12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
Wages of Station Hands
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the decision of the Full Arbitration Court, which has varied the Australian Workers Union award by ordering a 20 per cent. reduction of the wages of station hands, to operate from the 4th May? If so, will the Government allow this wholesale slashing of wages to continue while the greatest burden on industry, namely, interest, is allowed to remain? If the Government intends to take action, will the Attorney-General indicate the nature of it?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to the Attorney-General.
Sir Robert Gibson at thebar of the Senate.
– Having regard to the great national importance of the information which may be given by Sir Robert Gibson at the bar of the Senate this afternoon, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of suspending the sittings of this House for one hour from. 3 o’clock?
– Any information gleaned from Sir Robert Gibson in another place will be recorded, and will be available to honorable members. The Government does not propose to suspend the sittings of this chamber. Let us get on with the business.
Mr. LACEY, as chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of telephonic communication between the mainland of Victoria and Tasmania.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the following report, pub lished in the Bulletin, of the 29th April, of a meeting addressed by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) -
The transparent honesty of the dispossessed sovereign, his deep faith in his ability to restore the lost prosperity of his people, his noble rage as he describes the perfidy of the usurpers of his power, were brought out by Mr. Lyons by methods which could hardly be called acting at all. As he stood there, his kindly face framed in silver-grey hair, his hands clasped across a stomach of modest proportions-
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in asking a question that apparently has no relation to the business of the House?
– The mention of “ the honorable member for Wilmot” suggests that the question has some direct or indirect association with public affairs. I remind the honorable member for Martin, however, that the privilege of basing a question upon a newspaper statement must not be abused. Questions are asked to elicit information, not to give it.
– Isubmit that I am conforming with that rule, sir. The extract continues -
In all his experience the present critic has never seen such an unsophisticated performance have such a deep effect upon a house. Strong men wept, women looked brokenheartedly at their neighbours-
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to continue reading this extract unless he shows that the question to be based upon it is directly related to public business.
– The subject is of importance, but as I am anxious to conform with your ruling, I shall ask a question based on that quotation. It is this: Will the Attorney-General say if it is within his powers to direct that his department shall - if necessary in. consultation and cooperation with State authorities - take appropriate steps in the interests of public health and morality to prevent any further harrowing stage-managed exhibitions of this kind being inflicted on a long-suffering public by a political Nick Bottom?
– I have not had the privilege of reading the article which the honorable member has quoted, but I shall take it into consideration.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister, based upon the following extract from the Bulletin of the 29th April : -
But, great as was the emotion stirred byMr. Lyons, it was nothing compared to the sustained enthusiasm aroused by Mrs. Lyons. As the exiled queen, Mrs. Lyons was poignant in her majesty.
– Order! The honorable member for West Sydney will realize that a reference such as he is making can have no actual relation to any business with which this House is concerned.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I shall not call for order again. I ask the honorable member for West Sydney to realize that his quotation has no reference to the business of the House. If he desires to ask a question, he may do so.
– I desire to quote this article, because my question will be based upon it.
– On a point of order. Are not the remarks which the honorable member for West Sydney desires to make more suited for utterance on the adjournment than at this stage of the proceedings of the House?
– The Chair will determine that when the question is asked.
– The article continues -
In homely words, which rang with intense conviction, she showed that the solution of the tragedy lay-
– I submit that the honorable member is not asking a question.
– I endeavoured to make it sufficiently clear to the honorable member for West Sydney that further reading of matter of the character that he quoted when he began would be out of order. I ask him to comply with the ruling of the Chair, and immediately submit his question.
– I shall do so, although I desired to preface it with this article in order that the Prime Minister might understand the circumstances. I ask the right honorable gentleman if he will ascertain from the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) how much longer that honorable gentleman’s party intends to be led by exiled queens and screeching Sarah Gamps?
Question not answered.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Brass, Muntz and Yellow Metal Rods, Bars and Extruded Sections; Copper Sheets, Circles, Segments, Rods and Bars.
Buttons, Buckles, Clasps and Slides of Erinoid, Celluloid, Galalith or any casein material.
Denims, Drills, Jeans, Dungarees and Cloths in the grey; Deferred Dutyon other cotton piece goods.
Edible Pats; Classification of Bakkerol.
Macaroni and Vermicelli.
Marzipan, Almond Paste, Almond Meal and Almonds in the shell.
Soap, Soap Substitutes and Compound Detergents.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he is in a position to give the House a comprehensive statement on the financial relationship of the Commonwealth with the State of New South Wales, showing, inter alia -
How far that State has exceeded its fair proportion of advances from the Commonwealth;
The extent of that State’s default for interest to date;
The estimated liability of the Commonwealth for future defaults of New South Wales; and
The estimated liability which the Commonwealth would incur if it took over the responsibility for the Savings Bank of New South Wales ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - (a), (b) and (c) The information is being prepared and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The desired information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether a report is being obtained by the Government on the operations of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited with a view to eliciting the reason why that company is charging practically the same price for petrol as other distributing companies, and, if so, whether such report will be available to members of this House?
– The Government is malting arrangements to keep more closely in touch with the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It is also considering by what means it can most effectively deal with the question of the price of petrol in Australia.
_ Mr. PATERSON asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
To what extent have the various States availed themselves of the herd-testing subsidies granted by the Commonwealth during the year ended 30th June, 1930?
Are these subsidies being continued during the present financial year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s ques tions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Economic Committee and the Empire Marketing Board, and who recently represented Australia at an international wheat conference in Rome. Instructions have been cabled to the High Commissioner for Australia in London, authorizing Mr. McDougall to attend the conference, and intimating that any agreement reached by the conference must be submitted to the Commonwealth Government for consideration as to its acceptance or otherwise.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2 and 3. Information as to the dates on which the majority of State loans were floated, and detailed conditions regarding interest and taxation, is not available in the Treasury. Printed papers have been laid on the table of the Library,* however, containing such detailed information as is held in the Treasury regarding State and Federal loans. The information furnished in these statements includes rates of interest and dates of maturity of the various loans. ,
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 5th
May (vide page 1609), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 be amended as hereunder set out (vide page 082).
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-1930 be amended as hereunder set out (vide page 740).
Item 1 (Ale and other beer, cider and perry, spirituous).
– The subject of the tariff calls for a great deal of consideration, and I do not intend to allow the general debate to pass without making my contribution to it. When I first took an interest in politics I promptly came to the conclusion that the adoption of a protectionist tariff policy would be in. the interests of Australia. At that time not 20 per cent, of the people in the electorate in which I live approved of such a policy. Nevertheless I did not fight on the side of the big battalions. I supported the policy which I believed to be in the interest of Australia, and I am now able to say that, throughout the whole of my political life, I have consistently advocated protection. For a country like Australia, in which we are endeavouring to maintain a high standard of living, protection is the only effective fiscal policy. No country can maintain a high standard of living if its industries are subjected to ‘ competition from other nations where a lower standard of living obtains.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr: Marr) referred to the borrowings of the Bruce-Page Government. That Government, he said, had raised only £12,000,000 of new money, whereas the State Governments, during the same period, had raised £208,000,000. The honorable member overlooked the fact that when the Bruce-Page. Government took office it found in the cupboard a surplus of £7,000,000, and that when it went out it left behind it a deficit of £5,000,000. It went to the bad in its finances to the extent of £12,000,000.
– What has that to do with the tariff?
– I do not know, and I was rather surprised that the honorable member for Parkes was allowed to speak as he did. However, since he was given the opportunity of misleading the public as he did in his speech, I wish to remind honorable members that he did not present the whole case. He did not say that the Bruce-Page Government found a credit in the London banks when it took office, yet finished with a debit of £36,000,000 in the same banks.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) may, I believe, be classed as free traders, and they miss no opportunity of advocating the nostrums which appeal to them. Galvanized iron seems to be a bug-bear with them. To listen, to their speeches one would imagine that the farmers lived on galvanized iron. As a matter of fact, most farmers have their properties improved now, and do not require much galvanized iron. In any case, the extra cost resulting from higher duties would be a very small part of the farmers’ expenses. The gr.eat need of the farmers at the present time is to sell their produce. They can do without galvanized iron.
– “What about galvanized iron for covering their wheat stacks?
– Some years ago the farmers were fortunate enough to have a Labour government in office in New South Wales, a government which sent the honorable member for Yass (Mr. Nielson) to America to arrange for the visit of an expert in the construction of silos. Upon his recommendation Mr. Burrell came to New South Wales and, under his direction, wheat silos were built throughout the State. The farmers do not now need galvanized iron to cover their wheat. They are not worrying now about the price of machinery and galvanized iron, because they have no money with which to buy anything. Their great need is to sell their products. I speak as one who knows something of the farmers and their needs. My father was a farmer, and I began my career as a farm worker. When I was nine years of age I was able to reap more with a reaping hook than, I venture to say, could any honorable member of this House reap now. Afterwards, when I entered business, I was for many years an agent for farm machinery, and obtained much inside information which convinced me of the fallacy of freetrade. I saw the farmers being compelled to pay £76 for a machine which was sold to the American farmers for £23. The farmers here did not reap the benefit of the cheap prices at which the machinery was constructed in America.
– What was the price of a reaper and binder before the war? The honorable member knows that the price was about £24, whereas to-day it ic from £86 to £90.
– The price of a reaper and binder before the war was about £72, but in any case, reapers and binders are practically obsolete now ; farmers are concerned mostly with harvesters. The honorable member for Swan professes to be greatly concerned because the price of galvanized iron has gone up a little, but he supported a government whose policy allowed the farmers to be charged £300 for a motor car such as was sold in America for £60. The same government allowed the farmers to be charged 3s. a gallon for petrol, although petrol was sold in America for a few pence a gallon. I cannot understand how it is that the farmers have been deceived by the honorable members for Swan for so long. When a farmer bought a motor car for £300 it depreciated 50 per cent, in value the day he bought it; but an Australian-made harvester is worth practically as much after it has been in use for two or three years as it was when it was new. I think that it was Abraham Lincoln who pointed out to his fellow countrymen that when they bought an English axe handle for 2s. 6d., America had the axe handle and England had the half-crown; but when they bought for 3s. an axe handle made in America, that country would have the axe handle’ and the 3s. as well. The same thing applies to a battleship. If at a cost of £2,000,000, we built at Cockatoo Island a battleship which could have been constructed in Great Britain at a cost of £1,800,000, some persons would claim that we had prevented a saving of £200,000, whereas we would actually be making a considerable saving because we should retain in Australia the battleship and the £2,000,000 as well. That example will give honorable members some idea of the benefit that accrues to the community when it patronizes its own industries. It has been said in this House that the discovery of a new mining field which provides employment for 5,000 miners at a wage of £5 a week each, will lead to the springing up of a township of 25,000 souls. That is rendered possible by the continual circulation of the wages of the miners, among the hotels, the stores, and other appurtenances to civilization. The establishment of an industry invariably leads to an increase of population in its vicinity. It is in that way that a nation is built up. When an Australian farmer pays £300 for a motor car which costs £60 at Ford’s factory, the money is sent away to help American industries. We get no trade in return, because America refuses to buy Australian commodities such as butter, wheat, wool and clothes. [Quorum formed.] We derive considerable benefit by keeping our money in our own country. An increase in the tariff does not necessarily mean an increase in prices, because I am well aware that when higher duties were imposed on certain imports, those who handled them were compelled to reduce their prices in order to compete with, the Australian product. It is unnecessary for me to elaborate the advantages of protection, because so few people in Australia now advocate freetrade. Public thought generally is in the direction of protection. A farmer who has the option of buying his vegetables from a Chinaman at a price cheaper than that charged by an Australian greengrocer should patronize his countryman, who may be a married nian with perhaps nine children all attending school. He may be the owner of a motor car, and a mau who is generally supporting other Australian industries, whereas the Chinaman would hoard his savings until he had sufficient to enable him to return to his native land ; once he had acquired a competency he would be of no further advantage to
Australia. It is therefore, far better for us to patronize our own people. Even if it costs us a little more at the time, it is cheaper in the long run, because the money spent is kept in Australia. By supporting the policy of protection we support our own people and our own industries.
The few persons in the community who are free traders have the idea that the only thing which enables us to live is the money that we receive from overseas in payment for our exports ; but I claim that we can do without exports altogether. We can live among ourselves. We require only food, clothes and shelter, which are the essentials of life. Some token or some medium of exchange could be used to enable transactions to take place between the consumer and the producer. If some such system were adopted this country would soon prosper. Unfortunately it cannot prosper to-day because of the refusal of the banking institutions to make credits available. Persons who have good securities are to-day unable to obtain advances. Something should be done to alter that position. The failure of the banks to release credits is responsible for the serious depression that now exists in this country. This Government has introduced legislation with the object of enabling the Commonwealth Bank to function. That institution is receiving some prominence to-day, and I hope that some influence will be brought to bear on the gentleman who is appearing in another chamber - one of those antiquated political bluebeards who have been blocking the proposals of this Government - so that effect may be given to the financial and banking reforms embodied in the legislation recently passed by this Parliament. Certain honorable members opposite claim to be friends of the farmers. They voted for bills introduced by the Government with the object of helping the farmers. But the representatives of the same parties in the other chamber voted against them. Consequently, I am forced to the conclusion that the only way to meet the existing situation is for additional credit to be made available. To-day even persons with sound security cannot obtain advances from the banks. A few days ago a gentleman with property valued at from £40,000 to £50,000, on which he does not owe a penny, desired to buy sheep to the value of £800 from another man who was in dire straits. The owner of the sheep had no suitable grazing land on which to run them, while the man who desired to buy them had an abundance of good feed available, which was a danger to him because of the possibility of a fire breaking out in it. But he was unable to obtain an advance of a penny, and so could not buy the sheep. Had the policy of the Labour party been put into operation when the Government first desired to give effect to it, such a situation could not have arisen.
If that man had been able to obtain an advance of, say, £1,000 from his bank, everybody would have been better off. The bank, by holding the money, would probably have had to pay £40 in interest to the depositors of it, whereas if it had lent it out again it could have obtained from £70 to £75 in interest, and so would have shown a profit of £35 on the transaction. If the Commonwealth Bank could have made the money available at 5 per cent, under a system of extended credits - in other words, by merely issuing a piece of paper - it could have made a profit of £50 per annum. Had that been done, the Commonwealth Government would have immediately received sales taxation amounting to £20 on the purchase of the sheep for £800. The difference betwen a private bank and a government bank issuing credit is thus shown. In addition to £50 interest an amount of £20 is earned in revenue by the latter. Had the sheep been purchased two drovers would have been required for some time, and their wages would have amounted, say, to £6 . each. The unemployment fund of New South Wales would have been relieved of paying out the dole to those two men, and they, in turn, would have paid 6s. in taxation to Mr. Lang. Had the deal been made, a certain amount of money would also have been’ spent in railway fares and in other ways. All this would have been beneficial to the country”. If one transaction of this kind is so profitable, what profit must be derived from transactions involving the expenditure of from £300,000 to £500,000 in that way ! If money were made available under a system of extended credits for business of this description, the depression would be lifted from Australia almost immediately. Security valued at millions of pounds is available in return for advances. If the policy of the Government were given effect, it would be possible to provide the credit to make such advances, and prosperity would rapidly be restored.
Is there no way to give effect to the policy of the Government except by the dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament? Can we not challenge the political bluebeards of another place to resign their seats and contest seats with honorable members of this chamber, on the understanding that if they are defeated the seats which they hold in the other place shall be filled by Government supporters? The adoption of that method would give results more rapidly than they can be obtained by means of a double dissolution. I am prepared to resign my seat and contest it with a member of another place under these conditions; and I am sure that other honorable members would be willing to do the same thing.
It is distressing to me to see so many people practically starving. The other day a returned soldier was evicted from his home. He sold his furniture, and with the proceeds bought a horse and conveyance and went on the roads, with his wife and three children, looking for work. Unfortunately, his horse died at Yass, and he had no money to buy another. He is now hoping some one will be generous enough to give him a horse. It is extraordinary that although horses are being shot in many parts of Australia because there is no use for them, this man is held up because he cannot get one. It is tragic that misery like this should occur in a country in which there is an abundance of food. Cannot we, like the Greeks of old, build a wooden horse, fill it with men, and drag it into the other place as though it were a modern Troy with the object of defeating our political enemies? The present situation cannot be allowed to continue. The policy of the Government has been approved by the people, and it should be put into effect, notwithstanding the fact that members of another party are so strongly entrenched in the other place.
I wish to refer briefly to the effects likely to follow the imposition of the duty on newsprint. The people have been led to believe that the present Government has had a wonderful chance to pass legislation in the interests of the people, and has taken no advantage of its opportunities; but not a word has been said by the newspapers about the obstacles that lie in its path, and the difficulties confronting it in another place. No newspaper in this country really fights in the interests of the people. The newspapers of Australia are gradually becoming more traitorous and parasitical. Their chief object is to make profits, and, because of the influence which they wield, the difficulty of the Government’s task has been increased. Even that journalistic abortion known as the Labor Daily has been largely responsible for preventing the passage of Labour legislation. There is a conspiracy of silence on the part of the press to refrain from giving publicity to the remarks of any honorable member who supports this Government; but the “ big four “ in this House merely have to sneeze and the occurrence is recorded. [Quorum formed.] This Government has not received the support that it deserves. Even the Labor Daily 13 out to disparage the Treasurer. At a recent meeting in Melbourne, the Minister was well received, but that journal tried to make the public believe that he was counted out. A Labour Government should at least receive some support from a newspaper supposed to advocate the interests of Labour. This journal has done more damage to the Government than all the other newspapers combined, because so many people believe what they read in its columns. It publishes inane and purile platitudes in condemnation of the Government, but it is not game to 3ay anything detrimental concerning Lang.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member is not now dealing with an item in the tariff.
– There is a tax on newsprint, and there could be no newspapers in this country unless that duty were paid. The eyes of the people should be opened to the extent to which they are being deluded by the press. I believe’ that there is a prospect of a genuine Labour newspaper being published shortly, and if it does appear on the journalistic firmament there may be a chance of the Government receiving somepractical assistance from it in putting its legislative programme into effect.
In my opinion, the tariff has noc resulted in much employment up to the present time, but it is responsible for keeping at work quite a number of men who would otherwise be unemployed to-day. I understand that a German firm is to begin operations in Australia shortly in the manufacture of dyes. This is due to the tariff. If the Commonwealth Bank could be induced to extend credits to the business community, a revival of trade would take place immediately, and very soon the unemployed would be given work. I have had a number of years’ experience in business circles, and I know that many persons, including members of my own family, have been seriously affected by the prohibition of imports. So far, no revival of trade that would compensate for the damage done has occurred. Yet the banks have been calling on their customers to curtail their overdrafts. If adequate advances were made by the Commonwealth Bank to-morrow, from 600,000 to 700,000 business people would begin to re-stock their establishments. Thm would result in greatly increased employment, and prosperity would soon return. The employment of one man quickly leads to the engagement of another, and very soon our difficulties would disappear. The solution, therefore, is to pass the financial proposals of the Government.
Even though the Commonwealth Bank may not be willing to extend credit on a considerable scale, I believe that a revival of trade and a good deal of employment would be brought about if the fiduciary currency proposals of the Government were accepted in another place. I loyally support the Ministry, but I would sot allow that loyalty to stand in the way of the welfare of the country. I would very readily do what the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has done, but I would do it in a different way; I would resign my seat, and allow the electors to express their views. I would not support a government which, in my opinion, was doing injury to the people, and causing misery such as exists to-day. I appreciate the honour of being a member of Parliament, though, if there is money in public life, I have notfound it. I have never found politics a profitable investment. There is at least £700 owing on my business books; the debtors concerned have adopted the so-called Lang plan, and it has been wonderfully successful, but only because they have nothing. If they were worth anything, the Lang plan would not be of much good to them. Mr. Lang claims that the plan is his, but I suspect that it was concocted by Jock Garden. It; has misled the unfortunate workers, and I am very sorry that it has received so much prominence. It can never operate successfully. If one State adopts a policy of repudiation, the whole nation will do so ; if one nation repudiates, other nations will do so, and I do not know what the end of that would be. Dishonest intent and fraud methods do not appeal to me. Repudiation is not a plan ; it is a plot. We are told that Mr. Lang’s policy is not repudiation; if it is not, it is at any rate so good an imitation that I, for one, cannot tell the difference.
– The honorable member must address himself to the tariff schedule.
– I hope to have more to say when the items are reached. Having had experience as an importer and exporter, I have personal knowledge of many phases of manufacture. I can approach tariff problems with the knowledge gained by a successful business man. I say this not boastingly, but because our opponents so often try to disparage Labour Governments by saying that they know nothing of business. As a man with practical commercial experience, I believe that the tariff will be most beneficial to the Australian people.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The most urgent need at the present time is a solution of the financial and economic difficulties that face Australia. Its fiscal policy has an important bearing on the prosperity of a country, and therefore the most calm and deliberate consideration should be given to the tariff schedules now before the committee. Since the last general election, tariff schedules have been introduced at the rate of one in every two months. We are now considering the eighth for which the present Ministry has been responsible.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack) stated repeatedly that if the Commonwealth Bank would extend credits all would be well. The truth is that if the governments of Australia would withdraw their demands on the funds of the Commonwealth Bank, adequate credits would be available for industry, and legitimate business enterprises would have achance of extending. But the governments have first claim on the resources of the Commonwealth Bank, and unfortunately their demands have been so great that the financial resources of the country are exhausted, and the creation of fictitious wealth has been proposed. If the Commonwealth Government could be induced to set its house in order so that credits would bc released to industry, very great benefit would accrue to our country. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that all the banks had been guilty of contracting credits, thereby depriving industry of its life-blood. Chief Justice Dethridge, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, replying to continued statements by Labour representatives that the trading banks have carried out a policy of deflation, said on the 22nd January last -
It was submitted (by the unions) that the banks, notwithstanding the prosperous run they have had since the war, were unnecessarily contracting credit and were dictating the financial policy of enterprise all in the direction of forcing reductions of wages. In order to test this argument the court secured from the Commonwealth Statistician an analysis of banking statistics between the years 1914 and 1930, with a view of determining whether there had been any undue contraction of credits during recent years. The return facilitated preparation of the following table showing the percentages of advances by the banks to total deposits and to total assets: -
Including government and municipal securities, the percentage of advances to deposits has increased approximately from 72 per cent. to 105 per cent. It will thus beseen that during recent years, particularly the last two years, there has been no undue contraction of credits by the banks. On the contrary, from 1920 to 1930 percentages largely increased. [Quorum formed.]
I am not championing the cause of the private banks, but I have dealt with the allegations against them because in seeking a solution for our present difficulties we must deal with facts; if we are led astray by misstatements we shall reach no conclusion that is worth while. Another statement by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was that the Commonwealth Government’s short term indebtedness in London when the present Government took office was £36,000,000. That statement is incorrect, and is likely to mislead the public. I refer honorable members to the reply made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to a question asked by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. EarlePage). It appears at pages 13-14 of Hansard, and reads as follows : -
The short-term indebtedness of the Commonwealth and the States at 1st October. 1929, 1st January, 1930, and 1st April, 1931, was as follows : -
At that time the Commonwealth Government also had credits in Australia. I shall omit the position as at the 1st January, 1930, and deal with it as at the 1st April, 1931. It was-
The total short-term indebtedness in Great Britain of the Commonwealth and the States increased from £16,396,000 to £38,075,100 in that period. It is apparentthatthe honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) became confused when dealing with the subject. Actually only £3,545,000 was owing by the Commonwealth in London as at the 1st October, 1929. The Prime Minister’s reply reveals what is a very pleasant feature to me, that Queensland has no short-term indebtedness either in Great Britain or in Australia. As a matter of fact that State has credits both in Great Britain and in Australia. The Prime Minister’s reply continued -
In the period of one and a half years from 1st October, 1929, to 1st April, 1931. no loan was raised overseas, and the loans raised in Australia were insufficient to meet the restricted loan programmes approved by the Loan Council. The increase in short-term debt was necessary to meet the loan programmes, and to cover the deficits. Since September, 1930, when the exchange pool commenced to operate, the short-term debt in London has remained stationary. Figures for the States prior to 1st April, 1931, are approximate only.
Honorable members have a right to express their own views with regard to tariff matters. I do not know that mine are in accordance with those of all who sit on this side of the chamber. It is my conviction that, wherever possible, we should encourage the establishment of secondary industries in Australia, provided that that can be done, on an economic basis. It is essential that this output should be marketed to Australian consumers at reasonable prices. Such a policy would have the inevitable result of providing additional avenues of employment.
The most important factor which governs our future prosperity is the satisfactory exporting of our products. To compete successfully in the markets of the world our output must be produced at the lowest possible cost. The second important factor is that we should locate and stimulate markets for our primary products on the other side of the world. We should purchase, from friendly trading countries, those commodities which we cannot produce or manufacture on an economic basis. In the past, Australia has not been careful enough in the disposition of ite import trade. Our empire trade has been satisfactory. During the financial year 1928-29 we imported 53 per cent. of our total requirements from Great Britain and our sister dominions. while 52 per cent. of our total exports were sold to the same source.
– From which country is Great Britain purchasing its wheat ?
– The British Labour Government made an agreement with Russia and unfortunately has purchased Russian wheat. At the moment that is merely a side issue. The figures before me, the latest available, were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and they show that in 1928-29 Great Britain and the dominions purchased goods from Australia to the value of £76,060,357, while we purchased from those countries goods to the value of £76,491,242. The transactions were practically on a fifty-fifty basis. On the other hand, Australia purchased from the United States of America 24.58 per cent. of its total imports, while that country bought from us goods representing only 5 per cent. of our total exports.
– Then that country ought to be cut, out from our business.
– I agree with the honorable member. I would strongly support any tariff regulations that would effect an embargo against any country that treated us in that fashion. Rather than allow one pound of our butter, one tin of our canned fruits, or any of the products of our orchardists to be landed there even as ships’ provisions, the Government of the United S.tates of America causes commodities to be jettisoned outside its harbours. During the past ten years the United States of America has taken from Australia no less than £212,000,000 worth of our gold and credit, which was a considerable factor in bringing about our existing adverse trade balance. We could do very well with that £212,000,000 in gold today. Last year I strongly opposed the sending overseas of £7,000,000 of our gold, which was going to Great Britain to meet demands from the United States of America, occasioned by our unfortunate adverse trade balance. Until the United States of America is prepared to treat with us on* a more favorable basis, Australia should refrain from dealing with that country.
Australia had satisfactory trade balances with other foreign countries, and the present Government should have given more consideration to the development of trade relations with them. Instead it inflicted heavy and unnecessary tariffs and left us open to retaliation. Those countries were buying the produce of Australian farms, and we should have encouraged them to go on doing so. The wisdom of such a course is evident when we remember the small amount of goods which we imported from them, as compared with the large amount they bought from us. From France, for instance, we took only 2.58 per cent, of our total imports, whereas she took from us 10.45 per cent, of our total exports. The balance of trade was very heavily in our favour, so that when compiling our tariff schedule we might well have considered the advisibility of allowing her goods to come into Australia on reasonable terms. Belgium has also protested against the heavy duties imposed upon her products. From that country we obtained only .63 per cent, of our imports, whereas she bought from us 6.24 per cent, of our exports. From Germany we obtained 3.16 per cent, of our imports, while she bought from us 6.72 per cent, of our total exports. The German Government made representations to us on the subject of the increased duties, and afterwards imposed retaliatory duties cn our wheat, butter and grain, making the conditions of their entry into Germany much less favorable than those applying to similar products from New Zealand. Honorable members will see that there are other things to be taken into consideration in framing a tariff schedule. The class of commodity imported from France will never be manufactured here and no employment will be gained to Australians. We have turned that nation’s past desire to welcome the products of our primary producers into a feeling of hostility.
– If the primary producer had no home market for his products he would be in an even worse position.
– I recognize the value of the home market, but I also recognize that much of our primary production is dependent upon our export trade. Japan was another country with which our trade balance waa favor able. We obtained from her only 2.26 per cent, of our imports, while she accepted nearly 8 per cent, of our total exports.
– Nevertheless, the home market is a very profitable one.
– I have myself said more than that. I hold the view that the home market is the most valuable of all. We must establish industries here to endeavour to build it up. The British market is also a valuable one to the primary producers. Until now we have been selling to Great Britain just about as much as she has been selling to us. In my opinion, trade relations between Britain and the other parts of the Empire should be much closer than they are. In the United States of America trade exists between the various States, which seems natural enough, because all the States form one compact territory; but there is quite as much justification, in my opinion, for trade agreements between the component parts of the British Empire. [Quorum formed.]
I am in favour of many of the duties imposed in this schedule. I am particularly pleased with the duty on imported tobacco. We have in the past been paying £2,000,000 a year for imported tobacco leaf, and another £1,000,000 a year for manufactured” tobacco, most of that money going to the United States of America. It has been proved that Australia can produce tobacco as good as that grown in any other part of the world. The last Government put a tax on tobacco, but it was accused of taxing the workers’ smoke.
– The last Government did not impose a protective duty such as we put on. It imposed a revenue duty.
– The present Government adopted the last Government’s proposal and added to it chiefly for revenue purposes. The last Government had established experimental plots for growing tobacco in various parts of Australia, one of the most successful being at Mareeba, in the electorate of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) .
– Those experiments were conducted by the Labour Government of Queensland.
– Under the policy of the last Federal Government, which established the plots in several States, the experiments were carried out with the idea of proving that tobacco could be successfully grown in Australia. When this had been demonstrated, the last Government introduced its tax on imported tobacco with the idea of raising more revenue, and also of assisting the local tobacco industry. Its reward was to be accused of taxing the workers’ smoke. The duties imposed by the present Government, which are also for revenue, are heavier than those imposed by the last Government, but I intend to support them, because I wish to assist the local tobacco-growing industry.
In many ways the Government’s tariff policy may be described as a panic tariff. It was introduced in the hope of making up the revenue lost in other directions. It has failed in its pur- pose, and we are to-day £13,000,000 short, t has been proved that high tariffs do not always result in increased revenue; there is such a thing as killing trade. Some items on this schedule should be revised, particularly that relating to galvanized iron. The Government first imposed an embargo on the importation of galvanized iron, and later replaced the embargo by an exorbitant duty, the proceeds of which are distributed to those engaged in the industry in Australia, contrary to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. According to evidence given before that body, £6 5s. a week is the average wage received by those in the iron industry. Dairy farmers would be greatly pleased if they could average such a return. It is estimated that 80,000 tons of galvanized iron are required each year in Australia. The duty on British iron is £5 10s. a ton. The effect of the Government’s provisions is that the iron industry in Australia is being assisted by the Government to an extent which is greater than the total wages paid to those engaged in the industry. From the Australian consumers the industry is receiving £440,000 a year. I trust that the Government, in its desire to assist secondary industries, will not unduly hamper our export trade. I believe that it is the duty of Australian citizens to buy Aus- tralian-made goods wherever possible. I also believe that the local market is the best market for our primary products. The more we can develop our secondary industries, and increase our population, consistently with the proper development of our primary industries, the better it will be for Australia..
– It appears that I have about eight minutes during which to speak before I am interrupted by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) calling for a quorum. It might be just as well at this stage to place on record in Hansard the fact that Sir Robert Gibson is at present in - another place delivering an address on the financial position of Australia. The honorable member for Angas has no wish that other honorable members should attend another chamber to hear the views of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member is destined to serve but a short term in this House, and he is, therefore, not concerned with the opinions of Sir Robert Gibson, and, knowing that his own confreres are absent from this chamber, he takes the opportunity to call for a quorum so as to prevent honorable members on this side from attending another place. The honorable member has become so accustomed to a poorly-attended chamber when he is speaking that he hates to give any other honorable member a decent deal.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) seemed to be much concerned about the interests of certain persons overseas and the cost of the requirements of our primary producers; yet he religiously refrained from dealing with the vexed question of sugar. He said not one word about the £9 a ton which it is costing the consumers of Australia for all the sugar sent out of this country. The sugar industry is of such great political significance that the honorable member and his colleagues are afraid to mention it; but, to be consistent, he should tackle all items of produce affected by the. tariff, irrespective of party considerations. My. idea of tariff protection is the protection of Australian industries from the competition of cheap foreign products and the protection of the community generally by enabling them to buy a good commodity at a reasonable price. If high tariffs are imposed unscientifically, everything else being left to chance, we shall achieve no good result; Inseparable from the tariff is the development of our industries. It is futile to attempt to make the tariff a panacea without giving adequate consideration to other essentials such as primary production. If the Government desires to make Australia a selfsupporting nation, as well as an exporting nation, it cannot ignore the application of science to industry.
By the courtesy of the Minister, I Was Shown last night the file relating to the peanut-growers of North Australia. It must be gratifying to the Minister to have learnt from the report of the Director of Agriculture that of some60 odd unemployed men who were given an opportunity to go on the land producing peanuts, only two have failed. Those men went on the land without any capital. It is true that the Government did assist them’ by letting a contract for the ploughing of the land; but, apart from that, these settlers were left to their own devices; Many of them were forced to improvize tools out of forks of trees and other things for scarifying purposes. When the Government, in its wisdom, launches out oil a scheme of settlement, it should at least see that the men who are placed on the land are supplied with the tools necessary for the cultivation of the soil. These settlers should have the benefit of scientific and expert advice in respect of best means of production. I nbticed from the file that some of the growers, who have a little capital, have tried to improve their holdings by using fertilizers. Some of them have used as milch as 5 cwt. of fertilizer to the acre, and others 1 cwt. to the acre. They have no knowledge of the quantity of fertilizer that should be used for the proper cultivation of the soil.
– Those settlers are not likely to be assisted, because once they become successful the squatters will lose their lands.
– I do not suggest that this Government has withheld assistance for that reason, but I know that the large landholders in the north are not ‘anxious that agriculturists should get a footing there. The report of the Director of Agriculture shows conclusively that these settlers are excellent workers. It is far better for them to be producing wealth than receiving the dole. I have made a suggestion to the Minister, and he has agreed to it to the extent that he isprepared to establish experimental plots in connexion with tobacco-growing. These areas are Crown lands, and are capable of absorbing hundreds of thousands of settlers.
– If that country grows tobacco as well as it does peanuts, there is a great future for it.
– Almost anything can be grown in the Northern Territory. [ Quorum formed.]
There is in the Northern Territory soil that is capable of growing anything that can be produced elsewhere in Australia. The climate is so varied that almost any plant can be grown there. The areas are Crown lands, and there is nothing to prevent the Government from granting portions of from 10 to 2,000 acres to any settlers, because the land is valueless until such time as improvements are effected upon it, and it is made productive. The Territory cannot be compared with any other part of Australia, because the capital cost or the interest on the capital cost of land elsewhere makes its cultivation almost prohibitive, and nine out of every ten settlers upon it are doomed to failure. The position is the reverse in the Northern Territory. Peanuts are being produced successfully by some hundreds of farmers, and there are enormous possibilities for the production of tobacco. How much better it would be to absorb some thousands of men on the land in these industries, at the fearne time adding to the wealth of this country, than to do what we are doing at present - pay them the dole. If a fraction of the money that is paid in doles were used to place men on the land, it would enable them to become self-reliant, self-supporting, and decent citizens; but it is essential that expert advice should be given to the settlers before any cultivation of the land is attempted, particularly in respect of tobacco-growing, which entails the involved process oftobacco-curing. The possibilities of tobacco-growing in the territoryare enormous. Last year Australia, consumed 21,000,000 lb. oftobacco and its production, was, under 1,000,000- lb.. In 192.8-2.9, we imported. 21,000,000.1b of. tobacco, and in 1929-30;. 20,000,000lb. The value of the imported tobacco in1928-29 was £2,694,546,. and the value, of the Australian production only£100,000. The average value of the production of laud now under tobacco in Australia ranges from £80 to £100 net per acre. That is a phenomenal yield. The largest tobacco, crop, grownin Australia this year was produced by Messrs.. Fisher. and Sons, at Wangaratta. The estimated value ofthe yield from the 100 acres which theyhad, under tobacco,was between£10,000 and £15,000. Nor wheat or other,agricuturalland in the. continent can, approach a production of that value from thesame area. In view, of the groat possibilities of this industryin the Northern Territory I urgethe Government to. spend a little money in settling, some- of our- unemployed! workers on. the available Crown lands there which are suitable for tobacco culture. Hundreds of men couldbe found who would be willing to take up tobacco cultivation for a living. All that they would’ need would be slight financial assistance from the Government and good advice from, experts, in tobacco culture. After the Commonwealth, Government assumed control of the. Northern, Territory it spent £50,000 on an experimental farm but, unfortunately, the area Goosen was on the coast. The soil was hard black clay which was incapable of absorbing even the torrential rains which fell in the wet season.. The farm was foredoomed to failure; but because it failed the Government has refused to do, anything further to exploit the agricultural possibilities of the Territory. It is true that at present about a hundred farmers, are making a living by growing peanuts ;. but. they are all settled on farms of double the area which would be required to enable them, to make a living from tobacco culture. Beautiful river flats and an, abundant supply of fresh, water fromrunning streams, combined with a climate thoroughly suitable for tobacco culture, are conditions which exist in the Northern. Territory, and I urge the Government to adopt the suggestion that I have made for the granting, of assistance to. this industry.
The- pastoral industry also offers great possibilities of development in the Northern Territory. Sheep and cattle can be raised, there profitably. For many yearsI have endeavoured’ to get the Government to establish a stud farm in this remote area. Cattlemen in North Australia, as well as those in the southern areas, realize the advantage of breeding up to a standard; but scrub bulls have wrought havoc in the quality of the stock inthe Northern Territory. Even small; cattlemen in the far north, who run from 300 to 3,000 head of stock,, are willing to pay a reasonable price for good stud stock.. They realize that a. bad beast costs just as, much to feed as a good one. But,, unfortunately, stud stock is available onlyfrom the- south, and many of the animals, that have been, procured’ have failed to become acclimatized. If the Government, would establish a stud farm in the more temperate zones on tha edge of the Barkly Tablelands, it would find, a ready market for the progeny in the Northern Territory.It cannot be expected’ that our people will’ go on year after year paying hundreds of guineas for stud stock which dies very shortly after it is delivered.
A good, deal has, been, said in this chamber at different times in, relation to the possibilities of sheep raising in the Northern Territory.. In 1887 the flocks in the Territory totalled 80,531, whereas now they are down to a few thousands. This is due, not to. the unsuitabiiity of the country for sheep, but to the isolation of the holdings. The long distances which have to be traversed in. order to get the sheep to market have forced many settlers to abandon sheepraising. Cattle cam he driven on the hoof to the rail head. The. only period in which any real effort was made to develop the sheep industry in the Northern. Territory was while Dr. Gilruth was Administrator. But, unfortunately,, the evils associated with previous administrationswere perpetuated at that time.. The endeavour was made to raise the sheep on the sour coastal areas where the spear grass grows from 10 feet to 12 feet high. Although such country is absolutely unsuitable for sheepraising, a few sheep have lingered on, though the spear grass has penetrated their entrails. Last year, I saw the remnants of some of the flocks on the Barkly Tablelands, and was surprised to find them in such excellent condition. If the Government would do something to assist this industry, it would be wonderfully well repaid.
I wish to refer again to the possibilities of the mining industry in the Northern Territory. In 1895, the value of the gold produced in the Northern Territory was £111,945. From 1881 to 1892, the territory produced minerals valued at over £1,000,000. I have been asked why the mining industry has not prospered if the mineral deposits are as valuable as I have indicated. Perhaps I can answer that question best by quoting from the report of Mr. Dashwood, who was the Administrator in 1900. He said -
Before the ruin of the mines by the English companies, theyhad been profitably worked; and the returns had helped considerably to swell the output of gold.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the tariff.
– I am submitting, sir, that the Government could do a great deal to encourage the mining industry, as well as other industries, in the Northern Territory, apart altogether from the tariff. The people there require a little assistance from the Government, and if it is given to them they will make a success of their various undertakings. Mr. Grenfell Price, the author of a numberof works on the Northern Territory said, on one occasion -
When in my next lecture I deal with the behaviour of labour extremists, it will be well to remember that the Northern Territory has also suffered from capitalistic greed.
Honorable members opposite often forget this factor when discussing the value of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. The efforts that have been made to develop profitable industries in the constituency which. I have the honour to represent, have, frequently, been nullified because of the financialjuggling of those who were more concerned about making money than about developing the coun try. According to Mr. Dashwood’s report, Mr. Horatio Bottomly spent £80,000 in one venture in residences, billiard tables, telephones, tennis courts, and so on, but left the mine untouched. It is unfortunate that from the days when the territory was under the control of the South Australian Government until to-day all efforts at development have been concentrated on the sour coastal areas, and the really valuable localities have been given no consideration whatever. I am certain that, given a little assistance from the Commonwealth Government, our settlers would be able to stand on their own feet. Given reasonable assistance, those areas are capable of absorbing large numbers of unemployed, and of contributing to the production of Australian commodities, which do not need nursing as do the products of many other industries. [Quorum formed.] I desire to focus the attention of honorable members upon the Northern Territory, and, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) is seated in the ministerial chair, it is opportune to point out that, in the north of Australia, some 40,000 tons of crude oil is stored in tanks, and there is not even a pop-gun in that territory for its protection.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member may not discuss defence matters at this juncture.
– I bow to your ruling, but I think that we should- protect the assets of Australia.
– The iron and steel industry would be assisted if a few guns were manufactured here for protection in the north.
– That is so. The Government should concern itself with the protection of the crude oil to which I have referred.
The Northern Territory is the front door of Australia. An axiom which is familiar to the residents there is that the land was made for the people, and if we do not use that vast territory we cannot justify our occupation of it. “We talk of our great White Australia policy, and of the need for imposing high duties; but let me remind honorable members that the fact that Australia has been kept white is not due to foresight on the part of governments. Overtures were formerly made to Italy, Japan, China, and even the Malay States, to accept land concessions there. South Australia offered to alter its land laws to enable the Northern Territory to be developed by Japanese, and it is only a matter of sheer luck that Australia has been kept white. But there comes a time when luck gives out, and the best insurance against trouble in the future is to populate that territory. Suitable settlers are already in the country, and, if given reasonable encouragement, they would convert it from a financial sink into one of the most prosperous parts of the Commonwealth.
.- At first I was inclined to think that the delay that has occurred in dealing with the tariff alterations was a disadvantage; but, the further this debate has proceeded, the more satisfied I am that the delay has been advantageous in certain respects. The operation ofthe tariff has demonstrated its complete failure to carry out the main objectives of the party that introduced it. It was intended to keep wages up, and unemployment down; but, during the period in which the tariff has been in operation, wages have steadily dropped, and unemployment has rapidly increased. Moreover, the delay in dealing with this problem has brought about a steady increase in the number of the converts in this chamber to a belief in the need for a revised tariff. I was glad last night to bear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) speak in reasonable terms about what should be done in tariff matters. I was pleased, also, to notice that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) practically deserted the accepted tariff platform of the Labour party, and pleaded that the present high duties should not be allowed to operate to the detriment of the great primary industries. He practically delivered a freetrade speech, and I trust that, when the individual items are under the consideration of the committee, you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if you then happen to be in the chair again, will ask him to vote in accordance with the views that he has expressed during this debate. I was gratified, similarly, to note that during the speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) at Lithgow, ‘he pointed out that the Western Australian Labour Party could not control the fiscal policy of the Australian Labour Party. He said that that party in Western Australia advocated freetrade, although the policy of the Australian Labour Party was one of high protection. Evidently there is a continually increasing amount of dissension among honorable members on the Government side in relation to the tariff.
The inexorable logic of economic facts is gradually convincing everybody in the country that the present super tariff cannot be maintained. I believe that one result of the delay in dealing with it will be the removal of a large number of the heavy duties that have been imposed. It is worth while recording what the Tariff Board stated in its report dated the 30th June, 1930-
The examples given herein clearly show that many of the products of local industries are being sold at prices which equal the landed costs of similar imported goods, including the duty that operated up till the 22nd November, 1929. The changes which have since been made in the customs tariff, and the unfavorable exchange rates, together with the embargoes imposed upon imports, have resulted, in many eases, iu the local market being secured to the Australian manufacturer. In other cases manufacturers have lodged applications for further increases in duty. In practically every case the manufacturer is prepared to give an assurance that the prices of his commodities will not be raised if the increased duty is granted. It will be seen from the figures already given, however, that not only is it essential that the prices be not raised, but that the prices bc very materially reduced . . .
If, however, a duty aimed at equalizing the cost of production in Australia as against overseas is raised to a rate which represents prohibition, there is a grave risk of loss of customs revenue without securing the advantage of reduced prices of the local commodity. When this happens the consumer will pay in the price of the local article the amount previously collected as customs duty on the imported goods, and will, subsequently, be called upon to make up the loss of customs revenue in the form of direct taxation. This means that where reduction in prices is not brought about, other branches of industry are in the position of having to subsidize through direct taxation, to the extent of the revenue previously collected, the new industry that has resulted from the prohibitive tariff. Itfollows that the burden of further direct taxation, without a compensating fall in the cost of manufactured goods, must tend to dislocate industry aud cause unemployment.
That is the view of an impartial observer, and it emphasizes the value and importance, and, in fact, the inevitable necessity. of bringing into being a tariff along the line3 that the Country party advocates. We need a tariff that will, first of all, lower the price of machinery required for the equipment of the factories of Aus- t:ilia-, so that cheap goods may be turned out. Such a policy would encourage industries. It would enable them to supply the substantial part of Australia’s requirements of manufactured goods, and also make it possible for us to begin to export manufactures. That would make us less dependent than now on seasonal conditions and world prices for our raw products as the basis of our prosperity, and it would provide increased employment in Australia and more stable conditions. If we could bring about a condition of affairs under which we could export not only raw products, but also a continually increasing number and quantity of manufactured goods, we could bring about a marked increase in the value of our export production. That this could be done is shown by what has happened in Canada, the value of whose exports rose from £89,000,000 in 1916 to £290,000,000 in 1928-29, increasing threefold.
The introduction of the present tariff alterations shows that the policy of protecting all the industries of Australia indiscriminately has lamentably failed. During the last 30 years there have been eight major revisions of the tariff, even if this continually changing tariff of the last year be regarded as one. Having launched the policy of protection with duties averaging 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, in 1901, there are now about 418 items in our schedule on which an average duty of over 40 per cent, is imposed; and on 70 items the duty is over 75 per cent. I do not think that anybody will suggest that an industry needs 75 per cent, protection if it is naturally suited to this country. The most serious charge that can be brought against the present tariff policy is that during the 30 years it has been in operation it has not brought about, to any appreciable extent, those conditions which lead to economic and efficient production. In 1901 there were, roughly, twenty workers per unit of manufacture throughout Australia, and to-day there are the same number. The number of in- dustries has increased, and yet we have only 707 factories in Australia which employ more than 100 men. No less than 97 per cent, of our factories are at present utilizing the services of fewer than 100 men.
The Tariff Board, in its annual reports for 1928 and 1930, laid emphasis on the fact that many of these industries employed so few men that the protection given to them by way of tariff duties or bounties was worth twice as much as the cost of the labour employed in the whole industry. That “is a heavy burden on Australia. In the past, tariffs have been hopelessly unscientific. They have been built up piecemeal, and most of the duties are out of perspective. The result is an irrational scheme of protection by means of unco-ordinated and often anomalous duties. During this crisis when we should be looking to the manufacturing industries to help Australia, by reason of the protection they have enjoyed in the past, they are unable to aid to any material extent. Although the purchasing power of our people has declined because the value of the prices of our exports has decreased in some instances 50 per cent., the national income has dropped by over £125,000,000, and the standard basic wage has been reduced 10 per cent., the prices of many manufactured goods remain at the same level as in 1926. A few days ago I quoted some statistics prepared by Professor Copland, showing that, whereas in 1926 the price index figure for raw products was 185, and for manufactured goods 18S, . in. 1930 the figures were 317 and 186 respectively; the prices of finished articles had not fallen in sympathy with the fall in the prices of raw materials, and that is one of the influences which is helping to keep Australia in the doldrums at the present time. The purchasing power of the farmer and the workers with reduced incomes is diminished, and because of that while prices of finished goods remain high, fewer people are employed in industry. In contrast to Australian conditions, the prices of textiles and other English manufactures have fallen in the last three years about 40 per cent, or in about the same ratio as the fall in the prices of cereals. In Australia, on the contrary, the prices of cereals have fallen, but there has been no decline in the prices of finished goods. Something must be done to alter this state of affairs, and a revision of this schedule offers scope for remedial action. . In 1908 only eight items in the tariff bore duties of over 40 per cent., whereas in the present schedule 418 items carry duties of over 40 per cent., and 70 duties of over 75 per cent. At the same time these industries have a 30 per cent, additional protection in respect of exchange, and 4 per cent, in respect of primage, whilst 132 items are the subject of prohibitious or super duties. This huge burden carried by industry is capable of substantial reduction without injuring any manufacturing enterprise. By recasting the tariff on sane lines, further employment would be provided, the cost of living would be reduced, and our export industries would be given an opportunity to recover from their present unfavourable position. [ Quorumformed.]
The Tariff Board investigated the reasons why the prices of Australian manufactures remain high in Australia although they are falling in every other country. The board mentioned three main causes - (1),. inefficient machinery and over capitalization; (2) excessive overhead, because of the limitations of the market; and (3), insufficient co-operation between employer and employee to insure increased output per individual employed. The Country party’s policy aims to remove those three) disabilities. We desire to terminate this era of inefficient machinery and overcapitalization by reducing the cost of machinery essential to production. We have heard a great deal about the adverse trade balance during the last ten years, but the value of machinery introduced for the establishment of new industries during that time exceeded our adverse trade balance. The importation of machinery for the establishment of new industries or the improvement of existing ones is of advantage to Australia because it assures progress. The cost of production can be reduced by making it possible to install sufficient machinery at lower cost by admitting the machines duty free from England, and this will tend to correct the evil of over-capitalization. In regard to the second complaint, that the overhead costs are too high because of the limitation of the Australian market, there are some moderately protected industries which have been able to thrive, and yet reduce the prices charged to the consumers, because they have set out to capture the whole Australian market. They are not always supplicating this House for increased duties. Many of them are content with duties of 35 or 45 per cent. If we were impartially to study the tariff in its whole perspective, to select 40 or 50 major industries that have a real chance of becoming established on an. economic basis, and ultimately of becoming exporters, and to withdraw the duties from other insignificant industries or retain some of them for revenue purposes only, the costs of those major industries would be so reduced that they would be able with lower tariff protection than at the present time, to supply the local market and sell overseas in competitiou with other countries. If only halfour export production came from the factories, that fact would tend to bring employers and employees closer together, because awards would have a definite relation to the world economic position. At present primary producers have to sell their goods competitively in the markets of the world. They have to bear what is strangely called in some quarters the burden of export. What a way to speak of our export production ! If we were able to export our secondary products, arbitration laws and awards would be based on economic considerations, and there would be no insistence upon the protection of hot-house industries that can get Australia nowhere, and that only build up the cost of living, decrease the purchasing power of wages, and burden other industries. The policy of the Country party aims to encourage the manufacture of natural secondary products for which there is a ready market, and the raw material of which is produced in Australia. The boot industry, which is protected by duties of 35 to 40 per cent., supplies 90 per cent. of the Australian market. Its machinery, is introduced duty free, and that concession, together with other helpful factors, enables it practically to dominate the Australian trade. At one time, when other conditions were more favorable, it exported annually about £800,000 worth of boots to New Zealand, and I am told that Rhodesia each year would buy about £200,000 worth of Australian boots if they could be sold at competitive prices. There is a big overseas market to be developed for our boot trade. Many thousands of pounds worth of Canadian sandshoes, and other rubber goods arc imported into Australia annually. If that dominion, which is further away from the sources of rubber supplies, can build up a big export trade in rubber manufactures, why cannot Australia do so? Of the rugs and blankets used in Australia each year 87 per cent, are of local origin. The manufacturers have not asked for huge extra duties. The Berlei Corset Company has acquired 80 per cent, of the total Australian trade, and is exporting to New Zealand; it has never applied for increased duties. Soap manufacture may be said to be a natural industry, and 95 per cent, of the market for that commodity is supplied by local factories. Surely if Australian soap is good enough to satisfy 95 per cent, of our people, it is good enough for the people of other countries. If we give the major secondary industries a chance, we shall bp able to develop an export trade, and so bring additional money into the country.
– Does the honorable member mean that we should remove theprotective duties on soap?
– No. If we enabled the manufacturer to get his machinery at lower costs, and removed the protection from subsidiary industries that will never be of great value, the cost of production in industries that have Teal potentialities would be reduced. I shall illustrate what has already happened in Australia. Recently I visited two adjoining factories at Botany. Davis Gelatine (Australia) Limited makes 16 per cent, of the total gelatine production of the world, and exports over 40 per cent, of its output. It has been able to progress because the arbitration award prescribes the same rate of wages for each shift. As a result, the factory at Botany is one of the great gelatine producers of the world, and Australia is not able to supply it with sufficient waste products for its raw materials; it has to import some of the material from which gelatine and other goods are produced. Alongside that concern is the factory of Kellogg (Aust.) Proprietary Limited. I asked that firm why they were not exporting their products all over the Pacific, and was given two reasons. First, they had to pay 70 per cent, duty on the machinery imported for their factory; and, secondly, the Arbitration Court would not permit the firm to work that machinery for 24 hours a day. They desired to work three shifts, and had no objection to paying the stipulated wages for all shifts at the same rate if permitted. If they could work that expensive machinery for 24 hours a day, six days a week, they could give employment to three times as many hands as they have at present, and would be enabled to cut costs of production to such an extent that they could export their products to all parts of the Pacific. At present they have to start their great machines at eight o’clock in the morning, and cease operations at two o’clock - only one shift - so that the packers can fill their packages by knock-off time at 5 p.m. The breakfast foods that they manufacture are hygroscopic in nature, that is they take up water from the air. They must be cartoned immediately or they would speedily become worthless in the humid atmosphere of Sydney if left overnight. I leave honorable members to reckon how greatly that firm’s overhead expenses are increased because of its inability to work the expensive machinery an additional two shifts a day.
Take the case of our iron and steel industries. We have available in Australia, the richest iron ore deposits to be found in the world. They are right on the water’s edge, readily accessible to navigable waters, and alongside are great deposits of coal, the Maitland area having seams 60 feet to 70 feet in thickness. Why, then, are we unable to market our iron and steel products overseas?
– Surely the right honorable gentleman knows that Maitland coal is not used for smelting purposes ?
– I understand that some of the Newcastle seams are used; they are even closer to the water.
Does the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) infer that the Maitland coal is inferior in quality?
– The right honorable gentleman is unfair. I merely wish to point out that it is a different class of coal from that used in the iron and steel works.
– The works were located in that spot because of the accessibility of the coal deposits and the availability of transport facilities. The year before last Canada exported £16,500,000 worth of its iron and steel products, on which it enjoys a protective duty of 15 per cent, to 20 per cent. Australia, with a protection twice as great, cannot even hold its own market, In the same year, Canada manufactured and exported £24,500,000 worth of nonferrous products. That has been achieved by concentrating on industries that were worth-while, and for which the resources of the country were adapted. We should follow a similar course in Australia and then both establish industries and get revenue duties from right sources. Instead, the tariff imposed by this Government has practically sounded the death knell of our customs revenues without really helping major industries.
Let mo give a comparison of the prices of a few iron and steel items in the United Kingdom and in Australia. In England pig iron is sold at £3 5s. a ton, while in Australia it costs £6 10s. Bar steel sells in the old country at £7 15s. while here the price is £12 12s. 6d. Spring steel is £14 5s. a ton in Great Britain, and £24 a ton in Australia. Bolts and nuts are £19 a ton in the Motherland, and £31 a ton here. That should not be so. Our prices must be considerably reduced if our industries are to succeed. What excuse is there for our galvanized iron costing £5 to £7 a ton more than it does in New Zealand? That means the imposition of additional burdens on our primary producers.
The effect of our policy is apparent especially on such huge concerns as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Recently that concern had erected a big by-product factory at a contract price of a little over £1,000,000. The manager of the contracting company showed me over the works, and, incidentally, informed me that his company had purchased Australian-made goods whereever that was possible. At the time his company was seeking a rebate of £300,000, representing duty charged by the Commonwealth Government on material that was imported as it could not be produced in Australia. I do not know whether the Government has met the company in the matter; if it has I give it my blessing. The company is a big concern, and should be able to put its case quickly and well. Even if it succeeds, other smaller concerns will be unsuccessful with similar applications.
The Government must surely realize what a ^tremendous load its tariff policy places upon industry. Something should be done to have these matters adjusted by Parliament. I remember a claim for rebate that was lodged during the term of the Hughes Government, and was adjusted only just before the Bruce-Page Government went out of office. I suggest to the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that he would make his term of office a notable one if he took steps to have the whole schedule reclassified, so that protection may be given only to those industries that can materially benefit Australia, and items not made to cover goods that have no chance of being made here commercially for many years. The matter of what items are to be admitted free of duty and what not should not be left to ministerial or departmental control; it should be specifically decided by Parliament.
We have had eighteen months in which to judge how the new tariff has worked. Obviously, it has failed. Instead of increasing, it has lessened, employment. Further, it has added to the prices of our manufactured commodities. I remind the committee that years before federation, the firm of G. and C. Hoskins Limited secured the contract to supply 400 miles of water pipes for the Kalgoorlie water supply, in competition with the world. Why cannot that sort of thing be done now ? It would be possible if the Government formulated a tariff on the line that I have indicated. Preference should be given to Great Britain and our sister dominions where possible, and reciprocal trade arrangements entered into with other countries. We should establish a friendly trading feeling towards Australia, instead of engendering the antagonism of foreign countries. If we told Great Britain that we were willing to take, on a freetrade basis, £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 worth of goods that cannot be produced here, in return for preferential trading treatment in connexion with our wheat, wine, meat, and so forth, we would have no difficulty in making the deal. The additional employment provided in Groat Britain by such a scheme*, would make that country only too ready to grant us the preferences we sought.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that Great Britain would not do that.
– I know, that in 1923-24, when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, he returned from an Imperial Conference at which he negotiated substantial trading preferences for Australia. There would still be left a very great field of possible bargaining with other countries for commodities which we shall not be able to produce for at least 50 to 100 years. Negotiations could be entered into and reciprocal trade treaties established. Only recently, Australia lost a meat contract with Italy because of the action taken by the Government of that country as retalia-tion against our tariff. That policy will not bring us trade. It merely antagonizes other countries and embarrasses our own industries. I urge that, in the light of the experience that it has gained, the Government will adopt the policy that I have advocated. [Quorum formed.]
I desire to say a few words as to how our balance of trade would be affected if the Government adopted the policy of the Country party, and gave discriminating protection to selected industries. Such a scheme would substantially reduce prices, tend to increase exports, and improve our balance of trade. That can be best shown by recalling what happened during the period from 1893 to 1914. During that time there was a favorable trade balance each year, despite the fact that, for the first five years, New South Wales was operating on an absolutely freetrade basis. Australia was not able to take a great many imports during those years, because she did not have the money to pay for them, and it was difficult to -borrow. Exactly the same thing is happening now. Our favorable trade balance ‘ is due not to high tariffs or embargoes, but to the fact that we have not the money to pay for imports. This is borne out by the figures which the Government itself has made available. The importation of petrol has declined by 40 per cent, during the last eight months, although we do not produce any petrol in Australia. It is our poverty that has caused a diminution of the demand. Metals and manufactures have declined by 70 per cent., and motor vehicles and parts by 84 per cent., although we do not make those articles in Australia. The decline in the importation of carpets has been higher than in anything else, although the duty on carpets has not been increased. The importation of coal has fallen by 85 per cent., although there is no protective duty on imported coal. It was imported in the first place because of industrial trouble in this country.
– Is Australia the only country where this sort of thing has been happening?
– No ; it has been happening all over the world. That is the point I am making. Take Hungary, for example: The Government of that country reduced import duties by 15 per cent., yet the volume of her imports has declined. Last year there was a decline of 30 per cent, in the volume of imports into the United States of America, not as a result of higher tariffs, or embargoes, or super duties, but because of economic conditions which will obtain in Australia whether this tariff is passed or not. We shall find that, for the next ten or fifteen years, our exports will exceed our imports, because we are hard up. That will be a good thing for Australia. We shall be able to use profitably much of the machinery that has already been bought, and our railways, which are now running at a loss, will become payable. Take, for instance, the line connecting Sydney with Brisbane. The money spent on that undertaking was wisely spent. Similarly, the line from Adelaide to the Northern Territory will eventually become a valuable asset. During the next ten or fifteen years there will be a continuous improvement in the productiveness of these assets, so that we shall be able not only to absorb those persons now unemployed, but also to provide work for a great many more in the development of Australia.
.- Whatever fiscal opinions honorable members of this House may hold, it cannot be denied that the crude efforts of the Government to manipulate the tariff have failed to alleviate unemployment. Quite apart from the idea of protecting local industries, the Government, when imposing higher duties, had in mind the relief of unemployment. When this Government came into office 12 per cent, of registered trade unionists were unemployed. That figure has now increased to 23 per cent., and constitutes eloquent proof of the failure of the Government’s tariff policy. Although there have been insignificant increases in employment in certain trades, they have been more than offset by the unemployment created in others through the wrecking of established businesses, and the fact that the Government has failed to distinguish between revenue duties, protective duties and trade adjustment duties. This has caused interference with business of all kinds, retarded manufacture, reduced turnover, and increased unemployment. The results of the Government’s experimenting with the tariff have shown that it has over-estimated its powers. The actual outcome has been unparalleled unemployment, and shrinkage of revenue.
The Government set out with the intention, for which I give it credit, of rectifying our adverse trade balance. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) that it is wrong to import from abroad foodstuffs which can be grown and prepared in Australia.. I would support the highest duties, short of prohibition, on importations of that kind; but the Government has failed, as I have said’, to discriminate between protective duties and trade adjustment duties. The greatest care is necessary in framing tariff schedules. We must always keep in mind the fundamental fact that the primary industries are the backbone of the country. If we harass them with excessive charges arising out of inordinately high duties, and such impositions as primage duties on cornsacks and superphosphate, we make it difficult for the few primary industries, which have to compete against the world’s markets, to carry on at all. Unlike the manufacturers which sell their product in a sheltered market, the primary producers have to sell theirs at world parity prices. The Tariff Board was instituted for the purpose of giving consideration to such matters, and all applications for higher duties should be referred to the board for examination and report. The board is an expert body which takes evidence on oath for or against proposals for higher duties. Time and time again, however, this Government has totally ignored the board, or has flouted its recommendations. Is it any wonder, then, that the eight schedules we are discussing are full of injustices, and reek with anomalies?
– Yes, it is a shame. If the honorable member were engaged in commercial enterprise, and knew of the businesses which have been ruined by these tariffs, he would realize just how great a shame it is. I believe’ that we should encourage Australian industry by means of protective duties ; but we should consider what goods we are able to make here. No one will deny that we must preserve our iron and steel industry. In helping that industry we are also encouraging tha coal industry, because it take two tons of coal to make one ton of steel. In that way we shall find employment for a large number of men not necessarily of the artisan class. I have no time for the narrow-minded Free Traders who can see no merit in any policy other than their own, and who are averse to the building up’ of Australian secondary industries. But there is a big gap between sane protection and tariff prohibition. Unfortunately, the Labour party has become a prohibition party. If we resort to prohibition, all sorts of trade anomalies are created. Monopolies grow up, so that there is a survival of the strongest, and small businesses are crushed out. Prices rise, and there is turmoil in the industrial world, due to the lower purchasing power of wages. The protectionist policy, as favoured by the
Nationalist party, requires that proposals for higher duties should be referred to the Tariff Board for examination and report, and then Parliament should make its decision. That is the only way in which justice can be done to all parties. In the treatise known as The Australian Tariff, by Professors Copland and Giblin, and Messrs Dyason and “Wickens, there are three very significant and pertinent observations which no one can deny. The first is as follows : -
The evidence available does not support the contention that Australia could have maintained its present population at a higher standard of living under freetrade.
That is an. answer to those who put the primary industries in a class by themselves, and have no time for the secondary industries. The statement goes on -
The adoption of a considerable, but not unlimited, amount of protection is justifiable on economic grounds in the circumstances df Australian industry. But the extreme applications of the tariff have undoubtedly been a cause of net loss. Further extensions may involve a more than proportionately increased loss.
There has been a further extension by the present Government, which, far from creating more employment, has so shaken commercial enterprise by violent tariff changes, that the volume of unemployment has actually been increased. The authors continue - lt is important, therefore, that no further increase in. or extensions of. the tariff should be made without the most rigorous scrutiny of the costs involved.
How that advice has been ignored !
I could deal with many other anomalies in the tariff, but I prefer to leave them until we are discussing the items in detail. I mention one, however, to show how certain firms have been unfairly discriminated against. For instance, an Australian timber company, registered in Victoria, all of whose shareholders are Australians, is being discriminated against by the tariff as compared with firms importing timber from North Borneo. This firm imports kauri timber from the Solomon Islands. This timber does not compete with any Australian timber ; it competes only with kauri timber from New Zealand, which is admitted into Australia under a preferential tariff, and arrives sawn into planks. Although the Solomon Islands kauri comes here in logs, and is sawn in Austra- lian mills by Australian workmen, it is treated under the tariff as a foreign product. This case calls loudly for investigation by the Tariff Board. Another case has to do with lawn mowers. While the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, was in England, he had conversations with the representatives of an English company, and induced it to establish a factory in Australia for the manufacture of lawn mowers. There were already in Australia two firms making those articles, companies which had never applied for increased duties. The existing duty was 20 per cent. British, and 30 per cent, foreign. On the basis of 20 per cent. British, the Qualeast lawn mower was costing, landed into merchants’ store in Melbourne, 31s: 6d. for 12-in. mowers, and 33s. for 14-in. mowers. The mowers were being sold retail at 4.2s. 6d. and 45s. respectively.
– The honorable member will have to see that the honorable member for Maribyrnong is put out of his party.
– I do not care what party he may belong to; I shall not fail to criticize anything which I think is wrong. As soon as the Qualeast Company commenced operations in Victoria, it advanced its prices to the wholesale merchants for their Australian mowers, in parcels of fifty, to 35s. lid. for 12-in. mowers, and 37s. 4d. for 14-in. mowers, and insisted that the retailers should charge 50s. and 52s., respectively. In this case, protection of industry brought about price-fixing by the manufacturers, so that the public were not allowed to buy at the lowest price. That has happened over and over again. Although I cannot say that this applies to the company I have mentioned, it has certainly happened many times in the past, that as soon as an overseas company knows that it is assured of a certain amount of protection, it dumps into Australia large quantities of overseas-made products, and, having established a corner in the Australian market, rapidly recoups the cost of its Australian factory out of the increased price which it so obtains. When the time comes, I shall be able to quote half a dozen examples of this sort of thing. The Government has shown a lack of business sense in handling the tariff. Somebody off-stage tells the Minister that he can make this or that article in Australia, or some overseas company says that it will establish a factory in Australia and employ several hundred hands. The Minister, in his simplicity, believes the statement. He does not realize that the establishment of that factory will mean a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. It may give employment to a few hands, but it may also throw a greater number of workers out of employment in other directions. The whole procedure in connexion with the introduction of these schedules, and their operation by proclamation, is wrong. The Government has allowed them to bank up for eighteen months before permitting any discussion to take place on the tariff. These eight tariff amendments have so profoundly shaken the commercial world that last year the number of insolvencies was greater than in any previous year in the history of the Commonwealth.
– Surely the honorable member does not blame the tariff schedules for that.
– Yes, to the extent that they have upset the commercial world. The honorable member, if he were in business, would appreciate the fact that when schedules which double the duties are introduced, no one will place orders abroad, and no one will manufacture in any quantity because of the uncertainty of tariff adjustments. This causes embarrassment in business activities, and the result is an enormous increase in unemployment. [Quorum formed.] I have already referred to anomalies that have arisen because of the hasty bringing down of tariff schedules without any consideration being given by their framers to those who are affected by them. A ship may call at an Australian port, unload a portion of its cargo, and while en route to another Australian port, the Government may introduce another tariff which has direct application to its cargo. That has happened time and again. American goods have been landed at Sydney, and before the vessel arrives at Melbourne the duty has been increased, with a consequent serious loss to the importer. Then, again, certain lines are subject to a definite duty, but frequently the duty is waived. I have with me one of the daily lists of the Customs Department which shows that an engine, convertible to oil or gas, of 400 horse-power was landed on the 6th March, and, although the duty on it was 55 per cent., it was brought in free on that day only. On. the 17th February. a crude oil engine of 300 horse-power was allowed in free because the duty of 55 per cent, had been lifted for one day only. In each of those instances, the Commonwealth lost about £500. The business of this country cannot be run successfully when it is being harassed by continual increases of duties without any reference being made to those concerned in the trade. Because one manufacturer asks that certain machinery for his factory should be allowed to come in free, the duty is lifted for one day only. Another manufacturer, in . a like position, may not seek this concession. He will pay the duty, and so burden his factory with additional overhead expenses, and thus be placed at a disadvantage compared with the other importer. The whole system is wrong. If this Government persists in bringing down schedules in this way, making protection a political plaything by agreeing to adjustments suggested in the lobbies, it will bring the commercial world to disaster. The Labour party, as a whole, is strongly protectionist. It must be admitted that much of the uncertainty of the tariff is due to the efforts of the Government to bolster up the already top-heavy industrial system. The Labour party believes that by increasing protection, it will allow the manufacturer to pay higher wages. I have no objection to high wages provided that they are in accord with the financial position of the country at the time. Certain manufacturing interests of New South Wales strongly supported the Labour party at the last elections, in the hope of favours to come. They obtained those favours, which, strange to say, have reacted upon them. They obtained the high duties but, because of the financial stringency, they have not been able to keep their factories in full operation. In some cases, the additional protection has been the means of allowing the factories to employ additional -boy or girl (labour, to the detriment, and, at >times, dislocation of esta’blis’hed ‘businesses. The most ‘infamous suggestion is that of the -present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), who, “because customs revenue has fallen from £140,000,000. to £’7*2,000,000, ‘has -declared -that he will increase the -revenue ‘by making a levy on exchange. That ‘is ‘what he means when he talks of .adjusting ‘the duties in accordance with Australian -currency. As T read the act, this levy cannot be made without an amendment of the Customs Act, so that I presume a bill will shortly ..be presented to this chamber with that ;object in view. The -Treasurer’s proposal, if enforced, will have a disastrous effect. ‘We ‘have already experienced it in respect. of income taxation, ‘which has reached a point at which jio matter how the rates are increased, no additional ‘revenue can be obtained. The ‘Same think will happen if we tax the ad valorem cost- and the exchange -cost. There is no- occasion .for us to be hostile to importer-s, because ‘it .-must be realized that certain essentials have to be imported even for manufacturing purposes. At present the importer has to pay an ad -valorem duty of 10 -per cent, on ‘the ordinary invoice value of a commodity. There is also .the ordinary duty ranging from 45 per cent, to hundreds per cent. On top of that is the 4,£. per cent, primage duty. In addition, ia sales tax averaging 3 per cent., is payable to the customs in the case of retail sales. There is a tax of 30 per- cent.’ on; the. packing case -which brings the. goods! from .overseas, ! and when freight and handling charges are added, the increased .cost in .almost every instance is about 100 per cent. Now the Treasurer is actually considering an additional tax upon the 30 per cent, exchange. If that is imposed we shall never have a fixed cost for commodities. At the moment the .exchange happens to be pegged at 30 per cent., but if some of the Government’s -legislation in respect .of inflation is given effect - I hope it will not -the exchange rate will oscillate,: and it will be impossible to carry on any class- of business connected with buying overseas. Costs will vary from . day ‘to day, ..and it will be impossible to arrive ar true costs for stocktaking, so /that returns for income tax cannot be made with accuracy and ultimately chaos will prevail in the commercial ‘world. The Treasurer has an utter lack of ‘business sense ito contemplate such an iniquity as this. It is a menace to business even to suggest it. The ‘Government s’hould return its eight tariff schedules to the Tariff Board, pointing out -to it the financial plight of the Commonwealth, and asking it to report upon the schedules. If ‘that were done amendments might be made in the direction that ‘I indicated earlier. It would certainly ease the ‘burden of the farmer if he were exempted from the primage duty on cornsacks and superphosphates. There is no doubt -that we shall have, in a great measure, to -pass -these ‘tariff schedules, because the Commonwealth could npt possibly find the money with which to make refunds of duties. I suggest -that the Government should obtain a report from -the Tariff Board, and allow this Parliament to deal with it. That body has among its members representatives of the manufacturers, the importers, and the primary producers. It could call .evidence and give a report that would be based on sound premises and not ;on mere suggestions .of any interested .quarter or party. I hope that no more tariff schedules will be tabled in the way in which this Government ‘has tabled its other schedules, because that procedure is .quite improper and irregular. The Tariff Board should have the first say as to whether . duties should be increased or decreased, and then this Parliament should have an . opportunity to pass or veto its recommendations.
.-Like all other questions of government pOlicy the i tariff is subject to periodical discussion, and the result of the debate .which is now taking place will be more or less similar to that .of other .discussions. ,The right honorable member for Cowper. (Dr. Earle Page) spoke of the! imperfections of the “ tariff, and suggested certain alterations ‘to it. He .’criticized the manner in which the Government had fr.om time to time introduced its -.-various tariff schedules. .He,- evidently, forgot the fact that he himself was Treasurer in the previous Government, whose policy included an adjustment of the tariff to assist Australian industries, particularly the- exporting industries. The right hon- orable member for Cowper was Treasurer for over seven years and be, therefore, cannot say that he had no opportunity to frame a scientific tariff. He was in office during the most prolific years that Australia has experienced. Our revenues were buoyant, and he had every opportunity to adjust the tariff in such a way as to bring the’ greatest measure of prosperity to our industries. But what was the result of the tariff policy of the Bruce-Page Government ? The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and otherhonorable members of the Opposition who have contributed to this debate, commented caustically on the fact that this Government presented eighttariff schedules and put them into operation without permitting any discussion to take place upon them. Not one of those honorable members, in criticizing the Government, took into consideration the fact that it is faced with a serious financial crisis. Its position is unprecedented, and some drastic and extraordinary action is required if Australia is to be placed on the road to prosperity. Every suggestion that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) made this afternoon could have been put into practice during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, for the times were then propitious for experimentation ; but this is not the time for trying out such theories. If we did so, we should find ourselves in a more hopeless position than ever. Seeing that the righthonorablemember could have tried outhisnostrums but did not do so, he has no right to criticize this Government for not trying them out.
After this Government assumed office honorablemembers opposite called attention, on every possible occasion, to our adverse trade balance which, we were informed, was not in the bestinterests of the country. The Government believed that that was so, and it set about correcting the situation. What is more, it has corrected it. In my opinion this Government has the pro- Australian outlook to a greaterextent than any government since thewar. It has endeavoured to conserve the rights of the people of Australia, and by means of its tariff policy -it has done so.
The right honorable member for Cowper has said that it is only because of our poverty that we have not continued to buy motor cars and other luxuries. In myopinion, many better reasons could be given for the expenditure of considerably less money than formerly upon imported goods,one of them being the tariff imposedby this Government with the object of encouraging secondary industries in Australia. We shall, as time goes on, reap the full advantages of this policy. In endeavouring to make a point against the tariff, the right honorable member said that the KelloggFood Products Company had spent £100,000 on machinery for its Australian factory, upon which it had to pay 70 per . cent.duty. He argued that this had crippled the industry but he disproved his own statement, for he went on to complain that the company had not been able to produce at the full capacity of its machinery because the Arbitration Court would not allow it to keep the machinery iu motion for 24 hours a day on a three-shift system. For my part, I hope that the Court wail never allow any industry to carry on its operations for three shifts unless it is absolutely imperative that the plant shall be kept in operation. However, the plain fact is that neither the tariff policy of the Government nor the Arbitration Court can be blamed for the failure of this company, because it has not failed; it has succeeded. It may be necessary for a glass works or a steel works to keep its plant in operation for 24 hours, but it is certainly not necessary for ordinaryindustries to do sp.
– A company should be allowed to do it for short periods if necessary.
– If the honorable member desires to organize industry on that basis, he might be expected to approve of the production of all the flour required for Australia in one mill. We have to recollect, however, that industry should be run in the interests of mankind and not merely for the making of profit. The presenthiggledy-piggledy system of commerce is breaking down. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) may shake his head and say “ Oh, no “, but the fact is too apparent to be denied. In every country in the world, including those where there are neither arbitration courts nor tariffs, the present financial system is crumbling.
The Government of which the right honorable member for Cowper was a member sent a delegation to America, the most highly mechanized country in the world, to investigate American industrial methods with, I suppose, the idea of adopting them in Australia. [Quorum formed. What benefit did we derive from the investigations of that committee? It has been proved that not evan the American efficiency methods are sufficient to maintain the prosperity of that country. The United States of America has not only the most efficient manufacturing plants of any country in the world, but she also has plenty of money, and real money at that. She has melted her gold into lumps and placed it in the vaults of her banks. But even America is in difficulties to-day. So are Germany and Great Britain. It is true that France is enjoying some degree of prosperity at the moment, but eventually she, like all other nations which are relying on the present monetary system, will encounter insurmountable obstacles. I repeat that the present system is breaking down, not because of inefficiency or tariffs or currency, but simply because the methods of production and distribution are based on wrong principles. This Government is endeavouring to improve our business and industrial methods. An honorable member interjected earlier in the debate this afternoon that this Government could not borrow any money. In my opinion we should, so far as possible, avoid increasing our troubles by the adoption of those methods. A proper monetary system would provide the Government with ample means without placing a crushing interest burden upon the people. If I had my way, I would change our monetary system without a moment’s delay.
– What system would the honorable member adopt in place of it?
– A system of production for use’ and not for profit. I would get back to the principle that men should work to live, and not live to work.
– There would be very many half-hearted workers.
– There would be nothing of the kind, for if work were placed upon a proper basis the people would work willingly. I do not think that the honorable member for Gippsland can be happy to see pictures published in our newspapers of returned soldiers building humpies on the shores of Sydney Harbour or in the Domain, to provide themselves with shelter. Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in criticizing the policy of the present Government told us what should be done, but he should remember that he held the position of Treasurer for a longer term than any other occupant of that office, and during that period the Government of which he was a member should have legislated in such a way as to bring about the results which he now so much desires. Notwithstanding the prosperous conditions which prevailed, the Government of which the right honorable member was the Treasurer failed so dismally that it was annihilated and the right honorable member, together with ‘ his colleagues was ignominously “ fired “. [Quorum formed.] The ex-Treasurer established a record for borrowing which I hope will never be eclipsed. In 1927, the Government, of which he was the Treasurer, floated eleven overseas loans, totalling £69,700,000 ; in 1928, five loans, totalling £30,500,000, and up to the time when the right honorable member was turned out of office in 1929, three overseas loans, aggregating £25,400,000, were floated.
– Surely the honorable member does not blame the late Government for that.
– Most certainly I do, as it had the responsibility of government for a longer period than any of its predecessors. The honorable member, who condemns this Government for its tariff ‘ policy, should recall that if this Government had . the opportunities enjoyed by the previous Government there would be no necessity for it to act as it has. Our present economic position is not the result of the legislative action of this Government. Nothing it has done has tended to bring about the position in which we now find ourselves.
– It has made the position worse.
– It has not. The present financial position has developed in spite of the efforts of the Government to stem the tide of depression. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who represents a. rural constituency, should’ realize that our present economic position is due not to any action on the part of this Government, but largely to the marked decrease in the price of our wool and wheat. This Government has tried as far as is humanly possible to meet the situation by introducing legislation, which it was thought would assist in alleviating the situation ; but owing to the action of another place, which has resolutely stood in the way of everything which this Government has attempted, our legislative programme cannot become effective. A majority of the members of another place, who do not possess the confidence of the electors, will not allow this Government to attempt a scheme of rehabilitation.
– That chamber is preventing this Government from doing even more harm.
– How can it be said that anything that has not even been tried is likely to be harmful? Could anything which this Government might do be more disastrous than the record achieved by the Government of which the honorable member for Riverina was a supporter? Has any single act of this Government prevented the development of this country? It is useless for the honorable member to make mere statements that do not mean anything. Why do not honorable members opposite get down to fundamentals and definitely state what this Government has done to retard development? Their only solution of the difficulty is a reduction in wages and in government expenditure generally. A reduction in government expenditure naturally means a reduction in the purchasing power of the people which would bring about an even more dismal state of affairs than exists to-day. If additional revenue were made available by reducing the salaries or wages of public servants, by ‘reducing oldage and invalid pensions or repudiating our obligations to former soldiers who fought for this country, would that addi tional revenue be invested in industry? As mentioned . a day or two ago the workers of Australia have within the last two years made a sacrifice equivalent to 22 per cent, of their earnings, which, during a period of two years, represents £44,000,000. In spite of such a tremendous sacrifice industry has not been developed and employment has not been made available to the workless. How can a policy such as honorable members opposite support relieve the present depression? This tariff, which was framed with the intention of stimulating industry cannot possibly do so unless the purchasing power of the people is increased by placing the thousands of men who are now unemployed again in remunerative work. Some eighteen months ago I submitted a scheme whereby that could bo done. I did not propose anything that had not been previously tested. I did not advocate inflation; that is a policy which I do not favour. I merely suggested that our overdraft should be increased and the credit of the country extended by £20,000,000. If that policy had been adopted all our people would now be at _ work and. there would be some opportunity to correct our economic position. But that proposal was not accepted. Honorable members opposite who allege that this Government has been responsible for accentuating the depression know that it has done all that is humanly possible, and that an institution comprising certain inhuman persons is standing in its way.
I believe in protecting Australian industries up to the point of prohibition. I favour the prohibition of the importation of all goods that can be manufactured in this country even if it means temporarily paying a somewhat higher price. After visiting Bryant and May’s match factory at Richmond, Victoria, I came to the conclusion that it was useless to attempt to find fault with the organization or the conditions under which the employees were working. I wondered if it were possible for the conditions of labour to be improved; but I could not even make any suggestions in that direction. After inspecting that factory I had no hesitation in deciding that I would sooner pay Id. a dozen more for the matches I required than I would purchase perhaps cheaper matches manufactured in foreign countries where the conditions of labour were not comparable with those in Australia. I shall always adopt a similar attitude in regard to the products of every other industry that can be established and maintained in Australia.
The best speech on the tariff was delivered by the honorable member for Bendigo- (Mr. Keane) who, in the course of his remarks, directed attention to the fact that although the wages paid in some highly protected industries have been reduced by 22 per cent, there has been no corresponding reduction in the price of the commodities which those industries are manufacturing. If the Tariff Board wishes to retain its right to ‘ function it should see that the tariff is properly applied to such industries and that the consumers and not the manufacturers get the benefit of any reduction in wages. If it can be proved that there are anomolies, adjustments can be made when the items are under consideration. I thought there were one or two instances in which some amendment was necessary, but after further investigation I found that the manufacturers only require sufficient time to honour the promise they made to the Minister for Trade and Customs. In those instances I am satisfied that consumers are not being penalized by paying the prices now ruling.
Recently, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) mercilessly castigated the Government for refusing to do anything to assist the primary producer. He said in effect that although this Government promised to do so much for them they had not given them even a penny. But the honorable member did not accuse the party of which he is a member of supporting a body that is preventing the farmers from receiving the assistance which this Government is anxious to give them. He said “ Take your hands out of our pockets and give us a free go “. To whom does this country belong? Those who are occupying the arable land of this great continent? Are those whose pockets the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) alleges should not be touched the only ones to be considered? Have not the farmers, in common with others, to pay in accordance with their capacity? On a previous occasion I pointed out that 202,000,000 bushels of wheat were reaped last season, and that in previous years hundreds of millions of bushels have been sold at prices ranging from 4s. 9d. to 5s. lid. a bushel. Who received all that money ?
– What of those who experienced drought conditions and did not get anything?
– I have previously mentioned that in the Kimbo district in South Australia £1,500,000 has been expended in opening up land for the benefit of 118 settlers. That is big money. How many cases of kerosene and petrol have been provided, and how much superphosphate has been supplied in the interests of the man on the land? Let me quote a case that came under my notice recently in South’ Australia.
– In one spot only.
– This case is indicative of the conditions that apply throughout Australia. When an honorable member declares that the Government should give the farmers “ a free go “, and then criticizes the primage duty on such goods as phosphatic rock and corn sacks-
– Double taxation !
– So long as it is equitably applied, and does not interfere with other sections of the people, what is wrong with it ? For whom does the farmer grow wheat ?
– The honorable member ought to have spent about six years on a mallee block. He would never put in six months there.
– I agree that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has had his ups and downs as a farmer, and I am not singling him out for criticism. He did not speak of the mallee farmers in particular, but of the primary producers generally. When estates have been subdivided for closer settlement, I have seen prices ranging from £11 8s. to £12 5s. per acre paid for that land. The slogan of the Labour party was that we ought to hear the sound of the school bell throughout the country, instead of the tinkle of the sheep bell. No government has donemore in South Australia toburst upbig estates than have Labour administrationsinthe past in that State. Can any honorable member point , to a developmental railway or a water conservationscheme in South Australia that is not being run , at a loss:?
– If it were mot for the railways in that State,, the people of Adelaide would starve.
– That is a poor argument.
– Answer it.
– Railways, of course, are built to enable the country to be developed, but the honorable member should not claim that the farmers alone deserve “ a free go “. The responsibility rests equally upon the rural community and the urban population to bear all costs. Despite the enormous primary production in this country, 300,000 people have not a farthing to call their own. They are being demoralized, because they have not even decent food and shelter. In Adelaide, some time ago, I met a man who said to me, “ You must put the people on the land “.
– Then he does not understand the laud, if he was talking of wheatgrowing country.
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) knows the man to whom I refer.
– -The farmers who are so hard up are seen in motor cars and motor lorries at the railway stations throughout the country.
– Yes. At one time the gentleman to whom I have referred resided atHookina, which lies between Quorn and Maree.
– What is his name?
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) also knows him. He is Mr. M. B. Woods. Since he was an old resident in the country I suppose that he knows what he is talking about when he advocates putting men on the land. He said to me - “ Put a man on the land and you cannot starve him off “.
– That is not correct.
– In the main, the remark was true, despite the opinion of the honorable member for Grey. Mr. Butler, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly, has declared that a man receiving only£7 or £10 a year canlive ona farm. I protest against the honorable member for Wimmera and others declaring that the farmers are being ill-treated under the tariff policy of this Government.
– I said that they are suffering because of the policy of successive governments.
– To the present Government the honorable member says, “ Take your hands out of our pockets “. The honorable memberknows that no government could have done more than the present Ministry has attempted to do in the interests of the primary producers. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) advocated a tax on flour to help the farmers;but when the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) pointed out that it would be unfair to place a tax on the bread of the people, and asked the honorable member what he would do for the 300,000 unemployed in Australia, he remained silent.
Let me read an extract from evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee by a farmer residing in one of the outlying parts of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. This witness said -
I admit that in many cases there have been abuses. As a matter of fact, the Government has been too generous in the assistance that it has given. In this district there are farmers who, at the present time, have stocks of superphosphate in their sheds. They purchased at comparatively exorbitant prices much more chaff than they required, and sowed land that was not in a lit state to give a crop. They were actuated by a gambling spirit. They were using other people’s money, and the view they took was that if they were successful they would benefit, and if they lost the Government or the taxpayers would have to foot the bill.
Then a banker deposed that in one small area £1,500,000 had been advanced for the assistance of the farmers, and not one of them had paid their interest.
– But the liability remains.
– Where money has been borrowed, interest must be paid. Yet the honorable member for Wimmera says to the Government, “ Take your hands out of our pockets “. From what source are governments to obtain the money needed to finance public works? It cannot be obtained from the 300,000 who are out of employment.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before dealing with the tariff policy of the present Government, I propose to reply to some of the statements of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). The honorable gentleman blamed the former Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) for a good deal of the difficulty ( in which Australia finds itself to-day. He claimed that the borrowing policy of the Bruce-Page Government was partly responsible for the high tariff policy of the present administration. It is true that during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government the national debt of Australia was increased, on account of borrowing by about £220,000,000; but I point out that, of that sum the State Governments were responsible for £207,250,000, while the Commonwealth’s share was only £12,750,000. Against, the latter sum, the Commonwealth had obtained assets at least three times as great, which are earning full interest, and also providing for a sinking fund. The honorable member for Adelaide endeavoured to show that the former Government’s borrowing policy had made it necessary for the present Government to impose high duties; but I have pointed out that the former Ministry was responsible, not for the borrowing policy of the whole of Australia, but only for the money borrowed on behalf of the Commonwealth. The present Government, however, is entirely responsible for the tariff alterations which it now submits.
A general debate on the tariff affords an opportunity to members to examine the Government’s fiscal policy generally, and one cannot do that without noticing that the tariff wall is steadily growing in length, and enveloping an increasing number of industries. Under this policy more articles are being removed from the free list, and, incidentally, goods made in Australia are being relieved of competition. This wall has now enveloped so many classes of industries that only about one-third of the goods that we import are now on the free list, whereas about twothirds of the imports of the United States of America, which is often quoted as a high tariff country, are free of duty. Another striking feature of the tariff wall is that, while it is steadily growing in length, it is even more rapidly growing in height, and the mortar in the top row of bricks hardly has time to set before another row is superimposed upon it. In the report of the Tariff Board, dated the 30th June, 1928, attention was drawn to the fact that while in 1908 only eight items on the Australian tariff schedules carried duties of 4’0 per cent, or more, those items had increased to 580, many of them carrying duties of from 60 to 80 per cent. The record is reached with one item which is 8,000 per cent., the duty being eighty times the invoice value of the product. Of the 580 items which have been increased to 40 per cent, and over, the present Government during its short reign has been responsible for more than half. In the case of fifteen of them the ad valorem rate of 40 per cent., 50 per cent, or 60 per cent., whichever it may happen to be, is only part of the duty, because in addition, there is a fixed rate of duty. In respect to 172 items - I believe there are more, but I can vouch for 172 - there is not only an ad valorem rate but also a fixed rate to be taken alternatively to it. Whichever rate is the higher is .applied. One finds in almost monotonous repetition throughout the tariff schedules the words “whichever rate returns .the higher duty”. When alternative methods of taxation are provided the higher rate is always imposed. In addition to these high rates I have mentioned, in the case of 132 items, there is imposed a super tariff of 50 per cent, of the existing duty. The tariff wall is so high now that one needs a telescope to see the top of it. When wages are falling, when manufacturing costs in respect to wages are coming down, the manufacturers should really need less and not more tariff protection.
Before any duty is imposed on imports the Australian manufacturer has the benefit of a certain amount of natural protection in the shape of ocean freight, marine insurance and so forth. It varies. In some cases it is comparatively insignificant, in others it is as high as 100 per cent. The natural protection alone doubles the price of some articles, but it is quite safe to say that it averages approximately 30 per cent., quite apart from the exchange position. When goods are landed in this country a statutory addition of 10 per cent, is made to the f.o.b. price in order to cover the assumed cost of transportation, and arrive at a rough estimate of the c.i.f. value for customs purposes, and the customs and primage duties are based on the higher figure. I propose now to- show what happens to goods worth £100 on which is imposed a duty of 60 per cent, plus a super tax of 50 per. cent., and a primage duty of 4 per cent., and when 30 per cent, is added for the natural protection of ocean freight, &c, and 30.5 per cent, for exchange.
The landed price of goods costing £100 f.o.b. becomes £263 18s., in this way -
*To this has to be added the statutory 10 per cent, to bring up to assumed c.i.f. value for customs taxation purposes.
But this £267 18s. is merely the wholesale landed duty-paid cost of goods worth £100. When to this we add 12£ per cent, for merchants’ profits and 25 per cent, for retailers’ profits, the price is considerably increased. If £1,000 worth of goods were landed here duty free, and without primage duty, the merchants’ profits and retailers’ profits on this basis of 12-J per cent. and. 25 per cent. respectively would bring the price of those goods up to £1,406 before they reached the consumer. If a moderate duty of 15 per cent., such as New Zealand imposes on many imported articles, were imposed, the profits of the wholesalers and retailers would increase the value of the goods to £1,616. But where, as in Australia, a statutory increase of 10 per cent, is added, and the duty is, say, 55 per cent., the cost of these articles before they reach the consumer becomes £2,343. With a tariff wall as high as that, is it any wonder that a large proportion of the goods we need in Australia are very much dearer than they ought to be? Is it any wonder that manufacturers take advantage of the charter to profiteer which has been handed to them by a misguided government? Is it any wonder that the workers’ wages have a lower purchasing power in Australia in respect to manufactured goods than in almost any other country in the world?
I admit that all manufacturers do not take full advantage of this tariff wall. It is perfectly true that certain secondary industries in Australia which are highly protected are selling their goods at prices which compare favorably with those in other countries. Boots, rugs, and blankets are a very good example of what can be done in Australia. They are being sold at prices which bear quite favorable comparison with prices in other countries ; but what of machinery, whether it is to be used on the farm or in the factory? It ought to be as cheap as possible if a country desires to produce cheaply. It is, above all others, the very thing in regard to which we should say, “ Hands-off “ in respect of customs duties, yet it carries some of the highest imposts of all, and our manufacturers’ and primary producers’ chances of succeeding in a competitive struggle are wrecked before they even get a start.
Broadly speaking, there are two theories in regard to protection. One is that a duty should be imposed in order to secure the whole market in a country, and thus permit of mass production with the object of securing a cheaper output and enabling sales to be made at competitive rates without taking full advantage of the duties. There are some industries proceeding on those lines. Unfortunately, there are a great many more which are not, and those who are engaged in them think that the purpose of the duty is to raise the level of external competition to rates which will enable big profits to be earned by the local manufacturer, operating perhaps on a small scale and with efficiency in many cases far below that of his overseas competitors. Too much of that sort of thing is going on in Australia to-day. It is, unfortunately, a most popular view-point with many manufacturers?
Australia is hampered by its high duties. Its secondary and its primary industries are suffering from a certain amount of arrested development because of the tremendous loads placed upon them by high tariffs. The load on machinery and equipment in particular has just about reached the breaking point. We shall never do any good in this country until we reduce it. An Australianmade road roller costs £1,450. For a similar road roller made in Great Britain the price is £550 f.o.b. There may be some little items of expense in the price of the Australian roller which are not included in the f.o.b. price of the British roller, but still there is an impossible difference between the two. We are able to make locomotives in Australia. The engines of the “ S “ type, which haul trains between Melbourne and Albury, are magnificent examples of workmanship. But what is the position in regard to the factor of price? Honorable members opposite seem to think that we have done everything we need do when we can produce a good article which will do the job regardless of what it costs. That reasoning is unsound.
– The Midland workshops in Western Australia produce locomotives which are cheaper than the imported engines.
– That is not the general experience. An Australian manufacturer of locomotives stated in evidence that the cost of building his engines was 20 per cent, above the price for which similar engines could be landed from the United Kingdom after paying the cost of transportation and a duty of 40 per cent. A young country like Australia cannot afford to load itself with such an immense difference in costs. Bolts and nuts made in Australia cost £31 a ton; in the United Kingdom, £19; a halfyard excavator, such as is used for making water storages, cutting railway tracks and roads, &c, costs in Australia £2,300. The British excavator £1,450 c.i.f. Manufacturers have stated in evidence before the Tariff Board that these high costs are due to the high price of steel, Why is the price of Australian steel so high? At Iron Knob, which is not far from the seaboard, there is the finest deposit of iron ore in the world; it averages about 67 per cent, of iron. Three tons of that ore will produce two tons of iron. Ore from the Longwey mines in France contains 34 per cent, of iron, and three tons is required to make one ton of metal. Some of the ore at Iron Knob is extraordinarily rich, containing up to 95 per cent. of iron, and it has been taken into a smithy at Port Augusta and forged into horseshoes without undergoing the process of smelting. Our rich mineral deposits give to us a tremendous natural advantage, and we are able to export iron ore to the United States of America and Europe; that is proof positive that it can compete in the markets overseas without assistance, despite the handicap of freight. Why then is there such a tremendous difference between’ the price of iron and steel smelted in this country and the metal produced abroad? I ask honorable members to consider the discrepancy revealed in the following figures: -
All these extra costs are passed on and on, increasing the price of everything that is produced from these commodities, until they reach the one section of the community which cannot pass them on. That is the section which produces 96 per cent. of our exportable commodities, and thus creates credits against Australia’s obligations overseas. These men, who should be encouraged in every possible way, are forced to carry an almost impossible load in the form of tremendously high prices for commodities that are essential to them. A few years ago when wool was 2s. a lb., butter 2s. a lb.wholesale, and wheat 6s. a bushel, it was possible for the primary industries to carry a certain tariff load, but it is impossible for them to carry the burden any longer. It is an extraordinary anomaly that at a time when special consideration should be given to the primary producers, heavier indirect taxation is being heaped upon them. Take for example the change over by the present Government from the policy of the former Government in respect of the assistance given to the manufacturers of galvanized iron, fencing-wire, and wire-netting. The Bruce-Page Government assisted those industries by means of a bounty. The present Government has removed the bounty and substituted duties. The former Government adopted the bounty system not because it was simpler, for it was not; not because it suited the Treasury, because the Treasury would sooner collect duties than pay bounties; not because it suited the manufacturers, who always prefer a protective duty to a bounty; but simply because it enabled the producers of wheat, wool and other exportable commodities, who must meet world competition, to obtain their essential requirements at competitive rates. By adopting the bounty policy the BrucePage Government said in effect that, if it was to the advantage of Australia to establish in the Commonwealth factories for the production of galvanized iron, wire-netting and fencing-wire, the additional cost to the users should be borne by the people as a whole. When, however, the stage was reached at which, in the opinion of the Government, the community as a whole could no longer afford to pay the bounty to bolster up those industries, it transferred the whole burden to that section which can still less afford to pay the huge subsidy to the manufacturers. Evidence was given that the average wage in the iron and steel industry was £6 5s. a week. I am not opposed to high wages, but that rate would represent absolute opulence to the vast majority of men who are saddled with the additional cost of fencing-wire, wire-netting and galvanized iron. A very small proportion of the men on small farming blocks in the Mallee or in Gippsland obtain a reward for their labour of £6 5s. a week. We cannot have in this country two widely different standards, one for men in the secondary industries and another for men in the primary industries. Sir Otto Niemeyer said in regard to the Australian tariff -
That contention is indisputable. The chief purpose of the tariff to-day is not to restrict imports, but to enable manufacturers to maintain, high prices. The high tariff wall has been a comparatively small factor in bringing about the huge drop in importations. We do not import extensively to-day because of our poverty; we cannot provide the money with which to buy goods overseas. Mr. Gordon Woods’ publication, Business and Borrowing, includes a table relating to the trade balances of New South Wales prior to and immediately after 1893, when the big financial smash occurred following the land boom. Before 1893 New South Wales had a long succession of adverse trade balances, and after that year, a long succession of favorable trade balances, simply because owing to the depression its people could not afford to import. At that time New South Wales maintained an almost freetrade policy, the only customs duties being on tea and kerosene. Yet when the- State was deep in the trough of depression the trade balance turned in its favour. Australia will again have that experience, regardless of tariffs. If half the tariff wall were removed the effect on importations would be almost negligible. Men would want to import certain goods at the lower rates of duty; there would be a demand for exchange, which would not be available, and the exchange rate would rise more and more. We should have an exchange rate not of £30.10 per cent, but £50 per cent., which would be the natural means of preventing such imports, instead of the unnatural method adopted by this Government, which has given offence to so many of our overseas customers. An increase in the exchange rate would largely take the place of the tariff, if the tariff wall were reduced to one half its present height.
I was amazed at the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) yesterday, contending, as also has the Prime Minister, that our present favorable trade balance is the direct result of the high tariff duties imposed by this
Government. It would be just as reasonable to argue that the barnyard cockerel which greets the morning sunrise, is responsible for the rising of the sun. As a fact, the high duties imposed by this Government have had little to do with the present favorable trade balance. The true reason is not far to seek. Importations of all except the most essential commodities have ceased largely because our people cannot afford to buy them. I may add that we shall never be able to afford such commodities again unless we reduce our costs. An examination of the tariff in detail will fully support my contention, because it will be found that the importation of commodities, the duties upon which have not been increased, has declined to almost the same extent as the imports of those goods upon which heavier duties are now being levied. I do not wish it to be inferred that I believe the higher duties have had no effect upon importations. I merely assert that they are not nearly so effective as the Government wishes us to believe they are.
Our first care, in a discussion on the tariff should be to see that the machinery of production used in all our factories is made available as cheaply as possible. I believe that, if we could concentrate our attention upon the big natural industries, primary and secondary, instead of giving indiscriminate tariff assistance to so many small parasitical industries, we should be in a much better economic position to-day. The whole of the tariff policy of this Government is in urgent need of review. We need to think of first things first. We should concentrate upon the protection of those industries which are capable of building up an export trade. Since Australia is a debtor’ country, it follows that the fullest encouragement should be given to our export industries. To this end every unnecessary burden that has been laid upon them by this Government should now be taken off. Even the Tariff Board is becoming horrified by the structure which it has helped to rear. Experience has shown that when the Tariff Board concentrates upon the immediate welfare of individual industries without having regard to the probable effect upon other industries of a protective policy in regard to that industry, it frequently recommends substantial duties. Sometimes, also, the Government imposes duties even higher than those recommended by the board. But when the board sits back at the end of the year or a period of years and reviews the cumulative results of its high tariff policy, it appears to be afraid of its own handiwork and thereupon states some wholesome truths in itsannual reports.
The honorable member for South Sydney yesterday said that, in the discussion of the Government’s tariff policy,, honorable members should take the broad view. Evidently, the honorable gentleman thought that members of the Country party, to whom, apparently, he was directing his remarks, would be taking the broad view if they were willing to concede some special tariff concessions to particular industries which, no doubt, he had in mind. I agree with the honorable, member that we should take the broad view ; that we should pay no regard to the narrow view which sees only, one industry at a time - only the manufacturer in Sydney or Melbourne - and ignores the interests of the country beyond. I agree that the opportunity having been given to us to discuss the tariff policy of this Government, our vision should range over the whole gamut of industry and see it as a whole. We should not fail to note the evil repercussions of our present high tariff policy upon essential, competitive and exporting industries, resulting from an indiscriminate handing out of excessively generous fiscal favours to small parasitical industries which will never be anything but parasitical in character. If this Government had taken a broad view, in which, apparently, the honorable member for South Sydney believes, such a schedule as the one now under discussion would have been absolutely impossible.
I have given up hoping for anything sound and sane from this Government with regard to tariff matters as well as other matters. It declines to look ahead. The immediate horizon is sufficient for it. It is useless also to expect moderation in tariffism from the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). I freely admit that he is most industrious and diligent about his ministerial duties, but be is utterly incapable of conversion to the path of economic sanity. I believe that the Minister and those who support him will, when the appeal is made to the country, go down clinging to their fiscal faith, which they will find as buoyant as those bricks which they have heaped in such numbers upon the tariff wall.
– We will get rid of the Paterson butter curse at all events.
– It is true that under the scheme to which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) refers, our butter producers obtain in the Australian market a little more than export parity for their produce. But does the honorable member for Corio know that the price at which our butter is being sold in Australia is just about equal to the price at which fresh Danish butter is being sold in Great Britain to-day, if we take into consideration the difference in exchange? I make the comparison with Danish butter in England because Danish butter when landed on the English market is as fresh as Australian butter is when it goes into consumption in this country. How many products of our secondary industries can be sold in this country at prices even remotely comparable to prices obtaining in Great Britain for similar articles? If all our secondary industries in Australia could be placed on the same competitive level as is the butter industry, money would go much further than it does to-day.
What Australia most needs to-day is a downward revision of the tariff, such as will lower production costs, increase the purchasing power of wages, stimulate exports not only of our primary products, but make possible the advent into the field of overseas trade of our great natural secondary industries which up to the present have been kept within sheltered walls by the tremendous number of high burdens that have been imposed upon them through the tariff.
– Why did not the previous administration do something in that direction?
– Although previous governments may have been guilty of certain tariff excesses, I remind the honorable member that when the Bruce-Page Government left office the number of items in respect of which the duties were over 40 per cent, was 259. After eighteen months of rule by this Government, the number has been increased to 580.
– I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) upon the fact that the advent of this Government has at least emancipated him from the fiscal serfdom imposed upon him by the protectionist policy of the Ministry with which he was allied. It must be apparent to all honorable members that but for the change of government some little time ago, we would not have been treated to the exposition of fiscal independence which not only the Deputy Leader of the Country party, but also his leader (Dr. Earle Page), has given to this House to-day.
– Would not the honorable gentleman like to be equally free as representative of Western Australia?
– I contemplate being freer in my consideration of this tariff than the honorable member was when dealing with tariff items brought in by the Government of which he was a member. I say this because I feel that if we are to have a right appreciation of the significance of a tariff, we must realize that we cannot haves an entirely satisfactory examination of its economic incidence if we insist upon the retention of existing political demarcations. I feel also that, in the consideration of this subject, no possible unity among honorable members opposite is possible either under their de jure leader or their de facto leader, and I doubt that the latter will be seen here. Obviously, the arguments which the honorable member for Gippsland has addressed to us in general principle are at complete variance with the views that have been put forward by members of the Nationalist party as such, and certainly by representative nationalist spokesmen outside this Parliament. We must realize that Australia is not an economic unity. Its immense area, and the fact that large portions of it are comparatively undeveloped, make it almost certain that any attempt to discuss the tariff in its Australian-wide aspect from the standpoint of how best it suits particular areas which, I shall say, are effectively occupied, is bound to produce violent political reactions. I utter this note of warning. A sound case may be made out for increased or lower duties, but alterations should not be made in the tariff simply because the argument for such a course is, in itself, sound. There would have to be taken into consideration the effect that that alteration would have, cither up or down, upon the existing industrial structure ; and to what extent it would make it difficult for this country to become possessed of the means overseas to pay its way.
I answer part of the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) when he said that the borrowings of the Bruce-Page Government were unassociated with the fiscal policy of this country. If desired, I can, giving chapter and verse, state from 1923-24 to 1928-29, the overseas and Australian borrowings by the Commonwealth Government as distinct from those of the State Governments.
– They total £58,000,000.
– That is so, and the figure approximates the extent of our adverse trade balance for the period. I quite understand the honorable member’s contention that his Government converted into a live debt that which was previously comparatively a dead debt. As a matter of mere argument, that is true. But the fact remains that that conversion did give to this country, for the purpose of paying for exports, the command of external resources which it would not otherwise have had. It was out of the pool of that artificial prosperity created overseas that the Bruce-Page Government was able to permit Australia to pay for its excess of imports. The very illustration which the honorable member used in the concluding stages of his speech about the effect in New South “Wales of the depression following the collapse of 1S93 is a perfect economic analogy of what is now occurring. The principal reason why we cannot import at present is that we have not command of funds overseas. The argument of the honorable member that we are a debtor country, and, therefore, must encourage our exporting industries, is a sound one. But there is another aspect. Every £1 worth of such goods imported into Australia, as we could ourselves manufacture under right industrial conditions, represents £1 which is really added to our overseas liabilities, and for which Australia has to pay. Not only have we to find money overseas to pay for our annual interest obligations; we also must be possessed of the requisite funds to pay for our imports. It seems to me to be a sound principle of national economics that a debtor country should, so far as possible, restrict its imports to those goods that will come in as a reinforcement to its own productive capacity. Any other kind of imports represents a wastage of the value of such exports as the country may have, as they do not help it to balance its external trade obligations.
I feel that I can look at the whole of these schedules with a perfectly open mind, just as I regarded those submitted by the Bruce-Page Government prior to the general election of 1929, when it passed its validating bill. I do not believe that it is possible to combat the problem of unemployment by a mere adjustment of the tariff. I do not feel that the differences between a policy of protection and freetrade as applied in the life of any country produce any fundamental alteration in. the trade activities of that country. If it be a fact that Australia’s primary producers are suffering grievously because of our tariff, then somebody has to explain to this chamber why it is that all over the world, irrespective of whether the tariff of the country be high or low, the primary producers occupy an adverse position, having relation to the rest of the community. The tariff of the United States of America is nothing like so high as ours, yet it remains a fact that if we were to reduce our tariff schedule to their level, and as a result give to our producers a status equivalent’ to thatpossessed by the primary producers of the middle west of the United States of America, they would not be much better off than they are now. Of those who argue that the remedy for the difficulties of our primary producers is a lower tariff and lower cost of production, I ask how comes it that the agricultural population and the primary producing section of the United Kingdom are themselves in anything but a satisfactory position? “We are face to face with a problem which goes very much deeper than, the mere incidence of a tariff schedule. I can quite understand that, having regard to post-war history, and more particularly the prognosis that statesmen made of the probable course of post-war events, and their anticipation of an intensive international competition for markets, it was but natural that each country should do all that was practicable to protect its home industries, so that it might weather the economical storm. The history of the last decade reveals everywhere a disposition to tinker with tariffs in the hope that, although that might not permanently resolve any problem, it would at least avert the worse consequences of the ‘ devastating competition that is due, not so much to the superior productive powers of certain countries, as to the derangement of the banking and monetary system of civilization.
Let me come to a consideration of the problem which this tariff submits to this Parliament. It is a fact that the schedule now before the committee increases substantially the duties imposed upon a long series of goods which in past years were imported into Australia comparatively free. There is a good deal in the contention that it was not necessary to fix duties at the present levels in order to effect a considerable reduction in the volume of imports. It is quite a sound economic contention that the exchange rate in itself would have afforded some protection. But the existing exchange rate cannot be regarded as a permanent one, and, therefore, cannot be put forward as a definite contribution to the protection of Australian industry. These tariff schedules were first formulated before the worst effects of the world depression had manifested themselves, but were yet put forward at a time when the economic consequences to Australia of a long series of adverse trade balances were palpable. The Government was, therefore, justified in coming down quite early in its life with a series of proposals which would compulsorily restrict, the excessive importation into Australia qf goods, which, in many respects, we could well manufacture ourselves. Further, so long as we were importing those goods, it was essential that more of our exports should be hypothecated in order to pay for their import, instead of going towards the redemption of our obligations. Some believe that the remedy for the trouble is to be found in absolutely wiping out existing forms of protection. I believe that we have to restrict our imports. As a debtor country we cannot afford, either immediately or in prospect, to look forward to having this immense piling up of national obligations annually, and concurrently of haying to employ the greater part of our exports to pay for our imports. Any fiscal policy authorized by this Parliament that merely permits exports to balance imports, will make it compulsory for the country to pay its interest bills by making arrangements for fresh loans overseas. Therefore, the avoidance of default ultimately involves a contraction of imports, so that added to interest payments they will total less than exports.
– What about an extension of exports?
– I feel that to talk about an extension of exports in a world suffering from restricted market facilities, and of a diminished purchasing power is simply to voice a pious aspiration which cannot become a practical solution of the trouble for some time yet.
– The honorable member’s leader has appealed for more exports.
– I am no blind follower, even of the blind. It was, however, sound national policy to believe that those exports for which we regularly found a market in the past would in the ordinary run of things be the most valuable in a time of national crisis; that whatever be the present price of wheat, it was better for us to produce 100,000,000 than 50,000,000 bushels of it annually. There is much to be said for the contention that the real time to encourage an increase in the production of wheat or wool is- not when the prices of those commodities are high, but when they are low. The time to restrict acreage is when prices are rising towards the peak, because the peak can occur in the cycle only very infrequently, whereas the average occurs often. An examination of history justifies expectations of recovery. It shows us that when, the price of wheat is low there is a contraction in the acreage cultivated in most of the great producing countries. Therefore, the country that has the courage to increase its acreage at such a time will derive greater advantages from the ultimate recovery than those which have restricted their areas.
– Does the honorable member think it possible to regulate the supply of a commodity?
– No, there can be no regulation. I am simply expressing what I believe to be a sound theory, based on a study of graphs of the world’s wheat prices for the past 25 years. I do not say that there will be a recovery this year. One does not know precisely which influences are operating in connexion with the prices which our exports have been bringing.
– Has the honorable member studied the Russian five-year plan?
– Obviously Russia is economically stabilizing itself. Apparently its Government, like this one, is capable of weathering more severe storms and greater adversity than the forces arrayed against her believed to be possible. It is reasonable to expect that Russia can now enter the markets of the world as a front-rank competitor with the capitalistic countries. If that be true, it involves an entire reconsideration of our national economics. If there is not going to be an improvement in the prices for wheat, wool, or base metals, this country cannot possibly meet its overseas liabilities for the next five years, or probably ten years, because no conceivable variation of local costs would enable Australia to produce profitably for export. It is upon that hypothesis that this country has at least to formulate a choice of policy. It has either to adopt the view that there will be a recovery of prices, and revolve upon that pivot, or say that the opposite is the case; in which event it would be absolute folly to encourage the primary producers of Australia to continue on the extended developmental plan of the past decade. I would say, particularly to members of the Country party, that there comes a time in the history of every country when it is necessary to change the nature of its exports. That condition arises out of the growth of entirely new circumstances in the countries which heretofore have consumed your products. Who knows what changes will take place in Asia? If Asia should become a manufacturing competitor with other nations, then Great Britain, Germany, and France will have to dilute more and more their economic life. Great Britain, instead of being paramountry a manufacturing country, will have to revert, to some extent at least, to agricultural industries, to provide itself with the necessaries of life; because, if it cannot sell machinery and textiles in China, it cannot possess itself of the means to purchase foodstuffs produced in other countries. Australia has to realize these facts. It appears to me that the problems must be tackled from the stand-point of finding means whereby Australia as a community may provide avocations for the existing population. In answering that question I find myself incapable of accepting even the logical conclusions of the statements made on behalf of the Country party in this chamber this afternoon. No country that goes in predominantly for primary production can maintain the standards, either of subsistence or of employment that are necessary in a modern community. The trend is more and more towards industrialization, standardization, rationalization and mass production, particularly in relation to manufactures, and increasingly in regard to agricultural activities. It is because of that fact that the competition for markets has become so acute. Each country, therefore, has been responding industrially to what it believes is necessary to make it selfcontained. I do not agree that it is possible for any country to be completely selfcontained. I would even enunciate the prinicple that it is undesirable in the best interests of civilization as a whole, for nations to track deliberately towards that objective. But we can at least acknowledge the fact that this struggle for markets involves employment opportunities. Any country that cannot furnish those opportunities for the mass of its citizens, will not have a stable life. In Australia, primary production provides 94 per cent, or 95 per cent, of our exports. But it is also a fact that nearly 65 per cent, of our population obtain a livelihood without being either directly or indirectly employed upon the soil. I agree that all those who are employed in transport occupations are connected more or less with ‘ agricultural pursuits. I point out, however, that the percentage of our population engaged in primary production fifteen or twenty years ago was much greater than it is to-day. That is the case all over the world. The reason is that, with the growth of agricultural chemistry and the adoption of new methods of production, fewer and fewer units of the population are needed in the production, of the world’s food’ supplies. I have been told - I have not been able to verify it - that in connexion with manufacturing operations the proportion of the population engaged to-day is less than it was twenty years ago. If that be so, it becomes necessary for governments to resort to those alleged parasitical avocations to which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred - occupations that are a part of the social services of a country - if a livelihood is to be provided for the superfluous elements in production. Therefore this tariff can not be regarded from the stand-point of its scientific accuracy. There must inevitably by many anomalies in it. That is the case with every tariff schedule, because the finished product of one industry is frequently the raw material of’ another. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) illustrated the pyramiding that takes place as a result of the imposition of a duty on imported goods. That, of course, is certain to be one of the consequences of a protectionist tariff. I believe that industrial and commercial monopoly is strengthened in its momentum as a result of a protectionist policy. The trusts of the United States of America, the rings and cartels in Australia - consisting of merchants who are associated for the purposes of exploitation. - receive assistance from a tariff by reason of the fact that to some extent it restricts competition.
– To some extent?
– To any extent that happens to be the case. I do not say that there is absolutely free competition in countries that are freetrade. Given the requisite organizational capacity, monopolies can operate in those countries just as they do in protectionist countries. Capitalized monopoly does not depend upon a tariff for its origin. It can be helped by and gain strength from a tariff; but it can become established no matter what fiscal policy a government may pursue.
– One of the greatest monopolies in Australia is organized labour.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), in making that statement, has allowed the language of exaggeration to distort his sense of proportion.
I want this Parliament, in discussing the tariff schedules, not only to take into consideration the relationship of a particular duty to other industries, but to treat each industry fairly and to remember that all are related; to bear in mind that we cannot afford to ignore any of the existing avenues of employment for our citizens, and that, while helping certain industries, we must see to it that we do not prejudice others. I also desire that the economic structure of certain States shall be taken into consideration. There are secondary industries in some of the States which, by reason of their comparative newness, and the absence ‘of an extensive local market that they may exploit, are prejudiced in competition with the more highly organized manufacturing industries of other States. A good deal of unfair trading goes on under the Commonwealth Constitution. Any tariff that is promulgated in Australia must prove more advantageous to a highly organized industry which has a large local market to exploit, than to an industry which is established in a State where the population is small and the opportunities for expansion are restricted. There are certain political considerations attendant upon this fact. Some of the States feel that the federation has not been altogether a success. They contend that a great deal of injustice is done to their industries and their people by the policy that has the sanction of this Parliament. I remind honorable members opposite that this objection to federal policy is not a new one, that it did not originate with the coming into power of the present Government. As a matter of fact, that dissatisfaction with the working out of the Commonwealth policy originated during the years in which honorable members opposite were in command of the Government.
I propose, in this connexion, to ask the. committee! to consider the. security of the Commonwealth as a political unit in dealingwiththe tariff as a whole. The readiness of the people of a particular. State to seek freedom outside the Constitution is diminished or increased according’ to the just or the unjust manner in which the tariff’ operates in relation to its principal indiustries. We have to remember that the federationhas not worked economically, soundly or fairly. There has never been complete satisfaction with. it..In some respects the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament- are inadequate in other respects its decisions, through no fault of its own,, but because of the working out of the. policy, prove advantageous to, some and disadvantageous’, to others.I propose to quote the remarks of Mr. NorbertKeenan, who presented for Western Australia the case that was submitted to the royal commission; which inquired into the relationship of that State to the Commonwealth, and which recommended the making of a special grant. After ‘ pointing out that early ‘ in. the life of the Commonwealth the State of Western Australia had been given the right to control its own customs and excise tariffs; Mr. Keenan went on to say -
If the Commonwealth: authority decided not to recognize the claims of the State, or of thosein a industry carried on in the State . . . such a decision would not merely affront all sense of justice; but also engender a deep feeling of distrust on the part of the people of the State. Nevertheless it would no doubt be borne, as many wrongs have in the world’s long history been borne, in a silence of subdued resentment.
I feel that it is quite practicable for this Parliament, in the consideration of the tariff, to deal with each item as it stands and at the same time not to overlook the fact that it is definitely related to existing industrial conditions as well as to all other items in the schedule. No honorable member should have his mind paramountry centered upon what a particular duty happens to look like in the eyes of his constituents; each should be regarded from the stand-point of the effect that it is likely to have upon Australia. I shall justify the votes that I give for increased duties. I shall show that those votes are motived by the desire to reduce the volume of imports into Australia where they represent an undue charge upon the value; of our exposts, and shall endeavour to prove that wisdom dictates the manufactutre of those goods in Australia: I shall vote for. reduced) duties, in respect of certain items because’ they cover importations we- are already receiving, or may receive, from countries with which our trade balance is favorable. This Parliament must bear in mind that we can develop- an effective export trade only if we consent to those countries which purchase our exports receiving at least someshare- of the Australian- market. We cannot expect other countries to purchase our goods if we, f or our part, shut themcompletely out of our own market. With those provisos, I hope that the. tariff will1 receive fair- and reasonable treatment, and that it will be regarded as an economic means- of lightening some of. the burdens which to-day oppress our people.
Item 1 (Ale and other beer, porter, cider and perry, spirituous) agreed to.
Item 3. By omitting the whole of sub-item (a), and inserting in its stead the following sub-item,: - “(a.): Brandy-
When not exceeding the strength of proof -
.- I object to the provision in this item whereby an extra 5s. a gallon is charged on spirits not bottled in bond under customs supervision. I move -
That the item be amended by adding to subitem (a), paragraph (1) the following: - ” And on and after 7th May, 1931.
When not exceeding the strength of proof, per gallon, British, 45s.; intermediate, 45s.;gene- ral,46s”
At present the duty is 45s. a gallon British and intermediate, and 46s. general. This provision about bottling in bond was inserted about twelve months ago, partly for the purpose of ensuring that spirits should be bottled under proper supervision, but more particularly to provide employment for those engaged in the bottling trade. As a matter of fact, very little extra employment has been provided. From the point of view of employment, it does not. matter whether the liquor is bottled in the bond stores or outside them. The effect of the provision, however, has been to impose an extra tax of 5s. a gallon on liquor imported by those firms or persons who have not bond stores of their own. Before this provision was made, a large quantity of spirits was imported by hotelkeepers and others from the smaller manufacturers, chiefly in Scotland, who were able to supply the spirit more cheaply than the big whisky manufacturing combinations. The effect of this provision is simply to play into the hands of the large corporations which market the well-known brands. The ordinary hotelkeeper who was able to import wholesale whisky at lower prices, and transferred the benefit of those low prices to the public, is not allowed to do so any more, because he is obliged to pay an extra 5s. a gallon duty. The excise officials can supervise the quality of the liquor even though it is not bottled in bond.
-Does this provision ensure to the public a better quality of liquor?
– I believe there is something in that, but I do not think that it is worth the extra cost. No such provision exists in respect of home grown wine, nor do I think that any other country has done anything of the kind. We have a staff of excise officers, whose duty it is to make frequent inspection of the hotels, and who are capable of supervising the bottling of spirits.
.- I am looking forward to the discussion of this item, and shall be interested to note how honorable members opposite vote on it. We have been told that these increased duties were imposed to correct our adverse trade balance. Every other consideration was to give way to this. Now, I understand, there is a general desire amongst Government supporters to reduce the duties on whisky and other spirits because they have been ineffective from a revenue point of view, and have only served to prevent various well-known brands from coming into the country. From the manner in which honorable members vote on this item we may be able to judge whether they were honest in their claim that the duties were imposed for the purpose of correcting our trade balance. In the meantime, I intend to keep an open mind on the matter.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message : -
The Senate has considered message No. 134 of the House of Representatives and the report of the conference on the amendments made by the Senate and disagreed to by the House, and acquaints the House that the Senate still insists on its amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 aud 5, disagreed to by the House.
That the message be taken into consideration in committee at the next sitting.
Pensions: Re-appointment of Sib Robert Gibson - All For Australia League - Mr. Lyons, M.P. - Mb. Lang.
Motion (By Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring before the House a matter of vital importance, if not to some honorable members, at least to others and to many people outside of this chamber. I read a few days ago in one of the Sydney newspapers what purported to be an official announcement that as a result of a review of old-age and invalid pensions the department was effecting an annual saving of about £50,000. The Government has frequently stated in this House that it is not prepared to reduce old-age and invalid pensions.- Members of the Opposition, of course, are anxious that there should .be a review of these pensions. They openly state that they are out to attack them. One can understand that; but it is rather surprising to read what purports to be an official statement to the effect that the Federal Labour Government is scientifically attacking the old-age and invalid pensions, and that a saving of £50,000 is being made at the expense of our aged and infirm people. If it is true that the Government is effecting this economy in order to balance the budget, I say emphatically that I am not a party to its action, because I believe that the last persons in the community who should be called upon to make a sacrifice in this time of financial stress are those who are unable to assist themselves. Within a few days many of our so-called patriots will be delivering addresses on Empire Day. They will then deplore the fact that the disloyalists are trying at all costs to disrupt the peace of. the community, yet those very persons who, on that occasion, will be parading their patriotism, are effecting economies at the expense of the nien, who fought for them in the Great War. This economy is being effected at the expense, not only of old-age and invalid pensioners, but also of returned soldiers. We know that the Government has dismissed nearly 4,000 employees from the postal services in an attempt to balance the budget, and among those dismissed men were 2,000 returned soldiers. All honorable members receive from day to day applications from persons seeking invalid pensions, and from returned soldiers protesting against reductions in their pensions. In one instance the pension of a man who was disabled at the war, and is compelled to wear special surgical boots, has been reduced from £4 to 16s. 5d. a week. In another instance the pension was reduced from £4 to 14s. a week. We do not hear the patriots in this House protesting against that form of economy, but on every occasion that the members of this party attempt to make those who made their fortunes out of the war bear some sacrifice in this time of stress, we are heckled by honorable members, not only of the Opposition, but also of the Government side. If any economy is to be effected, we declare definitely that it must not be at the expense of the old and infirm people, because the paltry pension or allowance which is given to them at the present time is not by any means sufficient to meet their immediate demands. It is incomprehensible to me that a Labour Government and Labour representatives should be prepared to acquiesce in an economy which presses heavily upon the aged and the infirm. I hope that even at this late hour the Government will rescind any instructions that may have been issued to the department to effect economies by refusing applications for invalid pensions. In many instances the applications of persons who are entitled to invalid pensions have been turned down, and the reason given is that that has been done on the advice of the medical referee. All sorts of excuses are made for refusing applications, so as to keep the expenditure on pensions as low as possible. The department is systematically and scientifically reducing its expenditure. I can give instance after instance of reductions in war pensions. The pension of one returned soldier has been reduced from £4 to 14s. a week. His vision is impaired and he has not been able to read since 1920. His disability is due to war service, yet the department has decreed that his pension shall be 14s. a week, notwithstanding the fact that his defective vision precludes him from obtaining any kind of employment. Let me give one illustration of the tactics resorted to by the department to bring about reductions in pensions. An’ aged couple recently had their pension reduced by the paltry sum of 2s. a week. Away back in 1919 this old couple were induced to pay a deposit on a block of land at Port Stephens and, in 1928, they still owed £52 on the property. Since then the husband has not been able to do a day’s work, and despite the fact that he will never work again, and will probably never become the owner of the property, the department has decreed that this aged couple own a block of land at Port Stephens, and their pension has in consequence been reduced by 2s. a week. It is the duty of the Government to state definitely whether it is opposed to reductions in old-age and invalid pensions, or whether it is acquiescing in the scientific and systematic activities of the department. Although j my colleagues and myself have within the past few months received many applications for invalid pensions, not one of them has been granted. The department has decided not to grant any further pensions at the present stage. If the department has acted without direction from the Government, the Prime Minister should immediately take action to ensure pensions being paid to those who are entitled to them: our aged and infirm people, who are unable to assist themselves, and the returned soldiers who are suffering because of their service overseas. These people should not be called upon to bear a sacrifice in order to ensure to overseas bondholders and international Shylocks their pound of flesh. I am prepared to leave the matter to the Government, in the hope that, even at this late hour, it will rectify the wrong that is being inflicted on people who are not in a position to fight for themselves.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has suggested that, because the statement has appeared in the press that there has been a review of pensions resulting in a saving of £50,000 per annum, the Government has issued special instructions to the department to cut down pensions.
– We have not had aninvalid pension granted for months.
– The Government has issued no instructions to the department, and, moreover, it would be wrong for it to attempt to interfere with the administration of one of the most efficient as well as one of the most humane branches of the Public Service. So far from a cutting down of pensions taking place, I point out that within eighteen months the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions has increased by £2,000,000 per annum.
– How many applications for invalid pensions have been granted within the last three months?
– I shall obtain the particulars for the honorable gentleman, and let him have them either to-morrow or the next day. The statement that appeared in the press is the ordinary announcement that is made about once every year as the result of the annual review of pensions that has taken place ever since the act has been in operation. Honorable members know that there are abuses of all things, and, if possible, these should be discovered and stopped. Some people who make false declarations are found out, and some are not.
– The department frequently carries the campaign beyond the stage that is necessary.
– That has not been my experience of the administration. The honorable member for East Sydney says that he can give instances in support of his statements. If he will be good enough to give me the particulars, I shall undertake to have them investigated. I do not dispute any statement that he has made; but if even one case of hardship can be shown to exist, I shall take it up with the Commissioner at once, because no instructions have been issued that a different policy is to be followed. The definite decision of the Government is that the review which has taken place periodically in the past shall take place every year in the future. When I was Acting-Treasurer details of the review of pensions were supplied to me in the annual report of the department. The report shows that the cases were investigated thoroughly. As I have said, the department is both efficiently and humanely administered. I shall obtain for the honorable member figures showing the activities of the department during the last few months. I point out that the £50,000 saving mentioned in the press report is about the average annual saving over a number of years in connexion with over-payments of pensions, and to persons who were not entitled to pensions receiving them. I say not only to the honorable member for East Sydney, but to all honorable members, that the Government will investigate every case of hardship that is brought before it.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will inform the House of the result.
– Honorable members who bring cases before the Government will receive replies by correspondence.
– We appreciate the Prime Minister’s offer of assistance.
– Last night, when speaking on the adjournment, I referred to a party meeting at which a motion was moved by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge). I then said that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was- present at that meeting’. I now desire to withdraw thats statement, and to express my regret at the’ inaccuracy.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s- explanation.
-I desire to bring under the notice of the” House’ a position’ that ha’s arisen in- Melbourne in connexion with an organization federally knownastheAll for Australia League, although the other day I suggested another name for it. That organization has issued a circular to the’ employees in Melbourne establishments, outlining its objectives. The circular, which is issued’ from the office of the League at 349 Collins-street, Melbourne, is da’ted the 17th April, 1931. After informing the employees that their employershaveno desire to interfere* with their political views, it goes on to say -
The organization isnon-party andnonsectional. and inaspaceof three weeks it has- gatheredamembership ofover 40,000 in Victoria. . . . This firm, therefore, urges the members of its staff, in the interests of their country and of themselves, to join the Ail for Australia League; and to canvass actively for members iimoug their friends. Those of you who have a capacity for organizing and public speaking ean also greatly assist the league by throwing in your weight with thelocal branch which lias been, or shortly will be, formed in your suburb , We are collecting from members who enrol aminimum subscription of 2s. which includes the “A.F.A.” badge; but thiswill not bo sufficient to carry on the vigorons, forceful, campaign of education that is considered necessary, and, therefore, any additional financial assistance will be most welcome, and thankfully received.
The crux of the letter is contained in the lastlline “ You can enrol through me in my office at any time “. I submit that such an undesirable state of affairs should not be allowed to enter into our commercial life. Knowing the great amount of unemployment that exists, and the natural desire of persons still in employment to make their position more secure, I can easily visualize the effect of that circular on employees. It is an outrageous thing that they should be informed that they can enrol as members of the league through the head of the firm. This is a matter” which should be inquired into by the authorities, to ascertain if there is not sOine law to prevent this political bludgeoning. Iri these enlightened days such action is- hellish.I suggest that the circular is part of the propaganda oil the money power of Australia1 against the Government. Although it will not succeed, it is something that ought not to be’ allowed. The initial letters of the name of the leagueA.F.A.L. - stand, as I said the other day,, for “All for Aloysius Lyons’”. Some members of this Parliament, who- until, recently sat on this side of the House; are now connected with that organization-. As members’ of the’ Labour party they know the political influence which the head of a firm can exercise over his employees. I leave if to honorable members to imagine the fate of those employeeswho fail to enrol as members of the league: it will not be long before they receive the order of the boot “. This matter is of sufficient importance to call for an inquiry by the Government.
Mr.ELDRIDGE (Martin) [10.19].- When attempting to direct a question to the Attorney-General at the beginning of this sitting, I found, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling prevented me from bringing before the House some press propaganda which I felt I was justified in mentioning. If not out of order, I desire now to refer to the matter which I Unsuccessfully attempted to deal with this afternoon. I doubt whether at any time in the political history of Australia we have had such an appalling instance of bad taste, impudence, and vulgarity as that which has characterized the publicity surrounding the central figure of an ambitious political campaign of the type mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) a moment ago. Here, for instance, is an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th April -
Mrs. Lyons told me a story about her husband that should, and must, be made public now, when the word repudiation rings shuddering on the air of New South Wales.
Mr. Lyons’s father, years ago, dreamed that he saw the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Convinced of his dream, he raised all the money he could get, mortgaged his future and his children’s future, and went over to Melbourne to back his horse. The horse failed, the father died soon after, and Joe Lyons, the eldest of a family of ten, found himself in his ‘teens called upon to bear the burden of his father’s responsibilities and stand as guardian to that large family.
Then follow some touching details of how the family had to be reared. There is no mention in the article of the gallant part the mother of the family must have played, assuming that she was living at the time. Neither is there any mention of the backing of wrong horses being apparently a hereditary failing in the family, nor of how, in this respect, the brilliant son is also backing a losing horse in a political Melbourne Gup or All for Australia Cup. The article goes on to say that -
This is the man to whom Australians are looking now to help them fight their way back to honour and prosperity.
After some more fulsome praise, the article contains this extraordinary passage -
Whenever I think of Mr. and Mrs. Lyons a beautiful old-fashioned verse of poetry comes floating through my head.
T invite the special attention of honorable members to the extraordinary line that is then quoted, as follows: -
He for God only, she for. God in him. The article concludes with these words -
No wonder we look towards them in this our very present hour of need.
In the Bulletin of the 29th April, the following paragraph appeared : -
The transparent honesty of the dispossessed sovereign, his deep faith in his ability to restore the lost prosperity of his people’, his noble rage as he describes the perfidity of the usurpers of his power, were brought out by Mr. Lyons by methods which could hardly be called acting at all. As he stood there, his kindly face framed in silver-grey hair, his hands clasped across a stomach of modest proportions, and his good-humoured eyes gently lighted by the warmth of an inner integrity, it was impossible not to believe in his belief in the justice of his cause ; even if one were unable to accept all* his proposals as practicable.
In all his experience present critic has never seen such an unsophisticated performance have such a deep effect upon a house. Strong men wept, women looked broken-heartedly at their neighbours, and even the press reporters were seen to be unusually busy with their handkerchiefs.
It was my intention this afternoon to ask the Attorney-General -
Will he say if it is within his powers to direct that his department shall, if necessary, in consultation and co-operation with the State authorities, take appropriate steps in the interests of public health and morality, to prevent any further harrowing, stage-managed exhibitions of this kind being inflicted on a long-suffering public by a political Nick Bottom.
– There is a second chapter to the story told by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), concerning which I desired to ask a question of the Prime Minister this afternoon. I wish to read to honorable members an extract which is also taken from the Bulletin of the 29th April. It is as follows: -
But, great as was the emotion stirred by Mr. Lyons, it was nothing compared to the sustained enthusiasm aroused by Mrs. Lyons. As the exiled queen, Mrs. Lyons was poignant in her majesty. In homely words, which yet rang with intense conviction, she showed that the solution of the tragedy lay, not in the squalid intrigues of courts, or the fortunes of political battlefields, but in the hearts of the people; in the steadfastness of housewives, to whom an unbalanced domestic budget was unthinkable; and in children, who never failed to admit that mother knew best. At the final curtain there was not a dry eye in the house.
I intended to ask the Prime Minister this afternoon whether he would ascertain from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) how much longer his party intended to be led by exiled queens and screeching Sarah Gamps. I am sure that all honorable members will have a certain measure of sympathy with the Leader of the Opposition in the circumstances in which he finds himself. If the Prime Minister can assist the honorable gentleman in any way to overcome these circumstances, he will certainly do something which will tend to settle a question which is causing a good deal of public controversy at present. In the public life of Australia, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has been regarded as a man of strong convictions, who has had a long legal training in connexion with matters which affect our public life. It is, therefore, regrettable, in a measure, that he should be subjected to the indignity of having his campaign carried on for him in all the capital cities of the Commonwealth in the manner in which I have described.
– It will destroy Australia’s credit.
– -Last Sunday I noticed an article in the press which pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition had rendered great service to this country during the period in which he has led the Opposition in this House.
The Sun referred to him in glowing terms. Not only did it publish a full face picture of the honorable gentleman, but there was also another illustration, showing only the eyes, which were piercing in the extreme, and looking apparently, far into the future, considering the needs of his country. It is regrettable that a man of his capacity, according to the article which appeared in the Sunday Sun, should be left in the undignified position which he occupies to-day. I think that every honorable member will agree that this farce which has been played on the public with respect to a united front and united parties has been going on long enough. For the good and for the well-being of the country it should immediately cease. As the credit of the country, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has said is involved, I think it would be better and more fitting if some courage and determination were displayed by honorable members opposite, who should at least stand up to their responsibilities, instead of leaving the women folk to fight their battles for them. It is the first time in the history of this country that we have had such exhibitions. The lady to whom I refer - I do not speak in any disparaging sense - has entered into the political field voluntarily, and is, therefore, entitled to criticism in regard to the matter. “While we have every respect and regard for the great service which her supporters have claimed publicly she has done to the community in the sphere in which she has operated, still we feel, in regard to political matters that when members of this House are being paraded as it were before the gatherings which she addresses, as incapable of discharging their duties properly, we are entitled to offer comment by way of reply. The Prime Minister and the members of his Government, including the Attorney-General, should endeavour in some way to prevent a repetition of this extraordinary behaviour.
– I cannot help expressing my unspeakable disgust at the sorry spectacle which this Parliament has presented during the last half-hour. More amazing behaviour on the part ‘of grown men, it would be hard to imagine. The vulgar abuse that has been heaped upon the wife of a reputable member of this House, is something of which honorable members and those whom they represent should be ashamed.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is absolutely misrepresenting the position when he refers to “ vulgar abuse “.
– That is not a point of order.
– I regard the use of the words “ vulgar abuse “ by the honorable member for Warringah as offensive, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) complains that the references of the honorable member for Warringah were offensive. I thefore ask that the words be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. The thing was not at all well done, and I am sure that every honorable member on this side must have felt utterly disgusted with those who participated in it. It is not unusual for the women of this country to take an active part in politics, nor for the wife of a member of Parliament to assist her husband, or to express her views on political questions of the day. Yet chivalry has always been displayed by members of Parliament, and by the public, with respect to the wives of members of Parliament and other women who appear in public. Never before have I heard any such woman attacked by a member of any deliberative assembly of this country as a woman was attacked to-night to the accompaniment of vulgar sneers and laughter, even from Ministers who ought to have known better. I hope for the credit’ of this country that we shall never have a similar disgraceful exhibition from honorable members opposite, including Ministers. Perhaps I am entitled in this connexion to make a reference, not to the wife of J. T. Lang, but to Mr. Lang himself. I intend to quote from the same issue of .the Bulletin as was quoted from by the honorable member, a paragraph regarding the Premier of the most important State of this Commonwealth, a man who receives the approbation and craven adulation of a section of this House. This is what the Sydney Bulletin says concerning Mr. Lang -
Not for another day should John Thomas Lang be permitted to continue as chief adviser of the Crown in New South Wales.
– Who said that?
– I am quoting from the leading article of the Bulletin. I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the paragraph and ask him if he can give bis attention to the matter. The paragraph proceeds
– I will take a note of it.
– I ask the honorable member for Warringah to address the Chair and not the Attorney-General, who would possibly restrain himself if the honorable member did not provoke him.
Mr.Eldrige. - I rise to a point of order.
– Why does not the honorable member take his gruel. We listened to his abuse for a quarter of an hour.
– Why did you not take your gruel. You left the chamber.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to an honorable member of this House, in connexion with political propaganda in the federal sphere. I submit that the honorable member for Warringah is not in order in dragging into this debate in a most disgraceful manner the Premier of New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Warringah has not proceeded sufficiently far with the quotation for me to determine whether he is transgressing the Standing Orders. I should say that the statement that he has quoted from that publication so far is in order.
– I was suggesting that the Attorney-General should take some steps to ascertain if the facts set out in this article are correct. If they are, it is the duty of the Government to proceed against Mr. Lang, and in the interests of the Commonwealth to take some steps to remove him from his position. These are the concluding words of the article-
– This is cowardly, Mr. Speaker.
– I must ask the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) to recognize that he cannot offer a personal observation while another honorable member is speaking. If he desires to question the action of the honorable member, he is entitled to rise on a point of order, but if he wishes to reply to the statement of another honorable member, he must wait until that honorable member has resumed his seat.
– The quotation continues -
Not for another duy should John Thomas Lang Le permitted to continue as chief adviser of the Crown in New South Wales. Liar, law-breaker, disloyalist, defaulter, destroyer, he is not fit to be Premier of a self-governing British community. Ifhe had his deserts he would be in the dock.
Those statements appeared in the Sydney Bulletin of the 29th April last, and they refor to the Premier of New South Wales. They are either true or untrue. I invite the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) to ascertain the truth of those assertions, and to take action to defend his Labour colleague. If the statements are true, it is a craven attitude for the Government and its followers who support Lang to permit these things to be said of him without saying something in his defence. They probably know that the statements are true.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That is the difficulty under which they labour to-day.
.- I did not think that I should ever be called upon to witness the spectacle of women being attacked in this chamber. In politics, we expect men to be assailed; but, when an honorable member stoops so low as to make a veiled attack on motherhood, he is playing the game as low-down as it is possible to play it. For the edification of the honorable member who has made this attack, let me read the following lines: -
There’s an afterlight in a mother’s eyes,
When her new-born child on her white arm lies.
Tis a light divine, ‘tis a radiance given
To a mother here, to a saint in heaven.
For her new-born child she would lay life down,
And that mystic light is her glowing crown.
I resent the veiled attack that has been made upon motherhood, and I regret that some honorable members opposite have joined in the cheap sneer.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation only if be has himself been misrepresented. I have not heard one word said concerning him personally.
– But if I may-
– I cannot permit the honorable gentleman to reply now to any statement with which bc disagrees. He must bide his time, and wait for a further opportunity.
– I shall avail myself of an opportunity, on another occasion, to reply to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310506_reps_12_129/>.