11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Threatened Boycott by Trade Unions.
– Has the Prime Minister read the announcement in the press that a conference of unions convened by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has passed the following resolution : -
That all unions now before the Federal Arbitration Court be urged not to proceed with their claims or appear before the court officially.
In view of this proposed boycott of the court by an organization representing the great majority of Australian unionists, and in view also of the flouting of awards of the court by the waterside workers and timber workers and the practical impossibility of enforcing compulsory arbitration, will the Government consider the advisability of abolishing the court, thus enabling a trial to be given to voluntary arbitration, which has worked so well in other countries ?
– I have read the resolution to which the honorable member has referred. A similar resolution was adopted by a conference of trade unions in June or July of last year, but events have shown that the unions are not prepared to accept such advice, as no action has been taken to adopt the course which hag been suggested to them. In the circumstances tan Government does not propose to take any action for the abolition of the court.
– In view of the fact that in October of last year the New South Wales Railways Commissioners called tenders for the supply of coal and that the associated coal owners, in order to capture the contracts from the unassociated owners, cut the price by 3s. per ton. and have, up to the present lockout, fulfilled those contracts and paid the same rates of wages as before, how can the Prime Minister accept Mr. Bavin’s statement that the coal-owners are not making a profit of more than 2s. per ton? Is the right honorable gentleman aware also that some of the associated coal-owners in other districts are still supplying coal to the New South Wales railways at this reduced rate and have shown no desire to reduce the workers’ wages ?
– This question is either designed to convey information or is argumentative in character, and I am not prepared to enter into a debate with the honorable member by way of question and answer.
– That is no good to me. I want an answer. Is this Government going to see these men starve?
– Order ! The honorable member must resume his seat.
– I shall not resume my seat.
– If the honorable member does not obey the Chair I shall name him. He put a- question to the Prime Minister who answered it.
– He did not answer it.
– A Minister is not obliged to answer a question. If the honorable member was not satisfied with the reply given by the Prime Minister it is competent for him to ask another question later, but having put one question he must wait until other honorable members !have had an opportunity to interrogate Ministers.
Mr.- James. - He knows the position.
– Order ! I do not intend to enter into an argument with the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a statement by Mr. Brierley Chairman of the Federal Institute of Accountants, to the effect that the Institute of Chartered Accountants is only “a half-baked concern’ ? In view of that comment does the Prime Minister intend to insist upon restricting the selection of the firm of accountants to examine the mine owners’ figures to a panel nominated by the Chairman of the Chartered Institute ?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. For a long time claims were made by various bodies of accountants that they were really the parent body, and should be recognized as such ; but the position was cleared up last year when representatives of the different associations came together and a charter was granted for Australia. In these circumstances, I am not prepared to vary the replies that I have previously given.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister Bide-stepped my last question, I wish to ask him whether he will make inquiries to ascertain whether my statement was correct or not? I should also like to know whether he will consider accompanying his colleague, Mr. C. M. McDonald, the Chairman of the Northern Collieries Association, on his tour of the northern coal fields, so that he may acquaint himself with the distress that prevails, and thus be better able to understand the (miner’s point of view; and also that he may learn for himself that the miners regard him as Australia’s greatest tyrant and reactionary?
– It is out of order for the, honorable member to apply ‘in a question language which he would not be permitted to use in the House in other circumstances.
– If there was anything in the honorable member’s previous question to which I did not reply, I suggest that he should put it on the notice-paper ; but the honorable member cannot expect me to take his questions seriously if he couches them in the language of his last question.
– The following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday last : -
For Union Leaders. “I am Finished With Them.”
There was a dramatic turn in the coalmining crisis last night when Mr. C. M. McDonald, chairman of the Northern Collieries’ Association, in a statement issued to the press, delivered a vigorous attack, on the officials of the Miners’ Federation.
He made it clear that the owners will not further negotiate with the leaders of the men. “ So far as I am concerned I am not prepared to consider anybody going through the books of the owners, “ the statement read. “ So-called union leaders have dilly-dallied too long, and have done nothing to assist the industry. I am finished with them, and will have nothing more to do with them. They can appoint a dozen accountants if they like. Our next appeal will not be to the so-called leaders, but to the men themselves.”
Seeing that at the conference of representatives of the coal owners and coal miners held recently in Canberra the Prime Minister suggested that the miners should take steps to examine the figures of the coal owners, and that the coal owners have now withdrawn their consent to that being done, what steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to cause an audit of the books to be made?
– So far, the representatives of the miners have refused to accept the offer made to them by Mr. Bavin at the Canberra conference to have the figures of the coal owners verified by a firm of chartered accountants. I feel sure that if the men will accept that offer no difficulty will be placed in the way of the suggested examination of accounts.
– It was reported in Sydney during theweek end that Mr. C. M. McDonald, the Chairman of the Northern Collieries Association, had gone to Canberra. Is the Attorney-General able to inform me whether his mission is to endeavour to persuade the Government not to introduce the Crimes Act against the poor bankrupt mine owners.
– I am unable to give the honorable member any information about what he describes as Mr. McDonald’s “ mission.”
The Bluff - Hobart - Melbourne
– I ask the Prime Minister whether negotiations have been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Sir Joseph Ward, Prime Minister of New Zealand, with a view to the re-establishment of the Bluff-Hobart-Melbourne steamship service? If so, what stage have the negotiations reached?
– The possibility of reestablishing the Bluff-Hobart-Melbourne steamship service was discussed with the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Coates, about twelve months ago, both by letter and in a personal interview with the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), when the latter visited New Zealand, but I am not aware that any proposal has been submitted by Sir Joseph Ward since his Government assumed office.
Mr.CURTIN. - Is the Prime Minister yet able to make a further statement in regard to the suggestion I made on Friday last that the Australian representation at the conference with the representatives of the oversea shipping companies should be enlarged? If he is not, will he consider the desirability of inviting the Premier of Western Australia to nominate a representative who would be acceptable to the Western Australian interests?
– I have taken no further steps in the matter since Friday, but the Government is giving consideration to it. I shall discuss it with the representatives of the exporters and importers who are to meet the representatives of the oversea shipping companies, and will then decide whether it is necessary to enlarge the Australian representation.
– I have received from Mr. J. Gersch, secretary of the Grape Growers Association of South Australia, a letter, in which he says -
The prices being offered for grapes this vintage are on various scales. To-day I interviewed two wine-makers,’ who informed me that they intend paying for grapes the prices fixed by the Government. Then when I got to Penfolds Wines Limited a list, of which I enclose a copy, is seen posted up on their window. This is for regular customers only; others will be obliged to accept less again, and these are a few figures that were supplied to me: - Frontignac £6, Grecnache £4, Madeira £4, Sercial £3, Shiraz £7. Sweet Water £3. Glancing over the whole list of prices one can see nothing but disaster staring at him. . . . After discussing the matter altogether with several makers, we are convinced that the only solution is the reinstatement of the bounty.
– Order ! It is permissible for honorable members to found questions upon letters and documents; but only so much should be quoted as is necessary to explain the question. As argument is not allowable in a question, argumentative passages should not be quoted. I ask the honorable member to summarize the contents of the letter as briefly as possible.
– I am endeavouring to do so. The final paragraph of the letter states -
I have also been informed that the Minister for Trade and Customs has said that no winemaker can be compelled to pay the prices for grapes as fixed by the Government, no matter whether he buys for export or home trade.
Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made as to the prices being paid for grapes this season, and make the fact widely known that any one intending to export wine and obtain the benefit of the bounty must pay for grapes the prices fixed by the Government?
– I shall have inquiries made as to the price being paid by winemakers for grapes of the present vintage. I wish to make it perfectly clear that no bounty will be paid upon exported wine made from grapes which were purchased at a lower price than that fixed by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I have noticed the statement in the press that Commonwealth bonds are weakening in New York. A recent transaction involved 268,000 dollars worth of Commonwealth Government 4½ per cent. debentures maturing in 1956. On the Exchange, the price fell from £87 5s. to £84 5s., the latter being the lowest price this security has reached. The closing price was £85 5s. Is there a Commonwealth sinking fund or reserve fund in existence in New York, or is all this business operated from London? Does the Treasurer not think it would be good business to establish such a fund in New York, if one is not already in existence there. Other countries have such funds, and I understand, find them very profitable?
– At the last meeting of the National Sinking Fund Commission provision was made for the utilization of certain funds in New York.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement by the Minister for Trade and Custom’s (Mr. Gullett), which appeared in Hansard on the 21st March, 1928 : -
I know of nothing more absurd than that this House should attempt to solemnly legislate for 58 years ahead in the supremely important realm of finance… It is merely a good temporary arrangement.
Seeing that last week the Prime Minister gave a somewhat favorable reply to a suggestion by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), that the financial agreement should be reviewed at the end of ten years, and that Sir William MacPherson, the Premier of Victoria, heartily endorsed the remarks of the right honorable member, will the Prime Minister promise to take steps to cause another place to request this House to agree to an amendment to limit the agreement to ten years?
– I could not think of adopting the course suggested by the honorable member. The agreement is for a definite period, to cover the amortization of State debts. It could be varied by the unanimous agreement of the Commonwealth and the States, but only in that way.
South Australia’s Claims - Western Australia - Funds Available
– Now that the Financial Agreement Bill has been passed by this House, and will probably be agreed to by the Senate, will the Prime Minister expedite the presentation of the report of the royal commission that is inquiring into the financial disabilities of South Australia under federation, so that some relief may.be given to that State as speedily as possible?
– I point out to the honorable member that there is no relationship between the financial agreement which was validated by this chamber last week, and any assistance that may he given to South Australia under section 96 of the Constitution. Regarding the second part of the honorable member’s question, as I told honorable members last week, I have asked the commission to let the Government have its report as soon as it conveniently can, and I understand that that report will probably be in the hands of’ the Governor-General in the course of the next few weeks.
– The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, speaking at Peterborough last week is reported to have said that the financial position of South Australia was so serious that it would be necessary for his Government to utilize loan money for the payment of interest and also for the payment of wages to members of the Public Service. He added that that process was leading the State to a condition of insolvency. Has he made representations recently to the Commonwealth Government asking for financial assistance, and, if so, to what extent?
– I have no knowledge of the statement that the Premier of South Australia is said to have made; but constant and emphatic representations as to the need of financial assistance for that State have been made by Mr. Butler. The Commonwealth was requested to pay £750,000 by way of a grant to South Australia for the year in which the representations were made- I think 1927-28. As the result of those representations, the. Commonwealth Government agreed to appoint a royal commission to investigate the financial position of that State. While in conversation with me, Mr. Butler has stressed the importance of some financial assistance being granted to his State, but I have had to point out that the matter must await consideration and determination until the report of the commission is received.
– If the report of the royal commission is received by the Government in the very near future, will the House be given an opportunity to discuss it, with a view to South Australia receiving any assistance that the commission may recommend, as soon as possible, and before the House goes into recess ?
– When the report is received it will have to be considered by the Government ; hut I can give no undertaking that, even if it is received before the House rises, it will be possible to bring it before the chamber for the purpose of discussion. In any event, that will not affect the position in one way or another, because, as I pointed out to the Premier of South Australia when the request was made, the Commonwealth Government, during the course of a financial year, could not possibly agree to give financial assistance to any State, because provision for that assistance would not have been made in the current Estimates, and in the preparation of the financial Statement of the Treasurer. The matter will be fully considered, but the earliest date at which it can be dealt with is in the Estimates of next year.
– Was the request of the Premier of. South Australia for assistance made at the time when he agreed to, and accepted the financial proposals submitted by the Commonwealth to the States, or was it preferred subsequently?
– I cannot give the exact date, but if the honorable member will place the question on the notice-paper I shall obtain the information for him.
– What was the amount of the special grant made available to Western Australia last year, and what is the sum that it is contemplated will be paid this year?
– I must protest against the honorable member using me as a source from which to obtain information that is readily available to him in the official publications of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member looks at last year’s financial statement he will see what the amount is, and he can also ascertain the period of the present grant; but, to save him that trouble, I may inform him that the sum paid last year was £300,000, and the period of the grant is five years.
– Is it not a fact that the Federal revenue already received this financial year has fallen short of the estimate, and, as it does_ not look as though Federal accounts will square themselves, out of what fund is it proposed to make special grants to States?
– It is not proposed to do anything more than was contemplated when the budget was brought down. What may be done in future will be considered in the preparation of future Estimates.
– Has the Prime Minister received an intimation as to the possibility of the report of the royal commission that is inquiring into the need for amendments of the Constitution being received this year, and, if the report comes to hand during the recess, will he have proof copies of it printed for the use of honorable members so that they may consider the report and recommendations prior to, the next meeting of Parliament?
– I have been asked several questions in the last fortnight regarding the report of the commission, and I have replied that it has not yet been received by the Government; but, if it is presented during the -recess, the course generally adopted with regard to reports of great public interest will be followed. Instead of waiting for Parliament to reassemble, when the report will be laid upon the table, the Government will have it published at once, so that the information contained in it may be available at the earliest possible moment.
The Clerk announced the receipt from the acting clerk to the Governor-General of the return to the original writ for the election of a member of the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory, which confirmed the certificate of endorsement on the copy writ as to the election of Harold George Nelson announced to the House on 27th February, 1929.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers’ to the honorable member’s’ questions are as follow: -
Exemptions for Stationary Engines
asked the Minister for Trade1 and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.GULLETT. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 Yes.
Reciprocity with Great Britain.
Mr.MAKIN asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government has received a communication from the British Government regarding reciprocal widows’ and old-age pensions ?
If so, what were the terms of any proposals made therein?
Has the Commonwealth Government replied accepting, rejecting, or making alternative suggestions?
If not, will the Government immediately take up this matter with a view to satisfactorily arranging a scheme of reciprocal pensions?
– The answers- to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of (a) importations of butter for 1027-28, and (b) exports’ of butter for 1927-28?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
conversion to Automatic System.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When is: it proposed to convert the Hunter’s Hill telephone exchange to the automatic system ?
– The existing manual telephone system at Hunter’s Hill is adequate to meet the requirements, consequently there is no immediate intention of converting to automatic operation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In. view of the fact that the exhaustive inquiries in the Kimberley district of Western Australia and in North Australia by Mr. Murnane, on behalf of the Government, to discover an effective method of- dealing with the buffalo-fly, were unsuccessful, have the authorities concerned an)7 new data that would make it probable that the recent danger of the invasion of this pest into the cattle herds of Queensland may be successfully combated?
– I am advised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, that it regards this problem as one of major importance and has recently taken steps for a systematic attack on it. A senior entomologist of the Council will leave for Java next month in order to make inquiries in that country, and later in Timor, into possible parasites of the buffalo-fly. If the results of these inquiries are promising, steps will then be taken to establish an experiment station at Darwin for the purpose of breeding and testing the parasites initially under quarantine conditions. The senior entomologist will be accompanied by an assistant, if a suitable man can be obtained. A second entomologist has recently left for Darwin, where he will study certain aspects of the life history of the fly, particularly for the purpose of ascertaining whether the fly will breed in the dung of native animals and whether it can obtain its supply of blood food from these animals. This information is of special importance in connexion with the proposal to establish a buffer area for the purpose of preventing the spread of the fly and is necessary before the probable effectiveness of such an area can be determined. It is at present too early to offer an opinion as to whether the investigations are likely to combat successfully the spread of the fly. The Council is at present advertising for two assistant entomologists to take part in the buffalo-fly investigations.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that any part of the mainland or island off the mainland of Australia has been sold to the Government of Japan or to any Japanese private company?
– No. ‘
– On the 8th March the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Collins) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
Reports that grapes are being sold at prices below those fixed by the Minister under the Wine Bounty Act have reached the Department, and on wine, the product of such grapes, no bounty will be paid. The Minister has no power to control grape prices except in the case of grapes used to make wine for export (or spirit for the fortification of such wine), and in those cases he can withhold the bounty if reasonable prices, as fixed by him. are not paid.
– On the 7th March the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
The number of such motor engines is not recorded.
Magnetos when imported separately are admitted under concessional by-law item 404, free or 10 per cent. ad valorem.
Carburettors, imported separately, are admitted under security under item 404, when for use in the manufacture of internal combustion engines, free or 10 per cent. ad valorem.
Carburettors imported for replacement purposes are dutiable under item 178(d), 45 per cent. or60 per cent. ad valorem.
Spark plugs are specially excluded from the motor car item and, whether imported with a motor car chassis or separately, are dutiable under item 178(d), 45 per cent. or 60 per cent. ad valorem.
If chassis unassembled, free or 17½ per cent ad valorem.
If chassis assembled, 5 per cent or 25 per cent. ad valorem.
Engines imported for use in the manufacture of motor car chassis are admitted under security under item 404, free or 10 per cent. ad valorem.
Engines imported for replacement purposes for imported chassis are dutiable under item 178(d), 45 per cent. or 60 per cent. ad valorem.
Motor car accessories such as lamps, horn, clocks, speedometer, and bumper bars are dutiable under the appropriate tariff item, e.g. -
Lamps item 206(a), 25 per cent. or 35 per cent. ad valorem.
Horn item 352(c), free or 25 per cent. ad valorem.
Clocks item 318(a) (2), free or 20 per cent. ad valorem.
Speedometer item 351(b), free Or ‘5 per cent. ad valorem.
Bumper bars item 359(F), 40 per cent. or 55 per cent. ad valorem. 6. (a) and (b). Pneumatic tire covers and tubes are recorded by weight and value and no distinction is made between those fitted to chassis and those imported separately. Imports were -
– On the 8th March the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) asked me a question concerning the prices of superphosphate in various countries, and I promised to obtain particulars. I am now in a position to furnish the following information: -
Quality. - 44-46 per cent. water soluble tribasic phosphate of lime (equal to about 20.5 per cent. phosphoric acid).
F.o.r. Works at North Island - Terms, £5 5s. per ton; cash, £4 17s. 6d. ton. (These prices have been reduced for three months - ‘December, 1928, and January-February, 1929 - by 7s. 6d. per ton.)
F.o.r. Works at South Island. - Terms, £5 15s. per ton; cash, £5 9s. 3d. per ton.
Quality. - 16-18 per cent. water soluble phosphoric acid.
Price ex Works. - £3 2s. 7½d. per ton in bulk. Bagging and bags, say, 10s. to 12s. per ton extra.
Quality - 17 per cent. water soluble phosphoric acid.
Price ex Works. - 63s. per ton.
Quality - 20.5 per cent. water soluble phosphoric acid. (Described in New South, Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland as . 22 per cent. super, and in South Australia as 45 per cent. super.)
Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, free on rails at works. - Terms, £4 19s. to £55s. per ton; cash; £4 16s. 6d. to £4 17s. 6d. per ton.
New South Wales. - Terms, £5 7s. 9d. per ton; cash, £5 4s. 9d. per ton.
Tasmania (delivered to buyers’ nearest railway station). - Terms, £5 17s. 6d. per ton; cash, £5 14s. 6d. per ton.
Queensland (supplied from New South Wales works), on rail New South Wales border. - About 18s.6d. over New South Wales prices per ton).
Ex Store, Brisbane. - About 50s. per ton over New South Wales prices.
Overtime - Sale of Postage Stamps - Supervision of Postmen
– On the 22nd February, 1929, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) addressed to me the following questions:-
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
On the 28th February, 1929, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) addressed to me the following questions -
What special qualifications does Mr. Burke possess to warrant his -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following particulars : -
– On the 8th March, 1929, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) addressed to me the following question: -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Herbert on the6th instant regarding the post office at South Johnstone, and the Postmaster-General’s reply thereto, will he state the number of years during which the present post office buildings have been leased, and the total rental paid to date?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
Five years. £455.
Dismissals of Officers
– On the 15th February last, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) asked me the following questions: -
In reply, I desire to supply the following information : -
Tractors - Chief Architect’s House
– On the 8th March, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follow : -
On the 8th March, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me certain questions relative to the use of a cottage rent free by the Chief Architect of the Federal Capital Commission. I am now in a position to advise him as follow : -
– On the 8th March, 1929, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) addressed to me the following question : -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Herbert on the 6th instant regarding a post office at Tully, North Queensland, will he state what was the cost of the original site, and the price which is being paid for the leasehold or freehold of the allotment now being acquired?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The valuation placed on the reserved site was £3,000. The site which is now being acquired will cost £700.
– On the 8th March, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked me what was the value of pearl shell exported from North Australia for the year 1928. I am now in . a position to advise him that during the year mentioned 214 tons valued at £39,534 were exported.
– On the 6th March, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me certain questions relating to the roofs of Parliament House and other Government buildings in Canberra.
I am now in a position to supply him with the desired information -
In respect to the second contract, amounts totalling £288 12s. were held pending rectification of certain defects by the contractors, Messrs. Noyes Bros., and released when these were made good.
An amount of £00 is still retained under the third contract, and, moreover, the firm - Messrs. Noyes Bros. - has guaranteed the roof and undertaken to maintain it for a period of five years.
– On the 6th March, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked me whether I would state the names of the twelve highest paid officers in the service of the Commonwealth, together with the official positions of such officers, their annual salaries, and their allowances. I api now in a position to furnish the desired information. The salaries and allowances of judges, directors and officers of the Commonwealth Bank, and commissioners representing the Commonwealth overseas, have not been included.
– On the 22nd February, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me whether I would have inquiries made as to whether one or both of the cargoes of coal recently imported by the South Australian Government caught fire before reaching Port Adelaide, and I promised to do so.
As a result of inquiries which have been made it has been ascertained that neither of the last two coal cargoes caught fire prior to reaching Port Adelaide, but the bunkers of one ship caughtfire alongside the wharf.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 3 o’clock p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th March (vide page 956), on motion by Mr. Gullett-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Since the constitution and duties of the Tariff Board are under discussion, I propose to take this opportunity of referring to several matters dealt with in the last report of the Tariff Board, and also to the Government’s proposal to increase the salaries of members of the board. In its report for 1928, the board states -
Many reasons for the increased cost of production can be advanced. In manufacturing industries undoubtedly much of the cause for the high cost of production can be ascribed to three main causes -
Over-capitalization of industries, both governmental (or quasi governmental) and privately owned.
High rates of pay, short hours of labour and other specially favorable conditions of employment, as compared with the relative conditions in competing countries.
Restriction of output.
It is an extraordinary thing that the Tariff Board in its last two reports should persist in laying the greater portion of the blame for increased production costs upon the workers. Some time ago a very exhaustive examination into the cost of production in industry was made by the Federated Engineering Societies. It drew up a list of four reasons accounting for increased cost of production. The conclusions were that waste in industry is attributable to : - 1. Low production caused by faulty management, of material, plant, equipment, and men. 2. Interrupted production caused by idle men, idle materials, idle plant, and equipment. 3. Restricted production intentionally caused by owners, management or labour. 4. Lost production caused by ill health, physical defects and industrial accidents. In these factors the owners and management are chiefly responsible. Notwithstanding that this has been pointed out to the Tariff Board, that body repeats its libel upon the workers of this country, and while the members themselves hold out their hands for increases which the Government is apparently only too willing to grant, their reports are quoted by every mean employer in Australia as proof that the workers are mainly responsible for the increased costs of production. I contend that the Tariff Board has exceeded its function in this last report. In some respects its report follows the lines adopted by the “Impertinent Four,” to whom I shall refer later. The report continues -
In evidence submitted to the beard during the past year, it is again evident that requests forincreased wages and improved conditions of employment are not always based on sound economic principles, and there is an apparent need for co-operation between the authorities fixing the rates of wages and conditions of employment and the framers of the tariff.
The board did not directly investigate the coal industry, except in so far as coal was regarded as contributing to the cost of production in industries seeking protection. The board busies itself in making comparisons, stating its opinion that the present position in the coal trade is lamentable. It quotes figures to the effect that in 1911 the cost of coal was11s. a ton, whereas in 1926 it had increased to £ 1 4s. a ton. Arguing from that, the board hints that the workers in the coal industry are responsible for the very great increase in the price of coal. In reply to that, it is only necessary to point out that the hewing rates for coal did not increase by very much during that period. The increase in the price of coal has been out of all proportion to the increase in wages, so that the responsibility plainly lies, not with the workers, but with the coal-owners. The
Prime Minister, in his policy speech, made only one reference to the Tariff Board, stating that it would be reorganized. I looked in vain in the policy speech of the Leader of the Country party - or rather that wing of the Nationalist party calling itself the Country party - for any reference at all to the Tariff Board. I wonder what the Prime Minister had in mind when he said that the board was to be re-organized. Probably the real reason for this reorganization, and for the fundamental departure from the policy pursued in the past, is to be found in the recommendations of the British Economic Mission. I have no doubt that the Economic Mission went very carefully into the Tariff Board’s reports, and ascertained what was in the minds of the members of the board. Here is what the Economic Mission in. its report says -
Most vexed and most important of all Australian questions is that of the cost of productions, with its effect upon export industries, and of the combined effects of the Tariff and the Arbitration Acts.
Then, apparently with the idea of having another dig at the customs and usages of Australia, the report states -
There is ground for the common complaint cif a vicious circle of increased prices duc to the tariff, and of. increased costs of labour due to arbitration awards, and it is urgently necessary to break the vicious circle without lowering the standard of living, which is real wages.
The report then states that the limit of protection has been reached. It says -
It is a policy difficult to carry out in detail. There is risk of error in the way of giving excessive or too prolonged assistance to infant industries, and in .the, way of protecting inefficient industries, and the total burden of the tariff has probably reached the economic limits. Efficiency should be a condition of protection, and protected industries should be liable to furnish the Government with the fullest information regarding their prices, costs and conditions generally.
We now come to that mysterious formula mentioned by the Prime Minister, and repudiated by him later, when he was asked to define a scientific tariff. The Economic Mission has this to say -
A full scientific inquiry and investigation should forthwith be instituted by the Commonwealth Government into the whole question of the economic effect of the tariff and the incidence of its duties. Pending this inquiry there should be no avoidable increase of duties.
I wish to point out, especially to Australian manufacturers and those workers engaged in Australia industries, that the Government has not, since the death of Mr. Pratten, done anything in the way of increasing protective duties. So far as one can judge from the attitude of the Government and the Minister for Trade and Customs, the wishes of the “Big Four “ will be carried out. All through the report issued by the British Economic Mission there are references of the economic effects of customs duties on industry. The Prime Minister also is in the habit of mentioning the same matter. I cannot approve of those provisions in the bill empowering the Minister to refer certain questions to the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research. I am wondering, also, if the directors of the proposed new bureau will be economists of the same school as are the members of the British Economic Mission. I am wondering if the Government proposes to appoint directors with British ideals; if academic students of old world economics will determine what is to be the measure of protection to be given for the encouragement of new industries in Australia.
– Ninety-nine per cent, of the English economists are free traders.
– I have never yet met an economist who was not a free trader. I should be sorry, therefore, if gentlemen of that school had anything to do with determining Australia’s fiscal policy. I believe, also, that this move on the part of the Government is a subtle attempt to withhold protection from new industries and to limit the measure of protection to be given to established industries. For these and other reasons, I shall vote against those provisions in the bill relating to the economic effect of tariff duties upon industry.
.- I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) upon the early introduction of this measure, and I should like, also, to offer my congratulations to him on his inclusion in the Ministry.
– Will the honorable member congratulate the Ministry upon the appointment?
– Yes. No department makes greater demands upon the ability and zeal as well as the endurance of its Minister than does that of Trade and Customs. While I remain a member of this chamber, I shall do all I can to assist the Minister in his important work of protecting our primary and secondary industries, thus giving effect to the definite policy of the majority of the people of Australia. The amendment of the Tariff Board Act on the lines laid down in the bill, was definitely promised by the Prime Minister in the policy speech which he delivered at Dandenong on the 8th October last. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) suggested that this amending measure had been framed as a result of recommendations made by the British Economic Mission. I remind him that the Prime Minister, in October last, gave a definite undertaking to introduce this bill; that this legislation has been strongly recommended by the members of the Tariff Board on more than one occasion and has been asked for by those engaged in our manufacturing industries. It would be incorrect to assert that the provision contained in clause 6 of the bill was recommended or urged either by the Tariff Board or the manufacturers. In his policy speech the Prime Minister said : -
It is, therefore, proposed to extend the scope of the Statistical Department’s activities in order to collect the necessary statistics and data, and also to establish a section of economic research in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to dissect and analyse the information obtained. The Government will then be enabled to determine in any particular ease whether any action is desirable, and if so, whether by means of the imposition of tariff duties, the granting of a bounty, or other methods.
I should like also to quote the following passage from the report of the Tariff Board for the year ending June last: -
Past experience shows that many occasions arise when the work of the board would be greatly facilitated and made more effective if there existed in the act provision under which the members of the board could act individually, or the board, as a body, could divide itself according as the circumstances warranted…………
Under the existing act it has been necessary for the whole of the board to proceed to each centre at which inquiries are held, notwith standing that in many instances the inquiries could have been conducted quite as effectively by two members, or, possibly at times, by one. The fact that the whole of the members of the board have had to make these visits has meant the loss of considerable time* to the board in travelling, and has also entailed considerable expenditure which could have been avoided if there had been provision in the Tariff Board Act for the board to divide itself or for the members to function independently of each other.
If the act were amended as suggested, it would be possible in cases where it was found necessary to extend the inquiry on any particular subject to the more remote States, for the board to divide. Then two members could proceed to one State and take evidence there at the same time as the other members were taking evidence elsewhere, or performing other duties at headquarters.
The provision in the act of power to divide or function individually, would enable the board to carry out its duties more expeditiously and more economically. It would also enable the board to extend the scope of many of its inquiries in directions which have been felt by the board to be desirable, but which have hitherto not been practicable owing to the lack’ of time and the risk of retarding the work of the board.
Another suggestion was that the Tariff Board Act bo amended in the direction of removing the obligation on the part of the Minister to refer to the board all applications for by-law concessions, under . certain tariff items, principally items 174, 404, and 415a. .
The Sydney Chamber of Manufacturers, in its last annual report, paid a tribute to the work of the board, but called attention to the distressing delays which took place. It said -
Our efforts to obtain effective tariff protection for members has been greatly interfered with by the delays incidental to the present method of Tariff Board references, inquiries and reports, preliminary to any amendment of the schedule of the Customs Tariff Act. Whilst we have nothing but admiration for the impartiality, the business methods and the promptitude with which the Tariff Board performs its duties, we cannot help proclaim the fact that it is always overburdened’ with a heavy programme of duties and inquiries. At the same time, requests for investigations on behalf of our members wait, some of them, many months before they are even referred to the board. One case, by way of illustration, concerns metallic bedsteads. The original application was made to the Minister for Customs on, 4th November, 1920. The board’s inquiry did not commence until 17th October, 1927, eleven months later. An essential alteration of the’ Tariff Act is that which would permit of the board splitting up in order to expedite inquiries and take evidence in more than one centre at the same time. It would also be a .facility if the board were relieved of the obligation ‘ of inquiring meticulously into so many applications for importation under by-laws. This class of work can- surely be efficiently carried out under the control of the Customs Department.
The recommendation of the Tariff Board and the views of the Sydney Chamber of Manufacturers, concerning the provisions in this bill, are, I know, shared by all the other Chambers of Manufacture throughout the Commonwealth. I have received an assurance from the Queensland
Chamber that that body supports the bill in its entirety. The bill has been welcomed by honorable members on both -sides of the chamber, and the criticism directed towards it has been on the following lines ; - That it does not go far enough; that there is no justification for increasing the remuneration of the chairman and the members of the board ; that the chairman should not be an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs ; that greater publicity should be given to the board’s reports ; and that the board itself should have the right to seek advice from the . Director of Economic Research when the Bureau of Economic Research is established.
In regard to the contention that the bill does not go far enough, I know that many honorable members have an almost irresistible desire to discuss tariff problems generally, and I, too, should like to do so, but the provisions of this bill deal solely with certain defects in the principal act which have been discovered during its operation, and debate must be strictly confined to them. Already the principal act has been amended twice - once in 1923, when the number of the members of the ‘board was increased from three to four, and again in 1924 when provision was made for holding the inquiries of the board in public and for taking the evidence of witnesses, with certain exceptions, on oath. The measure before us is, therefore, the third attempt to amend the principal act.
With regard to the proposal to increase the remuneration of the chairman of the board, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said that it would bequite improper for the members of our Tariff Board to receive the high remuneration proposed, in view of the payments made to the members of the Tariff Commission of the United
States of America. He contrasted the huge population of the United States of America - 120,000,000 people - with Australia’s population of only 6,500,000. In my opinion, however, the work which our Tariff Board is doing is just as important as that which is done by the Tariff Commission of the United States of America, and if the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is responsible for the appointment of the members of the board, feels, as he says he does, that it will be impossible to get the best men unless the remuneration is increased, surely honorable members must accept his guidance in the matter. We must have the very best men on the board. But, in any case, the proposed increase is trifling. It amounts to an additional £200 for the chairman, while the members of the board, instead of getting £5 5s. each for each meeting, with the opportunity to sit 300 days in the year, and draw approximately £1,500, will be paid £6 6s. for each meeting, and they will not sitmore than 248 days in the year, the maximum payment in any one year being £1,560. The total increased expenditure will not exceed £380 a year, and I am surprised that there should be any question raised in regard to it; because, although at a time like this, when there is a ‘great deal of unemployment, we should not do anything to increase the incomes of those who are already receiving high salaries,- it is decidedly to the advantage of employees and employers alike that the Tariff Board should function properly, and to ensure that, the members of the board should be the best men available. In that way only can we get a board which will give satisfaction to the whole community.
As to whether the chairman of the Board should be a member of the Public Service or not, I agree with those who contend that the future of the officer who may for the time being be put in the position of chairman of the board should not depend on whether the reports he submits suit the views of the Minister. But it is highly desirable that the chairman should be a man with a sound knowledge of all the ramifications and intricacies of the tariff. He must be the mainstay of the board, and the Commonwealth in the past has had the greatest good fortune in having had men of outstanding ability to act as chairman of the Tariff Board. I agree with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that it would be wrong for this House to interfere in the matter of the appointment of the Chairman of the Tariff Board.
On the subject of publicity, the board itself suggests that “ the fullest publicity should be given to its reports upon all applications for tariff revisions which have been the subject of public inquiry.”
– The board was forced into that position.
– I do not know that; but I quote the following from the board’s report -
Perhaps the most outstanding advantage in the Tariff Board system is the fact that applicants for increases or decreases in the Customs duties must present their cases publicly and on oath. There could scarcely be any more effectual deterrent to an application for unreasonable consideration than lies in this necessity for a public statement of evidence in the presence of all parties who are interested enough to attend. Some of the advantages of the public inquiry system are, however, lost unless the reports of the board are available to all parties concerned in the applications, and any other persons who are interested enough to seek the report. The board realizes that it would be inexpedient to publish the reports prior to the date of any action which the Minister or the Government decides to take as a result of the board’s report.
I think that is quite correct.
It, however, suggests for the consideration of the Minister, that it should be a fixed rule that so soon as publicity can be given without the risk of causing unnecessary dislocation of business, or perhaps the risk of business speculation, every report of the board should be made available both to Parliament and to members of the public, whether the recommendation of the board has been adopted or otherwise. Publication of the reports would obviously be of no utility, unless it were done prior to the date of the consideration in Parliament of the tariff proposals of the Government, so that the people’s representatives in Parliament would be in a position to judge both in the cases where the Government has decided to act upon the board’s report and where it had been determined otherwise.
I cannot agree with that. I think it would be a dangerous practice to make reports available to Parliament before the Government has considered such reports and decided what action, if any, it proposes to take. The honorable member for Swan told us that he thought it would be unfair for a Minister to withhold Tariff Board reports from Parliament. I agree with that. In my opinion, reports which recommend an increase or a reduction of duties should be brought before Parliament at the earliest possible moment, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that they should be made available to honorable members when a tariff schedule is brought down including items affected by the reports. It must not be forgotten that long delays cause more trouble than anything else in connexion with the work of the Tariff Board. It is contended that the board should be permitted to confer on its own initiative with the Director of Economic Research. In my opinion that is a fair request. The provision of the bill which deals with this matter is as follows: - 15a. After the appointment of a person to be Director of Economic Research, the Minister may direct the board to confer with the director upon any particular matter referred to the board for inquiry and report, and, when so directed, the board shall so confer accordingly.
I maintain thai the board, if it is anxious to get information in connexion with any inquiries it is making, should have the right to confer with the Director of Economic Research, without having to await directions from the Minister. I welcome the bill, and while I express my sincere appreciation of the services rendered by past members of the board, I hope the Minister will be able to appoint to the vacant positions men who are well qualified to carry on this work, which is of the utmost importance to the Australian people. It is desirable that these appointments should be confined to disinterested men who are qualified to advise Parliament as to which industries are entitled to protection, or, if they already have protection, to increased protection, and also to advise against the granting of protection where, after full investigation, they are convinced that protection would be ineffective and injurious to other industries. The board has done fine work in the past, and I amconvinced that by the passing of this bill it will be greatly strengthened, and will be able to function in such a way as to merit the appreciation of all sections of the community. I gladly support tire second reading.
.- The constitution of the Tariff Board and its influences on Australian industry are second in: importance only to the problems of Government finance. The board was first constituted in 1921 and was acknowledged to be an experiment. After seven years of experimenting, we have to realize the uncomfortable fact that the imports of this young country exceed its exports by £19,821,411. That is conclusive proof that the experiment has failed. A tariff board might be all right if it were unfettered, but, though it may make an extended investigation of an industry, hear evidence from all parties interested and arrive at a determination, the board remains subservient to the Minister and the Government.
– Quite right. Parliament must be supreme.
– Of what use is the board ? The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that the function of the board would be to carry out the policy of the Government of the day. What is the use of incurring the expenditure of an additional £10,000 or £12,000 per annum on a board whose function will be to interpret the;fiscal views of the Government, and take responsibility which the Government itself should carry ? In constituting the board it will be very difficult to find four men who will consider the interests of Australia as paramount to. the interests of individuals. Unfortunately, selfishness and the baser instincts of human nature make men. hunger after profits and still more profits, and in the pursuit of selfish ends they lose sight of the fact that an able-bodied manhood is essential to the welfare of the country and that without it industries and profits will eventually decline. I am proud of the fact that Australia is part of the British Empire, but those of us who plead for the more effective protection of Australian industries, are branded s disloyal to the .Empire and extremists of the deepest dye. No country can be built, up from without. Australia has the. brains, muscle, and materials with which to make a success of almost every form of secondary production, and the statement that because we want the tariff to be effective in. order to make Australia self-contained, we are anxious to break away from old England, is absolutely false. Australia is isolated geographically, but if we build up its industries, particularly the iron and steel industry, so that *it may become self-contained, it may become an impregnable outpost of the Empire.
The position of Australia in the Empire is very much like that of a son who has taken unto himself a wife and has set up his own home. He could still have lived with his mother, but it is better for all concerned that he should accept the responsibility of manhood and set up his own establishment. Similarly, it is better for Australia to be independent and selfcontained, producing all it requires from the raw material to the finished article, than be dependent upon the Mother Country for what it requires.
– Order ! The honorable member is discussing the tariff policy rather than the Tariff Board.
– In the year 1926-27 the Tariff Board investigated the iron and steel industries, but to very few of its recommendations has statutory effect been given. A large proportion of the members of the Boilermakers Union, to which I belong, are unemployed because the recommendations of the board have not been adopted. Australia continues to import steel goods that could, and should, be produced locally. The Manly Perry Co., Mort/s Dock, the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the Williamstown Dockyard, and other engineering establishments are importing .large quantities of material, but if the Government had acted upon the report of the Tariff Board, 40,000 additional men would be employed in the production of iron and steel goods, and a key industry would be stabilised.
– Order! The honorable member is still debating the fiscal policy.
– Increased protection is necessary, but have we any guarantee that we shall get it from the board to be created under this bill ? Will the Government appoint to the board a representative of the workers, or will the members be men interested in industries that would be favorably affected by an increase of duties? Will they be men who will put the general development of their country before individual interests and private profit ? Towards the end of last year the Tariff Board concluded its investigations of the leather trade. The hearing of evidence was completed in Sydney on the 6th June, in Melbourne on the 11th October, and in Adelaide on the 20th November, but not one of its recommendations has been acted upon. Seven factories which are engaged in the production of fancy leather goods are languishing because of the dumping of imported goods. Is there any assurance that the newly constituted board will put an end to that state of affairs? In my own electorate are two fancy-leather factories which are unable to compete with goods produced overseas, and as a result employment in them has been reduced by over 30 per cent. They have appealed again and again for help but without success. When the new board Ls appointed will its reports be pigeonholed by Ministers while Australian industries languish through lack of effective protection? Some honorable ‘members opposite have expressed the fear that if Australian manufacturers were given more tariff protection, they would take advantage of it to increase the prices of their goods. I have a guarantee from the two establishments I have mentioned, that if their industry is effectively protected, they will continue to pay the present rates of wages, and will not increase the cost of the goods they produce. That is an effective reply to the British Economic Mission’s statement that Australian industries cannot be protected because of the Arbitration Court awards. Of the £500,000,000 of wealth produced in Australia annually, only £90,000,000 is paid in wages. Yet, the investor says that he must have more profits! The Minister for Trade and Customs, in the course of his able speech, when moving the second reading, anticipated that most of the criticism of the board would be on account of the delay in the presentation of its reports. Yet, he has provided that the board shall have 60 days instead of 30 days as at present, after the end of the financial year, in which to present its annual report to Parliament. The bill provides also that the Minister may direct the board to consult the Director of Economic Research. When shall we awaken to the fact that we are. introducing too much theory into our public life ? To-day the practical man is being passed by in favour of the academic man. Altogether too much talk is indulged in about scientific research, and we are engaging too many high salaried officials to do what practical men could do better at much less cost. While the Government is contemplating the payment of £6,280 per annum in salaries to the members of the Tariff Board, men, women and children in our industrial areas are starving. Every day that goes by brings to light some fresh evidence of the inconsistency of the Government and some fresh evidence of its class bias. It is now proposed that the members of the Tariff Board shall work only five days a week and receive more money for it, although the Government is at this very moment doing its utmost to oblige the workers to revert to a 48-hour week instead of a 44-hour week for less payment.
I agree with the proposal that Saturday work should be abolished, but why restrict it to the members of the Tariff Board ? If we are to have a five-day week let us have it all round. We should not drive the workers back to the factories while we allow high-salaried officials to remain at home.
It has been said that difficulty will be experienced in finding a business man of the right type to act as chairman of the Tariff Board at a salary of £1600 per annum. I have no hesitation in saying that if a business man accepts this position and finds that his private enterprise is languishing because of his absence from it, he will very soon transfer his chief interest to the latter, and the Tariff Board will get only a minor part of his attention. We should be honest and straightforward in these matters. Selfishness is paramount to-day in human nature. Very few men are prepared to sacrifice their own interests for the welfare of their country.
It is worth noting that the part-time members of the Tariff Board are to receive £6 6s. per sitting for five days per week instead of £5 5s. per sitting for six days per week as hitherto. This Government claims to be democratic and to legislate in the interests of the whole community, but the most cursory examination of its administration shows that it is simply performing one somersault after another. It does one thing to-day and au entirely different thing to-morrow. It is high time that the people realized the error they made in returning it to the Treasury bench. The members of the Tariff Board, like the members of other boards appointed by the Government, are not answerable to the electors. It seems lamentable to me that we should allow Ahern practically to guide the destinies of -Australia. If the people desire government by boards and commissions let them abolish the Parliament ; but if they desire parliamentary government let them take care to return to office a government “which will do the work of the country and “not leave it to irresponsible, outside bodies. We have no undertaking that the Tariff Board will act in the interests of the people. We know very well that time after time the large importing firms have submitted to the board figures which, if not actually faked, have become strangely misplaced.
The bill provides that all the members of the board shall be granted fifteen days’ leave annually on full pay. I have no quarrel with that, but I want to know why a similar provision is not made for the working man. The Government gives no indication whatever that it understands anything of Christian ethics or the equality of man. Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say about the need for greater production, but we on this side of the chamber are more concerned about a more equal dis- tribution of the wealth that is already being produced. We also want a more equal distribution of justice.
It is remarkable to me that although this board is to cost the country thousands of pounds per annum in salaries, to say nothing of other emoluments, its findings are not to be accepted unless they please the Government. No provision is made to give the board greater power to enforce its decisions. The Minister will still have a discretionary power. This means that we shall have a continuance of the existing policy. The figures in the Commonwealth Yearbook disclose that the Government is 75 per cent, freetrade in its outlook. The result is that many 6f our secondary industries are lan- guishing and thousands of our- people are out of employment. Surely .we ought to do something to put an end to the unfair overseas competition which our Australian industries are called upon to meet. More protection is essential if we are to maintain our wage standard. To-day imported coal is entering into competition with Australian-produced coal, and our local industry is being crippled. This can be understood when one compares the wages of coal-miners in different countries. In Germany the coal-miner receives only 2s. 8d. per day of eight hours, in France 5s. 2d., in Belgium 5s. lid. and in the “United Kingdom 8s. 9d., whereas a surface labourer in Newcastle receives the decent living wage of 16s. 6d. per day. In these circumstances, it pained one to hear the remarks of the Prime Minister during our recent debate on the Australian coal-mining industry.
– The honorable member must not quote from the report of a previous debate this session.
– Then, Mr. Speaker, I shall refer to the iron and steel industry. The report of the Tariff Board on this subject shows that the British rate for work in the mill is ls. 2d. per hour and the Australian rate 2s. 3d. In the finishing department, the British wage is ls. per hour and the Australian wage 2s. lid. The ordinary labourer in the iron and steel industry in” Britain receives lid. per hour, whereas in Australia he .receives 2s. Id. per hour. Comparative rates for the skilled labourer are ls. 5d. and 2s. 4£d. I do not know that a tariff board can do much to remedy this state of affairs, but an effective tariff could do a great deal. What we need is a sufficiently high rate of duty on imported manufactures to ensure that our local industries shall be able to carry on their operations at a reasonable profit. It is interesting to note that Mr. Stirling Taylor, who, generally speaking, is not sympathetic with the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber, pointed out recently that at least £89,000,000 worth of the £160,000,000 of imported goods which came to Australia last year, should have been made here. He added that unemployment would cease, or be greatly alleviated, in Australia the very moment that the Government determined that something effective should be done to stem the tide df .imports. The Tariff Board should take into consideration the fact that the Empire can be built up only by a healthy and virile manhood and womanhood; it cannot be done if the stomachs of the workers are empty. The work of the board in the past has been a reflex of the inconsistency of the Government in its prating about loyalty to the Empire. The workers are satisfied that, despite all that has been said about disloyalty, more practical loyalty and patriotism are to be found among their ranks than in the section represented by honorable members opposite. They are proving it to-day, and always have done. Under Labour administration, from 1910 to 1916, with effective” protection, Australian industries thrived, and hardly a man who was willing to work was out of employment. I do not think that honorable members opposite are entirely callous in their attitude to the workers; but they are careless, and, because of their environment, they do not understand the workers’ point of view. I ask honorable members not to attack those on this side who are fearless and honest in their exposition of the needs of the workers, but to confer with the Opposition in order that effective steps may be taken to improve the conditions of the industrialists of the country generally. One honorable member opposite, during the course of the debate, mentioned that his party represented the backbone of the country. I do not deny that; but T remind him that the thinking faculties are contained in the head, and honorable members on this side, owing to their experience of economic realities, have been compelled to think well in endeavouring to devise means of advancing the welfare of the people they represent. I believe that the Minister from his point of view has acted in good faith in drawing up this bill; but I again remind him that, although from 1910 to 1916 Australian industries were flourishing everywhere, they are now dying on every hand. To what extent has effect been given to the reports of the Tariff Board on the iron and steel, industry? How can we have any confidence in the constitution of such a board, whether it has four or forty members ? I regard the expenditure upon it as a waste of public money. While the board is considering what its reports shall contain, and when they shall be presented, workers are on the verge of starvation. I am speaking from personal experience in the leather industry and in the iron and steel industry. Of the 1,700 members of the Federated Society of Boilermakers in New South Wales, 750 are walking the streets of Sydney to-day because they cannot obtain the wherewithal to keep body and soul together. Since good Australian workmen are unable to get a living, because of overseas competition, will the Government, instead of spending money on a tariff board, prevent the rapacious landlords from turning their fellow-citizens upon the streets and selling their furniture? Talk about high wages and the cost of production! Tho workers feel the pinch in every way. I am living in a house that is one of a terrace of nine, and last week the rent went up 7s. a week. Yet we are described as disloyal and unpatriotic because we are prepared to tell the truth. Let both sides get together in a more amicable frame of mind than has been displayed in the past. Let us try to understand one another’s feelings and points of view a little better than we hitherto have done. If members of the Tariff Board are to receive £1,600 a year, let us remember that men and women and little children are denied the right to a mouthful of food. Where are we drifting? Profit, profit, profit ! Have we come to the stage when profit and filthy lucre are more to be considered than the bodies and souls of human beings? The workers are regarded merely as cogs in the wheels of production, and the Tariff Board will not improve their lot.
Can the Government find any way in which to compel importers and other dealers in Australia to show their patriotism by purchasing Australian manufactured goods, thus helping to employ Australian men and women, and to keep Australian capital circulating in the country, instead of opening our doors to the flood of imports from Asiatic countries that are produced by cheap coolie labour ? Let us have patriotism of a practical nature. I could give instances of industries such as gear-cutting factories and engineering works of all descriptions, that are crying out for adequate protection, although the workmen they employ are as skilled as are to he found in any part of the world. Are we to give everybody an equal opportunity, or has the time come when it must be a fight to a finish with the gloves off? The members of some of the firms that I have in mind are returned soldiers, some of whom have been maimed through war service, and they are still being maimed financially through lack of sufficient protection. I can have no confidence in the Tariff Board, and I feel that the high salaries paid to its members are not justified. I can only be guided by the results of its work. It reported that 45,000 men could be employed in a key industry like the iron and steel industry, and if that report had been given effect an additional 290,000 or 300,000 men would have been employed in various industries to-day. Another report of the board shows that since 1926 only 33 per cent, of the number of men that should normally be employed in a certain industry have been able to find work. I hope that honorable members opposite will realize that, although they have the government of the country in their hands at the present time, the interests of all sections of the community should be considered.
– As the Minister for Trade and Customs has delivered only one speech in this House since he has held that office, we have been unable to determine whether he intends to adhere strictly to the policy of his predecessor; but the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) has clearly demonstrated that he is a strong protectionist. The maiden speech of the Minister, however, indicates that he will fill capably the important position which he now occupies.
The Bill does not provide for the introduction of a new system, but for the continuance, in a modified form, of a system which has been in operation for some years, and which, despite what the honorable member for Lang has said, has proved of material assistance to Parliament and to the country. It is impossible for the board to give satisfaction to every member on every matter on which it reports. The honorable member for Lang erroneously suggests that the board will be a freetrade board, and that its report will favour lower duties. He appears to have made up his mind about the decisions of the board before any case has been heard by it. Its recommendations will not, of course, be acceptable to every honorable member, but they will be of great assistance to the House in coming to a decision on tariff matters. He complained that a certain report had not come before Parliament. Others have come before us, and the board’s recommendations have been disregarded. Parliament has also voted for higher duties than have been recommended by the board. But, generally speaking, the board’s reports have been of material assistance, and the board has power only to recommend. I cannot imagine how a Minister of Customs could effectively carry out his work without the assistance and advice of such a body. The term of office of the present board expires this month, so this bill is essential so that a new board can be appointed to carry on its functions. In giving effect to the fiscal policy enunciated by the Prime Minister prior to the last elections, the Minister has an important duty to perform. It is true, as the honorable member for Lang has said, that there are a few free traders on this side of the chamber, but an overwhelming majority of the Government supporters are strong protectionists. No Treasurer could carry on long without the assistance of the revenue obtained through the Customs House. Australia has at present a very high tariff, and the average duty is, I think, about 19 per cent., which is about the same as that of the United States of America, one of the most highly protective countries in the world.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government supports a protectionist policy because the Treasurer requires revenue from the Customs House?
– No; but it would be extremely difficult to carry on without revenue from that source. Customs revenue is somewhat lower this year because our protective policy has been effective. Although we have not had any definite fiscal pronouncement from the Minister he is, I suppose, proceeding slowly to obtain a thorough knowledge of the work of his department. The honorable member for Lang, apparently, does not support some of his colleagues, who believe that the Tariff Board has done good work. Although the recommendations of the Tariff Board are submitted to Parliament, I would support the appointment of a parliamentary tariff committee - similar to the two joint committees appointed at the beginning of every Parliament - which could inquire into all tariff matters and report to Parliament. Such a committee could do work which Parliament cannot possibly undertake. In tariff matters Parliament should be supreme. At present some industries are receiving too much protection, which increases the cost of living, and others are inadequately protected. I do not know the intention of the Government in the matter of imposing still higher duties on some commodities; but during my election campaign, I met quite a number of persons opposed to the high protection policy of the Government, and others who said that the Government had not a scintilla of protection in its platform. I informed them that the Tariff Board inquired into tariff matters referred to it by the Minister, and that it was the desire of the Government to have a scientific tariff. I hope the Minister will endeavour to see that that is done. The tariff is one of the most important subjects that can be discussed by this Parliament, and if a parliamentary tariff committee, such as I have suggested, were functioning, a good deal of the delay which now occurs in discussing industrial topics would be avoided. Such a committee would probably be able to make recommendations, which if given effect, would be a means of reducing unemployment, which is the greatest problem with which we have to contend.
Some honorable members have objected . to the proposed increases in the remuneration of the members of the board; but as these increases amount to only about £200 or £300 a year, and the members of the board are paid so much a sitting instead of a fixed allowance, they should not quibble on that account. Even if the members of the board were sitting con tinuously under the proposed system, I do not think they would receive much more than they would at the fixed remuneration, previously paid. As the work of the board is of vital importance to Australia’s development, the expenditure of an additional few hundred pounds a year in order to obtain the services of suitable men, seems justified. I support the bill.
.- Honorable members opposite say that they are either reasonable or scientific protectionists, but in my opinion, they have no definite fiscal policy. Whatever may be the personnel of the Tariff Board, Australia will not have an effective protectionist policy while the present Government is in power. Honorable members opposite are divided into two camps, one comprising free traders and the other what some term reasonable protectionists.
– What has a Labour Government ever done in tariff matters?
– It laid the foundation of protection. I am not responsible for the action of past Labour Governments, but I know that the Labour party to-day stands solidly for effective protection.
– What sort of a protectionist policy would we have if it were not for the driving force of honorable members on this side?
– Yes, how far would this Government have gone along the path of protection if it were not for the support of .honorable members on this side of the House? In the Australasian Manufacturer of 6th October, 1928, it is stated that -
The truth of the matter is that the present Government has no working policy prepared as regards secondary industries. It feels that its financial policy depends upon imports.
In the same publication of the 16th February, 1929, the following passage appeared -
Although the Government won the elections, it was shaken to its very foundations……..
The fearful slump was proof positive that the country is getting tired of the humbug and camouflage on tariff question’s of the present Government with its freetrade Treasurer.
– The honorable member does not suggest that that is a disinterested publication.
– The Australasian Manufacturer speaks for the manufacturers of Australia, and the paragraphs which I have just quoted were written after six years of experience of the present Government’s fiscal policy. The Government may tinker with protection by amending the Tariff Board Act and by changing the personnel of the board, but when it is a matter of effectively protecting Australian -industries the importing interests have sufficient power to influence the Government against doing its duty to the people. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) is a journalist of some ability, but I am doubtful whether his views on the fiscal question coincide with those of a majority of the Australian people.
– Does the honorable member for Capricornia intend to connect his remarks with the subject-matters of the bill?
– Yes. The bill provides for the appointment of a Tariff Board, under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs, the political head of which is the Minister for Trade and Customs, who may influence the decisions of the board. The chairman of the Tariff Board is one of the highest paid officers in the Department of Trade and Custom^ and his next promotion will probably be to the position of Comptroller-General of Customs. I understand that the present chairman of the Tariff Board is acting as Comptroller of Customs.
– That is not so.
– At any rate, we know that Major Oakley was Chairman of the Tariff Board for a time, and he afterwards became Comptroller of Customs. The same thing occurred with a number of other chairmen of the Tariff Board.
– The chairman of the Tariff Board is second officer in seniority, and he goes up automatically when a vacancy occurs. The Minister has nothing to do with it.
– But it is not obligatory upon the Minister to appoint the chairman of the Tariff Board to the position of Comptroller of Customs. He might appoint any one else if he thought fit.
– It does noi come within the purview of the Minister at all. It is a matter for the Public Service Board.
– But the Minister has fairly wide powers. The Prime Minister recently transferred some of the permanent heads of departments: There is a tendency for the chairman of the Tariff Board to suit his actions to the known policy of the Minister in charge. On the 28th March, 1928, the present Minister for Customs stated that in the matter of protection Australia was going too fast, and that we needed a tariff holiday. The big freetrade newspapers in Australia hailed his appointment with delight. It is only natural that the present Minister should set about reducing the tariff, or at least adopt an attitude of passive resistance to any application for increases.
One of the things for which the bill provides is the subdivision of the board for the purpose of carrying out investigations. I have no objection to that, because such an arrangement may possibly lead to greater expedition in handling business. In the past the delays have been quite unreasonable. It is also proposed to increase the salaries of members of the board. That cannot be justified, and the proposal comes with bad grace from this Government which, in order to carry out its policy of alleged economy, has dismissed from its services hundreds of men who were getting little more than the basic wage, and who had wives and children dependent upon them.. Another object of the bill, as set out, is the elimination of certain detailed investigations of classification, and valuation by the board,. reliance to be placed upon the recommendation of the department’s experts. I think that the Minister will admit that in the past the board has, to a great extent, relied upon departmental experts for information; members of the board merely signed their names to the recommendations of men who they knew weremore qualified than themselves to speak on the subject under consideration. An important alteration in policy will be that the Minister is to have power to instruct the board to confer with the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research which is to be appointed. Whether or not this will be a good thing for Australia, will depend upon the man selected by the Government as director of the bureau. Research work plays an important part in modern industry and, in the United States of America, the Bell Telephone Company alone is spending nearly £3,000,000 a year in research work.
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could do the work here.
– Yes, it is possible that the work might be done by that body. The importance of research work, however, cannot be over emphasized. It is stated that Henry Ford spent £1,000,000 on research before putting the new model of his motor car on the market. There is a danger that this Government, influenced as it is by freetrade and importing interests, and anxious to give a sop to the alleged country party, might appoint as Director of the Bureau of Economic Research, a man whose views lean towards freetrade. He might be a man specially chosen to give effect to the views so eloquently expressed by the present Minister for Trade and Customs, one who would let Australia have a tariff holiday. If the appointment of a director lay with the Labour Party, I have no doubt that a man would be chosen who would assist in carrying out a policy in accordance with the views of a majority of Australians. I do not entirely approve of the provision that the Minister may direct the Tariff Board to confer with the Director of the Bureau of Economic Research. The Tariff Board should have power to call the director as a witness, and examine him in public.
– The board can call anybody it likes.
– The Minister did not make that clear. Whatever conferences take place between the director and the board should be held in public, so that the parties affected by the board’s decision might have an opportunity of hearing the discussions and of replying to statements. While the proposed bureau might be made the means of greatly assisting Australian industry, it might, on the other hand, be used to strike a blow at the protectionist policy of Australia, thus injuring the secondary and primary industries of the country. Economists are not all of the one opinion. Some are rabid free traders, while others hold the same view as the Labour party on protection. If one of the latter were appointed, he could do great good to Australian industry; if one of the former occupied the position, he might easily prove a menace to the prosperity of the country.
It is to the credit of the Tariff Board that many of the useful proposals embodied in this bill emanated, in the first place, from the board itself. In its report for 1927, the board invited the attention of the Government to the need for amending the Tariff Board Act so as to increase the board’s efficiency, and to expedite its operations. Nothing was done by the
Minister, however, to give effect to this recommendation. In the report for 1928, the board made a similar request. Itrecommended the elimination of certain detailed investigations of classification and valuation by the board, and it further stated -
Past experience shows that many occasions arise when the work of the board would be greatly facilitated and made more effective if there existed in the act provision under which the members of the board could act individually or the board as a body could divide itself according as the circumstances warranted.
I myself know of two instances in which the Tariff Board could have carried out its duties with greater efficiency and expedition if it had been able to divide itself. I have in mind the investigations into the cotton and marble industries in Queensland. The obtaining of increased protection for the marble industry was a matter of great importance to a section of the people whom I represent. They had invested £25,000 in quarrying machinery, and needed protection to enable them to work at a profit. The board made an inquiry as long ago as the early part of 1925, but the Prime Minister, when Minister for Trade and Customs, refused to have a further inquiry held, on the ground that an investigation had already been made. Even in 1925, the board did not go to Queensland, but heard evidence in the south. If it had gone, and had seen the development that had taken place, and had heard the evidence of those enterprising men who have put their savings into the industry, I believe it would have made a recommendation for still further protection. There was serious delay also in dealing with the application of the cottongrowers for an investigation. There is great unemployment throughout Austraia at the present time. In fact, after seven years’ rule by the composite Government, the number of unemployed is greater now than ever.
– Why not put them on the land?
– That is exactly what I should do if we had a market for what is produced by farmers. I should put them on the laud, to grow cotton in the districts which I represent, if the Government would give the necessary protection to the industry. But it is necessary that they should have sufficient protection against the product of coloured labour. In my opinion we cannot prosper under a lop-sided system of protection. A protectionist policy which does not include the farmers will end up by making them beggars. They must be protected against cheap competition. The cotton-growers of Queensland were justified in asking for protection against cheap cotton from China which was coming in at the rate of 2,000,000 lbs a year, and was being used in Australian factories while the Australian growers were forced to export their product to the Liverpool market. They sold it there for 2d. below what they could have obtained had they been able to sell in Australia. The application of the growers for increased protection was referred to the Tariff Board on the 21st May, 1928, and the hoard submitted its report on the 7th March, 1929, 9$ months later.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing this matter in detail. He may use it as an illustration why the board might be divided, but should not go into it more fully.
– If the recommendation of the board had been adopted over a year ago and it had been allowed to divide, this particular investigation could have been completed without a delay of nine and a half months in carrying out an investigation into such an important industry before submitting a report upon it. One cannot help think ing that the members of a tariff board, the creation of a government like this, are strongly tempted to delay presenting their reports if they think that delay will help the Government, or to present reports which they believe will please the Government and enable it to escape from a difficult situation. It has been rumoured that certain members of the Tariff Board, who were known to hold strong protectionist views, found it difficult to continue as members of the board ; that because they would not listen to suggestions they had to resign. They felt, so I understand, that they were out of step with the Government. Although the Government is supposed not to be in a position to dictate to the board, it is rumoured that hints were thrown out. In the circumstances, it is conceivable that government appointees to the Tariff Board would be tempted to sympathize with the fiscal views of the Ministry; that they would have their ears to the ground, as it were, to get proper guidance as to recommendations that would please the Government. A tariff board, to function in the interests of the Commonwealth, must comprise men who are absolutely free and independent ; men who are not dependent upon the Government for favours ; men not interested in big manufacturing industries or in any way associated with enterprises that are likely to be affected by the imposition of duties. At present there is a real danger that in making appointments to the board the Government is more concerned about parliamentary and political considerations than the welfare of Australian industries.
– Can the honorable member suggest how that may be obviated ?
– I suggest that, instead of appointing alleged captains of industry, directors or managing directors of commercial enterprises, who are prepared to give only a portion of their time to the work of the board, it would be better to select, from within the Commonwealth Public Service, some of its senior and ablest officers, men with no axe to grind, who would be able to give impartial decisions altogether uninfluenced by friendly feeling towards fellow manufacturers or by club dinners.
– Does the honorable member think that the appointment of a woman to the board would be advantageous ?
– If we could get the right type of woman, yes. The Minister made the following statement concerning appointments to the board: -
The Government has come definitely to the conclusion that whatever chance we may have of getting first class men under the arrangement of paying fees, we have none whatever of getting well known business men to give up all their time to the work of the board at a salary of £1,500 per year.
That statement postulates that appointees will be men already engaged in business pursuits - probably directors of companies or men otherwise identified with big manufacturing interests. Therein lies the danger. I take the view that membership of the Tariff Board should be a fulltime job. The salary paid, about £1,500 a year, should be sufficient to enable every person appointed to give the whole of his time to the work. I have no hesitation in saying that if the positions were advertised at £1,500 per year there would be thousands of applications from highly competent men. The Tariff Board, in its comments on this point, stated -
If provision were made for the board to divide itself as suggested, it is considered that remuneration to its members should be in the form of an annual salary, instead of a fee as at present, and, in any case, it is suggested that payment by fixed salary for a whole-time board is far more desirable than payment by fee for attendance at meetings.
Evidently the Minister is at variance with the board on this issue. I agree with the Tariff Board that membership of the board should be a full-time job, and I am satisfied that the right type of men can be obtained. We should not be content to have important fiscal issues determined by alleged captains of industry who can only spare two or three hours per day for the work.
– Be fair.
– It cannot be denied that members of the Tariff Board do not give as much time to the consideration of tariff inquiries as the ordinary public servant does to the work of his department.
– They will give about an hour a day for perhaps three days a week, and will get £18 18s. for doing so.
– And they have hot the fear that, if they do not give full time to their duties, they will be dealt with by the head of a department.
– What does the honorable member suggest as the alternative?
– I have already said that the Government should make membership of the Tariff Board a full-time position, and that £1,500 a year would ensure the appointment of competent men. On page 15 of the Tariff Board’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1928, there appears the following statement : -
While not endeavoring to usurp the functions of the Minister or of the Parliament, the board desires to’ point out that as regards some of the most important subjects investigated by the board, either the Minister of the day, or the Parliament has seen fit to act otherwise than in accordance with the recommendations of the board. Instances of important subjects on which the recommendations of the board have not been adopted are the reports on the cotton bounty and on the import duties affecting the iron and steel industry and the timber industry.
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that Mr. Herbert Brooks was a member of the Tariff Board when it investigated the position of the cotton industry. Whatever honorable members opposite may say of him, they must admit that he was a man of great ability, and was absolutely fearless in making recommendations which he thought would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. As a result of a careful inquiry into the industry, the board recommended the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. on raw cotton. The Government brought” down a measure providing for the payment of only l½d. per lb. The subsequent criticism of the Government by the board for not accepting its recommendation was fully justified. The industry has been languishing ever since, because the Government did not adopt the board’s recommendation. It is believed that a bounty of 2d. per pound would have given it a great fillip. That the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) holds strong views on this subject is apparent from the following extract from his speech: -
Judging by the trend of this debate and certain authoritative statements that have been made, the Tariff Board is to become a kind of lob-lolly boy for the Ministry of the day, and its duty is to carry out the wishes of the Government instead of to give effect to the high ideals which it was created to fulfil.
With one intermission, the honorable member has been in this House since 1904. It is gratifying to know that he has lately been returned to this chamber. Evidently the electors of Franklin believe that he is a more democratic representative than was his immediate predecessor for that division. In view of the unreasonable delay of over nine months in considering the request of the cottongrowers for adequate protection, I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Franklin as to the exact position of the Tariff Board in relation to the Ministry of the day. There have been occasions when a tariff schedule has been tabled in Parliament, but the Tariff Board’s reports on the various requests have not been tabled for the information of members. This is a deplorable state of affairs. The Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that out of 26 reports made by the Tariff Board in one year, only three were laid on the table.
– Parliament was not called upon to discuss the tariff during that year.
– But the position was even worse in the preceding year. I agree with the board that the fullest publicity should be given to its reports, and I consider it most regrettable that the people of Australia have not access, through their representatives in this Parliament, to the reports of that body. I propose, when the. bill is in committee, to put up a strong fight to have the board’s reports on the cotton industry laid on the table for the information of members.
– Before action is taken?
– Within a reasonable time.
– There is nothing to prevent the Minister from tabling the report immediately he presents the new tariff schedule.
– Does the honorable member consider that the Government should accept all reports made by the Tariff Board.
– The Government is not bound to do so. Parliament is supreme. I have shown that in some instances the Government has not adopted the recommendations of the board, and I cited one which, in my opinion, was most important - the recommendation for the payment of 2d. per pound on the production of raw cotton, and the Government’s proposal to pay only1½d. per pound. Failure in that instance to accept the board’s recommendation had disastrous results to the cotton industry in Queensland. The Tariff Board in its report for last year stated that, while it was aware that a considerable number of its reports had been laid on the table, such action had not been taken in every instance. I hope the Minister will see that in future all reports by the board are printed for the information of members and the public.
There have been unreasonable delays on the part of the board in dealing with cases of dumping. Such cases should be dealt with expeditiously. There are in Australia to-day, approximately 166,000 persons who are unemployed, yet goods are being dumped in our ports, and the Minister for Trade and Customs places on the Australian manufacturer the onus of proving the existence of dumping. The manufacturers should be treated much more sympathetically. We are importing from Italy, England and America hundreds of thousands of hats, which could be manufactured here. The time is ripe for a change in the control of the fiscal policy of this country, and that change can be brought about only by a Labour Government that will give effect to the wishes of the people.
– I do not agree with many who have spoken on this bill, even some honorable members on my own side of the chamber. Tariffs were introduced into this House before the Tariff Board came into existence - the Ministry and Parliament accepting full responsibility for them; but since the Tariff Board has been appointed there has been nothing but delay detrimental to Australian industries. Better results would be achieved by relying on the officers in our Trade and
Customs Department. In the earlier days of federation, Ministers had to rely on those officers, and when a tariff schedule was brought down to the House honorable members could hold the Minister and the department responsible. Now, however, the Government bases its schedules on recommendations made by members of a tariff board, who do not represent the public, and accept no responsibility for what they recommend. The responsibility for a tariff rests upon members of Parliament, who being elected by the people, must accept that responsibility, and should not place it on others.
– Everyone agrees with that.
– But the Government does not. At any rate it shirks its responsibility and places it on the Tariff Board. Sir William Lyne, Mr. Tudor and Mr. Green, now Senator Green, accepted full responsibility for the schedules they introduced, and Parliament did better work when it had no reports from a tariff board. This board holds its investigations in public, and from the nature of the evidence given, one can fairly-well forecast what its decisions are likely to be, and thus be in a positionto import goods in anticipation of an increase of duty.
The Minister has said that it is necessary to increase the remuneration paid to members of the Tariff Board so that the services of the most competent men may be obtained, but I believe there is enough talent in the Trade and Customs Department to conduct all the investigations which can be made by the Tariff Board. The board costs £7,000 a year, apart from travelling expenses, and apparently still another department, in the shape of a Bureau of Economic Research, is to be established. In this way we are continually building up the public service. The country will not stand the expense.
– If the honorable member moves to repeal the Tariff Board Act, I shall vote with him.
– I would willingly move for the repeal of the Tariff Board Act. The board is becoming a burden on the country. I do not object to paying decent salaries, but this bill gives power to the Tariff Board to call the Director of Economic Research into consultation, and that gentleman will necessarily need a staff to help him to prepare the matter he will place’ before the
Tariff Board. Where will it all end? This extra expense would be avoided and the work would be done much more expeditiously if the Minister would bring down his own tariff with the consent of the Government. As the board has been functioning for a long time, he has probably quite a number of reports in his possession, a sufficient number at any rate to enable him to bring down an alteration of the tariff any time he chooses. The proposed increase of salaries will not facilitate the work of the Tariff Board. Members of the board engaged in professions or private business will not devote any more time to the work of the board because of an increase in their rate of remuneration. Reports are delayed because we have not on the board men who devote the whole of their- time to its work. Delays would be avoided by having a permanent board with fixed salaries - men who would give the whole of their time to work which, in my opinion, is the most important that any body of men could undertake in Australia. We have highly paid men in our public service whose work is not half so important as that of the Tariff Board, which is reflected in the cost of living. It is desirable that members of a Tariff Board should be permanently appointed at fair salaries, because they are in a position, if they choose to be dishonest, to make money out of their knowledge of the recommendations that are to be made.
– Would not the man on a permanent salary be in the same position ?
– No, because his livelihood would depend on his honesty. The non-permanent member of the board is only appointed for a period and can resign at any moment. The honesty of the officers of our Trade and Customs Department has been an outstanding feature of our administration. We have never had any cause to doubt their sincerity.
– Hear, hear! And that can also be said of the members of the Tariff Board.
– Yes, so far as we are aware. There is no justification for the many delays that have occurred. I have submitted cases to the Minister and he has referred them to the board for investigation and report. But when the reports have been made available they have merely served to indicate that commonsense lines have not been followed.For instance, when the Crystal Glass Company which had spent £40,000 on establishing a plant at Botany, and was giving employment to 400 persons, complained that Belgian glass was being dumped, the Tariff Board did not see its way to recommend the application of a dumping duty. It had not the brains to give a proper decision. It took technical points into consideration, instead of comparing the wages paid in Belgium with those paid in Australia and deciding, as men of common sense should have done, that in the circumstances the Australian manufacturers could not compete.
– The board is. acting quite contrary to the wishes of the people.
– That is so. At the last election the people gave a mandate for a high protective tariff. Every member of the Opposition, the largest party in the House, was pledged to a high protective policy. Most honorable members on the other side of the chamber were likewise pledged to a high protective policy. In the circumstances, therefore, it is the duty of the Government to see that all industries which can be carried on economically are thoroughly protected. It should not delay matters by referring them to a tariff board. It should bring down its own tariff. When we compare our importations with our exportation, we have ample justification for saying that one of the causes of Australia’s unemployment problem is the lack of a high protective tariff.
– We were told that in 1921. There have been three big increases of customs duties since then.
– We shall keep on saying it. History shows that we are right in our assertion. When the United States of America had a smaller population than Australia has to-day it had considerably more unemployment than it has had since the introduction of the McKinley Tariff. It was that tariff alone which enabled America to develop into one of the finest manufacturing countries in the world.
I am opposed to the Tariff Board. It is costly, it does not fulfil its functions, and it delays inquiries.
– I think it is obeying the will of the Minister by delaying matters.
– It is certainly not helping Parliament. We need a high protective tariff, and if the Government is true to its pledges it will bring one down, irrespective of any Tariff Board.
The proposal to enable the board to consult with the Director of Economic Research is only another means for delay. One does not need much brains to decide whether an Australian industry can compete with cheap labour in China or Japan. Commonsense should be the guiding factor. We do not need a professor of economics to tell us that Australia cannot compete with European countries. If Australia is to progress and to attract population, it must have secondary industries, and these must be properly protected against the importation of goods manufactured by people in other countries. This bill will not assist Parliament. On the contrary, it may retard it, and prevent it from coming to proper decisions. I shall vote against it, just as I would vote for a bill to abolish the Tariff Board altogether.
– Would the honorable member agree to the appointment of a parliamentary committee to consider tariff matters?
– -The best body to deal with tariff matters would be a committee appointed by this Parliament and consisting of members. of this Parliament, who are elected by and responsible to the people. The British Parliament and other Parliaments have tariff committees, and surely there is enough brains in this Parliament also to deal with these issues without referring them to an outside body.
– Would the honorable member be content with a committee which included the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Perth?
– They have a right to their conscientious opinions, which apparently are endorsed by their constituents, and I have no objection to their expressing them in this Parliament. The
*Bill. ** 987
Tariff Board may continue a little while longer, but it is bound to disappear because it is not effective. The responsibility of framing a tariff lies with the Government and the Parliament, and the best tariffs ever considered in this House were those introduced by Ministers -who had not an outside board to assist them. We must build up our secondary industries, and because of the increasing competition from cheap-labour countries, our tariff must be made more effective. I do not expect any advantage in that way from the bill.
.- The debate on this bill inevitably involves some consideration of tariff matters generally, and, therefore, the bill will have an important influence on the future welfare of Australia. There may be some justification for the increased payments which the Minister is proposing, but he certainly has not disclosed it. We have been told that we are not likely to get men of the right type to serve on the board unless the emoluments of the office are increased. On the other hand, we have the assurance that previous members of the board were men of wide knowledge and experience and rendered excellent service. Are wc to understand that the best service was not given by them, or, at any rate, that they did not work as well as the men to be appointed at higher fees will work? I have no objection to the payment of reasonably high salaries to men who have the requisite knowledge, experience and ability; for the work of the Tariff Board is as important as any that is done on behalf of this Parliament. The future of our industries depends upon the effectiveness of the tariff, therefore the future prosperity of the Commonwealth is wrapped up in this measure. The suggestion that a full-time board should be appointed is worthy of consideration. Complaints have been made from time to time of delay in the investigation of matters referred to the board, and perhaps its members could not spare sufficient time to deal with the various references. Able and sincere they may have been, but they were only human, and men with private commercial interests would be likely to subordinate their duties as members of the board to them.
I do not suggest that they dishonestly failed in their duty, but I believe that delays are probable when members of the board have private interests which claim a portion of their time and attention. I am not in favour of the abolition of the board. Tariff problems are intricate and technical, and few Ministers would have the time, and fewer still the experience, to understand them thoroughly. These matters require investigation by men who are more or less experts, but their recommendations should come before Parliament directly, for Parliament is ultimately responsible for the tariff. The members of the board should devote the whole of their time to tariff matters. One honorable member suggested that a departmental committee might be substituted for the board. I do not favour leaving these important matters to public servants, who are associated officially with Ministers, for they would be likely to be influenced by the fiscal views of the government of the day. I would prefer an independent board appointed for a term of, say, seven years, so that its members would not be liable to dismissal at the will of any Minister ; and it should be divorced entirely from political influence. The provision in clause 4, enabling the board to subdivide itself into committees of two members each, is wise, especially if the board is to continue a part-time body. Doubtless many of the past delays have been due to the fact that the board could function only in full meeting. The appointment of subcommittees is likely to expedite the board’s investigations, particularly in the more distant States. I am afraid that the proposal of the honorable member for Franklin that a lady be appointed to the board would, if adopted, create complications. Previous members of the board, I understand, were appointed principally from Sydney and Melbourne, and the remoter States found it difficult to get men to serve on a part-time board. The result was that those States had not as good representation as they might have had if the members of the board had been fulltime servants of the Crown. The provision allowing the Minister to direct the board to confer with the Director of Economic Research is most dangerous, and if the honorable gentleman wishes to remove from himself and the Government suspicion of desiring to influence the board secretly, he will agree that not only should the Director of Economic Research give his evidence in public, but that the board may call upon him to appear before it at any time. What would be the Minister’s reason for instructing the board to confer with the Director ? I am not reflecting on the bona fides of the present Minister when I remind the House that the Director of Economic Research will be a creature of the government of the day; the government that appointed him would know his views. The Government will naturally appoint a man holding views acceptable to it. Seeing that the Minister will have the Opportunity, by conference and otherwise, of meeting the Director of Economic Research, it appears to me that there is a danger that he may use him to convey his own fiscal views to the board.
– Should not the board hear evidence from all sections of the community?
– Certainly, but it should hear it openly and not secretly. I do not believe in providing a back-door method for the Minister to place before the hoard any views that he may hold on the questions which come before it from time to time. I am not at all enamoured of the idea of the Director of Economic Research interfering with the board in any way. As a matter of fact, honorable members on this side of the chamber are beginning to look askance at the very word “economic.” Unfortunately, it is coming to have a somewhat sinister import. The gentlemen engaged in so-called economic research sometimes produce valuable information ; but economic research is not an exact science. All too often these academic theorists bring into their findings their own pet ideas. Views that are an obsession with them have an unhappy way of receiving prominence in any declarations that they may make. I am afraid that this clause will give to a government which declares for protection, but holds only anaemic views on the subject, a means of breaking down this great national policy. I shall not go round the corner to say that in my opinion this Government is indirectly weakening our protectionist policy. Certain members of it have made no secret of the fact that they favour big reductions of the existing duties. This makes it all the more necessary that the Minister should either withdraw this clause, or amend it to provide that the Tariff Board may, at any time that it desires, call the Director of Economic Research as a public witness. Such knowledge and experience as he may possess should be made available to the community, but it should be made available openly.
– The fiscal policy of the Government was approved by the people at the last election, and the introduction of the Tariff Board Bill is evidence that every effort will be made to make the policy effective. The effect of the measure is to make the Tariff Board a more useful body, and to bring into effect a scientific tariff.
– What is a scientific tariff?
– Such as was foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s speech. It is a tariff based as far as possible on the results of scientific investigations such as will be made by this board. The Government has made no secret of the fact that it intended to appoint a board of economic research. The paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech dealing with this matter reads -
There are many departments of Commonwealth activity the work of which would be greatly facilitated if an Economic Research Service were available. For this purpose, and to provide fuller information for the public upon many subjects of importance, it is proposed to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Economic Research, and to extend the scone of the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
There is nothing to complain of in the provisions of proposed new section 15a, It provides that the Minister may direct the board to confer with the Director of Economic Research, but I cannot see anything in it that will prevent the board from calling the members of the Board of Economic Research to give evidence before it at any time. The bill represents an effort to extricate the country from the fiscal anomalies under which it is at present laboring. “Mr. BERNARD CORSER.- Anomalies that have been long awaiting correction arc to be dealt with in consequence of the passage of this bill, as was foreshadowed in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of Parliament. One paragraph in that Speech stated -
A careful investigation of the work and functions of the Tariff Board has been made. Proposals will be submitted to you to bring about a more expeditious and effective working of the board, so that Parliament may be fully and accurately informed as to the operation of existing customs duties and bounties, and may also be in a position to consider the probable effect of new proposals for the encouragement of primary and secondary industries.
That statement explains in a nutshell the object of the measure. I cannot endorse the view supported by some members of the Opposition that the Tariff Board should be abolished, and. that all postponed tariff variations should be submitted to Parliament. I think that an independent body such as the Tariff Board, which is non-political and unbiased, should be able to present an accurate report for the consideration and guidance of honorable members. Therefore, I consider the board to be a valuable instrument of assistance to the House and to the country. Its duties are such that it has opportunities of making a special study of all tariff proposals. It has justified its appointment, and primary and secondary industries have benefited to no small degree, particularly in Queensland, because of the protective tariff insisted upon by the present Government. Tariff proposals should be considered, as far as possible, from a non-party point of view. The vicious principle of party politics should be avoided, because the development of our primary and secondary industries by a protective tariff is of such vital importance to the whole community. There are instances in my own electorate where opportunities present themselves for an extension of the principle of protection, and I consider that the Tariff Board, constituted as it will be when this bill becomes law, will prove an even more effective instrument than it has in the past.
-Is the honorable member not aware that at no time have tariff amendments been made a party matter?
– Some of the statements by members of the Opposition would imply that the Minister for Trade and Customs has a certain amount of control over the members of tlie board, and that suggests to my mind that members of the Opposition quite unfairly impute political motives on the part of the Government. Parliament might consider the wisdom of referring very important issues to the Tariff Board in the interests of the workers as well as the manufacturers and producers. For instance, if we gave attention to the manufacture of motor cars in Australia we could perhaps avoid sending millions of pounds annually to the United States of America for them. If Australian capital were employed in the manufacture of the motor cars that we now import from that country, all sections of the community would reap the benefit. That is one reason why I contend that the board should be free from any suggestion of political control; otherwise we shall not be able to get the best results from it. I hope that the House will consider this measure purely from the Australian point of view. Under it the board is to bo constituted in the interests of the Australian producers, both primary and secondary.
It must be generally admitted -that the board was wise, and the House and the Government were wise, in what they did for the primary producers of the great State of Queensland, of which I have the honour to be a representative, when it was decided recently that a duty of 6d. per lb. be placed on butter dumped into Australia from New Zealand. In every industry the conditions in which have been brought under the notice of the Government, where the Tariff Board has acted - whether in connexion with sugar, tinned fruit, nuts, maize, bananas, or any other commodity - the producers have been assisted. But the last word has not been said in that regard. I hope that in the near future the anomalies in the peanut and cotton industries will bo similarly corrected. There is a surplus of no less than 2,000 tons of peanuts from last year’s crop, and another 2,000 tons are expected from the crop to be harvested in April and May. In this case, the Government has an instance of an industry that is suffering through the want of temporary assistance over a period of eighteen months. The Government proposes to help industries not only by way of tariff adjustments, but by a continuance of the bounty system.
There has been some complaint over the unfortunate delay in the presentation of the report on the cotton industry that is now in the hands of the Minister. I do not know that the Tariff Board is responsible for that delay, nor do I know that the Government is worthy of blame in that respect, but I am aware that the authorities in the cotton industry in Queensland have said that if the investigations of the board are completed in time for action to be taken before the next marketing season, and if the report is acted upon, everything asked for by the industry will have been done by the Commonwealth Government. We know that in the past the board has made recommendations that the House has not entirely accepted. In this instance the board recommended a bounty of 2d. per pound to the cotton-grower, and the Government granted lid. The growers made no other request, but the Government also gave a bounty to the secondary industry, which provided a total benefit equivalent to that asked for by the growers. So wise and far-seeing was that policy that the growers’ representatives themselves have now asked for an extension of it, realizing that in the advancement of the secondary industry lies hope of the success of the primary industry. The report that the House is now waiting for will deal with the growers’ requests, not for an increase of the bounty to the grower, but for an increase in the assistance given to the secondary industry, and an extension of that policy. I hope sincerely that that assistance will be forthcoming. It is true that the Government did not accept entirely the recommendations of the Tariff Board in that particular, but nothing has been said of one of its recommendations. This was that if the Government gave assistance by way of bounty to the growers, there should be an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Queensland to prevent the latter from passing any enactment or making any alteration of conditions, Which would increase the cost of growing cotton, and thus take away the benefit given to the grower by the Commonwealth Government. Unfortunately, that recommendation was not carried out. Immediately the bounty was granted, the cotton industry was subjected by the Queensland Labour Government to industrial conditions that increased the cost of cotton production, and deprived the growers to some extent of the benefit of the bounty.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– It is a fact. The report of the Tariff Board proves it. In all industries the protection granted should be sufficient to ensure to the Australian worker-
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the scope of the bill.
– One of the objects of the measure is to prevent unjust competition from countries outside Australia in respect of commodities that can be produced in the Commonwealth. Not long ago the State Labour Government in Queensland imported 25 locomotives from England, because they could be purchased there at a lower price than that at which they could be made in Australia. I hope that honorable members will take a non-party view of tariff matters, and realize that an extension of the policy of protecting Australian industries and building up a local market is the best way to develop and populate this country.
.- I have been wondering whether the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) was speaking with a full sense of responsibility when he made his opening remarks on the bill. He said that on his side of the House there were quite a. number of protectionists, while on the opposite side all were protectionists. He added that it was necessary for Australia to adopt a protective policy to enable the Treasurer to raise the revenue required for governmental purposes. I hope that the incoming Tariff Board will take care that effective protection is afforded, but if that is done the Treasurer will have to look in some direction other than the customs house for the money required for carrying on the government of the country. There are two provisions in the bill that call for comment. The first is that dealing with the salaries of the members of the board, of which we have heard a good deal, and the second is that providing for conferences between the board and the proposed Director of Economic Research. I do not object to the fees proposed to be paid to the members of the board if they perform their work in the interests of Australia. If the fees were fixed at twice the amount proposed and the board performed its work in the interests of the people, Australia would be well repaid. On the other hand if the gentlemen who will comprise the board gave their services without any remuneration, and did not work in the interests of the Commonwealth, the result would be costly to the Commonwealth. In carrying out their important duties I presume the members of the board will visit industries in the various States in order to ascertain the effect of the tariff at present in operation. Prior to the elections and during the period between the elections and the assembling of Parliament, I visited a number of Australian factories where protected articles are manufactured. On making inquiries at the works of a spring manufacturer I found for instance that an imported spring, which, before springs were made here, cost 17s. 6d. was, after the imposition of a duty, being sold at 7s. 3d. The Australian article cost 8s. thus leaving a difference of only 9d. in favour of the imported article. An examination, however, disclosed that, under test, the Australian product was infinitely superior to the imported article. The effect of the duty was to cause the imported article to be reduced from 17s. 6d. to 7s. 3d. I also saw springs of Australian manufacture which were selling at 3s., whilst similar imported springs were selling at 12s. 6d. As the result of the imposition of a 55 per cent, duty, motor car gears, which prior to the imposition of a duty were being sold at £9 10s. are, after Australian manufacturers have been producing them at £4 5s., now being sold at £3 15s. It should be the duty of the Tariff Board to inquire into cases where such reductions are being made to ascertain whether the goods are being sold below the landed cost. In cases such as I have quoted the local market should be reserved for Australian manufacturers. In conversation with a spring manufacturer I said “ Now that you can produce a good local article, if given an opportunity, are you prepared to produce all the springs that Australia needs?” The reply I received was to the effect that if the manufacturers were given the Australian market, they could meet its requirements and supply springs at prices equivalent to those charged for the imported article. Every consideration should be shown to our manufacturers who cannot hope to sell in other than the Australian market. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to the fact that millions of pounds’ worth of motor cars and chassis were being imported into Australia from America ; but I do not know if honorable members are aware that a 100 per cent Australianmade car has already been manufactured in Sydney.
– Where is it to be seen ?
– There are already four on the road, and I believe the selling price, is £180.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– I was pointing out the direction in which the Tariff Board could conduct investigations. The board should visit our manufacturing establishments to see what is actually being done. Honorable members would be astonished on visiting some of our big importing houses, to find that 75 per cent, of the goods, branded “British Made,” are manufactured in Australia. The Australian manufacturers can produce goods equal to those manufactured abroad, but many of the commodities made locally are branded “ Made in England “, because they would not otherwise find a ready market here.
I do not feel disposed to vote for the provision in which the board is empowered to confer with the Director of Economic Research. I have not too much faith in economists who, when asked why the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer, use long words, the effect of which is that it is due to natural processes controlled by inexorable laws. But it all depends upon whether the question is viewed from the inside or the outside. Looking at it from outside, one sees the economic processes but from the inside one sees the actions of men. Wealth is produced and distributed by the actions of men. If men, in the course of their dealings, have made a hell on earth, it is because they first had hell in their hearts; but if they aro making a paradise on earth, it is because their hearts have changed and, that being so, no economic law can stand in the way. I have always maintained that poverty is not the will of God, neither is it caused by any implacable economic law. It is caused by the actions of men, driven by the worst of human impulses - greed. A study of the causes of poverty will show that it is due purely and simply to greed. In the financial columns of the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s issue I noticed a description of a new trick to be played by American financiers - again the action of men. The paragraph reads -
What is the perfect security of the future? Shall we discover in the course of financial revolution that our habit of labelling securities with a certain monetary amount is misleading and mischievous, and that the system now growing in favour on the other side of the Atlantic, of no par value, is more scientific and less likely to delude the ignorant?
Some one will tell us that “ no par value “ is governed by unbending economic laws; they will not admit that it is all a trick. I wish to refer the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who I believe is a strong advocate of freetrade, to a paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 19th January. It is dated London^ 12th December, 1928, and is headed “Labour and Industry,” and reads -
Last week, the National Association of Unions in the Textile Trade, an organization comprising 25 trade unions, decided that it would support the employers in an application for the safeguarding of the dress goods branch of the woollen industry…… When the employers in the textile trade made a similar application for a safeguarding tariff in 1025, the unions opposed the claim before the tribunal. Since then, the depression in the industry has continued uninterruptedly. Whereas in 1920 there were 10,477,000 square yards of woollens and worsteds imported into England, by 1927 the volume had grown to 29,402,000. For the first nine months of 1 928, the ~ figures stood at no fewer than 33,194,000 square yards. As a result, some 50 mills had been shut down in as many weeks, and only 40 per cent, of the wool textile operatives are in full employment.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, said that he did not believe there was any one in Australia so ignorant as to believe the statement of certain members of the Labour party, who contended that £80,000,000 worth of goods now imported in Australia could be manufactured here.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– Matters such as those to which I am referring could be investigated by the Tariff Board. As I believe that one-half of the goods at present imported could be manufactured in Australia, I must be one of those ignorant individuals referred to by the right honorable gentleman. But our contention is also supported by the Commonwealth Statistician, the Australian Manufacturer and Mr. Stirling Taylor, so that we are in good company. The bill will, I suppose, be passed; but I shall vote against the clause giving the board power to confer with the Director of Economic Research.
.- I have listened with great interest to the debate on this amending bill. It seems to me that there is very little difference of opinion amongst honorable members regarding its provisions, nor is there much room for difference. The discussion has roamed fairly widely. You, Mr. Speaker, have been generous in the latitude you have allowed, and, if I may be permitted to say so, you have acted with propriety, because it is almost impossible to discuss the specific provisions of the bill without trespassing on tariff policy and the functions of the board generally.
The bill provides for an increase in remuneration to the members of the Tariff Board. That is neither here nor there, the amount of increase being negligible; but I share the opinion of some other honorable members that this is an inopportune time for raising salaries. There is no need for these increases at the present time. I also agree with some honorable members that this should be a whole-time job. I do not care where the men are drawn from who are to compose this board; the best men that the salary can command should be selected, no matter whence they come. I am in sympathy with the suggestion thrown out by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that one member of the board should be a woman. The women of Australia have taken the keenest and most intelligent interest in public matters. I suppose it is the experience of every honorable member in this House that some of the finest workers in their constituencies have been women. In every capital of the Commonwealth there are splendid women at the head of big business enterprises; I know several myself, women who would grace any board of this kind. I should like it to be laid down that, in making a selection, the Minister should not be required to choose from men only. If a suitable woman can be found she ought to be included. As I said before, I agree that the salary of members should not be increased at this time. One of the members of the Opposition - I think it was the honorable member for Lang - speaking on this point, beat his breast most vigorously, and protested his sincerity and honesty. At the same time he called in question the sincerity of those who sit on this side of the House, and said that if we were not callous, we were at least careless to the sufferings of the workers.
– So they are; they do not care a rap.
– I resent that sort of thing, and I suggest that he should test his own sincerity. Here is a man talking about us on this side of the House seeking to increase the salaries of wellpaid men while the rank and file he represents are suffering from want. He waxes almost tearful over the women and children suffering as a result of unemployment. Is it not a fact, however, that the honorable member who thus declaims is himself accepting a wage of £20 a week, while the rank and file of those who employ him do not receive one-fifth of that amount? One member of the Opposition took a different view altogether. He said that he would not object to paying even twice the proposed salaries if the proper men could be found to sit -on the board. That is a sound principle, and is in strik ing contrast with the insincere view of the honorable member for Lang, who declaims against those suggesting increased salaries.
– I rise to order. I strongly object to any honorable member branding me as insincere.
– It is out of order to suggest that any honorable member is insincere.
– We on this side of the House are so often charged-
– Do I understand that the honorable member withdraws his statement ?
– I withdraw it. In the circumstances, however, the honorable member should be slow to suggest that members on this side of the House are callous to, or careless of the sufferings of others.
There is general agreement as to the soundness of the proposal that the powers of the Tariff Board may be conferred upon any two members. This provision will tend to make the conduct of business more expeditious. The most important provision of the bill, it seems to me, is that which enables the Minister to require the board to confer with the director, when appointed, of the Bureau of Economic Research. That provision seems to be the rock on which many of the members opposite come to grief. They object to it. They seem to see something dangerous in the suggestion that the board should confer with an economic expert. They say that they do not want to have anything to do with an economic expert. They would almost rather have the fixing of tariffs left exclusively to Parliament with no board at all. From the beginning to the end of the debate they have concentrated on the need for what they call “ effective protection “. That phrase was on the lips of every honorable member who spoke from the opposite side of the chamber. When some honorable members on this side dared to suggest that we should have scientific protection, they were greeted with a sneer, particularly from the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) who wanted to know what was meant by scientific protection. Not one honorable member on the other side has been able to tell us just what he means by effective protection. Some time ago I saw where an attempt at a definition, or rather a description, of effective protection had been made by Mr. Hume Cook, secretary of the Industries Preservation League, Melbourne. As an illustration, he said, “What would you consider, when putting up a building, to be an effective roof? Would you consider it effective if it allowed any rain to come through ? “ The inference was that only that roof would be effective which excluded every drop of rain. If we apply that description to protection, it means that, in order to be effective, the tariff should prohibit importations altogether; that if any importations relating to a protected industry find their way into the country at all, protection, to that extent, is not effective. If we adopt that sort of protection there is no need for a Tariff Board, or anything of the kind. All any one proposing to establish an industry .would have to do would be to come to Parliament and say, “We want you to prohibit competition with us in this industry. “ And honorable members opposite would say in reply, “ We are advocates of effective protection, and we shall cut out all competition in your industry.” That is a simple remedy, and if that is what honorable members opposite mean, in heaven’s name let them say so, and we shall know where they stand. But if that is what is meant by protection, then I, for one, am not a protectionist, and the people of Australia have never declared for that kind of protection. This is one question which lends itself to decision by referendum, and I should like the people to be asked plainly whether or not they desired that brand of protection.
– I remind the honorable member that while he is quite justified in defining his position, and then dealing with the position of the Tariff Board in regard to carrying out any policy determined by the House, a debate on scientific protection or revenue duties would be out of order. As far as possible, the object of the Tariff Board is to report upon matters submitted to it in accordance with the principles definitely set out in the tariff laws. Honorable members may debate that aspect of the subject.
– I wish to state how I propose to connect my remarks with this particular clause of the bill. My object is to show that if the policy of Australia is effective protection, as defined by honorable members opposite, there is no need for this clause in the bill at all.
– On a point of order I direct attention to the fact that no member of the Opposition has made such a statement as that attributed to us by the honorable member for Fawkner.
– No point of order is involved. The honorable member will have an opportunity to speak and explain his position later on.
– I shall conclude this part of my argument by repeating that if that is the policy which honorable members opposite suggest we should enforce as a Parliament, then there is no necessity for this provision, and indeed no need for the bill at all. I take the view that the Minister for Trade and Customs, as the person immediately responsible for giving effect to the settled policy of Australia, to administer his department properly must inform his mind in the best way possible concerning every application for protection that comes before him. This House, in its wisdom, decided some years ago that the best way to secure that was to appoint a board, whose special duty it would be to make a thorough inquiry into every application, and then submit its report to the Minister. That, I submit, is a sound principle. It is of the utmost importance that this duty of inquiring into the many applications made should be entrusted to capable men who are in a position to give the whole of their time to th« work of the board. The tendency all along the line to-day is to make every step forward in accordance with law.
– We should like to have the honorable member’s definition of the term “ scientific protection “.
– I shall come to that .point before I resume my seat. I always listen with pleasure to the remarks of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), particularly when he is handling a scientific problem like that of public health. “ On that subject the honorable member has delivered some of the most delightful addresses I have listened to in this House. His observations have been of absorbing interest, because he has approached a scientific subject in a scientific way, his views being absolutely untainted by any political admixture. But when the honorable member steps out of the realm of health into the realm of the tariff, where political considerations are rampant - he is not like the same man. He sneers at science in the realm of industry, and gives one the impression that he would pay no regard to the need for obedience to laws. He asks, “What is meant by scientific protection?” I should say that scientific protection is that form of protection which is in accord as nearly as possible with economic law.
– What is economic law ?
– I do not propose at this stage to lecture honorable members on that important subject, but I should be very much surprised indeed if they denied that , there is such a thing as economic law.
– No, but there are many interpretations of it.
– There is sound reason for expert advice with regard to economic law being given to the Tariff Board in respect of certain applications for protective duties, because we must have regard not only to the interests of the particular industry concerned, but also to other industries and to the people of Australia generally. In our amendment of the Arbitration Act we inserted a provision requiring a judge of the Arbitration Court, when making an award, to consider the effect of the award not only upon the particular industry concerned but also on the community generally. Honorable members opposite will, I think, agree that that is a sound principle. My view of scientific protection is this: Protection that will not exclude all competition, but will equalize, as far as possible, the conditions under which competition shall take place. That, and nothing more. When an industry has been accorded that measure of protection, it has no right to ask for more, and certainly I would not be prepared to concede it. The honorable member for Darling sneered at the observations of the British Economic Mission - known as the “Big Pour.” He spoke of them as the “ Imper tinent Pour,” because they dared to suggest that, from an economic point of view, the time had come when we should take stock of our position and have some regard to the effect of our present fiscal policy in the light of experience. I should like to contrast the sneering of the honorable member for Darling with the tribute paid to these visitors from Britain by Mr. Gibson, the president of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne. Mr. Gibson stated recently that before he met these men he was prejudiced against them, not only personally, but against the underlying purpose of their visit; but since he had been in close personal contact with them he had come to the conclusion, and he made the statement publicly’, that intercourse with them had been an education and an inspiration.
– What did he say about their report?
– I have just quoted his opinion of the men, and I should think that Mr. Gibson is sufficiently broad-minded and has common sense to appreciate the spirit in which their report was framed and the terms in which it was couched. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is usually breezy and full of common- sense. All honorable members are willing to pay a tribute to the fine spirit that always characterizes his utterances in this chamber. I was impressed by the naive sentence with which he . closed his speech. He told us that he was in favour of effective protection being given to all industries that could be economically carried on.
– We are all in favour of that form of protection.
– Exactly. Put into other language, the closing remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney meant that he would favour effective protection being given to industries that could comply with economic laws. Is not that what the Government is proposing to do ? The board must be satisfied that the industry in respect of which a protective duty is sought can be economically carried on. In other words, it must ba convinced that if an industry is given an adequate measure of protection ultimately it will become so firmly established that it will be able to stand on its feet. That, I suggest, is what we mean when we speak of economically carrying on an industry. And that is the common sense of the honorable member for South Sydney asserting itself in spite of political considerations.
I turn now to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) who says many things in this House. In this debate, he said one thing that was nearer the truth than even he imagined. When he was speaking I interjected, “What are economics?” and he at once replied, “ Why, common sense, of course ! “
– What is wrong about that?
– Nothing whatever. All that we are’ contending is that in respect of applications for tariff duties, the Government shall be able to apply the law of common sense in determining how far industries shall be protected. To show how necessary it is to inquire carefully into the economic effect of applications that come before the board, I need only remind honorable members of the plea made this afternoon by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who is great on cotton. He espouses eloquently the cause of cotton, and, in addition, marble, peanuts and a number of other industries. But I am especially concerned just now with the honorable member’s observations concerning the cotton industry. He has told us that it has a great future, if only this Parliament will give it effective protection. That is one of the problems that must come before the Tariff Board and so involved is it that it is necessary for the Minister to have authority to require the board to confer with economic experts, so as to determine whether or not the claim of such an industry for protection is well founded. I recall that when the request for a cotton bounty was brought up in this House, the statement was made that the cotton industry in Queensland was really a family industry; that if it had to employ adult labour and pay award rates, it could not be an economic success. Naturally, in view of this statement, the first question which one asks oneself is - “ Is the industry economically sound ?” or, “ Is the proposal for assistance a commonsense one? “ We are given to understand that a man with a family of young chil dren can make a success of cotton growing, with the assistance of protection. But children have a habit of growing up and of declining to work indefinitely for children’s wages. In many cases they wish to strike out for themselves. What happens then to cotton growing which, we are told, is ‘a family industry? I use this as an illustration to show how careful we should be to examine every proposal for protective duties, to see if the industry concerned is on a sound economic basis.
– The honorable member will admit that it was unreasonable to occupy nine months in an investigation.
– Possibly, but that is only another argument in favour of conferring the full powers of the board on a committee of two. If claims were to be submitted to a more rigorous and searching ‘examination than they are; if every applicant before the board were to be cross-examined by independent counsel acting on behalf of the general community, some of the men who now come forward quite gaily to ask for effective protection would be conspicuous by their absence.
– Should not the Director of Economic Research be cross-examined also ?
– I see no reason why he should not. I would not give a snap of the fingers for the evidence of any man who did not submit himself to cross-examination. The Minister in the last resort is the man who has to place his views before Cabinet for acceptance, and in my opinion, he should be permitted to fully inform his mind by being able to call into counsel with himself or through the board, the very best advice obtainable. I am opposed to an increase of salaries at a time when we are talking so much about economy. Of course if it here found that some .outstanding man could not be got, except at a very high figure, then it would be a question for consideration as to whether we should give the extra _ money. I do not care whether the men to be appointed to the board come from our Public Service or elsewhere, we should have them if they are keen at their work. The work done by the Tariff Board is very absorbing and ought to occupy a man’s whole attention. I do not think an individual immersed in other business could do it successfully. I am whole-heartedly in favour of the. last clause of the bill, and I think that the general sense of the House is that the bill is a good one. I hope it will be found practicable to make women eligible for membership of the board, so that the Minister may give due weight to the claims of women candidates. I think that it would be advantageous to appoint some one who would be representative of that vast body of women who take such a keen interest in public affairs and who are so closely and sympathetically associated with the economic life of the community.
.- I am sure the honorable member for Darling (Mr.Blakeley) will not be very much concerned about the invective hurledat him by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to whose speech I have just listened with considerable interest. The honorable member for Fawkner, instead of analysing the bill at length, took it upon himself to criticize honorable members sitting opposite to him in, I regret to say, rather a personal way. Of course personal criticism does not make up for lack of argument. I think we can claim the honorable member’s support to a considerable extent. For instance, he said, as we say, that the position of members of the Tariff Board should be a full-time job. Some of us say that salaries should not be increased. I do not say it, but the honorable member does.
– I also think the salary should be a fixed one in each case and not so much per sitting.
– We entirely agree with that. The honorable member’s attitude is very much like that of the young man who, after a visit to his prospective father-in-law, said -
Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
But why did you kick me downstairs?
Honorable members of the Opposition consider that the position of a member of the Tariff Board should be a full time one. And for a very cogent reason. In answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition on the 6th March last the Minister for Trade and Customs said that he had invited the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce to make a joint nomination of a person for appointment to the Tariff Board. The person nominated by them will not be expected to work more than 248 days in the year, and I do not suppose he will work more than four hours a day. Those hours would not be considered out of the way from the stand-point of commercial men, although they have very different ideas when it comes to a question of what hours employees should work. I have no objection to the proposal to divide the board into sub-boards. It may facilitate the work of the board. The proposal to generally allow the Minister to decide whether goods may be admitted free1 of duty under item 160 of the tariff may also shorten proceedings, but it is the impartiality of the board that is the most important issue. We cannot expect impartiality from a board constituted along the lines proposed by the Government. As a matter of fact Australia could not have a board as impartial, for instance, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. . Mann) would expect it to be. It would not last for ten minutes if it followed the policy of freetrade, even if it thought it to be the correct one for this country. The members of the board might think that a high protection policy is destructive to the development of this country, but they could not proceed on those lines. There are circumscribed limits to the board’s functions, and the principal limitation is the fact that Australia has declared for a high protective tariff. I do not quarrel with that, but I question the right of the Tariff Board to go outside its ambit and try to bring to task the work done by the trade union movement. In its report for the year 1925-26 the board said that it was strongly of opinion that the industrial unions of ‘ the Commonwealth should be induced to realize the critical position into which the Commonwealth is drifting and the absolute necessity for preventing the wages gap from becoming still wider between the United Kingdom, the continent of Europe, and the Commonwealth. Otherwise the Tariff Board, placed as it is in the position to take a comprehensive and intimate view of all Australian industry, can see nothing but economic disaster ahead, and that at no very distant date.
That is a distinctively partisan statement, not supported by evidence, and the least the board could have done was to give. some reasons for making it. It is most reprehensible for the board to attack the working class movement of Australia. The Australian workman believes first and foremost that protection is good for himself, but he also takes the broader view that in order to develop the country Australia must have diversity of industries, and should not be limited to sheep raising and wheat growing. Australia in adopting a protective policy has taken America as a model rather than old-world countries, with their established industries, which are anxious to foist their freetrade goods on us.
– We are told that there are 8,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America.
– But the United States of America is prospering ; its population is 120,000,000, and most of the people receive higher wages than obtain in any other country. The workers there aro in comparative affluence because of the policy of high protection. The Tariff Board would have us believe that wages in Australia have unduly increased during the last few years, although an examination of official statistics proves the contrary. The British Economic Mission in its report said -
We could not fail to be impressed, throughout our travels in Australia, with the fact of which we were continually reminded, that, notwithstanding the magnitude of the interest on her external debt and of her imports for which payment can only ‘be made in goods or services or temporarily, by fresh borrowing. Australia exports only an almost negligible quantity of the products of manufacture, unless we include therein minerals such as lead, silver and zinc; while, broadly speaking, the only primary products which she exports in important, quantities and which are not directly assisted .by tariff or bounties, though they may be assisted indirectly by Government expenditure from taxation on roads, railways, water schemes and the like, are - wool, hides and skins, meat and tallow, wheat and timber. Of these, wool and wheat are by far the most important, and it has often, though somewhat loosely, been said to us that the primary industries concerned with these products are the only industries in Australia which stand on their own feet and sell their goods at the world’s price: or even, still more loosely and with a change of metaphor, that all Australia in riding on the sheep’s back. Without committing ourselves to full acquiescence with these broad expressions of opinion, we may say that we have been strongly disposed to the view that the combined operation of the tariff and of the arbitration acts has raised costs to a level which has laid an excessive and possibly even a dangerous load upon the unsheltered primary industries.
That last paragraph is an impertinentinterference with an accepted Australian policy.
– Is it not true?
– The pastoral industry is the most prosperous in Australia, years afford any criterion, it must continue to be so. Comparing the two opinions I have quoted, we find the Tariff Board confines itself to declaring that the increase of wages is detrimental to the high tariff policy and Australian secondary industries, whilst the British Economic Mission says that not only the increase of wages, but also the high tariff advocated by the board, is interfering with industrial development. If the members of the board include a representative of the manufacturers who is personally interested in some manufacturing enterprise, as may easily happen under the Minister’s proposal, we may expect the reports of the board in future to contain further thrusts at the working class and the wages system of this country. I protest against these attacks. Whilst it is true that the primary industries are affected by the tariff, the woolgrowing industry occupies a particularly sheltered position. Australian wool is superior to all others; the product of no other country can compete against it ; and because they are “ on a good wicket,” the wool-growers can afford to look cheerful. The Taxation Department in Western Australia published certain figures showing the average amount of income tax paid by different sections of the community in that State. The pastoralists paid £78 6s., after allowing for all exemptions ; their incomes were easily the highest, although, as they are only developing their properties, they are not nearly as well off as are their brothers in the eastern States. The pastoralists of New South Wales are probably doing many times as well. The hotelkeepers paid an average income tax of £50- - 9s.; professional persons. £29 3e. ; brewers, who are usually considered a prosperous class, £20 8s.; farmers, £10 6s.; and clergymen, £4 5s. At the bottom of the list were the men who do the work of the country, and without whose brain and muscle not a single wheel in industry could turn. 1 have quoted those figures to show that the high tariff policy has not seriously affected the wool-growers. If my prediction, that the board will advocate a higher tariff, is verified, it will be necessary for the manufacturers to so equip their industries as to ensure increased efficiency. “We hear a great deal of the need for efficiency on the part of the workers, but very litttle of the need for efficiency on the part of those controlling protected industries. In the report of the Industrial Delegation to the United States of America appears this statement by Mr. Herbert Hoover, now President of that country -
The American wage-earner has at his elbow 50 per cent, more power than any of his competitors. In consequence of this his production is greater, his wage higher, and his physical strain is less than any other.
– Is not that what we want here!
– Yes, and the manufacturers alone can supply it, for it is they who look to the Tariff Board for largesse. Mr. Hoover did not suggest that the wages of the American worker should be reduced; on the contrary, he took pride in the fact that the wages paid in the United States of America are higher than in any other country.
– The WOrkers there earn their wages.
– I have heard that sort of story ever since I was a boy. I have travelled as much as any honorable member and, as a youth, earned my travelling expenses by the sweat of my brow. By virtue of those experiences, I can speak with authority. Even in the United States of America, where industry is equipped efficiently, the man who heads the list in production is the Australian or the Britisher who has learned American methods. In respect of capability, the Australian workman ranks first. Any man who having seen the workers, pf Great Britain and continental ^countries operat ing with inefficient methods, says that the Australian worker is going slow, is not only biased, but is an enemy to his country, because he states what is not true. In the past, the Tariff Board has failed to do its duty to the primary industries, although it has recommended bounties to some that were already very well fed. In Western Australia is an infant industry for the manu-facture of peppermint oil. A large area has been planted with peppermint herbs and the company is capable of producing enough to supply the requirements of the Australian market. Application was made for a bounty and the Tariff Board, after investigating the industry, submitted this recommendation -
In the circumstances, as indicated in the foregoing report, the Tariff Board recommends that a bounty at the rate of 15s per lb. be paid on all peppermint oil of marketable quality, produced in Australia from herb (Mentha Piperita) grown in Australia and that the bounty continue to operate for n period of five years from the coming into operation of the act.
I am certain that no Labour Government would have ignored that recommendation, but the present Government has refused assistance to a young and promising industry. Although the board included a representative of the manufacturers, there was no member who would be likely to take ah interest in an industry of this character; consequently the recommendation was ignored. It is regrettable that the Government does not act more readily on the recommendations of the Tariff Board in relation to primary industries, because its inaction gives ground for suspicion that, although ready to help manufacturers, whose political support is helpful ,to the ministerialists, it is not prepared to aid a small industry in a distant portion of Australia, which does not influence many votes. The Development and Migration Committee recently made an exhaustive inquiry into the gold-mining industry and submitted a recommendation to the Tariff Board. What report the board made to the Minister I do not know; it has been in the possession of the Government for nearly twelve months, but assistance is still denied to an industry that is seriously on the decline, although it is almost essential to the opening up of the interior of
Western Australia and Central Australia. That great hinterland is not capable of raising large numbers of sheep or cattle; so far as we know at present, the only hope of developing it is by the utilization of our minerals. Highly mineralized outcrops and’ large auriferous belts such as are unknown elsewhere arc features of the geology of that part of the continent, but the Tariff Board, while ready to assist industries in the eastern States, forgets its duties to primary industries in the distant States, because they do not send a large number of representatives to this chamber and therefore cannot vitally influence the fate of the Government.
.- Whilst I am opposed at all times to the application of the guillotine, permit me to express my surprise at the remarkable lack of all sense of proportion that has been displayed by the Government in dealing with the measures that have been placed before us this session. The utmost latitude has been allowed in dealing with this bill, whereas severe limitations were imposed upon our discussion of the Financial Agreement Validation Bill and the Transport Workers Bill. This measure after all is practically a reaffirmation of the principles already contained in the Tariff Board Act. The only important alterations are that the remuneration of the members of the board has been increased, and that provision is made for the board to consult with a Director of Economic Research who is to be appointed later.
Before proceeding to discuss the bill I must express my surprise at the unfair attack launched by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) against the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long). His argument respecting the parliamentary remuneration of my colleague was cheap and paltry. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are, generally speaking, not in the fortunate position of the honorable member for Fawkner and some of his colleagues opposite who have private means or a profession by which they may supplement their parliamentary salary. Accordingly, it ill becomes a gentleman of the talent and ability of the honorable member to resort to the arguments to which I have referred.
– His remarks were only by way of illustration.
– They were quite unworthy of the honorable member. They may have come with more propriety from some other honorable gentleman opposite. The speech of the honorable member for Fawkner was interesting and witty; but upon analysing it one found that it consisted of a number of platitudinous axioms which the honorable member did not attempt to amplify in any way. He twitted honorable members on this side of the chamber with advocating effective protection and sneered at the policy which we have propounded. After all, effective protection means exactly what it says. It means a protection which will enable the industries of Australia successfully to compete for the Australian market against the industries of low-waged countries. If we are to consider economic laws in relation to our tariff we shall find ourselves up against insuperable difficulties. Economists are unable to agree among themselves. Economic laws, if one may use such a paradoxical phrase, are merely the prejudices and theories of different schools of economists. Speaking in practical terms, there is no such thing as economic law.
– Economics is a very inexact science.
– That is so. I should be loath to see the economic policy of this country governed by the inexactitudes and rather specious pleading indulged in to-night by the honorable member for Fawkner and others. It is a consolation, however, that even the honorable member for Fawkner agrees in the main with our criticism of the bill. He is opposed to any increase in the remuneration of the Tariff Board; he believes that the members of- the board should be full-time officers; and he also agrees that the proposed Director of Economic Research should not be put in the position of a consultant or an authority superimposed upon the Tariff Board, and be exempt from the responsibility of having to give public evidence.
– He is not exempt from that responsibility.
– He may not be actually exempt, but the proposed .new section governing the matter reads -
After the appointment of a person to be Director of Economic Research, the Minister may direct the board to confer with the director upon any particular matter referred to the board for inquiry and report, and, when so ‘ directed, the board shall so confer accordingly.
If the honorable member for Fawkner carries his opposition to the measure to its logical conclusion, he will vote with us.
Although a discussion of our tariff policy is irrelevant to the consideration of this bill, this is an appropriate opportunity for me to protest against the delay that occurs in dealing with recommendations which the Tariff Board makes from time to time. This delay is the explanation of a good deal of the difficulty which confronts Australian industries to-day. A provision should be inserted in this bill making it mandatory upon the Minister to bring Tariff Board recommendations before Parliament as promptly as possible. It is unfoftunate that frequently, by the time the reports of the Tariff Board are submitted to Parliament, the conditions which gave rise to recommendations contained in them have materially altered. This lack of promptitude in dealing with the reports of the board nullifies its work to a large extent. I consider also that Parliament’ should have a larger measure of control over the tariff than it has. Honorable members should have the right to move for an increase as well as a decrease in any proposed duty, and should not be hampered by the present procedure governing this subject. I certainly believe that the members of the Tariff Board should be exclusively employed as such. It is totally out of harmony with the principles of the Public Service for the Government to employ individuals to’ discharge important public duties and allow them to continue their outside occupations. The proposal to appoint a Director of Economic Research is regarded with the utmost suspicion, not only by honorable members on this side of the chamber, but by business interests outside of Parliament. A strong feeling exists that the setting up of a Board of Economic Research may adversely affect the fiscal policy of the country and permit the Government to escape direct political responsibility for the tariff. Of course, this will depend largely upon who is appointed as the Director of Economic Research’.
– It is said that the Government intends to import a director from England.
– That is quite likely. I understand that for the past eighteen months the Ministry has been in private consultation with a committee of Australian economists, and that one of its recommendations is that a Director of Economic Research should be appointed.
– “ The Big Four “ may recommend someone.
– An English economist with strong freetrade tendencies may be appointed.
– That is so. It is even likely that a man like Mr. Budham, of the Sydney University, who is violently prejudiced in favour of freetrade, may be given the position. My point is that the tariff policy of the country may be most adversely affected by the Tariff Board consulting with the Director of Economic Research. For this reason Ave regard the proposal with a large measure of suspicion. This country has adopted the definite policy of establishing Australian industries, and to retract from or to qualify that policy at this stage of our - national development would not only create unemployment, but also involve us in economic disaster. The utterances of some members of the Ministry give us cause for alarm. Even the present Minister for Trade and Customs said in this chamber last year, before his election to the Cabinet, that we were carrying our policy of fiscal protection too far. That statement, the elevation of the honorable gentleman to the Cabinet, and the proposal to create a Director of Economic Research cause us to fear that this may be a scheme for bringing about a general reduction in our customs duties, which would ‘certainly not be in conformity with the Government’s pre-election promises.
.- I wish to make a few observations on this measure, more particularly in consequence of the statements of the honorable member, for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who referred to the appointment of a Director of Economic Research, with whom it is proposed that the members of the Tariff Board shall confer. The honorable member also said that it was a good thing that the Commonwealth Arbitration Act had been amended to require the court to consider what would be the economic effects of an award not only upon the industry concerned, but upon the community generally. I was for years in constant attendance before the Queensland Arbitration Court, and whenever an application was made for an award of the Arbitration Court to be amended to provide for an increase in wages or better conditions of living, it was always the practice of Mr. Justice McCawley, and also of Mr. Justice Webb and Mr. Justice MacNaughton to endeavour to ascertain the economic effect of an award upon industry. So far as my knowledge goes, the economic effect of an award upon industry has always beer, inquired into by the Arbitration Court in Queensland.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), when referring to. the production of cotton, said that if I knew anything at all about the industry, I would not have interjected as I did. For the information of the honorable member, I may inform him that for three months I was a member of the Queensland Cotton Board -appointed by the Arbitration Court at the request of practically both parties. The employers contended that no greater burden could be borne by the industry. We, on the other hand, contended that an award should be made applicable to the cotton industry in order to provide the workers in that industry with better wages and conditions than they then enjoyed. After an investigation by the Cotton Board extending over three months, and an inquiry lasting six months by the Rural Workers’ Board, the Court, after a considerable period of negotiation, collaboration and further inquiries, made, an award which was lower than had. been recommended by the Police Magistrate, who was chairman of the Rural Workers Board. A weekly wage was fixed for the cotton industry, but the judge intimated to the court - I was one of the advocates - that the employers interested in cotton cultivation could pay at piece-work rates. In most cases the price fixed was l½d. per lb.-
– 2d. a lb. has to be paid.
– The rate fixed was lid., and there is more cotton picked at that rate than at any other.
– 2d. a lb. is the lowest rate that is allowed to be paid.
– The honorable member is wrong. The award of the court was for a rate lower than that paid in most cases for that particular class of work. .
If my vote were a deciding factor, I should oppose the appointment of a Tariff Board, as I believe that the Minister, with the assistance of the capable officers in his department, could obtain all the evidence required to frame a satisfactory tariff under which industry could carry on efficiently and profitably. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not preach the stupid policy mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The members of the Labour party do not wish to prohibit all imports. I do not think for a moment that any one on this side of the chamber would support such a foolish policy. In the case of commodities which . are not grown or manufactured in Australia it would obviously be stupid. If a board is appointed, I trust it will not consist of business men closely associated with the Employers Federation who would be influenced by material interests. There are a number of officers in the Customs Department well versed in economics and quite capable of carrying out the work required of the board. There are many economists who may possess a good deal of common sense, but it is difficult to agree on what is actually common sense. I may make a statement believing it to be correct and fairly intelligent, but honorable members opposite may honestly and sincerely disagree with me. We may both be right. It is only because we view the subjects from a different angle. It all depends on the school of economics in which wo have been trained. For several years an effort has been made in Queensland to provide for the teaching of economics in the State schools, but the Labour Convention has always opposed the scheme, because it would be difficult to obtain the services of a tutor in economics acceptable to the parents of ‘allthe children to beinstructed.
Economics can be discussed from so many angles. The members of the board should give their full time to the service of the Commonwealth. I am not very much concerned with the remuneration they are to receive, but if they are to be paid a fee for each day on which the board meets, it may mean that they will receive a fee for a meeting lasting only a few minutes. I again urge the Government to seriously consider the advisability of appointing a board comprised of permanent public servants.
.- There seems to be a consensus of opinion in favour of the re-appointment of the Tariff Board, but however necessary that body may be it is to be regretted that it is the policy of this Government to delegate so much of its responsibility to boards, commissions, and committees. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) has informed us that the Tariff Board, which was first appointed as an experiment, has rendered valuable service to the Commonwealth. There appears, however, to be some dissatisfaction concerning the manner in which the board carries out its work and the recommendations which it has submitted to Parliament. I believe that the industries of this country should be adequately protected in order to encourage manufactures and provide employment for our own people. I think it should, he a duty of the board to submit a report showing the articles which can be commercially manufactured in Australia, and those which it is necessary to import. During the period I was in Great Britain, I had opportunities of ascertaining how the Australian fiscal policy affected the manufacturers in that country. On one occasion I represented the Australian and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce in London. I attended their conferences. At one conference there were 750 delegates present from air parts of England, and nearly every one who spoke severely criticized Australia’s tariff policy. They were looking at the matter from the point of view of how it affected them on that side of the world. I took up the cudgels on behalf of Australia, pointing out that Australia adopted a protective tariff policy for the purpose of develop ing her industries. I said that if we were to progress along right lines, we could not do it by developing only our wheat and wool industries. It was necessary also to foster secondary industries. I explained that Englishmen holding most extreme freetrade views came out to Australia, and, after a short while in this country, became enthusiastic supporters of the protectionist idea. Here in Australia we have our own distinctive point of view, and I for one propose to do everything possible to protect our industries. I have recently been seeking information regarding the amount of trade which we have been doing with other countries, and I was astonished to learn what an enormous quantity of goods we buy from America. My idea is that we should do business with the country which is prepared to take our produce, and I hope the Tariff Board will work with that object in view. At present, Great Britain is our best customer, and I wish to encourage trade with that country. However, the country which purchases our goods is the one with which I am anxious to do business.
The Minister, when speaking on this bill, referred to the weakness of the original Tariff Board. I know there were some things about that board which merited criticism, but some of the members were deserving of credit, and the board did a great deal of very fine work. We are now concerned with the future, and the constitution of the board to be appointed is a matter of vital concern to Australia. The salary to be paid the chairman of the board should be definitely stipulated, a good man should be appointed to that position, and the other members of the board should be made permanent; full-time . appointees at fixed salaries’. Since I have been in this-‘House, I have obtained a good deal of information regarding the cost to the country of various committees and boards which have been appointed by the Government, and I am astonished at the large sums which are being paid away for this purpose. In many cases the remuneration of the members is fixed at so many guineas a day. It is a remarkable thing that when boards are constituted on that basis, the members seem determined to sit on seven days a week if possible, and take care to get the utmost allowed by the act under which they are working. If we set up a tariff board, the members of which are to get £6 Gs. a clay, it will cost the country much more than if we paid them fixed salaries.
– The cost cannot be more than the present fixed amount.
– The amount fixed for the chairman is £1,600. I should think that it would be possible to get men to do this work for not more than £1,000 a year.
– Mr. Hume Cook would do the work for nothing.
– I do not know whether Mr. Hume Cook would be available, but I believe that we could get a competent man to undertake the work for £1,000 a year. There is a provision in clause 6 (15a) of this bill which states -
After the appointment of a person to be Director of Economic Research, the Minister may direct the board to confer with the Director upon any particular matter referred to the board for inquiry and report, and, when so directed, the board shall so confer accordingly.
The selection to be made for the office of Director of Economic Research is of the very greatest importance. I have heard it said that a man in England has already been chosen for this position. It is possible that this man is steeped in the freetrade ideas prevalent in England. The person who fills this position may have an important influence upon the tariff policy of Australia, and we should watch very closely the type of man appointed.
I hope that when the new Tariff Board is appointed, it will be able to remove many of the anomalies that exist at present. Nearly every day honorable members of this House are asked to inquire into some annoying trouble connected with the customs. The board should be empowered to settle these matters immediately, and not leave them hanging on for indefinite periods.
– They have been trying to settle them for seven years.
– Well, they seem to have made a mess of it; they have been on the job too long. I shall support the bill, but I shall either move nor support certain amendments relating to salaries and fees, and I shall want to know later more about the man who is to be appointed as Director of Economic Research.
.- I have listened with interest to the debate, and I have noted with pleasure that it has not been conducted strictly from the party stand-point. In general terms I agree with the measure, but I take exception to the proposal to increase the remuneration of the chairman and members of the board. One can only assume, from the wording of section 8, that some fortunate member of the Public Service has not been fully occupied with his departmental duties, since he has been acting as chairman of the board, and in future will receive an allowance which, with his Public. Service salary, must not exceed £1,600 a year - an increase of £200. To be consistent, the Government should not propose increases in salaries. I remind honorable members, in this connexion, that the Lukin award recently reduced wages of certain men in the timber industry and increased their hours of labour; also that a proposal has been made that coal-miners in New South Wales shall accept a reduction of ls. pelton in wages, so that the coal-mining industry in that State may be continued. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) declared it was generally agreed that our’ secondary industries could not compete with the products of cheap-labour countries, like India, China, and Japan. I remind him that our wheat and wool growers have to market their products overseas, and, without Government assistance, compete with primary producers of cheap-labour countries. Those industries are severely handicapped by high protective duties on farming machinery, and the consequent higher prices charged for commodities necessary for the carrying on of their business. I hope that members of the Tariff Board will be required to give the whole of -their time to the work of the board. If this- course is adopted I shall not offer any objection to the higher remuneration proposed. I suggest also that some person from outside the Public Service be appointed as chairman of the board, so that in future there may be no shadow of suspicion that at any time pressure will be brought to bear upon the board by the government of the day. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) suggested that the Australian wool-grower was, at the moment in a happy position. The honorable member, I understand, was quoting from returns relating to the position in “Western Australia, and the figures which he used were for the best period in the history of the industry in that State. I can assure honorable members that the wool-growers in my State, in company with other primary producers, are feeling very keenly the effect of high protective duties. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred also to the decline in the mining industry, which he said was practically dead. I wonder if he realizes that one of the factors in the decline of that industry is the high protective duties on mining machinery.
– And the high cost of production generally.
– That is so; but the most important factor, in my opinion, is the 60 per cent. tariff on mining machinery. Is it any wonder that the industry is practically dead? I believe that a board should be appointed to inquire into all requests for tariff protection, and without casting any reflection on members of the old board, I hope that the new members of that body will realize their responsibility to the primary industries of Australia. If they do so, it may’ be possible for Parliament to alleviate some of the sufferings of the men on the land, due to high tariffs. I approve of the general principles of the bill and will vote for it; but I trust that careful consideration will be given to those provisions to which I have directed attention.
– It is not my intention to make a second speech at this stage; but I give honoroble members an assurance that at the committee stage I shall, as far as possible, deal with the various points that have been raised during the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Section eleven of the principal act is amended: -
– I move -
That after the word “ his, “ proposed new sub-section 3, the word “ temporary “ bo inserted.
Honorable members will see that this is merely to make good an omission in the drafting of the bill. It is obvious that the absence of the chairman will be temporary.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 postponed.
Clause 7 (Annual report).
– The annual report of the Tariff Commission of the United States of America gives a list of the expenditure incurred by the commission and I think it would be wise to provide, possibly by regulations, that the annual report of our Tariff Board should contain similar information.
Clause agreed to.
Laboratories and Administrative Block for Division of Economic Botany
Debate resumed from 22nd February (vide page 559) on motion by Mr. Abbott -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz. : - The erection of laboratories and an administrative block for the Division of Economic Botany, for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Canberra.
.- When I secured the adjournment of the debate on this motion my sole desire was to urge the House to allow the motion to pass at once to enable the Public Works Committee to take the evidence of a number of experts from all over Australia who were at the time sitting in conference in Sydney. It would have avoided submitting these gentlemen to the inconvenience of having to give their evidence at a later date. Some of them have been dealing with economic botany, for example the application of superphosphates to grass lands, a matter which is of the utmost importance to the whole of the Commonwealth. But I have no desire now to debate the question. I ask the House to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee so that it may proceed with the necessary investigations.
.- I suppose I have to congratulate the Government and myself because some regard has been paid to a notice of motion which I have had on the business paper for some time, but my ideas go far beyond mere research into botany, although I gladly accept this small contribution towards their ultimate achievement. Now that the matter, is to be referred to the Public Works Committee I shall be able to give evidence in relation to what I consider will be of far reaching importance and benefit to future generations of Australia. When I first submitted my motion I was complimented on all sides of the House and I received many congratulatory letters from university societies and associated scientific bodies. My hope is that Canberra will become the centre of the intellectual life of the Commonwealth and that the work done in the laboratories here will be of educational value to the whole community. Throughout my support of the scheme for the establishment of a Federal Capital, I have desired that the city should be made worthy of its high destiny, so that it might attract people from all parts of the world. From unexpected quarters I experienced a great deal of opposition to my proposal to concentrate in Canberra great educational and research activities. But realizing that such opposition is the lot of all reformers, I bore it with Christian fortitude. I am glad to have the support of some honorable members who previously were opposed to my proposal for the establishment of a research farm, because I have noticed that the microbes of State rights and parochialism die hard. Both Dr. Tillyard, the eminent entomologist, and Dr. MacKenzie have commended my proposals, and are about to see their own scientific activities suitably housed. The proposed school of zoology will be one of the greatest wonders in the world. Dr. MacKenzie believes that no man will be thoroughly qualified to practice medicine until he has visited Canberra and taken a course in zoology. I believe that school will perform a wonderful work for humanity. It was my hope that the National Parliament would sanction the larger scheme that I placed before it, and I believe that if some of the great federalists of the last 40 years could arise from their graves and visit Australia, I should be the first with whom they would shake hands. I proposed that the institution should be made self-supporting by this Parliament setting aside £1,000,000 to be lent to one of the State Governments at 5£ per cent. The revenue thus obtained would assure the institution of an income which would be beyond the reach of an unsympathetic or impecunious treasurer. As a financial proposal it was far in advance of anything else in Australia; it has not been accepted yet, but I shall persevere with it in the hope of - educating my fellow members to a proper appreciation of the opportunity that is presented to them. In all the States are miniature institutions of the character I outlined, but whenever the State Treasurer is in needy circumstances, they are the first to feel the pruning knife, for it is a well-known fact that whatever the merits of a scheme may be, whatever service it may give to humanity, it gets little sympathy from politicians if it does not keep them in the limelight. I hope that the committee will expedite its consideration of the matter that has been referred to it, and that when its report is submitted, the Government will proceed speedily with the establishment in Canberra of an institution which will add much to the scientific and material progress of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This afternoon the Prime Minister, replying to a question I asked, said that after consulting the representatives of exporters and importers who are to confer with the representatives of the overseas shipping companies, he would consider whether it was desirable to enlarge the Australian representation at the conference. I ask him to consider seriously the need for deciding immediately to give representation to Western Australia. The overseas trade of that State is increasing very rapidly, especially the export of wheat and wool, and the problem of finding shipping space is already acute. Any addition to the charges for the oversea transport of wheat, wool, and fruit will be a serious tax upon the primary producers. Before these private trading interests are allowed to place a levy upon the producers of this great and developing State, it occurs to me that the Government should consider the propriety of granting it representation at the consultation. The personnel of the committee will be representative enough of the importing interests of the eastern States, but under present conditions it certainly will not be representative of these great interests from the stand-point of the Commonwealth. Western Australia and South Australia will have no representation at all with respect to wool, but both New South Wales and Victoria will be represented; and in respect of wheat only New South Wales will be directly represented. The wheat States of Western Australia and South Australia will have no representative. The importing interests are represented, but by persons who are concerned mainly with Victoria and New South Wales. I submit that the persons connected with these industries in the eastern States are not entirely competent to speak for Australia. A parliament constituted as this committee will be constituted would be an absurdity. To partition Australia into two divisions, east and west, for the consideration of matters relating to the future economic life of the continent, and to give no representation at all to the western side is not only wrong but must inevitably result in serious injustice to Western Australia. Australia, as a whole, is not yet an economic unity. Western Australia is separated economically from the eastern States by a sea of sand of the same extent as the Tasman sea which separates Australia from New Zealand. It is not correct to say that because the wool interests of one or two States will be represented at the conference, the wool interests of the whole of Australia will -be represented at it. Nor is it correct to say that a gentleman from Tasmania can speak authoritatively for all the fruit-exporting States of the Commonwealth. The other States may not feel inclined to place implicit reliance upon his competence to speak for all of them. As a matter of fact, there is great rivalry between the fruit-exporting States in regard to priority of space, and on more than one occasion the great . fruit-exporting interests of the southern part of Western Australia have found themselves at a serious disadvantage as the result of tactics employed by their competitors in the other States. The westerners have not been able to make representations as easily as the fruit-growers elsewhere, and consequently have suffered. I point out to the Prime Minister, also, that we have a very successful co-operative enterprise in Western Australia known as Westralian Farmers Limited, which acts as the agent for a voluntary wheat pool. The transactions of this company with regard to the chartering of ships have been stupendous. Exports from Western Australia have grown tremendously in recent years. In 1924-25 Western Australia exported 9,000,000 centals of wheat, whereas last year she exported 15,750,000 centals. Our exports of wool have advanced similarly. In 1924-25 the weight of the wool that we exported was 35,000,000 pounds, whereas last year it exceeded 61,000,000 pounds. I feel that if Western Australia is shut out from. even the preliminary conference, she will have no guarantee that her overseas trading interests will be safeguarded. To admit Western Australian representatives to later conferences will not, it seems to me, be an adequate proceeding. If the Prime Minister would give this matter his -personal attention, I think he would at once grant the imprimatur of his recognition to the fact that as there is so much overseas money invested in Western Australia, and that as the State is developing so rapidly, it would be only reasonable to grant her direct representation. The interests of Western Australia cannot be suitably recognized except by granting her direct representation. I ask the Prime Minister to consult with the Premier of Western Australia or with some other competent person or authority on this point. There can be no satisfactory representation of Australian interests based upon the assumption that one man or a group of men from any one State is sufficient to speak for the whole continent.
.- I wish once again to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the serious position that exists in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. Possibly at times I have become a little heated when discussing this matter, but I ask the Prime Minister to take into consideration the fact that there are 11,000 coal-miners in the constituency that I represent, who feel that they have been unjustly treated by the Northern Collieries Association. They are prepared to work peaceably under the terms of the award given by the court set up by this Parliament, but they are not permitted to do so. I appeal to the members of the Government to consider earnestly whether they will stand for the inhuman treatment that is being meted out to these men who, with their wives and children, have been brought to the verge of starvation by the action of coal-owners. If the Government stands for this kind of thing, it stands for the crushing of the working class, denying them the necessaries of life. It stands for permitting the coal-owners to take away from the workers the wherewithal to live, simply that they may make a little extra profit. Surely the Government will not allow such an inhuman and monstrous act to be committed. The Chairman of the Northern Collieries Association, Mr. McDonald, has stated that he will not now permit the books of the coal-owners to be examined by the miners’ representatives, and that he will not in future negotiate with “the leaders of the miners but only with the rank and file. If Mr. McDonald goes into the Maitland district with the object of conferring directly with the miners, I, as one of their representatives, will not be responsible for what might happen to him. I frequently come in contact with the miners and many of the moderate members of the miners’ organization have said that they would rather die of starvation away from the pit than work for nothing in the bowels of the earth. I have already quoted in this House a statement by the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Bavin) which is recorded in Mansard to the effect that there are thou° sands of men employed in the coal industry of New South Wales who are not earning the basic wage. Notwithstanding this the Commonwealth is tolerating the action of the owners who want to reduce the men’s wages by ls. a ton. The records show that the coal miners in Great Britain were informed that a reduction in wages would lead to additional trade, but although wages were reduced the trade did not improve. I do not wish to repeat the arguments I have previously brought forward, but the Government should realize that the eyes of the people are centred upon it. The coal owners who have definitely said that they will not permit any one to examine their books should be told that they are not running this country. I ask honorable members opposite who may say that these men are only workers, if they as fellow citizens have not as much right to live and be protected as the capitalists. My little boy has brought his mates home with him from school to share his meals. Some of them had been at school all day without food. Such conditions existed even before the dispute took such an acute turn. Are we going to drive these men, their fathers, to desperation? A hungry stomach knows no law. If the men are forced into a position in which they will be compelled to break the law, the Government will be responsible. I appeal to honorable members opposite to bring some pressure to bear upon the Government. The Prime Minister has said that it is not a matter for the Commonwealth, and the Premier of New South Wales has said that it is one which does not come within the jurisdiction of the State.. The miners have loyally abided by the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act of 1920, under which they have been working, but the pro- prietors are deliberately evading the law. appeal to honorable members to do something to relieve the situation and force the Prime Minister’s hand.
– With respect to the representations made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Cur tin) as I informed him, in answer to a question to-day, I shall give the fullest consideration to the special circumstances of Western Australia, particularly having regard to the fact thatFremantle is the last Australian port of call for ships which have left the important export centres of Sydney and Melbourne. I quite appreciate the honorable member’s point’ and will carefully consider whether it would be advisable to extend the representation so as to have on the conference a direct representative of Western Australia.
I appreciate the deep concern of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in regard to the situation in the coal industry, but it is quite impossible at this hour to open up a further debate on the subject. A full day was set aside for its consideration in this House, and it would be impracticable for me now to deal with the points he has raised. I recognize the honorable member’s sincerity in the matter, and I hope that he will also give me credit for equal sincerity even if our views as to the proper course to pursue do no coincide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290311_reps_11_120/>.