10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister respecting the watersideworkers’ dispute. The following statements appeared in the Melbourne Herald of last evening -
The secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation (Mr. J. Morris) declared to-day that the federation had at all times been willing to negotiate with the ship-owners.
He said that this was pointed out in the last letter sent to the owners, to which a reply had not been received.
Commenting on LordSomers’ appeal to “ settle the dispute to-morrow, “ the secretary of the Port Philip Stevedores’ Association (Mr. R. Cranny) said that the appealcould be given effect to if the owners would simply agree to meet the federation in conference.
So far the owners have not decided whether and when to introduce free labour bureaux but they stated to-day that unless there was some prospect of peace in the near future they would give the matter earnest consideration in the next few days.
They are confident that they can get as much free labouras they want.
In view of the fact that the officials of the Waterside Workers’ Federation are prepared to meet the ship-owners in conference - I have had this confirmed from Sydney this morning- and that the owners have not even answered a letter which the federation directed to them on this subject, but apparently have taken steps to establish free labour bureaux, will the Prime Minister take immediate action to bring the parties to the dispute together?
– I suggest that questions should not be asked in the House which appear to lay the blame for this unfortunate dispute on one party or the other. I have no information as to the present position; but I sincerely trust that the two sides will see reason and come together in an endeavour to settle their dispute amicably. If there is any thing that I can do to assist to that end without interfering with thejurisdiction or authority of the Arbitration Court, I shall be very pleased to do it. But the situation is so delicate and difficult at the moment that I must refuse to answer further questions in regard to it, unless they are placed upon the business paper, or I am given notice before the House meets that they will be asked.
– Notwithstanding the concluding remark of the Prime Minister, I trust that he will give me a reply to this important question. In yesterday’s Melbourne Ago a letter appeared in which it was definitely stated that no Arbitration Court award had been made with respect to the pick-up. The most that had been done, it was said, was to refer the matter to the reference board. Is the right honorable gentleman able to inform me definitely whether the court has made an award on this subject ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
Reciprocal Arrangements with New Zealand - Iron and Steel Duties - Uniform Rates.
– In view of the fact that the amended tariff schedule which was tabled this week has caused increased duties to be imposed upon butter, cheese and potatoes, concerning which we have a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand, for the termination of which six months’ notice must be given, I should like to know whether the Government has given the New Zealand Govemment the necessary notice? There is a provision in the arrangement for thenotice to be waived by the consent of the parties. If notice has not been given to New Zealand, has a request been made that it shall be waived?
– A cablegram was sent to the New Zealand Government on Wednesday requesting it to waive its right to notice of these alterations. Some time ago, when that Government made certain alterations in its tariff on items mentioned in our reciprocal arrangement, the Commonwealth Government was asked to waive its right to notice, and it did so. I am expecting a reply from the New Zealand Government in the near future.
– When doesthe Minister for Trade and Customs propose to make available to honorable members the report of the Tariff Board on the duties on iron and steel?
– It will be tabled today.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a question which in the House of Commons on Tuesday was addressed by Mr. Alexander a member of the British Parliamentary Delegation, which visited. Australia last year, to Mr. Hacking, Under-Secretary for Overseas Trade, respecting the Australian duties on iron and steel? The newspaper comment on the matter is to the effect that Mr. Hacking’s reply “ has set the lobby writers speculating as to the extent of British representations, if any. “ Has the British Government made any representations to this Government on the subject; and if so, what is the nature of them? Will the Prime Minister make an earnest request to the British Government and the members of the House of Commons to keep their fingers out of our tariff pie?
– I have not seen either the question orthe reply to which the honorable memberhasreferred. No representations of any kind have beenmade to us by the British. Government on this subject. I am sure it would never think of. intervening in a matter which comes within the purely domestic jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The representations made have received careful and sympathetic consideration, but it is found that the matter has several complications, and the action desired would remove one set of anomalies only to create others. It would cause the utmost confusion to all concerned at time of tariff revision, and from the administrative point of view would be extremely difficult. Goods in bond at time of tariff alterations could be cleared at any future time at the old rates. If goods in bond were excluded, it would cause differential treatment between bonded and other goods. Similar goods would be landing at a port at the same time, and paying different rates of duty. In the case of tariff reductions, everything then in Australian waters would have to pay the higher duty in spite of the reduction in the tariff. When at any time a by-law was made which reduced the duty - and such by-laws are frequent - nothing already in Australian waters at the time could obtain the benefit of the by-law. It appears, moreover, that the chambers of commerce of Australia are not unanimous as to the advisability of the proposed change, and it has been suggested by one important chamber that the matter needs further deliberation. Under all these circumstances, it is not proposed to take any present action in the direction mentioned.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr) in formed me last week that the cost of remodelling and refurnishing Government House, Canberra, which was formerly known as Yarralumla House, was £70,000. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a statement made by Senator Elliott in another place that the cost of providing temporary accommodation for the Governor-General at Canberra had been so great as to suggest that if corruption had not been practised-
– Is the honorable member referring to a statement made in debate during the current session in another place?
– It is not usual to do so.
– This is a matter of considerable importance. The honorable senator stated that if corruption had not been practised there had been a close approach to it. In view of the extraordinary cost of remodelling Yarralumla House, will the Prime Minister undertake to refer the whole matter to the Public Accounts Committee or another committee of this House for inquiry and report ?
– I have no knowledge that the suggestions indicated by the honorable member were made in another place. I will have inquiries made into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) aware whether Mr. Howe, who recently went overseas to study the conditions of’ our dried fruits export business, has submitted a report to the Empire Marketing Board, which paid his expenses? If the report has been submitted, will the Minister see whether copies of it can be made available to honorable members and producers interested in the industry in Australia?
– Mr. Howe went to Great Britain at the express invitation of the Empire Marketing Board to obtain first-hand information of the grades of dried fruits desired by the British consumers, and his report will have to be made to the board. He returned to Australia on the eve of a conference of persons interested in the industry and at their invitation attended the conference and gave it the benefit of the information which he had obtained, most of which will doubtless be contained in his report. I cannot see any objection to the Empire Marketing Board making the report available to fruit growers, and I undertake to request it to do so.
Hours of Employment of Clerical and Non-Clerical Staff
– Are you able to inform me, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fact that, irrespective of all-night sittings, members of clerical and non-clerical staffs of this House are obliged to work for fifteen hours a day? If that is so, will any allowance be made to them in respect of the extra work? .
– I am unable to say how many hours daily the staffs are working, but I know that they are rendering loyal service over long hours. I believe that it is the custom to give the men extended time off during the recess in compensation for the heavy work they have to do during the session.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the following information regarding the public service is available: -
The number of officers whose approved classification has been gazetted.
The number who have been classified provisionally, but whose classification has not yet been confirmed.
The number who have not yet been classified provisionally.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
On the 30th November, 1927, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following question, upon notice -
When will the classification for the clerical stuff of the Engineer’s Branch of the Postal Department be published?
I am now in a position to furnish the information, as follows: -
Endeavour is being made to issue the classification on Wednesday, 7th December. In any case it will be issued not later than the week following.
Taxation on Gold Imports.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Use of Diesel Engines
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Transport Service - Civic Government - Houses Purchased - Maternity Home - Free Fares to Public Servants - Leases Held by Chief Lands Officer -use of Foreign Tractor - Cost of Hotels - Banks.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On 30th November the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me the following questions: -
I have now received the following information from the Federal Capital Commission : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– This involves a matter of Government policy, upon which it is not the practice to make statements in reply to questions.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
How many public servants transferred from Melbourne to Canberra this year have purchased homes from the Federal Capital Commission ?
– Nine public servants who have been transferred to Canberra during this year have purchased homes from the Federal Capital Commission.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What measures, if any, have been adopted to provide at Canberra modern maternity nursing homes?
– On the 18th July, 1927, the Federal Capital Commission offered for lease four sites for private hospitals, two of which were for maternity hospitals. Although the matter was widely advertised no leases were applied for. Sites are still available for lease by any one desirous of establishing a maternity or general private hospital. To meet the existing situation, the Commission has erected a special Obstetric Ward at the Canberra hospital, and at present has under consideration the extension of both pre-natal and ante-natal services.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Prime Minister has yet come to a decision with regard to paying the fares from Canberra to Melbourne and return of those public servants who have not yet transferred their families, and who desire to visit their homes at Christmas time?
– The matter is still receiving consideration, but it is expected that a decision will be arrived at in the course of a few days.
– On 28th November the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Austey) asked me the following questions : -
In connexion with the question of the honornble member for Bourke on the 15th inst. (Hansard, page 1379), and the Minister’s reply thereto, in which he stated that seven blocks of land in Canberra are held by Mr. J. C. Brackenreg, the Chief Lands Officer of the Commission, and his wife, will the Minister state -
Were these seven blocks submitted to and obtained at public auction; if so, when?
If not, how were they obtained?
What price was paid for each block, and what is the present valuation ?
Were the conditions in regard to building within a specified time fulfilled in each instance ?
What other administrative officers of the Commission are speculating with land under their control, and how many blocks are held in each instance?
Is it intended to allow this practice to continue?
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1 and 2. The whole of the blocks mentioned were submitted at public auction, some on the 12th December, 1924, and others on the 29th May, 1926. Four - which were left on the Commission’s hands, and, in accordance with the law, became available for purchase over the counter at the upset price - were acquired by Mr. or Mrs. Brackenreg at that price.The remaining three were obtained by Mr. or Mrs. Brackenreg by purchase from lessees who had acquired the blocks at auction.
The Commission amended the lay-out of blocks 5 and6, section 1, Manuka, increasing their frontage by 10 feet, for which the valuation was increased by £200, on which the lessee was required to pay additional rental. This explains the figures shown in the last column in respect of these blocks.
It is not, however, considered that any officer of the Commission may be regarded as having land under his control, as the dealing with land must be in accordance with the approvals of the Commission or as prescribed in the ordinances and regulations.
On the 29th November the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions : -
I have now received the following information from the Federal Capital Commission : -
On 30th November the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
On the 30th November the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained so far as is possible.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will get into touch with the Railways Commissioners of South Australia and Victoria, with a view to having secondclass sleeping carriages established on the overland express, ex-Adelaide to Melbourne and ex-Melbourne to Adelaide, to connect up with the second-class sleeping service on the TransAustralian express, from and to Western Australia?
– The matter has already been taken up with the Railways Commissioners of South Australia and Victoria, neither of whom is favorable to the proposition.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matter will be referred to the North Australian Commission which has the authority responsible for shipping services in the Northern Territory.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
The rectification of one anomaly may, in view of representations recently received, set up another. I will place the matter before the committee when the item is received.
– On the 23rdNovember, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– In laying on the table of the House, reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board dealing with the following: -
Fused Bi-focal Lenses.
Galvanized Iron - Bounty on.
Iron and Steel Industry - Application for reduction of Excise Duty or Bounty.
I desire to inform honorable members that a large amount of departmental information is involved in the dissection of the report on the iron and steel industry. I am not yet in a position to supply the House with it, as it contains confidential information that I have not yet received permission to disclose. I move -
That the reports be printed.
.- According to the business paper, the new tariff schedule is to be discussed to-day. One of the most important increases is that on iron and steel. The House should certainly possess all the information that the Minister has received from the Tariff Board. I do not blame the Minister for the failure to distribute the report of the Tariff Board on the iron and steel industry, before, because it may have arrived late, but while I urge that the tariff debate should not be delayed, as occurred previously, I consider that all of the reports should be available before we proceed to discuss the schedule. I trust that the Minister will at least let us have some typewritten copies of the iron and steel report, so that we may be able to examine it and see what the recommendations are based on.
– I also desire to deal with the same matter. I gather that the Minister referred to certain confidential information that had been disclosed to the Tariff Board.
– It is departmental information, and has nothing to do with the Tariff Board.
– Do I gather that certain confidential information has ininfluenced the Tariff Board in arriving at its decision, and, if so, will that information be given to honorable members?
– In reply to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I am pleased to say that printed copies are available and I think that there will be quite sufficient for honorable members who. are interested in the subject. In reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) I have explained before that certain dissections were made by the department and included in them was confidential information regarding certain profits and costs. These departmental dissections have been made as distinct from the report of the
Tariff Board. That confidential information certainly supplements the information contained in the report available for the use of honorable members, but I cannot disclose its nature without the consent of those who gave it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 24th November (vide page1898), on motion by Mr. Pratten-
That duties of customs and duties of excise (vide page 1881), first item (27), be imposed.
.- Many thousands of people in. Australia will express appreciation of the action of the Minister in introducing this tariff schedule, even though in some respects it is inadequate for present requirements, especially in view of the enormous increase of importations which are, unfortunately, interfering with the industrial and economic life of Australia. We, on this side, fully realize the necessity for dealing with the tariff schedule as early as possible. During the long period that Parliament wasin recess the imports into this country grew at an alarming rate, and, therefore, the general debate should be as brief as possible. To this end I shall endeavour to set an example. We, on this side, have no wish that the schedule shall be placed in cold storage. Our object is to deal with the items and to make what improvements we can to the schedule.
– Many improvements are necessary.
– There are many omissions which we wish to bring before this committee in the interests of the future welfare of this country. First of all I shall refer to the delay that has taken place in presenting the reports of the Tariff Board to this Parliament. I find that the report on the iron and steel industry has just been tabled. It is very important, and requires mature consideration atthe hands of honorable members. There were ten other reports tabled on the 22nd of last month, eight on the 23rd, six on the 24th, ten on the 28th, ten on the 29th, and six on the 30th. There are still two or three reportsto be tabled. The reports- relating to the schedule should be made available to honorable members as early as possible. It isnecessarythatweshould, consider them before the items are discussed in detail, and that discussion I hope will take place early next. week. Two previous amendments to the tariff were made by Mr. Greene (now Senator) and the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). The duties imposed under them were of considerable assistance to Australian industries.
– Did they stop unemployment ?.
– They helped for a time to reduce it. The tariff had the effect of establishing intries in this country and. for a timethey were progressing fairly well, but a, change has since taken place and judging: by our increased imports the manufacturers overseas have evidently been able to counteract the effect of the tariff.
– Most of our imports arefrom foreign countries.
– Yes, with the exception of iron and steel. In 1922-23, our imports: were valued at£131,757,000;. in 1923-24, at £140,618,000; in 1924-25, at £157,143,000; in 1925-26, at £151,638,000; and in 1926-27, at £164,744,000. Our imports have increased considerably. During the threemonths, from July toSeptember, of thisyear alone they amounted in value to- £41,821,762. Those figures show conclusively that the position is becomingalarming and there is little prospect of our industries progressing under present circumstances: This tariff schedule is certainly necessary to protect our industries and the interests of those who are employed in them. To-day many of our factories are working onlypart time. Thisaffects not only secondary, but alsoprimary industries and particularly the coalmining industry. The commercial life of Australia generally is affected. It is therefore necessary to rectify the position immediately.
I wish to confine myself to two or three items of the tariff. First, I shall deal with iron and steel because that isone of the most important industries of this country. Much depends upon its success or failure. To-day it is in a very unsatisfactory position.. Recently, 1,000 men were dismissed from the Newcastle steelworks, and I have been informed that another 1,000 men may be dismissed before Christmas.
-What are their costs to-day compared with when the company started operations in 1915 ?
– I have no idea. The standard of conditions in Australia has been set up by the Arbitration Court after careful consideration of the cost of living. Because we have a higher standard of living and conditions in Australia than elsewhere, it does not follow that we should leave our industries unprotected. To enjoy and retain the benefit of our high standard, we must prevent the goods of countries in which conditions are lower, from flowing in here to the detriment of our industries. Our chief concern is to encourage our own industries. Take the iron and steel industry. It is well known that a combine is in existence made up of firms in Fiance, Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium. By the aid of co-operative effort, and low wages, and long hours, they have been able to supply iron and steel at very low prices. I shall be told that the iron and steel imported into Australia conies from Great Britain, but I propose to show that British manufacturers import from the Continent, use the foreign material for local purposes, and export the British product in order to get the advantage of the Australian preferential tariff. In other words, they circumvent the tariff by pooling British and foreign steel, and so give an advantage to manufacturers in Great Britain and the Continental combine to the detriment of our own people. The wages paid on the Continent in the iron and steel industry are very much below those paid in Australia. That fact must be borne in mind. The following table shows the imports of iron and steel into the Commonwealth during the last three years : -
I have been unable to ascertain the proportion that came from the United Kingdom last year, but I assume that it was, as in other years, about 90 per cent.
It is clear that considerable quantities of iron and steel are coming to Australia notwithstanding that we have large works which are capable of supplying our own requirements. Imports, generally, continue to increase, and in 1926-27 were £32,987,000 more than in 1922-23, the year in which this Government took office. About 1920, the iron and steel industry in Australia was languishing, and in the following year some of the principal works closed down. I went to considerable trouble to collect information from all parts of the world, and in a speech in this House I showed what was happening as a result of iron and steel from Germany, France and Belgium being imported into Great Britain, there undergoing some manufacturing process in order to make it eligible for our tariff preference, and then being exported to Australia at ridiculously low prices. At that time, British iron-works and coal-mines were practically idle, notwithstanding that Australia was receiving large quantities of iron and steel which purported to have been manufactured in the United Kingdom. The then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said that there was no foundation for my statement. About two years later, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) admitted the correctness of my statement, and said that he had proved beyond doubt that iron and steel were being sent to Australia, under the preferential tariff, from continental countries, via the United Kingdom. In consequence of that the tariff was amended, and now requires that imports, to be eligible for admission at the preferential rates of duty, must contain 75 per cent. of British work or material. This preference to Great Britain, however laudable it may be in the abstract, is not operating satisfactorily in the interests of Australia, and, after all, our first consideration must be our own industries. If they are capable of producing our requirements, they should be given the necessary protection so that employment may be given to our people. To-day, when thousands of men are unemployed and the industrial outlook is black, the duty of this Parliament, is to make the tariff effective. In support of Che statement I have made regarding “the unsatisfactory operation of the British preferential duty, I quote the following letter by Mr. Hume Cook published” in the Melbourne Age -
The industry had also to contend with a competition from Britain of a wholly unexpected and unfair character. Merchants and others in that country, in order to retain the trade with Australia, did not scruple to resort to methods which nullified the Australian customs provisions. The process was simple enough, though not foreseen at the time the customs rates were imposed. They simply purchase large quantities of low-priced Continental iron and steel, and minimum quantities of higher priced British iron and steel. This gave them stocks at such average prices that they could, and did, supply the Australian market with British products at prices almost in line with Continental figures. Proof of these facts had been forthcoming from various sources. The latest was to be found in the Ironmonger newspaper of 15th October, in which Mr. Reginald Clarry, M.P., an authority on the subject, makes the assertion that 70 per cent, of certain classes of steel used in Great Britain was of foreign origin. It was thus clear that by using foreign iron and steel for domestic purposes, and sending British iron, and steel to Australia, British traders wore able to nullify the Australian general tariff rates, and undercut Australian production by supplying their iron and steel at prices with’ which it was impossible for Australia to compete.
If that statement is correct, immediate action is required. We are giving a substantial preference to. the manufacturers of the United Kingdom, but if they are so unscrupulous, as to buy iron and steel in continental countries at cheap rates, pool it with the British product, send the latter here, and supply the home market with the low-priced foreign article, the benefits of our preferential tariff are going, not to British industries and workmen, but to the exporters of Germany, France and Belgium.
– The exporter in the United Kingdom has to make a sworn declaration that the article contains 75 per cent, of British labour or material.
– I grant that, but instead of supplying the British market with locally produced iron and steel, merchants are swamping it with cheap imports from continental countries. By this policy they are able to export British iron and steel to Australia at low prices. Our first duty is to protect our own industries and workers; only when that is done can we give a preference to British industries. How can we assist our kinsmen overseas if the British Government allows local needs to be supplied from foreign sources and British-made steel to be unloaded on the Australian market? The preference is indirectly being given to foreign countries against which we have imposed high tariff duties. While this is happening, British workmen are idle, the furnaces are cold, and the coalminers are asking in vain for work. So far as we can prevent a continuance of that state of affairs, it is our duty to do it. Substantial duties must be imposed to ensure that local industries will be able to supply the local market. ‘ We have no right to allow great quantities of iron and steel to be imported while our industries are languishing and thousands of men are out of employment. The Government talks of migration and development. This country cannot be developed unless we make sure that our secondary industries are placed in a position to withstand competition from overseas. Primary and secondary production must go hand in hand, for the manufacturing enterprises are necessary to provide a home market for the .primary producer.
I propose to say a few words with regard to the deferred duty on cotton piece goods, dealt with in item 105. We have sufficient evidence that something will have to be done to protect industries established under our tariff. We have the instance of George Bond and Company, one of the largest textile manufacturing concerns in New South Wales. They have been compelled to go into voluntary liquidation in consequence of the position in which they have been placed through the importation of cheap goods, particularly from Japan, which come into competition with their products. I wish to quote something from the tariff report in this connexion to show that it is not true that there is not sufficient provision in Australia for manufacturing these goods, and that the duty on them should therefore be deferred until 1928. The extract is as follows: -
Evidence was given by a number of other witnesses, including Mr. E. N. McLean, of G. A. Bond and Company. I wish now to refer to a letter which has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, and the Sydney Guardian, regarding the duties as they affect G. A. Bond and Company. The last paragraph of this letter, which was written by Mr. George Bond, is as follows : -
In the writer’s opinion the statement made by Mr. Pratten in the press this morning that it was the Government’s desire to hold over the proposed duties on tubular piece goods until July to enable manufacturers to erect machinery and supply the material, is unsound, for the following reasons. There are a number of manufacturers at present in the position to supply tubular piece goods. My company at the present time have machines standing idle in our underwear mill, and further machines in bond waiting to be erected the moment the business is offering, and should the duty operate tomorrow there would be no acute shortage of similar garments that are at the present time made from the imported Japanese fleeced and brushed cotton tubular piece-goods. Should Mr. Pratten require any more evidence of the unsatisfactory tariff proposals recently brought down in regard to the knitting trades, same will be supplied at once. This afternoon the Hosiery Associations of Sydney and Melbourne are meeting in this city with a view of discussing the matter and arranging a deputation to the Minister for Customs to advise him of their dissatisfaction in regard to the new rates of duty.
– That refers only to tubular knitted goods.
– That is so. It is stated in this letter that the opposition is coming chiefly from Japan. The manufacturers in that country have found a way by which they can get round our tariff. They are sending their goods into Australia in a different form, and are undercutting our manufacturers. Those persons who have established factories in Australia since the duties came into force now find that the foundations are being cut from under their industry. There is no justification for deferring these duties, when a firm like G. A. Bond & Company has to go into liquidation on account of oversea competition.
– What about the increased cost of children’ssocks, if the duty is raised ?
– I do not wish to refer to that, because such matters can be discussed in detail when we come to the schedule.
Let me refer now to the duty on motor chasses. A duty of 55 per cent. was placed on shock absorbers and bumper bars for motor cars, and after the imposition of that duty, the price for shock absorbers made in Australia fell from £10 to £7 10s., showing that there is no reason why such goods cannot be manufactured in Australia at satisfactory prices, provided adequate protection is afforded. Later, those who exported motor cars to Australia got round the tariff provision by making bumper bars and shock absorbers part of the chassis. By that means they are getting those goods into Australia for a duty of only 171/2 per cent. Surely the Minister can rectify thismatter. Conditions in Australia have never been worse since the war than they are now, and it is the duty of Parliament, by making the necessary adjustments in the tariff rates, to protect industry, and provide employment for the people.
– That has been said every time a new amendment to the tariff has been submitted.
– That is so, but I. am sorry to say that the importers find means to undermine the tariff.
– What guarantee have we that they will not undermine this tariff?
– We must putup such a tariff wall as will preventthem from undermining it. If this country is to develop we must foster our industries, and make the nation self-contained as far as possible. Most of the customs revenue to-day is not derived from protective duties-, but from revenue duties,- as the following table shows: -
Included in the revenue duties is approximately £10,500,000 excise duties, so that if that amount is deducted they amount to nearly the same as the protective duties. The Government should make an investigation to determine whether any of the revenue duties are imposed upon the people’s necessaries. There, is no objection to revenue duty being collected on luxuries, but they should not be imposed upon the ordinary necessaries of life. When it comes to a question of supporting our own industries, substantial duties should be imposed to prevent our markets from being invaded by cheap goods from overseas. I hope the Government will not merely allow this subject to be discussed for a few days, and then put it away in cold storage for a year, or perhaps more. This schedule should be dealt with at once. We cannot afford to have our people thrown out of employment as a result of cheap imports. Most of the matters concerning industrial activity rest with the State governments, but it is within the province of the Commonwealth Government to see that sufficient protection is afforded to industry. We should see that these amendments are made before the House rises for Christmas, even if other legislation is put aside. Not only are the employees directly concerned in an industry thrown out of work when insufficient protection is afforded, but workers in other industries are also affected. The coal mines are being closed down because orders are not forthcoming from the iron and steel works, which find themselves unable to compete with imports from overseas. One by one the furnaces in the Newcastle1 steel works, which used to consume between 20,000 and 30,000 tons of coal a week are closing down. A. falling away in one industry is reflected in another. Unless trade conditions in general are buoyant, the Government can expect substantial deficits instead of surpluses. The Government should listen to the pleas put forward in this House for increased protection to industry, so as to ensure more employment, and to assist, in the development of the country.
.- I was not surprised when the Leader of the Opposition chimed in with the Minister for Customs, and agreed that there should be little debate upon the merits of the proposition put .before the House. I have seen too much of these unholy alliances between the Government and the Opposition in regard to increased customs duties. It is somewhat like the agreement made some time ago between the ship-owners and the . seamen, and where has that brought us ? We are going along careless of consequences disregarding those economic laws which have ruled the world for centuries while the country is drifting into industrial ruin, f have never heard such a one-eyed argument as that advanced this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. He said in effect that there was nothing wrong with increasing the’ cost of our manufactures so long as the increase could be passed on. But how can the man outback, the wheat or wool-grower, pass it on?
– The price of bread keeps increasing.
– It is disgraceful that- our wheat can be sent overseas, manufactured into bread, and sold there at a lower price than in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition had a lot to say about the iron and steel duties, and the lack of employment in the coal mines. What is the price of coal to-day, and what was it when the Broken Hill Proprietary Company started its steel works at Newcastle?
– I can tell the honorable member that the coal-miners have not had an increase for years.
– Then they must be going slow. What with the increased cost of production and the go-slow tactics that are adopted, industry is in a deplorable condition. We should remove some of the useless legislation from our statutebook. It must surely be apparent to every honorable member that the iron, steel and copper industries must be established here on reasonable conditions if they are to be of any use for the establishment of secondary industries. But the conditions are daily becoming more unreasonable. The Minister has now imposed a heavy duty on fluorspar, which is necessary to the operations of the Newcastle steel works merely because a tin-pot show in Queensland is producing a small quantity of it. Seemingly the increased cost of the product to the steel works does not matter. I admit that in this case it does not amount to much, but it is an illustration of the kind of thing that industry is being subjected to all the while.
– Every mickle makes a muckle.
– Of course it does. I do not know where it will lead us; the cost of coal and of the transport of ore have become outrageous. Whenever tariff matters are under consideration in this Parliament, we find persons who have expectations of obtaining concession in respect of the minor industries with which they are connected, waiting round for an opportunity to get some honorable member to push their particular interests. Honorable members opposite and the Minister for Trade and Customs appear to want the tariff wall built as high as possible, irrespective of the results.
– The honorable member has lost hope of seeing his policy adopted.
– I have lost hope in honorable members opposite. It is only the attitude of the Opposition to the fiscal issue that has prevented me from making a direct breach with the Government. If they would alter their tariff policy I might be willing to give them a little support and encouragement at times, but they can never expect me to do so while they pursue their present course. If their attitude was that of the British Labour party. I should give them a chance for a while, because the British Labour man’s view is that the necessities ofthe people should be available as cheaply as possible. It is incomprehensible to me that honorable members opposite can justify their approval , of every extra duty that the Government proposes, for every new duty causes additional hardship to the poorer sections of the community whom they claim to represent. Just imagine them voting for duties of 8s. and 10s. a dozen on socks and stockings ! The strange thing is that the high duties are imposed on the poor quality goods. How ban honorable members opposite justify a duty of 260 per cent. on cornflower, the food of children, which comes here in bulk parcels? Medicines are also taxed unmercifully. Is this how they protect the poor from exploitation? When I was in New Guinea I was informed that the doctors there had instructions to buy all “ their drugs and chemicals from Australia, in order to assist Australian industry, although the cost to them was increased as much as 500 per cent. in some cases by doing so. That is out of all reason. Moreover it is using money taken from the pockets of the people to enrich a few manufacturers - a noble policy for Labour or Nationalists! It has been necessary to increase our duties in many cases because of the wages and working conditions granted to industrialists by the Arbitration Court. It is ridiculous that we should allow elderly legal gentlemen to determine the rate of wages and working conditions that shall apply to industries of which they have no practical knowledge whatever. The sooner we substitute the Canadian conciliation system of dealing with industrial matters for our cumbersome and costly arbitration court methods the better it will be for the nation. How can the mining industry at Broken Hill, or the timber industry in Tasmania and Western Australia, carry on in the face of the condition made necessary by the Piddington awards and the Navigation Act? I was talking some little time ago to a man who was running a small boat between Launceston and Melbourne. He told me that his three firemen were earning in the aggregate £100 a month, which was equal to more than £33 a month each. When Iwas travelling through Western Australia with the Prime Minister during the last recess he made a number of speeches, which caused me to believe that he waa realizing something of the tremendous difficulties that our primary producers have to suffer. He said that it was vital to us that we should increase both our population and our production, and that the high costs were excessive; but he has done nothing since to make the conditions of our people any easier. Increases of duties simply aggravate their position.
– What, about the timber industry ?
– It is not to be wondered at that the sawmilling industry is disappearing from Australia. A gentleman in Launceston told me some time ago that it cost 3s. 6d. per 100 super feet to bring timber from Sweden to Adelaide, and 6s. 6d. to bring it from Canada to Adelaide, while the freight from Launceston to Adelaide was 9s. 8d. per 100 super feet. It is extraordinary that the Canadians, can fell their timber, freight it to the ‘coast, put it through the mill, bring it to Australia, pay heavy duties and sellers’ profits, and sell it here for less than we can market our local timber. Wages in Canada are, generally speaking, higher than those in Australia.
– Not in the timber industry.
– I cannot refute the statement of the honorable member, but I was under the impression that in the timber industry, as well as in others, the Canadian wages were higher than ours. There was no trouble in Australia over tariff matters until 1920, when the Parliament went mad. Up to that time we had given generous assistance to our various industries, in the hope that they would develop to the point at which they would become self-supporting. But that has not occurred. If I believed that moderate protection would enable industries before long to stand alone, I should become a moderate protectionist; but experience has shown that, when we begin to protect an industry, we begin to kill it, for protection restricts competitors and destroys efficiency. Further concessions are required here, and there, until we reach the stage that nothing short of an embargo on importation is demanded. The honorable member for Richmond, (Mr. R. Green) amazed me the other day by suggesting that we should place an absolute embargo on all imports and exports. Various other members have suggested that- prohibition of importations is necessary to protect certain industries. But that is a ridiculous policy. The policy of the Government is merely political, and is not actuated by a keen desire to study the best interests of the country. The Prime Minister, both in Western Australia and Queensland, intimated that the tariff was becoming a very grave problem, and that it would be difficult to continue. The Treasurer made a statement, which was reported in the press, saying that the only chance for the primary producer was to get right into the vortex of things and secure his portion. When in Adelaide the Treasurer described the position of . the primary producer as being akin to that of the Biblical ass with two burdens. He certainly may be described as an ass if he approves of a policy of this sort, and returns representatives to Parliament to put such a policy into effect. The policy is a foolish one, and he is again an ass if he thinks that it will be beneficial to himself or to the country, or gives support to the Treasurer in furthering the imposition of such imports. Sops are being given indiscriminately, merely to placate certain sections. A big duty is placed on butter. I do not suppose that honorable members opposite will object to that, because it represents a big voting factor.
– Does the honorable member oppose that duty?
– I do, because the policy is a bad one.
Only a little while ago I pointed out when Australia became established as a nation, British statesmen urged that we should endeavour to bring all the islands in this hemisphere within our influence. Instead of doing that, we destroyed our trade with Fiji, which does not now wish to trade with us. Japanese women and children are eating the finest bananas in the world, and we are eating the worst. We have, lost the Fijian trade through our stupidity, and a trade war is now proposed “with New Zealand.
– The honorable member is casting a reflection upon an important industry which is giving employment, directly and indirectly, to 16,000 people.
– I am referring to the position of Australia as a sort of superior nation, which should have brought New Zealand, Fiji, and the adjacent islands under its aegis, and have traded with them on a reciprocal basis.
– Why not give the white producers of bananas in Australia some protection against the black growers of Fiji and elsewhere?
– Had the industry asked for 2s. 6d. per cental it would not have been so bad; but they have obtained 8s. 4d. per cental. Fiji used to trade freely with Australia. It purchased our products to the extent of almost £800,000 a year, while we reciprocated by purchasing Fijian bananas and other products to the value of £250,000. That was an important trade, well worth looking after. Now we have made enemies of that country, and it trades elsewhere.
– By our action we have built up an Australian industry worth £1,000,000 a year to the people of Australia.
– I remind the honorable member of some motion pictures that were exhibited when we were in the Victorian Parliament House. We saw pictured country that was being opened up at an unimproved value of from £80 to £100 per acre. I recently read a Cairns paper, which contained a tremendous number of advertisements of sugar land which people were desirous of selling, and the average unimproved price was over £100 an acre. In view of that, cannot it be justifiably urged that those people need excessive protection ? If the land is worth £100 an acre, surely its product should be able to compete with similar’ products from other countries.
I do not contend that there should be no duty on sugar. I want to see the White Australia policy continued. I have read the reports of various commissions as to what they thought was a fair thing. Those reports were worth something when they were made, and had we adhered to their recommendations the position would not be too bad. Unfortunately the political element was introduced, and probably the fate of a Ministry has hinged on the introduction of a duty. Undue preference to our sugar industry has restricted production and it acts injuriously to other indus: tries, particularly the fruit-growing, industry. If cheap sugar could be pur chased in Australia, and proper labour conditions existed here, this country would be able to export enormous quantities of jams and jellies.
– When I rise I shall prove that the embargo on sugar does not act detrimentally to the fruit industry.
– Australia is suffering not only from its high tariff. Our unlimited borrowing, combined with aus high protection & and the socialistic legislation that has been imposed on us, makes it next to impossible for our secondary producers to make reasonable progress. The Leader of the Opposition quoted the exports from Australia over a number of years. Why did not the honorable member go back over a greater period and tell us what progress has been made in the export of manufactures from Australia? Let the honorable member point out where one industry has developed, and is now able to compete with other countries of the world.
I ask the honorable member to read yesterday’s Argus, in its comments on the boot-making industry. ‘When I spoke on the budget debate I gave figures showing that there had been a slowing down in output and an enormous increase in the cost of production, and that our exports were infinitesimal. What is preventing our bootmaking industry, which has been protected by the Victorian Government for 40 years, and by this Government ever since federation, from developing? Our manufacturers are content to supply only the Australian market. Our hides are sent to other parts of the world, where they are tanned, manufactured into hoots, and then exported. Why cannot Aus tralia do something of the sort? Recently I had a conversation with one of Our boot manufacturers. He told me that he had the most up-to-date machinery “chat Britain or America could supply, and that, if his men liked, they could turn out’ double their present production.
– He was romancing.
– Union domination has retarded our industrial progress. That man said that it did not matter to him, as he could get his price locally, but intimated that if we had in operation the American system, where men are paid by results, matters would be infinitely better.
– The honorable member always places the burden on the bottom clog. Our workmen are the best in the world, and he knows it. He slanders Australians every time he speaks.
– I admit that they could be the best workmen in the world - if they were free from the domination of union officials. The Australian is, and should be, the equal of any man. His openair life and his -education should tend to make him so, and the men who went from Australia to” the great war and made such a wonderful name for themselves and for us, proves that he is; but he loves the study of sport more than the study of economic laws. While the manufacturer can pass on the cost he does not bother about securing greater efficiency. Only competition will secure efficiency, and we destroy competition. The worker thinks that the manufacturer is making a good thing out of it, and does not bother himself so long as he can’ get his share. If he were paid according to what he produced and the manufacturer was efficient, it would not be long before Australia was able to compete with other countries.
I was dealing with the Ministry when I was sidetracked. I consider that they have been very flabby over this subject, full of nothing but platitudes.
– The honorable member is back in the dark ages.
– If the honorable member’s party would come forward with a policy of a definite tariff reduction I would endeavour to put them on this side of the House, but when one finds that the majority of honorable members opposite are worse than honorable members of the Government, what is one to do ? I am not imagining that a single word that I say here will affect one vote; but I use this method to impress” upon the people the false principles upon which we are working. The honorable member for Perth” (Mr. Mann), the Town and Country Union, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse)-
- -1 consider that the Town and Country Union is subsidized with foreign money, and that it is an importers’ union.
– If the honorable member would tell me where he obtained his election expenses I might deal with that matter.
– I can tell the honorable member where mine came from, but I should like to know where the election expenses of honorable members opposite originated.
– The honorable member may obtain a return of expenses from the returning officer if he desires.
– I did not apply the remark personally.
– I would like the honorable member to develop the subject of the Town and Country Union.
– The Town and Country Union, by its educational system through the medium of correspondence’ and newspapers - has done a great deal to make the people of Australia think. It is creating a considerable influence in the cities and the protectionist States of Australia, and has developed to a greater . strength than the honorable member imagines.
– I will tell the honorable member a little bit as to the other side of the question.
– I propounded an economic truth in this House the other day when I stated that when the cost of producing an article becomes greater than the value received its production must cease. I remind the honorable member for- ‘Darling (Mr. Blakeley) of that axiom. There are thousands of electors in his electorate out of employment owing to the prevailing high cost of production. , Yet the honorable member is absolutely careless as to what happens; he is unmindful of the destitution created by the economic conditions that have been created by this and other governments, resulting in the closing down of many of the Broken Hill mines. The influence of this organization, through its propaganda, is beginning to be felt mainly in the cities, and the people there are realizing that as primary production becomes less, as the drift from the country to the cities increases, so the danger to the community increases.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed].
– Before the adjournment I was referring to the attitude that Ministers had adopted in connexion with the tariff, and to what I considered was flabbiness on the part of some of them. The Tariff Board in its report dealing with the primary producer says -
The primary producer has to contend with the high cost of production, with the increased charges that the customs tariff imposes in some instances, and with ever increasing land values and seeing that he has to dispose of a portion of his product overseas, for which he obtains only world parity prices, he naturally complains (under pressure of his difficulties) when the amount he receives for his produce does not provide sufficient margin over his cost of production.
The Government consists of an association of two parties. There was no member of the Country partymore anxious than I for the two parties to come together. I have always held that no party has a right to a place in this Parliament until it is prepared to accept responsibility.
– That depends upon the conditions.
– As a party it should be prepared to accept responsibility. I have no time for a party that stands aloof from one side or the other to try to obtain an undue advantage for those that it represents.
– A small party cannot build up otherwise.
– The object of every honorable member is to benefit his country and particularly his own State and people, but our main desire is to see first to the future of this country and its successful development. I was most anxious that the two parties should come together, but in our own party room, before any agreement was entered into, I urged the appointment of managers so that we could consult with the Nationalist party and come to an agreement with regard to policy. Our leader, and also the Attorney-General, who was present, held that it was the duty of the Government when it was formed to decide on its own policy. They were successful in their plan, and the Government was formed irrespective of what its policy should be, and we see the result to-day. We have “ flabby “ Ministers, men who are pledged to a reduction in duties that impose a penalty upon the primary producer. Both the Treasurer and the Minister for Works and Railways, when occupying seats in the corner, made speeches to that effect. The Minister for Markets and Migration, when a private member, moved the adjournment of this chamber in connexion with the imposition of high duties. It will be for the country to judge whether they have been false to their pledges or not. Surely those Ministers have sufficient power in the Cabinet to be able to protect the interests of the producer, but we find that further heavy duties are being introduced which must place a greatly increased burden on the primary producer. Take transport, for instance, the duties upon rails have greatly increased the cost of constructing railways. There are heavy duties on cement and steel reinforcements, and on practically every article required for the building of roads. Then there is the increase in the cost of living. We cannot increase the duty on butter, hats, socks, boots, and food and other commodities without increasing the cost of living, which in turn increases the cost of wages. We should be more in touch with the conditions that apply in other countries, so that the cost of living might be reduced. We should then be able to have essential works carried out more economically, and this country would not be in the position it occupies to-day. At the last election, the Country party and the United party of Western Australia joined forces. That applied particularly to the Senate.
– Not only to the Senate.
– It applied to the House of Representatives, but particularly to the Senate, and that enabled the Country party. to have one representative for the Senate as against two representatives of the United party. To show the feeling that then existed in the Country party organization, let me read the following agreement that was come to with the nationalist party -
That as the present high tariff is inimical to the best interests of Western Australia, the full strength of the two associations shall be devoted to securing a substantial reduction in the existing tariff. That as a reduction can only be secured through our Parliamentary representatives, neither party shall give its endorsement to any candidate not in agreement with this policy. That, subject to the above mentioned conditions of policy being accepted us the basis of an appeal to the electors, the Primary Producers’ Association is willing to co-operate with the United party of Western Australia in running a joint team, consisting of two representatives of the United party, and one representative of the Country party, for the forthcoming Senate elections. The team so selected shall receive the endorsement and support of both associations, and no other candidate shall be nominated, endorsed, or supported by either association.
Senator Pearce, a member of the Ministry, was elected on that distinct understanding, so to-day we have in the Cabinet not only four Country party members, but also Senator Pearce, all of whom are pledged to a reduction of duties. There should, therefore, be a majority of the Cabinet in favour of lower duties. The conference of the Victorian Farmers’ Union passed this resolution -
That this conference considers the Australian Commonwealth tariff unnecessarily high, and that its incidence is hurtful to the great primary producing interests, and also to the welfare and progress of the Australian community as a whole, and this conference further considers that a percentage reduction should be made annually on all tariff items dealing with the staple necessities of primary and secondary industries.
– What was the date of that conference?
– 13th March, 1925. The three representatives of Victoria in the’ Cabinet are connected with that association. They, in addition to Senator Pearce and the Treasurer; have declared themselves in favour of lower duties. What, then, is the influence brought to bear on the Government to allow the imposition of enormous increases in duties?
At the last conference of the Federal Country party I brought forward a motion demanding a plank in the platform in favour of a big reduction in duties, but it was camouflaged.
– In what way was it camouflaged ?
– If the honorable member will allow me to complete my sentence, I shall tell him. It was camouflaged by an amendment being moved that a commission should be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the effect of the present duties upon primary production. No inquiry has been made, but, instead, we have this imposition of increased duties. My motion was camouflaged, because there was a wish apparently to prevent a direct vote from being taken upon it, and an amendment was moved which evaded the issue.
– If I remember rightly, the honorable member accepted the amendment.
– I did nothing of the sort. There is no doubt as to the opinion of the people of Western Australia respecting the tariff. As I have said previously, we should be perfectly content if given control of our customs for 25 years.
Because of the operation of the Navigation Act, and the heavy cost of manufacture, the cost of every article required in Western Australia is considerably higher than it is in the eastern States. Our difficulty is that we are separated from the east by a«vast stretch of country which can, in distance, be likened to an ocean. The increased duties on top of the high cost of transport make it exceedingly difficult to carry on, particularly in a country whose first-class land is not equal to that of many parts of the other States. Western Australia is a country of wonderful possibilities. I was reading in the press the other ‘ day of harvesting operations there, and I noticed instance after instance of twelve bags of wheat to the acre. The future of farming there is assured so long as the price of wheat is sustained; but we have stretches of good land and large portions of second-class and third-class country intervening. The latter had not been farmed until- recently, but now a great portion of it is under cultivation. According to a recent issue of the West Australian, a. large quantity of thirdclass land is being put under crop. It cannot be cropped every year, but when not under crop it can be used for. grazing purposes. At one time this land could be purchased at 3s. 3d. an acre, and in some cases at less. All that land is now being brought under cultivation, and with the assistance of a large population, will produce a great quantity of wheat and meat. One of the great essentials in that State is superphosphates. The use of that commodity is steadily increasing, but it is a heavy item of expenditure in Australia compared with other countries. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the other day received a letter from a man who had settled in the southwest of Western Australia, reporting on its wonderful progress. He stated that a lot of land there, once regarded as useless, is now carrying two sheep to the acre, but the cost of clearing and preparing the land is heavy. Cheap production cost is essential to the development of Western Australia. If it could be granted freetrade for a certain period - of course, allowing a preference to goods manufactured in the eastern States - its primary industries would have a chance to become established. I am aware that that cannot be done under the Constitution in its present form.
Although a grant of £300,000 a year is very welcome to the Government and the people, sops of this kind are a palliative, not a remedy. Western Australia is purchasing from the eastern States about £8,000,000 worth of goods annually, and selling to them goods to the value of only £1,500,000 to £1,750,000. Western Australia will continue to be a big customer of the eastern States if its industries are not destroyed. The high duties that the Government has imposed and is imposing will destroy Western Australia industrially unless special concessions are made. Monetary grants do not reduce the cost of production, and only if that cost is kept down to a moderate figure can Western Australia prosper. The agricultural area of Western
Australia is larger than the whole State of Victoria; it extends from 60 miles north of Northampton - which is some 40 miles north of Geraldton - eastwards as far as the gold-fields, then south to Albany, and along the coast eastward to Esperance. That enormous belt of country could carry hundreds of thousands of people if it had cheap transport facilities with moderate producing costs. In the early stages of i settlement the cost of production must be made as cheap as possible, and I feel very much afraid of what may happen when this country experiences bad seasons or has to accept low prices for its primary products. If either of those things should happen, many thousands of people will be ruined, and our splendid efforts to settle this vast area destroyed. In the year 1912-13 a partial drought was experienced over a portion of Western Australia, and the settlers in the newly-opened country suffered terrible privations. Many children were clothed in sacks, and whole families were living on wheatmeal coarsely ground on the farm. So bad were the conditions that the Government established an Industries Assistance Board to make advances to the necessitous settlers. The advances amounted to millions of pounds. The recovery and ultimate success of the persons assisted was, however, almost like a romance, and this year our wheat production is the highest of any State in the Commonwealth. I said to the Leader of the Opposition this morning that his1 tariff proposals were one-eyed because they, have regard for secondary producers and the workers only. When the honorable member becomes disturbed over the question of one or two pick-ups for the waterside workers, does he forget the privations suffered by the MaK lee farmers? What of the man who throughout a dry season has to cart water for 20 miles over sandy country only to find at the end of the year that all his labour has been in vain? Honorable members are aware that the thrip pest destroyed the blossoms in many Western Australian orchards, and in consequence the apple production this year will be seriously reduced. They know, also, of the losses suffered by the vignerons along the Murray River Valley because of frosts. It is not fair to impose heavyburdens upon the primary producers who. have to contend with so many forms of adversity.
One of the vital necessities of this country is the populating of the north. I do not know much of. Queensland, but I am sure that it includes much wonderful country that can be developed.. I am able to speak with greater authority of the north of Western Australia. To encourage settlement in those parts I would remit taxation for years, and allow the people to buy their goods in the cheapest market. If that policy were tried for twenty-five years, and the settlers made good, they would provide a market for the Australian manufacturer later. It is evident from the discussions at Geneva and in the press of the world’ that the time is coming when we shall have to make out a good case for holding that huge area without peopling and developing it, and it cannot be developed until we reduce the cost of production.
Mr.Fenton. - What does the. commission intend to do? Where will it get money?
– I do not know ;but I have more faith in a policy which would make commodities cheaper for the people and so decrease production costs. Discussing, the suggested railway front Darwin to Bourke, I mentioned that prices at Hall’s Creek, which is about 160 miles inland from Wyndham, were from 500 to 700 per cent. more than those in the southern States. The enormous cost of transport in the northis largely responsible for the high price of commodities, and we have no right to make conditions worse.
– Do the settlers ever attempt anything else when crops fail?
– The north-west is purely pastoral country; but I believe pig-raising would be a lucrative industry. One must, however, offer an inducement to people to settle in that country. I have observed, in the mining districts particularly, how the successful settlement of a few people attracts population to an area. We could do much for the north by getting a nucleus population contentedly settled there. I doubt if there is any part of Australia so rich in mineral wealth as is the northwest. About seventeen years ago I toured through the Pilbarra country for seven weeks, with a. view to making a recommendation to the Government regarding the provision of railway transport. My report mentioned the vast extent of auriferous area, but emphasized that, owing to. the high cost of transport and commodities, even rich shows had to be abandoned. Its gold mines had treated 60,000 tons, for 120,000 ounces; and 8000 tons from the great banket formation at Nullagine, similar to that in South Africa, had yielded an average of 12 dwt. According to the Government geologist there were thousands’ of square miles of stanniferous country. I bought one block of tin oxide, weighing 600 lb., at Wodgina, and sent it to the Glasgow exhibition. There is a tanialite deposit, the like of which, I believe, is not to be found in any other part of the world, and large desposits of copper and silver-lead ore. Some of the finest quality crysotile asbestos, worth from £50 to £60 per ton, has been mined in the Pilbarra country. Notwithstanding this enormous and varied mineral wealth, the cost of production is so high that this wealth remains latent and pastoralism is practically the onlyprogressive industry in that area. Are we to lose this groat asset by flagrantly defying all economic laws?
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the excess of imports over exports, and emphasized the value of the home market. The primary producer can do without it, but the secondary industries cannot do without the primary producer, because he provides the full market for their output. I join issue with the Minister for Trade and Customs in regard to his policy of prematurely forcing the secondary industries upon the people of this country. When we have a bigger population we shall be able to maintain secondary industries; but the Australian people are paying too high a price for many of the manufactures which are being started under hothouse conditions. In,1923-24. the total exports from this country wereworth £116,000,000, of which only £4,200,000 represented manufactured products, and those were principally commodities like tinned milk and flour, that are really by-products of the primary industries. In 1924-25 the exports were worth £158,900,000, of which again only £4,100,000 was secondary products ; and in 1925-26, £145,400,000, of which £4,100,000 represented manufactured goods. Those figures demonstrate that the products of secondary industries are a negligible proportion of the export trade, being equal to about 21/2 per cent. of the total. I have not the slightest doubt that while the existing socialistic legislation is retained on the statute-book no Australian secondary industries will have the slightest chance of competing in the markets overseas. It is not fair to encourage the establishment of industries, that cannot compete with the products of other countries, at the expense of the primary producers who have to compete in the markets of the world.
– If the factory operatives worked for nothing, would that meet the case?
– In many industries real wages are not too high; but there is inefficiency on the part of many manufacturers, and the union organizations insist on go-slow methods. These two things have so increased the cost of production that it is impossible for our secondary industries to compete with those of other countries. From his experience in the coal-mines, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) must know something of the high cost of production. I judge by the prices and reduced output.
– The miner does not get the higher price; he is on piecework.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) speaks in ignorance when he refers to slowing down in the mining industry.
– I know that in 1915 the price of coal was 9s. 7d. per ton.
– The increase is not due to the miners, but to the exploiters who own the mine.
– I am quite willing to deal with the position.
– The honorable member is talking about slowing down by miners who are on piece-work.
– I spoke about industry generally.
– Thehonorable member spoke about the coal-miners. He gets on very Well while he is dealing in generalities, but he is tripped up as soon as he comes down to specific instances.
– I know that I referred to coal-mining ; but if the honorable member had heard my argument about thesoap-making industry, and the boot industry, he would know that I had proved my point. Moreover in the coal-mining industry strikes, slowing down and exploitation have increased costs from about 9s. to 27s. a ton.
– I am tired of hearing these slanders on the working man.
– I would rather be termed a slanderer than indulge in the tyrannous tactics adopted by the unions, and fostered by the honorable member, which are destroying the industry of this country. We must send our products overseas in order to pay for the imports which we bring in. There are numerous charges to pay on the export of goods, such as demurrage and high wharfage rates, while, when strikes take place, the costs of export are still further increased. We have to compete with other countries, and, therefore, we must keep our production costs at a reasonable level.
There is no one held in higher esteem in industrial circles than Mr. Swinburne. That gentleman, speaking last year at the meeting of the Mount Lyell Company, said -
It is astonishing what influences seem to conspire against the primary producer,who has mainly to rely on the world for his markets, and compete at the world’s prices against practically the highest working costs in the world.
– Yet the honorable member supports a government which is now trying to sell the only means of protection which Australia has against exploitation by the shipping companies.
– I wonder what influences Mr. Swinburne was referring to.
-To the high freights, of course.
– And also to high. costs of production, but be referred specifically to the influences which conspired against the primary producer. President Wilson once made the naive confession that if any one contributed 50,000 dollars to the party funds that person would necessarily think that his interests^ would be looked after.
– The honorable member ought not to talk about that, in view of what the Town and Country Union has done, and the funds it has provided. It has been admitted in this House that they have money to burn to support the freetrade policy.
– That has never been admitted.
– What is the use of the honorable member making such innuendoes when the facts are against him?
– The innuendo comes from the honorable member himself. I was’ merely pointing out what President Wilson had said, and there is no doubt about the influences here. The primary producer has to compete with low-wage countries, with the Argentine, and India, and probably with Russia in the near future, in the export of wheat. We have to compete with Denmark in the sale of butter; with Greece in the sale of dried fruits; and with Spain and Italy in the sale of wines.
– Is there not a wine bounty?
– We, the furthest from the markets of the world and with the highest cost of production, have to face that competition - all from lowwage countries. We should reduce the import duties, and so reduce the cost of production, thereby enabling us to hold our own with oversea competitors, otherwise we fail. I .remember many years ago the ‘ establishment of the butter industry in Victoria by means of a subsidy. .1 firmly believe that the subsidy paid at that time was the means of restoring the prosperity of the State. It built up a great industry which without assistance now competes in the world’s markets. I believe it would be a better thing if, instead of imposing high duties on iron and steel products, so as to protect the industry in
Australia, Parliament paid a bounty to the iron and steel producers at Broken Hill. In that way the cost of the raw materials of the manufacturers would not be increased, and every one would contribute towards the cost of supporting the local industry.
The rabbit pest is very bad in certain parts of Western Australia, and wire netting is’ urgently needed to keep the pest in control. Nevertheless, as soOn as British wire netting was brought in, a dumping duty was imposed on it,, while hundreds of thousands of pounds were paid to the manufacturers in New South Wales as a subsidy for the manufacture of this article. In the Murray River waters scheme we are committed to expenditure amounting to £14,000,000. The people who will be settled here, to the number, it is estimated, of about 10,000, will engage, to a large extent, in the dried-fruit industry. They will have to send their products overseas to be marketed, in competition with those from other countries. Therefore, we should see that the cost of production is not made too high for them to compete successfully; for if they fail the whole scheme fails and we shall be loaded with a terrible debt. I have no doubt that, in the near future, we shall have further increases in the tariff. Honorable members should remember the dark days of July and August of this year, when every one in Australia was wondering what sort of a harvest we were going to have. There was fear among the manufacturers and the workers lest the crops should fail. It was realized then to what an extent the nation depended upon our primary products. Surely, therefore, we should not now do anything which would increase the cost of production to such an extent as to render it impossible for the primary producer to carry on. I say, shame, then, on those Ministers who support these imports. The secondary manufacturers in Australia have no prospect of making good unless we can increase the population and production of the country. We cannot export secondary products, and it is only by inducing more people to come here and settle in the interior, and open up our waste lands, that the market for secondary products can be. expanded. The process of heaping extra charges by way of customs duties upon the people will not achieve this end. An honorable member wanted to know what were my grave objections to the tariff. I have been here long enough to know how little desire there is that a good case should be put up for an increase in the tariff. The question has been settled on every occasion with a minimum of discussion. The Minister simply brings in his recommendations, and, without bothering even to debate or ‘tudy them, the House imposes the duties asked for.
– The Minister sometimes brings in higher duties than the Tariff Board recommends.
– That is so and when duties amounting to 50 and 60 per cent., and sometimes over 100 per cent., are imposed, it is monstrous. Mr. Sutcliffe, the statistician, has pointed out that even if the wages paid to workmen in Great Britain were 25 per cent. lower than in Australia, the difference in the cost of the manufactured woollen goods should be only 5 per cent. Sometimes the cost of protection is actually greater than the wages paid to the workmen engaged in the industry which is being protected.
– The honorable member cannot blame the protectionist policy for that.
– I do not know whether the honorable member read the splendid address delivered at Hobart last year by Mr. Julius, Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in which he referred to the proposals for developing the country’s hydroelectric resources. He pointed out that the advantages which it was hoped would be derived from extensive power schemes were nullified by the enormous duties which had to be paid on copper wire and appliances used in the distribution and use of power. He referred to the numerous domestic electrical appliances required, and said that they should be allowed in free of duty, so as to enable housewives to make the most effective use of electric power. Further, he pointed out that it would pay the Government, as a business proposition, to allow all electrical goods to be imported into Australia free of duty, and give to all the men at present employed in the electrical industry in this country a pension.
My objection to a high tariff is that it is parasitic in its incidence. It is like an Old Man of the Sea on the shoulders of industry, and it feeds on corruption. I refer particularly to the newspaper articles which appeared in the press throughout Australia when the question was being considered whether certain contracts for locomotives should be given to Thompson and Company, or whether the locomotives should be brought from Great Britain. I never before saw such a barefaced attempt to bring pressure on to the Government in an endeavour to give £56,000 to somebody in Australia, when the money could be spent to better advantage overseas. These locomotives could have been obtained in Britain for £56,000 less than they cost here.
– What would the honorable member say to a case in which a preference of £800 was given to an outsider ?
– I am not familiar with the circumsances of that case, but I believe that no Government should have the right to pay a higher price for an article, or should give away the people’s money by way of favour to anybody just to bolsterup an industry in Australia. There should be no influence brought to bear on the Government to give away the people’s money. Personally I prefer to buy Australian goods, but if I can get the imported article considerably cheaper, I am inclined to buy it, and I think honorable members opposite would be also. A high tariff penalizes the poor people. It exacts tribute from the producers who are struggling against all sorts of odds in the Never-Never country. It cannot be right that such people should be made to pay tribute to wealthy manufacturing firms in this country simply for the sake of fostering local industry. I should like the Minister to produce the agreement between the Broken Hill Company, the iron and steel manufacturers, and the wholesale dealers. The Minister has suggested that it is only the usual trade agreement. Are we to assume that Rylands and Lysaghts can make agreements like that at their own sweet will? These secret agreements lead to monopolies in business to avoid competition.
On other occasions I have directed attention to the large powers given to the Minister. Only recently we had an instance of what this means, in connexion with the importation of a consignment of Belfast binder twine. Some of the primary producers had the audacity to use it for sewing up their bags! The Minister declared that, strictly speaking, it was not binder twine, and acting under the powers given to him under the act, he increased the duty tenfold. Let me also remind honorable members of what happened recently in connexion with the consignments of returned empty wine casks.’ These had been made in Australia, were filled with Australian wine, and exported, but upon their return were made subject to heavy customs duties. Is this the way to encourage our primary industries? It is monstrous. This is what the Melbourne Age, a strong protectionist newspaper, had to say on the 29th July, 1921, when the bill conferring these powers on the Minister was before Parliament : -
Tariff making by officialdom and executive act is a degradation of representative government. The resolutions ought to be withdrawn and recast with the object of eliminating both the Tariff Board and the excessive ministerial power.
– The Age is freetrade in regard to the importation of newsprint.
– All protectionists are the same. I remember one of the big newspaper proprietors complaining that certain proposed duties on newsprint would mean an additional cost of £75,000 a year to him.
I do not anticipate that I shall be able to influence a single vote in this chamber, but I feel that I must direct special attention to the proposed increases in the duties on iron and steel, because they are of vital importance to all who are connected with our primary industries. The Tariff Board states, on page 20 of its report of June last: -
If the federal revenue statistics are examined it will be noted that the customs revenue is a continually expanding factor.. The net receipts from customs (excluding excise) for 1925-20 were £27,838,421, and in 1926-27 were £31,831,107. The excess from 1920-27 is, therefore, £3,002.686.
Probably the excess this year will be considerably more than that. Experiencehas shown that the imposition of higher duties does not necessarily check importations. Surely this demand for increasingly higher duties indicates that there is something wrong in Australia. I advise honorable members to read an interesting publication From Silver to Steel, issued by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in 1915, when that concern was building up its great steel industry at Newcastle. The Tariff Commission conducted an inquiry into the general position, and the chairman of that body, referring to the Newcastle Steel Works, said-
I see nothing in the evidence to justify the assumption that some form of fiscal assistance will be permanently inevitable. On the contrary, the richness of Australian ore deposits, compared to those of other countries - the Iron Knob ore yields 68 per cent, of iron as against 36 per cent, profitably worked in Germany - and the freight charges borne by our nearest competitors, make it probable that Mr. Delprat’s original view that the industry can stand on its own footing in Australia will prove right, once output is secured, and with it low production cost. The adage, “the ore goes to the fuel “ is complied with in the Australian works.
Mr. Delprat, the manager, in reply to a question whether he was asking for an import duty on iron and steel, at that time said -
No. We have decided that if we cannot carry on without ‘Government support or assistance, we shall not proceed with the works at all.
We find also this further statement by the chairman of the commission -
I find that you can assemble at Newcastle the iron ore, coke and limestone for pig-iron production at a lower cost per unit per ton than is possible for the United States of America steel corporation in that country.
I hope honorable members will pay special . attention to that statement. I hope also that they will bear in mind the statement made recently by the general manager of the company, upon his return from a visit to the United States of America. He declared that the Newcastle plant was as efficient as the best in the whole of the United States of America. Notwithstanding this fact, it is now proposed to increase the duties on the products of this important key in dustry. Of course, the result will be. an increase in the price of products that are the raw materials for other industries. I feel sure that I am not exaggerating when I say that these new duties will mean an additional burden of over £2,000,000 a year, and that they will inflict great injury on Australia as a whole. The board states further -
Duties for instance, were raised upon machines, machinery, iron, and steel, &c. The boardhowever, is in a position to affirm that such increased duties have largely failed to achieve their objective and, instead of an expansion of. manufacture, the figures reveal rather stagnation, notwithstanding the fact that the tariff increases were granted to stimulate such manufacture in Australia.
The board then gives figures which show a substantial increase in. importations during 1926-27,. as compared with the previous year.
I turn now to the position with regard to dynamo electric machinery. The board stated -
Similarly with item, dynamo electric machinery n.e.i., which experienced a generous increase with the view of stimulating a languishing industry, the position is as follows: -
From 1920-21 to 1924-25 the duties were 30 per cent. British preferential, 40 per cent. general. and the imports were: -
– I suppose the honorable member is aware that the Broken Hill Company obtained no benefit from those duties.
– I am aware of that. I have referred to them for the purpose of showing that increased duties do not’ mean reduced importations. Mr. Julius went so far as to say that it would pay the Commonwealth to pension off every manengaged in this industry, and remove the duties so that housewives in Australia would have an opportunity to obtain electrical appliances for the home at a greatly reduced cost.
Unless some radical change is made in our fiscal policy something will have to be done to give relief to primary producers. There has been no stronger sup porter of federation than I have been, and no State has been more loyal to federation than Western Australia. The position, however, is becoming intolerable. The people there are being penalized by these excessive duties. If unfortunately Western Australia experi ences a bad season there will be an almost irresistible demand for relief even if it means an amendment of the Constitution and perhaps separation. Some people will say that this is impossible. If people are trodden upon and if penalties continue to be inflicted upon them as they are under this tariff, they will seek redress. It is my keen desire to seeAustralia prosper. We cannot have true prosperity by following along these lines in our fiscal policy. I see no hope for the future of my State under present policies. I see on every hand an extravagance that is inexcusable. We appear to be afraid to remove from the statute-book socialistic legislation placed there by our friends opposite, notwithstanding that we fully realize that the continued operation of these laws is not in the best interests of this country. Something must be done to get us out of our present difficulty. I hope that when we are considering the various items, honorable members will give serious consideration to the duties imposed in connexion with our important key industries because these will create a demand for still higher protection in other industries. In this way we shall go on building up a vicious circle, and there will be no escape from poverty and destitution.
– I do not desire to set a bad example in this debate by traversing the whole of the arguments that could be used in favour of a protectionist policy for Australia, and refuting all the fallacies that are usually advanced against it. I realize that that has been done many times in Australia. Having had the subject threshed out on more than one occasion, the Commonwealth Parliament has adopted protection as its settled policy, and that policy has been endorsed by the people of Australia. Of course, that does notmean that the tariff schedule should not be criticized, or that it should not be open to correction, revision, or amendment.Nothing of that sort is intended by the suggestion that the settled policy of this country is protection, but I believe that a large section of the people and the majority of the members of this committee are convinced that in order to develop Australia economically, to make the best use of our natural resources, and to achieve full nationhood. we must have a system of protection to guard industries in their struggling days from competition with cheap foreign labour. It is rather late in the day for the honorable member for Swan to advocate the antediluvian fiscalism that he has been preaching to-day. The honorable member is possibly so set in his opinions respecting the tariff policy that has been endorsed by this Parliament, so little open to conviction on the subject, that it would be a waste of time to traverse and reply to his arguments. I am afraid that many of hisstatements to-day were based upon a complete fallacy as to the underlying principles and the consequent effect of a properly controlled protectionist policy. His statements seemed to be a mere reiteration of arguments that have been used ad nauseum by freetraders ever since the protectionist policy was first seriously advocated in Australia. There seems to be a surviving remnant of freetraders in this chamber.
– And it is growing in strength.
– I should be astonished to find it growing in strength numerically, but it may be growing in volubility, and possibly in insistence. Today it is only a remnant of what was at one time a great political party. Honorable members who are out and out freetraders ignore the lessons of history. They ignore what has happened in Australia and elsewhere, the evidence of which is on every hand, and available in works on history and economy throughout the world.
– Can the honorable member quote one economist who writes in favour of protection?
– Will the honorable member quote a country that is a freetrade country on the basis that ho advocates ?
– The honorable member for Swan did not advocate a freetrade policy for Australia.
– He opposed all kinds of protective duties. As far as I could gather from his argument he found fault with the imposition of protective duties, and the logical deduction was that he would remove those duties.
– No word was said against the protectionist tariff of this country up to 1920.
– Had the honorable member advocated a schedule of duties to enable local manufacturers to compete successfully with oversea manufacturers, I could have understood his attitude ; but if he did that he would be a protectionist. Although I favour protection, I do not. say that I agree with every tariff schedule that is brought down, nor must I necessarily be in favour of every proposal to increase tariff items. I advocate a policy that is reasonable, just and rational, one that will have the effect of protecting our primary and secondary industries from the competition of cheap-labour countries.
– Does the honorable member advocate the exclusion of all foreign goods ?
– In some cases I should be prepared to place an embargo on importations. I have never made any secret of my advocacy of that. I do not say that it would be wise to adopt a policy of all round exclusion. We have to apply to the fiscal policy, as in the case of every other policy, reason and intelligence. We have to apply the intelligence that comes from experience and knowledge. Some industries are suffering because of the facility with which oversea producers, especially those of Asiatic and other cheap-labour countries, can produce an excess of certain commodities beyond their own requirements, and dump them into this country. To maintain those industries and to protect them from absolute extinction - they may have cost millions to establish - I should impose an embargo on imports, and I believe that logical arguments can be used to justify the placing of an embargo on the importation of sugar on the same grounds.
– An embargo was placed on carbide, and what was the result?
– We shall have an opportunity later of dealing with these commodities.
I wish to point out what I consider to be some defects in the present policy. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that if the country is to be benefited at all it is essential as a concomitant of protection to have efficiency in production. We shall never have the full advantage of protection if we merely build up a high tariff, allow the manufacturers to exploit the community as the res nit of that tariff, and permit their protected industries to drift into inefficiency. It is necessary to watch the consequences of the tariff. I deprecate the suggestion that has been made by so many honorable members, that if there is inefficiency in production in secondary or primary industries, the entire responsibility for it rests with the workers.
– I would not say that.
– The honorable member has not gone so far as that, but he has attributed a large share of the responsibility for alleged inefficiency in production in Australia and the high cost of production to the workers in industry. That does not represent the true position. The workers are not by any means wholly responsible for any inefficiency. During the last year or two I have availed myself of every opportunity to visit factories, particularly in New South Wales, and to meet the representatives of employers and employees in order to gain some understanding of the difficulties confronting secondary industries. I had the good fortune some time ago to meet Mr. Octavius Beale, who was one of the pioneers in the manufacture of pianos in Australia. He has done herculean service to this country. I have no axe to grind on his behalf, nor do I hold any brief for him; but he is a typical example of an excellent Australian. He has worked wonders in establishing a new industry. He is employing a large number of workers in his factory, workers of many grades, from highly skilled, technical, professional men down to unskilled workers. He has nothing but the highest encomiums to offer for the efficiency of his workers. Mr. Beale is not a supporter of the Labour party ; indeed, he is a well-known Nationalist supporter; and he says that, from his experience of more than 30 years in manufacturing in Sydney, he considers that the Australian worker is as highly efficient, adaptable, capable of learning, intelligent in trade and profession as is the worker, of other countries.
– In his own business.
– He was speaking of his own experience. I have met other employers in different branches of manufacture, and they have reiterated that opinion, although I know that in some cases they think application of union rules lessens production; but that is no fault of the worker. Honorable members on that side are prone to ignore the fact that where there is high cost of production arising from controllable costs in industry, where there is what is called industrial or commercial inefficiency, to a large extent the main factors for that are attributable to the management, and therefore to the employers.
– And to the nature of the plant.
– The employers are responsible in the main for that inefficiency, and the responsibility arises from defects in management, obsolete machinery and plant, lack of standardization, lack of proper accounting systems, and other causes. If it were possible to apportion the responsibility for inefficiency, it would probably be apportioned as it was in the United States of America. There, an influential committee of 80 engineers and commercial men investigated the question of the responsibility for inefficiency in industry. After inquiry, it reported that about 9 per cent, of inefficiency was attributable to the employees because of union rules and slackness on the part of the individual workers, and 91 per cent, attributable to the employers and those con- _ trolling industry, because of lack of “ supervision, up-to-date machinery, and lack of efficient costing and other methods. I shall not say to what extent inefficiency in Australian industry is attributable to either one side or the other, because there has been no inquiry here. But there is no reason why that responsibility should be greater on the Australian worker than it is on the American worker. The workers in most manufacturing industries work under supervision, and the result here should be no different from that in America.
T agree with the honorable member for Swan . that the flow of money into the customs house in increasing volume year after year does not necessarily mean that we are obtaining effective protection, or that we are adequately safeguarding the manufacturing industries; I believe it indicates the opposite. If the protectionist policy were only to produce, as it has done during the last few years, an inflated customs revenue, and were not to be more effective in checking the influx of foreign goods, we had best abolish altogether that kind of protection. It would be an absolute and complete failure, and would have a worse effect on those it is designed to benefit than if no tariff at all were imposed. The difficulties occasioned by the imposition of this form of indirect taxation, the burdens cast on the community ^-especially on the workers and the primary producers - are so prodigious as to be tolerable only if we believe that they are transient, and will disappear when Australian maunfacturers can produce the goods we require. A tariff that merely increased the price of commodities and swelled indirect taxation would not have a tittle of justification. If the protectionist policy is failing in its application and is not as effective as is desired, the responsibility rests with the Government and with the .administration. The Minister has been given practically a free hand by Parliament. In the consideration of this schedule some defects may be pointed out, items may be suggested as suitable for inclusion, and advice may be offered as to an increase or reduction of items already there, but the Minister has been untrammelled in the framing of the schedule and he must accept responsiIity for it. He has been given a great deal more freedom by Parliament in developing his policy than any of his predecessors. That is a compliment to him, because it shows that Parliament has confidence in his bona fides as a protectionist and in his desire to develop Australian industry. But he must take advantage of his opportunities. If at the end of a reasonable period he is unable to prove that he has protected our industries, if he can show only that he has piled up indirect taxation, he- must consent .to be written down a complete failure. No- body has a better opportunity than has the Minister of understanding the full economic effect of the policy he proposes ; he has access to the Tariff Board and to other experts, and he can get guidance and light which often are denied to private members of Parliament. Therefore, the Minister must shoulder his responsibilities.
The honorable member for Swan referred to the duties on agricultural machinery, as a special tax on agriculture. I recognize, as all reasonable members must, the special case that can be made out for Western Australia. Because of its geographical situation and economic condition, because it has to rely largely on primary production, it is in a slightly different category from the other States, and it must receive special consideration from Parliament. But we should not, because of Western Australia’s peculiar position, abandon protection as a national policy. Far better would it be to give to that State assistance by other means. In studying the effect of the tariff upon the agricultural industry, I read of a deputation which waited upon the present Minister to complain of the cost of agricultural machinery and contrasted the prices in New Zealand and Australia. As an illustration, the deputation mentioned that the price of a 6-ft. reaper and binder in New Zealand under freetrade is £72, and that the same machine is sold in Australia for £92. In refutation of that it has been pointed out that although the Australian farmer would have to pay £92 for the same class of machine as was sold in New Zealand for £72, he could buy an Australian-made binder of the same capacity, and at least equal quality, for £77. So long as he used the Australian machine he would pay only £5 more than the New Zealand farmers. A similar case can be made out in respect of many other agricultural, implements. For instance, a 15-hoe drill in New Zealand costs £63, and in Australia, £59 7s. 6d. ; a four-furrow discplough in New Zealand, £47 15s.; in Australia, £34; a six-section set of harrows, in New Zealand, £15 12s.; in Australia, £10 9s. I have noticed in thesugar industry, in which cultivation isnow carried on largely by implements and’ machinery, that if the farmer utilizes:
Australian-made articles he isnot required to pay an extortionate price in comparison with the price that would have been charged for similar implements prior to the imposition of the tariff. It may be said that the Australian agricultural implement industry is now well established, and that many firms are producing on a large scale.
– And piling up huge fortunes.
– I believe they are, and it is possible that they are unduly profiteering, and that the prices could be lower than they are.Nevertheless the farmer is not suffering by reason of the protectionist policy the great burden thatsome people allege.
– There is a marked contrast between the prices in Canada and Australia, andthe Canadian farmer is our competitor.
– That may be, but using the argument adduced by the honorable member in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line, it does not follow that if the protectionist policy were abandoned and the Australian factories closed, the farmer would get implements as cheaply as they are sold in Canada. He might find himself subject to the rapacity of an American combine.
The lopsided trade between Australia and the United States is economically unsound. It may not result in any very great evil, but it is unfair that Australia should have such limited access to the American markets while providing such a wonderful market for American products. There is a lack of reciprocity between Australia and America - both the United States of America and Canada - and if we are to take full advantage of our economic position - the fact that we have valuable markets that are available in the Commonwealth to those countries - we shall have to consider before long whether we should not insist upon better terms for our own exportable products. I do not suggest a retaliatory tariff - other countries have resorted to that method when other methods have failed - but it should be possible by rational negotiation to get a better deal for Australian producers. I realize that many of the commodities im ported from the United States-mineral oil, kerosene, films, motor cars, and player pianos - are not being produced in Australia to the extent to meet all our requirements. But we import from the United States also large quantities of tobacco. Australia has land eminently suitable for the cultivation of this crop, and offers a good home market. It should be possible to establish in Australia a very valuable agricultural industry that would supply the raw products for the tobacco factories. More should be done to encourage tobacco cultivation, and only a small percentage of the enormous revenue raised by the excise on tobacco would be required to establish this industry on a sound and profitable footing.
– I intend to ask the Government for a bounty.
– That is the way to do it, and it should be a liberal bounty. I do not know whether it would be considered sound, but I believe that a considerable proportion of the customs revenue, levied for the special purpose of protecting an industry, should not be paid into Consolidated Revenue. It should be ear-marked or paid into a special fund - firstly for the purposes of relieving such distress as may be occasioned at the outset by the imposition of such duties; and secondly, for the payment of bounties to assist agriculturists who may be adversely affected. If it can be shown that duties imposed some years ago to, assist particular industries have resulted in the collection of an additional £5,000,000 a year in customs and excise - receipts that were not collected for the purpose of aiding the Consolidated Revenue, but which are being collected from the consumer and are detrimental to producers and workers alike - that money might be utilized to mitigate the initial hardships caused by the impost. The effect of such duties is felt in this way for a little while, but the flow of goods is stopped and the articles concerned are produced here. ‘ That kind of revenue should not be considered as ordinary revenue but as a fortuitous income and should be. used for the special purposes I have mentioned.
I wish to call the attention of the Minister to some items that are not included in the tariff schedule. I mentioned at an earlier stage of the session, when we were meeting in Melbourne, that a customs duty ought to be imposed on the importation of books into Australia. I do not wish to be misunderstood in this respect. In my opinion the tariff ought to be so arranged as not to bring about an increase in the price of educational works required in Australia. Even the imposition of an all-round duty on imported books would not, I ‘think, produce that effect. There are many large printing firms in Sydney and elsewhere which are subjected to unfair competition from overseas. An enormous number of books are brought into Australia comprising light fiction and other works, and are dumped into the country to the detriment of the local printing industry and also of Australian authors. I have had the facts relating to this matter placed before me in a convincing light by those concerned in the printing and publishing industry in Australia. I find that books such as have been referred to are imported free into Australia. They are allowed not only to come in free, but to be dumped here. Books which are published in England at 3s. 6d. are available in Sydney at 2s., while in some of the great distributing houses, such as Anthony Hordern’s, they are sold at as low as 9d. a volume. These books probably represent the excess production of the English publishing houses. One of the largest publishing firms in Australia, Angus and Robertson; who are among the pinoeering publishers in Australia, and who are printers and book manufacturers as well, turn out a great many books every year, including books by Australian authors. I have’ a list here indicating the nature of the publications which they issue. During the last four years they have handled 1,400,000 books, including such publications as the “ Bell Bird “ series, and the “ Platypus “ series. They do, everything in connexion with the publishing of these books, including setting up the type, printing, binding and distributing them throughout Australia. They also print Australian editions of books published oversea, such as *My Life and Work, by Henry Ford. That particular work, which the public has been able to purchase at the bookstalls throughout Australia was printed and published in this country, and it was sold here cheaper than in Great Britain or America. Another such book was Lindberg’s We. They paid a royalty for the right to print it, and the book, as printed by them, was sold cheaper than the original publication in America. A typical example of dumping is furnished in the case of Anne of Avonlea, which is sold wholesale in England for ls. 9d., and retailed for 3s. 6d. This book is sold in Australia at 3s. 6d. retail, notwithstanding that freight has to be paid to bring it 12,000 miles. It is also printed and published in Australia at 3s. 6d. There is no item included in the schedule providing for the better protection of the printing industry. There are 1,423 printing establishments in the Commonwealth, employing 32,600 people, to whom wages and salaries amounting to £6,300,000 are paid. The value of the raw materials, including fuel and light used, is £7,000,000, and the value added in process of manufacture is .£11,600,000.
– Does that include the newspapers ?
– No ; it includes only the manufacture of books, printing, and lithography. Everything this industry uses in the way of raw material for the manufacture of books carries a duty at the present time. That is the unfair part of it. The machinery, when it has to be imported - and some, such as the linotype machine, is not manufactured here - pays a heavy duty.
– There is no duty on linotype machines.
– I think the honorable gentleman is quite right in that statement, but there is a duty on printing machinery, and on such articles needed for book manufacture as linotype metal, inks, paste, paper, thread, tape, strawboard, blocks, and plates. It shows that the tariff duties are incomplete when duties are imposed on the raw materials, while the manufactured article is admitted free. If duties are imposed on the one, they should be imposed also on the other. This is a valuable industry which is not being adequately protected.
It may be said that the imposition of a duty on books would increase the price of educational works. I do not think that it would. Recently one of the largest printing firms in Sydney secured a contract from the New South Wales Government for the printing and production of certain classes of school books used in the primary schools. Tenders were called overseas as well as in Australia, and the Sydney firm secured the contract. It is costing the New South Wales Government about 4.7 per cent, more than for imported books, but the Australian firm is paying 12 per cent, royalty to the copyright holders. The Australian firm offered to print all the technical and other books required in the secondary schools, and to make them available to the schools at no increase on present prices, but in that case it was not able to obtain the copyright from the oversea owners. In the matter of copyright, we have no proper protection for our Australian authors, nor for our producers of books. In Canada, the law lays it down that the owner of a copyright must produce the book in Canada, and, failing that, any one else may obtain a licence to produce the book upon the payment of a specified royalty. In the United States of America they will not. give copyright protection unless the matter is wholly set up, printed, and manufactured within the United States of America.
The other day I asked the Minister a question regarding a reference in the Tariff Board’s report to certain classes of metal goods manufactured in Sydney. It related to the output of factories engaged in what is known as the pressed metal trade. There is one firm known as the Australian Lock and Pressed Metal Company, which manufactures locks and all kinds of stamped and pressed metal goods. It is an industry which employs many men, and its products are used as fittings on kit-bags, suit-cases, and other goods of that kind. It also produces pressed metal boxes and containers for various articles. I have here a container intended, when complete, to be a metal box holding a transformer for a wireless set. It is stamped out of one sheet of metal, and I am told that it is a particularly fine example of what can be done in Australia, because of the depth of the stamping and the. structural nature of the article. This industry has been haying a hard struggle, because it is up against the competition of German, Swedish and Japanese manufacturers. Among other things the firms engaged in it produce articles known as barrel and socket bolts, This factory produces also barrel and socket bolts; they are used extensively in the building trade, and Canberra has been furnished with a good many hundred dozen gross of these bolts. The Tariff Board has apparently made a mistake and assumed that the bolt referred to is a fitting on kit bags and suit cases. It has not made any recommendation in its report regarding these socket bolts. I trust that the Minister will see his way to do something in this matter. This may not be a very large industry, but in my electorate alone there is a factory capable of employing more than 100 workers, and which gives indirect employment to a great many more.
– Is the industry being carried on to-day without any protective, duty?
– There is a duty on many of the things produced, but it is inadequate in regard to barrel and socket bolts. At present the duties are 35 per cent. British, and 45 per cent, general, and it is desired that these duties should be increased to 45 per cent. British,’ and 60 per cent, general. There are many different countries, both continental and Asiatic, competing in the production of similar articles, and if the Australian industry has to compete unaided with the cheap labour in those countries, it will have to go out of production. There is a further anomaly in the tariff schedule in regard to the articles known as pin bolts. There is not sufficient protection afforded to the industry to meet the competition of Japanese and German manufacturers. The German article, in particular, is coming here in great quantities. There are two sizes of these bolts, and on one of these sizes there is an import duty of 35 per cent. British, and 45 per cent, general. The other size is admitted free.
– There must be some very good reason for that.
– There is no other reason, I think, than that the matter has been overlooked by somebody in control.
The smaller size is imported and sold at a price equivalent to 6s. a gross. The Australian manufacturer cannot sell it at less than 12s. a gross. Therefore, the foreign article is sold at a1/2d. perbolt as compared with a1d., which is the remunerative price for the Australian article. The Australian industry cannot carry on under those conditions. That has happened in this particular case. It shows how anomalies can occur in our tariff legislation. As this is the usual time for the adjournment of the House on Friday afternoon I shall defer any further remarks which I may have to make until we are dealing with the items in the schedule. I hope I shall have that opportunity next week. I exhort the Minister to use every endeavour to have the tariff schedule dealt with before the Christmas adjournment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
government business.– commissioner in the United States of America - Industrial Trouble on the Waterfront - Canberra Licensing Obdinance.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
For the information of honorable members I should like to say that it is proposed on Monday next to proceed with the debate on the tariff. The Land Tax Assessment Bill may also come on for discussion next week.
– Does the Government propose to go right through with the tariff debate?
– Much will depend upon the progress made. There are certain measures that should be dealt with before the Christmas adjournment. The Government does not propose to ask members to sit beyond the 16th December, or possibly the following day. It would be impossible for honorable members from the more distant States to reach their homes for Christmas if the House con tinued in session after that date. Itis impossible to indicate exactly what measures will be taken next week, or the exact period that will be taken in connexion with each bill..
I desire also to inform the House that I have received the resignation of Sir Hugh Denison, the Commissioner for Australia in the United States ofAmerica. Sir Hugh Denison has expressed the wish to leave New York not later than the second week in January ‘ next and the Government, in reluctantly accepting his resignation, has concurred in the proposed arrangement. A communication has been forwarded to the commissioner expressing the Government’s appreciation of his valuable services which, it is recognized, have been carried out at great personal inconvenience and sacrifice. The Government does not propose to appoint a successor until it has had an opportunity to consult with Sir Hugh Denison regarding the future representation of Australia in the United States of America.
– Can the right honorable the Prime Minister give the House any further information concerning the waterside workers dispute?
– I have nothing of an official character that I can communicate to the House.
.- I trust that the Prime Minister will next week push on the tariff debate and allow the schedule to be dealt with finally before we rise for the Christmas adjournment. This matter is urgent in view of the unsatisfactory position of a number of industries that are affected by the tariff.
– We all think that it should be fully discussed.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to what appears to be, if not an actual infringement of the licensing ordinance in the Federal Capital Territory, something approximating very closely thereto. I have had placed in my hands a circular issued by a firm of wine and spirit merchants: in Goulburn inviting the residents ofthe Federal Capital
Territory to do business with them. Extracts from the circular read as follow : -
Under present conditions it is of course necessary for residents of Canberra and adjoining districts to obtain supplies of wines and spirits, ales; &c., from outside the Federal area.
However, this need not be a hardship or even an inconvenience, as we are in a position to offer unique facilities for the prompt and satisfactory supply of a vast selection of the choicest brands, spirits, wines, ales, lagers, stouts, liqueurs, ciders, Schweppes cordials and waters, &c., at lowest possible prices.
Our business at Canberra is already an extensive one, and we can with confidence refer you to many of your residents of high standing.
Thereis now a splendid service of trains available for the delivery of goods from Goulburn to Canberra.
The circular goes on to state that there is also an inter-city coach leaving Goulburn on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and that it is possible to obtain through that service, at moderate prices, parcels and cases that are not too bulky. These circulars and the accompanying prices list are sent through the post at less thanthe ordinary letter rates. Whether the invitation to buy spirituous liquors in that way is an infringement of the ordinance 1 am not prepared to say; but it seems to me that if the goods are purchased by people living in Canberra, and if money is sent with the order the transaction is tantamount to a sale within the Territory. As it seems an infringement of the spirit of the ordinance if not of the letter, I have taken the opportunity of directing the attention of the Government to the position, and to ask the Attorney-General if he will note it. The point is - does an order from a resident within the Territory for liquor delivered to him within the Territory and paid for by him as the recipient constitute a sale within the Territory.
Mr.BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) [4.11] . - I shall have the matter raised by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) inquired into by the Crown Law officers in order to ascertain if the ordinance is being infringed, and if it is within the power of the Government to prevent an infringement. I cannot give the honorable member an answer at the moment,but I am sure the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and his officers will go seriously into the question to ascertain whether a contract actually takes place. Whether he will divulge the information obtained in order to safeguard the position of any honorable member who wishes to avail himself of the offer, I cannot say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271202_reps_10_117/>.