10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention . of the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) been drawn to a newspaper report, published under the following heading : - “ Nude girls in Melbourne flat orgy; Negro comedians as partners ;Raid by police.” Ifso, has any action been taken in regard to the matter? Are any credentials required by the Home and Territories Department as to the moral character of negroes who arrive in Australia? Does the Minister not think that, in the interests of a White Australia and moral decency, permits to such persons should he refused?
– My attention has been drawn to the report referred to by the honorable member, and action has been taken. The negroes will sail from Australia on Saturday next.
– I do not know whether credentials are required with regard to the moral character of such visitors, but certainly they are required in respect of general behaviour, I shall look very carefully into all such applications for admission in the future.
– Does not the Prime Minister consider that the names of the gentlemen who are about to visit Australia in. connexion with trade and migration should have been announced to the members of this House prior to their announcement to the members of the Millions Club? Is it a fact that these British visitors intend to remain in Australia only about three months? If so, does the Prime Minister consider that they will be able in that time to acquire sufficient personal knowledge of Australia to enable them to make any useful recommendations in connexion with our trade, migration and economic problems generally. Will the Government bear the cost, or any part of it, in connexion with this holiday jaunt? If bo, to what extent?
– The announcement of the names of the persons referred to by the honorable member was made yesterday, on account of it being necessary to have a simultaneous announcement in Australia and Great Britain. The British Government desired the announcement to be made yesterday, and I concurred. The Commonwealth will not be under obligation to meet the expenses of these gentlemen, but while they are here they will be the guests of the Government. I regret that they will not be able to spend more than three months in Australia, but I am certain that a great deal of good work can be done in that time. The visitors will be able to ascertain something of the possibilities of Australia, and upon their return to England they will, as leaders of British economic, industrial and commercial life, be able to speak authoritatively on Australian affairs and remove many misapprehensions with regard to this country that at present exist in the minds of the British people.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform me whether the Defence Department is selling military reserves at Point Kembla and, if so, under what conditions ?
– Ishall obtain the information from the Minister for Defence and let the honorable member have it.
FLIGHT OF CAPTAIN LANCASTER AND Mrs. MILLER.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has sent an official invitation to Captain Lancaster and Mrs. Miller, who have just completed a flight from Great Britain to Australia, to visit Canberra? If not, does it intend to do so.
– So far, no such official invitation has been given, but the Government is considering the matter.
German Developmental Project
– In view of the serious unemployment that exists on the coal-fields, will the Prime Minister request the Development and Migration Commission to expedite its report upon its investigation into the proposed admission of German capital into Australia to develop our coal-fields and erect a coke and by-products treatment plant here? Will the Government undertake to make a decision on the matter immediately the report comes to hand?
– I do not anticipate that there will be any delay in the preparation of the report of the commission, and I assure the honorable member that as soon as it comes to hand it will receive the consideration of the Government.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether your attention has been drawn to the fact that two prints of the notice-paper have been made to-day, one of which differs materially from the other? Both papers bear the number 158. In the first print the following question appears : -
Mr. Nelson : To ask the Minister for Works and Railways - In view of the fact that numbers of men who, in an endeavour to keep faith with the Government in carrying out contracts or piece-work by mutual arrangement with the Government Constructing Engineer on the Katherine to Daly Waters Railway were involved in heavy commitments for which they were not allowed to recoup themselves, will the Minister state if it is the intention of the Government to reimburse those contractors to the extent, at least, of the moneys lost bythem, seeing that the Government broke its part of the compactoragreement?
In the second print the same question appears, but with the following words omitted : “ seeing that the Government broke its part of the compact or agreement.” I desire to know by whose authority and for what reason those words were omitted ? I consider that they were the justification for my question.
– The honorable member would have more properly made his inquiry when the question to which he has referred was called on. Having noticed the original wording of the question I asked the Clerk to ascertain if the honorable member was available, so that I might draw his attention to the fact that his question was not in order, to the extent that it contained an expression of opinion, and made a charge of breach of contract againstthe Government. In putting a question no argument or opinion may be offered, and the matter to which the question refers may not be debated, the object of questions being the eliciting of information. The honorable member was not available; he returned to Canberra, I understand, only shortly before theHouse met to-day, so that I could not draw his attention to the matter. The procedure followed, wherever possible, is to inform an honorable member of any irregularity in a question of which he has given notice, so that he may himself make any emendation considered desirable; but it was not possible to follow that course in this instance.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday last I mentioned that the Trades and Labour Council at Newcastle had inquired whether the Government would make available to the unemployed a number of tents, and had also suggested that in view of the large number of unemployed in Australia, the Immigration Act should be suspended until the position became more satisfactory. The right honorable gentleman was unable at the time to give me an answer. I should like to know now whether the matters referred to will receive his careful consideration?
– I regret that on Friday afternoon I had to leave the House without having an opportunity to reply to the honorable member’s question. He. will, I am sure, free me from any charge of intentional discourtesy in the matter. As to the first part of his question - whether tents will be made available for the use of the unemployed - I shall have the matter looked into with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done. Regarding the second part of the honorable member’s question,’ I can only refer him to the debate which took place in this House recently on a direct vote of censure which the honorable gentleman himself moved.
– The position is worse now than it was then.
– In the Sydney press of Sunday last the following paragraph appeared : -
In future, Mr. Bruce said, the Federal House would sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. This arrangement had been made for the convenience of certain members. It enabled them to reach their homes two or three days earlier at the end of the week.
I should like to know whether the right honorable gentleman has been correctly reported, or whether his remarks applied only to this week. If it is intended that the sitting days shall be altered in the future, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the views of honorable members from the more distant States who would find the suggested alteration very awkward ?
– The statement which appeared in the press was due to a not unnatural misunderstanding. All I said was that for this week - the last of the present period of the session - it had been decided, in order to meet the convenience of some honorable members, to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I made no statement as to the sitting days of the House when it re-assembles after the Easter adjournment.
– This morning’s Canberra Times contains a report in which it is stated that of 2,876 men who were employed by the Federal Capital Commission in October, 1926, only 1,470 now remain, showing that during that period 1,406 men have been dismissed. I should like to know whether those figures are correct, and, further, seeing that 121 men have been dismissed during the present month, whether the Minister will indicate to what extent the Government intends to apply its retrenchment policy to Canberra?
– I shall obtain the information desired by the honorable member, and convey it to him.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to indicate when Parliament will re-assemble after the Easter adjournment?
– The present intention is that the House shall re-assemble on Wednesday, the 18th April.
– Is it true that the two Australian submarines recently built in England were forced to put into Malta for the rectification of structural defects ? If so, will the expense incurred be borne by the Commonwealth Government or by the contractors?
– This question was asked last week, and I then gave the House all the information available. It is true that on the voyage between Portsmouth and Malta certain defects developed in the submarines. When the vessels were examined at Malta, it was found that in each there was apparently a constructional defect in the column supporting the engine. The necessary repairs can be caried out at Malta. The cost will be borne by the contractors, and not by the Australian Government.
– In the Brisbane
Courier of the 21st March last, the following paragraph appeared -
Queensland Request toBritain.
It is understood that the Treasury at present is considering the representations of the Queensland Government concerning the proposed revision of the duties on imported sugar, which, if carried out as asked by the refining interests in Britain, will penalize 150,000 tons of Queensland sugar imported annually to the extent of 22 per cwt.
The Queensland Government has suggested that the difficulty might be partly overcome by raising the standard from 98 to 99 degrees in order to admit high quality Queensland raw sugar unpenalized.
In a later issue of that newspaper dated 24th March, the following appeared -
The Sugar Federation of the British Empire has considered the representations of the Queensland Government, and says that all sections of the Empire raw-sugar industry are sympathetic, but the British refiners, who are the most important section, are decidedly antagonistic. It was decided to approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Winston Churchill) regarding sugar matters generally, when it is hoped an opportunity will arise to state the case for Queensland.
As the growing of sugar in Australia is not confined to one State, will the Prime Minister indicate the nature of the representations made to the British Government. I should also like to know to what extent the Government supported ‘ the representations made by the Queensland Government regarding duties on sugar. If nothing has yet been done by the Commonwealth Government, will the right honorable gentleman make representation to the British Government in favour of a greater measure of tariff preference . being given to dominion sugar, seeing that the preference granted by Australia to Britain represents £9,000,000 per annum, whereas Australia in return receives from Britain preference to the value of only £500,000 per annum?
– On many occasions I have made personal representation to the British Government regarding preference to Australian goods in the British market, but the Government has at no time addressed any official communication to the British Government in reference to tariff matters. Obviously it would not do so. Nothing would be more resented by Australia than that the British Government should make representations to us on tariff matters. I can assure the honorable member, however, that, without making official representations of any kind, the Government is pursuing the policy which it has pursued consistently for five -years, and is doing everything in its power to induce the British Government to treat Australian products as sympathetically as possible.
– Can the right honorable gentleman say whether the representations made by the Queensland Government were in reference to tariff matters? It would appear from the report that they were.
– Officially, I have no information whatever; but unofficially I have heard a great deal about the matter.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of the increasing numbers of unemployed in North Australia, due to the closing down of the railway construction, can the Minister indicate when it is anticipated that the construction of the Katherine to Daly Waters Railway will he resumed?
– The matter is under consideration.
footpaths-houses on university Site.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, 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 : -
Mr. ANSTEY (through Mr. Fenton) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of the fact that numbers of men who, in an endeavour to keep faith with the Government in carrying out contracts or piecework by mutual arrangement with the Government constructing engineer on the Katherine to Daly Waters Railway, were involved in heavy commitments for which they were not allowed to recoup themselves, will the Minister state if it is the intention of the Government tb reimburse those contractors to the extent, at least, of the moneys lost by them, seeing that the Government broke its part of the compact or agreement?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished at a later date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Swedish matches were also gazetted under section 6 of the act ‘mentioned by notice published in Gazette No. 2G of the 15th March, 1928, operating on and from 2nd March, 1928.
These .matches have been gazetted under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act because in some instances they are being imported under conditions which constitute “dumping” within the meaning of the act referred to.
asked the’ Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 22nd March, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1928 - No. 7 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1927-28.
Superannuation Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 24.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests, resumed from 23rd March, vide page 4148) :
Item 105 (Piece goods).
Senate’s request -
Insert after sub-item (e) the following: - “ By omitting paragraph ( 1 ) of sub-item (f) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved -
That the requested amendment be made.
.- On Friday last, when progress was reported, I was asking for the postponement of the consideration of this item, so that honorable members generally might be able to obtain more information concerningthe motive of the Senate in requesting an increase of duty. I should like to point out to the committee that there has, in this instance, been a big departure from the usual practice. When a tariff item such as textiles is to be discussed by Parliament, it has been usual to receive a report from the Tariff Board concerning it. Although, in 1926, the board furnished a report dealing with textiles, apparently at that time it was not thought necessary to make report dealing with woollen textiles.As far back as 1925, the board reported on woollen textiles, and, generally speaking, the Government adopted its recommendations ; but there has been no recent report. I find it hard to understand what influence could have been brought to bear upon the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in the Senate to induce himto propose this most drastic change in regard to the duties on woollen piece goods.
– Does the honorable member think that this Parliament should never increase a duty without a recommendation from the Tariff Board?
– In my opinion, we could dispense with the Tariff Board altogether. Honorable members opposite are glad to quote its recommendations when they support their own views. Drastic alterations were recommended by the board in 1925 on the ground that the people should be protected against the importation of shoddy goods. Now, however, we are asked to increase the duty on all these goods. There is always a pauper in the crowd, when the tariff is under review, and a number of honorable members are ever prepared to take money from the pockets of one section of the people and give it to another.
– But it is always an Australian crowd that we desire to protect.
– I shall show the honorable member what New Zealand business men can do, and what many Australian manufacturers, too, have accomplished in the direction of efficiency. If one trader can compete under certain conditions, others should be able to do so, We have heard a good deal about the need for efficiency in industry, and it is time wepractised what we preach. I am hoping to receive assistance from honorable members opposite in my efforts to ensure that excessive duties are not imposed on those articles of clothing that are largely purchased by the poorer sections of the community. The Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in the Senate remarked that the manufacturers in Australia were of opinion that British goods were being imported into this country at a price below the cost of production. He stated that customs officials were making inquiries in Great Britain to ascertain whether that was so, with a view to imposing dumping duties. He added that the Government would be blameworthy if it did not afford adequate protection to the great woollen industry of Australia, whether the competition came from Great Britain or elsewhere. That shows the attitude of the department towards British textiles, although for a long time Australia has been one of Britain’s chief markets for these goods. That wholesouled patriot, Senator Guthrie, who, not long ago told us that GreatBritain was being injured by the importation of American films into this country, now declares that woollen piece goods are being dumped into Australia. He merely makes the assertion; apparently he does not think it necessary to prove his statement. Despite all the talk one hears about the need for assisting the Mother Country, in our trade relations with her, the Minister for Trade and Customs succeeded in having an act passed last year providing that, if 75 per cent. of the value of goods imported from Great Britain did not represent British labour and material, they could not receive the British preference, and that was taken to mean that if woollen goods imported from Great Britain were manufactured from Australian wool, the value of the wool was not to be included in the valuation of the British labour and material. That is a scandalous position, and I hope that the Prime Minister will see that the act is amended in that respect. The Senate requests that the weight of the material dutiable in this item shall be reduced from6½ oz. to 6 oz. per square yard. The words “ in material the invoice selling price of which does not exceed the equivalent of 3s. 4d. per yard,” have been omitted from the schedule. In its report on woollen piece goods, the Tariff Board in 1925 stated -
It is believed that if the importation of shoddy tweeds could be restricted, an opportunity would be afforded many of the mills to devote themselves to the manufacture of tweeds, from virgin wool, and of a more lasting nature and better value than the imported cheap material, and which would then displace the imported shoddy tweeds.
It also made this important statement -
It was admitted by the witnesses that extra duties were not required in respect of the better class materials manufactured by the larger and more prosperous mills, but in view of the increased duties on woollen yarns some compensating increase is necessary on the cloths manufactured from these yarns, and the increases shown at the foot of this report are therefore recommended. . . .
Inquiry made by the Tariff Board’s investigation officer revealed the fact that shoddy is being produced in the Commonwealth. It was ascertained from one manufacturer that he has to obtain his hard and hosiery waste from the United Kingdom, while other local manufacturers are producing and exporting the same material. Mungo is manufactured by several mills in Australia, and is used in the manufacture of cheap blankets. Shoddy is used to blend with wool in the manufacture of cheap tweeds, rugs, flannels, and blankets.
In quoting these statements I have no desire to reflect upon the industry in Australia. My sole purpose is to show that the cheaper class of goods is being manufactured in the Commonwealth, and that the manufacturers received special consideration, from the Tariff Board last year. It is now proposed to ignore the reservations recommended by the board and inserted in the original schedule, and make the increased duties apply to the whole of the different classes of imported tweeds. The result will be an increase in the cost of clothing. In 1925-26 the total value of the output of Australian mills was £5,758,000 and the total wages paid £1,232,000. In other words the wages paid in the industry represented 21 per cent, of the total output. For the sake of my argument I shall assume that the wages paid represented 25 per cent. Mr. Sutcliffe a leading statistical authority has pointed out that if the wages paid in an Australian industry are 25 per cent, higher than wages paid in a similar industry in Great Britain the difference to the Australia consumer in the cost of the finished article will be less than 5 per cent His conclusions have an important bearing upon these duties. The proposal to increase the tariff by this sub-item will enable the industry to pay wages 50 per cent higher than those ruling in Great Britain and will make the difference in the cost of the completed article about 7 per cent. On woollen piece goods from Great Britain invoiced at!’ 7s. 6d. per yard, the present duty is 2s. lid., representing 35 per cent, on the invoice price. The proposed increase will make the duty 4s., an increase of ls. Id. per yard or 37 per cent, on the previous duty, and the total duty will be over 60 per cent. On imported woollen piece goods invoiced at 10s. per yard the present duty is 3s. lOd. and the proposed duty 4s. 9d., an increase of lid. per yard or 26 per cent , making the total duty 55 per cent. On woollen piece goods invoiced at 20s. per yard the present duty is 7s. 8d. per yard, and the proposed duty 8s. Id., an increase of only 5d. These duties will not affect the better class of materials to the same extent as the cheaper goods, with a result that the added impost will fall upon the workers of Australia. One of the largest manufacturers in Melbourne, a firm that supplies clothing material to retail houses throughout Australia, writes to me as follows in respect of this matter -
Following my letter of the 16th inst., I desire to bring under your notice that the matter referred to therein concerned the action of the Senate in placing a new item in the customs tariff schedule at the instance of the Minister in connexion with woollen textiles.
This amendment is, of course, of such a serious character that I ask you to enter a vigorous protest against such action in view of the fact that such an important amendment should only be the outcome of a recommendation of the Tariff Board, as it is only by investigation of a matter such as this by that board that both sides of such an important question can be heard. I was under the impression that the Tariff Board was created for this purpose, and yet we are now faced with a most important addition to the customs duties by one House of the Federal Parliament without the matter having ever been referred to the Tariff Board. Will you please do your best to have this, at all events, postponed until a further inquiry can be made, and do your best to see that the amendment of the Senate is not complied with.
We might add that these sudden changes in tariff affect other trades. For instance, clothing factories are printing books, making samples and price lists for next summer season, and any alteration to the tariff at this moment probably means the loss of thousands of pounds. For ourselves alone our pattern books, which have cost some £2,000, will probably have to be scrapped. A firm can hardly afford luxuries during this, one of the worst seasons experienced.
Honorable members will see how the increased cost will have to be borne, in the main, by the poorer sections of the community. It was stated just now, by way of interjection that in opposing these increased duties, I w,as taking up an anti-Australian attitude/ So far from that being true I contend that I am act ing more in the interests of the Australian manufacturer than are honorable members who are prepared to vote for higher duties regardless of their effect on the community, and to allow the present state of affairs commercially to drift. They appear not to realize that manufacturers naturally will keep on asking for higher and still higher duties, and that if their requests are acceeded to, in every instance, the results will be disastrous to Australia. Many woollen mills are operating in New Zealand where, for 1926, the duties on woollen textiles, or cotton and woollen textiles, were - British preference, 20 per cent., and general) tariff, 35 per cent. I have here a copy of the report of the Mosgiel Woollen Mills, in New Zealand, presented to the shareholders at the annual meeting on the 24th January, 1928. That report states -
During the past year the company has been able to dispose of all its output at remunerative prices, and the result of the year’s trade has been quite satisfactory.
The liquid assets of the company in the form of New Zealand Government loans, cash on deposit, and the amount standing to credit of the company’s current account at the bank shows this year the amount of £58,490, as against £52,987 in the previous year. In view of this increase, and seeing that we have more than sufficient capital for our business, the directors recommend that a special bonus of 10s. per share (which will absorb £11,922 10s.), shall be payable to shareholders, and the same will be chargeable to the reserve account.
The directors are quite satisfied that this payment can be made without in any way hampering the company’s finance, and it will at once be made if shareholders at the annual meeting approve. A special motion will be submitted bearing on this matter.
The board has deemed it wise to make an addition of £2,000 to the employees’ benefit fund.
The subscribed capital of tha company is £95,380.
– What wages do they pay?
– Tes, what are their wages and State income tax?
– I shall give what information I can. Among the items on the balance-sheet of this company are the following : - Reserve account, £46,577.; marine insurance, £1,500; employees’ benefit fund, £13,150. Other items are: Land, building, machinery, depreciation, warehouse book debts, and bills receivable. The balance-sheet also includes
New Zealand Government loans, £19,000 ; cash deposits, £37,000; and goods manufacture^ or in process of manufacture, and raw materials, £44,988. This is a company competing with Great Britain, on a protective duty of 20 per cent, on woollen goods or goods containing wool. Surely it is worth our while to compare our own woollen industry with theirs, and to see what our trouble is. Why should it not be possible for us to do as well as they can do in New Zealand ? Wages are fixed by arbitration awards, and if taxation is higher here, surely that is due to extravagance and bad economic conditions which it is out duty to redress. ‘ As a matter of fact, there are mills in Australia which are doing very nearly as well as the Mosgiel Mill in New Zealand. There they are able to make a success of their business, and to manufacture such magnificent articles as I have seen in their showrooms in Melbourne. There are woollen mills in Melbourne and South Australia which are also turning out good stuff. In many articles they can compete with the world on even terms. I wish to impress upon honorable members opposite that if this resolution is carried it will have the effect of increasing by 35 per cent, or 40 per cent, the cost of the cheaper classes of goods which are used for workmen’s and boys’ clothing. We are not justified in making these continual increases in the tariff, especially without any report being received from the Tariff Board. On one consignment of goods, valued at £177, the duty, levied at the rate of 55 per cent., amounted to £107. Recent tariff changes with dumping duties on these goods totalled £599 13s. 3d. Such duties are not imposed for the purpose of getting revenue ; the Government, I am sure, has no such intention. They cannot even be justified on the ground of protecting industry, because an industry which needs to be protected to that extent would be better abolished. : Only a certain amount of wealth is produced in Australia, and when that is expended we must either borrow or “bust.” We do not want to do the latter, and there must some time come an end to our borrowing. Can we pay, the bill this policy demands from us? I object to this proposed increase, because the matter, has not been referred to the Tariff Board, and because, if put into effect, it will have the effect of greatly increasing the price of children’s and workers’ clothing. Let me again point out just what the effect of the increases will be. On textiles of an actual cost of 7s. 6d. a yard, there will be an increased duty of ls. 3d., bringing the existing duty of 2s. lid. up to 4s., which is 60 per cent. On lower-priced goods the increase will be still greater, I trust that the Government will not urge the acceptance of this increase. It is not fair to the country, and I do not believe that it is fair to the manufacturers. It will be giving assistance to third-class factories, and will give unfair and unjust profits to other factories. The Government cannot grant benefits of this kind to all classes of the community. It is all very well for those who are working in sheltered industries; they can pass the cost on; but it is not possible for the primary producers to do so. The time is very near when we shall not be able to pay the high wages which will be Remanded as a result of the increased cost of living. Only when it is evident beyond doubt that it is necessary to assist some important industry should we consent to increased duties. In saying that, I am speaking only as a protectionist should speak, and not as I would speak myself. My own view is that there is no reason why one section of the people should be made to pay tribute to another. In reference to this proposed increase, however, I maintain that no further impost should be added unless it is proved that it is absolutely necessary.
.- I wish to express my appreciation of the action of the Government in bringing this matter forward to-day. The Prime Minister intimated on the adjournment on Friday that it was his intention to bring down the Wine Export Bounty Bill before this measure. I take it that the right honorable gentleman has realized the importance of this bill, and what it means to the people of Australia, particularly at the present time. I have followed very closely the reasoning of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I disagree entirely with his arguments, and disapprove of the policy of which he is so capable a protagonist. All that I can say in his favour is that he is consistent,1 in that he advocates, both in season and out of season, the policy of freetrade.
– I have never done so.
– The honorable member is, at all events, a low protectionist, which is practically the same thing. I have risen to espouse the cause of an industry which is in a very precarious condition. On the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday, I said that, at the present time, there is a considerable number of men out of employment, and that that number will certainly be increased very materially within the next few weeks. The honorable member for Swan will probably say that that is a stock argument. He has referred to the duty which this Parliament, in 1926, agreed to impose on textiles. The goods with which we then dealt are entirely different from those that we are now considering. We then agreed to protect tweeds; but to-day we are seeking protection for worsteds. The action which was taken in 1926 has been more than justified, because those who are engaged in the manufacture of tweeds have since been able to keep their hands fully employed, and fresh capital has also been introduced for the establishment of additional factories to manufacture exclusively cotton tweeds. Five or six factories which are now operating were not then in existence. I, therefore, assume that the duty which was then imposed has had the desired effect of stimulating the industry and widening the avenues of employment. We have again heard the cry which has been raised on previous occasions, that the object of those who are asking for this tariff is to bolster up inefficiency. I give the lie direct? to that assertion. Our woollen and worsted mills are probably very much better equipped than are those which may be found in any other part of the world. They have installed the most modern type of machinery. He would be a bold man who, from the public platform, would make the statement that the employees in this industry are inefficient. They have proved their capabilities by the quality of their output.
– The honorable member is proving too much. c
– I dissent from that view. Whatever may be the reason for the position in which the industry finds itself, the fault is not that of those who are employed in it, or of the machinery which is installed in the different factories. We have brought to Australia some of the most capable men it was possible to procure from the longest established woollen mills in the world. What is termed “ the excessive cost “ of the manufactured article cannot be laid to the charge of the woollen mills; the trouble occurs after the product leaves those mills and before it reaches the retail purchaser. Notwithstanding the fact that our woollen mills have had to cope with advancing rates of wages, and pay a higher price for their raw material, the cost of the manufactured article to-day is 8 per cent. less than it was when the duty was imposed in 1926.
– Those mills are not asking for this duty.
– My honorable friend does not know his text. I have received from those very mills, telegrams and letters asking me to support this duty.
– Name them.
– The Valley Worsted Mill is the most up to date in Australia, andhas expended on its plant within recent years the sum of £750,000. There are also the Returned Soldiers’ Woollen Mill, Geelong, which, although not too large an establishment, is quite up to date; Godfrey Hirst and Company, mill-owners in Geelong; the Albion Woollen Mills, and the Federal Woollen Mills, which the Commonwealth Government sold a few years ago. They have asked me to place before this committee the need that exists for supporting this industry, in order that they may keep their hands fully employed. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has my permission to peruse that correspondence if he so desires. When one is discussing the question of textiles, one cannot overlook the aspect of quality. During the debate which took place in 1926, considerable stress was laid upon the fact that the objective of those who were then engaged in the industry in this country was to turn out an article superior in quality to that which was being imported. That is still being clone; but the industry has been compelled to ask for further protection, because it is faced with competition from overseas, particularly, so it is said, from Germany. It is significant that even so far back as June last the Wool Record and Textile World, issued at Bradford, England- which is the recognized authority on wool matters - bitterly complained of the competition that was coming from Germany, both in piece goods for men and made-up garments. These were being imported into Great Britain in large quantities, and the clothing trade was buying cheap German worsteds on a large scale. The imports of woollens and worsteds into Great Britain from Germany were given as follows: -
The importation of worsteds into Australia for the year 1926-27 amounted to £313,536, as against £291,536 for the year 1925-26, whilst for the first seven months of 1927-28 it totalled £338,501, exceeding the importations for the whole of the year 1926-27. In each month from July, 1927, to January, 1928, the importations are practically double those of the corresponding month in the previous year. This has practically brought stagnation to the worsted and tweed industry, hence the need for additional protection. Some mills have had to dispose of half of their operatives, while others have been compelled to reduce the number of hands employed and work those retained only 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of their time, as it is almost impossible to obtain orders.
Honorable members are probably aware that from November until about the end of May is the period during which most bulk orders are received at the various Australian woollen and worsted mills. A record from seven Australian mills shows that from the 1st November, 1926, to the end of February, 1927, the orders booked in Australia amounted to £340,235. For the corresponding period ending February of this year, the amount of orders booked was only £124,787, notwithstanding the fact that there have been considerable price reductions in Australian-made articles. The imposition of the duty on these goods two years ago had a threefold effect. In the first place, it practically effected a cessation of importations of these materials into Australia. That cannot be questioned. Secondly, it brought about the establishment of several new mills in Australia, and, thirdly - and in my opinion this is the most important effect - it brought about the selling of a better class article, true to name and of undoubted wearing quality. I have under my desk some samples of suitings which were handed to me yesterday. Some time ago there appeared in the newspapers of a southern State an advertisement alleging that a certain woollen manufacturing concern was in financial difficulties, and that a big distributing house had acquired the whole of its products at cut rates, considerably below the usual wholesale prices. That distributing house indicated that it was quite agreeable to allow its customers to participate in the benefits of the bargain that it had made, and it advertised suits, made to order, at £5 5s. A person wrote for the samples which are now in my possession, intimating that her husband always advocated the support of Australian industries, and wished for some of the suitings advertised. “When they arrived they were examined by experts in the woollen trade, and I understand that not one quarter of them are Australian samples, or true to name. They are being foisted on the people of Australia under a campaign of gross misrepresentation. It is time that this Government insisted that all products should be marked with the country of origin, and that it took steps to see that such fraudulent practices are discontinued. Much of the prevailing unemployment in the textile trade could be overcome by the granting of the request preferred by the Senate, and I hope that, if the motion is not passed without a division, it will, at least, be agreed to, and that before long the industry will benefit by it.
– I join with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) in offering my congratulations to the Government for having introduced this amending schedule, and particularly for having placed it at the top of the business paper and treated it as urgent. The position in our textile industries is acute, principally because of competition from cheap overseas products. The proposed amendment to the tariff schedule provides for alteration of weight of material from 6½ oz. per square yard to 6 oz., and eliminates the words “ the invoice selling price of which does not exceed the equivalent of 3s. 4d. per square yard. The object of the proposed amendment is to assist local industry to compete with the cheap but inferior overseas goods that are now flooding the country, and I trust that it will have the effect of restoring our industry to its former prosperity. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) stated that the plant used in the textile industry in Australia is hopelessly inefficient. From my personal knowledge of the two woollen mills in Queensland, I am aware that they are most efficient, and are being improved every day. Only recently experts from the Old Country have examined and reported upon the efficiency of the Queensland mills, and the methods of manufacture there. The artisans have long been associated with the industry are highly skilled and most industrious. Industrial strife is almost unknown in this important basic industry. Tens of thousands of pounds were spent lately in order to bring the equipment of those mills up to date, but the manufacturers cannot succeed in marketing their products successfully, if they are compelled to compete with dumped and inferior goods from abroad. In passing, I think the Treasurer ought, as an encouragement to efficiency in industry, to allow some substantial reduction of taxation in the case of mills that are spending thousands of pounds in the importation of plant to keep their efficiency at a high standard. Despite what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said, the importations which are affecting the woollen industry in Australia are the shoddy goods which are brought into Great Britain from the continent and reexported to Australia as of British manufacture.
– Then why not leave the tariff as it stood? It gave greater protection against the importation of shoddy stuff than this amendment is likely to give.
– The honorable member is not seised of the importance of the situation. He has been talking about woollen goods. It is the worsted goods that are interfering with our own industry. By a trick or device they have been able to evade the restrictions imposed by the . last tariff schedule. The proposal now before the committee will enable Australian industries to keep going, and, better still, will provide work for men who have been deprived of employment by the heavy importations of foreign worsteds which pose as British goods. “When the honorable member realizes the position, I am sure he will raise no further objection to the present proposal. The following table shows how serious the position has become and how in twelve months the value of imported worsteds has increased: -
Within six months the importations of worsteds have nearly doubled; yet the honorable member for Swan asks us to leave the tariff as is is. As a result there is practically stagnation in the worsted and tweed industry. Some mills have had to reduce the number of their operatives by one-half, others to reduce the time worked to only50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of full time, and orders are almost impossible to obtain. Like the honorable member for Coria (Mr. Lister), I have received telegrams from mill-owners in my district urging me to support the Senate’s requested amendment. There is no need for me to repeat all the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Corio. It ought to be sufficient for me to quote the importations into Great Britain of woollens and worsteds from
Germany. These are shown in the following table: -
I think that these figures show clearly that the so-called British goods which enter into competition with our Australian mills come from Germany. We know that the wool used in the manufacture of Australian worsted is Australian. There is a good deal of doubt about the type and quality and the country of origin of the wool used by Germany in the manufacture of the cheap worsteds which it is dumping into Australia through British channels. I should like the Attorney-General who is representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to afford some relief in the case of materials that are not manufactured in Australia. While I am anxious to protect all Australian primary and secondary industries, I do not think our tariff schedule should be framed to penalize the users of cloth that cannot be manufactured in Australia. That the requested amendment will do this is set out very clearly in the following letter : -
We are not so concerned about the reduction of weight from6½ oz. to6 oz., although we consider that these goods are not doing much harm to the Australian productions. What we take exception to is the further imposition of extra duty on goods that are not made in Australia, such as gabardines, coverts,
Venetian twists, &c. These goods are very largely used by the everyday class of people, and the proposed extra duty means a further increase in the cost of living, which is not justified, and cannot be supported by any evidence that the importation is interfering with Australian mills. The clothing manufacturers are very specially interested in gabardines, as these are used for making Raglan shower-proof coats. This branch of the trade was slipping away until the duty on imported coats was increased. We are just making good headway, and gaining the trade back again, and now along you come with an additional duty of1s.6d. per yard, which increases the cost of the coat 4s.6d., and on top of this the new federal award shows an increase of about 4 per cent: on wages paid. Coverts and Venetian twists are used very largely in the country for all classes of people, especially for riding and car work, on account of the smoothness of the cloth and its very good wearing qualities. These goods are not made in Australia. We do not mind extra dumping duty, as you call it. being placed on tweeds and worsteds, because we are now buying 90 per cent. of these from Australian mills.
– Will the honorable member send a copy of that letter to the Minister for Trade and Customs?
– I have already done so. I hope that relief can be given in the direction indicated. In regard to the urgency of agreeing to the requested amendment, I have received the following lettergram : -
Queensland Woollen Company be obliged your support proposed tariff amendment regarding woollens recently passed Senate. Greatly obliged if you could urge Prime Minister necessity of dealing by House of Representatives of proposed amendment before Easter vacation as matter considered urgent.
But this was followed by another from the same people, which reads as follows : -
My main point was in connexion with lightweight worsteds. Personally, do not think increase necessary on goods not manufactured in Australia.
I think the request I have submitted to the Attorney-General must be favorably considered when he realizes that the people who manufacture the goods affected by the foreign importations are agreeable to relief being afforded in respect of the duty on cloth which is not made in Australia. I congratulate the Government on having treated the matter as urgent, and made it possible, even at this late hour, to grant protection to the woollen industry, thus enabling it to prosper and provide employment for the many artisans who are dependent on it for their livelihood.
– I endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for. Swan (Mr. Gregory). 1 say “ Amen “. to them. The honorable member’s arguments were logical and sound, but those of the honorable member for Corio (Mr.- Lister) were inconsistent and unsound. I want to know why the additional protection now sought is needed when, as the honorable member for Corio says, we have the best’ machinery, the best and the cheapest wool, and the finest workmen in the world? I want to know also how the New Zealand firm, with only a 20 per cent, protection, is able to pay dividends and water its stock. These are matters of great importance. The imposition of this additional duty will only mean that efficient mills will make greater profit and that the cost of living and the number of unemployed in
Australia will be increased. That is the natural effect of increasing duties on such an item as this. I submit that this matter ought to have been referred to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The balance-sheets of efficient Australian manufacturers should be examined and all the facts taken into consideration. This item affects the cost of clothing of the whole community. Why should we be afraid of the manufacturers of other countries who come here from the uttermost parts of the earth, buy our raw material, ship it overseas, manufacture it and then send it back’ over the high tariff wall which we have built up ? It should not be possible for them under reasonable conditions to compete with the Australian manufacturers. That they are able to do so shows that there is “ something rotten in the state of Denmark”.
– I hope the committee will concede this request. It is fortunate that the Senate had time to investigate the position, for we shall now be able to stop another hole in our tariff wall. I do not care how high nor how strong we build that wall so long as we at the same time build up Australian industries and provide work for our people. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked how it was that having the best wool, the best machinery and the best workers in the world we are unable to compete against foreign manufacturers. While it is true that some of. our mills are as efficient as those in other parts of the world, it is also true that some are less efficient. But in any case a big industry such as this is cannot be placed upon a substantial footing in a few years. Speaking generally, our woollen and worsted mills are well managed, and well served by the employees. It is necessary for us to give this additional protection to enable them to compete against countries where the standard of living is not so high as it is in Australia. That is the answer to the questions of the honorable member for Forrest. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has at different times submitted figures to bolster up his case; but there is a good deal of fallacy behind his contentions. It is all very well for certain honorable members to say “Look at the balance-sheets of these companies.”
I reply, “ Look at their idle machines and our army of unemployed.” The imports of worsted into Australia in the first seven or eight months of the current financial year are in excess of the imports for the whole of the last complete year. That indicates clearly that there is something radically wrong. It is difficult to prove that dumping is occurring, but when one examines the figures relative to the imports from Germany to Britain and from Britain to Australia, and compares the selling prices in” the respective countries, he cannot but be convinced’ that dumping is happening. In all the circumstances there is every justification for the imposition of these additional duties.
.- When the Massy-Greene tariff was introduced in 1921 the Minister in charge told us that although it might cause an inflation of the customs revenue for a time, things would soon become normal, and then there would be a decrease, because the articles in respect of which additional protection was granted would be manufactured in Australia and not imported. He added that this would abolish unemployment in Australia. The very reverse has been the case. We have never had so much unemployment at this time of year as we have at present. I have a return which shows that on the basis of the population variations in the period 1921 to 1926 it would take 227 years for the population of the country districts of Victoria to double itself while the population of the metropolis would take only twenty years to do so. We are drawing people out of the country into the city. I point out that this proposed increase in duty will affect the clothing of the youth and men of Australia more than that of any other section of the community. It would seem that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and the honorable member for Morton (Mr. J. Francis) were not as attentive to their duties as they might have been when we were considering this item of the schedule a f 3w months ago. They did not then suggest that it was inadequate. It must not be forgotten that the subject of patterns must be considered in dealing with worsteds. Australia is at a disadvantage compared with older countries which have a very much greater market, and we shall continue to suffer under it until our population increases. This matter ought to be referred to the Tariff Board for consideration and report. I have not had much experience of the softgoods trade, but I gather that the honorable member for Morton suggested that as gabardine would come within this definition the Minister should, by regulation, exclude it. I submit that only this Parliament should have the power to alter the duties that are imposed. It appears that an agitation has been set up in certain quarters to secure this alteration, and that one section of the community is being assisted at the expense of another. Too much of that kind of thing is occurring.
– I believe that power should be given to the Minister to deal with any anomolies that may occur in the administration of the tariff, although any alterations that he may make should afterwards be ratified by Parliament. It has been shown clearly since the tariff schedule was before us last year that a loop hole was left in it, and that certain European and British importers have taken advantage of it to flood the country with their manufacture. I think every honorable member will admit that under present conditions we cannot hope successfully to compete with Germany. Consequently we have to build our tariff wall high enough to protect our manufacturers against those of that country. I do not agree that the imposition of a protective tariff necessarily means an increase in the cost of living. If I had sufficient time at my disposal I could produce evidence to show that the reverse is the case.
– In regard to only a few items.
– I could enumerate a good many. A case in point occurred in my electorate. A certain big industrial concern there was importing a large quantity of material from Great Britain for use in its business; but after’ a time a British firm established itself here and is now supplying it with locally manufactured products.
– At an increased priceof 50 (per cent.
– I am informed that the goods cost practically the same as imported goods. “Within the next twelve months it is probable that British manufacturers will invest between £7,000,000, and £10,000,000, in establishing branches of their businesses in Australia. That will be all to the good. I hope that the time is not distant when we shall be manufacturing motor engines and chassis here. In the Division of Melbourne Ports a British textile firm has recently erected a building and plant at a cost of £750,000 in which to carry on its business. That will provide employment for large numbers of Australians. Our policy of protection should ultimately dispose of our unemployment problem.
– Why is cement so cheap in Australia?
– I remember the day when it was contended that high-class cement could not be made in Australia. But we have lived to see that contention refuted. In the United States of America all that is necessary is for the Tariff Board to make a recommendation to the President in favour of increased duties, whereupon the President can immediately take steps to protect the industry concerned. The Minister for Trade and Customs should have similar powers vested in him. I do not mean that the final decision should rest with him - that is a matter for this Parliament - but, where immediate relief is necessary, the Minister should have the power to grant it. It should not be possible for importers to take advantage of loopholes in our legislation ; the Minister should have power to act.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) said that gabardine and other articles are covered by this item. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) considers that it is desirable that the Minister should have the power to take action to protect an industry when the circumstances warrant it. I point out that Parliament has already conferred that power on the Minister by item 404 of the existing tariff, which provides that material, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth, may be admitted: British, free; intermediate, free; general, 10 per cent. That would cover piece goods, but not made-up garments. I take it that made-up garments are already taxed as apparel. The honorable member for Moreton was dealing with woollen piece goods, which alone fall under this item.
– Ordinarily, a matter of this kind should be referred to the Tariff Board; but on this occasion the Government is to be complimented on the action it has taken as, unless immediate’ assistance is given, some mills will have to close down. Only last Saturday I was interviewed by the directors of the Goulburn Woollen Mills, who pointed out that, notwithstanding the large amount of capital invested in the business, a profit of more than £80 or £90 in any quarter had not yet been made. During the past quarter their losses were over £1,000. For five weeks they have not received one order. In the circumstances, the mill will have to close down if something is not done immediately, because there is no room to store its manufactured goods. The closing down of that mill would put 240 operatives out of work. When we take into consideration the high price of wool, and other factors, we can come to no other conclusion than that goods of this kind are being dumped into Australia. Wool-growing is an important primary industry in this country. The manufacture of that wool into various articles should be a thriving secondary industry. Most of our big factories are situated in our large cities; but in the manufacture of woollen goods an attempt has been made towards decentralization. Already at Goulburn, Albury, Wagga and other country centres factories have been established, so that by supporting this item we shall assist what may be termed a rural industry. I support the amendment.
Question - That the requested amendment be made - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
– The amendment which has just been made, will, under a motion passed by Parliament, come into operation to-morrow. To preserve the form of the tariff it is necessary to make a consequential amendment by inserting before paragraph 2, sub-item (f), of item 105, the words “on and after the 25th November, 1927.” The other items will thus remain unaffected.
Item 105 consequentially amended.
Item 112 (Apparel or attire, including furs) .
Senate’s request -
Insert after sub-item (a), the following - “By omitting the whole of sub-item (b) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is a new sub-item inserted by another place and affecting item 112, which deals with furs and other skins and articles made thereof. It consists of three paragraphs - a, b and c. Before the amendment recently made by this House, item 112 (a) read, “ apparel or attire or other articles in part or wholly made up, including furs or other skins sewn together.” When the schedule was before this House last the following words were added, “ parts of furs or other skins sewn together, fur trimmings and imitation fur tails.” Those articles are now to be dutiable at 40 per cent.
– All round?
– At 40 per cent. British, 50 per cent. intermediate, and 55 per cent. general. The amendment before the committee deals with sub-item 112 b, which at present reads -
Fur and other skins n.e.i. dressed or prepared for making up, ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
I now ask the Committee to exclude rabbit skins from that sub-item and to insert a new sub-item under which” rabbit skins dressed or prepared for making up shall be dutiable at these rates - British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; and general, 40 per cent. The amendment, if agreed to, will increase the duty on rabbit skins dressed or prepared for making up, from 15 to 25 per cent. British, from 15 to 35 per cent. intermediate; and from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent. general. There is a large trade, both in fur apparel and the raw material used in its manufacture. The furriers and the tanners prepare and dress the skins to render them suitable for use in the making of fur garments and other articles of fur. Eur apparel is largely made in Australia, and the greater proportion of that worn in Australia is made here. The value of the imports of fur apparel was: -in 1924-25, £89,000; in 1925-26, £41,000; and in 1926-27, £44,000; whereas the sales of fur apparel in the Commonwealth amount to several hundreds of thousands of pounds. The value of the imports of all furs and other skins, dressed or prepared for making up, was : -in 1924-25, £305,000; in 1925-26, £285,000 ; and in 1926-27, . £533,000. At present, Australia exports just short of £3,000,000 worth of rabbit and hare skins. Those skins are exported after they have been dried, but they are raw skins, and not dressed or prepared for manufacture. The request for an increased duty on rabbit skins was made in another place, and Avas accepted by the Government. Al present there are two companies of considerable importance engaged wholly in the dressing and preparing of rabbit and other skins.
– What proportion of Australia’s requirements do those firms produce ?
– At present only a small proportion indeed.
– Would it be 5 per cent. ?
– I am at present not able to give that information, but I shall endeavour to obtain it for the honorable member. It appears that rabbit skin is the substance of most of the furs that are used. It is called coney, which is only another name for rabbit. In a dressed form it becomes coney seal, and other names are applied to it. Honorable members who have not seen the dressed rabbit skins would be surprised at the skill used to change their appearance, and to make them more acceptable to the fashionable world, which is concerned mainly with colours and style.
– Is the Australian rabbit skin suitable for all kinds of fur?
– I cannot say, but 1 “ am informed that between 80 per cent, and 90 .per cent, of fur garments are made of rabbit skins. The capital employed by the companies operating in Australia is approximately £65,000, and their employees number about 200. Apart from the two companies operating in Tasmania and New South Wales, there are also a number of other companies who manufacture coney seal for their own use. It is claimed that the imposition of this duty will foster the preparation and dressing of rabbit skins in Australia, and provide the raw material for a large proportion of the fur apparel which is manufactured in Australia. It is obvious that we have large quantities of rabbit skins’ in this country. I have already said that Ave export skins to the value of £3,000,000. There appears to be no reason why those skins should be sent abroad and dressed there, returned to Australia, and manufactured into fur apparel. I am aware’ that certain rabbit skins are exported from Belgium and
France, and that rabbits are grown mere specially for fur production.
– Are any undressed skins from those countries imported into Australia ?
– I believe not. The request now before the committee will, if accepted, mean to some extent a reduction of the protection given to the manufacturers of fur apparel. At present they “ enjoy a protection of 40 per cent. British, 50 per cant, intermediate, and 55 per cent, general. The increase iri the duty on skins will be 10 per cent. The price of fur apparel when made is many times that of the skins used in making it. It is impossible to give any comparison in figures, but any one who has compared the price of a bundle of skins, however dressed and prepared, Avith that of a fur coat when the skins have been prepared and sewn together in accordance with the requirements of fashion, is aware that the skins represent only a fraction of the cost of the coat, and that a 10 per cent, increase in the duty on such skins as the manufacturers choose to import is not going to have much effect upon the cost of fur coats.
– The Attorney-General is incorrect in saying that the increase in the duty on skins will be 10 per cent., because the duty under the general tariff wil be increased by 20 per cent.
– That is so. I was dealing only with the British tariff. I have already pointed out to the committee that the imports of fur apparel have decreased markedly in the last three years for which figures are available, but the importation of furs, dressed or prepared, for making up has increased greatly.
– Were the figures given by the Attorney-General for rabbit or all skins ?
– For all skins. There is no means, I am informed by the officers of the Customs Department, of distinguishing the imports of the different classes of skins. In any case large quan’tities of skins Will continue to be exported from Australia, because the fur is required throughout the world for making not only fur apparel, but also fur hats and other articles. The increase in duty Will enable large quantities of Australian skins to be dressed, prepared, and dyed in Australia instead of abroad. When a manufacturer of fur apparel requires imported skins for certain classes of work, the skins can be obtained free of duty, if they are not already tanned or dressed. They can then bc tanned or dressed in Australia by the local manufacturer, so that the importer will be able to get all the skins that’ he requires without paying extra duty on them. A considerable increase in duty has already been given to the manufacturers of fur apparel, under item 112a, in which for the purpose of protecting the local manufacturers, that is, those who trim and sew the skins together, additional words have been inserted in order to subject to the duty of 40 per cent, fur strips and other fur trimmings, which are among the raw materials of the cloak and mantle manufacturers. It is considered, after a full examination of the subject, that the manufacturing furriers will have no difficulty in obtaining the articles that they require for their trade, and the imposition of the proposed duty will help to develop an industry that has already achieved considerable success in Australia. On general grounds, we ought to endeavour to establish it on a sound foundation. The object of the duty is to encourage the preparation and dressing of rabbit skins in Australia rather than abroad.
.- As a consistent protectionist, I am loath to oppose the Senate’s request; but, at the same time, I think that the AttorneyGeneral has not fully justified the attitude adopted by the Government, which insists on Tariff Board recommendations before altering duties in some- industries, and finds it convenient to ignore them in others. In the case of woollen piece goods, we had evidence of a wellestablished industry being quickly strangled by a flood of imports; but the information that we have about furs is of a most meagre character. I have before me the protests of manufacturers of fur apparel, who employ thousands of persons, and say that the proposed increase in the duty will injure their interests. If the Government intends to increase the tariff on the raw products, it should, at the same time, increase it upon fur apparel, and thus meet the furriers’ objections; other wise the protection already afforded to the Australian industry will be rendered nugatory. I am not concerned how high we make the duty on luxury importations such as those of fur apparel. The rates on fur apparel are now 40 per cent. British preferential, 50 per cent, intermediate, and 55 per cent, general ; but the effect of the proposed increase in duty on skins will be to reduce the measure of protection to the Australian furriers by 10 per cent. British preferential and 20 per cent, intermediate and general.
– On the skins only; not on the apparel.
– Admittedly ; but those skins are used in the manufacture of the cheaper lines of furs, for which, I take it, there is the greatest demand, and on which the most profit is made. If the Government is consistent, it will increase the duties on fur apparel by 10 per cent. British and 20 per cent, intermediate and general The present proposal places me and other protectionists in a difficult position. I do not wish to see a large industry penalized, and the best way to meet the position is to increase the duty on fur apparel to 50 per cent. British, 70 per cent, intermediate, and 75 per cent, general, thus preserving the incidence of the duties.
– The Government could not make that alteration now.
– It could find ways and means of meeting the situation, if it desired to do so. So far as my knowledge of the Constitution goes, this committee has power to modify or alter an amendment requested by the Senate. From inquiries I have made, I believe that that has been done previously. The only difficulty that arises has relation to the necessary appropriation. The’ Government could overcome that. The furriers suggested the application of a deferred duty, pending an inquiry ; I prefer an increase in the duty on fur apparel. I suggest that other industries of even greater importance than this call for action. I have already referred to the dumping in Australia of 500 petrol pumps. Yet the Government will not meet a national emergency and help the sixteen factories engaged locally in the manufacture of these pumps. The thread, hat, glass and other Australian industries are in similar difficulties. If the Government will give me an assurance that it will, at an early date, if not immediately, rectify the anomaly that will be brought about by the amendment, I shall be considerably placated. The AttorneyGeneral said that the increase in the duty was only a matter of 10 per cent., and would not materially affect the local manufacturers of fur apparel, but it is clearly shown to be 20 per cent, on the principal competitive lines which come in under the General Tariff. The addition of 20 per cent, duty to the cost of the raw material renders the duty on the finished article nugatory, because it reduces the effective duty on the apparel to 35 per cent. That is an intolerable position. A considerable quantity of fur products comes into Australia in the manufactured form, and is sold at prices that seriously undercut the local manufacturers.
.- If ever a tariff item needed investigation by the Tariff Board, this one did. The preparation of rabbit skins for the manufacture of fur apparel is a new industry in Australia. Before the Government attempts to protect one section of an industry, it should ascertain what effect that will have on other sections. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) refer some time ago to the demand for scientific investigation of some phases of our fiscal policy, so that the protection of one section of an industry would not injure another major section. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has referred to the attitude of the Master Furriers’ Association. I have a communication from that quarter pointing out that 5,000 persons are employed in the industry, and that from £700,000 to £S00,000 is invested in it. I find, however, that only 10 per cent, of the skins used are prepared in Australia. The world’s price for rabbit skins has been such that Australia has not only received an income of £3,000,000 a year from that source, but has also kept a great pest under control. It is likely that the present proposals would reduce the activities of those Australians who now hunt for rabbit skins for a livelihood. The proposed duties will benefit an industry employing only about 200 persons.
It would be much better to assist it with a bounty, instead of by means of these duties, which will penalize the wearers of fur garments. The proposal is unsound and unscientific. The following statement, which I feel sure contains a great deal of truth, is made on behalf of the New South Wales furriers: -
Mr. G. A. Gruin, director of the T.F.T., manufacturer of rabbit skins in Tasmania, placed orders on behalf of Tasmanian departmental stores for fur coats to be. manufactured from Tasmanian coney skins, with members of our association. These garments were duly delivered to respective clients in Tasmania, and were in every instance rejected or returned to the manufacturer owing to the shrinkage from 40 inches when manufactured to 33 inches or 34 inches when delivered to the customer.
– That is absolute rubbish.
– Naturally the honorable member for Franklin would take that view. The industry which these duties are intended to protect is in Tasmania. All I am asking is that the Tariff Board shall have an opportunity to verify the statements contained in this circular letter. This matter might very well be submitted to the board. It was appointed for this purpose. Otherwise we might as well abolish it. If we accept the requests made by another place we shall be doing an injury to an established industry employing upwards of 5,000 persons. I hope, therefore, that the Government will reconsider its decision, and instead of requiring honorable members to pass this item, submit the whole question to the Tariff Board for investigation and report.
.- As a firm believer in the policy of protection for the encouragement of new industries, I, like the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), am .somewhat perplexed with regard to the proposed duties now under consideration. I am at a complete loss to understand why the Government is showing so much sympathy for the small industry which it is believed these duties will encourage, while it allows many other important industries throughout the Commonwealth to languish for lack of adequate protection. The position of this industry has not been inquired into by the Tariff Board, and therefore the Government, in submitting this item, is not fortified by a recommendation from that body. On other occasions when honorable members have urged the Ministry to take action to protect important industries, it has always insisted upon referring the issues to the Tariff Board. I have always advocated the preparation in Australia of Australian raw material. On former occasions I have directed attention particularly to the value of preparing our sheep and furred skins instead of exporting them in such large quantities and having them returned to Australia in the form of manufactured goods. I am anxious to bring about a change, and following the treatment of our furred and other skins, to see the manufacturing industry well established in this country. Unfortunately, the Government has refused to give assistance to the fellmongering industry. Each year we export between 7,000,000 and 9,000,000 sheep skins which, under a well-considered system of protection, could be prepared in Australia, and that would provide employment for thousands of men. Protection for the fellmongering industry would be a much better investment than protection for the industry which we’ are now considering. For every pound spent locally in the treatment of furred skins, ten pounds would be spent on the treatment of sheep skins if the fellmongering industry were properly protected. . I understand that the Sydney factory engaged in the preparation of fur skins is not in any way associated with the request made by the Tasmanian fur traders. I feel, therefore, that this matter should be referred to the Tariff Board in order that the interests of the manufacturing furriers may be adequately protected. In my electoral division there are many important secondary industries. Only a few months ago when we were considering the position of the manufacturers of woollen goods, the Minister urged honorable members to pass deferred duties in respect of knitted tubular piece goods, the duties to be operative seven or eight months later. That industry was in a much stronger position than is the Tasmanian concern now under consideration. Much more capital had been invested in it and a. great deal of machinery was idle, but the Minister hesitated to give the imme- diate assistance so urgently needed. I had the privilege of inspecting the Tasmanian factory, and I can assure honorable members that I am in entire sympathy with any action that will assist the Australian fur industry; but I fail to see why we should pass this item in view of the fact that many larger and more important secondary industries are being neglected by the Government, and perhaps the manufacturing furriers seriously affected by the imposition of this item. In the circumstances, I cannot enthuse over this proposal. I understand that the manufacturing furriers in New South Wales have protested against it, and have pointed out that the factories at present engaged in the preparation of coney sealskins in Australia are able to supply only a fraction of the requirements of the trade. I do not wish to be a party to any ill-considered action, and since this proposal has not been investigated by the Tariff Board, I am not at present disposed to vote for it.
.- I congratulate the Government on having included this item in the tariff schedule at the request of the Senate. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said, it fills up another hole in the tariff wall. These duties will give much-needed encouragement to a natural primary industry, which should expand to considerable dimensions. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has been supplied with information by importers outside, who totally misrepresented the position to the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures. When that body was seised of the facts., it decided that it would not in any way intervene. realizing that eventually the business would be an important addition to Australian industries. The honorable member for Forrest was not advised that there are already in existence ten factories capable of manufacturing 3,000,000 skins a year, but that owing to insufficient protection a great deal of the machinery in those factories is idle. Given adequate protection, Australia can produce all the coney sealskins required for the Australian market. We export about 100,000,000 rabbit skins a year. These duties will not in any way interfere. with that trade, because the manufacturers propose to cater only for the Australian market. Labour costs on skins imported prepared represent about 15 per cent, of their value, but labour costs on furs prepared in Australia about 33^ per cent. These figures show that the industry will give employment to a considerable number of men. France, Belgium, and Germany are flooding the Australian market with manufactured furs. Only about 5 per cent, of our imports come from. Great Britain. The duties asked are not prohibitive. It might almost be said that since we are asking for only 40 per cent in the general tariff these are merely revenue-producing duties. I had an opportunity yesterday to visit one of the fur factories in Sydney: I admit that, working on imported skins and skins of its own. manufacture, it is turning out a splendid article; but I contend that we can produce skins equal to any iu the world. I have here a sample of a poor quality Belgian skin. It is skins of this class that the importers are bringing into Australia, which are sold at from 19s. to 40s. per dozen. It is impossible for skins prepared in Australia to be sold at less than 25s. to 50s. per dozen. I have here some samples of skins which honorable members may look at, and see whether they are not as good as any which can be brought from other parts of the world. If it is possible to produce the article in Australia, it is time we took steps to establish the industry here. We already have the machinery in Australia to do the work, and there are at least ten small factories in different parts of the country prepared to carry on this industry if they receive sufficient protection. I have brought with me for exhibition a lady’s fur coat. The skins of which it is composed were prepared at Hobart, and the coat was made up in Victoria. I challenge honorable members to produce a better coat of its kind made in any part of the world.
– What is the price of it?
– I cannot tell the committee that. . I ask honorable members . to pay no attention to what the honorable member for
Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has told them, because he has been primed by the importers, who’ have made a great deal of money by importing cheap skins, and selling them to the trade. Our skins are sent from here to France, Germany and Belgium. They are treated in those countries, and returned to Australia, but only 30 per cent, of the skins exported are returned to this country as coney seal. The rest are made into hats, and other articles in which fur is employed. Here is an extract which shows what is being done in France -
Chappells, of Montriel Sans Bois France who are recognized as the largest and best coney makers in the world, employed about 5,000 hands prior to 1-020, and were producing about 10,000,000 coney skins yearly, but owing to the 192G inflation of- the franc, the French Government - endeavoring to relieve the congestion of unemployment - placed an embargo upon the exportation of raw French rabbit skins, the immediate result was, Chappellswith all other French coney makers - at once increased their output by nearly 200 per cent, without any increase to their plant - by working three shifts, this meant they had a staff of 15,000.
If- the protection for which I am asking is granted, the Australian factories will be able to produce all the coney seal that Australia requires. I do not think that it is true, as suggested by the honorable member for Forrest, that the effect of this duty would be .to’ throw many Australians out of employment. The 1926 tariff on woollen goods was 25 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent. The existing tariff on fur garments is- 55 per cent. There being only 15 per cent, difference between the duty on the skins and on the coats, we are considerably handicapped in the coatmaking industry. Let us compare it with the clothing industry, particularly as regards the making of overcoats. In 3926 the tariff on piece-goods, woollen or containing wool n.e.i., was 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent., if not more than 3s. 4d. a square, yard. The general tariff was 2s., and 45 per cent. The tariff on overcoats was 7s. 6d., 10s., and 12s. 6d. Take, for example, overcoats invoiced on the continent respectively at 30s., 40s., 50s., and 603. On the 30s. coat the tariff of 12s. is equal to 40 per cent. ; on the 40s. coat the tariff is equal to 32 per cent.; on the 50s. coat it is equal to 25 per cent.; while on the £3 coat the tariff is equal to only 22 per cent. With this degress of protection, the manufacturers of overcoats in Australia are doing an enormous business, and are making huge profits. The same thing would occur with the making of fur coats. I maintain, therefore, that there would be no injustice done if this duty were imposed, and it would not cause the trouble which some honorable members think. In Tasmania alone over £42,000 has been spent on machinery, plant, and dyes for this industry. If we compare manufacturing costs here with those in foreign countries we shall see the tremendous difficulties under which the Australian manufacturer works. The weekly hours in foreign countries are from 55 to 60 ; in Australia they are 44. Thewages paid to men are 25s. to 50s. foreign, and 84s. to 120s. in Australia. Wages paid to boys are 6s. to 17s. foreign, and 20s. to 45s. in Australia. Wages for women are 15s. to 25s. foreign, and 40s. to 70s. in Australia. Wages for girls are 5s. to 12s. foreign, and 15s. to 35s. in Australia. Costs of material are as follow: - Dyes, 6s. 3d. a kilo foreign, 15s. a kilo Australian ; peroxide of hydrogen, 100 per cent., 8¼d. per lb. foreign, 1s. 6½d. per lb. Australian; acetic acid, 99 per cent. glacial, 3s. 3d. per lb. foreign, 21s. per lb. Australian. Some time ago 1 placed the position before the Minister for Trade and Customs, and he expressed the opinion that much of the trouble with the Australian industry was due to the fact that the skins were being sent out of Australia, and dyed with German dyes in other parts of the world. They were then brought back to Australia, and high duties paid on them. With a view to helping the industry the Minister allowed German dyes to be imported for a period of twelve months; previously the importation of these dyes was prohibited. This has helped the industry to a certain extent, as far as dyes are concerned, but Other handicaps remain, such as high freights on the dyes, and high wharfage and cartage charges. These high costs make it very difficult for the industry to carry on, and unless assistance is granted it will have to go out of existence. If that happenswe shall have to import all our furs from abroad. Honorable members on the other side are always talking about unemployment in Australia. Here is an opportunity for them to provide employment for many people. If this industry receives proper protection it will expand greatly, and we shall be able to treat all the skins needed, not only for the making of coney seal, but for all other purposes for which furs are used. This, after all, is only a nominal duty, and if an industry is to be established some help must be given to it by the Government. We are asking for a duty on rabbit skins only; we are not interfering with any other furs whatever, and the rabbit skins are produced here in our own country. The granting of this measure of protection will save a valuable industry from extinction, and I trust that the Government will have the duty imposed as early as possible.
.- The position in regard to this item is rather unusual. Naturally, those who favour a protectionist policy do not want to deny protection to any useful Australian industry, especially one like this, which may grow to large dimensions. With careful nurturing this industry may grow into one of great importance, and although it occupies a small place now, it has to be remembered that every industry must have a beginning. Therefore I find no fault whatever with the attempt to protect the industry in order to enable it to compete successfully with overseas manufacturers. I think, however, that the views put forward by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) and by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) and by other honorable members who have spoken are worthy of consideration by the Government. It would be a most unfortunate thing if the extension of protection to this industry were to have an adverse effect upon others already established. Manufacturing furriers in Australia, dealing with all classes of skins, are employing 4,000 or 5,000 hands, and have a vast amount of capital invested in their business. These persons are entitled to consideration. I strongly urge the Minister (Mr. Latham) to consider that point fully, and, if necessary, to preserve the margin of protection which now exists for the Australian furriers against the imported finished fur garments.
That action ought to betaken before the schedule is disposed of. It would be unfortunate if, by granting protection to a nascent industry, injury was caused to one that has been carried on for many years, and employs a large number of hands in every capital city in Australia. The suggestion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) might be considered an adequate method of dealing with the situation.
– Why not have the matter inquired into by the Tariff Board ?
– The Minister is better able than I to answer that question. Doubtless, there is a reason, adequate or otherwise, for the proposal to impose this duty without a preliminary inquiry by the Tariff Board.
– There is no reason.
– There must be some reason. I should not make the charge that the Government had agreed to the requested amendment unless it felt convinced that there was a reason for it. I admit that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has declined to take action upon other applications without an adequate inquiry by the Tariff Board: But I do not use that as an argument in favour of delaying the imposition of this duty. I have no wish to withhold what may be essential protection from an industry that may become very important, and which, at all events, has been established and is susceptible to great development. But I urge the Minister to consider the consequences, and endeavour to avert any adverse effects that might be felt by another industry. Can the Minister inform me whether the supply of Australian rabbit skins is sufficient to furnish the whole of the requirements of the manufacturing furriers; whether the local skins can be prepared so as to meet the needs of the trade; or whether, in the most favorable circumstances, only a proportion of the requirements of the trade can be furnished locally? I do not pretend to have any knowledge of the- matter. The manufacturing furriers may always have to import a certain proportion of their skins, possibly because of the grade, the colour, or -the size of the local skin. If that should be the case, the protection given to the Australian manufacturer should apply only to the class of skin which he produces, and should be as complete as possible. Any attempt to widen its application would have the effect of increasing unnecessarily the cost of those goods which have to be imported.
– I assume that the honorable member appreciates the fact that it is limited to rabbit skins.
– I am speaking of coney. Are there grades, colours, and sizes of coney skins that are not capable of being produced from the Australian rabbit ?
– If that should be so, they can be imported undressed, and dressed in Australia. At the present time we export undressed skins that are dressed abroad.
– Can the Minister say that it is possible, in those circumstances, to import the skins undressed?
– Of course, it is a dried skin.
– The . French makers import from China rabbit skins that are not obtainable elsewhere. Would it be possible for our manufacturers to import skins economically from China and supply the needs of the manufacturing furriers in Australia.
– The French manufacturers obtain their supplies in Belgium and France.
– Do they breed the rabbits in those countries ?
– In that case it probably will be found to be commercially impracticable to import those grades of skins to Australia and that, therefore, the coney produced from such skins will continue to be imported. I confess that I have little knowledge of the matter. Not much light has been or can be thrown upon it, because it has not been before the Tariff Board, and, therefore, the various opinions that may be held upon . it have not been advanced or developed. One might take an entirely prejudiced view in consequence of the statements of persons interested in the trade from one or another angle. In the absence of an inquiry, a complete picture is not presented to us. The remarks which I have made do not mean that I am opposed to the item, but I desire that the
Minister shall assure the committee that, if necessary, further protection will be given to the manufacturing furriers.
– I shall intimate briefly my reasons for opposing the amendment. In the first place, consideration has not been given to it by a competent tribunal. It was brought forward in another place by one or two representative’s of the same State.
– The industry is established also in New SouthWales.
– There is an industry in New South Wales ; but the movement in favour of this high measure of protection was started in Tasmania. I sympathize with the desire to protect a baby industry in Tasmania, but I point out that a very dangerous precedent will be established if we adopt the recommendation. It is proposed that a very heavy measure of protection shall be given to a small section of an established industry. We have had placed before us information which discloses the fact that 5,000 people are employed and nearly £1,000,000 is invested in that section of the industry which will be hit by this duty, whereas the smaller section which the duty will benefit employs only about 200 hands and represents a proportionately smaller amount of capital. It is, therefore, a very big thing to ask this chamber off-handedly to sanction a largely-increased duty without a proper aquiry by the recognized tribunal. Latterly we have adopted the principle of giving very little consideration to requests for duty that have not the backing of the Tariff Board. That board is a permanent institution, and is part and parcel of our policy of protection. I, as a protectionist, am prepared to give adequate protection to any worth-while Australian industry. I do not say that this does not come within that category; but I do contend that, having established costly machinery for the enlightenment of honorable members upon the pros and cons of these complicated questions, it is presumptuous for any section of the community to attempt to rush through a proposal of this character behind the back of. that tribunal.
– The Government is more important than the Tariff Board.
– Well, then, do away with the Tariff Board.
– I would not hesitate to do that.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) says that the Government is more important than the Tariff Board. I admit that that is so; but it has delegated certain of its powers to that board, whose functions are purely advisory. Parliament does not always adopt its recommendations; but that is not a reason for neglecting to make use of it on every occasion, particularly when a very big industry is likely to be seriously injured. To penalize 5,000 employees - Australians, I presume - for the benefit of 200, would be protection gone mad.
– But that is not a proper statement of the case.
– It is approximately correct. I wish to inform the honorable member for Franklin that I sympathize with the establishment of this industry along the lines he has suggested, but I consider that there is every need for a further investigation into it. He has said that the machinery in Australia is sufficient to produce 3,000,000 skins a year, and that a lot of it is money lying idle. If that is so, there is a big screw loose in the industry, and that is an additional reason for inquiring into it. It is quite likely that this proposal may react disastrously on the rabbit industry in Australia. Although he is a curse, therabbit is being put to a profitable use, and if the importation of rabbit skins is seriously affected by this proposed duty, the price must drop. Very many country towns in Australia are kept alive to-day by that industry, and whenever the price drops below a profitable level and the trappers cease their operations, those towns slump. That is an aspect which should receive the consideration of every country member. I shall be quite prepared to vote for this duty when it has been recommended by the Tariff Board. That board is a competent tribunal, which will advise honorable members of the correct course to adopt. To ask us to agree to the duty on ex parte information is a high-handed action which I, for one, will not support.
Debate resumed from 23rd March (vide page 4145), on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The proposed reduction of the wine bounty has caused considerable interest in all the districts in Australia in which wine is produced, or where grapes are grown for the making of wine or fortifying spirit for sweet wine, upon which the Government has paid an export bounty for the last three or four years. The problem now to be considered is whether the alteration of the British preference warrants a reduction of the bounty, in accordance with the indication that was very clearly given when the last bounty bill was being discussed in March of last year. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in his speech introduced another subject for consideration. I listened to him with the greatest attention, and was glad to learn that he made his remarks in an entirely non-party spirit ; but I suggest that a considerable portion of his speech was a very determined attack upon the Government for the course which it has pursued in connexion with this matter. The honorable member received very earnest support, by way of interjection, from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore).
– It was purely nonparty comment.
– It may have been on a purely non-party basis, but it had not that appearance.
Before dealing with the wine bounty I should say a word or two upon the opinions advanced by the honorable member for Yarra. He said that he had no complaint against the “Government for having introduced a wine bounty; but he considered that the Government’s action was incomplete, in that it was confined to a wine bounty. He considered that the Government should have proposed concurrently a bounty upon the portion of the production of dried fruits for export. I ask the honorable member to cast his mind back to the time when the wine bounty was first proposed. It was introduced primarily to meet an extraordinary situation which had arisen in connexion with the production of doradillo grapes. Both State and Commonwealth Governments believed that the Murray valley offered great opportunity for land settlement, particularly by returned soldiers. They encouraged these settlers to grow doradillo grapes, which are really only of value for the production of fortifying spirit. So great did the crop become that there was a tremendous surplus. Faced with the problem thus created, the Commonwealth Government took definite action to meet it. I shall deal with the methods that were adopted, and I think I shall be able to show that a wise course was pursued. Another problem which then presented itself was the position of the dried fruits industry, due to the serious fall in the price of dried fruits on the world’s markets. In approaching any problem of production, it is essential to review the possibilities of the future market for the commodity produced. The Commonwealth Government considered that the world’s market for dried fruits did not offer an opportunity for the expansion of the industry in Australia. Had steps been taken at that time to stimulate the production of dried fruits a colossal blunder would have been made. That that view was the right one has been amply proved by the subsequent trend of events. The last piece of evidence affecting the problem that we have before us is the recent report of the Development and Migration Commission, to which the honorable member for Yarra referred. That report shows that there is now an over-production of dried fruits, and concludes with the statement that unless some new avenues for the absorption of dried fruits are found, every possible step should be taken to prevent the increased production of dried fruits in Australia.
– Does not that also apply to wine?
– The very reverse applies to wine, as I shall prove to the honorable, member. Had the Commonwealth Government yielded, in 1924, to the great clamour for a bounty on the export of dried fruits, it would have made more difficult a position which was then difficult enough, and has not become less so. However small the quantity by which the exportation of dried fruits from Australia had increased, the increase would probably have rendered the problem insoluble. Instead of giving a bounty on dried fruits, the Commonwealth Government constituted an export control board. It also appointed a board in Great Britain to co-operate with the board here. By the activities of that board it has been possible to dispose of the production of Australian dried fruits on a reasonably satisfactory basis for the last three years. The price has been fairly satisfactory, even during the past year, when Australia has had approximately 40,000 tons of sultanas, currants and lexias to export - a far greater quantity than had previously been handled. ‘If during the critical years, 1924, 1925 and 1926, there had been any further increase in Australia’s production of dried fruits the Government would have been faced with an impossible task. The honorable member for Yarra stated that there is always a market for anything at a price. I agree with the honorable member. There is. But if the Government had paid a bounty it would have meant not merely a reduction in the price obtained for the 13,000 tons of dried fruits referred to by the honorable mem’ber - the product in dried fruits of 46,000 tons of grapes - but the depreciation of the price of the whole exportation.’ For that reason I suggest that the honorable member’s remarks were beside the point. Far from accepting the view that the Government should have concurrently assisted the dried fruits industry, I suggest that had it done so it would have rendered a difficult position almost impossible to handle.
Let the honorable member for Yarra view the problem from another angle. There cannot be the slightest gain from paying a bounty to stimulate the production of some article that, economically, is not required in the world. If the problem is to be solved one has to look ahead to discover something which will make possible an extension of the sales, and thus absorb the output. In 1924 Australia had a negligible export of sweet wine. But there was a great market for such wines abroad, in which it was possible that we could obtain a very satisfactory preference. The Government, therefore, took what
I suggest was a very wise course. Instead of attempting to stimulate the sale of an uneconomic product - dried fruits- -it directed its efforts towards the stimulation of the export trade in sweet wines. The successful solution of the present situation is the realization of what was in the minds of Ministers when Parliament took its original action in 1924. Our object then was to assist the growers, the struggling settlers, particularly up and down the Murray Valley. This Parliament did not grant a wine bounty to benefit the great wineries, or those who were controlling the wine export industry. They were only incidental to it because we recognized that by the establishment of a market for sweet wines we should be able to absorb the grapes that are produced by the settlers in the Murray Valley. Parliament granted a bounty in 1924, to have effect for a period of three years. It amounted to a bounty of 2s. 9d. per gallon on fortifying spirit, and there was in addition a drawback of ls. 3d., or, in effect, a total bounty of 4s. That bounty was granted to establish the position of Australian sweet wines in the British market.
The wine trade was the subject of considerable discussion at the 1923 Imperial Conference, and a very strenuous but somewhat unsuccessful fight was put up by me in the interests of our grape-growers. Two points were involved. It was de- sired to increase the preference to Empire sweet wines, and to alter the line of demarcation between sweet and dry wines. We were reasonably successful in regard to the increase of preference, although the operation of that preference has been somewhat deferred. The British Government of the day agreed that it would make the duty on Empire wines only 2s. per gallon as against 6s. on foreign wines. The Government which agreed to do that went out of office soon afterwards, and the Labour Government, under Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, which succeeded it, was not prepared to grant the increased preference. It was not until 1923 that Australia obtained the preference given by the imposition of British ‘ rates of 2s. per .gallon on Empire sweet wine, and 6s. on foreign sweet wine.
With regard to the line of demarcation between sweet and dry wines, concerning which I shall have more to say later, I was not successful. Because of certain trade treaties with Portugal and Spain, Great Britain could not adopt the course which I was strenuously urging. Australia’s two great competitors in the supply of wine to the British market are Spain and Portugal. They have but a short distance to convey their wines to England, and, consequently, a much lower fortification is required than in the case of Australian wines which have to be carried some 12,000 miles, and to pass through the tropics. The line of demarcation at that time was 30 degrees. Spain and Portugal could send their wine to Great Britain with a fortification of 29 degrees, but Australian wines required a fortification of 34 degrees. The proposal I submitted to the Imperial Conference of 1923 was that the line of demarcation should be altered, either by bringing it down to 26 degrees - everything under that strength being regarded as dry, and anything over it, as sweet - or by increasing it to 34 degrees, so that Australian wines could enter Britain as dry wines. Britain, however, because of its treaty obligations, could not at the time take that view. It was obvious to the Commonwealth Government that there was a great opening for Australian sweet wines in the British market, and when we were faced primarily with the problem of the doradillo grape we” resolved that the most satisfactory way to solve it was to create an outlet for its absorption in some export trade that had a future. We, therefore, decided to give this bounty. In order to make it clear that its payment was not to be regarded as something that was done out of love and affection for the wineries or wine sellers, but that it was to benefit the growers, we stipulated the price that had to be paid to the growers of the grapes if the wine maker was to receive the benefit of the bounty on any wine exported by him. The policy then adopted has proved quite successful in two directions. First, it has led to an increase in the export of wine, and secondly, it has brought about an increase in the prices paid to the growers of grapes. When the bounty was first paid in 1924-25, Australia exported 142,000 gallons of sweet wine. In 1925-26 the export amounted to 1,085,000 gallons. In 1926-27 it increased to 2,212,000 gallons, and for the first eight months of the year 1927-28 it has been 2,262,000 gallons. Thus over a period of three years the export of sweet wine jumped from 142,000 gallons to 2,212,000 gallons, and the figures for the present year are even higher.
The bounty was paid primarily to solve the problem of the doradillo grape-grower, and it is interesting to note that whereas in 1924 the price of doradillo grapes was £3 a ton, in 1927 it was £6 10s. a ton. In the same period of three years the prices of other grapes have increased as follows : - Shiraz and frontignac from £7 to £10 10s. a ton ; grenache and muscatels from £6 to £8 a ton, and others in the same proportion. It will be seen, therefore, that the action taken to save the doradillo grape-growers has also been of considerable benefit to the growers of other kinds of grapes up and down the Murray Valley. Further, as mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), it has had the effect of absorbing a considerable quantity of grapes, which in other circumstances would probably have been dried, thus glutting the market for dried fruits and increasing the problem of their disposal. I remind the House that a proposal to pay a bounty on dried fruits was submitted to the Tariff Board concurrently with the proposal to pay a wine bounty, and that the Tariff Board rejected the idea df granting a bounty to the dried fruits industry. A point which the honorable member for Yarra sought to make was that the phenomenal and abnormal price obtained for grapes .to be used in making fortifying spirit had led to thousands and almost tens of thousands of tons being used in the production of fortifying spirit, instead of being converted into dried fruits. I do not think that the prices actually paid support that contention. It does not seem to me that it would have been a payable proposition to sell the fruit at £6 10s. a ton for the production of fortifying spirit, when last year, for instance, the price of dried fruit in the sweat boxes was approximately £30 a ton. A ton of dried currants can be made from 3£ tons of green grapes. What incentive would the grower have to sell Si tons of grapes for the production of fortifying spirit at £6 10s. a ton - a return of between £22 and £23 - when he could obtain £30, with, perhaps, some slight reduction . for the cost of drying, by selling them for the production of dried fruits? I suggest, therefore, that there has not been a tremendous diversion of grapes from the dried fruit industry to that of producing fortifying spirit.
– According to the report of the Development and Migration Commission, 46,000 tons of grapes have been diverted to the production of fortifying spirit within two years.
– I do not suggest that during the difficult period, when it was almost impossible to get rid of the crop either as dried fruits, or in any other form, grapes which in normal circumstances would have been dried were not diverted to the production of fortifying spirit.
– There was very little of such diversion at that time.
– I suggest that there was a considerable amount. We are told that in two years 46,000 tons of grapes, which would have produced about 13,000 tons of dried fruits, were diverted to the production of fortifying spirit ; but the incentive for that has disappeared. As a result of organization the price of dried fruit in the sweat box was £30 last year, and it will probably be £40 this year.
– For lexias and currants ?
– Yes. Nothing has been finally settled; but the outlook for the present year is extremely promising.
That is all I have to say about the suggestion that the Government has pursued an entirely wrong policy, and that it should have given a bounty to promote the production of dried fruits, concurrently with the payment of a bounty on wine, I come now to the point’ where the Government said definitely and emphatically that there would be a reduction of 9d. a gallon on the wine bounty authorized, last March. The Government may well be asked to justify its action in this regard, since the Wine Bounty Act of 1927 was passed to cover the period from 1927 to 1930. The act as passed contained no suggestion that the bounty would be altered during those three years; but the Minister who intro duced the bill warned the wine-makers in a very definite way, and I suggest that, in view of all the circumstances, it was a very necessary warning. He said -
It is to be distinctly understood that if during the term of the bounty the British Government gives an additional preference on Australian sweet wine, the Government reserves the right to submit to this House that the bounty now proposed be reduced by the amount of the additional preference given.
That statement was made in March of last year. The British budget was brought down in the following month. At that time we were beginning to believe that the campaign we had started at the Imperial Conference in 1923 for an alteration of the line of demarcation between sweet and dry wines, and for an increased preference, was about to succeed. We knew no more than any one else what was to be announced in the British budget, but we had become very hopeful that our long drawn out struggle, extending over some three or four years, was about to be crowned with success. I had pressed the case for our wines very strenuously at the Imperial Conference of 1926, and had had indications that it was very probable we were at last about to get what we wanted. The Government could not delay the introduction of the - Wine Bounty Bill until it actually saw what was in the British budget, but it did give the warning that there would be a very substantial alteration if an additional preference were given.
– In the circumstances, would it not have been fairer to provide for the payment of a bounty from year to year.
– For reasons I shall give presently, I do not think “that was necessary. That warning was issued, and the wine-makers were prepared to accept the position as it was in March, 1927.
– They were against a reduction at that time.
– It would not make the slightest difference to my argument if we had given them the other shilling. Even if it be true that they were opposed to a reduction, I have yet to hear of a case where any one interested in a bounty would not be against a reduction. The bill was passed in 1927. It was then the accepted view of Parliament that the wine-makers were being fairly treated, and that having been given the advantages conferred by the measure, they could pay to the grower a reasonable and fair price for his grapes. At that time the duties in Great Britain were: - On dry wines of foreign production, 2s. 6d. a gallon ; and on dry wines of Empire production, ls. 6d. a gallon; on sweet wines of foreign production, 6s. a gallon; and on sweet wines of Empire production, 2s. a gallon. We are not very much concerned about dry wines. It looks very much as if the difference between 2s. and 6s. a gallon on sweet wine was a preference of 4s. to the Australian producer; but in practice it did not work out that way, because at that time the line of demarcation between sweet and dry wines was a strength of 30 degrees. What was happening was that Spain and Portugal were sending to Britain a wine of 29 degrees, upon which they were paying a duty of 2s. 6d. per gallon, while Australia was sending a wine of 34 degrees - it was of that strength, because it had to pass through the tropics - upon which she was paying a duty of 2s. per gallon. The effective preference that the Australian wine exported received on the. British market in March, 1927, when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was under consideration in this House, was thus only 6d. per gallon, which, with the bounty of ls. 9d., was an advantage of 2s. 3d. per gallon. The British budget was then introduced, and drastic alterations were made. The duty on dry wine was increased to 3s. foreign and 2s. Empire; but we are not now very much concerned with the duty on dry wine. The duty on sweet wine was altered to 8s. per gallon foreign and 4s. per gallon Empire. A still more important alteration was this : that the line of demarcation was brought, lower. That was one of the principal things which was advocated by me when I was in London in the year 1923. The British Government went a step further than I had asked it to go. It brought the line of demarcation down in the case of foreign sweet wines to 25 degrees, and, in the case of Empire sweet wines, to 27 degrees. Allowing for a reduction in the wine bounty to ls. 9d., the position immediately the British budget was introduced was that instead of receiving a preference of 6d., plus a bounty of ls. 9d., or a total advantage of 2s. 3d., the wine exported received a preference of 4s., plus a bounty of ls. 9d., or a total of 5s. 9d. Even with the 9d. taken off, the wine exporter will still enjoy an advantage of 5s. In view of the alteration in the position brought about by the introduction of the British budget, the Government might have expected criticism for not reducing the bounty earlier, for it intimated when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was under consideration last March that if there was an alteration of that nature it would consider itself free to revise the basis of the bounty. It cannot be denied that the position of the wine exporter, after the introduction of the British budget, was infinitely better than it was when we passed the Wine Export Bounty Bill. The reason that the Government did not act at once was that it desired to examine the position, and to assure itself that there was not a loophole which might have the effect of nullifying the advantage that appeared to have been granted. We also felt that probably a considerable amount of resentment might be the result if, after having announced the price to be paid for grapes during 1927, on the basis of a certain bounty, we proceeded at once to reverse that bounty. We have now had a full twelve mouths to satisfy ourselves as to the exact position. If we had let this season go by without making an alteration, Ave should still have had to face the situation next year.
– The trouble is that the grapes have already been bought.
– I should like to think that that was so, for it would make it unnecessary for me to deal with a difficulty which I shall discuss in a few minutes. The Government had to bear in mind two possibilities. The first of these was whether foreign importers could blend low and high strength wines and market the blended product in competition with our own. The other possibility was that foreign must might be imported intoGreat Britain, manufactured into wine, and marketed upon the payment of an excise duty of only ls. per gallon. It is apparent on the evidence “which has been submitted to us that the blending of low and high strength wines has not been successful. A blending of equal quantities of a low strength wine of 25 degrees with a high strength wine of 42 degrees would give a wine of an alcoholic strength of 33 degrees. But there were difficulties in the way of doing this upon a commercial scale. It was found that even during the transportation of a low strength wine from Spain and Portugal to Great Britain fermentation occurred, bursting the pipes, which, I understand, is the technical name for the casks in which the wine is conveyed. Another difficulty was that the firms which handled the wine in Great Britain were sellers, and not blenders. They desired an article which they could place upon the market immediately they received it. To become blenders it would be necessary for them to provide tremendous cellar space and very large vats, for blending is not the simple process that, on the surface, it might appear to be. It is clear, on the evidence which we have, that we need not fear any serious competition from foreign blended wines. It is not likely to interfere greatly with the advantage which we receive under the preference. Even if it did we should still have to consider whether, since the introduction of the Wine Export Bounty Bill, there had been any alteration in the circumstances which would warrant a reduction in the bounty. Even assuming that the blending of low and high strength wines was a feasible and practical proposition, the position of the Australian wine exporter would be better under the British preference and the reduced bounty which is now proposed than it was when the bill was passed last year. Assuming that a foreign low strength wine, on which a duty of 3s. per gallon was paid, and a foreign high strength wine, on which a duty of 8s. per gallon was paid, were successfully blended in equal proportions, the average duty on the wine would be 5s. 6d. per gallon. The duty on our sweet wine is only 4s. per gallon. Therefore, the Australian wine exporter would still be ls. 6d. per gallon better off than when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was introduced last year. Allowing for the 6d. per gallon effective preference which they previously enjoyed, they would still be ls. better off.
Another aspect of the subject which must be considered is that when the Secretary of State for the Dominions (the Right Hon. L. M. S.. Amery) visited Australia recently we put our difficulty before him. We asked him “What will be our position if the foreigners are able to blend their wines and so defeat the object of the British preference?” Mr. Amery replied that if the foreigners showed sufficient ingenuity to evade the payment of a duty which the British Government had decided was legitimate in order to encourage Empire production, he had no doubt whatever that the Chancellor of the British Exchequer would be able to show still more ingenuity in protecting the interests of the Empire producers. If wine-blending ever becomes a practicable proposition, which it certainly is not at present, the British Government will be prepared to protect the interests of the Australian producers. In all these circumstances, we are justified in reducing the bounty. We have to give consideration to the interests of the people of Australia as well as to those of the wine ex- porters, and we should not be justified in paying a larger bounty than is necessary to develop this industry. I have shown that even if wine-blending became practicable our wine exporters would still be ls. per gallon better off than they were when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was passed.
The other factor to which regard had to be paid was whether foreign must could be imported into Great Britain, manufactured into wine there, and sold on the payment of an excise duty of ls. per gallon in competition with our wine on which a duty of 4s. per gallon had to be paid. Unquestionably, must is being imported to some extent, and a cheap wine is being manufactured from it and sold in competition with our products. But the competition from that source is not nearly as serious as has been suggested by persons in this country who are interested in magnifying the difficulties of the position. We have had the closest examination made into this aspect of the case, and we are satisfied that, although a certain -amount of this inferior product is being marketed it is not palatable to the British wine-drinkers. It has an alcoholic strength of 10 degrees less than our wine.
– It is not strong enough.
– That is so. Australian wine finds a ready market in Great Britain because of -its alcoholic strength. Britain has a very high excise duty upon spirit, which reaches as much as £3 12s. and £3 15s. per gallon. The result is that spirits are expensive in Great Britain. Lamentable though ii may be, there are numbers of people who like what is described as a “kick” in their drinks. That Australian wines supply that “ kick “ is another reason why wine manufactured in Britain from must is only in certain respects a competitor with Australian wines. ;
I suggest that no case can be made out for reducing the bounty on the basis of the blending of wines of different alcoholic strengths. “We have, therefore, to consider only the wine manufactured from must. The consumption of wine in Great Britain is about 19,000,000 gallons a year. The closest examination reveals that between 2,000,000 gallons and 2,250,000 gallons of wine were manufactured in Great Britain from must last year. I suggest that that proportion is not sufficiently large to be regarded as a serious competitor with Australian wines. In considering this matter we should remember that the British Government has assisted Empire wine producers to get their product on the British market. Are we entitled to continue to pay a bounty in Australia and then to ask the British Government to assist us to wipe out a British industry - the making of wine in Britain ? If we desired to strengthen our case for an increased excise duty upon wines manufactured in Great Britain, one of the best arguments we could advance would be that we were reducing the bounty paid to our own wine makers. After the fullest examination, the Government cannot accept the view that wine of ‘ inferior quality manufactured in Britain from foreign must is such a serious competitor of our wines as to justify the retention of the existing bounty of ls. 9d. per gallon. If the facts were generally known the people of Australia, instead of censuring the Govern ment for reducing the bounty by 9d. per gallon, would be more justified in asking why the bounty was not removed entirely, seeing that the position of the wine industry to-day is incomparably better than it was when Parliament decided to grant the bounty. The Government is prepared to leave the bounty at ls., in order that the wine industry may better establish itself in the British market.
The wine-makers have urged that because there is 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine accumulated in Great Britain, they will be unable to buy any grapes from Australian grape-growers unless the bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon is retained. Our information, after careful inquiry, is that the quantity is not 3,000,000 but 2,000,000 gallons. Even if instead of 2.000,000 gallons of wine accumulated in Great Britain the quantity is 3,000,000 gallons, who is responsible for that accumulation ? One condition on which the Government said it was prepared to deal with the problem of the grape-grower - not of the wine maker - was that the wine-making industry should be organized on a proper basis. It even considered imposing a condition that a certain proportion of the wine manufactured in Australia should be retained here until it was properly matured, in order that Australian wines would earn a better reputation. That would have been done had it not been that there were some small winemakers whose finances would not stand the strain which such a condition would impose on them. In face of the stipulation that the industry must be properly organized, that an effective marketing system must be built up, and an attempt made to increase the reputation of Australian wines overseas by a better maturing of our wines, this surplus of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 gallons has been accumulated in Great. Britain. In -such circumstances I shall not be one to continue the higher bounty. Instead of taking a long vision, and building up a reputation for Australian wines by exporting only matured wines, the winemakers, as soon as they heard that the bounty would probably be reduced, exported all the wine possible in order to get the bounty. It was even suggested that wine only a few months old should be exported, but to that the Government would not agree. Instead it stipulated that of the current season’s wine only 25 per cent. could be exported. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that that stipulation could not have been observed, seeing that such large quantities of wine were exported. In fairness to the Customs Department which controls this matter, I point out that the 25 per cent. quota was adhered to so far as the 1927 vintage was concerned, but the whole of the wine made from the 1925 and 1926 vintages was exported. That that action has caused an accumulation of Australian wine in Great Britain is the responsibility of the wine-makers themselves.
The Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) has held four conferences with the wine-makers, at each of which they have put forward some excuse for not having organized the industry on a proper basis. I wish to make it clear that the Government will not be forced by the wine-makers, or any other section of the community to retain a bounty which it considers is no longer justified. The wine industry today is in an incomparably better position than it was twelve months ago, even with a bounty of1s. a gallon instead of 1s. 9d. a gallon. Some wine-makers have candidly admitted that their overhead expenses are far too high and that there is no proper organization in the industry. I maintain that it is the duty of the winemakers themselves to remedy these matters. They should not threaten the growers that there will be no market for their grapes unless the bounty is retained.
Mr.Foster. - That is true of most of our secondary industries.
– Every industry in Australia would do well to take steps to establish itself on a sound footing. I say definitely that the Government will not pay a bounty beyond a figure which it believes to be reasonable. The wine bounty was not granted to assist the winemakers, but the grape-growers.
– Over 80 per cent. of the grapes were gathered before the statement that the bounty was to be reduced was made.
– The wine-makers are in a position to purchase grapes at a fair price - the price laid down. Even if they were not in that position the fault would be entirely their own, in view of the extraordinarily generous treatment they have received. I am indeed glad to have the assurance of the honorable members for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), and Angas (Mr. Parsons), that the grapes have already been bought. I hope that is so. But if they have not been bought, and the winemakers threaten that they will not buy them, leaving the growers “high and dry,” unless the bounty is retained, I shall not hesitate to ask Parliament to repeal the bounty altogether.
– I have never heard that statement made - and I know something about the industry.
– In such an event the Government would devise some other means of assisting the grape-growers to dispose of their product. I have given the House facts which must be faced. In committee it may be found desirable to modify the bill to some extent. For instance, it would be reasonable to exempt from the operations of the reduced bounty, contracts entered into’ prior to the date on which the reduced bounty came into effect.
– Does the right honorable gentleman refer to contracts for the sale of wine?
– Yes; not to contracts for the sale of fruit. The Government will be prepared to consider a modification of the provisions of the bill in the case of shipments of wine made prior to the 30th June next.
– What about the people who held their wine in Australia for it to mature before export ?
– They all should have done that. Although I shall be prepared to consider their case, I point out that we cannot provide for every possibility. In any case, the action of those who held their wines was in the interests of the wine industry. I think also that a modification would be justified possibly in regard to exports to Canada. Exports to Great Britain are in an entirely different position, because of the alteration of the basis of preference. But in Canada we are gradually building up a trade in our exports of wine, and it is, therefore, fair and reasonable not to reduce the bounty on wine sent to that dominion. Any questions that may be raised - such as the two I have indicated - the Government is prepared to consider on their merits; but I say emphatically and definitely that we shall not, in the altered circumstances that have been described go back on our decision to reduce the bounty on wine exported to Great Britain. When the original measure was discussed the clear warning was given that if circumstances altered, the bounty would- be reduced.
– Most honorable members must be disappointed with the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). It certainly illbecame him to commence his remarks by accusing the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) of making the proposal to reduce the bounty on exported wine a party question, especially ih view of the speech that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) delivered the other night. That honorable member objected strongly to the fact that the whips had been busy among the supporters of the Government endeavouring to obtain support for the bill. Most honorable members were inclined to disbelieve the honorable member for Wakefield; but, in view of the speech of the Prime Minister, I am forced to the conclusion that the whips have been severely cracked, and the Prime Minister has now behind him the solid backing of honorable members sitting behind the Government. They are forced to support the Prime Minister, even though they disagree with his policy. Let us examine one or two replies by the Prime Minister to the contentions put so ably and forcibly to this House by the honorable member for Yarra. The right honorable gentleman brushed aside those contentions by saying that they were beside the point. The honorable member for Yarra said that concurrently with a bounty on exported wine, there should have been a bounty on exported dried fruits. The Prime Minister replied that such a bounty would have increased the difficulties of the growers because they were, even then, faced with an over production of dried fruits. The right honorable member would lead us to think that there was no outlet for Australian dried fruits. As a matter of fact we supply only 19 per cent, of Great Britain’s requirements, and I am sure that the Prime Minister, as well as the Minister for Markets, is well aware of that fact. The honorable member for Yarra contended that a bounty on exported dried fruits would have enabled the growers to compete in the overseas markets.
– As was done with wine.
– It was a reasonable contention.
– America is rapidly gaining on us.
– That is so. The wine producers were suffering from a similar disability, but in that case the Government granted a bounty to assist the industry. The dried fruits industry was just as much entitled to- assistance as was the wine industry. If there was an obligation on our part to stand by the distillers in their time of stress, surely there was an equal obligation to stand by the returned soldiers and others whom the Government induced to engage in the production of dried fruits, and to whom it said, “Produce, produce, produce.” Those men are to-day in a more hopeless position than were the distillers before they received the bounty.
– Most of the distilleries are co-operative concerns, and the largest of them are owned by soldier settlers.
– That may be so in a few cases, and the dried fruit producers largely consist of returned men, who have as much right to assistance from the Government as had “ those connected with the distilleries. I was impressed the other evening with the plea which the honorable member for Wakefield put up on behalf of the soldier settlers. I hope that the party whips have had no effect on him and that he will stand by those for whom he pleaded.
Mr.Foster. - The honorable member need not worry about that.
– The Prime Minister also stated that there could not have been much diversion of grapes from the dried fruits trade to the distilleries. I have taken the trouble of reading the report of the Development and Migration Commission, with the contents of which the Prime Minister is evidently not familiar. That report states -
In 1925, as a result of the wine bounty, approximately 25,000 tons of fresh grapes of wine varieties were delivered to wineries and distilleries, and in 1926, approximately 21,000 tons of fresh fruit was converted into wine and spirits.
– That would represent altogether about 13,000 tons of dried fruit.
– The Minister is quite right, but his figures do not alter the position. Surely the Prime Minister will accept the statement of the Development and Migration Commision that because of the wine bounty there has been a real diversion from the dried fruits trade to the distilleries. The report also shows the importations of currants . into the United Kingdom. It reads -
Of the above, the bulk of imports were obtained from Greece. Australia sold 8,000 tons of currants in the United Kingdom in 1926, and 4,775 tons in 1927.
There has been a considerable falling-off in the export of Australian dried fruits to Great Britain, and the report shows that it is due to a greater quantity of fruit such as would ordinarily have been used for drying, being sent to the distilleries as a result of the wine bounty. That is a complete refutation of the statements of the Prime Minister.
– That is just where the honorable member is wrong.
– There is no need for the honorable member to start to apologize for the position that he took up the other night.
– I do not wish to do that. I merely want to put the honorable member on the right track.
– The Prime Minister said that there was prac tically no diversion of grapes from the dried fruits trade to the distilleries.
– There was a considerable diversion. I saw the fruit being taken into the distilleries.
– I am glad to learn from the honorable member for Wakefield’s interjection, that he now agrees with me. The honorable member for Yarra, when speaking last Friday, referred to the manufacture of wine in Great Britain, and to this the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson), in his reply made no reference whatever. One of the principal points raised was that, owing to the increased preference givenby Great Britain, the Government was justified in decreasing the bounty; but the honorable member for Yarra pointed out that the increased preference was more than counterbalanced by the fact that high and low strength wines were being imported from foreign countries, and blended in England, while wine was also being manufactured in Great Britain from imported must. » This wine was being sold at 5s. a gallon, and was undercutting the Australian article. In reply to that argument, the Minister in charge of the bill said nothing. The Prime Minister, however, referred to the point this evening, and I listened intently to his speech to note whether he could answer it effectively. He admitted that 2,250,000 gallons of wine was being manufactured annually in Great Britain; but he brushed that fact aside as if it were of no account. Australia’s total exportations of sweet wine amount to about 3,000,000 gallons a year, or only 750,000 gallons more than the quantity produced in Great Britain, which the Prime Minister would have us dismiss as unworthy of consideration. But the point is that the British production is rapidly increasing, and in a few years will cause formidable competition with the Australian trade. The Prime Minister referred to this production of wine from foreign must as a British industry. How can he call it British, when the must is imported from Spain and the currants from Greece?
– What kind of duty would be imposed on goods imported into Australia under similar circumstances?
– The honorable member might well ask that question. The object of the tariff is to protect Australian industries from the unfair competition of foreign cheaplabour countries. Yet the Prime Minister asked us to believe that this industry requires no protection against such competition. In order to overcome the difficulty in which he finds himself, he calls it a British industry, although properly it should be called a Spanish industry carried on in Great Britain. His speech was one of the most illogical that I have heard him deliver. He said that if the distilleries carried out their threat to the growers he would bring down a bill to wipe out the whole bounty, and try some other method. But he did not tell us what plan he proposed to adopt. I hope that he has been converted by the speech that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made last week, and that he’ will introduce a bounty on dried fruits. The Prime Minister has not answered any of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Yarra. No government has a right to repudiate a solemn contract. This bill will be a great disappointment to growers throughout Australia. The Minister in charge of the bill tried to make much capital out of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), in introducing the Wine Export Bounty Bill in March, of last year, warned those engaged in the industry that, if the position in regard to British preference altered, this bounty might be reduced. The Minister for Markets gave that as a justification for what the Government now seeks to do, I venture to say that that argument will convince nobody. The bill of last year contained nothing to indicate that the bounty was dependent upon a variation of the position in regard to British preference, and there was nothing other than the bill bv which the growers and the distillers could be guided. In the same speech the Minister for Trade and Customs showed what he thought about the breach of such a contract as this. He said -
From the 1st July, 1025 - ten months after the bounty came into operation - the British Government reduced the rate of duty on Australian wine, of a strength of over 30 degrees, by 2s. a gallon. This action gave our wine exporters nominally an additional advantage of 2s. a gallon in their trade with Great Britain. This important alteration might have justified an alteration of the bounty; but it was decided that it would be undesirable to reduce the rate of bounty during the remainder of the term of three years fixed by Parliament.
When the British duty was altered, and 2s. extra preference given to wine growers in Australia, the Minister said that that might be taken as a justification for reducing the bounty; but he promised that that reduction would not be agreed to by the Government, because “it would be undesirable to reduce the rate of bounty during the remainder of the term of three years fixed by Parliament.” The same argument should apply now, and it ill becomes the Government to permit what amounts to an act of repudiation. Imagine a Minister, who is a member of what is known as the Country party, advocating what is tantamount to an act of repudiation against a large section of the primary producers! The position is certainly anomalous. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), and the. honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), will no doubt wax eloquent when speaking against the reduction of this bounty, and they will address themselves to the matter no doubt from the point of view of the primary producers. Sitting in front of them, in charge of the bill, will be a Minister belonging to their own party, yet they will tell us that theseparate entity of the Country party is being preserved ! If members of that party were free from these pact arrangements, action of this sort would not be tolerated by any one of them; but, in order that the pact may be preserved in ito entirety, a Minister belonging to the same party as the honorable members for Indi and Riverina, who will complain against the bill because the industry is established in their electorate, is prepared to commit this act of repudiation. When socalled County party members have to decide between the preservation of the precious pact and the throwing overboard of a large section of the primary producers, their attitude is that the pact must be preserved whatever becomes of the producers, whether they are returned soldiers or not.
– Pact versus producers!
– Yes, and the pact always wins. The honorable member for Riverina, at a recent meeting of ‘the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, of which, I believe, he is an executive officer, bitterly complained about the pact. I am not aware whether he knew that his remarks would be reported in the press ; but, in secret conclave, he denounced the pact at great length. No doubt he will complain bitterly against this measure, for which the pact is responsible; but he will take no steps in this House to end that alliance, and he is content to remain one of the camp followers. I should like to hear the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) on the separate entity of his party. But let us examine again the argument of the Minister. He states that the exporters were 6d. a gallon better off under the 3s. bounty than under the 4s. bounty, and he alleged that during the period of the 4s. bounty the price of wine was ls. lOd. a gallon f .o.b. ; and during the period of the 3s. bounty, it was 3s. 4d. a gallon f.o.b. In other words, they got ls. lOd. plus 4s. under the 4s. bounty, equalling 5s. lOd. a gallon ; and 3s. 4d. a gallon plus 3s. under the 3s. bounty, making a total of 6s. 4d. ; so that the exporters, according to the Minister, were better off to the extent of 6d. a gallon. The Minister admits that they were only 6d. a gallon better off under the bounty of 3s. a gallon; and now the Government proposes to reduce the bounty by 9d., with the result that, on the Minister’s own showing, the exporters will be 3d. to the bad. It may be pointed out, by the way, that 3d: a gallon is equivalent to about 25s. a ton to the grower.
– It is equivalent to 23s. 4d. a ton.
– Viewed in this light, it must be regarded as an important factor in the success of the industry. The Minister’s contention that the present price is 9s. 3d. a gallon in London has been challenged by the growers. In a letter which I have received they contend that recent sales have been made in England at 8s. 3d. to 8s. 8d., or an average of 8s. 6d. From these prices have to be deducted duty 4s., casks, ls.; and freight, insurance, &c, 10d., making 5s. lOd. a gallon, leaving a net average price of 2s. 8d. According to the figures given by the Minister for Markets the London price was 9s. to 9s. 6d. a gallon, from which had to be deducted 5s. 10d., leaving an average price of 3s. 5d. a gallon, a difference between the two sets of figures of 9d. a gallon. The figures which I have quoted, unlike those employed by the Minister for Markets, are based on actual sales within the last six months.
– The honorable member for “Wakefield read a letter from the secretary of the Viticultural Council confirming my figures. It stated that the price in London was 9s. 3d. a gallon.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wakefield admitted that that was the price some time ago.
– No; it was the price obtained only a few days ago.
– The figures which I have given have been furnished to me within the last week, and they are vouched for as having been based on actual sales.
– My figures were obtained from the secretary of the association.
– Against those figures I have submitted a statement of prices based on actual sales. These show a difference of 9d. a gallon as compared with the figures given by the Minister for Markets. Therefore, if the bounty is reduced by 9d., the exporters will be worse off to the extent of ls. a gallon. My informants say that they do not claim that 8s. 3d. to 8s. 8d. a gallon was the price during the whole period of the 3s. bounty, but that it is as much as Australian wine will realize in London to-day. Hence with the proposed reduction of the bounty by 9d. a gallon, the wine-maker will be ls. worse off than he was six months ago, and at the same time he will be compelled to pay slightly more for his grapes. They add that the Government is taking this action at a time when the position in England is most serious, Australian stocks having accumulated to the extent of over 3,000,000 gallons. The Prime Minister emphasized the value of the British preference. He ignored altogether the severe competition which Australian wine has to meet in London, owing to the manufacture of cheap wine in Great Britain. The right honorable gentleman justifies this proposal to reduce the bounty by his assertion that the British preference on Australian wine has been increased. Let us examine the position in another way to see if his contention is sound. The f.o.b. price of Australian wine is 3s. 4d. a gallon, and, if we add duty, freight, casks, insurance, &c, it is 9s. 2d. a gallon. The f.o.b. price of foreign wine is 2s. 6d. a gallon, which, with duty 8s., and insurance, freight, . &c, 8d., makes a total of lis. 2d. On paper, Australian wine would appear to have an advantage of 2s. a gallon over the foreign product, and therefore it might be argued that it should find a ready market. The huge accumulation of Australian stocks in London shows that the Australian product has to meet some other form of competition. Experts engaged in the trade state that the blending of high and low strength foreign wine immediately it is imported into Great Britain is a serious form of competition. The Prime Minister to-night made light of this phase of. the problem. He made the amusing suggestion that the blending of foreign wine could not be a very important matter for the Australian exporter, because it would be difficult to get cellar room in Great Britain ! I repeat that those who are in a position to know, state that the blending of foreign wine in Great Britain and the manufacture of cheap wine in the Mother Country seriously interfere with the marketing of the Australian product in England. It provides us with another method of examining the effectiveness of this so-called preference which, it is claimed, is operating to the advantage of the Australian wine industry. Last year the consumption of wines in Great Britain, from Portugal, Spain, and Australia was as follows: - Portugal, 8,890,000 gallons; Spain, 3,222,000 gal lons; Australia, 2,305,000 gallons. There is an accumulation of Australian wines amounting to 3,023,000 gallons, or the equivalent of sixteen months’ supply. With a preference margin of 2s. a gallon over Portuguese and Spanish wines, Australian wines should be doing much better on the British market than they are, and the fact that they are not meeting with a greater sale points clearly to the fact that there is some other form of serious competition. That competition exists in the form of the blending of wines, and in the production of a cheaper wine in Great Britain to-day. There are many things in connexion with this matter which the Minister has not told us. One of them is the Government’s reason for refraining from declaring the prices of grapes until the vintage was in full swing. The honorable members for Angas and Wakefield said that the grapes had been bought ; but I do not know to what extent that has been done.
– The harvest is just about over.
– What has to be decided is whether the provisions of the act are to remain in operation for three years, or whether they are to be wiped out at the termination of the first six months. A solemn bargain was made with a large section of primary producers and members of the wine trade, and it ill becomes the Government to bring down this bill, which amounts to an act of repudiation. Those engaged in the trade complain that the throwing of a bomb like this without any notificacation amounts to a trick by the Government. While I do not wish to see any section of the community subjected to acts of, repudiation, my concern, is for the people engaged in this primary industry, including those in the dried fruits industry. It has to be remembered that the wine-makers cannot be compelled to pay the prices fixed by the Government for grapes. The Ministry may fix the prices, as it did after it proposed to reduce the bounty, but it has no way of compelling the distillers to take the grapes from the growers. Therefore, this proposed reduction would injure not only the distillers, but the growers as well.
– The grapes are being taken by the distillers, nevertheless.
– This proposed reduction is an act of injustice which the Government should not be allowed to perpetrate. I shall be surprised if it can obtain a majority on its own side of the House to stand for this proposal. Wrapt up in the dried fruits industry is the development of the Murray Valley, and of the Murrumbidgee Valley. Millions of pounds have been spent in locking the Murray River, and in a system of water conservation. This expenditure will be largely in vain if, by acts of this kind, primary producers engaged in the fruit trade are disencouraged. The Prime Minister has hinted to-night that he will take some action if the distillers carry out their threat not to take their grapes from the growers. The action, which the Government ought to take is to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Yarra, that is, do something to assist the dried fruits industry, the one thing which will make a success of the Murray Waters Scheme. In fact, it might be said that that industry constitutes the real reason for the scheme, and it is for the Government to put it on a sound footing. The time is at hand when something in the nature of a bounty to the growers of dried fruit should be paid, similar to that which was given to the growers of doradillo grapes. There will be intense disappointment amongst the grape-growers of the country at this act of repudiation directed by the Government against them.
.- I wish to pay a tribute of praise to the Prime Minister for what he has done to help the grape-growers in the past. The growers, generally, recognize that by proposing the bounty in 1924, and subsequently by his negotiations with the British Government, he saved them from ruin. But I am rather afraid that the Prime Minister, like so many other people, has become weary in well-doing. I sincerely trust that before the debate is finished he will have seen the light as I see it, and as the growers see. it, and will not press for the re duction of the bounty at the present time. I wish to touch on some of the points that were raised by the right honorable gentleman. He referred to the position as it existed in March of 1927, when Parliament saw fit to reduce the bounty by ls. I contend that the only thing that saved the industry from disaster at that time was the increased preference granted to our wines by the British Government. Except for that, the industry, in October of last year, would have been in a very bad state indeed. The Prime Minister also dismissed with a wave of the hand, as it were, the contention that the blending of wines was being carried on to any great extent in Great Britain. He quoted figures in support of his contention, saying that if one hogshead of wine of 25 degrees strength were mixed with one of 42 degrees strength, the duty paid On the resultant blend would be 5s. 6d. a gallon, which would still give us an advantage of ls. 6d. a gallon. The point is, however, that they are blending, and will continue to blend, two parts of the 25 degrees wine with one of the 42 degrees, giving them a blend of about 29 degrees, which is about the spirit content of the wine consumed in Great Britain previously in competition with ours. That brings the duty on the London wines of foreign origin down to 4s. 3d. a gallon. One point that was made by the honorable member for Yarra was that grapes, to the extent of 46,000 tons suitable for drying were diverted to the distilleries because of the wine bounty. It is true that considerable quantities of grapes were so diverted, but a large portion consisted of what are known as buck currants.
– They were not included in the 46,000 tons.
– An enormous quantity of fruit which otherwise would have been dried went to the wine-makers because of the wine bounty which was paid. That is one of the glorious results of the bounty.
– The honorable member is-
– The honorable member has made his speech. The bounty not only assisted the doradillo grape-growers, but also the growers of other grapes.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the state of the House. [Quorum formed].
– I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) called for a quorum. I had noticed during the evening that the House was thinning out while this matter, which affects the welfare of thousands of returned soldiers who fought and bled for Australia, was being discussed. Evidently it is not of sufficient interest to some honorable members to induce them to remain in the chamber and listen to the debate. I wish to refer to certain remarks of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson). I recognized while he was speaking that, although the voice was the voice of Paterson, the hands were the hands of Pratten. That honorable gentleman is now conveniently absent, and the unpleasant job of “ putting it over “ the primary producer has been left to a member of the Country party. I recognized in the speech of the Minister for Markets phraseology that is peculiar to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Dealing with the new British duties, the honorable gentleman said, “ This left a margin on paper of 4s.” I entirely agree with him that it is a margin on paper, and I shall be pleased to show that the margin is only on paper. Later, the honorable gentleman said -
It is generally admitted to-day that small quantities of very low-strength wine might be successfully transhipped from countries near to Great Britain if carefully pasteruized, but that an extensive business on such lines would be extremely risky. In all the circumstances, I think it may be said that the statement that the continental wine-makers have discovered a means of escaping the high rate of duty which is now imposed on their product has been greatly exaggerated.
The statement that it has been greatly exaggerated was made by the Minister for Markets and reiterated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). But it is not generally admitted by any person whose acquaintance with the business is equal to that of many of our growers and winemakers.
The Minister went on to say -
One loading Australian wine-maker who has just returned from a trip to Great Britain has stated that he investigated the position and is satisfied that, so long as good quality Australian wines are made available at reasonable prices, our producers need not fear any serious competition from the foreign-blended wines which may be marketed in Great Britain.
There are four leading wine-makers who have returned from Great Britain during the last six months. They are Messrs. Angove, Collins, Walker, and Walter Smith. None of those, I am assured, is responsible for that statement; therefore, it must have been made, not by a leading wine-maker, but by one who holds an unimportant position in the industry, or one who has been to England and has returned to Australia only in the imagination of the Minister for Markets.
– It was made by a wine-maker whose business is so large that his share of the bounty runs into six figures.
– Will the Minister mention his name?
– I am prepared to give it to the honorable member privately.
– The four men whose names I have mentioned are those who have returned to Australia recently. Each holds a contrary view to that supposed to be held by the man to whom the Minister has referred. I go further and say that the Minister has obtained his information from a press report of an interview with Mr. Walker.
– It was from an authentic letter.
– There does not seem to be very much more in the Minister’s speech. One statement he made in regard to our wine was -
It must not only obtain a solid footing on a new market, but it must altogether dislodge its competitors.
That is what we have to do before we can say we have really established the position. We are just beginning to obtain a footing; yet the Ministry comes down with this ill-considered bill to cut the feet from under the industry and cripple it completely.
I shall now discuss the attitude which has been adopted towards the industry by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Shortly after I entered this Parliament I took up the matter of the wine bounty. This was due to expire in August of last year, and it was felt that unless definite information was forth* coming regarding what was likely to be proposed subsequently a very grave position would have to be faced. The first recollection that I have of the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Customs is of his having said to me, when I was a new member, “ Those wine-makers and grape-growers have two hands in the pockets of the taxpayers at the present time, and they are developing a third hand with which to rob the taxpayers.” That is the “ sympathetic “ attitude with which the Minister approached this question. I am sorry that I must make these comments in his absence; but I remind the House that at this time last year when the 1927 Bounty Reduction Bill was before the House, I was fighting a far more formidable foe in the person of the angel of death, in an Adelaide hospital. But for that fact I should have protested then, as I do now, at the reduction of the bounty. Let me further analyse the “sympathetic” attitude of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, as my honorable friend the member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said truly on one occasion that I well remember, is easily the most hated man on the river Murray. He justified’ to his own mind the action of the Department of Trade and Customs in charging a duty of £1 9s. 9d. on returned casks, by saying that he was “getting some of his own back.” He was getting it back from the returned soldiers; because any hardship that is inflicted on the wine-maker is reflected on the grower. Last year a bill was brought down providing for a reduction of ls. a gallon in the bounty paid on wine for export. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Tariff Board thoroughly inquired into the matter. It went from place to place to obtain evidence at first hand from makers and growers, and succeeded in doing so. I believe that something like 800 growers journeyed to Adelaide to listen to their case being presented by their spokesmen. I venture to say that such interest has’ not . been displayed in any other matter in the history of the Tariff Board. Shortly afterwards the board was deprived by death of its chairman, and a temporary chairman was appointed. The board issued two reports, the first of which recommended that the bounty should be continued. That was a majority report, signed by every member except the chairman,’ who had gone round and obtained evidence hot from the source of the grape supply. All those members of the Tariff Board who heard the evidence first-hand recommended that a bounty of 4s. should be paid, with a drawback of ls. 3d., making a net payment of 2s. 9d. for a period of five years. Provision was made for a review of the situation, if necessary, at the end of two years.
– At the same time the Tariff Board recommended that, in the event of the British Government altering its preference in favour of Australia, the bounty would be correspondingly reduced.
– The minority report, signed by the acting chairman - who had not heard the evidence but had read it - was adopted by the Government. In my opinion, that report, if not actually the report of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), was, at any rate, sponsored by him.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs had left for New Zealand, and the Government came to its decision in his absence.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs is too shrewd a gentleman not to have prepared the ground before leaving Australia. I am quite certain that the Minister for Customs poured his views in a still, small voice into the ears of each member of the Cabinet. There has been no inquiry by the Tariff Board as to whether or not this reduction is justified. The grape-growers and those connected with the wine industry had no opportunity to deal with the matter until the bill was brought down. Those honorable members who represent growers and wine makers were only too willing to conform to the practice that has grown up in this Parliament, of presenting the case to the Tariff Board. The original bill was introduced in 1924, with the express intention of benefiting the grape-growers, particularly those growing doradillos. . The effects of the measure have exceeded all expectations
Honorable members have asked by interjection if the growers have derived any benefit from the operation of the act, and if they have, whether it has been commensurate with the cost to the Commonwealth Government. I understand that something like 125,000_tons of grapes are converted into fortifying spirit or wine every twelve months. The figures given by the Prime Minister to illustrate the increases in price were -
If one multiplies £125,000 by 3, it. will be realized that £375,000 went into the pockets of the growers last year as a result of the increased bounty. In addition, one has to take into consideration these two facts: the position of the grape-growers had the prices of grapes continued to recede as they had up to 1923; and that grapes used for eating purposes advanced in price, due to the increased prices obtained for the other grapes, and the dried-fruits position was very much improved. We have been able to take away from our pack the grapes that were not fit for drying. As a result we have been able to send overseas a better average grade of fruit. I have here a circular issued by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, showing that in 1926 the value of the wine bounty to the dried-fruits industry was a net gain to the grower of £82,000. Those facts show that the Government was justified in introducing the bounty, but they do not indicate that the Government is now justified in reducing that bounty. Apparently the only argument that can be advanced is that uninformed people, through the press, claim that the bounty involves the payment of enormous suras of money. The Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) stated that the bounty was introduced in 1924, and that, later, the British Government gave a further preference of 2s. to Australian wines, and that it was not thought wise to interfere with the position, and the bounty was allowed to run its full period. Figures will demonstrate that it was not until that preference was obtained that any sales worth mentioning occurred in Great Britain. I can state authoritatively that a large parcel of 200,000 gallons of wine was quoted to British wine merchants after the first bounty bill was brought down. The answer was, “ Nothing doing; your wine is too dear.” When the Baldwin Government gave the increased preference of 2s. in 1925, Australian wines immediately became saleable overseas, due to the double advantage of the bounty and the preference.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– It is said that the bounty is too costly. The industry is providing its own bounty. This point has been previously disputed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I wish that he were here to-night to dispute it again. I assume that the honorable gentleman acknowledges the leadership of the Prime Minister, whose opinion should bear some weight with him, although I know that he has a habit of going on his own way, and taking little notice of any one else. On the 28th August, 1924, when introducing the bounty bill, the Prime Minister said, as reported at page 3719 of Hansard -
The proposed bounty of 4s. a gallon will really be provided out of the revenue derived from” our wine industry. At present the excise rate on fortifying spirit is 0s. a proof gallon. As 1 gallon of fortifying spirit is used in 0 gallons of fortified wine, ls. of the bounty will be provided by the spirit actually used in the wine exported, in regard to which the exporters might fairly claim a drawback. The other 3s. will be more than met by the excise on fortifying spirit generally. In the last two years between £250,000 and £280,000 has been “obtained from that source, but , it is not anticipated that anything like that amount will bo required to meet the payment of the bounty on exported wine during the next two or three years.
That is the only point on which the right honorable gentleman slipped, because the amount was a great deal more than he anticipated. At the same time, however, the revenue derived from the excise duty doubled. He went on to say -
This legislation is to remain in force for only three years. Excise was first imposed merely to meet the expense of policing the distillation by the Customs Department. The original excise duty, which was imposed in 1906, was only6d. a gallon; in 1914 the duty was increased to 8d. a gallon, but during the war it was increased to 6s. a gallon, purely to raise revenue for war purposes. The actual cost of the supervision by the customs officers is only about8d. a gallon, so that in any circumstances it might be asked whether the time has not arrived for a substantial reduction of the duty. After consultation with those concerned, including representatives of the growers, the proposal contained in this bill was agreed to on the understanding that the revenue derived from the duty should be employed to pay the proposed bounty on the export trade.
Now the Government declares that it has no intention of reducing an excise duty out of which it is getting a very fine revenue, and it proposes to leave the winegrowers to the tender mercies of foreign wine-growers.
-Who pays the excise?
– The industry pays it. The wine industry is unique inasmuch as it is the only industry that pays its own bounty. “We paid as much as £300,000 last year in bounty on iron and and steel production. The Minister for Trade and Customs has mishandled the wine-making industry. Long before the last bounty period expired he was urged by members, including myself, to state whether the bounty was to be renewed or withheld, and, if it was to be continued, what the amount would be, but he delayed making any announcement on the subject until last March, only a few months before the expiration of the bounty period, and the growers did not know what their position would be. I remember handing letters to the Minister urging him to fix the price of grapes. Having gone carefully into the position, and having secured evidence from all the districts as to what was the last possible date on which the price-list for the ensuing vintage should be made known, I found that it was generally agreed that that date was the 31st January. But last year we did not get the prices from the Minister until about May, after all the grapes had been bought, delivered, and crushed. The position was unsatisfactory to the wine-maker and far more so to the grower. The latter is in need of his money, and has to live from hand to mouth. The former is in the position of the man who said to me the other day, “I am like the camel; I have a good hump, and if necessary can live on my fat for twelve months ; but God help the small grape-growers.” Although the Minister was quite aware of the muddle he had made, he neglected to fix his price for this year until the middle of the vintage. It is quite impossible for the industry to wait until prices are announced.. The grapes ripen and must be delivered before the winter rains set in, and before they get stale. . The wine-makers have been buying grapes from the growers anticipating the payment of the bounty for three years, and thinking that the prices for the present season would not be lower than last year. Long before the vintage, buyers go out and make contracts with growers. One man who required shiraz grapes, which were scarce, went from place to place to ascertain who had them for sale. A constituent of mine atWilliamstown has contracted to sell his for the next five years at a price which is in excess of that fixed by the Minister. Some small makers have paid as much as £12 a ton for shiraz grapes because they require them for the particular kind of wine they are making. It is an injustice to the distilleries that the wine-makers should be charged by the Government for the services of the men who are appointed as supervisors.
– Ask leave to continue your remarks.
– When I was making a speech on the aborigines question in November last, I asked leave to continue my remarks, and have still to continue them. If the Prime Minister will assure me that this bill will be the first on the notice-paper for to-morrow, I shall be pleased to do as he wishes
– I shall try to do better than on the last occasion the honorable member sought leave to continue his remarks, but I am afraid I cannot give him the assurance he desires on this occasion.
– On the assurance that the right honorable gentleman will do his best - it is always a good best - I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280327_reps_10_118/>.