwarranted. I hope that the House will reject the motion.
.- Any one who did not know the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) might take his speech seriously. He has never been to the Federal Capital Territory, and knows nothing of it. What we have heard from him to-day is a phonographic repetition of statements that have appeared in the Bulletin and the Age. We did not hear him objecting to the military expenditure.
– Thanthe honorable member was not in the House.
– I ask the honorable member to point to a vote given by him in the interests of economy in connexion with proposed military works.
– I have done more in that direction than the honorable member has knowledge of.
– We provided the honorable member with plenty of opportunities to give effect to any desire for economy that he might have, but he did not vote with us against the Government then. He knows that at the time of Federation a compact was entered into ou behalf of the States, under which the Seat of Government was to be in Melbourne only for a limited time.
– No limit of time was stated.
– There we have another Victorian. Only twelve men voted against the proposal to spend £200,000 this year in carrying out works in the Federal Capital area. The proposal now under consideration has been spoken of as a proposal for the erection of a shelter shed, but what is intended is the provision of accommodation for members of Parliament. This Parliament is going to meet at Canberra, in spite of the efforts of the Victorians to prevent it. We shall not be: satisfied with the building of a hostel; we want to have the Parliament House proceeded with. New South Wales has a right to expect that. She has surrendered to the Commonwealth 900 square miles of Territory, and that land is not bringing in the revenue which it will bring in when the Parliament meets at Canberra. The honorable member for Kooyong is not likely to go to Canberra, because there are nolaw Courts there. When Parliament meets at Canberra, the Commonwealth Territory will bring in a considerable revenue. The Federal Capital Territory is nearly as big as the State of Tasmania, though that may not bo saying very much for its size. When the population there increases, the receipts of the Treasury will increase, and the sooner we get there, the sooner shall we get an adequate revenue from the land of the Territory. The expenditure that is now taking place will be dead expenditure until Parliament meets at the Capital. My honorable friend did not object to voting for the expenditure of money to make sewerage works, and to provide a water supply in the Territory.
– No. That is legitimate.
– Of what use is such expenditure while there is no population to serve? My honorable friend is inconsistent in voting for such expenditure and objecting to the erection of buildings. The Federal Territory will be one of the finest assets the Commonwealth has. At present we are spending more money on works in Victoria than on works in Canberra.
– The Commonwealth Bank cost us money until it got going.
– Yes ; and it i3 now making nearly £1,000,000 a year profit. Arc we going to keep the Federal compact? My honorable friend says that when normal’ times come the compact will bo honored; but I have been a member of this House for a large number of years, during which he has always voted against expenditure to take, the Parliament to Canberra. According to him, times never would be normal. The people of New South Wales could find the money to build the Capital.’
– Do they want the Capital at Canberra?
– They are anxious to have Parliament meet there. They have been disappointed during a period of twenty years at the non-fulfilment of the constitutional compact. Some honorable members seem to be ready to vote for any expenditure at Canberra which will not have the effect of taking the Parliament there. Personally, I am sorry that the Government does not propose the expenditure this year of the £400,000 recommended by the Advisory Committee. I am sure that the House would agree to that. It would be in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth to have Parliament meeting at Canberra. Although I live in Sydney, I would not like the Parliament to meet there, because I would not like it to be under the domination of the Sydney press, as it is now under the domination of the Melbourne press. The local newspapers do not influence every member, but there are some whom they influence. We should get a hustle on, and build not only a hostel, but (dso a Parliament House. It should be our object to make the 900 square miles of the Federal Territory reproductive. Friends of mine who have visited the Territory have been unable to obtain accommodation there, but the district is one which would attract tourists if provision were made for them. My honorable friend would have his vision extended were he to visit the Territory. Every man who has gone there, and has not allowed himself to be blindly prejudiced, has returned with a good impression of the district, and anxious to have the Parliament removed there. The climate is a healthy one, and the country is good. Here we are located in a building which is. not well ventilated, but at Canberra’ the conditions will be quite different. The Government is doing the right thing in making a start with the Federal city.
.- When votes for Canberra are proposed it is not the depth of the sewers that worries me, as it seems to do the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), but the depth of our national debt. On Friday last we had a rather serious debate on the administration of the War Service Homes Commission, when Ministers admitted that the Government had not made a success of the business of a master-builder, and were determined to* give it up. Now it is proposed to spend over £90,000 on buildings at Canberra, a change of plan which reminds one of the old couplet -
When the’ devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
The devil got well, the devil a monk was he.
I am against the Government entering into trading enterprises, either in the running of a shipping line or the management of a hostel. To say that these things will pay is, I suppose, a form of humor, because we know that Government enterprises never have paid, and never will pay. In my opinion, the money which it is proposed to spend at Canberra could be better spent on the erection of telephone and telegraph lines. For that reason, I have steadily opposed expenditure at Canberra, and I hope that the House will not pass this proposal. Subsequently, we are to be asked to vote enormous sums to provide Commonwealth accommodation in other places, so that at the very best this proposed expenditure at Canberra would mean the duplication of offices.
.- Apparently the proposed building will be palatial, because it is to cost £98,000. On that sum the interest and sinking fund will work out at something like £120 per week. .Does the Minister seriously think that the proposed building could be let at a profit ? If the New South Wales people are so keen about the building of the Federal Capital, why do they not undertake it themselves? We hear that they have the money for it. «
– The Territory belongs, not to them, but to the Commonwealth.
– This House has on two occasions definitely expressed its intention to spend money at the Federal Capital, and, as one of the minority, I must bow to the will of the majority. The next best .thing we can hope for is that the Public Works Committee will see that if the money is spent it is spent wisely.
.- The suggestion that Canberra is in the wilderness makes one look to historical precedents; and it is rather interesting to remember the record of Washington, which stands to-day as one of the most magnificent cities in the world. In the New York Daily Advertiser of 24th February, 1789, there was published the following communication from Baltimore: -
There are already subscribed for the erecting of buildings in this town for the use of Congress £20,000. When we reflect on the present state of population in the United States, nothing can be more preposterous and absurd than the idea of fixing the seat of Congress in a village, or the raising a new city in a wilderness for their residence. Before we give in to such fancies, we should consider whether we have such a surplus of people and trade as is necessary for the erection and maintenance of a new city. If we have not, the new city must necessarily draw from our present towns their wealth, trade, and people to compose its greatness. I believe no considerate men will venture to say that a new city can be established by any other means than by attracting the wealth, trade, and inhabitants of the old ones; or that it is consistent with the interests of the United States of America to adopt a measure so pregnant with injury and desolation. The contest for the seat of Congress will, therefore, and must necessarily be between New York and Baltimore.
One might almost expect to see a similar communication published in the newspapers of to-day in reference to Canberra. The honorable member, for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), in his enthusiasm and antagonism, and not speaking with that calm judgment which generally characterizes his utterances, referred to what he described as an absolute waste of millions of money at the Federal Capital. I respect the honorable member’s judgment; and if he had visited the Capital, examined the works, and then expressed an opinion, I should have been inclined to listen. But we had the report of the Advisory Committee;
– Which condemned the sewerage scheme.
– No ; that was the Blacket Commission. But, as against the two who favoured the scheme as opposed to the departmental scheme, there are eleven other engineers and medical officers who justify the Department. Therefore, the weight of evidence is in favour of the departmental scheme. Mr. John Sulman, Mr. H. E. Ross, one of the eminent architects of Sydney, and Mr. de Burgh, a most conscientious public servant, investigated the expenditure to which the honorable member for Kooyong has referred, and this is their report after they had done what the honorable member has not done, namely, visited the place and seen for themselves -
Bearing in mind the acceptance of a specific design of city lay-out, together with the restriction which any definite city plan would necessarily impose on a subsequent design of engineering works, and having due regard to the differences of opinion usually to be found in all engineering proposals, the Committee has reviewed the works and services now existing, and advises generally that these works and services are well designed, of sound principles, and properly constructed, forming necessary and useful development.
– And costing £80,000 a year.
– The honorable .member’s charge was that money had been wasted : but as soon as he is confronted with the report of the Advisory Committee, he points out that the cost is so much per year. The honorable member should keep to his first charge. Has this money been wasted?
– Was there any money wasted, or dropped, on the brickworks?
– I shall read the opinion of the Advisory Committee on that matter, showing that there has been very little waste -
The proportion of works unsatisfactory - but, in a measure, useful - is small. The actual capital loss on unsatisfactory works, in the opinion of the Committee, does not exceed 1 per cent, of the capital outlay thereon.
That is an answer to the charge of wastefulness. Why should honorable members continue to make such extravagant statements? This scheme is either right or wrong, and it ought to be condemned on facts, if condemned at all, and not on idle supposition. Further than that, the Committee says -
The Committee finds that many basic preliminary works have been carried out, of a class the construction of which must necessarily occupy a considerable period, and their provision, therefore, constitutes a substantial contribution to the building of Canberra.
The honorable member for Kooyong refers to an expenditure of £2,000,000; and, in reply, I take the date, 20th April, 1921, when £1,056,000 had been expended on works, and £740,000 on land. The honorable member for Kooyong adds the whole of the cost of the works to the cost of the land. He then considers the revenue from the land only, and takes it as the yield from both the works and lands. Then, because it appears to return a low interest, he condemns the country as a God-forsaken place. From the land, we are to-day, without having developed it in any way, receiving about £35,000 a year, together with the improvements that lessees make.
– I said so, and that is the only income!
– Can itbe bad country which produces this return? Of course, there is no return on the public works, and £1,000,000 is there lying idle; but why is there no return? Because members like the honorable member for Kooyong will not allow the scheme to be completed and the works rendered capable of producing revenue.
SirRobert Best. - And more millions are to be sunk.
– And how has the money been expended? As to the water supply, the Committee reports-
– Come to the Hostel and the picture theatre!
– If the honorable member had dealt only with the Hostel, I should have followed his example. The Committee reported-
The Committee considers that the adoption of the existing pumping scheme, as opposed to a gravitation scheme from any adequate source with its contingent heavy initial expense, was sound in principle.
The works are shown to be sound in principle, and the money well spent. There has been no waste on the sewerage, and the power house is one of the best and most up to date in Australia. Roads have been formed, and there is at Canberra one of the finest afforestation establishments, under a most capable man, who has planted over830,000 trees for the development of the Territory. All the work done has been well and wisely done. The trouble is that we are losing owing to the money now lying idle, and surely common sense dictates our going on with the scheme ? So far we have not leased an acre of land in the city area proper, but when we do we shall make it self-supporting. There will be a population of 15,000 at Canberra within six years of the date of its establishment.
– The Advisory Committee reported on the basis of a suppression of population.
– The Committee reported that in three years there will be a population of 6,000, and, in three years more, a population of 15,000; and the desire of the Committee was to keep population back for the first three years only in order to prepare the Capital. We have also to estimate the saving in rentals of, for instance, £25,000 we are now paying in Victoria.
– We will save only a part.
– I am referring to offices of the Central Departments, which will be transferred to Canberra, not to branches. This scheme, - as I say, is sound in principle and wisely managed, and will result in a self-supporting Federal Capital. Many wild statements have been made in reference to the Hostel.
– Answer them, if you can!
– What are the charges? Is the Hostel too big?
– You propose to spend £98,000 on a boardinghouse?
– The Advisory Committee, including architects, prepared the scheme.
– Will the Hostel ever have 500 guests?
– The Federal Capital will be one of the most attractive tourist centres, with its many beautiful surroundings.
– Do the Government propose to turn showman?
– If we did we would have some very good exhibits ! I submit this proposal with confidence, because the works will be subjected to impartial investigation by the Public Works Committee.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed works : -
Automatic telephone exchanges at Ascot Vale and North Melbourne, Victoria, which said works were referred to the Public Works Committee, and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries.
Honorable members will recollect that I have previously explained the nature of these works and the reason for the proposals. The projects were referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report. That body has since concluded its inquiries, and has presented a report in favour of carrying out the projects.- With the exception of suggestions for one or two minor improvements to the buildings, the Committee has recommended theadoption of the entire proposals, and the Government propose to adopt the re- port. The total estimatedcostofthese two exchanges is £183,092 - the amount for Ascot “Vale being £85,826, and for North Melbourne £97,266.
– I desire to place an record in Hansard particulars contained in the ‘following letter,which has to do with a matter to which I have already, more than once, referred in. this House, namely, the lack oftelephonic facilities in country districts as compared with those provided for residents of the cities. Mycorrespondent is the honorary secretary of the Kooloonong branch, of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. He states - .
I have just finished reading an account of your fight fur telephonic communication in these out-of-the-way Malice districts. We, the soldiers of this district, are indeedpleased to see something being done in this matter. For the past six or nine months we have been fighting, through our Federal executive, for this; and the result up to date is exactly as you say, an utter lack of sympathy, which is, to say the very least of it, disheartening. There is no need for me to enlarge on the hardships that are being borne by the soldier settlers, not only here, but in all parts of the . Commonwealth. You know them, as well as . we do; but add to these the lack of speedy’ communication in -times -of sickness or accident, together with a two-days-a-week? train; service, and you will agree that things are about as bad as they can be.
These peoplehave no telephonic communication with the outside world, and they receive their mail, as the writer says, only twice a week. My’ correspondent proceeds to quote a case in point : -
A few weeks ago a man and his ‘wife and child arrived here. It was. discovered that the child had diphtheria. The child was kept all Sunday till Monday morning, when it was taken down to Swan Hill by train. It died either during the journey or shortly after admission; I am not sure which. It is possible that had we had a telephone a doctor could have been brought from Nyah or Swan Hill, and, perhaps, the child’s life thus saved. Another side also presents itself; that is, in connexion with harvesting. Should a settler require a spare part for his machine after the train has left on Monday morning, he has to wait till Friday morning to even get the message away, whichmeans that the part cannot arrive till the Saturday night at the earliest. Should it not arrive by that train it would be the following Thursday before he could receive it. Now, sir, letme urge you to do all in your power to remedy this state of affairs, which is an absolute repudiation of the promises made by the Federal Government, that the soldiers’ welfare, was their foremost thought. Do not let me be misunderstood, however. I fully appreciate all that has been done, and is being done; but you will agree that small things like this have a far-reaching effect on the soldiers, and have a tendency to make them dissatisfied - a dissatisfaction that will grow and is prevalent in more than one disL ict at the present time.
In connexion with the installation here, 1 might mention that the Railways Standing Committee, some little time ago, put a. proposal before the Postmaster-General, that the railway line might be used by making connexions with post-offices where necessary.
It appears that the railways have telephones in some cases attached at the various stations; but, owing to departmental regulations, the railway officers are not permitted to make them available, except for railway purposes. My correspondent continues -
This would not be such a tremendous expense to the Department, and I would uk you to try and see if this could not be effected at an early date.
I make no apology for reading this letter. I have brought forward such matters as these again and again, and I can get no result. What is wrong? I do not know how to obtain results.
– Will the honorable member please resume his seat ? I permitted him to read his letter, as I thought it might have some bearing upon the motion before the Chair. So far, however, the honorable member has failed to connect his remarks with the motion, which refers to a specific matter ; and although he would have been quite in order in speaking as he has been doing, and in reading his letter, in the course of debates upon the Postal Estimates, he will not be in order in proceeding further in that direction at the present stage. This is a specific motion dealing wish a proposition to construct certain automatic telephone exchanges. A general discussion on departmental policy regarding telephone exchanges in various parts of the country is not, therefore, permissible. While I have been lenient to the extent of giving the honorable member every opportunity to connect his remarks, particularly in view of the fact that his correspondent has written as the representative of a body of returned soldier pioneers, I must ask him to connect his further statements with the matter before the Chair.
– The manner in’ which I proposed to connect my remarks Was by comparing’ the proposal before the
House for the construction of additional metropolitan facilities with the entire lack of consideration for ordinary telephonic provision in remote districts. I have achieved my purpose in bringing this typical case before the House; and I only desire to add an expression of hope that the Postmaster-General will take notice of what I have said, and do his best to overcome the causes of complaint.
– Inasmuch as the honorable member for Wimmera has been permitted to bring forward his complaint, I desire now to refer to matters which also are not strictly before the House. It too often happens that honorable members are enabled to air grievances, despite the fact that their remarks are irrelevant, and that Ministers are not given opportunities, following thereon, to reply specifically and immediately. As you have very properly pointed out, sir, the matter raised by the honorable member for Wimmera could have been discussed, both in connexion with the consideration of the estimates for new works and buildings, and in the course of the debate on the general Esti-‘ mates. However, the whole difficulty, such as is contained in the complaint of the honorable member, and .in many others like it, could be got over at once if Parliament would authorize the raising of a special loan of £7,858,000, which - as I have already pointed out - is the sum required to permit the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to overtake arrears of work. My officers cannot possibly hope to undertake that work unless the money is provided. When the Works and Buildings Estimates were before honorable members, I pointed out that country areas were being given more than a fair share of the sum allotted, in proportion to population. Last year, country undertakings involved ah expenditure of £409,899, while ‘ works in metropolitan areas absorbed £487,459. The total of new subscribers added in country districts during the same period was 8,277, while those in metropolitan areas numbered only 8,991. Surely no honorable member will say that ‘ country districts are not receiving their, full dues! The complaint of. the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), might be intensified by the testimony ad- vanced by various honorable members on behalf of outlying districts in the larger States. My Department is doing all that is possible. It has been said, over and over again, that a sum amounting to between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 will be needed if all arrears of work are to be overtaken; and that the task of catching up would have to be spread over a period of three or four years. I repeat that when the money is provided the work will be undertaken.
With particular respect to soldier settlements, my Department can only construct telephone lines thereto upon the same basis as in regard to any other district in the Commonwealth. That basis must be a demonstration, either by means of actual .contributions in cash, labour, material, or otherwise, that a line will pay its way.
– If it will not, they can go without.
– Exactly. When Mr. Donald Mackinnon was acting as director of the soldier settlements, he spoke to me about this subject. I said to him, “ Why do you not include the contribution for telephone lines to soldier settlements in the total cost of your scheme ? The cost could be charged up against the whole settlement, just as other charges are.”
– Who would get the revenue ?
– The Postal Department, of course. But instead of soldiers having to pay out of their own pockets the contribution towards the cost, that is to say, sufficient to pay 25 per cent, of the estimated deficiency, it could be charged against the whole estate, and paid by the Government. I said to Mr. Mackinnon, “ If you will let me know the settlements to which you wish telephone lines erected, I shall get an estimate for each, and let you know what contributions will be required.” He said, “ Very well”; but from that day to this I have never received those particulars.
– I do not think the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) can accuse honorable members of the Opposition of being averse to the provision of telephone lines in the country. The PostmasterGeneral has intimated that works in city or country cannot be proceeded with until money is provided, and I now urge the Government to bring before Parliament at the earliest possible moment proposals to raise money, so that we may make a start at once to catch up the arrears of work in the Postal Department.
– Ask the Minister if he will introduce a Bill for. that purpose before Christmas?
– I believe that if the Minister were to introduce straightway a Bill authorizing the expenditure of £2,000,000 in order to overtake some of the arrears of work in his Department, the House would readily support it. I would be prepared to sit up all night to pass such a Bill, but I do not think that would be necessary; a ten minutes discussion would be sufficient to satisfy every honorable member as to the need for these works. In regard to the Ascot Vale exchange, honorable members who represent metropolitan constituencies are deluged with complaints that people cannot get telephone services, and the uniform reply of the Department is that the existing exchanges are out of date, andincapable of accommodating new subscribers. Unless new exchanges are erected, it is impossible to provide the dozens of new services that are required. Such a state of affairs indicates that the expenditure on the provision of new exchangee will bring additional revenue into the coffers of the Department. The proposed telephone exchange at Ascot Vale, when erected, will serve an area which has a population of between 150,000 and 170,000.
– I have no objection to the city people having all the facilities they oan get:
– I know that; but provision for country and city requirements should be made concurrently. We should make an endeavour to satisfy the demands of the country districts, with whose circumstances honorable members on this side sympathize, but concurrently with the extension of facilities in the country, we must improve and extend the postal and telephonic* facilities in the city and suburban areas.
– And if one section has to go without, it should not be the men on the land.
– I agree with that view, but the two sections should be provided for concurrently. The PostmasterGeneral has hit. the nail on the head this afternoon, and I hope that next time he will drive it right home by submitting to Parliament proposals for expenditure sufficient to overtake arrears of work in town and country.
.- It would be a serious mistake for members representing country constituencies to object to this expenditure on the provision of an exchange at Ascot Vale. This is a business proposition. There has been a demand in Melbourne and other cities for increased telephonic communication, and when the demand exists the provision of a new telephone is a payable proposition. Unfortunately, during the war the cost of establishing these exchanges increased by over 100 per “cent.
Mr. Mcwilliams__ Why?
– The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, received evidence that the price in America had risen from £9 to £20 per subscriber for automatic telephones, and it has increased correspondingly for services under the old system. The question before the House is whether or not the Government shall proceed with a work which has been recommended by the Public Works Committee after the Committee had obtained evidence from America and elsewhere regarding the automatic system. I am quite satisfied that this is a sound business proposal. If the Department does not incur this expenditure it will lose good businesss in the city, and will probably be compelled to incur greater expenditure in the future. Members representing country constituencies have never failed to impress on the Postmaster-General the necessity of a further liberalization of the regulations regarding telephones in country areas. Honorable members are aware that, particularly during the last three years, the regulations have been considerably liberalized, and the country districts are now getting conveniences that they could not get when Mr. Webster was in charge of the Department. The terms during hisregime were exceedingly harsh. They have been improved, and it is the duty of . the country representatives to urge the Government to continue liberalizing the regulations so that we may give to the man in the back country telephone communication, which is the greatest boon he can have. We would be making a great mistake if we resisted this expenditure in the metropolitan area simply because lack of funds does not permit the Postmaster-General to provide telephone services all over the back country. Whilst admitting that the cost of this work is considerably greater than it would have been in pre-war days, I am satisfied that the proposal is in the interests of the Department and, therefore, of its customers in the country districts.
.- It would be unwise to reject this proposal unless by so doing we could insure that the money intended to be spent at Ascot Vale would be diverted to a fund for the erection of country telephones. I do not thinkl that would happen, and as an erstwhile member of the Public Works Committee I know that this proposal was investigated and that the Committee recommended that the exchange should be proceeded with as soon as possible. I do not like to deprive a place like Ascot Vale of these conveniences, when the exchange is likely to prove a good, payable proposition to the Department.
– There is no proposal to do that.
– If we cannot divert this money into the country districts we should not oppose its expenditure at Ascot Vale. But I do think that when the Postmaster-General, is drawing up his Estimates he should be very careful to see that the country gets its fair share of consideration. The telephone exchange at Ascot Vale has been long recommended, but the time may come when the House will decide that projects of this kind may very well be deferred, and the money which would be spent on them applied to the provision of facilities in country districts. When these projects areput forward in the first place is the time when the Postmaster-General should take steps to insure that the country districts are not starved. It is better to starve the city of these conveniences than thecountry. The Postal Department is not meant to be primarily a revenue-earning concern; it is intended to be a convenience to the public, and although it may lose a little money at times on country telephone lines, the whole community may derive very big indirect benefits from such services. The time has come when the PostmasterGeneral should be prepared to curtail city conveniences, so that the country may get proper consideration. However, this matter has beenlong recommended, and I cannot see that any benefit to the country districts can be gained by rejecting the motion.
– The Postmaster-General might have gone a little furtherthan he did. He said either too much or too little. He will be able to refer to his speech in six months’ time, and say that he was in favour of borrowing money for the carrying out of telephone facilities and mail services, because he said that if Parliament would authorize the borrowing of the necessary funds he would be quite ready to provide the services that are asked for. It is the duty of the Government to submit a proposal to Parliament.
– I made the same statement on 15th November.
– The Postmaster-General may feel assured that Parliament will support him if he brings forward a definite proposal.
– The other chaps will not allow him to do so.
– If the fault lies with the Ministry let them take the responsibility, and not throw it on Parliament. This House will support the Postmaster-General if he will submit a concrete proposal. We are entitled to a statement from him before the House adjourns at Christmas this year that he will submit a definite proposal to raise money for the carrying out of those works that are in arrears. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.. Stewart) has stated a condition of affairs that is only typical of what exists all over the Commonwealth. I have a letter in my box at the present time from a soldier settlement in New South Wales which I know was visited by the postal inspector five months ago. He reported on the request of the settlement for a mail service and a telephone, and yet the last letter I received contained the stereotyped reply that the matter was still under consideration. I believe that the real trouble is that the Department has not the necessary funds to carry out these works, but an endeavour is made to cover that fact by the stereotyped reply that the matter is still under consideration. If the Department has no funds available, now is the time, before Parliament adjourns for some months, for the Minister to submit proposals to the House. If the grievances of the country districts in this regard were related in detail they would occupy the attention of the House for a considerable time. It is a pity that notonly soldier settlers, but other settlers in the back country, should be denied the conveniences to which they are entitled. What does the Postmaster-General mean when he says that if Parliament will authorize the raising of the necessary funds he will carry out the works ?
– Would it not be better to make a fight on any new proposals that are put before us rather than on one which has been inquired into and recommended?
– It does not matter very much. We care not whether thePostmaster-General makes his statement on this or any other motion, as long as he gives us at once an opportunity to show that a big majority of the House is in favour of the flotation of a loan to enable his Department to cater for the wants of country districts. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) and I remainedthere all night to discuss this very question.
– I would again remind the House that this discussion is quite irregular. The motion deals specifically with the construction of telephone exchanges at Ascot Vale and North Melbourne. That is the only matter before the House, and honorable members are not entitled on such a motion to discussthe whole administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department in regard to telephonic communication throughout the Commonwealth.
– I have no desire to commit any breach of the Standing Orders. The PostmasterGeneral has said that if Parliament would authorize the raising of the necessary funds he would carry out much needed work in country districts. I ask him now whether he is going to give the House an opportunity to declare its mind on the subject. If we are not given an opportunity to vote the necessary authority, then the Government, and nob the Parliament, must accept the responsibility.
.- The only point we have to consider is whether it is advisable, as proposed by the Government, to expend on these suburban telephone exchanges money that could be used to better advantage in other directions. Having regard to the fact that the amount at the disposal of the Postmaster-General’s Department is exceedingly limited., is it desirable that £183,000 should be spent in providing telephone luxuries in two of the suburbs of Melbourne, when demands from all parts of the country for telephonic communication are being rejected on the ground of want of funds? Even granting that this will be a profitable . investment, I have always rebelled against a system under which postal and telephonic services in back country districts are dealt with on the basis of profit and loss. Such a system can never give satisfaction. Telephonic services in country districts should be placed in the same category as the educational system, the judicial system, and other essential functions of civilization. The indirect advantages from the establishment of such services are far greater than any actual profits that might arise from the provision of increased facilities in suburban areas.
– But the House has already decided this question. The money for the building of these exchanges has been passed. ‘
– We did not have a proper opportunity to discuss the Postal Estimates on which thatprovision was made. We were asked to deal with them at 4 a.m. last Saturday.
– That ia not so. Provision is made for these exchanges on the Works and Buildings Estimates, which were not discussed during an all-night sitting.
– I understood that they were. The point I am trying to make is that it is the system rather than the administrator that is at fault. I am not seeking to attachany special blame to the Postmaster-General. I believe that he has made the best of what is an unfortunate system. A system that permits a sum of £183,000 to be taken out of a relatively small vote to provide for the erection of telephone exchanges in two surburbs while there are thousands of urgent country requests such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) which cannot receive attention, is wrong. Prom the very inception of Federation we have had this bookkeeping system, which is a curse to the postal, telegraph, and telephone services of the Commonwealth. So long as it can be shown that money can be profitably expended on the erection of a costly telephone exchange in the metropolis, country requirements will not receive attention, because in many cases they are not directly remunerative. If a division is taken; I shall vote against this motion, not because I do not believe the undertaking will be profitable, but because I think the expenditure of £183,000 in two of the suburbs of Melbourne is not justified while in the back-blocks people are crying out for telephone services which they cannot obtain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the recommendations in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in regard to the erection of offices for Taxation and other Commonwealth Departments in Sydney be adopted, and that it is expedient to carry out the work to the extent indicated in such report.
This projected building is intended primarily to accommodate the increasing operations of the Taxation Department of the Treasury, now located in comparatively unsuitable rented premises, in the commercial centre of the city of Sydney. Incidentally, also, the new building is intended to provide offices in which to concentrate the work of branches of other Commonwealth Departments now occupying relatively unsuitable and scattered rented premises. The intended location of the building is in Phillip-street, being that district of the city wherein are located most of the Government offices. The building is proposed to be ten stories high, of simple design and of modern construction, adapted for alteration and subdivision to meet the varying requirements at a minimum of cost. The floor space of the proposed building, exclusive of corridors, lifts, &c, is 91,275 square feet. Possible superfluous accommodation within the building could, it is considered, be profitably rented until such time as the expansion of Federal requirements demand the space. The estimated cost of the building, as submitted to the Works Committee, including incidental engineering services, but exclusive of site, is about £145,000. The Public Works Committee, while in Sydney, took the opportunity of considering a proposal to erect this building while the plans were in the sketch stage. The final drawings, when completed, are to be submitted to the Committee for examination. I submit the plans, &c.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1013-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Automatic telephone exchange and equipment at South Brisbane, Queensland.
The proposal is to erect a telephone exchange building on a site, portion of which has been acquired by the Commonwealth, at the corner of Stanley and Vulture streets, South Brisbane, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system, having an immediate equipment of 3,600 lines, and an ultimate capacity of 6,000 subscribers’ lines. The establishment of the South Brisbane automatic exchange is required to relieve the central exchange, which now serves the area. This exchange, which is on the common battery manual system, is now nearing the end of its economic life, and even when extended will meet development only to the end of 1922. It is therefore necessary to provide at the earliest possible moment a modern service for the subscribers in the South Exchange area. The estimates of revenue per annum are as follow: -
The proposed) building will be a singlestory brick structure of simple design. The estimated cost of the scheme, exclud ing site, portion of which has already been acquired at a cost of £1,281, is as follows : -
I submit the plans, &c.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Automatic telephone exchange and equipment at the following place in Western Australia: - Cottesloe.
The proposal is to erect a new telephone exchange building on a site which has been acquired at the corner of Clive-road and Congdon-street, Cottesloe, Western Australia. The present subscribers are served by a non-multiple magneto switchboard, which is quite unsuitable for a multi exchange network such as exists in the Perth metropolitan area. A recent survey shows the theoretical centre to be at the site chosen, and by the establishment thereon of a thoroughly up-to-date exchange an efficient service can be rendered present and prospective subscribers. If the project be approved, much wasteful expenditure on line plant can be eliminated. The estimated annual revenue is as follows: -
Actual at 30th June, 1920 . . . . £7,028
Estimated, 1st June, 1923 (proposed date of cut-over) .. .. 11,329
The proposed building is a single-story brick structure of simple design. The estimated cost of the whole work is as follows : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Automatic telephone exchanges and equipment at the following places in South Australia: - Brighton, Glenelg, Prospect.
It is proposed to erect a telephone exchange building on a site which has been acquired for the purpose on the corner of Hartley and Brighton roads, Brighton, South Australia, and to install therein automatic equipment. Owing to the building accommodation, it as impracticable to extend the existing switchboards to cope with the rapid development of subscribers’ lines in the area. The equipment in use is of the non-multiple magneto type, which is quite unsuitable for operation in a multi exchange net-work, such as exists in the Adelaide metropolitan area. The installation of automatic equipment will allow of an efficient service being rendered existing and prospective subscribers in the area. The estimated annual revenue is as follows: - i
Coming to the Glenelg Exchange, I may say that it is proposed to erect a telephone exchange building on a site which has been acquired for the purpose at the corner of Brighton and Jetty roads, Glenelg, South’ Australia, and to install therein automatic equipment. Owing to the building accommodation, it is impracticable to extend the existing switchboards to cope with the rapid development of subscribers’ lines in the area. The equipment in use is of the non-multiple magneto type, which is quite unsuitable for operation in a multi exchange net-work such as exists in the Adelaide metropolitan area. The installation of automatic equipment will allow of an efficient service being rendered existing and prospective subscribers in the area. The estimated annual revenue is as follows: -
It is also proposed to erect a telephone exchange building on a site belonging to the Commonwealth, in Ballville-street, Prospect, South Australia, and to install therein automatic equipment. The prospective development in the area is such that it is imperative that an exchange be established, in order to afford relief on the Central Exchange, which is fast becoming unduly congested; at present 697 lines in the Prospect area are connected. When the proposed automatic exchange is established, it will be possible to render a more efficient service to existing and prospective subscribers than under present conditions. The estimated annual revenueis as follows : -
In respect of all these proposals I submit the plans, &c, as required by the Act. Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - New telephone exchanges and automatic equipment at the following places in New South Wales: - East Sydney (Paddington and William) ; City South, Sydney; Randwick; Waverley; Gordon.
Dealing first of all with the City South (Sydney) automatic telephone exchange, the projected work is to erect a new builds ing for the installation of automatic telephone exchange equipment. The site proposed to be acquired for the exchange is in Pitt-street, Sydney, and it is con: sidered to be most suitable, having regard to the relative telephone network. The subscribers in the City South area are at present served by a manual common battery exchange, which was placed in operation in 1908, and is now nearing the end of its economic life. The system is un. suitable and inadequate for the service demanded, and a thoroughly up-to-date plant is necessary in order that an efficient service may be rendered to existing and prospective subscribers in the area. The estimated annual revenue is as follows : -
The building plans tabled indicate a brick structure of three stories, the design being as simple as possible consistent with the locality of the site. At so central a site it probably may be advisable to anticipate future extension of the building upwards by a further three stories, which aspect of the work the Public Works Committee will be asked to consider. The estimated cost, excluding site, is as follows : -
With regard to the East Sydney automatic telephone exchange, the project is to erect a new buiding for the installation of automatic telephone exchange equipment. The site proposed is at the corner of Liverpool and Little Surrey: streets, East Sydney. This exchange is intended to serve the subscribers in the William and Paddington areas, who are at present connected to two separate magneto exchanges. It was originally inr tended to establish an automatic telephone exchange at William only, owing to the intention of the City Council, Sydney, tq resume the site of the present exchange, but it was found to be a more economical proposition .to serve the combined area from one exchange. The estimated annual revenue is as follows: -
The building as designed will be a two story brick structure of inexpensive architecture suitable to the locality. The estimated cost, excluding site, is as follows : -
It is proposed also to erect a new telephone exchange building on a site which has been acquired for the purpose at the corner of Powell-street and Lane Coveroad, Gordon, New South Wales, and to install therein automatic equipment. The work is necessary to provide for development in the Gordon area, subscribers in which are at present served from Chatswood. The proposed installation will save costly line construction between Gordon area and the Chatswood exchange. The estimates of revenue per annum are as follows: -
The proposed building will be a single story brick structure of simple design. The estimated cost of the scheme is as follows:: -
A further proposal is to add, and make the necessary alterations, to the existing telephone exchange ‘building at Randwick, New South Wales, for the installation of automatic equipment. This is required to replace the existing equipment of the magneto manual type, which is not economical for an exchange of this size, and does not provide for development for any length of time without installation of a new switchboard. The estimates of revenue per annum are as follows :-r-
It is also proposed to erect a new tele phone exchange building on Commonwealth property at the corner of Cowper and Birrell streets, Waverley, New South Wales, and to install therein automatic telephone equipment. The existing telephone equipment is of the magneto manual type, which is not economical for an exchange of this size, and cannot provide for further development for any length of time without the installation of a new switchboard. The installation of automatic equipment will allow for an efficient service being rendered existing and prospective subscribers in the area. The estimates of revenue per annum of the exchange are as follows: -
The proposed building will be a two-story brick structure, in design harmonizing with that of the existing exchange, to which it will form an addition. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Provision of office accommodation in Adelaide, South Australia, for various. Commonwealth Departments.
This proposal is to utilize the valuable vacant land adjoining the General Post Office, Adelaide, by erection thereon of a. suitable building to be occupied by local branches of the taxation and other Commonwealth Departments. Economy is expected to result in the way of saving- of rents now paid for privately-owned premises, and by concentration of the Departments at one centre. In its report upon the extensive projected works at the Adelaide General Post Office, the Public Works Committee included a recommendation that a building such as is proposed be erected. The drawings submitted provide for a building of six floors of fireresisting construction. Owing to portion of the site being in temporary occupation, the project would have to be executed in two sections, and the intention is that the first section would provide offices for the Taxation Department. The estimated cost for the complete building is about £115,000, details of which will be submitted in evidence to the Standing Committee during its investigations. I submit the plans, &c., as required by the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I! move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz. : - Provision of office accommodation for Federal Taxation Department in Melbourne.
The Tented offices in Elizabeth-street,. Melbourne, occupied by the Vic- torian Branch of the Taxation Department, are no longer suitable for the workof the Branch. Inquiries have failed to discover suitable premises which can be rented, and the need for new accommodation is so urgent that the erection of a new building upon one of several sites which have been under consideration seems to be a necessity. The requisite accommodation will be permanently required in Melbourne. It is desired that the Standing Committee on Public Works shall investigate and report upon the matter, and during its inquiry particulars concerning the building possibilities of the several sites referred to will be submitted in evidence by the various Departments interested. I lay on the table the plans, &c, of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Comm’ittee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Provision of Mobilization Depot (Defence) at Woodside, South Australia.
This project is to erect mobilization stores on a site which it is proposed to acquire about a mile from Woodside railway station, South Australia. It is intended that the depot shall be connected to the railway, which it adjoins, by a special siding. As previously explained to the House in connexion with the establishment of similar depots at Seymour, Victoria, and Midland Junction, Western Australia, the Commonwealth Government has arranged with the Imperial authorities for equipment and vehicles for five dismounted and two mounted divisions of the Australian Imperial Force to bo sent to Australia. The equipment and vehicles have to be stored and issued as required. This material is now arriving, and the South Australian portion will, it is proposed, be principally located in these stores at Woodside. It is therefore extremely urgent that the buildings be completed at the earliest possible date, as temporary storage accom modation for only a limited portion of the equipment is available. The buildings proposed to be erected consist of: -
The. construction proposed for the store sheds is of the simplest description, consisting of hardwood wall and roof framing covered with galvanized corrugated iron - the types being similar to those which have been generally adopted for like structures erected and being erected at Liverpool, New South Wales, Seymour, Victoria, and elsewhere. The construction of the proposed cottageis intended to be brick. The ammunition and explosives stores are also to be of brick. The total estimated cost, together with accessory engineering services, is £37,500.
.- In regard to the various mobilization stores built all over Australia I would like to know if there is not already sufficient provision in the State capitals to store material ? There seems to be an abundance of unoccupied space available at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. The Public Works Committee should not merely inquire into the question of sites, but should also ascertain whether available space could not be better utilized than it) is at present.
– The Public Works Committee always make those inquiries. Before the ordnance stores were built at Leichhardt, Sydney, the Committee took evidence to the effect that ordnance stores were scattered all over Sydney in various establishments, and on this account there was a lack of proper supervision. Their advice was that it would be more economical and efficient to concentrate the stores in one building. However, the sites for these mobilization stores are fixed mainly in accordance with defence principles. Officers of the Defence Department gave evidence before the Public Works Committee to show the necessity for fixing upon Leichhardt’ and Seymour, for example, as sites for ordnance stores.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to approve of the following recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works : -
The Commonwealth Government to surrender 40 feet frontage by its full depth from the southern side of the land in its possession in Adelaide and Ann streets, Brisbane, for the purpose of enabling the formation of an Anzac Memorial Square, subject to full rights of light, air and access on the southern side of the remaining land and subject also to the State Government surrendering 160 feet frontage by the full depth of itf adjoining land for a similar purpose.
The Commonwealth Government to surrender from the land in its possession in Adelaide and Ann streets, Brisbane, a strip of 14 feet wide fronting each street to enable Adelaidestreet and Ann street to be widened to that extent.
This is the outcome of negotiations by which the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government have agreed to surrender land for the purpose of’ providing an Anzac Square close to the Brisbane Railway Station. It is one of the finest sites in Brisbane. The Public Works Committee have reported unanimously in favour of the course now proposed to be adopted. The Commonwealth Government are to surrender a 40-ft. frontage, and the State Government a 160-ft. frontage in Adelaide and Ann streets for the purpose. Another 10-ft. frontage will he surrendered by the Commonwealth Government in Adelaide and Ann streets to enable these thoroughfares to be widened to that extent. The cause is a worthy one, and I think it will meet with the unanimous approval of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the resolution of the House of the 29th October, referring the following works to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz. : - Extension to buildings and equipment of the Commonwealth Woollen Cloth Factory at Geelong, Victoria - be rescinded.
The Defence Department find that they cando without the extension of the Com monwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong by putting the new machinery proposed to be acquired into a part of the existing building.
.- I would like to know whether the Government consider that they are doing a fair thing in rescinding this motion in view of the action taken in this Chamber quite recently in respect to works contemplated to be carried out as the result of the passing of certain expenditure on the Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, or whether, as the result cif the economy demanded from them,, they propose to suspend the purchase of additional plant at the Commonwealth Woollen Mills for the time being. When a vote was to be taken in connexion with these Estimates to which I have referred, I was approached by one of the Government Whips, and asked what my attitude would be. I stated that, in view of the fact that it was costing something like £16 each to manufacture rifles at Lithgow when they could be purchased overseas at £7 each, if it waa thought desirable to effect economy the Small Arms Factory was one in which savings could be effected. However, the Committee saw fit to carry on the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow to a limited extent, and I was informed that, as I was one who was advocating economy, my project at Geelong was likely to suffer to the extent of £40,000.
– It was known nine months ago that the Government did not contemplate building the extension to the Geelong Woollen Mills.
– The motion moved by the Minister (Mr. Groom) has been on the business-paper for quite a long time; but on the Estimates for Additions, New Buildings, &c, there was a proposal to spend £45,000 on the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, and had it not been for the insistent demand put forward in the Committee of Supply for economies, unquestionably that vote would have gone through. I would like to know now what the Government contemplate doing in regard to these mills. The £45,000 was required for the purpose of acquiring new machinery, and it was not intended to be spent on buildings. The new plant was required to enable the manufacture of worsted material to be undertaken, and I would like to know if this expenditure has now been cut out. It cannot be done with, a view to economy, because there are very few socialized industries in this country which are better paying propositions than are the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong. I am told that last year, after allowing for every charge that can be legitimately placed against any concern of this kind, these mills returned a profit of from, £26,000 to £30,000, and I am informed that this profit would be considerably increased by the expenditure of the money which was placed on the Estimates for the new machinery, and which, for reasons of alleged economy, has been cut out. Is it the intention of the Government to reconsider their Estimates with a view to carrying on this very necessary work at Geelong?
– The honorable member is quite correct in surmising that the cutting out of the expenditure on the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong is the result of the action of a certain section of honorable members.
– Of a majority of honorable members.
– Well, I will say a majority. The action of a majority of honorable members in voting for economies in the Defence Estimates has resulted in cutting out the vote of £45,000 for the Geelong Woollen Mills.
– Honorable members did not cut it out.
-They did not actually cut it out, but it has been cut out as the result of their action.
– The Government have cut out the wrong expenditure. The responsibility is with them.
– I cannot say anything while the honorable member keepa on gabbling and chattering. The Commonwealth Woollen Mills come under the Defence Department - I do not know whv they should, but they do - and the Defence votes for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, &c., as honorable members know, were cut down very drastically. The Woollen Mills are a verv excellent establishment.
– And the Minister has apportioned the reduction of the Estimates against them instead of against the “ brass” hats.”
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, that you would call upon the honorable member to keep quiet.
– I call upon the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to keep order.
– I apologize.
– The Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong are one of the few Government concerns which pay.
– I am glad to hear that admission.
– It is mostundesirable that the expenditure upon the new plant proposed to’ be obtained for those mills should be cut out, but as the Assistant Minister for Defence it is my duty, in allotting expenditure authorized by Parliament, to first of all look to matters which count in the defence of the country, and then to an undertaking which, although it may be a paying concern, has very little bearing onthe vital question of defence. I will say, however, for the information of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), that the negotiations for obtaining big” guns and ammunition from the Imperial authorities as a gift, or for a smaller amount than we would ordinarily have to pay for them, have not entirely closed. When he was in Great Britain the Prime Minister negotiated with the British Government, but nothing of a satisfactory nature eventuated. However, 1 have renewed the negotiations, and if we can procure these big guns and ammunition, which we consider essential for the defence of Australia, without paying the large amount we expected to pay for them, I shall endeavour to have the money expended on the Geelong Woollen Mills which we intended to spend on them. Showing that the Government recognised that it was undesirable to cut down the expenditure on these Woollen Mills, this particular expenditure was the last item we decided to cut out in effecting the drastic reduction of the Estimates which the Committee of Supply imposed. Mr. Charlton. - Was not this motion on the business-paper prior to the reduction of the Estimates?
– Yes. Nine months ago the Government decided to cut out this expenditure.
– No. The Government did not decide to cut out this extra expenditure on the Woollen’ Mills until the Estimates were cut down.
– But this motion has been on the notice-paper for*nine months.
– The motion relates to an alteration to the plan of the building.
– If it is possible to go on with the work at the Woollen Mills I shall be pleased, because the existing plant is doing excellently well. The manager is a very up-to-date man, and I shall be very sorry indeed if we are compelled to forgo the expenditure on the purchase of additional machinery .
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- I should not have risen had not the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) said that the resolution which we are asked to rescind has been rendered unnecessary because of a. reduction made in the Estimates. This, he said, was one of the last retrenchments that was entered upon. A statement like that should not be allowed to go unanswered, because it is not in accordance with the facts, and it may be used to injure certain honorable members. The motion under discussion has been on the notice-paper since May last.
– No. The motion to which the honorable member refers had to do with the building of an additional wing, a proposal which was abandoned long ago. This motion concerns a proposal for the installation of machinery.
– Does the Assistant Minister for Defence say that the motion under discussion has only just appeared on the notice-paper ? The records show that it was there before the Estimates were reduced.
– The honorable member is referring to a motion regarding the building of a new wing.
– Iexplained that it was proposed to extend the buildings, but that the Defence Department had reconsidered the matter, and had determined to install machinery without making that extension. It is the proposal to install machinery that we are now canoelling.
– Very often, of late, we have been told by Ministers that certain things are being done because of action taken in connexion with the Estimates. The Committee of Supply, in reducing the Estimates, did not say that certain expenditure was to bo curtailed; it left it to the Government to decide where the saving was to be made. I am prepared to take my responsibility for the votes I have given. I considered that the Defence Estimates should be cut down, but while I do not shirk my responsibility, I object to the Ministers attempting to shirk theirs, and excusing every action they take by saying that it was because the Committee of Supply did so and so. Each one of us should take the responsibility that belongs to him, and the proposals of the Government should be considered on their merits.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 19th July (vide page 10260), of motion by Mr. Greene -
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “If” in line 1 of the paragraph bc omitted with a view to the insertion of the following words in place thereof : - “at any time it appears to the satisfaction of the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the payment of the anti-dumping duties specified under paragraph (A) of this resolution is being evaded by the shipment of goods or consignments without sale prior to such shipment, the Minister may in any case or class of cases authorize such action as is deemed necessary to collect on such goods, or any of them, the same dumping duties as if the goods had been sold to an importer in Australia prior to their shipment to Australia “-
.- The Committee has dealt with paragraph A of the motion, and the matter immediately under consideration is paragraph B; but it is so long since we were discussing this matter that it may perhaps be as well for me to make some explanation to honorable members. Paragraphs A, B, and C provide against three different specific forms of dumping. Paragraph A provides against the dumping of goods which are sold for export, at prices lower than those at which similar goods are sold in the markets from which they come. Para.graph B provides against the dumping of goods which are sold in the country of export at prices below the cost of production. It may appear that this provision is to some extent superfluous, but I explained when moving the motion that we are following the experience of other countries which have had anti-dumping legislation in operation for some considerable time. Those countries, after providing against the kind of dumping which is dealt with in paragraph A, nave found it necessary to amend their laws to prohibit the kind of dumping provided against in paragraph B>. It may happen that some powerful combination, such as the American Steel Trust, may decide that in the interest of its business - and against fair play - it will sell its goods below the cost of production in the country of origin, and also for export. Such dumping is not provided against by paragraph A. That paragraph, as I said, provides only against the dumping of goods sold abroad below the home consumption price; but paragraph B would enable us to deal with importations of goods which were being sold for export below the cost of production, even though sold at the home consumption price.
– I have never heard of anything of that sort being done.
– Such things have occurred in the experience of other countries. Probably these cases will be very rare, but at the same time they should be provided against, and our law should protect us from them. I understand that considerable exception has been taken to the provision which adds 20. per cent, to the cost of production. I have looked into that matter again, and. a little later I shall propose a reduction. When the motion was framed, I was under the impression that the term “ cost of production would include only the actual cost of raw material, labour charges, and so on, but it covers a great deal more; it covers also all overhead charges, such as cost of management. Therefore, a figure considerably lower than 20 per cent, would be a fair one to cover the reasonable profit which should be allowed on turnover. »
– Why provide for a limitation when the matter has to go before a Board for examination?
– This is a matter which cannot come under the review of the Board. We must provide an absolute definition of the price which the Board shall take as the standard with which to compare the price at which goods are sold’ here.
– A principle is being laid down?
– Yes. We must lay down the principles which shall guide the Board in all its determinations. In all the circumstances, I think that 20 per cent, is too much.
– Do you not think that producing firms make a profit of 20 per cent. ?
– Not on their turnover. They may make 20 per cent, if overhead charges are included with their profits.
– Why not leave the provision elastic?
– We cannot do that. We must provide the Board with a basis for the computation of prices of goods in arriving at the amount of dumping duty to be charged. Having carefully considered the matter in all its aspects, I do not propose to adhere to 20 per cent., though I am prepared to listen to what the Committee has to say on the subject. These remarks apply also to paragraph C. Paragraphs A, B, and C provide against the three kinds of dumping, which are generally understood. Paragraph O deals with consigned goods, and i? really an addendum to paragraph A; but it was impossible to provide, for consigned goods in paragraph A ; paragraph A provides for a dumping duty on goods actually sold, while paragraph’ C deals with consigned goods. I do not propose to say more at this stage of the debate, but I shall be very glad to hear what honorable members have to say, and later on I shall move a reduction of the 20 per cent. I have mentioned.
.- I understand that the Minister (Mr. Greene) intends to move a reduction in the percentage; but I am not sure that that will be satisfactory. We shall, however, wait further information before coming to a determination. This Bill is somewhat belated; it was introduced some time ago, but was not carried to a conclusion. 1
– Better late than never!
– I agree with the honorable member, but a good deal of injury baa been done in the time between the introduction of this proposal and the present moment. We have evidence to-day of a large measure of unemployment in our chief industries, due largely to the fact that commodities and material are being brought from overseas at prices below the cost of production in Australia. That was inevitable after the war; we could plainly see it must occur, and, therefore, the necessity then arose for us to take prompt action. Had we done so, it is quite possible that there would not have been so many people out of employment at the present time. For instance, the iron, and steel industry, which may be described as the life-blood of a country, was established in this country only in recent years, and appeared to have good prospects, but suddenly the “bottom fell out “ of the market. Last week something like 500 hands were dismissed from the works.
– And by Christmas the number, will probably be 4,000.
– That does not mean unemployment for only those directly employed in the iron and steel industry, but also for large numbers indirectly concerned.
– Is this due to a falling off in orders?
– It is because of contracts being let in Australia foc goods that can be produced abroad at a much cheaper rate.
– How do the prices now compare with pre-war prices?
– -The honorable member should know that it is impossible to get. down, to pre-war prices in a few months, and I hope we shall not do so, because I would rather see the conditions of the workers improved than otherwise.
But how can we hope for any change within a few months of the end of the war ? Prices may be inflated in many directions ; they were inflated all over the world, and it was claimed that, after the termination of hostilities, there would be such a demand for; material in every country that we in Australia would have a very busy time. To-day, however, the only people who are having a busy time are enemy people, who were supposed to have lost by the war. They are in constant employment, and everything is going well with them, while our men, who fought on the side of victory, are the sufferers.
– What wages are workmen .getting overseas ?
– Does the honorable member desire the same conditions in Australia as prevail overseas?
– No; but what wages are the men getting?
– What does it matter to a man what wages he is getting ? The real point -is the purchasing power of the wages. In Germany, though the mark has depreciated considerably, the purchasing power of employees is much the same as it was before, and in consequence of the difference in exchange they can manufacture i profitably there, and through Great Britain or- Belgium, have the goods transferred to Australia. The raw material is taken to Belgium from Germany, and in Australia orders are taken for iron and steel at prices far. below those with which we can compete.
– The economic conditions -of the workers in Germany are worse now than in pre-war times.
– I am not in a position to say any more on that phase of the question, but authorities tell us that, while that may be SOl, the purchasing power of money in their own countries is not affected as it is here with our money standard and the difference caused by depreciation.
– At the present time no goods are being landed here from Germany except surreptitiously.
– That is the reason we should have taken the matter in hand, and prevented such goods coming here. In the Industrial Australian and, Mining Standard of 29th September this year there appears the following : -
Agents of foreign steel manufacturers are canvassing Australian foundry and engineering works’ proprietors in a desperate quest for orders. They are offering to supply Belgian iron and steel, but submit no quotations. They guarantee the analysis will be correct, and whatever price the Australian iron and steel industry fixes, they promise to supply considerably below that figure no matter what the figure may be. This is evidence of dumping clear, complete, and absolute. . . . During the recent months thousands of tons of foreign iron and steel have been “ dumped “ in the Commonwealth. The price quoted is several pounds below the actual cost of local production, without taking into consideration the matter of overhead charges. The foreigner is out to collar the Australian market for iron and steel. He will sell below the Australian price, and he cares not what that price is. He is desperately eager for the business. Profits do not count with the foreigner. His immediate object is the extinction of the iron and steel enterprise in Australia. . . . The question of sentiment should not be permitted to intrude. Our first duty is to ourselves. If the importation of Belgian iron and steel means the strangulation of our own Australian industry, then we must 6ee to it that Belgian iron and steel is kept out of the country.
I could quote quite a number of extracts on the subject. Prices are given of iron and steel produced abroad as compared with the prices in this country, showing that the goods can be delivered here at something like £3 per ton less than our cost of manufacture. If that is the case, and we have to find employment for our own people, immediate action should be’ taken to deal with the position, which ought not to have been allowed to develop to the extent of crippling our industries. Seeing that this dumping has obtained such a hold, I do not know that it is possible forus in anything like a reasonable time to recover from the great blow we have sustained from this foreign competition.
I do not know whether the Minister has not power under the Customs Act to deal with this dumping if he so desires. Section 154 of that Act seems to me to give him sufficient power.
– Even without this Bill?
– It seems that there is some reason for this Bill, which covers three phases of dumping, namely, of goods sold in Australia at a lower price than the market price in the country of production, goods consigned to and finally sold in Australia at a lower price than in the country of production, and goods sold at a lower price than the cost of production in the exporting country. This Bill differs somewhat from the Canadian law, which at first applied only to goods sold in Canada at a price lower than that at which they were sold in the country of production, but later the law was extended to consigned goods. I think that under section. 154 of the Customs Act the Minister has power to deal with goods on the invoices. That section reads -
When any duty is imposed according to value -
The value shall be taken to be the fair market value of the goods in the principal markets of the country whence the same were exported in the usual and ordinary commercial acceptation of the term free on board at the port of export in such country and a further addition of 10 per cent, on such market value.
The value shall be verified at the time of entry by the production of the genuine invoice and by a declaration signed by the owner in the presence of the Collector.
The invoice shall be stamped by the Collector with the Customs stamp and shall be produced to the officer prior to the delivery of the goods for home consumption or for warehousing.
If the non-production of the genuine invoice shall be accounted for to the satisfaction of the Collector, proof of its contents by a copy or otherwise may be received in lieu of its production.
It is doubtful whether the Minister could not take action under that section.
– As a. matter of fact, all ad valorem duties are now levied according to section 154. It is by that process that we determine the invoice value, or the value of goods for duty. If the value be less than the home consumption value as determined by the section we levy a duty according to the home consumption value.
– That is exactly what this Bill in one clause does - it provides for much the same thing.
– No; it goes further. First of all, for the purposes of the Customs we have to ascertain the home consumption value of the goods, and the duties are levied accordingly. But that has nothing to do with the question whether the goods are sold below home consumption value for export.
– I see the distinction. The Minister has power to assess the value in this country; that is distinct from dumping at less than the price in the country of production.
– We charge the duty on the home consumption value of the goods in the country of export; but if the goods are sold below the home consumption value, then we levy the duty on the difference between the home consumption value and the price at which the goods are sold.
– It seems to me that the Minister has made out a case in favour of this particular clause. I am sorry that this measure was not introduced earlier. We are suffering to-day because of that fact. I regret, further, that certain State Governments, while on the one hand clamouring for population and more employment for the people, have, on the other, given contracts for work to be done outside this country, just because the quotation was a little cheaper.
– In the case of the contracts for the Morwell works the difference in price was no little matter.
– The State Governments should set an example. It is of no use to complain of private employers when the Governments themselves let tenders abroad in order that they may save a few pounds. What is the use of their bewailing stagnation in industry and unemployment? We should do our utmost to find employment for our own people, even though the immediate cost may be a little more. As I have emphasized over and over again during the past few weeks, no one can estimate what is gained by Australia preferring to do the whole of her own work within her own boundaries, from her own material, with her own workmen.
– But there is a reasonable limit.
– There is; but, in times such as these, we have to be careful how we approach that limit. There are honorable members who desire conditions to be the same to-day as if there had been no war. I doubt if we shall ever return to pre-war conditions. Although times may be bad, we are actually better off than before, and so are the peoples of most other countries. The standard of our citizens has been raised, and I hope it will not be lowered. We should endeavour, rather, to retain the high standard, and, indeed to raise it still higher. That cannot be done, however, by the Governments sending jobs out of Australia. Have we not made promises to our returned soldiers ? Can we keep them by taking employment from them and rendering them idle merely for the sake of a few hundred pounds, one way or the other, upon certain contracts? This measure is absolutely essential. I hope it will be made sufficiently stringent to serve its purpose.
– I do not think this Bill, if it had been carried earlier, would have made one iota of difference in respect of the Victorian Government’s Morwell contracts.
– Whether it would have done so or not, it becomes the’ first duty of the Governments in Australia to look after their own people.
– But why did the honorable member vote for a duty which threw the explosives operatives out of em.ployment ?
– As I have said more than once, my action was taken with a view to safeguard human life. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) favoured cutting down the Defence Estimates at one stage ; but, because he thought the Government might be jeopardized, he reversed his vote. I dealt with the duty upon explosives in a conscientious way. Can the honorable member say that he has acted similarly? I trust that this Bill will pass. If there should be any trouble in another place, it may be _ necessary for honorable members to remain and insist on placing this measure upon the statute-book. It must be passed without being weakened. We must protect our people, or thousands and thousands will be unemployed in the next twelve months, owing to dumping, and* to the adverse exchange situation.
.- I doubt whether the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton.) has read the title of this Bill or has made himself familiar with its clauses. It is not supposed to be a Bill to impose increased duties.
– I am not asking for increased duties.
– But the object of this measure is, in effect, to impose increased duties in order to favour manufacturers in and about the honorable member’s electorate.
– The purpose is to make the Tariff duties effective.
– It is well that honorable members should realize that goods have not been coming into this country from Germany, unless surreptitiously. We are not trading with Germany. The question arising for consideration in an anti-dumping Bill is whether any country is sending goods here at less than the cost of production and less than tie price at which those goods are being sold in .the country of origin. I cannot agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that some great concern, such, for example, as the Steel Corporation, in the United States of America, is not only sending goods out of America and selling them at less than is represented by production cost, but is actually selling them within America at less than the cost of production, in order to destroy trade in other countries. Such big corporations may send their goods into Australia and other countries when they have manufactured more than their own country is absorbing ; and sell them abroad at dumping prices. Hence, the necessity for anti-dumping legislation - the immediate purpose being to prevent local manufacturers from being unfairly treated.
– The purpose of an antidumping measure is to provide against cases of unfair competition.
– And that is all.
– ‘Then let it be done.
– That is all very well; but there are few honorable members who can say exactly how this Bill will operate.
– Does not the honorable member ‘think that what he has termed successful competition may be, in its incidence, unfair to our people?
– Then, if that should be the case, we must compel our manufacturers to build up. The honorable member was quoting, some minutes ago, from the Industrial Australian - a journal which has stood behind the Minister, and behind all the Protectionist advocates in this House, throughout the course of the Tariff Bill. The issue for 24th November contained a leading article having to do with the building up of Australian industries, headed, “ High production costs driving work out of Australia.” Are we to continue to impose high duties throughout all time? Why should we do so?
– To give good conditions.
– To whom?
– To the general workers.
– What about the consumers ?
– Are not the general masses of the workers the consumers?
– They are among the consumers in this country; but there are others who work, in other fields of in dustry. I am battling for more than the interests of one section in this community. We must build up industries and make them self-reliant. Is it not fair that those in receipt of good wages should give a fair return to their employers, so enabling the people of this country to secure necessities at fair prices ? In connexion with one item alone in the Tariff schedule - that having to do with steel rods and blooms - honorable members will be interested in a comparison which has been worked out. Assuming that the same quantity were imported for the current year as in 1913, the increased duties would afford a protection to local manufacturers amounting to no less than £730,000. That sum becomes a direct present - a straight-out advantage - to those engaged in the manufacture of iron and steel in Australia. In 1913, these manufacturers were producing without a protective duty. The Broken Hill Proprietary boasted of their magnificent iron deposits, of their wonderful plant, and of the fact that they were able to compete unaided with the whole world. I want to assist to build up such works as those established at Newcastle, but I would give them assistance - only after it had been clearly proved that they could not carry on without such help. I would demand, however, that we receive the same return from that source as could be got from the manufacturers of other countries. I have been recently reading the report of a representative Labour delegate, who had been sent from Great Britain to the United States of America to report upon conditions in the steel industry across the Atlantic. The statement of this official was to the effect that, in May last, the average wages paid in the United States of America steel industry amounted to 3s. 2d. an hour.
– Yet, according to an illustration in this evening’s paper, they have been selling unemployed men to the highest bidder who will give them a bit of work; just as though they were slaves.
– What is the honorable member talking about? The Industrial Australian states that the price paid for coal by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company was 21s. 9d. per ton, when the price of coal in Pittsburg was 13s.- 6d. Are we getting a fair return ? Is it right that one section in the community should be able to earn from £15 to £20 a week while another section must work hard, and yet harder, and get practically no return for their toil? If the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) thinks he is right in bolstering up the conditions of industry in his own district, surely I am more than justified in asking that the great majority of the people shall be given a fair deal. The iron and steel industry in this country has by the Tariff been given a direct bonus of something like £2,500,000. Surely with that assistance it should, be able to compete with the industries of other countries, more especially when we have regard to the natural protection that is afforded. When we give high protection by means of the Tariff we are justified in asking that the manufacturers shall bring their establishments up to date, and that the workers shall give a fair deal to the community. Our workers are as good and intelligent as those in any other part of the world, but in recent years things have been going from bad to worse, and the responsibility rests with the Labour leaders. We must realize the economic conditions of the world to-day, and we cannot afford to continue in the fool’s paradise in which we have been living so long. The InterState Commission,in its Tariff Investigation Report, said -
Witnesses have frequently admitted during the course of examination that, in order to get the local market, they sought the absolute prohibition of importation of all goods likely to compete with the industries in which they were interested. With nearly all Australian industries, the local market is the only market the manufacturers have to depend upon.
There are some honorable members who wish to use this Bill, not for the purpose of preventing dumping, but in order to augment the duties which Parliament has already imposed. That is not fair. If it can be shown that goods are being sent to this country at less than the cost of production in the country of origin, every honorable member will be prepared to pass a law to prevent that taking place. It would not be fair to permit the manufacturers in America to sell their goods in Australia at less than the price at which they can sell them in their own country. But in view of the protection we have afforded our manufacturers through the Tariff we are justified in expecting them to compete with the manufacturers of other countries. When we were dealing with the Tariff honorable members recognised that the Minister had veryconsiderably increased the duties on all these articles. Certainly some honorable members did ask for increased duties, but generally even the high Protectionists were satisfied with the duties to which the Committee agreed,I cannot understand why the Canadian farmer is able to purchase his reaper and binder for £60 when the Australian farmer has to pay £100 for a similar article. Our workmen should be able to do as well as the workmen of Canada.
Mr.Fenton. - What does the Australian farmer pay for Canadian machines?
– The price of a Canadian reaper and binder is £102. The Inter-State Commission’s report continued -
On the other hand, to grant prohibitive duties, especially to industries in which only a few large firms operate, without some form of . control of prices, would lead to certain combinations and a probable increase of cost in price to the consumer. Moreover, to give unrestricted power to advance prices in the absence of the stimulating influence of competition or some form of control would also tend to lower the standard of efficiency, while the total exclusion of new ideas and improvements to which the whole industrial world is contributing could not possibly act otherwise than to our substantial detriment.
Prohibitive duties encourage monopolies and other combinations which destroy competition, and unduly increase the cost of living to the advantage of the factory proprietors, but to the detriment of the taxpayers and community generally.
There is already in Australia, as we have seen during the present investigation, a growth of monopoly in various branches of industry which, if not subject to supervision and control, will be attended with mischief to the general welfare. ‘
Those opinions published a few years ago have even greater force to-day. We cannot get away from the fact that there have been combinations in trade and industry, and no honorable member opposite can say that the conditions of the worker here are better than those in other countries. The conditions in America are certainly better, for although the worker has to work harder, he receives far better pay.
– There areabout 8,000,000 of them unemployed at the present time.
– If America is better, what becomes of the argument that Australia is the best country in the world for the working man?
– I do not say that Australia is the best country in the world for tlie working man. There is a section of the community that is destroying the working man, and taking away his liberty, and he is not as good a producer as he should be.
– The honorable member knows that there is no better workman in the world than the Australian.
– Yes, if the honorable member would leave him alone.
– He requires looking after.
– The result of that looking after is seen in New South Wales and Queensland to-day. Notwithstanding the huge expenditure of loan moneys, there is unemployment, with the natural concomitant of destitution. Paragraph B provides -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price-
Who is to decide what is a reasonable price?
– The Minister.
– St is provided that “ a reasonable price “ means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods plus 20 per cent, plus free on board charges. I assume that the Minister intends this to refer to the cost of production in the country of origin, and he told me that he would be agreeable to amend the clause in order to make’ that clear. But how is he to determine what Was the cost of production in the country of origin?
– The Department does that now under ordinary conditions.
– If that be so, there is no need for this machinery. The Custom s entry form provides that the importer must make a declaration as to the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment.
– The Department does not necessarily accept that statement.
– No; but it is possible to ascertain the fair market price in the country of origin. I am inclined to move an amendment to strike out the words “reasonable price” and insert the words “market price in the country of origin.”
– The trouble is that the market price may be less than the cost of production, and we desire to provide safeguards against that.
– The Minister is mentioning a supposititious condition that I do not think has existed in any country in the world. Let us deal with the Steel Corporation, because that is in the minds of everybody, and we know something about it. We have never heard of the Steel Corporation in America selling its goods within America at less than the cost of production, and also, at the same time, dumping them in other countries. There may have been times when the price has been cut very low in order to knock out a competing firm, but such conditions are usually transient. I do not think we have ever heard of a large organization cutting down both the home market price and the export price below the cost of production for the purpose of destroying competition in other parts of the world.
– There are such things as honorable understandings between companies.
– Of course, there are such understandings within a country, and too many of them here among the class the honorable member is protecting; but I cannot imagine any big manufacturer cutting down his price for export and also the home market price below the cost of production. I ask the Minister to consider, in connexion with this clause, whether he cannot fix the fair market price as being the reasonable price. The goods imported will be not only for ready sale, but also for manufacturing purposes. Large quantities of goods will be required to be imported to enable the local importer to carry on. “ A large consignment of steel and iron and other goods may be imported for the purpose of manufacturing machinery. The Customs officials will have to decide what is the cost of producing the various articles, and this seems an impossible proposition. Of course, that cost will be always changing. The investigation will probably occupy months, and the importer will not know what Customs duties he has to pay on the goods until the Department can state what the reasonable price in the country of origin is. The whole process is very intricate. The Minister knows that I have not risen for the purpose of delaying the passage of this measure. I know that if he wishes to force it through the House he can do so, but those who support him must accept the full responsibility for their action. I feel satisfied that this legislation must mean a big increase of the duties on the majority of articles im-* ported into this country, unless the Minister is firm in his resolution that the Bill shall be used only as a means of preventing dumping. Throughput the Tariff discussion he has shown himself to be a believer in high Protective duties. I, on the other hand, believe in a moderate Tariff, I know, of course, that it is futile to try to force amendments against the will of, the Minister; but if this proposal is to be passed into law, it should be made as simple as possible, so that when the goods arrive at our ports the Department will be able to say without delay what increased duties are to be collected, and thus prevent any dislocation of the country’s trade.
– Supposing that the Department says that there must be a reference to the Tariff Board in respect of certain goods that are coming in, are those goods to be held up indefinitely, or will they be allowed to come in as long as they have not been gazetted?
– As long as they have not been gazetted the goods will be allowed to come in.
– They cannot be held up ?
– We cannot hold up goods which come in prior to the gazettal.
– But the Department will be able to follow them up.
– I think not.
– No; once the entry has been passed and the goods have been entered for home consumption we shall not be able to follow them.
– The honorable member for Flinders wants to- ‘know whether it is the intention of the Department, if this proposed legislation be agreed to, to gazette certain classes of goods and to continue to add to or take from the list. If so, would all goods coming under that list have to be reported by the Minister to the Tariff Board 1
– The report of the Tariff Board has to be particular; it cannot be general.
– Does the Minister propose to offer a premium to importers to evade these dumping provisions?
– An importer might not be aware whether or not certain goods which he was bringing into the country would be liable, under this proposed legislation, to a dumping duty. The papers relating to such imports would have to be referred bv the Minister to the Tariff Board, and the question of whether or not increased or dumping duties should be imposed upon’ them would depend upon the report of the Board. I have not gone carefully into this matter, but I thought that the Minister would have gazetted certain classes of goods as coming within these provisions.
– If it is a question of dumping, it seems to me that the reference to the Tariff Board must be particular. It cannot be general.
– The reference must be particular, and must be dealt with as quickly as possible by the Board ?
– When the Board has to ascertain what is the cost of production in the country of origin a delay of some months must be involved, and this will create chaotic conditions. If it had merely to ascertain the market price in the country of export at the time of ship- y ment less delay would be involved. Such information could be obtained by cable.gram: We also have here a paragraph dealing with goods manufactured in Britain partly from material obtained from some other1 country at a low rate, and special charges are to be made in respect of these goods. This proposed legislation will prove very intricate, and considerable delay will take place in relation, to goods coming within its operation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to reply very briefly to the points raised by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. In the first place I invite honorable members to remember that this proposed legislation, although new to Australia, is not new to other countries. Legislation of the same class has been in operation for some time in, I think I am right in saying, South
Africa, Canada, the United States of America, and recently’ in Britain.
– And also lately in New Zealand.
-“ Quite so. i admit that in connexion with legislation of this character there are initial difficulties to be overcome. Possibly in the early stages of its administration there may be some undue delays; but i feel satisfied that we shall be able, before very long, to adopt lines of procedure which will subject tho commercial community as a whole to the least possible inconvenience and delay. i recognise, as every honorable member must do, that it is very important to a commercial man, when he is about to land goods of this class in Australia, that he should know at the earliest possible moment what charges he will have to pay in respect of them. He may be selling the goods before they are actually landed in Australia, and he naturally wants to know what charges he will have to meet. Speaking generally, I do not think it will be found difficult to ascertain approximately what is the cost of production.
– May I ask what is the reason for using the words ‘ ‘ cost of production “ in paragraph B, whereas in paragraph A we have the words “ fair market value”?
– i thought I had explained to the Committee, at an earlier stage, the reason for the variation. The reason is that paragraph A deals with goods that are sold in this country at lower prices than those at which similar goods are sold in the country of production itself, whereas paragraph B. deals with goods which are sold at a cost below the cost of production, whether those goods be sold in the country of origin at a lower price or not. This is an attempt to deal with classes of goods in respect of which a deliberate effort is made by, say, a big corporation to capture the whole of the market, and so to crush out its competitors. i admit that cases of that sort are not likely to be numerous; but every country which has enacted legislation similar to that for which we provide in paragraph A, has followed up that legislation with provisions such as those to be found in paragraph B. That action, i venture to say, has been taken as the result of experience. When we are introducing legislation of this kind we should endeavour to profit by the experience of other countries, and I have followed the practice ofother countries in proposing legislation such as that set out in paragraph B. Having looked into this matter carefully, I feel that while difficulties will arise to a greater or less degree in the initial stages of the administration of this legislation, still, they will be rapidly overcome, and it will not be very long before we shall be able to deal promptly with all these questions as they arise.
.- I hail with satisfaction the introduction of this legislation, but am sorry that the Minister proposes to amend paragraph B by substituting 5 per cent, for 20 per cent. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has made certain charges against the one big industry that was established in Australia during the war, and I dare say that the debate will largely centre round the operations of that industry, and at the present time German steel is being dumped in Australia. It is coming here via, Belgium, and its introduction is having a serious effect on the iron and steel industry of. the Commonwealth. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already referred to that phase of the subject. I may add that orders are being solicited in Australia for imported iron and steel, and that agents are prepared to guarantee that the prioe of the imported article will be below the price at which the Australian industry can possibly offer its products. That clearly shows that dumping ia going on. The honorable member for Dampier said that the iron and steel industry of Australia would be assisted by this proposed legislation. I am not in favour of unfairly bolstering up any industry, but the honorable member is utterly mistaken if he thinks that any member of the Labour party is going to join with him in bringing about a condition of affairs such as prevailed here some years ago, when men had practically to work for little or nothing. The honorable member says that the Broken Hill Company setup its iron and steel works just prior to the war, and waa able to carry on under the duties prevailing before the introduction of the present Tariff. My reply to him is that, because of the dumping that is going on, the company finds it impossible to obtain orders in Australia, and that unless prompt action be taken to assist it, two of its three blast furnaces will have to close down before Christmas, with the result that some 2,000 or 3,000 men at the Newcastle works will be thrown out of employment, In addition to that number, many others engaged in handling the products of the industry in other States will also be thrown out of work. The local industry rendered splendid service to the Commonwealth during the war period by supplying steel rails, and other requirements. After the signing of the Armistice, a new set of conditions arose. Manufacturers of iron and steel in. Great Britain have been enabled since then to obtain, through Belgium, iron and steel at such low prices that many of them, have practically closed down their mills, and are not only trading in the imported article in England, but are sending out large quantities of it to Australia. It pays them better to trade in the imported article than to carry on their own works.
Mr.Fenton. - The Minister admitted that.
– He did. Did Australia and Britain shed their blood in the late war in order that immediately after the armistice Germany, by means of the low rate of exchange prevailing in that country, could flood the markets of the world with her products ? I admit that we must trade with that country, but at the same time regulations must be framed to adjust the rate of exchange so that the German manufacturers may be prevented from wiping out the industries of Australia. If they should succeed in wiping out our industries, do honorable members imagine that twelve months later German goods will be cheaper than the Australian, goods are to-day, or that we can. safely trust those who will deprive us of our markets?
– Did it ever occur to you that many Australian industries are wiping themselves out?
– I know that importers would do anything short of murder to strangle Australian industries. The following table will show how the prices of iron and steel commodities have fallen within the last few weeks: -
These figures show that, no matter how prices may be cut down in Australia, importers can quote below them. To show how the Canadians view the position, let me quote the following from the Elec trical Review of 7th October, 1921 : -
Attention was recently directed in this journal to the fact that German firms have begun to form shareholding companies in Switzerland for various purposes, including the intention to escape the taxes placed by the Allies on German exports by sending abroad goods “naturalized” in Switzerland. The question of the passing off of German merchandise as the manufactures of other countries has also arisen in Canada, where, it is stated, attempts are being made to evade the Customs Act by German exporters forwarding goods to Holland, Switzerland, and other high-exchange countries, and then re-exporting them as the particular products of these countries. The Canadian Reconstruction Association, dealing specially with this subject, asserts that evidence is accumulating of efforts to ship German goods into Canada at illegally low valua tions in violation of the Customs Act. It ‘is also reported that offices are being opened in Holland for the definite purpose of handling German merchandise intended for Canada, and for invoicing the goods in Dutch currency and as of Dutch origin.
Canada has passed an Anti-Dumping Bill, but it does not contain the weak provisions which the Minister proposes in our Bill. The Minister would have the Committee believe that he is improving his measure by amending paragraph B. This paragraph provides that the trade value of goods is to be considered to, be their cost of production in the country of origin, plus 20 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges, but the Minister now proposes to alter this 20 per cent, to 5 per cent. In the disturbed conditions of the rates of exchange all the world over, will a paltry 5 per cent, prevent dumping by unfair means for the purpose of crushing our Australian industries? We might as well call the measure waste paper if we reduce that 20 per cent, to 5 per cent.
– Does the honorable member desire to guarantee the foreigners a bigger profit than 5 per cent. ?
– I want an AntiDumping Bill that will protect Australian industry. It is time that Australians began to realize that they can produce everything they require, and that they should be self-reliant enough to attempt to do it. The 5 per cent, proposed by the Minister is nob worth 2d. for the purpose of defending Australian industries.
– It is much more than the anti-dumping legislation in the United States of America provides.
– Not at all. Furthermore, from the time of the American Civil War the loyalty of Americans to their own products has been almost sufficient protection to those products. All questions of anti-dumping are to be considered by the Tariff Board. Why not let that Board be the judge as to whether the addition should be 5 per cent, or anything ranging from that to 20 per cent. ? We pass a Bill appointing a Tariff Board to investigate these matters, and yet we are now asked to pass another measure which we call an AntiDumping Bill to take away from that Board the right to add more than 5 per cent, to the value of foreign goods, although as a result of their investigations they may come to the conclusion that the proper addition should be 20 per cent.
– If goods are being sold at less than the cost of production, which the Bill defines, the difference between the price at which they are being sold and a reasonable price is to be the amount of the dumping duty.
– And there is to be 5 per cent, onthat. A reasonable price means, according to this paragraph, such a price as represents the cost of production plus 5 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges. Originally the Minister proposed the addition of 20 per cent., but he has reduced that to 5 per cent. Thus, in effect, a deduction of 15 per cent. is made. It seems to me that this provision limits the Tariff Board’s power of recommendation. The Board will collect evidence, but this provision ties its hands in making any recommendation, no matterhow serious the offence may be.
.-The motion is designed primarily to cure the evil of dumping, and the paragraph now under consideration deals with goods dumped below the cost of production. When it was framed I was, as I have explained, under the impression that the term ‘ ‘ cost of production “ covered only the actual manufacturing cost, that is, the cost of raw material, labour,1 and factory charges; but, as a matter of fact, it includes all overhead charges whatever they may be.
– How can you ascertain manufacturing costs all over the world?
– It is done in other countries, and I presume can be done equally well here. Many sources of information are available to the Department. It can be ascertained, for instance, what the market value of goods is in countries manufacturing under similar conditions. Then there are trade circulars, price lists, and so on which can be consulted. I do not think that there will be any practical difficulty in getting the information we shall need. As a matter of fact, we have now to determine the home consumption cost of all goods.
– But I am speaking of manufacturing costs.
– What we wish to arrive at is the cost of production, which we can obtain, approximately,without unreasonable trouble. The paragraph under consideration deals with goods sold below the cost of production. It does not matter what price goods are sold at, so long as they are not sold below the price of production no dumping duty will apply to them.
– Suppose the goods that are being sold below the price of production are old stock, and are goods of a kind not manufactured in this country ?
– Then they will not be liable to the imposition of an antidumping duty. Everything turns upon the question of detriment to an Australian industry. If an importation is not detrimental to an Australian industry, it does not matter what price is chargedfor the goods, except where the importation of goods from a country with a depreciated exchange may be destroying the preference given to Great Britain.
– How would you deal with an importation which, though detrimental to one industry, was beneficial to another ?
– The detriment that has to be considered is detriment to an Australian industry producing goods similar to those whichare being imported. This paragraph does not apply where goods are not being sold below the cost of production. But if goods are being sold below the cost of production, that cost is to be ascertained.
– And you add 5 per cent, to it.
– No. We ascertain what the price is at which the goods are being sold, and what is a reasonable price for themas defined in the Bill.
– That is the cost of production.
The cost of production plus 5 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges. The Tariff Board, having ascertained that goods are being sold below the cost of production, and having ascertained what the reasonable price for them would be as defined in the Bill, will recommend to the Minister that a duty equal to the difference between the price at which the goods are being sold and the “ reasonable price “ shall be the dumping duty. Clause 2 provides that these dumping duties, even in their cumulative effect, as set out in paragraphs A to D, cannot exceed 15 per cent, of the value for duty of the goods as ascertained in accordance with Division 2 of Part VIII. of the Customs Act 1901-1920. The same provisions apply, only in a different way, under paragraphs A and
– I shall support the Minister so far as his proposals may be reasonable, though I do not anticipate that this antidumping legislation will make a great deal of difference to the operation of Australian industry.’ It is only in one or two directions that there seems to be any indication of dumping of the kind that the Minister intends to prevent. Had he insisted on the retention of 20 per cent, in this paragraph, I would have resisted the proposal very strenuously. We ought to get down to bed-rock, and to consider a, phase of the question which has not yet been dealt with by the Committee. If we cannot cheapen production in Australia, all this anti-dumping legislation will bo absolutely of no avail. Itis said of our steel industry that, owing to arbitration awards, findings of the Board of Trade in New South Wales, and increase in the price of coal, the position is very serious, and that while the cost of production has been increasing here, the opposite is the case in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. While costs here have been going up, costs there have been going down. It is said that the causes I have mentioned have led to the following increases : - Pig iron, 14s. per ton; ingots, 21s. 3d. per ton; bar rods, 46s. per ton; wire rods, 32s.10d. per ton; rails of varying descriptions, from 37s. 3d. to 50s. per ton; fish-plates, 60s. per ton, and so on. The crux of the whole business is that in Australia we now have to face a position that we ought to have faced long ago. We ought to have realized that there must be an adjustment according to economic conditions.
– Nice word, “ adjustment !”
– It is not only a nice word, but it represents a principle that we cannot evade; it is a principle as old as the hills, and the more we fight against it the more unemployment we shall have, and the more injury will be done to our industries. We have been fighting against that principle for the last twelve months, and that is the cause of our mines and steel works being laid idle, and of other industries coming to a standstill. We must face the situation.
– The idleness of the mines is due to the Government embargo on the export of coal.
– I am not sure about that, and I do not think that the suggestion represents the position fairly.
– We lost all our foreign trade because of . that embargo.
– We can produce coal here much cheaper than it can be produced elsewhere, and if the iron and steel industry were in full swing, it would consume about 1,000,000 tons per year.
– There were contracts at the very prices at which coal is being sold now, and they were lost owing to the embargo. .
– I .know that, but there is any quantity of coal at Newcastle, and all that is required is orders for it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) complained of orders being sent out of Australia, and I know that he was referring to the Morwell contract let by Sir John Monash. The honorable member spoke of a difference of a few hundreds of pounds, but it was really a difference of some scores of thousands. “We must realize that there is a limit beyond which we cannot go. So far as I know, every Government in Australia, National and State, always gives generous interpretation in the direction suggested by the honorable member. They are prepared to pay a fair advance over and above the protection afforded, especially in the case of the United Kingdom; but, as I say, there is a point beyond which we cannot go.
– There were no Australian tenders in the case of the Morwell contract.
– But I think there were consultations. If my memory serves me aright, Sir John Monash stated what was estimated to be the difference between the overseas tenders and what the supplies could be got for in Australia, and it was enormous. I think it ran into hundreds of thousands -over £500,000, if not £750,000.
– One tender was £282,000.
– That was only for a portion. However, we have to consider not only the industries directly involved, but every other industry affected. In the interests of Australia, especially in the interests of the workers,, we shall have to conserve economic conditions, and bring about an adjustment; if not, we shall ruin our industries, and fill our streets with unemployed.
I have not so far referred to the wages question. In addition to the penalty proposed by the Minister (Mr. Greene), there is the cost of freight to protect Australian industries; but the wages question is the most serious that affects operations here. Wages in the United Kingdom are enormously lower, and in the United States of America considerably lower, than in Australia.
Mjr. Gregory. - I think they are much higher in the United States of America.
– The comparative figures are as follow: -
These figures are from the latest returns.
– In May last, a Labour representative, who had been sent to the United States of America, reported that the average wage in this industry was 3s. 2d. an hour.
– The figures I submit are supplied by those concerned in the steel industry here; and I remind the honorable member that there is a mighty change in the conditions in the United States of America between May and December. The industries in America are just in as bad a state as they are in Australia.
– T think that in that period wages in America and England have decreased, while in Australia they have increased.
– That is so ; and in to-day’s paper we are told that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) has received a note from our Commissioner in the United States of America asking him to warn workers in Australia not to go there because the conditions are worse there than here. Further, the American Government will not admit more than 230 Australians. in the course of a year.
– Australian workers are warned not to go to the United States, and yet the honorable member wishes to have American conditions here!
– Nothing of the kind. I desire good conditions for our workers, but not artificial conditions which cannot last. We are not far from the time when the workers will turn round and decide those questions for themselves; and then “Good day” to their misleaders, who are responsible for ninetenths of our present problem.
.- It is rather amusing to listen to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), who, to do him plain justice, is, of all the speakers, about the only honest one in dealing with the question from the point of view of the employers. The honorable member has said that the real question, not touched upon by other speakers, is the necessity for an “ adjustment “ of the costs of production and so forth. As he went on to explain what he meant by the blessed word “ adjustment,” we found that it resolved itself into cutting down the wages the working classes of this country are receiving; and ‘he looked with longing eye to the conditions which he said prevailed in Great- Britain and the United States of America. The honorable member appears to be giving expression to the desires and fond anticipations of the employing class generally, not only in this country, but throughout the industrial world. In the Economic Journal for September last, there is an article on the “Purchasing power of the German Mark,” in which the following occurs: -
Wages in Germany are exceptionally low in comparison with other industrial countries, and the question arises whether the wage level (that is to say, the standard of living) of working classes abroad will be reduced towards the low standard prevailing in Germany, or whether the opposite tendency will prevail, and the wages and the standard of life of the German working classes will conform to those o( other industrial countries.
In Germany at the present time men are not working the eight hours specified in the Peace terms as incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles. That condition is not being enforced by the Allies, and in Germany men work as long as fourteen hours a day.
– I did not cite the lowest conditions, but the best in America.
– The honorable member did not cite the best conditions. The steel hands are about the worst treated workers in the United States of America. It is only recently that there was a general strike in that trade, in an effort to get the right to organize, which was disputed by the representatives of the steel interests. The honorable member took good care that he did not quote the conditions under which the steel workers toil.
– Their wages are very much higher than here.
– What hours do they work?
– That is some difference.
– I think that recently eight hours have been the rule.
– That is not so; and, further, the workers in the steel trade have not the right to organize, a right for which the ‘ American Federation of Labour organized the great strike.
– They have other ways of doing the same trick!
– The honorable member was rather unfortunate in going to the United States of America for an example of ideal conditions of labour. The writer of the article from which I have quoted says that the question is whether other industrial countries shall be reduced to the conditions prevailing in Germany at the present time. Without question, there is an organized effort on the part of the owners of industries throughout the world to lower the standard of living of the working classes. There is an organized attempt to lengthen the hours of labour, and to reduce the remuneration received.
– Does that not originate from Russia?
– No ; it originates from that club in Collins-street, where the honorable member “ fixes up “ little matters, and then comes here and “ puts them through.” There has been afforded a recent illustration of a special Court deciding upon the matter of hours, despite all the promises made concerning the better conditions which were to prevail as the result of the great fight for liberty and Democracy.
– Was that the fight at Broken Hill?
– I speak of the fight in regard to which those slogans about “ liberty and Democracy “ were mouthed up and down this country in order to persuade men to go overseas to fight the economic battles of the “honorable member f,or Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and his kind. There was to be a new world for labour; but it is fast disappearing now. During the war one of the rewards dangled before the eyes of labour was the forty-four hour week. Now,- however, a special Court of Australian Judges has wiped out that principle, and forty-eight hours is to be the standard. When the eight-hour day was incorporated in the terms of the Peace Treaty as a condition which was to operate throughout labour in the civilized world it waa little thought that, so soon afterwards, the principle would be tacitly brushed aside by the Allies, so far as the workers of Germany were concerned, in order that the interests of the Allies might be best served. Honorable members were told that antidumping legislation should be introduced in order to protect Australian manufacturers from foreign manufacturers.
– No ; but to protect Australian workers against the conditions existing, for example, among the workers of Germany.
– The honorable member is not as stupid as he would have me believe. In playing the game for the manufacturing interests of this country he is not helping the working classes of whom he used to be a champion.
– That comment is very rough on the Deputy Leader of the Labour party.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) can look after himself.
– He has been leading the fight for the manufacturers. Mr. CONSIDINE . - The people who amuse me, as I have already indicated, are those who are voicing the interests of the employer in this House. However, I have not accused the honorable member for Hunter of voicing the interests of the employer.
– I thought I heard certain remarks concerning the duty on explosives.
– The honorable member cannot get away from the fact that this legislation is not being introduced in the interests of the workers. It is the outcome of the conflict between the importing interests and the manufacturing interests. The workers are concerned - as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) has indicated - only in so far as the real question to be settled has to do with reduction in the cost of production. That issue, the honorable member for Wakefield interprets as a readjustment of wages and working conditions. What the honorable member is after is a reduction in the standard of living of the workers. The honorable member says that unless that is brought about unemployment will increase.
– I do not want to reduce the standard of living, hut I want men to work rather than starve. There is no need for a reduced standard of living.
– The honorable member is very reasonable. All he wants - like everybody else - is his own way. He wants no interference with his profits and with those of his friends. If there is to be any reduction in any direction, it must be in respect of the wages of the employees.
– No, a reduc tion all round.
– The honorable member wants re-adjustment of working conditions, and says that, unless that is brought about, there will be increased unemployment. ‘To that extent, namely, the threat of such a condition, the interests of the workers of this country are menaced. Those are the views of the honorable member for Wakefield. I differ, however. I believe that this measure will have very little effect either upon employment or unemployment. The world is passing through an economic crisis. The steel industry is in a bad way, not only here, but in other countries also. In the United States of ^America steel production amounted to only 1,500,000 tons of crude steel in April, 1921, as compared with a monthly average in 1920 of 4,000,000 tons; and the production of coal in the first four months of this year was cut in halves. At the present time shipping is largely idle. Production has fallen in all countries, for the reason that the world is reaping the aftermath of the war. How can the initiation of anti-dumping legislation alter the situation beneficially, from, the point of view of the workers? It cannot do so. The world’s market is limited. The various countries which are becoming industrialized, and are rapidly expanding their interests, are coming into keener competition. ‘.Special legislation is being passed in every country to give its manufacturers advantages over those of every other country. All we succeed in doing, however, is in intensifying competition between the manufacturing countries, so feeding the fires of natural hatred which are built up on economic competition. “We are rapidly raising new industries, which will eventually create new wars, in which the workers will againbe pressed to fight in the interests - as they will be told once more - of a new world of labour. Having pointed out the futility of this class of legislation from the view-point of the workers, I suppose that the Minister (Mr. Greene) may now be made a present of his Bill.
. -I indorse the principle of antidumping legislation for the protection of industries. I agree that such measures are essential to the progress of the Commonwealth;but I wish to know whether there should remain indefinitely in operation restrictions on the importation of specific materials. In the Japanese anti-dumping legislation provision is made for the Government to impose conditions for a definite period.
– The local provisions will be applied specifically.
– With respect to a definite period of time?
– Toparticular shipments.
– Then I am satisfied upon that point.I desire information concerning the application of this principle in cases where goods have been imported, and which are not extensively manufactured in Australia. I have in mind the fact that Australian industry has suffered during the past five or six months because some five or six engines of a certain size and type were being made in Australia. That fact was deemed to be sufficient to warrant the imposition of a duty upon all importations of implements of a similar nature.
– The honorable member is referring to tractors. I think there were eighty-four made in this country last year.
– That is rather more than half-a-dozen.
– The manufacturers admitted that they could not supply the whole demand. Would these provisions be made operative in the way suggested in connexion with an industry that could not supply the whole demand ?
– It is inconceivable that, under those conditions, the goods would be imported below the cost of production.
– In connexion with tractors, the Tariff operated in such a way as to interfere with the harvesting of the crop.
– When the Tariff is passed, we shall deal with that, but we cannot make the necessary by-law until the Tariff has become law.
– I should like a little enlightenment in regard to another matter. In determining the duties to be charged on various articles, it is the practice of the Customs Department to always accept the invoice accompanying the goods, or to place on them the market price as shown in the trade journals of the countries from which the goods were imported.
– Section 104 of the Customs Act imposes on the Customs officials the duty of ascertaining the home consumption price, and it lays down a basis upon which the ad valorem duty shall be charged. Irrespective of what the invoice price is the Customs Department has to be satisfied that the provisions of section 154 are complied with.
– Does not that practice do away with the necessity for paragraph B of this resolution?
– Not at all. I explained that fully to the Committee a little time ago.
– Does not paragraph B merely apply a principle that is already in actual operation?
– The honorable member must not confuse it with the operation of section 154. It is a distinct provision, and will have a distinct effect.
– Paragraph B defines the reasonable price as being such price as represents the cost of production, plus 5 per cent., plus f.o.b. charges. The alteration from 20 per cent, to 5 per cent, makes this proposal more acceptable, and I am therefore prepared to support it. But what will happen in the event of that charge being very much less than the local market price? Will there be any attempt to impose extra duties on, say, British goods, which are free of duty?
– Irrespective of the price at which, the goods are sold, provided they are not sold below the cost of production, no dumping duty will be charged. If there; is no Australian industry producing those goods:, no dumping duty will be charged, whether or not they are being sold at a price below the cost of production.
– The reason why I ash isi that, in practically every. other anti-dumping law that has been applied in the United States of America, Japan, on South Africa, provision has been made to make the anti-dumping duty correspond with the difference .between the export sale price and the market price in the country of origin.
– That is what paragraph A does.
– What is the distinction between paragraph A and paragraph IT?
– I have explained that at least half-a-dozen times since these proposals have been before the Committee.
– I was not present when the Minister explained the provisions, but I accept his assurance that he did so. We must remember that we are exporting a great proportion of our produce, and we are guilty of dumping as it is defined in these resolutions. Only a few months ago South Africa objected very strongly to our landing wheat there at a certain price1.
– South Africa sent cheap maize to Australia.
– Every country tries to get a good home price market price for its products and to get rid of the surplus abroad. These resolutions seem reasonable, and I shall support them.
.- This House has agreed to the Tariff, and whether it be right or wrong, too high or too low, it does not enter into the consideration of these resolutions. What we have to do is to see that the protection we have afforded in the Tariff is effective, and that people are not able to defeat it. I understand that the Minister has made it quite clear that the Tariff is not a revenue one - that it is a Protectionist Tariff for the building up of Australian industries.
– With the exception of a few items.
– That being so, these proposed resolutions are really part and parcel of the Tariff. They are nothing new, and it does not matter what our view of the Tariff was, honorable members have now to support these resolutions if they are convinced that they merely give effect to the Tariff by insuring that the protection provided in it will be enjoyed by our manufacturers.
– And are reasonably workable.
– That interjection Brings me to a question that I desire to ask the Minister. Every resolution starts with the words, “ If the Minister is satisfied after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board.” The matters to be dealt with are very varied, but perhaps the Minister can explain the operations of his Department in such a way as to remove the doubt that exists in my mind. Certain goods are ordered from abroad. When the first lot arrives one Customs official may not be certain that the invoice price is not below the home consumption price, and he will refer the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry. When the next lot of goods arrives, the Customs official may think they are below the cost of production, and he will refer them also to the Tariff Board. A third lot of goods may be consigned goods in respect of which one of the two conditions before mentioned is suspected, and they, too, will be referred to the Board. Then will come other goods which were carried in subsidized ships, or goods that were carried at ballast rates, or freight free. Another lot may be foreign goods, and the Customs official may not like the exchange position as against Australia. In respect of still another lot, the Department may not like the exchange position as against the British manufacturer. All these goods will be ‘referred to the Tariff Board. It seems to- me that that body will be kept extremely busy, and the importer will not know where he is. He cannot take the goods out of bond and sell them, even if the Customs authorities would permit him to do so after making a deposit, because he cannot know what the goods will cost him until the Tariff Board decides whether or not they will be subject to the extra duties to be imposed under this measure.
– And the Minister has to be satisfied.
– Yes. I have stated the case somewhat extremely, because I desire to get a definite assurance from the Minister that if these resolutions are agreed to he will see that his Department adopts a reasonable attitude, and that the whole commercial community is not thrown into chaos, as it might be, if we have an unreasonable Minister who does not see that the whole of his Customs staff is guided by some uniform policy. I do not think’ the position ‘will be as serious as I have suggested it might be, but there is a real difficulty, and the Minister should make a statement to the Committee as to the policy of the Department.
.- The matter raised by the honorable member for Flinders is ‘one which, no doubt, is exercising the minds of the commercial community; indeed, a number of merchants have interviewed ma by deputation and otherwise in regard to this matter. I draw the ‘attention of* honorable members to the fact that under section 154 of the Customs Act questions may suddenly arise as to the home consumption value of imported goods. These goods are constantly held up for a short period while the question is being determined, or the importer is allowed to lodge a deposit to cover any increased duty that may be required. He then knows that he may have ‘to pay an’ additional duty, but until the question is finally decided he cannot say definitely what the goods will cost him.
– He cannot realize on the goods.
– That has been the case for years, and it must always be so. But the quantity of goods affected under section 154 of the Customs Act is infinitely greater than the quantity of goods that is likely to be affected by the anti-dumping provisions.
– Provided the Customs officials are reasonable.
– I assume that as similar resolutions to these have been administered in other parts of the world without any unreasonable friction between the Customs Department and the commercial community, so, too, we shall be able to administer these provisions. I am satisfied that the officers of the Customs Department will administer the law with efficiency and reason. These pro- posals are not made with any idea of hampering the commercial community, but we are anxious to see that people do not, by unfair trading methods, defeat the desire of this Parliament to protect, local industries.
– Would the difficulties be any greater if the goods were landed at Maryborough (Queensland) than if they were landed at Melbourne?
– I do not see why there should be any greater difficulty in administering these provisions than there is in administering section 154 of the Customs Act. But just as in individual cases friction arises under that section, so, I suppose, there will be individual instances of friction arising under these anti-dumping provisions. Taking the thing by and large, I do not believe that there will be any undue disadvantage to the commercial community. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) referred to the exchange provisions. Those provisions will not operate in exactly the same way as will those in the paragraph with which we are now dealing. In those cases it will not be particular shipments, but particular classes of goods coming from particular countries that will be dealt with. Those goods will be declared, and all shipments of such goods, provided that they are sold at prices below the fair prices which, if it were not for the depreciated exchange conditions, would exist, will be subject to the particular class of duty for which provision is made in such cases. Paragraphs A, B, C, and D will deal with specific shipments, whereas paragraphs E, F, and G will deal with particular classes of goods from particular countries.
– I am rather afraid that the much talked of Anti-Dumping Bill is not going to be of material assistance to Australian manufacturers or workmen. I thought that having by means of the Tariff granted protection to Australian industries, we should create a Tariff Board whose duty it would be to prevent manufacturers from fleecing consumers, and that we would then pass an AntiDumping Bill which would in some cases protect Australian industries from absolute extinction. I have come to the conclusion, however, that these antidumping provisions will not prevent Australian industries from Being, so to speak, “flattened out.” The Minister (Mr. Greene) has not much reason to complain of the debate which has taken place on these proposals. This session has placed upon the honorable gentleman an undue physical burden. It has been a test of his physical endurance and patience, and he has come out of it splendidly. These resolutions, however, will be the foundation of the Anti-Dumping Bill to follow, and once we have dealt with them weshall practicallybe unable to make any alteration in the Bill itself. Any amendment that we desire to make must be made now.
– Hear, (hear!
Mr.FENTON.- I think it well that weshould understand the procedure to be followed, and, in the circumstances, the Minister will, I hope, continue to be patient with us if we discuss rather minutely the resolutions now before us. He has been at great pains to explain these provisions to honorable members. We should nob hesitate to pass extraordinary legislation in order to meet an. extraordinary situation, and to protect local industries from extinction.
– Disregarding all other industries ?
Mr.FENTON.- That suggestion is quite unfair. This community is made up of a variety of people engaged in a multiplicity of occupations, and nhat country which carries on a variety of industries is most likely to prosper. We have to deal with the aftermath of the war. The great manufacturing countries are anxious, not only to supply their own local requirements, but to capture the markets of tha world, and will resort to any and every means to achieve that object. They will dump, and will charge specially low prices for their goods, with the object of wiping out their competitors. Once local competition has been destroyed they will be free to charge whatever they please.
– Our experience is to the contrary.
– The honorable member is dn error. We have seen the same sort of tiling happen, in connexion with rural industries, in the competition of private enterprise with co-operative effort. I have known a man to offer a farmer a bigger price for his produce than it was actually worth, merely with the object of inducing him and others to desert a co-operative company. Where by such means co-operative effort has been destroyed the producers have been paid lower pricesthan before. There is a great world fight going on to-day, and unless we stand by our industries, many of which are only in theirinfancy, they will be wiped out.
– Why does not the honorable member say “ secondary industries “ ?
– Why should I? The man who manufactures a plough is as much a producer as is the man who produces wheat-the manufacturer of a combined harvester is as much a producer as theman who grows oats or barley, and is entitled to as much protection as we can give him. By establishing secondary industries we give employment to thousands who become consumers of the products of the man on the land. The Minister told us recently that, according to reports received by him, from his own officers, British ironmasters, instead of converting their own iron into the finished article, had practically closed down all their furnaces, and were importing iron and steel from Belgium. I believe German sources have been contributing to the supply. The Belgians and Germans can turn out iron and steel cheaper than can the British manufacturers, who, consequently are obtaining supplies from such sources, and turning them into the finished article, which by-and-by finds its way into the markets of Australia and other countries. If that has happened in Free Trade Great Britain, which for many years has occupied a premier position in respect of its iron and steel manufactures, what hope of success has the iron and steel industry of Australia unless we properly protect it?
– Our young Australians beat the Germans in Flanders.
– And given equal conditions they can beat them in the field of industry. An honorable member has said - and I agree with him - that we should not allowany article that we can make for ourselves to come in here when it is manufactured under conditions inferior to those prevailing in Australia. Given equal conditions, the Australian workman can stand up against the competition of the workers of Germany, Belgium, and every other country.
– The honorable member would not eat butter that was not prepared or made under the same conditions that he would apply to the secondary industries ?
– I am prepared to give the dairy farmer and every man on the land a fair deal. The Labour party is prepared at all times to give every section of the community a fair chance. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), I understand, has moved an amendment, which will have to be disposed of before any further amendment can be submitted. Notwithstanding the many explanations which the Minister has given, I am not satisfied with his proposal to reduce the percentage. The Minister seems to think that under normal conditions . 5 per cent, on a turnover represents a good percentage of profit. The Inter-State Commission inquired into the woollen industry of Australia some time ago, and reported that its net profit on capital in 1915 was 23.549 per cent. ; that in 1916 it was 41.872 per cent., and that in 1917 it had fallen to 25.475 per cent. In 1915, according to the report of the Inter-State Commission, the industry’s net profit on turnover was 14.456 per cent., in 1916 it was 16.841 per cent., and in 1917 15.195 per cent.
– Under war conditions.
– But the industry was paying good wages and giving good conditions, such as do not prevail in Belgium and other countries. A percentage of only 5. per cent., plus f.o.b. charges, is not a sufficient protection to give Australian manufacturers under an Anti-dumping Bill.
– It is plenty. The manufacturer is making his turnover perhaps every month.
– Of course, 5 per cent, is a big amount on a large turnover ; but 5. per cent, on the turnover of the Belgian manufacturer with the low wages he has to pay is not so much. According to the Inter-State Commission, the profit on turnover earned by the Australian woollen manufacturers was 16 per cent, in 1916, over three times, the percentage on turnover which the Minister is proposing to add to imported goods. This 5 per cent, will not be worth a snap of the fingers so iar as protection to Australian industries is concerned. He says that he is making the addition 5 per cent, insteadof 20 per cent. , because he previously had not taken into account overhead charges. However, 5 per cent, is not sufficient to add to goods produced in a cheap labour country. The honorable member for Wakefield has said that Australia must practically bring it self down to the low-wages conditions of other parts of the world if its industries are to live. That is the position to which honorable members opposite wish to bring the country. I would rather impose absolute prohibition against the world.
Mr. Gregory.I ask leave to withdraw my amendment. I intended to “move it in paragraph C.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr.PROWSE (Swan) [10.50].- The difficulty which this anti-dumping proposal presumes to solve is really the Tariff we have just passed, and which was framed on war values. Round about us the world is settling down to pre-war conditions and normal times. Warlike engines are now being used for peaceful occupations. The nations have lost money and men, and they feel that they are bound to make up their losses by busily engaging themselves in trying to reinstate their previous position. It is a reasonable and proper thing for any nation to do, be it victor or vanquished in the recent war; but we in Australia clearly are not attempting to put our house in order. We have had a taste of war prices and war wages, and we have aninordinate desire to hold to them, no matter what other people in the world may be doing. It is, however, an attitude which is not in the interests of the people, not even of the workers. Our object should be to have cheap living; but that cannot be accomplished with high wages and short hours of work. If workers enjoy high wages they are not of much use unless they produce a corresponding high output. If we do not get the turnover in Australia, we must provide money to purchase elsewhere. We are in this respect in a. position which singles Australia out from other countries. The old Biblical saying, “ No man liveth unto himself “is equally true of nations. The whole trend of the arguments advanced by the honorable members for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), and Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), was that the Newcastle steel works should be fostered at any price or at anybody’s expense. They seemed to forget that there are other industries in Australia. We are talking about having a uniform railway gauge in Australia, and for the purpose we shall need an immense quantity of steel rails, and the cheaper we can get them the better it will be for Australia. We are also talking about building a. North-South railway, for which rails will also be needed. I am given to understand that quite recently, when tenders were called by the Victorian Electricity Commissioners for 700 tons of steel work for electric towers, no Australian tender was submitted. I should imagine that the Broken Hill Proprietary need not close down its works while there are contracts of that nature offering. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) also seems to think that if this Bill is not passed it will mean the extinction of certain secondary industries; but I would like to point out to him that if iron and steel, and other commodities which are needed by the primary producers of Australia, are made too costly to enable the primary producers to compete with other parts of the world where such goods are cheaper, it will mean the extinction of primary production. The farmers of Australia have to sell their produce in competition with the other parts of the world where these goods are cheaper, and we must consider them as well as those industries which have to be spoon-fed. I cannot see anything in paragraph B which will make this Bill any different from the purpose of the Tariff. The Tariff .we have passed is the highest in the world. It is too high altogether, and I am sure that those who are sheltered by it will begin to conspire with one another to secure all the benefits. When the honorable member for Newcastle was speaking I interjected that there were other things which were creating idle industries. The Tariff and the high cost of things in Australia are closing industries on all sides. Our timber mills are idle because it is so costly to get timber. Short hours and high wages are making timber costly, and costly timber is making houses too costly for people to build. Therefore, there is a shortage of houses and consequent high rents. The whole thing can be followed right through. We have idle mines in Australia for the same reason. We are living on an abnormal plane on which no other nation is living, and industries and activities on which we rely for support are closing down because of it. I cannot see that it is of any advantage to the workers, or the business man, or the man who invests capital, to continue living on this abnormal plane. The time has arrived in Australia when we ought to get together - workers, and those interested in the de- velopment of the country - in an endeavour to make living cheaper, so that, at any rate, the pound note will huy at least as many commodities as 30s. will buy to-day. We cannot be worse off by doing so, but this can only be done by coordination and co-operation. We cannot expect to continue living on such a high plane. Why should our primary producers be hampered by the spoon-fed and jellyfish attitude of secondary industries? We have to compete with black labour and white labour in other countries, just as the secondary industries have to do. It would be infinitely better if this anti-dumping Bill had not been introduced. The Government accomplished much when they succeeded in getting an unprecedentedly high Tariff passed by this House, and they should now be satisfied.
Amendment (by Mr. Gregory) proposed -
That the words “ a reasonable price.” line 7, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the market price in the country of origin or manufacture at the date the goods were purchased.”
.- The intention of paragraph B is to deal with goods sold below the cost of production, even though not below the home consumption price. Under paragraph A it ‘ is the market price with which we are concerned. We deal there with goods sold below the market price. I have said that it is seldom that the conditions contemplated by paragraph B will arise.
– I do not admit the possibility of them.
– At any rate, the amendment would, in my opinion, render the effect of paragraph B nugatory.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the word “twenty,” line 24, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “five.”
– The Minister must take full responsibility for this amendment. We on this side think that it will have the effect of defeating his own ends.
Amendment agreed to.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Paragraph C -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods have been, or are being consigned to
Australia for sale, and that they may he sold at less than a reasonable selling price, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry - a dumping consignment duty on those goods imported into Australia which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as being goods as to which he isso satisfied, the amount of the dumping consignment duty being in each case the difference between the wholesale selling price in Australia and a reasonable selling price. In this paragraph “ a reasonable selling price “ means the price ascertained upon the following basis, namely: - To the fair market value of the goods there shall be added the freight, insurance, landing, and other charges, together with the amount of duty payable under the Customs Tariff together with twenty per centum on the aggregate of all the items mentiqned. If the evidence of the fair market value is in the opinion of the Minister insufficient there shall be substituted for the purposes of this section the ascertained cost of production, plus twenty per centum of such cost, or, if the cost of production is not ascertainable, the cost of production estimated from such information as is available, plus twenty per centum of such estimated cost.
– I move -
That the word “twenty” (thrice occurring) be left put, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ five.”
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) gave notice of an amendment dealing with consigned goods. He desired to provide that no greater dumping duty should be charged in respect of consigned goods than if the goods had been sold below the fair market value in the country from which they were exported, presuming, of course, that they were sold at the same parity price after deducting shipping and other charges incurred in bringing them to Australia. I believe that his amendment and paragraph C are the same in intention, but I do not think that his amendment, if adopted, will enable us to do what we wish to do.
– I ask the Minister why inparagraph B he uses the words “ reasonable price,” and in paragraph C the words “reasonable selling price”?
– We are dealing with consigned goods, and are trying to meet the case in which such goods are sold in Australia at a price which is less than a fair price. In paragraph B we were dealing with goods sold below the cost of production. In paragraph C we have to use the words “ a reasonable selling price,” because we have to establish what is a fair selling price so as to get a standard with which to compare the price at which consigned goods are being sold. The difference between the price at which the goods are being sold andthe reasonable selling price is the amount of the dumping duty.
Amendment agreed to.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Paragraph D -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that any goods exported to Australia of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia, have been or are being carried -
in subsidized shipsat rates of freight lower than the rates of freight prevailing at the date of shipment; or
at ballast rates of freight, being rates lower than the rates of freight prevailing at the date of shipment; or
freight free, or that by reason of the granting of rebates, refunds, or other allowances, the net amount of freight payable on goods exported to Australia, of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia, is lower than the rates of freight prevailing at the date of shipment, and that in any such case detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry - a dumping freight duty on those goods imported into Australia which are specified by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette as being goods as to which he is so satisfied, the amount of the dumping freight duty being 5 per centum of the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment.
.- I move-
That after the word “allowances” line 14, the words “being other than ordinary, trade deductions” be inserted.
I do not understand much about shipping, but I am informed that it is a common practice to make certain small rebates, which are notin any sense general rebates or secret rebates. They are ordinary trade deductions which I do not think should be covered by this paragraph.
.- I . should like to know how the Minister (Mr. Greene) regards the amendment, which, it seems to me, would open the door very wide. I consider that the paragraph as it stands makes provision for such deductions as the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has referred to. If the amendment were agreed to, the whole of the benefits expected to be derived from the resolution might he lost.
.- I think that the class of deduction to which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has referred is met by the terms of the paragraph as it stands. Sometimes freights are quoted “plus 5 per cent.” or less than that percentage, or some such similar quote is made. Such a quote becomes the ruling rate of freight. The honorable member will find that the paragraph provides, where freights are quoted at less than the rates prevailing at date of shipment, that the duty may be levied; but if the ruling rate be a certain sum, less 5 per cent., it would not be. For instance, if a freight is quoted at three-farthings, less 5 per cent., which is a common way of quoting freights-
– Or primage allowance.
– Yes, that would be part of the ruling rate of freight, and I am satisfied that it would not be taken into consideration.
Paragraph agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1821, Nos. 220, 221.
Papua - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 11 - Health (Venereal Diseases).
No. 12- Customs Tariff.
No. 13 - Port Dues Revision.
No. 14 - Creditors Remedies.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Aeroplane Accident in Western Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.FOLEY (Kalgoorlie) [11.18].- There is a matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the House, for not more than a few minutes. I suppose that every honorable member read this morning of the aeroplane disaster in Western Australia, in which Lieutenant Forsyth and his mechanic were killed. Every member of the House will deeply regret the fact that such an unfortunate disaster should mark the commencement of the civil aviation mail service. There is one aspect of the matter which I think should be brought under notice of the Government. The statement has been made that defective landing-grounds were the cause of the accident. Major Brearley has definitely said that the Defence Department did not keep their part of the compact, and clear the ground necessary for safe landing. That statement involves a very grave charge against the Defence Department, and as it has been so definitely made, the House, and the people generally, will expect some reply from the Minister in charge of the Defence Department.
– I have had absolutely no official information of the unfortunate accident which has happened in Western Australia. The only information I have on the subject is what has appeared in the press; and on the strength of that information I have had wires of sympathy sent to the relatives of the men who have unfortunately been killed. I noticed that the press reports contained a reflection upon the Defence Department. The statement has appeared that the landing-grounds were not put in order by the Department. I have some information which I received from officers of the Air Force which goes to show that the landing-grounds were put in order. On the ground which Major Brearley spoke of as out of order, the Department have spent £200. I should like to say that; although this place has been the head-quarters of Major Brearley for some time, and he has built a large hangar there, he has never made any complaint about the landing-ground. I, therefore, do not quite understand the complaint that has been made now. I cannot say much more until I am in receipt of further information; but on fourteen landinggrounds the Department has spent £1,768 15s. I may further say that the keeping of these grounds in order is not the responsibility of the Defence Department, but of the Department of Works and Railways. I regret very much that this sad accident should have happened, and will reserve anything further I may have to say until I have more information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211206_reps_8_98/>.