12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs been called to a letter published in the Melbourne Argus of the 4th July, above the signature “ MacRobertson “, in which appeared the following statement : -
One illuminating example of the impossibility of Australian manufacturers exporting confectionery is that two of the chief ingredients are so far above world’s parity that we ‘arc precluded from trading beyond our shores. We pay three times the world parity for sugar. The importer, to establish’ works with outside capital and to send profits abroad, has, according to the Acting Minister for Customs, to have his goodwill, which was built up on Australian sugar, bought abroad at one-third of the price we Day, protected while he erects works to maintain his connexion on a market which is not at present maintaining Australian-owned factories at anything like two-thirds capacity.
Is it a fact that confectioners and others manufacturing for export obtain Australian sugar at world’s parity?
– I have seen the letter to which the honorable member refers. The fact is ‘that Australian sugar in all local goods exported is supplied to manufacturers at the equivalent of world’s parity. For example, at present the Australian price for refined sugar is £36 lis. a ton, whilst the net cost of the same sugar in any exported manufactured goods iB only £11 ls. 9d. a ton. Thus, MacRobertson and other Australians manufacturing for export arc getting a rebate of £25 10s. a ton. This rebate is fixed from time to time, according to the fluctuations in world’s parity, by a board on which the manufacturers are represented.
– The Treasurer, in his budget-speech, announced that an extra duty of £1 per ton would be imposed on newsprint. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is true that if the duty is imposed the Baillieu group, which controls the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers will, with other owners of newspapers, be compelled to pay to the Customs Department about £130,000, and that this group and other owners of daily newspapers, in order to escape additional taxation, are demanding 4hat u !<-!*”.. useful and war pensions, and I lie ma.- bonus shall be reduced!
– Order 1 lt is not permissible to offer an opinion when asking a question.
– The budget proposals include an extra duty of £1 per ton an newsprint, but to what extent this will affect individual groups of newspaper owners I cannot say. I have read in several of the daily newspapers articles advocating a reduction of old-age, invalid, and war. pensions.
– I have received the following telegram: -
Members Albany Chamber- of Commerce desire to communicate to Federal Government their strongest protest against continual tariff increases and proposed taxation as contained in budget.
Has the Treasurer (Mr. Scullin) received that telegram and. similar protests ? If so will he -afford Parliament an opportunity, before the session ends, to discuss fully the budget and tariff proposals ?
– The general discussion on the first item of the tariff will commence to-morrow. Full opportunity to discuss the proposed new taxation will be afforded by the budget debate.
– When will the Estimates and accompanying budget papers be available to honorable members?
– Both the Estimates and the budget papers could have been made available at the end of this week by. incurring an extra expense of £100 to send officers to Melbourne for checking purposes.- However, I hope that the Estimates -will* be available at the beginning of next week and the budget papers at the beginning of the -folio wing
– Will the papers be available before the debate on the budget commences ?
– The Estimates *ill be.
– When does the Minister for Trade and Customs propose to make available to honorable members the report of the .Tariff Board on the timber industry,?
– I understand that that and other reports of the Tariff Board are in the hands of the Government Printer and will be issued next week.
– Can the Treasurer say .when I he bil] for the. imposition of the sales tax will bc introduced, and, if so, to what .extent it w ill be retrospective?
– I cannot announce the .exact date on. which the bill will be introduced, but the Government does not propose to make the tax retrospective.
– I nsk the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to afford the House an opportunity to discuss the report .of the Select Committee on the Tobacco-Growing, Industry before- the. session terminates?
– The Government would be glad to do so, ‘ but such an opportunity will depend on the expedition with which more urgent- items on the business paper are disposed of.
– Does the Government propose that the Minister for Trade andCustoms (Mr. -Fenton) shall submit a report to the’ House upon the Naval Disarmament Conference in London? If so will the -House be ‘afforded an. opportunity to discuss the agreement resulting from the conference?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs will make a . report to the House,, and I hope an opportunitywill be available for its discussion. That, however, will . depend upon . the rate at which other government business is dealt with.
-The National City Company of New York has issued a statement “ for the information of holders of Australian securities “ giving reasons why such securities. should be supported, by investigators. . It states, inter aiia, that ali German reparations payments to the Commonwealth are credited to the sinking fund. If that statement is not accurate, will the Treasurer instruct the High Commissioner, in Wsw York to make the necessary correction?
– I 3hall take steps to have any inaccuracy corrected.
– Did the Minister for Markets make a public statement to the effect that the Government does not intend to proceed with any proposal to assist farmers to market their wheat this year? If so, was he enunciating the policy of the Government? If not, is the honorable gentleman prepared to consider a scheme for assisting the wheat-growers over the coming season?
– The statement that I made to the press was that the policy of the Government with regard to wheat marketing was expressed in the Wheat Marketing Bill that it submitted to Parliament. That measure was rejected by the Senate, and the Government is at present therefore unable through no fault of its own to proceed further with the proposals.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the analysis of “ cream of yeast “ shows that it contains sodium bicarbonate and potassium bromide, will he take steps to compel the sellers of “ cream of yeast “ to state definitely the amount of each chemical contained therein?
– It is regretted that under the existing constitutional position, action to control the preparation of foods is not possible; therefore the suggested action cannot be taken, the matter being one- for action by individual States. The subject will, however, be brought before the next food and drugs conference.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s . questions are as follow : -
Naval Board . . January, 1905. Military Board . . January, 1905. Air Board . . November, 1920.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Medical and Moral Examination
– On the 1st July the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish thi; following reply: - 1 and 2. The total number of applications for assisted passages received during 1929 was 19,597, of which 8,345 were rejected. ] am advised by the High Commissioner’s Office that no separate figures are tabulated showing the particular reasons for rejection.
– On the 24th June, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked the following question -
The Brisbane Courier of the 17th June, published the following report regarding the medical examination of migrants: -
An allegation that his experience had proved to him that the medical examination of migrants prior to their departure for Australia was not adequate was made by Dr. E. Culpin, when he gave evidence before theRoyal Commission on Hospitals yesterday. Dr. Culpin, who is honorary surgeon at the Bar, Nose and Throat Department of the Brisbane Hospital, was explaining the reasons for the long waiting list. He declared that a number of immigrants came before him suffering from chronic diseases that they must have had years before they came here.
Mr. W. Harris, P.M. (Chairman). Do you think the migrants are not properly examined before they depart for Australia?
Dr. Culpin. I know they are not.
He added that, in private practice, he had been struck with the number of consumptives among them.
I am now in a position to supply the following information, which is an extract from a memorandum from Dr. Ciletito : -
With reference to the statements made before the Hospitals Commission by Dr. E. Culpin of this town, and in response to a letter from me to him, Dr. Culpin telephoned me and made the following statement: -
His attitude with regard to examinations in England of migrants for Australia was based upon certain experience immediately following the war, where cases of tuberculosis were detected in people immigrating into Australia, in whom, in his opinion, adequate examination would have demonstrated obvious symptoms at the time of their application for passages. Subsequently he had no opportunity to inquire into the condition of immigrants from the point of view of pulmonary diseases, and is not prepared to state that the same conditions operate at the present time. In his practice, however, he deals largely with ear diseases, and had before him at the time the commission was sitting one of several cases he has seen over several years in which a chronic condition of ear disease rendered the person an undesirable immigrant. He considers that the ordinary medical officer does not make an examination for discharging ears, nor ask for history in this regard, and he admits that the disease is one very easily missed unless especially sought. He is unable to give names or other information regarding these persons, except that the last of them was a girl named Dear, who has now been signed up for return to England.
Leases - Expenses of Civic Administrator - Timber Areas - Designers of Hostels - Soil Experimental Plots
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Association that any relief afforded by the Land Advisory Board would be retrospective to and from 1st January last?
– The information desired by the honorable member will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
In connexion with the information supplied, on the 8th instant, to the honorable member for Ballarat concerning motor car and other expenses incurred by the Civic Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory, will the Minister obtain the following information : -
With regard to the items transferred from Mr. Christie’s personal hotel account to a charge against public funds, will the Minister lay on the table of the Library the original account showing all the items transferred, and the direction to charge to public funds?
– I am making further inquiries into this matter, and will advise the honorable member at the earliest possible date.
On the 9th July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked me the following questons upon notice -
What is the present market value of pinus insignis timber per cord or per ton?
What further areas are to be planted, and when?
I am now in a position to supply the following particulars :-
On the 13th June I advised thehonorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), in reply to a question, upon notice, that inquiries would he madeof the Department of Works and Railways as to whether it was possible tosupply the names of the individual officers concerned with the preparation of the designs of the Hotels Canberra, Kurrajong and Acton, and the hostels known as Gorman House, Bachelors’ Quarters,, and the Printers’ Quarters.. I have now received the following information from the Department of Works and. Railways : -
On the 10th July the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to supply the following particulars : - 1. (a) Six experimental plots have been established in the Federal Capital Territory to determine the value of top-dressing pastures with superphosphate and other fertilizers; (b) Weetangera, 120 acres; (c) Tharwaroad, 2 acres; Jerrabomberra, 2 acres; Weetangera, 10½ acres; Tharwa-road, 4 acres; Canberra saleyards, 2 acres.
In addition to superphosphate, trials have been made with sulphate of potash, sulphate of ammonia, and blood. 3.Experimental plots were established to afford data in regard to the following: -
The cost of experiments to the 30th June, 1930, including part-time salary and expenses of State officers who are co-operating in the matter, was £550 12s. 9d. The expenditure for the financial year 1929-30 was £237 0s.8d.
– On 10th July, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Moloney) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Mr. P. E. COLEMAN, M.P.
– On the 10th July, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me a question without notice regarding the rate of allowance which was being paid to Mr. P. E. Coleman, M.P. I now desire to inform the honorable member that Mr. Coleman is being granted the rate allowed as delegate to the International Labour Conference, which is £3 3s. per day on land. This will be paid for the time he is actually engaged on the work of inquiry into the organization of the High Commissioner’s office, but any additional time spent abroad will be at his own expense.
The following papers were presented : -
Coal Industry -Report, together with Appendices, of theRoyal Commission appointed by the Governor of New South Wales.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 70.
1 3.16] . - by leave - I desire to inform the House that the Government proposes to ask honorable members to meet next Monday at 3 p.m.; also on Thursdays at 1 1 o’clock, and Fridays at 10 o’clock a.m. While I informed the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to that effect last Friday, I regret that I omitted to notify honorable members generally last week.
Bill received from the Senate and (ou motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 11th July (vide page 4101) on motion by Mr. Beasley -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1!)13-21 it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing. Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this Housie the result of its investigations.: Construction of steamer for the lighthouse service.
.- When the debate was adjourned I was answering the assertion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), that The construction of this lighthouse steamer was mainly a relief work, to assist the unemployed. The right honorable gentleman also stated that the Public Works Committee had not recommended the construction of the vessel. Originally there was a division of opinion among members of the committee as to whether tenders for the construction of the vessel should be called only in Australia, or whether they should be called both here and abroad. Eventually it was unanimously decided to confine the calling of tenders to the Commonwealth. As I stated on Friday, both I and the committee recognized that the proposal to expend £120,000 at this juncture should receive the gravest consideration. It did receive such consideration.
– Members of the committee had not then seen the budget.
– They were aware, prior to the submission of the budget, of the financial depression existing in this country, and I am confident that they and all fair-minded honorable members approve of the endeavour of the Government to counteract that depression. With a full knowledge of the facts, members of the Public Works Committee were unanimously of the opinion that the lighthouse services of Australia demand proper maintenance. That is why they recommended the construction of a new lighthouse steamer. The proposal, briefly, is to replace the Kyogle with a modern and uptodate steamer for this service. The Kyogle cannot be run economically, and there would be a considerable saving in running expenses if a modern vessel were employed on the coast of Western Australia. A description of the Kyogle is contained in paragraph 18 of the report of the Public Works Committee, which reads -
The Kyogle, at present engaged in attending to lights on the Western Australian and North Australian coasts, is a coal-burning, twin screw, steel vessel of approximately 1,200 tons displacement. She was built on the Clyde to the order of the North Coast Steam Navigation Company of New South Wales, in 1002, and, being designed for the northern rivers trade, is of light construction.
Honorable members will surely agree that a vessel that was built 28 years ago must, to a large extent, be obsolete. The report continues -
She was purchased for the lighthouse service in 1924 for the sum of £12,750, and an additional amount of £3,477 was spent in alterations and repairs, making her total cost £16,227. She is capable of a speed of 10. knots, but her economical speed is 7 knots. The cruising radius is J. 080 knots at 10-knots speed, and 1,4S0 knots at “-knots speed.
The evidence which was submitted to the Public Works Committee clearly shows that, a steamer of bigger steaming capacity than that of the Kyogle is required for this service. The proposed vessel would have several advantages over the Kyogle.
– The Kyogle has evidently been slowing down.
– We all slow down when we get old, and perhaps the honorable member has had that experience. A vessel would be no exception to that rule. One disadvantage of the Kyogle is its heavy running costs. Apart from its age and the fact that it has outlived its usefulness, it is a coal-burning vessel. Its fuel requirements have to be forwarded from the eastern States to as far north as Port Darwin. The Kyogle, because of its limited bunker space, is unable to carry sufficient coal for the full trip. It is, therefore, necessary for other vessels to transport to intermediate ports coal to be picked up, as required, by it. That is most costly. The Public Works Committee gave grave consideration to the cost of running that vessel. An oilburn ing vessel, if engaged on the work, would be able to obtain fuel at Fremantle, Port Darwin and intermediate ports; and in that way a considerable saving in running costs could be effected. The committee also gave consideration to the cost of maintaining the vessel, and, in that connexion, its report reads-
The information obtained by the committee in regard to this matter was somewhat contradictory and unsatisfactory. One witness stated that the Kyogle could be kept in a reasonably seaworthy condition for five years !>y the expenditure of about £2,000 a year; another stated that by the expenditure of about £3,000 per annum, she would have a useful life of ten years; while another witness, emphasizing the extent of repairs and replacements that a searching investigation of the vessel might reveal, indicated that it is quite possible that the cost of making good defects so discovered would amount to anything up to £10,000 or £15,000, to be followed by an annual maintenance charge of £2,000 to £3,000.
It would be necessary, in order to keep the Kyogle in commission - a vessel which, originally, cost the Commonwealth £16,000 - to incur in repairs and renewals an immediate expenditure of from 10,000 to £15,000, and a subsequent expenditure of from £2,000 to £3,000 per annum. Surely honorable members would not argue that such heavy expenditure is justified. The lighthouse service must be maintained, and in the light of those facts, the Public Works Committee had no option but to recommend that the Kyogle be replaced, by a modern vessel. It has been suggested that a second-hand vessel be purchased in Australia, but the evidence of experts discloses the fact that there is no suitable vessel obtainable at present in this country. An ordinary vessel cannot be used as a lighthouse tender. Perhaps a layman might think that a vessel of a tonnage, draught and size, similar to that of the Kyogle, would be suitable for the lighthouse service, but the evidence of the experts is to the contrary. The use of a second-hand coal-burning vessel would still entail the heavy transportation costs which are at present incurred in connexion with the coaling of the Kyogle. I should like to quote to honorable members the evidence of Mr. Lewis Findlay East, the secretary of the Marine Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs, who compared the costs of the proposed vessel with that of other vessels which have been built for, or are in, the lighthouse service. His evidence reads -
No bunker coal is held at any of these intermediate ports. Consequently, arrangements must be made to forward by coasting steamer, ahead of the Kyogle, considerable quantities of bagged coal, to be landed on the jetties at these ports and there held until the Kyogle calls. This is a costly business, a”s to the original price of the bulk coal in Fremantle there must be added the cost of bagging, loading, coastwise freight and, at the intermediate ports, of labour necessary to place the bagged coal in the ship’s bunkers. Coal at Darwin is roughly £5 per ton, being subject to the heavy freight charges of bringing it from Newcastle or other eastern ports. To this must be added also the cost of putting into bunkers.
The committee states that coal costs about £6 10s. a ton. The £5 mentioned by Mr. East would be the cost without transportation to other parts for the Kyogle. The evidence of Mr. East continues -
During 1029 the Kyogle steamed a distance of .15,276 miles, and consumed for all purposes 1,568 tons of coal. The cost of this amounted to £6,900, an average of £4 8s. per ton.
I realize that the sum of £4 8s. mentioned by Mr. East is different from that previously quoted by me. I referred to the average price of coal used by the Kyogle when steaming in all waters. Mr. East went on to say -
Of the total amount of coal consumed, 1,179 tons were used in propulsion, and the balance 389 tons, in maintaining steam at anchorages, for the winches in port, &c. A small proportion was used for cooking. The fuel bill of the Kyogle per 100 miles steamed, as compared with those of the other lighthouse steamers, and of the proposed new steamer is as follows : -
Kyogle - £33 17s. per 100 miles steamed.
Cape Leeuwin - £19 6s. per 100 miles steamed (including considerable towages).
Cape York - £16 per 100 miles steamed.
Lady Loch - £19 7s. per 100 miles steamed.
New steamer - £13 2s. per 100 miles steamed (estimated).
Honorable members will see that whereas the Kyogle costs £33 17s. for every 100 miles steamed, the new steamer would travel the same distance for £13 2s. The evidence of this important witness continues -
The new steamer is to be an oil burner. Supplies of oil fuel are obtainable at Fremantle, Darwin, and, if necessary, at Wyndham, at 75s., (;6s., and (say) 90s. per ton respectively. The fuel consumption of the vessel will be, it is estimated by Cockatoo Dockyard, 3^ tons per 100 miles’ steaming. On this basis, and adding, say, 30 per cent, (roughly 1 ton per 100 miles) as representing fuel .consumption while the vessel lies under banked fires at anchorages and for making steam for winches for cargo work while the vessel is in port, and assuming that two-thirds of the necessary oil fuel is obtained at Fremantle and one-third at Darwin, the cost of covering the distance steamed by the Kyogle last year (15,270 miles) would be not more than £2,500, a direct saving in fuel costs of £4,400.
I submit that that evidence shows that the new vessel will be superior to the present obsolete one, which cannot possibly continue to do the work required of it unless extensive and expensive alterations are made.
– That is scarcely the point at issue.
– One of the arguments used by those who are opposed to the construction of this vessel is that the Kyogle can be made to do. I do not desire to say too much against the Kyogle, for the committee has recommended that it he sold. It would be unwise for me to direct attention to defects in a vessel which the committee hopes someone will purchase at a reasonable price. But for the work of the Lighthouse Department the Kyogle is no longer satisfactory. After a full inquiry the committee recommended the building of a new vessel.
– The committee’s report states that the Kyogle has still some years of useful life ahead of it.
– That is so. The point is that in its present condition the Kyoyle is unsuitable for the work required of it, and that extensive alterations to make it more suitable would not be justified. The committee is of the opinion that it would be impracticable to convert the Kyoyle from a coal burner to an oil burner.
– That would be impossible.
– The framing in the foreandaft peaks, as well as of the tanks, has deteriorated to. such an extent as to; require replacing. When an old vessel is opened up for repairs it is frequently found to be. in a worse condition than was expected. For instance, when the Governor Musgrave was taken over from the South Australian Government and placed in dock at Cockatoo Island for overhaul, its condition was found to be so unsatisfactory that the vessel was sold as scrap to the dockyard authorities. An examination revealed that many of the plates were so worn that it would have been useless to attempt to patch them. As pointed out by the committee, the Kyogle may yet render useful service for a number of years, provided the vessel is engaged in short runs, and no attempt if made to convert it to an oil-burner. But as a lighthouse steamer the Kyogle hatoutlived its usefulness. The new vessel recommended by the committee will be faster, and have a larger steaming radiusthan the Kyogle. Being specially designed for lighthouse work it should bc much more effective in the service of the department than the Kyogle, which was built for river work. In one important respect the new vessel will differ from the Kyogle; instead of having twin screws, it will be a single screw steamer. There may be differences of opinion as to the comparative merits of single screw and twin-screw steamers; but, in this instance, the weight of evidence is in favour of a single screw vessel. Consequently, the committee hae recommended one of that type instead of a vessel fitted with twin screws. A single steamer should be more economical in running.
– Were efforts made to purchase a suitable vessel ?
– Witnesses were asked whether a vessel capable of doing the work that could be done by the proposed new steamer was obtainable in Australia, and the answer was in the negative.
– Was such a vessel advertised for?
– No; that was not the duty of the committee. The ship had to be specially suitable for lighthouse’ work, and the evidence was that none of the requisite size was procurable.
– Is a new vessel urgently required ?
– Yes. If another is not put into commission almost immediately, the Kyogle will have to be taken off the run.
– Was evidence taken regarding comparative building costs in Australia and abroad?
– Evidence in that regard will be found in the report. Speaking from memory, it was stated that a vessel that could be built in Australia for £120,000 could be obtained from Great Britain for about £77,000.
– I am allowing for the additional cost of bringing such a vessel from England to Australia. If such a ship were built in Great Britain, it would be necessary to send departmental officers there to supervise the construction.
– Did not the evidence indicate that mistakes had been made in the past with respect to such supervision?
– I am glad to have that interjection. The building of the Cape York and the Cape Leeuwin was authorized by the late Government without preliminary inquiry by the Public Works Committee, and it was eventually found that mistakes had been made in the construction of both those vessels. Additional expenditure was incurred in remedying the defects that were discovered, a fact which shows the desirability of referring all important works to the committee. In the course of our evidence, we were particularly careful to ask witnesses if there was a possibility of similar mistakes being made in the building of the proposed new vessel, and the witnesses were unanimously of the opinion that past errors would not be repeated. The trouble with the Cape Leeuwin and the Cape York was not due to faulty construction, but to employment of the wrong type of machinery.
Controversy occurred among members of the committee regarding the place at which the vessel should be built, and it was decided to call tenders from the various dockyards of Australia. Personally, I voted in favour of having the vessel built at the Cockatoo Island dockyard. As the Minister has said, the report recommends that the wireless machinery now lying idle at the Cockatoo Island dockyard be used in the equipment of the vessel.
– The officials did not tell the committee that that equipment was lying idle; we discovered the fact for ourselves.
– That is so, and it is desirable to utilize this machinery; but an even more important reason why the vessel should be built at the Cockatoo Island dockyard is that this is a Commonwealth establishment. Whether or not tenders are called for, I believe that this dockyard will obtain the work. In my opinion, the dockyard authorities gave a conservative estimate in setting down the cost of the construction of the vessel at £120,000. Personally, I think that the work will be carried out for £100,000, having regard to the possibility of using certain machinery that is available there. To summarize the position, the lighthouse service must be maintained, and the present vessel, which has out-lived its usefulness, must either be replaced by a new one, or extensive repairs running into £10,000 or £15,000 must be made, with a subsequent annual maintenance cost of £3,000. In these circumstances, the Government is justified, despite the great financial depression, in carrying out the proposed work.
– This matter should be viewed, not merely as an undertaking that will provide employment at Cockatoo Island dockyard, but also as a proposal for the expenditure of public funds in which the country as a whole is interested, particularly having regard to the present stringent financial conditions. I have carefully examined the report, and can find no evidence of a request having been made by the customs authorities for a new vessel. The committee recommends that tenders be called for the building of the proposed vessel in Australia. Therefore, consideration should be shown for not only the Cockatoo Island dockyard employees, but also for those engaged at Mort’s Dock, which is in the same electorate, and for those at other ship-building yards in Australia. If this vessel is to be built in Australia, I do not know why the work should be undertaken at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in preference to other ship-building yards, which should, at least, be given an opportunity to tender for its’ construction. The Public Works Committee recommended that tenders should be called; but for some reason, which, up to the present, has not been explained, the Government has departed from the committee’s recommendation, and is asking the House to agree to the construction of the vessel at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– Because Cockatoo Island Dockyard is controlled by the Commonwealth Government.
– Because it is a government institution men are to be employed there, irrespective of all other considerations.
– And preference given to government employees.
– Yes. I cannot see why the employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard should have preference over those employed by Morts Dock and Engineering Company Limited, which is a private concern, or at the Walsh Island Dockyard, which is controlled by the Government of New South Wales, or other ship-building yards in the Commonwealth. Very little has been heard from previous speakers about the estimated cost of building a similar vessel overseas. On this point the committee reports -
From the evidence obtained the committee is of opinion that the round figure estimate of £120,000 furnished for the construction of this vessel is high, and is satisfied that when the matter is considered in greater de t nil, a substantia] reduction on such estimate may be expected.
But the committee does not give reasons why a substantial reduction on the estimated cost may be expected. Judging by past experience, it is safe to assume that the actual cost will not be below, but considerably above, the estimate. Experience indicates that the vessel will not be constructed for £120,000, and that, if built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, it will cost considerably more. The report continues -
It was ascertained that a twin-screw vessel of approximately the same size, but with rather more elaborate fittings, is being built in Great Britain for the lighthouse service in New Zealand, and the contract price, delivered in Wellington, is £77,700. An estimate obtained from a naval architect in private practice placed the price of this proposed new vessel at £00,020 if built in Australia, or, if built in Great Britain, £04,000, to which latter figure would have to be added the cost of bringing the ship to Australia - £5,000 to £0,000.
Apparently a vessel with less elaborate fittings than that being supplied to the New Zealand Government for £77,000 could be constructed in Great Britain and delivered in Australia for £70,000. With these facts before us, and particularly in view of our financial position, it is surprising that Parliament should be asked to sanction the construction of a vessel in Australia at an estimated cost of £120,000. It would appear that Parliament is being asked to sanction the expenditure of an additional £50,000 merely to enable the vessel to be built in Australia. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), when dealing with tenders received for the supply of certain equipment for wireless broadcasting stations, directed attention to the fact that the difference between a local and the lowest overseas tender was so large - £55,000 - that he did not think that the department was justified in accepting the local tender. That statement was applauded on both sides of the House. No objections were raised concerning the wisdom of the policy which the Government then proposed to adopt. Why should the Government say in that case that it was not justified in paying an additional £55,000 in order to have the work done locally, and in this instance ask the House to agree to spend an additional £50,000 to that end? On that occasion the Postmaster-General said that with the additional £55,000 involved 200 men could be kept in employment for twelve months. It, therefore, appears that if this vessel were constructed overseas, and 200 men at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard were paid for twelve months without being required to do any “work, the Government would not be any worse off.
– Even if the vessel is built in Australia a large quantity of material and equipment will have to be obtained from Great Britain.
– Yes, I intend to deal with that phase of the matter. If the vessel were built in Great Britain at, .say, £70,000, the interest on the additional amount which otherwise would have to be met by the people of Australia would be saved. The effect of the Government’s proposal is to incur additional expenditure merely to keep the Cockatoo Island dockyard in operation. Practically all the work that would be undertaken at Cockatoo Island would be that of assembling machinery and material obtained from overseas. Only 14 per cent, of the material and equipment required in the construction of the two cruisers would have been manufactured in Australia had they been built here. I believe we would be safe in assuming that only 20 per cent, of the material and equipment used in the construction of this vessel would be manufactured in Australia, the balance being imported. The principal work that would be undertaken at Cockatoo Island in this connexion would be that of assembling. We are not justified in adopting the Government’s proposal. Some little time ago the PostmasterGeneral was asked to place certain contracts for the manufacture of material for his department with the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. He investigated the proposal, and subsequently said that in all the circumstances the Government felt obliged to accept the overseas tender. Seeing that preference was not given on that occasion to a government enterprise in the electorate of Macquarie I cannot see why it should be given, in this instance, to one in the electorate of Dalley.
– The Cockatoo Island Dockyard is in the West Sydney electorate.
– I am aware of that, but the great majority of the employees there live in the electorate of Dalley. It is no doubt for this reason that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) has agitated, ever since his election to this Parliament, for work to be given to the dockyard.
– Did not the honorable member say that only 14 per cent. of this work would be done at the dockyard?
– I said that about 20 per cent, of the manufacturing work would be done there. The balance of the work would be assembling. The fact that only such a comparatively small proportion of the manufacturing could be done at the dockyard robs the Assistant Minister of what little justification there might have been for introducing this proposal. The fact thai, stands out like a mountain peak is that although the Government would not give contracts for the manufacture of postal requirements valued at £55,000 to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory it is willing to give a straight-out preference to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard of £50,000. In these times, when rigid economy should be practised on every hand, it is extraordinary that the Government should even contemplate replacing the Kyogle, for the evidence given before the committee makes it clear that she has several years of useful service still in her. It is proposed to sell the vessel; but I maintain that if she is good enough to sell she is good enough to retain. If she is unseaworthy she should not be sold. Why should we sell her in an unseaworthy condition and oblige other than government employees to take the risk of going down in her? 1 am certain that no honorable member of this House would dream of giving preference to the extent of £50,000 to a local enterprise in a work of this description in his private business, nor, for that matter, would he dream of discarding ti vessel which was still capable of performing the work required of her. But apparently honorable members opposite are willing to do with government money what they would not be willing to do with their own. The mere fact that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard belongs to the Government, and that the giving to it of this work will provide employment for some of the men at present engaged there is no justification for our acceptance of this proposal.
– Particularly as we shall have to borrow the money to do the work.
– We shall have to borrow it at fairly substantial interest rates. The proposal is utterly uneconomic. The Government would be wiser to give 400 of the 600 men at present working at the dockyard six months’ employment on reproductive work somewhere else. I and other honorable members on this side of the chamber would like to see the vessel built in Australia.
– The honorable member is antagonistic to Australian sentiment, in that respect.
– Of what use is it for the Assistant Minister to make remarks like that ? I am against wasting the people’s money. I believe that it is an unwarranted extravagance for us to build this vessel at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I yield to no man in my admiration of Australian industries, and I desire to see legitimate Australian enterprises built up, but I am totally opposed to the Government dipping its hands into the people’s pockets to get money to establish uneconomic industries here. Mr. Payne, the chairman of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, in giving evidence before the committee on the 7th May last on this subject, said that £75,000 of the money proposed to be spent on this vessel represented labour and £46,000 material. He added that a vessel of the same type could be built in England for about half what it would cost in Australia. In October, 1929, during the hearing of an application by the Metal Trades Union for a new award, Mr. Waters, manager of Walsh Island Dockyard, said -
The latest prices submitted show that two vessels can be procured in Britain for the same money as one in Australia.
In those circumstances, I think, I am justified in saying that ship-building is an uneconomic proposition in Australia today. We are wasting money in building vessels here, when they can be built at half the cost overseas. In August, 1926, the Queensland Labour Government called for tenders for two hopper barges. The successful tender was that sent in by Fergusson Brothers, of Glasgow, for £58,000. There were three Australian tenders: from the New South Wales Government Dockyard for £134,800; from Morts Dock for £119,000, and from Poole and Steele Limited for £93,000. That Labour Government gave the tender to the Glasgow firm. In 1925 the Western Australia Labour Government ordered two vessels in England to replace the Bambra and Eucla. The Minister for State Shipping was reported at the time to have said -
The cost of the vessel to replace the Eucla, if built at Cockatoo Island, would be more than twice as much as if it were built in England.
There we had two Labour Governments, who, at a time when the country was more prosperous than it is at present, were not prepared to follow the uneconomic course that this Government now proposes to take. The Fordsdale and the Ferndale, vessels of 12,000 tons, which were built at Cockatoo Island, cost £64 per ton, at a time when vessels of the same type were being built in Great Britain for £23 a ton. Much as we may desire to support a ship-building industry in Australia, we cannot possibly do so, because of the additional cost involved. When the PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Lyons, was dealing with a similar matter affecting his own department, he said -
The discrepancy is so marked that I do not think that the department would be justified in accepting the local tender.
In the case of this lighthouse steamer, the discrepancy is so marked that I do not think this House is justified in accepting a local tender. If, however, it is decided to build the vessel in Australia, and, in doing so, to throw away £50,000 of the taxpayers’ money, Walsh Island, Morts Dockyard, and other ship-building enterprises in Australia should be given an opportunity to tender for the work, instead of it being given to Cockatoo Island, at whatever estimate the dockyard chooses to submit. In my opinion if the vessel is built at Cockatoo Island its cost will be close upon £150,000.
.- It would be rather inconsistent on my part if I did not support the proposal of the Government to build this lighthouse vessel at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, because I was the member of the Public Committee who moved that the work of building the vessel should be undertaken at Cockatoo Island. I was rather interested and surprised to hear the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) say that no request had come from the Lighthouse branch “for a new vessel for lighthouse service. Mr. Wallach, Director of Lighthouses, in giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, and in reply to questions I put to him, said -
There has been an increase from 105 to 145 in the number of lights on the Australian coast since we took over control. We desire to improve the service and establish many more marine lights. This being so, this vessel, if constructed, will not meet our requirements ten years hence.
Further evidence given by Mr. Wallach, is an effective reply to’ the statement of the honorable member for Warringah. Mr. Wallach said -
I consider that in addition to the two Cape boats, two vessels of the type now proposed are necessary, together with two slightly smaller vessels, in order to meet the minimum requirements of the service. One vessel would be fully engaged in properly attending to the work at present required in No. 1 District without allowing for future developments. The six vessels referred to would be stationed one at Port Darwin, one at Fremantle, one at Port Adelaide, one at Melbourne, and two in Queensland.
It is well known, or should be, amongst those who have any practical knowledge of ship-building, that the longest life allowed by mercantle marine insurance companies to a steel-constructed vessel is 25 years. The Kyogle has now reached the age of 29 years, and consequently has out-lived her allotted span of life by four years. She was originally bought secondhand for £12,750, and since she has been under the control of the Lighthouse branch has had expended upon her the following sums:- In 1924-25, £403; in 1925-26, £284; in 1926-27, £2,016,; in 1927-28, £3,1S1 ; in 192S-29, £1,594, and in 1929-30, £1,680. The Kyogle has been running at the excessive fuelling cost of £33 17s. per 100 miles, and in order to eliminate that excessive cost, it was suggested that the vessel be turned into an oil burner, at a cost of approximately £19.000. If I may be excused for venturing my opinion as a practical man in the trade, I may say that the Kyogle should have been condemned and scrapped ten years ago. She is not safe.
– Then why suggest selling her if she is not safe?
– I shall make my own speech in my own way. If the honorable member fdr Warringah made a mess of his speech I shall not permit him to make a mess of mine. I have not suggested that the ship should be sold. She is a menace to human life and should have been scrapped ten years ago. The honorable member for Warringah said also that only about 14 per cent, of Australian manufactured material was used in the construction of the Fordsdale, and a number of other vessels that were built in this country, and he went on to suggest that in reality such vessels were merely assembled in Australia. The’ honorable member is in error. If he is aware of the facts his offence is so much the worse. Mr. Payne, the manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, in reply to a question which I put to him, stated that 40 per cent, of the total steel requirements for such vessels can be procured from the Broken Hill Proprietary Works at Newcastle. The dockyard is capable of turning out all classes of marine engineering work, steamships of all sizes, steel constructional work, such as cranes, elevators, and lifts, and all classes of , general engineering and electrical work. But assuming that the honorable member for Warringah is correct, may we not regard the present situation as a reflection upon the former Administration, which claimed to be Australian in sentiment, because it was responsible for the equipment and the organization of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which it would now appear is to be allowed to go to ruin as a shipbuilding enterprise? On the face of it it appears that the amount in issue is a matter of £50,000 in the construction of a vessel that is urgently needed to meet the requirements of our lighthouse services. But I remind honorable members that the estimated cost of £72,000 for construction abroad represents the cost at the dock to which must be added the cost of bringing the vessel to Australia, including insurance and the repatriation of the crew. Did honorable members opposite object when former governments indulged in excessive borrowing at high interest rates to conduct the war? Again, did they raise any objection against the action of the BrucePage Administration in appointing numberless royal commissions and boards of inquiry which cost this country tens of thousand of pounds? The Cockatoo Island shipbuilding plant is valued at about £1,500,000. Are honorable members content to allow all the modern machinery installed there to remain idle? Is it not better to employ it usefully in the interests of the people?
– It is more economical to keep it idle than to use it under existing conditions.
– When working at full capacity the dockyard would be able to give employment to at least 5,000 workers, and had it been utilized to the fullest extent during the last thirteen years a great deal of valuable construction work, could have been carried out. The number employed at the end of 1919 was 4,000, and in 1925 the number of employees had fallen to 942, and to-day there are approximately only 350 nien employed there; but a more alarming feature is the depreciation in the value of the plant, which is in danger of being ruined through disuse. It is an insult to the artisans of this country to suggest that the construction of the proposed new lighthouse steamer cannot be carried out efficiently and economically at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Australian artisans have proved themselves equal to any artisans in the world.
– Our experience is that in this country we can build only one ship for the price of two constructed elsewhere.
– Improved working conditions in Australia are the result of efficient organization on the part of the pioneers and their descendants, who were determined to make Australia a better place for the working classes than are the older countries of the world. Our artisans are now in the enjoyment of a higher wage standard, and a higher standard of living than artisans elsewhere, and honorable members opposite, who are alway boasting of their patriotism, if they have any real patriotism in their make-up, should applaud this Government’s attempt to encourage the shipbuilding industry in Australia.
– The Australian pioneers built up industries under competitive conditions.
– In common with all who have the true welfare of this country at heart I am concerned, not with getting the cheapest production, but with upholding the right of our artisans to work under reasonable conditions and to live in reasonable comfort. To-day, there are walking the streets of our capital cities, looking for employment, boilermakers, engineers, plumbers, fitters, turners, moulders, carpenters, shipwrights and other artisans who ordinarily find work in the ship-building trade.
– What about the clerks?
– If artisans are not fully employed, clerical workers are also seeking work. I repeat that it would be a reflection on the intelligence of Australian artisans if this Government placed thecontract for the construction of the new lighthouse steamer with an overseas firm, instead of authorizing its construction in. Australia by Australian artisans, of whose efficiency there can be no doubt.
– It is the question of costs that is involved.
– Honorable membersopposite did not raise this issue when, former administrations were raising vast sums of money to conduct the war in which so many thousands of Australian and other lives were lost. They did not bother then about the cost; they do now when the question at issue is the establishment of the ship-building industry in. Australia. If money can be found for the destruction of human life by one government, surely it can be found for construction purposes by another government. I am proud of the fact that I was privileged, as a member of the Public Works Committee, to have the opportunity to move the motion that the construction of the proposed new vessel be undertaken at the Cockatoo Island dockyard. The cost is estimated at £120,000. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has declared that it will probably reach £150,000. I have reason to believe that the vessel will be built for less than £118,000. In the circumstances all honorable members should be unanimous in their support of the proposal that the vessel be built in Australia. One honorable member sneeringly referred to the fact that if the work is done at Cockatoo Island a certain number of men in the Dalley electorate division will secure employment. I am not concerned with that point at all. My one desire is that the new lighthouse steamer should be built in Australia. I am not narrow-minded enough to suggest that in any and all circumstances I stand for the principle of Australia for Australians; but I do stand for the principle that Australian artisans should have the right to work, especially in view of the fact that so many are to-day on the verge of starvation.
– We all stand for that.
– Then why did the honorable member support a government which was responsible for a policy that permitted of the importation, in 1928- 1929, of £180,000,000 worth of manufactured goods. I sincerely hope that the motion will be passed, so that employment may be given to a large number of Australian artisans who will be engaged upon the construction of this vessel. I am certain also that when the steamer is finished we shall have good reason to be proud of the handiwork pf Australian artisans.
.- I oppose the motion. The service in which the proposed vessel is to engage is not in any sense reproductive; it is merely a service.
– It is for Western Australia.
– Even that consideration does not weigh with me against the uneconomic aspect of the proposal. The lighthouses are an insurance of shipping; the cost of maintaining them is the premium paid by the Commonwealth. No honorable member, when arranging for the insurance of his own property, would voluntarily pay double the premium that was necessary, and we should not be less careful when spending the Commonwealth’s money than we would be of spending our own. I commend the PostmasterGeneral for the attitude he took in regard to the purchase of wireless equipment. The tenders showed a difference of £55,000 against the Australian contractors, and, in the interests of the Commonwealth taxpayer, he placed the order overseas. I am glad that there is one man in the Ministry who, in a matter of this kind, is prepared to put the interests of Australia first. An honorable member who would pay for one ship, built locally, as much as would purchase two similar vessels abroad is not a patriot. The Tariff Board, which is maintained for the purpose of advising Parliament in regard to matters of this kind, found that two vessels could be built in the United Kingdom and delivered in Australia, duty paid, for the price of one built locally.
– Is that proved?
– Beyond question, and that is a moderate estimate. Even the report of the Public Works Committee admits the truth of that contention, and I am confident that, if the vessel is built in Australia, extras will increase the cost much beyond the original estimate. No doubt elaborate explanations of the increase will be forthcoming; nevertheless, the taxpayer will have to pay. The chairman of the Public Works Committee said that the vessel is urgently needed. If time is of the essence of the contract, thiGovernment should place the order abroad, because the vessel can be built in the United Kingdom in half the time that its construction in Australia would occupy. The £50,000 that could be saved by letting the contract overseas would be available for expenditure on some other work. When labour is employed unprofitably it might as well not be employed at all, for that policy only makes bad worse. The present Government appears to be a bundle of contradictions. The Treasurer’s budget statement revealed that the finances of the Commonwealth are in a serious condition. His colleague, the Minister for Defence, in order to save a few thousands of pounds, has been whittling away another form of insurance, the defence of the country. Having done that., he mounted his own dunghill and crowed like a rooster. But in regard to another form of insurance, the lighthouse service, the Government proposes to disregard considerations of cost, although the PostmasterGeneral, in dealing with contracts within his department, recognized the folly of paying an excessive price to encourage local industry. The Collier Government in Western Australia, although always preaching the “ made in Australia “ doctrine of the Labour party, recognized its responsibility to the taxpayers, and when it wanted a new vessel for the north-west trade, placed the order abroad rather than pay twice the price to have it built in the Commonwealth. Mr. Collier justified, flic action, of tho Government, saying that State shipping was also a plank in his party’s platform, and he did not want to jeopardize the ‘ commercial success of the enterprise by over-capitalization. A Nationalist Government in Tasmania established a State steamship service, but when the
Labour Government came into power, and had the responsibility of conserving the taxpayers’ money, it sold the line rather than continue to operate it at a loss. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will, in view of the seriousness of Australia’s financial position, decide not to pay for the lighthouse steamer £50,000 or £60,000 more than .is necessary. Rash enterprises of this kind have created the present unemployment problem and are tending to isolate Australia commercially, so that very few of its products can be. profitably sold in the markets of the world.
.- The debate has clearly shown the line of cleavage between the ministerial supporters and the members of the Opposition. The latter are prepared to support overseas industries while the ministerialists are determined to do what is reasonable and proper to develop in Australia the vital and key industry of shipbuilding. Members of the Opposition advocate the claims of the overseas contractor; government supporters stand solidly for the promotion of Australian industry.
– At any price.
– Opponents of the motion overlook the important, fact that the Government proposes to give this contract to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which is the only naval dockyard in the South Pacific. It was established at a cost of £1,500,000 and retains between 400 and 500 skilled men who have been specially trained in ship-building, especially in relation to naval requirements, as part of the defence policy of the Commonwealth. Owing to the reduction of the navy, the refitting and maintenance work in which these artisans were mainly engaged has been seriously curtailed, and by the decision of the High Court in the Bunnerong case the dockyard is precluded from accepting private contracts. This necessarily reduces the quantity of work that is available to it. The construction of a Federal Government steamer, however, is within the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth dock and is appropriate work to be given to this dockyard which has had the experience of building two other lighthouse vessels, the Cape York and the Cape Leeuwin. Other docks have been mentioned during the debate, but it should bc placed on record that Walsh Island, Mort’s Dockyard, and similar concerns are not capable of doing the naval work that Cockatoo Island Dockyard was constructed to perform. In the circumstances it is eminently desirable that the vessel should be constructed at that dockyard. I would have thought that honorable members opposite would not desire the place to be closed down, but would wish to help this important national enterprise in every possible way. The placing of the contract with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard would assist to keep it operating. Actuated by a spirit of hostility towards this Government enterprise, and in an endeavour to decry Australian workers, honorable members opposite talked of the so-called exorbitant costs prevailing at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and speculated as to the cost at which this lighthouse steamer could be. constructed abroad. They produced no evidence of any tenders that had been made for similar work. Some talked airily about a saving of £50,000 being effected if the contract were placed- abroad. We know that in 1924 the Cape York and the Cape Leeuwin were built at a cost of about £116,562, and that the Assistant Minister has intimated that the new . lighthouse steamer will cost approximately £118,000 if constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Although it might cost less to build this ship abroad, it would be done only by paying lower wages and working longer hours than are paid or worked in Australia, and. because many of the concessions and just privileges to which Australian labour is entitled are missing. Further, the contractors would probably purchase the material required in the cheapest markets of the world, maybe from Germany. I prefer that the steamer be made here by Australian labour, employed under Australian conditions, and from Australian materials.
It cannot be claimed that our engineers are not as skilful as those overseas, and it must be remembered that when skilled men are unemployed the community suffers a grave economic loss. The placing of the contract with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard would give an impetus to employment, keep anumber of skilled men engaged for a considerable period, and create new avenues of employment. It would also provide an opportunity to teach young Australians a trade and to increase the technical efficiency of our workmen. So that even if honorable members were able to produce a tender to show that the cost abroad would be less than in Australia, that sum would not represent the difference. One would have to compute the economic effect of increasing employment in favour of ‘doing the work in Australia. This is the only naval dockyard that the British Empire has in the Southern Pacific, and it is essential to Australia and to the Empire generally that it should be maintained with its complement of skilled staff and that its plant and staff should be kept supplied with work. That aggregation of advantages, coupled with the economic loss caused by sending work abroad that can be performed here, leaves no doubt as to the wisdom, the economy and the patriotism of the Government in recommending that the lighthouse steamer should be constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
.- Unlike most lawyers, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), apparently failed to read his brief in this case. Had he studied the evidence and the report of the committee he would not have made so many groundless statements. At page 21 of the report it is specifically recorded, in evidence from the principal mechanical engineer of the “Works Department, that the cost in Great Britain of a vessel of similar size would be £60,000, or about 50 per cent, of the price that it is proposed to pay in Australia. Some of the evidence also incorporates the plans and specifications of a most elaborate lighthouse steamer, twin-screwed and slightly larger than that recommended, which is being built under contract to the New Zealand Government at a cost of £77,000 delivered in New Zealand.
The honorable member for Parkes was rather offensive in the early portion of his speech. He intimated that what the Government proposed was right and proper, insinuating that any one who opposed the proposal was doing something most improper. The giving away of £50,000 or £60,000 of the taxpayers’ money is a procedure that warrants comment. I do not think that the honorable member for Parkes would allow his vaunted patriotism to induce him to give a considerable sum of money out of his own pocket unnecessarily. “We frequently hear this cry of patriotism advanced when the taking of money out of the pockets of other people is concerned, but when the case applies personally the position is viewed in a different light.
– What does the honorable member insinuate?
– What the honorable member insinuated in his speech. I consider it to be the duty of any member of a public committee to form his opinion according to the evidence submitted. On the evidence adduced before the Public Works Committee in this matter I was of the opinion that the Kyogle, being a coal-burning vessel, was exceptionally expensive to maintain on a coastline so long as that of Western Australia. It was for that reason that the Cape York and Cape Leeuwin were constructed in 1923 at a cost of approximately £120,000 each; one for the lighthouse service on the coast of Western Australia, and the other on the North Queensland coast, but both ships were kept on the Queensland coast. Since then their maintenance has been extraordinarily heavy. At page 30 of the report on the proposed lighthouse steamer it will be found that for a period of three years the cost of repairs, alterations, and overhauls for those two steamers and the Kyogle were as follows : -
– What about the ships that were built during the war period?
– We have heard enough about them, and the number of bolts that could be rivetted in a day. It was a disgraceful comparison. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) stated that the present proposal did not originate with the Lighthouse Department. I refer honorable members to the evidence of Mr.
Kill, Director-General of Works, which begins at page 28 of the report. He said -
Pursuant to an’ appointment made by telephone, I was waited on by Mr. Hall. ControllerGeneral of Customs, who was accompanied by Captain Williams and the manager nf the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I was then informed that the Treasurer had directed that i lie work of constructing a new lighthouse steamer at Cockatoo bc proceeded with, and that they would be glad if we would give effect to that decision. A discussion ensued on the matter, and it was arranged that a further full discussion in regard to the- details of the proposed vessel should be held in Melbourne in a few days. Subsequently my department received a memorandum dated the 13th March, 1930, intimating that the Treasurer and the Assistant Minister for Industry (Mr. Beasley) had had an interview with Mr. Payne, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Hall, and Captain Williams-
NO mention is made of the Lighthouse Department. The statement continues - mid that it had been decided to construct a steamer on the basis of the cost of the Cape York and Cape Leeuwin; that the estimated oust was between £110,000 and £120,000, lint was not to exceed £120,000; and that no funds were to bc required during this financial year, the whole nf the payments to be made in the following year. The minute stated that the Treasurer directed that steps bc taken immediately to put the work in hand.
There is not the slightest doubt that the Kyogle has many years of useful life before it. A lot of evidence of a damaging character to that steamer was submitted, claiming that it was unfit for duty on the Western Australian coast, but I was persistent in my inquiries, and at last I caused to be produced the report of the Fremantle marine surveyor on that vessel. Unfortunately, it is not incorporated iu the evidence, but the committee also obtained evidence from the engineer for lighthouses, who said, with regard to t Ite Kyogle -
My statement that the Kyogle would be suitable on the North Queensland coast was based on actual experience of the vessel.
Mr. Wallach said in reply to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) -
I have read the report of the Western Australian State ships surveyor. His figures cover a period of five years, whereas mine cover a period of ten years, and make provision for the expenditure of £6,000 on a new boiler. Mr. Hunter, who for many years was the State engineer-surveyor, and wlm has a very intimate knowledge of the Kyogle, has informed me that the Kyogle can bc used for another ten years without any increase in the cost of maintenance.
The Kyogle is of small coal-carrying capacity. At one time I inquired whether it would be possible to transfer one of the Cape boats to Western Australia to serve the long reach of coast between Fremantle and Darwin - at both of which places oil fuel could be obtained - and at the same time transfer the Kyogle to the Queensland coast. However, there was some difficulty in the way of making that transfer. That is probably a matter for further investigation. The whole idea of the construction o,f lighthouse service steamers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard originated with the Treasury. Mr. Hill’s evidence showed that clearly.
– In what way were the English figures checked?
– Evidence was given to the effect that the proposed vessel could be constructed in Great Britain at half the cost of construction here. In addition, plans and specifications of a new lighthouse boat on an elaborate scale, with twin screws, to cost £77,000 delivered here, were submitted to the committee. Then we had the evidence of Mr. Boden, a naval architect, who had just returned from England, that a boat suitable for the lighthouse service could be constructed in Great Britain for £64,000; delivery to Australia being £5,000 extra. The cost of constructing the proposed vessel at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is estimated at £120,000, and to that must be added another £1,000 for taking it to Fremantle. The difference in the cost of delivery would be £4,000; Mr. Boden’s estimate of the cost of construction in Great Britain would therefore be about £68,000. The Public Works Committee has made a recommendation. As a member of that committee, I moved that tenders should be called in both Great Britain and Australia. Had that motion been carried, the Government would have been left with the responsibility of deciding where the vessel should be constructed. However, my motion was defeated, and the majority of the committee decided to recommend that tenders should be called in Australia. In addition to Cockatoo Island there are establishments such as Walsh Island and Mort’s Dock, at which the proposed vessel could be constructed. I do not know whether Walkers Limited, of Queensland, would tender for this work, but some years ago it constructed steel vessels and it may be prepared to engage, again in that class of work. If rids work is to be carried out in Australia any Australian firm should be able to tender for it, and, if successful, to share iii this public expenditure. It is highly improper for the Government to say that only one set of workmen is to have the right to share in this proposed Commonwealth expenditure. I brought before the Public “Works Committee the question of using in the construction <of the proposed vessel, machinery and wireless plant taken from the Australian destroyers that are now being dismantled. The Government could stipulate that tenders must exclude the value of any Commonwealth machinery or wireless plant which is to be used in the construction of the vessel. It would be in iiic interests of Australia to have the vessel constructed in Great Britain at a cost of £50,000, and to utilize the money saved in providing more reproductive employment. As the committee has recommended that tenders should be called in Australia, it is the duty of the Government to accept that recommendation, but I. submit that npt only Cockatoo Island Dockyard, but also the other shipbuilding firms of Australia, should be permitted to tender for the proposed work.
.- The main issue before honorable members is not whether this proposed vessel should Ik- built in Australia or purchased abroad, or whether tenders should be publicly called for its construction, but whether it should be purchased at all in this time of financial stringency. I am convinced that a case has not been made out for the replacement of the Kyogle at this particular time. I know from my association with the Customs Department last year that this vessel is old, slow, and expensive to run. I also know that the question of replacing it had been under consideration for a number of years. It was under serious consideration last year, and the Bruce-Page Government was reluctantly obliged to decide that the Kyogle should be kept in commission and should not be replaced by either a new boat built here or another boat purchased from Great Britain, because of the financial stringency existing at that time.
Since then the financial position has become substantially worse, and if last year a case could not, be made out for the scrapping of the Kyogle, I am certain that one cannot be made out to-day. The only ground on which this Government or Parliament would be justified in obtaining a modern and up-to-date vessel, would be lack of safety of life. If the Kyogle were unseaworthy, this House would be compelled, regardless of the financial position,- to replace it, but I have looked carefully through the report of the Public Works Committee, and 1 find in it no reference to the safety of the Kyogle. Apparently, the committee was satisfied that the only objection to the vessel was an economic objection. The Kyogle is expensive to run, and the cost of repairs is heavy. Last year, this matter was brought before the Government by the Customs Department. It was submitted to me as Minister for Trade and Customs, that the Kyogle was expensive to run, and that if money were available, it should be replaced by a modern vessel. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out that the present proposal has come from the Treasury. It was not put forward even when the Estimates were submitted. It was an original proposal from the Treasury. Apparently, the motive behind it is to find work in this country. The Government is prepared to scrap the Kyogle so that work may be provided in constructing a new vessel. At a timelike this, the expenditure of £120,000 on this class of work is unwarranted. I trust that the House will not. waste time in considering whether the vessel should be built in Australia or whether tenders should be called in Australia, but that it will decide that because of the present financial stress the replacement of the Kyogle should be postponed until such time as money is available for that purpose. I should like to hear what the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has to say on this subject, because I notice that when the Public Works committee was considering _ whether tenders should be called or whether the proposed vessel should be constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the honorablemember voted in favour of calling for tenders and not for the straight-out. arbitrary allotment of this work to Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I ask the honorable member to support this side of the House in its contention that if this proposed vessel is to be built, tenders should be called, and that the work should not be given to Cockatoo Island Dockyard just as a matter of course. The recommendation of the Public “Works Committee is conditional. The committee did not treat this matter as urgent, and made no reference to the Kyogle as being unseaworthy and likely to place life in jeopardy. Under the heading of “ Necessity for new vessel “ the committee’s report reads’ -
The committee is satisfied from its investigations that, under existing circumstances, the lighthouse service on the Western Austraiian and North Australian coast cannot be economically maintained at the degree of efficiency desired with the Kyogle, and recommends that a new oil-burning steamer for such services be provided as early as practicable.
Judged from first-class and up-to-date standards, the Kyogle is not an economical boat. It is probably costing an additional £3,000 or £4,000 a year in running expenses and maintenance, but that is not nearly so much as a new vessel would immediately cost in interest payments alone. If this House is to be consistent in its support of the policy of this Government and of the Bruce-Page Government in its latter years, of self denial in regard to -financial works in the Federal Capital Territory, the post office, and indeed throughout Australia, it will decide not to replace the Kyogle until there is a substantial improvement in our financial position.
– What we have to consider in the first place is whether the proposal that has how been put forward by the Government is economically sound. Only about a week ago the Postmaster-General gave sound arguments for the acceptance from overseas, of tenders for certain wireless equipment. He said that that was necessary, because of the enormous disparity between the quotations for the supply of the material in Australia and overseas. The Postmaster-General considered that to be a wise step. He said that the acceptance of the overseas tender as against the Australian tender would make possible a saving of £55,000 which could be used to provide additional employment in Australia. We on this side of the House thought from the utterances of the PostmasterGeneral on that occasion, that the Government was showing certain glimmerings of economic sanity, and was at last attempting to take a sound view of economics generally. But only a day or two afterwards, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan), in dealing with arbitration legislation, refused to retain in it a provision requiring the judges, in making awards, to consider their economic effect upon industry. One day later the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney), in reply to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who had moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the difficulties experienced in the dried fruits industry, said that it was essential that the Government, in deciding what should be done for that industry, should take only such action as was economically sound. We have now another Minister in his place at the table in charge of a bill which is probably more economically unsound than anything we have had before us for some weeks.
– The Minister says that the Kyogle should be displaced because it cannot be run economically.
– Evidently the Minister is prepared to consider economics as to one part of this question, but not as to the major portion of it. Are we to understand that each Minister holds a different view on this question, or that two of them hold views which are fundamentally different from those held by another two? Or are we to understand that the Government turns an economic somersault every day, and that, therefore, the Postmaster-General can make one decision on Wednesday, and the AttorneyGeneral a different decision on Thursday; that the Minister for Markets and Transport can get back to the economic view on Friday, and at the next sitting on the following Tuesday another Minister can again ignore economic facts? Does the Government hold one view one day and another view the next day; or will two Ministers always hold one view, and two other Ministers always hold a different view?
I hope that when he rises to reply, the Minister will enlighten us on this point. [Quorum formed.] It is interesting to note that so late as last Friday the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) found it impossible, on economic grounds, to assist the dried fruits industry to the extent of £60,000, whereas to-day the Minister in charge of this bill thinks nothing of airily handing over £50,000 to a dockyard in Sydney. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) spent a considerable time in arguing that, because theKyogle is unsuitable and costly to run, a modern ship to take its place is necessary. While I do not dispute what the honorable member said in that connexion, I point out that he made no attempt to justify the action of the Government in disregarding the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that tenders be called in Australia for the construction of the vessel. Nor have we any explanation from the Minister of the Government’s departure from that recommendation.
– The honorable member was not here on Friday when an explanation was given.
– I was here, and I heard what the Minister said. But I did not hear anything which I regarded as an explanation of the Government’s decision to ignore the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that tenders be called in Australia for the construction of the vessel. Although I have listened to all the speeches on this subject to-day, I have not heard any attempt to show that, by constructing this vessel in Australia at a cost about double that at which it could be built overseas, any special benefit will accrue to Australia. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) said that the Kyogle is a small ship, about 25 years old, and had, therefore, been in commission five years beyond the span of usefulness for a vessel of its kind. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I am reminded that the 12,000- ton steamer onwhich I came to Australia 22 years ago - I refer to the White Star liner Persic, then, at least, 20 years old - was only recently sold for use as a whaler. Evidently the purchaser of the Persic, which must be over 40 years old, considers that the vessel is fit for use for some time to come. We have another example in the Edina, which, although 76 years old, was recently renovated. Proof that her frame is still sound was furnished not long ago when she came off best in a collision in which she severely damaged another vessel with which she accidently came into contact. Although the Edina, which transported troops to the Crimea during the Crimean War in 1854, has already made 10,000 trips between Melbourne and Geelong, I understand that the vessel is to be kept in commission for some years to come. In view of such evidence, it is, indeed, extraordinary that the Kyogle has reached a state of maritime senility at the age of 25 years.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) said that the Government’s proposal was reasonable, proper and patriotic. In view of the enormous difference between the cost of constructing a new vessel in Australia, and its cost in Great Britain, or in other ports of the Empire, I submit that the Government’s proposal is unreasonable, and its misuse of the taxpayers’ money improper.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in saying that the Government’s proposal is improper.
– While I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I submit that if the honorable member for Parkes was in order in saying that the Government’s proposal was proper, I should be within the limits of parliamentary propriety if I said that it was not proper. The honorable member for Parkes spoke of shipbuilding in Australia as a key industry. Does any honorable member say seriously that ship-building is a key industry in this country, or indeed that it will be a key industry wthin the next century? Surely ship-building in Australia can be described only as a very expensive hobby. The demand for ships in Australia is not sufficient to keep a dockyard fully employed. At best, the dockyard would work only intermittently in the building of ships. From the point of view of the shipping companies trading on the Australian coast, the construction of ships in Australia is economically impossible. I have here some interesting figures relating to ship-building costs supplied by the New South Wales Coastal Steamship Owners Association ; but as some of them have already been quoted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), I shall not weary the House by quoting them at length. The manager of Walsh Island gave evidence which showed that a ship of the type required to replace the Kyogle could be built in Great Britain at one-half the cost of building it here. Surely evidence of that kind, coming from such a source, can be regarded as disinterested.
If, however, the Government throws economics to the winds and decides that the ship shall be built in Australia, it should consider the recommendation of the Works Committee that tenders be invited for the work. In this connexion I desire to give the House the quotations of three Australian tenderers in 1926, when the Queensland Labour Government invited offers for the construction of two hopper barges. It is interesting to note that on that occasion the Queensland Government accepted the tender of a British firm, because it undertook to construct the vessels for £58,000, whereas the New South Wales Government Dockyard wanted £134,800 to do the work. The tender submitted by Mort’s Dock was £119,000, and that of Poole and Steele Limited, £93,000. My reason for quoting these figures is not so much to show the disparity between the British tenderer’s price of” £58,000 aud the £134,800 quoted by the Government dockyard of New South Wales, glaring though that disparity is, but to call attention to the differences between the quotations of the three Australian tenderers. Between the prices asked by the New South Wales dockyard, and that of the lowest Australian tenderer, there was a difference of nearly £42,000. In other words, the tender of Poole .and Steele Limited was less than 70 per cent, of that of the Government dockyard. Seeing that that disparity between the quotations of Australian tenderers existed in 1926, may we not reasonably assume that a similar disparity would exist to-day, if tenders were invited? There is every reason to believe that other Australian firms would be prepared to build this vessel at a price considerably less than that quoted by the Government dockyard. Returning to the argument, that ship-building in Australia is too expensive to be considered, I could give numerous instances of the enormous difference in cost between ships built in Australia and in Britain. In 1922 an interstate company called for tenders for two cargo vessels. A Glasgow firm offered to construct them for £30,000 each. Identical specifications were sent to Walsh Island, and it is reported that the authorities there quoted £59,000 for one vessel and £56,000 for the other. In quoting these figures I am giving hard uncomfortable facts. The Fordsdale and the Ferndale, which were built at Cockatoo Island, cost £64 a ton and £58 12s. 6d. a ton, respectively. At the time that they were being built, British shipbuilders quoted £23 per dead weight ton. There are certain economic limits beyond which we cannot reasonably go in accepting tenders, even in order to give employment to our own people. The Postmaster-General admitted that the other day, even if other Ministers do not. Will any honorable member deny that the late Government rendered a service to Australia when, with a limited sum to spend in the purchase of up-to-date cruisers, it obtained two vessels from Great Britain for the sum that would have been necessary to purchase only one cruiser if built in Australia? Would any honorable member say that we would not he in a better position to defend ourselves with two modern 10,000-ton fast cruisers than with one such vessel, and that we were not wise to obtain two cruisers for the price that one would have cost us if it had been built in Australia? I consider myself as patriotic an Australian as any honorable member opposite, although I was not born in this country. I believe in giving Australians the first chance every time. But there are economic limits beyond which it would be folly for us to go. It w7ould be much better for us to have this ship built in another part of the Empire than to build it here at double the cost. The Government’s proposal is economically unsound.
– I am surprised at the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
Surely the first duty of a government is to find work for its own people. Seeing that probably the engineering and shipbuilding trades in Australia are suffering more than any other at the moment, it would be utterly wrong for us to have this ship built overseas. In my opinion the Government would commit a crime if it sent this work abroad and left the workers in the ship-building industry here unemployed. That might make it necessary to provide our workers with a dole to enable them to live. The honorable member for Gippsland is concerned about getting the ship at the lowest possible price. He must be aware that the rates of wages of those engaged in the ship-building industry overseas are only about half those received by our workers in that industry.
– The wage standard in England is very much lower than here. Those who advocate the spending of this money abroad are unfair to our own people. ,
– The honorable member should not talk economic tommy-rot.
– I am talking common sense.
– Why did the Postmaster-General refuse to place his contracts locally?
– The circumstances were entirely different. We have a firstclass ship-building plant and skilled mechanics available to do this work, and the Government would do wrong if itdid not place the contract with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The honorable member for Gippsland desires to be very generous to the people overseas. He has made it possible for them to buy Australian butter for 4d. per lb. less than the Australian people have to pay for it.
– If the Government would guarantee that the difference between the price of this ship built here and the price of a similar ship built overseas would be no greater, comparatively, than the prices of Australian butter here and overseas, I should favour this work being done here.
– The honorable member is prepared to tax our people in order to make possible the marketing of our f 1471 butter profitably in England, but he is not prepared to place the country at any financial disadvantage to enable this ship to be built here. Not very long ago the Cockatoo Island Dockyard quoted a lower price than .°uy of its competitors here or overseas lor the construction of two turbines for the generation of electricity, but a verdict was secured from the High Court which prevented the work from being done at the dockyard. The men who would be engaged in building this ship are our fellow citizens and friends, and their interests should be considered.
– They are not our friends nor are they the friends of Australia if they want two for one.
– I suppose that in this instance the honorable member would regard the poorly-paid labourers overseas as his friends. I hope that the Government will adhere to its decision to have this work done at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. If the job goes overseas it will still further increase our adverse trade balance.
.- Before we give authority for this expenditure to be incurred we should satisfy ourselves that this ship is required. The summary of recommendations of the Public Works Committee contains the following two paragraphs: - («) That a new oil-burning steamer for lighthouse service on the western and northern Australian coasts be provided as early as practicable.
If lives were being placed in jeopardy by maintaining the Kyogle in commission, we should be justified in considering whether another ship should be built or bought at home or abroad ; but there is nothing in the evidence submitted to the committee to show that the lives of the crew are being endangered by their continuing to go to sea in this vessel. Consequently, the Kyogle might very well be retained in commission until the period of excessive financial stringency through which we are now passing has been left behind us. This is no time for us to be considering the spending of £120,000 to replace a ship which is doing all the work that is required of her. Even if it were proved that the ship should he replaced, we should not rush to adopt any proposal to replace her. We should, in my opinion, instruct the Government, as a first move, to try to buy a ship already built. We should not commit the country to an excessively high expenditure in building a new vessel at the very time when we have before us a financial statement which provides for the largest expenditure ever budgeted for in the history of the Commonwealth. There has never been a time when we have had a greater number of unemployed in our midst, nor when poverty has been so rife. If we advertise in the press throughout the world for a vessel of this description I am satisfied that we should be able to obtain one for one-third or perhaps even a quarter of the £120,000 it is now proposed to spend in building one. If, however, we found that we could not buy a suitable vessel, and had to build one, we should call for tenders for the work from overseas as well as from local shipbuilders. It is only a business proceeding to invite all ship-builders to tender for the work. It is our duty to see that the money of the Commonwealth is judiciously spent, and not disbursed with wasteful prodigality. If we allow public money to be spent without proper consideration, we are not worthy to be members of this Parliament.
I cannot accept the proposition of the Assistant Minister that because the Commonwealth Government has a dockyard, this work should be given to it irrespective of any other considerations, particularly as the manager of the dockyard indicated in the evidence he gave before the Public Works Committee that a vessel of this type could probably be obtained overseas at half the price it is proposed to pay for building it here. I advocate the purchase and use of Australian-made goods so far as is reasonably possible, and believe that we should encourage Australian industry in every practicable way, even in providing our own personal requirements. I certainly buy Australian goods whenever I can reasonably do so. If we were being asked to give a preference of, say, 15 per cent, to Australia in this case, no objection would be taken to that, and it is frequently given in government contracts, but it is beyond all reason to expect us to give a preference of 50 per cent, or 75 per cent. Any one in private business would be forced by economic considerations on the prices quoted to have this work done overseas. I submit that if we are satisfied that the ship should be obtained, and we cannot buy one already built, the ship-builders of Australia, as well as ship-builders overseas, should be invited to tender for the work. Mort’s Dock would doubtless tender if given the opportunity to do so. There is a ship-building yard at Williamstown in Victoria, which had to cease operations because of the lack of work. It is entirely wrong, in my opinion, to give the work, without any competition, to a government dockyard in the electorate of a government supporter. As bounties are being provided for cotton grown in the division of Capricornia, and for sewing machines manufactured in the division of Bendigo, honorable members opposite think it is right to allow this ship to be built in the division of West Sydney; but I hold a different opinion.
I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) say that the instruction to the Public Works Committee to inquire into this proposal came from the Treasury and not from the Lighthouse Department. It is rather strange that the committee should be asked to inquire into a proposal to place a valuable contract in a government dockyard which gives employment to a very large number of men who live in the electorate of the ex-Minister who originated the inquiry; and that private shipbuilding firms here and overseas should be debarred from submitting a tender for the work.
As a rule, government business enters prises are not conducted on economic lines. I do not mean only the enterprises controlled by Labour governments, but all government enterprises. Among the reasons for this is that the management has not the same incentive to make a profit, and that it has no fears about the result of conducting operations at a loss. The managers of private concerns know very well that if they cannot show a profit on their year’s work the consequences may be serious to themselves. Seeing that we are passing through a time of severe financial depression we should not even contemplate spending such an enormous sum as £120,000 on a ship of less than 2,000 tons. In arguing that this work should not be sent overseas, because our wage standards were higher than the standards of ship-builders abroad, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) spoke in disparaging terms of the people who work in other countries for less money than our workers receive. Yet we shall have to borrow the money overseas to pay for this work. It is extraordinary that, although honorable members opposite decry the workers of countries overseas, they are quite prepared to borrow money from those countries to carry out extravagant undertakings of this kind, even though the adoption of that policy may bring ultimately disaster to Australia. The Government must realize that this is not a business proposition. The only sensible thing to do under the circumstances, if a ship must be built, is to invite tenders for the work from all ship-builders. If the Government desires to do something to make the conditions of the isolated lighthouse employees better than they are, it should spend a little money in equipping the lighthouses with wireless. There have been instances in which considerable inconvenience and grave risk to life have been incurred owing to the absence of wireless installation at lighthouses, as at Cape Don. Recently when two Australians were flying from England they were stranded there without communication with the outside world. If this proposition were handled in a business-like way the amount which could be saved would be sufficient to instal wireless equipment at all lighthouses in Australia and thus the isolation and monotony of the lives of the lightkeepers would be lessened. Although it is proposed to spend unnecessarily a sum of £50,000 by constructing this vessel in Australia, the Government has announced that it could not spare a similar amount to keep a survey ship in commission on the Australian coast. Parts of the Australian coast are not properly surveyed, and in some cases navigators are compelled to use charts based on the discoveries of Cook, Flinders and Bass. If a severe maritime disaster should occur on the Australian coast the Government, which withdrew the survey ship from commission and a few months later proposes to spend three times more than the amount required to keep that ship in use merely to relieve the workers in a government dockyard, which until recently was in the constituency of a Minister, will be responsible. I intend to oppose the motion unless I can be assured that the construction of a vessel is necessary. If a steamer must be built, the proposal should be considered in a business-like way, and both private and government dockyards given an opportunity to tender.
.- It has been urged by honorable members opposite that there is no justification for the construction of a vessel such as that proposed. The evidence of Mr. Wallach, the Director of Lighthouses and EngineerinChief of Lighthouse Services, is particularly interesting in this connexion. The Kyogle, he says, is the only ship available for lighthouse service on the north-west coast of Australia, and has to visit 33 lights, beacons and buoys on a run of 5,390 miles. For many years complaints have been made of the insufficient lighting of this coast, which is of considerable danger to shipping, differing, as it does, in many important physical respects from other parts of the Australian coast-line. It is subject to monsoonal disturbances; there is an abnormal rise and fall in the tide; and the vessels there are from time to time exposed to very heavy weather. These things make it extremely dangerous to shipping, and necessitate its navigation with extreme care. Mr. Wallach states -
The north-west coast of Western Australia ought to have many more lights than are provided at the present time.
– Are the additional lights to be provided?
– No ; the suggestion is that a suitable vessel should be made available to attend to the existing lights. Mr. Wallach’s evidence continues -
The north-west coast of Australia is exposed to the full influence of the Southern Indian Ocean. We can enter the majority of the harbours only at high water. Further provision on that coast is essential; but we could not make it with present facilities. The lights would need to be outlying from the shore, and a vessel would have to stand by while the construction work was in progress. During that constructional period wc should require at least two vessels.
He points out that although the Kyogle can work fairly satisfactorily in southern waters, it is impracticable for the vessel to render a proper service on the northwest coast. He further states -
The steaming radius of the Kyogle is too small, and she cannot carry the necessary amount of material to establish an automatic light.
A perusal of Mr. Wallach’s evidence shows that the failure to provide safety measures on this coast is attributable in large degree to the absence of the requisite vessel for the necessary inspection of the lights. The Kyogle could work quite effectively in other localities, but the steaming distance between Fremantle and Darwin is so great that the vessel, apart from the question of sea-worthiness and cost of upkeep, is quite Unsuitable for the service.
– Cannot the “ Cape “ vessels be used?
– The department says not. Originally those vessels were intended for use on the north-west coast, but they are being utilized on. the Queensland coast. At present Australia is not in a position to provide the required number of vessels of the proper type to render the service necessary on the Australian coast, particularly between Fremantle and Darwin. The question at present is whether, in view of our financial position, wc are to entirely neglect a matter which is of such supreme importance to Australia. Apart altogether from the risk to human life on the Kyogle we have to consider the lives of the crews and passengers of ships travelling on the north-west coast of this continent. Expert testimony has been given to the effect that a vessel such as it is proposed to construct is required in order to ensure that this important section of the Australian coast should be well lighted. That should be sufficient to satisfy honorable members opposite. The question then arises whether the vessel should bc constructed in Australia or overseas. I admit that there is a considerable disparity between the price at which a vessel could be constructed in
Great Britain and the cost of building one in Australia. During the last four or five months we have been warned by those expert economists upon whom honorable members opposite place so much reliance that our adverse trade balance, which is one of our greatest difficulties, has been brought about by excessive overseas borrowing, and the fact that wc are spending considerably more money outside than within Australia. One financial writer, who is the author of a pamphlet which has recently been circulated among honorable members, says that it is doubtful whether the borrowing of £100,000,000 iii Australia would bc more serious to the Commonwealth than, the raising of a loan of £25,000,000 overseas. He means that money borrowed outside Australia involves an almost perpetual obligation to pay money outside the Commonwealth. The money required to construct this vessel will be borrowed outside the Commonwealth: but if it is also expended outside Australia the position will be worse. If we are to provide £120,000 it is not uneconomic or unreasonable to ensure that it shall be expended in Australia. To purchase the. vessel in Great Britain would mean diminishing the purchasing power abroad of the Australian people to the extent of its cost. It is desirable that our manufacturers and primary producers should as far as possible have the best possible local market. It is, of course, economically unsound to pay a substantial percentage more to manufacture locally; the question is what is a. reasonable percentage.
– 15 per cent is the usual figure.
– That is a matter for which the Government is responsible. I seconded a motion submitted to the Public Works Committee that tenders be called in Australia, because I have found that the estimates of cost of public works are usually exceeded. I have always contended that if departments submitting estimates had to back them up with a definite tender, which might be accepted, they would be more careful than if they merely had to put in a rough and ready statement of the probable cost. I also felt that the department responsible for drawing up the specifications of this vessel should be able to obtain from the Naval “Department certain wireless and other equipment which, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said, would he available as the result of the scrapping of certain of our naval vessels. The evidence submitted to the committee shows that as soon as the vessels obtained by the “Western Australian Government overseas arrived in Australia a considerable amount of capital was expended in equipping thom so as they would be suitable for Australian requirements. I. felt that a case could be established for the construction of this vessel in Australia, and I also considered that it would be a safeguard to call for tenders in Australia to obtain an idea of the bedrock prices for which reputable firms would build the vessel. I seu no reason why a State department, a government dockyard, or any other State instrumentality should not bo placed in the same position as a private firm by being asked to state precisely the price for which it. could carry out certain work. That would not have meant that the Government was bound to accept the lowest tender; but the Government would have bad to give substantial reasons why it did not accept the lowest tender.
– Does the honorable member imagine that private enterprise would go on tendering in those circumstances ?
– Yes; the lowest tender is not always accepted. A government department, like a private firm, ought ro be able to submit a bedrock price.
– That would not bind it.
– No. “We should have the advantage of competitive tendering; but I am not urging that the Government should accept the lowest tender.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government should not accept the lowest tender, other things being equal?
– If the Government acted wisely it would utilize a good deal if the machinery and equipment obtained from ships that have been scrapped, and thus reduce the cost of the new vessel.
– That equipment could be sold to the private tenderer, or its use could be made a condition of the tender.
– Who is to assess the value of that material? That is a matter of detail about which I do not intend to argue. It is demonstrable that the northern and north-western coastline of Australia is insufficiently lighted at the present time to ensure the safety of shipping.
– That statement does not appear in the report of the committee.
– I think that it will be found there. Paragraph 20 of the report establishes the necessity for the new vessel. Surely honorable members do not want all the details of the evidence brought forward in this debate.
– If there were the danger that the honorable member has spoken of. the committee should have mentioned it iti the report, and that would have settled the matter in dispute.
– The great extent of coastline between Fremantle and Darwin, and the heavy cost of the service, . prevent improvement being effected in the present lighting installation. Is that not sufficient justification for securing a ship that will enable the department to install adequate lights? The evidence, at page 25 of the report, warrants every word that I have said in that regard.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) might be useful, if it were intended by the Government to provide more lights on the coast; but I have not heard of any proposal of that nature. The only contribution of this Government is the replacing of the survey ship which ordinarily would be engaged in surveying that dangerous coast. The inquiries of the committee were limited to Australia, and to inquiries from certain officials in Australia. It seems that no real attempt was made to ascertain if a second-hand vessel could be procured even locally, and I see no reason why the tenders should be limited to Australia. The estimates furnished by government officers vary so much that I do not pay much regard to that part of the evidence. One witness said that £2,000 a year would be required to keep the Kyogle in repair, and another put the sum down at £3,000; a third official estimated that, in addition to that expenditure, a complete overhaul at a cost of about £10,000 was required. Mr. Wallach, the Director of Lighthouses in Victoria, thought that there should be two vessels of this new type and that for the Commonwealth there should he a total of six ships in this service. Is not his recommendation so extravagant that it is not worth considering at all? He is apparently one of those officials who are always prepared to recommend increases in the cost of administering their departments. At a time like the present, such officers should be told that they must keep their expenditure within existing limits, and that, if they are unable to do that, other administrators will be found for their departments.
The recommendation of the committee might have been more satisfactory if it had contained a comparative balancesheet showing the expenditure incurred in running the Kyogle, and the estimated expenditure in connexion with the proposed new vessel. The annual interest charge for the new ship would be £7,000, the depreciation would amount to £5,000, and the oil consumption would involve an annual outlay of £2,500, a total of £14,500 apart from the annual cost of repairs which even a new ship would require. It is estimated that the repairs to the Kyogle cost £3,000 a year; coal, £6,900 ; and depreciation, £1,000 ; a total of £10,900. Let me direct attention to another point that seems 4- have escaped the attention of those honorable members who are willing to incur this large expenditure for the purpose of providing employment in Australia. The chief expenditure in the running of the Kyogle is in labour and wages. As I have said, it costs £6,900 a year for the coal for this vessel, and £3,000 is spent on repairs. All that money goes out in wages in Australia. On the other hand, if we built an oil burner, in addition to paying interest- on the capital outlay we should have to purchase the necessary fuel outside this country. If we changed over to an oil burner, there would be a loss of employment to the coal miners of Newcastle, and a loss of work to men employed in Fremantle and other ports where the repairs to the Kyogle are usually carried out. I hope that the honorable member for Fremantle has not overlooked the fact that the advocate of an oil-burning vessel neglects the interests of workers in Fremantle and on the ships that carry coal on the north-west coast of Western Australia to those ports at which the Kyogle refuels.
The chief advocacy of this ridiculous expenditure comes from honorable members from Sydney, who are anxious to provide work for the benefit of the staff at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. For too many years the taxpayers have been called upon to provide nourishment and succour for that class of worker. I have no bouquets to throw at the men employed at that dockyard. If they can build only one ship at the cost at which two vessels can be obtained from overseas, the staff there has not done its duty to this country, and if such men are out of employment it serves them right.
– A great number of them are returned soldiers.
Mr.- NAIRN. - A man who loafs on his country is no friend of mine; unemployment is what he deserves. The record of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, ever since its establishment, is that the work it turns out costs about double that of the same class of job overseas. Furthermore, it has not done good work. The two “ Cape “ ships, to which reference has been made, are not satisfactory. If we had purchased those vessels abroad, we should not only have saved 50 per cent, of the cost, but they would have been built by tradesmen who turn out honest work, which, apparently, we cannot obtain from Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
.- I have listened patiently to the antiAustralian vaporings of honorable members opposite. Taken generally, they do not call for a reply from me; but the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) impel me to speak in defence of the Australian workers who have been engaged in the ship-building industry in this country. The statements of that honorable member were absolutely groundless. We, who sit on this side, at all events, are fully aware of the appalling amount of unemployment that is in our midst at the present time. In that vast army of unemployed, there is a large number of workers who were engaged in the ship-building industry during the war period and in the years that immediately followed the war. Among them are hundreds of returned soldiers, and also other men who were denied the opportunity of enlisting because the Government of the day considered that their services were of greater value in the fitting out of troopships and the construction of war vessels at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Many of these men have wives and families to support, and are at present on the verge of starvation. The Commonwealth has a responsibility towards the big army of ship-workers that was engaged at Cockatoo Island Dockyard constantly during the war years, and subsequently when naval construction was in progress there. If honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Perth, had their way, the construction of this steamer for the lighthouse service would be carried’ out overseas, and these men would be- denied the opportunity to earn a livelihood. The honorable member for Perth, in a review of the activities of the Commonwealth in relation to ship-building, attributed to the ship-workers the whole of the blame for the high cost of construction and the lengthy period occupied in completing a vessel. He said that the plight in which these unfortunate men find themselves today is one that they should have expected ; that it serves them right; that he has no bouquets to hand to . them; and that they have not turned out a good job. I give an emphatic denial to that ascertion. No one can question the quality of the workmanship in the ship-yards under the control of the Commonwealth, or of the New South Wales Government, or in the different privately-owned yards in three or more of the States. A few weeks ago, I ^received from a man whom I know very well, and under whom I worked for a number of years at Cockatoo. Island Dockyard, a letter that illustrates the serious plight in which these men are placed. His case is typical of that of a large number of men who are anxious to get employment, but who, on account of the anti-Australian policy adopted by the Bruce-Page Government, were denied the right to work in our ship-yards. I speak feelingly on this matter, because I know that many of those who occupy the Opposition benches to-night were a party to what many people describe as a treacherous act - the placing overseas of an order for the construction of two cruisers, the building of which in Australia would have provided employment for these people. If the National and Country party members still occupied the treasury bench, the order for the construction of this lightship would be given to- a ship-builder on the Clyde, at Belfast, or elsewhere. The letter that I have received reads -
I find this letter most difficult to con, but economic pressure is the compelling force. Could you lend me £5? I will repay you as soon as 1 get a position, lt is only to enable us to get food. You can well understand our position when I am driven to make this request. If you have a discarded suit and or boots I ‘would be thankful to accept. You know Henry Lawson’s lines “When your pants begin to go “.
I would not be worthy of my manhood, and much less of the position that I hold, if by any utterance or vote in this House I supported the construction of this vessel overseas. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), said in effect that our ship-workers had adopted go-slow methods, or dishonest practices, during the time that they were employed in the ship-building industry. I have had many opportunities of observing the manner in which these men carry out their work, and the diligence with which they apply themselves to it. There is no comparison between the work that they do, and that which is done overseas, in regard to, not only the speed of their operations, but also the quality of their workmanship. The honorable member said, “Let us go somewhere where we can get an honest job ; we cannot get it at Cockatoo.” Such remarks are not worthy of an honorable member of this House; they decry the fair name of not only this country’, but also its skilled artisans. The honorable member claimed that we had obtained good ships from overseas. I have a fair knowledge of vessels that have come from’ overseas, particularly the war vessels that were built there, from the time that Australia ordered her first torpedo boat destroyer up to the time that she received delivery of the two cruisers for which contracts were let by the BrucePage Government. They did not specially commend themselves to me as fine examples of good craftsmanship. Many times I went over the old Australia from the upper to the lower deck, and even down to the fuel tanks. I inspected the riveting, the plating, and the other work that was put into that vessel, and did not consider that it compared in any way with the work that was put into the locally-built cruisers Brisbane and Adelaide. The fact must not be overlooked that the submarines Oxley and Ott,:av were purchased overseas, and that the purchasing of these two submarines from overseas has proved to be a very costly transaction for the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Perth should remember that those two submarines were not out of English waters very many days when they were obliged to call in at Malta, where they remained for a considerable time to have remedied certain serious defects that had been revealed. Australia has received a very unsatisfactory article when she has placed orders for naval construction overseas. What can we expect, seeing that these vessels are built by contractors whose employees are in receipt of piecework rates. The chief concern of those piece-workers is not the proper driving home of the rivets, or the faithful execution of shipwork, but the amount of work for which they receive payment. The workmen at Cockatoo Island Dockyard have always done excellent work.
– The honorable member ought to bc sent to the Clyde to demonstrate the manner in which ship-building operations should be carried on.
– I do not set myself up as an authority. During the last seventeen years, however, I have had opportunities to examine ship construction, not only in Australia, but also on the Clyde and in Belfast. I have met many men who were attracted to our shores as a result of the policy of the Fisher Labour Government, of having war vessels constructed in Australia. We have an obligation and a responsibility to the riveters, platers, caulkers, and other shipyard workers who were induced to come to Australia. For a number of years they were provided continuously with employment; but, unfortunately, owing to the policy of the Bruce-Page Government, that continuity was broken, and these men have* been obliged to pick up a few paltry shillings in the trimming of hedges and at other casual, unskilled labour, instead of being employed in the service of the nation. I regret that there was in office for so many years a government that had such an anti-Australian outlook, and that had two cruisers built overseas at a time when thousands of competent ship-workers could not obtain employment in this country. The construction overseas of those cruisers, which involved Australia in an expenditure of £5,000,000, was just as injurious to the best interests of this country as would be the action of an Australian firm in placing overseas an order for £5,000,000 worth of manufactured goods.
Some very fine vessels have been constructed in Australia. The Fordsdale and the Ferndale are typical examples. Ship-building authorities, both here and overseas, have expressed theopinion that they had only one fault - they were too good. It is true that the cost of ship-building in Australia has been excessive; but the fault for that rested not with the workers in the industry, but with the unsympathetic supervision of the naval overseers, who were not at all concerned about the speedy completion of the vessels. They themselves were imported from overseas, and their outlook was anything but Australian. The longer a ship was on the stocks, the longer their job lasted. It is not suggested that those men should share the blame. The contention always is that the shipyard worker, who receives a few paltry pounds a week for working in all weathers and under dangerous conditions at great heights, is wholly to blame.
The real trouble has been that wo have not in the past made an earnest attempt to establish the ship-building industry in this country. Had Australia not suffered the blight of Nationalism for a period of twelve years, we would be able to-day to roll our own plates, and thus be independent of supplies from overseas. Whenever it is decided to build a vessel for the Customs Department, tho navy, or any other governmental activity, plates, angle irons aud other materials needed for their construction have to bc imported. Big firms like John Brown and Company are given the contract to supply those materials. If a coal strike should occur, or shipping be tied up by some other industrial trouble on the other side, and the company that has contracted to supply Australian ship-building firms “with materials should find that its own supplies are being considerably reduced at a time when it has several vessels on the slips that it is anxious to complete as early as possible, it will not subordinate its own interests to those of Australia. They supply their own requirements first, with the result that Australian builders are subjected to delays extending sometimes over months and months. It is not a matter of go-slow tactics on the part of the workmen, but of interruptions and delays in delivery of materials from the other side. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to the recommendation of the committee that the lightship be an oil-burning vessel. All of a sudden he became very solicitous for the welfare of the coal-miners, though it is not very long ago since he and those associated with him were anything hut solicitous regarding them. He accused the Government of fathering a proposal for the construction of an oilburning ship which would deprive the coal-miners of the opportunity of hewing coal. Apparently this man would endeavour to stem the onward march of progress. For the sake of the coal-miners he would forbid the use of oil-burning ships. His attitude i3 absurd. One might, as well say that up-to-date machinery should not be introduced in the textile mills because it might throw some workers out of employment. Where is the honorable member’s solicitude for the army of shipyard employees, many of whom have been out of work for several months? This is our only opportunity of providing them with employment. My only regret is that we are not building several vessels instead of one. I am sorry that we are not building in Australia all the ships necessary to carry out our own Australian services. The Commonwealth Government should set an example in this respect to the State Governments and other local activities to obtain their requirements within Australia. The placing of an order for the building of vessels overseas would set a very bad example to the State governments and private shipping companies.
Honorable members opposite referred to the high wages paid to shipyard employees in Australia. It is true that there is a great difference between the wages paid here and in the Old Country, but the same can be said of the textile and other industries. That consideration;, however, did not deter the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) from increasing duties and assisting local industries when he was Minister for Customs.
– I brought in no increased duties other than revenue duties.
– If it is right that we should protect the textile industry in Australia, it is only proper that we should also protect the ship-building industry. We should do that much in the interests of the nation. It is essential that we should build up a ship-building industry in this country. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that ship-building was not a key industry, and that we could not expect to establish it here within 100 years. Have honorable members ever heard anything as hopeless as that? An isolated country like this, with a coast-line of thousands of miles should not be dependent for its ships on overseas sources of supply. We should prepare ourselves to meet a national emergency. Do honorable members opposite suggest that if we were confronted with such an emergency we should hold up our hands and cry “ Kamerad “ ; that we should ask our enemy to give us notice of hi 3 intention to attack us so that we might establish a ship-building industry, and train skilled workmen to do the job? We must learn to depend on ourselves. Even though it cost an extra £30,000 or £40.000 to build this ship in Australia, it will be money well spent. We may regard it as a contribution to our national defence. Such a sum fades into insignificance compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds which were simply wasted by the Nationalist Government. They might as well have poured the money down a sink. Honorable members opposite have nothing to say against those extravagances, but when it is proposed to provide employment for a few hundred ship yard workers, they hold up their hands in horror, and suggest that the work should be done overseas.
– We are opposed to the project altogether.
– Yes, that is the honorable member’s attitude in regard to most things. He wants to mark time so that nothing will be done. If we are justified in spending large sums of money on the building and maintenance of war vessels, we are equally justified in building this ship, which is necessary for the maintenance of essential services. The honorable member for Perth had a lot to say about the go-slow tactics and dishonesty of Australian workers.
– Not in general; only of those at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– I remind honorable members opposite and others that they have been very silent regarding the misdoings of certain shipbuilders in this country. All the blame is thrown on the workers. What have they to say of the firm of Kidman and Mayoh, who, in their desire to get hold of the people’s money, were prepared to indulge in fraudulent practices. 1 did not hear anything from honorable members opposite regarding the use of dummy bolts in the notorious wooden ships. All they can do is to accuse Australian workmen of going slow. Such persons are not worthy to represent the people of Australia. Ship-building employees will, if given the opportunity, render faithful service, either to the Commonwealth or to private ship-building firms. The people of Australia would be sorely disappointed if the Government were to listen to the pleadings of honorable members opposite, and let this work go out of the country. I have sufficient faith in the Government to believe that it will go ahead and do the right thing. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the proposal to construct this lighthouse ship is the result of conversations between the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), and two or three highly-paid public servants. As a matter of fact, the proposal was under active consideration in the department months before either the honorable member for West Sydney or the honorable member for Dalley was a member of. the Government. Those stories have been concocted with the idea of prejudicing the case put forward by the Assistant Minister. I congratulate the
Government on its determination to go forward with this work. and I. hope that before long we shall have an opportunity of supporting a proposal for the construction of still more ships.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat referred to many matters, hut, unfortunately, he did not have very much to say which was relevant to the subject before the House. Neither did the Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley) give the House any information as to whether the Government proposed to carry out the recommendation of the Public Works Committee. It is unusual for a recommendation of the committee to be debated at any length in the House. It is generally understood that the committee has Jone its work with such thoroughness that its recommendations may be accepted without question. The present case is different, however, because the Government proposes to depart from the recommendation of the committee. The Minister himself was silent on .that point, and it remained for the supporters of the Government to let the House know the recommendation of the committee is to be ignored, and that the lighthouse ship is to be built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I listened to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), tied one would not imagine from his remarks that he was a member of the Public Works Committee. The same might be said of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.- Curtin). I have gathered from the record of proceedings of the committee that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved that tenders for the construction of the lighthouse ship be called in Great Britain and Australia. He received little support for his motion and the decision against him was arrived at by four votes to one. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) moved that tenders be called in Australia, and thi? motion was seconded by the honorable member for Fremantle. The honorable member for Lang moved that the work be entrusted to Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and his motion was seconded by the chairman, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). The committee divided, and Messrs. Cameron, Curtin, and Gregory voted against the amendment, -which was that the vessel he built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The original motion was then put and carried unanimously. It is evident, therefore, that the honorable member for Grey, the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Fremantle, voted in favour of the proposal that tenders be called throughout Australia.
– I dealt with that in my speech this afternoon. I do not think that the honorable member was present.
– I was, and listened carefully to the speech. I was greatly surprised at the manner in which the honorable member tried to wriggle out of the position in which he found himself. I have always looked on him as a broadminded person who would be prepared to stand by his convictions.
There is a proposal before the House that a lighthouse ship be built at an estimated cost of £120,000. The Public “Works Committee, whose duty it was to examine the proposal, has decided that it would be wise that tenders be invited throughout Australia before the work is proceeded with. Prom the evidence which was tendered before the committee, there would appear to be ample justification for that recommendation. A naval architect, in private practice, gave evidence that the vessel could Ve built in Australia for £97,000, and that if it were built overseas it should not cost more than £70,000. The report of the committee states> that there are three ship-building yards in Australia which would be prepared !o tender for this work. Honorable members on this side of the House are as anxious as are government supporters to encourage Australian production, but it is clear from past experience that we cannot build ships in Australia at anything approaching a reasonable price. Therefore, I suggest that if the Government is not prepared to have the ship built overseas, it should at least give effect to the recommendation of the Public “Works Committee, which is a responsible body, and call tenders in Australia. I draw attention to one passage of the committee’s report in which it is stated that as the result of evidence heard, the committee was of opinion that the round figure estimate of £120,000 for the construction of the vessel was high.
That is a very deliberate opinion, and as it was justified by the evidence, there is every reason for postponing this expenditure. As to the need for building the vessel, the Public Works Committee says -
The committee is of opinion that the Kyogle’ has still some years of useful life, and recommends that, before any action is taken to dispose of her, a special investigation should be’ made to ascertain whether she could be utilized with advantage elsewhere for lighthouse purposes.
– That really means that the Kyogle is quite unsuitable for the Western Australian coast.
– At any rate, the committee’s recommendation contradicts some of the statements made by honorable members opposite. Mr. Wallach, Director of Lighthouse Services, giving evidence in reply to questions asked by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), said -
I do not agree with the statement that the Kyogle has outlived its usefulness and is uneconomical. There is nothing wrong with the Kyogle. It is an excellent vessel for lighthouse work. The Kyogle has been properly maintained, and there is no reason why she should not render good service for many years yet.
– A little further on in the evidence the honorable member will find that the Kyogle is not considered suitable for the service in which she is now engaged, and that a new boat is required.
– I have read the evidence carefully. I submit that the Government might easily make use of the Kyogle for two or three years longer, at least until the financial position improves and we can better afford a new vessel ; but if it accepts the advice of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. E. Riley) and builds a vessel in Australia, as trustee of the taxpayers’ money, I trust it will endeavour to get the work done in Au* tralia as cheaply as possible. Of course, we do not want cheap or shoddy work on anything that is the property of the Commonwealth; we want the best. At the same time, we do not want to spend money simply .for the sake of spending it. To me it seems unreasonable to give the work of constructing this vessel to Cockatoo Island without calling for tenders, when there are other dockyards in Australia ready and willing to tender for the work. If there is great efficiency at the
Government yards, surely the management should be prepared to submit a price in competition with private enterprise. In any case, the Government would be well advised to reconsider its decision, but I trust that if it does not do so, it will, for the sake of its own reputation, as well as for the benefit of the taxpayers, endeavour to get the work done at the lowest possible cost.
.- To those honorable members who may express surprise at the representative of a constituency like Boothby interesting himself in this matter, I may explain that for a great number of years I had the privilege of representing Port Adelaide in the South Australian Parliament, and that I have always taken a great deal of interest in shipping matters. For that reason I am pleased to note the manner in which the Commonwealth Government is grappling with the question of shipbuilding, and trying to do something for the safety of shipping and the merchant marine. On the Continent and in Great Britain I have seen great ship-building yards, and have realized what a great benefit it would be to Australia if the ship-building industry could be carried on here as successfully as I have seen it carried on overseas. I am indebted to the Public Works Committee for having investigated thi3 proposal and for its recommendation. For my part I should be pleased if its SUK- gabon that tenders for this particular work should be called throughout Australia were adopted. That would enable the Government to give the work to the tenderer it thought best fitted to undertake it. It is always stipulated in government contracts that the lowest tender shall not necessarily be accepted, leaving it open to the Government to give any work for which tenders have been called to the contractor it thinks best fitted to undertake it. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard could very well undertake the work of building this vessel, and I should like to see the main work done at Cockatoo Island, but I think that we could spread the engineering work over the continent. In the South Australian Harbour Board and Islington Workshops .is installed some of the most up-to-date machinery in the world, and it would be quite a simple matter to arrange that these workshops should turn out some of the engineering work for the lighthouse steamer. There never was a time when employment was more needed than it is in South Australia to-day. As for the need for a new lighthouse steamer, the evidence shows that the Kyogle, which has been doing lighthouse service work for a great number of years, is obsolete. Australia has probably the longest coastline of any country in the world, and a great many more lights are needed for the protection of life at sea, particularly on the north-west coast, the part of the coastline which this new vessel is intended to serve. The vessel, therefore, will, as time goes on, be of greater service than possibly it can be in the immediate future. The time has arrived, in my opinion, when we should build everything possible in Australia. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. 0. Riley), has told us how previous governments have sent work out of Australia. We want to change that policy, and do as much as we can in Australia. We cannot possibly right our adverse trade balance by sending work overseas, and if we have to borrow the money locally to build this vessel, it seems to me that it is false economy to send that money away to pay for work done out of the country. So far as workmanship is concerned, Australia has the men and the materials, and can deliver the goods. I hope that South Australia will get at least a little benefit from the proposed expenditure, so that the unemployed position there may be somewhat relieved.
.- During the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), said that there was not more than 15 per cent, of Australian workmanship in Australian-built vessels. He afterwards admitted that it might be 20 per cent. He was far from being correct, because all the material, except steel plates, used in building vessels at Walsh Island was supplied in Australia. I suppose the same remarks apply to vessels built at Cockatoo Island. The fact that the steel plates had to be imported was due to the lack of rolling mills in Australia. In the case of the boats Dorm an, Long built in Australia, everything except the plates was turned out here. I agree with the suggestion that Australian tenders should be called for the building of this vessel. If competitive prices are secured from our two government-controlled dockyards, Cockatoo Island, owned by the Commonwealth, and Walsh Island, owned by New South Wales, we may find that the cost of construction is not as high as is now estimated. At any rate the ex-Treasurer promised that serious consideration would be given by the Commonwealth Government to the suggestion that prices should be invited in that way. All steamers built in Australia have stood the test of actual service. Many of them have been sold to private companies for practically a song. Australian-built vessels seem to be good enough when they can be acquired for next to nothing, and not good enough when required for lighthouse work. Ship-owners who are engaged in our coastal shipping are amply protected by Commonwealth legislation, and one would think that in justice to the people of Australia, who give them that protection, they would have their vessels built in Australia, but they do not do so. They get all the protection tihey can from this Parliament, and go to the cheapest market for their goods. I hope that before the Government comes to a final decision in this matter, it will call for prices in the way I have suggested.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The justification for this measure is the urgent necessity to raise portion of the money that must be found under the budget proposals. In normal circumstances we should not be submitting a bill to increase the postal rates, because we feel that the postal department should not be used as a taxing machine. But these are not normal times. It is absolutely essential that additional revenue be raised from the postal service if we are to avoid further collection by way of direct taxation. The previous administration had given consideration to this matter and contemplated obtaining increased revenue from telephone subscribers, as well as by an increased parcels rate. We are hoping that this additional impost will be of a temporary nature only, and that before long we shall be able to return to the conditions that obtain to-day.
The amendments contained in clauses 1 to 6 are merely verbal alterations for the purpose of giving a clearer definition of the intention of the act. The precise’ definition of terms in clause 3 also enables rates of postage appearing in the first schedule to be set out in a simpler and more concise form. The amendments in clause 7 make it clear that power is given to make regulations to give effect to the provisions of the Rates Act and to prescribe the fees to be charged for such special services as the express delivery of mail matter and the transmission of correspondence by air mail, which are not covered by the rates of postage and rates for telegrams set out in the schedule to the act. We are collecting these extra amounts already and have been doing so for some time, but there has always been a doubt concerning the legal right of the department to make these charges. This amendment will regularize its action. All of the proposed increases in rates of postage are set out in the schedule.
The first alteration relates to the bulk rate for newspapers. This rate is being increased from1½d. per 20 oz. to1½d. per 16 oz. A comparison with other proposed increases will show that the newspaper bulk rate is receiving a distinct benefit. At present the bulk rate is 25 per cent. lower than the ordinary rate; if the alterations are made as proposed, the bulk rate will be 43.75 per cent. lower than the proposed ordinary rate for newspapers. If the bulk rate remained unaltered it would be 55 per cent. lower than the proposed ordinary rate, which would be a difference too great to be justified. The bulk rate is calculated on an aggregate weight basis irrespective of the addresses of the individual packages comprising the whole consignment posted at the time, and there is consequently a greater concession in postage than the figures I have given show. The present bulk rate for newspapers is not remunerative. It must be remembered also that newspaper proprietors receive important concessions in regard to rates for press telegrams.
– Will the new bulk rates be remunerative?
– Will the rates on press telegrams be remunerative?
– Those rates are not being touched. It may be necessary later to take some action in that direction.
– The Government would not dare to do that.
– This Government has proved by its attitude in increasing the tariff on newsprint, that it dares to take action which may not meet with the approval of newspaper proprietors in Australia.
The second amendment relates to the bulk rate for periodicals. This is an innovation which it is proposed to adopt in order to extend to periodical publications other than newspapers, a bulk rate of postage. Having in mind the fact that Parliament has hitherto always accorded a special bulk rate of postage for newspapers, it is considered, particularly in view of the proposed increase in ordinary rates, that the proprietors of magazines, reviews and other similar publications should also be given some concession when their journals are published with the object of disseminating information of a general character to the public but are of a nature not coming within the definition of a newspaper. It may be mentioned that the bulk rate proposed for periodicals will also be of benefit to many newspaper proprietors who issue such publications in addition to a newspaper. At present they have to pay postage at the rate of1d. per 8 oz. per copy. The new bulk rate is 2d. per 16 oz. on aggregate weight, and like the newspaper rate, will be independent of the number of individually addressed packages contained in the consignment posted at the one time.
The third amendment relates to the rate of postage on letters and postcards. The present rate on letters is1½d. per oz. and the proposed rate is 2d. per oz. The present rate on postcards is1d. each and the proposed rate1½d. each. The new rates will be the same as those in force in 1923, except that the unit of weight for letters was then half an ounce. The Commonwealth is compelled by its agreement with the governments of other countries to retain the ounce as the unit of weight for overseas letters and it is considered desirable that it should be retained for correspondence within Australia as well as overseas.
Coming to second-class mail matter, the proposals in regard to rates of postage on the different classes of articles included under this heading in the bill enable a general classification to be made which will greatly simplify the conditions relating to the present separate classes, and will be infinitely more convenient for the general public. At the present time each of the many classes of postal articles necessarily has its own regulations, and other postal provisions, without a full knowledge of which it is .difficult for the public to decide the rate of postage to be paid. Not only is this inconvenient to the public, but it necessitates continual reference to the head of the mail branch for decisions as to the particular class to which different postal matter belongs. The rate of postage proposed for secondclass mail matter, namely Id. per 2 oz., involves an increase only in regard to printed papers, catalogues and unregistered books. The present rate of these articles is Id. per 4 oz., and the proposed rate is the same as is now charged for other second-class mail matter, namely, commercial papers, patterns, samples, and merchandise.
I come now to third-class mail matter. The proposed rates of postage will enable the general designation of third-class mail matter to be given to the classes of postal articles now accorded specially low rates of postage - (a) books written by Australian authors and printed in Australia; (b) magazines, reviews, and other similar publications wholly set up and printed in the Commonwealth; and (c) newspapers wholly set up and printed in the Commonwealth. On each of the publications contained in this class an inscription will be printed at the time of issue indicating that the publication has been registered by the department and is eligible for trans, mission at the rates of postage prescribed for mail matter of the third class. Therefore, the publication itself will bear an indication to the general public of the rate of postage to be paid. The advantage of this will be immediately recognized. The rate of postage proposed for third-class mail matter, namely, Id. per 6 oz., involves the following increases: - Books, magazines, &c, from Id. per 8 oz. to Id. per 6 oz. ; newspapers, from Id. per 10 oz. to Id. per 6 oz. These rates apply, of course, to individual postings as distinct from the bulk postings by newspaper proprietors and news vendors. At present, postage on each magazine or newspaper must be separately paid when two or more copies are enclosed in the one wrapper. The new rate is based on aggregate weight, and, consequently, will give greater convenience to the public, and, in some instances, actually reduce the amount of postage to be paid. The last item in the schedule is Hansard, in regard to which no alteration in the present rate is proposed.
– Why is a special preference given to Hansard?
– So that the right honorable member’s words of wisdom may be circulated to the ‘ public. A notable feature of the bill is the simplicity and clarity with which the proposed rates of postage are set out in the first ‘schedule. This has been rendered possible by including in the definition of “ rates of postage “ an indication of the precise service covered thereby, and also by the inclusion in the bill of a definition of the mail matter coming within the classification “ periodical.” Part 1 of the first schedule now refers only to newspapers and periodicals posted by the proprietors thereof and by news vendors at the prescribed bulk rate, and all rates of postage applicable to postings by the general public are confined to Part 2 of the schedule. These rates are set out in such a manner that they may be readily understood and easily remembered. Actually only four rates will need to be borne in mind, namely -
Letters and letter-cards - 2d. per:oz. Post cards - lid. each. Second-class mail matter - Id. per 2 oz. Third-class mail matter - Id. per 0 oz. and the publications to which the lastmentioned rate applies will bear an indication to that effect. It is difficult to prepare an actual estimate of the additional revenue which will be derived from the proposed increases in postage, as the present financial depression has considerably affected postal traffic. As far as can be foreseen, the additional revenue which will be derived during the current financial year will not exceed £1,000,000.
– Most of which will be received in respect of letters.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral allowing for the falling off of mail matter?
– We are already experiencing that, and we are taking it into consideration.
– What is the extra revenue expected in respect of newspapers ?
– lt is difficult to calculate the amount that will be received from individual increases. We can only estimate that the total increase will be approximately £1,000,000.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Tariff Board’s report and recommendation on Sewing Machines.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 26th June (vide page 3327), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-Before dealing with the merits of this bill, I emphatically protest against the wasting of the time of the House upon a measure of this kind. Several times the House was definitely promised an opportunity to discuss the much more important proposals embodied in the various tariff schedules and the prohibitions imposed from time to time. But because this wretched little bill relates to a bounty the House is asked to discuss it whilst hundreds of tariff items of incomparably greater concern to the people are kept in the background. The Government will not, or dare not, afford the House an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules in detail before the session terminates. Perhaps the Government fears the publicity that will be given to the extraordinary failure of its tariffmaking experiments. The latest unemployment statistics will startle honorable members as much as they startled mc. I ascertained this afternoon that since the close of the March quarter the proportion of unemployment has increased from 14.6 per cent. to 18.5 per cent. At the close of the September quarter, a little more than nine months ago, the figure was only 12.1 per cent. In other words, unemployment has increased by nearly 6 per cent, since the Government began its policy of tar iff -framing. I can conceive of no greater indictment of the recklessness based on crass ignorance which has attended the Government’s overturning of the tariff. Of the promises of the Ministry one reminder will be sufficient. The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 12th December as having said at the opening of an exhibition of Australian-made toys at Grace Bros., Sydney -
It has been estimated by manufacturers in Australia that the Government’s recent tariff proposals will result in 30,000 new jobs immediately with a further 100,000 jobs available as soon as extensions have been made of existing plants.
How has that prediction been fulfilled? So far from 30,000 more jobs being provided, an additional 50,000 of the one million trade unionists are workless, notwithstanding the multiplicity of tariff schedules. That was bound to occur. Anybody but a fiscal fanatic knew that the entire overturn of the tariff system and the disruption of business at a time of economic depression would do more harm than good ; it could not fail to cause industrial wreckage, injury to capital, and infinitely more loss and suffering to the workers.
– Order! The honorable member is noi in order in debating the tariff on this bill.
– These remarks are incidental to my protest against the time of the House being wasted in considering the prospective manufacture of a few sewing machines while vitally urgent tariff, matters are demanding attention. Although we are told by the Prime Minister that the House will have no opportunity to debate the items of the schedules during this session, we are asked to exercise our minds on this insignificant bounty on sewing machines. The measure should be called “ a bill for the taxation of housewives of modest means.” It is a wretched little measure, contrived in the interests of the constituency of Bendigo. I venture the opinion that if the Bendigo seat were not held bv a supporter of this Government the bill would never have been introduced.
It has been left for the Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) to do what no other Minister has done in the Commonwealth Parliament. In his secondreading speech he broke an unwritten golden rule that obtains in this House, one ordaining that whatever happens in Cabinet, whether it be the Government of the moment or of its predecessors, is never disclosed by any Minister. The honorable gentleman said that the Bruce-Page Government had over-ruled both the Minister for Trade and Customs and the permanent head of the Customs Department in its decision not to grant assistance to the local sewing machine industry. I do not intend to follow the honorable gentleman in that course of action, but I tender him a word of caution. If he wishes to engage in a competition of that kind I should be quite pleased to enlighten the House as to the attitude of the heads of his department on a number of tariff measures that are now before the House, such as the sewing machine bill, and the cotton, galvanized iron, and flax measures. However, if the honorable member desires, I am quite content to lot the matter remain there.
The sewing machine bounty bill is one of a series of tariff proposals conceived for the purpose of bringing about the manufacture of sewing machines within Australia! I ask honorable members to consider the part played by the sewing machine in the domestic life of this country, and, indeed, in that of every civilized country. Without exception, the sewing machine is the greatest money and labour-saving device at the disposal of hundreds of thousands of Australian housewives of moderate means. At any rime it is a contrivance of first-class economic importance, but with the prevailing high cost of living, with so many homes on reduced incomes and many on none at all, the sewing machine has assumed special significance as a money saver. There are hundred of thousands of homes in Australia that are definitely economizing by using sewing machines more continuously than heretofore. I shall endeavour to disclose to honorable members how this bill will penalize the housewife of modest means, in the interests of a few speculative capitalists. The measure has been brought down by the Government, not in the interests of existing industries but, so far as one can see, in the interests of a few venturesome company promoters.
The proposal of the Government is to ensure that, some day, we shall make our own sewing machines in Australia. Meanwhile, as a result of the new bounty proposals of the Government, sewing machines are to cost the Australian housewife substantially more than they do at present, probably twice as much.
– This bounty proposal will mean cheaper sewing machines.
– Just as the honorable gentleman’s tariff proposals were meant to bring about more work ! Instead of creating 30,000 additional jobs immediately, they cast 50,000 to 60,000 men into unemployment. That is definitely the achievement of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs. In the past, sewing machine heads, the actual mechanical sewing part of the machine, entered Australia duty free, while there was a moderate duty of 30 per cent, ad valorem on the table and stand. The Government’s proposal is for a £2 bounty and a specific duty of 10s. British and £1 general upon each imported head, a duty of 75 per cent, upon the table, and one of 45 per cent, on the ironwork, together with a duty on the outside casing that previously entered free. The total duty charged, apart from the bounty, represents an increase of approximately 200 per cent. That is done not to keep an existing industry going, but to put easy money into the hands of -a few company promoters in Australia.
For some years it has been provided in the tariff that a deferred duty of £2 10s. may be charged on each sewing machine head imported into Australia. The Bruce-Page Government contended - and I think that its attitude was a reasonable one - that when it received a dependable assurance of the immediate capacity of the local manufacturers to produce 20,000 sewing machines a year, which represents about 45 per cent, of our total imports, it was prepared to bring that deferred duty into action. This Government does not work along business lines such as those. Doubtless its intention, if Australian production reaches a certain stage, is to withdraw the bounty and to apply that deferred duty of £2 10s. a machine; but we know quite well from past events that instead of placing a duty of £2 10s. on each imported machine head, which equals about 70 per cent, of its value, there is a far greater likelihood of this Government imposing a straight-out prohibitive duty, if it is asked to do so by the local manufacturers.
I now come to what I think is a gross unfairness, and a penalty upon those Australian housewives who are using sewing machines. The Government knows that it is quite impossible to provide this £2 bounty out of its depleted treasury. Although it terms this a national industry, it proposes to place an imposition of 10s. on each of the 40,000 sewing machines that come into Australia yearly, thereby ‘fining to that extent each Australian housewife who purchases a machine.
– And £1 on each foreign machine.
– Yes, which represents 30 per cent, of our imports. The women of modest means, who buy sewing machines will have to pay the penalty, which will be at least £1 by the time the trading profit is imposed, all for the benefit of local prospective sewing machine manufacturers. It is grossly unfair that the working women of Australia, who are endeavouring .to eke out a living in these bad times, when clothing is so dreadfully expensive, should have such a penalty placed upon a household necessity. It is one of the most wicked imposts introduced into this chamber in the guise of tariff making. It is a million to one that Australia will not manufacture sewing machines in commercial quantities for at least one year, but this 10s. to £1 on each imported machine will be squeezed out of the housewives of the country for a year for the benefit of the Treasury.
– The money will be paid by the importing companies.
– Does the honorable gentleman seriously contend that this £40,000 will be cheerfully contributed by kind importers, and not be passed on to the users of the machines? It is painful that a grown man should have to stand at this table and listen to childish prattle of that description. As soon as Australia is able to manufacture a few thousand machines this Government will place a big duty or a prohibition on imported machines.
I want honorable members to consider the destructiveness of the proposal. I hold no brief for the importers, but I have as much respect for an Australian-born citizen who is engaged in the distribution in Australia of sewing machines, no matter what may be their country of origin, as I have for any other Australian. What will happen will be similar to what has happened in connexion with other prohibited items during the past few months; there will be an accentuation of this unprecedented welter of unemployment. For the information of honorable members I may state that one British company operating in Australia importing sewing machines has during the past three years employed an average of 905 persons in this country. It has spent no less than £903,000 in salaries and commission during that period, and paid £167,000 to customs revenue. The loss of that and other revenue of a like nature has, of course, brought about the sales tax and the general chaos in Australian industry and business. During that time the company paid in income tax, exchange and duty stamps an amount of £66,000, or a total expenditure in the Commonwealth in three years of £1,173,000, averaging about £400,000 a year. This is a time of unprecedented depression. The nation has a very small purchasing power, and. it is exceedingly difficult for manufacturers to obtain the capital necessary to expand their business. Expansion to-day is practically impossible. This is not the time to destroy a business that employs people. This is no time to disrupt and bring about chaos to a section of our citizens merely for some distant, t visionary, problematical gain. It is the failure to recognize that position that has landed the Government into the existing tariff mess.
I have mentioned the position of ‘housewives who buy these machines for family use. There is also another class deserving of a great deal of sympathy, and that comprises thousands of women who use sewing machines in their own private homes as a means of full or partial living. It is nothing but cruelty to place upon them, at the present time, a portion of this great welter of increase. taxation. As far as I can work it out, the additional tax of from 10s. to £1 a head, and the increased duty on the table and stand, will just about double the cost of sewing machines imported into this country. Of course, the Minister will say that the Australian manufacturer will not take advantage of this position, but will supply good sewing machines probably at about half the price at which they are being sold to-day.
– This competition with the importers will bring down prices.
– The Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) has, for the last six months, talked of my friends the importers, and charged me with freetrade principles. My reply to him is that since this Government has commenced to give effect to its rotten tariff policy, unemployment has increased 6.4 per cent., and tens of thousands of good Australian workers have been ruthlessly thrown out of their jobs. Yet the Assistant Minister charges me with freetrade principles! Let me say that the Government’s tariff policy is the most stupid ever brought into this House. It is re-acting cruelly against the workers, and has made more enemies of this country both within and outside of the Empire, than has any other policy submitted to this Parliament.
I come now to the practicability of this proposal. Is there a reasonable opportunity in Australia for the manufacture of sewing machines? It is common knowledge that some of the biggest sewing machine manufacturers in the world have, in recent years, visited Australia personally, or have sent their representatives here, to explore this manufacturing field. It must not be forgotten that the manufacture of sewing machines is largely mechanical. The labour employed is relatively small, and, furthermore, the production is cheap because mass production methods are employed. These manufacturers, or their representatives, have decided, one after another, that the Australian market has not yet developed sufficiently to justify local production. These men are highly specialized in this work, and their organizations overseas are 100 per cent, efficient. It would have been child’s play for them to extend their operations in Great Britain by establishing branches of their works in Australia. Yet they decided not to do it.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– That knowledge is to be found in the records of the Customs Department. At Bendigo, a few years ago, there was one type of machine manufactured. I believe that it was an obsolete type; because the machine had practically gone out of sale in other countries. There are at least fourteen types of British and American household machines on the Australian market at the present. The evolution of the sewing machine has been rapid and progressive in recent years. The hand turning, and also the foot pedalling machines are giving place to an advanced type of machine that is operated by electricity. This later machine is covered by many exclusive patents, which are not available to an Australian manufacturer. They may be obtained in the future, but only with great difficulty.
– There is not one patent on the Singer machine.
– The Assistant Minister made a long speech in this House, but it was entirely devoid of information. He has no knowledge of the subject, and I now ask him to keep quiet while I give him the facts.
– The honorable member is telling untruths.
– I ask the Assistant Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– To give honorable members some idea of the difficulties attending the establishment of the sewing machine industry, let me tell of the fate that recently befell a number of big companies in America. I have every reason to believe that this information is correct.
In recent years the city of Kankakee, Indiana, to attract a large sewing machine plant, donated the land and buildings to Foley & Williams for the manufacture of reasonably priced sewing machines. In five years the plant went out of business, although the firm exported machines all over the world. Then the well-known Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine went off the market, and the Davis ‘ Sewing Machine factory, with single orders that ran as high as thirty thousand machines annually, gave up manufacturing, the stockholders suffering a total loss of their investment. The White Sewing Machine Company’s venture in running a sewing machine branch factory at Guelph, Canada, proved a financial disaster in that country, which has a larger population than Australia. The King Sewing Machine Company discontinued manufacturing machines at Buffalo, where it had the most modern plant in America. The Domestic Sewing Machine Company, with a world-wide name, discontinued its operations. Later, a portion of its machinery was disposed of to the White Company.
I come now to the question of labour. The amount of labour employed in the manufacture of sewing machines is relatively small.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– The honorable member should not get so annoyed. As I have said, the sewing machine is the production in the main, of highly specialized machinery, and relatively little labour enters into it. I do not say that there is not a fair amount of labour employed, but, taken generally, it is relatively low. I come now to the statement of the Assistant Minister that this new duty of from 10s. to £1 a head will not be passed on.
– I said that there is no justification for passing it on.
– The Assistant Minister said -
The importers make over 100 per cent, gross profit on landed cost: therefore, I do not think they will be justified in passing the duty on to the public.
The Minister cannot have it both ways. If there is to-day a profit of 100 per cent, between the landed cost and the cost to the user, surely in that margin there is plenty of opportunity for the Australian manufacturer to show us what he can do without this contemptible tax of from 10s. to £1 on the machines used by the working women of this country, a tax which is being imposed one year in advance of the time when a single bounty will be paid out of it. Let me refer again to the Assistant Minister’s extraordinary second-reading speech. He showed little knowledge of the subject, and he made several most unfortunate slips as against his own case. He said -
I visited the Bendigo company with the member for the district, Mr. Keane, and received a deputation, which strongly urged that something should be done by the Government to assist the industry for four or five years while it was becoming established.
He said that he visited Bendigo. What, an investigation ! How long was he there? He received one deputation. He talked the matter over with the honorable member for Bendigo, and arrived at the vague conclusion that in four or five years the Bendigo industry would be able to carry on, presumably without any assistance at all.
– I relied, not on my investigation, but on the investigation of the Tariff Board and a special officer of the department.
– There is no company manufacturing sewing machines in Bendigo. The company that did manufacture them went into liquidation years ago. I understand that the honorable member for Bendigo is at present endeavouring to find a little capital for its re-establishment.
– The late Government put that company out of business.
– We have an extraordinary example of what must happen when tariffs are introduced in a wild and irresponsible fashion. As a result of this Government’s tariff policy, unemployment has increased by. 6 per cent., and tens of thousands of workers have been thrown out of their jobs. Week after week, almost, new tariff schedules have been flung on the table of this house. [Quorum formed-.”] The Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) in one of his irresponsible statements said, “ When producing between 40 and 50 sewing machines weekly the original Bendigo company employed 60 hands “. He went on to say -
That means that if Australia can make all the sewing machines it requires constant employment will be found for nearly 1,000 workers in sewing machine factories, in addition to which local manufacture will immediately bring about a demand for raw material.
The Assistant Minister did not give the wages paid to those 60 hands who were producing 40 to 50 machines weekly. Assuming that a number of young women were engaged, placing the average wage at the low level of £3 10s. a week, the labour cost of each machine would be £4 13s. To that cost must bc added overhead expenses, cost of plant, buildings, &c. Another £5 has to be added for the table or stand, so that sewing machines were produced at Bendigo at a factory price of something like £10, which was £3 or £4 above the landed cost. That additional amount will have to be passed on to the working people in this country. To-day the landed cost of the sewing machine head is between £3 10s. and £4, to which the cost of the stand or table which averages £4 5s. has to be added. The Assistant Minister mentioned £1S to £20 as the selling price, but I think he will find that the machine of which I spoke is sold for £12 odd, which gives a gross profit of about 50 per cent.
– The figure I quoted for that machine is correct.
– Yes; but the Assistant Minister selected the most expensive type. The selling of sewing machines is a costly business. A good deal of expensive canvassing has to be undertaken in order to bring them under the notice of prospective buyers, and this makes the profit of the importer look rather high. I appeal to honorable members to reflect before committing the country to the payment of this bounty and to an increased duty. I ask them to remember what has happened in the past six or seven months, and to ponder for some time before they support either the Minister (Mr. Fenton) or the Assistant Minister in connexion with these new tariff proposals. I ask honorable members to consider whether it is worth while, whether it is wise to throw the sewing machine business in this country into a state of chaos, and bring about further unemployment? Amongst these commission agents and travellers there are many good Australians who will be affected by this proposal. In dealing with this bounty, and those proposed on shale oil and flax, I ask honorable members to seriously consider our financial position, and ask themselves where the necessary money is coming from. We are in a desperate plight; we are piling np bounty after bounty, the money for which must ultimately be raised by taxation.
The business community is in a state of uproar and the whole trade and commerce of the Commonwealth is dislocated. In addition to high tariff imposts additional direct taxation is to be imposed. Is this the time to substantially increase unemployment and cause loss to vested interests, or to impose taxation on existing industry in favour of this problematical industry of the future? Is it worth while? I suggest to honorable members that it is not. Our unemployment figures have increased to such an extent that we should attempt to arrest the progress of this foolish tariff policy initiated by the Government. I appeal to honorable members to allow matters to remain where they are, to endeavour to prevent further interruption of trade, and to rehabilitate our existing industries. If we support the- Government in proposals of this kind it will lead to more wreckage and additional unemployment and misery. To me this is the last straw. Taxation should not be imposed in this way. It is in the interests of only a few who may be employed in Bendigo or in Sydney, but it will have a serious effect upon the whole community. It is unreasonable to impose a tax of from 10s. to 20s. per head in respect of the 40,000 sewing machines annually imported into Australia, and fully 90 per cent, of which are purchased for use in the humble homes of the workers. I ask the House not to support this proposal, as it is economically unsound and exceedingly foolish.
.- I am amazed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), in opposing the payment of a bounty on sewing machines, should have the temerity to introduce the subject of unemployment. It is obvious that his brief is not of his own creation, and that he and those with whom he is associated have no interest in encouraging Australian industries. That was disclosed by their attitude towards the motion discussed this afternoon. They do not appear to have any knowledge of what has occurred in Australia during the last eight months. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has submitted a tremendous amount of data, which is not of his own preparation, but which was quite ineffective in establishing even one point.
The payment of a bounty on sewing machines was recommended by the Tariff Board in December, 1925, after a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.
– Provided that the industry could produce 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements.
– The Tariff Board, after hearing evidence and conducting investigations into the possibilities of the industry, recommended the payment of a bounty in order to establish the industry, but not necessarily at Bendigo. The late Mr. Pratten, when Minister of Customs, was in favour of a bounty; but something happened, as the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Bruce) turned down the proposal, and a bounty was refused to the company which was then operating at Bendigo. I do not know what was responsible for the rejection of that proposal, but the factory at Bendigo, which employed 60 persons, was forced to discontinue operations, because the then Government had not sufficient business acumen to protect the industry. Fortunately, the whole of the plant has been preserved, and in four months it will be capable of producing machines which, although they may not be as attractive in appearance as those obtained overseas, will be reliable and of good quality. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) disclosed his ignorance of the sewing machine business. The Bendigo factory, which is to recommence operations, is to be under the control of one of the best engineers in Australia. The site has already been selected, the plant is ready to be set to work, and the company will then be able to enter into competition with the importing interests, which are charging £19 cash, or £24 on terms, for a machine that can be landed in Australia for £7.
– Where is the engineer now employed?
– He is at the disposal of the company, and can start work at any time.
– Is he not employed at the H. V. McKay works?
– I am unable to say where ho is employed at the moment ; but I feel sure that the honorable member for Balaclava, who is a good Australian, will give this proposal his support. Un employment in Australia has increased from 12.1 to 18.5 per cent., but this is due largely to the fact that 162,000 migrants were allowed to land in Australia when work could not be found for them. If the present Government had not been in power, hundreds of public servants would have been dismissed, and thousands of additional workers would have been thrown on the unemployment market. Frequent reference has been made to the need for economy; but economy of the kind required by honorable members opposite means disaster to the Australian people. If this Government was not in power unemployment would be more pronounced than it is to-day. Had the Bruce-Page Government remained in office there would have been an increase in imports, the dismissal of Government employees, and the rationing of many others. This Government has not reduced the status of one of its employees, and honorable members on this side of the chamber are proud to support a Ministry that has honoured the promises which its supporters made’ on the hustings. The standard of living and the wages of the workers have not been reduced, and every assistance has been given to local industries to keep our own people working.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Assistant Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde) disclosed a Cabinet secret by making it known that the last Government refused to grant a bounty to this industry; but the directors of the old company, the press in the electorate which I represent, and others interested in this project, knew long before the Assistant Minister made his announcement that the payment of a bounty had been refused by the previous Government. Australia buys 45,000 sewing machines annually, and the Government suggests that a bounty be granted to local manufacturers, and that a duty be placed on imported machines. I remind the House that at some stage during the next five years a reduction in that duty may be necessary.
There is urgent need in Australia for decentralization. I believe that when this industry is established in Bendigo it will give employment to 300 persons within eighteen months. Bendigo has an excellent climate, an ample supply of labour, splendid roads and a good railway service ; in fact, everything required for the successful operation of such an industry. Everything possible should be done in Australia to prevent the flocking of the people to the cities on the seaboard. In New South Wales, 46 per cent. ; in Victoria, 56 per cent. ; in Queensland, 33 per cent; in South Australia, 57 per cent., and in Western Australia, 48 per cent, of the people reside in the metropolitan area. In New Zealand, the proportion falls to 9.S4 per cent. In Russia, it is 1.1 per cent.; in Switzerland, 3.73 per cent.; in overcrowded Japan, 3.34 per cent.; in England, 11 per cent., and in France, 7 per cent. Over one-half the population of four States of Australia reside in the capital cities, and, in each instance, those cities are located on the coast. The hope of this country lies in the encouragement of manufacturing industries, not in the capital cities, so much as in country centres. Workers in the country are not handicapped by bad housing and sanitation, and impure air. The advent of the industry which this bill is designed to assist should lead to the establishment of other industries in inland cities throughout Victoria and the other States. That would enable country workers to obtain employment under the most favorable climatic conditions near their own homes.
I have said that 50 persons will be employed when the factory at Bendigo is opened, and that the number of employees will eventually be increased to nearly 300. The establishment of similar works is contemplated in Sydney, and I have been informed that the Singer company intends to manufacture in Australia. Thus, there will be three different managements competing for the 45,000 machines annually required in Australia. The works at Bendigo will market a machine that will he cheaper than any obtainable in Australia at the present time, and I have no doubt that when the plant is in proper working order it will be able to turn out an article equal, if not superior, to any machine made overseas. Honorable members opposite may consider that an extravagant assertion ; but I remind them that the engine which draws the express train between
Albury and Melbourne was made at the ‘ railway workshops at Newport, and is pronounced to be equal to any locomotive in the world. A sewing machine is a comparatively easy article to manufacture, because the parts are standardized. If the industry at Bendigo had been able to reach an output of 150 sewing machines a week in 1925 - its total output was 1,400 - it would have been able to market the complete machine for £7 3s.. 8d.
– The inside of it was imported from Germany !
– No; every part of it was constructed in Bendigo. Scores of these machines are still in operation. Some of them may be seen at the Bendigo asylum, where they have been in use for five years. They have been operated for 7,500 hours, and are still serviceable. Several of the machines have been in constant use for three years in the establishment of Mr. Wilson, in Mitchellstreet, where they have been used for sewing felt, heavy duck and towels. A widow woman who has been sewing for a living for 30 years has used a Wertheim and a Singer, but, since 1925, she has exclusively operated a machine made in Bendigo, and she declares it to be the best she has ever used. I am informed that the imported machines cost £19 4s. cash and £24 on terms. The Bendigo factory claims that it will be able to sell its machine for £12 10s. cash, or £6 14s. less than the price of the overseas article.
– Could not the local industry produce a machine at a lower price than that charged for the imported article without a duty?
– I have quoted the prices charged by the men who are prompting the honorable member in his fight against the proposed bounty. The Australian distribution costs on overseas machines are enormous. The Bendigo company that proposes to manufacture machines will honour its promise to charge not more than a certain price. It will be the duty of every honorable member who sits on this side to see that that undertaking is observed; and incidentally this measure itself will safeguard the people against exploitation by this or any other company that takes advantage of the bounty. I have some knowledge of the skill that is possessed by Australian workmen. Experts whom [ have consulted in this matter have freely admitted that our workmen are equal to any in the world. This House will aid the establishment of another industry if it passes the bill. A sewing machine that gives good service is one of the most important adjuncts of a home, and it should be possible for the average working man to purchase it at a reasonable price. The concern of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullet t) for the working woman of Australia was most a musing. I do not know many of his class who are interested in any women except those who are members of Nationalist organizations. According to an answer that was given in this House to a question that I asked on the 7th May last, the following amounts have been paid by way of bounty within recent years : -
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922- 1929-
Duration - From 14th September, 1922. Cotton Bounty Act No. 51 of 1926 -
Duration - Five years from 16th August, 1926.
Wine Export Bounty Act 1924-1928. - £1,001,707. Duration - 1st September, 1924, to 31st August, 1930.
Sulphur Bounty Act No. 21 of 1923. - £143.724. Duration - From 13th September, 1923.
Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917-1923. -
Duration - From 1st September, 1917 to 31st August, 1929, on which latter date the act expired.
Although this proposal is unique, the principle is identical with that which was followed in earlier bounty measures. At the expiration of five years, this bounty will disappear; and if the industry progresses according to anticipations, it may be reduced substantially during that period. There will also be a periodical review of the duty imposed on imported machines. Thus the objections that have been urged against the measure can easily be answered.
I have said that the measure makes provision for adequate safeguards. Under clause 11, a check will be imposed on profiteering. Even if the new companies that are to be established prove to be unwilling to produce a machine at a price lower than that which has been estimated, they at least will be policed by that provision. If profits exceed a certain percentage, the bounty will be reduced. Provision has been made for the operatives in the industry; and there will be an audit of the accounts each year by officers of the department.
The political aspect of this matter does not worry me in the slightest degree. If this proposal is rejected, I shall occupy politically a stronger position than that in which I am now placed. I can then say to the 200 workmen who are looking for employment at Bendigo, “ We put forward a sound scheme, but the Opposition rejected it.” If the bill is passed, we shall give honorable members opposite the credit of having acted reasonably. Before I was elected for Bendigo it was represented by a most excellent gentleman, who was as earnest an advocate of the establishment of this industry as I am; but so stupid was the last Government that it did not give him the support that he should have received. Upon his representations, the then Minister recommended in favour of a similar proposal; but when the acid test was put on the Prime Minister of the day, and some individual said that if a bounty were granted or a duty imposed party fund? might suffer, no action was taken. In fairness to my predecessor, Colonel Hurry, I must say that he did not receive “ a fair go “ from his own Government. A factory will be established under this proposal, not only in my electorate, but also in Sydney; and the Singer Sewing Machine Company will commence operations in Australia.
– It will do nothing of the kind.
– There will be some competition. We have the assurance that ample precautions will be taken to prevent the exploitation of the people. The bounty will not exceed £20,000 per annum, a portion of which will be provided by the duty on overseas machines. We have in Australia men capable of turning out these machines; and the local market can absorb 45,000 machines per annum. These works will be capable of manufacturing not only sewing machines, but also other articles. No bounty will be paid until the machines have been produced. I believe that in this matter the Government will have the support of the Country party, because its policy in regard to decentralization is identical with that of the Labour party. Some of the arguments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to unemployment will be refuted by the establishment, of the industry, because from 50 to 200 workers will be provided with regular employment. As boys and girls reach the school leaving age there will be an opportunity for them to take up a skilled occupation. Whether it is established in Sydney, Bendigo, Maitland, or Adelaide, this industry is worth while. It will supply a long felt want, and furnish to the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany, and other countries evidence of the fact that in the manufacture of sewing machines Australia can produce an article as good as, if not better, than can be produced overseas., and certainly for a lower price.
.- Before dealing with the specific proposal to pay a bounty on the production of sewing machines in Australia, I should like to say a word or two with regard to my attitude towards bounties generally. When the manufacture of any article takes place on a comparatively small scale in this country I regard the bounty method as infinitely preferable to the tariff method of protecting that industry. For one thing the amount of toll taken by an industry can be very definitely measured. One knows just how much it is indebted to the Treasury, whereas, when, a duty is imposed, it is sometimes very difficult to measure the exact amount of toll taken from the general community. Another advantage of assisting by bounty an industry which produces only a small proportion of the community’s requirements is that the price of the article is kept down to a thoroughly competitive level. It is true that the bounty is paid by the general public by taxation instead of by the purchasers of the article in the shape of a higher price, but if this or any young industry can provide, say, only 25 per cent, of the needs of the country, the tax on the community is confined to what will pay a bounty on that 25 per cent., and on. the other 75 per’ cent, the community will be tax free. In contrast with that, a duty imposed for protective purposes on the imported article has to be paid for on the whole of the consumption of that article, even though only 25 per cent, is made locally. The duty is paid on the 75 per cent, imported, and the equivalent of the duty is paid on what is produced locally, because the price of the local product is usually kept at about the level of the imported article. ,The bill proposes that a bounty of £2 is to be paid on sewing machine heads, and, in addition to that, a duty of 10s. British, and 20s. foreign is to be imposed. A deferred duty is to come into operation later on. The bounty is equivalent to 50 per’ cent, of the landed cost of sewing machine heads, and this, with the duty, makes a total protection of 70 per cent, against British competition, and 85 per cent, against foreign competition. By way of interjection I asked the Assistant Minister, when he was making his secondreading speech, what was the total number of machines imported annually, and he said 45,000. Their value, I was informed, was £160,000. It requires only a simple calculation to ascertain that the average landed cost of each sewing machine head is £3 lis. When the deferred duty come3 into operation the total amount of protection afforded to the industry will be 70 per cent, against British competition, and 984 per cent, against foreign competition. When the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), was speaking on another measure on Friday last, he emphasized the necessity of dealing with it on a sound economic basis. Can this bill, by any stretch of imagination, bc described as economically sound, when it proposes to afford such ridiculously high protection to this industry? A bill is to be considered shortly, dealing with the payment of a bounty on flax. There is an extraordinary difference between what is proposed to be done in regard to flax, and what is being done in regard to sewing machine heads. Flax production is partly exported, and it is proposed that there shall be a bounty of 15 per cent, for two years. 10 per cent, for two years, and 7£ per cent, for one year. That, I suggest, is a reasonable bounty. It bears a reasonable relationship to the value of the product.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing the proposed flax bounty.
– I am referring to it only by way of illustration. Contrast the proposals in that bill with those now before the House. The protection proposed to be afforded in this instance bears an unreasonable relationship to the total value of the product. It is absolutely ridiculous. A good deal has been said in this House recently regarding the dictum of a certain arbitration judge, that if an industry cannot afford to pay a certain standard of wages it would be better for us not to have that industry. I think that we have reached a stage in our economic development in Australia when it is high time to apply to our industries the principle that if any one of them cannot afford to carry on without a bounty or a duty, or a combination of both, totalling, say, 20 or 25 per cent, of the value of the product, we would be. better without that industry. That is how I feel about it. If the Assistant Minister had seen fit to bring down a measure to assist this industry on a reasonable basis, something comparable with what is being done with regard .to flax-
– The Tariff Board recommended this assistance after having considered the matter fully.
– I do not care whether it did or not. In my opinion, if an industry requires assistance to the extent of 70 per cent, against British, and 98£ per cent, against foreign competition, it is not even open to argument whether that industry is worth having. An industry which requires assistance to that extent is simply an unblushing mendicant. It will be worse than the galvanized iron industry, on which the bounty and duty taken together are equivalent to £5 10s. a week for every workman engaged in it. The manufacturers of galvanized iron practically have their wages bill paid out of the Commonwealth Treasury, and now we are coming to an almost similar posi tion, if this measure is passed, in regard to sewing machines. I cannot help thinking that if this industry can only get on with assistance amounting to the huge per cent, on the landed cost of the imported article, which I have mentioned, the cost to the country is too great, and that we should be far better off from an economic point of view by confining ourselves to the production of the stands of the machines, both the iron and the wood parts, leaving the actual manufacture of the machine heads to Great Britain, in which country mass production is possible. According to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), if the bounty is paid and the duty is imposed, we shall have not only the company projected in Bendigo, but also one in Sydney, and it is possible that the Singer people may commence operations in Australia. If that should happen, it would be nothing short of a calamity to the industry; because the market for these sewing machine heads is not worth more than £160,000 at the present time, and, although it might be possible - I doubt if it is - for mass production to be carried out by one firm, to divide it among three would mean overcapitalization and too high overhead charges, with the result that the cost of production in Australia would be much higher -than it would be- with only one firm in operation. This is an industry in which the total value of the importations is about £160,000, aud in which mass production is essential if efficiency is to he achieved. It is very doubtful, therefore, if we have a sufficiently large market for efficient manufacture, and it would be rather a calamity than otherwise for more than one firm to undertake the manufacture of sewing machine heads in Australia. Furthermore, if a firm does start in this line in Australia, it would be much better for it to meet the competition of machines made in Great Britain and coming into Australia at a reasonable tariff, rather than a cut-throat competition from other manufacturers within Australia. The existence of too many manufacturers leads to too heavy overhead charges and the investment of too much capital in an industry which can have little chance of expanding in a country with a population of only 6,000,000. people. I cannot support the bill.
– I desire to make some observations with regard to this bill. [Quorum formed.] Although the amount of the bounty involved in the measure now under consideration is not very large, there is a principle at stake which is deserving of consideration. It has already been pointed out that it is not unusual for Parliament to pay bounties to promote the establishment of industries, but the fact that bounties which were unwarranted have already been authorized by this Parliament is no reason why a bounty should be paid in this case, particularly when it is equally unwarranted. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) has repeatedly said that the effect of the tariff alterations made by the present Government has been to get rid of a lot of unemployment and create new sources of employment; but when his attention has been drawn to the figures which show that unemployment has risen from 12 per cent, in September last to 18 per cent, at the present time, he has shifted his ground and said - “ What we meant was that there would have been more unemployment except for what we have done.” The Minister’s wild speeches at the inauguration of different factories and for the encouragement of manufacturers have all been so much moonshine. The Government could not predict, with any degree of precision, the likely result of its tariff policy. It could only speculate upon it.
A duty . was imposed on sewing machine heads in 1921, when Mr. Massy Greene was Minister for Trade and Customs, but it was not to operate until the local manufacturer could provide a reasonable proportion of Australia’s requirements. The industry has been thus protected nine years, but has never been in a position to supply even a fraction of the requirements of Australia.
– How many hands have been employed?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.According to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), if the bounty is paid and the duty is imposed, about 300 men will be employed. The Singer organization now employs 900 men. If sewing machine heads are manufactured in Australia it reasonably follows that some of these 900 men will be displaced, to a fractional extent, at any rate, by the 300 men who will be employed in Bendigo. The making of sewing machine heads in Australia is not a new idea. I have already spoken of the duty which was imposed in 1921, but as far back as 1918 Senator E. D. Millen, who was then Minister for Repatriation, made inquiries to ascertain if returned soldiers could he profitably employed in making these machines, and Sir Henry Braddon, at that time Australia’s Commissioner in the United States of America, made inquiries there as to whether it would be practicable or feasible to do so. The suggestion was not carried out because it was realized that sewing machines could only be manufactured successfully on a mass production basis. It is, therefore, the veriest nonsense for the honorable member for Bendigo to say that the Singer organization intends to establish its business in Australia. That company has no such intention.
– I am glad to hear that.
– The Australian trade represents only 2 per cent, of the world’s output, so it is highly improbable that any manufacturing company will transfer its organization to Australia for the purpose of capturing the local market. Also, it is unreasonable to expect Australian manufacturers, who have not the facilities for mass production, to manufacture sewing machines cheaper than is possible for manufacturing concerns overseas. If the Singer company did establish its organization in Australia, there would be little hope of the Bendigo manufacturing concern remaining in the business, because the Singer company, with its mass production methods, would quickly supply the whole of the Australian demand, and other manufacturing concerns would go under. This is one of the mistakes which the manufacturers of this country are making in their demands for high tariff barriers and embargoes on importation. Once the trade of Australia is worth while, outside manufacturers will establish their organizations in Australia, and with their mergers, and combines and control of enormous capital resources they will put out of business a large number i»r” those manufacturers, who, to-day, are clamouring for the high protection which this Government appears only too ready to give them, to their undoing. The honorable member for Bendigo has urged that this is a bounty worth while. No bounty proposal has been submitted with less justification. What is the record of iiic .Bendigo manufacturing concern up to date? The honorable member for Bendigo has told us that the best imported machines are sold at £19 4s. cash, and £24 on terms, and that the importers are making over 100 per cent, gross profit on the landed cost of machines. If the facts are as stated by him, surely this margin of 100 per cent, should bc sufficient inducement to local manufacturers. If they would be satisfied with the 10 per cent, return on capital guaranteed under this bill, they would still have a margin of 90 per cent, against imported machines. Where, then, is the need for a bounty? Arc we to understand that they must have a margin >f 100 per cent, plus the bounty before they can start manufacturing on anything like a scale l;o meet the Australian demand? That, apparently, is what is intended if the statement of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) is correct. I repeat that no sewing machines worth talking about have ever been manufactured in Australia. The Bendigo company manufactured sewing machines all except the stands, the outside cabinet, and the inside. In other words, it imported the woodwork, the ironwork, aud even the “inside” of the machine, and I understand that this is the machine which the poor, aged, and infirm women in the local asylums have to use.
– They like it.
– They like it, I suppose, because they are obliged to use this antiquated machine, otherwise they would have no machine at all. It is an antiquated family arrangement, and I am informed that the companies sell only two .out of every 100 which they manufacture. It is worked on what is called a vibrating principle-
– The honorable member knows that all household sewing machines arc manufactured on that principle.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is not. po. The Assistant “Minister is behind the times. The most up-to-date sewing machines are electrically controlled.
It has been said that the Tariff Board has given its endorsement to this proposal. I happen to have a copy of the board’s report. It is a curiosity; I have never seen a document like it. Some of the statements in it, if not idiotic, are certainly ridiculous. Since it made its report five years ago there have been striking improvements in the manufacture of sewing machines. In its comments upon the Bendigo manufacturing concern the board stated that the imported parts included the head, plus the cabinet, three bobbins, six needles, feed dog, transfers, bolt and spring. Those parts comprised the internal mechanism, and I am informed they were imported from Germany. The report goes on to state that the value of the imported parts represented .96 per cent, of the total cost of production. I think this is a mistake. I believe that what the board intended to say was that the value of the imported parts was 96 per cent, of the total cost of production, for it is inconceivable that all the parts mentioned represented less than 1 per cent. If that is the best that the Tariff Board can do as a result of its investigation of requests made to it, all I can say is, “ The Lord preserve this House from Tariff Board reports as a guidance to honorable members in matters of this kind.’r The recommendations of the board are all “ itfs “ and “ buts.” Between 45,000 and 50,000 sewing machines are purchased in Australia annually; yet the board proposes a sliding schedule of bounties, commencing with an output of “1 to 2,000 !” There is no suggestion that of the 50,000 machines required annually, more than 4,000 will be produced locally. The Minister, when introducing the bill, said that it would mean a duty of £2 10s. on every imported sewing machine. It means much more than that. Prior to the 30th June, the duty was 30 per cent, on the complete machine with table and stand. Now the Government proposes separate duties of 75 per cent, on the cabinet work, 45 per cent, on the iron work, and an additional duty on the outside casing, which was not charged for before. Prior to the 30th June the duty on the ordinary seven-drawer machine and stand was £3 6s. 9d. Under this legislation the duties will be: head, 10s.; cabinet, £2 16s. Id.; stand, 6s. 7d. ; and outside casing, ls. ; or a total of £3 13s. 8d. Yet in addition the manufacturers arc asking for a bounty of £2 per machine ! There was no need for dic new duties on the cabinet and stands, because local makers were prepared to supply them at less than the landed cost of the importations.
– Does the honorable member believe in this bounty?
– I am arguing as strongly as I can against depriving the workers of the opportunity to get their implements of trade at the cheapest price. I am appealing also on behalf of the most sweated women in the community. the white- workers and seamstresses. These women work not 44 or 48 hours a week, but day and night; yet the Government proposes that they shall pay an extra £4 or £5 for the machines by which they earn their livelihood. For their sake I protest against this bounty, and I am amazed that the Government should propose to put upon them this additional burden. The Minister has pointed out that the bounty will be paid out of the duties collected on the imported machines, and the bill provides that those who invest their money in the manufacture of sewing machines shall be permitted a net profit of 10 per cent. The Minister, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), and the others who are supporting this bill, are not concerned to guarantee a profit of 10 per cent, to the unfortunate white-workers who are treadling their machines day and night. The tendency of the age is to give more leisure to the working man, and all of us believe in that within reasonable limits. The Labour party advocates a 44-hour week for organized workers, who must not work on Saturdays, although the wives of many of them would be glad if they did. But docs the Government propose to give no consideration to the women, not even to the wives of the organized workers? If the proposed bounty and duties are agreed to, workers’ wives who, after spending the day in scrubbing, cleaning and washing, must devote the evenings to sewing for themselves and families, will have to pay an extra £5 to a pampered industry or do their sewing by hand. Members of the Opposition may be traduced by ministerial supporters, but on every platform on which this legislation is exposed, the Nationalists will be commended for resisting an undue impost upon one of the poorest and hardest working sections of the community. The burden that is being placed on the women of the working class is in marked contrast to the solicitude shown this afternoon for the employees of Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Honorable members opposite readily voted an extra £50,000 to keep a limited number of artisans in employment in the ship-building yard. But the working women of Australia make no appeal to the Labour party. They are regarded merely as drudges, whose labours are not to be measured by the . hour. It is the obligation of Parliament to ensure that duties are not imposed, and prices raised on articles that are in daily use by the wives of the workers. If the Labour Government was not recreant to the trust that has been imposed in it by the workers of this country it would see that sewing machines and other home necessities were made available at a minimum cost. This duty is nothing more or less than a flagrant imposition on the workers of which the Labour party should be ashamed, and about which the workers will surely make known their opinion at subsequent elections.
.- I should not like this bill to go through without registering my protest against it. The £20,000 that the Government proposes to raise out of the taxpayers tomeet this bounty on sewing machine heads will be worse than useless. It will simply bc a futile endeavour to create an industry to employ some 200 to 300 at the expense of the whole of the people of Australia. I submit that we already have too many crippled industries in this country. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) very lucidly pointed out that this industry in Australia is to receive approximately 100 per cent, protection. It is all very well to urge people to use Australian-made articles, but we have no Father Christmas out of whose pockets we can meet these obligations. The money has to be earned by our people. We hear a lot about the necessity to preserve our standard of living. I venture the opinion that the day is not very far distant when parliamentarians themselves will realize that the taxpayers of Australia cannot meet their present allowances, or continue existing standards of wages and living. It is time that we insisted that industries should stand on their own feet. Too many are parasotes upon our export industries, which are at the moment languishing, and they can no longer maintain our exotic industries. This proposal is economically unsound and will inevitably make another contribution to our unemployment. Naturally the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) strenuously supports the proposal and regards those who deprecate its usefulness sourly. We see too much of that sort of thing in this chamber. It is time that we took the broad Australian view.
– It is a pity that the honorable member did not think of that when he supported the Bruce-Page Government.
– I criticized that Government when the necessity arose, but I realized that if I withdrew my support from it and transferred my allegiance to the Labour party, I should be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. As an aftermath. of the war, the people of Australia enjoyed high prices and incomes, and they made the error of regarding them as permanent. It was only necessary for the bottom to fall out of our wheat and wool markets to end the illusion. I most strenuously oppose this measure and implore the Government, in the interests of the country, to cease this uneconomic pandering to exotic industries.
– Does not the honorable member’s party stand for bounties?
– Only when they are likely to assist Australian industry in a permanent way. This proposal promises to impose a permanent disadvantage on the country. I would not care if the whole of our bounties were swept away, many duties reduced, and a revenue tariff introduced. The Government should lower some of its tariffs and insist upon our sheltered industries scratching gravel a little harder. If that were done, there would be some justification in asking the farmers to produce more. This proposal will place us further in the mire. The Australian public, and particularly the unemployed workers, will realize that the Government is leading them along a track that must end in further unemployment, and in making Australia less able to meet its obligations.
.- I hesitate to condemn any project that is likely to assist to establish an Australian industry. No great country in the world can remain purely agricultural. I stand for protection, which I have always advocated on public platforms and in this chamber. But I believe in sane protection; not in going bounty mad, or in piling up tariffs with a spade. Each bounty should be considered on its merits. Some of those introduced by the BrucePage Government will stand investigation. Others have outworn their usefulness and are uneconomic. This proposal comes in the last category. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) alleged that it had received the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I ask him specifically did the Tariff Board recommend it ? I do not think that it did. The honorable gentleman based the whole of his speech on the claim that the Tariff Board recommended such a bounty in 1925.
– I said that recent investigations made by a responsible officer of the Customs Department substantially supported the recommendation of the Tariff Board. What I have said is absolutely right.
– From page five of the Tariff Board’s report, it is clear that the board did not favour the imposition of the deferred duty at that stage, for the reason that the local industry was in a position to manufacture only a small proportion of Australia’s requirements.
– The deferred duty is not being imposed. The honorable member should study the subject.
– The Assistant Minister is evading the issue, because he knows very well that the duty has been increased. He has misled the House, as has the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who inferred that the deferred duty was recommended, but for some reason or other - apparently the influence that the importers exerted on the late Government - it was not applied.
– That is so.
– That shows how we can rely on the statements of honorable members opposite in respect of an important matter like this, affecting the whole of the sewing machines used in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bendigo is, of course, justified in his attitude, because the proposed bounty affects his electorate. He said quite a lot about the gold bounty, also in the interests of his electorate. I agree entirely with his remarks about the need for decentralization. That is most essential if Australia is to proceed on right lines without over-populated cities, but that is no argument in favour of the granting of this bounty. The honorable member for Bendigo knows that the company, which he says will do great deeds in the manufacture of sewing machines once this bounty is granted, does not exist. I have received a report from the Titles Office that originally this company had a nominal capital of £50.000. The secretary of the company traded in his motor garage business as part of the assets of the company, and the total capital paid up was £18,000.
– That has all been lost, because the company went into liquidation.
– Under this bill the company may obtain a bounty of £20,000 a year although its paid-up capital five years ago was only £18,000. That capital does not exist to-day. I suggest that the Government’s action should be investigated. If this practice is to continue, any mendicant company, or any company promoter, will be able to approach the Government and obtain a bounty on, say, perambulators or sausage machines.
– The honorable member should tell the House of the previous Government’s attitude towards mendicant companies.
– Let me tell honorable members what the Sydney Morning Herald says about the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis). That newspaper on the 11th of this month published this statement -
Thereupon, Mr. Lewis, who so vociferously represents the thriving constituency nf Corio, entered upon a long and car-shattering denunciation of non-unionists and all who advocated their claims. He has a natural gift for exaggeration, and it is only in unguarded moments that he falls into careless habits of accuracy. His manner suggests that he looks on his seat in the House of Representatives as only a poor substitute for a “stump” on the Yarra bank or in the Sydney Domain.
To resume the debate on sewing machines, let me say that the Bendigo Advertiser of the 20th of last month published this statement -
The Prime Minister and Federal Labour party have agreed to a bounty of £2 for every sewing machine made in Australia and a deferred duty of 10s. on British, and £1 on foreign sewing machines. This was the text of a telegram received by Mr. J. Jeffrey, of Bendigo, yesterday from Mr. R. V. Keane, M.P., as the culmination of efforts made to revive the Bendigo sewing machine industry.
– It was hard work, too.
– I have lived in Bendigo, and I would do anything to assist -the progress of that city so long as there would be no uneconomic reaction on Australia as a whole. The statement continues -
A conference to be held in Melbourne on Saturday will be attended by Messrs. Keane and Jeffrey, and a prospectus will then be drawn up and subsequently issued to- invite investment in the enterprise which should induce favorable consideration from investors.
I ask the honorable member for Bendigo whether he is the promoter or a director of the company?
– I am the driving force.
– This newspaper says, in effect, that Messrs. Keane and Jeffrey are issuing a prospectus to float a company.
– I am not a director of the company, and I have no connexion with it. The report is substantially correct. I did meet Mr. Jeffrey and discuss the proposition with him.
– According to the speech of the Assistant Minister, this company went into liquidation in 1926. That is confirmed by the records of the Titles Office. As a final answer to honorable members supporting the Government who say that the previous Government did not grant a bounty or allow the deferred duty to operate, let me say that the Tariff Board will not recommend anything in the direction of assistance to an industry unless the company concerned can produce 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. That applies to any company or any group of companies.
– Where is that stated in the report of the Tariff Board?
– It is a general understanding.
– It is a general assumption on the part of the Tariff Board that no extra tariff protection or bounty may be given an industry unless it can produce 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. In 1925 the Tariff Board would not grant the request of this company, because of its limited production. At that time it was manufacturing 40 machines a week. It produced about 1,500 machines during the period of its existence, although it was estimated that it could within twelve months increase its production to 40,000 machines per annum. I submit that that is au exaggeration. The Tariff Board further said that only 5 per cent, of Australia’s requirements was capable of being manufactured by the Bendigo company. I admit that it is preferable to manufacture our own requirements rather than import them from overseas, but the community should not be asked to bear the burden. Australia is in a most serious financial position to-day, yet this Government continues to increase Commonwealth expenditure. An amount of £50,000 is of no consequence when it comes to a matter of providing work at Cockatoo Island. The Bendigo company has gone into liquidation, yet it is to be re-established at the expense of the people of Australia. Even the locally manufactured machines will contain imported parts. All that the company will manufacture is the frame and cast case, which any small engineering works could turn out. The Tariff Board has shown that the shuttles, bobbins, needles, feed dogs, transfers, belt and springs of the machines will have to be imported. The machinery is, of course, lying idle, but I do not doubt that if the capital is forthcoming, the industry will be able to start again. It is encouraging to learn that sewing machines are likely to be made in Sydney as well. The person interested in this case is Mr. MacDougall, the President of the Chamber of Manufactures in Victoria. He is a man of undoubted integrity aud of large capital, has put many industries in Australia on their feet, and when he says that he can establish this industry, I take it that he means to do so. Without any assurance from the Bendigo company as to the number of sewing machines that it is likely to produce the Government is not justified in assisting it to the extent proposed. I wish the proposal was of such a character that we should be justified in supporting it; but from the information available it appears that instead of being of benefit to the whole community it will be of advantage only to certain company promoters. In these circumstances I cannot give it my support, particularly as the Tariff Board was not favorable in 1925.
– In what way did the board condemn the proposal?
– It recommended a duty that should then be imposed, in 1925, but that was before the company went into liquidation and the report is five years old. Since that recommendation was made the machinery has been lying idle and the staff has been dispersed. If the Assistant Minister is honest in this matter, and sincerely wishes to help the industry, he should withdraw the bill, ask the Tariff Board to submit a new report in which full information could be given showing to what extent the industry justifies revival and all details regarding those who are interested. The board’ could obtain sworn evidence from the interested parties, and then submit to the Government a report on the project, which would be of some value. We are not justified in supporting this measure with the meagre information at our disposal.
.- In view of the extent of unemployment, not only in the electorate which I represent, but throughout the State of South Australia, I intend to oppose this measure, which, if passed, can only result in increasing unemployment. This is perhaps the most striking case of spoonfeeding of industries that has ever been brought before this Parliament. It is gambling with the taxpayers’ money in the interests of company promoters, and at a time when additional taxation is being wrenched from an overtaxed community.
– It is based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– That recommendation was made five years ago when the economic conditions in Australia were much better than they are to-day.
– An investigation was recently conducted by an officer of the Trade and Customs Department.
– The Assistant Minister, who has shown great reluctance in producing recent reports compiled by the Tariff Board, is in this case placing a good deal of reliance on a report that is five years old. Reports of the Tariff Board on various subjects that were promised some weeks ago have not yet. been submitted to Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) quoted some staggering figures showing ibo extent to which unemployment has increased during recent months, and the Government’s policy of spoonfeeding industries of this character will’ only result in further unemployment. This is a further instance of the way in which the Government is screwing money out of the taxpayers which should be used in productive undertakings in the interest of Australia.
– -Does not the honorable member believe in bounties?
– It is a very different thing to pay a. bounty to assist existing industries during a critical period and to give a bounty and impose a’ high duty to assist an industry which has already failed, and for which the outlook is entirely unsatisfactory. The honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. White) quoted figures showing that, the establishment of this industry is mere speculation. The whole of the capital of the former company was lost. A new company is now being promoted, and the House is asked to involve the Commonwealth in a possible liability of £20,000 a year. If the industry expands to an extent that would make the bounty more costly than is anticipated, there is provision in the bill to bring a heavy deferred duty into operation. I do not intend to refer to what taxes of this kind mean to the women workers of Australia. Everybody who comes from a locality which is most adversely affected by this policy of plunder for a few pets-
– The honorable member must, withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and I shall call it a policy of blunder. Bills of sale arc being given over household effects, particularly sewing machines, and this bounty would largely increase the cost of replacing machines which the people with small incomes may lose owing to inability to meet their commitments.
– An £S cheaper machine!
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) solemnly tells us that this company can manuf acture a sewing machine £8 cheaper than the imported article; and it wants au extra £2 for itself at a time when nearly every little business is in financial difficulty, and when almost every workman, apart from those living, in a few picked constituencies, is in dread of losing his employment. The honorable member has managed to bluff somebody into bringing forward a proposal for a bounty of £2 for a. machine that a company in his constituency can make £8 cheaper than the imported article; but the figures that he has given are probably incorrect. The Assistant Minister suggested in his opening speech that the duty would probably not be passed on, but would be paid by th, importing firms, because the competition from the locally-made machine would be sufficient to keep their prices down. The report of the Tariff Board, which is five years’ old, states on page 4 that the price of the Singer machine was then £19 cash, and £24 on time payment, but that the local machine was sold for £15 15s. net. cash. It is difficult to understand why the company failed. . If it was able to put a machine on the market at from £3 to £4 less than the price of the Singer, there must have been a difference in the qualities of the respective machines. When the Tariff Board made its investigation, an imported machine similar to that mads at Bendigo was being sold for £12 10s., as against the Bendigo price of £15 15s.,but the competition from those two machines combined was not sufficient to force down the price of the Singer below £19. It is very unlikely, therefore, that the competition from the new company will bring down the present price of the imported machine.
– The Singer has been on the market for a century and enjoys a goodwill which no new company could break down.
– There are other imported machines as well. If the locallymanufactured article is to be produced economically, it will be necessary to make it on a fairly large scale, and the company, therefore, will probably confine itself to the manufacture of one type of machine. But many different types of household sewing machines are in use in Australia. I cannot support a measure designed to assist the manufacture of one particular type of machine. The policy of bolstering industries increases unemployment in all localities other than those which directly benefit from the bounties. . Quite an interesting example of that is furnished by the Minister’s speech. The honorable gentleman said that if a company became established in Bendigo, there was a probability that another manufacturer would set up in Sydney, and compete with it. He also gave particulars of the number of machines that this manufacturer anticipated he would be able to turn out, and said that already he had under offer a suitable factory. Presumably that is a factory that the tariff has prevented from carrying on.
– No ; it is one that the lack of tariff protection rendered idle.
– Many factories are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on because of the restricted opportunity of the people to make purchases. This industry will be spoon-fed at the cost of either the taxpayer or the unfortunate people who use sewing machines. I agree that a bounty is less pernicious than an indirect form of protection ; but, whatever the form, in the present state of Australia’s economic position it must affect employment in other directions. I hope that a sufficient number of honorable members opposite who represent dis tricts that are unable to undergo this spoon-feeding process will display some independence by voting against the bill. I certainly shalldo so.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.( (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read asecond time, and committed pro forma.
– I desire to inform the House that in the division that was taken on Thursday last upon the closure motion that was moved to clause 37 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the tellers inadvertently made an error. The name of Mr. Parker Moloney should have been included in the list of those honorable members who voted with the “Ayes,” instead of the name of Mr. W. Maloney. The error has since been rectified in the official records.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 July 1930, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300715_reps_12_125/>.