12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– I desire to give notice of motion contingent on the resumption of the budget debate.
– Notice must be given in committee.
– I rise to make a personal explanation in respect of deliberate misrepresentations by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
-Order! The honorable member may not accuse another honorable member of deliberate misrepresentation.
– I was misrepresented by the honorable member for Balaclava and other members of the Opposition. During the debate on the Arbitration Bill the honorable member for Balaclava characterized as untrue and insulting certain utterances I made concerning his firm, and he demanded that they be withdrawn. Later, in the course of a personal explanation, he said that my statement was a deliberate lie. That impugning of my veracity was a grave reflection on my character. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition joined in the hue and cry and demanded that I apologise to the honorable member for Balaclava. That I refused to do ; on the contrary, I undertook to prove my statements. The honorable member for Balaclava denied that he had ever underpaid his employees. He admitted that, in the exercise of a right con ferred by section 41 of the Arbitration Act, the works and books of the firm of C. J. White & Sons were inspected by an officer of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. About six months later a summons against the firm was heard before the Arbitration Court, and, according to the honorable member, “ the case was dismissed with full costs against the union “. That is a flat contradiction of my statement. I propose to submit to the House certain documentary evidence to corroborate my charge against the firm, of which the honorable member is managing director. I quote from the official report of the proceedings of the Arbitration Court before Judge Lukin on the 5th April, 1928 -
THE AMALGAMATED ENGINEERING UNION
J. WHITE& SONS PTY. LTD.
Application for penalties for breaches of award - Interpretation of definition of “locksmith “ - Application dismissed - Penalty imposed for failure to comply with award in respect of non-unionists - Penalty imposed for failure to pay prescribed wages - Application to re-open matter refused.
The evidence tendered by Mr. Nicholas Roberts, organizer of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, was that he visited the premises of the respondent firm and examined its books. He found that one employee, Jack Martin, employed as a locksmith, worked 48 hours a week for a wage of £410s. The managing director, the honorable member for Balaclava, stated that the man was in receipt of a bonus which made his average earnings £5 10s. per week. The basic wage at that time was £4 7s. 6d., and locksmiths, as tradesmen, are entitled to a margin for skill of 24s., which would have brought Martin’s wage up to £511s. 6d. Even if the statement of the managing director be accepted as accurate, Martin was receiving only £5 10s., and was working four hours weekly in excess of the 44 awarded by the court.
– I rise to a point of order. Isthe honorable member in order in quot- ing evidence given before the court, and qualifying it with the words, “ even if we accept it as accurate “. The remark is offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– A personal explanation must be confined to a. statement of facts, and may not include comments. Is the honorable member for Corio commenting on the facts ?
– It is not necessary for me to do so; I can establish my case by quoting from the documentary evidence. The relevant facts are that Martin was actually working 48 hours a week instead of 44, and was entitled to receive £6 4s. 2d. weekly ; whereas he was paid only £4 10s. After hearing the evidence, the judge fined the respondent firm £10. Further proceedings were taken in regard to a lad named Hansen, and another employee named Mearman. The former was under 21 years of age, and in respect of the latter, the court held that the work he was performing did not come within the definition of locksmith’s work. Both the applications in regard to the interpretation of “ locksmith “ were dismissed, but the report makes no mention of costs having been awarded against the union. Subsequently, the firm of C. J. White & Sons was prosecuted for three further breaches of the award in respect of motor mechanics. The judge, after hearing the evidence, again convicted the firm.
– When was that?
– On the 5th April, 1928. The judgment was delivered by Mr. Justice Lukin on the 11th April, 1928.
– Will the honorable member read the judgment?
– The concluding paragraph, in which the judge imposed the penalty, is as follows: -
The respondent is bound to pay to his employee, whether he is a member of the union or not, the rate prescribed by the award. The respondent, as he was in duty bound to do, should have informed himself of the provisions and meanings of the terms of this award, and an honest belief that he was not so bound in consequence of his failure to obtain such information is no excuse, and does not make him any less liable to a penalty.
– To what firm does that refer ?
– C. J. White & Sons Pty. Ltd.
– The honorable member has mixed up his information.
– The judgment continues -
Considering the nature of his business, I think that £10 will be the appropriate penalty for his default. I direct that £5 thereof shall bc paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and the balance of £5 be paid to the claimant organization to pay the expenses incidental to these proceedings.
The next matter relates to three motor mechanics. The judgment in this case proceeds -
The evidence shows that the respondents admitted that the three employees were motor mechanics and that they were each paid less than what was due to them under the award. It also appears that on a previous occasion the respondent’s attention was drawn to the fact that he was underpaying and committing a breach of the award. The respondent then said he would obtain confirmation-
– The honorable member should bear in mind that personal explanations must be reasonably brief.
– I shall leave the matter at that. The firm was under-paying. Another fact in regard to this matter is that when the officer of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was interviewing one of the employees of C. J. White and Sons Proprietary Limited, the proprietor or managing director, Mr.C. J. White, interfered and attempted to persuade
– Order ! The honorable member is exceeding the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I regret that the time of the House should be wasted on matters such as those raised by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis). The other night the honorable member said, probably in the heat of debate, that the firm with which I am associated had underpaid its men. I had seen him in consultation with certain union secretaries, who were in the background, and in reference to that, I said that this was either a malicious lieby some unscrupulous opponent, or that the honorable member had misunderstood some of those with whom he had been in conversation. I pointed out that my firm has never at any time committed a breach of an industrial law. The honorable member got out of his depth.
– The honorable member must not offer observations, but must confine himself to statements of fact.
– About eighteen months ago the company with which I am associated was requested by the organizing secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to show him its books. The union was entitled, under the law, to see them, and the demand was acceded to. As I said last week, I understood that everything was found to be correct,but later the firm was summoned before the Arbitration Court. The union secretary desired to prove that if an employee who is on piece-work and is receiving his bonus monthly, is getting weekly payments in the interval between bonus payments less than the 10 per cent. that he should be paid above the award rates, a breach of the award is committed. The union possibly thought that a technical breach of the law had been committed, and it retained Mr. Blackburn, also an eminent barrister, at considerable expense, to represent it. The case came before Judge Lukin in the Arbitration Court,together with a number of others. Offences were proved against all the employers who were cited, excepting the firm with which I am conpected. All the fines and penalties to which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has referred, and what was said by the judge, relates to those other firms, and in no way applies to that of C. J. White and Sons. I am sorry that the honorable member has pursued this matter further. He has made himself appear very foolish.
– The honorable member must not offend again by going beyond a personal explanation.
– I must therefore ask for time to produce the press reports, which I shall read in the House. My firm does not employ motor mechanics. Our case was dismissed with costs against the union. My firm has never committed a breach of an award; in fact, it generally makes a point of paying over the award rates.
– In connexion with the primage duties that are being imposed, is it proposed to put cornsacks on the list of exempted goods for the ensuing year?
– I do not think that there will be any exemption from the primage tax, but it is proposed to exempt cornsacks from the sales tax.
– Will the primage tax apply to phosphatic rock, which is imported for the purpose of manufacturing fertilizers?
– I repeat that there will be no exempt list.
– What about binder twine ?
– I had not thought of binder twine; but I will consider it. Phosphatic rock and cornsacks will be on the exempt list in regard to the proposed sales tax.
– Since there appears to be some doubt whether the sales tax takes effect from the 9th July, when the budget speech was delivered, will the Prime Minister inform the House from what date it will operate?
– There seems to be a misunderstanding on account of a statement made by me in reply to a question in relation to contracts. The question has been raised whether, in the case of contracts entered into for forward delivery, the goods concerned will be subject to the tax upon delivery. The reply that I made then was that, irrespective of the time of delivery, no such goods would be liable to the sales tax if the contract had been entered into before the date of the budget speech. It is not proposed, as I stated in reply to a question yesterday, to make the tax retrospective. In discussing the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, I find that it is desirable to insert a specific date in the bill, and it is intended, therefore, to make the date the 1st August.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the Premier of South Australia to the effect that the Government of that State desires the conditions of acceptance of its portion of the grant of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment modified ? What are the conditions of acceptance of such relief money? Are there any conditions which would prevent the South Australian Government from obtaining an immediate advance of a portion, at least, of the amount which the Commonwealth
Government is prepared to make available for unemployment relief?
– The honorable member drew my attention to a report in the press in relation to this subject. I shall quote certain passages from a letter which was sent to the South Australian Government and other governments on this subject on the 5th July. After drawing attention to the fact that the South Australian Government would be entitled to £150,000 under the scheme, the letter asked for certain information to be furnished in order that the Commonwealth Government could satisfy itself that the money would be wisely spent. The following are the relevant paragraphs from the letter: -
I shall be glad if you will kindly furnish me with the following information: -
The particular workswhich it is proposed would be undertaken.
The estimated cost of such works.
The locality and nature of each of the undertakings.
The estimated amounts which, in respect of each undertaking, would be involved -
in payment of salaries and wages ; and
in meeting other charges (materials, &c. ).
The number of unemployed which it is estimated would benefit from the proposal.
Any further feature which would be of interest to the Commonwealth.
The letter concluded as follows: -
I may add that my Government has assumed that all labour engaged as a result of the grant would be employed under conditions determined in accordance with the terms of industrial awards applying to the same class of labour in the particular districts concerned.
To that letter, I received the following reply, by telegram, on the 9th July : -
Your letter fifth instant re Commonwealth special grant towards relief of unemployment, impossible at present furnish particulars regarding proposed works. In view huge expenditure on unemployment relief being incurred imperative that urgent financial assistance be provided without necessity specifying undertakings. My Government assures you that money will be used to best advantage. At present over 8,000 families receiving relief and over 11,000 applicants for employment on Government Labour Bureau books.
The Government has not proposed to make this money available to the States for relief and sustenance, but for work, and it has asked for a report from each government respecting the nature and estimated cost of the work proposed to be put in hand. As soon as an application is made for any of this money for expenditure on definite relief works, in accordance with the Government’s proposal, the money will be made available.
– by leave - I move -
That Order of the Day - Tobacco-growing industry, Select Committee, Motion for printing report - be discharged.
That order of the day provides for the resumption of the debate upon my motion for the printing of the report of the Select Committee on the Tobaccogrowing Industry in Australia. I have moved that it be discharged, principally to meet the convenience of the Government, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who has the right to continue his speech on the motion for the printing of the report, has approved of the course that I am taking. I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, who has informed me that while he is very anxious to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the report, the congested nature of the business paper makes it unlikely that any private member’s business will be considered during the remainder of the session, although he could give me no assurance on the point. I therefore considered that it would be advisable for honorable members who desired to discuss this subject to do so during the budget debate. I propose to take that course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day discharged.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. There is an article on one of the main pages of to-day’s issue of the Labor Daily, headed “ Diggers Routed by Green, M.H.R.” It is a long article and I do not propose to weary honorable members by reading any of the “ tripe “ that it contains.
– Has the article anything to do with the business of the House ?
– I desire to make a personal explanation in regard to it.
– Honorable members are entitled to make a personal explanation only if they have been misrepresented in regard to some public matter with which they have been connected.
– The fact of the letters “M.H.R.” appearing in the heading of the article directs attention to my membership of this Parliament. The article purports to be an account of a meeting held in Sydney last night at which members of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League, the Limbless Soldiers Association, the T.B. Soldiers Association, and the Australian Legion of ex-Service Clubs, were present.
– On a point of order I desire to know whether the honorable member for Richmond is in order in making a personal explanation regarding a matter which has no relation at all to the proceedings of this chamber. I submit that if the honorable member is permitted to deal with a newspaper report, other honorable members may, at some time or other, avail themselves of the opportunity to take up the time of this House in making personal explanations regarding press reports which they consider are inaccurate.
– On a point of order, I submit that it has been the practice - whatever the true procedure may be - to permit any honorable member, who, as a public man, has been misrepresented in the press, to make in this House an explanation of his position. It may be that that is not the correct procedure, but I suggest that it will be difficult indeed to draw the line between misrepresentation of a public action of an honorable member and misrepresentation of his action in relation to something before the House at the time.
– It is essential when an honorable member is making a personal explanation in respect of newspaper misrepresentation of his action, for it to have association with his public duties, and I am waiting to hear what the honorable member has to say so that I may determine whether hispublic duty is actually involved. The honorable member would not be in order in making a personal explanation in respect of any action associated with his private affairs. The personal explanation must have some association with his public life in this country.
– This press attack has been made against me as a member not only of the House, but also of a public body - the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League of Australia.
– Does it affect the honorable member as a member of this Parliament ?
– It affects me both ways. There is in this report a grave reflection on every honorable member in this House.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that, if he thinks that he may possibly transgress the rules of this chamber, he has an opportunity of making a personal explanation upon the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I do not think that I shall be transgressing the rules of the House if I continue my explanation. The following statement appearing in the article is alleged to have been made by one of the delegates : - “ You are not in Parliament now, you are addressing a body of intelligentmen.” The article purports to give an account of a meeting that took place last night, at which there wore represented the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, the T.B. Soldiers Association, the Limbless Soldiers Association, and another body called the Australian League of Ex-Service Clubs. The meetiug dealt with the formation of a grand council. I was entitled to be there in my position - which I have held for many years - of a member of the New South Wales Council of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) a little while ago, when referring to the same press, said that the statements were not only untrue, but grotesquely untrue. That remark will apply to the whole article to which I refer. The fact which I wish to place on record is that the New South Wales Council of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, which I represent, is fully in accord with the action that I took last night in attacking one organization, the mushroom growth called the Australian Legion of Ex-service Clubs.
– I am afraid the honorable member is now going beyond his privilege and right as a member of this chamber.
– All I wish to say is that the press report is grotesquely untrue.
Lifting of Embargo
– Ina paragraph appearing in the Evening News, of Friday last, a complaint was made by certain manufacturers and employees about the action of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in lifting the embargo on imported preserved foodstuffs in the interests of an American firm when Australian firms had already increased their plants and the number of employees in preparation of additional manufactures. It is reported that the Amalgamated Preserving Employees Union had been greatly affected by the new tariff, and particularly by the lifting of this particular embargo. Did the Acting, Minister receive a protest from the Food Preserving Employees Union? Is he aware that established Australian firms, which by utilizing Australian labour and vegetable products areable to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth, are being seriously affected by the dumping of American products into Australia?
-All applications for permission to import under the Prohibition Proclamation were considered not only by the officers of the Trade and Customs Department, but also by a subcommittee of Cabinet and the Tariff Board before any approval was given. I take it that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has in mind a certain firm of American manufacturers that was sending to Australia £50,000 worth of goods a year. On condition that it definitely pledged itself to manufacture in Australia before the 1st January next it was agreed that it should be allowed to import approximately £50,000 out of £250,000 worth of goods that were affected by the Prohibition Proclamation. In addition’, the factory is to manufacture for the export markets of the East and contiguous countries. I am assured that when this factory is established in Australia, it will employ 350 persons. It will cost approximately £150,000 to complete, and the result will be that all the goods formerly imported into this country by that American firm will in future be manufactured in Australia, thus providing employment for many workers of this country. If the honorable member wishes to be supplied with further information, and will place a question upon the notice-paper, I shall have inquiries made. I have not seen the paragraph to which he has referred.
Arrangements for Finance
– In view of the fact that, while no formal agreement was made between the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank with respect to the financing of the proposed compulsory wheat pool, arrangements satisfactory to the Government were made, will the Prime Minister state what those arrangements were, and make available to honorable members any correspondence relating to them that has passed between the Government and the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Representations were made personally by me to the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson in Melbourne. The Bank Board subsequently met and agreed that, in conjunction with the other banks, it was able and willing to finance the wheat pool to the extent of 4s. a bushel, payable upon delivery at railway sidings. The details were to be drawn up later in a formal agreement between the central authority of the Wheat Board and the Commonwealth Bank.
Application to New Zealand
– Is it the intention of the Government to apply the primage tax to importations from New Zealand?
– It will apply to all importations.
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. C.
Riley) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In the granting of all pensions will he follow the example set by the State of Victoria, notably in the cases of the Right Honorable H. C. E. Childers and Sir Andrew Clarke, that whenever the recipients received salary or emoluments their pensions ceased for the time being?
What is the pension granted to Mr.James Kell, late Governor of the Commonwealth Bank?
What was the term of his service entitling him to such pension?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as. follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information: -
What industries are in receipt of a bounty ?
The date on which a bounty was first paid to each industry?
The amount paid to each industry per annum, and the total amount paid to each industry to date?
The total amount paid in bounties to all industries to date?
To what other industries, if any, is the Commonwealth pledged to pay a bounty, and what is the amount involved?
Mr.FENTON.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Shale oil for a period of three years to an amount not exceeding £67,500 per annum.
Flax and linseed for a period of five years to an amount not exceeding £20,000 per annum.
Sewing machines for a period of five years to an amount not exceeding £20,000 per annum.
Consideration is being given to the question of a bounty on paper made from Australian pulp.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has any recent decision been arrived at in the cases of war pensioners who have commuted their pensions, and whose war-caused incapacitation (in respect of which commutation was granted) has increased to such an extent as to warrant restoration of pension at a rate equal to the difference between the assessment at date of commutation and the increased incapacitation which subsequently developed; if so, will he state the nature of such decision?
– The question was raised at the annual congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia and was passed on to the Minister in the form of a resolution. The league was informed in the following terms: - . . The Repatriation Commission will give reconsideration to cases wherein lump sums have been paid, but which apparently on medical grounds, should not have been granted, and the ex-pensioner is thereby adversely affected. Upon application being made for re-opening, each case will be carefully reconsidered on its merits.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The information necessary to enable a complete reply to be furnished to the right honorable member’s question is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) asked me a question, without notice, regarding a circular issued in New York which contained a statement that German reparations are paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund. The statement is quite correct. The National Debt Sinking Fund Act provides that all moneys received in respect of reparations under the Treaty of Peace with Germany shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund.
Expenses of Civic Administrator
– Yesterday the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me the following questions, 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 now desire to advise him as follows: -
(a)11th January, 1930, about9 a.m., via Goulburn, Moss Vale, Kangaroo Valley; 12th January, about 10 a.m., via Nelligen and Braidwood. No conference took place at Jervis Bay. There are no departmental officers there. The object was to obtain firsthand knowledge of the nature of the Territory, the administration of which was a responsibility of the Federal Capital Commission.
Any expenditure by the Civic Administrator, in his official capacity, in connexion with entertaining, is a legitimate charge against the departmental vote for entertaining visitors. The charging of such expenditure to the vote in question is subject to audit by officers of the Commonwealth Audit Office. I have arranged for the items to be independently re-checked. If the honorable member desires to peruse the papers, I shall make the necessary arrangements.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 3rd April (vide page 850) on motion by Mr.
That in addition . . . there be imposed a special duty of customs at the rate of 50 per centum on goods as specified(vide page 819).
From 19th June(vide page 3006) on motions by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 be amended . . .(vide page 2947).
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff be amended . . . (vide page 2997).
That in lieu of the special duty specified in the resolution of 3rd April there be imposed a special duty at the rate of 50 per centum on goods as specified (vide page 2999).
From 9tl, July (vide page 3907) on motions 1’y Mr. Fenton -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1.930 bc further amended . . . (vide page 3904).
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1021- 1930 be further amended . . . (vide page 390” ).
That in addition . . . there be imposed ‘in ad valorem duty of customs (primage duty) at the rate of l per centum on all goods which arc entered for home consumption (vide page 3906).
.- Before the committee proceeds with the debate upon the tariff, I desire to intimate that when the debate is resumed upon the budget I propose to move an amendment in the following terms : -
That thu first item bc reduced by £1, and that this reduction be taken as an instruction to the Government to reconsider the Estimates for the purpose of reducing expenditure (including salaries of Ministers and members) by about £4,000,000, in order to reduce the expenditure approximately to the level of that of 1928-29, and in order to prevent the increase in the cost of living and consequent unemployment which will be brought about by additional taxation.
– I shall not delay the committee for any length of time. The practice has been well established to express general views upon the first item of a tariff schedule, the detailed information being supplied by the Minister when the different items are under consideration.
On the 22nd November last, prior to my departure for the other side of the world, I laid a tariff schedule on the table. A supplementary schedule was tabled on the ensuing 7th December. Then a very considerable addition to the list of items affected was made when the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) moved a certain motion on the 3rd April last; and further additions were made by motions that were moved on the 17th June and the 9th July. It will thus be seen that it would be of little use to attempt a detailed debate to-day. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) and others have often referred to the burden of protective duties, and the impression seems to be that the greater part of the revenue raised through the customs is derived as the result of our protective policy. That is not so, as can be shown by figures which I propose to quote. Our average annual customs and excise receipts are £42,000,000. We raise £11,723,000 from excise duties, and £14,579,000 from revenue duties, or a total of £26,300,000, while from duties which have a protective incidence wc raise £16,300,000.
– The Minister for Customs is the first who has ever separated these duties.
– The first Minister to distinguish between revenue and protective duties was Mr. H. E. Pratten, a man well versed in tariff matters.
– He tried to.
– Yes, and I think he was fairly correct. I am not making any apology for Australia’s .protective policy,, but I wish to correct the impression which seems to be widely held that the whole of our customs and excise revenue, amounting to over £42,000,000 a year, is attributable to Australia’s fiscal policy. When the figures are analysed it is seen that only £16,000,000 is raised by purely protective duties. Great Britain is supposed to be a freetrade country, yet she does not hesitate to. use the customs as a means of raising revenue. With the exception of a few duties imposed for the safeguarding of industry, all her customs duties are revenue duties, and she raises through her customs £150,000,000 a year, and from excise another £150,000,000, making a total from customs and excise duties of £300,000,000.
– Out of a total budget of how much?
– About £700,000,000.
– It would be fairer to give the relative figures in terms of so much per head of population.
– That may beWhen I was in England I was naturally careful to avoid controversy on the tariff issue because I did not wish to obtrude what might be considered a purely local point of view. I think I acted wisely in holding aloof from such discussions, beyond expressing the decided opinion that Empire freetrade was not within the bounds of practical politics. The honorable member for Wimmera will agree that in Great Britain, the so-called freetrade country, the Customs Department is made use of to a very large extent to raise revenue.
In matters of trade, commerce, and finance there are bound to be in the future many revolutionary movements.
– Is that a threat ?
– I am not making any threat; I am commenting on the world’s affairs as I see them to-day. In the realms of trade, commerce, and finance there will be great revolutionary movements through all of which I have not the slightest doubt the principle of protection will remain unshaken.
– Tell us something about the tariff schedule!
– I said before that I do not propose to discuss the separate items. They can be considered later on their merits. Complaints have been made both here and in Great Britain regarding the amount of preference extended by us to Great Britain. Australia first granted preference to Great Britain in 1907, in which year we imported from her £24,000,000 worth of goods. In 1913 we imported £34,000,000, and in 1928 and 1929 we imported approximately £52,000,000 each year. Next to India, Australia is Britain’s best customer of all the British possessions.
– “We all know that.
– Perhaps; but it must be repeated because the statement has been made that this Government is doing something by way of its tariff policy which will lead to a greater diminution of trade between Britain and Australia.
– It was intended to do that.
– To some extent, but the figures show that the actual falling off in trade has not been very great. The final figures are not yet available, but for the first nine months of the last financial year, Australia imported from Great Britain £44,000,000. worth of goods, which is about the average. This proves that notwithstanding the tariff changes a great deal of trade is still being done, and much more could be done if Great Britain were to assert herself in looking after her trade in the same way as other countries are doing. The question to be considered is how far the increased tariff and other restrictive measures have actually affected trade with Britain. The severe limitation of borrowing and the drastic fall in the price of wheat and wool could not fail, irrespective of tariff restrictions, to cause a reduction of imports. The object of the restrictions was to conserve credit available abroad, and to ensure temporarily that it should not be used in payment of goods which we could do without or which could be manufactured in Australia, and thus prevent or hamper the importation of goods such as raw materials, &c, which we really needed. British trade has, therefore, suffered some restriction in common with the trade of all countries doing business with Australia. The restrictive measures apply, however, with greater force to foreign goods than to British goods. It must be kept in mind that a very large proportion of British goods is admitted free under tariff items which provide for rates varying from 10 per cent, to 27 per cent, against foreign goods. Even under the present schedules no fewer than 327 items and sub-items are admitted free from Great Britain. The value of British goods imported under these items in 1928-29 exceeded £26,000,000. It may be incidentally remarked that the value of the British goods so admitted is certainly not less than the total value of all Empire goods which receive preference in Britain under the British tariff. That is rather a remarkable situation. It is evident that we in Australia allow to Great Britain a greater measure of preference than she accords to all the British dominions. Members of all political parties in the United Kingdom and the press have joined in strong expressions of opinion that the Old Country has not responded as it might have done to the preference extended to it by the dominions. I hope that at the forthcoming Imperial and Economic Conferences great strides forward will be made.
– Is the Minister taking into consideration the amount spent by Great Britain in advertising dominion products?
– Yes; with the £1,000,000 that is voted to the Empire Marketing Board for the advertising of market products, good work is being done; but the benefit extends not only to Australia, but also to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and other parts of the Empire. Several important items of British trade - carpets and floor cloths, piece goods of silk, velvets, velveteens, and the like - are subject to low revenue duties with a substantial preference. Adding the British imports under dutiable items to those under the free items already mentioned, we find that about £30,000,000 of the total imports of British trade, amounting to £57,000,000 in 1928-29, is quite unaffected by recent tariff increases or import restrictions. Honorable members must realize that Australia is treating the Mother Country remarkably well.
– What rubbish!
– It is to answer the complaints of the honorable member and others that I am making this statement. If these critics will analyse the figures relating to trade between Great Britain and Australia they will conclude, as many members of all parties in the British Parliament have concluded, that Great Britain has not responded as generously as it might have done to the preference extended by the dominions.
– How does the £30,000,000 worth of goods Australia imports from Great Britain compare with the imports of similar commodities from other countries?
– Our adverse trade balance with the United States is very serious, although I hope that the schedules now before the committee will help to improve it. That country sells to Australia about £40,000,000 worth of goods and purchases not more than £12,000,000 worth. The balance of trade between Australia and Canada also is very much against us. While I was in America I made pointed comment on this fact.
– What did Uncle Sam say?
– I cannot say now, but I hope that through the action that has been taken in connexion with these schedules, and other action to be taken in the near future, the balance of trade between Australia and the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain, will be more satisfactory than it is at the present time. These adverse trade balances are largely responsible for Aus tralia’s present financial and economic difficulties.
– The Government is making the position worse.
– The honorable member may say so, but English newspapers and men of standing were saying up to the time I left England that the Government was adopting the only sound course to rectify the economic position.
– The prices of our stocks prove that!
– The prices fluctuate, and I understand that at present they are rising. Our stocks did not suffer on the British market solely on account of what has been happening in Australia; the Hatry collapse and the Wall-street crash were contributing factors.
– Why did they not affect New Zealand and South African stocks ?
– Those stocks suffered to some extent, but not so badly as ours. In order to get the proper perspective of British trade it is necessary to remember that Australia, with a population of 6,500,000, imported during the five years 1924-25 to 1928-29 British goods to a value exceeding by £34,000,000 the value of goods exported during the same period to the United Kingdom with a population of 45,000,000. If, calculated on a population basis, the United Kingdom imported as much from Australia as Australia imports from her, the former would need to buy from the Commonwealth goods to the value of over £400,000,000 annually, instead of about £50,000,000. Those figures are a convincing reply to critics who say that we have not dealt fairly with our kith and kin across the seas. I say unhesitatingly that Australia should produce as much of its own requirements as it can.
– At any price?
– No. The slogan I used abroad was “Australia first, Great Britain next, and other overseas dominions third.” That posted by the Empire Marketing Board throughout the United Kingdom . is “ Buy home-made goods first; then patronize the dominions.” There is little difference between the two slogans; both urge the people to give first preference to goods manufactured in theirown country, and after that to purchase elsewhere within the Empire.
If practical effect be given to that sentiment in Great Britain, Australia’s trade with the Old Country will be greatly improved.
– We cannot ask for more than that.
– I do not ask for more than that, but sometimes Australia’s attitude is criticized by people who have not taken the trouble to analyze the statistics of trade between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom. I met in London men who call themselves live free traders, and who are determined to die in the 3a.me fiscal faith; yet even some of them sympathize with the measures Australia is adopting, and are certainly not so critical as are some of our own people who are not free traders. The following items are indicative of the trade that Australia does with the Old Country: -
Galvanized sheets. - Australia ranks second U> India us a market, taking £1,500,000 in 11)20.
Tinned plates. - Australia is the best market in the world for the British exporter, taking £1,103,000 worth.
Tubus, pipes, fittings, wrought. - Australia is the best market, taking more than twice the amount purchased by any other country.
Wire and wire manufactures. - Australia purchases more than any other country.
Cutlery. - Australia buys more than any other single country.
Electrical machinery. - Australia ranks second after India as a market for .British goods.
Cotton piece goods. - Australia is second best market, purchasing nearly £7,000,000 worth in 1020, or more than the combined purchases of China and Japan.
Linen piece goods. - Australia is second best market after the United States of America, purchasing more than all European countries together.
Printing paper. - Australia is best market. Out of total British exports of £3,828,000, Australia takes 52 per cent.
Motor car chassis. - Australia is far and away the best single market for British chassis, purchasing 43 per cent, of total British exports.
Motor cycles. - Australia buys more than any other single country.
Other items could be quoted from the British Board of Trade returns, which further corroborate my statement that Australia is doing its duty to the Empire. If other dominions were trading with the United Kingdom in anything like the same proportion, there would be no unemployment in the Mother Country to-day. Certainly if Great Britain would manufacture locally a substantial proportion of the £1,300,000,000 worth of goods it imports from other countries, its economic position would be much improved.
– Raw materia] forms a big proportion of the imports.
– Yes, but after deducting raw materials and foodstuffs, there remain many million pounds worth of goods which the United Kingdom should be producing instead of importing them from other countries where labour is cheaper.
In regard to Australia’s ability to manufacture, a few figures will be of interest as indicating the strides that have been made in secondary industries, particularly in the production of textiles. In 1923-1924, there were 47 woollen and tweed mills, employing 7,532 persons and having an output of £4,863,657. In 1927- 1928, the number of factories had increased to 57, the employees to 11,638, and the total value of the output to £7,601,435.
– Do not those figures prove that the tariff then in force was quite effective?
– During the six years in which the Bruce-Page Government was in office, tariff schedules were introduced which considerably increased the duties. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) could have hidden himself behind the tariff barricade his Government built up, and buried himself in the generous customs revenue he was collecting. In 1923-1924, 225 hosiery and knitting mills employed 6,573 persons, and had a total output worth £3,300,000. By 1927-1928 the figures had risen to: factories, 242; employees, 9,880, and value of output, £5,186,351.
– The tariff of those days seems to have been very good.
– All the substantial increases were consequent upon the imposition of higher duties. The total number of employees in textile industries increased to 61,000, and the value of the output- reached £30,000,000.
– Does the Minister say that we on the Opposition side are all freetraders ?
– Honorable members opposite, when they formed a composite government, by an amalgamation of the Nationalist and Country parties, used their majority in imposing duties; but now they wish to change their tariff coats.
– What is the object of making a speech against freetrade in this Parliament?
– It is true that, election after election, the people have voted in favour of protection. Manufacturing industries provide a great variety of employment, because, with the adoption of improved methods of production opportunities are afforded for the exercise of many different talents. Honorable members opposite often say that the primary producer is the greatest sufferer under the tariff; but I maintain that if Australia were to adopt a freetrade policy, the man on the land would be more liable to exploitation than he is to-day. When British manufacturers were able to compete against manufacturers of typewriters in the United States of America, a reduction occurred in the price of those machines in England to the extent of nearly £20 each. Often the imposition of duties and the establishment of new industries in Australia have brought about a reduction in the prices charged to local consumers. I believe that, as mass production increases, there will be a considerable reduction in prices. We all hope that ere long Australia will experience a return to favorable seasons and normal conditions generally. The primary producer should realize that the home market is his best market. If some honorable members had their way they would brush aside all tariff barriers. That would probably result in importations from cheap-labour countries; but that would not provide Australia with a home market for its own products. Australia has about 500,000 employees in its factories, and the wage fund amounts to nearly £100,000,000 annually. Has not that huge fund some beneficial effect upon the man on the land? Without our protective policy we should be unable to retain our present population.
It is fortunate for Australia that certain manufacturing industries are fairly well established here. I think that everybody knows that the material and workmanship put into Australian agricultural machinery makes it the best in the world.
In Canada, I found that H. V. McKay and Company had gone there to manufacture agricultural implements.
– Why has that Australian firm begun to manufacture implements in another country?
– First of all, it is because in Canada that company has a big market right at its door, and the second reason is that the company is better able to cater for the Argentine from Canada than from Australia. I met the head of the firm after he had made arrangements for establishing his works in Canada. I had read an announcement in the Australian press that Mr. McKay had said something very unfavorable aboutAustralian industry, and Australian workmanship.I saw him immediatelyupon his arrival at Sydney. He denied the statement attributed to him, and told me that the Australian workmen were the best in the world. He added that, so far as his industry was concerned, he was perfectly satisfied.
– It is absurd to say that our workmen are the best in the world. They may be as good as any others.
– I have met captains of industry who have confirmed Mr. McKay’s statement. Shortly after the establishment of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works I remarked to Mr. Delprattupon the fact that that company was undertaking new work so far as Australia was concerned, and that it employed a large number of Australians. Mr. Delpratt replied. “ Excepta few leading hands, all the men we have in these great works are Australians.” He paid the Australian workman the compliment of saying thathe was the most adaptable in the world. That was high praise indeed.
– Discuss the tariff schedule. Do not raise bogies.
– Only yesterday honorable members opposite spoke very derogatorily of Australian workmen.
– Is the Minister ashamed of the schedule?
– No. I am not ashamed of the protectionist policy of Australia, but sometimes I am ashamed of what some persons say about Australians. I can assure honorable members oppositethat every opportunity will be given for discussion on the various items in the schedule. Complaints are sometimes heard about the quality of Australian agricultural implements. A test was made in Canada some time ago of combined harvesters. All the leading American machines competed, and each was allotted the same quantity of crop. An Australian harvester completed its work in three hours less time, and did the job better, than any other machine in the competition. Ho doubt that victory was gained by the harvester made by the Australian company which has now established a factory in Canada.
Some honorable members would have us believe that primary and secondary industries are not interdependent. I give way to no one in my admiration of our primary producers; but I maintain that, particularly in a country like Australia, these industries are absolutely interdependent, and should operate to their mutual advantage. The January report of the Agricultural Department of the United States of America states that, owing to industrial depression in that country, primary products command low prices, and in some cases are hardly saleable. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st May, published an article on the wool industry, in which the following paragraph occurs: -
If unemployment figures in Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and elsewhere were less staggering than they are at present, the wool position would look decidedly sound; but while they exist the world’s purchasing power cannot be considered strong enough to result in a marked increase of trade in woollen goods. A sharp development of that nature would be necessary to create the shortage of wool needed to cause a lift in prices to the ‘levels ruling for some years prior to this season.
That is a quotation from a newspaper that cannot be described as a protectionist journal, and it shows that if the workers are not employed to .the fullest possible extent, great depression occurs in primary industries.
– The depression in Australia is due to the fall in the prices of wool and wheat.
– Unfortunately, the prices of these products have fallen, but similar declines in prices have occurred in other parts of the world. Every country is suffering on this account. But the industrial depression, which prevails in almost every part of the world, has seriously affected the price of primary products. Our circumstances are such that every one should be prepared to make a sacrifice to help us to recover our prosperity; but it is deplorable that certain interests in the community should suggest that our wage-earners should be the first to suffer. “Wage reduction is not, in my opinion, the right starting point. A good wage fund is the greatest blessing that any country can have. If wages are widely distributed, a strong purchasing fund may be built up.
– Does not that depend upon the source from which the wage fund is replenished!
– Of course the fund must be replenished by the doing of work.
– We must get value for the work done.
– It is surprising to me that some honorable members should so consistently assert that we do not get value for the money that is spent in wages. The workers of this country are all too frequently accused of going slow. In my opinion, our industrial difficulties are due not to any dereliction of duty on the part of the workers, but to waste that is incurred in the management of industry. Some time ago, a committee was appointed by the Federated Engineering Societies of the United States of America to consider how waste in industry could be eliminated. Its report was published in a volume entitled Waste in Industry. A table in chapter 2 of the book assays the sources and causes of waste in certain specified industries as follows: -
Those figures prove conclusively that, in relation to the industries specified, the responsibility for the great bulk of the waste that occurs must be laid at the door of the management. The foreword to the book, which was contributed by Mr. Herbert Hoover, now President of the United States, of America, contains the following paragraph: -
We have probably the highest ingenuity and efficiency in the operation of our industries of any nation, yet our industrial machine is far from perfect.
If the managerial position in a highlydeveloped industrial country like America is as stated in that table, I am satisfied that the position in a young and developing industrial country like Australia must be much more unsatisfactory. At any rate, it is quite clear that the wastage in industry is not chiefly due to the inefficiency of the workers. If the wages of the Australian workers who are registered under the Arbitration Court were reduced by an average of 10s. a week, it would lessen the purchasing power of the people by £20,000,000 per annum. Such a reduction would seriously affect the prices of primary and other products.
I have not attempted to deal with the schedules in detail, because I can deal with the items much more effectively as they come before us for specific consideration. I shall then give members of the committee the fullest possible information as to why the variations in duty have been made. I believe that all honorable members recognize that we are at present passing through a very serious period of our history. Our difficulties are due to causes over which we have no control, and which are operating in other countries as well as Australia. The Government was forced to take drastic steps to meet the situation. It was with interest that we heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) declare, when the schedule was tabled which provided for a 50 per cent, surcharge in respect of certain items of the tariff, and the announcement was made of the issuing of the proclamation which prohibited the importations of certain commodities, that the step that the Government had taken was, although drastic, brave and courageous. I hope that he is still of that opinion. The Government has introduced these schedules with the best of intentions, not only to protect certain industries, but also to increase the revenue. We hope that, before very long, the country will be restored to its previous prosperous condition, and that all honorable members will give us credit for having acted in what we conceive to be the best interests of the whole community. [Quorum formed.]
.- I regret that I am unable to congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) upon the speech he has just delivered. More platitudes have issued from the lips of the honorable gentleman in the last half hour than have come in a similar time from the lips of any other person in this country since Captain Cook first sighted it. We have not heard a word about the items in the schedules, nor about the increase in unemployment that has occurred since the schedules were tabled. I do not propose to follow the example of the Minister and make a speech merely of vague generalities. The great array of schedules now before the committee represents not only a series of tariff revisions of a kind to which we are quite unaccustomed, but also a profound and startling change in what we have hitherto regarded as the purpose and manner of Australian tariffmaking. It has been the practice in the past to present to Parliament a schedule providing for the imposition of duties on a carefully-selected number of manufactured articles, with the object of enabling the Australian manufacturers of them to compete successfully with the overseas manufacturers; but these schedules confer upon the Australian manufacturers, without any discrimination whatever, an absolute monopoly of the Australian trade. Previous tariff revisions have been made on well-defined and recognized principles. Before any alterations have been tabled, prolonged and exhaustive examinations have been made to ascertain the probable effect of them, but these schedules might easily have been prepared by a junior clerk of the Customs Department, acting upon a crude formula supplied by the Government. The first schedule of the number now. before us was tabled last November, and affected 240 items of the tariff. The increases were so pronounced in most of the items as virtually to prohibit importations. The second schedule was tabled in December, principally . to correct mistakes already discovered in the November schedule; but also to impose substantial increases of duty on a number of new items. These two schedules covered about MOO items. Then came the so-called emergency schedule of the Srd April, which imposed a surcharge of 50 per cent, on 51 items, ostensibly with the object of adjusting, to some extent, our adverse trade balance. Simultaneously with the tabling of that schedule, a proclamation was issued which totally prohibited the importation of 78 items, also ostensibly with the object of further adjusting our trade balance. The last schedule was tabled in June, and imposed increased duties on 140 items. These also were of a prohibitory character. Like all honorable members of the committee, I wish the Government wall in this great economic venture. Even if every sound principle of tariff-making has been violated in connexion with ‘ the preparation of these schedules, I am sure that honorable members sincerely hope that it may be proved that the Government has acted wisely in taking these steps, although most of us on this side of the committee feel that it has acted unwisely. If the adoption of this policy enables us to pass quickly through the perilous times in which we find ourselves, and fulfils the expectations of the Government, no one will be more hea rty or genuine in his congratulations than I. I wish the committee to accept my word that, although I. shall express disagreement with the policy that the Government has adopted in this regard, I shall do so without any party bias or interest. The crisis which is now upon us is too acute and grave for any party considerations to be allowed to obtrude themselves. My difference of opinion with the Government with regard to these tariff proposals is due to the fact that, try as I will, I cannot believe that its action will, as a whole, or even in substantial part, prove to be in the best interests of Australian industries or of the people of Australia.
Before I begin to speak of the merits off the various schedules, I wish to express a very strong protest at the failure of the Prime Minister to furnish honorable members with an opportunity to discuss the various schedules item by item before the session closes. In doing so I think that I am speaking for the Opposition generally. In his failure to do that the Prime Minister is adopting an attitude that is inimical to the rights and business fortunes of a great number of individuals whose interests are particularly concerned and prejudices the rights and interests of the Australian people as a whole. I quite recognize the difficulty in which the Prime Minister finds himself with regard to time, but in his determination not to permit the committee to discuss the schedules item by item the right honorable gentleman is guilty of a very grave breach of faith with this Parliament. In Hansard of the 23rd November, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
I am one who believes that a tariff schedule should bc discussed by Parliament as early as possible. Of course, it would be impossible to debate it before the Christmas adjournment, but 1 am hopeful that we shall be able to deal with it very early in the new year.
Later the Prime Minister was far more specific, and I particularly direct attention to the speech that he made after the introduction of the schedule of surcharges and prohibitions, as reported in Hansard of the 5th April last. The right honorable gentleman then gave a very definite promise to honorable members, when he said -
Honorable members will bc given an opportunity to discuss this matter immediately to some extent. I do not say that we shall be able to discuss the schedule item by item now; but immediately after we reassemble following the Easter vacation, that is in about three weeks time, the schedule will be discussed item by item.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister has broken his pledge to Parliament. The prospective date for the discussion of the items is now, apparently, some time next year. The Prime Minister hae not given us the promised opportunity, because he desires to attend the Imperial Conference in London. Honorable members may differ from me, but it is my considered opinion that it is of greater importance to this country that an opportunity should now be given to discuss the schedules item by item, than that the Prime Minister should go to the Imperial Conference. These schedules represent the most far-reaching measures of an economic nature that have ever been brought before a Commonwealth Parliament. Yet we are not to bc granted an opportunity to debate them. This afternoon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), treated the committee with contempt, and made no attempt to discuss this important business. The Prime Minister cannot claim precedent for the continued delay. These tariff schedules have produced an industrial and financial earthquake, violently disrupting and recasting Australian industry and commerce, and dislocating and substantially destroying the preferential basis of our trade with the Motherland. I say that despite all that has been said here this afternoon by the Minister for Trade and Customs. Further, these schedules have curtailed and greatly prejudiced our. commerce with foreign countries, to our discredit and disadvantage. The magnitude and violence of the changes are entirely without parallel, and the action of the Government in refusing an early opportunity to discuss the schedules item by item cannot be too deeply regretted o.r too strongly condemned.
The Prime Minister stated that there is no time for such a debate. But months wore spent by Parliament on measures of incomparably lesser importance. Weeks were given to a discussion of the referendum proposals. Where are those proposals now? We also devoted weeks of our time to the debate on tho Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Does any honorable member contend that that measure even begins to equal these tariff schedules in importance?
– It certainly will not give one man employment.
– Nor have these tariffs. It is of first-rate importance to the nation, and to our inter-Empire and international relationship that these schedules should bc debated item by item during this session.
– Surely such a discussion is essential to our proper representation at the Imperial Conference?
– I quite agree with the honorable member. Our Prime Minister will approach the conference at a great disadvantage if he leaves this matter untouched. The action of his Government with regard to these schedules can only prejudice our trade relations overseas. The right honorable gentleman will be compelled to say, “ It is true that my Government brought down these tariff schedules, but it has not yet found time to discuss their significance or the manner in which they will affect the industries of the Motherland.” What a startingpoint for a conference designed to bring about closer relations !
The very serious question arises : Is the Government afraid to bring down these items for discussion? Only one of the new tariff items has been brought before the chamber for discussion, and that we dragged in through the courtesy of a generous chairman; I refer to the cotton duties. As a result of the strong * endeavours aud the general co-operation of honorable members a number of significant changes were made in those duties. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs had made heavily dutiable a great number of classes of yarn, the raw material used by many of the cotton clothing manufacturers of Australia, and he would not even confer with people when they applied for a conference.
– They were never refused a conference. I stated that it would be held as soon as a suitable opportunity presented itself.
– A conference was refused. The hand of the Minister was forced by the debate in this chamber, and subsequent admissions of yarn were in consequence greater. Aa a. result of that discussion one firm. alone was allowed to bring into Australia last week about four tons of a cotton yarn that had hitherto been heavily dutiable in order to assist the cotton-spinners of Australia, who actually were not making that specific yarn. I mention that merely to indicate what good would come out of a general debate on these tariff items. I believe that it would result in hundreds of changes being made which would greatly relieve our Australian industry and make employment available for a number of people who are now workless. It is impossible to debate items on what might be termed the second-reading stage of this measure.
I wish to refer to the appalling congestion that is now taking place in the Customs Department as a result of the new tariff. When I asked the Minister recently to show generosity to applications for by-law admission, especially in [regard to raw materials, the Prime Minister said that no delay was taking place. When I was in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs last year prolonged delay occurred on the investigation side with regard to applications for by-law admissions. Those by-law admission applications have probably increased by at least tenfold as a result of the new tariffs and, up to a week ago, the investigations officers staff had not been increased. As they were running months late in their investigations last year, it is reasonable to conclude that the most appalling congestion now takes place. That is all the more reason why honorable members should be given an opportunity to discuss these matters.
I have endeavoured to debate this subject free from party bias, as I believe that is the way in which all should approach it. Without a single exception, not even that of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), this is a protectionist House. Any difference that may exist among members in the policy of protection is merely a matter of degree. As a Nationalist, I speak for a party that has always been strongly protectionist. That claim is clearly borne out by my party’s record. I mention that only because Nationalists have been charged, on account of their opposition to what I regard as the fanaticism displayed in this recent tariff making, with being particular friends of the merchants and importers, and so on. The simple truth is that the Australian manufacturer owes his very existence, and it is no mean existence, to a succession of tariff imposts placed on the statute-book by Nationalist Governments or their predecessors, the Liberals. From our policy and efforts has grown the great and flourishing secondary industry of this country. For nearly 30 years every tariff schedule introduced in this Parliament - with the single exception of a relatively short schedule brought down by the late Mr. Tudor - and every item that has become law, has been the work of a Nationalist or Liberal Minister for Trade and Customs. That fact surely puts an end to the foolish assertion that because we differ in some degree from the Government in respect of these schedules, we are to be regarded as suspect on the tariff question. I shall now inform honorable members of the growth of secondary industries in this country during eleven years of the regime of the Nationalist and Nationalist-Country party Government. The first Nationalist Government was formed in 1917 and the Bruce-Page Government went out of office in October, 1929. In 1917 there were in Australia 15,179 factories, and in 1928 22,775 factories, an increase of 7,596, or 50 per cent. That progress was made under the rule of Nationalist Ministers for Trade and Customs, and under the NationalistCountry party protectionist policy.
– Did the honorable member say the protectionist policy of the Country party?
– The Country party was associated with us when the two great tariffs were introduced, and was cordially disposed towards them. The total capital invested, over those twelve years, increased from £90,000,000 to £231,000,000, an increase of £140,000,000 or 156 per cent. The total number of employees increased from 321,000 to 464,000, an increase of 142,000 or 44 per cent. So the record proceeds. This extraordinary progress was in no sense accidental. It was due to a great degree to the deliberate protectionist policy of the Nationalist party, first, as expressed in special protective measures of an emergency kind during the war, having, as they were intended to have, permanent protective incidence, and later as expressed in three great tariff schedules, the first introduced by Mr., now Senator, Greene in 1922, and the others subsequently by the late Mr. Pratten. Further tariff proposals with a view to extending the policy of protection were under actual consideration by me, as Minister for Trade and Customs, when the life of the BrucePage Government came to an end.
– In what way would those proposals have differed from the schedule under discussion?
– I assure the honorable member that had the Bruce-Page Government remained in office those proposals would have been introduced in this Parliament before now, but they would have borne little or no resemblance to the tariff measure now under discussion. Had I, as Minister for Trade and Customs brought down a tariff schedule of a kind with which this country has hitherto been familiar, we would not have experienced this awful increase of unemployment, and this terrific and violent dislocation of the industrial fabric of Australia which has been brought about by the operations of the tariff policy of this Government. There would have been a change of tariff, but only as the result of exhaustive consideration.
– Would the honorable member have increased the duties?
– I do not believe that a tariff can stand still. It must inevitably progress and change.
– Sometimes upwards and sometimes downwards, but it can never stand still. I trust that this tariff will not stand still. While we are protectionists, there is a wide degree of variation in regard to the tariff schedules between the views of this Government and those of the Nationalist party. We take the tariff, item by item, and consider each on its merits. The Nationalist members would never provide the extraordinary spectacle which we see opposite of some 46 honorable gentlemen wildly enthusiastic about every tariff proposal that is brought before them, without any consideration at all of the relative merits of each item concerned. Broadly speaking, I can lay this down on behalf of the Nationalist party. We stand, today, as we have always stood, for effective protection, first, for industries essential to national security, and, secondly, for industries for which Australian conditions offer opportunities for success at a reasonable cost, direct and indirect. I can perhaps continue to express our protectionist principles in one or two negative statements. Nationalism does not stand for indiscriminate, prohibitive tariffs, nor for the wholesale creation of manufacturing monopolies. We stand for protection for industries upon a selective basis, taking into consideration the supply of raw material, climate, supply of labour, and dimensions and purchasing capacity of our local market. We do not stand for protection for all industries regardless of their relative promise and cost. We differ from our friends opposite in that we believe in competition in all things. We believe that all industries that are artificially protected must be assured of some measure of competition from within or without. We are proud to believeand it is remarkable to me that honorable members supporting the Government apparently no longer believe it - that the Australian people, who provide protection for secondary industries, must, in their turn, be absolutely guaranteed protection against possible exploitation by those industries. We are uncompromisingly opposed to the creation of industrial and trade monopolies through the agency of the tariff. We stand resolutely for the fullest attainable measure of Empire trade, and especially for preferential trade between Australia and the Mother Country. We believe that anything that aims to reduce the measure of preferential trade that has been in operation in recent years, is an influence calculated definitely to weaken the ties of Empire. Further, we believe in the cultivation of the maximum attainable trade with all foreign countries, consistent with the progress and preservation of Australian industry. We are opposed to tariff measures of a selfish and provocative kind, calculated to excite retaliation from foreign countries against Australian primary production.
– What sort of a tariff does the honorable member advocate ?
– The tariff that we have always given to this country, the old tariff to which Australia is accustomed and which has operated so beneficially in the interests of the Commonwealth. Finally, we believe that in tariffmaking, particularly at the present time, it is of supreme importance that nothing shall be done to impose further burdens on the primary producers. Never has it been so important that Australian primary production should be stimulated and increased with a view to heavier exports. I have endeavoured to set out briefly the principles by which this party stands today, and which have guided us in tariffmaking in the past. I do not say that at times we have not departed from those principles. At times we have broken our rules, but, broadly speaking, the tariffs that Nationalist Governments have introduced have been expressions of the principles that I have enunciated. I wish to contrast those principles and the practice in the past with this Government’s tariff policy as expressed in the various schedules that it has introduced. First, I wish to make clear the attitude of this party towards the surcharges and prohibitions imposed ostensibly for the purpose of bringing about a better balance of trade. The Government’s action in prohibiting imports as an emergency step necessary to restore the balance of trade has the conditional support of the Nationalist party. Any genuine emergency measures we shall warmly support. The conditions on which the late Government might have adopted similar proposals are, first, that we would have had to be satisfied that such action was absolutely necessary; and, secondly, that these emergency tariff measures - surcharges and prohibitions - would be kept absolutely clear from the ordinary revenue or protective items. They would have had to appear in an emergency schedule, and be kept apart from others. Then the surcharges and prohibitions would have had to be imposed for a specified time only. There would need to be a close time limit, with, of course, the inherent right to extend it if necessary. Those, to me, are most essential conditions, in order to prevent vested interests from being built up inside the new emergency barriers.
– Would not a time limit lead to more uncertainty?
– I do not agree with the honorable member. The surcharges are designed solely for the purpose of arresting imports, and they should be imposed for a certain period, with the right to extend them. I admit that that would be somewhat unsatisfactory to the importers, but it would give a clear indication to the manufacturers of this country that, if they take advantage of those special barriers by investing capital and building up works behind’ them, they do so at their own risk. The Government goes on gaily. These duties will never be taken off unless, perhaps, some national necessity arises to cause them to be dealt with ruthlessly.
– The Prime Minister made it clear that most of the measures for the rectification of the trade balance were of a temporary nature.
– It is true that the right honorable gentleman said that these measures were of a temporary nature; but when the Opposition endeavoured to secure a time limit - which would have made them temporary in fact - it met with an emphatic refusal.
– How could a time limit be arrived at, seeing that it might take six, twelve, or even eighteen months to rectify matters?
– Whatever time was stipulated could have been extended if necessary.
I fear that there has been a good deal of misunderstanding, and many misstatements, in connexion with these prohibitions and surcharges. First we were told that the Government acted at the urgent request of the bankers of Australia. That I deny. Probably some of the bankers recommended the action afterwards taken by the Government; but the best brains of the banking world wore opposed to such action. They believe that the balance of trade could have been readjusted by means of the exchange rate, a.nd by the compelling force of the diminishing purchasing capacity. I say without apology that both the surcharges and the prohibitions cover many purely protective items which were smuggled in deliberately. They were not necessary to meet any emergency. I took out of the list of prohibitions no less than 25items, including canary seed and snuff, the importations of which represented an annual value of only £9,000 per item. Will the Assistant Minister saythat canary seed and snuff were prohibited as emergency measures?
– A responsible officer of the department went into the matter, which was later considered by the Tariff Board and a sub-committee of Cabinet.
– The Assistant Minister has made no effort to justify the inclusion of many of these items. I say again that they were smuggled in. Fancy prohibiting the importation of 25 items representing an importation of only £9,000 each!
– They represent luxuries.
– Is canary seed a luxury? The reason that canary seed is included in the list of prohibitions is that it is grown in the Darling Downs electorate; it represents a Queensland industry. These minor items should never have been included in a list of prohibitions. If the industries concerned required protection they should have been dealt with in a normal tariff schedule.
I desire now to refer to the tariff schedules introduced in November and December of last year and June of this year. In my opinion they contain many objectionable features. They represent a series of ill-conceived actions based on the extreme fiscal theories of the Labour party. The story of these schedules, prior to their being tabled in Parliament, would make interesting reading. In the majority of cases the Government decided on the items to be protected without any requests for protection and without regard to the necessities of those engaged in the industries concerned. I have no hesitation in saying that when the Labour party caine into power in October last, the Australian manufacturers did not dream that in the following month it would introduce a tariff schedule of the nature of that tabled in November. As the Minister for Trade and Customs in the late Government, it was my duty to visit the several State capitals. On manyoccasions I met the manufacturers of Sydney and Melbourne. The manufacturing interests in thosecities were advised beforehand of my visits, and they availed themselves of my presence there to bring forward matters which affected them. I say, without hesitation, that a very great majority of the manufacturers of Melbourne were perfectly satisfied with the tariff schedule then opera ting, although I admit that some strong dissatisfaction existed among the manufacturers of Sydney. That dissatisfaction was, however, not due to the fact that generally speaking the then existing duties were not high enough; it was due, in the main, to the extreme social and industrial legislation brought in by the Lang Government. But even the manufacturers of Sydney did not ask for a schedule of the nature of that which was submitted in November last. Prior to the Labour party assuming office, the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures did notask for even 10 per cent. of the new duties on the scale contained in the November schedule. That schedule was brought before Parliament without any reference to the Tariff Board, or any proper consultation with the expert officers of the department. The Tariff Board had reported on only a few of the items contained in it. In tabling that schedule, the Government deliberately broke the law by ignoring the Tariff Board as it lias done with each of the tariff schedules it has introduced since then. I believe that the November schedule was largely the work of the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures which prepared it hurriedly at the urgent request of the Government.
– It is a true statement. Neither the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, nor the Federated Chamber of Manufactures, was consulted by the Government. That amazing schedule is obviously the work of a clerk working to a formula. Indeed, it may be said to be the work of an office boy. acting on instructions to increase various items by a certain rate per cent. It does not discriminate between industries or branches of industries.
– That is an extravagant statement.
– Some day I may tell honorable members a little more about the part played by the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures in the preparation of that schedule; but I shall not delay the committee now to do so.
– Let us have it all now.
– When the November schedule was tabled, I do not think that the Government contemplated the introduction of the further tariff schedules which, have since become law. But the result of that schedule was to divide the manufacturers of. Australia into two classes - a minority class which, by reason of that schedule, enjoyed the protection of a prohibitive tariff, and a monopoly of the Australian market; and a majority section which still had to face overseas competition. I think that is the explanation of the hundreds of deputations which waited on the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.. Forde) during recent months.
– Yet the honorable member blamed me for refusing to see somebody on one occasion.
– Those manufacturers who were left in the cold, in that they were not sheltered by a wall of prohibitions, naturally asked to be given similar protection to that given to other manufacturers. The. pressure they brought to bear on the Government was the chief reason for the tariff wall being raised in so many other directions. But at no stage was proper consideration given to particular industries or branches of industries. The Government entirely ignored the policy of selection, which, in my opinion, is of paramount importance! in the preparation of a tariff schedule. The policy of the Labour party is to give clumsy, ill-considered assistance to all industries indiscriminately rather than to give reasonable assistance .to a number of selected industries for which conditions in Australia are favorable. In giving effect to its policy of protection, a government should select, for assistance, those industries for which our resources and general conditions are most suitable. Such industries should not be burdened through having to pay for the bolstering up of other industries for which conditions in Australia are not suitable. Yet that is what the Government is doing. I am growing a little tired of the persistence with which the statement is made that it is only our primary products that can be exported. Have we lost our pride in our country and our workmanship? Is not our raw material obtainable in abundance and infinitely diverse in character? Have we not a magical climate that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world? Are «ot our workmen the equal of those to be found anywhere? And yet is there anything that has been handled to any extent by Australian workmen that we cannot export? If our tariff policy were fashioned wisely we should find within a few years that we were in a position to export manufactured goods. I am not endeavouring to escape responsibility for past policies that have operated against the building up of an export trade in manufactured goods. All parties have erred in that respect, mainly because there has not been a proper selection of the industries that should be protected, and a concentration upon those that were big and profitable, with the object of giving them the cheapest possible service. Typical examples of misdirected action are furnished by the Sunshine Harvester Company and the condition of our .leather export trade. There has been discussion of the action of Messrs. McKay in establishing their industry in Canada. The suggestion has been made that the fault lay with Australian labour ; but that is not the case. The removal of those works from Australia was the outcome of one of the most unfortunate decisions and sustained acts of policy that could be imagined. This company was refused Australian iron and .steel at world’s parity prices. For . years, different governments have declined to meet them in that way, because of the influence that was brought to bear by extreme protectionists in this country. Had they been able to obtain their raw material at world’s parity prices, all their manufacturing for the overseas trade would have been carried out at the. Sunshine works. It is incumbent upon us, if our manufactures are to be placed where we would like to see them - in a position to compete on the markets of the world - to clear away a lot of the old bias and folly. It was a “dog in the manger” policy to refuse the Sunshine Harvester Company their requirements of iron and steel at world’s parity prices; because they were unable to carry on without that concession.
The exports of leather from Australia are valued at only a few hundred thousand pounds, but they would be much larger if the leather manufacturers could obtain at world’s parity prices their requirements of wattle bark.
I have said that the policy of giving prohibitive assistance to every kind of industry, great and small, worthy and unworthy, that has been carried to a hopeless extreme by this Government, casts a definite burden upon every manufacturer in Australia. It is the accumulation of these slight increases, caused by the assistance that is granted to industries that are not successful, and from which it should be withheld, that more than anything else raises the cost of living, and thus influence largely the cost of production.
Let me give an example of what happens when a tariff is hurriedly prepared, as this tariff has been by the present Government. The Government first increased the duties on imported confectionery, and then placed a prohibition upon imports. Before that action was taken, only l£ per cent, of the confectionery consumed in Australia was imported. At a deputation that waited upon the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) in May, all the big manufacturing confectioners begged to be placed in the position that they formerly occupied. They stated that the quantity being imported was so small as to have no effect, and that the prohibition of its importation would not increase employment or the use of plant and capital in Australia. The Government, in its hurried endeavour to assist other industries, had added to the cost of the raw material required by the manufacturers to such an extent that they feared that selling prices would have to be increased, and that, in the present state of depression, such increase would affect sales and inevitably reduce employment.
Had honorable members been given an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules item by item, hundreds of anomalies would have been brought to light. They could then have been removed, and a great measure of relief would have been afforded to Australian industry and the unemployment position. The Government was extraordinarily unmindful of the economic circumstances of Australia when it decided upon this wild policy of protection. Apparently the members of the Cabinet were the only persons in this country who were not aware that conditions had never been more unfavorable to the expansion of any industry in Australia. When the Government embarked upon this wild scheme for the purpose of employing Australian capital in the erection of Australian plant and the engagement of Australian labour, the position of this country was so serious that capital was not available for new enterprises of any kind, no matter how rich in promise they might be. Money could not be found for the greatest bargains on the stock exchange, industrial or otherwise; for the simple reason that one cannot obtain cash for investment in something cheap and good without selling something equally cheap and equally good. That is a simple truth which is obvious to everybody except the members of the Government. The Government knows that, so far, its policy has been a complete washout, and that it has had a negative, rather than a positive, result upon Australian industry. Even if capital were available, not only is the purchasing power of the people very low, but, as is always the case in a period of depression, abnormal economy is being practised throughout Australia. Therefore, the Government could not have selected a worse time for the destruction of the existing business fabric and the erection of a new edifice. Apparently the present-day Labour party does not dislike monopolies. Those honorable members who are familiar with the Commonwealth Parliament as it was constituted 25 or 30 years ago, will remember the time that was occupied by members of the Labour party then in denouncing monopolies such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the tobacco trust. They then regarded those trusts and combines as the enemies of Labour, and fought them through thick and thin. To-day, however, the Labour party is adopting’ an entirely different attitude. The monopolists, especially the manufacturing monopolists, have become Labour’s gods, to whom the offerings of their worshippers cannot be too rich or be made too frequently. It is remarkable to see these representatives of the great industrial constituencies embarking upon a policy that creates monopoly after monopoly within Australia. I should like to, go through this schedule item by item, and to show the powerful millionaire firms, many of which are owned by individuals, that have been fattened and greased by this Labour Government. I believe that it aimed to place these people in such a position that they would be able not only to observe existing awards, but also to accept still more fanciful awards, as well as to increase the volume of employment. That is the only objective that I can guess at or think of. The miscalculation, however, was complete. But unfortunately the evil to Australia does not end there. We have created these chains of monopolies, and sooner or later we shall have to get rid of them. I venture to prophesy that we shall live to see the Labour party as well as other parties spending months in each year in an endeavour to restrain the monopolies that Labour has brought into being.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member favoured mergers.
– I do, on the condition that they are subject to some competition from outside. Neither I nor the party to which I am attached favours the setting up of a monopoly of any kind. Tous, monopolies are hideous. What inevitably mustbe the effect of these monopolies? So soon as a monopoly is established, you lose control of price levels and standards of quality. I do not want a big inflow in any industry; but it should be an essential condition that those that are subsidized at the expense of the public should be subject to some competition. If that is not done, it is inevitable that there will be monopoly mergers and price rigging against the mass of the consumers.
– We already have that.
– Its intensity will be increased a hundred-fold. The Government has admitted that it has not the power to control prices. From time to time the Prime Minister has stated that the Government will exercise rigid control over manufacturers who, in consequence of additional tariff imposts, increase their prices. But as the employees of these manufacturers are the political supporters of honorable members opposite, it is unlikely that any action will be taken that may interfere with their employment. However, the tariff cannot be amended so readily as to afford immediate relief to consumers. Some manufacturers may be taking improper advantage of the additional protection afforded; but unless their products are clearly labelled, it is difficult to deal with them. There are hundreds, or possibly a few thousand small manufacturers engaged in the clothing trade, who could not be controlled by the removal of a duty or by naming the delinquents in this chamber. This Parliament has not the constitutional authority to fix prices. There are many other factors which make it impracticable for the Government to exercise any control over manufacturers in the matter of prices. Prices are affected by the cost of raw material, the effect of taxation, the cost of labour, the working hours in the industry, and the position of the wholesale operator and that of the retailer. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister intended to mislead the House, but his declaration that the Government would deal with those who increased prices is valueless and foolish. In some cases the Government’s fiscal policy will have the effect of attracting manufacturers from overseas, will bring about keen competition, and occasionally a reduction in prices. Pricecutting wars will be carried out for a time to the advantage and delight of consumers and users of goods in this country; but how long will large rival firms in Australia continue to lose money, and carry on such self-destroying competition? The inevitable outcome will be that one of two rival firms will go out of business, which will result in the loss of a good deal of capital and additional unemployment, leaving the other with a monopoly of the business. The survivor may be contentwith a reasonable profit for the time being, but he will soon endeavour to recover the money he has lost, and will eventually increase prices. On the other hand rival firms will adopt a system of price-fixing which will enable them to pay reasonable dividends on a limited output. In other words, we shall have industries overcapitalized, and the public bearing the cost of the over-capitalization.
– Why did not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when a Minister adopt the policy he is now advocating?
– I did not submit tariff proposals under which it was possible for monopolies to become established in Australia; that is the work of this Government. We also have to consider the effect of the present policy upon the quality of Australian production. I am proud of the Australian manufacturers, and, generally speaking, of the quality of their goods ; but I protest, on their behalf, against the Government placing them in their present false position. In the future we shall have no check upon quality. These prohibitive tariff duties are a declaration to other countries that we do not wish to trade with them. We can meet them in all forms of sport; but when it comes down to the greatest activity of all in an international sense, that of trade, wesay, “ There is to be no contest. We will not play with you.” What a contemptible declaration the Government, on behalf of the Australian people, has made to the world.
– The speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition consists of a most extraordinary mass of inconsistencies.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) should be on the other side of the chamber. I do not know why he sits with us. At present the Government is claiming that prices have been reduced in consequence of the imposition of higher duties. There may be some cases in which, owing to additional markets and increased competition, prices have been reduced, but prices have been reduced all over the world. The raw material from which many of our manufactures are produced has depreciated. Practically everything we have to sellhas decreased in price. That is the principal cause of our present unsatisfactory financial position. There has been a considerable drop in the price of silk hosiery. The Assistant Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde) claims that a reduction in the price of hosiery is due to the imposition of higher duties. Hosiery prices have been reduced within the last few months ; but there is not an additional mill in operation in Australia as the result of the tariff.
– That is not true.
– The Assistant Minister should name one.
– The Lustre Hosiery Company has extended its plant since the new tariff was introduced.
– I have no doubt that additional machinery has been installed ; but not as a result of the tariff.
– Will the Assistant Minister name one manufacturer who has increased his plant and output as a result of his new schedules? Some manufacturers have increased their plant and output as a result of development that had taken place under the old tariff.
– What about the manufacturers of Holeproof Hosiery?
– Staley and Staley would be producing exactly the same quantity of hosiery as they are to-day if this Government had not come into office.
– The Prime Minister recently opened new works for that firm.
– Yes, in which new plant ordered a year ago was installed. The capital was raised before this Government came into office. I can give the Assistant Minister a definite assurance on that point, because I know what actually happened. That firm could not have increased its equipment within such a short period. Recently there has been a substantial fall in the price of raw silk owing to over-production in Japan, and, as every one knows, there has also been a heavy fall in the price of Australian wool. Lower prices for silk and wool provide the main reason for the drop in the price of hosiery, plus the increased competition due to the general depression. The Government has failed to fulfil any of the promises it made when imposing higher duties.
It is unnecessary for me to labour the subject of unemployment ; but, as I pointedout last night, from theend of March to the end of June, unemployment has increased from 14.6 per cent. to 18.5 per cent. This unprecedented increase has occurred notwithstanding the fact that these tariff schedules have been in operation. By disorganizing trade and commerce, this Government is contributing enormously to the appalling progressive total of unemployed. The Government’s fiscal policy has also had a serious effect upon Empire trade. I am not surprised at the Minister endeavouring to show that the Government had not dealt almost a fatal blow to our preferential trade with Great Britain. As the result of the Government’s action in this respect, millions of pounds worth of British capital has been rendered idle, and thousands of British workers have been thrown on the unemployed market. I do not suggest that Australia, as a part of the Empire; is not acting within its rights; but the Government cannot expect to have all its own way. Shortly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) will be leaving for Great Britain, mainly in an endeavour to obtain greater preference on Australian products. They will try to create a sentiment among the British people, especially the British working people, in favour of Australian .primary products. We have in recent years been selling Australian primary produce in Britain under Australian brands. There has been a great campaign to advertise our products, to make them popular, and to induce the people of Britain to show a sentimental preference for them. What a helpful interference this tariff policy is in that regard ! I have no hesitation in saying that the Government’s tariff policy has done more harm to the Australian primary producer, at any rate in regard to our exports, than anything done by any previous government. It has seriously injured the market for our butter, our wheat, our wine, and our dried fruits, not to mention our wool. It has made Australia’s name absolutely bad in Britain.
– I deny that emphatically. The honorable member can judge by the result.
– Of course the Minister will deny it. He has spent four or five months in England, and professes to know all about conditions there. I lived and worked for many years in England, and I know what I am talking about when I refer to the British market for Australian products. The Government has brought about increased unem ployment in Australia, and, not content with that, has by its policy made Australia’s primary products unpopular with the British worker, so that he will avoid them because of what Australia’s policy has done to him.
I come now to the effect of this policy on our foreign trade. The Government inflicted positively brutal treatment on our best friends all over the world. Within a few months it has made us the most disliked people on earth. It would appear as if by this act, this invitation to retaliation, the Government has singled out for harsh treatment those countries whose trade was of greatest value to us and has dealt most lightly with those countries whose trade we could best do without. Let us consider our trade relations with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. For the year 1928-1929, we sold to Belgium goods valued at £9,320,000, while we imported” from that country only £936,000 worth of goods. Thus Belgium buys from lis ten times as much as we buy from her. Yet we follow a ridiculous policy of prohibiting the importation of goods from Belgium. Why, if Belgium prohibited the importation of goods from Australia it would practically demoralize our wool market altogether. It would probably mean a definite reduction in the value of our wool.
– What does Belgium principally buy from us ?
– We produce 25 per cent, of the world’s supply of fine wool, so that Belgium must buy from us.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. Admittedly, in the countries I have mentioned the balance of trade is greatly in our favour because we sell them large quantities of wool; but the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) was wrong when he said that they must buy our wool. While our fine wools may be indispensable to them, the woolconsuming countries of the world would have no difficulty in obtaining elsewhere than from Australia their requirements of the coarser wools - the stronger merinoes, and cross-bred and comeback wools. Our tariff policy has been such as to invite retaliation from those countries which buy our wool. Such action has already been taken by France, and, I believe, by the Philippines, while we have just received a plain, and, I think, proper, ultimatum from Belgium. The balance of trade in our favour in regard to Belgium is £8,384,000; France, £11,289,000; Germany, £7,406,000; Italy, £3,776,000; and Japan, £8,289,000. Let me remind honorable members that in an international sense the only agreement arrived at by the League of Nations in respect of tariffs is that all countries shall, if possible, avoid prohibition.
-We have not discriminated against any one nation.
– It is extraordinary how the Government has allowed the imports from the United States of America to escape to a large extent. The United States of America is the one foreign country with which we have a heavy adverse trade balance, but she has come out of our tariff alterations a great deal better than those countries where we have a favorable trade balance.
– The same treatment has been meted out to all countries.
– I have dealt with this subject at such length because I regard it as one of supreme importance. I again enter my protest against what I regard as the perpetration, on a great scale, of a series of very unwise acts.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), in his address this afternoon, said, referring to this extraordinary tariff schedule, that the Government was actuated by good intentions. I remind him that the road to a well-known place is paved with good intentions. I do not suggest that those responsiblefor this tariff schedule should follow that road, but I am convinced that, when the people realize the harmful effects of this tariff, not only in Australia, but on our relations with other countries, they will thrust the Government back into that political oblivion fromwhich it should never have emerged. This schedule provides, in some cases, for a 50 per cent. surcharge on already oppressively high duties, while, in other cases, an actual embargo is imposed on the importation of goods. The Government has been urging the farmer to grow more wheat; to do everything possible to produce goods for export so that we may correct our adverse trade balance; yet this schedule makes it increasingly difficult and more expensive for the farmers to obtain the goods and implements necessary to their calling. An embargo has been placed on the importation of barbed wire, harrows, stump-jump ploughs, horse rakes, chaffcutters, scarifiers, and many other kinds of machinery essential to agriculturists.
– All those things can be made here.
– I say that they cannot obtain them at reasonable prices and I shall deal with that aspect of the matter later. Surely the members of this House, and of another place, are entitled to have some say when such important changes of tariff policy are being made. It should not be left to a small coterie of men on the Government side of the House to impose duties of this description, duties which are most damaging, I believe, to the welfare of Australia, without such taxation being approved by Parliament. Is Cabinet to be allowed to table a tariff schedule, completely ignoring Parliament, and have those duties remain operative for months and months without affording Parliament an opportunity even to discuss them? I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) will find himself in an awkward position when he goes to the Imperial Conference, and has to discuss such matters as Empire freetrade, and concession between Australia and other parts of the Empire, and cannot even say what will be the decisions of Parliament on this dreadful schedule. Honorable members have a duty to their constituents to insist that before Parliament is adjourned an opportunity will be provided for dealing with this schedule, and of saying whether or not it is to become law. Parliament should be supreme, but it may well be asked now whether we, or Cabinet, are supreme.
– The caucus is supreme.
– I do not know whether even caucus was consulted about this. I have had the assurance of importers, traders, and business men that this succession of vicious tariff schedules has had a most serious effect upon trade. Five separate schedules have been tabled within the last eight months.
– It would not matter if one were tabled every week if it were justified.
– Surely Parliament should be consulted before fresh taxation is imposed on the people, and we should at least have a say as to whether the taxation embodied in these schedules is to continue. I am not like honorable members opposite, who are prepared to support any taxation proposals submitted by the leaders of the Labour party. It is the duty of all honorable members to insist that taxation proposals shall come before them for discussion as soon as possible after they have been introduced. The Customs Act should be amended to provide that a tariff schedule laid on the table of the House should be approved within four or six months. If it is not it should be tossed aside and the money collected under the schedule returned to those who paid it. In the United States of America a tariff schedule does not take effect until Congress has approved of it. I do not go so far as to advocate that system here, but Parliament should certainly have an opportunity of discussing a tariff as soon as possible.
– It has taken the United States of America Congress two years to put the last tariff schedule through.
– A schedule does not become operative there until it is passed.
– Yes ; but the fact that it was for so long before Congress had a dislocating effect on trade.
– It is fundamentally unsound that it should be possible to have taxation without representation, which is what this practice of letting tariff schedules lie on the table of the House undiscussed really means. Parliament should decide what taxation is to be imposed. Never has there been submitted to this Parliament tariff schedules in which there has been evidence of such blundering incapacity, such unconscious inexperience, such bewildering ignorance and such frenzied desire to claim a tariff record. The Minister for Trade and Customs and the Assistant
Minister seem neither to know nor care what injury or destruction may follow as the result of these delirious and fatuous proposals, or how trade and commerce and industry generally in Australia will suffer.
In this discussion on the tariff I do not intend to deal at any length with the surcharges or primage duties imposed. They are more strictly budget matters, and may be dealt with when the budget is under discussion. I contend, however, that the Minister should have stated definitely that the 50 per cent, surcharges on imports would continue for a fixed period, so that the people, and particularly the manufacturers, would not be given the impression that they were to be regarded as permanent tariff imposts. If the Government considers that this additional levy should be permanent, honorable members should have been informed.
– The Prime Minister informed the House that they were not to be regarded as permanent tariff levies.
– The Government should have accepted the suggestion that they should stand for a definite and fixed period. If later the circumstances indicated that they should be continued the Government could then take the necessary action.
I intend, before I resume my seat, io furnish evidence which will substantiate everything that I am saying about the blundering incapacity of the Minister for Trade and Customs and those who were responsible for these tariff proposals. I shall cite instance after instance of the imposition in the first and second schedules, of extraordinary duties ranging from 500 per cent, to over 1,000 per cent, upon imports. With the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) I wish to know where this tariff madness is going to lead us. I well recall what was said in 1920 when the high rate of duty was imposed on bananas. Up to that year we had a satisfactory trade with Fiji. Our exports to that country were valued at from £750,000 to £800,000 annually and our imports were approximately £250,000 or £300,000. Fiji was then a good customer; but to-day the people of that country do not wish to have any trade relations with the Commonwealth in any shape or form. It should be the duty of the Commonwealth, as the principal nation in this part of the globe, to cultivate the most friendly relations with all the neighbouring islands ; but so far from doing that we have absolutely destroyed our trade with Fiji and have seriously impaired our relations with New Zealand.
At one time we did considerable trade with that country. New Zealand purchased from us commodities and goods to the value of about £5,000,000 a year, and our imports from New Zealand amounted to £2,500,000. Our tariff policy has embittered that dominion and the latest New Zealand tariff imposes heavy duties on macaroni. “We do notexport a great quantity of macaroni to New Zealand, so perhaps the duty will not affect our trade position to any appreciable extent, but it will be of interest to honorable members to know that imports of macaroni from Great Britain are admitted free, and the general tariff is 20 per cent. ; but as regards Australia the rate is 30 per cent. Our trade relations with Java were also endangered a year or two ago. Java takes a considerable quantity of Australian butter, which is admitted on exactly equal terms with butter from the Netherlands. We nearly lost that trade, owing to the customs duties then contemplated with regard to coffee. Fortunately, at the last moment wiser counsels prevailed, and we were able to save our butter export trade with Java.
Recent tariff increases have resulted in retaliatory action by certain Continental countries. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out a few minutes ago, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan sent to Australia goods valued at £15,000,000, and in return they purchased from Australia primary products to the value of £55,000,000 yearly, so the trade balance in our favour totals about £40,000,000. I suggest that, as those countries are good customers, they were entitled to consideration at the hands of this Government when it was framing its tariff proposals. I am sure every honorable member desires that we should give a special preference to Great Britain, but the more recent tariff schedules have so interfered with our trade in the countries mentioned that their Governments must he convinced that our deliberate intention was to injure their export trade to Australia. In the circumstances, retaliation is inevitable. Surely the Government realizes that if those countries buy surplus Australian products they expect, in return, to sell to Australia some portion, at least, of their exportable manufactured commodities. It might reasonably be argued, in respect of certain items in the schedules, that the additional duties will assist Australian industries; but there is not the slightest doubt that foreign, and even British, manufacturers regard OUT action in a different light. Not so long ago one English manufacturer declared that, because of the extraordinary increases in the Australian tariff, he would in future purchase the greater portion of the wool required for his manufacturing enterprise from South Africa. We should not lose sight of the fact that if we antagonize good customers in this way, they will look elsewhere for their requirements. We should remember also that a buoyant export trade in our surplus primary products is essential for the prosperity of the Commonwealth, and that if, by legislative interference, we destroy this trade, it will not be long before we shall find grass growing in the streets of our principal cities. Retaliation is inevitable. At present Italy purchases large quantities of Australian wheat, which is superior to Argentine wheat for the manufacture of macaroni and other special foodstuffs manufactured in that country. At present, important- shipping interests in Italy are contemplating the construction of special steamships to cater for the Australian trade; but if we continue in this tariff folly, the commerce between Australia and Italy will be destroyed, and we must expect reprisals, which will have a disastrous effect on our primary industries. Many people have an imbecile belief in the strength of the League of Nations. I remind honorable members that even the League of Nations has emphasized that intolerable injustice by one country, in the form of high tariffs, will result in the destruction of trade and cause serious friction, if not war, between the countries concerned. No nation can be wholly self-contained. To develop and become prosperous, it must encourage trade relations with other countries.
– Legislative action which prevents the freeflow of trade may lead to war.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is right. This intolerable injusticeon our part may have consequences of a most serious nature to Australia. Prior to the introduction of the 1920 tariff we heard no serious complaints regarding the prohibitionist policy of Australia. It is true that in the early stages of federation the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth gave rise to a considerable amount of discussion between those sections of the people who favoured free trade and those favouring protection. As the protectionists were in the majority, the Commonwealth was eventually committed to a policy of protection. But up to 1920 the primary producers of the Commonwealth who, I may add, represent the section most vitally concerned, raised no serious objection to the duties hitherto imposed. They had no desire to fight against the secondary industries which, in the main, are established in the capital cities of the Commonwealth. I well remember the introduction of the Massy Greene tariff in 1920, and I recall the high hopes entertained for it by its sponsor. In introducing that tariff the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said -
I ask honorable members to give the tariff the same sort of unbiased consideration and their assistance in making it as perfect an instrument as possible to accomplish the object we all have in view, namely, the truest welfare of our country. We stand on a threshold of great developments. The door of opportunity is open widely for us. The path beyond lies clear and plain if we have only the courage to tread it, and put our country’s interest before other considerations, bending to no influence, yielding to no pressure and refusing to be diverted one hair’s breadth from our purpose, pressing on in our endeavour to leadour country to the goal of national greatness. If we have only courage to do this, besides tendering a great service to our country, we shall also buttress that Empire of which we form a part, by building up in this great southern land a nation furnished with all that is needed to make it self-contained and truly great.
What has been the result? Is it not a fact that nowadays manufacturers believe it is only necessary to make a demand to secure additional protection at the expense of the general community? “We stand,” said the then Minister for Customs “ on the threshold of great develop ments.” After ten years of a high tariff policy we have those developments to-day in a vast army of unemployed and the destitution of a considerable section of our people. The then Minister for Trade and Customs also emphasized that his tariff would lead this country to the goal of national greatness. On the contrary, it has brought at least a great number of our primary producers to a condition of penury and bankruptcy. Our basic industries are endangered. It is true that, as regards wool, the clouds of depression have lifted somewhat; but wheat-growing, which is the most important primary industry in Australia, is in such a condition that recently the Prime Minister made an urgent appeal to growers, offering to assist them to the extent of millions of pounds if only they would agree to join in one of the Government’s socialistic schemes. Our mining industry also has suffered most severely. This is the way in which Australia is being led to its goal of national greatness ! “Bending to no influence,” said the then Minister for Trade and Customs. I am wondering if, after all, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not correct when he said, referring to the numerous articles that have appeared in the columns of the newspapers, that pressure had been brought to bear upon this Government with reference to its tariff policy. Is it not apparent that the Government has yielded to influence time after time, and that, in its tariff legislation, it is taking money out of the pockets of one section of the people and putting it into the pockets of another section ?
– Protection has been thrown at thesecondary industries of this country.
– I do not propose to lay the whole of the. blame on this Government. I remind honorable members of the action of the previous Administration in placing an order of 40 locomotives for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway with the firm of Thompson and Company, of Castlemaine, in Victoria, at £56,000 above a tender price of a British firm. We all remember the trenchant articles that appeared in the Melbourne Age and the Melbourne Herald at about that time urging that the contract should bc given to Thompson and Company.
– In what year was that contract let?
– I believe it was in 1924 or 1925.
I come now to the dumping duties, and I invite honorable members to remember how certain large firms were able to obtain information about tariff matters. I refer especially to firms like Heine and Company, machinery manufacturers ; McDougall and Company, manufacturers of wire netting; and Lysaght’s, manufacturers of galvanized iron. These firms and others have been enabled to suppress all opposition from overseas owing to the influence they have been able to bring to bear.
Where are the progress and prosperity that were to follow the Greene tariff? We can point to big increases in secondary industries - a greater number of persons employed and a substantial advance in the value of production, although this is almost wholly fictitious - but what has been the result to the nation?
– We have a splendid future behind us.
– It is always behind us. The early disciples of protection told the country that infant industries were to be assisted by tariff duties only till they were able to stand on their feet; then they would be able to work out their own destiny without any artificial props. Yet they come back again and again, demanding more and still more protection, until their greed culminates in the dreadful tariff schedule that is now before the House.
– Are the most progressive countries in the world those which have freetrade?
– One of the soundest and most prosperous countries is Canada, which has the lowest tariff in the world. The highest duty in its schedule is 37 per cent., and that applies to imported clothing.
– And yet Canada has as its next-door neighbour one of the most formidable industrial competitors in the world.
– Yes. Notwithstanding that Canada pays higher wages than are paid in Australia, it is able to boast that last year its export of secon dary products a.lone exceeded in value its total exports in 1914.
– Due to good management and organization.
– We are not getting those essentials in Australia. Industry is being interfered with by the tariff, the Arbitration Court, and the Navigation Act. I shall show later how adversely the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act affect Western Australia, making the farmers of that State pay very much more for agricultural machinery than is paid by the farmers in Victoria. Even after the dreadful sacrifices of the war and the huge debt that resulted therefrom, Australia was still solvent and prosperous. We needed only to put our house in order, recognizing the essential truth that the strength and future of the country depended on the prosperity of the primary industries. I have never been an advocate of freetrade. All boys and girls do not want to go on the land, and a young country must assist, to some extent, the development of . secondary industries; but with a substantial natural protection against other countries, industries that cannot prosper with the additional stimulus of duties varying from 15 to 35 per cent., should go to the wall. The Australian worker, if left alone, is the equal of any other in the world, and under a wellbalanced scheme could produce in competition with all- rivals. Unfortunately, successive governments have followed the. policy of laying the whole of the fiscal burden upon the basic industries, and the present economic problems are a logical consequence of that insanity. All our secondary industries are wrapped in swaddling clothes, and seem to require almost monthly prescriptions of higher and still higher doses of protection to keep them alive. I remind honorable members of such firms as Thompsons of Castlemaine, Hoskins of Lithgow, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works. Thompsons at one time was able to market mining machinery in Western Australia against the competition of the world. Hoskins, with a little better than a fourthrate plant at Lithgow, 70 miles from the coast, competed against all comers and died a millionaire. Of the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company”s steel works and its manager, Mr. Delprat, I shall have more to say later. Yet manufacturers such as these have now become the greatest mendicants for political favours j assistance is now demanded even for by-products; a huge bounty on the sulphuric acid obtained from the Broken Hill slimes and protection on sulphate of ammonia. What is the explanation of the remarkable political influence exerted by certain secti-ns of the community? The Companies Act should be amended to compel every company to set forth in its balance-sheet the amount it contributes directly or indirectly to the political funds of any party.
– A very good idea.
Mr. GREGORY.I have been told that the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures, subsequent t<-, the last general election, paid £1,000 to the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales.
– That is a very modest statement.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– I make the statement, and the secretary of the Chamber of Manufactures may deny it, if he can.
– I have heard of hig sums of money being paid to the other parties.
– No such payments were received in Melbourne. I can speak with authority, because I was secretary of the finance committee.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a definite charge in regard to the preparation of the budget. Nobody will deny that men in high places, manufacturers and others, have exercised a remarkable influence on this Parliament. I am not suggesting that members have received monetary gifts; nevertheless, undue pressure has been brought to bear. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition veered this way and that in regard to the protective policy. I tell the committee frankly that I shall have no association with any party that will not fight to reduce the costs of production and living, and to this policy the Country party is now committed. Until those costs are reduced this country cannot make good. If Government supporters believed that these high duties and prohibitions would reduce the cost of living in the country I could understand their policy; but the only justification they offer for them is that they will provide more employment in factories. The fallacy of this policy is shown by the fact that unemployment has now reached the record proportion of 18 per cent.
– It was far worse before the Labour party came into Australian politics.
– The present proportion is a record.
- Mr. Snowden. speaking in the House of Commons in 1924, said-
Protection is the most corrupt influence that could be introduced into our political life. Witness the most violent, corrupt, lying campaign that followed my proposals regarding the McKenna duties. If we could have that when a comparatively small industry is affected, it does not need much imagination to conceive what a hell the political life of this country would become if every industry in the country were protected.
That is the opinion of the present Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom. Some honorable members may disagree with the statement that protection makes a hell of a political life. They may see some virtue in the growing influence that is exerted on this Parliament by interested parties. Mr. S. W. Page, late Chairman of the Tariff Board of the United States of America, said -
Lying campaign contributions, expensive and misleading propaganda, costly and expert lobbying, astute distortion of evidence, and the personal prestige and consideration enjoyed by men in control of government affairs, are among the means at the disposal of big business for securing duties needlessly high. And the power to divert the effects of the law is as important as the power to make it. The more monopolistic tho control of an industry may be, the more completely is it able to dictate the prices the consumer must pay, and producers must receive, for their raw material. This obvious advantage is why the American tariff has been called “The mother of trusts”.
Already we have evidence of the operation of trusts, and I have previously called attention to the agreement made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, the Steel Association, and others in restraint of trade. I quote, for the information of the committee, a letter written by John
Lysaght and Company to distributors in Western Australia -
With the increased output of our Newcastle works we are now able to extend the distribution of our galvanized iron beyond the eastern States, and, from July, there will be a certain quantity allotted to Western Australia. In introducing Australian galvanized iron into the eastern States we have taken our merchant friends very much into our confidence and have thoroughly discussed with them the best means of continuing the distribution of our galvanized iron through them.
As you are doubtless aware, we are now constantly being called upon to quote buyers other than genuine distributors who consider that they are entitled to purchase from manufacturers direct, and it has become increasingly difficult to deal with such inquiries without finding ourselves reported to the Federal Government for refusing to supply. With the hearty approval of our merchant friends in the other States we have introduced a system of deferred quantity discounts which it is considered, while giving them much the same in the way of discount as they formerly received in discount and deferred rebate, will amply protect their interests, and, finally, secure to them the total distribution of Australian galvanized iron in their respective States.
With regard to these deferred quantity discounts it is quite understood that distributors do not wish to wait for their profit on galvanized iron until the end of the year, and we shall, therefore, be prepared to accept contracts for annual quantities and_ allow discount monthly, based on cash quantities. . .
– I cannot say, but I know that the Government increased the bounty on galvanized iron from £3 12s. to £4 10s. and imposed a duty of £2 per ton on imports. This bounty more than pays the whole of the wages paid in its manufacture. I am assured by the Prime Minister that the duty and the bounty will be adjusted, but earlier action should have been taken to put these two forms of assistance on a proper basis.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the dinner adjournment I was referring to the possibility of other countries retaliating against Australia in consequence of the heavy duties that it is placing on imports. During the adjournment I noticed in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s date a statement by the Acting Trade Commissioner for France, who, in referring to a remark by the New South
Wales Treasurer, Mr. B. S. Stevens, regarding the carry-over of wheat, said -
It is true that for the first three months of this year Prance bought from foreign countries wheat of a value of not less than £2,000,000, the bulk of which caine from the United States, Canada, thu Argentine, Soviet Russia, and the French dominions, but not one bushel was bought from Australia.
France has been purchasing from Australia goods to the value of £16,000,000 per annum, while our annual purchases from France have only amounted to about £4,000,000.
– Is the honorable member pleased that France is not now buying wheat from us?
– I am far from pleased, and I am afraid that the impression is rapidly spreading throughout the country that we are on the wrong track. Prior to the dinner adjournment I read a letter from Lysaght’s, showing that that firm proposed to allow deferred payments to certain privileged customers.
– A private letter given to the honorable member by some of the importers !
– Why did they write to the honorable member?
– They did not write to me. The letter is signed “Johu Lysaght (Australia) Limited - F. Lightfoot Walker, Acting Managing Director.’’ I also have a copy of the rules of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, the Steel Associations, and others. Rule 10 states -
Any firms who wish to start as steel merchants and who wish to be parties to this arrangement must first convince the steel manufacturers of their bona fides in consultation with the steel associations.
If special privileges are to be given to certain manufacturers and others we should insist on freedom of trade. I have read letters in this chamber on various occasions from Messrs. Sweetman and Company, wholesale importers, of Perth, who bitterly complained that they could not obtain supplies. A lengthy communication that I have received from this firm states, inter alia -
And what of the Steel Association? . . . membership fee £5 before you can buy the Australian article. Why should I. or any one else for that matter, be forced to join an association and agree to fixed selling rates Am I not allowed to supply Australian step) at what I consider a fair margin of profit? . . certainly not under the association’s rule. And what of the seller of the Australian article? Does a buyer, as a rule, chase a seller for his goods, or is it vice versa? If the Broken Hill Proprietary wanted to sell us their goods they certainly showed a wonderful lacie of enterprise in not calling on us for orders, as we import approximately 250 to 400 tons a year, and the whole of this business could have been theirs for the asking. But it was not their policy to do so . . . they were in close association with the favoured five merchants (all members of the Steel Association) of which we were not members . . . and had we been, we still would not have been able to get supplies. It was only when you raised my complaint in the House that they began to wake up and take notice. And when I issued my public challenge (on top of your action through the Customs Department) they realized that the association door was being forced open. Read the enclosed circular from Lysaght’s to support this view.
Referring to the White Lead and Oil Association, the firm wrote -
I was . . . admitted on the understanding that I had to agree to sell only at the rates fixed by the association, which, I might add, give me an extra 15 per cent, profit. Might I query the necessity here again of having to charge my clients this extra 15 per cent. Should I not be able to pass on to my clients some of .the economy I effect in the running of my business . . . i.e., some of, what the directors receive in my competitors business?
That letter shows that monopolies are being created under the present fiscal system, and.that certain interests are exercising influence in the direction of pricefixation, for which the people generally have to- pay.
I have some strictures to make regarding influence that has been brought to bear on the Government in the framing of the tariff schedule.
– Keep off that! The party opposite had a good innings.
– Does not the honorable member think that strong influences were at work when the bounty on galvanized iron was increased from £3 12s. to £4 10s. a ton? No doubt that was due to strong political pressure.
– There was none.
– I have had some experience of the Trade and Customs Department, and I am not alone in my opinions. I notice by this morning’s press that the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, in warmly approving the fiscal policy of the Government, ha? declared, inter alia, that -
I have no doubt that any matter brought before the Government by the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures will receive favorable consideration. What induced honorable members opposite to perpetrate this fiscal tragedy? What influences were at work when schedules were brought down of such an extravagant nature that they could not have been recommended by responsible officials? I am not now speaking of the sur-tax, but of the big increases in duties generally.
I propose to refer for a few minutes to statistics taken out prior to the advent of the present Government, and prior to the introduction of the increased duties. The report of the Australian Economic Council shows the total amount of salaries and wages paid in various industries as compared with the excess cost of the products of those industries if the whole of the duties were added. The following figures speak for themselves: -
We placed enormous duties on drugs and chemicals. When I was in New Guinea, a medical man there told me that he had to obtain all his drugs from Australia, and they cost 500 per cent, more than the price at which they could be obtained from -England.
– Who compelled him to buy them from Australia?
– The Government. Those statistics, as I have said, were prepared prior to the increased duties brought down in November last. On top of those duties showing increases of over 100 per cent, there is now a surcharge of 50 per cent, and a primage duty of 2£ per cent.
Men in “ big business “ seem to have an extraordinary pull with this Government; but the producer and the worker pay all the time. The “big” man gets all the advantage, and has been able to do it ever since 1920. Mr. Austen Chamberlain stated in 1903-
Give us protection and we manufacturers will show you something in the way of rings and trusts and syndicates that you little dream of. Lobbying would become more important to the manufacturer than the slow process of the factory.
I have shown that big manufacturers in Australia are able to control prices.
– Are not the importers in a combine?
– The honorable member would destroy competition, which is a nation’s finest asset. There is no doubt that the manufacturers realized their power in 1921. They saw how gullible politicians were, and the more greedy they became the more desirous this Government seemed to be to placate them. In the early days of protection the manufacturers asked for slight duties to enable struggling industries to get upon their feet, and they assured Parliament that when those industries grew robust they would be able to face the cold blast of world competition. First there was the sugar embargo, and then there was the butter bounty. As I have already indicated, the brunt of the cost of this spoon-feeding process has to be borne by the working man. A few years ago a cotton bounty was provided. Now we have the Government appealing to the farmers to grow more wheat, which can not be produced at a profit; but enormous sums are to be paid, by way of bounty, to cotton-growers: Already we pay bounties on wire-netting, galvanized iron, iron and steel, and other goods totalling millions, and now it is proposed to pay bounties on flax and hops and sewing machines.
– Let us hear about the Paterson butter scheme.
– I am opposed to that scheme, because it tends to increase the cost of living, and helps to create that vicious circle of costs which we have so developed that, at the present time, the country is quite impoverished. Since the war we have had moderately good harvests, and the highest prices ever received, but, owing to our artificial methods and our unsound economic policy, we are in a most serious position, and now additional taxation of some £12,000,000 is proposed. When we are discussing the budget I hope to he able to deal with that. huge impost; but, for the moment, I want to confine my remarks to the evil effect the present Government’s tariff is likely to have upon industry, and to the evil influence it has upon Parliament. Time after time we have seen representatives of States voting with represents-‘ tires of a State which is seeking- a. concession in the hope that the, States they represent will also be given some con-cession. In doing so, the representative’s of the people are drifting away f rom ‘all those high principles by which this Parliament should be actuated, and the door is opened wide for the vilest forms of corruption. Mr. Bayard, one time Ambassador for the United States of America in London, speaking of the effect of the tariff of the United States of America, said -
In my own country I have witnessed the insatiable growth of the form of State socialism styled protection, which I believe has done more than any other cause to foster class legislation and create inequality of fortune, to corrupt public life, to banish men of independent mind and character from the public council, to lower the tone of national representation, blunt public conscience, create false standards in the public mind, to familiarize it with reliance on State aid and guardianship in private affairs, divorce ethics from politics and place politics on the low level of a mercenary scramble.
– An eminently “ sloppy “ utterance !
– The honorable member had better keep quiet. The price this country is asked to pay for sending him into this Parliament is a bounty on sewing machine heads, and in future the person who buys a sewing machine will have to pay for it a price which will include provision for the payment of that bounty and a special customs duty. I want to know if it is not true that, in the words of Mr. Bayard, public conscience has become blunted. I know that the public had very little to say when a bounty was authorized to be paid on galvanized iron, which actually amounted to more than the wages bill of the men engaged in the manufacture of galvanized iron, and that the public has taken very little notice of all these concessions that have been given away. Public conscience lias, indeed, become blunted in Australia. We are creating false standards in the public mind; we are familiarizing the people with reliance on State aid and guardianship in private affairs.
– The honorable member has galvanized iron so much on his mind that his brain has become corrugated.
– Unfortunately, I happen to represent people who are trying to open up new country. When I was last among them, I quoted figures from the Economic Mission’s report, and congratulated them on their “ loyalty “ to the high protection policy of Australia. I told them how proud they ought to be of the glorious cities that were being built up in Australia, and of the splendid conditions under which all classes of city-dwellers carried on their work. I spoke of the public gardens and public libraries that dotted the cities, and told them that, while they were building up the interior, and creating the wealth which has made Australia, they should be pleased to think that some time, perhaps, they might bc able to visit the cities and participate to some small extent in these amenities! It goes right to the heart when you find these people battling on year after year enduring hardships and misfortune, depending on world’s prices for their products and realize that they have to pay taxes so tha.t city dwellers may enjoy all these good things. If I have any say in the matter, the people of the interior will have the fullest con sideration shown >to them. I ask for no privileges for them, but I demand justice.
– Did the honorable member actually say all these things in the interior ?
– The honorable member for Boothby should realize that industries in his State are rapidly being ruined.
– The honorable member knows it. Holdens have built up a great industry in Adelaide, but the rapidly increasing cost of bringing to Adelaide the timber, iron, and steel, and all the other raw material required by manufacturers in that city, particularly the coal, because power is one of the principal items of industrial cost, is a matter that should give the honorable member the gravest concern. If Holden’s factory should close, it would be a dark and desolate day for Adelaide; and there is a possibility of it under the policy now being pursued. I remember reading a little while ago evidence given by a business man in Launceston who said that whereas the cost of bringing timber from the Baltic to Adelaide was 3s. 6d. and from Vancouver to Adelaide 6s. 6d., it cost 9s. lOd. to take Tasmanian timber from Launceston to Adelaide. How can the honorable member for Boothby expect industries to be built up in Adelaide, and at the same time give good conditions to the workers engaged in them, while these conditions continue? W<! have planted on Australian soil a parasitic tree which with cancerous growth has spread its branches far and wide. The public conscience has indeed become blunted. There are very few people who are now content to go into the interior and fight their own battles. The tendency is for all to rush to the Government for aid, and we have a full development of the policy of gaining political kudos by taking money from one man in order to hand it to another. Politics in Australia are reaching the low level of a mercenary scramble.
– Anyone would think that the honorable member was a free trader !
– I have never advocated freetrade. I was content with the protection policy as it existed in Australia prior to 1920. I should be content with the protection system of Canada as it exists to-day. I should even go 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, higher than the Canadian rates. Since Australia has also a great natural protection that should be sufficient. I think every producer in Australia would accept that policy.
– Canada has countervailing duties, which are superimposed on the ordinary rates in respect to any country imposing duties on Canadian goods.
– No Canadian dumping duty can exceed 15 per cent., whereas many of our dumping duties exceed 400 per cent.
– I advise the honorable member to read the speech delivered by Mr. Dunning three months ago.
– I have studied it. The Minister seems to have travelled all over the world and studied nothing. 1 like to compare our tariff with that of Canada, because the conditions in Canada are similar to ours. When Mr. Robb was Minister for Finance in the Canadian Government, in March, 1929, he delivered a speech from which I quote the following :- o
The remarkable growth in Canada’s external trade may be illustrated by the fact that the favorable balance just quoted is almost equal to the total export trade of this dominion 30 years ago. lt might also bc noted that a comparison with the pre-war year of 1013-14 shows the 1927-28 exports of fully manufactured goods exceeded the total exports of raw, semi-manufactured and fully manufactured goods in the year 1014.
Canada pays the highest wages in the world. They are, at any rate, as high as those paid in the United States of America, with all its mass production, and the Canadian duties against the United States of America are most moderate. Yet, last year the dominion was in a position to export secondary products to the value of its total exports, primary and secondary, in 1914. I propose to compare the Canadian tariff, rates on articles used by primary producers with the Australian rates on similar articles. But before doing so, I may explain that Canada, not having good local coal, has to import most of its coal, whereas Australia has as good a coal as any other part of the world. The comparison of customs rates is as follows : -
In the Canadian tariff schedule item after item imposes no duty on goods imported from Great Britain, and a very small duty on goods imported from other countries. Mr. Robb, in the course of his speech, made the remark : -
As the years go by an increasing quantity of our domestic production must necessarily be marketed abroad.
Has there been any suggestion that that may happen in Australia? 1 believe that the Sunshine Harvester Works are sending some agricultural machinery to the United States of America where it is probably sold at. loss than half the price charged for it in Australia. I asked the Minister to give me the number and value of binders exported, but he gave me only the value of the exports. I particularly wanted to know how many machines had been exported, so that I could ascertain whether they were being dumped abroad. I trust that the Minister will take steps to see that these statistics are recorded.
– Does the honorable member think that Canada is a better country to live in than Australia?
– Of course not. Wo have a beautiful country, which has been endowed by nature with almost every blessing that man could desire: but the trouble is that our workingpeople have been subjected to a kind of tyranny which has caused them to slow down their operations. Nature ha.= given us a land of far greater mineral wealth than Canada, and we have glorious wheat and pastoral areas, and magnificent forests; yet our manufacturers are not, and apparently never .will be, able to build up an export trade. The wages paid here should not be a barrier, for, although higher wages are paid to skilled workers in Canada, the Canadian manufacturers have a valuable export trade. If the Minister for Trade and Customs, or any other rabid protectionist, can point to one secondary industry in Australia which has been assisted by the Government, and is now able to compete on even terms with the same industry in other countries. I shall be glad for him to do it. The Canadian Minister for Finance also made this . interesting statement of Canada’s fiscal policy -
As the years go by an increasing quantity of our domestic production - must necessarily be marketed abroad. It is our desire to trade freely with any and all who are willing to trade with us. What may or may not be possible in this particular necessarily depends in some measure on the purchasing power and the fiscal policies of other countries. The policy of this Administration is not a high tariff policy: it is a low tariff policy.
We need a similar policy in Australia. It must be recognized that the wealth and prosperity of our country, depend entirely on primary production. I do not say that we should have no secondary industries here. We must have them, and I should be prepared to grant them protection up to 35 per cent, in some cases to enable them to develop; but that degree of protection, together with the natural protection that they would enjoy, should be sufficient to enable them to progress. I have no desire to disparage our secondary industries, but I say emphatically that when Parliament gives the secondary industries the first place, and by oppressive increases in customs duties and the granting of extraordinarily liberal industrial conditions, renders the cost of primary production so great that many primary industries which, a decade ago, were prosperous, are now in dire distress, it is placing the future of Australia in jeopardy. This country cannot advance unless her primary industries are given the opportunity to develop along natural lines. It is a remarkable thing that, although the. Prime Minister and the State Premiers have all been- urging the farmers to grow more wheat in order that we may have a larger export surplus, the trade union leaders and other industrialists still carry on in the same old way. It is a very old truism that wealth can only be increased by increasing the value of the product over the cost necessary to produce it. The policy that we are pursuing will destroy rather than assist, our primary industries. To-day our wheat industry, which has been a source of strength to us for many years, is in a perilous condition. No farmer can grow wheat profitably at 4s. per bushel under existing conditions - and I do not suppose that the’ farmers will receive more than 3s. 6d. per bushel for this year’s crop. . The wool industry has also hitherto been an invaluable asset to the country, but the wool-growers have been operating at a loss in the last twelve months. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) knows very well that there is some glorious country to the north of Bendigo, but the cost of production is too high to-day to enable it to be put to the best use. It is absurd for us to continue providing bounties for artificial industries while we are allowing our great primary industries to languish.
– The honorable member supported a Government which, during the six years it was in office, spent a great deal of public money in bounties.
– But it did not impose such an extraordinary increase and then add a surcharge of 50 per cent, on certain importations like this Government has done.
– If I had the power, I would prevent anything from being imported into Australia that could be manufactured here.
– We must never forget that export trade is the great balance-wheel of a nation. If we injure our export trade we injure ourselves. We are a debtor nation and must export £30,000,000 worth of goods every year to pay our interest bill, and that does not take’ into consideration the position created by our heavy buying from overseas countries. My constituency is chiefly agricultural, though it contains many wage-earners, and I feel that I should protest against the appeal being made all the time to the farmers and the ‘wool-growers to help the country to solve its troubles. “Why cannot we ask Hugh V. McKay Proprietary Limited to export its products? In the early days this firm had a substantial trade in agricultural implements with the Argentine, but as it was not able to retain it, it has established works in Canada in the hope that it may, in that dominion, be able to build up an industry on sound economic lines. Let us demand from our manufacturers that they take their share of responsibility in building up the export trade of the nation. There is no doubt whatever that we are. proceeding on wrong principles. Sir John Monash holds sound views on this subject, and he made the following statement with particular reference to certain electrical equipment some time before any of these schedules were tabled: -
The present duties are absolutely prohibitive and the cost of these articles has been so “bumped up” by these heavy duties as to make them practically unknown to many Australians. The interests of- the community at large are in this matter absolutely in conflict with the interests of one or two manufacturers. lt is putting back the clock of progress the same as is being done with motor cars.
His connexion with the great Yallourn scheme entitles his views to respect. He realizes that one of the first essentials to the building up of substantial secondary industries is cheap power. Sir George Julius, the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in an address to the members of the Australian Institution of Engineers, said -
In Australia we have our opportunity to broaden the lives of 0,000,000 people, and the privilege, if we care to grasp it, of offering a brighter home to many more millions of our kinsmen from overseas. But in our zeal we have actually erected high barriers which have kept us to the old narrow ways. Now, however, the insistent demand of our people for a larger life and the pressure of world affairs from outside, are both joining to force us to decide on some more adequate policy.
He went on to say that if we imported all our electrical machinery we could pension off every electrical engineer in Australia and still show a substantial profit. Some honorable members will recollect that it was proved in 1920 that if no cigars were made in Australia - if the quantity now locally made were imported and paid duty - we could pension off every man, woman and child engaged in the manufacture of cigars in Australia and still show a profit of £86,000. In his great work, entitled, The National Dividend, which was published three years ago, Mr. Sutcliffe, one of our statisticians, observed -
Tables and graphs supply convincing evidence of the “ups and downs” of the agricultural and pastoral industries, and the comfortable position of those engaged in manufacture when aided by the Customs Department. Even so the volume of production a head emphasizes the superior part which the primary industries play in adding to the wealth of the country, and make it all the more surprising that their efforts . should bc so weighted by Federal and State politicians.
The late Honorable George Swinburne made the following observations on the influence of our fiscal policy on primary producers : -
It is astonishing what influences seem to conspire against the Australian primary producer, who has simply to rely on the world for his market, and compete at the world’s prices, under practically the highest operating costs in the world.
We are a greater distance from the world’s markets than almost any other country, and we have the highest cost of production. We have to compete in the meat market against the Argentine, in the dried fruits market against Greece, in the wine market against Italy and Spain, and in the butter market against Belgium and the Netherlands. Low wages prevail in all those countries, yet we expect our producers to pay high wages and battle successfully against other serious disabilities. Our arbitration court awards and the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act all add to the cost of production in Australia. Am I not justified in inferring that influences have been at work to enrich the manufacturer at the expense of the producer ?
– Tell us something about the money market.
– I tell the honorable member that if the coal-miners had remained at work they could have earned enough money to buy the coal-mines. Surely every honorable member must recognize that the money in the banks is the people’s money.
– The honorable member is always adversely criticizing the Australian workers.
– That is not so. I believe that the Australian workers would do well if they were left alone. We have made a serious error in imposing heavy duties on iron, steel, and copper, which are the raw materials for practically every manufacturing industry. The Tariff Board has, time after time, reported that it is unwise to impose duties of 100 per cent, and more on iron and steel. On the 22nd April, 1915, the Tariff Commission reported as follows : -
It is of vital importance for the successful development of our manufacturing industries that raw materials for the purpose of manufacture should be made available at the least possible cost. That cannot, in every case,- be realized if the encouragement of the local production of raw materials takes the form of import duties. Such a method cannot but unduly enhance the cost of manufacture and hinder the efforts of the manufacturer in his competition with imported goods. On this reasoning encouragement for the local production of raw materials should, where practicable, be by means of bounty and not by import duty.
If our iron and steel industry needed some assistance I should be prepared to give it a bounty. But there must be competition if reasonable prices are to prevail. It is all very well to say “Let us manufacture all types of machinery from our iron and steel,” but if it is to cost 100 per cent, more than when manufactured in Great Britain and Germany how can we compete with the imported article? Mr. Delprat, when he gave evidence on the matter in 1912, told, a select committee of the New South Wales Parliament that he did not want a duty, a bounty or any form of assistance from the Government. He said that if his company could not compete on even terms with the world, it would not begin operations. I recommend honorable members to read the book Silver to Steel, which outlines the development that has taken place in our iron and steel industry in Australia. It draws attention to the excellent quality of our iron ores, and states that, while in the United States of America, Sweden, and Russia, it takes two tons of ore to make one ton of pig r iron, and to make the same quantity of pig iron in Great Britain or Germany it takes 2.4 tons of ore, and in France and Belgium 2.7 tons; it takes only 1.5 tons in Australia to obtain a similar result. At the time the book was written coal cost lis. a ton in Australia. Last, year it cost 25s. 6d., and all producing costs have increased proportionately.
– Wages in the Australian iron and steel industry are low.
– Does ‘the honorable member insinuate that this manufacturer gave false evidence before the Tariff Board?
– No Tariff Board existed when those statements were made.
– I am referring to prevailing prices. Mr. Hoskins, when giving evidence before the interstate conference, said in regard to the proposed alteration of duty on rails -
When the bonus was initiated it was for the purpose of establishing the industry, and it has done so. We can now do with less assistance, and I am, therefore, asking for a lesser amount.
In pre-war years we could produce iron and steel and compete with the world ; today they cost fully 100 per cent, more than the imported article and thus raise the cost’ of every class of machinery made in Australia. This Government is ,not satisfied merely to increase duties; it must place an embargo on a number of items that are essential to Australia, and particularly to my State of Western Australia, which needs all types of harvesting machinery, barbed wire, wire netting, and so forth. But this Government first makes it impossible for our industries to compete with other countries, and then introduces an embargo against importations that we need. Mr. Ferguson, the manager of the McKay Harvester Works, Sunshine, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the Constitution, said -
We naturally have to add costs of freight, wharfage and handling charges, and we have a freight of 45s. per ton from Melbourne to Fremantle. In Victoria we ask £68 net cash for the 6-ft. reaper and binder, while in West Australia we ask £70 for the same item. The 6-ft. reaper and binder we sell at £08 - the American article is sold at £80. The American reaper and binder is sold at £68 5s. in New Zealand, and £S0 in Australia. Of the reapers and binders, as used in Australia, two-thirds are imported, the Australian machines making up about one-third.
Last year, we exported reapers and binders to New Zealand, but this year we were unable to do so. Why have we failed to retain this trade?
– Australia still produces the cheapest harvesting machine in the world.
– Then why cannot we sell our products in New Zealand, and how is it we can sell only 33 per cent. of the machinesneeded in Australia?
– Because an article is lowpriced it is not necessarily the cheapest available.
– Those who have to use the articles are the ones to judge. In replying to Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, Mr. Ferguson stated that on probably 66 per cent. of the reapers and binders used the Australian farmers paid £12 more on each machine than did the New Zealand farmers, and that it was a fact that the Western Australian farmer paid 12 per cent. more than the Victorian farmer for his reaper and binder. The Government placed such a huge duty on shooks used for the cases in the fruitpreserving industry that, on its requirements for this year, the Shepparton Fruit Preserving Company will have to pay an additional £7,500. In every conceivable way injustice is done to the producer.
In an endeavour to ameliorate the condition of my State, I move -
That the following words be inserted after the word “That” first occurring: - “consideration of the tariff be postponed with a view to determining what action is advisable, with a view of granting relief to the producers and people of Western Australia, whoseprogress and prosperity are seriously imperilled by the high tariff policy of the Commonwealth.”
Though the people of the eastern States are content with a high tariff policy, I remind them that it is killing my own State. I want honorable members to understand that there are three alternatives in this matter, and the responsibility for action rests upon this Parliament. Those alternatives are -
My State has asked for that before, and the matter is referred to in the report of the Royal Commission on the finances of Western Australia as affected by federation. The second alternative is -
The passing of an act to provide that customs duties paid in Western Australia shall be repaid, less administrative costs to the State Government, upon the understanding that such charges shall be repaid to the importers.
I do not recommend that alternative, but. it is one way in which cheaper supplies could be provided for the people of Western Australia. The third alternative is secession, which is also referred to in the report of that commission.
– The honorable member knows that that course could not be taken.
– It is definitely one of the alternatives whereby relief can be secured by Western Australia. The majority report of that Royal Commission states -
That whatever benefit the Commonwealth protectionist policy may have conferred upon other States of the Commonwealth, it has not benefited the State of Western Australia; that it is impossible to give the primary producers of Western Australia relief by way of reduced customs duties without injuring the secondary industries of the eastern States, and that the only effective means of removing the chief disability of the State is to restore to the State, for a period of years, the absolute control of its own customs and excise.
It was further recommended -
That the State of Western Australia shall, during a period of 25 years, and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides- control its own customs and excise tariffs.
I ask honorable members, in all seriousness, whether the case for Western Australia is not possible of achievement. It is no use saying that we are prepared to give some sop to the State. That will not help its primary production, and it is essentially a primary-producing State. Is Western Australia to remain a mere vassal to the eastern States, simply paying its yearly tribute? Is it not possible to arrange some form of economic unity that will enable that State to fulfil its destiny and become a powerful unit of the nation. At present it is bound with economic shackles. Under the existing economic position it has no future. Those who refuse to listen and approve its claims will be responsible for the dismemberment of the Commonwealth. That responsibility falls upon honorable members in this chamber. There is no other State in the Commonwealth that has anything like the auriferous and metalliferous resources of Western Australia. It is rich in almost every type of metal, including gold, copper, and tin. Its mining industry should be employing at least 15,000 to 20,000 people at the moment. If that number was employed, Western Australia would have an additional population of 60,000 to 70,000 bread-winners, as the ramifications of the industry would create a tremendous quantity of employment. I admit that mining is a vanishing industry, and that, as time goes on, it will employ fewer and fewer men.
The tariff policy of the Commonwealth Government prevents, the fulfilling of Western Australia’s destiny. It should have available to it the world’s markets. Instead, our policy confines it to the extraordinarily high prices charged in the sheltered markets of Australia. The wonderful natural resources of the State cannot be developed because of the cost of production. The chief resources and the future hopes of Western Australia lie in land settlement. It is remarkable how, after mining development takes place, miners and others are attracted to the land, and how great an area has been placed under cultivation in the western State. Already its wheat industry has assumed great proportions, and it can be developed over a tract of splendid country, extending from Northampton to Esperance, the area of which is as big as the whole of Victoria. Western Australia is capable of carrying 10,000,000 people engaged in primary and secondary industries. I remind honorable members that our manufacturers and Australia generally needs an increased population to provide a market for our products.
– What, in the opinion of the honorable member, is retarding the progress of Western Australia?
– The high cost of production. Victoria and New South Wales were developed some 30 to 40 years ago, when everything was cheap. Now the cost of living of clothing and of necessary farming machinery is exorbitantly high. The State Government of Western Australia has done marvellous work by advancing millions of pounds to its settlers through the Agricultural Bank and its Industries Assistance Board.
– What are the high costs to which the honorable member refers ?
– I refer to the cost of machinery and every article required on the farm. The cost of production today is considerably higher than it was before the war. The honorable member knows that the cost of labour, material, and employment on the farm has increased by at least 100 per cent, since pre-war days, while the value of its product has receded to pre-war prices. From 1906 to 1910, we were able to attract a large number of new settlers to Western Australia, but, unfortunately they experienced a couple of bad years. I went among those people, saw the wretched conditions under which they worked, and the awful privations of their families, and I fear a possible repetition in the future with our later settlers. I shall do all I can in this House to prevent those people from suffering the legalized robbery on the part of the people of the east, to whom they pay toll and tribute on all their requirements.
I have sympathized, time after time, with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) with respect to the conditions that exist in his electorate. We have fought strenuously to prevent one section of the community from being favoured to the detriment of others, but so far without success. The settlers in the country have for years been the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for the people of the east. The Western Australian settlers are determined that, unless their conditions are altered, a change must be made even to the extent of secession from the Commonwealth. We have to accept world’s prices for our produce.
– Can the honorable member tell me what arrested the progress of Western Australia for 100 years?
– I can tell the honorable member what followed the discovery of gold in Western Australia. That was a wonderful help to Victoria and lifted it out of a position of poverty and financial depression. Western Australia did that for Victoria, and it wants something in return, not anything in the nature of a sop, but constitutional changes to enable it to be firmly established. In that State is an area almost as large as a continent awaiting development. Thousands of people are unemployed in . this country, and yet in Western Australia we want men who will go on the land and produce wealth. We dislike, intensely, the practice which is becoming so common of approaching government supporters and politicians generally, to obtain Commonwealth assistance for certain industries. We want men who will fight their own battles’, who will compete in the world’s markets and accept the world’s prices, and at the same time be able to buy at world’s prices. Western Australia is a great country capable of producing wheat, wool, meat, fruits, wine, tobacco, and dairy produce. The Commonwealth has assisted industry generally by the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, because, in many instances, that body has been able to supply those engaged in industry with the very best of advice. I find no fault with the system of appointing men at good salaries in order to make investigations regarding the ravages of pests in industry. I hope that the present Government will continue the magnificent work of that research institution, and make ample money available to enable science to aid primary production in this country. At present, Western Australia is importing from the Eastern States goods to the value of £10,000,000 per annum, and, in turn, it sells to the Eastern States about £1,500.000 worth of goods. But according to Mr. Ferguson, Western Australia pays 12 per cent, more for its goods than does Victoria, and 12 per cent, on £10,000,000 represents a considerable sum. These conditions will no longer be tolerated by the people of Western Australia. I saw many of the difficulties of the settlers in the old days, and I know that many of them made good, but new settlers are being attracted to Western Australia, and I hope that many thousands more will follow their example. These men and women who are struggling to make a living on the land are the finest type of people in the world. I know of their trials and vicissi tudes, and I cannot but admire their courage and optimism. Am I not justified even to the extent of demanding secession from federation rather than that these people, after years of labour - and the spending of their savings, should be forced into- bankruptcy, and with their families cast adrift in a pitiless world? I have seen this happen so often of recent years that’ I can no longer tolerate the abominable impositions placed upon them by thoughtless politicians, who insanely imagine that abundance is a sin, and scarcity the ideal for which we should strive. We joined the federation as an equal partner.
– With the idea of unification taking place later.
– We were told nothing of the. sort. We were told that if we joined the federation the sovereign rights of the States would be preserved. But’ ever since this Parliament has been seeking further powers under the Constitution. We were told that this would be a unon with strong foundations set deep in justice. I find, however, that the foundations are set in special privileges for the few, justice to my own people being denied. Commonwealth enactments have engendered a deep feeling of distrust on the part of the people of Western Australia. There is a feeling that an injustice has been done to them by the people of the east. For years there has been a subdued resentment against this continued injustice, but it has now found voice. Our people are faced with disaster, and the destruction of all their hopes and aspirations, unless some remedy is found. It is for this Parliament to assure them of redress, or to accept the responsibility for the breaking of the union.
.- I should not have debated the first item of the tariff had it not been for the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), and the unfortunate speech of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). That honorable member and myself have been political antagonists for years. While at times I agree with him. on this occasion I have no sympathy with him at all. One would think from the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the unemployment that is rife in this country can bo laid at the door of this Government, although it has been in office only for six or eight months. The honorable member forgets that the unemployment problem has been inherited by this Government from its predecessors. He forgets that the Bruce-Page Government indulged in an orgy of expenditure. It appointed commission after commission, and paid huge salaries to the members of those commissions. But on no occasion did it act upon their reports.
– Yes, it did.
– It did not. Honorable members opposite have thrown across the chamber the taunt that Labour men are protectionists merely because of some ulterior motive. The reason that Labour members are protectionists can be stated in a few words. They know that under the pernicious commercial system the workers receive little or no consideration. Still, t hey know that the more industries that are established the more opportunities there will be for employment.It is better to have two jobs offering for one man than two men offering for one job, and for that reason we are protectionists. This Government when it assumed office soon realized that Australia was in a serious financial position and that it was necessary, if it were to be placed on a sound footing, to correct the trade balance by assisting primary and secondary industries, and establishing new industries. Realizing that something had to be done to check imports into this country, the Government decided to make drastic tariff alterations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) contends that we should export more in order to correct the trade balance, but I would remind him that a noted economist of Great Britain has stated that the trouble with the world to-day is that it is overproducing.
The honorable member for Swan has seen fit to attack certain industries in my electorate. He dealt at lengthwith bounties. He said that he was not a freetrader, but, unfortunately for himself, his attitude was inconsistent with his statement. It is difficult to know where he stands on this question. He referred to wire and said that a certain firm had refused to distribute its manufactures. On every occasion that the honorable mem ber has made that statement, I have contradicted it, yet he continues to make it. What are the facts about MacDougall’s wire? Mr. MacDougall left Victoria in order to manufacture wire at Newcastle. The honorable member said that he had received a letter from a distributing firm in Brisbane to the effect that MacDougall would not supply it with wire. I doubted that statement; so I saw Mr. MacDougall. I said to him, “ Why will you not sell your wire to this firm in Brisbane?” He replied, “We appointed a distributing agency at Brisbane but some one sent us an advertisement in which that agency recommended certain lines of imported wire, and intimated that it also had Australian wire, which it did not recommend.” That is the way in which this Australian industry has been treated.
– What about the bounty and the dumping duties that Mr. MacDougall managed to obtain?
– They came years afterwards. Would the honorable member, if he were a manufacturer of wire, supply an agent who said that his wire was no good? Of course he would not. As far as Lysaght’s is concerned, that firm would be prepared to forgo the bounty that it receives provided that it had adequate tariff protection.
– What would be an adequate duty?
– My honorable friend is always complaining that the Tariff Board’s reports are not made available quickly, and often enough to enable members to discuss them. I quite agree with him. The remarkable thing is that in this case the bounty was recommended by the Tariff Board more than three years ago. In conformity with a promise made some time ago, Lysaght’s last year manufactured sufficient galvanized iron to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements. Admittedly, the requirements last year were less than for an average year. Lysaght’s asked the distributing agency in Perth, mentioned by the honorable member for Swan, to act as its distributing agent for Western Australia. The Perth firm, which deals principally with imported goods, handed that letter to a member of Parliament in order that he might injure the Australian manufacturing firm. That letter is available for any one to read.
– Is it the same letter that I read!
– Yes. I have here the firm’s price list, showing also the discounts available to farmers, squatters, builders and others, according to the quantities they buy. Lysaght’s are manufacturers, and do not sell directly to the consumers. In. order that the people of Western Australia might obtain wire at the price charged elsewhere, Ryland’s so arranged the matter that, irrespective of the port of delivery, the price would bc tho same. Moreover, in order to assist Western Australia, the firm offered to erect mills in that State; but it received no encouragement from either tho Government or the people of Western Australia to do so. There are, unfortunately, many people in Australia who prefer to buy imported goods, even when the Australian-made article is cheaper.
– In this case the Australian article is cheaper.
– It has been said that this galvanized iron industry docs not provide much employment for Australian, workmen. Within a short time the number of employees in the industry litis increased by 50 per cent. It is expected that by tho end of this month 1,000 men will be directly employed in the industry, in addition to those indirectly employed in connexion with it.
– That is no reason why the farmers of Western Australia should pay £9 a ton more for barbed wire than is necessary.
– I am reminded that some time ago the only Australian firm which made axles and wheels for locomotives submitted a tender which was only ls. per pair of wheels and axles more than that of an outside tenderer, but because of that slightly higher price it was not given the contract.
– Some one has been telling tho honorable member a fairy tale.
– The tenders will show that what I have said is correct. On another occasion an Australian firm was the lowest tenderer for rolling stock required by the South Australian railways; but the Chief Commissioner of Railways in that State was an American, the specifications were altered slightly after tenders had been received, and the result was that the order, representing about £1,000,000, was placed in America.
– The honorable member must bo thinking of the lighthouse vessel on which the Government proposes to spend £50,000 more than would De necessary if it were constructed in England.
– Like all freetraders, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) thinks that a man who believes in encouraging Australia’s secondary industries must be dishonest, and that till importers - oven though they might almost go to the length of committing murder to prevent an Australian industry from being established - are men of integrity. The honorable member reminds uie of Max Hirsch, who, during the discussion on the first tariff in 1901- 1902, handed out literature to members in an endeavour to assist foreign manufacturers. If honorable members opposite realized the difficult position which faces Australia, they would assist the Government to put the country’s finances on a proper footing. It is sad, but true, that while imported men fill their positions Australians have to leave their country to be appreciated. We on this side stand for a policy of protection, believing that it will provide employment for our people. I remind the committee that, during the war period, when rails could not bc imported, the price of rails manufactured by the steel works at Broken Hill remained unchanged. The Transcontinental Railway over which the honorable member of Swan travels frequently was constructed of rails manufactured by the Newcastle Steel Works at pre-war prices. I conclude by saying that if we ore to populate this country, and provide employment for our people, we must establish secondary industries: otherwise we shall remain the hewers of wood and drawers of water that we were before we had any tariff protection.
.- In discussing the first item of the tariff schedule, I desire briefly to refer to the procedure adopted in introducing this class of legislation. In this connexion the present Government has merely followed the practice of previous governments. In my opinion, that procedure is wrong, and should be altered. With the exception of tariff legislation, measures introduced into this Parliament do not become law until they have been passed by both Houses, and assented to by the Governor-General. But tariff legislation is “ sudden death “ so far as its coming into operation is concerned: it operates immediately a new schedule is tabled. That probably is the reason why successive governments, having introduced tariff schedules, have been in no hurry to have them ratified by Parliament. In my opinion, no alteration of the tariff should be made until after a full inquiry by the Tariff Board. There should also be a time limit in which to ratify a tariff schedule, failing which it should cease to operate. Three months should be ample; but whether the period be three months or otherwise some definite time limit should be imposed.
We are now discussing the first item of this schedule; but I very much doubt whether we shall have the opportunity to discuss the whole schedule before Parliament rises for the recess. Parliament should be given that opportunity; but the announced programme of the Government makes that unlikely. Unless that opportunity is given, this tariff legislation, some of which was introduced last year, will have been in operation more than a year before we shall have an opportunity to accept or reject it. That is wrong, particularly witu this class of legislation which has a disturbing and sometimes a dislocating effect on business. Business firms do not know where they stand. The time is over-ripe for an alteration of the procedure adopted in presenting tariff legislation.
These schedules differ from ordinary tariff schedules inasmuch as they include emergency measures in the shape of embargoes and surcharges. They raise a new issue. The Government claims that the embargoes that have been imposed are only of a temporary nature ; that they are emergency measures designed to meet the extremely disadvantageous exchange position which now exists. That may be so; but when we recollect that the policy of the Labour party when in opposition was protection, even to the point of prohibition, we cannot but wonder whether these proposals constitute a measure of that policy.
The Government has said that it will safeguard the consumers against exploitation. An embargo has been placed upon the importation of agricultural machinery, and the Prime Minister has assured honorable members that he has received from the agricultural implement-makers a guarantee that they will reduce their prices by 5 per cent. On its face, that appears to be quite a reasonable and an attractive proposition ; but when analysed it is not so attractive as it seems. There is no guarantee that if the cost of the production of agricultural machinery falls by 10 per cent., the local prices will be reduced to that extent. The only undertaking is that they are to be decreased to the extent of 5 per cent. I claim that, since that promise was given, the cost of production has dropped by at least 5 per cent. Coal prices have been lowered, the basic wage has been reduced, and prices generally have fallen. Therefore, in reality, no concession has been given. But the matter may not rest there ; the basic wage, the price of coal, the cost of iron and steel, may undergo a further reduction of 5 per cent., and the manufacturers may not be prepared to reduce their prices accordingly. So it is quite feasible for them, even under the promise given to the Government, to make undue charges and still keep their pledge. It is well known that prices the world over have fallen. This policy of guaranteeing that there will be no increase in price if a duty is imposed is just about played out. A classical illustration is furnished by the case of wire netting. After the war, the price of that commodity soared to previously unheard of rates. Then there was a steady decline, and the local manufacturers of wire netting petitioned the Government and undertook that, if an embargo were placed on imports, the price would not be increased. They wished to obviate the necessity of being compelled by outside competition to lower their prices; in short, to stop what they considered was the rot occasioned by falling prices. They gave a plausible pledge to the Government, which passed it on to the producers, that there would be no exploitation if the concession sought were granted. A similar state of mind is apparently behind this alleged safeguarding promise.
– Was that while the honorable member was a Minister?
– No, it was before I became a Minister. If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) had been a member of the Commonwealth Parliament for as long as I have been, he would know that, whatever faults I may have, inconsistency on the tariff issue is not one.
– I merely wished to know whether the honorable member was one of those who were misled.
– I listened with a good deal of interest to the speech that was delivered this afternoon by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Penton). I say of that gentleman, that he also has never been guilty of inconsistency on the fiscal issue; that throughout his political career he has been a consistently wholehog, extreme protectionist. He preached that doctrine when he was a member of the Opposition, and he preaches it now that he is a member of the Government. I have no complaint to make of him on that score; we differ on the fiscal issue only in regard to the policy that should be adopted. By a clever and plausible array of so-called facts, the honorable gentleman sought to prove that in the matter of preference Australia is treating Great Britain very well. I point out, however, that upon analysis it will be found that there is a fundamental difference between the preference that we give Great Britain and the preference that she gives us. We have adopted the policy of imposing prohibitive duties. Right through the tariff schedule duties amounting to 60 per cent, and 70 per cent, are quite common. If a duty of 30 per cent, is prohibitive, und designedly so, what concession is it to the manufacturer in Great Britain to impose a duty of 40 per cent, on outside manufactures ? He gains no consolation from the fact that he is given a preference amounting to 10 per cent. But, in the preference that Great Britain gives us, there is a very real concession. Take the outstanding case of the preference on dried fruits. Great Britain, in opposition to the general tariff policy of that country, actually imposed a special duty upon foreign dried fruits, in order to give a concession to the Australian growers of dried fruits. That concession is very real, and of great benefit to the industry. Without it, I do not know what the industry would have done.
– It would have ceased to exist.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Is not that beneficial protection?
– It is beneficial protection by Great Britain, not to an industry within her own borders, but to one 10,000 miles away. That concession is in a category altogether different from the so-called concession that we give Great Britain when we impose a prohibitive duty upon her manufactures, even though it be 10 per cent, less than the duty imposed in connexion with the manufactures of other countries.
The Minister for Trade and Customs argued that primary and secondary industries should go together. That is a platitude and a sentiment with, which we can all agree. The honorable gentleman seemed to infer that those who are opposed to the imposition of extremely high duties are against the establishment and development of secondary industries within Australia. In every tariff debate the advocates of extreme protection adopt, that attitude; they charge those who oppose additional duties with being against the establishment of secondary industries, and allege that they are foreign traders, and not good Australians. They even suggest that certain individuals are enemies of and traitors to their country. I protest against such an accusation; it is altogether false. Those of us who are against an extremely high tariff have proved by our deeds and our lives that we are just as good Australians as are the advocates of high protection, who are blinded by the fallacy that it is essential that we should have extremely high duties, or we will have no secondary industries. A . pertinent question is, whether it is possible to have secondary industries in Australia without high duties. I maintain that it is. In support of that contention I call attention to the position that existed in Australia in pre-federation days, when a freetrade policy operated in New South Wales, and a protectionist policy in Victoria. There were secondary industries in New South Wales as well as in Victoria.
– The Victorians were predominant.
– That has been combated. The fact that I have stated effectively disposes of the argument that it is impossible in any country, but particularly in Australia, to have secondary industries without high duties.
– There are many other considerations.
– I have made a statement of fact: that in freetrade New South Wales secondary industries existed side by side with secondary industries in protectionist Victoria, and competed successfully against them. Had they not been able to do so, they would not have continued to exist as they did right up to the dawn of federation.
– New South Wales had certain natural advantages over Victoria.
– Every State and every country has certain natural advantages over others; it is easy to establish certain industries in different States and countries.
In connexion with the inability of Australian secondary industries to compete in the markets of the world, I quote the classical example of our great woollen industry. The statement has been made, and I do not combat it, but accept it for the sake of my argument, that we have in Australia the best workmen in the world. We have unlimited supplies of the finest and cheapest raw material in the world - the wool. Our manufacturers have the tremendous advantage of the natural protection that is afforded by the distance that they are from world competition. Let ustake the ease of a manufacturer in Bradford and a manufacturer in Sydney. A wool sale is held in Sydney. The Australian manufacturer can buy his wool in the morning, convey it by motor lorry to his warehouse in the afternoon, and commence operations upon it immediately. He has no overseas freight to pay. He has not to stand out of his money for months. The Bradford manufac turer on the other hand, has to wait for a. ship to sail before he can send his wool away. He has to pay the cost of transport to the ship’s side, freight overseas, and transport from the ship’s side to the factory. The conveyance of the wool to England occupies many weeks. On its arrival ithas to be scoured, spun and woven. It contains a lot of waste matter, upon which freight has had to be paid. Then the manufactured article has to be sent to Australia, and freight paid upon it. With all those advantages, the Australian manufacturer not only cannot compete against the Bradford manufacturer in the world’s markets, but cannot even hold the Australian market without exorbitant duties. I ask my protectionist friends to explain the reason ; it is for them to find a solution.
– Is the honorable member aware that the English woollen industry was established only after 120 years of prohibition?
– I am not aware of that.
– It took three centuries to establish.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it will take three centuries to establish the industry in Australia? If the people of Australia are doomed to wait for that length of time, the price that they are being asked to pay is too high.
– I said 120 years.
– If what the pro tectionists have in mind is to impose a duty for 120 years so that an industry may be established in this country, it is a most extraordinary argument, and I am astonished that it should be advanced. Why cannot the products of our secondary industries compete in the overseas markets?
– Can the honorable member answer his own question?
– The products of our secondary industries cannot compete in the markets of theworld because of the high cost of living and of the high cost of production, which is due largely to existing tariff legislation. Let us examine the position. An Australian workman has to pay a heavy toll on all wearing apparel he purchases, and which, if obtained at world’s parity, would place him in a favorable position. He bas to live in a house which is costly to erect, because of the high tariff duties imposed on the materials required in its construction. This results in high rents being charged. The men who manufacture the furniture lie buys have also to pay high rents and high prices for their clothing, and, consequently, have to be paid high wages, which result in high prices for furniture. The operative works in a factory which costs an extraordinarily large sum to erect, because of the high duties imposed on the materials required in construction.
– How does the cost of living in Australia compare with the cost of living in Bradford?
– It is about 23$ per cent, higher in Australia.
– A comparison can only bc made on the same standard.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), who spent a good deal of his time abroad in flying through the country in express trains, and in attending functions in a top hat - and an English top hat at that - is not in a position to speak authoritatively on the standard of living in Great Britain.
– I wore an Australianmade hat, the quality of which was highly spoken of.
– The Minister also wore a top hat, which I am sure was not made in Australia. The workman goes to the factory, which, as I have said, costs a good deal to erect, because prices of the materials used in its construction arc unnecessarily high. The bricklayers and the carpenters, who also have to pay high prices for their clothing, receive high wages, and, consequently, the factory costs a good deal more money than it should. The Australian manufacturer has to expend more capital than his overseas competitor. Ho has to obtain machinery which has cither to be imported, when a heavy duty is imposed, or purchased it locally, when, for the reasons I have given, it is expensive. When the machinery is installed be has to use power which is costly, because of the high price charged for coal or for electric power. In , consequence of our tariff the Australian worker has to receive high wages, and the Australian manufacturer is handicapped by heavy capital expenditure, also brought about by our fiscal policy. Moreover, under our present system, the Australian workers have to pay excessive prices for the food they consume. The primary producer who has to sell his products in the open market naturally wants “a hair of the dog that bit him.” Failing to prevent the operations of a burdensome tariff, he wishes to enter the vicious circle, with the result that two pounds of Australian sugar can be purchased in Great Britain at the price at which one pound! can be obtained in Australia.
– Australian butter is sold in London at ls. 6d. and in Australia at 2s. Id.
– Under a cooperative scheme, the Australian dairymen are compelling the Australian workmen to pay from 4d. to 6d. a lb. more for Australian butter than the workmen of Grea t Britain pay for it. Two lbs. of Australian dried fruit can be purchased in London at the price which one lb. costs in Mildura, where it is produced. Our present fiscal policy, which is so strongly advocated by honorable members opposite, has resulted in our costs of production being so high that we cannot possibly compete in the markets of the world, or even hold the local market, unless embargoes and exorbitant customs duties are imposed. Our primary industries cannot compete with their overseas competitors unless their employees are sweated, as most of them are to-day. Australia is feeding the workmen of other countries with Australian food at a rate cheaper than that at which it can be obtained by our own workmen. Although cheaper food results in cheaper production, the Government comes along with additional imposts to overcome what is actually the result of its own policy.
– New South Wales could not compete with Bradford when it was a free trade colony.
– New South Wales was then a very young country.
– The honorable member has not said anything concerning comparative development in relation to overhead expenses.
– I have not the figures before me. If the output in relation to overhead is greater in this country than overseas the position is all the more inexplicable. It means that the Australian workmen or Australian management, must offer an explanation.
Mr.Fenton. - I am glad that the honorable member has included the management.
– I am reluctant to say anything against Australian workmen. I know there is a good deal of inefficient management. Another factor which is responsible for the high cost of living is our present foolish and wasteful method of distribution, as well as the unnecessary expenditure incurred in connexion with extensive advertisements in the daily newspapers and the blatant displays on street hoardings. In addition, high taxation is imposed on Australian manufacturers, which is borne by the Australian workers to whom it is always passed on. There is also the heavy cost involved in the payment of bounties and bonuses to assist industry. The H. V. McKay Harvester Works had a monopoly of the local market in the matter of agricultural implements, and, on reaching saturation point, established with Australian capital a Canadian branch, where it is employing workmen of another dominion in order to engage in the export trade. Reduced production costs in our primary industries are imperative, but can be brought about only by a general reversal of our tariff policy. That would have the effect of reducing the cost of living and thus increasing the purchasing power of money without lowering our standard of living. I voted against the abolition of the federal arbitration system because I think that the Arbitration Court is the only protection the workers in this country have against the excessive charges of local manufacturers. I can assure honorable members representing constituencies not in touch with the primary producers that our Australian exporting industries - wheat, wool, dried and canned fruits - are to-day in an extremely serious position. The standard of living of primary producers has been lowered, the capital value of their land and plant has diminished, and they are experiencing an exceedingly bad time.
This reduction of capital value, together with the falling off in returns, has been one of the big contributing factors in unemployment.
In his speech this afternoon, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) expressed himself as confident that the Government’s tariff policy would lead to better times. We have heard that before. Every Minister for Trade and Customs who introduces a tariff schedule promises that it will lead to better times; let Parliament just pass that schedule and, in the words of the fairy book, every one will be prosperous, and we shall all live happily ever after. We are always being promised that good times are coming, but they never seem to come. In 1920 I heard the present Minister for Trade and Customs saying, “Hear, hear!”, when the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Massy Greene, brought in his tariff schedule increasing protection on Australian industries. Mr. Massy Greene justified his schedule by saying that it would lead to the development of Australian industries. He pictured a country with flourishing secondary industries, dotted with factory chimneys belching forth smoke, and populated with smiling and contented workers. Yet, ten years afterwards, the honorable member for Maribyrnong is introducing a similar schedule, embodying a more intensive form of protection. What is the position of Australia after ten years of high protection? The less said about our financial position overseas the better. It is causing concern everywhere, and is certainly more serious than at any time during the last ten years. Our secondary industries are paralyzed; 250,000 workmen are out of employment - the highest percentage we have ever had - while our primary industries are up against it from one end of Australia to another.
– Industry is up against it from one end of the world to the other.
– That is not quite true. Suppose that in 1920 some ofus in this corner had occupied the front government benches, and had behind us a low tariff majority. Suppose we had introduced a tariff schedule then which reduced existing protective duties to the extent that Mr. Massy Greene’s schedule increased them. If after thatlow tariff policy had been in operation for ten years Australia found itself in a condition of depression similar to that prevailing to-day our friends opposite would be the first to stand up and condemn our policy for having brought about those conditions, and would have been loud in their demand that the policy be reversed.
– The chief cause of our present trouble is excessive importations.
– And government extravagance.
– I agree with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that government extravagance is to a considerable extent responsible for our trouble, but the real cause is the system of party government, which sets one party bidding against another for the votes of the people, and leads to governments making concessions which Australia is unable to bear.
– I agree with the honorable member in that.
– If excessive tariff duties imposed in 1920 have led to the position in which we found ourselves in 1930, I cannot agree that the remedy is to pile on still higher duties. I opposed high duties in 1920, and I oppose them now.
– Where is the ideally happy land which pursues a fiscal policy agreeable to the honorable member?
– Some of the countries I could name are France, Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland.
– Is there no poverty there ?
– I do not say that. There is poverty in every country in the world, but one of the results of Australia’s fiscal system is the creation of two or three huge cities with all the evils associated with huge cities. When one goes into the slum areas of great cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and sees the conditions under which so many of our kith and kin have to live, it makes one ashamed to call oneself an Australian. I feel like going through those festering slums with sticks of dynamite and blowing them to hell. They are one of the results of our high protective policy.
– Freetrade countries have slums also.
– Perhaps, but it is not fair to compare a fully-developed and fully-populated country like England with an undeveloped country like Australia. It is surely an anomaly that in a great country like this with its enormous empty spaces we should have in our cities crowded slums similar to those in the cities of Great Britain. I agree that the improvement of machinery is having the effect of bringing population to the cities, and I think that that is bound to continue. Only the other day I watched one of the great 12-ft. auto-headers at work in a crop of wheat doing with one or two men the work it would have taken twenty men to do a few years ago. That sort of thing is bound to have the effect of increasing the number of city dwellers, but the real evil of the tendency in Australia is that all those displaced from the land are crowding into a few cities. In New South Wales, for instance, they are all crowding into one city. If, instead of a single city like Sydney, with a population of 1,250,000 persons, we had ten cities each with a population of over 100,000, we should have more evenly balanced development, and Australia would benefit.
Much has been said about our present standard of living, of which we are told we should be proud. The maintenance of that standard of living is urged upon us as a sacred duty. Perhaps what I am going to say may strike an unpopular note, but we should face the issue fairly. Is it possible for Australia to maintain a higher standard of living for her workmen than is enjoyed by the workmen of other countries and at the same time continue its policy of borrowing from those countries? In other words, is a debtor nation entitled to maintain a higher standard of living than a creditor nation? We have it on the authority of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that each year we have to provide about £30,000,000 for the payment of interest on overseas liabilities. Even if we prohibit all imports we shall still have to sell £30,000,000 worth of Australian goods in overseas markets at world’s parity or, as an alternative, repudiate our debts overseas. We should remember also that these surplus goods are the product of our primary industries. In view of this fact I ask by virtue of what principle do those who stand for this policy lay it down that the standard of living for Australian workmen in secondary industries must be above the standard in other countries, and also insist that our primary producers shall be on the same level as primary producers and rural workers in other countries? We are reluctant to accept goods from those countries but we are not too proud to borrow money from them. On the contrary, we are disposed to reach out with both hands for it.
– We take £50,000,000 worth of goods from Great Britain.
– That is true, but the Minister has always been one of the most stalwart champions in this House against any attempt to increase that amount. He always supported every tariff item that has been levelled against manufacturers in Great Britain. If wo are to remain a debtor nation, ‘is it possible for us to maintain a higher standard of living than is enjoyed by the workers of those countries from whom we borrow money ?
– Of course it is if we produce sufficient wealth to meet our obligations.
– I have already indicated that we must produce to do that. But, unfortunately, our export trade is not well balanced. The burden is on tha i; section which is properly called the backbone of the country. Our secondary industries are of no assistance in this direction. On the contrary, wc have to provide bounties for their encouragement. Lately we have had a number of bounty proposals including one even for the manufacture of sewing machines.
– Our primary products constitute 98 per cent, of our export trade.
– That is so, and the erection of these tariff barriers against other countries, besides making it more difficult for our primary producers to maintain the present volume of export trade, is causing the governments of other countries to adopt retaliatory measures. It will be seen, therefore, that this high tariff policy is a two-edged weapon. It results in higher costs of production in Australia and renders more difficult the maintenance of our export trade. It is pertinent, I suggest, .to remind those honorable members who are in favour of high protection, that up to the present, at all events, it has not affected the exports of our secondary industries.
– It will in time.
– It- has, however, affected our export trade in primary products. Formerly we did an important meat trade with Germany. Latterly that country has placed an embargo on the importation of Australian meat, and France and Italy arc, I understand, taking similar action with’ regard to our wheat.
Australia must retrace her steps. I have held this view ever since I entered this Parliament. I may be wrong, but it is a conviction which I hold very firmly. I believe that sooner or later the walls of this chamber will ring with the voices of honorable members engaged in a debate on tariff proposals vastly different from those now being discussed. - proposals for a reduced, tariff. Honorable members may believe that that day is a long way off; but I am convinced that outside this Parliament there is a feeling of revulsion setting in against this high tariff policy. On this issue I am opposed to my friends in the Labour party, and I intend to fight every item in these schedules. I must, however, admit that the Labour party has been consistent, in that it has nailed the flag of high protection to the mast and intends to stand by its policy. The introduction of this multiplicity of schedules will have the effect of bringing this question to a head. If the policy is right, we shall soon, have evidence to that effect, and the Labour party will have done good work. If, on the other hand, the policy is wrong, that fact will be more quickly brought home to the people of Australia, and they will instantly demand a change. In other words, if high protection is going to sweep Australia to the devil, this Government’s tariff policy will take us there in leaps and bounds.
I was much surprised and interested in the views of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) ; hut I was unable to follow his reasoning. The honorable gentleman enunciated some extraordinary andbewildering principles, and his statement was the more startling, in view of the fact that he said he was speaking on behalf of his party.
– He was not speaking for me.
– He said thatthe Nationalist party was a protectionist party. Indeed, he led us to believe that he was rather more of a “ whole hogger “ in regard to protection than any member of the Labourparty. If, as he says, the Nationalist party is a protectionist party, I suggest that its members should cross the floor and leave the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and myself on this side. It has always beena mystery to me that, in a primary-producing country like Australia, there is no representation of what is known in other countries as a low tariff party. In nearly every other country, including even the United States of America, which is regarded as the home of high protection, the electors have the opportunity to range themselves under the banners of a low tariff party, as distinct from a protectionist party. The same conditions obtain in Great Britain, where there are practically two freetrade parties and a milk-and-water protectionist party. But inAustralia, whichhas a greater primary production per head of population than any other country, and is, therefore, most affected by the high tariff policy, the people for the last ten years have had to choose between a protectionist party in opposition and another in office, each protesting to be the saviour of the nation. I have always regretted that the Couutry party, which won its way into this Parliament by advocatingalow tariff,has not carried out that policy, and, indeed, during the last four or five years, has repeatedly violated it.It has now, however, an opportunity to justify its presence in this House by hoisting again the low tariff flag, and fighting for it consistently. That banner will be welcomed from one end of Australia to the other, particularly by the primary producers, and I shall be prepared to stand and fight in line with the Country party tocarry it to victory. To-day we heard an illuminating statement that the Nationalist party stands for protection.
-Yes, but with a lower tariff.
– We have now a clear demarcation of fiscal policies, and I hope that the Country party will avail itself of the opportunity thus presented to it. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that he introduced the schedule in good faith, and with the best intentions. I believe him ; at any rate, he has been consistent. I hope that events prove him to be right, but I believe that he is wrong, and. therefore, shall at every opportunity vote against the items contained in the schedule.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this, the earliest opportunity, to repair a grave injustice that I did this morning to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I find that the portion of my personal explanation in which I stated that the firm with which he is associatedwas convicted and fined £10 by Mr. Justice Lukin for a breach of an arbitration award was completely inaccurate. The penalty imposed, although reported in the same judgment as that relating to the summons against the firm ofC.J. White & Sons Proprietary Limited, applied to another respondent not connected in any way with that firm. I desire unreservedly and wholeheartedly to withdraw any accusation against the honorable member, and express to him my sincere regret and heartfelt apologies for having erroneously accused his firm of having been convicted and fined for a breach of an award.
.- I thank the honorable member for his oxplanatiou and apology. When he made his statement this morning I realized that he had been grievously misinformed. He has made adequate amends, and I shall entirely forget the incident.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300716_reps_12_125/>.