10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1027. Immigration Act - Return for 1927.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following statement published in the Sun Pictorial .of the 22nd March : -
Oversea shipping agents are urging again their claim that the high shipping rates in Australian ports are a big factor in crippling wheat growers and other primary producers.
A cabled message has been received from Vancouver saying the Cornish steamer Tremeadow reached Vancouver in ballast from Australia to load Canadian wheat for Britain. The captain said it was cheaper to take the ship 0,000 miles in ballast rather than load wheat in Australia and pay income tax on freights and duty on goods consumed in port.
In view of the fact that if the Commonwealth steamers are sold, the primary producers will be left at the mercy, of the shipping agents and combines, thus making the freight position more acute, will the Government give early consideration to this matter?
– I am at a loss to understand what action the honorable member thinks should be taken by the Government ?
– I want freights reduced in the interests of the primary producers.
– Every honorable member desires to secure cheap freights for the primary producers, but the charges levied upon shipping in the ports of Australia are controlled entirely by the State Governments and are administered by the harbour authorities. Complaints have been made from time to time in regard to the light charges, but the Commonwealth Government has been able to satisfy complainants that charges are not in excess of the actual expenditure of the Government. In regard to income taxation, I have never understood that it is the policy of the Labour party not to impose income taxation on companies whose vessels trade with our ports. The question referred also to the customs duties imposed on supplies carried by steamers visiting Australian ports. I have yet to learn that it is the policy of honorable members opposite not to levy customs duties on ships’ supplies. Whether the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers is sold or continues to operate as a State enterprise, those charges will continue ; they will not be affected one way or the other by the disposal of the Line.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether an appointment has been made to the position on the Tariff Board ren dered vacant by the resignation of Mr. Herbert Brookes?
– The matter is being considered but no appointment has yet been made.
– Speaking on the motion for adjournment on the 9th March I brought under the notice of the House the case of ex-stoker H. M. Jensen, of the Australian ‘ Navy, who has developed tuberculosis. As the circumstances of the sufferer are distressing and serious, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence see that his claim is dealt with as expeditiously as possible?
– I shall look into the matter and expedite a decision as much as possible.
– In the Age of 27th March, this paragraph appeared : -
Darwin, Monday. - Townspeople woke up this morning and found a dry town, the hotels being closed by order of the local authorities. Before licences can be issued the consent of the Minister must be obtained. Owing to an unaccountable delay, the Minister’s consent has not been received.
Can the Minister for Home’ and Territories make any statement to the House in regard to this matter?
– I regret this unfortunate incident, but I hope that nobody has suffered seriously in consequence. The matter will have my early attention. I recognize that inability to obtain liquid refreshment from hotels in the forenoon is a very serious deprivation. The hotels in Darwin were I understand, kept closed through inadvertence until about noon, but as they were not obliged to close until 10 o’clock at night, the townspeople had, no doubt, ample opportunity to make up the leeway.
Gift Aeroplane from Sir Charles Wakefield.
– I have received several communications from the Queensland section of the Australian Aero Club urging that the aeroplane presented by Sir Charles Wakefield to commemorate Mr. Hinkler’s successful flight from England to Australia should be loaned to that club. I understand that Mr. Hinkler made a similar request to Messrs. Wakefield and Company. Will the Prime Minister indicate the Government’s intentions in this regard?
– The aeroplane presented by Sir Charles Wakefield has been loaned to the Sydney Aero Club. Naturally the Government desired to dispose of the gift in such a way as would best promote civil aviation, which has received a tremendous impetus from Captain Hinkler’s successful flight. On the advice of the Civil Aviation Department the Government decided that in Sydney, where great strides have been made by the Aero Club, despite the shortage of machines for the use of pupil pilots and flying members, the gift aeroplane could be most usefully employed in fulfilling the donor’s intention to stimulate civil aviation in Australia.
– I have had numerous inquiries as to when the Government intends to introduce the promised National Insurance Bill. Is it intended to introduce it prior to the next election ?
– The Government has indicated its intention to introduce such a bill. The date of its introduction will be announced in due season.
Branch Banks at Kingston - Government Policy.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories ascertain whether there is any sound business reason why applications to open branch establishments at Kingston of the various banks operating in Canberra have been refused ?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Home and Territories yet in a position to make a statement as to the general policy of the Government with regard to the continuation of constructional works at Canberra?
– The matter is still under consideration.
– Many citizens honour Parliament by attending its sittings to listen to its proceedings. I am informed that these visitors are able to follow intelligently the questions that are asked without notice, but are not able to understand the import of replies given to questions on notice. Would it be possible to make available a number of copies of the notice-paper, for distribution in the public galleries? I understand from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that that is done in the British House of Commons.
– I have made inquiries into the matter. It will be possible to make available a limited number of copies of the notice-paper for the purpose suggested by the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister intimate when our muchsoughtafter Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will return to Australia?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs is doing invaluable work for the Commonwealth in negotiating a new trade treaty with New Zealand. It is expected that he will be in his place when the House reassembles after the Easter adjournment.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether something further cannot be done to limit the heavy importation of log timber into Australia and so assist this industry in Queensland, which is at present in a perilous condition?
– The matter will be brought under the notice of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– Has the following motion, passed by the Australian Natives’
Association, been brought under the notice of the Prime Minister : -
That the conference instruct the incoming Board of the Association to exercise their influence to obtain the exclusion of undesirable immigrants, and urge upon the Federal Government the necessity of suspending the immigration policy whilst there is so much unemployment in this country.
If so, does the Government intend to take any action in the matter?
– I have not yet seen a copy of the motion, but I remind the honorable member for Maribyrnong that this subject was fully discussed in this House recently, and strong representations made to the Government in respect of it. The policy of the Government was outlined at that time, and I have nothing to add to what I then said.
– In view of the illuminating discussion which took place in this House last week in regard to the Abrahams cases, and the statement that was then made that no promise of indemnity from criminal prosecution had been given to the principals concerned; will the Attorney-General inform me whether the Government intends to prosecute these persons, or any of them, or to institute proceedings to extradite the absentee members of the firm?
– As I stated last week, the whereabouts of two of the persons concerned is unknown, so their extradition cannot be considered. Last week I gave a full explanation of the position of the third person. I have nothing to add to what I then said about the case.
Goods Store at South Melbourne.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
With reference to the information supplied to the honorable member for Reid, relating to the number of applications outstanding in New South Wales for assistance under the War Service Homes Act, will he supply the following additional information: -
How many applications for advances under the said Act for each State respectively have been dealt with since the commencement of the present financial year ?
How many applications for each State respectively have been deferred owing to funds not being available?
What is the cause in each State respectively of applications being deferred ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - (a)-
See (b). There has been an unexpected increase in applications. The position in all States is the same as that in New South Wales, and, assuming funds were available for all applications on hand, the commission could not complete them during the present year for the following reasons: -
Apart from the question ofavailability of funds, the commission must watch closely the labour and materials market. One result which follows from placing more work on the market than it can conveniently carry out is an immediate rise in the cost in consequence of the increased demand.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained as far as possible.
Kiosk at Cotter River - Footpaths - Transport Service - Land Values.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the floor of the tea kiosk at the Cotter River has fallen down; if so, what is the cause?
No. It is true, however, that soakage following upon heavy rain, led to the failure of one of the concrete supports under the building, but there was no subsidence. The damage has been repaired.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
When are the footpaths likely to be commenced in front of the shops at Manuka?
– It is expected that the work will be commenced shortly after Easter.
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: -
German Development Project
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to his statement on 21st March last (Hansard, page 3980) in connexion with theinvestment of German capital in Australia for the development of our coal-fields, in which he states that Now Zealand has given an undertaking that she will not exercise her rights under the Treaty of Versailles to seize German property, but has made an exception in respect of companies -
Is it a fact that there is at present a German company operating in New Zealand on coal and by-product development ?
) Ifso, is this company indemnified by the New Zealand Government against against any action under the Versailles Treaty?
– I regret that I am not in possession of information to enable me to reply to the points raised.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The definite statement from the Queensland Cotton Board as to the assistance they consider their industry requires was only received yesterday. It has, therefore, not yet received consideration. It will, however, immediately be given careful attention.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Use in Canberra Hotels.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The matters referred to by the honorable member will be fully considered and the information he desires will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Referring to his answer to the question by the honorable member for Henty on 21st March, relating to the appointment of a de partmental committee in the Defence Department to investigate the work of the civilian staffs -
Is it a fact that the announcement made concerning this committee has caused serious concern among the civilian staffs of his department, not because they fear an investigation, but because of the fact that a permanent military officer, charged with the administration of the military personnel, has been appointed chairman of the committee? (b) Will the Minister favorably consider a suggestion that the Secretary for Defence, who is the permanent head of the department, and, therefore, controls the civilian staffs, undertake the chairmanship, and so relieve the concern now felt?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Refusal to Tender Evidence to Arbitrator
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to.the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has he any further information to communicate with regard to the question of an air service from Wyndham to Derby, which was brought under his notice in this House on the 21stinstant by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie?
– Provision for the Derby- Wyndham service is included in the Defence Equipment Bill which it is proposed will shortly be brought forward. As soon as this bill is passed, and the necessary funds are provided, steps will be at once taken to commence the preparation of landing grounds as a preliminary to the inauguration of the aerial service.
– On the 16th March the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), asked the following question, upon notice -
I am advised by the secretary, Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, as follows : -
The secretary to the board states that the chairman was not in London on either occasion upon which the contracts were made, and took no part whatever in the negotiations.He points out that “tallying “ does not correctly describe the work, which includes receiving, delivering, tallying, checking marks and numbers, measuring, port-marking, and generally superintending the loading and discharge of all cargo, as well as furnishing voluminous daily returns, adjusting claims, advising thereon, &c. It is contended that it would be very inadvisable to- change contractors year by year, as continuity of employment of the same personnel is an essential factor in retaining the goodwill of the line’s clients.
– The Leader of the Opposition, on the motion for adjournment last Friday, and again yesterday afternoon, referred to the supply of tents by the Defence Department. I have now had an opportunity of discussing the subject with the Minister for Defence, andhe advises me that at the present time the stocks of tents held by the department are below service requirements, and, therefore, he cannot concur with the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 4192), on motion by Mr. Paterson- -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- There seems to be a misapprehension in the minds of many honorable members as to what this bounty is costing the country. I have here a circular which sets the position forth in a concise way, and will, I trust, correct the impression which has been left by some previous speakers. The gross expenditure on bounty payments up to the 12th March last, was £1,150,385. If we take from that the excise drawback of £326,929, the net bounty payments amount to £823,456. The official estimate of the bounty of 1s. 9d. from 12th March to 30th June, is £67,000, making the total bounty which will be paid up to June next, amount to £890,456. Now let us take the excise revenue, that is the increased excise collected as a result of the bounty The gross increase to 30th June, 1928, will be £826,000, less a drawback of £326,929, leaving a net increase of £499,071. It will be seen from these figures that the net expenditure on the bounty, after allowing for the great increase in revenue due to the bounty, will be only £391,385 on 30th J une next, if the ls. 9d. bounty is maintained. Of course, if the bounty is reduced, there will be a considerable reduction in the amount of excise collected between now and June. It is evident, then, from an examination of the figures that instead of the wine bounty having cost the country over £1,000,000 as stated, it has actually cost not more than £391,385. For that expenditure we have saved thousands of returned soldiers from ruin, and we have saved- for the Government the money - running into millions of pounds - which it has spent in putting these men on the land in the Murray district and elswhere. I hope that the Government, after having done so well, will not fall down on the job at this stage, and spoil the good effect of its work in the past. The figures already quoted refer only to the increased excise collected on fortifying spirit for winemaking, but excise is also collected on grape brandy. The total revenue derived from both sources from 1922 to 1927 amounts to £3,042,957. An industry which provides such large revenue should receive very careful consideration from the Government, which should be careful that it does nothing which might put that industry out of existence. The Prime Minister, when introducing the Bounty Bill in 1924, said that the wine industry was in the unique position of providing its own bounty, and that although the situation might be considered ripe for a reduction in excise duty, it had been arranged, after consultation with the growers, to leave the duty as it was, so as to provide a fund out of which to pay the bounty. The principal argument at the present time” for the reduction of the bounty is that the new British tariff introduced in April of last year, has so improved the position of the Australian wine exporters that the industry can very easily do with less than ls. 9d. per gallon, and that the Government is therefore, justified in reducing the bounty to ls. In fact the Prime Minister said that if the Government was deserving of criticism at ail, it was because it had not withdrawn the bounty altogether. That sounds’ very well, but if the Government wiped out the bounty, it would lose the only chance it had of fixing the price of grapes for the growers. It is the growers for whom the Prime Minister has at all times acted, and I trust that he will continue to act for them in the future. The Prime Minister said last night that threats had been received to the effect .that if the growers did not protest against this reduction, the wine-makers would cease to buy grapes from them. I wish to state emphatically that that is not the position. The growers have, of their own free will, protested against the proposed reduction, and not because of any pressure brought to bear on them by the wine-makers. Mr. S. W. Coombe came down from Renmark to Adelaide, and was prepared to come on to Canberra, if necessary, before he even saw any of the wine-makers. I am not speaking on behalf of the winemakers, but I mention that in common justice to them. I have received a number of telegrams in connexion with this matter, the first being in reply to a message I sent to the Secretary of the Grape Growers’ Association of South Australia. It reads as follows: -
Thanks for the informaton. Association objects to reduction of bounty.
Brief and concise, but very much tq. the point. The next is from S. Smith & Sons, Yalumba, and is as follows: -
If Parliament reduces bounty to ls., it will smash every wine district, and whole industry in Australia. Federal and State monies represented in vineyards Murray River and elsewhere will be entirely lost. We cannot export one gallon if bounty reduced, and ‘ viticultural interests will be bankrupt:
Another telegram is from Waikerie: -
Please watch growers’ interests wine bounty. A further telegram, dealing with the position of the dried fruits industry, has been received from Herbert, Moorook distillery. . It is as follows : -
Proposed reduction wine bounty will restrict my dried fruit purchases for distillation by £4,000 per year. Please protest vigorously.
I received the following telegram from Mr. Coombe before he left Renmark: -
Suggested reduction bounty remarked here as dishonorable betrayal in view makers pay agreed fixed grape prices depending on three shillings bounty. Position in England now critical and frost almost ruined many growers. Kindly wire main points of. measure. Any use my going Canberra give you all the facts. We trust all South Australians vote against.
I wish to clear away any impression that I wired asking Mr. Coombe to come to Canberra. I did not receive that telegram, because of delayed transmission, until Mr. Coombe was in Adelaide. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Markets stated that the attempt to blend wines in Great Britain has been a failure. They mentioned that some pipes had burst, the inference being that the attempt had been abandoned. The whole of the available evidence is to the contrary. Blending is no new business in England. Prior to 1882, the importations of wine into Great Britain had been only in two grades, 30 degrees proof spirit over and above. In 1882 the British Government rearranged its wine duties, and graded wines into ‘ three spirit strengths; not exceeding 26 degrees, exceeding 26 degrees and not exceeding 30 degrees, and exceeding 30 degrees. The following tables reveal to what extent the increase of 4 degrees in the alcoholic limit allowed at the lowest rate of duty since 1S82 has been taken advantage of by Spain and Portugal: -
Those figures conclusively show how successful those countries adapted their wines to the re-arrangement of the British tariff. The Prime Minister, in his argument, relied to a great extent on the fact that Mr. L. M. Amery, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, had been out to Australia, and had had what was evidently a heart to heart talk with him on the matter. Mr. Amery left England very shortly after the new British tariff was brought down, and before foreign wine-makers had had an opportunity to adapt themselves to the new conditions.
– Mr. Amery did not discuss that subject. What he discussed was the possibility of such action.
– Then Mr. Amery was speaking only about the future. I am referring to the present.
– It is of no use to make reference to Mr. Amery. I have made the position quite clear.
– I thought that the Prime Minister founded his opinion upon what Mr. Amery had told him. Some other source of information indicates that pipes have burst during the blending process in England. It is quite possible for a pipe to burst occasionally, but the fact that there is 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine at present in bond in London is sufficient answer to the doubt as to whether blending is going on or not.
I shall deal with the figures of the importations of wine into Great Britain for the year 1927. They totalled 18,566,514 gallons, and came from the following sources : -
The total consumption of imported wines in Great Britain in 1927 was 16,949,433, made up as follows: -
The total amount of wine lying in bond in Great Britain on 1st December, 1927, was 7,890,000 gallons, which came from the following countries : -
If the British tariff was truly effective, as is claimed, Australian wine would be 2s. to 3s. a gallon cheaper than foreign wine, and there would not be 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine lying in bond unsold. Eighty per cent, of the wine consumed in Great Britain is sold primarily because it is cheap. The popular wine is that sold through what is known as the “halfcrown bottle trade.” If our wines were cheaper as has been suggested the whole of our exports to Great Britain would be consumed. British merchants would then rush our product instead of refusing it, as they now do. Last year the wine consumption in Great Britain amounted to 12,000,000 gallons. Mr. T. C. Angone, who visited Great Britain last year, and who is an authority on the subject, mentions in his report that 80 per cent, of the total consumption of wine in Great Britain is wine of a cheap nature. He mentions that the wine generally sold in Great Britain is fortified only from 27 to 30 per cent, proof spirit, and he gives a table of tariffs in operation in Great Britain at present. It reads -
Sweet wines, not exceeding 40 per cent.. Empire grown, 4s.: foreign grown, 8s.
Sweet wines, n.e.i., 25 per cent., foreign, 3s. per gallon;
Empire grown, n.e.i., 27 per cent., 2s. per gallon ;
British, i.e., manufactured in England (excise), ls. per gallon.
The selling prices out of bond are: - Lisbon, Ss. 6d. per gallon; Tarragona, 8s. Id.; Greece, 6s. 3d. During the same period the makers of British wine were quoting their commodity at 5s. per gallon delivered to merchants’ stores. Another factor in the situation is the South African wine, which is quoted at 8s. per gallon, duty paid, landed. The production of South Africa is 7,000,000 gallons per annum, and is rapidly growing. The price of Australian wine is - f.o.b. Australia, wood extra, 3s. 3d. per gallon ; wood, charges and freight, ls. 10d., duty 4s., making the price, duty paid and landed, 9s. Id. It will be seen that at the present time Australian wine is dearer than any other on the British market.
– Is it not also superior to any other?
– It certainly is, but I remind honorable members that if the consumer can get what will suit him for 2s. 6d. a bottle, it is hard to persuade him to pay 3s. or 3s. 6d. for something which to his uncultivated palate has no advantage over the cheaper article. I have already said that 80 per cent, of the wine trade in Great Britain is done in what is known as “ the half-crown bottle “, and price is the main consideration. I have seen letters from wine merchants and others in London stating that the British wine is wholesome and palatable, and that the trade in it is growing. I was astounded to hear the Prime Minister say last night that the production of British wine has increased to 2,250,000 gallons per annum. The information I received about a year ago was that the production did not exceed 1,000,000 gallons. Obviously the British wine-makers have been busy in the meantime. The fact that impresses one from a consideration of. all the data available, is that the British tariff does not afford effective preference to Empire wines. The laid-down cost, duty paid, of Australian wines in England compares most unfavorably with the prices of wines from every other country.
– Those wines do not compete with our better wines.
– No, but” 80 per cent, of the wines consumed in Great Britain are of the cheaper varieties. I propose to read some extracts from letters received, not by proprietary wine makers, but by a soldiers’ co-operative distillery, regarding the prospects of the overseas’ trade. Burnside and Company wrote from London on 14th December last -
The lack of sales we put down to the increased duty of 3s. per gallon which came into force in the last British budget. Prior to the last British budget, Australian wine was sold on this market at a comparatively cheap price, and it was this fact alone that accounted for the large demand. Cheapness was the predominating factor. The British wines are our greatest competitors and they sell for usual terms British port at 5s. per gallon, duty paid, wood returnable, whereas Australian wines have to be sold at 9s. 6d. and 10s. per gallon, duty paid.
Charles Pearson, of Liverpool, wrote on 1st November -
Except in the case of exceedingly advertised brands, the price to the consumer in this country will have to be kept down to something in the neighbourhood of 2s. 6d. per bottle. Your wines may be worth more, but when the man who consumes wine of this character can get British red at anything from 2s. to 2s. Cd. per bottle, it takes a lot of salesmanship to persuade him to buy Australian at 3s. and 3s. 6d. per bottle.. I know of many instances where patriotic buyers have pushed Australian wine on, getting a nice trade together for it at 2s. 6d. to the consumer, who are now faced with increasing the price to 3s. Down .les the sale and the trader is compelled, in order to keep his customer, to bottle British red and let them have it.
Portal, Dingwall and Morris, of London, wrote on 19th January of this year -
We feel in the immediate future the trade in Australian sweet wines is too uncertain for us to be in a position to make you any proposition.
I quote now from the Murray Pioneer of the 23rd December, 1927. It is the best authority in Australia on irrigation matters, and the wine and dried fruits industries in the Murray Valley -
A failure of either the British Government or the Australian Parliament to continue the present preferences and bounties would result in the immediate dislocation and cessation of the’ export of Australian wine to Great Britain. . . . On the prices declared by the Tariff Board last year, and with mixed spirit averaging (is. per proof gallon, the net margin of profit to the shipper of wines to the London market after collecting the bounty to pay expenses was lod. per gallon. …. It is significant that many of our best known winemakers are leaving the export ‘ trade severely alone, and are concentrating on building up the Australian market.’ And who can blame them ?
Since that was written the prices of grapes and spirit to the wine-maker has been slightly increased, and if the bounty is reduced by 9d. the wine-maker will have a margin of only Id. . to meet those increased costs. [Extension of time granted.] There is much more matter that I could place before the House ; but I do not propose to take undue advantage of the kindness of honorable members in extending my time. I have placed before them facts and figures which indicate clearly the position of the industry, and, while asking for consideration for the grape growers as an act of justice, I appeal also to the sympathy of honorable members. The people engaged, in this industry passed through a very hard time prior to the introduction of the wine bounty. They have since been strenuously engaged in building up their business. In October last the grapegrowers were visited by one of the most disastrous frosts ever experienced in the Murray Valley. They had to apply to the State Government for financial assistance to tide them over their time of distress. Now the business which they have so laboriously built up is jeopardized by the proposal to reduce the bounty, and so exterminate the export trade. I appeal to honorable members on behalf of the returned soldiers who were persuaded by Federal and State Governments to engage in this industry, and their women and children, who have done their part towards making the properties pay. I appeal, also, on behalf of the men who are not returned soldiers,, and their families. They are anxiously awaiting the result of this debate, and I ask honorable members to pause ere they do an injustice which they will live to regret. If the House is to err at all in dealing with this matter, let it err not in the direction of parsimony, but rather in the direction of liberality to these people, who deserve the best that Parliament can give them.
.- The issue raised by this bill. is whether the winemaking industry is worth saving. There may be some people who think that it is not ; my knowledge and experience convince me that it is. Honorable members must recollect that the conditions obtaining in this industry in Australia are vastly different from those ‘prevailing abroad. Longer hours of work, lower rates of pay, and more backward industrial conditions generally in European countries have compelled us to protect our industries by means of substantial customs duties and bounties. We all are aware how the export trade in butter was promoted by the bounties granted many years ago. The industry was placed on a sound basis, and the Commonwealth still retains an export trade which is worth approximately £10,000,000 annually. Recently. this Parliament granted to the dried fruits industry assistance amounting to £199,499, and a similar amount was paid in respect of the export of canned fruits. As a result two very important industries . were saved from destruction. But for the liberal assistance given by the Government, the canneries in the Shepparton Valley would have closed down, considerable unemployment would have been caused, and a large area of land, which is now being successfully cultivated, would have become vacant. The bounties paid in respect of wire netting and barbed wire amounted to £426,700 and £412.720 respectively. Because steel manufacture is a key industry we are agreed that its encouragement by means of bounties and duties is a sound policy. I approve of what the Government has done to protect these industries. “We have paid £165,000 in bounties on sulphur with the object of assisting the primary producer. Such action is to be praised, for indirectly it benefits the whole community. When the wine export bounty was first instituted, the grapegrowing industry was in a perilous condition; in fact, those engaged in it were faced with ruin. But now the industry is being firmly established. In considering this subject, it should be borne in mind, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) showed us when introducing his first Wine Bounty Bill, that the industry has itself provided the money for the payment of the bounty. In round figures, £20,000,000 is invested in this industry; .the annual expenditure upon it is £1,000,000, and its annual wages bill is £68,000. The Commonwealth and State Governments, acting in co-operation, have settled many returned soldiers along the Murray Valley, and should now do everything possible to assist the men to make a success of their holdings. I submit that if we reduce the bounty, we shall greatly militate against their success. Prior to the introduction of this bounty, we had practically no export business in sweet wine, but now our sweet wines, and particularly our port, are regarded on the ‘British market as being equal, if not superior, to the best produced in other parts of the world. About £2,000,000 of British capital is coming in this industry to Australia annually. The payment of the bounty has involved an expenditure of £1,150,385, but we have had returned to us in excise duties £2,712,219. The bounty was designed to assist the grape-growers, and it has had that effect. Touching this point, the following letter, dated the 11th March, 1928, has reached me from the secretary of the Grape Vendors’ Association, of Rutherglen: -
I was instructed at a largely attended meeting of small vine-growers and soldier settler vine-growers held to-day to bring before your notice the serious effect the frequent alteration of the wine bounty will have on the growers of grapes who are not wine-makers. The buyers of grapes have to purchase their grapes twelve months before they can turn their wine into money. Buyers are naturally disinclined to operate when they are unable to forecast the probable return for their wine. It may be true that the English importers are making more than a fair profit. But that fact is poor consolation to the grower who is unable to sell his grapes. The vine-growing industry probably employs more labour per acre than any other industry carried on without irrigation. At the present juncture it would be disastrous if the great number of unemployed was added to through the vine-growers failing to gather their crops and ceasing to work their vineyards, to say nothing of the great loss of capital involved. The members of our association urge you, sir, to do your very best in opposing the proposed reduction of the bounty.
It must be gratifying to the Prime Minister to know that the efforts of the Government to assist the grape-growers have been appreciated. I now turn to a consideration of the effect of the bounty upon the wine-makers. Their position is made clear in a short statement supplied to me, which sets out that -
Preference in Great Britain to Empire wines is 4s. per gallon ; but the act is being defeated by importing wine under 25 per cent, spirit at 3s. per gallon duty, and wine 40 per cent, spirit at Ss. per gallon duty, and blending them in the ratio of 2 to 1, making the actual duty they pay about 4s. 8d. per gallon; or our preference only 8d. per gallon, instead of 4s. us was intended.
In the light of that statement, the Prime Minister appeared to be somewhat astray in his facts last night, or else I misunderstood him. He said that the attempts that had been made to blend low and high strength wines in Great Britain had been conducted on a fifty-fifty basis, but the wine-makers assure me that the practice is to blend two gallons of low strength wine, upon which a duty of 3s. per gallon is paid, with one gallon of high strength wine, on which the duty is Ss. per gallon, the average duty on the three gallons of blended wine thus being 4s. 8d. per gallon. Seeing that we have a preference of only 4s. per gallon on our sweet wines which have to enter- into competition with the blended wine, our effective preference is only 8d. per gallon. Wine making and marketing is a highly specialized business, with all the details of which Ave cannot be expected to be familiar. For that reason, we should give very careful consideration to the representations of those who thoroughly understand it. I am informed that the cost of landing our wine on the British market is as follows: - Price of wine, f.o.b.. 3s. 3d. per gallon; casks, freightarid other charges, ls. lOd. per gallon; duty, 4s. per gallon; total, 9s. Id. It has been said that the wine-makers are obtaining handsome profits from their activities under the present arrangement, but. I am assured that that is not so. The makers are prepared to give an independent auditor complete access to their books and records to enable him to report to the Government the actual facts of the case. The bounty has undoubtedly had the effect of increasing the price of grapes. Prior to its introduction, grapes were allowed to rot on the vines, and the industry had almost collapsed. Prices for grapes ranged from 30s. per ton upwards, but there was no market for the fruit. Upon the introduction of the bounty the price for doradillos was fixed at £5 per ton, but as much as £6 and £6 10s. per ton was paid for them. It would therefore appear that the granting of the bounty has led to the success of the industry. Regarding the price received for grapes, several of the larger shippers in the district can readily show that only a profit of 4d. a gallon was made on exported wine. Therefore, the small grower and wine-maker, and also the grower of doradillo grapes for spirit purposes, have received- the bulk of the bounty. The small grower finds it more convenient to sell to the large grower than to arrange finance for export. The figures that I have given regarding the wine industry in my electorate can easily be verified. Wine-makers who had kept their wines in cellars for two or three years may have made a substantial profit when the bounty first operated ; but, apart from that, the bounty has been of considerable benefit to the industry as a whole. If it is reduced, a serious blow, will be dealt at the small growers, who in many cases have families, and are living under struggling conditions, on holdings of about 20 acres. This is a primary industry that pays 100 per cent, in excise duty, and that should surely be an argument in favour of the retention of the present bounty. The Prime Minister last night referred to imported must, and one statement he made was that the total consumption of must, as far as he could gather, was somewhere in tho vicinity of from 2,250,000 to 2,500,000 gallons. Those importations, on which a duty of ls. a gallon is paid, must have a detrimental effect on the sale of Australian wines, the duty on which is 4s. a gallon. The sale of inferior wines must injure to a considerable extent the sale of better wines. I desire to place on record a few figures that I have gathered. The excise revenue received for 1926-27, which was £435,158, is about -£100,000 less than the actual revenue for that period, since it docs not include excise on wine fortified in bond, payment of which was deferred, a concession permitted for the first time in that financial year.
In the current financial year, shipments were abnormally heavy. In the first half year, from July to December, 1927, and especially in July and August of that year, exporters rushed away all the wine they could in order to secure the higher bounty of 4s. a gallon. The high exports for the first half of the current year will certainly not be maintained. The stocks in London are heavy and will take some months to dispose of. We heard from the Prime Minister last night that about 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine had accumulated in London. The consumption in Great Britain is 9,000,000 gallons annually, and it goes without saying that our stocks there will soon be consumed, leaving plenty of room for further consignments.
– The Prime Minister quoted the figure of 19,000,000 gallons as the annual consumption in Great Britain.-
– That makes the prospect for our wine trade very much better, because the surplus of 3,000,000 gallons on the London market is really insignificant. Very little wine is now being shipped, and the total * for the present financial year will not exceed that for 1926-27 by anything like what has been anticipated in certain quarters. About 2,400,000 gallons of fortified wine were shipped in the period from July to December, 1927, or more than the total shipments in 1926-27. We cannot expect to continue shipments of that description, but providing the bounty remains unaltered the position will be satisfactory to the growers. By chipping and chopping about in the way we are doing, we dishearten the grower and the exporter, and interfere considerably with the regular flow overseas and the market generally. The benefits of the bounty are very evident as from a poor condition the wine industry has been raised to one of comparative prosperity. Previously, the only wine exported was some 750,000 gallons of dry wine, a trade which we still hold. We now ship in addition over 2,000,000 gallons of sweet wine. Grape prices to small growers have hardened considerably, while the price of doradillos has doubled. Prior to the bounty, many doradillos were left to rot on the vine. These statements are true and cannot be contradicted. We have had gratifying results from the bounty, and the industry is now financing itself. It is, therefore, difficult to understand the action of the Government in seeking to hamper the wine export trade. A serious curtailment of the bounty must injure the industry. The restriction of export and accumulation of stock will lead to price cutting and a reversal to the conditions prevailing in 1922-23, just prior to the introduction of the bounty. We do not want a return to the deplorable conditions which existed in 1923. We then had the spectacle of men seeking employment, asking for reduced rentals, threatening to abandon their holdings, and failing to meet their interest payments. A’ reduction in bounty must recoil on the small growers, and bring about hardships. Doradillo grape growers would suffer more than the growers of wine grapes, because without a demand for fortifying spirit, doradillo grapes are worthless. The producers of dried grapes would also suffer because distillation helps them materially by the eliminating of much faulty fruit from the dried fruit market. The Prime Minister stated that something like 45,000 tons of fresh grapes were made into wine. Probably they brought a price equal to that which would have been obtained had they been made into dried fruits. The distilleries have absorbed a considerable quantity of inferior fruit, and in that respect have assisted the dried fruits market. When the bounty was reduced last September by ls. a gallon, it was understood that no further change would be made for three years unless justified by increased British preference. There has been no recent alteration in that preference if my information is correct. In addition to the ‘reduction of the bounty, the grape prices, as recently fixed by the Customs department, constitute an increase of 10s. a ton as compared with last vintage. These charges, just at vintage time, are viewed with consternation by both wine makers and growers. The producers know that the alterations must recoil on them. The wine industry is being hit at every turn. The price of grapes can be fixed, but we cannot compel the winemakers to purchase them. The Prime Minister said last night that if he thought the wine-makers would threaten to refuse to purchase grapes at the price fixed, he would consider abolishing the bounty altogether. In the first place I do not approve of such a statement, and in the second place I do not believe that an individual wine-maker made such a statement as that he would refuse to buy grapes, because so far as my electorate is concerned the wine-makers are only too willing to help the growers. I wish also to place on record the figures in this statement showing the bounty which has been paid, as compared with the excise duty collected. The statement is as follows: -
Payments of Bounty as against Excise Duty Collected. - It must be remembered that prior to the introduction of the bounty in 1024 the Australian Government had collected from Australian vine-growers a sum of £2,000,000, of which not one penny had ever been returned to them. Since the inception of the bounty the amount of excise duty on Australian grape spirit and brandy collected from Australian vine-growers has been in excess of payments made in bounty. It is thus very apparent that the Australian vigneron has paid the bounty out of his own pocket, and is still a long way ahead.
I have not the figures relating to the excise collected on brandy, but the amount collected on brandy and wine together is in the vicinity of £3,000,000, while the bounty paid is £1,150,000. Therefore, the industry is not “cadging”; it is paying its way handsomely. It may be stated that we must have revenue, and that the industry should be subject to taxation. I agree with that, but the duty on fortifying spirit was 8d. a gallon before the war, and it is 6s. a gallon now This duty was stated to be a war measure, but how many other taxes imposed as war measures have since been reduced? Income taxation has been reduced by 33 per cent., but this duty has not been reduced by f d. In that respect, the industry has nothing whatever to be ashamed of. The statement continues -
Without any doubt the bounty has been passed along to the small growers of grapes. In 1923 and 1924 the doradillo growers in the irrigation areas were getting from £1 10s. to £3 for their grapes per ton, but even at those ruinous prices found it impossible to dispose of all their fruit. When the bounty was introduced it was stipulated that the grower of doradillo grapes must be paid at least £5 per ton, that figure having been arrived at by a Government commission .as the price per ton required to enable the grower to remain on his holding. Ever since the introduction of the bounty these men have had a ready market for their grapes, and the prices of doradillos advanced to £6 10s. per ton. All other grapes also advanced in proportion. For instance, wine grapes that were worth £7 per ton in 1924 were saleable at £10 10s. in 1927. To-day the Australian exporter is receiving exactly the same price for his wine as at the commencement of the bounty in 1924, so it is evident that the increased prices paid to the growers of grapes have come out of the exporters’ profit. In addition, the dried fruit-growers . have benefited greatly, for during the past three years 40,000 to 50,000 tons of lexias and currants have been turned into wine or spirit instead of being dried, and this has relieved the dried fruit market of an unsaleable surplus.
Here are concrete facts concerning what has been done for the man on the land, whom I believe every honorable member in this House desires to assist. Only a very small profit has been made by the exporters as a whole. I am speaking now for the Rutherglen district ; the same does not apply, I know, to South Australia where the wine industry has been longer established, and where they did not suffer the same set-back as we did in Victoria. The ‘statement goes on -
Profit made by Exporters. - This profit has been very small, and in the Rutherglen district the largest exporters have averaged 4d. per gallon profit - about 5 per cent. The shipping price is well known, and the larger grower is compelled to pay export parity less a small working profit when buying either grapes or wine.
In my district the wine-makers and the growers have endeavoured to work amicably together. Dealing with the effect of a reduction in the bounty, the statement adds -
Should the bounty be either discontinued or reduced to an unoperative basis the effect to-day would be to place the industry in a much more disastrous position than it was in 1924. This can be readily understood when it is remembered that practically the whole surplus of the dried fruit market has been diverted into wine and spirit since the bounty created a new market. To-day the production of dried fruit is about double* what it was in 1924, and new areas have been planted in the irrigation districts, and have still to come into bearing.
I have a vivid recollection of an assurance given by the late ComptrollerGeneral of Customs to the effect that the balance of the 1927 vintage, over and above the 25 per cent, which was exported, was legally entitled to the bounty. The manufacturers accepted this assurance in good faith, and held back 75 per cent, of their wine so that it might be properly matured. This was done to build up the reputation of Australian wines both at Home and in Australia, and they believed that they would obtain the bounty as then laid down, irrespective of what alterations might be made in the act. The Government is to be congratulated upon the assistance which i: has already given to the industry, but it has been abundantly proved that, up to the present, the industry has really financed itself. We are now on the verge of capturing a large market for our wine, and this is not the point at which we should turn back from assisting the industry. The Hume Weir has already cost £6,000,000, and will cost £14,000,000 before it is completed. How are we to pay the interest and sinking fund charges on that sum if we do not put the water that we conserve to the best use; namely, the growing of grapes for wine-making and drying ? This has already been pointed out to us in the report of the Development and Migration Commission. Irrigated lands must necessarily be held in small areas, and for no kind of farming can the holdings be made so small as for grapegrowing, in which a decent living can be made on from seven to twenty acres of land. I have no doubt that if the Government will stick to the industry, and pay a bounty on a tapering rate for a few more years we shall succeed, to a large extent, in capturing the Home market for our wines. If we can do that, it will increase the prosperity of the country, and will assist materially in reducing our adverse trade balance. Furthermore, the industry will employ a large amount of labour for such operations as tilling and picking, pruning, vat-making, cask-making, and cellar construction, besides adding to the revenue of the railways. It must be evident to all, therefore, that instead of hampering the industry as this measure, if passed, will do, we should endeavour to give confidence to the exporters, and to encourage the growers to the fullest extent. An inquiry should have been held by the most competent authority which Parliament could select before any action so drastic as this was taken. The matter might have been referred to the Tariff Board, but if that body was not considered suitable, some other authority might ‘have been appointed. Statements have been made which conflict seriously with those put forward by the Government. It is stated, for instance, that the preference to Australian wines in Great Britain is actually only 8d. a gallon, instead of 4s. a gallon as claimed. Surely that is worthy of investigation. It has also been stated that the profit made by exporters in my district is only 4d. a gallon. I know that in South Australia there are wine-makers who would not care if they did not receive any bounty. They are in a sound position, and are doing very well out of the Australian trade, which they have largely captured. South Australia has practically the whole of the Western. Australian trade, and is making a big bid for the Victorian trade as well. However, those few large makers do not comprise the industry, which, as a whole, is in such a position that it needs the continuation of the encouragement which the Government has been wise and far-seeing enough to grant it in the past. Before introducing this bill the Government should have investigated the statements of those in the industry. With all due respect to honorable members, there is not one of them who knows the industry as many people amongst the manufacturers and growers whom I could mention. Those engaged in the industry are playing the game. They do not come into the lobbies of this House to pester honorable members to champion their cause. They leave it to the con- science of honorable members to serve them honestly and well. I urge the Government, even at this eleventh hour, not to rush this bill through. This is not a party question. Why not adjourn the debate, in order that we may collaborate in the endeavour to formulate an arrangement that would be reasonable and acceptable to all concerned. The Minister has granted full preference to Canadian export, and I feel that the least that can be granted to the growers is a complete honouring of the existing agreement, to cover all the 1927 vintage. It is probable that forward contracts would absorb that vintage, so that actually it would not be a very great concession. I also urge that the rebate should not be on the fictitious figure of ls. 3d., but on the actual figure of ls. 7d. This is a reasonable request. I have enumerated points that cannot be challenged. It is likely that the British Government may amend its preferential treatment in the near future. Why not allow matters to remain in abeyance meanwhile? The wine industry is paying its way, and delay would not bring catastrophe upon any one. The Prime Minister referred to excessive overhead costs, and to the necessity for organization. The present Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) has done much to eliminate the middleman in the grape and wine industry, and growers are doing their best to cut down overhead costs. They are not responsible for those costs. They are loaded with a duty on casks and other requirements of the trade with excessive rates of pay imposed by the arbitration courts and with the operation of the Navigation Act. I have here a glaring example of the handicap under which Australia is labouring through having to pay the high wages which prevail in this country. In France and Germany there exists a 55 to 60 hour week, whereas in Australia we have a 44-hour week. The following is the- scale of weekly wages operating in the respective countries: -
I hope to see our standard maintained, but my table illustrates what Australia is up against. In South Africa grapegrowers are able to have their vintages picked at the rate of 3s. per day, from sunrise to sunset, whereas our award provides for 14s. 6d. per day in the Rutherglen district, and is, no doubt, similarly high elsewhere in Australia. I urge the Prime Minister to re-consider the matter, and not to insist on an immediate reduction of 9d. in the bounty. Even better than the courses I have advocated would be an extension of the bounty, say for five years. That would give the growers time to organize, and they would have the advantage of knowing exactly where they stood. After close co-operation with the growers and wine-makers, I can assure the Minister that those people will, be very much disappointed with the Government if it puts this reduction of 9d. a gallon into immediate operation. I therefore urge the postponement of the bill pending inquiries on the lines I have indicated.
.- I can quite understand that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) and other honorable members, particularly members of the Country party, feel distinctly uncomfortable at the present turn of events.
– The honorable memberseeks to put the “ dirt “ in.
– I have no desire to do so. I leave that to the honorable member. I know that if I were in the position of having been to a Country party conference, at which I had told the farmers present that the Country party maintained its separate entity and was able to dictate its policy to the Nationalist party, I should now feel distinctly uncomfortable.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Capricornia is now discussing the policy of the Country party, a matter that has nothing to do with the bill before the House.
– It can scarcely be said that the honorable member is discussing that policy. I ask him to confine himself to the subject before the chamber.
– I submit that I was . quite iri order in expressing a few words of sympathy with the honorable member for Indi in the uncomfortable position in which he now finds himself. The farmers in the Indi electorate, who are engaged largly in grapegrowing, had every reason to expect that this Government would . play fair with them. Indeed, those of them who voted for the alleged Country party at the last elections believed that this composite Ministry would be the last Ministry in Australia to repudiate a contract.
– And it would, indeed.
– To-day it is apparent that though that Ministry entered into a contract to pay this bounty for three years, it has gone back on that, contract after only six months have “ elapsed. I speak with feeling because’ I know the position of these primary producers and because in my own electorate the representatives of the alleged Country party. claim that they are the only persons who can obtain for the farmers what they desire, a fair deal. If it were not for the case presented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), on behalf of the grape-growers of Australia, those unfortunate people would be left unrepresented in this House so far as this debate is concerned. The honorable member for Hume received a letter from a grapegrower in the Indi electorate beseeching him to rise in this House and present the case of the grape-growers of that electorate because, as the writer said, their own representative knows nothing about anything but butter. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) also felt distinctly uncomfortable. He thanked the Prime Minister for bringing down this bill, and particularly for placing it at the top of the business paper! Would it not have been better for his constituents, the grape-growers, if the bill had been placed at the bottom of the list, or withdrawn altogether? This bill proposes to reduce the bounty on wineEvery honorable member on this side of the House wishes that he had never seen the measure, because it will rob the primary producers of some hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– In what way?
– By reducing the bounty by 9d. per gallon.
– But the price to be. received by the growers of grapes is fixed.
– The Minister knows that this bill will bring ruin to thousands of grape-growers in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, and that they will not be able to get a profitable market for their fruit.
– That- remark comesappropriately from a member pf the socalled Country party. The statement I made has been endorsed by certain honorable members opposite. The imposition of protective duties and the payment of bounties to assist in the establishment of industries, primary and secondary, is the settled policy of this party, and the members of the Labour party are always prepared to give to primary producers the same measure of protection as is afforded to those engaged in the secondary industries. If every member of the Country and Nationalist parties were of the same opinion as members on this side of the House, the bill would not be passed. I appeal to honorable members who claim to represent country electorates, to put on their thinking caps, and remember the pledges they gave to the people in the country when they were elected. If they do so, they will vote against this measure, and protect the interests of the primary producers, of whose welfare they claim to be the particular guardians. As a representative of very many primary producers, I feel sympathy with the grape-growers, to whom this bill will mean so much. I have heard repeatedly from members of the alleged Country party that the man on the land is the backbone of the Common- wealth. Those who are engaged in grapegrowing will require a very stiff backbone to be able to stand up to the blow which is being administered to them by the composite ministry. On the first introduction of the bounty in 1924, the Prime Minister, stated that the acreage under doradillo grapes had largely increased because of the settlement of returned soldiers along the Murray River valley. Chiefly at the instigation pf the Commonwealth Government, supported by the- vaporings of Nationalist State premiers, thousands of these unfortunate men were deluded into going on the land in the belief that they would there make a good living, but the result was an 80 per cent, surplus of dried fruits, over and above the requirements of the local market. The Government decided in 1924 to pay a bounty of 4s. per gallon on wine exported for a period of three years. Unhesitatingly, every honorable member voted for the bounty, believing that it would be of great help to the returned soldier settlers, and a stimulus to the wine industry. The Labour party supported the bounty, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) wisely proposed that the Government should do something to assist the dried fruits industry also. He had travelled through the Mildura district and knew the trials and tribulations of the unfortunate growers there. But the Government disregarded his advice, and the result is that the wine and dried fruits industries are in a very bad condition today.
– They are very much better off as a result of the bounty.
– Yes, but because a bounty of, say, £10 per ton, was not paid on exported dried fruits, fully 46,000 tons of grapes which would have been dried, were diverted to the distilleries.
– And the price of dried fruits proved to be so good, that no bounty was required.
– If that is so why were the grapes diverted ?
– Every argument advanced by the Government in 1924 to justify payment of a bounty on. exported wine, in order to save the growers of doradillo grapes, was equally applicable to a bounty on dried fruits, as suggested by the honorable member for Yarra. The one bounty could have been complementary to the other. Last year when the Government proposed the reduction of the wine bounty by ls. per gallon the honorable member for Yarra offered a very fine solution of the problem ; he put up a very good fight on behalf of those engaged in the dried fruits industry, but his advice was disregarded by the Government, half the members of which belong to the Country party. In consequence of this one-sided treatment of the grape growers, there has been an extraordinary increase in the production of wine for export, and the present glut on the British market is serious for Australia and for the thousands of people who were induced to engage in grape-growing. Parliament, . last year agreed that the bounty from August last should be at the rate of 3s. per gallon, or, after allowing a drawback of ls. 3d. for excise duty, ls. 9d. per gallon net, for a period of three years. Only six months of that period have elapsed and because of some mysterious influence, the Government now proposes to dishonour the contract it made. Some members of the Country party are condoning, and even trying to. justify, that action.
– There was a condition attached to the agreement for the renewal of the bounty.
– No condition was stated in the bill. I am reminded of the attitude of members of the Country party towards other primary industries. They say that they would lift the sugar embargo, and allow sugar to be imported from Java and Fiji.
– That is an absolute lie!
– Order ! The honorable member for New England must withdraw that remark.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw, but-
-The honorable member must withdraw unreservedly.
– I withdraw.
– The honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory), Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), who belong to the Country party, advocated the lifting of the sugar embargo.
– They are only three members of the party.
– This proposal of the Government in the middle of - the vintage is doing a great disservice to the grape growers. It is clear that the Government is taking this action because it thinks that the bounty is costing too much money. But that cost does not relieve it of its responsibility to the grapegrowers and the wine makers, with whom a definite contract was made. The Development and Migration Commission in its last annual report stated clearly the result of the Government’s bungling policy in connexion with the payment of the Wine Bounty in the first instance : -
As a result of the Wine Bounty, approximately 25,000 tons of fresh grapes of drying varieties were delivered to wineries and distilleries in 1927. In 1926, 21,000 tons of fresh fruit were converted into wine and spirits.
Forty-six thousand tons of fresh fruit would make 13,000 tons of dried fruit. If the Government had paid a bounty of £10 per ton on dried fruits the expenditure involved would have been £130,000 as against a net expenditure of £506,000 on this increased wine bounty, upon the- 3,600,000 gallons of wine made from the 46,000 tons of fresh grapes. In the light of these figures the primary producers of Australia will be able to see that the Government has made a huge bungle of the whole business. Had a bounty of £10 per ton been provided for dried fruits in addition to the bounty upon wine produced for export, and had the fruit available been handled as it should have been, the country would have been saved £370,000. Nevertheless, I protest against the action of the Government in repudiating the contract it made last year with the grapegrowers and winemakers of Australia. There is no provision of any description in the act we passed last year to indicate that in the event of circumstances altering, the Government would reduce the bounty. It has been clearly shown by speakers on both sides of the House during this debate that Australian wines do not occupy a better position on the home market to-day than they did twelve months ago. Advices which I have received from persons keenly interested in the industry in South Australia place this beyond dispute. The Minister has stated that during the currency of the bounty at the rate which was originally fixed the price of Australian wine was ls. lOd. per gallon, while .it is now 3s. 4d. a gallon ; but he admitted that that figure related to six months ago, and not to the present time. Unfortunately, there has been a slump in the industry in the last six months. As a representative of primary producers I am grateful to the British Government for even the meagre preference it has given to Australian products; but I submit that the Commonwealth Government should make representations for a greater measure of preference on our dried fruits, sugar, and other products. According to figures quoted some time ago by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), the preference which Australia grants to British goods is valued at £9,000.000 per annum, whereas the preference which we receive from Great Britain on our goods is worth only £500,000 per annum. The Government should make discreet representations to the British authorities for the granting of a preference on an equal basis if possible. In view of the platitudinous statements that have been made on this subject at various Imperial Conferences by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and other representatives who are entitled to speak with authority on behalf of their dominions, we have a right to expect equality of treatment. I know that the Minister in charge of the bill will say that the Australian industry is in a much better position to-day than it was in prior to the introduction of the last British budget ; but I cannot concede that that is so. In 1924- the British duties on wine were 4s. per gallon Empire, and 6s. per gallon foreign, which gave Australia a preference of 2s. per gallon. In 1925 the duties were altered to 2s. Empire, and 6s. foreign, which gave us a preference of 4s. per gallon. When the all-round increases was made in 1927 the rates fixed were 4s. Empire, and 8s. foreign, so that we still have a preference of only 4s. per gallon. But under the present arrangement British manufacturers are able to import raisins from Greece and fruit juices from Spain and France and manufacture them into inferior wine which enters into competition with the Australian product, so that we are losing a market which was previously open to us. I trust that even at this late stage the Government will withdraw this proposal; otherwise it will strike a very heavy blow at the industry. I had hoped that the socalled Country party representatives in the Ministry and their colleagues who support the Government would have been able to exert sufficient influence to prevent the introduction of this bill ; but my hope was doomed to disappointment, although it was whispered that the proposal would be dropped. I can understand now that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) had good reason for withdrawing from the Ministry. He stated that he felt that the hand of big business was behind the Government, and that he could not remain a member of it and at the same time be true to the principles of the Country party. It appears, however, that the other members of the Country party have sold themselves body and soul to their Nationalist colleagues. The temptations of place and power were too. great for them to resist. I trust that at the next election they will be relegated to the obscurity which they deserve.
– I approach this difficult subject
Avith no particular prejudice against the wine-makers, and no particular prejudice in f favour of bounties.
– And no particular prejudice against the Government.
– The honorable member should not make up his mind too hurriedly as to my attitude regarding this bill. The wine-makers have been somewhat unjustly criticized in this debate. They have not been given any credit” for the building up of this industry in Australia. One has only to compare Australian wines produced 20 or 30 years ago with those produced to-day to realize that amazing improvements have been effected in the quality of our products. This has been due to the high degree of skill and knowledge which our wine-makers have applied to their business. They have obtained the best advice available in France and other wine-making countries in Europe, and Avith that assistance have developed their industry to a high degree of perfection. As to the payment of bounties, honorable members are fairly well informed of my views. Generally speaking, I have no particular sympathy Avith the policy of bounties, although there are occasions, no doubt, when it is justifiable. It Will be admitted, I think, that the ( original object of the Government in providing for this bounty was not to develop the wine industry, but to assist many returned soldiers who had been placed upon orchard blocks and had been forced to grow a certain variety of grape. It was only for that reason that some honorable members supported the first Wine Export Bounty Bill. It has also been emphasized during the debate that 25 per cent, of the bounty comes back to the Government in the form of excise duties. In all the circumstances, it must be agreed that the duty of deciding whether the bounty shall be reduced or continued at the old rate rests upon the Government. I regard any proposal for the reduction of a bounty or any refusal to grant a fresh bounty as of such importance that I should probably support it if I were satisfied that substantial justice would be achieved by such action. The question is : will substantial justice be done in this case if the bounty is reduced as proposed? If it could be demonstrated that it will, I would support a reduction even though it might adversely affect my State. As a matter of fact, there are very few vignerons among my own constituents. But I do not think that substantial justice will be done if this proposal is approved. I suggested to the Prime Minister in the course of his speech last night that if the Government had intended to review this matter after the act had been in operation for only twelve months it should have provided for the payment of the bounty for one year only and not for three. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman dealt effectively with that point. Obviously, the intention of the Government in providing that the bounty should be paid for three years “was that those interested in the industry should be assured of some continuity of stable conditions. I admit, of course, that the Minister in his speech said that there was a possibility of the bounty being reduced if conditions improved in regard to British preference.
– I suggest to the honorable member that the reason for stipulating a period of three years was to give the security that the growers would be no worse off during that period than they were when the original bill was introduced. A period of three years was preferable to one year.
– Was that stipulation necessary? If the government in power was in a position to say that the conditions would remain unaltered for three years, there was no risk to the wine industry ; and if, on the other hand, the government changed there would be- nothing to prevent the incoming government from altering the conditions laid down by this Government.
– Only by repudiation of previous contracts.
– And by reducing the bounty, and that is being done now.
– The bounty is being reduced because of altered circumstances.
– The reduction in bounty will place the winemakers, who acted on the strength of the bill passed last year, in a very unfortunate position, and a substantial injustice may be done to them. I have been informed that a considerable amount of wine from the 1927 crop has been held in Australia for two reasons. The first is that a good many wine-makers were desirous of following the Prime Minister’s advice, which he referred to yesterday, “ to build up towards the better maturing of their wines.” Many wine-makers have kept their wines with that object in view. Is it reasonable that those who are trying to improve the standard of their products should lose the bounty, while others who exported their wine the moment it was put in the casks have received the benefit of the bounty? That does not seem to be a fair way to treat men who are following the advice given to them by this Government. The second reason is that the wine is being kept here to avoid further glutting of the already glutted British market. I understand that in some cases contracts are held, but the wine has been retained here. I followed what the right honorable gentleman said about taking the question of contracts into account, but I wish to ask why the merchants who have kept their wines here to prevent a glut in Great Britain, and are thereby assisting in the “ orderly marketing of our products,” which they have been so often asked to do, should be penalized under the bill? A great number of grapes were brought in just before the reduction of bounty was announced. Prices were subsequently announced. When the Minister introduced the bill on the 9th of this month
I interjected that there had been a regrettable delay in letting the winegrowers know what prices they were to receive for their grapes, and the Minister replied that he could assure me that in the course of a few days the figures would be announced. Why has there been all this delay? Was there any necessity for it? A similar delay last year led to many complaints. The Register of the 10th of this month published a letter from Mr. L. N. Salter, the president of the Federal Viticultural Council, a gentleman whose opinion should be read if not adopted. He calls this a belated proposal and says -
The feeling among wine-makers generally was that it was very unfair to have left this proposal until so late in the day. No indication had been received by them that the Government contemplated such an action.
As a matter of fact, last night the Prime Minister, when the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) was speaking, interjected that this matter had not been decided when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) left for New Zealand. It is therefore obvious that it was decided in great haste, or, at any rate, at very short notice. The letter continues -
Contracts had been entered into for the purchase of grapes and spirit and for the sale of the wine to be made from these, and the winemaker was now faced with the position of having to complete his contracts for the purchase of grapes and spirit, and to accept 9d. a gallon less for the wine made from these. The prices for export wines, specified in the contracts, without exception to his knowledge, were on a f.o.b. basis, the wine-maker to collect the bounty, so that the full loss of 9d. a gallon would fall upon him. Last year grape prices had been fixed by the Government after the vintage. These prices were higher than those which had been decided upon, and upon which contracts for the sale’ of wine had been based, hence the increase in prices fixed by the Government was a distinct loss to the makers, as they were unable to obtain commensurately higher prices for the wine. The position thi9 year, if the bounty was to be reduced to ls., would be considerably worse.
Therefore, from the point of view of the Federal Viticultural Council, the Government, by delaying the announcement of prices, has brought about an unfortunate position. No explanation has been given why they should have been announced so late, and after the bill reducing the bounty had- been introduced. One may fairly ask the reason for this sudden reduction. It has been suggested by a previous speaker that it is because of financial stringency. That may be so, but it should not prevent the House from doing justice to the wine-makers. I admit that they have done very well out of the bounty, but if they have benefited under the original act passed by this House at the instigation of the Government, that is to their advantage, and is no reason why they should be penalized and treated as scapegoats. It may be that the object of the bill is to aim another blow at South Australia, which has recently, its people think, received a number of severe, set-backs from the Federal Parliament. Is the proposal to penalize the winegrowers for the increase of exported wines from 649,000 gallons to over 3,000,000 gallons?’ The Minister stated that he thought honorable members would agree that the industry had been shown every consideration so far. This proposal seems to me to show an extraordinary lack of consideration to the growers, many of whom have already taken their grapes to the distilleries. Just before I left South Australia, a case came under my notice of a man who had taken his grapes to the wine-makers, but they were unable to give( him a quotation because they did not know what price was to be paid. Is that fair, either to the winemaker or to the grower? This has happened previously, and is certainly unfair to those connected with the industry. It should not occur at all. The fact remains that the first action was taken primarily in- the interests of the growers, but this last action will react upon. them. It has been said that the reduction of the bounty will affect only the wine-maker, and that the price to the grower will not be altered. In that respect I wish to quote part of a telegram which has been sent to me from the Mayor of Clare and the secretary of the Clare Grape-Growers’ Association of South Australia. It reads -
Meeting held last night re Government policy bounty reduction, which means ruination of district.
This grape-growers’ association consists not of wine-makers, but of grape-growers, and they are sufficiently concerned about the Government’s proposal to send me a wire saying that a reduction of bounty will mean the ruination of the district.
My fourth suggestion is that the reason for this proposal may be found in the Adelaide News of the 19th of this month. That publication contains a long statement by Mr. F. R, Chalk, of Tangari this firm is a big wine-maker, but it is certainly not well known. He has a tremendous lot to say on the subject, and he seems to be in favour of the bill. He says-
There was some justification for the action of the Federal Government in reducing the export bounty on Australian wines from ls. 9d! to ls. a gallon. The industry required complete re-organization, and wine for export should be of standardized quality. He believed that the real reason why the bounty was reduced was that the Federal Government desired to have introduced some method of controlling the export of wines. Twelve months ago Mr. H. E. Pratten, Minister for Trade and Customs, stated that unless steps were taken to organize the industry the Government would probably take action to control exports. At present the vine-growers and wine-makers were absolutely disorganized. . . . The wine industry in Australia should be Te-organized, and the sooner the work was taken in hand the better for all concerned. At present not two wine-makers were exporting the same standard of wine.
This looks very much like propaganda, and seems to be almost entirely in favour of this particular bill. The view expressed here is one which I do not think is held by most of the older and better known wine-makers in South Australia. I should like to know from the Minister whether the action which is being taken is the result of a desire or an intention to coerce the wine-makers, so that a control of export may result.
– There is no such desire or intention.
– It was freely stated last year that the attitude of the Minister towards the wine-makers was that unless they hurried and brought in some form of control of their own, the Government would take the matter out of their hands, and introduce a form of government control.
– I can assure the honorable member that the only reason which actuated the Government was the alteration in the British preference.
– I accept the Minister’s statement on that point. There is a further statement by the Minister that an industry which is seeking to build up a trade connexion in a new market must altogether dislodge its competitors.
– My statement has not been correctly represented. I said, “It must endeavour to dislodge its competitors.”
– It is not possible to dislodge the old-established wines from the British market.
– I did not say completely dislodge; I said endeavour to dislodge.
– Even that indicates that the Minister believed that there was some prospect of success. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to dislodge the German, French, and Spanish wines from the British market. Anybody who has even an elementary knowledge of the Englishman, knows that he usually drinks a wine because it is of a certain standard of quality to which he is used. There always will be a great many men who will continue, as long as the practice of wine drinking lasts, to choose their wine on that basis. The best thing we can do is to improve the standard of our wines and, by degress, to extend their sale abroad. It is evident then, from what I have said, that I do not propose to support the bill as it stands. I think that something might be said for a reduction of the bounty as from the end of this year. This would afford an opportunity to manufacturers, who have on their hands wine of the 1927 crop - whether they held it back in order to let it mature, or to avoid glutting the market - to obtain the advantage of the bounty which has already been collected by their more hasty competitors. This would also have the effect of getting over the unfortunate position which has arisen during this season, in which grapes have been taken into the cellars, while the price which was to be paid for them was not known. Now it has been announced that the prices are to be a little higher than lastyear, while, almost simultaneously with that announcement, comes the present proposal for the reduction in the bounty. It seems to me that there is a grave danger of penalizing men who have been merely accepting the advice which the Government gave them. I notice that the Prime’ Minister said that he would take into account contracts which had been made, and could be proved, and that, of course, is a step in the right direction. It is not sufficient, however, because it does not deal at all with this year’s supplies, concerning which the wine-makers are being coerced. The Prime Minister, I think, made some remark to the effect that the wine-makers are unquestionably in a position to buy the grapes at the present time; I do not suggest that they are not. The real question is: Whether it is a fair thing to force them to buy the grapes at a figure of which they were not aware at the time when they contracted to take them.
– I do not think that it is necessary for me to traverse, in detail, the arguments of honorable members who have spoken on this subject. The honorable members for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), Angas (Mr. Parsons), and Indi (Mr. Cook), and others have gone exhaustively into the matter, and have, in my opinion, shown conclusively that, if the bounty is reduced as proposed, it is likely to have a very serious effect on the industry, and particularly on the grape-grower. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), whom I congratulate on his able and moderate speech, stated that bounties are expedients. I agree that they are. Personally, I have no love- for bounties. I should like to see such a state of affairs as would enable bounties to be abolished altogether. For.tunately, in some of our primary industries no bounties have to be paid. Our principal industries do not require them, and our producers do not ask for them. But there are others, like this grape-growing industry, which do require bounties, and which will, if they do not receive them, probably go out of existence. Before this bounty was paid, the grape-growers were practically down and out. We have to consider whether the industry is in a position to do without the bounty now. I have no doubt that, if this proposed reduction is made, it will affect the industry very considerably. I know that many of the growers have had a hard struggle, and most of them are not making more than a fair living now. If their returns are reduced, I think that the industry will either go out of existence altogether, or be very seriously crippled. The Minister for Markets, in his speech on Friday last, stated that he anticipated that the increase in the British preference would more than make up for the decrease in the bounty. He may be right; but I do not think that there is any proof that that will be the case. If it could be proved, the growers, I have no doubt, would agree to the reduction. However, when we hear of the large quantity of grape juice which is being imported into Great Britain, and which is competing with Australian wines to such an extent that accumulated stocks in London cannot be sold, it is evident that any decrease in the bounty will seriously injure the industry, and particularly the growers. It would be time enough for the Government to bring down the proposal when it could be shown that the British preference had had the effect claimed for it - that it was, at least, a set-off against the proposed reduction of the bounty. On Friday, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, in reply to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), stated that the total amount of excise paid on spirit for fortifying wines was £2,712,219, and that the total amount of the bounty paid to the industry was £1,150,385, leaving a balance of £1,561,834. It is evident that the Government has made a large revenue over and above the bounty, which indicates that there is no immediate need to reduce it. While I am not keenly in favour of bounties, I contend that they are the only means by which primary producers, such as the grape-growers, can be protected. While protection is the policy of the Government - and I have always been a moderate protectionist - I contend that every section of the community ought, as far as possible to receive equal benefits. The grape-growers are compelled to sell the bulk of their products in the markets of the world at freetrade prices, and have to buy their requirements’ in a heavily protected market at the highest prices. What benefit will they get from the protection unless they receive a bounty, which is the only form of protection which it is possible to give them? The grape-growers are a section of the primary producers, the class who export 96 per cent, or 97 per cent, of the total quantity of goods sent from this country, while they produce about 73 per cent, of our wealth. Surely they have as good right to protection as any other section of the community. I fail to see how those growers can obtain benefit other than in the form of a bounty. The tariff is a burden on them, and unless they receive a set-off they are unfairly treated.
– Does the honorable member regard the bill as a breach of contract ?
– “No, because the Minister, when he introduced the original measure, stipulated that if an increased British preference was granted the Government would be at liberty to reduce the bounty. But it is not fair for the Government to propose that until it is known what will be the precise effect of the increased British preference. A large number of people are engaged in the grapegrowing industry, many of whom are returned soldiers who have had a hard struggle. They will not be able to continue in the industry if they are to receive a lower price for their product than has previously obtained. Although the Minister for Markets assured them that they will not receive a lower price, and that the wine-makers will pay the same price as before, there is no certainty that it will be possible for the wine-makers to pay that price under the altered conditions brought about by a reduction of the bounty. The grape-growers have been working on a very narrow margin of profit, and if the bounty is reduced I am afraid that that margin of profit will disappear, and the industry will be either seriously crippled or killed. If either of these probabilities occurs, the Government, which has derived a considerable amount of revenue from the industry, will suffer. The contemplated reduction of the bounty seems to me like killing the goose that lays the golden egg. I trust that the Government will either not reduce the bounty, or demonstrate conclusively that the new British preference will affect those engaged in the industry sufficiently advantageously to counteract the reduction of bounty.
.’- The honorable member for Riverina (Mr.
Killen) summed up the situation very effectively, when he said that one of the results of this bill will be to cripple the grape-growing industry. If the honorable member is convinced that that will be the inevitable result of this bill, and this conjecture appears to be well founded, surely the consideration of the bill is worthy of the close attention of honorable members, more particularly those representing grape-growing districts. I am astonished that so little interest is being evinced in this measure, particularly by those who should be vitally concerned with it. Has there ever been a debate so lifeless as that which took place this afternoon; has the House ever been so apathetic when listening to any other debate? Why such indifference? Do honorable members not realize, as was stated by the honorable member for Riverina, that we have before us a proposal which threatens to cripple the grape and wine industry of Australia.
– That is only the opinion of the honorable member.
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) apparently does not agree with the honorable member for Riverina, and discounts his opinion. That honorable member should, at any rate, be conversant with the problem, and well-informed as to the consequences of this measure, seeing that his district is so vitally interested in it. It is a reasonable deduction that this bill will have a most adverse effect upon the grape-growing industry. I listened very carefully to the secondreading speech of the Minister, and to that made by the Prime Minister last night. I have an open mind on the subject, and my constituency is interested in the bill only so far as it affects the community generally, but so far as I can gather, this measure definitely repudiates an agreement entered into by this Government. It is tantamount to the repudiation of a contract. It is true that no document may be in existence signed on behalf of the Government on the one hand and of the growers on the other; but an undertaking was given by the- Government when it reduced the bounty last year that a certain payment would continue for three years. Those engaged in the industry were encouraged to proceed with their activities on the assumption that that assistance would continue for three years. Before the Government is justified in whittling away that bounty, it must show that it is actuated by the strongest reasons. I asked the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), by interjection, whether he regarded this bill as an interference with a contractul obligation, and he replied “ No,” that he thought that the speech of the Minister made it conditional; that the bounty was granted in conformity with an understanding entered into with the growers. But the Wine Bounty Act obliged the Government to give a bounty for three years, without any conditions. Certainly the Minister for Trade and Customs, when introducing the measure, reserved to the Government the right to reduce the bounty if the British preference was increased during the currency of the act. Possibly that may be a justification for the Government reducing the bounty - ^provided that it can show that the British prefer’ence has been .effectively increased so far as it concerns Australian grape producers. But although he spoke at some length last night the Prime Minister failed to convince anybody that that is so. It is easy to test whether Australian wine producers are to receive an additional advantage as a result of the recent alteration of the British preferential tariff. If they are to receive an advantage from the new British preference which is equivalent to the bounty reduction proposed in this bill, the Government has some measure of justification for its action. But if it can be shown that the recent alteration of the British preference means but a little advantage for Australian wine producers, the .Government is without justification for its action. The test is, will the introduction of this bill have any adverse effect upon the grape-growers of Australia?
– Then why are they up in arms against it?
– That is a very pertinent query. Are these people simply contumacious, rising against the Government without due cause? Are they inaugurating an Australian-wide agitation without good grounds? Will our growers suffer any adverse effects as to price or as to the quantity of grapes that will come under the operation of the bounty provisions? In either case, one or other of these points is involved. They would suffer an adverse effect if the operation of this bill reduced the quantity of grapes to which the bounty applied through the reduction in purchases by the winemakers. The bill would certainly have an adverse effect if it lowered the price obtained for grapes. Those who are concerned in the making of wine and in the distillation of spirit in Australia consider that the conditions that will be imposed by this measure will render it uneconomical for them to go on buying grapes as they did before. If, as a result of this bill, those growers cannot produce, or the wine-makers cannot purchase, the same quantity of grapes as heretofore, it will prove that the bill is a breach of faith. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Markets have not demonstrated that the contrary will be the case. The Prime Minister was at great pains last night to prove that the preference granted by Great Britain under the last budget proposals will equalize the reduction in bounties.
– It will more than equalize it.
– I have here a pamphlet which I found in my mail box only this morning. It is a publication issued by the Federal Viticultural Council of Australia, and is dated October, 1927, so that, obviously, it was not compiled with any specific intention to influence the debate now * before the House. Its views may, therefore, be taken as impartial so far a3 they affect this bill. The pamphlet deals particularly with the preference. It asks, “Will preference be effective?” and states -
The new budget duties, by reducing the dividing line between fortified and unfortified wines of foreign origin to 25 degrees of alcoholic strength, was hailed with much satisfaction by those interested in Empire wines, as the change was calculated to give Empire sweet wines, for the first time, a really effective preference of the full money value of 4s. per gallon, by automatically raising the duty on Tarragona and Lisbon wines to 8s. per gallon.
That was the first impression, when the budget proposals were announced. The pamphlet continues -
But while, at first thought, effective Imperial preference seemed assured for Empire wines, a doubt as to whether the shippers of Tarragona and Lisbon wines, who had been so heavily hit, would not devise some method of evading any appreciable portion of the increased duty, was quickly voiced. That this doubt was well founded has been made plain by recent developments. These are so clearly set forth by Messrs Southard and Company Limited, of London, in their circular of June last, that is worthy of quotation. Since the new standards of strength for the lower duty wines were set up,” it is stated, “ shippers of Spanish red and Lisbon wines have lost no time in ascertaining the most practical means of solving, as far as possible, the problem with which they were brought face to face as a result of the budget proposals and they must, we think, be congratulated on the success attained. . . .”
Of course, the more success attained in the solution of their ‘ problem the less effective the imperial preference - “ . . . . for many of them have satisfied themselves and have gone a long way towards convincing merchants on this side that it is quite possible to prepare wines at a strength admissible at the 3s. rate of duty and to guarantee them to arrive sound and in good condition. Beyond this, of course, they cannot be expected to go; but they assure us that, if this low-strength wine is blended judiciously immediately on arrival with a wine of the same character at a strength of, say, 40 degrees, in a proportion that will give a strength of 29 degrees to the blend, it will be equally satisfactory as though shipped at that strength as hitherto.”
We have tried the experiment both with Tarragona and Lisbon wines, and the result is as predicted. The blends that we have tried, and therefore recommend, are three parts of 24 degrees/25 degrees to one part 41 degrees, the duty on which works out at 4s. 3d. per gallon.
We are advised that it is the intention of the Spanish Government to approach the British Government with a proposal that an intermediate rate of duty, namely, 5s.- per gallon, should be established for wines between the strengths of 25 degrees and 30 degrees.
That intermediate duty, if granted, would still further whittle away the imperial preference, but already importers are defeating that preference by importing wines and blending them in England, where they are subject to an average duty of 4s. 3d. per gallon, as compared with the 4s. duty on Australian wines. Thus the effective preference to Australia is reduced to 3d. per gallon. Does not the Prime Minister recognize that in this way the effective preference to Austraiian wines is almost abolished, apart altogether from the competition of socalled British wines? The preference given by the Imperial Government would be adequate if it were all that it seems; but we know that it is being defeated by the blending of imported wines and by the importation of foreign must, which is converted into what are known as British wines. The Tarragona and Lisbon wines, which are imported in large quantities, seriously compete with the Australian product. In regard to foreign must the booklet issued by the Federal Viticultural Council of Australia says -
Another feature of the budget calling for comment was the omission of any duty on imported foreign must, and the imposition of the low duty of ls. per gallon on so-called British wines.
The phrase “ so-called “ is advisedly used, because if these wines were entirely the product of any part of the Empire they would have the same right to consideration as our own wines ; but they are. really the product of foreign countries, and as such should not get any advantage in competition with Empire products under the British preferential scheme. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not in his budget speech claim for these so-called British wines any special consideration on the ground that they are of British origin. Mr. Churchill said -
While the tax collector has hitherto levied his toll on the imported product of every vineyard, a new industry has sprung up . in these islands, where there are no vineyards. That industry is called British wines. Science and enterprise have been able to provide that the juice of the grape should bo imported in an unfermented condition, and thus avoid customs duty. The consumption of British wine has shown a striking increase in the last few years, and in 1926 the production for retail sale amounted to very nearly 1.800,000 gallons.
The Prime Minister stated last night that the quantity produced last year was 2,500,000 gallons-
We may both admire and respect the ingenuity of the process, and yet feel that it is not fair that this product should continue to be immune from the taxes placed upon all other intoxicants. These wines achieve a strength of over 27 degrees in many cases, and they are, I am assured, able to bear a moderate charge. I propose, therefore, that an excise duty of ls. per gallon be placed on British wines.
The circular that I am quoting proceeded to comment -
Surprise was expressed in many quarters that the excise on these British or basis wines should have been fixed at such a low figure as ls. per gallon.
The London Times, for instance, in remarking upon the improved position of Empire wines, said -
There still remains, however, the competition of British-made wines. This wine, which has been sold at a very low price, has acquired considerable popularity in working men’s clubs, and generally in industrial areas of the North of England, and the view is taken that Mr. Churchill, instead of imposing a duty of ls. per gallon, should have made the product pay an equivalent duty to Empire wines of the same alcholic potency. Where this exceeded 27 degrees the duty would then be 4s. a gallon.
If that duty were imposed, and there were adequate means of enforcing some margin of preference against these blended wines, the case against this bill would not be so strong. But because of these factors, which the Government attempts to brush aside as of little consequence, there is no justification for the reduction of the bounty on the ground that such reduction is counterbalanced by the increased British preference. If the Prime Minister could say that the price prevailing now and likely to prevail during the currency of last year’s Wine Export Bounty “Act would be high enough to make the full amount of the existing bounty unnecessary, he would have a good case for the proposed reduction, but he relies on statistics which are six months’ old; he quoted the f.o.b. price at 3s. 4d. per gallon, but actual sales by merchants since then have been at prices about 8d. per gallon less. The Government is depending on very flimsy evidence, indeed, for- justification of its endeavour to correct a grevious blunder in regard to the diversion of grapes from the drying sheds to the distilleries. Although the Minister has not asserted that the bill is introduced for that purpose, that seems to be the reason for it. The Tariff Board and the Development and Migration Commission have called attention to what they regard as an evil arising from the wine bounty. They have pointed out that until a recent date 46,000 tons of grapes had been diverted from the drying sheds to the wine distilleries, and the Tariff Board asserted that the bounty was never intended to have that effect. The Government, perceiving the error of its illbalanced bounty scheme, seeks to correct, it by reducing the amount of the bounty.. If that is the real purpose of the bill,, the Government should frankly say so,, because the difficulty can be overcome by other means which will not cause distressand suffering to those engaged in the industry. Apparently, the Minister justifies this arbitrary reduction of the bounty and repudiation of a solemn contract with the grape-growers and winemakers upon the ground that the industry will not suffer because the increased British preference will give more than compensating aid.
– It has done so.
– Are we to assume that the thousands of growers and their representatives throughout Australia do not understand their own industry or are deliberately lying in regard to it? They say that British preference has not helped them to the extent that the Minister declared, and the honorable member for Riverina has told us that this proposed reduction of the bounty will seriously damage the industry. The honorable member for Wakefield, speaking in strong opposition to the bill, said that it would cause tremendous loss to the industry, and that those losses would be due to an act of deliberate repudiation on the part of the Government. There is no excuse for the action of the Government. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Mr. Scullin) pointed out the Government’s blunder in diverting fresh grapes from dried fruits to wine, the Government should have endeavoured to rectify its error instead of repudiating a solemn contract. The Prime Minister in attempting to reply to that contention ridiculed the suggestion that the dried-fruits industry could have absorbed the 46,000 tons of grapes that were converted into wine. He said that difficulty was experienced in marketing the dried fruits already produced. Granting that that is so, is the market for Australian wine much better?
– Much better.
– Let me examine the Minister’s statement. It was not easy to market the whole of the wine produced, even with the aid of the bounty. Is it not a fact that since the bounty has been operating, 3,000,01/0 gallons of Australian wine has accumulated in London, and that the merchants estimate that it will not be absorbed inside eighteen months? That 3,000,000 gallons is approximately the quantity of wine that would have been produced from the 46,000 tons of fresh grapes which were diverted from the dried-fruits industry. Australia does not supply Great Britain’s whole requirements of either dried fruits or wine. Our dried fruits are in competition with those of California, Greece, and Turkey, and we supply only a small proportion of Britain’s total requirements of wine. The British market could still absorb more of these products than Australia is now supplying. I acknowledge the validity of the Prime Minister’s contention that if the granting of a bounty on dried fruits would merely mean the selling of them at prices lower than those now realized, it would have an adverse effect on the whole output.
– That is what it would have meant.
– It is possible to increase the sales without reducing the price. The Empire Marketing Board is applying its energies to the task of extending the market by means of publicity, grading, and standardization, and if a substantial sum of money had. been made available for promoting the better marketing of our dried fruits, doubtless the sales would have been greatly increased. What is the use of the Empire Marketing Board if we cannot sell to the United Kingdom more fruit than we are selling now? The Development and Migration Commission, dealing with the potential market in the United Kingdom, said -
Australia’s principal market is the United Kingdom, and vigorous efforts arc now being made to push sales in that country, principally by the means of the Australian trade publicity scheme.
The report then gives a table showing the imports of raisins into the United Kingdom during the years 1924, 1925, and 1926. I shall not give all the details; but the table indicates that in 1924 Britain’s total importation of raisins was 58,429 tons, of which Australia supplied only 18,831 tons; in 1925 her imports were 56,368 tons, of which Australia supplied only 17,605 tons, and in 1926 her imports totalled 58,296 tons, of which
Australia supplied 11,093 tons. Those figures do not support the statement made by the Prime Minister last night that the market in the United Kingdam for Australian raisins had been fully exploited. The position in regard to currants is somewhat similar. In this connexion the report’ of the commission states -
The British market takes an average of 00,000 tons of currants per annum; but the demand has fallen off slightly in recent years, as a result of the housewife’s preference for raisins. The following table shows the imports of currants into the United Kingdom for 1924, 1925, and 1920:-
Of the above, the bulk of the imports were obtained from Greece. Australia sold 8,000 tons of currants in the United Kingdom in 1.920, and 4,775 tons in 1927.
I have not worked out what percentage that is of the total; but it is relatively small. There must surely be a larger market for our currants in Great Britain. We ought to be able to place a considerable additional quantity of all our dried fruits there. Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister appears to hold the opinion that we have reached the limit of our expansion in that direction, I submit that the report of the Development and Migration Commission, and also a report of the Tariff Board, which makes some pointed comments on this subject, indicate clearly that we could enlarge our market in the United Kingdom. The wine bounty was never intended to have the effect of diverting fresh fruit to the wineries. The Government has been ill advised, and has blundered seriously in this matter. I think that the industry should have the full measure of assistance which it has received under the wine bounty; but in a different way. The bounty should not have been confined to wine, for that undoubtedly has had the effect of causing good fresh fruit to be dealt with uneconomically. An alteration should be made, not in the amount, but in the nature of the bounty. I submit that Parliament would not be justified without the consent of those concerned in the industries, because of the mistakes that have already been made, in whittling down the bounty. The Government should have proposed an alteration in the incidence of it. It could not then have been charged “with attempting to repudiate its contract “with the industry. As it is, it has certainly laid itself open to that accusation. One would not have expected a proposal of this kind to come from a Government which is always prating about the solemnity of contractual obligations. Ministers and their supporters never tire of talking of the sacredness of written and implied contracts, and should be the last to introduce a bill of this description. This is a gross repudiation, which pays no regard whatever to the welfare of an extensive primary industry which is carried on in three States. “We ought to look upon this proposal as rational and responsible members of this Parliament, and not consider it as a parochial matter which concerns only those honorable members who represent constituencies in which fruit-growing is carried on. Had the Labour party proposed a repudiation of this description, it would have been charged with the grossest disregard for its written undertakings in particular, and the primary producers in general, and would have been held up to public contumely throughout the Commonwealth. But most honorable members opposite seem to have no desire to offer even the mildest protest against this most dishonorable action.
– The sinner repents, and turns from his sin!
– I have yet to discover that this Government has repented and turned from its sins. It has undoubtedly repudiated an honorably made contract, but it shows no inclination to repent of that. It entered into a definite undertaking to provide a bounty upon all wine exported from the Commonwealth for three years, and it has given no substantial reason for attempting to evade the fulfilment of it. It has not been demonstrated that the additional measure of preference which has been granted to Australian sweet wine by the British Government is equal in value to the industry to the amount by which the bounty is being reduced. I should like to hear what some honorable members opposite think about this dishonorable repudiation of a solemn contract.
.- I am under a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who preceded me in this debate. Wittingly or unwittingly he was quite candid about the reason for the strong opposition of the Labour party to the proposals of the Government. By his outburst against the policy of the Government, and the character of his speech generally, he showed clearly that he was making nothing more than a characteristic party attack on the Government, and that his attitude towards the proposal had little to do with the merits of the bounty. I am but little impressed by this new born, and highly suspect sympathy of honorable members opposite for the primary producer. The Labour party has been brought into being, is kept in being; and is elected and controlled by the Trades Halls of the capital cities. It is therefore not only intensely interesting, but very amusing, to find this party, which has been of recent years almost completely repudiated by the primary producers of the country, now shedding tears over the prospective ruin of a section of them. I wonder that the honorable member for Dalley should have sympathy for the primary producers, because at the last general election they showed by their votes that they had very little sympathy with him.
The honorable member spoke to-night of repudiation and the disposition of this side of the House to repudiate sacred pledges. I say to him that had I been re:pudiated as decisively and dramatically as he was by the farmers of North Queensland I could not find it in my heart to show them the sympathy that he has displayed on this occasion. Honorable members opposite seem to see in this debate the possibility of securing a small passing victory over the Government. The question narrows down to a simple and definite issue. A year ago, almost to the very week, this Parliament made a conditional agreement with the wine producers of Australia. The condition laid down by the Minister in charge of the measure was that the bounty then proposed of ls. 9d. a gallon, apart altogether from excise, was to continue for three years unless - and this was a very specific exception - the British Government by a special grant of preference benefited Australia so greatly as to remove the need for it or justify its reduction.
– “Was that included in the bill?
– It was a condition insisted on by the Minister then in charge of the bill. I have watched this matter since that condition was imposed, and it was my intention, had the Government not introduced this bill, to do all I could to bring about a reduction of the bounty. The question narrows down to this : Has the British preference of 4s. a gallon that was given in March last in favour of Australian wines as against the wines of Spain and Portugal been of benefit to Australian producers, and is it worth 9d. a gallon to the Australian wine-maker or grower? Prior to the amendment of the British duties, the total benefit received by the Australian producer was a bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon in Australia, and- a preference of 6d. in Great Britain; in other words, a total of 2s. 3d. To-day that total, under the proposal of the Government, will be 4s. a gallon preference and ls. bounty; 5s. as against 2s. 3d. Will honorable members say that out of this gross advantage of 5s. a gallon we cannot squeeze a net advantage of 9d. a gallon at this end? If we cannot, there is indeed incompetence and inefficiency in the wine industry; but I do not believe that inefficiency or incompetency does exist in the industry, and were it not for this extraordinary wholesale and questionable opposition from the other side of the House there would not be more than a dozen honorable members voting against the Government on this measure.
I admit frankly that the Government has not conclusively shown in pence per gallon what the British preference is worth ; but I ask : Have any of those who are opposed to the proposed reduction of bounty - whether grape-growers, winemakers, or wine exporters in this country, or the honorable member for Angas, or the honorable member for Wakefield, or the members of the Labour party in this House - disproved the benefit of the British preference? Have any of them taken the trouble to get first-hand information on this subject? Have they shown that the British importation of wine from Portugal and Spain has not fallen off, or have they established the fact that the wholesale or retail prices of Australian wines in London have not been increased by the action of the British preference ? Not a vestige of evidence has been given on either of those aspects.
– The honorable member has not followed the case that has been put forward against the Government’s proposal.
– I have closely followed the debate on this bill, and I shall give honorable members actual evidence of the effect of the British preference. The imports into Britain of red wine from Spain and of white wine and red wine from Portugal fell off during 1927 by 1,750,000 gallons. Those are Board of Trade figures, which can be seen by any honorable member. The falling off is remarkable, considering that these new duties have been in operation for only nine months, and that it takes a considerable time to arrest importation because of commitments already entered into, and other reasons. That falling off is the clearest evidence that the British preferential duties have substantially retarded the flow of foreign wine into Great Britain in competition with Australian wine. During the same nine months, however, the importation of Australian wine increased enormously. That is conclusive evidence, and evidence such as honorable members opposite have been saying would convince them of the justice of the Government’s proposals. I submit that evidence to them, and challenge them to disprove it or to place upon it any other construction than I have placed upon it. The Australian wine-grower to-day is infinitely better off with the ls. bounty plus the present British preference than he was previously.
The honorable member for Dalley has asked: Why this agitation and virulent revolt against the Government on this question? I do not believe that the honorable member wishes us to take him seriously. Why should the growers, if they can avoid it, give up a bounty of 9d. a gallon on the export of their wine? It is not human nature to make such a surrender voluntarily. Is there any class in this country that would lightly forego a bounty given to it by a beneficent government ? No. It would be a serious reflection upon its business instincts if a section of the community surrendered a bounty without fighting in defence of it to the last ditch. “We have heard a great deal about the unfortunate grower of grapes and the maker of wines.
– The honorable member should experience the hardships of the grower.
– I grew vines and made wines before the honorable member had heard of this industry. I used to be kept away from school to plant 10 acres of vines, and I spent years in irrigating and growing vines. The honorable member has lectured this House as though we had never heard of wines. I do not say that I know more about wine than he does, but I know something of its production. “We have heard a plea made for this section of the primary producers, but I should like to make a plea for the unfortunate taxpayer. This bounty for the first eight months of its operation has cost the taxpayers the sum of £200,000. On that basis, by the end of the year it will have cost upwards of £250,000 to support this industry. “With the finances of this country in their present serious condition, I say that while being scrupulously fair and just to the growers, as the Government has been to the point of generosity, our justice and generosity should be tempered with mercy to the great body of taxpayers.
The ‘honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) said that the wine-growing industry provides the excise, out of which, in turn, the bounty is paid. I deny that statement emphatically. Neither the wine-maker nor the grape-grower pays a penny of this excise. The wine-maker advances it, but it is actually paid by the consumer. The manufacturer adds it to the price of the product in which he places the fortifying spirit on which it is charged. Who is it pays the excise and customs duties on tobacco the world over? The consumer, of course. Every penny of the wine bounty is paid by the general taxpayers of Australia. The excise is merely a machine of taxation, and the winemakers are the instrument by which the tax is collected.
I do not intend to prolong this discussion in the futile manner adopted by. the honorable member for Angas. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said that more notice should have been given of the Government’s intention to reduce the bounty, and that it was very unfair to reduce the bounty practically in the middle of the season. I remind him, however, that what is being done now is exactly what was done last year, and it did not bring ruin on the industry. The grapegrowers have no reason for complaint provided they receive a profitable price for their grapes, as apparently they have done, and that the wine-makers continue to buy at that price, as apparently they are doing.
– The reduction did not come into operation during the wine season last year. It operated from the 1st September.
– I believe that the honorable member is right ; but I am told that five-sixths of the grape crop is already gathered. The issue is very simple: is this British preference of 4s. a gallon, plus ls. bounty, the equivalent of a bounty of ls. 9d. under the old conditions of preference? As a matter of fact, it is worth more.
– No, it is not.
– On the evidence in the possession of the Government, such as the great falling off of importations of wine from Spain and Portugal, the Government is not only justified in bringing down this measure, but it would have been guilty of a very grave act of injustice to the taxpayers if it had not done so.
.- This subject has been well thrashed out, and the case for’ the industry has been well put by the honorable member for Yarra, and other speakers. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat made the assertion in a very emphatic manner that the party on this side of the House was shedding crocodile tears over the position of the primary producers. I wish to remind him that, whenever this party has had the opportunity, it has passed legislation in the interests of the primary producers. It has recognized that if the country is to be developed, the primary producers must get & fair deal, and provision must be made for settling people on the land. The honorable member, while .condemning this party, made special reference to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). I do not need to say anything more about the honorable member for Dalley than that there has been more legislation passed in Queensland in the interests of the primary producers during the past twelve or fourteen years, than during all the time that Nationalist governments were in power there. That is admitted by the primary producers themselves.
But what has the honorable member himself done to assist the primary producers since he came into this House ? Whenever there has been an opportunity of raising his voice against them he has done so, as he is doing on this occasion. He went so far as to say that if the Government had not brought down this measure he would have taken some action himself. All I wish to say is that any action which he might have attempted would have been futile. I regard this measure as a distinct breach of faith with the primary producers. If I thought that injustice was being done to the taxpayers by a continuation of the bounty on the present terms, I should certainly raise my voice against it. I maintain however, that we are misleading the producers when we pass legislation with the apparent intention that the act shall continue in operation for a given time, and then, before that time has elapsed, make serious alterations which materially affect the conditions upon which the growers were relying. The bounty was first granted to assist those who are growing grapes for drying and for wine making, and it has proved successful for that purpose. So much is generally admitted. The honorable member states, however, that this proposed reduction is justified because the Minister who introduced the bill- remarked in a casual way in the course of his speech on it that if certain things happened in regard to British preference the Government might take the action which is now proposed. How many of the growers in Australia would know that any such statement was made, or how many members of this House placed any reliance on it? How often do we, in the course of our speeches, make some remarks as to what might happen in the future, without significence being attached to it by any one outside the House?
By passing the Wine Export Bounty Act last year we undoubtedly induced many men to go on the land, including many returned soldiers. They accepted the act at its face value, and believed that it would remain in operation for at least three years. This bill, if passed will be a keen disappointment to those men. If the British preference does not work out as the Government claims, many of the grape growers will be practically ruined. Some of them were probably using their land for other purposes, but when the bounty came into operation they planted grapes, and anticipated obtaining a return in a year or two. Now, when their vines are planted and their money spent, the prospects of the industry are being entirely changed. The honorable member for Henty has in the past spoken a great deal about the need for encouraging immigration, but how are we to absorb the people we bring here if we do not open up the land, and keep faith with those whom we put upon it? There are already many returned men on the land who are unable to meet their obligations, and the House is now being asked to do something which will very greatly increase the number. The honorable member contended that because of British preference, the growers will be in the same position after the bounty is reduced as they are in to-day; but no one can prove that.
It is extremely doubtful what the result of the preference will be. Why should we rush in and reduce the bounty until it has been proved that British preference will give the assistance claimed for it. The Prime Minister said that the production of wine in England from imported grape juice was very small, only “about 2,000,000 gallons a year, but he forgot to say that that is nearly as much as we ourselves are exporting. We are not supplying one-ninth of the requirements of the English market. We have yet to win a place for our wine there, and how are we to do it if we pass legislation the effect of -which will be to increase the advantage held by other countries? It may be possible in the near future successfully to pasteurize wine in countries adjacent to England. If that can be done, such wine can be sent in at a strength of 25 degrees, thus enabling it to evade the higher rate of duty, and to sell in competition with Australian wines. We should be guided by experience. How many times have we passed tariff items in this House, only to find that the foreigners were so keen to get our trade that they quickly discovered means of evading the duties imposed ? Are we going to sit idly by and lose the wine trade which we have built up in Great Britain? If it is possible to get wine into England at 25 degrees strength the foreigners will do it. I am the last mau who would wish to throw away the taxpayers’ money, but I claim that Parliament is not justified in entering into an agreement with the people growing fruit, and then altering the terms of the agreement without knowing what the effect on the industry will be. I wonder how many vignerons made contracts for the disposal of their wines, having in mind the prevailing conditions. I was told of one corporation that contracted for no less than 60,000 gallons of wine. That corporation will be ruined if it has to carry out its contract, and it must be borne in mind that the corporation concerned represents the growers themselves, who will have to bear the loss. Can the Government justify the sudden cutting down of the provisions of the Wine Export Bounty Act, which we know has been beneficial to the industry ? It is probable that, six months after this bill is carried, Australia will lose her wine market abroad, which will be a great blow to our primary producers. This Government is constantly expressing a desire to put more people on the land, and it is bringing many from the Old Country for that purpose. Yet, at the same time, it proposes to cut away a provision which has enabled many men to make good on the land. If, in a couple of years, it is found that this bounty is unsatisfactory to the general taxpayer, it will need amendment; but there is nothing to-day to indicate that it is so. We know that there are from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wine in store in England - a year’s output. Can it be expected that those dealing in wine will buy the growers’ output from the next vintage when they are not sure as to what will be the effect of this legislation? This House should be very careful, indeed. I and my party will stand by the primary producers, and do everything we can to encourage land settlement in Australia. That is the best way to find employment for our people. To-day we have the spectre of thousands of unemployed throughout Australia, and it is probable that the passage of this bill will add to the number. For those reasons, I shall oppose the measure.
– The main arguments which have been advanced against this bill included the statement that, along with the wine bounty, the Commonwealth Government should pay a concurrent bounty to dried fruit growers. It was said that this reduction in the wine bounty is not justified, on. the ground that the alteration of the British preference has not yet been proved to be to our advantage. A further statement was that the growers’ interests will suffer if this bill is passed. I shall take up the time of the House for a little while to deal with those three issues.
When bounties are paid, whether on wine or any other exported commodity, the policy of the Government is to assist the exporting industries concerned, first, to gain a footing on a new market, and, secondly, to cope with such temporary difficulties, as. those industries may not be sufficiently well established, to overcome without assistance. Dealing with the dried-fruits industry, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) with that passion for mathematical problems which distinguishes him, endeavoured to prove that the Commonwealth Government would have saved an immense amount of money had it adopted the practice of paying a bounty for driedfruits growers rather than to help growers of fruit which went into wine. In 1924, the dried-fruits industry was then in a most unsatisfactory condition. Credit was almost unobtainable, and had it not been for assistance extended to it by this Government, many engaged in the industry would have failed. The Commonwealth Government came to the rescue, not by means of a direct bounty as suggested by the honorable member for Yarra, but by making to those engaged in the industry advances on their products to the extent of, in round figures, £200,000. The bill providing for the advances required that they should be repaid to the Government during succeeding years, if those in the industry obtained for subsequent crops the cost of production and something in addition. For a year or so after 1924, the dried-fruits industry- still did not enjoy good prices, and when the time came for the repayment of the advances, the Commonwealth Government decided that it would not be in the interests of the industry to demand its pound of flesh. It, therefore, appointed a committee, which examined the position of the growers, investigating the returns obtained through their packing sheds. The inquiry showed that while the majority of those men had considerable assets, nevertheless to have to repay their advances would mean that they would have to part with much of their working capital. The Commonwealth Government thereupon decided to write off approximately £180,000 of the £200,000 advanced. Honorable members must, therefore admit that this Government has done a good deal to assist the driedfruits industry and to set it on its feet. In addition, as was mentioned by the Prime Minister last night an export marketing board was set up to inaugurate a general marketing policy with regard to export sales of dried fruit. The work of that board has been particularly successful, and it is safe to say that there is not another exporting industry which is so well organized from an overseas market-‘ ing stand-point. When the Tariff Board was asked whether there should be a continuance or otherwise of the wine bounty as from the 31st August last, it was simultaneously asked to decide whether a bounty should be paid to the dried fruit growers. I remember very distinctly a deputation of dried fruitgrowers, which waited on me and submitted the proposal that they intended to put before the Tariff Board. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that their proposal was that a bounty of £10 a ton should be paid, not on sultanas, but on currants and lexias, to taper away so that nothing would be paid in the event of that fruit realizing £30 per ton in the sweat box. If it realized only £20, £10 would be paid; if £25, £5; if £29, £1; and so on. The Tariff Board turned down their application. That may be regarded as one argument in favour of the Government not granting a bounty, but it is not on that ground that I shall approach the matter. Subsequent events have proved that the recommendation of the Tariff Board was justified. Last year the average of the Australian and overseas prices for currants, in the sweat boxes, was approximately £30 per ton. That is the amount which the growers regarded as being sufficiently high to make bounty unnecessary. The position was even better so far as lexias were concerned.
– What was the export price of lexias and currants?
– I have not the figures with me, but I will obtain and supply them to the honorable member. The grower is not concerned so much with what the prices happen to be in Australia or overseas, as with the price he will receive on the average. Surely the prices mentioned prove that a bounty was unnecessary for last year.
– They prove nothing of the kind.
– If the honorable member will turn to this year, he will find that the position is even better. We have a very short crop of currants, largely . owing to the frosts, which affected the vines in the Murray Valley and elsewhere, and it is fairly safe to say that the realization of this year’s crop in the sweat box will average in the neighbourhood of £40 for currants. No one could suggest with justification that a bounty is necessary with a payable price such as that.
The honorable member for Yarra argued that, .owing to the wine bounty, the price paid by the distiller was sufficiently high to provide an incentive to the grower to send his crops to the distillery rather than to sell them as dried fruits. There is some truth in that assertion, and that position did obtain some time ago. But it does not obtain to-day, when there is a direct incentive to the dried fruits grower to market his product as dried fruits rather than to send it to the distillery. The point which the honorable member for Yarra overlooked was that even if growers through the incentive of a bounty had put additional quantities of dried fruits on the market rather than send the fruit in its raw state to the distillery, that could not be done without affecting the the market and the prices obtaining on that market. Only last Monday I was speaking to a very able commercial man in Melbourne, one of the commerical representatives on the Dried Fruits Export Control Board. I asked him - “In the event of a considerable quantity of the fruit which went in a raw state to the distilleries having been dried and sent away as dried fruits, what would have been the effect so far as the dried fruits market was concerned ?” He said that that would have had a very depressing affect on the market, and that there would be considerable difficulty in disposing of the additional quantity. As it was, considerable difficulty was , experienced in disposing of the record dried fruits crop of 1927. Those fruits which are sent in a green state to the distillery are generally low grade, and this has the effect of raising the average grade of the fruit exported in its dried state, and of improving prices all round. The prices which we did obtain would undoubtedly have been very adversely affected had considerable quantities of the grapes which were converted into wine been converted, instead, into dried fruits.
The price of £6 10s. per ton paid by the distillers to the growers is equivalent to £22 15s. per ton of dried fruits, and as the price actually realized for dried fruits was about £30 per ton in the sweat box, it is obvious that it paid the grower to convert his grapes into dried fruits, rather than send them to the distillery. This year the difference will be considerably greater, and any grower who has .not contracted to sell to the distilleries would be foolish, indeed, to sell for wine-making currants and lexias which are suitable for processing as dried fruits.
– Why was 25,000 tons of drying grapes diverted to the distilleries last year? »
– Some of it was sent by growers, who did not realize what the final result of the year’s trade would be. It is doubtful if any of them expected that by the end of the year the average price would be about £30 per ton, and adopting the maxim that “ a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” they sent their grapes to the distillery; but had the fruit been ‘converted into currants and lexias they would have done better, provided, of course, that the price did not depreciate. Quite likely, however, the price would have fallen had considerably larger quantities of dried fruits been put on the market. I remind the honorable member for Yarra that the prices’ obtained for currants and lexias have improved considerably since he visited Mildura about twelve months ago. Although on that occasion he formed a conclusion as to the desirability, and even the necessity, for paying a bounty on dried fruits, the prospects this year in regard to both currants and lexias promise a very good return to the producer, and make a bounty unwarrantable.
The honorable member for Capricornia urged that the Commonwealth Government should press the British Government to make an even more liberal grant of preference to Australian dried fruits. He should have been the last to make such a proposal, in view of the fact that in 1924 he and his colleagues neglected a golden opportunity to get a very substantial preference for those commodities. In that year the Imperial Economic Conference recommended that a preference of £10 per ton should be given to dominion dried fruits. The duty then in operation was £10, and all that was required was to remove it from Empire fruits, and allow it to continue to operate against the products of foreign countries. Immediate effect would have been given to that recommendation had the Baldwin Government remained in office, but when the Ramsay MacDonald Government came into power the preference proposals were reviewed. When this item was taken to a division in the House of Common’s it was rejected by the narrow -margin of four votes. Honorable members opposite were asked to exert their influence with their confreres in the British Parliament to get the preference granted, and, I believe, had they chosen to do so they could have converted the narrow minority of four votes into a majority.
– Baldwin has a majority of hundreds now. Why .does he not increase the preference %
– I shall show that the Baldwin Government has done all that it possibly could do in that direction. The Ramsay MacDonald Government reduced the duty on foreign fruits to £7, and a very trifling preference of about 30s. was given to the dominions. At the next appeal to the British electors Mr. Baldwin’s party was returned to power with an overwhelming majority, but it had given a pledge to the people that in no circumstances would it increase taxation on foodstuffs during the lifetime of the new Parliament. Immediately, however, it did what it could, within the limits of .that undertaking, by removing the duty so far as it applied to dominion products. It ill becomes honorable members opposite to reproach this Government for not having done everything possible to get the British Government to increase the preference to Australian dried fruits. This Government has done all that was humanly possible for it to do, and the Baldwin Government gave to us the maximum preference possible without breaking its pledges to the electors, but members of the Labour party in this House did not so much as lift their little finger when a golden opportunity to assist the primary producers presented itself in 1924.
Honorable members opposite have declared that the Government has proposed to reduce the bounty by 9d. because it is alarmed at the size of the payments under this legislation. That is not the reason, although in truth the bounty payments are very large. This afternoon the honorable member for Angas contended that they were ‘considerably less than the excise collections. Undoubtedly that is so, if we take into account all the years back to 1918, but the point has been reached when the bounty payments largely exceed the present excise collections. For the year ended the 30th June, 1927, the payments exceeded the total excise collections on fortifying spirit by £7,000, the collections having been £435,000, and the bounty payments £442,000. For the eight months of the current financial year the figures were even more startling, the excise collections having amounted to £184,000, and th* bounty payments to £452,000. It is only fair to say, however, that during the next four months that £184,000 will be largely increased by the excise collections during the vintage season; nevertheless, the bounty expenditure” for this year will again exceed by a considerable amount the excise collections. I do not put that fact forward in support of a reduction of the bounty; I merely point to the magnitude of these payments. The only reason why the Government has proposed a reduction is that since April last an undoubted advantage has been given to us by the British Government. The Government delayed taking action only because it wanted to be satisfied that the wine industry would get that advantage, and that our competitors would not find means of evading the preference which the Imperial Parliament has given to us.
The statement has been made that the proposed reduction is an act of repudiation on the part of the Government. Last night the honorable member for Angas quoted a statement by the Tariff Board, but I propose now to read the board’s recommendation -
The board considers further that if during the currency of the bounty any increase is made -in the measure of tariff preference granted in Great Britain to the Australian sweet wines exported under bounty, the amount of the bounty should be reduced by the amount of the increases in the preference so granted.
The Minister for Trade and Customs, when speaking in March of last year on the bill to amend the Wine Export Bounty Act, made it clear to the House and the industry that the Government reserved to itself the right to ask Parliament to reduce the bounty during the currency of the act, in the event of the British Government doing something to improve the position of Australian exporters in relation to continental competitors. In, addition, I have several times this year, when meeting representatives of the wine industry in conference in regard to export organization, reminded them of the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the tremendous advantage they now enjoy in regard to British preference and the improbability of the bounty remaining at the present figure. Therefore it cannot be said that the wine-makers were ignorant of the Government’s intention.
– In what way did the Minister remind them?
– Three or four times, in conference with the members of the Viticultural Council, a body which represents the wine-makers, I went out of my way to remind them of Mr. Pratten’s warning and of the improvement of British preference, and told them not to expect that the bounty would remain much longer at its then figure. In those circumstances the suggestion of repudiation is quite unwarranted. One can understand, however, the heat which that word engendered in the mind of the honorable member for Dalley; one has not to seek far back in our political history to find the reason for that. Its application, however, to this wine bounty was not only a terminological inexactitude, but a gross misuse of the English language.
Honorable members opposite have challenged me to show in what way the effective British preference to Australian wines has improved, and if they are open to conviction I hope to prove to them that the present conditions are more advantageous to the winemakers than were those in March of last year when the wine bounty was reduced from 2s. 9d. to1s. 9d., plus drawback. In March of last year, when the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced the bill which had the effect of reducing the bounty from 2s. 9d. to la. 9d. per gallon it was agreed, even by the wine-makers, that our actual preference was only 6d. per gallon on wines of about 34 degrees, on which we had to pay a duty of 2s., and which had to enter into competition with somewhat weaker wines of just under 30 degrees manufactured in Portugal, on which a duty of only 2s. 6d. per gallon had to be paid. These wines being just under the 30 degrees mark, paid the lower rate for foreign wines, whereas our wines, being over the 30 degrees mark, had to pay the higher rate for Empire wines.
But the following month the Chancellor of the British Exchequer introduced a budget which led to alterations of a fundamental character in the wine duties. It is true that the rates were raised from1s. 6d. Empire and 2s. 6d. foreign for light wines, to 2s. Empire and 3s. foreign ; and from 2s. Empire and 6s. foreign for heavy wines, to 4s. Empire and 8s. foreign. But, what was of far more importance to us, was that the line of demarcation was altered so that wines of the Tarragona class, which formerly were admitted at 2s. 6d. per gallon, had to pay the higher rate of 8s. per gallon. The result to us was that instead of obtaining an actual preference of 6d. per gallon, we received the full benefit of the 4s. difference between the two rates.
It has been aaid that, in consequence of the successful blending of low and high strength wines by the continental winemakers, we have lost the benefit of this preference; but the blending of such wines on a commercial scale has not been successful. It was partly on account of the possibility of this being done that the Government did not, immediately after the introduction of the British budget, reduce the rate of bounty. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) has stated to-night that, according to a report in a London journal, 3 gallons of wine of a strength of 25 degrees had been successfully blended with 1 gallon of wine of a strength of 42 degrees, giving a blended wine of between 28 and 29 degrees, which is about the strength of the original Tarragona wine, on which the average duty would be 4s. 3d. per gallon. He also read an extract dealing with this point from a pamphlet published by the Federal Viticultural Council; but he did not read far enough down the page. The part of the extract which he omitted to read is as follows : -
It will be seen from the above that the position in regard to the effectiveness of the Imperial preference is still obscure, and will remain in doubt for some time. If the shippers of Tarragona and Lisbon wines can do what has been suggested on a large scale, then the preference on Empire wines will be cut down.
It is still highly problematical whether this blending can be done on a commercial scale. The honorable member appeared to accept that it had been an undoubted success, but this publication says, “If the shippers of Tarrangona and Lisbon wines can do what has been suggested on a large scale,” the blended product will enter into serious competition with our wines. The evidence which the Government has received is that the experiments which have been made to blend high and low strength wines have been unsuccessful, and have involved the persons who conducted them in heavy losses.
– Will the Minister read to the bottom of the page from which he quoted ?
– I shall make my speech in my own way. When the practicability of blending high and low strength wines was first referred to it was suggested that 3 gallons of low-strength wine could be successfully blended with 1 gallon of high-strength wine. A little later we were told that attempts were being made to blend 2 gallons of low-strength wine with 1 gallon of high-strength wine, which clearly shows that the first attempts to blend these wines were unsuccessful. When the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) made his speech a few days ago, he read an extract from a letter which he had received from the president of the Viticultural Council, which took into consideration the possibility of successfully blending only 1 gallon of low-strength wine with 1 gallon of high-strength wine. The duty which would be payable on such a blended wine would be 5s. 6d. per gallon. The president of the Viticultural Council observed that if this could be done it would have the result of reducing our preference to only ls. 6d. per gallon. When the bounty was ls. 9d. per gallon we enjoyed an effective preference of only 6d. per gallon. If it were practicable to market a blended wine such as that referred to by the president of the Viticultural Council, the wine-makers” would still be ls. per gallon better off under the revised bounty than they were when the bounty of ls. 9d. was introduced.
– The Minister’s arithmetic is at fault.
– It is not. I submit that on the admission of the president of the Viticultural Council, and on the assumption that a blend of 1 gallon of low” strength with 1 gallon of high strength wine could be made upon a commercial scale the wine-makers would still be ls. per gallon better off under the reduced bounty than they were when the Wine Export Bounty Bill was introduced last year. Let me emphasize another point. When the Secretary of State for the Dominions (Mr. Amery) was in Australia some time ago, he made it quite clear to us that if our continental competitors were able to evade the payment of the higher duty by blending their wines, and so nullifying the advantage that we now enjoy, the Chancellor of the British Exchequer could be trusted to take such steps as would regain for us the preference which the British Government intended that we should enjoy. ‘
The correctness of certain figures I quoted relative to the price of wine has been challenged. It was said that I was not justified in saying that the average price of Australian wine f.o.b. during recent months was 3s. 4d. per gallon. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said the figure was nearer 2s. 8d. per gallon. I remind the House that last night the honorable member for Angas admitted that our wines were selling at from 9s. 6d. to 10s. per gallon in London. To ascertain the price in Australia we need to deduct 4s. per gallon for the duty, and ls. lOd. per gallon for wood and freight, which gives a total of 5s. lOd. If we subtract that from 10s. we have 4s. 2d.,’ and if we subtract it from 9s. 6d. we have 3s. 8d. Consequently, I submit that my figures were not at all inflated. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. They cannot in one breath argue that the price of Australian wine f.o.b. .is only ‘2s. 8d. per gallon, and in the next breath demonstrate that it must be anything from 3s. 8d. to 4s. 2d. per gallon.
We have been told that if this reduction is made in the bounty the wine-makers will be ruined, but cert.ain wine-makers have, perhaps, injudiciously, admitted that if 9d. per gallon is taken off the bounty it will take, away a great part of their profits. They do not say that it will take away the whole, but only a part of their profit. It surely cannot be contended that the Commonwealth Government should pay bounties simply to make small profits into large ones.
The honorable member for Angas has championed the view that the wine industry is carrying a tremendous load in the shape of revenue duties. Let me remind him that if the spirit in wine is taxed at 5s. per gallon for doradillo spirit, and 6s. per gallon for other spirit, it is still very lightly taxed compared with whisky, upon which a tax of 26s. per gallon must be paid. A tax of ls, 9d. per gallon has to be paid on beer which has only one-quarter of the alcoholic content of our sweet wines, the tax upon the spirit content of which is only in the neighbourhood of ls. 3d. per gallon. The tax levied upon sweet wine is, in consideration of the amount of spirit it contains, very small compared with that which is imposed on other alcoholic liquors. Further, the whole of the ls. 3d. per gallon is returned to the wine-maker in the event of the wine being exported. There is no taxation on exported sweet wines; nor are dry wines taxed, whether exported or not. Yet these wines contain more alcohol than does beer, which is taxed to the extent of ls. 9d. per. gallon. Instead of being heavily burdened by taxation, the wine industry has received generous treatment compared with that meted out to the producers of whisky and beer. The tax of ls. 3d. per gallon on the wine consumed locally represents about 2£d. per bottle. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) said that the tax was imposed as a war measure, and he inferred that, now that the war was over, the tax should no longer be levied. I remind him that the Commonwealth has to carry, for another generation at least, a war liability of £30,000,000 per annum. Surely, in such circumstances, a tax on alcoholic liquors for revenue purposes is justified.
Although the Prime Minister showed clearly the greatly improved prices realized by grape-growers during recent years, time and again we have heard the remark, “ What about the primary producer - the grape-growers?” So long as his grapes are purchased, the grower hardly comes into this controversy at all. One condition underlying the payment of the bounty is that a remunerative price must be paid to the grower of the grapes. Seeing that the prices of grapes this year are not less remunerative than those of last year, it cannot be said that the Government has neglected the interests of the growers.
– The grower was starving.
– I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that that was their condition until the Commonwealth Government stepped in.
– Until the bounty was paid.
– So far as the competition of continental wines is concerned, the position to-day, compared with that of a year ago, is that a preference then worth 6d. a gallon is now worth 4s. a gallon.
Let us now consider the competition . our wines have to meet from wine manufactured in Britain. These so-called British wines are manufactured in Britain from must obtained from continental countries. Honorable members generally will agree that it is not a purely, British industry, whereas Empire wines are Empire-grown, as well as Empiremade. In dealing with this matter we do well to consider it from the stand-point of the British Government, which naturally regards the British wine-making industry as one in which . British capital is invested. British wines pay a tax of ls. per gallon excise. The British preferential tariff in respect of our wines is 4s. a gallon - an apparent difference of 3s. a gallon. Not one speaker who has made that point has shown that, so long as the ls. 9d. bounty remained, the actual advantage was only ls. 3d. per gallon. That difference cannot be regarded as insuperable when we take into consideration the quality and higher spirit content of our wines. The winemakers of this country desire that the excise duty on this so-called British wine shall be increased. Indeed, the Viticultural Council has made representations to Great Britain to that effect, and has pointed out that Australian wines are Empire grown as well as Empire made. The greatest obstacle in the way of an additional excise on British wine is the existence of the bounty of ls. 9d. per gallon paid to Australian wine-makers. In determining whether an increased excise duty should be charged on wine made in Britain, the British Government would naturally take into consideration the bounty paid by the Australian Government. In my opinion the most practical gesture we can make to the British Government, if we desire that the excise duty on British wines shall be increased, is to- reduce to a reasonable amount the bounty we pay.
– According to that line of reasoning, the abolition of the bounty would result in the British excise duty being increased.
– The honorable member will admit that the argument is perfectly sound. I repeat that the greatest obstacle in the way of getting an additional excise duty imposed in Great Britain is the existence of so large a bounty in Australia, which, to a great extent, neutralizes the difference between conditions in Great Britain and in Australia.
I desire now to say a few words regarding the future of this industry. A good deal has been made of the fact that between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 gallons of Australian wines have accumulated in Great Britain. It is significant that the importation of foreign wines inco Britain last year was considerably less than the quantity of such wines consumed. It is clear, therefore, that the stocks on hand in Great Britain are being drawn upon. That naturally raises the question of the replacement of those stocks. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his budget into the House of Commons last April, there was in bond in Great Britain about one and a half million gallons of Continental wines which, ordinarily, would have had to pay a duty of 2s. 6d. a gallon. But when the duty was raised from 2s. 6d. to Ss. a gallon it was realized that a hardship would be imposed on Continental wine-makers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore compromised by reducing the duty on. the wine in bond to 5s. per gallon. Our wine, under a tariff of 4s. a gallon, had to ‘ compete with a considerable quantity of Continental wine which was released from bond under a duty of 5s. a gallon. That was ls. a gallon more than our wine and represented only 6d. a gallon more than the difference which we enjoyed prior to the alteration of the tariff. That Continental wine has gone largely into consumption, and the British merchants have to replace their stocks from elsewhere.-
– They are replacing them with British wines.
– It is an indisputable fact that British wines do not compare at all favorably with our wines. They contain at least 10 per cent, less” spirit, and are not in the same class at all. The wines that really compare with ours in class and strength will, m future, bear a duty of 8s. a gallon. It is absolutely unthinkable that the merchants of Great Britain will buy large quantities of wine under a tariff of 8s. a gallon when they can obtain Australian wines of a similar class under a tariff of 4s.
– Would our wines be sold as Australian wines? They cannot be found in London.
– I cannot say. I am satisfied that if our wine industry were organized on an efficient basis as is. the dried fruits industry, it would be’ possible to advertise our wines to the British public as Australian sweet wines, comparing favorably in quality and strength with those of other countries. The Government is satisfied that this industry can be materially improved by better organization. Its overhead expenses are admittedly too high, and it has, unfortunately,- been content to follow a certain rut simply because it has been receiving a generous bounty. The Government is satisfied on the facts that an enormous benefit under British preference is now being and will continue to be enjoyed by Australian wine-makers. A reduction in the bounty is a necessary step before we can reasonably expect an increase in excise on British wines. The Government believes that if the wine makers organize the industry efficiently, they will be able to pay to the growers the remunerative prices that are set out in the price lists, and, at the same time, make their business profitable under the reduced bounty.
I wish now to refer to our exports of wine to Canada, and future contracts. The position in , Canada is entirely different from that in Great Britain. In some cases, we are on even terms with other countries. We enjoy exactly the same preference as does France, but we are at a disadvantage in competing with Spanish wines of similar class but rather lower spirit content than our own, and to get a footing in that market, it has been suggested that the Government should retain the old bounty of1s 9d. a gallon so far as exportation to Canada is concerned. The Commonwealth Government recognizes that this is a reasonable request, and proposes to submit an amendment to honorable members at the committee stage. The Government is also impressed with representations made that the 1927 vintage should receive special consideration, and that, if possible, something should be done to grant the old bounty on that vintage. That is a tremendously difficult and complicated proposal, because in Australia there are no distinct vintages. In a very short time the 1927 vintage will be mixed with the 1926 and 1925 vintages and thus lose its identity. It is almost an impossibility to distinguish one vintage from another. To endeavour to do full justice to the wine-makers, the Government has decided not to proceed beyond the secondreading stage at present, so that a full investigation may be made regarding the 1927 vintage.
There is one other point. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) to-day stated that the drawback was inadequate, and instead of being1s. 3d. it should be 1s. 7d. a gallon. About a week or a fortnight ago, a member of a deputation which waited on me made the same suggestion. I pointed out to him that the Government had no wish to tax exported wines, or to collect one single penny in taxation from that source. I said that if he could substantiate his case that a drawback of1s. 3d. a gallon did not fully cover the excise paid on spirit contained in exported wines, the Government would be willing to increase the drawback. I give that assurance to the honorable member for Indi, but I would point out to him that the average between the taxation on doradilla spirit and that on spirit made from grapes other than doradilla is about 5s. 6d. There is about 23 per cent. of spirit in exported wine, and that percentage of 5s. 6d. amounts to about 1s. 3d. However, if the industry can make its case good, the Commonwealth Government will be willing to increase the drawback to cover the excise paid or spirit contained in exported wines.
Question - That the bill be now reada second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
The following bills were received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Bruce) read a first time: -
Beer Excise Bill.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests, resumed from the 27th March, vide page 4174) :
Item 112 (Apparel or attire, including furs ) .
Insert after sub-item (a), the following - “By omitting the whole of sub-item (b) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: -
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved -
That the requested amendment be made.
.- I desire to support the proposal before the Committee for the imposition of a duty on imported skins which have been partially treated. Some speakers have said that the duty on dressed skins is too high, or, alternatively, that the duty on the finished furs is too low.While is is proposed to put a duty of 40 per cent. on partially dressed skins, the duty on finished furs is 55 per cent., and I point out that the apparent margin of 15 per cent. is really greater than it looks. To that margin has to be added the cost of labour, the profit of the manufacturer, and freight and other charges paid on the imported skins. The position has been much the same for some time past in regard to overcoats, and if I remember rightly my friends on the opposite side supported the tariff of 35 per cent. and 45 per cent. on imported tweeds. On imported overcoats invoiced at 30s., a flat rate of 12s. 6d. duty is imposed which amounts to a 40 per cent. but on a 40s. coat the duty works out at only 30 per cent. ; or a coat invoiced at 50s. the duty is 25 per cent.With a duty of 40 per cent. on treated skins. there is, according to the arguments put forward by members of the Opposition, little margin between the raw skins and the finished fur coats. Nevertheless, I contend that there is an actual margin, and that the furriers are 15 per cent. better off than the coat makers, who I understand are doing a thriving business at the present time. In Sydney there is a firm called Furs Limited, which is employing about 80 hands, and I have been assured on good authority that the management consider that this duty is absolutely necessary for the extension of the business. This firm not only treats the skins, but is making up fur coats, and other articles of apparel. One of the most striking things I have come across in regard to this matter is a statement published in the British Fur Trade, of October, 1927, from a gentleman named Mr S. Biber, who gave a special interview to the paper. He said -
Australians propose to develop their fur trade in their own way, behind their tariff wall, without undue regard for the tears of British or other outside competitors. . . . “We are beginning to build our industries, as distinguished from agriculture, fruitgrowing, trapping, and so on,” he said, “ and we shall go on doing this as occasion offers, using our own raw materials for our own manufacturers’ benefit first instead of sending them all over the earthto be returned to us as finished articles. . . . For a long time past it has seemed absurd to us out there that we should export raw rabbit-skins, sending them right across the world, to be returned to us dressed and dyed conies for our manufacturers. To a firm like my own - Biber Furs Limited, which is not only a manufacturing but a merchant concern, making up goods as well as importing the material from outsideit has appeared especially grotesque. . .
It certainly appears grotesque to me that this gentleman, although he made such a statement for publication in England, is now one of those most actively engaged in trying to prevent this proposed duty from being imposed. Dealing with the proposals to cut out the middle man, he said - “ So we determined to buy and dress and dye our own rabbit skins and make them up, cutting out all heedless middlemen and transport and other charges which put up the price of fur goods to the Australian customer. We are now about to do this; and the organization of the project is one of the reasons for my trip to Europe.”
In the 8th paragraph of this article he says’ this -
A stiff tariff, argues Mr. Biber, is essential to the up-building of a self-contained or nearly self-contained Australian fur trade, and this is their ideal.
The statement concludes with this paragraph, which I submit for the consideration of my frends on the Opposition - “ The Australian workmen will support the idea of a prohibitive tariff; so will thefur trade as a whole. We have a fine esprit de corps in the trade there - finer, I think, than you have here. Our association is representative, and we work together most amicably. We all believe in the future of Australia and of its fur trade. Not only do we look forward to a heavy tax on dressed and dyed rabbit skins coming into Australia, but we shall press for an excise or export duty on raw rabbit skins going out of Australia, so as to prevent our competitors from getting, for so little as in the past, a raw material which has been bred at the cost of the Australian farmer and the public at large.”
In view of such an extraordinary statement as that, I ask whether there is any reason why we should take these gentlemen seriously in their attempt to defeat the Government’s proposals.
– Would it not be fair to increase the duty on fur apparel?
– I think that the duty is sufficient now. Does the honorable member, as a good protectionist - and I call him that because he has been one of the consistent members of the House on this point - think that it is right for an industry which is only making up furs to have a tariff of 55 per cent., while the furrier, who is trying to build up a trade in Australia for the treatment of rawskins, should have no protection at all? If he is prepared, with the rest of his party, to vote with the Government on this proposal, I am prepared to give him my support to ‘ increase the duty of 55 per cent, on fur apparel if that duty does not prove sufficient. As a protectionist I desire to do the fair thing by the manufacturing furriers in Australia, and I expect my honorable friends opposite to give the same sympathetic consideration to that section of the industry which has to do with the raw material. I trust that the item will be passed without further delay.
.- -I intend to support the request. The industry which will be protected under this item is likely to develop into an important one. If I feared that the effect of these duties would be as indicated by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) yesterday, I should not support it. He suggested that the duties would bring about a reduction in the value of undressed rabbit skins in Australia. I can see no reason for that fear ; but there is one aspect of the proposal that causes me some concern. The Minister (Mr. Latham) pointed out that, under this item, it would be possible te introduce undressed skins from China, Belgium or France, free of duty. That would be very undesirable. The rabbit in Australia is an acknowledged pest. It has devastated immense areas of valuable pastoral country. Rabbits cost the primary producers of the Commonwealth about £5,000,000 per annum. We export about 100,000,000 rabbit skins a year, and basing my estimate on my knowledge of the cost of feeding a rabbit as against the cost of feeding a sheep, and the relative values of rabbit skins and the wool and carcase of a sheep, I can say with every confidence that the rabbit costs our primary producers the sum that I have mentioned. It is not at all likely that the new industry, which it is hoped will be built up under these duties, will be worth anything like that figure to the Commonwealth. In any case, I see no reason why the requested amendment should not include undressed skins also. If this is done, it will have my wholehearted support.
– I understand, from inquiries that I have made, that no undressed rabbit skins are imported.
– I am aware of that, but last night the Minister said that there was nothing to prevent manufacturers from importing undressed skins free of duty. The only fear I have is that the skins of Belgian and Chinese rabbits may, under certain conditions, come into competition with Australian rabbit skins. Is there any reason why undressed skins should not be included in the request?
– Yes; the intention is to encourage the dressing of these skins in Australia.
.- I propose to say only a few words in support of the item. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) endeavored to make it appear that the three honorable members who had spoken from this side, were opposed to the duties. That is not the case. There has not been one speech from this side in opposition to the item. It bas been suggested that the duties will interfere Avith the protection now enjoyed by the manufacturing furriers of New. South Wales. Honorable members on this side contend that the Government should, simultaneously with the passing of this item, increase the duties oh the manufactured wearing apparel. We, at least, are consistent iii our advocacy of protection for Australian industries. In this respect we differ from some other honorable members, and particularly representatives from Tasmania, who are strong protectionists in regard to any item that affects their State, but forget their principles when the interests of other States are concerned.
– That cannot be said of the honorable member for Bass.
– Perhaps I should exclude him ; but my point is that the charge of inconsistency in regard to protection docs not lie against honorable members on this side. It does lie against some honorable members opposite. I am supporting the Government on this item. If there is one thing wc can be sure of it is that there will be no lack of the raw material for many years: The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) said just now that there was the possibility of competition from’ imported undressed skins. I am satisfied that the Australian rabbit will be able to hold its own. against all competitors. We have an unlimited supply of- the raw material. If the rabbit skin is to be prepared for manufacture) the process should be curried out in Australia. A considerable- amount of’ literature dealing with this item has been distributed among honorable members. I have no complaint to make on that score, but I do resent organized opposition to now duties from established manufacturers’ who have built up their industries under our protective tariff. I can understand opposition coming from a freetrader, but I have no sympathy with the manufacturer who is enjoying protection and objects to proposals to extend the same measure of protection to another industry which may iu some way affect his own business. That is being done in connexion with this matter. Only to-day I received a circular in which there was a wholesale condemnation of the skins turned out in Australian factories.. I am informed that the initiatory experiments were not very successful, and ‘ that much capital is being made out of that. If it can be shown that these businesses must have higher protection to permit them- to exist, I am prepared to support that policy, but manufacturers should not traduce one another. What is the finished article iu one industry becomes the raw material in another, and manufacturers should assist one another to build’, up industries. The argument has been advanced that this industry oan supply only 10 per cent, of our requirements of coney furs. I am informed that it can supply, if it secures the market, the whole of the black coney needed, which representing about BO per cent, of total requirements, is a very substantial proportion. Something has been said about the additional cost that, will be brought about by the imposition of a duty. I can understand that argument when applied to working men’s cotton tweeds, and so on, although many such statements are falsified by experience.
– There are working girls’ furs.
– The imposition of a duty on imported furs would make a very negligible addition to their cost. One has but to gain a slight- inside knowledge of the trade’ to realize where the exploitation comes iu. . The addition of 16s. or £1, by way of a duty, would make little difference in the cost of furs which are being sold for 40 guineas and more, and which actually cost to import. from £8 to £10. If this industry receives sufficient support it. may eventually have the effect of exterminating rabbits in Australia.
– Our export market is worth a lot more than that.
– It is unsound to suggest that we may destroy our export market by imposing this duty.. It will increase the number of skins dressed in Australia, and reduce the number sent abroad to be dressed. It seems ridiculous that we should send skins abroad to be treated, bring them back to- Australia, and then make them into .’Various articles. Large sums of money which now go out of Australia in that way ‘will be retained in this country if this duty is granted.
– Does the honorable member think that the rabbiters will receive the same payment for their skins?
– I do. There will bo two sets of buyers on the market. There will be buyers of rabbit skins for export, as there are to-day, and there will also be buyers of skins for local manufacture. It is common sense to assume that a larger number of rabbit skins will be dressed in Australia, and we would have the definite knowledgethat the skins originated in Australia. We do not know where many of the imported ones are raised. The industry isnot employing many hands at present, but every industry has to have a beginning. It is no argument against a protective proposal to declare that the industry is small to-day, as every industry that has been established in Australia under a protectionist policy was originally but a small concern.
– And very little good has come of the policy.
– The honorable member would be a verysorry person if he had to live in Australia and we had not our secondary industries. There would be a very poor market for the primary products about which he talks so much. There is not a country that has made progress and taken its place among the other nations of the world that has not acquired its prosperity by building up its primary and secondary industries side by side, and a similar course must be followed in Australia. First of all we must establish our primary industries as the basis upon which to build all things. Having done that our secondary industries must be cultivated to enable us to market our products in our own country instead of having to depend on an export market overseas.
– Irise simply to clear up some of the statements made by honorable members. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that a great deal of literature has been circulated in this House cm this subject. This is so, and much of it is very untrue. The honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), Reid (Mr. Coleman), Cook (Mr. C. Riley), and New England (Mr. Thompson) were advised as tocertain matters by the Importers and Furriers’ Association. They stated, as theywere told, that 5,000 men would be thrown out of work if this duty were imposed.
– That is a. misrepresentation of the facts.
– I understood those honorable members to say that 5,000 men would be thrown out of employment if this duty were imposed. Fewer than 2,000 persons are employed in the industry throughout the Commonwealth. I have received a telegram on this matter from Furs Limited, a firm that produces a good article. It states -
Statement thousands would be affected positively untrue. Not two thousand workers making up garments throughout Commonwealth. This includes workers on all classes of skins, covering more than twenty varieties. Proportion on coney therefore small, 15 per cent. Difference in duty covers total labour costs for making coney coats.
These men would not be discharged, because coney seal is only required for a small proportionof the coats made. A large number of employees are engaged in the manufacture of coats from other varieties of skins that would not be affected by the increased duty. The proposal will only affect rabbit coats and rabbit trimmings, which represent probably less than one-fourth of the value of the total trade. The popular furs are coney, perschaniki, susliki, marmot, skunk, fox, marten, musquash, minkhare, American opossum, and over twenty other furs. If the duty is increased, those coats will continue to be made. It is said that the55 per cent. duty charged on the manufactured article should be increased. Let us take an imported coat sold in Australia at £10, and consider the cost of manufacturing a similar coat in Australia. It would require 30 skins at 3s. each, which would amount to £4 10s: The extra duty would be 18s., the cost of labour £1 10s.., and the lining 12s. 6d., a total of £7 10s. 8d. Adding 25 per cent. to cover overhead charges, profit, &c., the cost wouldbe increased by £1 18s. 7d., making a total of £9 9s.1d., and leaving abalance of profit of 10s.11d. to the manufacturer. That shows that the manufacturers could carry on with the present duty. I hope that honorable members, in view of the facts that I have placed before them, will support the request.
– I protest against certain remarks by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Seabrook), who has deliberately misrepresented the attitude of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) and myself towards this item. He suggested that we had been in consultation with importers and others. It is surprising that in this case the honorable member should show such remarkable solicitude for Australian industries, seeing that on other occasions he has been a bitter opponent of protection. The mere fact that the honorable member supports the request for an increased duty is almost calculated to make an honorable member vote contrary to his principles. I deny that I have suggested at any time that I am opposed to protection for this industry. In this matter I criticized the Government’s policy of lopsided protection. I have not indicated that I would vote against the proposed increase in the duty, but I enter an emphatic protest against the Government’s refusal to correspondingly increase the duty on fur apparel.
.- The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), in his effort to clear up the matter, produced an urgent telegram, which he read to the committee. He has shown that it is from an interested party. He remarked that statements by other persons were untrue, confirming, in my opinion, the claim already put forward that an important technical matter such as this should be investigated by the Tariff Board before this committee ventures to consider it. I mentioned last evening that the Government had already discovered that duties imposed to assist one section of an industry often injured another section.
– Would the honorable member support any duty, even if it were recommended by. the Tariff Board?
– The honorable member for Yarra will remember complaining of the action of the Melbourne Age in connexion with a deputation to the Minister for Trade and Customs objecting to a duty on imported newsprint, although that tariff was asked for to assist in the establishment of the newsprint industry in Australia. I have received an urgent telegram from Mr. Sydney
Keith, Managing Director of Holders Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, as follows : -
Holders Proprietary Limited strongly protest against increased duty on coney. Will mean closing our fur factory, employing now 100 hands, as we will be able to import madeup garments cheaper than we can make them here. Matter should undoubtedly be referred to Tariff Board. 1 consider it would affect at least between three and four thousand hands.
I do not know if this is true, and the honorable member for Franklin does not know whether the statement that he read is accurate. Obviously the proper authority to deal with the subject is the Tariff Board.
– The honorable member would not support a duty even if the Tariff Board recommended it.
– That is not the point. While we have a Tariff Board it should do the work for which it was appointed. I do not wish to move that the item be referred to the Tariff Board, but I hope that the Minister will agree to that course. This matter is not urgent.
.-I oppose the item, because the committee lacks any information which would justify the proposed duties. In the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and without the matter having been investigated by the Tariff Board, I am surprised that the Government should venture to propose this impost, and I cordially support the request of the honorable member for Forrest that the item be temporarily withdrawn. This is an outrage on the whole principle of protection. The duty was proposed by a private member in another place, and endorsed by the Government representative there, and now this committee is asked to approve of it without any guidance from the Minister in charge of the department or from the Tariff Board. Although I have the greatest respect for the Attorney-General’s versatility, I do not think that he is at his best in the advocacy of a duty on rabbit skins. I listened with very much interest to the honorable member for Yarra expressing resentment of the intervention of other manufacturers in opposition to the proposed duties. I cannot understand his attitude. We are carrying the policy of fiscal protection for new industries much too far. A tariff holiday, so far as new industries are concerned, would be to the best advantage of existing industries; it would give them time to get on their feet. We are constantly embarrassing them by imposing further duties on their raw material. The item before us is a case in point. We have strong evidence that the proposed duty will embarrass the existing industry, and no convincing evidence to the contrary has been adduced.
– It may comfort the honorable member for Henty to know that this proposal has the approval of my absent colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Government considers that the preparation and dressing b’f rabbit skins is an industry admirably suited to Australia, and that such work should be done here. It is not disputed that those who are at present engaged in this enterprise are in a precarious position, and, unless they are given tariff assistance, what appears to be a most promising industry will assuredly disappear. Objection has been raised to the proposal to increase the existing duties from 10 per cent., 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, to 25 per cent., 35 per cent, and 45 per cent.,, on the ground that the protection given to the industry of manufacturing fur apparel will thereby be diminished. This industry is at present protected by duties of 40 per cent., 50 per cent., and 55 per cent. The duty on dressed skins imported from foreign countries is being increased from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent. That means an increase of 20 per cent, on the raw material used in the fur apparel industry. If the cost of dressed and prepared skins were 50 per cent, of the cost of the completed garment - I am assured it is very much less - an increase of 10 per cent, in the foreign duty on garments would meet the case. .But honorable members have received from the Master Furriers’ Association of Victoria a demand that the existing duties of 40 per cent., 50 per cent., and 55 per cent, should be increased to 80 per cent., 90 per cent., and 100 per cent. In respect of foreign skins, they ask. for an increase of 45 per cent, to meet an increase, in respect of raw material, of certainly not more than 10 per cent., and possibly only half that amount. This request is extravagant, and the Government has considerable doubts as to the good foundation of the statements that the industry of manufacturing fur apparel will be prejudiced by the increase in duties on dressed rabbit skins. What it is necessary to consider is the margin of profit in the fur apparel industry. If, despite the increased duties on rabbit skins there is a sufficient margin of profit to enable the manufacture of fur apparel to be carried on successfully, there is no need for any alteration of the duties on such apparel. The Government is not prepared to submit to the Tariff Board a proposal for an increase of those duties, but it is ready to ask the board to inquire into the profits at present being made by the manufacturers of fur apparel. After a report on that subject has been made, consideration can be given to the desirability of altering the existing rates of duty.
. - I have already indicated to the committee my attitude towards this item, but the statement of the AttorneyGeneral calls for further comment. He has practically . convicted the Government out of his own mouth, because he says that it has grave doubts, amounting to suspicion, regarding the statements made .as to the profits earned by the manufacturers of fur apparel.
– I did not use the word suspicion. I said that the Government wanted further inquiries into that phase of the industry.
– We should have a clear understanding of the profits that are made before we agree to impose any duty upon a manufactured article.
– The honorable member is confusing the two industries.
– I am not. I quite understand that there are two industries.
– One is concerned with the dressing of the skins and the other with the making up of fur garments out of the skins.
.- I feel that I cannot oppose the item; but last night I availed myself of the opportunity to protest against what I consider is special and favoured treatment of a new industry, which has yet to become established, and the refusal of the Government to tackle the big problems that are connected with the working up of our raw materials. Last year we exported rabbit skins to the value of £3,000,000, and sheep skins with wool on to the value of more than £4,000,000. Prom time to time I have urged that the work done upon those skins should be undertaken by- our own people. It is extraordinary that the Government should show such a particular interest in this matter. The capital invested in this industry is small compared with that invested in ‘ the fellmongering industry, which has been in a languishing condition for many years. Certain honorable members who sit opposite have repeatedly refrained from supporting items in the tariff schedule. Their inrterest in this item is occasioned by the fact that the industry is established in their own State. They say that this material should be worked up in our own country. They should be consistent and
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) has repeatedly opposed items in the tariff schedule. Evidently this duty is to be imposed, because a number of Ministerial supporters, and possibly Cabinet Ministers, have had the opportunity of inspecting the Tasmanian works, and have been impressed by them. I am in entire sympathy with the industry, but I consider that I am justified in voicing a protest against the Government’s failure to do the right thing in connexion with the working up of other raw materials in this country.
.- I protest against the passage of this item. We have a Tariff Board that is supposed to make inquiries and fully inform the Government and honorable members as to the conditions under which industries should be protected. I, for one, shall not accept an assurance that this protection is necessary, until proof of that fact has been furnished by the Tariff Board. Some of the increased duties to which honorable members have- agreed after an investigation by the Tariff Board are, in my opinion, detrimental to the best interests of Australia. I strongly protest against any proposal being placed before us Until the matter has been properly considered by the Tariff Board. It was amusing to hear the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) advocate this duty because the industry happened to be in Tasmania. Last night the honorable member for Franklin exhibited a sample of an imported article, and informed honorable members that the prices ranged from 19s. to 40s. He then showed a sample of the local product, the prices of which, he said, ranged from 25s. to 50s. He did not tell us whether the price of the sample was the lowest or the highest in either case. There is nothing convincing in bringing to this chamber samples of local and imported commodities and supplying no information other than that there is a big range of prices. Another amusing feature of the debate was the spectacle of our distinguished and learned friend the’ Attorney-General. (Mr. Latham) discussing women’s clothing. He appeared to be rather out of his element, and the information which he supplied to the committee did not coincide with the facts. He said that the price of the skins that are used in a garment represents a very small proportion of the value of the made-up article. If he had had any experience of skins he would know that price is a very considerable item and that the cost of making up is most expensive. Both the manufacturer and the retailer have to make a profit. Every person should know, also, that there is a further element in the sale of any article which is affected by the dictate’s of fashion, and that is the risk which is involved. Everybody who has been connected with the retail clothing trade knows that while a profit may be made on certain articles of apparel at the beginning of a season, it may be advisable to sell similar articles at a loss at the end of the season. In some cases such stock is carried over from one season to another, but that also entails a loss. The difference of 10 per cent. which will be made in the cost of such articles if this request is agreed to may, therefore, be a serious item to business people. I have had a recent experience of the futility of protesting against measures introduced by the Government, so I shall not expect much effect from my opposition on this occasion. I shall, however, justify my actions before my constituents during the. coming election campaign, and indicate to them the serious effect that some of the increases that we are making in the tariff is having upon primary production in Australia.
– Some honorable members appear to think that the Tariff Board is an authority superior to the Government. I disagree with that view. If the Government considers that by taking such action as is now proposed, it can effectively assist an industry for which we have an abundance of raw material and a good local market, it should take it. Seeing that I hold that view and consider that this proposal will assist a local industry, I shall support it.
Motion agreed to.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Immediately after the Commonwealth Housing Bill was passed last year, the Commonwealth Savings Bank entered into negotiations with the various State housing authorities with a view to putting its provisions into operation. The housing authorities in three of the States were quite prepared to accept the principles of our act and to recommend that their legislation be altered to make it uniform with ours. It was found, however, that the making of a few minor amendments in our measure would facilitate co-operation, and this bill has been introduced with that object. I thank honor able membersfor allowing me to move the second reading at this late hour.
The general purpose of the bill is to make the act slightly more elastic. It is provided in section 9 of the measure that an advance shall not be made to an authority until the Commonwealth authority is satisfied -
That the schemes administered by the authority contain provisions under which -
i ) No loan is made by the authority to any person who already owns ft house, except for the purpose of discharging a mortgage upon one dwelling house of which he is the owner.
The State authorities pointed out that they granted loans not only to discharge a mortgage but also topermit a house to be enlarged. That is often necessary when an increase occurs in a family. Provision is, therefore, made in this bill to add to the sub-paragraph I have quoted the words, “or for the purpose of enlarging a dwelling house of which he is the owner.” This is a slight but necessary amendment. Similar provision is made to enable a person who has already received a loan under the Commonwealth housing scheme to procure a dwelling house to obtain a further loan to enlarge that house should necessity arise.
It was also pointed out that quite frequently a person who is buying a house through a State authority changes his place of residence to some other quite different district. Provision is, therefore, made that in the case of such a person fully repaying the amount advanced to him in respect of a house in one locality, he may obtain a new advance to enable him to secure a home in an altogether different place.
In addition, it was found that in practically all . the States the system of acquiring houses on the rent-purchase plan was in operation. That plan provides that a client may purchase a house by making a small deposit and paying off the balance by weekly or monthly instalments, including interest and principal. After he has paid off, say, 66 per cent. or 75 per cent. of the total cost, he may obtain a title to the property, which can then be mortgaged to the housing authority. It was felt that the wording of the original act did not fully cover this position.Consequently an alteration is being made in clause 3, sub-clause (e) 2.
It was also. thought desirable that it should be made clear that where a State administers more than one housing scheme, it shall be sufficient if one scheme conforms to the conditions laid down in the Commonwealth Housing Act for advances to be made under this act. The bill provides accordingly.
The method of repayments by the housing authorities of the State to the Commonwealth Bank, and thence to the Treasurer, as set out in the principal act has been found not to suit every State. Accordingly, by clause 4, section 10 of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-sections 3 and 4, and substituting other sub-sections in lieu thereof with a view to providing greater elasticity in the dealings between the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Statehousing authorities, and between the Treasurer and the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
The method of repayment is being altered to provide that advances made shall bear such rates of interest, and be subject to such terms and conditions of repayment as may be agreed to between the Treasurer and the Commonwealth
Savings Bank. As a result of conferences which have been held, it is thought that.it will be possible by this means to arrive at an arrangement which will be satisfactory to all parties. Some of the States desire to repay to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, as received, the money paid to them by their clients. Provision is made to meet such cases.
Clause 4 (4) provides that the Treasurer may from time to time advance to the Commonwealth Savings Bank out of any moneys in the Commonwealth public account sums not exceeding the moneys which he is authorized to borrow in pursuance of this act. This will enable advances from Commonwealth revenue to be made in anticipation of the necessary loans being raised. These minor amendments will tend to facilitate transactions between the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the various State housing authorities. I submit them to the House in the hope that they will be passed without delay.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests resumed).
By adding a new sub-item (c) as follows : - “(c) Single lever mortice lock sets - ad valorem. British 45 per cent. ; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
Senate’s request -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (c) read -
Single lever mortice locks and single lever mortice lock sets - ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
As passed by this House the item provided for single lever mortice lock sets. That was intended to apply to locks and parts of locks. Locks have, however, been imported separately from the furniture and handles, and have, therefore not been covered by the item. The sole object of the requested amendment is to show definitely the intention of Parliament that the duty should apply to locks and lock sets, and that it should not be evaded by importing the locks and the furniture separately.
. -Owing to the inadequate duties at present in operation petrol pumps are entering this country from abroad. I understand that 500 of these pumps are about to be imported. I have urged the Government to take action to prevent these importations, but, so far, there has been no pronouncement of Government policy in the matter. I, therefore, propose to move that the item be amended by adding a new subitem 5 to provide that the duty on petrol pumps shall be British £30, intermediate £35, and general £40.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Petrol pumps are not mentioned in the request from another place. Consequently the honorable member will not be in order in moving in the direction he has indicated.
– I regret that you, Mr. Chairman, have decided not to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). Petrol pumps equal to any manufactured in other countries are now being made in Australia.
– The honorable member would not be in order in discussing petrol pumps.
– I hope that the Minister willtake action to prevent the importation of these pumps.
– Before the motion is put I wish to ask the committee to accept as partof the motion a consequential modification by inserting the words “ on and after the 25th of November, 1927 “ before sub-item d.
– Making the duty retrospective?
– No. This item will not be affected, but the operation of duties on the subsequent items in the schedule as from 25th November, 19.27, will be preserved. It is purely a formal amendment.
Motion and consequential amendment agreed to.
Add at the end of item 208 - “ By adding a new sub-item (b) as follows: -
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
This is a request that barrel and socket bolts, instead of being treated under item 208a, shall come within a new item, and shall bear the duties, British 45 per cent., intermediate 60 per cent., and general 65 per cent., instead of 35 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent. respectively. This matter has been inquired into by the Tariff Board in connexion with bag frames and attaché and suit case pin bolts. It was apparently understood by the Tariff Board . that the bolts in question were used only in connexion with kit-bags and attache cases. The bolts are made by the same company or firm; but they are the ordinary hardware bolts with which we are all familiar. The Tariff Board recommends the removal of these bolts from item 404, under which it was supposed they fell, so that they would come under manufactures of metal. In fact, they do at present come under that heading. The importations into Australia of these barrel and socket bolts, which are very simple implements, are considerable, indeed, and, although the articles may be made perfectly well in Australia and at a reasonable price, there is not a sufficient market for the Australian product to make the industry profitable. The increased duties should have the effect of giving the local market substantially to the local manufacturers, who have undertaken in writing, not to increase prices. One of the functions of the Tariff Board is to see that such undertakings are carried out. The Tariff Board Act contains a provision for the prevention of any overcharge to the public by a protected industry. If honorable members find that prices have been increased in breach of such undertakings, I can assure them that full inquiries will be . made.
.- I wish to say a few words concerning Australian manufacturers who are receiving the benefitof protection and are not patronizing Australian industries. A new distillery is being established at
Geelong, and I understand that the company is importing boilers from abroad. That distillery, when established, will receive the protection of a high tariff, and the company should certainly patronize Australian industries.
Motion agreed to.
By omitting from sub-item (d) the whole of paragraph (4) (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
And on and after 16th December, 1927 -
Chassis, but not including rubber tires, storage batteries, shock absorbers, or bumper bars - (a) Unassembled ad valorem - British, free; intermediate,12½ per cent.; general,17½ per cent.; (b) Assembled, ad valorem - British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
Senate’s request -
Make sub-item (d) (4) read as follows: - “ (4) Chassis, but not including rubber tires, storage batteries, shock absorbers, bumper bars, or sparking plugs - (a) Unassembled, ad valorem - British, free; intermediate, 12½ per cent.; general, 17½ per cent; (b) Assembled, ad valorem - British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The object of the request is to give effect to the Tariff Board’s report, which has been received since the tariff items were discussed in this chamber. At present sparking plugs imported with motor car chassis are charged sparking plug rates. There is a special item for sparking plugs when imported separately. A very promising sparking plug industry is developing in Australia, and the object of the motion is to charge sparking plugs, imported with the chassis, at sparking plug rates and not at chassis rates.
.- I wish to know why the Government has not extended the principle of charging a specific duty on motor parts to motor springs: In Sydney some weeks ago the representatives of at least ten firms manufacturing motor springs interviewed nie, and I understand that they also made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). The estimated value of springs forming part of the equipment of imported motor cars amounts to £500,000 annually. During the last financial year 27,928 un-assembled chassis, and 91,026 assembled chassis were imported, totalling altogether 118,954 chassis, and representing a value of £12,292,749. I wish to know whether I may move to amend sub-item (d) (4) with a view to including motor springs.
– The honorable member would not be in order for two reasons : First, springs are not mentioned in the sub-item under discussion, and, secondly, the suggested amendment would involve increased taxation, and therefore it is beyond the scope of a private member to move it.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
That the bill amended accordingly be returned to the Senate.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That Government business shall take preference over general business to-morrow.
The House is rising to-morrow for some three weeks, and there are certain matters which must first be completed. Accordingly I ask the House to agree to the motion.
.- I have a notice of motion for to-morrow in connexion with the Repatriation Department, and I should like the Prime Minister to promise me that before Parliament adjourns after resuming on the 18th April, an opportunity will be given to honorable members to vote on that motion. There is a strong feeling that the Repatriation Department is not taking a sane view in regard to tuberculosis cases. The vote taken a fortnight ago was not upon the question raised in my motion, and I should like the Prime Minister to promise that after the Easter adjournment an opportunity will be afforded to discuss and have a vote on it.
– I cannot give an undertaking that any particular motion on the noticepaper will be reached - other honorable members have motions on the noticepaper, and of course it is necessary that they should take their turn - but I can assure the honorable member that when the House re-assembles after the Easter adjournment, the Government will not promptly claim precedence for Government business over private members’ business, and there will be no interference with the ordinary time allowed for the discussion of private members’ motions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Canberra Hospital Appointments - Preference to British Goods - Duty on Refrigerating Machinery.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I understand that the medical superintendent appoints the nurses employed at the Canberra hospital without calling for applications or advertising the existence of vacancies. This applies to both nursing sisters and nurses of lesser status. This does not afford those who desire to obtain appointments to an important hospital such as this an opportunity to apply, nor can the administration give effect to the policy of granting preference to ex-service nurses. Further, it tends to create a staff which is possibly the result of favoritism. A medical officer who selects a staff in this way, perhaps without consulting any one except his personal friends, is not likely to build up the most competent staff. I do not think that, in this matter, any one has an axe to grind ; but the Minister for Home and Territories should look at it in the light of public policy, and should insist that, whenever a vacancy occurs, all qualified persons shall be given the opportunity to apply, a practice which obtains, I believe, in connexion with the majority, if not all, of the hospitals in Australia.
.- An amendment of the Customs Act passed in 1925 provided that goods could not obtain the advantage of the British preferential tariff unless they contained 75 per cent of British labour and material, but the Customs Department has since then determined that Australian material used ir the production of British goods is not te be regarded as British material. The embargo applies specifically to Australian wool. I trust that in the near future that provision of the act will be amended so that the discretion of the Minister in this respect will be taken away from him, and it may be placed beyond argument that if the British manufacturer uses Australian material in his production it will be classed as of British manuf acture,
– I shall consider very carefully the matter that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr Theodore) has brought under my notice; but I would respectfully point out that it would assist me greatly in the administration of the Department of Home Affairs if what I might describe as small matters of local concern were brought under my notice outside the House. I can assure honorable members that I shall give to them that careful attention I have given to all’ matters that they have been accustomed to bring under my notice as Minister in charge of Repatriation.
.-! am sorry to detain the House at this late hour, but I have been nursing one matter to bring it up on private members’ day, and I learn now that there will be no private members’ day to-morrow. I want to draw attention to a great injustice which has been done to a large number of dairymen as well as others who are shareholders in the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited. This is a very uptodate concern, with receiving depots in many country towns, such as Murray Bridge, Woodside, Blakiston, and Mount Torrens. With the objectof supplying the public of Adelaide with a pure milk supply it has recently imported from America the very latest ice-producing and ice-cream plant, Nothing like it is made in Australia. The company had had several small machines previously, but not on the same principle, made by R. Werner and Company, of Melbourne; and now because this firm of manufacturers claims that it could have made the plant imported by the Adelaide
Milk Supply Co-operative Limited, the latter company has been obliged to pay £4,870 10s. 8d. in cash for its enterprise in trying to cut down costs, and improve the position of its dairymen shareholders, and at the same time the milk supply of Adelaide. A firm with such a laudable object in view should have the support of’ the Government and the Customs Department. We know that many lives, particularly those of infants, are lost through impure milk supplies. The company applied to the Minister for Trade and Customs to have this plant brought, under an item in the tariff which would have made the duty lower, but its request was refused. This is a communication which it subsequently forwarded to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs - 28th February, 1928.
We regret to have received yours of the 9th instant, and ask you to reconsider this matter, because theremust evidently be some misunderstanding with regard to Messrs. R. Werner and Company’s ability to supply this plant.
The whole system is entirely new to Australia, and we are satisfied that Messrs. R. Werner and Company could not possibly have designed or quoted us for same at the time we ordered it.
We understand that Mr. Werner,senior, was in America shortly after our order was placed, but even now question whether his firm could supply the complete plant.
At that time no high-power enclosed type of vertical compressors, direct coupled to synchronous motors could be obtained in Australia.
Withregard to the ice-tank section, the best quote we obtained was from Messrs. Richard Wildridge and Company, on 24th February, 1927. The details of their tank were as under, and we mark dimensions of our imported tank in red - 62ft. long x 30 ft 6 in. wide x 8 ft. 9 in. deep. 62 ft. 3 in. long x 31 ft. 4 in. wide x 6 ft. 5 in. deep.
Capacity - 576 moulds of 400 lb. each in gangs of6 - 103 tons.
Capacity - 672 moulds of 400 lb. each in gangs of 14 - 134 tons.
The ice tank which is quoted here-
Motion (by Sir John Gellibrand) negatived -
That the question be now put.
– This matter is one of very great concern to over 400 of my constituents; They tookthe trouble to obtain the opinion pf one of the leading consulting engineersof Adelaide, and he agreed that this plant could not be made in Australia. The statement continues -
The principle is something quite new to us, so without knowing that it would have been quite impossible to construct a similar plant. Now, with a plant operating, to act as a model, and all the blue prints for same complete, we should be able to construct a similar plant, providing always, we could overcome the various patent rights connected with the plant
Here is an extract from the annual report of this company, and I again wish to impress it upon honorable members that this is a co-operative concern, one in which the Minister for Markets should be particularly interested, because he is a dairyman himself. The report states -
The absurdity of this situation is plain enough when it is realized that our shareholders are mainly primary producers, 460 of whom whom are direct suppliers. This means that, with an average dairy household of seven men, women and children, Amscol is looking after the welfare of over 3,000 country settlers. Against their well-being we have to offset £4,370 in cash to prop up a small manufacturing community, who, with very limited output for the class of machinery in question, cannot hope to compete in manufacturing costs to the benefit of the rural producer or city consumer.
I wish to protest emphatically against this practice of extorting money from the primary producers by placing high duties on articles which cannot be manufactured here.
– The honorable member for Swan has spoken, not for the first time, about tie proportion of British manufacture which must be present in goods coming into Australia under the preferential tariff. I wish to remind him that I have myself on several occasions written to him on the subject, and explanations have been made which show that the statement which he repeatedly makes that British wool is being treated by the tariff as a foreign product, is neither fair nor accurate. The trouble is in regard to hats, and it is caused by the fact that the British manufacturers will not use British trimmings, even when they are available.
– The right honorable gentleman has never written to me on the subject.
– Well, I have written to other Western Australian members, and I was under the impression that I had written to the honorable member also. This matter has been thrashed out so often, and the inaccuracy of the charge has been so frequently demonstrated, that I do not propose to go over the ground again. Withregard to the matter raised by the honor able member for Angas(Mr. Parsons), I shall take note of the representations he has made, and it will be taken up by the Customs Department to see whether anything can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280328_reps_10_118/>.