12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that a faction war has been in progress on the waterfront at Newcastle? Following upon a previous question I asked on this subject, did the Attorney-General inquire whether a leakage of the High Court’s intended judgment occurred? If any person has committed a breach of the law, what action does this Government propose to take?
– I am not in a position to say whether any leakage of information has occurred, and I do not think it desirable to press inquiries on that point any further. In regard to the other matter mentioned by the honorable member, suitable action is being taken by the Government.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House of the amount of subsidy paid to Westralian Airways under the contract made by the last Government for an east-west airmail service?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The honorable member was good enough to advise me of his intention to ask this question, and I have been able to obtain some of the information he seeks. The east-west air mail contract is for a period of five years, from April, 1929, but the service did not actually commence until June of that year. The subsidy is based on mail loading. Under the contract, payment at tbe rate of 12s. 8d. per lb. of air mail matter, up to a minimum of 600 lbs. per trip, is paid,irrespective of the weight actually carried; that represents £39,520 per annum. If ‘the weight of mail carried averages over 800 lb. per trip for a period of four months, the payment is made on the basis of 12s. 8d. per lb. for 1,200 lb. for the rest of the contract. If the weight of mail exceeds 600 lb., the actual weight carried is paid for at the rate of 12s. 8d. per lb. Certain other payments, amounting to about £700, and including a refund of a portion of the sum expended on an advertising campaign, have been made. It is understood that other amounts have been paid by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the carriage of ordinary delayed mail at freight rates, but this information is not available in the Defence Department.
– As the Government has made the tariff schedule a party matter, and has cracked the party whip to drive its supporters together, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take in connexion with his alleged offer of co-operation with other political parties?
– The honorable member is not correct in saying that the party whip has been cracked by the Government and that it has made the tariff a party matter.
– Some time ago the Government requested the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into the disabilities of Tasmania and South Australia, and I understand that it has since asked the committee to report upon the disabilities of Western Australia. The committee, when inquiring into South Australia’s claim, included three representatives of that State, and when dealing with Tasmania’s position, two representatives of that State. As Western Australia is not represented on the committee, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will ask the committee to defer its inquiry into the circumstances ofthat State until the inclusion of at least one representative of Western Australia in its personnel?
– The honorable member’s representations will be considered by the Government.
– I have received the following letter from the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing, Bris- bane : -
I would much appreciate it if you could give me any information regarding the possibility of the passing by the Federal House of the proposed reciprocal trade treaty between Canada and Australia. I would like to know particularly when such treaty is likely to be passed.
Our position is that we have a carry-over of canned pineapples far* in excess of Australian requirements) and a large majority of these have been processed to export standard and in the size suitable for Canadian trade.
At present our manager is in Canada endeavouring to effect sales, but finds that little business can be done until such reciprocal trade treaty is finalized. Should such treaty be delayed, there is little likelihood of our being able to process the winter crop of pineapples, in which case the position of the growers would be desperate,
I ask the Minister for Markets whether it is possible for him to expedite the completion of the proposed treaty, and when it is likely to be presented to Parliament for ratification.
– I am well aware of the circumstances of the processors of pineapples and other fruits, and I am doing everything possible to expedite the completion of the agreement. Even now I am awaiting a cablegram from Canada regarding certain features of it. I remind the House that in these negotiations the respective Ministers are not in personal contact; they are thousands of miles apart. It would be futile to attempt to conclude the negotiations until both parties are satisfied that an agreement has been reached which will be mutually satisfactory.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the statement of Mr. Stevens, the Canadian Minister of Trade and Commerce, that the new Australian treaty must remain in abeyance until it can be presented to the Parliaments of Canada and Australia? Is that the reason for the delay in completing the treaty, and is the delay at the Canadian end or at this end?
– The treaty cannot be completed until all its details are settled. That will necessarily take some time, because of the vast distance between the two countries.
– Thousands of British migrants in Australia are out of work. In my own electorate many have approached me for assistance to return to their own country. They were brought to the Commonwealth by misrepresentation.
– Order! The honorable member must ask a question, not offer personal observations.
– Will the Government consider entering into negotiations with the State Governments with a view to giving an opportunity to migrants from Great Britain to return to their native land, their passage money to be met out of moneys that in the ordinary course would be given them by way of the dole?
– -Representations have been made to the Government with a view to providing passage money to enable British migrants to return to Great Britain, but the Government cannot entertain such a suggestion. “We have already expended money on the passages of these people to Australia, and we do not think that it would serve any useful purpose to spend more money on their passages back.
– In view of the announced determination of the Government yesterday to remove the primage duty on cornsacks and other jute and other, goods utilized in primary production, will the Prime Minister undertake to refund the moneys that have ‘been collected by means of this duty?
– Governments do not refund moneys so collected, and in this instance it is not intended to make any refund.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), speaking at a banquet at Wangaratta on Monday night last, said -
Once they establish confidence in the rectitude and honesty of Australian Governments they would be able to consolidate the debts on a basis of 3) or 3£ per cent, interest, and so save £6,000,000 interest per year.
I ask the Treasurer, whether during the time that the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer in a government which strongly asserted its rectitude and honesty, that right honorable member was able to obtain money at 3£ per cent, or 3£ per cent., and whether he has informed the
Treasurer where this enormous amount of money, available at such low interest rates, is obtainable? If the right honorable member for Cowper has that information it is his duty as a citizen of the Commonwealth to make it known to the Government.
– The right honorable member for Cowper has not passed on to the Government any suggestion or information as to how it can gain access to the large funds to which he referred. It is true that he recently made reference to a mythical £25,000,000 of gold that might be available to a government which had the endorsement of the Nationalist party. On the question whether a change of government or the restoration of what the right honorable member for Cowper calls confidence in Australia would result in a reduction of interest rates to 3½ per cent., let me say that during the time he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth the interest rate increased year by year, and reached its highest point during the last year that he was in office.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is not a fact that in 1924 the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, raised a loan at £5 per cent. at par, and that about the same time the South Australian Government raised a loan at £5 4s. per cent., and the Treasurer, who was then Treasurer of Queensland, raised a loan at £5 12s. per cent.? Is it not also a fact that in 1929 the right honorable member for Cowper, in his capacity as Commonwealth Treasurer, redeemed the loan raised by the present Treasurer at £5 12s. per cent. at a much lower rate of interest, although at that time interest rates were less favorable than in 1924?
– The honorable member’s questions are based on wrong premises. It is true that in my capacity as Treasurer of Queensland I arranged a loan in London in July, 1924 at £5 12s. per cent.
– The most expensive loan ever raised.
– The honorable member forgets that in 1929 the right honorable member for Cowper, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, raised a loan by means of treasury-bills at a cost of about £611s. per cent. The loan I raised in London in 1924 was part of a £25,000,000 flotation. At that time the Queensland Government had been boycotted on the London market for four years, and it was encountering great difficulty.
– That was because of the Government’s repudiation of contracts.
-Notwithstanding the boycot, and other difficulties which the Government had been encountering for many years, the money it desired was raised at the average rate of interest payable by the Australian States, and other similar borrowers in London. The comparison of that loan with the loans raised in London prior to that time is unfair. The market, at the time, was becoming increasingly difficult for the raising of Australian loans. A few weeks after the Queensland loan was raised a still higher rate of interest had to be paid. The loan raised by the Queensland Labour Government in that year, and in succeeding years, compared as to terms favorably with loans raised by the right honorable member for Cowper or the Treasurer of any Australian government. My answer to the honorable member for Corangamite, that it was ridiculous for the right honorable member for Cowper, or any other responsible member of the House or. responsible citizen elsewhere, to suggest that the mere change of government would bring about a reduction of interest rates, was quite correct.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to an article in this morning’s newspapers to the effect that the British Admiralty has, for purposes of experiment, invited tenders for supplies of oil from coal, that step being regarded as historic? In view of the fact that in Australia oil is being produced from coal, will the Minister request the Australian Naval Board to make a similar experiment in respect of our own vessels, so that this industry may be developed in Australia.
– I have not seen the article mentioned, but I shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member.
– I have received a telegram from the tobacco-workers, asking me to request the Minister to ascertain whether it is a fact that the tobacco firms of Godfrey Phillips and Carreras, both of Victoria, have reduced the wages of their employees by 10 per cent., although they promised, when the duty was imposed that no reduction of wages would take place.
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– As the High Court recently gave a decision to the effect that the Government had acted illegally and as, according to the Prime Minister’s statement, the Government proposes again to act illegally, I ask him whether it is his intention to continue executive government or to allow this Parliament to function properly ?
– I am not aware that the High Court has given any such decision as that spoken of by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister made the inquiry which he promised last week as to the nature of the reductions in import duties on. wheat which have taken place in Germany, and if so, has he been able to ascertain whether those deductions apply to the discriminatory duties which were introduced last year by the German Government?
-I have sent a communication to the German Government on the matter, but have not yet received a reply ; I shall let the honorable member have the information so soon as it, is received.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to an important pronouncement on monetary policy made by Viscount D’Abernon before the Royal Society in London as reported in to-day’s press, as follows: -
The fall in the price of staple commodities is due to scarcity of means of payment, can be corrected by the combined action of the central banks of the gold using countries. The price level at which the standard value should be stabilized is a matter for discussion, but it must permit maintenance of wages and salaries at approximately the present rate.
If the Treasurer has seen that statement, will he state whether it is in harmony with the monetary policy of the present Government ?
– It is clear from the brief statement which the honorable member has read that the views of Lord D’Abernon on monetary policy and the origin of the present depression coincide entirely with the views of the Government.
– Has the Treasurer seen a press report published to-day to the effect that a project for the remonetization of silver by means of a super bank of the Empire has been submitted to the Canadian Government by Mr. J. F. Darling, a director of the Midland Bank, now at Ottawa ; and that the Canadian Government had been asked to take a lead by summoning a conference to deal with the matter ? If such a conference is called by the Canadian Government, will the Commonwealth Government watch its proceedings, and arrange for representation at it if possible?
– I have seen the report referred to by the honorable member. So far as I know, representations have not been made to the Commonwealth Government in regard to the holding of such a conference. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister would be pleased to arrange for representation at the conference if an invitation is received. This is a most interesting matter. It is apparent that it is now recognized that the gold standard is not giving full satisfaction to its sponsors, and that resort will have to be made to a multiple standard.
Willingness to Accept Cabinet Office
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a press report of a speech made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), at Wangaratta on Monday night, in which he stated that he was prepared to accept office in a Cabinet? Has the Prime Minister received any offer of that nature from the right honorable member, and if so, is Barkis willing?
Question not answered.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
-I have requested the Dried Fruits Control Board to supply me with the information desired by the honorable member, or as much thereof as is available. On receipt of these particulars, I will furnish the replies to the honorable member.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Have the members of the board been asked to make recommendations concerning -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Production of grapes - Cost of production; suitability of areas.
Manufacture of wine - Cost of manufacture; freights to markets; value of by-products; provision of wood for casks ; value of grape juice as such; Commonwealth laws.
Marketing of wine - Australian market; licensing laws of States and their coordination; system of distribution; overseas markets.
Effect of Exchange
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether persons residing in Australia in receipt of pensions from the Imperial Government obtain any advantage from the present rate of exchange?
– Arrangements are being made under which British pensioners resident in Australia will receive the equivalent in Australian currency of the sterling payments made by the British authorities to the High Commissioner on their behalf. In that way, British pensioners will receive the benefit of exchange. Details are now being settled between the Treasury and a representative of the British Ministry of Pensions who is at present in Australia.
Revenue From Sale of Transcripts of Evidence
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
What was the amount collected from trade unions for shorthand notes of proceedings in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for each of the years 1928, 1929, and 1930?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What expense, if any, was contracted by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the recent visit to Australia of Lord Baden-Powell ?
– A small expenditure was incurred in connexion with the provision of afternoon tea at Parliament House, Canberra. In addition, the Commonwealth provided free railway facilities for the party, consisting of three persons, between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.
General, upon notice -
How many members of the legal profession have been removed from the rolls or sentenced to imprisonment during the past two years for fraudulent practices ?
– So far as the question affects persons entitled to practise in federal courts as barristers and solicitors by virtue of the Judiciary Act and the rules made thereunder, the information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Are the cost of living figures a true reflex of the actual cost of living to the workers covered by awards of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration subject to adjustment by that method ?
– The meaning and purpose of the retail price index numbers computed by the Bureau of Census and Statistics is sometimes misconstrued. This is due in great measure to the fact that a more or less definite wage value has been attributed to these indexes by industrial tribunals throughout Australia, and more particularly by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The wage value given to the index numbers is a matter for which the Statistician’s Bureau is in no way responsible. The bureau does not, by virtue of its index numbers, determine the “cost of living,” or what a “fair basic wage” should be. The purpose of the index numbers is to provide a ready and effective means of measuring retail price variations over stated periods of time.
The method by which the bureau compiles its index numbers was adopted after full and careful investigation of the methods adopted in other countries. The system is mathematically sound, and has the endorsement of world-wide authorities as a simple and effective means of measuring price variations over a period of time. The prices being treatedin the same way in respect of every date of collection, and the “ composite “ unit or list of commodities being kept constant, the method adopted provides a true index of the variations in prices between any given dates.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
If he is of the opinion that Senator Sir George Pearce was guilty of improper conduct in approaching the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, with questions and a covering letter prior to Sir Robert being examined in another place, will the Attorney-General urge that a select committee of both Houses be appointed to inquire into Sir George’s Pearce’s bona fides in the matter?
– The question being a hypothetical one is not a proper one to be answered.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice-
– The information is being obtained.
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The rates prescribed by thePost and Telegraph Kates Act for press and other telegrams are as follow: -
Double the rates prescribed for ordinary rate telegrams.
Lettergrams. ½d. per word, with a minimum charge of 1s. 3d. for 30 words.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.FORDE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Request for Assistance
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has yet received any report from the Director of Development with reference to the request from the South Australian Government for assistance in the development of mineral deposits near Moonta?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows : -
The position is -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
3 and 4. Mr. F. Blakeley, who was at one time leader of the expedition, is a brother of the Minister for Home Affairs, but it is pointed out that he had returned to Sydney and relinquished all connexion with the company long before the aeroplane was sent to Central Australia tomake a search for Mr. Lasseter
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to prevent the spread of the buffalo fly?
– An entomological survey to determine the limits of distribution of the fly is now proceeding; the results of this survey will determine what measures are now practicable.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Activities of Mr. McKenna.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of the firms on whose behalf Mr. F. McKenna made representations while in India?
- Mr. McKenna made general inquiries regarding Australian industries, and particular inquiries on behalf of the Federal Woollen Mills Proprietary Limited, Geelong, Victoria.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 5th May, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Whether the Prime Minister 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, interalia -
How far that State has exceededits 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 Now South Wales; and
The estimated liability which the Commonwealth would incur if it took over responsibility for the Savings Bank of New South Wales?
I am now in a position to furnish a reply in regard to parts (a), (b), and (c) -
– On the 1st May, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me a question without notice in regard to a report which had appeared in the press regarding a test undergone by a German aeroplane fitted with a single-cylinder Diesel engine, and the use of crude oil in connexion therewith. Information in the possession of the Department of Defence indicates that the production of a Diesel type aero en gine using crude oil or oil extracted from coal has been engaging the attention of internal combustion engineers for a number of years in America, England, and on the Continent. The department states that very considerable progress has been made, and the underlying principles of the problem are now well understood, but there are certain basic disabilities which make for difficulty in the direct application of the principle to aero engines. Nevertheless, certain firms have ventured to put an engine on the market and others are in process of developing an engine. The American Packard, the English Beardmore, Typhoon, and the German Junkers are instances of engines which have been built and put into service, but although each has had some measure of success it cannot be said that the type at present shows more than promise of future success. Other firms such as Messrs. Ricardo and Rolls Royce have experimental engines under test. The development of this type of engine is being followed with keen interest by the Defence Department. Following upon the publication to-day of a press cable from London relative to certain action by the Admiralty in regard to calling tenders for supplies of oil from coal, the matter is being made the subject of further investigation by the Commonwealth Government.
– On the8th May, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has furnished the following information : -
– On the 13th May, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 13th May, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) asked methe following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
.- I move-
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at half past 10 o’clock on each Friday morning.
I understand that 10.30 a.m. was the usual hour of meeting on Fridays until 1917, when it was changed to 11 a.m. The extra half-hour could, I believe, be profitably used. I remind honorable members that it is very difficult to have questions on notice answered on Friday mornings if they are handed in at the ordinary time on Thursdays. Unless they are handed in earlier, Ministers usually have to ask that the questions be deferred.
– The customary time for meeting on
Fridays has been 11 o’clock. The proposed alteration would provide only an additional half -hour for the sitting of the House, but I remind the Prime Minister that honorable members are not idle now during the time preceding the commencement of the sitting at 11 o’clock. Members have a great deal of work to do, and it will be agreed that during these time of stress member’s correspondence is much greater than in normal times. Eleven o’clock is a suitable time for most members, and should be adhered to. The Prime Minister has not suggested that the session will be shortened if this extra time is added to the Friday sitting. He has not indicated how long he anticipates the tariff debate to last, or what business is to be brought down. His proposal means only that another half-hour will be taken off the time available to honorable members for dealing with matters claiming their attention. In my opinion, we should not depart from the present practice.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister proposes to have some regard for the interests of those honorable members who are unable to get to their homes each week end. I commend the proposal to work longer hours. Honorable members have Saturday mornings in which to attend to their correspondence.
.- I support the motion. My only regret is that it does not provide for sitting on Mondays. In my opinion, the work of Parliament would be performed with much greater despatch if members were obliged to remain in Canberra during the whole time that Parliament was in session. The present interruptions to the continuity of the work of Parliament are excessive.
– Of what use will this additional half -hour be?
– I support the proposal as an instalment of what I hope is to come. At present we meet on Tuesdays,Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but on Friday afternoon honorable members disperse, most of them going to Sydney or Melbourne, whence they do not return until the following Tuesday. Parliament and the country would be better served if they remained in Canberra. Business would be more expeditiously despatched, and the Canberra hotels, which are now practically empty throughout the weekend, would yield a better return. A full staff has to be kept in those hotels to maintain them in an occupiable condition, and the cost of running them is high whether members remain here or not. Moreover, if members stayed in Canberra, railway accommodation on Friday afternoon and evening would not be overtaxed as it is now. Members could do their work in Canberra as easily as in Sydney or Melbourne. The present arrangement, while convenient for those honorable member’s who can visit their homes in Victoria and New South Wales, prolongs the session, and has the effect of keeping honorable members representing the more distant States away from their homes longer than would otherwise be necessary.
– But what difference would this half -hour make?
– I am not prepared to deal with this subject facetiously. When Parliament is in session, honorable members should have no other business. They should attend here continuously.
– What about our constituents ?
– The constituents of the Attorney-General can be reached by telephone and letter in precisely the same way as can those of the honorable member for Fremantle. The idea that this national capital, because it is situated close to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, may be regarded as a suburb of those cities, is an affront to national sentiment. In my opinion, the sessions should be shorter, but the number of sitting days increased.
.- I have no objection to starting half an. hour earlier on Fridays, because I believe that when we sit we should do a day’s work. The addition of an extra half-hour is a step in that direction. We usually adjourn early on Friday to allow members travelling to Sydney to get away by the afternoon train. Those of us, however, who do not leave until the evening, could well continue sitting for a longer time. If this half-hour is to be added, I hope that we shall do something better with the time than we have done up to the present.
– The honorable member might move another censure motion.
– There is no need for that; but there is no doubt we have been wasting time in this Parliament.
– The Leader of the Opposition is wasting half an hour in discussing this motion.
– I trust that some good will come of it. The country is in a very serious position to-day, and we should be seeking some means of overcoming our difficulties. Thousands of persons are out of work, and we should be trying to find some way of providing them with employment. During the last few days I have sat back and listened to the debate on the tariff, and have been struck with the futility of it all. We have been fiddling while Rome is burning.
– Nine-tenths of the talk came from the honorable member’s side of the House.
– I am not finding fault with the Government. We have been arguing for hours about duties on brandy, gin and whisky, when the people are rapidly reaching the stage when they cannot buy even bread. Those tariffs will not assist in any shape or form to provide employment for the people. They were originally imposed with the bona fide desire to create additional employment. I was a member of the Government which introduced them, and I believe that they would have achieved their purpose had conditions been normal. However, the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has fought so hard for them, has on a number of occasions had to admit disappointment because his hopes have not been realized, not because of any intrinsic defect in the schedule, but because of the serious economic depression from which the country is suffering. In my opinion, a great deal of time has been, and will be wasted by honorable members on both sides of the House over the discussion on the tariff, and I recommend that there should be an agreement to validate the whole of the proposals, for what they are worth, so that Parliament may settle down to more important tasks, and devote a greater amount of time to the endeavour to find relief for the unemployed. The
Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has asked that Parliament should sit for an additional half -hour on Friday mornings. I approve of . that arrangement, but I point out that we are not making the most of the time already at our disposal. Au endeavour should be made to shorten discussion on matters such as the tariff, in order that we may have more time in which to deal with proposals to find employment for the people.
.- The Prime Minister intimated that, prior to 1917, it was the practice of the House to meet at 10.30 a.m. on Friday morning. That is quite correct. The time of meeting was altered to 11 o’clock, because it was found impossible for the Ministers in charge of the various departments to transact their business in the short interval at their disposal before Parliament met on Friday. Of late years, and especially since the Parliament removed to Canberra, the undesirable practice has grown up of Ministers bringing their departmental work to the House and transacting it here. As a result it is rare to see a Minister in the chamber, other than the Minister in charge of the measure before the House. That is not as it should be. I recognize that there are times when Ministers must absent themselves from the chamber, but as they are in charge of the business of the House, they should be here to see that it is properly transacted. If meeting at 10.30 instead of 11 o’clock will result in Ministers further absenting themselves from the chamber, I am opposed to the change. The House of Commons has frowned upon the practice.
The receiving of deputations while the House is in session is another undesirable practice that has been carried out to a very considerable extent in recent years, in this Parliament. I believe, with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), that it is our duty to concentrate upon the business of the nation while the House is in session. Honorable members who come from Queensland and other distant States cannot, unfortunately, return to their homes during week-ends That is not in the best interests of the representatives or of the people.
I am at variance with the honorable member for Fremantle in one matter. I am not in favour of the House sitting continuously. I envy those honorable members who find it possible to visit Sydney, Melbourne, and other centres during week-ends, and so come into contact with the outside world. The one weakness of Canberra, from the stand-point of parliamentary work, is that members are isolated when living in the Federal Capital, and have no opportunity to meet representative citizens in the metropolitan cities, to discuss present and prospective legislation. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle were agreed to, honorable members would suffer to a still greater extent. I am of the opinion that the additional half-hour that the Prime Minister desires to add to our labours is neither here nor there. However, if the right honorable gentleman thinks that it will assist in expediting the work of this chamber, I give it my hearty support.
.-r- I have no objection to raise to the proposal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), but I ask the right honorable gentleman to give consideration to a suggestion that was put forward a few days ago by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) who, incidentally, is a medical man. When the House agreed to certain alterations’ in the Standing Orders which curtailed the time limit imposed on speeches, the right honorable gentleman suggested that the Government might very well consider the rising of the House automatically at, say, 10.30 p.m. or thereabouts each night. It seems to me that if honorable members were not compelled to sit too late, the business of the House would be transacted more effectively. While I have no objection to the House meeting at 10.30 on Friday morning, and strongly ‘ support any change that would facilitate the despatch of the business of Parliament, I urge the Prime Minister to consider the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The Government considered the advisability of the House meeting at 10 o’clock on Friday mornings; but the very reasons advanced by the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and Oxley (Mr. Bayley), that honorable members have correspondence to attend to and Ministers have to deal with departmental matters, caused it to fix upon 10.30 as a compromise. While the additional half-hour on Friday mornings does not appear to be a very important extension of our working time, it will amount in the aggregate to a. considerable increase, and should help Parliament to expedite the transaction of its business. I do not think that it is possible to keep the House in session every day in the week. I know the difficulties under which Ministers labour in coping with their administrative duties as things are. It is quite true, as was said by the honorable member for Oxley, that Ministers have to consult their officers and attend to departmental work while the House is sitting. That is absolutely unavoidable. In addition, their time is taken up with conferences and other matters, which, if not attended to during the sitting hours of Parliament, would occupy the attention of Ministers until the early hours of the morning. It would not be humanly possible to continue to work under such conditions. 1 point out, too, that there are a number of departments still in Melbourne, and the Ministers in control of them must visit them during week-ends.
– They ought all to be brought to Canberra.
– In the present economic position of the country it would be impossible to consider their transfer to Canberra at this juncture, therefore Ministers must travel to Melbourne during week-ends.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) has made a very generous offer, and I should be quite glad to accept it. If Parliament is prepared to validate the tariff schedule, the Government will bring down the necessary bill. I realize that some items have been discussed longer than was necessary. At the same time, it is not the desire of the Government to deny honorable members an opportunity to debate items in the schedule. To avoid further delay, I should be very glad to bring down the necessary bill to validate the tariff, if that is the wish of Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - About two weeks ago the Loan Council met, and made a suggestion that there should be a conference of party leaders to consider the nation’s financial and economic position. It was subsequently agreed that a special committee should be appointed to go into the subject, gather details, and report back to the Loan Council; also that a Premiers’ conference might with advantage be held to consider that report and other matters.
I was questioned on the subject in the House, and suggested that it would be much better if these economic and financial problems were considered in this chamber. I have since gone into the matter very thoroughly, and am more than ever convinced that that would be the wiser course to. follow. From discussions with State Ministers I have learned that many of the subjects which would be brought before the suggested conference of party leaders would relate to matters affecting certain Parliaments only. A conference of party leaders from all parts of the Commonwealth to discuss detailed matters of local or very restricted interest, would occupy probably six months, during which the business of all Parliaments would be held up. It is true that there are some subjects which affect both Commonwealth and State Parliaments, but they can be most appropriately discussed at a Premiers’ conference. If the Premiers in conference were of opinion that others might be brought into consultation, such a proposal could be considered. But I am convinced that each Parliament should consider a number of subjects affecting the economic and financial position of Australia. I have suggested before, and I do so now, that the members of this Parliament should meet in conference. I may be answered that we are conferring each day in the ordinary course of parliamentary business; but that is not so. In Parliament we meet as a government party and an opposition party. In the main, parliamentary business is initiated by the Government, and is discussed by members, divided into two principal parties- Governmen and Opposition.
But there are many proposals which might be discussed in a different atmosphere.
– Has the Tasmanian election inspired this offer?
– No. I made a similar suggestion four years ago when I was in opposition, and it was inspired, not by any election, but by the seriousness of the financial drift which had then set in and has continued ever since.
– And the right honorable member rejected a similar offer by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! A , statement by leave must be heard without interruption.
– I have never received any similar offer. Certainly, I heard of a proposal which I interpreted as. a suggestion for a coalition government, but which I subsequently learned was not so intended. No suggestion has ever been made to me that the members of this Parliament should meet in conference to consider the financial and economic problems of Australia. But even if, after receiving such an offer and rejecting it, I am now seeing the light, honorable members should not complain. It is never too. late to mend. I suggest to honorable members that it would be better for them to listen to what I have to say and then express their judgment on it. Let us try to give to each other credit for sincerity. We have to deal with the most serious financial and economic problems that have ever confronted this country. In suggesting that the Government should confer with the Opposition I am not admitting, as some newspapers represent, that we are incompetent or have failed.
– There is no need to admit that; it is proved.
– Order ! I warn the honorable member for Darling Downs that I shall name him if he continues to interrupt.
– I have never believed that all the wisdom of this Parliament reposes in one group of men, nor am I foolish enough to shut my eyes to the fact that a deadlock has been reached between the two chambers. We have to ask ourselves whether we should permit the present impasse to continue, or do what we can to give immediaterelief to the people. The two sections which are most hardly hit are those who are unable to get employment, and the men on the land; both are sufferingacute distress, and we have to devise means of helping them. I am not claiming that honorable members supporting the Government are the only persons who have sympathy for those who are distressed. I believe that genuine concern for the workless and the embarrassed primary producers is in the hearts and minds of every honorable member and every section of the community. Our task is to reconcile some of our differences in order to afford a measure of relief, even though it be of only a temporary character. I said on a former occasion that, instead of meeting in the formal atmosphere of a Parliament, we should meet in conference, suspend the StandingOrders, and have a frank discussion.
Mr.White. - Rafferty’s rules!
– Order !
– No. Large conferences are held from time to time; they arc not governed by parliamentary standing orders, but their proceedings are conducted in an efficient and orderly manner. I propose that Parliament should adjourn for oneweek. If the conference made progress and required further time, the adjournment could be extended. We should meet, not as a Parliament, but as individual representatives of the people.
– Both chambers?
– The objection may be raised that a conference of all the members of this Parliament would be unwieldy ; but I do not think it desirable to startselecting delegates, because honorable members, regardless of the party to which they belong, are equally representative of the people. I am willing to invite the Senate to participate in our deliberations. That chamber could attend in full strength, or could appoint representatives from both parties. I have in mind a general frank discussion, devoid of party feeling.
– Open to the press?
– That would kill it.
– An official record also would be taken. No harm could comefrom allowing the light ofpublicity on all our doings.After a general discussion theconference might decide to appoint sub-committees representative of bothchambers to investigate specific matters. If this proposal is acceptable to the Opposition the conference might meet next week ; or, if that is too soon, a week later. If possible, delay should be avoided, and I would prefer that the conference should start on Wednesday next, leaving Tuesday for the arrangement of details, and the circulation amongst members of as much information as can be obtained. Further details could be mutually arranged; but the Government would like the conference to start promptly, in order to avoid the possibility of clashing with a proposed conference of Premiers. All information available in the departments would be at the disposal of honorable members.
– Without reservation ?
– Yes; and the services of departmental officers also would be available. They could enter the chamber, sit on eitherside,and assisthonorable members with information and in making calculations.
– Would it be wise to co-opt the services of outside experts ?
– That would be determined by the conference. In a preliminary discussion we could decide the time limit for speeches, the hours of sitting, who should preside, and the outside experts whose services should be co- opted. In the discussions honorable members would not be tied down rigidly by the usual parliamentary precedure. I in not propose at this stage to discuss our economic and financial problems, but they would be submitted to the conference at the commencement of its deliberations. Anagenda paper would be prepared on which every honorable member could place his proposals. We would not meet as Government and Opposition, but merely as 76 members of Parliament, plus those members of another place who might care to attend. Those who were sufficiently interested could attend and make suggestions as the conference proceeded.
– Would the decisions of the conference be binding on the Government ?
-There should be no hard and fast decisions. The taking of divisions would kill the spirit of conference, because members would speak to convert others to vote with them.
– How would decisions be registered?
– The Imperial Conferencemeets in open session, and a general discussion takes place. Specific subjects are referred to committees. No decisions are registered unless there is general agreement, but the conference does allow of the frank expression of views, and the making of helpful suggestions and proposals. However, that is a detail, to be decided by the proposed conference. I am afraid that if the conference were to resort to divisions in order to register decisions it would be reverting to the ordinary procedure of Parliament; we would not have the freedom and frankness of discussion that is desirable, because a member might fear that he would be contributing to a decision which neither the Government nor the Opposition could implement. In the final analysis a government or opposition has to accept responsibility; but in order that we may inform our minds and exchange our views in a freer and more practical way than we are able to do in this House, I suggest this conference.
Honorable members may say that we have discussed in Parliament the economic and financial problems; but how have we discussed them? Mainly on censure motions, which produce the wrong atmosphere for mutual agreement. The finances are dealt with, to some extent, in the budget debates. The Treasurer, after weeks of work with his departmental officers on the Estimates submitted by each Minister, makes a statement to the House of the financial policy of the Government. A discussion follows on party lines. I suggest that if we are to discuss the finances we should do it in conference before budgets are formulated. The Government would be prepared to place before a conference all information relative to the budget, and any proposals for departmental changes. All information, without reservation, would be put before the conference, and individual members could, without prejudice, submit any proposal they thought fit.
– Are not all the facts available now?
– They have never been discussed by the representatives of the people in the spirit in which I suggest they should be discussed. If, of course, my suggestion does not commend itself to honorable members, I cannot help that.
– Has the Federal Executive agreed to this course?
– I have not discussed it with the Federal Executive.
– The honorable gentleman cannot go beyond that body.
– That is a fatal objection.
– It would be easy to destroy by recriminations from either side the spirit that is behind any suggestion to meet a national crisis. I could make quite as apt a retort as the honorable member can, but I do not think that it would be fitting to do so at this stage. There is no need for a sacrifice of principle by either side, and I do not suggest that the Opposition should sacrifice its fixed convictions and principles merely to meet the convenience of the Government. Yet surely a frank exchange of views without party spirit would bo helpful. There must be in the combined wisdom of this Parliament ideas that have not been disclosed or discussed. I do not suggest that in conference we should stand off at long range, making speeches to one another. If we do that no good purpose will be served. My suggestion is that there might be an exchange of ideas across the table, and an examination of one proposition after another. The departments and individual experts would be at our service. In this way we might create for the electors a much more hopeful outlook than they have to-day. I do not suggest a coalition government, because I do not believe in coalition governments.We could confer in this chamber, and at the same time maintain our allegiance and pledges to the electors and to our various organizations. Surely it is our duty to those of our people who are in distress to seek some solution of our pressing problems. At such aconference we could discuss many vital issues. The members of this Parliament, in conference, should be able to arrive at some means to enable immediate relief to be given in emergency cases.
– When all is said and done is this Parliament really governing?
– My suggestion is an effort in the direction of helping this Parliament to govern. This Parliament will govern better if we deliberate as a conference at least for one week. We can then discuss subject after subject, and problem after problem. We can examine frankly every emergency proposal, treating each other’s suggestions with respect and as a sincere effort towards the solution of our problems.
– Will the Government surrender its present policy?
– The Government will put before the conference the problems of this country as it sees them, and the suggested remedies. It will invite every honorable member to do the same thing. If the Government considers that any suggestion is as good or nearly as good as its own proposal, it will give it favorable consideration, and will be prepared, if it will meet the situation, to accept it.
– Would there not be a better opportunity for a frank discussion if the press were not admitted?
– I am hopeful that the press itself will enter into the spirit of the conference. I shall be disappointed if the responsible representatives of the people of this country are not prepared to discuss frankly and fairly and without prejudice the serious problems that face us. I would expect the press of this country - or the majority of newspapers at any rate - to assume a responsibility equal to that of honorable members in regard to the treatment of our deliberations.
– Would it not be better as a preliminary step for the leaders of the parties in this House to meet in friendly conference ?
– To discuss problems, or merely to make the preliminary arrangements for the conference?
– To discuss the feasibility of the proposal.
– I am now discussing that subject. I have mads my suggestion frankly and openly. The details and planning of the conference are unquestionably matters for mutual arrangement, and I shall be glad to discuss that with the representatives of the Opposition or of any group in Parliament. I suggest now, that we adjourn Parliament next week to enable this conference to take place. If that arrangement is not suitable, then I shall be glad to confer with the representatives of the various parties in the House with a view to arriving at a date that would be suitable to them.
– Would the Prime Minister and the members of the Government be prepared to attend such a conference with an absolutely open mind and without any reservations?
– I shall certainly attend the conference with an open mind, though not with a blank mind. Every honorable member should attend the conference to suggest remedies for our financial ills, and those suggestions should be examined frankly and fairly. It would be of no use to attend the conference with our minds made up not to accept any suggestions. All suggestions put forward should be discussed on their merits. It is possible that in conference we may come to some agreement, and fashion a policy that will to some extent relieve the present situation. There is no reason why we should not confer. If the object of the conference were to fail, we should only have wasted one week of the time of this Parliament; but I cannot believe that our time would be wasted.
.- by leave - The statement of the Prime Minister is of the deepest importance and significance, and requires the close consideration of every member of the Opposition. To-day a number of honorable members on this side are absent, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) who are both absent through illness. I therefore suggest to the Prime Minister that he leave this matter in abeyance until a full meeting of the members of the Opposition can be held to consider this proposal.
– Is not the honorable member going to lead his party?
– That interjection is not likely to induce a conference spirit.
– I have simply asked that, as a matter ofcourtesy, the Opposition be given an opportunity to consider the proposal. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, every member who attends the conference will attend as the responsible representative of the people.
. - by leave - I am naturally suspicious of any “ come-together “ movement, particularly in view of the divergence of opinions among the various parties in this House. More information is required by honorable members as to the details of the proposal of the Prime Minister. His statement gives the impression that the policy of the Government has failed, that the Ministry is at the end of its resources, and that it is powerless to meet the present situation. It is not right for the Government at this serious stage of our affairs to put up the white flag. The people in my electorate, which is composed mostly of workers, have made great sacrifices in the present crisis, and I am not going to be a party to any movement which will not restore to them what has been taken away, more particularly when a large section of the community has made no sacrifice at all. The Government has not by any means explored all the avenues of relief that are open to them under its constitutional powers, and I am therefore not at the moment prepared to accept the proposal for a conference of honorable members. Before any final determination is made, I hope that more information will be given to honorable members.
– I shall be glad to give to the honorable member any information that is at my disposal.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
ThatOrders of Day Nos. 1 and 2, Government Business, be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 3.
– It is customary, when an alteration of the agenda paper is intended, to notify the members of this House, so that when they enter the chamber they may be prepared to discuss the subjects that are brought forward for consideration. On a previous occasion when the Prime Minis ter changed the order of the business, my colleagues and myself protested against his action, and he then promised that, in future, notification would be given of any proposed changes in the business paper, so that all honorable members would know in advance the intention of the Government. The Prime Minister has honored that promise on one occasion since then, but to-day an alteration is being proposed without any notification having been given to honorable members. I do not know whether the members of the Opposition have received any notification.
– They have not.
– In any case that does not affect the issue. The Government is responsible for notifying honorable members of the business to be placed before the House, and the programme set down on the notice-paper which has been distributed to honorable members should be followed. Otherwise considerable inconvenience may be caused. The Prime Minister has failed to honour an undertaking which he previously gave to this House, and for that reason I oppose the motion.
Question put - The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 46
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 12th May (vide page 1769) of Senate’s message and conference report, upon which Mr. Blakeley had moved -
That the committee does not now insist on disagreeing to the amendments made and insisted on by the Senate.
– I deeply regret that the committee is being asked to approve of the motion, although I realize that this is because of the action taken by another place. The people whom I represent wall now realize that an honorable senator who has been elected Leader of the Opposition in another place is unworthy of his position. Until another place has a leader with a wider vision than that possessed by Senator Pearce, it will not be possible for us to tackle Australians problems effectively. Senator Pearce has turned his back upon the ladder which enabled him to ascend to his place in this Parliament, and to the position he holds in the political life of Australia. Nothing that emanates from a Labour representative has any good in it, in the opinion of that gentleman. In this instance his attitude is purely antiNelson; and it is anti-Nelson because Nelson is a Labour representative. The spineless attitude adopted by the members of another place who were elected to a conference with managers elected by this chamber is to be deplored. That conference reached a unanimous agreement; but now, in order to enable one man to vent his spleen upon the party responsible for his advancement, they have allowed themselves to be overruled.
– Is the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) entitled to refer in this manner to the proceedings in another place?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the honorable member for the Northern Territory not to discuss the proceedings in another place.
– The honorable senator to whom I have referred owes everything he has in the world, except his title, to the Labour party which he now despises. We have heard a good deal in this chamber, and a good deal has been said in another place, about repudiation. In my opinion, the members of another place have been guilty of repudiation of the grossest kind, for they have repudiated the agreement made with certain honorable members of this chamber in regard to this bill. The decision of the conference of managers was unanimous, but because Nelson was connected with the proceedings the honorable senator to whom I have referred, will not agree to the decision that was reached. What does this honorable senator care about the welfare of the Northern Territory ? His only desire is to hit back at Nelson.
– The honorable member must not refer to an honorable member by his personal name, but only by the name of his constituency.
– The petty mind of the honorable senator, who is the leader of another place, can only be described as vindictiveness condensed.
– A personal attack will not help in any way.
– It is time the people whom I represent were told the facts. It appears to me that honorable senators opposite represent the interests of a very small section which operates in a very big way; I refer to the Vestey interests. These interests knew very well that if this bill had been passed in the form in which it left this chamber, hundreds of small cattle-owners - men who run from 300 to 3,000 beasts- would be able to secure representation on the advisory council. I resent the scurrilous remarks made a day or two ago on this subject by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) in this chamber, and by Senator Pearce in another place. That it is incorrect to say that union organizers and agitators would be elected to the proposed advisory council is shown by the representation on the existing councils in North and Central Australia. The Government desired to give the primary producers representation, but the Vestey interests have been able, through another place, to prevent it from doing so. I hope that I shall some day have an opportunity to give publicity to what I know about the Vestey interests, and the part that they have played in hindering the development of the Northern Territory.
– Those interests may retaliate with some effect.
– They will not be able to retaliate when I can say what I know. The Vestey people never talk about labour conditions when I am about. The action taken in another place has deprived the settlers of the only vestige of representation that they might have had for the purpose of giving advice as to the best means of developing that country. I know that the Government will accept the Senate’s amendments, because it is essential in the interests of economy to save £8,000 a year by the abolition of the North Australia Commission, which is now impotent to carry out its proposals. But the time will come when this Parliament will rue the day when it let the pioneers in the territory down. I challenge Senator Sir George Pearce, or anybody else, to tour the territory with me, and show that union organizers would be represented on the council. I extend the same challenge to Vestey’s, or to any other interests in the territory. This part of Australia will eventually make good, not because of any assistance that has been given by various administrations, but in spite of all governments. The settlers have the will to conquer, and the day will come when the people of Australia will marvel at the fact that for the last 20 years the territory has been shackled by the legislature. I trust that, immediately the bill has been passed, some measure of representation will be given to the settlers, whether they be miners, pastoralists, or agriculturalists, so that they may be able to extend to the authorities advice based upon the knowledge that they have obtained as the result of half a century’s personal experience of the problems of that country. Whatever policy is adopted in the future, the settlers must eventually be granted local responsibility.
– Would it be wise to retain the commission control?
– I have expressed my views on that matter, both in this chamber, and on the public platform. I have stated that if the commission could have obtained the money required to carry out its proposals, good would have resulted, but an impossible position has arisen,because the commission, composed of four or five men, and having a great retinue of officers, has no funds with which to give effect to its policy.
.: - I sympathize with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in his anxiety to substitute some other authority in place of the North Australia Commission. While I agree with him that it is necessary to have some such advisory body as -has been rejected in another place, I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in regard to the bill. I will support the honorable member for the Northern Territory in any action he may take to induce the Government to drop the measure. The members of the commission are well able to carry out the work required of them. They have now an intimate knowledge of the potentialities and needs of the territory, and their experience would have been of great value in promoting its development. The commission is highly qualified to deal with mining development, but that subject was not entrusted to it. When the commission was appointed, laymen naturally expected that very soon the mineral possibilities of the territory would be developed. Had the present Government not suddenly determined to abolish the commission, they could have secured excellent results from its members by broadening their powers. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has pointed out that the residents will be given no advisory functions if the Senate’s amendments are accepted. I appeal to the Minister to withdraw the bill, and to continue tlie present commission with wider powers.
– I should not have spoken again on this measure had not the Minister made certain interjections a few days ago, which I did not hear, but which were recorded in Hansard. I had referred to the fact that when there was trouble among the extreme element in Port Darwin, those persons had a habit of wiring to Broken Hill that the Minister might be asked to take certain action. I pointed out that he had intervened, and had quashed convictions in the Darwin court, with the result that fines were reduced, and men were released from prison - or I used words to that effect. The Minister said: “Tell the truth; don’t spread lies.” Had I heard that remark, I would have insisted upon its withdrawal.
– I will withdraw it now.
– Then I shall say no more about that. I did not make the statement without knowledge of the facts. I had asked questions previously on the subject of the franchise at Darwin. I had requested the Minister to place the telegrams on the table of the House concerning the whole case. The Minister refused to do so, but prepared a memorandum. There was obviously a liaison between the gentleman who caused the trouble and the Minister. I refer to that only in passing, because I feel that the interests of the Northern Territory should be the concern of all members, and should transcend party politics.
A great deal of money has been wasted on the territory simply because that country has not been given the attention that it warrants. The provision of roads, for instance, is of paramount importance, and, since Darwin has now become a regular port on the air route to Europe, it will become one of the stopping places for the Dutch mail or for the Imperial Airways mail, thus bringing it closer to us than ever before. For that reason, I feel that control of the Northern Territory by one person from so distant a place as Canberra is wrong. The Minister, in seeking to give the adult population of the territory a vote of the nature intended by him, is taking an unwise course. On the 6th August last year I asked in the House -
Did the Darwin Council forward to the Minister a resolution passed on 9th April Inst as follows: -
That in view of the past difficulties, and the peculiar local conditions, this council views with alarm the proposal of the Government to provide in the New Consolidated Town Council Ordinance, for the election of councillors by adult franchise, and strongly urges upon the Minister the necessity for a re-consideration of the matter?
The Minister replied “ Yes.”
– The present council wants an adult franchise.
– It would be inadvisable to give the ratepayers and the men who have no stake in the territory the same voting power. The residents are agreed that the choice of the present mayor of Darwin, although his political views may be different from my own, is a wise one. . I say nothing against his politics; he seems to have the approbation of the local residents. It is wrong to have a council elected on an adult franchise, and for that reason I support the action taken in another place.
The question being pvt - “ That the motion be agreed to “-
There being only one voice on the side of the “ Noes,” the question is resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
Question proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I have no desire to reflect upon the Chairman of Committees; but, when the question was being put to the committee, I called “The ‘Noes’ have it”. The Chairman stated that only one member had called “ Aye “. If any other member voted with the “Ayes,” I suggest that he should now mention the fact.
– Any protest against or .objection to what takes place in committee must be lodged while the House is still in committee. The Speaker has no cognizance of what takes place in committee unless it is reported to him by the Chairman of Committees. That is the established parliamentary practice.
– I also called “ No “ when the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) did so. If, however, you can take no notice of what happened in committee, we shall avail ourselves of the opportunity of calling “ No “ again.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 52
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 13th May (vide page 1877), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the customs tariffbe amended -
Division I. - Ales, Spirits and Beverages
Postponed Item 10 -
– Yesterday, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked that consideration of this item be postponed until he returned to Canberra, and I agreed to his request. I am now able to inform honorable members that the item does not cover chloroforms, as was stated by the honorable member for Cowper. Chloroform is covered by 10 a, on which the duty has not been altered. This has been pointed out to the right honorable member for Cowper, and he has indicated that he is agreeable to the item being dealt with forthwith.
– Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to explain what item 10b does apply to?
– The action taken in increasing the rates of duty under this sub-item is to circumvent overseas exporters who, in the past, have resorted to the practice of placing more than 2 per cent., but not more than 5 per cent., of proof spirit in amyl acetate in order to gain the advantage of the lower rates which were operating under this sub-item, namely 15 per cent. or 25 per cent. These rates have also been made the same as those operating on non-spirituous amyl acetate and ethyl acetate under item 11 a. The action of the Government in increasing the duty under this item had the immediate effect of influencing a manufacturer in New South Wales to undertake the production of ethyl acetate. This firm acquired certain patent rights, installed the necessary plant for the most up-to-date and economical process of manufacture, and is now able to supply more than the whole of Australia’s annual requirements. The local acetate, which is 100 per cent. Australian production, is giving complete satisfaction to users throughout the Commonwealth. Employment has been found for additional workers, and the price of the product has been reduced. The ethyl acetate manufactured by this firm is produced from ethyl alcohol, which is a bi-product in the manufacture of sugar from sugar-cane. Indirectly, the increased duty assists one of our important primary industries.
.- The Minister has given us a certain amount of technical information, which I do not believe even he understands. Will he inform honorable members whether this item has been referred to the Tariff Board? On highly technical matters of this kind, honorable members have a right to demand that the expert judgment of the Tariff Board be obtained.
The Mi ais te] has not suggested that this duty is being imposed for revenue purposes. Indeed, he has already told us of the protective effects of the duty. He gave no information as to who asked for the increased duty, or who will benefit by it. Therefore, I move -
That the item be further postponed.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has made out a very clear case for answer by the Minister. I am bound to say that I did not understand the explanation which the Minister gave. It consisted of a mingling of technical terms, which really conveyed nothing to the lay mind. If the Minister is unable to give a general explanation, understandable by laymen, it is surely reasonable for honorable members to ask for a report from the Tariff .Board. It is not our duty to come here and register a vote on a subject with which we are not conversant simply at the request of the Minister. I ask any honorable member frankly does he understand anything about amyl acetate and ethyl acetate? One does not know whether the Minister is talking in Sanskrit, Egyptian, or even in abusive language. It is time that this committee got down to realities, and was told exactly what is meant by these tariff changes. With the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), I am not prepared to register a vote on a matter which has been so indifferently explained by the Minister.
– Like other honorable members who have spoken, I do not understand the technicalities of the subject. However, I do know that an industry has been established in Sydney to manufacture these products. That is something that should have our approval. So far as I can gather amyl acetate and ethyl acetate are commodities that are in considerable demand, and it should be our endeavour to foster their manufacture in Australia.
.- I take a view similar to that expressed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). I do not waste much of the time of honorable members, but I like rr- understand what is going on. When I register a vote, I desire to be able to give a reason for my action. I have felt with regard to this and other items of the tariff that insufficient information ha3 been given to honorable members concerning the imposition of these duties. Frequently it is difficult to determine whether they are the result of political pressure or economic necessity. Regarding this particular item I, like other honorable members who have preceded me, do not understand why the duty is necessary. A tariff board exists for the purpose of enlightening honorable members on these matters, and I submit that we should have been supplied with the reasons that induced that board to make any recommendation in the matter if, indeed, a recommendation has been made. I do not known on what principle the rate of duty has been fixed, therefore I do not propose to vote for i’t.
– I do not agree with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who inferred that the imposition of this duty was animated by political pressure. Nor do I agree that the Minister has not endeavoured to give honorable members the fullest information at his disposal with regard to this item. I think that all honorable members will realize that the handling of a schedule such as this in committee is an exceptionally onerous task. I know how difficult it is at times to pilot even a small bill through the chamber, and can appreciate that the handling of a schedule such as this is a tremendous job.
– The Minister should have all the necessary papers with him. In addition, he has the advice of his departmental officers.
– It must be remembered that there are 76 representatives in this chamber, probably each viewing a subject from a different angle. No matter how carefully a Minister may provide for contingencies, it is almost impossible to have an answer ready for every question that may be asked. I do not think that it is fair to attack the Minister with regard to this item in the manner that has been adopted.
– There was nothing personal in the remarks that were made by honorable members on this side.
– This is a technical subject, and I deplore the tendency of honorable members opposite to ridicule the Minister in this debate. With the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), I am satisfied that this industry, which has been established in Australia, is a desirable one. I have no hesitation in supporting the establishment of any new industry that will provide employment and a commodity that 13 needed by the public.
– There is no intention on my part to withhold any information from honorable members. It is quite excusable if they confuse amyl acetate with ethyl acetate. The point has been raised whether this item was referred to the Tariff Board. It was not, because that course was not necessary. The present alteration merely seeks to remove an anomaly from our tariff, and it is being effected as a result of recommendations that were submitted by the Government’s tariff experts and approved by me and a sub-committee of Cabinet.
– Will the Minister quote item 10 a, and point out the distinction between ordinary chloroform and ethyl acetate?
– I refer the honorable member to the memorandum, which sets out the alterations in detail, and which has been circulated among honorable members in order to inform their minds and save the Minister a great deal of explanation. Item 11 a provides for certain non-spirituous ethers, which were permitted to contain only up to 2 per cent. of spirit. By making the ether content 3 per cent., traders were able to bring the item in at the lower nonspirituous rate. As a matter of fact, ether containing 3 per cent. spirit is practically non-spirituous. Item 10 b corrects the anomaly by providing for a spirit content of from 15 to 25 per cent. I might explain that amyl acetate is used for flavouring, and also for duco paints and a medium for gold paints. Ethyl acetate is used principally for flavouring purposes. This item does not cover chloroform. The item 10 a, which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) desired me to read, is not in the new schedule. As I am anxious to provide honorable members with all the information at my disposal, I have obtained a copy of the 1921-28 tariff, at page 7 of which item 10 a may be found. It reads -
Motion (postponement) negatived.
Item agreed to.
Division II. - Tobacco and Manufactures Thereof.
Item 23 (Tobacco, unmanufactured, entered to be locally manufactured into cigars).
.- I should not have spoken upon this item were it not for the fact that the change that has been made discloses a very extraordinary sacrifice of revenue. The Minister spent a good deal of time yesterday pleading for the retention of high duties on whisky on the ground that the country was in urgent need of money, and whisky was fair game for the imposition of high duties. I submit that that argument is equally applicable to tobacco. Yet the Minister is making a great sacrifice of revenue by this change. The duty on unstemmed tobacco has been reduced from 3s. 2d. to 2s. 6d., or a difference of 8d. per lb. On stemmed tobacco the reduction is also 8d. per lb., from 3s. 8d. to 3s. A startling increase is disclosed in the rate of excise on cigars manufactured in Australia. The old excise on hand-made cigars was 2s. 8d. per lb., and it has been reduced to 3d. per lb. In other words, the excise on Australianmade cigars has been entirely removed, so that cigars made in this country are no longer subject to taxation. That is a scandalous state of affairs. Later I shall have something to say as to the reasons for this remarkable change. The excise on machine-made cigars has been reduced from 3s. 8d. to1s. 3d. per lb. In each case the reduction amounts to 2s. 5d. per lb.
Two years ago, when I was in charge of the Customs Department, the representatives of the Cigar Makers Union, and the big tobacco company interviewed me. The Australian cigar had been forced to a price so high that it was not saleable, and in relatively good times extreme depression existed in the industry. Investigating the matter further, I discovered that the Cigar Makers Union had approached the Victorian Wages Board for a steep increase in the piece-work rates. The company pointed out to the board that if the rates asked for were granted, partial destruction of the industry would be inevitable, because the price would have to rise to a level which would make cigars unpopular, and people would change to other forms of tobacco. The board granted the request of the union, and immediately a slump in the industry occurred. Under the new rates, men working full time could earn between £10 and £11 a week, but they were then working half time only. Employers and employees asked for various alterations of the customs and excise duties, but I was not prepared to bolster up such extravagant earnings. I opened up negotiations with the parties, and I believe they would have been successful had I remained in office to carry them to completion. I asked the representatives of the union whether, if the company were content with smaller profits, and I gave certain assistance through the customs and excise duties, they would agree to lower rates for piece-work; they said they would. That is the proper way to approach a. tariff problem, but the Minister has not adopted that course in connexion with the items in this schedule. The reduction of the excise duty is extraordinary. Every consumer of alcohol is heavily taxed, and so is every user of tobacco, except the cigar-smoker. The Minister’s concern, however, is not for him, but for the unionists, in whose interests he has made an improper sacrifice of revenue at a time of national necessity. I do not propose to move an amendment to this item, but at a later stage I shall invite the committee to express its opinion as to whether the excise on Australian-made cigars should have been almost entirely abolished.
Item agreed to. ,
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item : - “ Cigars, including the weight of bands and ribbons, per lb., British, 20s.; intermediate, 20s.; general, 20s.”
.- I. was sorry to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) urge this afternoon greater expedition in dealing with the tariff. Because of its bearing on the economic position of Australia, a full consideration of the tariff is of the first importance, and I believe that the honorable gentleman will find that he has lent himself to a policy, the full significance of which he does not realize. The Government urgently needs more revenue, and I have no objection to the heavy taxation of luxuries, but the Government has been guilty of a despicable act in sacrificing about £40,000 worth of revenue in connexion with the customs and excise duties on cigar-leaf and cigars. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after loth May, 1931 - Cigars, including the weight of bands and ribbons, whether wholly or partially of labour and material of the country of origin, per lb., British, 18s.; intermediate, 19s.; general, 20s.”
I desire to overcome the provisions of the Customs Act 1925 requiring that an article shall have 75 per cent, of British material or workmanship to qualify for the preferential duty. Everything possible should be done to encourage trade with the United Kingdom, which is our best customer. The records of the Customs Department show that the importations of cigarettes and cigars from the United Kingdom have always been fairly large. We should encourage that trade with Great Britain, and utilize the intermediate tariff to reciprocate any concessions given by France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and other countries that are prepared to make trade agreements with Australia. That principle should be followed throughout the tariff.
– Hear, hear ! That is the only reason for the intermediate duty.
– Honorable members generally are under the impression that these duties have been increased in order to obtain additional revenue.
– To reduce the price of cigars.
– The imports of cigars from the United Kingdom in 1917 totalled 140,000 lb. ; and in 1921, 126,000 lb. The duties them were11s. and. 12s. a lb. In 1929, when the duties were increased, the imports dropped to 110,000 lb., which, at a duty of 20s. per lb., would represent in duty £110,000. In the year the latest for which statistics are available, 338,000 lb. of Australian cigars was produced, and the excise duty; at 2s.8d. a lb., would have produced £45,066. Now the excise dutyhas been reduced to 3d., which, on 338,000 lb., would amount to £4,225.
– That is a nice gift for the manufacturer.
– In addition to reducing the duty on cigars from 2s. 8d. to 3d., the Government has reduced , the export duty on cigar leaf from 3s. 8d. to 2s. 6d.
– The manufacture of cigars has declined almost to nothing.
– I cannot think of anything more contemptible than this gift by the Minister to the tobacco manufacturers and their employees. If Iwould be in order I would say that it was dishonest. Somebody’s leg has been pulled.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the reduction of duty ?
– The Government wants revenue, and has increased the duties on biscuits to 3d. and 4d. a lb., and has made more expensive every requirement of the worker and the producer. But on this item it is prepared to sacrifice over £40,000 for the benefit of men who, according to the honorable member for Plenty (Mr. Gullett) can earn £10 or £11 a week; and the combine controlling the industry. Is there any need to help these people to such an extent? When dealing with the 1920 tariff schedule, I quoted statistics- showing thatif we imported all our cigars, and the Australian people continued to smoke the same quantity, we could afford to pay a pension of £200 a year to every man and woman employed in the cigar-making industry, and still be £86,000 to the good. If the Whole of the 338,000 lb. of cigars manufactured in Australia were imported, the duty, at 20s. per lb., would benefit the revenue to the amount of £338;000. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Fenton) has interjected that the industryis no longer prospering; and I propose to show what has been the result of government interference. As invariably happens when external competition is eliminated by excessive tariff protection, the cigar industry has retrogressed. In 1911 we manufactured 3.81,000 lb. of cigars; in 1912, 374,000 lb.; in 1913, 397,000 lb.; in 1915, 364,000 lb.; in 1916, 374,000 lb. ; 1917, 429,000 lb. At that time a considerable fillip was given to the Australian manufacturer.
– That was during the war.
– The prosperous times came later. In 1918 we manufactured 491,000lb. of cigars; 1919, 448,000 lb.; in 1920; 567,000 lb.; in 1921, 516,000 lb. High duties on cigars were then imposed, and since then the manufacture of cigars in Australia has gradually decreased. In 1922 we manufactured. 525,000 lb. of cigars ; in 1923, 487,000 lb.; in 1924, 448,000 lb.; in 1925, 474,000 lb.; in 1926, 439,000 lb.; in 1927, 431,000 lb.; in 1928 384,000 lb.;. and in 1929 338;000 lb. In that year we produced 230,000 lb. of cigars less than we did in 1920. That was because of government interference with trade and industry. All sorts of concessions were given to the manufacturers. The decline of the local manufacture of cigars cannot be said to be due to the desire on the part of the smoking public for better cigars, but the fact remains that although there has been a gradual reduction in the weight of imported cigars - we still import over 100,000 lb. of cigars - the production in Australia has decreased in weight by some 230,000 lb. To give the Australian industry another fillip, we are now sacrificing £40,000 in revenue. The Government’s action should be exposed. It has told the people that it cannot find money for the relief of unemployment or for the assistance of the primary producers, yet. it is able to make a considerable concession in respect of the duty on tobacco to the extent of over £40,000.
– That is being done to assist the Australian industry.
– The statistics show that concessions of this kind have hampered rather than assisted Australian industry. That always happens when we destroy competition by building up a combine and giving it a free hand in the
Australian market. Since 1920 continual assistancehas been given to this industry and the result, even to the industry itself, has been disastrous. The trade must endeavour to win favour by supplying a good article at a reasonable price and not by an almost prohibitive duty. When we come to the excise duties, I hope the committee will restore the old condition. The country cannot afford to sacrifice £40,000. At a time of depression we are not justified in making special concessions to Australian tobacco manufacturers. The purpose of my amendment is to give some concession to those countries which arc prepared to enter into reciprocal treaties with us.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan. At a time when we are badly in need of revenue it is absurd to impose a duty of 20s. a lb. on cigars. The leaf tobacco out of which our cigars are made bears a duty of 3s. a lb., and the additional duty of 17s. a lb. is being imposed to assist the Australian cigar manufacturer. That concession will deprive us of considerable revenue. It will practically prohibit the importation of cigars, and at the same time decrease the consumption of cigars in Australia. I am anxious to add to the Commonwealth revenue. I am a believer in a revenue tariff particularly in respect of tobacco, spirits and other such luxuries, which can be taxed without injury to the community. I also believe in the development of the Australian tobacco industry, but the protection which is being given to it under this tariff is fanatical.
– It is unreasonable protection.
– We want revenue from the tobacco grown in Australia. Yet the excise has been reduced considerably. At the same time the import duty has been increased enormously. As the import duty has been increased, the Minister should allow the excise to remain as it was previously. The only objection that I have to the amendment is that it does not provide a big enough reduction of the duty. To prevent the Commonwealth revenue from being further depleted, I trust that the Minister will consent to this amendment, and if not, that the committee will insist upon it.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), because its object is to give some measure of preference to Great Britain. When the present Government took office it withdrew the British preferential tariff on tobacco. At that time the duty was11s. British preferential; 12s. Intermediate; and 13s. General. It has now been increased to a flat rate of 20s. We must encourage our tradewith countries which are willing to trade with us. We do a huge trade with the United States of America, but unfortunately for us, that country refuses to buy our products. During a period of ten years we have had to find gold with which to balance our trade with that country to the extent of £210,000,000. Had we secured trade with the United States of America to that extent, we should not now be in our present financial difficulty.
– Where does the fault lie?
– It lies unfortunately in the tariff of this country. The United States of America had adopted a selfish policy. It has huge deposits of gold, and it is demanding every cent of the money that it lent to the allies during the war. It has no moral right to that money. The world to-day has been crushed by the power and influence of the United States. It is therefore only right that we should do everything within our power to counteract the influence and trade of that country where it is crushing Australia. I should be willing to include in the schedule a fourth and prohibitive tariff to apply solely to the United States of America. I support the amendment because, if carried, it will favour Britain which is willing to buy our products.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan, although I regret that the proposed reduction is not more drastic than it is. The amendment provides for a duty of 18s. British Preferential; 19s. Intermediate; and 20s. General. I suggest that the duty should be 15s.; 17s. and 20s. When the British preferential tariff on cigars was11s., the cigar manufacturing industry in Australia was in a more flourishing condition than it is to-day. The reason is obvious. It is the old story that is told of all the Australian industries. High duties amounting almost to prohibition have been imposed, and as a result the people refuse or cannot afford to buy the protected articles. The high tariff has been a deterrent to the cigar manufacturing industry. The smoking of cigars has gradually declined in Australia and the Government has, in consequence, lost considerable revenue. The intention of the Minister, when he imposed the higher tariff, was to assist the industry, but unfortunately, his action has had the reverse effect. Not only has the local industry suffered, but the consumption of cigars has decreased.
.- I regret that I am unable to support the attitude of my Western Australian colleagues on this item, because I feel that we should give special consideration, and even some preferential treatment, to the excellent cigar-making establishment now operating in Perth. In the last fiscal year cigars aggregating 18,000 lb. weight were manufactured there, the value of the output being about £15,000. This secondary industry is established in a State in which fewer such industries are operating than in the other States of Australia. For this reason, and also because the presence of the factory there is stimulating the production of tobacco leaf in Western Australia, I support the item. It seems to me that before we grant a special preference to overseas interests we should consider bow such an action would affect employment in Australia. It is highly desirable that we should not restrict employment in secondary industries in States like Western Australia. To do so would not be a service^ to States which are dependent chiefly upon agricultural pursuits. We should not intensify the competition between secondary industries in such States, and similar secondary industries conducted overseas. For these reasons I cannot support the amendment.
– So far, I have waited in vain to hear the statement of some general principles which should guide us in considering this schedule. I am amazed at the reason advanced by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) for disagreement with the proposal of his colleague from Western Australia that a preference should be granted to the British cigar manufacturers.
– There is too much interest and not enough principle about this business.
– One would confidently expect the honorable member for Fremantle to be guided by principle, and not by expediency; consequently I am shocked that he should oppose the amendment simply because there is a cigar factory in Perth. Surely the presence or otherwise of a particular industry in an electorate is not sufficient to determine the attitude of honorable members on these tariff questions. It cannot be said that decisions formed in that way are governed by principles. For my own part, I have so far voted on the items dealt with in this schedule altogether irrespective of whether the commodities concerned are manufactured in my State; and I propose to adopt that attitude in regard to every item.
It is surprising to me that the Minister for Trade and Customs should be prepared to sacrifice revenue by adhering to the duties at present provided in the schedule. The honorable gentleman should have given us some information in regard to this item; if he had done so itwould probably have shortened the debate considerably. If the honorable member intends on every occasion to wait until other honorable members have addressed themselves to the item under consideration before he makes his speech, the result will be that almost every honorable member who precedes him will make a second speech. The Minister should give the committee a lead.
The discussion on this item has again demonstrated that injustice is being done by imposing the existing duties, that the schedule has been framed in a clumsy manner; and that political and sectional interests are being considered before the interests of the people at large.
.- The more I hear from honorable members opposite about the tariff the more bewildered I become. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr.
Nairn) claim to be low protectionists; but they arc asking for higher duties on this occasion. The honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has indulged in some cheap gibes at the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), because he has indicated that he intends %o take a course designed to develop the cigar factory in Perth.
– “What about the duty on sheepskins?
– The honorable member for “Warringah has told us that he does not intend to determine his attitude on these duties by taking into consideration whether the industries concerned are or are not operating in his own electorate. But as ho has frequently protested against the high duty on glass, it is as well that we should realize that quite a number of tomato-growers in the Warringah electorate use considerable quantities of glass for making glass-houses. The honorable member has objected to the high duty on glass, and also to the importation of tomatoes, tomato pulp, and so on. His attitude, therefore, is not so disinterested as he would have us to believe it is.
I shall support this item, because I believe that the duties provided will lead to the provision of additional employment in Australia. Five years ago 1,400 persons were engaged in cigar-making in Australia ; to-day the number so employed is only between 500 and 600. I hope that the progressive policy of the Government will soon increase the number considerably above 1,400.
I have in my hand a cigar made in the Perth factory. It is composed partly of Australian-grown leaf and partly of Havana leaf. Similar cigars may be procured in Canberra at a cost of 6d. It is an excellent smoke, and equal to the 6d. cigars obtainable in any of the capital cities of Australia. My smoking is confined to cigars, and although I do not claim to be a connoisseur, I regard this cigar as a good one.
Some complaint has been made because the Government will not give a special preference to British cigar manufacturers. The policy of the Government has been adopted because of the endeavours of British cigar manufacturers and importers to claim a preference on cigars made with foreign leaf by foreign labour. It is not fair that such cigars should be granted a preference on the ground that they are British products. 3’ust as I intend to do everything possible to stimulate the production of tobacco in Australia, so I intend to do my utmost to encourage the manufacture of cigars here. I hope that the time is not far distant when cigars will be manufactured in every capital city of the Commonwealth, and that we shall produce all the cigars that are smoked in Australia.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that he regretted that I had not spoken on this matter. If the Minister were to speak on every item, the honorable member for Warringah would bc the first to object on the ground that he was stone-walling his own measure. As I shall have to address the committee many times in the course of the debate on the various items, I wish to reduce the time usually occupied by the Minister to a minimum, in order to give honorable members a full opportunity to state their views. Honorable members opposite have asked, “ Why was the excise reduced from 2s. 8d. to 3d. a lb. without an investigation by the Tariff Board ? “ As a matter of fact, the matter was investigated by the board when the late Government was in office, and the board recommended the reduction of the duty in order to save the cigar-making industry. The board stated -
We are prepared to recommend that the request for the reduction of the excise duty from 2s. 8d. to 3d. per lb. on hand-made cigars be granted. . . .
Furthermore, in connexion with the possibility of the employees’ union setting up fresh demands for increased wages and piece rates, the Tariff Board was assured that the workers were conscious of the fact that the future of their industry and its expansion (for which the request for reduction in excise was being submitted), depended solely on the possibility of supplying the consumer with the 7d. Australianmade cigars at Gd., and a 3d. cigar with a full weight of leaf; that to do this it was essential that all four contributors to the final disposition of the product, the manufacturer, the worker, the retailer, and the Government must co-operate to the one end; and that, if one or other fail in their part, the desired end cannot be achieved, and the sacrifice by the Government (if made) of £(50,000 of revenue would be absorbed by one or other of the factors” other than the” consumer.
Under the circumstances, the Tariff Board is now satisfied that all factors are prepared to make a sacrifice in order that the consuming public may have the opportunity of obtaining a cigar at a convenient figure, and is prepared to recommend that the request be granted for the reduction in the excise duty from 2s. 8d. to 3d. per lb. on hand-made cigars.
That recommendation was signed on the 20th July, 1925. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) remembers that the cigar-making industry was then in a serious condition. The number of men employed in it had been reduced from about 1,400 to about 600, and the cost of the Australian-made cigars having risen to 7d. and 4d., the demand for them had decreased. The manufacturers and the employees asked that effect be given to the recommendation made by the Tariff Board in 1925, and the Government adopted that course for the purpose of assisting in the rehabilitation of the industry. We reduced the excise duty by 2s. 5d., and reduced the duty on cigar-leaf by-Sd. a lb.
– What does the Minister expect to be the effect of that action on the revenue?
– There will be a reduction ; but it was advisable to make it in order to increase employment in the cigarmaking industry, which has been in a difficult position for a number of years.
– The honorable member said that it was because the wages paid were too high.
– The piece rates enabled a man to earn £10 or £11 a week.
– They have now accepted lower rates.
– I much prefer to help the industry by reducing duties than by asking the workers to accept a drastic reduction of their wages. .
Reference has been made to the preference given to the United Kingdom. Certain manufacturers there claimed that their cigars had qualified for this preference, when, as a matter of fact, they had not, and the cost of checking their claim was entirely disproportionate to the trifling amount which the preference was worth. In 1928-29, it represented only £1,600, and it is doubtful whether the quantity of cigars entered at the preferential rate would have qualified the manufacturers for the preference. In 1929-30, the value of the preference was only £1,000, and all the material used ,in the manufacture of the cigars was imported from other countries. Another factor which influenced the Government in abolishing the preference on cigars was that no preference had ever been granted on manufactured tobacco, and it was illogical to grant it on cigars. Certain honorable members have criticized the Government’s action. My reply is that, under the tariff resolutions introduced by this Government, in only 32 items or subitems has the preference been reduced or abolished, while the margin of preference has been increased on 140 items and sub-items. This gives a favorable balance of 108 items and sub-items, and furnishes an adequate reply to those members who have stated that the Government is imbued with the desire to abolish British preference. Honorable members opposite say nothing about the British preference on Argentine meat, and the preference given to wheat from Russia, to the detriment of the sale of Australian wheat. When inspecting the Melbourne factory of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company some time ago, I was surprised to find that hundreds of men were engaged there in making cigars.
– It is girls’ work.
– No. Scarcely any girls are engaged in cigar manufacture. The work is done by men who have served an apprenticeship to the trade. In the interests of Australia generally, and particularly of the workmen employed in the industry, we should assist it as proposed under this duty.
.- The Minister promised to give an explanation of this item, but he has entirely ignored a phrase in the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), which entirely overcomes the difficulty of the present requirement of 75 per cent, of British material or labour before the preference applies. That requirement may be very desirable in most cases, but I think that, in the present instance, we might well waive it. This could be done by accepting the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Swan. The Minister ha3 said that, while preference to Great Britain has been abolished under certain items, increased preference has been granted under many other items, yet I do not know that that should be regarded as very satisfactory. If the preference is given by adding, perhaps, 50 per cent. to a British:duty and100 per cent. to a foreign duty, itwill be practically impossi ble for Great Britain to trade with Australia under such conditions.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) said that he was somewhat bewildered, and I agree with his diagnosis ofhis own mental condition. He appeared to think that the honorable member for Swan, and other members who ordinarily support low duties, were doing something diametrically opposed to their usual practice on the present occasion; but I point out that the amendment proposes a reduction of the duty, not for the specific purpose of reducing the revenue, but with the object of maintaining the principle of British preference.
– Does not thehonorable member think that we should make our own cigars?
– Yes, but I join issue with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), and the Minister, who seemed to think that the amendment would endanger the local cigar-making industry. The local, industry now pays a total duty of 2s. 9d. per lb. - 2s. 6d. per lb. on leaf imported for the purpose of cigar-making, and 3d. per lb. excise on the manufactured article, if entirely hand-made. That amounts to 2s. 9d. The margin between that and the slightly reduced duty which would be imposed on British cigars if the Minister accepted the amendment, would be so tremendous - not less than 15s. 3d. - that the interests of local manufacturers could not be in any way threatened. If the amendment is accepted; it will mean that 18s. per lb. will be paid on imports from Britain, while the Australian-made cigars will pay a total of only 2s. 9d. If Australia cannot stand up to competition on that basis if is about time we gave up asserting that we are equal, if not superior to, the people of other parts of the world. I am certain that, no matter what the Tariff Board recommended in 1925, it would not, if asked- for a. recommendation now. propose anything on the lines which the Minister has advanced. The Minister seemed to think that he scored a point when he said that the Tariff Board’s recommendation was made in 1925 during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. As a matter of fact, that was the weakest link in his argument. The board might have been justified in recommending reduced duties when the revenue was buoyant, but it is out of the question that it should now propose a course of action by which the revenue would lose to the extent of £40,000 a year: This industry is, to my mind, a fair field for taxation, especially at this time when we are desperately in need of revenue.
– We have increased the duty on imported cigars by approximately 8s. per lb. For my part, I should like to see all our cigars made in Australia.
– So should I,but the margin between 2s. 9d. on locallymade cigars and 20s. on imported cigars is absolutely absurd. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is reasonable, namely, that the duties should be 18s., 19s. and 20s.; it would maintain the original rate of British preference, and I shall support it.
.- I support the amendment. Before touching upon the matter of preference I should like to point out that the amount of protection afforded to the Australian cigar, manufacturers under the various amendments which have been so lightheartedly introduced by the Minister, amounts to no less than 700 per cent. Evidently, that is what the Minister regards as a. fair measure of protection for Australian capital and Australian workmen.
– That is nothing. The percentage protection afforded on some items is 8,000 per cent.
– Does thehonorable member not think that we should curtail the importation of luxuries at this time?
– The Minister is constantly shifting his ground. One moment he says that, thesehigh duties Have been imposed toyield more revenue, and the next moment he says that they will foster Australian industry. He was in the same state of mental confusion during the discussion on the whisky duties. We have to ask ourselves whether the cigar-making industry is worth what we are paying for it in loss of revenue. We are giving up some £40,000 in revenue in order to foster an industry which provides employment for 600 persons. Therefore, each employee receives a subsidy from the Treasury of £66 a year. I admit that that is a relatively moderate sum as compared with what we pay to those who work in the galvanized iron industry, but where, I ask, is this sort of thing going to end? Are we to go on building up industry by means of subsidies drawn from the general public, and more especially from the rural population? I differ fundamentally from the Government ou this point: the Government says I .U… we should make in Australia everything that it is possible to make here.
– At any price!
– Yes, at any price. That is an insane policy. Not only does it impose an excessive penalty on the primary producers, our dependence upon whom we have recently come to recognize more clearly, but every new industry we start under extreme protection tends to penalize the industries already in existence. Surely the proper course is to make a judicious selection of (he industries which are worth while, and have a fair prospect of success, and to concentrate on them. It should be made possible for those selected industries to obtain their raw materials and other necessary articles at the cheapest possible price in the world’s markets. That is the only intelligent form of protection, and the only one which will succeed. It is not in the multiplicity of secondary industries that our salvation will lie, but in the proper encouragement of selected industries. If we follow the policy I have suggested, we shall soon find that costs of production haT,e been brought down to export level, and then there is no end to the possible expansion of industry, and the number of persons for whom it can provide employment. The Minister’s idea, however, is to set up in Australia thousands of little, tin-pot industries, each adversely affecting the rest, and adding to the general cost of industry, including that of those industries which are really worth while>
I confess that I became lost when I endeavoured to follow the Minister’s reasons for the abolition of preference to British goods in connexion with this item. One moment he threw out a suggestion of fraud against the British manufacturers; he suggested that they had been defrauding the Customs Department. When routed out of that position, he said that there were great administrative difficulties in the way of giving preferences. As a matter of fact, no frauds have been perpetrated for over twenty years, and the Customs Department has been administering the preference provision in a quite satisfactory manner. The Minister went on to say that, in any case, the amount of preference was only nominal, and was really worth nothing to the British exporters. According to his own figures, the preference provision applies to 200,000 lb. of cigarette tobacco out of 800,000 lb. imported.
– The British manufacturers applied for preference on 900,000 lb. They were blown out in their contentions in regard to approximately 700,000 lb. They sought to impose upon the department to that extent.
– I propose to take the Minister’s statement that 200,000 lb. of cigarette tobacco qualified for the preference of 6d. per lb. That was worth £5,000 to the British manufacturers, and amounts to 1 per cent, on £500,000. That is a big contribution to the returns of any British company, and is certainly worth while. Then, in regard to cigars, the Minister said that the preference was worth about £1,600 a year to the British manufacturers.
– Last year it was only £1,000.
– Well, even at that figure it was equal to 1 per cent, on £100,000.
– That is a strange way of calculating the value of preferences.
– It is the proper way of calculating it, and indicates what the preference is worth to a manufacturing firm. A margin of 1 per cent, might easily mean the difference between profit and loss.
– The better method of reckoning would be to state what the preference is worth as compared with the total return on the export trade.
– The preference is equal to a net gain of the amounts quoted.
– Will the honorable member explain how he arrives at the figure of 700 per cent. protection which he quoted ?
– It is the difference between the import duties imposed on goods coming into the country, and the excise duty imposed upon the same class of goods manufactured in Australia. I deplore this wilful destruction of British preference. There seems no doubt that in the present case the action is wilful. In many other instances this destruction has come about automatically by the simple process of raising the tariff wall to a prohibitive level. When that happens in regard to British goods it does not benefit the British manufactures that foreigners are placed outside an even higher wall. The Minister has given no satisfactory reason for the withdrawal of British preference. I am not satisfied with the statement that his action is due to the difficulty of administering preferences. That is a matter for the department, and we know that the department has administered the provision successfully for years.
– The administrative difficulties would disappear if the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) were adopted.
– These amending schedules the Government has shown itself to be at war with the principle of British preference. It has given evidence of an anti-British spirit. That is especially deplorable at this time, when our dependence on Britain is so great, when her goodwill is so valuable to us, and when we are practically reduced to the position of suppliants, as in the matter of our war indebtedness, the Government must needs seize the opportunity of wantonly destroying the small measure of preference that Britain has up to now enjoyed. There is no justification for such action. The loss of pro tection to the Australian cigar-makers by the restitution of this preference would be merely nominal. I can ascribe this action only to the opposition of the Minister and the Government to the principle of British preference; it cannot be justified on business grounds.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8 p.m.
Item agreed to.
Division III. - Sugar.
Item 27 agreed to.
Division IV- Agricultural Products andgroceries.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “ 38. Biscuits, per lb., British, 3d. ;. intermediate,4d.; general, 4d.”
.- I desire to know something from the Minister concerning this item. I have repeatedly made representations to the honorable gentleman, but have been unable to ascertain whether the. Tariff Board has made any report on the subject. The Tariff Board Act specifically lays down the circumstances under which investigations shall be made by the board. Section 15 provides -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
While section 16 sets out that -
Upon receipt of report from the board in pursuance of the last preceding section the Minister may, ifhe thinks fit, take action according to law in respect of any of the matters dealt with by the board in its report.
I am anxious to protect Australian industries, but I contend that this committee should be advised as to the necessity for imposing onerous duties. We are asked to deal with a substantial increase in the tariff, without any explanation as to why the additional duties were imposed. This increase began on. the 21st November, 1929, and, although nineteen months have elapsed, honorable members have not seen any report from the board to justify it. If the duty was imposed in an endeavour toincrease revenue, we should be advised. I shall have some further observations to make on the subject if the Minister fails to satisfy the. committee as to why the additional duty was placed on this item.
.- I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in a few words. About 1,100 applications were received for variations of the tariff ; obviously it was impossible to submit every one of them to the Tariff Board.
About 100 items are before that body for consideration and report. As part of the policy of the Government to rectify Australia’s adverse trade balance, the importation of biscuits into this country is now prohibited. Excellent biscuits are manufactured in Australia, and the latest figures disclose that our annual production is now valued at £2,777,912. Australia’s biscuit exports for 1928-29 amounted to £141,000, and in 1929-30. to £116,532. It will be seen that the bulk of our requirements is produced locally. In addition, we are exporting about four times as much as we import. Our importations for 1929-30 amounted to 527,540 lb., the value being £37,000. That is a good sign, as Australia has very few exporting industries at. the moment’. The increased revenue derived from the manufacture of biscuits here provides an additional market for our flour, sugar, and the other ingredients of biscuits, also for desiccated coco-nut, which is drawn from Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The present alteration is the first that has been made in the duty on biscuits since 1914-
– But it was not asked for.
– The honorable gentleman appears to know all about the subject. The Government decided that Australia was quite capable of manufacturing sufficient biscuits to supply local requirements, and- has, therefore,, prohibited their importation as one of its emergency restrictive measures.
– The honorable gentleman confirms my statement that the duty was not asked for by the manufacturers.
– I do not. Inquiries disclosed that the 1928-29 figures for the. Australian output of biscuits do not include the value of biscuits manufactured in the States of Queensland and, Tasmania, an item included in the total in previous years. That accounts for the decreased total. The duty imposed is only a small one. I do not see any reason, why we should import biscuits, but, it is quite probable that the Government will decide to lift the embargo in the comparatively near future.
– The Minister intimated that the existing embargo on the importation of biscuits may be lifted in the near future. Surely that does not justify an increase of 100 per cent, in the duty on biscuits. Of coarse, it is quite possible that this Labour Government considers that a biscuit is a luxury, and should be taxed as such; that it has no right to find a place on the table of the worker. At the present time flour is very cheap, and we have in “ Australia biscuit manufacturers who have been operating in Victoria and New South Wales for between 40 and 50 years. I do not believe that either Swallow & Ariell or Arnotts would make a request for an increase in this duty. Tariff-making appears to be merely guess work on the part of the Government. Evidently the Minister says, haphazardly, “ I will double this duty and that duty,” irrespective of any economic considerations. Of course, we shall hear the old argument that by having a heavy duty we shall be enabled to produce the commodity on a large scale, I point out that importations have not been very large. The Minister mentioned 527,540 lb. in 1929-30, to the value of £37,375.” We should do nothing that will permit firms to form into a combine and exploit the community. Surely that will be the effect of this extra duty. It merely destroys competition. The manufacturer will fix the price at which the grocer will buy biscui ts, and in turn the secretary of the Retail Traders Association will fix the price which the consumer will pay.
– Does not the honorable member agree that the development of this industry will provide a market for our primary products?
– It always did so, without the aid of an onerous duty. Only recently manufacturers in New South Wales confided to me that the only result of the imposition of these heavy duties is an inducement to overseas combines to establish factories in Australia and crush our own people out of existence. I contend that there is no justification for the committee to approve of this duty merely on the Minister’s casual assertion that the embargo may be lifted in the near future.
.- It is a fact that an embargo operates against the importation- of biscuits into
Australia but, as the Minister has stated, that will probably be lifted shortly. In any case, that is an executive matter. Parliament is asked to consider what is the proper duty to fix on this it-em in conformity with ordinary trade practice. Representations made to me are that the duty which previously obtained was inadequate to protect any but the bloated monopolies of the eastern States. It certainly was insufficient to protect the factories in Western Australia. It should be a source of satisfaction to those who desire to see Australia a well-balanced country to know that Western Australia now produces a much larger proportion of its secondary requirements than was ever the case previously. That is quite a desirable state of affairs. It has been pointed out to me that in the three years, 1927-8-9, the Western Australian importations of overseas biscuits were as follows : -
And that despite the fact that local manufacturers were extending their businesses. There are already two carrying on in a substantial way in Western Australia, and three others on a smaller scale. It was found possible to import overseas biscuits into Western Australia in increasing quantities, because of the general deflation in prices in overseas markets. The representations made to me are to the effect that, owing to the control over flour supplies in Australia, by reason of a millers’ agreement, manufacturers who rely upon local flour to produce their biscuits are compelled to pay a much higher price for it than are biscuit manufacturers in England. One well-known biscuit manufacturer in Western Australia authorizes me to say that it is common knowledge that the Australian millers keep their price for locallyconsumed flour much higher than they do the price for exported flour. This, we are given to understand, is to recoup them for the loss on flour consigned overseas. It is a well-known fact that flour has been, and is at present, being shipped overseas at a loss to the millers. Biscuit-makers also have to take into consideration the consequences to their businesses of the policy of this country in respect of sugar, which is an important constituent of biscuits. So long as this Parliament agrees to the special position which the sugar industry occupies in relation to other industries of the Commonwealth, we must have some regard for those industries which use sugar as a raw material.
– The honorable member’s Government, and not this Parliament, is responsible for the existing sugar agreement.
– The honorable member’s Government sponsored a similar policy. I say that so long as the Parliament of the Commonwealth carries out the policy whereby sugar, which is one of the raw materials used in the manufacture of biscuits-
– What proportion of a biscuit does the sugar in it represent?
– The honorable member is a high protectionist in respect of sugar, but a free trader in respect of biscuits. On the 14th February, 1930, the price of sugar in England was £22 a ton duty paid, but the Australian manufacturing consumer had to pay £37 a ton. As a matter for fact, the British exporting manufacturer gets his sugar at approximately £18 a ton, because . the duty is refunded in respect of all biscuits exported. Butter is another important ingredient of biscuits, and again the English manufacturer can buy Australian butter cheaper than his competitor in this country can. All these facts tell in favour of an increase of the duty on biscuits rather than a decrease. Mar.gerine is quoted in England at £56 a ton’, or about 6d. per lb., while the price paid by the Australian manufacturer is 7¾d. A substantial duty is imposed on paper for wrapping and labels. Another factor to be taken into account are the relative costs of dried fruits here and abroad. The London price of sultanas is £37 9s. lOd. a ton, or 4.001d. per lb., as against 7-d. per lb. in Perth. Currants in London are sold at £38 ls. 7d. a ton, or 4.08d. per lb. a.« against 6$d. in Perth, and lexias for £23 in London or 2.46d. as against 6d. in Perth. The Australian manufacturer should use local materials, and should be prepared to pay higher prices for locally-grown currants, lexias, sultanas, and even for butter, flour, and sugar. But while he has to bear those: higher costs, it is the duty of this Parliament, which desires to encourage the local consumption of Australian products, to be logical in its fiscal policy, and protect the manufacturer equally with theprimary producer.
– Are we never to protect the consumer?
– That point may beconsidered in conjunction with the inquiry of the honorable member for Swan(Mr. Gregory) - “Are biscuits to be a luxury?” I reply with another question “ Is employment to be a luxury?” If we wipe out the whole of the duties that protect Australian biscuit manufacturers, what will become of the employment which this industry provides, and of the local market for those Australian primary products which are the raw material of biscuit production? The whole of Australia’s butter cannot be sold outside the Commonwealth, and to the extent of the unemployment in our midst the local market for butter, as well as for dried fruits, sugar, and flour is thereby reduced. The Government’s policy is the logical corollary to the steps taken by it and previous governments to assist Australian industries generally. This industry in Western Australia employs a large number of young men and women. The problem of unemployment will never be solved by making Australia a sheep walk or a cattle run. These secondary industries are becoming increasingly important in Western Australia, not only providing new avenues of employment, but also protecting that State from the dumping of the surplus manufactures of other countries, and, even, other States. If Australia is to be well balanced industrially and economically, it is of the highest importance that there shall be secondary industries on the western coast of the continent as well as on the eastern and southern coasts.
– All champions of protective duties say that it is essential that industries shall in their infancy have the shelter of a high tariff wall, which can be removed when they have become established. But I see no indication in this schedule of any duty being removed or even reduced. On the contrary, the tendency is constantly to ask for increased duties. Apparently, Australian secondary production never grows out of its swaddling clothes. The only classes with whose welfare some honorable members are concerned are the manufacturers and their employees. The third great party, the consuming public, is never considered, and the Labour party is clearly indifferent to the prices charged to the toiling masses in the industrial areas for the necessaries of life. If there is one commodity that does not require high protection it is biscuits. Arnott and Company, with their factory in New South Wales, built up almost a monopoly in Australia under a freetrade policy in pre-federation days.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. The honorable member is antediluvian and does not know what has happened in recent years. Under the Reid freetrade administration in New South Wales, Arnott and Company developed a big industry that was able to compete against all coiners in the Australian market, and even sent its products abroad. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) claims that heavy duties should be imposed upon biscuits in order to assist some trifling industry in Western Australia, of which I had never previously heard. Later we shall hear the honorable member inveighing against the duties on wire netting and galvanized iron, because they adversely affect the primary producers in his State. I am not in. favour of a policy which penalizes the vast majority of our people for the benefit of a few persons who are baking biscuits in Western Australia. To-day there is no competition amongst biscuit manufacturers. Certain, manufacturers in New South Wales and Victoria have agreed for their mutual benefit that their products shall not be sent over the border between those two States. The duty on biscuits has absolutely destroyed competition, and the manufacturers can charge any prices they choose to fix. Notwithstanding that every ingredient of biscuits is produced in this country, the Government asks for excessive protection. The honorable member for Fremantle referred to the sugar agreement, by which the Government hae committed this Parliament and the next to the most unfair arrangement, having regard to existing economic conditions, that was ever agreed to by any government. The honorable member makes no protest against that agreement, yet has the affrontery to use it as an argument for increased duties on biscuits. Because a great wrong has been inflicted on our people in respect of sugar, he contends that they should be further penalized in respect of biscuits, of which sugar is a minor ingredient.
– The honorable member, by his denunciation of the sugar agreement, has caused the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) to become white with rage.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is not true, and even if it were, it would not concern me, because the honorable member for Moreton is quite competent to defend whatever may be his views on the sugar agreement. I am against it.
– Because it is the biggest political ramp that has ever been “ put over “ in this Parliament.
– The previous Government was responsible for the sugar agreement.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That does not justify its continuation. If the Bruce-Page Government made a mistake, there is no occasion for the present Government to perpetuate it. The sugar agreement is an obvious imposition on the people. The same remark applies to the causes responsible of the cost of the butter and other ingredients contained in biscuits. After all, the quantity of biscuits imported into this country is not considerable. Last year we imported some £36,000 worth of biscuits. If a lower rate of duty were imposed, the biscuit manufacturers here could still supply the local market. The imports consist mostly of Peak Freans’ biscuits and fancy biscuits made in France, a friendly nation that buys our wool and other commodities and does not interfere to any substantial extent with Australian production. If the local manufacturer had to compete with overseas manufacturers there would be some incentive for him further to improve the excellent quality of his biscuits. When we were importing a limited quantity of biscuits, our revenue benefited. The balance of trade has been remedied, a.nd the Government or the Minister may, when they feel inclined, lift the embargoes on various articles without Parliament being consulted. That is one of the methods under which the tariff is controlled, and I strongly protest against it. Even under a reduced tariff the biscuit manufacturers would be able to obtain full control of the Australian market, and at the same time there would be that element of competition that should prevail in respect of all our industries. When we increase duties on an article to such an extent that there is no competition, we are doing harm to the manufacturers and the people of this country, and we are building up a combine or monopoly which later we shall be doing our utmost to smash. Before many years pass there will be as big a howl from the Labour party against combines and monopolies which, have been built up under this protective tariff as there is to-day from that same party in favour of these proposals. I know of no greater engine for the establishment of monopolies than this unreasonable and inequitable tariff. There ‘ is no justification for an increased duty on biscuits.
.- Of all the speeches on the tariff that I have heard in this chamber, that of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), is the most contradictory. First he said that the Australian biscuit manufacturers had no competition because the tariff was preventing the importation of biscuits. Then he said that if the duty were reduced, the manufacturers would still be able to supply local requirements.
– There is nothing contradictory in that statement.
– The honorable member spoke of the firm established in Sydney by the late William Arnott. He said that that firm had built up one of the biggest industries in Australia under freetrade. He reiterated that statement.
– And I repeat it again.
– The facts are that in. freetrade days the late William Arnott tried to establish the biscuit manufacturing industry, but was soon compelled to assign his. estate.
– Nothing of the kind.
– When the New South Wales- Parliament of that time imposed a duty on biscuits, Mr. Arnott was able to re-establish the industry. Later he called his creditors together, and paid them 20s. in the pound, with interest in addition.
– That bears out what I said.
– That . is one instance in which the tariff assisted to establish an important industry, and I can see no justification for any alteration of the duty as set out in the tariff schedule.
.- The high duty which has been placed upon imported biscuits indicates once again the inconsistency of this Government. It has refused definitely to grant assistance to the wheat-growers, by means of a sales tax on flour. The duty which is imposed on a pound, of biscuits is equal to the value of 8 lb. of wheat, and seven-eighths of the ingredients in that pound of biscuits represents flour. It seems to me that there is a screw loose somewhere in respect of the processing of the food, of the people. Why should there be such a great difference between the price of the raw material and that of the finished article? I agree with, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) in respect of the efficiency of the biscuit factory in Western Australia. That factory produces one of the finest biscuits made in this country. If we were to examine the tariff in conjunction with the conditions of industry, we should probably solve many of the problems that have placed us in the slough of despond today. Biscuits are a portion of the food of the people, and the duty on them should not be more than the price of the ingredients. If the duties were reduced, the cost of living would fall. No country can be considered to be in a sound position unless it produces plentifully, and its people live cheaply. All the necessaries of life, such as wheat, bread, biscuits, wool, and clothing - the things we wear, the things we use, and the houses Ave live in - should be available to the community at reasonable prices, otherwise, r,he whole fabric of the nation inevitably will be destroyed; industries will languish and hundreds of thousands of people will be unemployed. This one item relating to. biscuits shows the trend of this country to a ruinous condition.
. It appears to me that this duty applies only to the more expensive biscuit, which, of course, is- not made locally, and that the intention of the Government is not so much to protect the local industry which, according to honorable members, is able to carry on and to develop under a lower tariff, as to provide Australian requirements. It has been stated that 98.2 per cent, of the biscuits consumed in Australia are manufactured locally, and if that is so, it seems to me that the Government is practically bringing imported biscuits within the category of the tariff prohibition which was introduced by the Government in the early stages of its administration. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has said that the cost of living is involved in these tariff proposals, but I feel certain that the Boards of Trade and other bodies which deal with cost of living figures do not take this class of biscuit into consideration, which, after all, is only purchased by those with large incomes. If consideration is given to any class of biscuit at all, it is given to that made by the local manufacturer, and if he is able to run his business successfully irrespective of the tariff, that is clear evidence that the cost of living has little or no relation to this particular item.
The competition aspect of this subject is not worth considering, for the commercial interests are now organized to such an extent that they can control prices and regulate supplies in a manner that enables them to over-ride all tariff boundaries. The honorable member for Warringah disproved his own argument when he said that only £36,000 worth of the more expensive biscuits were entering Australia annually and that they never affected the local market at any time.
– I am happy, at last, to find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). I am also glad to know that the manufacture of biscuits has been undertaken in Western Australia. For a long while the absence of manufacturing industries in Western Australia was somewhat of a menace to the welfare of the secondary industries in other parts of Australia. Even the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) made as usual an eloquent speech on this subject, and I compliment him on having concluded it without giving the sugar industry the customary final kick. After all, this additional duty will affect only a very small quantity of biscuits. All the raw materials required for biscuit-making are produced in Australia, and we should make it possible for the local manufacturers to retain the Australian market. Every other country in the world, with the possible exception of Great Britain, does its best to keep its home market for its own people. Great Britain does not produce all the ingredients required in many of its manufactures. I have pleasure in supporting this item, and I trust that other honorable members who support it will be consistent when the sugar and similar industries are under discussion.
.- This is one of the most extraordinary ‘of the new duties, and that is saying a great deal. The Minister is labouring under a complete misapprehension in regard to the biscuit business. In 1928-29 biscuits to the value of £2,777,000 were manufactured in Australia. Our total imports in that year were valued at only £39,000. But let me remind honorable members that, even with a duty of 1½d. per lb., our manufacturers were able not only to control the local market, but to export biscuits to the value of £141,000. In these circumstances, I contend that this increase in duty is an amazing and an outrageous abuse of the principle of tariff protection. It is an attempt to exploit the consumers, and particularly the workers, who are great biscuit-eaters. Who will be protected by this additional duty? The manufacturer does not need extra protection, nor does- the employee, for under existing conditions a considerable export trade is being done.
– If the honorable member does not like the duty he can vote against it.
– Of what use will it be to vote against it? This increase of duty is a direct invitation to the Australian manufacturers to advance their prices or reduce the quality of their biscuits. It is an incentive to dishonesty, and an incitement to exploit the public, or else it is a suggestion to the workers in the biscuit-manufacturing industry to make an application for higher wages, shorter hours, or some extravagant labour conditions. Surely the ideal of the biscuit manufacturers, as well as of those engaged in other secondary industries, is to build up an export trade; but an increase in this duty must kill the export trade which we already enjoy. If we can extend our export trade we can increase our employment. This is particularly true of this industry for which we have all the raw materials of a quality equal to anything in the world. We are producing some of the best biscuits in the world, and there is no need to increase the duty. I appeal to the Minister to display some common sense and to show a little consideration for the consumers of Australia. If this duty is agreed to it will be possible for the biscuit manufacturers to advance their prices by Id. a lb.
– Or increase wages.
– If wages are increased by even a fraction we shall certainly lose our export trade, and that will mean a diminution of employment. I have no words sufficiently expressive to condemn the framers of tariffs of this kind.
.- I oppose the imposition of this additional duty. There is no need whatever for it. It has been pointed out that the local manufacturers already control 98 per cent, of the home market. Although £39,000 worth of biscuits entered Australia last year we exported £141,000 worth. At present it is impossible for any biscuits to be imported, for biscuits come under the prohibition ban of the Government.
As the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) has pointed out, certain kinds of biscuits should be allowed to come into Australia. I refer to biscuits manufactured by Callard & Com- ?any, and certain lines manufactured by ,-n 1. Frean and Company in which there is neither starch nor sugar. Such biscuits are frequently prescribed by medical practitioners for persons suffering from diabetes and similar diseases. If this duty is agreed to, a reduction of revenue must follow. It should not be overlooked that a certain amount of competition in business is highly desirable. Competition is the soul of business and of manufacture. It is the only means by which we can keep our manufacturers up to the mark and ensure that they will conduct their operations on up-to-date lines. If the Minister insists on the imposition of this additional duty, competition will be stifled and our biscuit manufacturing industry will be in grave danger of deterioration. The only reason advanced in support of this additional duty was that given by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), who said that biscuit manufacturing was a new industry in Western Australia, and that it was desirable to foster it, because it used raw material produced in the State.
– Biscuits have been made in Western Australia for a quarter of a century.
– The Minister told us that this was the first increase in the duty on biscuits since 1914. If the industry was able to carry on and prosper when prices of raw materials were rising, it should be able to maintain its operations now when prices are falling.
– The present production of biscuits in Australia is only half what it was a year ago.
– Well, there is more nutriment in bread than in biscuits. Biscuits are a luxury. I know that large sums of money have been invested in this industry, but that is no reason why we should increase the duty by 100 per cent. If this is done it will react on the cost of living, and so place an extra burden upon the consumers. If we grant additional protection on every line simply to provide employment for a comparatively few more people, we shall seriously increase the cost of living. We should judge each case on its merits. As I have pointed out, 98 per cent, of the biscuits consumed here are of Australian manufacture, and I see no reason why the duty should be increased.
.- The biscuit industry absorbs large quantities of our primary products, and, if well conducted, it can give employment to large numbers. For these reasons it is an industry entitled to adequate protection, but I must confess that I am surprised at the proposal to double the protection which, as the Minister has pointed out, has not been increased since 1914. What is the attitude of the department towards the importation of the biscuits to which the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) has referred? Certain biscuits cannot be made in Australia, and I hope that there will never be a sufficient demand for them in Australia to justify their manufacture here, because they are ordered by medical men for persons suffering from certain disabilities. I have in mind Callard’s Kallari biscuits, which are entirely devoid of sugar or starch. I understand that at present they cannot be imported under any circumstances. There are other biscuits of a similar nature, the use of which is prescribed by doctors for persons suffering from diabetes and other complaints. I think that such biscuits should be admitted free of duty. The Minister has not shown that a request has been made for the great increase in the import duty. I gather, from what he has said, that the Tariff Board has not been asked to report on the matter, and has made no recommendations regarding it. The Minister has pointed out that biscuits are included among the items that are prohibited. How long that prohibition will continue, none ofus can say. We were definitely assured that the prohibition was a temporary measure, for the purpose of assisting in correcting the adverse trade balance. No matter what government is in power, if it allows a prohibition to continue for a considerable period, it will have great difficulty in removing it. In view of the figures quoted by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and others, the local biscuit industry can carry on under the old rate of protection. It is certainly entitled to protection, but, since it has not asked that the old rate be doubled, we should not be called upon to grant the increase in the duty without an assurance that the Tariff Board has recommended it. I have always maintained that the only fair and scientific way of dealing with applications for protection, or for increases in duties, is first to submit the requests to an independent body of experts, such as the Tariff Board.
– This item should not be passed until the Minister has replied to the criticism levelled against it. The committee is entitled to know why this duty has been imposed in the absence of a recommendation by the Tariff Board. The duty has been shown to be entirely unnecessary, and no reputable firm has asked for it. The Minister should also answer the criticism of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and say why, under the system of protection, medicinal biscuits are entirely prohibited. It is a gross reflection on the department and on the Minister if there is not some provision for the admittance of such biscuits. What justification is there for doubling the duty, in view of the figures submitted by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has shown that the local manufacturers have full control of the Australian market ?
.- This impost represents an ad valorem duty of only 16½ per cent., butone might imagine that it was 500 per cent., judging by the remarks of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) spoke of Callard’s biscuits. As a matter of fact, these are included in a list of invalid and infant foods” which may be admitted free under item 55. Included among the articles mentioned are - Bemax, Benger’s food, Bovo-Lactin, Callard’s casoid biscuits, Callard’s vitmar, Carnrick’s soluble food, Fairchild’s and Foster’s panopepton, Herogen, Hewlett’s malted food, Kellogg’s malted nuts, Robeleine, Virol and Neave’s food. Diabetes biscuits are now made in Melbourne, while a suitable substitute for Peak Frean’s biscuits is also obtainable in Australia. There is no justification for the importation of any biscuits from overseas. The local manufacturers can supply the whole of our requirements, and, in doing so, they use Australian flour, and provide a local market for our primary producers.
.- The committee is entitled to a statement from the Minister as to the reason for this increased duty. Prom whom came the request for it? Wasit from the manufacturers ?
-He said that it came from the primary producers.
– The Minister will say anything. The local manufacturers already have a complete monopoly of the market. No inquiry into the matter has been madeby the Tariff Board, and the Minister has not mentioned a single firm of importancethat has asked for the increase. The circumstances under which the tariffgenerally has been framed become more mysterious as this debate proceeds. The Minister made a remarkable calculation. He said that the duty of 3d. per lb. was equivalent to an advalorem duty of only 16½ per cent. But that would make the retail price of biscuits1s.9d.per lb. The Minister should not treat us as though we were illiterate children.
.- I cannot refrain from entering myprotest against this increase in duty. I listened carefully to the Minister, and he gave no reason whatever to justify the new impost. As the debate on the tariff schedule proceeds, the conviction is being borne in on my mind that opposition to any proposalof the Government is absolutely useless.
– Not necessarily.
Mr.MAXWELL.-That has been my experience up to date. The Minister tables a duty, and gives no reason why it should he passed. The speeches of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.Curtin) are rather illuminating. It seems to me that the honorable member for Wide Bay justifies his support of this increase by saying, practically, “ You put an embargo on my sugar and I will vote for the dutyon your biscuits”. Themanufacturers in Victoria, and in the other States, have been perfectly satisfied with the duty that has obtained in the past. They have built up a splendidindustry under the old rate, butan effortis being made to establish the industry in Western Australia, and, because it is claimed that an increase in the duty is required to establish oneor two factories in that State, the honorable member for Fremantle claims that allthe people of Australia must submit to an increase in the duty. What is required is a general relaxation of duties.
No recommendation on this matter has come from the Tariff Board. The Minister said that certain tariff experts believe that the dutyought to be doubled, and that is the only reason advanced by him in favour of the increase. I, for one, am not satisfied with that argument.
– The honorable member, no doubt,would like to have the Minister in the witness box.
– The thought often occurs to me, when I hear a man make wild, general statements, “ Oh,if I only had you in the witness box for ten minutes! We should then be able to arrive at the truth”. But these vague general statements go for what they are worth, and that is very little. I content myself with entering an emphatic protest against this increase of duty. No reason has been given for it, but presumably it will be agreed to by the House, because the Government has its majority and is determined that its proposals shall stand.
.- I echo the sentiments of thehonorable memberfor Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). It has been borne in upon us during the course of this debate thatthe Government is relying, not upon arguments, but upon numbers, to get its proposals agreed to. The party whip was cracked yesterday morning.
– Where was it cracked?
– The honorable member is not in the party now, and does not know anything more about what is going on than we do. Duties have been doubled without any adequate explanation being given for the action taken. I do not object to the protection of local industries, but I should liketo see a little competition to keep the local manufacturers up to the mark.
– And to keep them honest.
Mr.R. GREEN.- Yes, to keep them honest.
– The honorable member forEchuea(Mr. Hill) means as regards their output.
– Well, I mean as regards everything. If honorable members opposite are prepared to take the Minister’s say-so in regard to these increased duties, I am not. It is evident that the Minister knows very little about his job. He has been badly duped on more than one occasion. In the past he has made himself a laughing stock by speaking in this House of the thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of persons who would be employed as a result of increased tariff protection. As a matter of fact, the tariff has failed in every respect to do what was claimed for it. This afternoon the Prime Minister assured me that the tariff was not tobe made a party matter. I shall test the accuracy of that statement by moving -
That the item be amended by adding the following: - “And on and after the I5th May, 1931, biscuits, per lb., British,1½d.; intermediate, 2d.; general, 2d.
– I do not know why the Minister has chosen to adopt a disingenuous attitude towards this subject. It seems to me that much time might have been saved if he had refused to fence with the whimsicalities of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) ; if he had turned a deaf earto the bolshevistic brigandage of the group below the corner, and had declined to be intrigued by the legalisms of the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Maxwell). This increase will not benefit the primary producers nor the manufacturers to any appreciable extent. I do not think that it will confer any great benefit even upon Western Australia. If the increase can be justified at all it is on the ground that it is a tax on a luxury. If the Minister had adopted that argument, he could have made out a very good case; but he was at fault when he contended that the duty would help the sugar-growers, the primary producers and the biscuit manufacturers.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 43 (Coffee and chicory).
.- I desire to draw attention to the inconsistency of the Minister in imposing this anomalous duty. Imposed purely for revenue purposes, it means an increase of 1d. per lb. on roasted or ground coffee, and substitutes. This article is a household requisite. While I agree that it is reasonable in times like the present to impose a small revenue duty upon coffee, I protest against this excessive increase. In passing I wish to contrast the position in this case with that in regard to cigars. If any luxury comes into a country surely cigars con- stitute one. Yet from that item the excise duty has been removed.
Mr.Forde. - There is a duty of8s. per lb. on imported cigars.
– And an excise duty of only 3d. per lb on Australian-made cigars. This duty on coffee is another indication of the utter lack of business principle on the part of the Government when drafting this tariff.
Item agreed to.
Item 44 (Cocoa-butter and substitutes).
.- I move -
That the item be postponed.
The new duty on this item represents a substantial increase over the old one. There has been no request from the industry for an increased duty, and, although the Tariff Board has inquired into the subject, no report has been presented to Parliament. When dealing with another item I drew attention to the fact that the Tariff Board Act makes provision that the Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report “ the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties “, and that section 16 of that act provides -
I have here extracts from various newspapers which indicate that the industry does not want this increase in duty. The Melbourne Argus, of 23rd November, 1929, stated-
Mr. F. Dutton, who is a director of MacRobertson Proprietary Limited, of Fitzroy, and President of the Victorian Manufacturing Confectioners’ Association, said that-
– The honorable member must deal with the motion for the postponement of the item, and not go into the merits or demerits of the duty.
– I urge that the item be postponed for the reason that no report has been submitted by the Tariff Board on the subject, and because the industry has not asked for an increase in the duty.The article continues -
The association woulduse its influence to obtain the rejection of the increase when the schedule was discussed in Parliament.
I do not know who will take that action, but I contend that the information for which I have asked should beplaced before the committee. The extract goes on -
It was strongly opposed to any increase in the tariff on the manufactured article, because it contended that the tariff on raw materials used in the industry should be reduced. With the exception of cocoa beans, all the raw materials used were dutiable. . . Obviously, then, no request was made by the confectionery manufacturers prior to the tabling of the November, 1929, schedule for an increased duty of confectionery, and the manufacturers should be the best judges of whether the former duties were adequate. The natural protection afforded by freight, insurance, and landing charges, excluding exchange, amounts to about 15 per cent. of the value of the goods. The primage duty gives a further 4 per cent. The former duty of 35 per cent. was equivalent to38½ per cent., as 10 per cent. is added to the price before duty is computed. Thus the total protection enjoyed by the industry, without adding exchange, and including duty at the old rate, would amount to 57½ per cent. The value of the output of Australian confectionery manufacturers in 1928-29 was over £7,000,000, and in the same period the total imports amounted to only £137,524. Thus the local manufacturers had 98.2 per cent. of the business. Surely, in face of these figures, it is obvious that the proposed additional 10 per cent. is entirely unnecessary.
The following extract from a statement presented by a deputation of Australian confectionery manufacturers to the Minister for Trade and Customs in April, 1930, indicates the real view of the manufacturers on the subject of a duty. It is quoted from the Australian Confectioners’ Journal of May, 1930, and reads -
Of the comparatively small proportion of confectionery imported, a great deal consists of specialties, hand-made lines, &c., for which there is obviously a very limited demand, but such would probably still exist even if the duty were raised to 100 per cent. on such lines. It should be perfectly clear, in view of the facts set out, that with the imposition of a duty high enough to actually prevent the importation of an amount of confectionery well under 1 per cent. of the total requirements of Australia, cannot have any appreciable good effect, either in relieving unemployment in a confectionery industry, or in bringing into operation and useful productivity, confectionery plant which is now lying idle, or, at any rate, not fully occupied in many of our factories.
I could say more in. a similar strain. I shall merely indicate briefly that we should endeavour not to burden our tariffschedule with heavy and unnecessary duties, which have not been sought. I have produced sufficient evidence to convince honorable members that the duty is not required by the industry, and I have even shown that those concerned propose to use their influence to obtain the rejection of the increase. I ask honorable members to support my amendment, which provides for the postponement of the item until the Minister has tabled the report of the Tariff Board on thesubject.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall limit the discussion on this amendment purely to the postponement of the item, and not allow the merits or demerits of the duty to be discussed.
.- I urge honorable members not to waste the time of the committee by postponing this item, which is purely an increase of 10 per cent. for revenue purposes. It is not usual to refer such duties to the Tariff Board for investigation. At present there is a prohibition against importations, which is a temporary measure for the purpose of restricting imports that are purely of a luxury nature. I submit that the committee would be wasting time if it agreed to the postponement of the item.
– I contend that we are entitled tohave the evidence that was placed before the TariffBoard on this item, and also its recommendation. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has conclusively demonstrated that no manufacturer has asked for this duty.Where is the report of the Tariff Board on the subject? Is it of such a nature that the Minister does not want to make it public? I ask the Minister, frankly, has he received the report of the Tariff Board? “Silence gives consent.” Apparently the honorable gentleman has the report and refuses to produce it. Doubtless it isso damaging to his proposal for an increase in duty that he is loath to make it public.
– That would be anextraordinary procedure.
– The whole business is extraordinary. I submit that the committee is entitled to receive some degree of courtesy and consideration from the Minister. The Tariff Board’s report is not the private property of the Minister or of the Customs Department; it is the property of this House.
– The Minister promised that all these reports would be available before the items were discussed.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Exactly. We had a definite promise from the Minister that they would be here to guide us in discussing the various items. If we are not to have the advantage of the views of the Tariff Board, which is maintained at considerable expense, of what value is the board? The position is Gilbertian. Since the Minister will not deny that he has received the report, we are entitled to assume that it is in his possession, and that he does not wish to produce it, fearing that the item will be defeated. He declared that this is a revenue duty, and in the next breath told us that there was an embargo on importations. How, then, can this be a revenue-producing item?
– The embargo is to be taken off.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL Even if the embargo is lifted, it will affect less than 2 per cent. of the trade, so the duties will not be productive of much revenue. The Minister, realizing that the facts are against him, is relying upon numbers to support him in a division. This is the way in which an Australian tariff is passed through an Australian Parliament! The Minister has the report, and we are entitled to know what it contains.
– It is not here yet.
-I believe that the Minister has received it, and knows what is in it.
– That remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
-I withdraw it. Again I protest against the action of the Minister. It is a reflection on this House.
.- I am in agreement with the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Warriugah (Mr. Parkhill). Consideration of the item should be postponed, for the reason that the committee has not yet had an opportunity of perusing the report of the Tariff Board. This subject was submitted to that body for inquiry and report. Evidence was taken, and, in all probability, the report, if not actually completed, is in course of preparation. The Minister cannot expect honorable members to discuss intelligently this item in the absence of the Tariff Board’s report dealing with it. I therefore appeal to him to agree to its postponement. The Government has no right to expect the committee to pass it without the information which must be contained in the Tariff Board’s report.
– It has not the right, but it has the majority.
.- This is even a worse case than the item dealing with biscuits. I invited the Minister to name one biscuit manufacturer who had asked for the increases in duty, and I now challenge him to name one manufacturer of confectionery who is not opposed to the increases in this item. If the duties were not imposed in the interest of the manufacturers, they must have been imposed in the interests of the employees. Some time ago the Minister addressed a number of circular letters to the manufacturers concerned, asking for particulars of their output and the number of employees engaged prior to the imposition of the duties and subsequently. I know that replies have been received from one or two big confectionery manufacturers, and I now challenge the Minister to place them on the table.
– I have not seen any of the replies. I have been too busy to look at them.
– Apparently the Minister is also too busy even to read the Tariff Board’s reports. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr.Francis) has pointed out that the value of the output in confectionery in Australia is approximately £7,000,000 per annum, and that our total imports for 1928-29 amounted to £137,000. In that year, however, our exports totalled £.90,000. Here then we have an. industry which is being progressively successful, is noted for the quality of its products, and has established an export trade. This increase of 10 per cent. in the duties is a direct invitation to the employees in the industry to demand better working conditions, higher wages and shorter hours. If wages are increased we shall have to say goodbye to our export trade in confectionery. The Minister stated also that it is a revenue duty. The honorable member for Warringah answered that contention by stating that there is an embargo on the importations, and the Australian manufacturers had 98 per cent. of the trade, so the duties cannot be revenueproducing.We understand that they have been imposed to offset other duties upon certain raw materials. The effect of those duties was to increase the cost of production, resulting in an increase in selling prices, and a reduction of turnover, and the laying off of hands. There is the clearest evidence that these duties are ill-considered, and will cause one of our most promising industries to contribute heavily to increased unemployment.
– The arguments adduced against the increased duties on biscuits can be advanced with even greater force against this item. We have just been told that no manufacturers of confectionery asked for these increased duties, but that, on the contrary, they have urged that they should be taken off. In the Melbourne Argus of the 23rd November, 1929, Mr. F. Dutton, a director of MacRobertsons and. president of the Victorian Manufacturing Confectioners, was reported as saying “ the association would use its influence to obtain the rejection of the increased duties when the schedule. was being discussed in Parliament.” The Minister has addressed letters to manufacturers and others, asking what amount of additional trade they had done since the increased duties had been imposed, and how many additional employees had been engaged. He did this to justify the statement which he had been making from time to time that increased duties fixed by this Government had resulted in the. employment of approximately 50,000 additional men. At a later stage he said that if 50,000 new jobs had not been provided they should have been; still later he further modified his original claim by saying that the new duties had at least prevented the dismissal of a large number of men. He might as well have said that the manufacture of pins had saved the lives of many people because they had not swallowed them. I challenge the Minister to produce the replies of the confectionery manufacturers to his inquiries. If he does, those replies will show that the manufacturers declared that their output has been less, and they have employed fewer hands since the new duties were imposed.
– Why shouldthose questions have been put if the duty was imposed only for revenue purposes?
– That is a very pertinent inquiry. Whichever way the Minister turns he is in difficulties. He first said that the duty was for revenue purposes, and yet I have seen his letter to MacRobertson’s asking what had been its protective incidence.
– Read the reply.
– The Minister has it, and I ask him to do so. In 1928-1929 the Australian output of confectionery was valued at £7,000,000, and the imports at only £137,000. Thus under the old duties Australian manufacturers supplied 98.2 per cent. of the market. In view of that fact, if honorable members were able to consider this item on its merits, and free from party prejudice, they would’ not find the slightest justification for voting for the proposed duty. The 1.8 per cent. of the business whichwas being clone by the importers the manufacturer does not want, and makes no effort to get. It is fair to say, therefore, that under the old duty the Australian manufacturer had an absolute monopoly of the market. I am willing to assist any Australian industry, but not to vote for additional protection for an industry which already controls the market, especially when the local manufacturers are doing their utmost to have the lower duties restored. We can, by means of the tariff, build up for the employees high wages and extravagant conditions, but by so doing we kill the export trade. The manufacturers with a monopoly of the Australian market can charge what prices they choose, and pay almost any wages. I have no objection to a man earning as much as he can, but the workers who are not engaged in the sheltered and pampered industries have to pay for the extravagant conditions enjoyed by their more favored fellows. That reacts detrimentally on the employment market, and compels thepoor and needy to pay excessive prices for the necessaries of life. There is not the slightest justification for the increased duty on confectionery.
Item agreed to.
Item 51 postponed.
Item 53 (Fruits, dried).
.- This item covers a number of primary products. I do not intend to oppose it. I regret, however, that in the interests of the primary producer tariff-making has become such a general practice as a form of compensation to offset the results of tariff-making in favour of secondary industries. I should infinitely prefer that the primary producers should take a more determined stand against the excessive duties that are designed to assist secondary industries. The most unfortunate aspect of tariff-making within recent years has been this diminution of opposition on the part of the primary producers to excessive duties, and their acceptance of compensation in the form of excessive duties for their own products if such can be obtained. If the circle could he completed, and if Australia were entirely selfcontained, it might be possible for an allround benefit to be conferred. I doubt whether it would ; but certainly some sections would not then be heavily penalized and others substantially benefited. Try as we may to compensate primary producers, our efforts must prove fruitless. The experience of the last season or two of the two big industries upon which we absolutely depend has clearly shown that this system of compensation is a complete failure; because there is not sufficient money in the country to load up the price of wool and to increase artificially the price of wheat. It is not my intention to vote against any of the proposed increases that will benefit the primary producers.I believe that the tariff as a whole favours enormously the secondary industries in comparison with the benefits derived from it by the men on the land. It pampers the wage-earners and the people generally in the cities, at the expense of those who live in the country. But so long as the compensation system is continued, I shall see that it is exploited, -wherever that can be done, in favour of the man on the land. I believe, however, that the practice is an absolutely false one, that it is economically rotten, and that it will get us nowhere. I regard the present tariff purely as a temporary measure that is being forced through by sheer weight of numbers. I say quite definitely that if, at any time, it is within my power substantially to revise it from end to end, I shall take great pleasure in doing so.
.- We have had discussions upon many extraordinary items this evening, but I regard this as the most extraordinary. I ask honorable members to realize that their approval is sought of an increase in duty of 300 per cent., on an item that has twice been referred to the Tariff Board. Reporting in 1926, the Tariff Board definitely opposed any increase in this duty. The matter was again referred to the board, and in a report dated the 27th September, 1929, it re-stated its opposition to any increase in the duty. Yet the Minister has seen fit to increase it by 300 per cent.
The sole ground upon which the application for increased duty was based was that the dried fruits associations of Australia were of the opinion that imported dates competed with the sale of sultanas and lexias. The Tariff Board, reporting in March, 1926, expressed the view that dates did not compete detrimentally with raisins, and recommended that no alteration be made in the duty. In 1927 the board reported that the imposition of an additional duty on dates would restrict the choice of users, by making it more difficult to obtain an article of diet which it believed was purchased for the most part because of the nature and flavour peculiar to it.
As the bulk of the sales of dates apparently are made in localities in which those with smaller incomes dwell, any additional duty falls most heavily on those who are least able to bear it. The increased duty will not assist the Australian dried fruits industry to any appreciable extent. Other avenues through which that industry can be assisted have apparently been unexplored. The Tariff Board in its report went on to say that no dates are produced in Australia, practically the whole of our requirements being imported from the Levant. When the duty was Id. per lb., a special ship was chartered each year to bring dates from Mesopotamia in one shipment, thus reducing to the minimum the cost of transport. As this duty has increased the cost of date§ to the Australian consumer, the demand for them has fallen off. It is nol. now possible to charter ships; accordingly the cost of this fruit to the Australian consumer has been substantially increased. The report of the Tariff Board indicates that as the sale of sultanas and raisins has increased, the sales of imported dates also have risen. The figures are as follow -
Therefore, the increased imports from Mesopotamia did not prejudicially affect the sales of the dried fruits associations.
In the light of the evidence that I have given, it is not possible to support the proposed increase. Even if it were for revenue purposes, it would not be justified. I suggest that it be disallowed.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) does not know much about the dried fruits industry or he would not have spoken as he did. It is true that dates are not grown in Australia, hut those interested in the dried fruits industry maintain that dates, to a large extent, replace raisins, particularly in cakes and puddings. That industry has considerable difficulty iti finding a market for currants and raisins. The 1928-29 season’s production of these goods was over 72,000 tons, the Australian consumption being only about 13,500 tons. The dried fruits industry is in a serious position, and hundreds of growers are being driven off their blocks because they cannot find a market for their products. There is a huge surplus production. The duty is being increased to protect the industry by calling upon the Australian people to buy raisins, currants and other dried fruits in preference to dates, and it is hoped by this means to assist au important industry that is providing considerable employment to-day:
.-^1 am not too enthusiastic about an increased duty on dates. There is some justification for increased duties on currants, raisins and other dried fruits, but dates arc not grown in Australia. The duty on dates has been increased from Id. to 3d. per lb. The Minister pointed out that the dried fruits industry is in a serious position, and that this increased duty will be helpful to the growers. If that is the case it is just as well for honorable members to know that the Government is doing something to assist that industry. At the same time it seems to me that the housewives of Australia are being penalized by being forced to buy currants or raisins, although they may particularly wish to make a date pudding. My experience’ of the worker’s family is that it consumes from 3 to 4 lb. of dates every month, and I ask the Minister to reconsider this item with a view to reducing the duty. Dates are a food, and popular with children. They are more easily digested than are raisins, currants and other dried fruits. I agree that the duty on raisins, currants and sultanas should be ‘increased to prevent imported dried fruits from coming into this country. I suggest to the Minister that the duty on dates be reduced by Id. per lb.
.- I hope that the Minister will not weaken on this item. It is an important item, although not so important as machinery and many other utilities that we import or manufacture in Australia. But it certainly has a direct and powerful influence upon a great industry in this country - the dried fruits industry. There is in the Darling electorate a number of irrigation settlements, such as Curlwaa and Wentworth… The men in those centres are having a bad time. They produce, probably, the best lexias, currants and raisins in the world. They also produce figs, which are onn of the most popular substitutes for dates. In other parts of Australia large quantities of figs are being grown, and gradually we ‘ are supplying our own requirements. The dried fruits industry is properly controlled, particularly in respect, of packing and grading. It is a white man’s industry, and is worked under Australian conditions. Several members in this chamber have had an opportunity of witnessing the harvesting, packing and marketing of dates and other dried fruits in the Levant, Mesopotamia and other places overseas, and, as a result, they refuse to buy imported dried fruits, particularly from Asia. Dates have an excellent food value and, personally, I am fond of them, although I take care to wash them before eating them. Those who are fond of dates and purchase them, despite the risk of infection,’ should be prepared to pay dearly for them. Others who cannot afford them may purchase several excellent substitutes for both cook:ing and table consumption, such as lexias, currants, table raisins, seeded raisins and figs. We are well catered for in respect of those goods. If there is anything that the Minister should remain solid on, it is the imposition of a duty on black-grown foodstuffs which are imported to- take the place of white-grown foodstuffs.
.- I am surprised that any attempt should be made by a representative of Queensland to increase the consumption of a product of coloured labour.
– I am anxious to cheapen the cost of food.
– If that is the object of the honorable member, it would be interesting to know why he supports the continuance of an embargo upon the importation of foreign sugar, as by so doing he is assisting to increase the cost of living. While I know that there is some difference of opinion as to whether dates effectively compete with currants, raisins, and other dried fruits produced in Australia, the general opinion held among fruit-growers is that they do enter into competition, with their products. From my experience in the grocery trade many years ago, when dates were obtainable at from 2-Jd. to 3£d. a lb., I know that they did effectively compete with Australian dried fruits. I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that those engaged in primary . production are seriously affected by the duties imposed upon the products of secondary industries, and that is is only ‘right that consideration should be given- to them wherever possible. Dates are obtainable in a very, handy form, and are used- not only in cakes and puddings, but in other ways in competition with sultanas and lexias. I remind the advocates of a reduction in the existing duties on Turkish-grown dates that 87 per cent, of the sultanas grown in Australia have now to be exported. When the Federal Parliament met in Melbourne, I frequently enjoyed a luncheon consisting solely of lexias when >walking around the beautiful gardens adjoining Parliament House. I advise honor-‘ able members who have not used sultanas as a food to do so, as they will find them as palatable, and in every sense, equal to dates, which are very often grown and packed under conditions which would not be tolerated in Australia. In the handling and packing of dried fruits, cleanliness is the first essential; but if all that we hear concerning the handling and packing of dates -in the Levant’ and Mesopotamia is correct, cleanliness is the last consideration. In spite of the request, by a representative of a city constituency foi; a decrease in the existing rates, I trust that the Minister will adhere to his decision to assist the primary producers.
.- Apparently there is no length to which the Minister (Mr. Forde) will not go in increasing duties. That is made evident when we are asked to ratify an increase of 3d. a lb. on dates. It has been argued that dates enter into competition with dried fruits grown in Australia. That may bc true to a certain extent, but the trouble which those engaged in the dried fruits industry in Australia have to meet is not from overseas, but is due to the additional cost they have to incur in consequence of the protection given, to secondary industries, and other factors, such as the high price paid for the land upon which fruit is grown. Our irrigation projects have been too expensive, and although practically all the products from such areas cannot be sold in the markets of the world at a reasonable profit, -the Government is not doing anything to improve the existing ‘state of affairs. The committee has already disposed of a number of items, on every one of- which the Minister has asked the committee to sanction increased duties, and the- natural result of such action is to add further to the cost of production in this country. The only effective way by which the primary producers can be assisted is by lowering the rates imposed on the products of secondary industries. In the past, high wages have been paid to those engaged in secondary industries, and low rate of wages to the men on the land. Honorable members who are supposed to represent the primary producers - the members of the Country party - have complained bitterly concerning the high prices which primary producers are compelled to pay in order to conduct their activities. In order to meet such objections, the Minister is advocating this method of assistance. These increased duties are submitted in order to placate those who sit on the corner benches, and the people whom they represent.. I agree with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) that, although our dried fruits are of excellent quality, they cannot be used as a substitute for dates, which are highly nutritious. If the only way in which the Government can assist those engaged in the dried fruits industry is by placing an increased duty on dates, I suggest, that it is bereft of ideas. I appeal to the .committee to oppose this duty, and to compel the Government to submit some other method by which the man on the land can be assisted.
– I entirely disapprove of this duty on dates. I am sympathetic with the primary producers, because I realize that they have to sell their products in open competition in the world’s markets; but I do not believe in the adoption of fictitious methods of helping them. Wc have started at the wrong end, and sooner or later Ave shall have to retrace our steps. Our costs of production are’ continually mounting, and this is obliging the masses of the people to pay excessive prices for the necessaries of life. The system is unsound. I disapprove of the sugar agreement, and I also consider that the Paterson scheme is faulty. It is also wrong to impose this duty on dates, which are a highly nutritious food. I do not think that the saleof currants, lexias and raisins is seriously interfered with by the sale of dates. If dates are admitted under reasonable con- ditions, the revenue will benefit. I do not join in the wholesale condemnation of the importation of goods from foreign countries. I was interested in the speech of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley). I know that he is an ardent protectionist, and I was surprised to hear him say that dates should be admitted into this country under reasonable conditions. I rather thought that he would insist on the moiling and toiling . masses in his electorate spending their money on currants and raisins in preference to dates. It has been said that, dates imported from Smyrna, Lebanon, and some other eastern countries are not so clean as they might be. But “what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over “ is a good motto. This is probably just as true in regard to dates as to any other things that we eat without inquiring closely into their preparation. Although there may be special virtues in such locally-‘grown foodstuffs as currants and raisins, dates also have strengthreviving qualities. .
.- If the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) will accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board on this item, and also fall in with the proposals of the Sugar Investigation Committee, we shall get on very well.
Seeing that I have opposed most of the items under consideration to-day, it is only right that I should speak favorably of such as are acceptable to me. I, therefore, wish to commend the Government for the action it has taken in regard to prunes. . In the past we have imported large quantities of prunes from the United States of America, and this has seriously interfered with the marketing of the prunes grown on our irrigation areas, and in other parts of Australia. Nevertheless,, we are building up a substantial local market for prunes, principally on account of the activities of exsoldiers in our irrigation and other areas. In 1926-27 our production of prunes totalled 112,000 lb. It is estimated that in 1930-31 the production will total 2,464,000 lb,, and that in 1932-33 the yield will be 4,480,000 lb. It will thus be seen that we may be approaching a period of over-production. In these circumstances I appreciate the action of the
Government in increasing this duty for the protection of this rapidly developing primary industry.
Item agreed to.
Item 54 (Fruits and vegetables n.e.i. ; asparagus tips).
– In my opinion, the excessive duty that is being imposed on asparagus tips is unwarranted. Our local producers are unable to supply all our requirements, and in these circumstances, the duty should ‘be reduced, at least to some extent. If a reduction were agreed to, the revenue would be increased and no injury would be done to anybody. Some of the asparagus grown in the Macquarie electorate is probably equal to the best Californian asparagus. On the other hand, some very poor asparagus is grown in other parts of Australia. If these excessive duties are retained, people will be forced to eat the inferior product. If the Minister has any regard for an. evenlybalanced, scientific tariff, he will see that the duty on asparagus is reduced,
Item agreed to.
Item 56 (Ginger)
– The Government claims to have the interests of the primary producers at heart, and therefore I urge it to re-consider the claim of the ginger industry for some of the protection which is so freely given to secondary industries, many of which have- received more protection than those controlling them ever expected. There is room for a considerable development’ of the ginger industry in Australia, thus providing employment for our own people, but, unfortunately, lack of adequate protection has prevented development. At my request, the question of increasing the duty on imported ginger was submitted to the Tariff Board, which reported’ unfavorably after manufacturers had presented their evidence against the claims of the growers. Some of the board’s recommendations as well as some of the evidence given before it will not bear examination. Australia’s consumption of ginger amounts to 2,266,975 lb. per annum, of which practically 2,000,000 lb. comes from China. The argument that it would cost Australian consumers’ more if the duties on ginger were increased, applies in the case of almost, every duty that isimposed against imports from Asia. If duties are not to be increased merely because their imposition would increase the cost of commodities above that of Chinese-grown articles, then the outlook for Australian industries, both primary and secondary, is not encouraging. Yet that is the argument put forward by Australian manufacturers in the case of ginger. The Tariff Board’s report shows that the request of the Australian growers of ginger was opposed by Australian manufacturers - persons whose industries enjoy a generous protection. The growers of ginger in Australia are to be prevented from expanding their industry because of the opposition . of Sydney and Melbourne manufacturers, whose attitude, to say the least, is inconsistent.
– Why not have the matter referred back to the Tariff Board?
– I thank the honorable member for his suggestion. I had intended to ask the Minister for a deferred duty on ginger, in order to give to Australian growers an assurance that their product will find a market in Australia.
– What did the Tariff Board say about this matter?
– Its report states that ginger is not grown to any great extent in Australia, although 100 registered growers claim to be able to produce it. As growers cannot sell their present production without protection, what is the use of increasing production? It would take perhaps two years after the growers were assured of protection for Australia to provide its own ginger requirements, but unless adequate protection is provided against the Chinese article, the position will never improve, because, under the present tariff, ginger can be imported from China and sold in Australia at a price with which the Australian growers cannot compete. Surely no honorable member would go so far as to say that Australian-grown ginger must compete with that grown in China ? That is what the Government decision means.
– I view this matter sympathetically; and I give thehonorable member an undertaking that I will refer it back to the Tariff Board for further and immediate consideration.
– I thank the Minister for that. We have not had much sympathy so far. If he will refer the matter back to the Tariff Board, I shall, at least, have gained something. Last year the local growers produced only 60 tons of ginger, of which 20 tons were sold. It is grown at Buderim Mountain, about 60 miles north of Brisbane. The climatic conditions there are ideal. No plant disease affects the plant and no damage is done by frost. The industry is capable of givingemployment to a large number of persons, and it could be extended to enable Australia’s total requirements of 2,250,000 lb. to be met. It is estimated that the next crop will amount to 130 tons, and in the following year, if the Government grants the duty asked for, and the 130tons are used for planting, a production of 400 tons could follow. After that, all the requirements of this country could be supplied by the Australian industry, but protection is essential.
From my remarks concerning the attitude of Australian manufacturers to this industry, I exclude MacRobertson & Company, who, alone, have shown the greatest sympathy with the Ginger Association at Buderim. This company has purchased the association’s product, processed it and marketed it, and it has given the industry every encouragement by its favorable reports as to quality. MacRobertson’s action stands out in striking contrast to that of other manufacturers, whohave done everything to discourage the industry.
-Is the honorable member commending the attitude of the confectionery firm of MacRobertson’s?
– Yes; it has given practical assistance by buying Australian ginger, and proving it to be of excellent quality. It has offered to take a large quantity of this article, if it can be sold at a price equivalent to that of imported ginger. This company thus contradicts the statement of those who went before the Tariff Board and said that it was impossible to secure ginger grown in Australia, and of others who stated it was not suitable.Some mem- bers have had an opportunity of testing the quality of Buderim ginger, which I made available from the association. I shall be quite satisfied with the prospects of the industry if the Minister will again bring the case under the notice of the Tariff Board.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and, as the hour is late, I shall make my remarks as brief as possible. The cultivation of ginger is one of tho few industries in Australia which offers great scope for expansion. There are opportunities in Australia to-day for the marketing of over 1,000 tons of ginger in various forms, and, in a brief period, the whole of the requirements of this country could be met by the local growers. In most industries, the stage at which overproduction occurs is easily reached ; but there is no danger of that in connexion, with the growing of ginger. The high quality of the local article is shown by the fact that MacRobertson’s, of Melbourne, have purchased large quantities of it, and have declared it- to bc equal to any ginger that can be imported. That is excellent testimony from a firm that uses this commodity extensively. At the present time there are only about 100 growers in Australia. The ginger is produced solely on the Buderim Mountain, in the Blackall Range district, about 60 miles north of Brisbane. I knew this district well in my childhood, and it is, undoubtedly, one of the most ideally situated and fertile localities in Queensland, if not in the world. It has passed through many stages of development, from sugargrowing to banana culture and dairying, and now it promises to rival other districts in the production of ginger. It has a splendid rainfall, very fertile soil, is accessible to markets by fast tramway service, joining the main Brisbane line at Palmwoods. There is a considerable area of land awaiting closer settlement development, and the expansion of this industry should quickly bring this about. I hope that the Minister will give it the encouragement that it deserves, particularly since its chief competition is from China. Assistance could be given by means of a deferred duty, a bounty, or direct tariff protection. I trust that this question will again be referred to the Tariff Board and that it will make recommendations that will give the industry the encouragement and opportunity to develop to which it is entitled.
– No increase in the duty on ginger is proposed in the schedule under consideration. I have received a number of deputations concerning this industry, for which I have every sympathy. I believe that, in a few years, Queensland will be producing the whole of Australia’s requirements of ginger. I referred the matter to the Tariff Board, which carried out an investigation, and submitted a report, in the face of which I found it impossible to grant the duties asked for. The board pointed out that about 1,000 tons of ginger was required in Australia annually, and the Queensland growers supplied only about 60 tons.
– lt will be 400 tons next year.
– The recommendation of the Tariff Board was as follows : -
In view of the present undeveloped staff of the industry, and tha absence of any evidence of development in the near future, the board regards as premature the application made in this case.
Until such time as it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that ginger is, or can be, produced in Australia in sufficient quantities to meet at least, a reasonable proportion of tlie requirements, and at costs which will not impose any undue burden upon the manufacturing industries using ginger aB a Taw material, consideration of the question of imposing further duties on the commodity under notice is, in the opinion of the board, not justified.
– What is the date of that recommendation ?
– The 27th January, 1931. I desire to help this industry, and I shall carry Out my promise to refer the matter forthwith to the Tariff Board for reconsideration in the light of the developments that I am told have recently taken place in regard to the industry. The Queensland growers are now said to be able to produce 400 tons a year.
– They expect to have 130 tons this year, and they would produce 400 tons next year if the duty were granted.
– No doubt, in the light of the recent developments the Tariff
Board will be able to submit a favorable report, so that action may be taken along the lines advocated by the Queensland growers.
– I cannot understand why the Minister has failed to make some provision for canary seed in connexion with this item. He has imposed so many super duties and embargoes that it seems strange that canary seed should on this occasion have been overlooked.
Item agreed to.
Item 58 agreed to.
Cost of Military Display at Royal Agricultural Show.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This morning I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) what expense had been incurred by the Defence Department in staging a military display at the Royal Agricultural Show, Sydney. The Minister’s reply was -
I understand that little or no expense to the department was involved.
I do not know who is responsible for supplying that information to the Minister, or whether, indeed, it was supplied to him, or he made the discovery for himself. In any case, the answer docs not satisfy roe. Expenditure incurred by the military authorities has to be watched very carefully. They are lavish spenders of public money, as has been proved in the past. I am anxious to know just what expense was incurred on this occasion, and I am not prepared to accept a vague statement prefaced by “ I understand”. The departmental officers concerned should have this information, and it should be available to the Minister. I ask him to be good enough to obtain the information for which I asked.
.- It is very difficult to determine exactly the amount of a small expenditure such as that incurred in connexion with the display at the Royal Agricultural Show in Sydney; but I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that he will never have any difficulty in obtaining from me a courteous reply to his questions. Had he told me during the day that he was not satisfied with the answer I had given Mm, I would have taken steps to obtain the fullest data, so as to be able to inform him of the exact cost, if it were only 2s. I have no desire to burke questions, and I regret that the honorable member has seen fit to manifest some heat over the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1931, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310514_reps_12_129/>.