12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and offered prayers.
– I have this morning received a communication from one of the largest exporters of goods from Australia to Canada, informing me that owing to the stoppage of business with that Dominion his firm had cabled to their agents in Canada, and had received the following reply: -
All business impossible, pending information re new tariff and trade relations between Canada and Australia.
As the Minister for Markets conferred with the Canadian Government regarding the proposed trade treaty, will he inform the House of the present state of the negotiations ?
– I have stated several times, in reply to questions, that owing to the absence from Canada, through illness, of the Canadian Minister for Commerce, with whom principally I negotiated, no finality has been reached. For the delay that has occurred the Commonwealth Government is not responsible.
– The Prime Minister, in his budget speech last year, said that schemes for unemployment insurance, imposing as they do additional charges on industry, should be introduced only in normal times; otherwise it would be impossible to build up the necessary fund to meet such charges. In view of that statement, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether there is any foundation for the report that the Government proposes to introduce a scheme of unemployment insurance ?
– The Government is seriously considering the subject of unemployment insurance.
– A newspaper report states that while the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was addressing a meeting at Ballarat an interjector asked, “ What will happen when your £18,000,000 of fiduciary notes is exhausted “ ? And the Treasurer replied, “ If the world’s prices have not recovered we must go on with the process “. Does the Prime Minister concur in that statement?
– A well-known rule of Parliament provides that an honorable member basing a question upon a newspaper report must vouch for the accuracy of the report. Does the honorable member for Barker do so in this instance?
– According to a cablegram in this morning’s newspaper, a German aeroplane fitted with a singlecylinder Diesel engine has undergone highly satisfactory tests. The cost of the crude oil used was one-sixth of the cost of petrol that would have been required to carry out the test. As the oil used in the Diesel engine is extracted from coal, will the Prime Minister endeavour to obtain information on this subject with a view to helping the Australian coal industry?
– I shall have the report investigated.
– Division IV. of the tariff schedule now before the House, deals with agricultural products and groceries, including matches, onions, spices, starch, flour, custard powder, tea, biscuits, coffee, chicory, coco-nut butter and substitutes, confectionery, fish, and asparagus tips. The duties on most of those items have been before the House since 1929 ; but none of the reports of the Tariff Board relating to them has yet been presented to the House. Will the Minister for Tradeand Customs table the reports immediately, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to peruse them before being required to deal with the tariff schedule?
– I shall inquire whether the reports are available. It is customary to place the Tariff Board’s reports on theplace after action has been taken on them. When the present Government assumed office, however, I found in the department 40 or 50 reports which had not been prosented to Parliament. I have no desire to follow that example.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the following cablegram published in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times -
Whole Market Falls.
Australian Stock Lower.
New York, Wednesday.
The entire stock list was unsettled on Wallstreet to-day and the majority of the principal issues experienced considerable liquidation following a bear drive against United States steel.
As a result of the day’s trading, a total of 3,200,000,000,000 dollars was cut from the market valuation of stocks dealt in. The fall in the market valuation of United Stales steel corporation alone was 70,000,000 dollars.
I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will take immediate steps to introduce legislation to make effective the financial platform of tho Australian Labour Party for the nationalization of banking, and such other steps as shall register Australia’s determination to oppose the wholesale fraud and trafficking in finance that are characteristic of the existing financial system - as witnessed in incidents such as those to which I have drawn attention - and thereby protect the interests and well-being of tho citizens of Australia?
– On a point of orderI submit that you, Mr. Speaker, should ask the honorable member whether he vouches for the accuracy of the report he quoted ?
– In accordance with the request of the Leader of the Opposition, I ask the honorable member for Martin if he vouches for the accuracy of the report?
– I do.
– If I would be in order I would quote in full the verse beginning . “ Oh faith, fanatic faith “. To vouch for the accuracy of any’ press cablegram requires more than ordinary faith.
– The statement I quoted was published in the Canberra Times. That is sufficient for me.
– One would want more than “ fanatic faith “ to vouch for the accuracy of a message published in that journal. I have seen the cablegram to which the honorable member has replied, but it is not customary for announcements of Government policy to he made by way of answers to questions.
– The Canberra Times of to-day publishes this message from London -
The Daily Express understands that the German Government is about to reduce the import duty on wheat. It is expected that this will apply to 20,000,000 bushels.
Is the Minister for Markets able to confirm that report? If so, does the reduction apply to the special duties imposed by the German Government as retaliation against the Australian tariff, or does it apply merely to the ordinary German tariff?
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member be requested to vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper message he has quoted?
– Does the honorable member for Wakefield do so?
– I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the cablegram, but without reference to it, I ask if the Minister has any information on the subject I have mentioned ?
– I shall have inquiries made to ascertain if there is any truth in the message.
– The Prime Minister stated yesterday that the application of the sales tax to hotels, restaurants and cafes relates only to manufactured goods and not to meals. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the tax on those goods will not increase theprice of meals?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in basing a question on one previously answered.
– Isthe Prime Minister aware that restaurant-keepers are adding the sales tax to the charges that they make to their patrons?
– I am aware that in many cases the sales tax has been passed on by those who are paying it, and I did not anticipate anything else. It was expected that the manufacturers of goods would add the sales tax to their prices. The tax is a tax on sales. If unduly high prices are being charged, of course that is another matter.
– In view of the statement which appeared in the Melbourne Argus yesterday, to the effect that the Federal Treasurer had indicated in Adelaide that the value of imports would shortly be based on Australian currency, and that customs duties would be assessed on that basis, and in view of the statement of the customs officials that that they have no information concerning this proposal, will the Minister make a statement so as toallay the mind of those concerned, and the commercial world generally, as to what is actually contemplated by the Government?
– I ask the right honor- able member for Cowper if he can vouch for the accuracy of that statement?
– Yes. The newspaper from which I gained the information - the Melbourne Argus - is uniformly accurate in its statements.
– It is not usual in reply to questions to announce government policy.
– In view of the importance of this matter and the intolerable uncertainty which the commercial world is suffering at present, will the Prime Minister take the first opportunity to make a statement, in view of the fact that the statement of the Treasurer is, according to the Minister for Trade and Customs, not authoritative.
– The Minister for Trade and Customshas not said that the statement of the Treasurer was not authoritative. He merely asked the right honorable member whether he could vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report. He also rightly said that he could make no announcement in respect of government policy, a rule that applies particularly to changes in customs duties. No decision has definitely been arrived at in this matter, but a serious anomaly exists to-day in the method of treating imports in relation to the exchange, particularly imports from foreign countries, some valuations being based on sterling and some on Australian currency. This serious anomaly is being considered by the Government in conjunction with the customs officials.
– Has no decision been arrived at?
– No definite plan has been determined as to the basis of the Government’s proposal. We are trying to arrive at some plan which will be uniform and just.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that the anti-Labour forces in this country are clamouring for new leadership in respect of the Opposition in this House, on the ground that it is vitally necessary to serve their purposes, and can he take any steps to assist the Opposition to install definitely their new leader, seeing that it is now nearly three weeks since a public announcement was made on the subject?
– I have heard rumours to the effect that a new leadership of the Opposition is contemplated, but I cannot vouch for their accuracy. I am not prepared to undertake the task suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Lyons) seems somewhat elusive, because I have not seen him in this House for some considerable time.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the announcement in the Labor Daily, of the 30th April, that a vicious and spiteful propaganda factory, run at Canberra by the Scullm-Theodora group in the interests of the alleged Australian Labour Party, is a statement of fact, and, if so, will the Government take the earliest opportunity to extirpate this pest house?
Question not answered.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any statement to make to the House regarding the robbery that took place last night on a train travelling from Sydney to Canberra, as a result of which, I understand, £10,000 worth of notes were stolen ?
– I have not received an official statement, although I was informed of the fact by telephone. I have been advised that a registered package is missing. The correct number of mail bags arrived; but evidently one bag had been stolen and another substituted. The matter is in the hands of the investigation officers.
– With reference to the recommendation of the royal commission which inquired into the disabilities of Western Australia under federation, is it intended, in connexion with the Constitution referenda to be taken shortly-
– Are Constitution referenda to be taken?
– I understand that an announcement to that effect has been made. I ask the Prime Minister if it is intended, in connexion with any proposed constitutional changes, to take into consideration the recommendation of the royal commission to give autonomy to Western Australia in respect of the tariff ?
– I think that any answer to that question would be a statement of high Government policy.
– Has the Prime Minister discussed with the Premiers of the States, or has he given any consideration to, the proposal that one body of valuers should be appointed for land tax purposes, both Federal and State, with the object of securing economy and uniformity of assessments?
– That subject has been thoroughly discussed on more than one occasion at Premiers’ Conferences. It was taken up with the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation who, however, reported against anyproposal that the Commonwealth should adopt State valuations. We believe that a common valuation should be arrived at by the Commonwealth authority and not ‘by the State authority. The States represented that they should do the valuing for the Commonwealth. Our officers report that the Commonwealth would lose considerable revenue if it adopted State valuations. We have urged, however, that a common method of valuation should be applied, and that the Commonwealth valuing authority should be utilized.
.- I move -
That the ruling oftge honorable the Speaker - that the amendment to the motion, That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, is out of order:- That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following: - “this House is of opinion that, as a general rule, a journalist should not be excluded from the press galleries except in cases of proved misconduct affecting his relation to Parliament “ - be disagreed with.
When objection was taken to myamend- mentlast night by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr.Crouch) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) I did notthinkthattheywereserious. It was difficult for me to believe, that they really thought that the amendment was out of order, but, you sir, having ruled against the amendment, of course I must take a different view of the matter. In your ruling you say that there are three ways of taking objection in regard to the conduct of business of which the Speaker has executive control. This particular matter -theadmission of persons to the press gallery - is not “ the conduct of business.” in any sense; but, waiving that obvious objection, it appears that you hold that there arc three method’s of taking objection’ to a decisionof the Speaker. Those three methods upon examination reduce themselves to one method, The first which you mention is by the Standing Orders. Of course, the Standing Orders do not take any objection at all. An objection can be taken in pursuance of a standing order; but that is the second method to which reference has been made by the Chair - a motion provided for in the Standing Orders to dissent from the ruling of the presiding officer. Thus methods one and two are obviously only one method. The third method is, it is stated, “ by substantive motion “. But the only method of taking objection to a ruling or decision of the Speaker is by motion under the Standing Orders - a substantive motion which, again, is method No. 2. Accordingly, so far from there being three methods of taking objection to a decision of the Speaker, there is only one method. We may agree, however, that there is a certain limited method of taking objection. Whether there are one or three methods is of no particular importance. My amendment was not a motion objecting to any ruling of the Speaker ; it had nothing to do with any ruling. That canbe easily demonstrated. If my amendment had been carried, it would not have reversed or affected any ruling or decision that had been given. Accordingly, my amendment cannot, I submit, be regarded as concerned with the method - one . or three-appropriate for dissent from a ruling or decision of the Speaker. Had the amendment been carried, rulings and decisions of the Speaker, or of Speakers in the past, whateverthey may have been, would have remained untouched. Accordingly,. I submit, no reason has been givenat all for ruling my amendment out of order. Of course, neither the Speaker nor the House is able to declare a subject “ black,” but if a ruling of this character is supported, that will actually be its effect. It might be said that because one fine clay last week, or last year, or the year before, some Speaker had said something about a matter, therefore, the House was debarred from discussing any motion dealing with any aspect pf the question to which that ruling might be supposed to relate. It would be impossible to limit the effect of such a decision. Accordingly, if this ruling were supported it would have a far-reaching consequence. It. has been suggested that my amendment, in some way or other, infringes the authority of the Speaker. I am unable to see how that can be supported, because the amendment would leave the authority of the Speaker exactly where it was, and would not infringe it at all. When you, sir, ruled last night, I thought, from what I understood you to say, that you adopted or accepted the arguments that were used in support of the objection to my amendment. In that, I was apparently mistaken.
The main argument in support of the objection taken to my amendment as out of order was that if it were agreed to it would be ineffective. That argument is completely ignored by your ruling, sir, as I now understand it. If the argument that a motion is out of order because it would, if carried, have no legal effect, could be sustained, it would be fatal to much of the business now on the noticepaper, for it may be said that none of the motions on the paper dealing with general subjects have immediate effect, except those disallowing ordinances or regulations. Honorable members have now before them a business paper which contains fourteen notices of motion and five. orders of the day. Only one of these provides for the disallowance of an ordinance, andnone of the others, if carried would have any legal effect. It is, however, one of the valuable privileges of the House that it may express its opinion upon any matter independently of legislative process, and of any amendment of the Standing Orders. Although governments generally discount the proceedings of the House on private members’ day, an opportunity is afforded on such occasions for honorable members to elicit information and to express opinions upon matters without making subsequent legislative action obligatory. It is true, of course, that the carrying of motions may be antecedent to changes in the Standing Orders, or to the introduction of legislation.
I submit that if an amendment may be ruled out of order on the grounds taken on this occasion, the privileges of honorable members will be seriously interfered with, for no sound reasons have been advanced to support the ruling from which I now ask the House to dissent. It is difficult to argue against reasons which are impalpable and irrelevant to the issue raised. Only unsound reasons have been advanced in support of this ruling, though it affects profoundly the rights of honorable members. If this ruling is upheld, any honorable member in the years to come who is an enthusiast in research, may find that a Speaker has ruled on some subject; and that ruling may be used as a ground for preventing any discussion on that subject by a motion. If the principle involved in this ruling be upheld, many motions and amendments legitimately moved in this House may be ruled out of order. My amendment last night was not a motion of dissent from any ruling of the Speaker, and did not affect or refer to any ruling at all. For these reasons I submit that the present motion of dissent should be carried.
.- I second the motion.
– Let us get on with the nation’s business.
– That is my desire, so I shall make my remarks brief. I wish to see the tariff debate proceeded with. Honorable members opposite have wasted many days in discussing bills which they knew very well would not be passed by another place. This discussion has arisen in consequence of the exclusion of a journalist from the press gallery and the. precincts of this House. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has indicated, no. guilt has been attached to the gentleman concerned. I think it wrong that secrets of State should be revealed, but the Government, I submit, has not discovered the person who was guilty of revealing these secrets, and it is, therefore, not justified in treating harshly the journalist who has been excluded from the House.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is not entitled to discuss the merits of any individual case, and that his remarks are irrelevant to the motion.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– Let us consider a hypothetical case. A public man may be charged with corruption, and a royal commission may inquire into his conduct and find that he was guilty of fraud and dishonesty. In such a case would there not be justification for denying him access to the precincts of the House? But that is not the position of the journalist concerned in this matter. He has been shut out without any inquiry having been made as to his conduct.
– I again ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the motion of disagreement with the Speaker’s ruling.
– Then I formally support the motion.
– The amendment proposed by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition sought to obtain a decision of the House, the object of which would have been to place a limitation upon the Speaker in his application of an existing standing order, and would have been in conflict with a ruling given by him on the standing order.
The House, with its Standing Orders, has made certain rules with respect to the mode in which its powers may be exercised and upheld. These Standing Orders must be recognized while they exist, because Standing Order No. 410 provides that-
The whole of these Standing Orders shall continue in force until altered, amended, or repealed.
The amendment in question would not, of itself, effect an amendment of a standing order. Such alteration could only be made with a motion distinct in its terms of alteration.
In my opinion, the amendment proposed has a bearing, which may be considered indirect or implied, on a recent action of the Chair. The Speaker is the representative of the House, its powers, its proceedings, and its dignity. May, 10th edition, page 187, makes this very definite. The Speaker is also responsible for the due enforcement of the rules, rights and privileges of the House. This, too, is made clear on the same page of May. The ultimate authority is certainly’ the House itself, but the Speaker is th. executive officer by whom its rules are enforced - May, 10th edition, page 331. A decision of the House regarding the conduct of the Speaker cannot, however, be obtained by means of an amendment, but must be sought for by a substantive, motion. This point is covered in May, 10th edition, at page 1S8.
There is provided in the Standing Orders a means for objecting to a decision of the Speaker, and, as intimated by me last week, this method would, if it had been followed, have been in order under Standing Order No. 287.
Where there is specific provision in our rules and practice prescribing methods of taking certain action, and these methods are not followed, I have no option but to rule that a course which is taken contrary to such rules and practice is out of order.,
.-! direct attention to certain words in May, 10th edition, page 331, which you, Mr. Speaker, have quoted. The words are as follows; -
The ultimate authority upon all points is the House itself ; but the Speaker is the executive officer by whom its rules are enforced.
Later, May says -
But doubtful cases may arise upon which the rules of the House are indistinct or obsolete, or do not apply directly to the point at issue; when the Speaker, being left without specific directions, refers the matter to the judgment of the House.
In the case under discussion the Speaker refused to accept the position that he was the executive officer of the
House. He claimed to be a dictator to the House. When an effort was made to challenge his right to dictatorship, he ruled a legitimate amendment out of order, so that he might support the stand that he had taken. In support of that ruling you, sir, said that three ways were open to honorable members to control the conduct of the proceedings. One of these was by substantive motion. In the same edition May lays it down very clearly that all reference to the conduct of the King, the Prince of Wales, the Speaker of the House of Commons or members, can be dealt with by substantive motion only. I submit that Mr. Speaker has wrongly regarded the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) yesterday as a reflection upon his conduct, whereas it did not mention either the Speaker or his conduct. It was an endeavour, on the part of the House, to register disapproval of the action of the Government in pursuing a vendetta against a journalist. There is neither a precedent nor a standing order which demands that such a matter shall be dealt with by substantive motion. For these reasons I support the motion of dissent.
– I do not propose to traverse the arguments that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), or by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), but I intend to support this motion in as few words as I can adequately employ. I agree entirely with what was said by both the Leader of tlie Opposition and the honorable member for Oxley. The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in no way questioned Mr. Speaker’s general attitude in this matter, nor does this motion cast any reflection on you, sir. Any reflection that may be contained in the motion is upon the Government itself, and nobody can construe it in any other way. I agree entirely with the contention that Mr. Speaker is the custodian of the rights and privileges of this House, but I contend that what constitutes those rights and privileges is a matter for the House itself to decide. That is a point that honorable members cannot afford to lose sight of.
– Why get angry about it?
– I am not. I merely urge that this House should do nothing that may be construed to mean that it has renounced its rights and privileges. If members, of the Labour party registera vote against this motion, it will be interesting to see how they reconcile their consciences with their previous attitude. I am astounded that they should permit themselves to be manoeuvred into committing such a volte face. I am amazed, too, at the Labour party’s altered attitude to the freedom of the press, and the great principle that is involved in that phrase.
– Freedom of the press!
– Yes ; this is an attempt on the part of the Labour Government to interfere with the freedom of the press.
– Order ! The subject under discussion is a motion that the House dissent from a ruling given by Mr. Speaker yesterday with regard to a certain amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members who desire to contribute to the debate must confine themselves to that issue.
– I quite realize the importance of your contention, sir.I stress the point that the motion before the House does not in any way reflect upon your ruling. If it contains any reflection, it is upon the Government itself.
– That is not quite right.
– That is the only rational interpretation that can be placed upon it. The House itself should determine what are the rights and privileges of honorable members. I hope that the point will not be lost sight of by honorable members when they register their vote on the motion. It does not involve an infringement of the Standing Orders, but is merely a direct claim by this House that it shall maintain the rights that it has so long possessed. If honorable members countenance a departure from that attitude, they will do an injustice to themselves, to the whole of our parliamentary institutions, and to the press.
Motion (by Mr. Beasley) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That Mr. Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with (Mr. Latham’s motion) - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Activities of Mr.mckenna.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that, notwithstanding untenanted shops and buildings, and, in other cases, greatly reduced rents in the city of Sydney, and in view of the fact that the notices delivered this week for Federal Unimproved Capital Value Tax show, in certain cases, an increase over the City Council’s assessment of over 56 per cent., and in the amount of tax to bepaid an increase of over 90 per cent., and as such huge increases must be paid on lodging appeals, will the Government consider accepting the tax on the previous assessment, plus interest, until appeals lodged are finally decided?
– A general rule applying to all cases cannot be made, but deputy commissioners of land tax have already been authorized to suspend payment of that portion of the tax which is in dispute pending settlement of values in cases where, as the result of the acquisition of additional information after a departmental valuation has been applied in an assessment, the deputy commissioner considers the taxpayer may possibly have some reasonable ground for his claim for lower values.
– On the 16th April the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice - 1, Whatwere the quantity and value of whisky imported into Australia for each financial year since 1924-192:5, also the quantity and value of whisky imported during the present financial year?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Report (No. 4) brought up by Mr.
Tully, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
Central Australia -
No. 3 - Testator’s Family Maintenance.
No. 4 - Supreme Court.
North Australia -
No. 4 - Testator’s Family Maintenance.
No. 5 - Supreme Court.
Transport Workers Act - Regulations
Amended- Statutory Rules 1931, No. 34.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 29th April (vide page 1423), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 be amended as hereunder set out (vide page 682).
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921- 1928 be amended as hereunder set out [vide page 740).
Item 1 (Ale and other beer, cider and perry, spirituous). .
.- The tariff is undoubtedly one of the most important matters which can engage the attention of Parliament. It enters in the most intimate way into the lives of the masses of the people, while at the same time affecting in a very definite manner the industrial activities of the country. It means, and has always meant, the infliction of a severe, and sometimes grinding form of taxation, on the masses of the people. This has been done in a way which has not always been apparent to those concerned. This fact can be better realized when we note that most Radical and Labour parties have the very strongest objection to customs taxation. They recognize that such taxation is borne by one section of the people, and one section only, namely, the workers. Therefore, the Labour parties in English speaking countries, and the Radical parties on the Continent, have always fought against customs taxation unless it could be shown conclusively that it conferred benefits which provided some compensation for the burdens it imposed. In this country, however, the extraordinary position obtains that it is the Labour or Radical party that has fastened on the backs of the people the harshest and most severe customs taxation that has ever been imposed in any country. During the peak year of such taxation, no less than £44,000,000 was extracted in customs and excise taxation from the pockets of our 6,250,000 people. For the current year the Government estimates that it will obtain £39,700,000 in the same way from the same people.
– The honorable member must admit that the bulk of that taxation is going to pay interest.
– I do admit that only to the extent that direct taxation is entirely absorbed in the cost of social services. In addition to the £39,700,000 which this Government hopes to derive by customs and excise taxation, it has estimated that it will receive from the sales tax which, in so far as its effect upon the people is concerned, is the same as customs .taxation, another £5,000,000. Then, on top of that again, there is the primage duty of 4 per cent, by which it is expected to raise another £5,000,000. This huge sum of money the Government proposes to take from the earnings of the workers, and also from the scant savings of the hundreds of thousands of persons now out of work. These exactions cannot be dodged; they are as inevitable as the undertaker round the corner, because they are levied on the food, drink and apparel of the masses of the people.
– What is the honorable member’s alternative?
– That is another matter. I shall present my alternative in my own time. It is no defence- for the Government to say that these taxes will not yield the amount estimated. I am prepared to concede that they will not, but that is not the fault of the Government; It is due entirely to the misfortunes of the people who cannot pay, because they have not the money with which to pay. It has been said that taxation estimates have not been realized because of the lowered purchasing power, of the people. In my opinion, it is due, not so much to that, as to the fact that the Government’s fiscal policy has so increased prices that the people cannot afford to buy. The extraordinary thing is that the very class which Labour members we r( sent into Parliament to represent, and whose interests the Government is supposed to defend, is the one which is being made to suffer most severely as a result of the Government’s policy and legislation. The question- then arises : Has the public been reasonably compensated for this devastating taxation? Has the country benefited by the growth of secondary industries, and in the provision of additional employment for the people? There is only one answer to that. The facts stand out as clearly as the peak of a mountain; the masses have received no compensation by way of additional employment for the taxation imposed upon them, and the country has received no substantial or lasting benefit in the shape of increased national income from the unscientific tariff schedules which have been tabled by this Government from time to time. Our secondary industries to-day are so handicapped by high working cost, by distance from the world’s markets, that, despite the protection afforded them, less than 4 per cent, of what they produce is exported.
What has been the effect of the tariff on the primary industries? They have been unjustly treated, and have suffered severely from tariff legislation, despite their importance as a factor in introducing new wealth into the country. The
Government has heaped burdens on the primary industries, and they will not have received justice until the prices have been reduced of several important commodities which are essential to the primary producers. In framing tariff schedules no just balance has been preserved between the claims of secondary and primary industries. According to the authoritative publication entitled The Australian Tariff, the tariff has added 9 per cent, to the cost of production in our primaryindustries. I contend that it has conferred upon the community no compensating advantages. High tariffs have driven the primary producer to the adoption of such shifts as the Paterson butter scheme, and the sugar, rice and dried fruits embargoes. These are, to my mind, economically unsound. I do not attempt to justify the action of the primary producers who have been driven to take such action because of the protection afforded the secondary industries at the expense of the primary industries.
I welcome this long-delayed opportunity to express my views on the tariff. I take full responsibility for my own utterances on the subject, and I do not accept the opinions of any one else in this House, nor do I accept responsibility for any tariff legislation introduced by previous governments. I have voted for only two tariff schedules since I have been a member and I am prepared to take full responsibility for the views that I have expressed.
I complain, in the first instance, of the shocking delay that has occurred in dealing with the schedules. Some of them have contained the most glaring inconsistencies, and these anomalies could have been removed if parliamentary discussion had been permitted. This is supposed to be a free Parliament, but members have had their mouths’ shut on* the tariff, and have been unable to remove obvious hardships. It is no excuse to say that other governments have followed a similar practice. A grave injustice has been perpetrated, and the representatives of the people have been denied the traditional right of redressing these wrongs. In one night, by the tabling of a new schedule, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been cut from the incomes of certain sections of the community and handed over to other sections. Hundreds of thousands of men have been dismissed from their employment in the importing and shipping trades, and nothing has been done in the tariffs imposed to compensate for the hardships endured.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in an apologetic way, spoke of the injustice done to the maritime industries of Sydney, most of which he represents; but he simply skipped over the subject for fear of criticizing the Government with which lie occasionally has a sham fight.
– But which he uniformly supports.
– And of which he was a member when these imposts were placed upon his constituents.
– He is particeps criminis
– Yes, and yet, in one night, a tariff alteration destroyed practically the maritime industries of Sydney, which had been built up over a course of years. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when representing West Sydney, was intimately connected with them. Those were the halcyon days of this country, when Sydney was one’ of the greatest shipping ports of the world. But now vessels go there in ballast, and often leave the same day. That port is now almost denuded of the trade that previously gave employment to thousands of wharf labourers, and to other men whose livelihood depended upon the maritime industries. To-day, through the operation of these schedules, those men have been thrown out of employment, and no additional work has been provided, either in the handling of wheat, as promised by inference by the Prime Minister and his Government, or by the promised increased activities of secondary industries.
Take the timber duties that were imposed by the -present Government. I do not suppose that there is a case in which any government has surrendered more readily and completely than this Government did to the log-rolling and importuning that went on for months in connexion with those duties. Some firms had stocks in hand amounting to 50,000,000 feet of timber. Owing to the increased duties, the price of the timber was raised, and the amount of profit made by the petrol companies is a mere fleabite compared with the colossal profit grasped by some timber interests. Consequently, the cost of houses has been increased, and people of small means have found it more difficult than before to build homes.
– The timber duties increased the capital value of houses already built to theextent of millions of pounds.
– That is so, and employment in the building trade is at a low ebb. The duties placed onoregon and baltic have proved disastrous to that trade. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) well knows how many thousands of carters and trolleymen are out of employment. The ill-advised, imposition of increased duties onsuch goods as timber has largely contributed to the loss of employment by those men.
Occasionally a gasometer is required by a gas company, and then the question arises whether this article should be admitted duty free. The duty would run into thousands of pounds. An inquiry is made by the customs officers, who say, “ This gasometer can be built in Australia.” Of course, every article in this wide world could be built here at a price, and in time; but goods such as these are required, perhaps, only once in a lifetime, and no firm in this country specializes in their manufacture. However, because somebody says that they can be built in Australia, thousands of pounds mustbe paid in duty, and this results in the community being charged an extra 1d. or 3d. for gas for all time. Similarly, the duty on ships puts up transport costs generally, and particularly the costs of the man on the land.
I submit that nobody in this country should have the power that is now exercised by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, without referring to Parliament at, all, can introduce embargoes on imports, and, at his own sweet will, can make one man wealthy and ruin another. That is a power greater than was possessed by the Czar of Russia, or is assumed by the Soviet Government.
-But that power has not been given to me since this Government assumed office.
– I am not blaming the Minister personally; I say that the system is wrong.
– Why did not the honorable member say this when he sat behind the Bruce-Page Government?
– These schedules have been on the table since 1929, and this is the first opportunity that I have had of expressing my opinions regarding them.
– No such iniquitous duties were brought down by the Bruce-Page Government.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.No. The present Minister could lift an embargo in dealing with the American firm of Heinz & Company, while he refused to treat the British firm of Rowntree and Company in a similar manner.
– Permission was granted for the entry of Rowntree’s products, but Heinz & Company did not import sixpennyworth of goods after the embargo was lifted.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That does not alter my argument. I point out that the power is inherent in one member of the Government to say to a huge business organization, behind the back of this Parliament, “ You can bring in £50,000 worth of your products this year, and nobody else can “. He can also say to a British manufacturer, “I will not permit you to do it “, and there the matter must end. Such an extraordinary power should not be wielded by any man.
The phrase “ as prescribed by departmental by-laws “ occurs 108 times in these schedules. The general effect is that many articles can be admitted at reduced duties, if this course is approved by the Minister or his officers. I object in Unmeasured terms to government by regulation and government by officers of the Customs Department. I am not reflecting on civil servants as a body; in fact, for them I have the highest regard, but I am protesting against the principle of government by regulations and administration not by a Minister, but perhaps by some inconsequential minor official in the Trade and Customs Department.
– The present system has been in operation ever since we have had tariffs;
– The Minister does not deny that the system of which I complain is in operation now; his defence is that it has been operating for a long time. That does not dispose of the grave objection to government in that way.
Let us examine the method of constructing a tariff. I object to the indiscriminate, promiscuous, haphazard, favortofriends way in which tariff benefits are handed out. They should be conceded on one principle only, that of public interest. The Tariff Board does not get a fair chance. Often, as in connexion with the timber duties, the Board’s recommendation is ignored by the Government. Again, the Government tables a duty in this House and asks the board to report afterwards. And that, I suppose, indicates to the board the sort of report that the Government wants.
– On a point of order. I resent the suggestion of the honorable member that I instruct the Tariff Board as to what its report should be. The board is an independent statutory body, and its members were appointed by the present Government. It consists of Mr. McConachie of the Trade and Customs Department; and three independent members, representative of various sections of the community.
– No point of order is involved. The Minister will have a chance later to reply to statements made in the course of this debate.
– Did the honorable member for Warringah say that instructions were given to the board as to how it should report?
– No. I said that duties were first tabled and then reports were asked for, and that such duties indicated to the Tariff Board the views of the Government.
– I ask for a Hansard transcript of what the honorable member said ?
– I have no authority to order a transcript to be made.
– I emphasize the extraordinary ‘ pro cedure of first imposing a duty and then asking the board for a report, for the guidance of the Government. Many of the reports are hurried, incomplete and superficial. I am not blaming the Tariff Board or the department, but the present system prevents requests for duties from being thoroughly investigated as they should be. In the Dominion of Canada, the reports of the Tariff Board are carefully prepared and are of the most definite, complete and comprehensive character. They lay down a tariff policy which allows no discretion to Ministers, or even to Parliament; they frankly and openly state for the information of every citizen the line of action that would be in the best interests of the nation. In Australia, deputations from those desiring amendments of the tariff wait upon the Minister. Often they consist of employers and employees, and the. views they put forward are the results of conferences held beforehand.
Mr. Lewis. They have a common interest.
– Their common interest may not be the interest of the common people. The honorable member forgets that the public is a third party to all these arrangements, but the third party is rarely considered. There are visits by the Minister to factories, and, with great respect, I suggest that he cannot expect to understand all the ramifications of an enterprise after a quarter of an hour’s inspection. A request for a duty may be perfunctorily examined by an officer of the department. Then there is the political pressure that is exerted upon the Government as a result of ministerial election promises, the political support that has been promised and given, and the incessant and persistent log rolling by interested parties. I admit that the present Minister isvery active and well intentioned. He has been the most active and probably the most useful member of the Cabinet, and he has done a lot of good work. Nevertheless I am of opinion that his ability and energy have been misdirected, and have not yielded real benefit to the people.
– Indeed his energy makes him a greater menace.
– I agree with the honorable member. As a result of the embargoes imposed by the Government industries have been ruined, foreign trade with friendly nations has been entirely destroyed, the maritime industries have been detrimentally affected, unemployment has been increased, and living made more difficult and costly.
What should be the tariff policy of this country? All of us are in favour of Australian industries. I say frankly that Australian industry lias no more cordial supporter than 1, but I claim the right to say which industries are worthy of support I am. not ready to give high protection to an industry merely to placate political pressure. The industry to be fostered is one which has a chance to thrive under Australian conditions, which can obtain its raw materials in Australia and will provide substantial employment for Australians. We all favour the development of Australian industries; the difference between honorable members is one of degree. Apparently the Government thinks that the indiscriminate giving of favours to those who clamor most, or can offer the most political support, is the proper method of building up a tariff policy. It is not. Every industry should be considered separately on its merits, and if the local conditions are favorable for its establishment, and it can conform to the other conditions I have specified, it should receive substantial support. Goods which cannot be produced economically or as cheaply as by other British dominious and friendly nations, should be admitted at low duties, and we should be prepared to accept the benefit of. the resultant lower cost of living.
Briefly, I advocate a lower tariff generally and organized assistance to the industries that are of national importance and essential to our development and national greatness, industries which conform to the requirement laid down by the Prime Minister in the Sydney Town Hall in 1928, that “quantity, quality and price must bc right,” industries which Will provide real employment for our people. I am opposed to duties that will create monopolies by destroying competition. I am in favour of the encouragement of primary industries by tariff assistance, cheapening the means of production, and improved marketing facilities. We should aim at closer Imperial unity in tariff affairs, by maintaining and extending the preferences which we give to Great Britain and the dominions. Next we should give preferential treatment to friendly nations that buy largely from us.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for .Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and the only point on which I am in agreement with him is the importance of the tariff schedule which is now before the committee. I propose to deal with two aspects of the tariff. I do not say that it is without anomalies, because anomalies will creep into any legislation enacted by this or any other Government. When we find anomalies in the tariff it is our duty, not to attempt to destroy the whole of the schedule by making an unwarranted attack upon it, but to remove those anomalies as far as possible in a spirit of co-operation. The attack of the honorable member for Warringah is quite unjustified. He referred particularly to the sum that, he said, had been lost to this country because of the imposition of tariff duties. He carefully ignored the fact that, during the seven years preceding 1930, £90,000,000 had” been sent from Australia in payment for imported goods. If the tariff has not succeeded in doing what the Opposition is always talking about - balancing the budget - it has at least given us a favorable trade balance. Surely that justifies the imposition. The honorable member for Warringah referred to what has taken place in Canada, and in this connexion I should like to quote, not only for his benefit, but also for the benefit of all honorable members, the opinion of an ‘eminent economist, Mr. C. H. Gahan, K.C., and member of the Canadian House of Commons. He stated -
The principle ‘ which should guido the Government, Parliament and people of this country has long been established by the experience of the most prosperous nations, namely, that the domestic trade, the internal trade, and the home trade of a country is the more profitable for the country as a whole, and should first be considered and continuously conserved and never sacrificed merely to extend the volume of our foreign trade by unnecessarily increasing the quantity and value of our annual importation.
No greater economic fallacy can delude the minds of men than that which measures the general prosperity and industrial welfare of the Canadian people solely or. even chiefly, bythe extent of its foreign commerce, without serious regard to whether its imports which swell the volume of that foreign trade might not profitably be used in Canada.
The increasing of our foreign trade by selling abroad our raw materials, which are chiefly produced here by unskilled labour, in exchange for foreign manufactured commodities, which arc produced by skilled labour abroad, but which could be produced profitably at home, is a menace to the continued prosperity of our own people. The production by cheap domestic labour for use in foreign country of low price raw materials often leaves the producing country impoverished, and compels its skilled. labour to seek employment in other countries.
What applies to Canada applies to a greater extent to Australia. The opinion of Mr. C. H. Cahan is substantiated by authoritiessuch as Mills, an English, economist of high standing, and by List, of Germany, who is regarded as one of the outstanding fiscal authorities in the world. Mr. Cahan further stated -
Therefore, the prime objective of Canadian statesmanship should ever he to provide increasing, diversified and remunerative employment for our Canadian people, by increasing our domestic production and our domestic consumption of all commodities whichwe ourselves may readily produce.
In our domestic trade we produce Canadian commodities which we exchange with our fellow Canadians for other commodities produced by them in Canada. We thus make a double demand upon the productive energies of our own people and double the demand for employment in our own country.
The honorable member forWarringah made a special attack upon the timber industry. He said that the lull in the building trade was due to the excessive tariffs imposed by this Government. The very stupidity of that statement condemns it. Everybody knows that economic factors operate not only in Australia, but also in every other country. Does the Opposition say that the Australian tariff is responsible for the ills and evils of the civilized world? The contention of the honorable member for Warringah is utterly absurd. I propose now to give detailed particulars of different industries in my electorate, and in so doing I sincerely trust that no honorable member will accuse me of being parochial, because what applies to the industries there applies also to those in other parts of Australia. I have made it my business to gather data in respect to these industries which I think willbe useful not only ‘ to the Government and this Parliament, but also to Australia generally. The first is the woollen industry, and I shall deal with its secondary stage, because in the electorate which I represent are three of the largest woollen mills of Australia. They are the Globe Worsted Mills, Vicars and Company’s Marrickville Tweed Mills, and the Australian Mills, in addition to the Australian Knitting Mills. Recently I took the opportunity to visit those mills. When the tariff was previously being debated, I, in this chamber, made an extensive examination of the iron and steel industry, and its development in Australia. I have no wish to repeat what I said then, so I shall confine my remarks to the woollen industry. I ask leave to incorporate inHansard the data that I have collected.
– I object.
As there is an objection, leave is refused.
– I first visited the Globe Worsted Mills. Since the imposition of revised tariffs by this Government, those mills have considerably increased the number of their employees, and to-day they are employing 390 persons as against 300 persons twelve months ago. Since October, 1929, the management has spent £105,524 on new plant and buildings. In spite of this expenditure, prices have been reduced by 22 per cent. That is an average reduction. Some lines have been reduced by over 25 per cent. Thanks to the tariff, that firm is employing more hands than ever before. It is not yet in full swing, and with the lifting of the depression its employees will number 500. The directors ofthe mill have stated that the tariff has succeeded admirably so far as their industry is concerned. They are now manufacturing crepes, wool, marocain, georgettes, and numerous other lines which, until the imposition of the tariffs of this Government could not be exploited on the local market by Australian manufacturers. Previously French and Italian goods of this description had flooded the Australian, as well as the English markets. Even a better ease for the tariff has been made out by the Australian Woollen Mills, and John Vicars and Company Limited. The Australian Woollen Mills are now working overtime. John Vicars and Company Limited are manufacturing goods which prior to the introduction of the tariff of 1929 they could not attempt to manufacture because of the keen competition from overseas. This firm has supplied me with the following prices of four lines of manufacture: -
Those reductions have taken place as a result of the tariff schedule of 1929 introduced by this Government. I have seen samples of the materials. Vicars Limited informed me that prices generally were from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, lower. Anticipating good results from the tariff they installed more machinery, and would have been running to their utmost capacity but for the trade depression.
The Globe Worsted Mills, worstedspinners and manufacturers of fancy worsteds and indigo serges, state that, thanks to the tariff, they have been able to retain the services of all their employees. They say that the application of the duty to .a lighter weight material had been of distinct help to them. They had been able to cater successfully for these goods, particularly crepes and the like. The orders were satisfactory, and repeat orders were now being received which should lead to increased work in the future.
The Australian Knitting Mills report that, generally speaking, the prices of underwear are 20 per cent., and outerwear 10 per cent., lower than those which ruled before the imposition of the new duties. They estimate that their sales would have been from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, greater but for the depression.
The manufacturers of millinery headwear report an all-round reduction in prices. They say that a fair estimate of the drop is 33$ per centHad it not been for the tariff, half the millinery headwear manufacturers would now be out of business, for it would have been impossible for them to survive the depression and overseas competition.
The Bradford Cotton Mills report that the matter which most seriously concerns them is the weight of the different cloths. Certain items in the tariff schedule provide for piece goods of not more than six ounces per square yard. One result of that limitation has been that the market has been glutted with lighter cloths from foreign countries. This has seriously affected their trade. They have applied to the department to have cloths of less than six ounces brought under Item 105 (1) (b) and (c) but without avail. I appeal to the Minister to give this firm some relief.
I shall now deal with the position of the twine and cordage manufacturers. Messrs. E. Bentley and Sous, through Mr. Bentley, report that prices have fallen by 25 per cent, in respect of jute twines spun from raw jute, and made into twine in Australia. The tariff has made it possible for this firm to obtain numerous orders which previously went overseas. For instance, practically no imported wheat or wool twine is being sold locally on account of the high cost of landing it in comparison with the price of the locally produced article. Importing interests have been quoting a twine suitable for sewing wheat bags at 30s. per dozen pounds, whereas Bentley and Sons have been securing a lot of business at from 24s. to 25s. per dozen pounds. The firm has brought down the price of its special line of seaming twine suitable for sewing bags and sacks for the primary producers to a figure below that which prevailed last season. Had there been no trade depression this firm is of the opinion that it would have been exceedingly busy.
Assisted by a liberal tariff, and unhampered by industrial disputes, the woollen industry in Australia has now reached a high state of efficiency. It is estimated that during the last twelve months more than 50,000,000 lb. of Australian wool, or, roughly, the produce of 8,000,000 sheep, has been retained in the Commonwealth for various purposes. Practically the whole of the men’s clothing worn in Australia is of local manufacture, and the mills are turning their attention to women’s goods, such as lightweight tweeds and worsteds, to a greater extent than ever before. A large quantity of wool is also made into yarn and manufactured into knitted goods.
In 1907 only 60,810 bales of wool were retained in Australia. There was a gradual increase annually until 1915, when the local consumption reached 136,000 bales. This was followed by a drop to 87,000 bales in 1920, and since then the quantities required annually in Australia have been as follows: -
The foundation of our woollen industry, including the 50 mills now operating and those which confine their activities solely to the making of wool tops or wool and worsted yarns, was laid in Parramatta at the beginning of last century. In 1803, two hand looms were at work in Parramatta Gaol making blankets and coarse cloth. The workers were illqualified, and the coarsest of wool was used. According to official records, the building consisted of one room 60 ft. by 20 ft., which was not only the factory, but also the living room of the female convicts employed, and contained a fireplace where the provisions were cooked. Their bedding consisted of the wool utilized in the industry. By 1838, seven woollen factories had been established in New South Wales. The textile industry received a great impetus during the gold rush and afterwards suffered a serious setback. In 1852, our output was 235,000 yards of cloth, in addition to blankets, &c. Three years later it was only 35,760 yards ; and, in 1856, it was practically nil. Two factories were at work in 1862, and ten years later there were seven mills operating. From 1876 to 1885 our manufactured goods averaged 200,000 yards a year, including the products from Vicars’s tweed mills. The late Mr. John Vicars, who founded the firm of John Vicars and Company Limited, later removed his looms to Marrickville, where to-day the mills cover an area of four acres, and carry on all branches of the industry.
During the first ten years of federation, the output of tweed in New South Wales increased from 525,020 yards to 1,225,470 yards. The latest available figures, which cover the 1927-28 season, show an output of 2,686,340 yards, the number of mills being fourteen, compared with four in 1901. The quantity of scoured wool used in 1927-28 was 3,702,638 lb., compared with 685,240 lb. in 1901. Between 1911 and 1921 the output of tweed in New South Wales increased by 150 per cent. In addition to the tops made in local woollen mills, the top-making establishment catering for the export trade had an output of 1,486,889 lb. in 1927-28, valued at £283,632. Noils were produced to the extent of 366,332 lb., valued at £39,120.
It has been argued frequently by honorable members opposite that the tariff has resulted in an increase in the cost of goods to the Australian people. In this connexion I quote the following statements by Mr. N. Skene Smith, Assistant in the Department of Commerce, London School of Economics, in his book The Structure and Working of the Australian Tariff: -
The tariff policy of Australia since 1914 does not appear to have unduly raised the cost of living to the average family. This is shown by the Ministry of Labour figures for the cost of food, house rent, clothing, fuel and light, and other household requirements, which were in 1928-
In the United Kingdom, 65 per cent. above 1914.
In Australia, 46 per cent. above 1914. In certain other countries the rise was as follows : -
That, I consider, is an effective reply to the arguments of honorable members opposite, for it shows that the increase in the cost of living has been relatively lower in Australia than in any other country, except South Africa.
A good deal has been said at different times about the effect of the tariff on the primary producers. Although I represent a metropolitan constituency,
I fully appreciate the value of our primary producing industries to Australia. This country must look after her primary industries as well as her secondary industries.
– All the primary producers ask i3 that they shall be left alone.
– I do not propose to interfere ‘with them. For my own part I shall endeavour to serve the best interests of both the primary and secondary industries. Of the total primary production of Australia, 54 per cent, is consumed locally and 46 per cent, is exported. The primary producers’ troubles are due to the collapse of the export market. The same trouble has come upon primary producers all over the world. The producers of wheat in the Argentine, of tin in the Mal av States, of copra in the Pacific Islands, of coffee in Brazil, and of rubber in various parts of the world, are all in trouble. These are free-trade countries, so it is ridiculous to blame the tariff for the exactly similar troubles of Australian primary producers. As a matter of fact, the Australian primary producer is not so badly hit as his prototype in, say, the Pacific Islands. The latter depends wholly on exporting, whereas the Australian is only dependent upon exporting to the extent of 46 per cent, of his production. The Australian has the advantage of a local market for 54 per cent, of his output due to the existence of a large manufacturing population. That is his stand-by, and without it his position would bc very much more embarrassing than it is. It is of vital importance, therefore, that that market should be preserved to him. to as great an extent as possible. This is being ensured by the tariff, which is protecting’ large numbers of factory workers from being put out of work and thus ceasing to be purchasers of primary products. The tariff is thus preserving for the Australian primary producer his biggest market, namely, the local market.
– Would that 54 per cent, include products like wool and wheat?
– Yes. I wish to say a few words in regard to unemployment. No one is more anxious than I am to solve this great problem. Those who attribute the great amount of unemployment in Australia to-day to the tariff are unfair.
– At any rate, the tariff has not cured the evil.
– It has alleviated it. It must be remembered that 453,000 persons are employed in our manufacturing industries. I am certain that but for the provision of the increased duties by this Government, from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, of those people would be out of work to-day. I have shown how the new duties have stimulated industry in my own. division. The same thing must have happened in many other divisions. In my opinion the Government is absolutely sincere in the belief that its tariff policy is beneficial to industry. An 80 per cent, protective duty and a 20 per cent, revenue duty is surely to be preferred to an 80 per cent, revenue duty and a 20 per cent, protective duty.
As one who has spent his life in the iron and steel -industry, I still hope that, in the near future, Australia will exploit its vast deposits of iron, and utilize them for the manufacture of the iron and steel products required by the community.
– Why does not the Government go on with the job now?
– If the honorable member and his colleagues will co-operate with the Government in a feasible financial policy, it will immediately proceed with the job.
I shall now refer briefly to one or two other industries which are associated with the manufacture of iron and steel products. First, let me take the firm of Thompson and Scougall Limited, who deal in malleable steel castings and fittings. They acknowledge that the tariff increased the number of their employees considerably but, because of the depression, the improvement was only temporary. They state that their business was affected by the position in the building trade, which is at present notoriously bad. These people told me that, although for some months they have been working half time with a reduced staff, they would have had to close down altogether had it not been for the operation of the tariff.
Next I shall deal with the important firm of Sonnerdale Limited, who are extensive manufacturers of motor accessories. I am informed by their governing director, Mr. J. Sonnerdale, that the number of the firm’s employees in October, 1929, was 57. With the advent of the increased duty that number had increased to 76 by the 1st March, 1930. Unfortunately, owing to the subsequent depression, the number was reduced to 59 on the 1st March, 1931. Had the depression not occurred it is safe to estimate that the number of the employees at that date would have been at least 100. Since October, 1929, Sonnerdale Limited have spent £15,000 onnew plant and buildings. The nominal capital of the firm is £100,000, and it is interesting to note that the prices of gears, &c, manufactured by them have been reduced by approximately 20 per cent. since the advent of the new tariff. I submitted a number of questions to this firm with a view to adducing information on the subject. I asked them whether the new tariff had resulted in an increase in the number of their employees in their works, and in the industry generally, and the unhesitating reply was “ Yes “, that the increase in the number employed in the works was twenty, while in the industry generally, it was 1,000. In. reply to a further question I was informed that an all-round reduction of from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. had occurred in prices, while there had been a general increase of 50 per cent. in the prices of imported lines. I then asked whether the firm had enjoyed any new business as a result of the operation of the tariff; and was promptly told “ Yes, 100 per cent”. I asked Messrs-. Sonnerdale to indicate how their industry would have fared as the result of the new tariff had there been no trade depression, and they intimated that there would have been an additional increase of fully 100 per cent., which they had provided for. Alternatively, without the increase in tariff they would have been out of business owing to the depression. I next inquired whether they were satisfied with the tariff, and if they knew of any anomalies therein which they thought should be rectified. They replied that they were quite satisfied with it, and desired no section of it removed so far as their industry wasconcerned.
I shall now deal with another firm which operates within the electorate rep resen ted by me. I repeat. I do not wish to have these instances regarded as an indication of parochialism on my part; but as concrete instances of what is taking place throughout the Commonwealth. The firm to which I now refer is Duly & Hansford, large manufacturers of motor accessories. In one specific instance, that of shock absorbers, they have practically driven the imported article off the market in Australia as a result of the introduction of the tariff. Both principals of this firm are young men, and but a few years ago were fellow employees of mine in the Sydney engineering industry. That truly bears out the remark of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr.Francis), that “ the manufacturer of to-day is the workman of yesterday “. The firm pays full award wages, and always gives its employees the best conditions possible, as do all of the other firms that I have mentioned.
– They are compelled, by law, to do that.
– That is a strong argument for the continuation in power of a Labour government, because these laws were originated by my party. Messrs. Duly and Hansford informed me that the recent tariff schedules have enabled them to maintain a staff of about 100 employees, to whom they pay a weekly wage bill of between £350 and £400. They are confident that-, had they not been sufficiently protected during the present serious trade depression, their plant would have suffered so by now that they would probably be working with only a skeleton staff, and perhaps might even have been compelled to close down. It will thus be seen, that the tariff has greatly assisted this enterprising young firm to keep Australian workmen employed in the manufacture of bright bolts and nuts, and motor replacement parts, including “ Dufor “ shock absorbers. Messrs. Duly and Hansford intimated to me that since the introductionof the recent tariff schedule their range of motor replacement parts has considerably increased, so that to-day they are supplying about 80 wholesale merchant distributors, and 40 car organizations spare parts departments with their requirements of shackle bolts, king pins, tie-rod pins, steel bushes, piston pins, and engine valves, and they claim that, with other .manufacturers, the increase in tariff has enabled local manufacturers to supply practically the whole of the -requirements of the -motor . trade throughout Australia.
Suggestions have been made that the tariff has been imposed for the benefit of manufacturers. The dominating reason why I stand four. -square “behind the Government in the imposition of these duties is ‘that they have ‘enabled Australian industries to devel’op and provide additional employment, *O increasing the nation’s spending power, and assisting to reconstruct the very badly-hit home market of our primary producers. Should it bc proved to me that unscrupulous employers or manufacturers are endeavouring to take advantage of these duties, and thereby to exploit the people of Australia, I shall join wholeheartedly in any attempt to check them. Such peop’l’e should have impressed upon them the fact that while it is possible foi- a government to impose protective duties, it is also possible for it to withdraw them.
– But it never does.
– Why should it remove a tariff the imposition of Which has been so amply justified. In all sincerity I have cited instances which cannot bc challenged, and which prove that the manufacturers and people of Australia have benefited greatly by the introduction of the new tariff. I stand wholeheartedly behind the Government in its action.
.- I join with those honorable members, mostly, if not wholly, on this side, who have protested against the delay in providing this opportunity to discuss the anomalies to be found in recent tariff schedules-. I suggest that it is a most undesirable state of affairs when we are compelled to debate in 1931 duties imposed in 1929. It must be obvious to all that, owing to the nature of the tariff and its incidence, it is impossible to allow a preliminary discussion before duties are imposed. I urge that there should be incorporated in our tariff legislation a clause providing the duties imposed should be debated by the House within a specified time after the date of their introduction, say, 60 to 90 days. Otherwise they should lapse.
I am trying to deal with this matter from the point of view of principle, and not party. There is always the undesirable ‘feature under our present policy that if we were to reject these duties in globo it would mean, making a rebate of hundreds of thousands of pounds to those who have already paid the duties, which have been passed on to the general consumer. In short, we are discussing tho whole question of the incidence of this taxation- for that is what it is - under duress, as it Were. The merits of the case are obscured by the fact that, from a financial point of view, a most unsettled state of affairs would be brought about if the “duties were rejected. When new ta-riff schedules are introduced, we should go ahead and pass them, or reject them immediately; to be discussing in. 1931 schedules which were introduced in 1929, cannot but be condemned whether one is a protectionist or a freetrader.
Protection has been described as Australia’s settled policy, but if we are to judge “from the number of interferences with that policy, from the patching up Which is al way’s going on, and from the almost weekly introduction of amending” schedules by ali optimistic and enthusiastic Minister for Trade and Customs, we might be justified as describing protection as the unsettled policy of Australia, because we’ never seem to be done with it. A peculiar thing is that each Minister, When introducing a new schedule imposing higher duties, paints in fervid language a glowing picture of the economic Utopia which will be brought about if the duties are agreed to. Tn 1920, When Mr. Massy Greene was Minister for Customs in the Hughes Government, he introduced a tariff which may be described as a landmark in the tariff history of Australia, inasmuch as it marked our departure from a moderate tariff policy to a prohibitive- one. The “Minister, in his peroration on that occasion, painted the first of these glowing pictures with which we have since become so familiar. Only carry these duties, he said, and the effect would be to usher in an era. of economic prosperity, the like of ‘which tlie country had never seen before. Subsequent Ministers of Customs followed, saying that if only Parliament would increase those duties most of our economic troubles would be ended, and we should live happily together ever after. It has been said that one of the chief reasons for introducing these higher tariffs, particularly the more recent ones, was to relieve unemployment. Yet the volume of unemployment, far from being diminished, is constantly becoming greater. Figures supplied by the Statistician completely disprove the argument of the Minister for Customs. The defenders of high tariffs then adopted the audacious argument, being bereft of any other, that things might be worse if the higher duties had not been imposed. “We on this side were expected to take that seriously. We were greeted with some semblance of indignation because we laughed; because we refused to accept seriously such a ridiculous argument. [ put it to honorable members opposite: Suppose we had a low-tariff Government in power and a low-tariff Minister for Customs introduced a low tariff, justifying it on the ground, among others, that it would increase employment. Suppose unemployment became worse as a result, and later on the Minister introduced a second tariff schedule imposing still lower duties. Suppose that, the lower the duties became, the larger grew the army of unemployed, and then, the Minister, to complete the analogy, used the argument that, had it not been for the reduction of duties, unemployment, great as it was, would be even greater. What would honorable members on the Government side have said? They would have laughed such an argument to scorn as a most ridiculous and untenable proposition. Not only have we not obtained prosperity in our secondary industries as a result of the tariff, but we have failed to achieve it in our primary industries. It has been argued that tariffs have no particular relation to the economic depression, inasmuch as that depression is world wide, and is affecting low tariff and high tariff countries alike. Legislatures at the present time are certainly faced with economic problems the like of which the world has never before seen - problems which are more difficult, I believe, of solution than those which the statesmen of any other age have had to face. I refer particularly to the anomaly of a world choked with goods, together with a huge army of 20,000,000 unemployed in- the civilized nations of the world. There is in that serious food for thought. Here we have a world in which nature has been so lavish that there are almost unlimited supplies of wheat, wool, meat, rubber, coffee, tea, iron and steel, and all the other ‘requirements of civilized man, and yet an army of 20,000,000 unemployed persons stalk the cities of the world in an impoverished condition, challenging the attention of all observers. I put forward as a contributory reason, if not the main one, for this condition of affairs, the high tariff policies which have been adopted by many of the nations of the world since the Gr.eat War. Not only does a high tariff adversely affect the trade of the country which imposes it, but it also injures other countries which remain on a low tariff basis. I need give only one or two examples to make clear my meaning. Let us examine the position of Australia and Great Britain. Australia’s high tariff policy has adversely affected the trade of Great Britain. That cannot be denied. High duties on such articles as fencing wire, galvanized iron, &c, injured Britain’s trade in those commodities with Australia, while at the same time increasing producing costs among the primary producers of this country. The same condition of affairs obtains with regard to America. The United States of America, by putting a ring fence round her borders, and- refusing to trade with the rest of the world except upon the pernicious principle that other nations may buy from her but that she will not buy from them, has not only crippled the trade of her own manufacturers, but has also injured that pf the countries which otherwise would have traded with her. The result is that there are to-day in the United States of America 6,000,000 persons unemployed. Thus we see that this policy of a high tariff is a curse both to those, countries which adopt it, and to those which do not.
It has frequently been stated by honorable members opposite that those who advocate low tariffs, such as myself and other members of the Country party, are opposed to the establishment of secondary industries in Australia. That is not true. The real issue between us - and surely honorable members opposite must know this - is the condition upon which secondary industries ought to he established. One thing has always struck me forcibly about the Labour party’s advocacy of a high protective tariff. It has been surprising to hear honorable members on the opposite side of the House pleading in pitiful tones for protection on behalf of our virile Australian manhood, and suggesting that Australian industries cannot be successfully established here unless they are spoon-fed. Nobody is preventing the establishment of secondary industries. Why do they not go ahead and establish themselves? Why must they receive special legislative protection before they can do their job? The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) referred at great length to the woollen industry. In that industry we have a classic example of the helplessness, the impotence, or the incapacity of our secondary industries. The woollen industry in this country has available the finest selection of raw material in the world. It is here in unlimited quantities, and is the cheapest in the world, inasmuch as the manufacturers can land it in their warehouses at a lower price than, can any of their competitors elsewhere. The wool is sold at auction in Australia in the morning, a motor truck can carry it to the manufacturer’s warehouse that afternoon, and the same evening the manufacturer can begin processing it in his factory. Contrast that with the position of his competitor abroad. The competitor must make arrangements for freight, and wait until the wool is conveyed by ship from here overseas. All that time he is standing out of his money. Probably he must pay rail freight from the ship’s side to his factory, and not until all this has been done can the processing begin. Many more weeks must elapse before the finished produce can be returned to Australia. Again’ high freights have to be paid, and finally the article is landed here many months after the Australian competitor, who bought wool at the same auction, can have his product on the market. Yet, not only can the Australian manufacturers, including the firm to which the honorable member for Lang referred, not compete in the overseas market, but they cannot even hold their own in the Australian market without special protection.
– Largely because the local manufacturing firms are over-capitalized.
– I cannot believe that all of them are over-capitalized.
– There are too many of them for the size of the local market.
– The honorable member is getting deeper into the mire. He is now advancing the extraordinary argument that the reason for the imposition of high duties is to bolster up overcapitalized industries.
– It is hoped that by the exclusion of overseas competition we shall be able to make the local market absorb all that is produced here.
– That raises one of the old arguments with which we have long been familiar. The tariff prohibitionists have always said, “ Give us a little duty now; give us a chance to establish ourselves, and under cover of this protection we shall be able to monopolize the local market “. It was formerly suggested that once an industry became established, as the result of protection, the duties could he taken off; but nobody is so reckless now as to make that statement. The fact is that the more protection We give, the greater becomes the appetite for higher, and still higher duties. That has been the experience of Australia with most of the secondary industries. It is said that it is far better to have combines that we can keep in check, because they are operating in Australia, than combines we cannot control; but my experience is that combines have exercised more control over governments than governments have exerted over them. Behind this tariff wall, manufacturers have rigged their prices, watered their stock, boosted their shares on the stock exchange, and we have had naked and unashamed exploitation of the workers and of the primary producers. Governments declare to us that they cannot do anything in the matter because they have no power over combines and monopolies. I suggest that the logical solution is to withhold the power to exploitation until the combines can be controlled.
– In the absence of legal power to break monopolies, there must be room for competition.
– That is so; yet I think that the honorable member will agree that we have not always had healthy competition between the Australian manufacturers who shelter behind the tariff wail.
I shall refer briefly to the effect of the tariff policy on the primary producers. I have in mind, particularly the wheat and wool industries, and the other industries that rely mainly on the export trade, and sell their products within Australia on an export parity level. These industries are handicapped, not only because they are compelled to sell in open competition in the markets of the world, but also because their production costs are raised by the tariff, which is intended to be beneficial to the secondary industries. Take the cost of galvanized iron and fencing wire. Some time ago, I called on a settler in the north-western portion of Victoria, and found that he was removing the galvanized iron roof of an implement shed, so that he would have sufficient iron to protect his haystacks from mice. He could not afford to purchase new iron.
The overseas freight charges seriously affect the primary producers. “When ships come out empty to Australia, the cost of freight increases, and this, again, inflicts a penalty upon the man on the land.
– Giving a natural protection to the local manufacturers.
– That is so. We have to find about £36,000,000 annually to meet our interest obligations overseas. If we completely prohibit imports, we shall be faced with two alternatives. It would be easy to repudiate our obligations overseas, but I do not advocate that course. If we decided to make ourselves a pariah among the nations of the world, and then set to work to build up a Utopia in this country, we should have a very difficult task. That, however, is a policy that some people would enthusiastically attempt to carry out. Who will provide the £36,000,000 required annually for interest overseas? The secondary industries ought to contribute their share, but they never do.
– That is £48,000,000 in Au stralian m on ey .
– That is true.
Last year, the Prime Minister made a national appeal. He came forward with a policy of embargoes, prohibitions, and surcharges for the purpose of correcting our adverse trade balance; but the exchange rates would have automatically steadied the trade balance, without a prohibition of imports. It is significant to note thatthe Prime Minister’s appeal was notmade to the secondary industries, or to the factories within his own electorate. He did not urge them to work three shifts a day in order to make blankets, boots and shoes, and sell them in. the markets of the world. He did not ask the factory workers to do their job as patriots, and help to rectify Australia’s adverse trade balance. Not one word was addressed to them. But he went to the primary producers in this country, who are sneered at as depised foreign traders, and who have had imposts piled upon them by past governments, and also by the present Government. The Prime Minister appealed to those men to work harder, and to produce more. Was there ever a better illustration of the source of the wealth of this country than was given by that action of thePrime Minister? When the nation is “ up against it,” it is the man behind the plough, not the man in the city factory, who is asked to get Australia out of her difficulties.
The Commonwealth Statistician shows that 96 per cent. of our exports are primary products, and the other 4 per cent. are manufactures. Overseas countries would purchase boots, shoes, woollen goods, &c, provided our manufacturers would accept world parity prices for them, as the primary producers are expected to do. But when will’ the secondary industries go fifty-fifty with the primary producers in this national task? If they are good Australians, if they are the best workmen in the world, why do they not prove it? Why should we put the primary producers on one economic level, and the secondary industries on another? On what principle do the workers in the factories call themselves good Australians, and lay down the dictum that the primary producers should face the cold blast of world competition while the secondary industries are sheltered from it? Honorable members opposite sneer at the workmen of Great Britain and the labour conditions there; they raise their eyes piously to heaven, and thank God that the industrial conditions in Australia are not the same as those in the Old Country. But when they have emptied the national till; when their economic policy hasbrought about its logical result, they look overseas for more money. They appeal to the very country whose standard of living they sneer at, and try to borrow again, in order to keep up their high standard of living. Members of the party opposite call themselves good Australians, but sneer at my colleagues and me by styling us foreign traders. They talk of their ideals! I might instance the low tariff policy of the Labour party in Great Britain. I say good luck to Mr. Snowden and his policy. In the end the world will have to come back to it.
– Even when he seeks to reduce the preference on Australian primary products?
Mr.STEWART. - It is true that the reduction of that preference would inflict hardship on certain sections of primary producers; but that is because the Labour party in Australia is forcing onthem increased costs of production. Let the present tariff imposts be removed, land they would not be seriously affected by the Snowden policy.
Mr.Forde. - The honorable member’s colleagues in the corner were members of the Bruce-Page Government, which borrowed extensively abroad.
– I admit that that Government’s borrowing policy was not in the best interests of this country, but the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) is as anxious to-day as anybody to obtain money from Great Britain. He and his Government would grab every shilling they could lay their hands on. The fact that they have not borrowed is due simply to their inability to do so.
– It is because the BrucePage Government, before it went out of office, closed the London money market.
– There are members supporting the Government who admit the unfairness of compelling the wheatgrower to pay high prices for fencing wire, galvanized iron and other requirements, and who offer to compensate him by a bounty on wheat. I confess that if it were economically possible to place the primary producers on the same level as the secondary industries, paying him production costs and allowing him to work 44 hours a week, I would withdraw all that I have said and embrace that policy with open arms. But it cannot be done:
– Does the honorable member favour the British Government’s purchase of wheat fromRussia?
– At any rate, the British Government is logical; it buys in the cheapest markets and sells in the clearest. The hurtful effect of the Government’s policy upon the primary producer is illustrated in the wheat industry. The Government endeavoured to help it by means of a bounty, and I admit that it made an. honest effort to get the necessary money; but, however sincere its intentions, it has failed to give to the wheatgrower one penny.
– Whose is the fault?
– The Minister has repeated ad nauseam the story of the defeat of the Government’s wheat marketing and financial measures in another place. I admit the truth of it; but I am dealing with the facts that confront the primary producers. They say “ The Government promised us millions of pounds, and we have got nothing”. But the Government has imposed a primage duty of 4 per cent. on cornsacks - one of the most iniquitous taxes that I can imagine, Millions of pounds worth of cornsacks were imported to be filled with wheat and sent abroad; yet the Government which had asked the farmer to produce more wheat penalized him with an extra tax. Embargoes have been placed on machinery, and primage duty on phosphatic rock. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been taken out of the wheatgrower’s pockets and he has not received one penny in return. If we cannot put money into his pockets, we should at least have the decency to take our hands out of them. What this country wants is not a stoppage of trade from overseas, but an increase of it. Whatever may be the advantages of establishing secondary industries, the future of Australia depends upon the primary producer. We can do the job of primary production far better than other countries. We can compete in the markets of the world with our wheat, wool, dried fruits, butter and many other commodities if we are given a chance.
As the crux of the economic and financial problem is how to improve our credit overseas, we should strip from the exporting industries - wool, wheat, dried fruits and butter - all the imposes with which they are now burdened. Only by giving to them every encouragement and opportunity will Australia get out of its present difficulties.
Customs Duties awd Exchange.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do noW adjourn.
.- Questions were asked this morning regarding a reported announcement by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) at Ballarat, that customs duties will be collected on the basis of Australian currency in relation to exchange. It is highly desirable that no further handicaps should be imposed on trade and I hope that the Government does not intend to adopt the policy which the Treasurer has indicated. Even for our manufacturing industries large quantities of goods must be imported to enable production to be carried on, and if the difference in exchange is to be added to the c.i.f. price abroad, the costs of production will be greatly increased, and very little extra revenue will accrue to the Commonwealth. We must remember also that profit will be required by traders on the extra amount of money they will be required to expend, and that will detrimentally affect industry generally. No change of the character suggested should be effected without this House being consulted, and an early announcement of the Government’s policy should be made to remove all uncertainty.
.- I support the representations of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). It is very undesirable to introduce an unnecessary speculative element into Australian trade in addition to the other difficulties which beset it at the present time. So long as the proposal to which the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has referred is in the air, and we are uncertain as to its operation, or the time of its operation, there must necessarily be still further disturbance of trade. I cannot refrain from expressing considerable surprise that a responsible Minister should, in relation to a customs matter such as this, have made a public statement in advance of the actual determination of the Government and of the application of the policy. All honorable members are, doubtless, aware of the difficulties which arise in connexion with customs duties. To obtain the revenue desired, or to give the effective protection required, it is generally necessary to impose duties without notice. There are evils associated with that procedure. It may be that they are unavoidable; but no procedure, I submit, could be worse than that adopted by a responsible Minister in suggesting that a change may perhaps be made involving millions of pounds per annum of additional imposts on Australian trade without taking the responsibility of making a definite statement of policy.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Last night, when speaking on a certain subject I referred to Mohammed, and mentioned that he succeeded in bringing 30 deities to one fold. _ I do not wish to mislead the House. I intended to say that Mohammed converted 300 deities to Islamism. I wish to be fair to Mohammed, because when I referred to that gentleman in conjunction with Noah and the honorable member — Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), I desired honorable members to understand the relative merits of the achievements of those three prodigies.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan in respect of the proposal to tax goods on a c.i.f. rate, plus exchange, and I hope that the idea will be abandoned by the Government. If the proposal is proceeded with, the customs revenue will completely disappear. Nothing else can happen. At present the Customs Department has scores of idle hands. The revenue of the Commonwealth has shrunk, and if we add duty on 30 per cent, to the present duties the importation of goods will simply become impossible. Although we wish to foster our own industries, there are certain essentials that must be imported, and I urge the Prime Minister to investigate this proposal thoroughly before -deciding to put it into operation.
.- i support the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). There is this aspect to conaider: We are discussing this tariff schedule in the light of a certain scale of charges, and, I suggest, that before we proceed further with it we should know whether the duties are to be on the present basis pf assessment, or plus 30 per cent., as has been suggested by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore).
– The suggestions of honorable members who have spoken will be borne in mind; but at this stage I cannot add anything to what I said this morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310501_reps_12_129/>.