10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In reply to a question I asked yesterday the Prime Minister stated that the tenders for the purchase of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers would be made available to the House as soon as that could be done without prejudicing public interest in regard to the sale. In view of the newspaper statements that some tenderers have included conditions other than those specified by the shipping board, will the. right honorable gentleman give an undertaking that before any tender is accepted, the House will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the matter?
Mr.BRUCE. -I cannot give such an undertaking. It will be the responsibility of the Government to consider thetenders and arrive at a decision in accordance with the policy I announced to this
House last year. It would be impracticable to make these tenders the subject of a debate in the House before coming to a decision upon them.
– The statement has appeared in the press that the Commonwealth Government is to contribute a sum of money towards the cost of bringing electric power from the Burrinjuck scheme in New South Wales to Canberra. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government is committed to expenditure of that nature; if so, what inquiries preceded the Government’s decision, and out of what fund will the money be provided ?
– An electric power generating plant has been established in connexion with the Burrinjuck reservoir and irrigation scheme, and it is considered that current from that source could be provided for ordinary purposes in Canberra at cheaper rates than would be possible by any other system. Negotiations have taken place with the New South Wales Government with regard to the erection of a line for the transmission of current from Burrinjuck to Canberra. The State Government has suggested that the Commonwealth should provide the necessary capital, but the Commonwealth Government contends that that obligation properly belongs to the State. No arrangement has yet been made.
-I have received advices from my electorate that unless the duties on textiles are revised at an early date, between 1,200 and 1,500 persons now engaged in mills at Geelong may be thrown out of employment. Will the Prime Minister inform the House when the requests of another place in regard to the Customs Tariff Bill will be considered in this chamber ?
-It is proposed that the requests of another place shall be dealt with before the Easter adjournment.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the following serious statement which re ceived considerable prominence in the Sydney Sun of21st March : -
Big bodies move slowly. Two officials were murdered at Sinaranga, in the Solomon Islands on October 4 last. At the instance of the British Government the Australian cruiser Adelaide was despatched to help discover and catch the murderers. One hundred and seventy tribesmen were finally surrounded in the forests and marched to the coast to await trial.
They have been deprived of their liberty, and corralled in a hastily and faulty constructed camp ever since. One of the ringleaders who actually attacked the official has repeatedly remarked, “Me killed him: why no hang? “ But British justice will not function so expeditiously.
The natives have’ been held for trial, and meantime the price of blunderinghas to be paid. Word has reached Sydney that owing to woefully insanitary surroundings, dysentery has broken out in the prisoners’ camp. More than 40 have fallen prey to the disease and already seven have died.
Fiji proudly announces that a magistrate has been selected, and is on his way to conduct the case. But meantime natives who may never be convicted of association with the crime are dying because someone has blundered.
The Commonwealth Government, having participated in the disciplinary expedition, must share some of the odium which will follow from what is happening. Possibly it has some explanation which will clear Australia of any responsibility in this luckless adventure.
Having regard to the fact that Australia’s reputation and prestige are involved as much as those of Great Britain, and quite apart from considerations of humanity, will the Prime Minister accept the newspaper’s invitation to makea statement, particularly in regard to the unfortunate and apparently unwarranted delay in dealing with the prisoners ?
– There is no warrant f or the suggestion that Australia is in any way responsible for the events that have happened in the Solomon Islands. I am unable to accept the newspaper’s statement of the circumstances. It is undesirable that honorable members should make reflections of this character upon Australia and try to saddle our country with responsibilities that certainly do not belong to it. Last year owing to a lamentable tragedy in which the lives of two officials and other persons were lost, the Commonwealth Government, at the invitation of the British Government, sent the cruiser Adelaide to the Islands to assist in restoring order and in bringing the murderers to justice. The Adelaide returned from the Islands two months ago. The Solomon Islands are under British jurisdiction and the responsibility for occurrences there rests with the British Government.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories indicate to the House what works are likely to be put in hand in the Federal Capital Territory at an. early date, so that those who are unemployed may know the prospects of work being provided for them?
-I shall give the matter careful consideration.
– When may I ex pect a reply to the question I addressed to the Prime Minister about three weeks ago regarding the approximate amount of money saved to the primary producers by the reductions made in freights at the instance of the Commonwealth Shipping Board?
-I shall ascertain if the information is yet available.
– With a view to relieving the serious unemployment in North Australia, will the Minister for Home and Territories authorize the immediate commencement of the road construction work which was recommended by the North Australia Commission in its last annual report as essential to the development of primary production, particularly the road from Daly Waters to the Pine Creek railway?
– I shall consider the matter. I have been in communication with the honorable member for some days with regard to the difficult situation that has arisen in North Australia.
– On the 22nd March the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member’s questions have been brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the difficulty of all railways competing with motor traffic, will he request the Cabinet to invite Captain Louis Brennan, the Australian inventor, to consider the laying of his mono-rail as a means of meeting the opposition of motor traffic, and in order to save great expense in the laying of railways I
– It is not considered practicable for the Commonwealth Government to take action in the direction suggested by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Use as Road Rollers.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
-The information will be obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the loth March the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked me what was being done in regard to the appointment of an Executive Council in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the proposal to grant a measure of local government to the Territory of New Guinea has not yet advanced to a stage that will permit of a definite statement being made on the subject at present. The Administratorof the Territory was asked by my predecessor to submit a report for the consideration of the Government, and when the report comes to hand it will receive early attention.
The following paper was presented: -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1927-28 - Dated 14th March, 1928.
. -I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee
Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Box Hill, Victoria.
The Attorney-General, for His Excellency the Governor-General, approved in Council of the reference of this proposal to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 6th July, 1927. It is proposed to establish an automatic telephone exchange at Box Hill on the existing site at the corner of Whitehorse Road and Station Street. The proposed automatic telephone exchange will be located at the rear of the existing manual magneto exchange. The existing exchange, which it is proposed shall be replaced by the proposed automatic exchange, will reach the limit of its capacity by about 1928, and, owing to the limitations of the existing building, cannot be extended therein. It is. proposed, therefore, to instal, in a new building an automatic telephone switching system, having an initial equipment for 1,700 subscribers’ lines, and capable of extension to a capacity of “approximately 5,200 subscribers’ lines. The proposal has been examined by the Public Works Committee, which recommended in its report, dated the 12th October, 1927, that the work be proceeded with. The estimated cost of the project is : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations: - Sydenham, New South Wales - Erection of postal workshops.
This proposal, which was referred to the Parliamentary Works Committee by His Excellency the Governor-General in Council, is to erect on land at Sydenham, New South Wales, the property of the Commonwealth, a workshop building for the accommodation of the sections of the Postmaster-General’s Department that are engaged in the manufacture and maintenance repair work of telegraph and telephone apparatus used in the department’s operations. At the present time, workshop activities are carried on in leased premises in Pier-street, Sydney, These premises were designed for use as a warehouse, and are reported to he unsuitable for their present purpose. The accommodation is insufficient for requirements, and does not permit of economical working. Moreover, the rental is very high, and the inflammable nature of the structure necessitates considerable watching expense. The proposed building, which has been designed to permit of extensions being made when necessary, is to have a frontage of 124 feet and a depth of 370 feet, and is to be mainly a single-storey structure,’ except for two sections about 58 feet long at front and rear respectively, which will be of two storeys. Construction will be of brick, with reinforced concrete foundations and galvanized iron roof. It is proposed to cement the front of the building to the height of the twostoried portion, the remainder being of plain brick. The ground floor is intended for use as a general workshop, with a machine shop, tool store, Sca., while the accommodation on the first floor will consist of offices, laboratory, storeroom, luncheon, and retiring rooms. The estimated cost of the building, including the necessary ground work, water, and sewerage services, and provision against fire is £43,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move : -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public “Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Maroubra, New South Wales.
The proposal submitted for the consideration of the Public Works Committee was the erection, on certain Commonwealth property in Storey-street, Maroubra, of a building in which would be installed an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment for 1,400 subscribers’ lines, and an ultimate capacity of approximately 7,000 subscribers’ lines. It is proposed that the initial equipment shall be capable of extension to the ultimate capacity named, and thus enable requirements in the proposed automatic exchange area to be met for twenty years after the dale of opening. The area that would be served by the automatic exchange suggested, comprises the southern portion of the present Randwick exchange area, and a small portion of the adjacent Ascot exchange area. The new exchange is said to be necessary in order to meet the rapid development due to the sale of Crown lands in the locality, and to avoid further unnecessarily high expenditure on external plant. It is claimed that the installation of the proposed exchange will enable the department to provide a cheaper and more efficient service to subscribers in the extreme limits of the areas * mentioned. The estimated immediate cost of the work, as submitted to the Public Works Committee, is set down at:-
The time fixed for the completion of the work is about ten months from the date of commencement. The site proposed is situated in Storey-street, Maroubra, adjoining the public school, and forms portion of what was, at one time, the Randwick rifle range. This land was handed over to the Commonwealth as a “ transferred property,” but owing to the closing of the range, it has since been retransferred to the State, with the exception of about 201 acres retained for the Small Arms School, and this block has been retained for telephone exchange purposes. The proposed exchange site has a frontage of 100 feet to Storeystreet, by a depth of 200 feet, and is level land of a sandy nature. It is reported to be a good building site, and the telephone officials state that after careful survey, it is found to be as near as practicable to the telephonic centre of the proposed automatic exchange area. Inquiries were made by the Public Works Committee as to whether it would not be possible to locate the proposed exchange on portion of the land now partially occupied by theMaroubra Post Office in Anzac-parade. It was stated in evidence, however, that this was not advisable for the reasons that the unoccupied portion of the post office area would not be large enough to accommodate the proposed exchange as a single storey building. It is quite possible that with the increased development of the district an extension of the post office premises themselves may be “necessary. The theoretical telephonic centre of the district is situated approximately at the site chosen for the exchange, and to establish the exchange on the post office property would mean greater expenditure in cabling, which could not be justified. It was statedin evidence that the total annual charges, including interestand depreciation for the proposedautomatic system as at the date of establishment, namely,31st December, 1929, are estimated at£11,739, and five years later at £19,018. The estimated revenue at 31st December, 1929, is set down at£11,328, and five years later at£23,788. The assets, that will become spare, ifthe automatic system is installed on the 31st December, 1929, are estimated to have a recoverable value of £1,264.
. -I understand that ten months are allowed for the completion of the building after the acceptance of the tender. When does the Government intend to proceed with the erection of this exchange? A number of works, the construction of which has already been recommendedbythecommittee, have been held up. Thisexchangewill be located in my electorate, and as I am familiar with therapid growth in the district, I urge the Minister to havethe building proceeded with as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move : -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Common wealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries; - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Oaklgigh, Victoria.
The Postmaster-General for His Excellency the Governor-General in Council approved of the reference of this proposal to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 18th May, 1927. It is proposed to establish an automatic telephoneexchange at Oakleigh on a site in Neerim-road, to replace the existing manual magneto exchangein Dandenong-road and provide for future development. The existing manual telephoneexchange will reach the limit of its capacity by about 1928, and owing to building limitations cannot be extended in the existing building. It will not be economical to use the existing site for telephone exchangepurposes owing to its distance from the telephone centre of the area.It is proposed, therefore, to install ina new buildingan automatic telephone switchingsystem having an initialequipment for 1,300 subscribers’ lines and capable of extension toa capacity of 4,300 subscribers’ lines. The proposal hasbeen examined by the Public Works Committee, whohave recommended in theirreport, dated5th October, 1927, that the proposal be proceeded with. The estimated cost of the project is: -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.-I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries: -Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Cottesloe, Western Australia.
The Attorney-General,for His Excellency theGovernor-General, approved in Council of the reference of this proposal to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 24th August, 1927. It is proposed to establish an automatic telephone exchange at Cottesloe on a site at the corner of Clive-road, Congdon-street, and Claremont-avenue to replace the existing manual magneto exchange and provide for future development. The existing manual telephone exchange will not give satisfactory service beyond 1929, and, owing to building limitations cannot be extended in the existing building. It will not be economical to use the existing site for telephone exchange purpose owing to its distance from the telephonic centre of the area. It is proposed, therefore, to install in a new building an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment for 1,700 subscribers’ lines and capable of extension to a capacity of approximately 4,400 subscribers’ lines. The proposal has been examined by the Public Works Committee, who have recommended in their report dated the 13th October, 1927, that the proposal be proceeded with. The estimated cost of the project is: -
.- I hope that this work will be proceeded with at once, because it has been hung up on previous occasions. In fact, it has been said that the material for this exchange was purchased and brought out in 1915, and was used for other work. The people over in the West were very dissatisfied and disappointed at the delay. I thank the Minister for bringing this motion forward now, and I trust that the work will be expedited.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations: - Erection of Commonwealth Offices, Brisbane.
In 1922 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works recommended that a first section of this building should be erected on the valuable city site held by the Commonwealth in Brisbane. To give effect to the committee’s recommendation, all preparations had been made to call tenders for the erection of the building, but action was suspended as a result of local representations which were made to the Acting Prime Minister thata further donation of portion of the site, additional to the portion previously promised, should be made towards a civic improvement scheme, consisting of a public square, incorporating with it a site for a soldiers’ memorial, intended to be erected by public subscription. This request led to extended negotiations between the Federal and State Governments, the Brisbane Municipal Council, and the Returned Soldiers’ Association, until finally an improvement scheme was evolved on lines agreeable to all these interested parties. As: a contribution to this last scheme, the Cabinet, upon the Minister’s recommendation, agreed to the surrender of an adddtional 12 ft. 6in. frontage of the Commonwealth land, which, with the previous donation of 34 feet, represents a total frontage of 46 ft. 6 in. The building proposed was necessarily altered by the new dimensions of the site, and since the Works Committee’s previous investigations, conditions affecting the future occupation of the building, and aspects of it connected with other public interests concerned in the improvement scheme, have also changed. The proposal was again referred to the committee by His Excellency the Governor-General in Council. The building now proposed is of seven storeys, to be constructed of steel and concrete with a granite base, with stone facings for two storeys high and above that brick or concrete plastered to imitate stone. The building will provide effective office space for Commonwealth departments in Brisbane of 96,730 square feet. The estimated cost is £170,464. Practically all the space has been allocated either to the Commonwealth or State departments, including 12,000 square feet applied for by the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
.- We have passed a number of proposals, half a dozen in all, involving an expenditure of over £300,000. I take no exception to that, because I think that the works are necessary, but I desire to impress upon the Minister the urgency for undertaking these projects at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, there are thousands of unemployed throughout the Commonwealth, and everything possible should be done to alleviate the position, especially in view of the fact that winter is approaching. The Minister made the remark that one of these works would be completed ten months after commencement. We are concerned, not so much with the date of completion, as with the date of commencement. We wish this work to be started immediately, and I hope that the Minister will take the necessary action to have it done.
.- I feel certain that if the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) were present this morning he would congratulate the Government on its decision to proceed with the erection of the Commonwealth offices at Brisbane. It is well known that the various Commonwealth departments are scattered all over Brisbane, and are housed under any but decent conditions. The erection of these buildings has also an important bearing on tnt construction of Anzac Square. Thousands of pounds have been collected from the public in Brisbane for the purpose of erecting a handsome memorial on this square, but the Greater Brisbane Council and the Mayor of Brisbane have complained frequently of the delay which has been caused by the failure to erect the Commonwealth offices, thus holding up the development of the square. Apart from this, I hope that the work will be proceeded with, so that employment may be found for those now out of work. I trust that the Minister will not allow anything to delay the calling of tenders, and the commencement’ of construction.
.- I am surprised that the Minister has not replied to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) and ‘ South Sydney (E.» Riley) . I have” good reason to believe that the Cottesloe exchange is not to be gone on with, and that further protracted delays will occur. One would imagine from reading this list of new works that something is to be done to provide additional employment, but unless the Minister mends his ways the work will remain a long time in. abeyance. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) spoke about the work which it was proposed to carry out at Brisbane, but I remind the House that the Public Works Committee reported many months ago in favour of the erection of Commonwealth offices in Sydney. The Commonwealth is losing money through having its offices scattered all over the city. It has been proposed that all the staffs should be brought together, so that they might enjoy better conditions, and economies might be effected. I wish to know when this work is likely to be commenced. We are passing through the worst period of unemployment which we have ever experienced, and we are now entering upon the winter season, when distress from unemployment is likely to be accentuated. This work has been recommended by a responsible committee of Parliament as one of urgency, and I hope that it will be commenced without delay.
– I should like to draw attention to the fact that the work which is to be done under these proposals is fairly -well distributed over Australia, or over certain parts of Australia. Two of the proposals refer to New South Wales, two to Victoria, and one each to Queensland and Western Australia. I make no particular protest because there is no postal work here for my own State. ‘ It may be that all the work there has already been done. It does appear strange to me, however, that it should be necessary to erect Commonwealth offices in Brisbane at the present time of financial stringency, when, on the other hand, it has been deemed advisable ‘to cut out the Bed Hill railway line in South Australia. Whatever opinions may be held about the construction, of that line, I think the honorable member for Gray (Mr. Lacey) will agree with me that this is a line in which South Australia is very greatly concerned. I can. see no reason why it should have to give way, owing to financial stringency, while Commonwealth offices are to he erected at Brisbane.
, - I wish to supplement the remarks of other honorable members in regard to the necessity of proceeding with the erection of the Commonwealth offices in Sydney. The Government has purchased a valuable block of land there with a view to erecting buildings in which all the Commonwealth staffs may be housed. Tho plans hove been drawn for the buildings, and considerable expense has already been incurred. The Commonwealth is paying heavy rents in other parts of the city for office accommodation, and this is a work, which carried OU4 will save the Government a considerable amount of money. I cannot understand the > policy; of the Government, because the Public Works Committee has already taken evidence on this matter, and recommended that the work be undertaken. ‘ I understand that the Minister for Markets and Migration has leased a building in Melbourne for seven years, instead of bringing the department to Canberra. What, then, are we to. conclude is the policy of the Government? The Prime Minister should make an announcement in connexion with this matter before the House rises, at Easter.
– I assure honorable members that the Government desires to proceed with all the works that ‘have been the subject of motions this morning. Five of them concern postal buildings and equipment, and the sixth, ‘the erection of Commonwealth offices in ‘Brisbane. During this financial year about £4,000,000 has been spent on postal work and we hope to be able to spend a similar amount next year. In the last five years considerable progress has been made with the provision of postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities. Our object is to make these . services as efficient as . possible. But the amount of money that can he spent is limited to the amount that is available on terms which are acceptable to a first class borrower. It must be remembered also that the money borrowed must be allocated between the Commonwealth and State Governments, in such a way that their works programmes may be continued. I give my assurance that so far as possible, all the proposals that- have been submitted to honorable members , this morning will be proceeded with at the earliest possible date;
.- It appears to me that the motions that we have carried, ‘ as well as that which is now under consideration, are so much camouflage. But whether that is’ so or not I point out that there appears to be no intention on the port of the Government to proceed with the construction of a number of other works upon which the Public Works Committee has favorably reported, although many of them are even more necessary than those to which we have been given our attention this morning. ‘ Unfortunately, the Government has stopped some important public works which it has had in hand in South Australia. I contend that such works should be put in hand as will provide the greatest amount or employment for our people. The construction of the works which have been under consideration this morning toll require a good deal of machinery but will not give a very large amount Disemployment. In the circumstances itf - which Australia finds herself at present’ the Government would be well advised to resume at once the ballasting of the transcontinental railway, the completion of which is highly desirable for the economic working of theline. In consideration of certain public works having been favorably reported uponby the Public WorksCommittee, many workers in South Australia are anticipating that they will be putin hand, and are actually waiting for employment upon them. I trustthat the Government will bear this in mind and give first attention to undertaking’s which will provide the largest amount of employment.
.- I should be glad if the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) would, in his reply, indicate the present position in connexion with the proposal to erect Commonwealth offices in Sydney for the purposeof which a valuable site was acquired a considerable time ago. The work has been approvedby the Public Works Committee,but I do not think that it has been put in hand. The land on which the building is to be erected is at present partially occupied by garages andother constructions, and is, I suppose yielding a small revenue, but as the Commonwealth Government is paying considerable sums in rentals for office accommodation inSydney, I submit that the erection of the buildings -should be undertaken as early as possible. I should also like the Minister to intimate whether the Government proposes to put in hand at anearly date the erection of the postal workshops at Sydenham.
.-The remarks which the Prime Minister made a few moments ago showedquite clearly that the motionsthat we have been considering are only so much eye-wash. Theright honorable gentleman said in effect that the Government had no money available to proceed with the proposed works.
– He said nothingof the kind.
– Thatis certainly what I understoodhimtosay. At any rate he indicated thatthere was no serious intention to tackle the unemployment problem. It is urged that a government is always justified in raising money to undertake repro ductive works. Surely the projects that we have had under consideration can be placed in that category. Telephone exchanges, atleast, should bereproductive. I am afraid that nothing very effective will be done in Australia to cope with unemployment until there isa change of government. I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that, although, in accordance with areso - lution similar to those which have been carried thismorning, certain work was put in hand at. the rear of the Adelaide General Post Office three or fouryears ago, it is still uncompleted, and is an eye-sore in thecity. Derricks were erected, a good deal of plantassembled on the site, and a certain amount of work done, butpractically all activities there have now ceased, and the plant is falling into disrepair. Certain temporary premises were erected when this undertaking was first put in hand to relieve the congestion at the Adelaide General Post Office. At the time that work was being done, I asked one of the workmen, whom I knew intimately, what he was doing. He said, “We are putting up some temporaryaccommodation for the post office.” I said, “ They appear to be fairly substantial for temporarypremises.” He replied, “ Do notworry, old man, these buildings will be here long after I am gone.” It appears as though his prophecy will be fulfilled. I ask the Government to complete the Adelaide work before it undertakes any new projects of the kind. I nave gleaned from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) that the Adelaide buildings are urgentlyrequired to give the telephone- exchange extra accommodation, although it was not intended when they were put in hand that they should be used for that purpose. It isurgently necessary that a new post office should - be builtin the east-end of Adelaide to handle the business which is vow being conducted in an ordinary shop in Bundle-street. The construction of this building is long overdue. I’trust that the Government will reconsider its programme and try tomake some more effective plans to meet the unemployment problem.
.- I congratulate the Government upon having decided to construct the Commonwealth offices in Brisbane. The accommodation which they will provide is sorely needed. The new building, in addition to beautifying the locality in which it will be erected, will make possible the construction of the Anzac Square in Brisbane, a project that has been held up now for a number of years. I urge the Government to make it a condition when tenders are being called for this work that as far as possible, local material shall be used. Some of thefinest granite in Australia is available in the ranges near Brisbane, but it appears to bealmost impossible to get the Public “Works Department to use it.
– The granite used in the construction of the Brisbane automatic telephone exchange was brought from New South Wales.
– That is so. I trust that a similar mistake will not be made in building the Commonwealth offices there.
.- I trust that the Minister, in his reply, will indicate that, as far as possible, his department will get tenders for these public works, and that he will see that we obtain something approaching value for the money spent. Our existing unemployment is to be regretted, and we would all like to see public works proceeded with to provide employment. But when we have an incident such as that which occurred at Ouyen, where the actual cost was about double the estimated cost, a doubt exists as to advisability of using public money for such work. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will’ see that adequate value is obtained for the money expended.
.- regret to have to mention this matter as I recognize that thePostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) usually does his best for all concerned: Fifteen years ago my predecessor, the Honorable W. H. Kelly, endeavouredto obtain better postal facilities at Edgecliffe, in the Woollahra district. That is a huge district, which has expanded enormously in recent years. I took the matter up about nine years ago and,in a softmoment, the then Treasurer -now Sir Joseph Cook - placed uponthe estimates an amount of£60,000 for the erection of a. new post officeand an automatic exchange at Edgecliffe. TheGovernment has carefully refrained from action in the matter since then. Almost weekly, I receive communications from the Woollahra council asking me if any further action has been taken, and I have frequently written to the PostmasterGeneral on the subject. My letters have not received any reply f or the last month. During a recent electrical storm in the Woollahra district 400 telephones, including my own, were- put out of order. It would be impossible and perhaps impolitic tosend on to the PostmasterGeneral all of the complaints that I have since received. If there is one public utility that is more reproductive than another, it is the public telephone. Judging by the number of doubtful calls that one has to pay, that branch of the service must be generously reproductive. On that score alone I enter a strong appeal on behalf of the Woollahra Council, and the hundreds using telephones in that district, urging that action be taken to facilitate the provision of adequate and up-to-date telephonic facilities in the locality.
.- I shall not congratulate the Government. I impress upon the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), that practically all of the public works now being carried out are for the big cities of Australia. I represent a country electorate and for some time have been endeavouring to persuade the Government to erect an automatic telephone exchange at Rockhampton. Nothing has been done, possibly because Rockhampton happens to be out of the category of capital cities.. I do not object to the activities of the department in the capital cities, but it is prone to overlook places that are remote from a metropolis. For several years, this particular matter has been under thenotice of the department, which has indulged ina policy of procrastination. Some of the Commonwealth buildings in Bundaberg andRockhampton are in a disgraceful condition, and need urgent attention. For some time a request has been beforethePostmasterGeneral for areinforced concrete or brick post office at Gladstone. That town is growing rapidly and has a magnificent harbour, which appealed tothe aesthetic and nautical predilections of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) when he visited the port. There is no guarantee that there will be any result from the resolutions now before this House. No doubt we shall have to wait until we have a Labour party representative as Minister for Works and Railways and Postmaster-General before the country districts receive proper attention. The big citieshavenumerous advocates but remote areas are neglected. Telephone lines and small exchanges are refused when applied for on the ground thatno money is available and that the proposition is not a sound commercial one. I urge the Government not to be niggardly in its provision of new exchanges for country districts.
I wish to bringbef ore the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways the excellent building material which is available in Queensland. In my electorate there is one of the finest deposits of marble to be found in Australia, theUlam marble quarries, near Bajool, where approximately 18,000,000 tons of marble is in sight. Samples of that excellent marble may be seen covering the tables in our refreshment rooms. Yet when marble was required for use in Brisbane the Government searched elsewhere, and inmany cases used imported Italian marble. At another time I shall have something to say as to the necessity for increasing the duty on Italian marble. Such a procedure would make it possible to extend the activities of our local quarries, so giving employment to hundreds of men. Again, I remind the Minister that in Central Queensland we have one of the finest deposits of granite to be found. Yet that granite has been used by the Commonwealth but rarely for public works in Queensland or the southern States: - Enterprising people have invested thousands of pounds in a plant to quarry that granite, and they should receive encouragement, There are also splendid deposits of sandstone in my electorate which have been entirely overlookedby the Commonwealth Government. I askthe Minister to make a special note of these things and to insist that preference is given to Queensland materials when his department is erecting publicbuildings in Brisbane or elsewhere in Queensland.
.- I draw attention to the fact that, though the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway work has been approved by the Public Works Committee, the bill dealing with it has now been placed a long way down on the business paper. Unfortunately a great deal of unemployment now exists in Australia, mostly affecting unskilled workers, and the Government would do well, on this account, to proceed, at an early date, with the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway. I appeal to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) to begin that work if money is available. Contrary’ to the experience of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) I have found that the policy of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson) is entirely favorable to the construction of necessary works in country districts, and I place on record my thanks to the honorable member and his department for the many facilities provided in my electorate, particularly in the Mallee district.
.- I desire to tender a word of advice to the Postmaster-General and the Government. When public works are being constructed it should.be the endeavour of the department to build something that will be a’ credit to the Commonwealth. Of recent years there has been a tendency to erect a class of building of which one certainly cannot feel proud. Recently the Commonwealth Government erected a block of buildings in Adelaide, in a back street, buildings that are merely ugly masses of tiles and cement. Included in the works which are before us this morning for discussion is a block of Commonwealthoffices for Brisbane. Those buildings are to serve, partly, as a soldiers’ memorial. Brisbane has many beautiful buildings, and I congratulate its municipal authorities for having had the great foresight to build a splendid town hall, which is now nearing completion. It would be most regrettable if the Commonwealth buildings about to be constructed in Brisbane did not conform with the excellent standard of many of the other buildings in that city. The building now contemplated needs to be dignified, artistic, and substantial. Last week I had the privilege to open, officially, the new post office at Port Adelaide. The residents have waited sixteen years for that post office and, although a considerable sum of money has been spent on the building, I felt very disappointed with the type of architecture selected and with the materials used. It is nothing but an ugly slab of cement, and it is not a credit to the Commonwealth. The design and construction of Commonwealthbuildings should beof such a nature as to add to the prestige of the Commonwealth, and not, as many of them are to-day, inconvenient temporary structures.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), and; incidentally, that of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson), to the lack of efficient post office buildings in the newly developed areas of Western Australia. Before federation took place most of the States had erected substantial buildings; but as Western Australia was one of the last to be developed, little had been done in that direction there. Last year the population of that State increased at the rate of 4 per cent., the average increase for Australia being 2 per cent. Furthermore, the increase in that State has taken place, not in the capital cities as in ether States, but in the country. In the out-back farming districts the post offices are anything but efficient. The office in one large agricultural area - Wangon Hills - is a disgrace. After all, the post offices in the country districts are the only evidences of federation, and where those buildings are of a makeshift character - many of them merely sheds - the settlers cannot help but develop a wrong impression of the Commonwealth Administration. When the splendid work of installing telephone trunk lines throughout the country is completed, I trust that the Postmaster-General will devote his efforts to the erection of suitable post offices to meet the growing needs of the country districts.
.-I have listened attentively to the explanation of the difficulties in the way of the construction of various works, and I should like to suggest to the Prime Minister that it might bo possible to mortgage our adverse trade balance in order to raise the funds required. Some new loan policy is essential if we are to carry out these works. I offer that suggestion as a means to relieve theanxiety of honorable members who have spoken this morning.
.- The Prime Minister has fully explained the position, and, therefore, there is no need for me to add tohis remarks. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) referred to the Commonwealth building at Sydney, and I would inform him that that work will be constructed so soon as funds are available. The honorable member for Gray (Mr. Lacey) referred to the stoppage of work in connexion with the ballasting of the EastWest railway. I amsorry that it was necessary to cease that work; but I can assure the honorable member that it will be resumed the moment that funds are available. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) have drawn my attention to the fact that Queensland granite is not being used extensively in the construction of Commonwealth buildings in Brisbane. There is a reason for that. Although the granite quarries are right at the doors of Brisbane, the same quality stone from New South Wales can bo delivered there at a lower cost. When the price of the Queensland stone compares favorably with that of the New South Wales stone the Government will give consideration to its use in Commonwealth buildings in Brisbane.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson ) proposed - That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in certain dried fruits.
.-I think that the Minister might, in fairness to honorable members, give some information as to thepurpose of the bill. A few words would be sufficient. We on this side usually raids no opposition to motions for leave to introduce bills, and, on one or two occasions lately we have found that the measureshave not been to our liking.
– I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that I am not moving the first reading of the bill. I believe that it is rather unusual to discuss measures until after that stage has beenpassed. The Government proposes tobring down a bill to some extent on the, lines suggested by the various States. Honorable members will recollect the difficulty in which the dried fruits industry has been placed because of a certain High Court judgment, which laid down that the State boards were using powers which could not be granted’ to them by the State legislatures. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, proposes to bring ina measure to rectify the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Debate resumed from 9th March(vide page 3775), on motion by Mr. Pater- son -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill has come before the House much sooner than we anticipated. It will be remembered that the Wine Export Bounty Act was passedin 1924, and it provided for a bounty of 4s. a gallon on exported wine. This was done in order to relieve the growers of doradillo grapes. It was pointed out by the Prime Minister at that time that a large increase in theacreage of doradillo grapes had takenplace because of the settlement of soldiers upon the land. Previously prices had been high and the prospects of the industry good; but a slump had occurred abroad and there was a surplus of wine for export. The prices paid for doradillo grapes Were consequently low,and, to relieve the position, the Government provided a bounty of 4s: a gallon on wine for export. To that proposal the House unanimously agreed. There was, I believe, at the back of the minds of a number of honorable members’ the idea that there would subsequently be a proposal brought down to relieve the position of the dried fruits industry,but that up to date has not been done. I repeat what I emphasized pre viously, that the argument justifying the growers of doradillo grapes and the giving of relief to wine industry generally could have been applied with equal force to the dried fruits industry. The position of that industry was exactly’ the same as that of the wine industry. In pursuance of the policy of soldier settlement, large areas of land were thrown open for the production of dried fruits, with the result that a huge surplus, up to 70 per cent. of the total production, had to be sent overseas. That market became unprofitable, and the claim for a bounty on the export of dried fruits was in 1924 as strong as that for a bounty on wine for export. Last year when it was proposed to reduce the bounty by1s. a gallon, I took up the same attitude as I took previously. I placed before the House the view, I think, of my own party, that we had reached a serious position by not giving consideration to the dried fruits industry. The bounty on wine for export was an incentive to growers of grapes to send to wineries and distilleries fruit which otherwise would have been marketed as dried fruit. I am not blaming the growers for that, because they are entitled to obtain the best prices offering.
Mr.Charlton. - The market for dried fruits was falling.
– The market was unprofitable, and the growers found a better market at the wineries’ and distilleries, with the result that there was on extraordinary increase in the quantity of wine produced for export. Thisaccentuated the position which obtained in 1924, and to-day the condition of the wine industry is serious indeed. I suggest that the Government in assisting only one branch of the industry has , done injury to both branches, with a consequent loss to Australia. None of the proposals for export bounties canbe regarded as permanent; they are merely expedients. I am not finding fault with the action of the Government in assisting the wine industry, because that in turn helped the soldier settlers. But we have left one branch Of the industry unprotected, and in consequence created a problem that will be difficult to solve. The bounty cannot be regarded as permanent. It was introduced simply to tide the industry over a critical period.
– Should not that apply to all protective duties ?
-No, and I shall explain the difference. The imposition of protective duties, and the payment of bounties to establish any industry, primary or secondary, in the markets of Australia, is a permanent policy. I, and, I believe, my party, favour giving to the primary industries the same assistance, by way of bounties or protective duties, as we give to secondary industries, so that they may succesfully compete in the Australian market, and pay adequate wages to those engaged in them. But I would never advocate the building up of a manufacturing industry by protective duties, and then payment of a bounty upon the surplus production exported. Such a policy would be economically unsound. I am also prepared to give temporary relief in the form of a bounty to those engaged in an industry, as we are doing in connexion with the wine industry, and I have urged frequently that that policy should be extended to the producers of dried fruits. The proposal contained in the bill is to reduce the bounty Upon wine exported by 9d. per gallon, because, it is said, a certain change has taken place in the overseas market. But I suggest that the reason for the proposed reduction when . only six months of the threeyears period has expired, is that the Government has become alarmed at the amount of money which the bounty has involved. Inthe Prime Minister’s speech, in which he announced the intention of the Government to pay a bounty on exported wine, I can find no definite statement as to the amount which the Government estimated this assistance would cost. But I infer from his remarks that he did not expect the bounty in the first three years to reach£250,000. In 1924-25, which was the first year of the three-year period for which the bounty was to operate, the actual payment was£28,417. In the next year it rose to£217,109. For the year 1926-27- the Treasurer estimated that the disbursement would be£150,000, but. the amount actuallypaid was £442,410. To the 30th June last, the total amount of bounty was£687,936. In his budget statement, the Treasurer estimated that the payment for 1927-28 would be £250,000, but for. the first two months of the financialyear it amounted to£358,237, making thetotal payment to the end of the first bounty period at 4s. per gallon,£1,046,174. The amount of excise paid on the spirit used in fortifying the wine was £325,722, making the net bounty£720,452. Since that time the net bounty has been reduced to 1s. 9d., and the amount paid under it at that rate is £104,212, making the total net bounty to date after deducting the1s. 3d. per gallon excise duty, £824,664. The quantity of wine produced in the first three-year period was 5,211,562 gallons, and estimating 80 gallons of fortified wine to a ton of grapes,’ the gross bounty was equal to£16 per ton of grapes used. The excise would amount to £5 per ton, leaving a net bounty of £11 a ton, whilst the fixed price paid to the growers was £6 10s. per ton. Honorable members may remind me that the fixed prices for some grapes is higher than £6 10s. ; that is so, but as the production of wine per ton would bo greater from them, the bounty would bo proportionately greater. Why did the bounty from the end of June to the end of August, 1927, amount to so large a sum as£358,237? The reason is that the wine was rushed abroad in order to take advantage of the bounty of4s. per gallon, as at the end of August, the rate was to be reduced to 3s. The question arose whether the vignerons would be permitted to export the immature wine of the 1927 vintage. I understand that they received permission to. export 25 per cent. of the vintage, but if honorable members willperuse the figures they will come to the conclusion that the quantity exported exceeded that proportion. The hurrying of that wine overseas assisted tocreate a glut in the London market and, as a, result,a serious position has developedthere. The argument advanced by the wine makers in support of their request to be allowed to export the 1927 vintage and take advantage of the 4s. bounty was that they had paid for the grapes from which the wine was made,the prices fixed by the Government forthat season’s crop. That is true, but it is offset by the fact that in the first operation of the bounty, they received 4s. per,gallon on the wine exported, althougha considerable quantity of it was produced from grapes purchased beforethe fixed price came into operation, at slump rates as low as £3 per ton. I am not arguing for or against the wine-making industry, but I desire honorable members to have a clear perception of what has been happening. Unquestionably, the bounty was intended by Parliament for the benefit of the growers; that was emphasized when the Prime Ministerfirst introduced it to the House. But an examination of the facts shows that the full benefit has not been enjoyed by them. That it has been of some good to them is indisputable; no one will deny that the growers of doradillo grapes were saved from bankruptcy by the increased price they received as a result of the bounty. But the growers have not had the advantage that Parliament intended, and it is not easy to calculate what proportion of the bounty has gone into the coffers of the wineries and distilleries. The Development and Migration Commission has reported that cooperative distilleries return from £1 10s. to £2 10s. per ton more to the growers than the price fixed by the Minister. The commission stated -
Evidence shows that the growers in South Australia receive a much higher return from the co-operative distilleries than is received from private wine and spirit manufacturers. The difference in 1927 amounted to 30s. to £2 10s. a ton. The wine bounty is not the same advantage to the wine-growers where they have to Bend their fruit to private distilleries as when.it is processed co-operatively. That clearly shows that the wineries and distilleries get some share of the bounty that was intendedfor the growers alone. During the fourteen months ended31st August; 1927, 4,000,000 gallons of wine was exported from Australia, out of a total export for the three years of 5,200,000 gallons. The total bounty paid during thatfourteen months at 4s. per. gallon was£800,000 out of the total for the three years of£1,000,000. It is clear that four times as much wine was exported and four times the amount of wine bounty paid in the last fourteen months as in the previous 22 months.
– What brought about that position?
– I shall explain that. According to the Tariff Board’s report, 30 gallons of fortifying spirit or 130 gallons of unfortified wine is obtained from one ton of grapes. In other words, 160 gallons of fortified wine is obtained from two tons of grapes, equal to80 gallons of fortified wine to the ton. It may be suggested that 30 gallons is rather a low figure, but if a higher figurewere allowed, my argument would be strengthened. Calculating 80 gallons of fortified wine to the ton of grapes, the bounty at 4s. per gallon represents £16 per ton of fresh grapes; at 3s,£12 per ton; and at 2s. 3d.,£9 per ton. Allowing for the drawback of excise duty at1s. 3d. per gallon, the net bounty at 4s. works out at £11 net per ton of grapes; at 3s., £7 per ton ; and at 2s. 3d., £4 per ton. It is estimated that three and a half tons of fresh grapes will produce one ton of dried fruits, so that the wine net bounty of 2s. 9d. per gallon was equal to £38 10s. per ton of dried fruits; the net bounty of1s. 9d. to£24 10s., and the net bounty of1s. to£14 per ton.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the bounty was reviewed in March, 1927, I made this comment -
If the wine bounty has the effect of diverting to wineries and distilleries each year increased quantities of grapes that would otherwise be dried, the time will come when the bounty will be discontinued.
Only a year has gone by, and, although the bounty has not been discontinued, it has been reduced substantially. Last year it was reduced by1s. per gallon, and now, six months later, the proposal is to reduce it further by 9d. per gallon. I am satisfied that this reduction is to be made more because of the cost of the bounty to the Treasury than forany other reason, and I am going to show that that cost is attributable to the manner in which the Government has handled the Wholematter. The growers ought not tobe penalized on that account. The report of the Tariff Board, at page 23, states- -
It was certainly not intended to be the result of the wine bounty that it should cause an extensive diversion to the manufacture of wine and spirit of grapes ordinarily grown for the dried fruit industry.
It was stated in that report that some 20,000 tons of fresh grapes had been so diverted. The Development and Migration Commission, referring to the 1927 crop, states on page 9 of its report -
As a result of the wine bounty, 25,000 tons of fresh grapes of drying varieties were delivered to wineries and distilleries….. For the year 1026, 21,000 tons were converted into wine and spirit.
I invite honorable members to examine the facts of the case. I have just shown that, in 1926, 21,000 tons of fresh grapes of drying varieties, and in 1927, 25,000 tons were diverted to wineries and distilleries, a total of 46,000 tons for the two years. That quantity of fresh fruit produced 3,680,000 gallons of fortified wine, and the bounty payable upon that, at 4s. per gallon, would amount to £736,000. Deducting the excise amounting to £230,000, there would be a net bounty of £506,000 payable on that 46,000 tons of grapes which, prior to the introduction of the wine bounty, were dried. It is’ estimated that the quantity of surplus Australian wine in bond in London at the present time’ is 3,000,000 gallons.
-The result of a hideous blunder..
– Yes, because a glut was caused. Let us consider what would have been the position if the Government, when it brought in the wine bounty, had simultaneously introduced an export bounty of £10 a ton on dried fruits. That 46,000 tons of grapes would have been converted into dried fruit, and would have produced 13,000 tons of that commodity. A £10 a ton export bounty upon it would have cost the country £130,000 ; but, by the diversion of that fresh fruit to wineries and distilleries, the bounty cost the taxpayers £506,000, an increase of £376,000. Even if we take the reduced bounty provided for in this bill, that 46,000 tons would have produced 3,608,000 gallons of wine, the bounty on which would have amounted to £184,000 as against £130,000 on dried fruit.
Mr.Foster. - Where could all that dried fruit have been sold? California is full of it.
– There is an ample market for our dried fruit, at a price. The same remark applies to wine; but there is not the samemarket to-day for the wine, even at a price, that there is for dried fruit. Great Britain is a heavy importer of dried fruit and if we can make the price right, andprofitable to the Australian growers, we have a good market there.
– We cannot moke the price profitable, in view of the present cost of production.
– I agree that we cannot sell our dried fruits abroad at a profitable price at the present time without Government assistance;but the growers state that with a £10 a ton bounty they could do so. I am pointing out that we could have saved this country hundreds of thousands of pounds by paying an export bounty on die dried fruit instead of on the wine. The question then arises whether, after grantingabounty, we could find a market for the fruit. I do not think that honorable members can challenge my figures as to the relative costs of the two bounties. I am not speaking of lexias and currants used for wine making in the ordinary way. The following particulars of recent imports to the United Kingdom are interesting : -
-Theimports quoted from Australia in 1927 relate to currants only; but there was an enormous importation of sultanas.
-My figures relate to currants and raisins.Iunderstand that during 1927 there wasan enormous export of sultanas to Great, Britain alone.
– Whatwas the reason for the remarkable falling off?
– The explanationis given in the report of the Development and Migration Commission as follows: -
The falling offit’s due to the greater quantities being sent to?distilleries as a result of the wine bounty and the increased preference inGreat Britain on Australian sweet wine.
On the question whether Australia could sell this driedfruit. I refer honorable members toai reply given by the Minister for Trade andCustoms (Mr. Pratten), last year,showiug that fruit unsold in overseas markets on 10th November, 1926, amounted to 4,413 tonsof currants, and 54 tons of lexias. Onthe30th April, which is the end of the selling season, all that fruit had beensold. On the 10th November, 1927, the unsold currants amounted toonly 10 tons, and the unsold lexias to, 75 tone, although only half the selling seasonhad passed. The conversion of this fruit into wine and spirit has cost the country three times as much in bountyis it would have cost had a £10 a ton bounty been given on the dried fruit.
The bill proposes that the bounty on wine should be reduced by 9d. a gallon. The justification for that, we are told, is contained in a statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs when he introduced the bill to renew the bounty in March of last year. The first bounty provided for a three years’ period ended the 31st August, 1927. Last March, a bill was introduced to renew the bounty as from the 1st September last, and to continue it for a further three years. That is a renewal at the rate of1s. 9d. a gallon net, payable after allowing a drawback of1s. 3d. a gallon for excise duty. To prove that there isno repudiation of the contract, the Government relies upon a statement appearing in the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs in March last; although the undertaking then given does not appear in any portion of the bill -
If the BritishGovernment gives additional preference, the Government reserves the right to reduce thebounty
On the strength of that statement, it is claimed that as additional preference has beet given to Australian wine, the bounty has beenreduced. I ask honorable membersto examinethe facts. Iam prepared to say that, in effect, additional preference hasnot been given to Australian wine, when we take all the circumstances into consideration. WhileI condemn the action of the Government in granting a wine bounty alone, instead of putting it into operation simultaneously wish a bounty on dried fruit, I point out, in the first place, that the bounty has cost the country infinitely more than a bounty paid on dried fruit would have cost. The second count of my indictment is that we have not helped the dried fruits industryas much as we should have done. Moreover, the reduction of the bounty is now coming in the middle of the vintage, six months after the date on which the existing arrangement was entered into. The people who are going to be penalized because of this bungling are’ the fruit-growers of Australia. Money has been wasted because the Governmenthas not grappled with the problem as awhole. That, however, does not justify the repudiation of a contract entered into with the wine-makers and grape-growers. It wasunanimously agreed by this Parliament in 1927 that a certain bounty should be paid to the growers. We entered into that obligation, and we should honour it. We said to the growers that,for a period of three years, a wine bounty of1s. 9d. a gallon would be paid, and we said to the wine-makers that they must pay a certain fixed price for the grapes, They have paid that price, and now it is proposed that there should be a reductionin the bountyon the wine which they have made from those grapes, and which they are ready to export. This will seriously injure the grape-growers. There are 3,000,000 gallons of wine in bond in London, lying unsold right in the middle ofthis year’s vintage, while the growers are picking their crop. The wine manufacturers will simply make a declaration that they will not buy any more grapesthis year forwine-making for export. They will not then be bound to pay any fixed price. The grapes will be forced into the market at anyprice, and the reduction of the bounty will thus react on the growers. Let us examine the case as presented by Minister. He justified the reduction on the ground that there had been a substantial improvement in the British preference.
-Was that provided for in the bill?
– Not so far as I can see. There was’ no proviso except in the speech of the Minister. No proviso was inserted in the act that the bounty would be reduced if certain things happened, and that is where, from a legal point of view, it may be said that there has been repudiation. I do not say that there is justification for that view, if it can be shown that Australian wines occupy a better position on the London market now than this time twelve months ago. The Minister said that, during the currency of the first bounty - the 4s. bounty, or, as it is now called, the 2s. 9d. net bounty - the f.o.b, price of Australian wine was1s.10d. a gallon. Now he says that the average f.o.b. price is 3s. 4d. a gallon, or ls. 6d. more than in the early period. That statement has been challenged; but, even if we accept it as true, what is the reason for reducing the bounty by1s. 9d. a gallon? That leaves the wine manufacturers in the position of being 3d. a gallon worse off than they were before, and 3d. a gallon represents something over 20s. a ton to the growers. It is admitted by those in the industry, and I have seen a considerable amount of correspondence in support of the view, that six months ago the f.o.b. price for Australian wine was 3s. 4d. a gallon; but it is denied that that price is obtainable now. The industry has challeged the Minister to show that recent sales of wine have been at 3s. 4d. a gallon f.o.b. Personally I know nothing about that aspect of the matter except what I have learned from half a dozen letters which have come from London by the last mail. Those are confidental business letters, but they indicate that the position is not as stated by the Minister. For the information of honorable members I shall indicate the changes which have taken place during the last few years in the British preference. In 1924, the duty on Australian wine was 4s. a gallon, and on foreign wine 6s. a gallon, making a preference for Australian wine of 2s. a gallon. In 1925, after the first bounty was given, that preference was increased by a reduction of the duty against Australian wine by 2s. a gallon, so that the duties were then 2s. a gallon on Australian wine, and 6s.onforeign wine, making a preference of4s. a gallon on Australian wine. In 1927 there was a change, and the duty on both foreign and Australian wines was increased by 2s. a gallon on wines of over 30 per cent. strength. Therefore, in 1927, the duty on Australian widewas 4s., and on foreign wine 8s. a gallon, representing a preference of 4s. a gallon. Honorable members will see, however, that there is a vast difference between a preference of 4s. when the respective duties on Australian and foreign wines are 2s. and 6s. a gallon, and the same preference of 4s. when the respective duties are 4s. and 8s. a gallon. The preference of 4s. remains the same, it istrue, but the percentage preference in the one case is very much greater than in the other. The effect of this all-round increase in duty was that wines were blended in large quantities in England. Low grade wines, which were admitted at the low duty, were imported, together with the necessary quantities of very high strength wine, which would not pay any more duty than that provided for wines of the maximum strength as laid down in the schedule. These wines were blended in England, and sold to the public, with the result that the increased preference to Australian wines was largely nullified.. The Minister made one point which has to be considered, namely, the alteration of the dividing line between high and low strength wines. Formerly all wines of 30 degrees strength paid the higher duty, while those below that strength paid the lower duty. Australian wines must have a strength of 34 per cent., because they have to be fortified to enable them to carry through the tropics. The result of this decision was that foreign wines of 29 degrees strengthcould be brought into Great Britain, and sold in competition with Australian wines of 34 per cent. strength, while evading the payment of the higher duty. Then the dividing line was lowered from30.per cent. to 25 per cent.’, so that the foreigners would have to bring in the lower strength wine which would not compete successfully with Australian wine. There is much in the . argument of the Minister that this constituted a very great advantage to the Australian industry, and from information whichI have been ableto obtain, I believe that the preference givenin Britain to Australian wines is substantial, and the industry has greatly benefited as a result of the alteration of the dividing line. There is another point,however, and a very important one, which the Minister entirely ignored. Another competitor of the Australian wine-makers has arisen, and that is the manufacturer of what are called British wines. This wine is made in Britain from imported grape juice bought from Spain and France. It is also made from cheap grade currants imported from Greece. The juice is importedin an unfermented state so that no duty is paid on it, while on the manufactured wine an excise duty of only1s. a gallon is levied. This wine has been on the market for some time, but formerly it had not a very great sole because Australian wines were fairly cheap. “When the British Government raised the duty by 2s. all round, making that on Australian wines 4s. a gallon and that on foreign wines 8s. a gallon, the effect was to stimulate the manufacture of British wines, until to-day these have very largely succeeded in capturing the market formerly held by Australian wines. These facts indicate that all is not well with the Australian wine industry, especially as there is a slump in the sales of Australian wine abroad. I do not say that that slump is due entirely to the reasons I have indicated; it is due, to some extent, to the way in which wine was rushed overseas last year. Nevertheless, I submit that the Minister has not proved that there has been a substantial improvement in the position occupied by Australian wines as a result of British preference, and until he does, he cannot justify the repudiation of a contract entered into withthe growers six months ago. The onus of proof is on the Government, and unless it can establish a better reason for reducing the bounty six months after theagreement was made, honorable members who stand by the principle of honouring agreements ought to reject the billwhich is now before the
House. Parliament, whether rightly or wrongly, entered into an’ agreement to pay a bounty for three years, fixing the price of grapes on the basis of that bounty. The wine makers bought grapes on that basis, believing that the bounty would last for three years if the then existing conditions continued. Now the Government proposes to repudiate its contract with these people. The Government cannot justify that action unless it can produce proof to the effect that the position of Australian wine on the English market has improved to the extent of the proposed reduction in the bounty.
Mr.Maxwell. - Would that be a justification ?
-I think that it would be a moral justification, if not a legal one. If the Government can show that certain conditions have come about, as provided for in the speech of the Minister when the last bill was introduced, I think that it would be morally justified in following the lines which it then indicated as a possibility of the future. Though this proviso was not included in that bill, it was well known to the trade. However, from what I can gather, the trade is worse off now than it was when the bountywas introduced. Far from the price being, as stated, 3s.4d. a gallon f.o.b., it is, I am informed, not more than 2s. 8d. f.o.b. I take the stand I have adopted, not because I believe that the wine bounty is economically sound - I consider its imposition one of the most unsound things that has ever been done to assist an industry. It would have been justifiable if it had been granted to dried fruit as well as wine because we owe an obligation to the people who have planted large areas of grapes, and because we owe an obligation to the returned soldier grape growers, at least as great as that which we owed to the grower of doradillo grapes. I have been through the Mildura settlement, and also the large tract of country around Merbein and Red Cliffs which is settled by returned soldiers. I am told that Bed Cliffs is the largest soldier settlement of its kind in the world. The settlers there were encouraged by Commonwealth and State governments to grow grapes at a time when the market price was good, but even at that period we ‘were producing all the fruit that we required to supply our own market, and it was known that the great bulk of the fruit grown in these new areas would have to be exported in one form or another. The world market, as everybody knows, is precarious for such products. Whilst I do not condemn the Government for the mistake that was made in the first case in regard to this matter, for no one foresaw what was likely to happen, I do think that when it was learned that in 1926 20,000 tons of good fruit were diverted from the drying sheds and sent to the distilleries, the situation should have been seized and an effort made to prevent such diversion. In the next year 25,000 tons of good fruit were diverted from the drying sheds and sent to the distilleries. It would almost seem as if the growers were encouraged to send their fruit to the distilleries instead of to dry it. The increased tonnage of grapes sent to the distilleries and wineries in Renmark and Berri in South Australia was so great that the cooperative distillery at Berri spent £60,000 in extending its plant to enable it to handle the additional business. It appears to me that a colossal blunder has been committed, but the growers should not have to suffer for it, for they were not responsible. There is no justification at this stage for repudiating a contract that was unanimously entered into by this Parliament. It is grossly unfair to the growers that such a proposal should be introduced in the middle of the vintage, for now the growers have no guarantee whatever that they will be able to sell their fruit. They are all right, of course, in respect of the portion of their crop that can be consumed locally, but they are in a most unfortunate position in regard to that portion of it which must be dealt with for export. This is not a small matter. A large number of persons are employed in Australia in growing this fruit, and they deserve assistance to market it successfully. We are spending millions of pounds on water conservation schemes along the Murray Valley, and if we agree to this proposal we shall undoubtedly undo much of the good that we have done. The successful development of the Murray Valley depends largely upon fruit-growing and marketing. Irrespective of the view I hold as to the unsoundness of the action that was taken in the first instance, I shall refuse to repudiate a contract made by this Parliament.
– I regret that a matter of such importance, involving such immense issues as this does, should have been precipitated upon us with so little notice, and that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) should have provided u!s with such inadequate information tq deal with it. The Minister cannot justify himself by saying that he spoke on the- spur of the moment, for he read practically every word of his speech. The introduction of this measure has caused consternation throughout South Australia, the greater part of Victoria, and part of New South Wales. We were building up our wine industry very satisfactorily under the existing bounty. We had accomplished more in the three years than even the most sanguine of us had expected to accomplish in three times that period. But it seems that we are about to nullify all the good that has been done. The Prime Minister may, at a later stage in the debate, submit information to the House which will change the whole outlook; but we should not be treated like children. We should be given the fullest possible information at the initiation of a debate of this character. Although it may be distasteful to the Government I feel bound to say that this measure has been introduced in a most brutal manner. The whips have already been round. The country should know that this is the manner in which some of the business of this Parliament is being done in Canberra.
– The whips have not been to every member.
– I say deliberately that they have been round, and that the numbers have gone up.
– I have not been approached.
– I know that some honorable members have not been approached, nor are the$-r likely to be. A happening of this kind could hardly have occurred in Melbourne. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the wine industry had not the slightest indication that this alteration was to be made in the bounty. It is shameful/,that the proposal. should have been introduced after fourfifths of the grape crop had been gathered. I have never heard of such a thing happening before. In the interests of deliberate and reasonable discussion, honorable members should not be placed in the position in which they find themselves to-day in dealing .with this subject. I intend to make statements of this kind outside of this chamber, but they ought first to be made “here. I had the opportunity of spending a week in South Australia by absenting myself from only two sittings of the House, and I took it and went right into the country. When I returned to Adelaide I found that a situation tragic to the wine industry and calamitous to the returned soldiers settled in our grape-growing districts had arisen, If this bill is passed, many distilleries which, have been encouraged by a sympathetic* Government and Parliament to extend their business will bpmost seriously affected, and the industry will be reduced to a state of chaos. I have obtained the fullest information on this subject that is available in the bestinformed quarters in South Australia. I propose to read a” letter which I have received from Mr. Leslie Salter, a man of high reputation and character, who holds, and has always held, an honored position in this industry. He writes -
Referring to our conversation of this afternoon.
The original bounty which came into operation on the 1st of September, 1924, provided for a payment of 4s. per gallon on wine exported from Australia provided it contained not less than 34 per cent, of proof spirit, and was of good merchantable quality. The act provided that the payment of bounty should expire on the 31st of August, 1927. About April, 1927, an amending act was passed by Parliament which provided that the bounty should be reduced to ls. 9d. per gallon. Ex, porters, however, were entitled to collect ls. 3d. drawback, this with the ls. 9d. bounty making a total of 3s. as against 4s. provided in the original act. Payment of the bounty under the amending act was made conditional on exporters having paid certain prices for grapes and fortifying spirit, these prices to be fixed by the Minister.
We claim, that all 1927 and older wines made in compliance with the prices and conditions fixed by the Minister is fairly entitled to the ls. 9d. bounty., g-
That is provided in the contract, and I do not suppose that the Government would dream of .dishonoring it. On the other hand, I take it that it will be fulfilled in both the spirit and the letter. Mr. Salter proceeds as follows -
Considerable quantities of wine of 1927 vintage and older are held by winemakers for export, and it is obviously unfair that they should be compelled to accept 9d. per gallon less for it. The Ministry has expressed the opinion that the best quality wine should be sent to England. Winemakers who have held stocks for maturation with a view of complying with the wishes of the Ministry now find themselves penalized to the extent of 9d. per gallon.
In regard to 1928 vintage. - We had no idea whatever that it was the intention of the Government to reduce the amount of the bounty. We had entered into contracts for the purchase of both grapes and spirit on the basis of prices to be fixed by the Government. We now find we are bound by these contracts for the purchase of our material, but the selling value of the resultant wine is reduced by 9d. per gallon.
With regard to the competition which we are now meeting in England. - The selling values of the various types of wine similar in class to those exported from Australia are as follows: -
That is the sort of stuff that comes from foreign countries, which honorable members declare with much vigour when tariff matters are under consideration that we should not trade with in any way. The letter continues -
What enables us to secure a higher price for our wine than those obtained- for Tarragona and Lisbon wines is probably the additional spirit content of our wine, although superior quality may also be a factor. The fact, however, remains that the above prices clearly indicate we are getting full value for our produce on the English market. It was stated by Mr. Paterson in introducing the Bounty Reduction Bill on 9th March, that the competition of foreign blended wines which we have to meet in London is a bogey. There is no authority for this statement, and, undoubtedly, it is a very easy matter for the Spanish and Portugese shippers to make this blend. Sweet wine not exceeding 42 per cent, of spirit (dutiable at 8s. per gallon) and dry wines N.E. 25 per cent, (dutiable at 3s. per gallon) can with absolute safety be imported into England and blended after payment of customs duty. If equal parts be blended the resultant blend will show from 32 to 33 degrees of proof spirit, and the average duty per gallon will be 5s. Cd. Our own wines pay 4s. per gallon, so that we only have an effective protection of ls. 6d. ” British “ Wines. - These are made from imported grape juice, principally produced in Greece from surplus currant production. There is no customs duty on the grape juice, but there is an excise duty of ls. per gallon on the wine. This wine as mentioned above is sold at os. per gallon duty paid, as against 9s. 3d. for Australian wine also duty paid.
It should- be borne in mind that, prior to the last British budget, Australian sweet wines paid 2s. per gallon duty on entering England, while “ British “ wines paid no excise duty at all. Under existing circumstances, Australian wines have lost ls. in bounty here, and pay 4s. per gallon (instead of 2s.) on entering England, so that the loss of ls. bounty here and the additional 2s. duty in England put our wines 3s. worse off than they were under the old conditions. On the other hand, “ British “ wines which previously paid no duty, now pay ls. per gallon excise. To sum up, Australian wines are now 2s. per gallon worse off in competing with “ British “ wines than they were under the 4s. bounty here, and the old British tariff.
Mr. Coombe, of the Renmark Growers Distillery, informs me that, with the reduction of 9d. per gallon bounty, his company cannot pay the prices fixed for grapes by the Government. This being the case, how much worse off will be the proprietary companies who, in addition to paying the prices fixed by the Government, expect to show a profit on their operations.
I shall be pleased to see you on Sunday at your home if there should be any further information you may require.
That letter is an accurate statement, and shows clearly the disastrous effect that a decrease in the bounty will have on the Australian wine industry. When in Adelaide I saw a cablegram from London regarding a consignment that was to be shipped that day. The shippers asked the shipping company - Elder Smith & Company Limited - to hold over the cargo until the remaining cargo had been loaded; but the company took the risk of loading i.t. Later a further cable was read confirming the previous advice, and as a result the shipping company had to remove 150,000 tons of cargo from the ship’s hold before it could withdraw the consignment of wine. The morning that I left Adelaide I saw another cablegram from a .gentleman, who is, perhaps, the biggest wine-grower in the world, to the effect that, if the bounty were reduced, all orders were to be .cancelled. Those orders were large, because that same firm shipped a considerable portion of the 3,00Q,000 gallons of wine that is now in London waiting to be -placed on the market and to be consumed. The following is a copy of a cablegram that was given to me to-day”: -
Have” cabled Bruce as’ follows: - We are of opinion that proposed’ reduction bounty oh fortified wines from ls. 9d. to ls. a gallon will seriously jeopardize future of Australian wines this market. Proposed reduction will enable Tarragona and Lisbon wines at 30 degrees to be sold at 2s. a gallon lower than Australian 34 degrees. Large shipment Australian wines last year may lead to false conclusions as 3,023,000 gallons lying in bond here 31st January. What this market wants is stability of price to consolidate spade work of last two years. Any change now will have tragic results for Australian wine industry. - (Sgd.) Dominion Wise Merchants Association, ‘d
That cablegram is very “emphatic, and it confirms my statement ‘that we should continue the spade work, because the unexpected success of our wine exports during the last six months has staggered everybody. We have during that period placed on the London market more wine than has any other country. The spade work has been tremendous ; but its effort will be wasted now that the bounty is to be reduced. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) is no friend of the. wine-producers. We must judge the Minister by his own words, and those clearly show that he has failed the growers in their time of need. I cannot, believe that he will leave the industry in its present position. I have placed the facts before the Prime Minister, and I hope that, even at this late hour, he will make a statement that will be. entirely satisfactory to the wine-producers. I know the industry from beginning to end. After the Chaffey brothers started in Australia, a fine class, of men came from Scotland and England to settle in this country. They were from splendid families at Home, and they launched out in the wine industry. During the war they were successful; but since then they have met with difficulties and suffered loss. The perilous position of the industry is seriously affecting the soldier settlersLetters from soldiers at all the settlements along the Murray Valley have reached; me and not one cavils at the profits made by the wine-makers. Those soldier settlers are tragically anxious about this reduction in the bounty, and well they may be.
– Are they worse off than the apple-growers?
– There can be no comparison between them! The Prime Minister knows what the.; soldier settlers endured in the immediate past, and the
House knows that the Commonwealth and the States in association have already spent £5,000,000 in conserving the waters of the Murray, and only a few days ago made themselves jointly responsible for the expenditure of a further £3,000,000. It was recognized by all who gathered at the conference in Canberra to consider the future of the Murray river waters scheme that something would have to be done to increase” the utilization of the water in order Jo “secure a return on the huge capital outlay. Fruit-growing and wine-making will be the paramount industries along that waterway if they are properly treated, but now, when the wine industry is on the verge of greatness, its progress is to be arrested and those engaged in it are to be discouraged. Many of the growers have barely recovered from their recent hardships. The soldier settlers own the Berri ‘distillery and are large shareholders in the Renmark distillery. The Government has a moral responsibility to stand by those men. I cannot believe that it will refuse to honour its obligations in regard to the wine available for export from the previous season. I have said that the spade work in connexion with the export trade has been done. Now we are about to build upwards. A lot of wine is being held in Australia so that it may mature before being put on the London market. I do not expect that the inferior types of wine will yield a great profit. The greatest success will be achieved by wines of the best type, and I know that some vignerons are preparing to put on the London market wines that will make a very favorable impression. We must cultivate that market, and look to the future of this trade. I am not alarmed because 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine is stored in London. It will soon be consumed when the British people recover from the present bad times and have a little money to spend, but our aim should be to send to the United Kingdom, wine of such a character that the foreign article will be driven off the market. The reduction of this bounty is of great consequence to South Australia. Men of all classes in Adelaide, merchants, commercial men, and even “the man in the street,” were amazed at the Government’s announcement of its policy and could scarce given credence to it. The Government may be in possession of reports from the Development and Migration Commission and various experts; if it has any information which justifies the reduction of the bounty without notice, it is treating this Parliament with disrespect when it asks it to pass this bill without having complete information as to what it. means. If the Government has any justification for its action, we should insist upon knowing it before we vote for the bill. The soldiers are dependent upon private members as much as upon the Government, and they have not uttered one word of complaint about the wine exporters. All who know the conditions along the Murray Valley are perturbed by the Government’s action, particularly having regard to the devastating frosts which ruined many of the crops this year. One section of the community cannot be ruined without the whole community being affected. When the bounty was first introduced, the vignerons along the Murray Valley had experienced a very bad time, but they set to work courageously to prepare for a new order of things. Some of them had never exported a barrel of wine; a few had been in .the export trade to a limited extent for the last 50 or 60 years, but they had to prepare for a new development, and they started with a mighty enthusiasm that was contagious. They scraped together every shilling of capital they could get in order not to be caught napping when the London market was responding to their call. The distilleries enlarged their plants ; one of them, which is owned entirely by the soldiers and is operated co-operatively, is the biggest in the world. A visit to it will convince any honorable member of the present magnitude of the wine trade and its future possibilities.
– It is the growers about whom we are concerned.
– The growers alone have made the representations I am putting before the House. Not one winemaker appears in connexion with this appeal.
– The honorable member . will not deny that the wine-makers have benefited by the bounty.
– Of course they have. Have I not said that some of them have doubled and trebled their plants? The whole enterprise has been a wonderful success, but I do not believe that fortunes, or even abnormal profits, have been made out of it. The development in this trade is unparalleled in the commercial history of Australia, and we should do nothing that will injure such a promising growth. If the Prime Minister has evidence that the wine-makers and distillers are getting an unfair proportion of the bounty, let that position be dealt with calmly and leisurely, but do not precipitate a crisis by legislation of this character. 1 know that many members are opposed to the wine-makers waxing fat on the bounty, but give them a chance; let the Government put all its cards on the table and let us know upon what information it is acting. “What has the bounty cost the Treasury? Every penny that has been paid out has been provided by the growers and wine-makers, who have wrought night and day, and faced hardships and difficulties in a fashion that marks them as heroes. They themselves created the fund from which the bounty is paid. When the excise duty was first imposed, it was 4d. per gallon, as it was intended to cover only the cost of supervision by the excise officers. It was increased to 8d. a gallon, and later to1s. a gallon. Then the war occurred, bringing financial troubles in its wake, and although the excise was increased to 4s., 5s., and, I believe, even6s. a gallon, the producers never murmured. Did any part of Australia contribute a greater number of men to the fighting forces in proportion to its population than did South Australia? That State must have spent millions of pounds on the repatriation of its returned soldiers. It does not make a practice of coming, cap in hand, to the Commonwealth Parliament. It likes to be independent. But it also appreciates a little consideration. The industry has been remarkably successful, and if we had not grown fruit along the river Murray, what could we have done for the development of those fertile areas?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bruce) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of
Senate’s requests) :
. - I move -
That any amendment made in the schedule of the bill by the committee shall have effect on and after the day following the day the amendment is made, excepting where the committee otherwise decides, or the contrary intention appears.
This is the usual motion that is submitted in order to safeguard the revenue, and to secure the imposition of duties according to the will of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “’ (b) Coffee-
The articles specified in paragraph (1) of sub-item (b) being the produce of any part of the British Empire shall be admitted under the British Preferential Tariff.”
Senate’s requests -
Item 43, paragraph (1) of sub-item (b), make the duties under the British preferential tariff 3d., and under the intermediate tariff, 3d.
Item 43, paragraph. (2) of sub-item (b), make the duties under the British preferential tariff6d., and under the intermediate tariff 6d.
Item 43, paragraph (3) of sub-item (b), make the duties under the British preferential tariff6d., and under the intermediate tariff6d.
Item 43, leave out the words “ The articles specified in paragraph (1) of sub-item (b) being the produce of any part of the British Empire shall bo admitted under the British preferential tariff.”
. -I move-
That the requested amendments be made.
The first request relates to the change made by this committee in the duty on coffee. The proposal originally before us covered reductions of duty on coffee under the British preferential and intermediate tariff, and it was further provided that raw and kiln-dried coffee produced in any part of the British’ Empire should be admitted free of duty. During the debate in this chamber and in another place, and subsequently, representations were made to the Government with respect to the effect of this concession upon the trade between Australia and Java, more particularly having regard to the circumstance that the Australian products exported to the Dutch East Indies are generally such as are obtainable elsewhere by the inhabitants of those countries, whereas the articles imported from those countries by Australia are not readily and conveniently obtainable by Australia elsewhere. Further, it has been pointed out that, when any distinct preference is given to a part of the Empire, it is usually embodied in a treaty upon the basis of reciprocity. The request of the Senate is that the item should be restored to its original unamended condition, and that, therefore, the duty on coffee should be as before, and not remitted in favour of Empire-grown coffee. Honorable members will recognize that this is not a very important item in itself. The committee is asked to agree to this request, and also to the second, third and fourth requests, which apply to the same item.
.- I am very pleased that the alteration has been accepted by the Government. I draw particular attention to the fact that the Dutch Government has treated Australia remarkably well, particularly in allowing us to compete in the Java market on the same footing a3 its own people. A result of this generous action on the part of the Netherlands is that Australia has obtained a remarkable market in Java for butter, and a good outlet also for biscuits, bacon, and many other products. Had the first intention of the Government to give special consideration to India been carried out, it would almost certainly have resulted in the Netherlands Government introducing counteracting legislation.
Motion agreed to.
Item 105 (Piece Goods).
Sena-te’i request -
Insert after sub-item (e) the following: - “By omitting paragraph (1) of sub-item (rV and inserting in its stead the following paragraph:
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The effect of the amendment asked for is to reduce the weight of the cloth mentioned in this item from 6£ oz. to 6 oz. per square yard, and to delete the words “ the invoiced selling price of which does not exceed the equivalent of 3s. 4d. per square yard.” In 1925, the Tariff Board made a comprehensive inquiry into an application for increased duties on woollen piece goods, and the result was that the 1926 tariff included the item to which I have referred, under which these duties were imposed upon woollen piece goods ordinarily used in the manufacture of outer clothing for human wear, where the weight was more than 6-J oz. per square yard, and the invoiced selling price not more than 3s. 4d. per square yard. These are woollen goods, such as worsteds, used for ordinary suitings. The weight limit was inserted in order that light-weight women’s woollen dress goods, that are not manufactured to any great extent in the Commonwealth, should not be liable to the composite rates. This weight limit was acceptable to Australian weavers, it being considered . that a weight of 6^ oz per square yard drew a fair line of demarcation between goods manufactured in Australia and those that were not manufactured in this country upon a commercial scale, or to any substantial extent. It was also considered that the sale pf woollen piece goods weighing over 6’^ oz. per square yard, at 3s. 4d. or under per square yard was detrimentally affecting the Australian industry, but that it was able to compete with imported goods invoiced at prices exceeding 3s. 4d. per square yard with only a slight increase in the tariff, the rates being made 35 per cent. British preferential; . 45 per. cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general. Experience of the working of these duties shows that they have not been sufficiently effective, that Australian weavers are not receiving sufficient orders to keep the mills working full time, and that they have been forced to put off a large number of operatives. In some cases it has been found that the weight of woollen piece goods imported has been reduced to just under 6£ oz., and that reduction in weight removes them from this item. It has been found, also, that worsted goods have been sold in Australia at prices with which it is impossible for the Australian manufacturers to compete. Large quantities of goods of this description are being brought in at the present time, and the increase in importations may be judged by a comparison of the figures relating to the importation of men’s suiting during the six months ended 31st December,’- 1926, and that during the six months ended 31st December, 1927. In men’s worsted suitings the increase was from £154,000 to £266,000; men’s suitings, wholly woollen, from £223,000 to £440,000; and men’s suitings, woollen mixed with cotton, from £136,000 to £328,000. The result is that the tariff, in its present form, is ineffective for the purposes for which it was introduced. The Australian wool industry is of very great importance to Australia. It is highly desirable that our wool should be worked up into the’ completed product in this country as far as possible. Australian manufacturers are able to do this work, and do it well; but the present duties are ineffective because of the 6£ oz. condition, and the 3s. 4d. a square yard condition. It is therefore proposed to omit reference to the price, and to alter 6£ oz. to 6 oz.
.- These goods have been made up here for the last 60 years, and they can be made up here to-day. I admit that we have one great drawback to manufacturing in this country, and that is the industrial conditions. Where are we going? Thank God that there is an election very near at hand.
– I wish to ask whether it is permissible, under our parliamentary procedure, for this chamber to make additions to the amendments received from the Senate, or are we limited merely to the acceptance or rejection of the -Senate’s requests?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).It is possible only to deal with the requests mentioned in the schedule; but those requests, as submitted, may be amended.
.- I ask the Attorney-General to allow progress to be reported now. He has given us a great deal of information which he may have supposed honorable members had before them, but he unfortunately neglected to tell the committee that this was an entirely new item. He quoted figures comparing the trade for six months of last year with that of six months of the previous year, but this tariff schedule was brought in last year, and this information was not previously available to honorable members. The Attorney-General, of course, has the original tariff in his possession. We, however, have not the tariff schedule, but only the amendment which was brought before us recently, and which was passed by this chamber, and sent on to the Senate. It is impossible to determine the effect of this amendment from the information which we have at our disposal now. I do not wish to delay the tariff, but I urge honorable members not to agree to this item to-day, even though we approve of the others. The alteration of this duty was not considered by the committee when we were dealing with the tariff previously, and I know of no recommendation having been made on the matter by the Tariff Board. I ask the Attorney-General whether it is possible to report progress now?
– It is desired to put this item through this afternoon if it is at all possible, because I can assure honorable members that this is an urgent matter. Since the amendment was made m another place, large quantities of goods have been removed, and are still being removed, from bond.
– I wish to oppose this alteration very strongly. The AttorneyGeneral has spoken of woollen mills which, he says, are unable to carry on. The competition is so keen, he says, and it would be a very grave matter if this big industry were not adequately protected. Can he tell us of one big, substantial firm in Australia which has applied for more protection? Take firms like Foy and Gibson; there has been no appeal for assistance from them. There are shoddy firms which are always begging for assistance; but the substantial establishments are carrying on, and doing magnificently. I have here a letter from a big firm in Melbourne, in which a protest is made against the introduction of a new item to the tariff schedule. No honorable member knows anything about this proposal, except that we are increasing the cost of clothing to the people, and are putting extra dividends into the pockets of the manufacturers.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to point out to honorable members that the moving of this motion means that the House will sit on Tuesday next, because this is provided for in a sessional order. On Tuesday next we shall go on with the Wine Bounty Bill, and that will probably be followed by the Customs Tariff Bill. It is hoped that the four small bills which follow on the noticepaper, none of which is of a contentious nature, may be dealt with before the end of next week. The only other matter which will be brought up will be certain appropriations in respect to the allocation of last year’s surplus. It is merely an appropriation, and does not introduce any new matter. It is also possible that there will be two second-reading speeches delivered, one in regard to dried fruits, and the other dealing with the proposed national exhibition.
. -I wish to draw the attention of the House again to the position in regard to unemployment. This matter was discussed here recently; but since then the trouble has grown greater, and will, it appears, become more acute as the winter approaches. To-day we dealt with a number of proposals for new works which, if carried into effect, will give relief in some of the bigger centres. From the remarks of the Prime Minister this morning, however, I doubt very much whether these works will be gone on with for some time, because, he says, they depend on the Government being able to raise the necessary money. The conditions which exist in practically every centre are deplorable ; but in no place are they worse than in Newcastle and South Maitland. In those districts, not only are there some thousands of men unemployed, but many more are only partially employed. In some cases men have not averaged more than five and a half days work a fortnight for the last two years. I have here a letter from the Trades and Labour Council, touching on the subject of unemployment,in which it is asked that some of the tents of which the Government is disposing might be made available for the use of the unemployed. I do not know just to what tents the letter refers, except that in the past the Defence Department has disposed of military tents. I have asked the Minister for information, and he is making inquiries. If it is proposed to dispose of military tents, we should make some of them available to the unemployed, some of whom have no place to lay their heads. They are compelled to go into railway carriages to sleep, and often they are prosecuted for taking shelter there. The letter continues -
The trade unions here view with alarm the deplorable conditions surrounding a large army of unemployed here and in other centres of the country, and to ask that the Federal Government be requested tohold in abeyance the statute, under which assisted nominated immigrants are enabled to land here, till such time as the unemployed are provided with employment of a constant nature, and to ask that action be taken at once to relieve the distress which exists among the unemployed in all centres.
We discussed that matter recently, and I do not want to go into it again at the moment, but the position is becoming graver every day. The immigrants who are coming to Australia are not all being absorbed in rural areas; many of them are displacing Australian workers in industrial centres. It does an immense amount of injury to Australia to have any migrants coming here and remaining unemployed. This matter is serious, and I urge the
Government to give earnest consideration to it. If we cannot provide some big public work to give employment to our workless people we could, at least, suspend migration until the people already here can secure employment.
.- I trust that the Prime Minister will reconsider the order of business for Tuesday. As I intimated this morning while asking a question, there are many persons unemployed in my electorate on account of the insufficient protection we afford to the woollen industry. The Wine Export Bounty Bill is important,but I hardly think it is so important as the tariff matters that are awaiting our attention, and I trust that the Prime Minister will give the tariff business precedence on Tuesday.
.- Our blunt, bluff friend, the High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie, has made a statement to the effect that there is room for 100,000 domestic servants in Australia. Yesterday I received a letter from a lady who keeps a guest-house at St. Kilda, in which she informed me that 40 persons had replied in one morning to a small advertisement which she had inserted in the daily press for a domestic. servant. She also said they complainedthat there were so many of them out of work. The Prime Minister will remember that the elder of the Gracchus in describing conditions in ancient Borne said that the birds of the air had nests, and the beasts of the field lairs to which they could go, but that the soldiers of Borne were left without a resting place, and had to starve when the wars were over. We do not desire that kind of thing to happen in Australia. During the last 39 years I have been connected with every unemployed movement in Melbourne, and I have never before known conditions to be so serious at this time of the year as they are now. I thank God that there is a Salvation Army to provide homes for the homeless and food for the hungry. I do not accuse the Government of lack of sympathy with the distressed section of our community, but I ask it to try to do something to relieve the position. There is something radically wrong in Australia for this kind of thing to occur. In Western Australia new migrants are dis placing Australians to a great extent. I inquired into this matter towards the end of last year, and both my son and his partner, who are on the land there, assured me that they received frequent applications for work from new arrivals. That is not a fair thing. I should be as delighted as any one to welcome migrants from the four kingdoms if we had work for them, or could place them on the land, but we cannot do it. It has been frequently pointed out that whenever Crown lands are thrown open for application by the people there are many more applicants than there are blocks available. In Queensland there were over 1,000 applicants for one block. Many sons of Australian farmers have been disappointed at their inability to obtain land. The number of unemployed in England is very large, and a certain stigma has been cast upon them for accepting what is called the dole. I point out that it is not a dole, nor a charitable gift, but a fund to which employees as well as employers and the Government contribute. This matter will have to be investigatedsooner or later, and we should look into it at once.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280323_reps_10_118/>.