9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister avail himself of the first opportunity after the session closes to visit Queensland and tour the sugar and cotton producing districts, with a view to familiarizing himselfwith that great state and its industries? And, if possible, will he take with him one or two Cabinet Ministers ?
– I am desirous of visiting the different parts of the Commonwealth and familiarizing myself with their industries, but time and circumstances restrict my movements. If, however, it is possible to accept the honorable member’s invitation to visit Queensland, I shall be only too pleased to do so.
– If the right honorable gentleman undertakes that tour, will he also visit the coalfields of New South Wales, and enter some of the mines? I am. sure that if he did so he would agree to the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the coalmining industry.
– All suggestions by honorable members for my better education will receive careful consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any truth in the report that negotiations are in progress between the Commonwealth Government and Sir James Connolly for financial assistance towards the establishment of an improved shipping service between Great Britain and Australia, as outlined in this morning’s newspapers ? If, so, how far have the negotiations proceeded?
– Certain representations were made to me whenI was in Great Britain regarding the possibility of establishing an accelerated shipping service to Australia by the employment of vessels fitted with Diesel engines. After I returned, Sir James Connolly came to Australia, and submitted certain proposals to the Government. They are now under consideration, but no decision has been arrived at.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the delays which constantly occur regarding the settlement of pensions of transferred officers after their retirement, will he cause a list to be prepared of transferred officers now in the Commonwealth service, with a statement of their pension rights now accrued under the State Governments, so that on retirement their pensions may be available without delay?
– Steps will be taken in the direction indicated.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I have no information with regard to the matter, but I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the position, when the representations of the honorable member will receive consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in the agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia in regard to the construction of the north-south railway, there is any condition made or implied under which the Commonwealth Government is required to construct roads and/or bridges for vehicular traffic between Oodnadatta and the Northern Territory border ?
– I am advised that there is no such condition made or implied.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Advances of notes up to £5,000,000 in the aggregate will be made available to the banks as required, and will bear interest at a rate not exceeding 2 per cent, above the highest rate allowed by the banks on fixed deposits, repayment to be made as to £3,000,000 not later than 30th June, 1925, and as to £2,000,000 not later than 31st July, 1925. Any bank receiving assistance under this arrangement will be required to lodge cash or approved securities in London against the advances made here, the bank to receive the interest actually collected in respect of such cash and securities while held by the Notes Issue Board.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– An endeavour will be made to obtain the desired information.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 2nd September the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said he understood that, while applicants for old-age and invalid pensions in the cities are required to state their claims for a pension to a magistrate sitting in camera, applicants in country districts are sometimes required to give in the open police court a detailed account of their private circumstances. He askedme if I would issue instructions that applicants are not to be distressed by a public inquisition, and that in future all applications be heard in camera. I have inquired into the matter, and find that the position is as follows: - .
The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that every claim for a pension shall be heard by a magistrate, and that the hearing shall be made in open court if for any reason the magistrate deems it advisable. In the capital cities and in some of the larger country centres, the hearing isconducted by special magistrates who are officers of the Pensions Department. In these cases the investigations have always been conducted in camera. In the remaining country districts the claims are investigated by police magistrates who are state officers. The hearing takes place at the District Court House, and it is a matter for the magistrate’s own discretion as to whether the case is heard in open court or in camera. In all the years of pension experience there has never been any complaint to the department that a pension claimant has been subjected to harsh treatment of the nature indicated. In view of the statutory provision referred to and the absence of complaints, it would not seem advisable to interfere with the discretionary power which is vested in the magistrates.
The following paper was presented : -
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) on account of ill health.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
– I desire to move–
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– Order ! The Prime Minister has moved that the question be now put.
– Is that in order?
– The closure motion may be moved when another honorable member is speaking.
– Is it not in order that my motion should be taken first?
– There is no question of order.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 8
Mr.R. Green desiring to move to the left of theChair,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - put. The House divided .
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I rise most reluctantly to a question of privilege. The Prime Minister, by moving “That the question be now put,” has deprived me of my privileges as a member of this House. I appeal to honorable members to see that not only my privileges but theirs also are preserved. While a member is moving a specific motion the Government should’ not use its majority to rally the serried ranks of Stodge, and compel us to remain silent so that its faults shall not be debated.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has the permission of the House to make a statement.
– The honorable member has received no such indulgence, and I was about to call his attention to the fact when the honor able member for Lang rose. He is not speaking on a question of privilege at all. The Prime Minister, in moving “ That the question be now put,” only operated a standing order which has received the sanction of this House. The first part of Standing Order 262a reads as follows: -
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any Committee of the Whole, a motion may be made by any member, rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other member is addressing the Chair or not, “ That the question be now put,” and the motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
I am obliged, not only to interpret, but also to enforce the Standing Orders. When an honorable member, as the Standing Orders give him a right to do, has moved “ That the question be now put,” that motion must be put forthwith, without amendment or debate. That procedure does not give rise to a question of privilege, and the honorable member for Dalley is not entitled to make a speech on the subject now.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I have no desire to cavil at it in any way. But I desired to make a protest because, Sir John Monash having been called upon to make a report, the Government is deliberately withholding that report from honorable members.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to speak at all at this stage, unless he addresses himself to a question of order. I ask the honorable member if he proposes to do so?
– Is it in order for the Government to keep back Sir John Monash’s report?
– I am not concerned with the conduct of any party in the House; my sole concern is to interpret and enforce the Standing Orders that have been sanctioned by this House.
– Have I not the right, in common with all other honorable members, to demand that this information shall be made available to the House?
– Order !
– I protest against the secrecy of the Government, and the smother-up tactics that it is adopting.
– Order! The honorable member is not now exercising a right he possesses) but is abusing the rights of Parliament;
– So is the Government.
– I will not hear the honorable member further.
Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 3929), on motion by Mr. Pratten- -
That tho bill be now read a second time.
.- Those who had the privilege of listening to the debate on this bill yesterday must have contrasted that debate with those memorable debates on the tariff that took place in this House in 1906.
– Has the honorable member recently read the debates of 1906*
– Since I have been a member of this House, I. have endeavoured, as far as possible, to acquaint myself with the events that have occurred in the Commonwealth Parliament. The discussion yesterday satisfied me that the greatest need of Australia to-day is the cultivation of an Australian sentiment, and convinced me that honorable members have not a proper conception of the views of those whom they represent, in regard to the encouragement of Australian industries.
– Does the honorable member think that an imported sentiment would do as well?
– I do not think it would. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) yesterday delivered a very carefully prepared speech. He being a pronounced freetrader, and I a protectionist, it is natural that I should disagree with many of his contentions. I believe that he has missed the Australian sentiment. In his opening remarks, the honorable member said that the Minister (Mr. Pratten) had, unfortunately, in his opinion, introduced this bill coincidentally with the opening session of the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, and he believed that if would lead to a renewal of international hostility.
– I did not say that.
– I wrote down the words as the honorable -member said them. My belief is that the addition of two words was necessary to properly complete the honorable member’s sentence; he should have said that the introduction of thi* bill would lead to a renewal of the International Harvester Company’s hostility, and he would have been a little nearer the mark. I admit at once that the act has not operated, as satisfactorily as we might desire. I do not know of any measure that has been passed by this or any other Parliament that has pleased everybody. It is not humanly possible to interpret an act of this nature in a way that would give satisfaction to the whole of the people. One of the objections raised by the honorable member to the continuance of the Tariff Board was its leaning towards the manufacturing interests of Australia. He went on to say that, as a result of the protection which the manufacturers are given, (they are able to charge excessive prices for their products. His contention was that the tariff is responsible for the present high prices of materials. The facts prove the reverse to be the case. I have here a sheaf of information, a portion of which I may be permitted to quote, relating to the prices of agricultural machinery that is being sold to the farmers of Australia. On page 10 of this year’s report of the Tariff Board, we find the following sentences dealing’ with agricultural implements: -
During the year 1922-23, agricultural implements to the value of £748,159 were imported. Of this amount, £304,571 were for implements of a class or kind not manufactured in Australia, and were admitted free of duty under the British preferential tariff, or 10 per cent, under the general tariff. The balance of the amount, viz., £443,588, covered implements of a class or kind manufactured in Australia, and mostly paid duty at 20 per cent, or 22J per cent. British preference, or 30 per cent, or 35 per cent, general tariff. Seed and fertilizer drills formed the largest individual line imported, and accounted for £110,941. The locally-made drills are sold to farmers at prices considerably lower than that charged tor imported drills, and the demand for the Australian drill is gradually increasing. When the final figures for the year 1923-24 are available, they will show a material decrease in the number of imported drills as compared with the previous- year. Harvesters, and metal parts of harvesters, £62,056; cultivators and harrows, £33,044; and ploughs, £34,719, form the bulk of the balance of dutiable implements imported.
Statements have often been made by honorable members to the effect that the Australian made.article is dearer than the imported one. I shall quote the latest figures to disprove that statement.
– Who made that statement ?
– It has been made frequently during this session by members of the Country party. The statistics I shall quote can be verified. When asking for this information I emphasized that it must be thoroughly reliable, and I have no doubt, after perusing some of the price lists from which the figures are taken, that it is accurate. The following table shows the prices of Massey-Harris implements in New Zealand, where no duties are imposed upon them, and Australian implements in Australia: -
The Australian grain and fertilizer drills, though much lower in price, are one hoe, or one disc, larger in each case than the American drills; the Australian cultivators, although they have more tines, and are heavier, are cheaper than the American ; and the Australian ploughs and harrows, although heavier than the American, are also cheaper.
– Why does the honorable member not state that the bases of the quotations differ?
– The bases do not differ.
– Why does not the honorable member include the cost of carriage in both instances ?
– All the figures I have quoted represent cash prices to the farmer. I am satisfied that the average farmer in this country does not know the facts, for if he did he would not continue to buy imported implements when locally manufactured implements, which are equally, if not more, efficient, are obtainable at a lower price.
– What have those prices to do with the Tariff Board ?
– A good deal, because the honorable member said yesterday that certain manufacturers of agricultural machinery are making excessive profits. My answer is that if excessive profits are being made by Australian manufacturers they are small compared with the profits that are made by the importers. Moreover, the money that is paid for imported articles is lost to Australia, whereas money spent in buying a locallymade implement circulates in our own country, and whatever profits the manufacturers make are taxable.
– The Tariff Board has power to inquire into the charging of unnecessarily high prices for locallymanufactured goods.
– Yes, and it has investigated carefully the prices charged for agricultural implements.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– The board has inquired into that matter, although it may not have reported on it; but the references in the report which I have quoted should be sufficient to awaken honorable members to a sense of their obligation to do whatever is possible to develop the Australian industry. A few days ago, reference was made to the reaper and binder. That machine and the mower and rake are the only imported implements that are cheaper in New Zealand than the Australian-made articles. The explanation is that old-established firms like the Massey-Harris Company, and the International Harvester Company, are able, as a result of mass production, to sell those products at slightly lower prices than are charged for the Australianmade machines.
– I think the honorable member is gradually drifting into a discussion of the whole tariff.
– During the debate yesterday direct reference was made by one honorable member to a manufacturing establishment - the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere - that is located in my electorate. I had interjected that many Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements were struggling, and the honorable member for Perth interjected, “ Sunshine.”
– Did I? The honorable member might quote me correctly.
– I have quoted the honorable member correctly. No harm would be done if a little sunshine were let into the dark recesses of the honorable member’s mind, which appears to be clogged up with the theories of Cobdenism. Honorable members cannot shut their eyes to the fact that the smaller manufacturing concerns require protection.
– What about the company that, with a capital of £40,000, made £40,000 in profits ?
– Some firms may be making fairly big profits, but why does a man employ labour? Is it merely to provide somebody with a job? No; his object is to make profits.
– Order! I feel obliged to direct the attention of honorable members generally to the fact that the measure before the House is not a tariff bill. It is a bill to make four amendments in the Tariff Board Act, and, strictly speaking, honorable members should confine their remarks to those four proposals. They cannot be allowed to discuss, under cover of this Bill, all the rates or effects of the tariff.
– I rise to a point of order. Last night when the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) was called to order for references which I thought were quite relevant, I made a disorderly remark, and said that in the afternoon some honorable members had been allowed to wander from Dan to Beersheba. I desire now, sir, to direct your attention to the fact that by clause 2 the board is to be empowered to inquire into “ any revision of the tariff.” This bill seeks, amongst other things, to amend section 15 of the principal act, which includes amongst the matters which the board may investigate -
The proposal to amend that section opens up a fairly wide discussion of tariff issues, and, in my judgment, allows of comparisons being made between prices charged in freetrade countries and those charged in protectionist Australia. Having regard to that fact, is it not possible, Sir, for you to allow a little more latitude in the debate?
– I am particularly anxious, as I think I should always be, not to restrict unduly the rights of honorable members, but the Standing Orders are imperative and parliamentary practice leaves me no option. Debate must be confined to the motion before the Chair. At the present moment the motion before the Chair embraces a small bill, which seeks to make four amendments in the Tariff Board Act of 1921. In the strictest parliamentary sense, the four amendments are the only issues before the House. I realize that when they are being discussed related matters inevitably come into the minds of honorable members. For instance, it is impossible to discuss the work of the Tariff Board without considering the possibility of adopting something more effective. But although such questions are related to the question before the House, they are still separate from it. It is, therefore, my duty, subject to such leniency as I can extend, to prevent honorable members from wandering over the whole tariff field, and to confine their remarks to the principal act and the amendments proposed by the bill.
– I quite appreciate your position, Mr. Speaker, and as I shall have another opportunity when the Estimates are before us to discuss this matter, I can accomplish no good by endeavouring to submit the further facts and figures with which I am armed. The honorable member for Swan when speaking yesterday insisted that the board had exceeded its duties, and he took particular exception to its action in waiving certain duties for one day.
– For the benefit of some people.
– And re-imposing them subsequently. Such action was justified. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has frequently permitted persons to import certain goods that could not be manufactured here. Subsequently their manufacture was commenced in Australia, and a duty imposed, and the Minister, in order to keep faith with the importers who, approached him in the first place, waived the incidence of the tariff on the day that those goods arrived in this country.
– I quoted hundreds of such cases.
– There have been many of these requests, and, in agreeing to them, the Minister has acted rightly. In this way many Australian industries have been protected. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that, under the provisions of the Tariff Board Act, do assistance was given to primary production. But since that measure has been in existence Parliament has been doing very little but passing legislation providing for bounties and other assistance to primary industries. I take strong exception to the statement of the honorable member.
– Under the tariff, £100 is taken from the producer, and in return he gets £10 by way of a bounty.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that many primary industries have been materially assisted by this Parliament.
– I should prefer to be without such assistance myself.
– The honorable member is speaking for himself. He knows that were it not for the sop, as he has called it, given by the Government, the bulk of our primary producers would find it almost impossible to make a living. If Australian industries are to progress, we must insist on greater efficiency, and this can bs obtained by promoting keen competition among our own manufacturing interests. I shall support the bill. The experience of the last few years has proved conclusively that the Tariff Board is very necessary to this country. The ramifications of the Trade and Customs Department have become so extensive that it is impossible for the Minister or his officers to make the inquiries necessary to enable them to deal justly with persons seeking either the remission or an increase of tariff duties. The bill should be passed at the earliest possible moment to ensure that the board’s operations shall not be detrimentally affected. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that evidence before “the board should be heard in public. I do not think that the manufacturers of this country have anything to hide respecting their claims before the board, and they certainly will not object to their evidence being heard in public. But there must, of necessity, be a limitation to open hearings of evidence.. We cannot expect these people to place, the whole of their books and their private affairs at the disposal of the public or their competitors.
– They are not asked to do that.
– This .country has derived great benefit from the operations of the Tariff Board. The manufacturing interests,, and also the primary interests, have been greatly assisted. The board does not, as has been said, act partially. Different interests are represented on it, and nothing but good can emanate from its deliberations. Its members are imbued with the desire to make recommendations to the Minister which they believe to be in the best interests of Australia generally.
– I wish to dispel any belief, either in this chamber or outside of it, that the members of the Country party have a desire to injure the secondary industries of Australia. The majority of the members of that party are sound protectionists, and their aim is to establish a protectionist policy for the secondary industries and at the same time to secure some measure of protection for the primary industries which are the backbone of the industrial life of the community. That being so, they can fairly claim to be fulfilling their duties and functions as members of this Parliament. I do not think any honorable member of this House would refuse the primary producers the protection that is due to them. The only difference of opinion, as far as I can gather, concerns the method by which this can be achieved. The interests of the primary producers can best be protected through the agency of the Tariff Board. I regard that board as an essential part of the protective policy of Australia. Before it was appointed I always believed that the method of applying that policy was crude and liable to error. It is impossible for members of Parliament to give an expert opinion respecting the obligations of our various manufacturing industries. Yet we have seen members of this Parliament, without any real knowledge ofthe industries with which they were dealing, raise duties in a sensational manner, thereby inflicting further hardships upon a section of the community and giving a very substantial benefit to undeserving manufacturing interests. The old method of fixing duties was neither sound nor scientific. No ‘honorable member, be he freetrader or protectionist, will argue that a member of this Chamber, no matter what knowledge he mayhave of a particular industry, is competent to decide what alteration of the tariff should be made involving, perhaps, millions of pounds to that industry. In almost every industry and organization in theworld there is some method of inquiry or investigation ‘by experts. The previous Government, in appointing the Tariff Hoard, conferred a greatbenefit uponthis country, and it shouldbe permanentlyestablished as part of the protectionist policy of Australia. The Tariff Board has been so successful that I do not think it will ever be abolished. Protection isnow the established policy of Australia, andis not a political issue in thesedays. The majority ofhonorable members ofthis chamber are convincedthat it is the only practicable policy for a country like ours. No party could hope for success in an election campaign if it opposed protection, or even suggested a serious general reduction in our duties. Our object should be to so adjust thetariff that it will inflict as little hardship as possible upon the consumers, and the only ‘rational means for doing that is the Tariff Board. I have had some experience of the board, and I believe that, although it has been most effective, it can be made a still better investigating authority. Honorable members know that,before the appointmentof the board, a great deal of lobbying was done in this House by manufacturers and others who desired preferment for their own industries.
– That will still be done.
– The Tariff Board is not so susceptible to outside influences as honorable members of this Parliament, and is much more likely to give a sound and reasoned judgment on the various matters that are put before it. We can rely upon its judgment.
– I shall rely on my own judgment.
– The honorable memberusually does, but it can hardly be denied that the board is much better fitted than Parliament to pronouncea sound judgment on the measure of protection that our various industriesneed. It has nowmadea close inquiry into practically all of our manufacturing and primary industries, and no serious fault has beenfound with it. It has been contended in this debate that the board has usurped the powers of Parliament, but I think that too much power has been placed in the hands of the Minister. The board would work much more satisfactorily if it were given similar authority to that exercised by the Public Service Arbitrator. His awards must be tabled in Parliament to give honorable members an opportunity to lodge an objection to them if they so desire. All the reports of the Tariff Board should be similarly tabled for the same purpose. The Minister for Trade and Customs should not be authorized to give effect to the board’s recommendations. It was never intended or desired that he should have that power, for it belongs properly only to Parliament. The board should conduct its inquiries like a petty court. Its members should not be seated upon a rostrum, and should be surrounded with as little frill and formality as possible. It is certainly unnecessary that an imposing array of lawyers should be present at its sittings. Its present methods of inquiry are much too loose, and its operations have been satisfactory up to now more by good fortune than good management. The manner in which the board inquired into the tobacco-growing industry is an excellent illustration of the loose way in which it operates. Last year, in this chamber, I pointed out that, owing to. the methods adopted by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, the interests of the tobacco-growers were being most injuriously affected. I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to request the Tariff Board to inquire into the matter.
He promised to do so. I learned nothing more about it until I read in a paragraph in the Sydney press some weeks later that the board had held an inquiry, and in consequence of certain information supplied to it by the representatives of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company had decided that the tobacco growers were receiving fair treatment. I immediately telegraphed to the Minister for Trade and Customs a request that the tobacco-growers should be permitted to state their case to the board. The Minister agreed that that should be done, and the board visited Sydney for the purpose. I am particularly interested in the tobacco-growers, for many of them are my constituents. They visited Sydney specially to attend the meeting of the board, but discovered that, although they had had no opportunity of being present when the British-Australasian Tobacco Company presented its evidence, the company was to be represented at the sitting by its principals and lawyers. This company is the only purchaser in Australia of the tobacco-growers’ products. I pointed out that the company had already submitted its case, and asked that the growers should be allowed to present their case without interruption or interference. The inquiry was conducted fairly, and eventually an agreement was reached by the parties concerned. I thought that that was the end of the matter, but on reading the annual report of the board which has just been placed in the hands of honorable members, 1 was surprised to find that that was not so. It appears that another inquiry has since been made into the industry, and that an agreement has been made with the South Australian tobacco-growers, concerning which the growers in the eastern states have no information whatever. They were not consulted in any way. That is not as it should be. These hole-and-corner, back-stairs methods should not be tolerated.
– Has the honorable member complained to the Minister about this?
– I have not done so, for I did not know of it until I perused this report. I trust, by the way, that all honorable members will read the report of the board, for it is a most valuable document. Not only should the board meetings be conducted in a more business-like way, but more time should be devoted to the matters which are under consideration.. The Sydney inquiry into the tobacco-growers’ case was altogether too hurried. . The chairman of the board was present at the first day’s sitting, but ho was not able to attend the meeting on the second day on account of having other business to transact, and on the last day the tobacco-growers were only given one and a half or two hours in which to complete the presentation o£ their case. Hurried investigations, of that kind cannot be expected to give satisfactory results, nor can they be sufficiently comprehensive for the purposes they are expected to serve. The Tariff Board should visit each of the capital cities regularly, and also the principal provincial towns. Due notice of the visits should be given to all parties likely to be concerned, in order that they might have an opportunity to submit evidence to the board. I do not agree with many of the statements contained in the latest report of the board. I was present at the inquiry into the tobacco-growing industry, and, therefore, I can say definitely that some of the statements made by the board in that case are inaccurate. That leads me to suggest the desirableness of making arrangements for taking a full shorthand report of the proceedings of the board. The present tendency is towards having a verbatim report taken of every important inquiry affecting private or public interests. Only in that way can accuracy and efficiency be guaranteed. ‘
– Are not the shorthand writers of the department present when an inquiry is being held ?
– No. The board merely submits a condensed report, which may, or may not, be accurate. Considering the importance of the matters inquired into, the possibility of inaccuracies creeping in, and unsatisfactory results following is very great.
– The board is an advisory, not a judicial body.
– I realize that the board has no judicial status, but I do not think that that in any way removes the necessity for having the proceedings reported fully and accurately, and eventually placed before honorable members, thus enabling them to investigate the statements that have been made. The board, in dealing with secondary industries, may make recommendations involving an extra cost to the consumers of millions of pounds. It may also make recommendations which seriously affect the life of some of our primary industries. This important tribunal is allowed to submit notes that have been taken from the minutes of the proceedings. The extra expense that would be incurred in having the whole of the proceedings fully reported in public would be amply justified, because honorable members would then have a permanent record of the inquiries. ‘I do not think that the cost would be prohibitive. I listened with interest, yesterday, to the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). It appeared to me that he was endeavouring to enunciate his party’s policy of new protection. He desired that the Tariff Board should be empowered to recommend the withholding of consideration from any industry that did not pay the award rates of wages.
– Why should the board not have that power?
– I do not say that it should not. But if it is given such wide power its character and its functions will be completely altered, and it will virtually become a. little parliament, with power almost equal to that of the High Court of Australia. I do not think it is the desire of honorable members to invest the, board with such a power. The majority of our industries are subject to awards, and it should not be necessary for the Tariff Board to inquire about the rates ofwages that are being paid. I do not think there is an industry in any state that does not work under industrial legislation.
– I referred to a. special case, in which the awards were not being observed .
– The administration of the industrial laws of that particular state must have been very lax. I do not think it is within the province of the Tariff Board to act as a punitive body, superimposed upon the state authority. If the honorable member thinks the matter out more closely, I think he will admit that his proposal would place in the hands of the Tariff Board too great a power, which may be open to serious abuse and have a boomerang effect against the policy which he and the members of his party advocate.
– We are not afraid of that happening.
– Section 15, subsection 1, paragraph h of the Tariff Board Act of 1921 provides that the Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report -
Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff, and in particular in regard to his -
charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or
acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public; or
acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods, and shall not take any action in respect of any of those matters until he has received the report of the board.
That paragraph distinctly gives the Tariff Board the powers that were formerly vested in the Interstate Commission. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the board has not exercised that function. If it has, I am not aware that reports of its inquiries are on record, or that public notice has been taken of those inquiries. The board has the power to inquire into the operations of any combine or trust that is acting in restraint of trade, but I do not think that that power has ever been exercised by it. Most of its inquiries have been the result of references by the Minister. Section 15, sub-section 2, of the act provides that a number of other matters may be referred to the board, including the general effect of the working of the customs tariff and the excise tariff in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth; the fiscal and industrial effects of the customs laws of the Commonwealth; the incidence of the rates of duty on raw materials and on finished or partly finished products; and any other matter in any way affecting theencouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the tariff. It is proposed to excise the words, “ in re lation to the tariff.” With that proposal I am in entire agreement. The effect of the sub-section is that, unless the matter has some relation to the tariff - in other words, unless it is a question of imposing or altering a duty - the board has no power to make inquiries. I think it should be a function of the board to make inquiries and recommendations in regard to any primary or secondary industry in Australia. If the provisionsof that sub-section had been observed last year, I do not think the board would have had the power to inquire into the tobacco-growing industry and various other industries.With the majority of primary industries it is not so much a question of tariff alteration or imposition as it is a question of investigating the conditions of the industry to see what can be done to put it on a better footing. I therefore think that inquiry should be held into any proposal for the improvement of the condition of any primaryor secondary industry, and any proposal relating to the operations of an alleged trust or. combine. Clause 2 of the bill provides -
Inquiries conducted by the board relating to -
any revision of the tariff; or
any proposal for a bounty, shall be held in public, and evidence in such inquiries shall, subject to the next. succeeding sub-section, be taken in public.
Am I to understand that all other inquiries need not be held in public ? I think it should be made quite definite that all inquiries by the board shall be held in public. Unless that is dene the claim can be made by persons who are not seeking a bounty or an alteration of the tariff that the inquiry should be held in private. I impress upon honorable members the advisability of holding all inquiries in public: On the first day of the inquiry into the tobacco industry the board decided that it should be held in public. Press reporters were present, and the newspapers on the following morning published fairly full reports of the proceedings. I have no doubt that those reports proved beneficial to the tobaccogrowers. On the second day the board decided that the inquiry should be held in camera. My experience was that the growers then did not do quite so well.
– Was the request for the inquiry to be held in camera made by the representatives of the growers orthe tobacco combine?
-We do not know. The board merely decided on the second day that it would be in the interest of all parties not to hold the inquiry in public. The representatives of the growers did not make the request. I thought it was a mistake, and I said so at the time, but the board had its way. After the agreement had been entered into between the repre sentatives of the growers and the British Australasian. Tobacco Company, it was decided that that agreement should not be published until a certain period had elapsed. We did not know what was the reason for the delay, but we were not in a position to dispute the authority of the board. Some newspapers published garbled and inaccurate statements which later hadtobe corrected. My experience of the board convinces me that the proper thing is to restrict to the lowest possible limit the matters that may be inquired into in camera. The act provides that any member of the board may compel a witness to give evidence upon oath. That power has not been very greatly exercised. I suggest that this bill should distinctly lay it down that all evidence must be given upon oath, which may be administered by any member of the boards Clause 2 further provides -
If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public, on the ground that it is of a confidential nature, the board may take such evidencein private, if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so.
I suggest the insertion of a proviso in the following terms : -
Provided that all applications for the hearing of evidence in private shall be made in public and shall be supported by evidence on oath; and provided also that objections to such private hearing may be made if supported by evidence on oath.
I consider that the clause at present leaves the door open to all sorts of abuses. I do not contend that themembers of the board will fail in their duty to the public; but, under the extended powers which it is proposed to confer upon it, its work will be largely increased, and. eventually it will be necessary to enlarge the personnel of the board or to give it power to delegate to other persons certain of its; duties. It would be well for the Parliament to close all avenues by which backstairs work may be done. We do not know how that can be brought about. The best thing for Parliament to do would be to close the door now. Many industries will desire to avoid a public inquiry, and pressure accordingly will be brought to bear upon the board. The Minister may also be approached, and may decide, in his wisdom that the right thing to do is to hold inquiries in private. If it is made quite plain in the bill that Parliament discountenances back-stairs methods, and desires that inquiries shall be held in the broad light of day, the board will start out with its charter emblazoned before it, and will know what it ought to do. If vested interests bring pressure to bear upon the Minister or the board, the act should be the answer to them. The act should allow private inquiries to be held’ only on condition that the reasons for not holding them in public are stated publicly. That would enable the people to judge whether the refusing or granting of requests for private inquiries was justified.
– If a witness wishes to be heard in camera, he must prove that it is in the public interest that he should be so heard.
– There is nothing in the bill to prevent the board hearing in private requests for inquiries tobe held in private. It is necessary to providethat the requests for private hearingsshall be determined in public.
-Does not “ public interest” qualify everything?
– I do not thinkso. It is a very broad term that leaves the door wide open. “ Public interest;” may be construed to mean that any. person may approach members of the board privately and, advance arguments why. certain proceedings should be held in camera.
– The board must prove that itis in the public interest to hear proceedings in camera.
– There is nothing in the bill to that effect. Sub-clause 5 of clause 2 says -
If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public on the ground that it is of a confidential nature, the board may take such evidence in private if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so.
That sub-clause does not say that objec- tions shall be heard in public. They should be heard in public, and evidence in support of them should be given on oath. A firm that seeks exemption from a public inquiry shouldbe prepared to give valid reasons in support of its application. If it is desired that the Tariff Board shall be something more than an inner council to probe into the affairs of industries and make recommendations the reasons for which are unknown to the public, an amendment such asI suggest must be made in the bill. I claim to be able to interpret the English language when I see it, and I assert that there is nothing in the bill to prevent the board from secretly agreeing with a private concern to take evidence in camera. One of the most important duties of the board is referred to in paragraph h, sub-section 1, section 15, of the principal act. It should be made quite plain that inquiries under that provision must be held in public. After careful study of the work of the Tariff Board, the original act, and the amending bill, I am satisfied that the Government has power to make the board an instrument of the greatest value tothe people of Australia. I support thecontinuance of the board, irrespective of the alterations made in its constitution, because it is, in general, a useful institution. It prevents the imposition of high duties without proper inquiry. It should be made impossible, however, for inquiries to be held in camera merely because persons with sufficient influence get theear of the Minister or the board. I and other protectionist members of the Country party wish to see the manufacturing industries of Australia placed on a sound, scientific footing. They should not be overloaded with duties nor denied effectiveprotection. We should like to see the Tariff Board so constituted that it will be able to deal justly with all primary and. secondary industries. If it is tobe a really effective instrument for the scientific application of the tariff, the primary producing interests must receive an increased amount of attention. Every protectionist recognizes the vital importance to Australia of manufacturing industries, and not being able to see the position through the eyes of the freetraders, we are quite unable to appreciate their logic. The protectionist opinion is that without strongly intrenched manufacturing industries a country like Australia has no chance of achieving industrial or commercial greatness. At the same time, we must not forget that the primary producers are the back-bone of Australia. After all, the manufacturers merely handle the raw material which the primary producers provide; and it is a lopsided form of protection which gives to the former all the cream and leaves to the latter the skim milk. It is within the power of the Tariff Board to do more to assist the primary producers’ than it has done. I was pleased to read this paragraph in the board’s annual report: -
The Tariff Board wishes to dispel the illusion entertained in many quarters that it only interests itself in recommendations connected with manufacturing or secondary industries. As a matter of fact, a large portion of the board’s time has been devoted to tho consideration of matters relating to primary production, and that particular attention lias been given to the development of many important /primary industries is illustrated by the following cases: -
The report then goes on to enumerate tobacco, hops, grapes, broom corn, box timber, maize, and agricultural implements. I mention that paragraph in order to show that it is quite possible for the functions of the board to be extended beneficially to primary production, and I think it would be well if when the new board is constituted, a subcommittee were created for the special purpose pf investigating the conditions of a number of primary industries. If it is proper to place before honorable members reports regarding the conditions of big manufacturing industries, similar reports in an amplified form regarding primary industries should be available to Parliament. If that were done, the eyes of many honorable members would be opened. The functions of the board should include an investigation of the wheat-growing and dairying industries, and all branches of primary production, to ascertain whether it is possible by a revision of the tariff or the payment of bounties to improve their general economic condition. If the board undertakes such investigations the protectionist members of the Country party will be very well satisfied with its work and favorable to its continued existence as a permanent part of the fiscal machinery.
.- During the discussion of the tariff in 1921 I was one of the first honorable members to urge the Government to create a Tariff Board. Indeed, I warned the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) that I would resist the tariff from beginning to end unless I was assured that a board would be appointed to watch the operations of the new duties in the interests of the manufacturers, their employees, and the public. I confess at once that the opera tions of the board have gone a long way outside the limits which I at that time indicated. However, I believe the members of the board to be exceedingly able, fair-minded, and conscientious men. A striking tribute to their fitness for the work they are discharging was the declaration by the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures immediately after the appointments were made that they were excellent. I was hopeful that as both those bodies were satisfied, the members of the board would strike the happy medium, and not go to fiscal extremes.
– What do those chambers say to-day?
– The Chamber of Commerce is dissatisfied with some phases of the work of the board, but I do not hold the board responsible. It is simply an adviser to the Minister, who as political head of the department must accept responsibility, and he naturally keeps as near as possible to the fiscal policy which he most approves.
– And the policy of the Government.
– When he is a member of a composite government, half the Ministers of which believe in one policy, and the other half in the opposite policy, how is he to come to a determination upon a recommendation of the board 1 Either he must divide himself in two, or give to one section of the Cabinet a little to-day, and to the other section a little tomorrow. I believe the members of the board have . worked conscientiously, consistently, and indefatigably. The quantity of work thrust upon them has demonstrated that the Customs Department can no longer be conducted by a Minister without the assistance of such a body. From personal acquaintance with the operations of the department I know that, other than the Minister in charge, there is no member of the Government whose nose is kept more continuously to the grindstone. The work of the department is growing every day, and it would be a physical impossibility for him to discharge effectively, without assistance, the onerous duties imposed upon him, particularly in coming to decisions upon technical matters. I, therefore, am strongly in favour of the creation of an independent board apart from the officers of the department. I know there are excellent officers in the department, but there ie often a suspicion in the minds of importers that decisions of officers are influenced by a consideration of their obligations to the department. Of course, the board has not given entire satisfaction, and I did not expect that it would. There is a great deal of unrest and dissatisfaction, and an impression is abroad - not amongst the importers and manufacturers, because they know better- that when anti-dumping duties are applied the wicked board is responsible. The fact is that the responsibility lies with the wicked Minister. The complaints I shall make of ministerial action do not apply to the present Minister (Mr. Pratten), who is new to office, and whom only fault is that he is a red-tape man who will not revise some of the decisions of his predecessor. That attitude, however, is by no means new. I have no hesitation in saying that I desire the Tariff Board to be continued, but not indefinitely, and I am quite prepared to support the intermediate course of extending the appointment for three years, I hope that by the end of that term the board will have made an infinitely better impression upon the public. It should bear in mind that extreme tariffism does not prevail throughout Australia. We cannot build the tariff wall high enough for some people within a dozen miles of the Melbourne Town Hall, and, probably, the more the duties are piled on, the more half the people of Sydney will be pleased. But that feeling is by no means general. Clause 3 contains a proposal for extending the work of the board by eliminating the words of section 15 of the principal act which confine the investigations of the board to matters “in relation to the tariff.” If the amendment were agreed to the board could be called upon to investigate everything and anything under the sun. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) expressed a desire that the board should have a wider range of authority so that, for instance, it might inspect country to consider the possibility of the successful cultivation of tobacco. That is a job for an agricultural expert, and not for men whose special duties are to watch the operation of the tariff. The amendment is too indefinite, and there is no provision to restrict the range of the board’s opera;tions. Moreover, there is in connexion with matters “ in relation to the tariff “ more than enough work to keep the board fully employed, and it would be the height of folly to distract its attention from such duties. Therefore, I shall suggest in committee that clause 3 be omitted, and I hope that the Minister will agree to that course, which, I am sure,, will be in the interests of departmental administration, and, particularly, of the Minister himself. I appreciate the consideration that the board has given to every phase of industry. I have always recognized that, a tariff such as we have imposed, if it is to be effective in developing the secondary industries of a young and growing country making it self-contained, must’ weigh heavily upon the primary industries. In that regard, the Tariff Board has been exceedingly considerate. When the members of the board were first prosecuting their inquiries in Adelaide, this matter ‘was brought prominently before them by the agricultural committee of the Liberal Union. The board went into the subject very thoroughly, and left a mighty fine impression upon the public. Prior to that time, the agricultural interests in South Australia regarded the board with grave suspicion, but it admitted that certain consideration was’ due to the primary industries, because they did not enjoy the benefits of the tariff to the same extent as did the city and manufacturing interests. The result was that, in certain respects, the primary industries were relieved very considerably
– The Liberal Union in South Australia consists of the King William street farmers.
– The honorable member had better confine his remarks to something he understands. Another phase of the bill which I very much appreciate is the proposal to maintain an open door when the board is conducting inquiries. I do not know that it has ever sat behind closed doors, but it has made its inquiries practically in the open. The more that policy is adopted the better it will be for all concerned. I do not think that a great departure from previous procedure will be involved in announcing that future investigations will be conducted with open doors, and that the dates of meetings to be held away from Melbourne will be given due publicity in advance. I should like to know how many recommendations of the Tariff Board are acceptedbythe Minister andhow many are rejected, whatnumber are varied and inwhat direction. Parliament should have a report showing what proportion of the tariff operations is attributable to the Minister and what proportion to the Tariff Board . Customsadministration is becoming more complex. Great latitude is now given to the Minister in the operation of the tariff, and I am not sure that his responsibility to-day is not as great as that which Parliament previously carried.
– A great deal more.
– I am taking a moderate view. I believe that under the present Minister the tariff administrationwillbe run on business lines, but if not,then God helpthis country, because a sound tariff policy is very badly needed. To promote efficiency, the Minister has power to give relieffrom duties in certain instances, so long as it does not interfere with the protective incidence of the tariff. There have been a lot of complaints in this connexion. Relief may be given under tariff items 174 and 404. Certain classes of machinery are on the free list.The Minister on the recommendation of the board, can give relief when new machinery that cannot be made in Australia is introduced for encouraging, developing, and making more efficient the industries of this country. This is a wise provision. I have been successful in getting admitted free from duty machinery for mining purposes that has simply revolutionized, for the time being, theworking of a mine that was almost useless without the installation of labour-saving devices. I was also successful in getting admitted free new machinery for electrical purposes, engines that gave an immense efficiency.
Mr.DEPUTY SPEAKER.- I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I am dealing with the Tariff Board, which makes recommendations to the Minister . It may be that the members of the board are notto blame, and that the sinner is the Minister. I obtained a concession for a semi-public body to import engines that could not be made here. Later on, an- other semi-public body wanted the same type of engines. That body had in view a scheme of electrification which would havebeen thebest of its size in Australia.
Mr.DEPUTY SPEAKER.- Does the honorable member propose to connecthis remarkswith theTariff Board ?
– I do. Thatscheme depended upon the efficiencyof thesemachines, and asinkingfund was to be establishedtowipeout the debt infifteen years. Thethen Ministerrefused to admit these engines free. No blamewas attachable to the TariffBoardin this instance. On the recommendationofthe Tariff Board,relief was given in respect of imported wirenettingand several other articles, for which Iam exceedingly grateful. Anenormous quantity ofwire nettingwill be required in Australia for the next twenty years in order to provide vermin -prooffences forthe protection of our flocksfrom the ravagesofthe wild dogs.
– There is no reference in the bill to wild dogs.
– I am still dealing with the Tariff Board. ThisHouse agreed to give relief on wire netting because itwas good business. In the interests of the country any otheraction would havebeen insane. In spite of that, a littlelater - Isuppose on the recommendation of the board - the then Minister for Trade and Customs placed a dumping dutyon wire netting. Two years ago the same Minister introduced a bill providingfor an advance of £250,000, without interest, to settlers to enable them to obtain supplies of wire netting, and it took him nearly two years to get them to accept theadvance, and lateradumping duty was placed on the wire netting.Was that a consistent attitude? The following letterwas written by an importer: -
Following our conversation concerning the dumping of importedBritish goods, which are for the exclusive use of thefarmers,I am appending a few details which I think will prove conclusively the unjust method of applying the Industries Preservation Actto British wire netting without due notification. This is imposed on certain shipments as out of34 consignments, representing465miles,taken over a recent period, the act was applied on five occasions only, for a quantity of 78 miles. The injustice of this was evidenced by Mr. Austin Chapman’s reply to a question (vide Parliamentary Debates, 21st May, 1924,No. 7, page 804) . You must seethe preposterous power this gives the Minister of Customsand the Customs Department to apply or revoke this act at its own sweet will. During this yearwe have landed seven shipments of netting of various sizeswithout having the Industries Preservation Act imposed, until the first of this month, when two shipments of wire netting were landed, the bulk of which was forvermin-proofing fences, with the whole of the balance poultry netting. This netting has been dumped, and the amount collected “ under protest;” on the 25th inst., more than three weeks after landing; part of these shipments being already booked to farmers “ to arrive” and delivery given immediately on arrival of vessel, also a quantity was sold subsequent to the arrival of the vessel, but prior to the collection of the dumping duty; we are entitled to pass this duty on to the purchaser, but you might readily see that this is scarcely practicable. These two shipments were bought by ourLondonpurchasers; Messrs Gollin &. Co., London, and cost us list - less 68 per cent., c.i.f. or £1,005 19s. 4d . The “fair market value” accepted by the Customs Department is list- less, 67½ per cent., plus London. f.o.b. charges, or £1,043 19s, a difference of less than 4 per cent.; yet we are forced to pay a dumping duty of £2051s. 2d., which would equal 25 (per cent of the f.o.b. value. Imagine having to pay 25 per cent, duty on British wire netting imported forand sold exclusively to the primary producer - the farmer.
Let honor able member s consider for a moment what a serious thing that is. Although the discrepancy between a fair Britishprice and the local price was only 4 per. cent; a dumping duty of 25 per cent. was imposed.
– That is no joke.
Mr.FOSTER.- It is not, particularly for the poor unfortunate people who are trying to grow wool in our outback country. When f acts like these are pointed out, honorable members opposite say that imports come from coloured labour countries or else from countries where labour is very cheap, but in nine times out of ten that is not the case. Very often the dumping duties are imposed on goods which come from GreatBritain, America, Canada, and other British dominions. Our duties areimposed on an unscientific basis, andare contrary to all the principles of economics. Honorable members will recollect thatI mentioned the other day acase in which dumping duties to the amount of£1012s 6d. were imposed on two German cream separators which were invoiced at £4 12s. each. The ordinary duty was20s6d,and the dumping impost £10 l2s 6d.
– But the duty was returned.
-It should never have been imposed for separators are not manufactured in Australia. We seem to have thrown all economic principles to the four winds ofheaven. But what must be the effect of that on the country ?
Mr.FOSTER.- Yes; prosperity upside down. We ought to follow the example of Canada. She recognizes that all true prosperity is based upon efficiency.
– The Honorable member is outside the scope of the bill.
– We must consider where our present policy will lead us. I submit that it will lead us to disaster, and very quickly too. Instead of imposing reckless dumping duties and certain very high tariff duties on importations, we ought to be taking steps to organize our local industries on sound lines, but we are really putting’ a premium upon inefficiency We should develop our manufacturing industries by rewarding efficiency, and by taking all reasonable steps to see that high tariff protection is applied only to industries conducted under the highest efficiency. Canada controls her industrial disputes in a simple, effective, and inexpensive manner.From1907 to 1922, only 583 industrial disputes occurred in Canada, of whichall but seven or eight were settled peacefully. How different that is from our own experience with our arbitration courtsand overlapping and inefficiency in every direction.
– The Honorable member is again digressing.
-I am coming to the point, sir. Our dumping duties and inefficiency are crushing the life out of our industries, and, so far from making substantial progress we areheading for chaos and disaster. Some time ago there was a storm in a teacup in South Australia about the purchase of some locomotives from America. The Government decided on the advice of the Chief Railways; Commissioner, to purchase engines abroad; because the differencebetween the local and oversea tenderswas so enormous. At that time theChief Railways Commissionerstated that after he had electrified the Islington Workshops and installedmodern machineryhe would defy the world to competewithhim in manufacturing locomotives. We should take a leaf out of his book. We should put first things first.
– This is the best freetrade speech I have heard from the honorable member for a long while.
– It is an efficiency speech.We must become efficient before we can hope to make progress. We have a great opportunity and a great country, and we should be prosperous.
.- This is a most important bill. The present Australian tariff is a mongrel tariff. It is neither flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. It pleases nobody, and gets us nowhere. The Tariff Board is obliged to listen, on the one hand, to the representations of those who are opposed to any tariff, and, on the other, to those who are concerned only about protection for their own industries. Neither party gives any consideration to the welfare of the country. In these circumstances it is not strange that the board has a very difficult row to hoe. I object to the tariff, because it swells the revenue too greatly, and does not benefit those for whom it was intended. It is not a scientific tariff.
– We are not now dealing with the fiscal policy of Australia.
– I dissent from that view. The board was appointed to deal with tariff matters. How could the Minister apply the anti-dumping provisions of the act without the assistance of the board ? Every act of the board relates to the tariff. One of the most dangerous powers is that which enables the board to do and undo things. I am somewhat in accord with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who have stated that the board is able to alter the duties that have been fixed by Parliament. It is not desirable that the board should have that power. It should merely make recommendations to the Minister when it finds that the duties fixed do not carry out the will and the intention of Parliament. A conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia was recently held in Adelaide. Among the motions moved at that conference were the following : -
There is not a protectionist in this House who would object to the second of those motions. The practice has been to impose duties even on goods that cannot be manufactured in Australia, merely for the purpose of raising revenue. That does not meet the wishes of protectionists. If the duty on any article is not sufficient to protect the local industry the board can refer the matter to the Minister. The Minister has certain discretionary power, and he can also ask Parliament to so increase the duties that they will effectively protect the local industry. This conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce appears to have been seised of the real intention of Parliament when the act was introduced. A paragraph of the report states -
The real objects of this legislation were - (1) to protect local industries against depreciated currency; (2) against cheap coloured labour; (3) against subsidized shipping to give exporters an unreasonably low freight; and (4) against the dumping of surplus stock for sale at any price. These areall easy matters of calculation and could he detected and adjusted by the Customs authorities.
Those who are acquainted with the conditions that existed when the antidumping legislation was introduced are aware that the invoice price of certain goods that were imported was not sufficient to pay for the labour necessary for their production. The matter was brought to my notice at the time, and I went through the invoices. The Australian manufacturers of similar articles could not compete with the importers. Their introduction into Australia at the invoiced price was possible only because a change in the seasons in London and Paris had thrown them back into the hands of the manufacturers.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The Tariff Board can confer a great benefit upon the people. Some honorable members are anxious that its inquiries should be held in public. So far, I have not heard any valid objection raised, to that course. It is not proposed that the board should be deprived of the right to take evidence in camera in certain cases. There are persons who believe that it should conduct judicial inquiries. I cannot see that any advantage would be derived if that were done. The members of the board possess a knowledge of commercial life, and they should also know something about the industrial conditions in Australia. I agree with those honorable members who object to inquiries by the Tariff Board being held in private. No valid reason has been given for secrecy. I asked the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) what views he held on the tariff, and he said that he would abolish it. A Tariff Board is evidently not of much good to him. He mentioned the firm of Hoskins, which is spending a large sum of money on a building in the City of Sydney, but what connexion has that with the subject under discussion? The board could have made an inquiry into the effect of the tariff on Mr. Hoskins’ business. Why should any one object if. it did? I ascertained that Mr. Hoskins had benefited by the tariff, and he has circulated a large amount of money that has benefited the people of this country. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) say that the Country party was in favour of continuing the board. I had an idea that the Country party would be the last party in the world to support such a board.
– The honorable member heard speeches from only two members of the Country party, both of whom were Western Australians.
– Even if there were only two of them, they made it quite plain that they would abolish both the tariff and the board.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr.Mann), and others. The honorable member for New England is the first member of his party who has spoken in favour of the tariff. I do not know whether I should commend him for his courage, for he may have realized that it is time to do something to save himself at the next elections. The Tariff Board is not an Australian idea. The Labour Council in Canada has made the following strong recommendation in favour of the appointment of a board: -
We recommend the formation of a Tariff Board on which organized labour shall have representation, created with full powers to deal with this subject in a similar manner to the powers exercised by the Railway Commission in railroad matters.
There is a board in India whose duty it is “ to watch generally the effects of the tariff policy upon the cost of living,” and “to study the tariff system of other countries.” It would appear that the Australian board is a little more practical than the Indian board, which is clothed with power -
To investigate the claims of particular industries to protection, and if satisfied that protection is required, to recommend the rate of protective duty, or any alternative measures of assistance, such as the grant of bounties.
I am not aware that our board has anything to do with bounties.
Mr.Fenton. - It has.
– The Tariff Board is a very important piece of administrative machinery, and could be made a valuable instrument under a policy either of freetrade or protection. I raised no objection to its appointment, and I shall not object to its continuance. I am satisfied that when the Labour party gets into power the board’s usefulness will be extended to embrace consumers as well as producers, and primary as well as secondary industries. I have exercised my mind for some time in an effort to unravel the problem of exchange, and on the 29th August I asked the Treasurer -
The replies I received were -
The debts owing by Great Britain to America are being met by shipments of gold, and I wanted to know whether gold could not be sent from Great Britain to Australia to ease the exchange difficulty. The answer given to me showed that no serious consideration was given to the question. Protective duties are put on, and we have to “ shutour eyes, open out mouths, andseewhatsomeonewill send us.” The problemis more seriousthan honorable members appear to think, for last month our Customs revenue exceeded that f or the corresponding month of last year.
– The honorable member’s remarks are a littleoutside the scopeofthe bill.
-Some honorable members, especially those with f reetraide leanings,seem to think that the priceof everything in Australia is too high. Surely no one imagines thatwe can go back to pre-war prices. Todo so would lower the standard of living, would cause a slump in the prices of wheat, butter, and other primaryproduce, and would producealmosta revolution. Prices now ruling are in conformity with the standard of living ofthe people.The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), in a powerfulspeech last night, said that if the TariffBoard made inquiries it would soon come to the conclusion that lowering the standard of livingwould seriously affect the interests of primary producers. My policy wouldbe to encourage the consumption of local products, and sobring about a reduction of imports. For instance, Australia imports about £189,000 worth of dried fruits each year, yet the Tariff Board is being asked to report as to the best means of disposing of Australia’s surplus of dried fruits. Surely the board would be betteremployed in devising means for preventing the importation of this commodity from abroad. However, I do notthink that we shall overcome our tariff problems, and the adverse exchange, until we discontinue borrowing outside Australia. Canada has not borrowed any money outsidethe dominion since 1913. Its banks are compelled by law to keep certain assets at the disposal of the Government,which is thereby made more orless independent of the foreign money lender. If Australia adopts the sensible policyof confining its borrowings to the Australian market we shall get rid of a lot of the troubles that arise out of excessive importation. These honorable members who are trying to undermine the policy of protection in this country are wasting their time. Our duty is to improve the tariff so that it will give greater help to local industries.
Australiaspends millions of pounds per annum upon primaryandtechnical education in ordertofittherisinggeneration to be somethingmore than “ dirt farmers.” . Thehighprice of landplaces it beyond the reach of the majority of our young fellows.Ibelieve that if land were available at reasonable prices the younger generation would be quiteas ready as its forebears were to engage in rural industries.Underpresent conditions theland offers no opportunity to our boys, and it istherefore necessaryto devise a tariffwhich,by promotingthe establishment of secondary industries, will give themthat chanceforwhichthe educationtheyhavegained atthe expense of the statehasqualifiedthem. Theadvice of theTariff Board,and its collected evidence, willbeof greatassistance to Parliament in the framingof aschedule of duties that will givethe necessary stimulus to all our industries, bothprimaryand secondary. I have said before that a revenue tariff is a mongrel sort of affair ; it satisfies nobody and does a great deal of harm, becausethe industrial population has to bear theweight of the duties.I remindthosehonorablemembers who arefreetraders,that if Customs dutieswereabolished the loss of revenue would have to be made good by increasingthe land tax.Ibelievethatsomeof them wouldquicklysurrender their freetrade faith if they were confronted with the possibility ofpaying a heavy land tax. I am not in favour of indirect taxation, and if, by making the tariff reallyprotective, we are able to reduce thevolume ofimports andCustoms revenueand foster local industries, weshall have done much to enable our people to enjoy the natural advantages with which Australia is so bountifully endowed.
.- A discussion of the Tariff Board almost inevitably involves a consideration of tariff matters, and I shall ask your consideration, Mr. Speaker, if in the course of my remarks I transgress beyond the actual scope of the bill. I listened attentively to the speech delivered last night by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He is a pronounced freetrader, and many of his arguments were convincing to anybody who was already convinced. But the honorable member did not succeed in converting me from the protectionist faith. My travels abroad when ayoung man, and later, during the war,convinced one that protection is the onlypossible policy fora young and undevelopedcountry ; and I still adhere to that belief, notwithstanding the freetrade arguments that have been advanced during this debate. But protectionist principles can be carried too fax. There is in the tariff a number of high duties which, instead of protecting, are really hindering the community. For instance, there are duties which are imposed for the benefit of exotic industries which are of no realvalue.
-Will the honorable member namesome of them?
– The honorablemember for Swan (Mr. Gregory) mentioned one last night. Hereminded us that, although many thousands of shovels are used in Australia each year, only fifteen men are employed in the local manufacture of them after many years of protection. It is obvious that, if that industry were worth while protecting, it would have extended more rapidly. While excessive protection is undesirable, absolute freetrade is the opposite extreme. Since I entered this House I have inspected many factories throughout Australia. I have hada lifelong acquaintance with the primary industries, shut the field of manufacturing was to me a term incognita, and I was desirous of learning something of the conditions under which the factories were conducted and the treatment meted out to the employees. My inquiries have left upon my mind certain impressions, which I shall place before this House when the tariff is under discussion. Some of the things I have seen in the secondary industries have confirmed my faith that moderate protection is the best policy for Australia. It hasbeen stated in this House , and the press seems to have taken the same view, that the Country party stands for outandout freetrade; but such is not the case. There are certainly some freetraders among us, butthat applies also to the other two parties in this House.
– Not to theLabour party.
– I must contradict the honorable member. There are freetraders among the representatives of the three parties in this House. The old controversy of protection versus freetrade, which was supposed to have died many years ago, seems to be reviving. Honorable members adopt this attitude - “Let us forget it and please do not raise it, because we do not want to make it a party question.”
– It should not be raised by the honorable memberwhen speaking on this bill.
Mr.R.GREEN. - It is difficult to draw a line of demarcation in tariff matters. I merely wish to dispel the impression that the Country party, as a whole, supports the policy of freetrade.
Mr.Mann. - No one could possibly have that impression.
– I am glad that the honorable member thinks so. Although I am a representative of a rural constituency, I do not believe that country interests should benefit at the expense of city interests. Every section of the community should be treated fairly and squarely. I favour the continuation of not only the duties on certain primary products, such as butter and bananas, but also the dumping duty on maize and the embargo on foreign sugar. I was a member of the deputation that was responsible for the dumping duty being placed on maize. My views respecting the embargo on sugar have been clearly expressed in this House. Although it is necessary that we should protect our secondary industries, yet some measure of protection should also be given to our primary industries. Out of the administration of the Industries Preservation Act has grown the Tariff Board, whose operations chiefly affect secondary industries. This afternoon the honorable -member for New England (Mr. Thompson) dealt with the tobacco industry, and the operations of the combine known as the British Australasian Tobacco Company. He and I were among the representatives of the growers that approached the Tariff Board in the interests of the tobacco industry. The Tariff Board has interfered very little with primary industries but its action regarding the tobacco and maize industries alone has benefited thousands of primary producers.
– And raised the animosity of South Africa.
– Should not thewelfare of our own people be our first consideration ?
– By antagonizing South Africa, we may lose certain trade.
– I prefer to look after the interests of our own people, despite the animosity of South Africa. I have no objection to the Tariff Board, since it was a natural corollary to the Industries Preservation Act that some such body should bo established to deal with matters arising out of that legislation. The administration of the board, I am sorry to say, leaves much, to be desired. I was a delegate at the conference ofthe associated chambers of commerce held in Adelaide in May of this year. Mr. Raws, a Melbourne delegate, when addressing the conference, spoke of the administration of the Tariff Board. He said -
The CommonwealthGazette of 7th February, 1 924, published a by-law lifting the duty on wood working machinery. The by-law operated from the 25th July, to 26th July, 1921.
– That is evidently a misprint. It should be 1923, and not 1921. At that time the Industries Preservation Act was not in existence.
– He continued-
On 28th June, 1923, there were gazetted numerous by-laws operating for one day only - which dates were long before the date of gazettal. In one case the by-law published on the 28th June, 1923, operated from the 28th June, 1920 - three years previously - and ceased to operate on the 20th June, 1921.
From that statement it appears that what the honorable member for Swan referred to is not a misprint. He gave further examples as follow: -
A notice in the Commonwealth Government Gazette of 17th April, 1924, regarding Norwegian cement, operated from the 26th September, 1922. A notice regarding induction motors from the United Kingdom, gazetted on the 3rd April. 1924. operated from the 10th August, 1923. Shoes from Czechoslovakia, gazetted 23rd August, 1923, operated from 9th August, 1922.
These are bad cases of maladministration that to me are inexplicable. Mr. Raws also stated -
On the 23rd November, 1922, the Commonwealth Government Gazette imposed a dumping duty on United Kingdom Portland cement, retrospective to the 3rd August. The circumstances attending this may be known to you. The Commonwealth Government Line of steamers reduced the rate of freight on cement by6d. a cask. The Customs Department retaliated by placing a dumping duty. The manufacturers thereupon increased their price by 6d. a cask, thereby taking as extra profit to themselves the rebate in freight instead of passing it on to the consumers. The position was so ludicrous that in less than a month the notice was revoked.
That subject was also mentioned by Mr. J. Maitland Paxton, a well-known business man in Sydney. He stated: -
In January or February, 1923, a Commonwealth Government instrumentality, in the form of the Commonwealth Government Line of steamers, reduced freights to Australia. That was all very good and in favour of importers and users. Among other things, the Commonwealth Line reduced the freight rate on cement from, I think, 5s. to 4s.6d. a cask. The other lines, in due time, followed suit. Then some manufacturers -got busy and stated that cement was being imported into Australia at an unduly low rate of freight. The result was that comparatively recently another dumping duty was placed on cement, because of the fact that the freight had been reduced by 6d. a cask.
– A pitiful thing.
– I agree with the honorable member. It is a bad case of maladministration on the part of the Tariff Board. I mention these cases for the information of the Minister, despite the fact that he shakes his head as if doubting their authenticity.
– The recommendations of the Tariff Board cannot be made effective without the consent of the Minister.
– Let me quote again from this report, to show how frequently the Minister changes his mind.
– I had the whole of that report read to me last week.
– In that case I shall content myself with drawing attention to the statement of Mr. Newbigin, that in the week ended the 15th September, 1923, the then Minister for Trade and Customs changed his mind no fewer than 34 times. No doubt he acted on the recommendations of the board.
– Only Parliament should have authority to alter the tariff.
– I agree with the honorable member, with the reservation that I think some machinery should be available to make alterations in cases of emergency when action must be taken quickly. I have given a sufficient number of instances of maladministration to show the necessity for some tightening up in the working of the board. If still another is required, I call attention to the action that was taken in connexion with cream separators, which are not, and never have been, manufactured in Australia. Eighty per cent, of our imports come from Sweden, and only 4½ per cent, from Great Britain, so that the dumping duty that was imposed was purely and simply a protection for the Swedish manufacturers, whose real competitors are the Germans. It is not only ridiculous, but also unfortunate that a high tariff should be imposed on cream separators, for every dairy farmer must have a separator of some kind. In spite of all I have said, however, I must admit that a Tariff Board of some kind is necessary. The suggestion of the honorable member for Swan, that the chairman of the board should be a judge or a gentleman of legal training, is a good one, and I think it ought to be possible to find business men who could sit with him and fairly represent the manufacturing and importing interests. There is a distinct clash of the interests of importers and manufacturers, but if necessity arose for deciding which should be given the greater measure of protection, I should most certainly decide in favour of the manufacturers, for they, at least, spend their money in Australia and provide employment for our people, while the importers send their money abroad to obtain goods of foreign manufacture. Possibly, the most effective Tariff Board would be one which had a judge or magistrate as chairman; a representative of the importers, who would watch the proceedings from the freetrade point of view, because it would be in his interests to keep the duties down ; and a representative of the manufacturers, who, of course, would try to make the duties as high as possible in the interests of local industries; and, in addition, a representative of the primary industries.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– I was distinctly impressed with the arguments of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) with regard to the proposal in clause 3 to omit the words “in relation to the tariff.” I think the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) will meet the position. The board must be given power to investigate the operations of combines that are acting detrimentally to trade. Had the Tariff Board not been in existence, the tobacco-growers of Australia would have been in a very parlous state. With the backing of the board, the representatives of the growers were able to bring that monopoly to its senses. I hope that honorable members will have the opportunity to review the actions of the board from time to time. I look forward to the time when Australian industries will, without the protection afforded by the Industries Preservation Act, be able to pay the wages fixed, and provide the necessary comforts for the workers, and at the same time compete with similar industries in overseas markets. I intend to support the second reading of the bill, in the hope that it will be improved in committee by the acceptance of many of the excellent amendments that have been foreshadowed.
.In common with quite a number of other persons who believe in protecting Australian industries, I feel that we are not receiving the full benefit that should accrue from the Tariff Act. At the time of its introduction, that measure was characterized by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who was then the honorable member for Dampier, as a “prohibition measure.” The fact that such a large amount of revenue is being received by the Customs Department is a proof that the act has not proved effective in protecting Australian industries. Millions of pounds’ worth of goods that ought to be manufactured in Australia are being imported. The Tariff Board has made certain investigations with a view to protecting Australian industries, and, in some instances, I believe, conserving the interests of the consumers. It has had little to do with the workers, because there are other means for fixing the wages and determining the conditions of the workers in the various factories. An immense amount is circulated in wages every year by our manufacturers. I believe that even the most ardent freetrader will admit that if that wage fund were wiped out, it would be a very bad thing for Australia, especially as 60 per cent, of it is devoted to the purchase of food and clothing. The primary producers, therefore, receive a very big proportion of the £71,000,000 spent on wages, and I frequently marvel at the fact that certain honorable members should misrepresent the primary producers by endeavouring to make our tariff ineffective. If their efforts were successful, the closing down of a. number of industries would inevitably follow. When the Tariff Board was brought into existence, I had the idea that it would perform many acts that would be of advantage to the protectionist policy of Australia. Unfortunately, it has not done all that it could have done. Many honorable members ask us why we advocate the protection of the manufacturer, the worker, and the consumer. Some go so far as to saywe have not the power to do that. I believe that our Constitution confers on us the necessary power. I understand that quite a number of amendments are to be submitted, and if rumour speaks correctly, they would, if accepted, entirely change the complexion of the bill. I impress upon those who advocate absolute freetrade that that policy would be ruinous for Australia.
– It is a policy that would lead to depopulation.
– It would be a crime to put it into force. I do notintend to discuss the tariff question. I merely want to warn those honorable members who profess to represent certain interests in this House that if absolute freetrade were introduced tomorrow, the people of Australia would be placed in subjection to monopolistic importers. If I had the choice, I should prefer a manufacturing monopoly in Australia to an importing monopoly, over which we should have no control. I want to give two illustrations to show the position in which the primary producers would be placed if the state of affairs for which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Mann.) clamour were brought about. At one time freetrade conditions existed in regard to reapers and binders, and reaper and binder twine. In Victoria an industry was established for rope-making, twine-making, and reaper and binder twine-making. As soon as the Australian manufacturer commenced operationsdown came the price of reaper and binder twine. Until three or four years ago, the reaper and binder was admitted to Australia free of duty. What benefit accrued to the primary producers of Australia from that? Little or none. Although I objected last night, Mr. Speaker, to the limitation which £ considered you were placing upon the debate in the main you were quite right. The phraseology of the bill) and the act which it proposes to amend, are such that I thought we could discuss almost anything on the present motion ; but further consideration has convinced me that, if the desires of honorable members were allowed full sway, the debate would be interminable. I believe that in the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) we have one of the soundest Protectionists that has ever had charge of the Customs Department. In my opinion, he will protect Australian industries against foreign competition. I am prepared to leave in abeyance for the present a general discussion of this bill, in the hope that those who are charged with its administration, including the Tariff Board, will protect the industries of Australia. I move -
That all the words after the word “ now “ be left out with a. view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ withdrawn and redrafted to provide adequate guarantees that the primary producers and consumers may be able to obtain locally-manufactured articles or goods at reasonable prices.”
Honorable members smile, and I am surprised at it. If honorable members, including the Minister, are true-blue Protectionists, they will accept the amendment as a means of defence against the onslaughts of honorable members like the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Perth. If we could insert in this bill a provision giving power to the board to do what the amendment seeks to have done, all thearguments of the honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Perth, and those who think with them would go by the board. I suppose that in my constituency, and. in the constituency of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) there are more manufacturers than are to be found in the rest of Australia. Although in the redistribution of. electorates a large manufacturing firm was removed from the Maribyrnong to the Corio electorate, I, still have in my electorate a large number of agritural implement makers and engineering shops. Under the amendment it will be the right of a person who thinks he has been charged too much for an agricultural implement to report the circumstances to the Tariff Board. My object is to prevent the owners of factories that enjoy the protection of import duties from charging exorbitant prices.
– Under that amendment the members of the Tariff Board would hardly have enough work to fill in their time!
– The honorable member for Corio and others have shown that locally-manufactured agricultural implements are sold much more cheaply than similar articles made in America and imported into New Zealand duty free. The passing of the amendment would prevent the allegation being made that the tariff, in protecting manufacturers, enables them to exploit the public, and it would remove one of the most insistent complaints of the freetrader. I am an old-time protectionist, and I shall fight strenuously for the continuance of the old protection until I can get the new protection. Protection is essential to the advancement of a young country like Australia. When the stabilization of the butter industry was being discussed a member of the Opposition happened to say, above a whisper, “You are going to indulge in price fixing at last,” and the Government then decided to change its policy. It is absolutely necessary to prevent the exploiter from dipping too deeply into the pockets of the people of this country. After protecting the manufacturer, we should protect the workman and the consumer.
– The honorable member, naturally, puts the consumer last.
– I am only putting things in their natural order. Articles cannot be manufactured successfully in Australia unless we protect the manufacturer at the ports, and the best articles cannot be manufactured unless the work people enjoy good conditions and receive high wages. As an article cannot be sold until ithas been manufactured, the consumer comes third, in his natural order.
. -Before the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) commences to slaughter those who have dared to oppose this bill, I should like to assure him of. my support. The debate has been more or less a fulldress tariff debate, but I do not intend to do as other honorable members have done. I shall certainly not copy the honorable member for Swan (Mr: Gregory), who advocated the abolition of the Tariff Board and the Industries
Preservation Act. Although he did not say so, he would also abolish the tariff. The Minister’s powers in regard to the tariff are no more and no less than those that were given to him by this House in. 1907. Until 1921 Ministers controlling that departmentwere entirely dependent upon officers of the department for advice, but in that year. Senator Greene, who was then Minister, conceived the idea of a Tariff Board. The board has greatly assisted and strengthened the Minister in bis decisions. On every hand we hear that the Tariff Board has done this or that, but honorable members know that it has power only to recommend to the Minister There is no justification, therefore, for the allegations that have been made against the board. From what opponents of the board say, one would conclude that Australia is the only country that has a tariff board, whereas there are many tariff boards in the world.
– They are not like our board.
– It may be that ours is the only one of its kind, but I contend that it is a better board than any other. The honorable member for Swan showed me a sheaf of papers containing about 250 recommendations of the Tariff Board to remit duties for one day only. But for the Tariff Board, most of those duties would not have been removed by the Minister, and therefore; I suggest that my freetrade friends are indebted to the board for those remissions of duties. In this connexion, I should like to mention a. filtration plant that was imported by a Sydney firm, for whose benefit the duty was remitted for one day. When the Launceston municipal council imported a filtration plant, however, it was mulct in over £1,000 duty. It may be possible for the Minister and the Tariff Board to assure the Launceston council that the plant it imported is not in the same category as that obtained by the Sydney company, and if they can do that the grievance may be met, but I cannot agree to a firm in one city getting a rebate while a municipal authority in another city does not. The plant in Launceston was required for the purification of water for woollen mills, while that in Sydney was for the purification of water for a gelatine factory. Upon the Minister rest the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the Tariff Board’s recommendations. That is as it should be, because the Minister is responsible to this House. I shall never do anything- to take out of the hands of honorable members the right to say what shall or shall not be done with the tariff. I am strongly in favour of the board being appointed permanently. Long before I took any active part in politics I was of opinion that, there should be a board similar to the Tariff Board to advise the Minister, who controls a large business department. As honorable members know, Ministers come and go, perhaps too often, with the result that there is a congestion of work in the department. The only remedy is an advisory body like the Tariff Board. I support the bill, and hope that it will be passed quickly. .
.- The Tariff Board has done good work, and its continuance is absolutely necessary. After the American Civil War the manufacturers of Europe tried to flood America with their products, just as they are now trying to flood Australia to the detriment of local industries. When Europe gets settled down and Germany regains its normal standard of production, it will be looking for markets overseas, and our industries will be in a perilous position if we have not a Tariff Board to watch carefully trade developments. At no time have a board and a Minister sympathetic to the secondary industries been more necessary than at the present time. All the countries of Europe, after having been out of production for years, are now looking for new markets. Even in Great Britain there are 1,500,000 men out of employment, and its manufacturers are looking for overseas markets for their products. Under these conditions it is certain that if the tariff administration is relaxed unemployment in Australia will increase enormously. It is our duty to protect the workers of this country, and to see that the industries that employ them are not destroyed. I Congratulate the present Minister for Trade and Customs on his earnest desire to give the secondary industries a fair chance. Those who have visited the big factories and seen the marvellous organization that has been brought about for the production, of local requirements must admire the captains of those industries. They have risked their money in new avenues, and to-day there are more manufactures in the Commonwealth than ever before. But while they are in their infancy, and have not obtained a safe footing in the local market, they are in the greatest danger. Therefore, a Tariff Board is necessary to prevent the dumping of goods to the disadvantage of local manufacturers and their employees. Cheap foreign pianos and harvesters may be very desirable in some ways, but they can be had only at the expense of the Australian workers. Those who believe in freetrade can go to countries in which their principles are in operation. There they will find plenty of cheap goods-
– And no money with which to buy them.
– Exactly. Honorable members talk about the high cost of commodities, but the Tariff Board is rightly endeavouring to prevent cheapness, which brings in its train low wages and poverty. If honorable members desire to lower the existing standard of living, and have men working long hours for small wages, they will do well to follow the advice of the honorable member for Lang. (Sir Elliot Johnson), to abolish the tariff. If on the recommendation of the Tariff Board all duties were removed and a laissez-faire system of trading were substituted, thousands of our workers would be thrown out of employment.
– The high tariff is creating unemployment.
– That is the honorable member’s view. He says that he is not a freetrader.
– I hope the honorable member will not allow the interjection to draw him away from the question before the Chair.
– That was what the honorable member for Swan was endeavouring to do, and I am glad that you, sir, have rebuked- him. It is the duty, of the Tariff Board to advise the Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament. Any recommendation by the board is subject to the arbitrament of the Minister, and if he does anything’ wrong this House should have the courage to deal with him. So far I have no fault to find with the present Minister for Trade and Customs. In fact, I am very proud of him on account of the courageous manner in which he has stood up to those who have attacked the board and the officers of his department. He has told those critics plainly that he, and not the board, is responsible for the administration of the tariff and the imposition of dumping duties. I know of local industries that were on the verge of extinction before the tariff was brought to their assistance. During the war a new industry, the Davis gelatine works, was started at Botany. Davis Brothers spent a great deal of capital in establishing those works, and while Mr. Tudor was Minister for Trade and Customs the industry was nearly crushed out of existence by the importation from Japan of gelatine made from seaweed. The imported article had no dietetic value, but the gelatine produced at Botany is a pure food. Mr. Tudor came to the assistance of the local industry, which now employs about 200 people, and is a credit to the Commonwealth.
– The competition with which it was faced was from Canada.
– And from Japan. But even if it was from Canada, should we allow an industry which was the result of the courage, organizing ability, and capital of two enterprising men, to be extinguished ?
– The Australian farmer has to compete with the Canadian farmer in the production of wheat. Why should not Australian gelatine compete with Canadian gelatine?
– The Canadian gelatine was being dumped. The Minister showed great discretion in the operation of the tariff, and when a new machine was required that could not be produced locally he allowed one to be imported free of duty. I hope that the same broad view will always be taken. On many occasions the present Minister has done the right thing. The operations of the Tariff Board should be extended, and, if the Labour party is returned to power at the next general election, they will be extended. We should instruct the board to investigate the conditions under which an industry is being conducted, and to ascertain whether a company’s capital is genuine or watered. Any industry that is conducted on honest and straightforward lines, gives employment, and sells to the consumers at reasonable prices, is entitled to consideration.
– The honorable member would not argue in favour of a factory that was operating with an obsolete plant ?
– No. Most of the industries which are now struggling for existence are of comparatively recent growth, and their equipment is quite up to date. After the American Civil War Congress had to go to the assistance of the local industries because of the deliberate attempt by oversea competitors to destroy them.
– America built up its industries by the imposition of a prohibitive tariff.
– That is so. I do not believe in a revenue tariff. If an article can be made in Australia it is better to cut out all competition from abroad and allow local competition to regulate the price. I hold no brief for McKay and other manufacturers of machinery. They have done very well as a result of the protective policy. I remember that when the tariff was under consideration, Mr. Hoskins sat in the gallery here continuously. One would have thought he was living on his last pound. He is always clamouring for higher duties to protect bis industry, but when the workers in New South Wales were awarded a 44-hour week, he said he would have to go out of business. If a man cannot pay decent wages and work his employees for reasonable hours he is better out of business. Mr. Hoskins has prospered with the aid of the tariff, but with men who are opposedto giving fair conditions to their employees, honorable members on this side have no sympathy. It will be the duty of the Tariff Board to report to the Minister regarding the encouragement that should be given to legitimate industries. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will produce an improved bill, and I hope that the Minister will accept it.
– Withdraw my own bill ?
– Yes, and bring in a new one. I am strongly in favour of the continuance of the Tariff Board, one of whose duties will be to assist the Minister to frame a new tariff in due course.
.- At no time in the history of Australia was a Tariff Board more essential than at the present time. When Europe becomes thoroughly organized again, and its industries are re-established, steel rails will be sent from Germany and elsewhere almost as ballast, in order to crush out the Australian industry. I heard one honorable member remark, relative to the iron industry, that it is not necessary tohave a board to preventdumping, butIre- mind him thatAustralian industries requirespecial protectionatthe present juncture, andthey can get itonly if there isaTariff Board which will “ put the boot in “as soonasthereis the slightestsemblanceofdumping.Our industries cannot continue under existing conditions unless theyare highly protected. Butif vast wealth is used to cripple the productivity of individuals, preventive measures should be taken. The Tariff Boardhas powerto dothat.Similarly if others do notdotheirjobproperly, butcombinetocripple individuals, theyshould be punished. “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” The only way inwhich the presentstandard ofindustrialefficiency and living canhemaintained is by giving proper encouragement to all industries, and by those engaged inthem giving a quidproquo. That positioncan only be brought about by the ‘employeesusing their best energies,and ‘the employers refraining from making excessive profits at the expense of the consumers. I believethat the people of Australia will be quite prepared to pay an equivalent in. value for primary and secondary products so long as our growers and manufacturerscomply with Australian conditions. To make Australia a great nation, we must protect ourselves against the operations ofthose people, both inside andoutside of Australia, whomake huge profits from the sale of foreign goodsdumped into this country. The Tariff Board will require to be very alert to adequately protect the people of Australia fromthe operations of those who prefer to purchase imported goods, to the detriment of Australian industries.
Mr.O’KEEFE (Denison) [8.46].- During this debate some very fine freetrade and protection speeches have been made by honorable members, who have-managed, not withoutdifficulty . to connect their remarks with the bill before the House. The subject under discussion is whether the Tariff Board Act shall be amended with a view to making the Tariff Board a permanent institution. Although I doubt very much whether the board has carried out the duties that it was originally in- tended to perform, yet during the last year or two it has done many things which, although perhaps not meeting with general approval, have benefited certain Australian industries. During the last eighteen months Ihave beena member of various deputations that have waited uponthe Tariff Board in the interests , of certain industries. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir . Austin Chap- man) required a very strong case to be puttohim before he would depart from the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but any action that he took was mainly for the protection of our industries. The subject of cement has been mentioned during this debate . One honorable member opposite, an advocateof freetrade, strongly objectedto the dumping duty that had been placed upon that com- modity.Hesaid that there was a shortage of cement in Australia, and that the Australian manufacturers were not fully meeting our requirements. On several occasions I have approached the Tariff Board in the interests ofa company that has commenced to manufacture cement at an island which is adjacent to Tasmania and under the administration of the Tasmanian Government. At that island are all thenatural resources necessary for the manufacture ofthe very best cement . The company has spent considerably over £300,000 in the purchase of the necessary plant. The machinery they required thatcould be manufactured in Australiawas purchased here,but it was found necessary to import certain machinery that could not be made here. Althoughrepresentations were made to the Tariff Board, itrefused to remit certain duties upon the imported machinery. A long argument ensued, and the company was certainly not satisfiedwith the action of the board. From what I know of the facts, Ibelieve that the board acted wrongly, because the company produced evidence to show that the machinerythat theyhad imported could not be manufactured in Australia. Although thecompany’s requestwas not granted,I am satisfied that the board did what it believed to be right in the interests of the Customs Department.
– I am glad that the honorable member holds that opinion, because that matter has again been reviewed and the request again refused.
– It would have cleared the air considerably if the evidence of the Australian manufacturers who protested against the remission of duties on the imported machinery had been given before the board in public, and I stronglysupport the clause in the bill providing that, except in certain cases, all evidence before the board shall be heard inpublic. The carbide industry in Tasmania is small in its way, but still a distinctly Australian industry, because all the raw materials used in the manufacture of this article are produced there. A factory was established for the manufacture of carbide. On one occasionthe company was forcedto close down because of the dumping into Australia of carbide from overseas. The Australian users of carbide preferred to purchase the imported article because of its cheapness.Severaldeputations waited on the Tariff Board, and this industry was on theverge of collapse when an embargo was placed on its importation ; but the board did not act until it was fully satisfied that, in the interests of Australia, this duty was necessary. The industry in Tasmania wasthus given an opportunity to recover. It is still in difficulties owing to a change of management, but before long it will be a profitearning concern. Tasmania produces morehope than all the other states put together, and the Tariff Board did excellent work for that industry. The Australian brewers tookadvantage of American prohibition, and imported large quantities of hops into Australia. Through the instrumentalityof the Tariff Board, the agreement was arrived at between the growers of Hops and the brewers that 15 per cent, of the Australian hop requirements should be imported, and 85 per cent, purchased from Australian growers. The Tariff Board agreed to police the agreement, but because of itsslack method of policing, more hops than were provided for were imported into Australia. Asa consequence, I believe that anumber of hop-growers have determined not to grow hops for a year or two. Frommy experience of the board, I am satisfied that, although it has made mistakes, it has acted conscientiously, and has done what it believedto be right in the interestsof Australian industries. One cannot discuss the bill before the House without referring, incidentally, to the subject of protection. We have been informed during the last few days that insteadof the Customs and excise receipts falling off, as predicted by the Treasurer in his budget speech, they increased in July and August of this year by£583,000 over the receipts for the corresponding months of last year. Twelve months ago the Treasurer estimated that the Customs and excise receipts would decrease, and they increased, and the same thing has happened this year.
– The honorable member will find it difficultto connect that subject with the bill.
– I suggest, sir, that if the Tariff Board watches the importations very closely it maybe able to prevent such largequantities of foreign goods from entering Australia. If it cannotdothat as it is at present constituted itshould be equipped withpowers that will enable it to do it. The inrush ofgoods from abroad should foe stopped. I welcome the proposal thatthe board’s inquiries , shallbe made in public. It is due to the Australian manufacturers and theemployees inour secondary industries that all evidence shall be submitted to the board in meetings which are open to the public. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, for, while I am a protectionist, I am first ofalla new protectionist. If the amendment wereadopted the Minister couldevolve a scheme which would affordour manufacturers, producers, and consumers adequate protection. I am sorry to findthat some honorable members of this Chamber, particularly the honorable member for Swan , (Mr. Gregory)and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) still worship the god of cheapness. The honorable member for Swan is the chief apostle of freetrade in this Chamber. His speech last night, andevery interjection he has made today, indicate his burning desire for a return to the days of long ago, wheneverything wascheap. I remember the time when our farmers were satisfied with 1s. 6d. a bushel for their oats and 2s. 6d. and 3s. a bushel for their wheat. They weredelighted if they obtained 3s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. Farm labourers in those times were obliged to work for 15s. a week for the greater part ofthe year, with, perhaps, 6s. a day for a few weeks in the harvest. But do the honorable members who bend their knees to the god of cheapness realize that under those conditions many hundreds of workers lived on the verge of starvation? Although flour was only about one-third of to-day’s price, the workers could not afford to purchase all that they really needed. Have the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Swan followed to its logical conclusion their policy of cheapness ? They certainly have been forceful in advocating it, and I have no doubt that if the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) were here he also would be voicing freetrade views as long as you, Mr. Speaker, allowed him to do so.
– I was just thinking of not allowing the honorable member to proceed any further with his fiscal arguments.
– I find it very difficult, sir, to discuss this bill without expressing my views on our fiscal policy. Honorable ‘ members who spoke on the measure last night were allowed considerable latitude. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, so far, has shown by his administration that he is a strong protectionist, will use the TariffBoard as much as possible to . preserve , the interests of our manufacturing industries. I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong for the reason that, if effect is given to it, the- interests, not only of our producers and manufacturers, but also of our consumers, will be protected.
.- I support tho bill. Practically every honorable member of the House believes that a Tariff Board of some kind is necessary. If we abolished the board it would be quite impossible for the Minister for Trade and Customs to deal with the multiplicity of matters with which the board concerns itself without largely increasing the staff of his department. It seems to me that it would be better for us to retain the board than to pass its work over to the Trade and Customs Department. The board has made comprehensive investigations into practically all the primary industries of Australia, and has done excellent work for many of them. It has been specially helpful to the tobacco industry, and in consequence of the agreement which it was instrumental in making between the British-
Australasian Tobacco Company and the tobacco-growers, the growers have been saved hundreds, if not thousands, oi pounds.
– And yet a smaller proportion of Australian tobacco is used here to-day than in 1911.
– That is not the fault of the Tariff Board. The board has also been making investigations into the broom-millet industry, which is in a parlous condition. Broom millet costs over £30 a ton to produce, and the price now paid by manufacturers is not anything like that. I understand that it was found to be impracticable to place an embargo on the importation of Italian broom millet, but the Australian industry certainly needs some protection, for the . Italian exchange rate is four to one against us. The recommendation of the Tariff Board in respect to the industry should be submitted to the Minister shortly, if it is not- already before him; and I trust that he will do everything in his power to remedy the lamentable position of the growers. The efficacy of the dumping duty on maize from South Africa is open” to question, but it certainly has conferred a very great benefit upon the Australian maize-growers. The report of the board in the case of the woollen industry “states -
One of tho most important secondary industries of the Commonwealth is the spinning, weaving, and knitting of wool. This industry ha3 been very materially enlarged since the outbreak of war in 1914. During the war period, and for a year or two afterwards, the Australian woollen and knit iii ng mills were able to sell their output at prices which returned a good profit, but during the past two years the competition from overseas has been keenly felt. To a certain extent this competition “has, no doubt, been duc to the recent slump in the woollen trade in Great Britain, which forced manufacturers to sell at low prices in order to reduce stocks; but even when this position rights itself there will still remain the great difference in the manufacturing costs in Great Britain and the Commonwealth - a difference occasioned by the heavy overhead charges of the Australian factories owing to the high initial costs elsewhere referred to, and tho higher wages consequent upon our higher standard of living.
The high cost of manufacturing woollen goods in Australia is,, no doubt, causing the development of this industry to ihe slower than would otherwise be the case, and the knitting industry has been particularly subjected to competition from overseas, but in spite of the difficulties in the way, there is every reason to believe that there is a great future for the woollen industry in Australia. Additional protection is necessary for some lines, in order to enable the Australian manufacturers to secure a fair share of the trade. This is, perhaps, the most important item to be considered in the next revision of the tariff.
The Federal Parliament has been largely instrumental in starting quite a number of small factories throughout Australia, but the severity of the competition from overseas, coupled with the heavy initial cost, renders imperative the giving of material assistance at a very early date to prevent the wiping out ofa number of the mills.
– The honorable member realizes that that means that we shall never get away from war prices.
– That will not necessarily be the result. These industries are costly for some time after their establishment. Arbitration Court awards and other factors have considerably increased the costs in primary industries. I ask for, and I trust that I shall receive, consideration for the broom-growers, who are supplying their product at considerably under cost. The dairying, and many other primary industries, are in the same category. Quite recently we passed a short bill giving a bounty of 4s. a gallon on the export of wine containing 34 per cent, proof spirit. Whilst I am. not opposed to the manufacturers receiving assistance, I contend that the House should unanimously agree to grant a substantial bounty on the export of primary products that are not profitable at the present time. If someing is not done soon, our capital cities will contain three-quarters, instead of one-half, the population of Australia. The Tariff produces a revenue of £55,000,000, but it affects the community, directly and indirectly, to the extent of, at least, £100,000,000 a year in administration and increased costs, and in other ways. Thus it has increased costs to the producers, and as the primary industries arc responsible for 76 per cent, of Australia’s wealth production, wo can realize what an important task confronts not only the Tariff Board, but Parliament as well, in placing those industries on a profitable footing. If the tariff were abolished, if arbitration courts were scrapped, and if other costs were reduced, the primary industries would not be found knock ing at the door of Parliament for assistance. As the tariff and the Arbitration Court are sanctioned by law, we must continue the practice of giving assistance to primary industries to a greater extent in the future than has been the case in the past.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton). I want to put myself right at once by saying that I am a protectionist, even though I differ from some of my colleagues from the State of Western Australia. I recognize, however, that protection has been responsible for many difficulties and problems. The result has been that the people resident in states that have not directly benefited from the establishment of industries suffer fromthe anomalies that have followed the operation of the tariff. It has been stated that the price of the Sunshine harvester has increased by 100 per cent, compared with the pre-war price. We shall be working along sound lines if we formulate a tariff that will protect us against the cheap labour of other countries. But I must recognize that the workmen who are engaged in the manufacture of harvesters in America are paid as high a rate of wage as is paid to the workmen in Australia who are engaged in similar work.
– InCanada the rate is higher than that in Australia,
– In Canada the workmen are employed for ten hours a day.
– I do not think that the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is correct. Whatever argument we may use against the manufacturers in cheaplabour countries, at least we cannot say that the workmen in Canada or the United States of America are receiving a lower rate of wage than is being paid to the workmen in Australia. Yet Canadian imports are loaded with a duty that amounts to more than 50 per cent. The Canadian binder in Canada costs £47, but by the time it is landed in Australia it costs £92. Such a tariff should not be necessary for the manufacturers in Australia.
– What is paid for that binder in New Zealand?
– In New Zealand it costs £70. Becausewe as a party believe in the policy of new protection, do not let us shut our eyes to the fact that the manufacturers in the. United States of America,who are always opposed to democratic legislation, have made immense fortunes out of the industry. I can see vested interests being created in Australia. When a manufacturing industry is established in certain electorates, it is not wise for us to say, because it employs a. large number of Australian workmen, that, willy-nilly, wewill protect itwith a high tariffwall which will enable it to raise the price of its machines to a point just below the top of thewall, and thus bleed the primary producers of Australia. I am afraid that that is the position at the present time.
– Undoubtedly it is.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong agreeswith me. The object of his amendment is to see that the consumers do not pay too much to the manufacturers, It is not for us to view our tariff with smug complacency. We must bevigilant. I believe that the amendment will show that we. are keeping an eye on the big manufacturers,who are obtaining a strong hold of different industries. In effect, we are saying to them, “You shall not be permitted to rake off big fortunes at the expense of the primary producers and consumers.” The price atwhich the binder towhich I have referred is sold shows that there is room for an investigation of the manufacture of agricultural implements.
– It is only fair to say that the Australian binder can be bought for £15 less than the price of the Massey-Harris binder.
– The price of the Australian binder is £77. But that does not dispose of the fact that the prices of the harvester and binder have increased by, roughly, 100 per cent, above the prewar prices. Although the protectionist view preponderates in this House, honorable members should not shut their eyes to the necessity for closely scrutinizing the profits that are being made by Australian manufacturers. What is the positionin regard to the McKay Harvester Com pany ? Years ago it was a struggling company in Ballarat, but since that time a big business, ofwhichwe may be justly proud, has grown up. A heavy duty has been imposed on imported machines, and the cost of the local machines has, in consequence, increased enormously.
– The wages have also increased considerably.
– That is true, but they have not increased in proportion to the cost of themachines. The Prime Minister,whenin Sydney some time ago, said that bounties to the primary producers, and protection to the manufacturers of Australia would not be given without examination. He said that the primary producers must co-operate, and that only the best quality goods were to be exported. Efficiency was to be the keynote. He said that before the manufacturerswould receive assistance they must install the latest machinery in theirworks, and run them on the most scientific lines. Yet the representations of manufacturers to the Tariff Board, who apparently put up a plausible case; are listened to, with the result that from time to time the tariff is raised. That is not the right way to do things. A friend of mine during the so-called “ rush “ season about this time last year, obtained employment with the Sunshine. Harvester Works. He found things fairly slack. On one occasion he waswalking about, looking for something to do, when he was met by the foreman, who said, “For God’s sake, keep walking. If you don’t see anything to do, keep onwalking.” If that organization had to contend against competition, such a condition of things would not be possible, and the supervisorwould endeavour to see that each man rendered efficient service. Thatwould result in the farmers of Australia being able to obtain their agricultural implements at lower prices. The Prime Minister should see that the factories of this country are conducted on proper lines, and that big profits are not made by a few at the expense of the country. Because of the imposition of high duties there is considerable waste in somedirec- tions. The four members of the Tariff Board are estimable gentlemen - for their work four better men could not be obtained - but it is human nature for a man, when placed in a position of responsibility and authority; to make his position as important as possible. It is said that if a policeman desires to be considered efficient, he must make frequent arrests. In the same way, soldiers feel that they must engage in war from time to time to test theknowledge they have gained bystudy.Similarly, the Tariff Board may be disposed to raise the tariff. ‘If it were proved to be uneconomical to import goods into Australia, because everything we required couldbe produced as cheaply here, I should be strongly in favour of having them made locally, but if our manufacturing establishments are not kept under strict surveillance, and a high tariff wall is placed around them, prices will increase.
– The number of binders imported increased by 200per cent.
– Binders can still enter Australia from other countries and compete with the Australian-made article, but they would not be able to do so if our works were more efficiently managed, or if the price of the locally-made machine was not raised to approximately that of the imported article. The goldmining industry has gained nothing from the recent great war.On the contrary, it has lost enormously - £4,000,000 in Western Australia alone. The people interested in that industry are naturally anxious to obtain their products as cheaply as possible, but, although I represent the only extensive gold-mining district in Australia, I am not prepared to say that the Australian manufacturer should not have an opportunity to manufacture the things which those engaged in that industry require. But the tariff imposes more than that; let mo give one or two instances to show that not only is a duty imposed on goods imported from other countries when similar goods are manufactured in Australia, but it is imposed on articles which are not made here. Let us take the case of the Australian Explosi ves Company, whose works are situated in the district represented in this House by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). Australian mining companies are anxious to use Australian explosives, and, consequently, made an arrangement with the Australian Explosives Company to use its products. The company desired that the raw materials required for the manufacture of explosives should be admitted duty free, and were willing, in that case, that the mining companies should obtain their explosives at a cheaper rate. The manufacturers and the consumers - the Australian Explosives Company and the mining companies in Western Australia respectively - had interests in common in regardto this matter. If the raw materials referred to were admitted duty free, the quantity of explosives used would be increased. It is, therefore, evident that in this case the Tariff Board is defeating the very object for which it was established, namely, to assist Australian industries. In modern mining practice bromo mining salts are used extensively. For same time past these salts have been obtainable only from the United States of America. It appears, however, that afirm in Great Britain manufactured bromo salts, but when the Golden Horseshoe EstatesCompany Limited of Western Australia endeavoured to obtain supplies from that firm, it found that the salts of the British company contained only 20 per cent, bromate, as against 40 per cent, in the salts manufactured in the United States of America. The bromo salts manufactured in Great ‘Britain were used entirely for photographic purposes, but because of pressure which was brought to bear on the Tariff Board in the direction of trying to force the mining companies to obtain their supplies from Great Britain,a duty was imposed on an article from America which is not manufactured in Australia at all. Because of that, the gold-mining industry has been penalized. One of the mines on theGolden Mile, in Western Australia, was shut down for some time and the work confined to tributers. Honorable members may know that when a company closes its mine, and obtains its profits solely from tributers, so far as a company worked proposition is concerned, the mine does not pay. Later, for reasons which I need not now recount, the company decided to re-open the mine. It obtained an up-to-date mining man from abroad, in the person of Mr.Ernest Williams, to manage its affairs. He, naturally, desired to have the same system of ventilation as that to which he had been accustomed previously. To that end he endeavoured to obtain some Ventwall tubing - a patent article manufactured in
Great Britain. It is made of canvas, so constructed that no acid can possibly eat into, the canvas. This tubing can be placed in the drives, and ventilation obtained immediately. The system is less costly than the iron pipes ordinarily used. A consignment of it was obtained. The total invoice price was £32 18s. 6d., including London charges. There was 200 feet of it, 8 inches in diameter, at ls. 5£d. per foot, and 200 feet, 10 inches in diameter, at. ls. 8Ad. per foot. The net price was £31 13s. 4d., and the London charges were £1 53. 2d., making a total of £32 18s. 6d. The Customs authorities - whether the Tariff Board or not, I do not know - imposed a duty of £10 3s. Id. That article is not made in Australia, and never can be made here, because it is covered by a patent. Owing to the action of the Customs authorities, it is impossible to introduce into the Golden Mile mine this new and very necessary improvement in mining practice. The tariff in this respect does not study the interests of primary production.
– Has that matter been before the Tariff Board?
– I do not know, but I think it has. The case of the bromo mining salts has at least been before the board, which has given no relief. The ventilating tubing was imported on tho 11th March of this year.
– It’ is very doubtful whether the honorable member’s remarks have any relation to the bill.
– The Tariff Board is ineffective, and I am endeavouring to show why I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). I want to explain to what extent the operations of the board have been ineffective, and why I cannot support the bill as submitted. Rails used in mines furnish another instance of duties that injure the mining industry. On mining rails weighing less than 50 lb. per yard, there is a duty per ton of 45s. British preferential, 70s. intermediate, and 85s. general. Light mining rails, from 12 lb. to 14 lb., are not made in Australia, so that the duty is an appreciable tax on mining development. I am a protectionist, but if I were asked to levy a duty of from 45s. to 35s. per ton on mining rails, and to place a burden on the mining industry without helping any other industry in this country, I should net consent to do it. The applicant would have to show me how it would benefit Australia, and would have to disprove my statement that it was a direct impost on the mining industry.
– If those rails are not produced in Australia, we will go as a deputation of protectionists to demand the removal of the duty.
– The same trouble is experienced with iron and steel tubes, including boiler tubes, on which the rates of duty are 27^ per cent. British, 35 per cent., intermediate, and 40 per cent, general. The mining industry uses considerable quantities of welded wrought tubes for air-steam solution, and tubes for water-tube boilers, for which local cast-iron and cement pipes are not suitable. All wrought, welded, and soliddrawn tubes of 6 inches or less internal diameter should be admitted duty free. They are not manufactured in Australia.
– The honorable member should blame the House, not the Tariff Board.
– I am here to blame any one who is responsible.
– This is not a tariff debate.
– The honorable member evidently does not want anything to be said in this House that does not accord with his own views. He is, I assume, a protectionist, although I am not quite sure of that. I point out to him that if we have anomalies such as I have Mentioned, and no inquiry is made into them, and if we permit unintelligentprotection of this kind, the tariff will become unpopular with the people in the western state, and probably also in Tasmania. In. my state, it is difficult to get people to endorse protection while we ask them to pay duties on goods that are not, and are never likely to be, made in Australia. Soft British iron is required for a number of purposes where it is subject to vibration; and Newcastle mild steel is unsuitable. Miners’ drill steel, of hollow section, is now free ; but, although the solid-section Newcastle drill steel is practically unheard of in Western Australia, even at this date the bulk of mining steel used there pays 44s. per ton duty.
Tlie same argument applies to steel shafting, which is all imported, and pays 27£ per cent. duty. I have much more data of a similar kind, but I have quoted sufficient to make my case clear to the House. It is no wonder that in Western Australia and other states where the benefit of the tariff is not secured as it is iti Victoria and New South Wales-, such loud protests are heard against high duties and unintelligent protection.
, - I have listened during the last two days to a very long, informative, and comprehensive debate. One honorable member said it wandered from Dan to Beersheba. I shall endeavour to sift out from it and reply to some of the remarks that have been made. The arguments can be confined practically to two main issues. The one is : Shall we or shall we not support the principle of the Tariff Board; and if not, shall we go back to the old- method of having the work done by departmental officers? Honorable members on both sides have, on the whole, approved of the work of the board. There has certainly been some criticism of its methods, and of the principle of having such a board, but none of its personnel. Not one honorable member who has criticized the principle of having a Tariff Board has made any constructive suggestion for putting something into its place.
– Except to go back to the old system.
– And go back to the old method that existed before the Tariff Board was constituted, when departmental officers did exactly what the Tariff Board does to-day. In view of the complexity of present-day tariff legislation, and that the only alternative is to go back to the method that existed when tariff administration was comparatively simple, it should be generally acknowledged that the principle of having a Tariff Board is sound, that the board should be continued,- and made an integral part of our tariff administration. Again, in spite of the very clear, and definite statements I made - statements that were in conformity with legislation on the statute-book - it has been alleged that the board has power to impose and remove duties. I must repeat that it has no other powers than to investigate, report, and advise the Minister and the House. It’ is charged with important duties. It may take evidence in support of new duties, which, however, cannot operate until they are imposed by Parliament. When the new tariff is discussed by this House, I, or my successor in charge of it, will come to the House armed with reports by tlie board, and those reports will state why, in the opinion of that independent board, certain duties should be decreased or increased as proposed. The board is also charged with the duty of reporting on proposals for bounties. With that part of its work the House is already familiar. It also has to report on proposals for reciprocal trade between Australia and other countries, and it has done that. But I think the greatest controversy rages round the reports of the board and the decisions of the Minister in regard to two things - the classification of items in the tariff, and complaints of dumping and the working of the Industries Preservation Act. Reference has been made to apparently inconsistent decisions of the Minister, given presumably on the advice of the board. The long and historic document issued by the Chamber of Commerce in Adelaide, and the report of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, have been mentioned ; but I think the otherwise well-versed commercial gentlemen who were present at those gatherings could not see that if the classification clauses are worked fairly, a machine admitted free in the year 1921-2, because of a kind not made in Australia, may properly, owing to the development of Australian industries, not be admitted free iu 1923-4. Complaints have also’ been made because the Minister has dared to admit certain machines free for one day, and much misunderstanding has arisen owing to the action thus taken. I have permitted such concessions during the short period that I have been administering this great department. Firms desiring to import a pattern machine, or one of a kind that is not made in Australia, have applied for the classification of that machine under concessional item No. 174 in the tariff, and a. remission of duty has been conceded in such cases, conditional upon the importer allowing local engineers to inspect the machine so that if further machines of the type are required they, can be- made in Australia by our own workmen. I was sorry to hear, during the course of the debate, even suggestions: of bribery and; corruption in connexion with the. duties of the Tariff Board. The proper perspective- in which, to view the Tariff Board is, that being an independent body, it is not an excrescence on. the body politic, but an additional safeguard to. ensure that the law is carried out,, and fair play given to very one. For the information of the House, I may state that during: last month no fewer than 26 deputations have been received, by the board in connexion with applications for additional duties and’ the classification of various articles for reduced duties when the tariff is under consideration. The reports and recommendations made during the month total 188 ; the applications’ for- remission- of duty on machines-, machine- tools, or- appliances under item’. 174 numbered f58’, the- appli-cation’s for admission of minor articles’ or material’ for use- im the manufacture of- goods within’ the Com’monwealth under item 404 totalled- 40:; amd the’ applications’ fox- classification: of goods under item 219, relating’ to tools of trade, haven-umbered 23. No< fewer - than’ eight special reports haw been’ submitted. Applications’ for additional duty, if and’ when the- tariff’ is’ under consideration, have numbered 43; and the» applications for investigations! under the Industries Preservation Act; have totalled 161. During the- debate* I’ have heard honorable members-, with a super?ficial knowledge1 of what is being:- done.- in the- Customs Department, even got to the extent of saying that every application received by tha Tariff- Board should be brought before the House for consideration; but when- we remember that. 18& reports and recommendations-‘ have been made during one month, it is easy- to- imagine- what would happen should that course be taken;, if the debate on this bill, is an indication- of the interest taken- in tariff matters’ generally: I wish to state, most deliberately and emphatically, that the Minister’ cannot impose- or reduce duties, apart from the board, and-, upon report’ by the board, only within the powers- given by Parliament, and under regulations-. Most of the trouble1 which arises in connexion with classification- is1 owing’ to the de<partment refusing- to classify goods- or material, under the three- concessional! items of the tariff.,, because the goods can be commercially manufactured in- Australia. I am sure honorable members will, agree- that the spirit as well as the., letter, of the law must be- given effect in relation to articles coming under the concessional items,- particularly where Australian industries! are- in operation and- claim, the- benefits of the- duties’ imposed. During the last- few. weeksobjection, has been taken to a pronouncement from- the department - it has also? been mentioned’ during-the debate - that public bodies would be better advised if they endeavoured’ to- ascertain, if their requirements- can be commercially manufactured in Australia’, instead- of- blindly importing and then.’ expecting: the- department to: classify the goods they import under- the1 concessional items’ I. ha-ve’ mentioned, irrespective of whether like goods are manufactured im Australia or.: not; Without disclosing^’ the names’ of the public- bodies. I shall give- a few instances’ of tfe appila1 cations received* in the- department during; the last few mouths: Ohe’ request was’ im connexion’ with, a Remo control switch! gear, and’ the public body importing this appliance applied’ for a> classification under, concessional’ item So;. 37.41. The application! was ref used,, because the’ gearis included: in a specific- item’ of the tariff, carrying a fairly high duty, and- the ma tei: Lal employed in its manufacture: is made in Australia. In another instance, application was made for the admission duty free of a transformer, but the application’ was’ refused, because transformers are manufactured m Australia. A third application was’ for a remission of duty upon steel tubular’ tramway poles, and this was refused, as- these articles- were exported in 1896, 1901, 1914, and 1916. Another application was tO’ remit a portion of the> duty on a plant used for abstracting gas’ from brown coal, but’ the request’ was- refused and tire- ordinary duty paid, because such a plant can be manufactured in Australia. I’ could quote a-. number- of other instances in which aprplications have been* refused on similar grounds; but li am sure it is the- opinion of the1 House that, no concessions should) be given to the detriment of aoa. Australian industry. The principle which must guide- a: consistent application of. the regitlations and a proper: interpretation of the tariff, must be based on whether or not the goods concerned can be or are being commercially manufactured in the Commonwealth. In connexion with, the administration of the classification clause of the tariff: which has to’ be reported, upon- by the’ board and decided’ by the Minister; I desire to say that the. principle, actuating me is that no concessions will be allowed if there is an Australian industry to protect. On the other hand,, if. machines are being im- ported either for primary or secondaryindustries which are. not. manufactured in Australia, and such machines will improve our primary or- secondary production^, it is the policy to. admit them underthe. concessional items of the tariff, in. order’ to encourage the importation of special machinery to assist production. Complaints, ha.ve also been made< in con?nexion with the: administration, of the Industries Preservation) Act,, Although, there, may have, been many apparent,inconsistencies, I realized,, after, consultation with the officers> of the department, that the applications were still heaping ug, and, with the. approval of Cabinet, announced that some simplification of the. difficulty of administering the act was necessary. That pronouncement was,. I think, applauded by the Chambers of Commerce, throughout Australia-,, and the procedure outlined, was acknowledged, to be a. means o£ greatly simplifying, the. administration of the act and of disposing of many of the’ complaints made during the course of the debate on. behalf of the Chambers’ of Commerce: It was ‘the intention of Parliament when this act was placed upon the statute-book that no detriment should’ be caused to Australian industry by dumping or unfair competition from abroad, and, instead of so strenuously criticizing- the administration of the- act, honorable members would do well to realize that my duty is to carry out the will of Parliament as expressed in the statute, the repeal of which alone will rid them of their grievances. “While the act remains on the statute-book, I shall, in the administration, of it, observe both the spirit and the* letter, of the law, and ensure that no detriment, results to Australian industry if it can. be avoided. In the discharge of my complicated duties, I do not expect to please everybody, but I do not desire to impose any pinpricks or undue restrictions upon the commercial com: munity. I realize as well as anybody that small irritations may possibly bring the great policy of protection into derision. But the responsibility of administering a department that collects’ many millions of pounds worth, of.’ duties each year “can be best shared bya Tariff Board, such as is at present constituted, of independent men, working; in co-operation with the Minister and officers of the department. I fully appreciate the importance of the trust of administering the laws enacted by Parliament for the preservation of our secondary industries,, because in the year 1913, the year, before the outbreak of-: the war, the total output of Australian factories was £161,500,000:, and during, the ten years, ended. 1922-23, the yearly total increased to the enormous- sum of £326,500,000. In other words-,, the output doubled in a decade. I am grateful’ for the general support that has been given’ during this debate to. the principle! of: a>. tariff board, and I think that when that principle is: adopted permanently, the. difficult administration of the Customs department will be safeguarded so far as is humanly possible. All proposal’s for the application of the powers conferred upon- me by Parliament, and all suggested .revisions o£ the tariff, must’ first be investigated, ; ind reported upon by the board. Itsrecommendations ‘ will have to pass through the independent hands’ of an experienced comptroller-general. Then they will come to me- as. the’ responsible Minister for decision as. to the action, to be taken. For the decisions arrived at I shall be answerable to Parliament, which., has tlie- power to affirm or negative what I have done-. I hope that after the exhaustive discussion that has taken place, the bill will’ have a short and speedy passage through its remaining stages.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted’ stand part of the question (Mr.. Fenton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 11 of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “(4.) Inquiries conducted by the board relating to -
any revision of the tariff; or
any proposal for a bounty, shall be held in public, and evidence in such inquiries shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, be taken in public. “(5.) If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public on the ground that it is of a confidential nature, the board may take such evidence in private if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so.”
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1) Subject to the regulations, the board may hold sittings in any part of the Commonwealth in such place or places as it may deem most convenient for the transaction of its business or proceedings, and shall keep minutes of its proceedings in the prescribed form.
Sittings of the board shall be convened by the chairman.
The chairman shall preside at all meetings of the board at which he is present, and in his temporary absence from any meeting the members present shall elect one of the members
.- I move -
That after paragraph (b) the following paragraph be inserted: -
all matters arising under paragraph (h) of sub-section (1.) of section fifteen of the principal Act, and of any request for the gazettal of importations into Australia for the purpose of bringing such importations within the provisions of the Austraian Inustries Preservation Act.
Clause 2 amends section 11 of the principal act by providing that inquiries conducted by the board in relation to any revision of the tariff or any proposal for a bounty shall be held in public, and that, unless a witness objects to give evidence in public on the ground that the evidence given may be of a confidential nature, such evidence shall be taken in public. The effect of my amendment will be to require evidence to be taken in public, and on oath, at all inquiries covering requests for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties; the granting of bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia; the effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted; any proposal for the application of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff to any part of the British dominions or any foreign country, together with any requests received from Australian producers or exporters in relation to the export of their goods to any such part or country; any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff, and in particular in regard to his (i) charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods, (ii) acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, or (iii) acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods ; the general effect of the working of the Customs tariff and the excise tariff in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth; the fiscal and industrial effects of the Customs laws of the Commonwealth; the incidence between the rates of duty on raw materials and on finished or partly finished products; and any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the tariff.
In the past such inquiries have been held in secret and no evidence has been given on oath. Persons should not be able to come before the board and simply make statements, probably to the detriment of some firm or manufacturer. There is no reason why evidence in connexion with all such matters should not be made in public and statements taken on oath. I have had the privilege of going through the file in connexion with wire netting, and I have read there some extraordinary statements - statements which the board itself declared to be incredible . The report of the Tariff Board also contained the statement that British manufacturers were purchasing iron and steel from foreign countries so as to be able to compete more successfully against Australian manufacturers. If any person comes before the board with a statement of that sort it certainly ought to be made on oath. Later I intend to ask the committee to amend sub-clause 5 in the direction of providing that before taking evidence in private the board must be satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to take such evidence in public. At present it is sufficient if a witness objects on the ground that the evidence is of a confidential nature. The acceptance of statements made by interested persons not on oath is wrong. I have made complaints in connexion with the manufacture of wire netting, and I have produced letters from Queensland merchants stating definitely that there is a combine, not only in the manufacture of wire netting, but also in the manufacture of wire and nails. That statement may not be correct. It would be wrong for the Tariff Board to accept any statement like that without an inquiry at which the evidence was given in public and on oath. The public are entitled to know the nature of any complaint, and if the Tariff Board is carrying out its work properly. It looks as if the bill was designed to throw dust in the eyes of the public, and of this Parliament also. The Minister may be satisfied. I am not. I do not wish to see the continuation of what has happened in the past ; with which I shall deal later when we come to consider the constitution of the board. Things have been done in regard to the sulphur duties which will not bear examination. If honorable members could see the list of applications for remissions of duties for one day only they would realize that some people have been able to get concessions, whilst others, not so alert, have been placed at a disadvantage. I wish it to be clearlyunderstood that I am not imputing wrong motives to the Tariff Board.
– The honorable member is getting pretty close to imputing wrong motives.
– Those who understand the provisions of the act know that certain duties can be removed, and they make representations to the department and have them removed, while others, who do not understand the act, pay duty on goods when the Customs Department informs them that the goods are dutiable.
– What is the honorable member insinuating?
– I am not insinuating anything, but making absolute statements.
Mr.Pratten. - I ask the honorable member to make them plainly.
– If the Minister wants plain statements, I shall deal with the sulphur duty. When the tariff was under consideration a deferred duty was imposed on sulphur, on a specific promise made by certain Broken Hill companies. In March of the following year, 1922, the then Minister for Trade and Customs announced that that duty was to be made operative. A committee was appointed, and a minority report of that committee showed that the duty on sulphur would mean an increase in the price of superphosphates to the Australian farmers of 6s. to 7s. a ton.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether sulphur duty and superphosphates are relevant to the clause under discussion.
– The Minister suggested that I was imputing motives, and asked me to justify the statement that I was making. I wish to explain what really occurred, as a special reason why my amendment should be carried.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– Does the Temporary Chairman rule that my remarks are outside of the subject-matter of the clause?
– They are very close to being so.
– If the Temporary Chairman rules that I am out of order I shall not continue my remarks respecting the subject of sulphur duty, but the Minister has asked me toelaborate my case, and I am doing so. The clause provides that all inquiries conducted by the board relating to any revision of the tariff or to any proposal for a bounty shall be held in public. Willany honorablemember contend that all inquiries respecting the restraint of trade should be held privately, as under the old system, in preference to following the procedure adopted by a proper tribunal?
– Would not matters concerning the restraint of trade be covered by the bill?
– No, only a revision of the tariff or any proposed bounty.
Mr.Thompson. - I rise to a point of order. I ask your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, on the relevancyof the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), which reads -
Page 1, clause . 2, after paragraph b insert the following : -
All matters arising under paragraphs d, e,g, and hof sub-section 1 of section 15 oftheprincipal act, and of paragraphs a, b, c and d of subsection . 2 of section 15 of the principal act, and of any request for the gazettal of importations into Australia for the purpose of bringing such importations within the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act.
I draw attentionto section 15 of the principal act, and alsoto clause 2 of the amending bill, proposed new sub-section 4 of which reads -
Inquiries conducted by the board relating to -
anyrevision of the tariff; or
any proposal for a bounty.
Sub-section 1 of section 15 of the principal act reads -
I maintain thatparagraphs from d to g are fully coveredby proposed new subsection 4 of the amending bill, and therefore the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is not in order. Paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section 15 of the principal act is the only one that is not clearly defined by the honorable member’s amendment. Paragraphs a, b, c, and d, sub-section 2 ofsection 15 of the principal act,are covered by proposed new sub-section4 of clause 2 in the bill - any revision of the tariff, or any proposal for a bounty. Therefore, with the exception of paragraphh of sub-section 1 of section 15, the honorable member’s amendment is already covered by the act, and there is no necessity for it.
– I rule that the amendment is in order.
– If the honorable member for NewEngland (Mr. Thompson) had read section 11 of the principal act, I do not think that he would have risen on a point of order. The impression is given by the bill that grave objections have been taken to the Tariff Board, and we must admit that in the past there have been grave objections to it. I do not know why the report of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce has not been made public, but I believe that it is drastic. Recently we heard what the Associated Chambers of Commerce had to say at their annual conference in Adelaide, andwe have seen complaints in the press in all parts of Australia about the methods adopted by the Tariff Board. The Minister now tells us that the board is to hold public inquiries in relation to any revision of the tariff or proposal for a bounty, and that the evidence given in such inquiries may be taken in public. But that is not all we require. We appreciate the fact that in future applications forrevision of the tariff will be investigated in public, but will the Minister tell me that if complaints are made that a manufacturer istaking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff by chargingunnecessarily high prices for his goods, or acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, or acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods, the investigation of the complaints will be held in public and the evidence given on oath? The bill does not provide for this,” whereas my amendment provides that in regard to those important matters in which the public are concerned the board must take evidence in public and that evidence must be given on oath. We have had enough of indoor secret working in the Customs Department. Let the Tariff Board come out into the open so that the public may know the grounds upon which the Minister for Trade and Customs has based his decisions. We have not had this in the past. Let us have it in the future.
– To a great extent the honorable member’s amendment is merely a repetition of what the bill provides, as has already been pointed out by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in raising his point of order. The honorable member for Swan would have the Tariff Board hold public inquiries into matters covered by paragraphs d, e, f, and g of sub-section 1 of section 15; Paragraph d reads as follows : -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
As a matter of fact, the bill, provides that inquiries conducted by the board into matters relating to any revision of the tariff are to be held in public. What is, therefore, the difference between the amendment and the proposal in the bill? Paragraph e reads as follows-. -
The necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of- any primary or secondary industry in Australia.
Paragraph / reads -
The effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted.
The honorable member would have inquiries by the Tariff Board into these matters held in public, whereas the bill provides that the investigation of a proposal for a bounty is to be held in public. Where is the difference between the honorable member’s proposal and that contained in the bill ? The Government certainly could not accept the honorable member’s proposal to have matters covered by paragraph g investigated in public. Paragraph g reads as follows : -
Any proposal for the application of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff to any part of the British Dominions or any foreign country, together with, any requests received from Australian producers or exporters in relation to the export of their goods to any such part or country.
Reciprocal arrangements with other countries are the responsibility of the Government, and not of the Tariff Board. They are matters of policy, and under no circumstances should preferential trade negotiations be made public until they fructify. In the circumstances, I ask the honorable member to withdraw his amendment. He will see that, the proposal of the Government practically covers all the points included in his amendment.
– I sup- ‘ port the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– Notwithstanding what has just been said ?
– Undoubtedly. From, the very first I have said that the provision in the bill in regard to inquiries by the Tariff Board is inadequate and needs enlarging. I am sorry to disagree^ with the Minister (Mr. Pratten) when he says that the clause covers practically all that is covered by the amendment. As ?. matter of fact, it does not embrace three or four important matters. According to the Minister, it covers paragraph d of sub-section 1 of section 15, which is as follows : -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
I contend that matters relating to the “ deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties “ do not come under the heading of “ revision of the tariff.” The Minister also says that paragraph /, which is as follows : -
The effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted - is covered by the words, “ any proposal for a bounty.” It is not. The board may be asked to inquire into the effect of a bounty already in existence and see whether it would be right to continue it, which is quite a different proposition from a proposal for a bounty. I am merely taking the most important matters covered by the amendment. Paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section 15 is as follows: -
Any complaint that a’ manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff, and in particular in regard to his -
Charging unnecessarily high prices for his . goods ; or
acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public; or
acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods.
Under which heading in the bill could inquiries by the Tariff Board into such matters come?Certainly not under the heading of “ Revision of the Tariff.”
– Yes, it could, if the investigation resulted in an alteration of the tariff.
Mr.MANN. - But the matter for investigation by the board is simply to what extent, if any a manufacturer has been taking undue advantage of the tariff. There are some honorable members who’ opposed the amendment to the second reading of the bill who must support this amendment, because it touches upon the very point raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) - that the bill is faulty because the Tariff Board will not afford sufficient protection to the consumer. The amendment would provide opportunity for open inquiry into that aspect of the question. Honorable members have decided that the Tariff Board is to be continued, but surely the most rabid protectionist, if he is sincere and honest, is willing to have the board’s investigations as fair and open as possible, and to see that they are not smothered up. Honorable members claim again and again that they want to let the light into everything, that they wish to avoid secrecy, and that they are quite confident that the Tariff Board will do its work well, with beneficial results to the community generally. If they are not afraid of the board doing any harm, why are they afraid to let the daylight into its investigations so that every one may know what is being done, particularly in regard to applications for bounties, subsidies, or higher duties? No one should be permitted to make a demand on the Treasury unless he is prepared to put publicly before the board very sound reasons for his application. On the second reading I explained the admirable plan adopted in India in matters of this kind. The boards operating there resist invasions of the Treasury. People who are asking favours are compelled to establish their claims as clearly as possible, and every opportunity is given for cross-examination. Here, however, such an important matter as a charge against a manufacturer of exploiting the public, or restraining trade, or charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods, is apparently to be investigated in private, without taking evidence on oath, or without the protection afforded by submitting the witnesses to cross-examination. It will be a grave mistake to reject the amendment. If we are to have a board we should endeavour to make it as perfeet as possible, and to place it above reproach. That can be done in no better. way than by making its business public.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [11.1]. - The Government desires to do everything possible to make the board a workable machine, but it cannot possibly accept the amendment of the honorable member for Swan in so far as it refers to theadministration of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. It would be improper to compel the Tariff Board to hold such inquiries in public, for the reason that the evidence consists almost altogether of the invoices and private documents of the firms concerned. The committee must accept the assurance of the responsible Minister that the administration of the board in that respect will be fair. I have already announced that in future investigations by the board both sides will be given an opportunity to submit their views before a dumping duty is imposed. I am willing to accept the amendment only in so far as it relates to paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section 15.
– In view of that statement, it appears to me that the best course for the honorable member for Swan to pursue would be to withdraw his amendment and accept one which I propose to move. If he does so a good deal of time will be saved. My proposed amendment reads as follows : -
After the word “ bounty “ insert-
Any proposal for improving the condition of any primary or secondary industry; or
Any complaints made under paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section 15.
If that were adopted it would strengthen the bill, and make the board much more effective.
.- I am quite prepared to withdraw my amendment in so far as it relates to paragraphs d, e, f, and g of sub-section 1 of section 15, but I cannot see my way clear to withdraw that part of it which deals with the administration of the anti-dumping sections of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. My experience of the administration of those sections proves conclusively to me that it will be in the best interests of the public if all such inquiries by the board are made with open doors, and I must certainly insist that the evidence shall be given on oath. I do not desire to repeat the details of the board’s investigations into the importation of wire netting, but from information which has recently been obtained through the. High Commissioner’s Office, there is no doubt whatever that the board acted on representations made by Mr. McDougall to the effect that all the manufacturers of wire netting, except Rylands Limited, purchased their iron and steel rods at very low. prices from Germany. I do not know what justification there was for that statement, but I know that although the board acted upon it, it reported, in connexion with an earlier inquiry, that it could not accept Mr. McDougall’s statements for they appeared to be incredible. Such a position could not have arisen if the board-had had sworn evidence instead of unsubstantiated statements to act upon. Firms which desire the imposition of a dumping duty should be compelled to state their reasons in public and on oath. It would then be found that the work of the board would -be much more highly appreciated than it is now. At present the whole commercial -world of Australia is in high dudgeon about the manner in . which the Australian Industries Preservation Act is being administered. Surely it is only reasonable to compel the board to inform an importer what goods he may import and what duties he must pay upon his importations.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [11.8].- The Government does not propose to accept any part of the amendment by the honorable member for Swan, but is willing to accept the proposed amendment of the honorable member for New England.
.- Al- though I suppose the amendment of the honorable member for Swan will be defeated, I must make still another protest against’ the manner in which the anti- « dumping sections of the Australian Industries’ Preservation Act are being administered. I know of cases in which officers of the Customs Department have been sent to rival firms to get information, as a result, of which antidumping duties have been imposed. That is not right. Some of the methods employed in the past have been extraordinary. Probably some officer who has not acted on instructions, but whose zeal has outrun his discretion and his judgment, has been responsible. A man who brings goods into Australia should not be condemned on evidence tendered privately by his competitor in the business. The whole matter should be decided in the open, and those concerned should have a chance to rebut the evidence that has been given against them. I know that such cases have occurred. If they are repeated there will be a continuance of the discontent that has been caused by the operation of the act. It is a common thing for a particular article to be gazetted on facts allegedly disclosed by the invoice, and the gazettal notice includes goods of that description abd quality which may come in at any future time. One set of goods may have a particular feature that does not apply to subsequent importations. We know that there have been instances in which goods in one shipment have been landed in different states, and the antidumping duty, has been imposed on them in some states and not in others. Such things could not happen if the inquiries were held in public. It would be a very grave mistake to try to burke the issue. Even though the Minister and the board are sincere in their belief that this procedure is necessary, there is io need to display frantic haste. The board sometimes takes three or four months to. arrive at a decision, and the goods are sold before it i.s given. lt would redound to the credit of the board, and strengthen the reputation of the Minister, if the investigations were held in public.
.- The act provides that the secrets of a man’s trade, and other private information, shall not be revealed except confidentially. Apart from such matters, 1 hope that* the Minister will see that the examinations take place in open court, so that there may not be a vestige of suspicion left in the mind of the public. If the Minister will give me the assurance that everything is covered, I shall De satisfied.
– I have already issued instructions in connexion with investigations regarding the administration of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, that both sides must be freely heard; but as the evidence in nearly every case relates to private matters, the administration cannot possibly be carried on unless discretion is given to the department.Wherever possible, however, there will be no secrecy, and everybody interested will have the fullest opportunity to state his case before a decision is given.
– Section 21 of the act provides that any member of the board may administer an oath to any person who appears as a witness before it.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative. .
– I move-
Th at the following paragraphs be inserted after paragraph (b) : - “ or
any proposal for improving the condition of any primary or secondary industry; or
any complaints made under paragraph h of sub-section 1 of section fifteen “
– I rise to a point of order. As the committee has already decided that complaints in paragraph h cannot be admitted, I submit that this amendment cannot be admitted.
– I submit that the amendment can be accepted. The previous amendment, which was rejected, had linked with it certain other amendments. The whole having been rejected, there is nothing to prevent the admission of this amendment.
– The amendment is in order.
– Paragraph c”Any proposal for improving the condition of any primary or secondary industry” - means that the board shall have power to investigate any requests that may be made by members of this House, or by interested parties outside, into the general condition of an industry which may not necessarily be dependent upon some revision of the tariff.
– We accept that.
– The other paragraph speaks for itself, and relates to matters concerning which there is no difference of opinion.
– I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that his acceptance of the first paragraph is at variance with the decision formerly arrived at, that certain matters shall not be referred to the board. If this amendment is now accepted, it will be contrary to the understanding that the Government would raise no objection to the omission of clause 3. The acceptance of this amendment means that matters now outside the tariff may be referred to the. board.
– Can any one conceive of that being done?
– Yes. I submit that this clause is at variance with the statement of the Minister that he would not oppose the omission of clause 3.
Mr.PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for Trade and Customs) [11.28]- The Government proposes to retain the original words of the act in confining the operations of the Tariff Board to “ matters relating to the tariff.” That will govern the. amendment that has been accepted. The honorable member said that it was not intended to deal with matters now outside the tariff. In that case there is no necessity for the paragraph to which I have drawn attention.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) either did not hear, or he failed to take note of, the remarks made in this chamber during the second reading debate in reference to the Tariff Board looking into something altogether outside the tariff. Had the board not been able to do that, it could not have made that inquiry into the tobacco industry which brought about such good results to the tobacco growers. The honorable member’s objection to the amendment is that the board will not have power to inquire into matters such as I have mentioned; but if the amendment submitted by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is agreed to, the board will have power to inquire into the operations of combines acting detrimentally to trade.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Gregory) agreed to-
That after the word “ public “ at the end of proposed new sub-section 4 the words “ on oath “’ be added.
That the words “ on the ground that it “ in proposed new sub-section 5 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ if the board is satisfied.”
– I move -
That the following proviso be added : - “ Provided that all applications for the hearing of evidence in private shall be made in public and shall be supported by evidence on oath; and provided also that objection to such private hearing may be made if supported by evidence on oath.”
My object is to prevent any possibility of requests being made to the board in a secretive way, and of such requests being approved by the board. As we have gone to the length of appointing a permanent tribunal to investigate matters of the greatest importance to the community, the interests of every one should be fully safeguarded. If the board is to decide that inquiries are to be held in camera, the public should know why inquiries are to be so held, and the persons making applications should go before the board and publicly state their reasons. If that is done, inquiries will be conducted on a proper basis, and a good deal of the suspicion which at present exists, particularly in relation to manufacturers’ requests, will be removed.
– I trust the honorable member will not press the amendment, as a slight amendment has already been made in proposed new section 5 of clause 2. I remind the honorable member that the members of the board are experienced men, trusted with very important administrativework. The object which ‘he desires to achieve has alreadybeen provided for, and the amendment, if adopted, would prove an embarrassment. Some discretion should be allowed.
– I am afraid that I cannot accept the view expressed by the Minister. The board as at present constituted may do all that is desired, but we do not know what is likely to happen in the future, and there may be a tendency to a relaxation of effort. I think the amendment is necessary, and I intend to press it.
– I move -
That the following new sub-section be added:-“ (6)The boardshall by public advertisementgive notice of its intention to hold any inquiry underthis section and of the subject of such inquiry and thetime and place at which it shall be held.; and shall give reasonable opportunity to any party interested to be present, to produce evidence and to be heard in connexion with the subject of the inquiry.”
I do not think it necessary to discuss at length the advantages to be derived from the adoption of the amendment. It is useless to hold inquiries unless the time and place at which they are to be held are publicly advertised. I trust the Minister will see his way clear to accept this amendment, to which objection cannot reasonably betaken. My amendment is copied from an American statute.
.- The drafting of this amendment is somewhat indefinite, but the Government is prepared to accept it in substance. If the honorable member will submit it in the form which I shall supply, and one which will he acceptable to the Government, no opposition will be off ered.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
.- As the amendment of the Minister (Mr. Pratten) is one which meets with my approval, I move -
That the following new sub-section be added : - “ (6) The board shall, by advertisement published in two newspapers circulating in the state in which the inquiryis to be held, give reasonable notice of its intention to hold any inquiry under this section, the subject of the inquiry and thetime and place at which the inquiry is to be held.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (References to the board).
.- If this clause is carried in its present indefinite form the board will have the right to undertake extraneous work. In these circumstances I intend to vote against the clause.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ And (b) by adding at the end of sub-section 3 thereof the following proviso : - Providedthat where the board finds that the incidence of any particular duty results in excessive prices to the consumer, having- regard to the cost of production, including wages, they shall immediately report accordingly to the Minister ‘.”
It is a simple amendment, and is framed with the object of giving effect to a suggestion made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). It may be said that paragraph h of section 15 of the principal act covers the point; but, in my opinion, it does not. Under the principal act the Minister shall refer to the board- for inquiry and report certain matters, including questions relating to goods which are sold at unnecessarily high prices. It is imperative that the board should immediately report such cases to the Minister but that is unnecessary under the paragraph of the principal act which I have mentioned, otherwise many of the complaints made by Western Australian representatives would be without foundation. It is true that the board is necessarily an active body, but the onus of reporting such matters should rest with the board. It should be its duty to see that any particular duty does not result in excessively high prices being charged, and should report to the Minister, whereas under the existing law the Minister has to notify the board. To provide for the correct lettering of the proposed new paragraph it will be necessary to insert the letter a after “ amended “ in the first line of the clause, and I move accordingly.
.- I second the amendment. At present the initiative in all these matters must be takenby the Minister. But if, during the course of an inquiry instigated by the Minister, the board discovers certain things outside the reference by the Minister, it should be mandatory on it to report them at once.
Question - That the letter a proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. A. Green’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. A. Green) put -
That the following words he added to the clause.:-“ And (b) by adding at the end of sub-section (3) thereof the following proviso: - ‘Provided that where the board finds that the incidence of any particular duty results in excessive prices to the consumer, having regard to the cost of production, including wages, it shall immediately report accordingly to the Minister.’”
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section 37 of the principal act is repealed.
.- I move -
That the word “ repealed “ be left out, with a view -to insert in lieu thereof the words “ amended by omitting the word ‘ two,’ and inserting in lieu thereof the word ‘ six ‘.”
If the amendment is passed, the act will remain in force for another three years. The clause states that section 37 of the principal act is repealed, and this means that the act is to be made perpetual, and any limitation upon its duration is to be removed. The board isto be appointed in perpetuity. I think that is wrong. The object of the amendment is that the board shall exist for three years from March next. The period of the act was originally two years, and last year it was extended for one year. The amendment proposes to give the board another three years of life. It is a great mistake for the board to be appointed a permanent institution, which cannot be changed except by an amending act. If the amendment is passed the board will come up for review in three and a half years’ time, and Parliament will -then be able to judge the working of the amendments that have been agreed to to-night.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment. I believe that a majority of the members of the committee are agreed that the Tariff Board shall be an integral part of the administration of the Trade and Customs Department. To a certain extent the object of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) will be met by a new clause which I propose to insert in the bill, limiting the appointment of the members of the board to three years I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
– Notwithstanding the explanation given by the Minister, I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth, not because I believe that the usefulness of this board will be ended in three years’ time, as very likely it will continue for a much longer period, but because it is desirable that the con stitution of the board shall be reviewed at the end of three years. If an indefinite period of tenure is fixed the operations of the board may not be reviewed by this Parliament.
– I support the amendment, because, if passed, it will give the committee an opportunity to further discuss the operations of the board at the end of. three years. Under the new clause proposed to be inserted by the Minister, at the end of three years the appointment of the members of the board will be reviewed by the Governor in Council, in other words, by Cabinet, and Parliament will not have a further opportunity of discussing the administration of the Tariff Board. It is very desirable that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth should be agreed to.
– I also support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth. When the original Tariff Board Bill was before this Parliament, the intention was that the act should continue in force for a period of two years, “ and no longer.” That provision was not’ in the original bill, but was an amendment sent back by the Senate and accepted. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has pointed out, the period provided for in the original bill has already been extended for a third year. The argument that capable men would not be available for appointment if the period was limited to two years only was thrashed out at that time, and the fact that men who are not personally criticized were available makes it obvious that they will still be available. But the alteration effected by clause 2 in regard to public investigations makes a considerable difference to the original act. It is an attempt to meet one of the chief objections urged against the board - that it operates secretly, and, therefore, is unlikely to get both sides of any question put before it. I suggest that before the act is permanently extended, the effect of this alteration should be reviewed, particularly be.cause as every one knows, there has been, rightly or wrongly, a good deal of criticism of the board, not only by the representatives of the Associated
Chambers of Commerce, but also by many other people. Furthermore, as greater* stability is brought about in international trading relations, and there is a gradualreadjustment of interna® ona!, exchanges, the work of the board will grow less. I fully agree with the honorable member for Perth that it would be well to extend the act for three years only, and thus afford - Parliament an opportunity to see whether the amended provisions will make it more workable than it is at present.
– There seems to be some misunderstanding as to the real effect of the present proposal. During the three years the Tariff Board has been in operation, we have had an opportunity to see how it functions as an integral part of the fiscal system of the Commonwealth. Surely by now Parliament is in a position to make up its mind one way or another, as to whether it should make the Tariff Board as a permanent part of the Commonwealth’s fiscal system, or discontinue it. There seems’ to be an impression that. Parliament’s position will be safeguarded by limiting the life of the board to a further three years, but I suggest that it will make no difference to Parliament whether the board is made a permanent institution, or limited to a period of three years, unless it is contended that Parliament is not competent to do what is necessary in framing amending legislation. If in every measure passed we provide for an experimental period because we have not sufficient faith in our ability to take steps to amend it or annul it if necessary, we shall not get very far with our legislation. The mere fact that at the end of three years the Tariff Board must again come up for discussion would not be any safeguard to Parliament, nor should it be regarded as a factor to be taken into consideration. Surely the honorable member knows very well that so long as he is in this House lie need not wait for the expiration of three years to call attention to any action taken by the Tariff Board which does not meet with his approval. On the Estimates and on other occasions he can do so. It is always . open to honorable members to draw attention to what has been done by the Tariff Board, and if Parliament has made, a mistake,, it can be rectified. The honorable member for Perth is adopting a course which is not flattering to Parliament if he holds the view that after three years’ experience of the operations of the Tariff Board we are not capable of stating definitely whether the board should become a permanent part of our fiscal system, or be supplanted by something else.
.Had the Tariff Board, when established, been given the perpetual character which it is now proposed to give to it, what chance would there have been to introducethe amendments, contained in the bill now under discussion.? The very discussionthat has taken place during the last two> days shows that the position, is very, different when a. bill comes up for review. It is true that honorable members can criticize the actions of the board from time totime, but that criticism may be disregarded by the Government. “When a -bill’ has come up for review the criticism levelled against it very often results in> the passing of important amendments.
– If the majority of the House wants anything; done, of course,, the Government must do it.
– As tariff questions are regarded as non-party matters, it is not easy to ascertain whether there is a majority in the House, including honorablemembers on both sides, favorable to anamendment of an act. That fact can only ba disclosed when a. vote is taken, as votes have been taken to-night on the bill. The Prime Minister says that surely we have had time to try the- board, and express our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with it. As a matter of- fact, we have tried it, and have determined that certain important amendments of the system are necessary. There has been a great deal of. criticism of the board outside this House. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) says that he will endeavour . to see that the board works better in future, and I’ have no doubt he will do his .best to remove the causes of complaint, but the fact that grave complaints have been made cannot be overlooked. I understand that the Minister has had a special report from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce objecting to- the board and its operations. We know nothing of that report.
– I have no such report.
– I understood that the Minister said, earlier in the evening, in reply to the honorable member for Swan, that he had received such a report.
– That is what I understood.
– The Minister says that he will try to remove the causes of complaint. Let him prove that he can do so. I believe that he will try, but if in face of the complaints made, and before he has proved conclusively to the commercial community that he can remove the objections they have raised, he proposes to keep the board in perpetuity, he will be flouting criticism.
– Surely a period of three years is too long.
– I should not mind making the period two years, but that would bring the review of the act into the first year of a new Parliament, before normal conditions prevail in that Parliament. It might be said that it is not fair to submit such an important question to a number of new members of Parliament, lacking experience in the working of the board. In view of all that has occurred, there is ample justification for my proposal. We should limit the period of life of the board, if only for the purpose of providing an opportunity to discuss the way in which it will exercise the new powers which are being conferred upon it.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) is opposed to the Tariff Board lock, stock, and barrel, and has moved his amendment simply to harass and worry it. We should have a Tariff Board working in conjunction with our Customs Department. If it does not do as it should, we shall have periodical opportunities of altering its personnel. The honorable member for Perth can at any time bring in a private bill to abolish the board, and I have.no doubt that, if he thought he could get a majority of members to support it, he would not hesitate to do so. He does not desire any one with the Australian spirit to inquire into the conditions under which foreignmanufactured goods are admitted to Australia. That such goods are produced by poorly-fed and thinly-clad people with a’ low standard of living is nothing to him ; but we want men of integrity and true Australian sentiment to see that our fiscal policy is made effective. I shall not swallow the arguments of the honorable member for Perth, and I shall vote against his amendment.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [12.34 a.m.]. - According to the honorable member for Darwin, the only objection to the amendment is that it has been moved by a freetrader, but that is not a valid objection. I am not a freetrader, but I support the amendment. It is all very well to discuss the rights which the honorable member for Perth has as a private member, but the honorable member for Darwin knows that, if a private bill to abolish the Tariff Board were introduced, it would be treated by the Government with the same lack of consideration that was accorded earlier in this sitting to private members’ business that is on the business paper. Although I consider that a tariff board is necessary, I believe that provision should be made for a proper review of its operations without fear of the application of the guillotine.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Mann’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … ..15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
.I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - Section 6 of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section 2 thereof and inserting in its stead the following : - “ One of the three persons to be so appointed shall be a person possessing judicial experience, who shall be chairman of the board; one of the persons shall be a representative of the chambers of manufactures of Australia; and the third person a representative of the chambers of commerce of Australia; the two latter nominations being subject to the approval of the Governor-General.”
– Is this a motion of want of confidence in the board?
– Absolutely. Apart from the question of economy, three members are quite sufficient to carry on the work of the board. When the act was introduced, and it was known what the functions of the board would be, three members were appointed. Political pressure, however, led to a fourth appointment. I do not think that four members are necessary. I am seeking to have the board made entirely independent of the department. Whilst sending its reports to, and being subject to the control of, the Minister, it should be responsible to this Parliament, and give advice to Parliament from time to time in regard to the incidence of the Tariff Act. It should also be entirely representative of the various industries of Australia. If we had a chairman with judicial experience, many of the troubles that we have experienced in the- past would be obviated .
– Does the honorable member propose to cut out the representative of the primary industries ?
– I want to have only three members.
– The honorable member is a freetrade diehard.
– I should like to deal with many matters, but as the hour is so late I shall not do so. It is a scandal that we should be asked to deal with an important measure like this at such an hour, particularly as we have .to be here again at 11 o’clock this morning. I do not think that any honorable member can claim that we have unduly delayed the passage of the measure. I leave it to the committee to say whether it is satisfied with the board as at present constituted, or whether it is prepared to give us a board that will be more representative of the various industries of Australia.
– The attitude of honorable members in the corner opposite is indeed surprising. Last session they desired the appointment of a fourth member to the board, their long suit on that occasion being the interests of the primary producers. It is quite evident from his remarks that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would sacrifice the representative of the primary producers on the board. I draw attention to the fact that not a single member of the Country party rose to his feet to protect the interests of the primary producers. I purposely waited for some honorable member opposite to rise, but I could not allow the matter to go to a vote when they declined to avail themselves of the opportunity to do so. Their action proves that they have no desire to conserve the interests of the primary producer. They profess an interest in his welfare merely with the idea of tickling the ears of the man on the land. It has been left to the members of the Labour party to come to the assistance of the primary producers.
– The honorable member should have waited until a vote had been taken on the amendment.
.- It is perfectly obvious to every member of the committee that the amendment was deliberately framed to keep . the primary producer off the Tariff Board. As Minister in charge of the bill, I let the matter pass, and had it not been for the intervention of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) the amendment would have been rejected, only the mover voting in its favour. On behalf of the Government, I say that the amendment strikes at the fundamentals of the bill, and cannot therefore, in any circumstances, be accepted.
– As a representative of a large country electorate, I desire to enter my emphatic protest against this amendment coming from a member of the Country party, especially one who is considered to be a fighting member of that party, having for its purpose the removal from the Tariff Board of the representative of the primary producers.
Motion (by Mr. R. Green) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 1a. Section 6 of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (3.) the word ‘five’ and inserting in its stead the word ‘ three ‘.”
– The report that the chairman of the Tariff Board is to receive a salaryof £2,500 is a canard. The remuneration is fixed in the act at a sum not exceeding £1,400 per annum. In regard to the personnel of the board, I remind the honorable member that present appointments do not expire until next March. The new board will be appointed by the Government, and it is obvious that no indication of what those appointments will be can be expected at this stage. The amendment I have submitted will, if agreed to, reduce the maximum period for which members of the board may be appointed from five to three years.
– I support the amendment, because I recognize that three years hence the Labour party will be in power and will be able to decide the personnel of the new board.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) 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 the purposes of Financial Assistance to the State of Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and . read a first time.
House adjourned at 1.7 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240904_reps_9_108/>.