12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House of the present position regarding the issue of regulations under the Transport Workers Act relating to work on the waterfront?
– The Senate has resolved to present to His Excellency the Governor-General a petition relating to the issue of regulations under the Transport Workers Act. So far as I am aware that petition has not yet been considered. Pending its consideration it is undesirable that I should make any statement on the subject.
– Does the Government propose to allow ministerial responsibility in regard to this matter to be interfered with by another authority? Is not the Governor-General bound constitutionally to take the advice of his Ministers ?
– The Government does not intend to waive any ministerial right or shirk any responsibility. In regard to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, I ask him to bear in mind what I have just said to the Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– In order to prevent any possible embarrassment of the Commonwealth and State Ministers who are now meeting in Melbourne, will the Government consider the advisability of asking the House to adjourn for such a period as would enable honorable members on their re-assembling to be in possession of the final decisions of the conference and all data upon which those decisions are based before they are asked to take legislative action thereon?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be considered by the Government at the earliest possible moment. In the meantime, I take this early opportunity to advise honorable members that the present intention of the Government is to ask the House to meet next week on “Wednesday instead of Tuesday. I hope this early notification will prevent any inconvenience being caused to honorable members by the alteration.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the newspaper statement is true that the sugar agreement has been signed by the Prime Minister in Melbourne?
– When does the AttorneyGeneral expect to be in a position to make a. statement about the missing documents connected with the Jacob Johnson case ?
– I hope to make a short statement concerning that case very soon, but I cannot give a precise date.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received a request from the Society of Australian Authors, the Advertising Association of Australia, and other bodies, protesting against the dumping in this country of out-of-date American magazines, to the detriment of the sale of Australian magazines? Does the Minister intend to take action in the matter, and if so, what action?
– Protests have been made, and they are receiving consideration.
Criticism by Mr. Archdale Parkhill.
– I rise to a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). Last Friday, the honorable member said that I had misled theHouse in vouching for the accuracy of a statement published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 26th May, which alleged that the honorable member for Warringah had described the United Australian party as “ a party of spare parts.” The honorable member for Warringah said -
The honorable member for Hunter misled the House whenhe said that he could vouch for the accuracy of the statement. It is utterly untrue in every detail. A pressman obtained the report clandestinely and unfairly, for he undertook not to report the meeting. His breach of faith would not have been so serious had he reported it accurately; but he made no notes, and afterwards prepared a garbled statement from memory. It was the grossest degradation of journalism that I have known for many years. I deny that I attacked the United Australian Party, and that the newspaper report is even an approximately true report of what I said. It is a gross distortion ofmy remarks.
I first heard on Tuesday last of the statement reported to have been made by the honorable member for Warringah, and on Wednesday he was twitted with it by this section of the House; but he denied having made it. I expected then that a report of his denial would appear in the press the next day, but no such denial was published. When asked if I could vouch for the accuracy of the statement in the press, I said that I could, and my assertion has since been supported by the editor of the journal in which the report was published, and also by the reporter concerned. The following editorial footnote appeared at the bottom of an article published in the Daily Telegraph of Saturday, the 30th May, headed, “ ‘ Party of Spare Parts ‘ - Mr. Parkhill denounces report “ -
The representative of the Daily Telegraph states-
– I submit that the honorable member for Hunter has not established that he has been, misrepresented, and is, therefore, out of order.
– The honorable gentleman complained that he had been misrepresented, because it had been stated that he wrongly vouched for the accuracy of a statement reported to have been made by the honorable member for “Warringah. He is now proceeding to tell the House what he considers to be the justification for his action.
– BeforeIread what the editor of the Daily Telegraph said in his footnote, in vouching for my statement
-Which the honorable member himself could not vouch for.
– The honorable member for “Warringah has told everybody privately that the newspaper report was correct.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn. It is not only personally offensive, but utterly and grossly untrue.
– I ask the honorable member forWarringah first to withdraw the remark that the statement of the honorable member for Hunter is utterly untrue.
– I withdraw it, and say that the statement is grossly and utterly inaccurate.
– I now ask the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw the words complained of by the honorable member for “Warringah.
– Having had the pleasure of saying them, I withdraw them. The editor of the newspaper to which I have referred, in backing up my statement, remarked -
The representative of the Daily Telegraph states that he gave no undertaking to anybody regarding Mr. Parkhill’s address. He took notes of the speech, and on these he based his report.
The honorable member for Warringah said that no notes of his speech were taken, that the report was a garbled one, and that a promise was given that no report would be published. What was the honorable member afraid of?
– The’ honorable gentleman will see that he is now exceeding his right of personal explanation. He may not make any irrelevant comment.
– I hope that I have now cleared this matter up. I have shown that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Warringah. I hope that he will be able to play the role of Atlas, and carry all the “ spare parts “ on his back.
– I rise’ to make a personal explanation. I point out that the statement in the newspaper that the reporter made no promise is untrue, as evidence that a promise was given can be obtained from persons who heard him say that he would take no notes and make no report. The statement of the editor just read is, not that the report was an accurate statement of what I said, but that the report was based on notes which the reporter alleged he had taken. I submit that the honorable member has not . shown that he was misrepresented. His statement is an attack on myself. Last week I challenged his ability to vouch for the accuracy of the report, yet he took it” on himself to do so. I ask the House how could he vouch for the accuracy of a report of remarks attributed to me when he was not present’ at the meeting where they were said to have been made, and when no such remarks were made? An honorable member who comes into this House-
– I cannot permit any personal observation.
– I have been most grossly misrepresented in this matter, first by the newspaper in question, and, secondly, by the honorable member, who deliberately misled this House by saying that he could vouch for the statement in the newspaper which, clearly, he could not. do.
– The remark that the honorable member for Hunter deliberately misrepresented the honorable member is unparliamentary, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it; but, if I did not make the statement in question - and I have denied that I made it - how could the honorable member vouch for its accuracy? I have attached much more importance to this matter than either the statement or the honorable gentleman merits, and I have nothing further to add.
– “When a personal explanation is being made, it is due to the honorable member who is speaking that he should be heard in silence, and I ask honorable members to observe that rule for the future.
– I desire to make a persona] explanation. During my absence from the chamber on Thursday last the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) - who, of course, may not have been aware that I was not present - made the following statement: -
It was most refreshing to hear the candid speech made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) a few days ago on the item relating to cotton piece goods. He said frankly that he intended to vote for the item because there were 200 votes hanging to it. He was, at least, straight out.
Although the votes of 200 persons are never unwelcome to me, and I may have referred to this fact in a humorous way - honorable members will know. that I frequently adopt a humorous tone in the House in contrast with the moral tone adopted by the honorable member for Fawkner - I certainly gave what I considered to be good arguments for the imposition, of the cotton duties then under discussion, and I referred to the effect that the duties would have on the workers in a cotton mill in my constituency. I consider that my arguments thoroughly justified the attitude that I adopted.
– In view of the fact that the recent distribution of military clothing was inadequate to meet the requirements of the destitute people in the community, and that in my electorate 11,000 unemployed did not participate in the last distribution, does the Minister for Defence propose to distribute additional clothing?
– It was realized when the last distribution was made that the quantity of clothing available would not meet the needs of every case. On that occasion 73,000 articles were distributed. I propose to make another 50,000 articles available for distribution, in the proper proportion, in the various States. I hope to be able to advise honorable members very shortly of the number of garments to be made available in each State. I shall also notify the honorable members who represent New South “Wales constituencies of the number made available for distribution in their districts.
– Will the Minister for Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) endeavour to meet the convenience of honorable members by arranging for a train from Sydney to Canberra on Wednesday mornings instead of on Tuesday mornings in weeks when the House does not meet until Wednesday?
– I shall inquire into the matter and advise the honorable member. I always do my best to meet the convenience of honorable members in this regard, but on account of the varying of sitting days in the last week or so, it has been rather difficult to arrange the train service in the most convenient way.
– Seeing that the running of the Saturday train from Melbourne to Adelaide has been discontinued, and that honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies now have to leave Canberra on Thursday night if they desire to go home for the week-end, I ask the Minister whether he will do his best to make better travelling arrangements for South Australian members. Whereas honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies have to travel only a few hours to get to and come from Sydney, honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies have to travel for two days to get to Adelaide and two days to return to Canberra. I trust that the Minister will make arrangements which will enable South Australian members to spend a little more time in their constituencies, instead of having to remain in Canberra, particularly while the super Parliament is meeting in Melbourne.
– I shall look into the matter.
– When does the Minister for Markets and Transport intend to bring down the Canadian Trade Treaty - if he ever intends to bring it down?
– The Treaty has been practically completed, but its presentation to the Canadian and Commonwealth Parliaments is not easy to arrange. The Treaty will need to be presented simultaneously, and endeavours are being made to arrange a suitable date for this to be done.
Mr.R. GREEN. - In view of the fact that it is nine or ten months since the honorable . gentleman proceeded overseas, at a cost of many hundreds of pounds, does he propose to render an account of what he did or did not do on the other side of the world, particularly with regard to the Canadian Trade Treaty?
– The honorable member’s thirst for information in regard to all of these matters will be assuaged in good time.
– Does the Government propose to make any reduction in the cost of war service homes, in view of the fact that the value of land and houses has fallen so greatly? Will a reduction of 20 per cent., or some equivalent reduction, be made in the price of these homes?
– This subject was under consideration some time ago ; but no definite decision has yet been reached. The honorable member must realize that the matter will have to be determined in view of the financial conditions which confront the country.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs intend to adhere to his determination not to present any further Tariff Board reports to the House unless an urgent request is made for them? If so, how can he justify such action ?
– I stated that I did not intend to table any further reports of the board because the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and another honorable member of the Opposition who sits on the front bench, strenuously objected on two occasions to certain reports being tabled. It was because of those objections that, I said that no further reports would be tabled until a very earnest request was made for them.
– In view of the fact that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is reported to have said that the Leader of the Opposition would be used for propaganda ‘purposes outside of this Parliament, will the Attorney-General instruct his officers to make inquiries whether-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member is not entitled to base a question. on a statement that was never made. I have several times denied making the statement to which he has referred.
– An honorable gentleman who asks a question must accept the full responsibility for his utterance, and also for any statement of fact contained in the question. It is impossible for the Chair to determine whether such statements have or have not been made. If the honorable member for Warringah considers that he has been misrepresented, there is a proper course for him to take.
– My object in asking the question is to clear up this matter in the interest of the honorable member for Warringah.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker whether it is not in accordance with parliamentary precedent and etiquette for the denial of an honorable member that he has not made a certain statement attributed to him to be accepted?
– The Chair accepts that assurance, but if an honorable member desires to ask a question based upon a reported statement, notwithstanding that, the honorable member to whom it is attributed has denied having made it, he cannot be prevented from doing so.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that if you accept the denial of the honorable member for Warringah, it is the duty of the House also to accept it.
– I would point out that the honorable member for Hunter prefaced his yet unfinished question with the observation that a certain statement had been attributed, in a newspaper report, to the honorable member for Warringah. He was proceeding to address a question to me, as Attorney-General, concerning that report. Until the question has been asked, no one can know precisely what information the honorable member for Hunter wishes to obtain from me, and no one is now in a position to determine the soundness or propriety of the question. Certainly the asking of a question, in the circumstances mentioned, is not inconsistent with the unqualified acceptance, by the Chair, of the disavowal of the honorable member forWarringah.
– It was an ‘ unqualified denial of the alleged statement.
– The innuendo in the question is so obvious.
– In view of my denial of the accuracy of the report upon which the honorable member for Hunter is basing his question, I contend that he is not entitled to build up a supposititious case on an incorrect newspaper report which he is not even correctly repeating. You, sir, have on innumerable occasions accepted the assurances of honorable members that certain words complained of were not uttered, and as you have, on this occasion, accepted my unqualified denial of the statement attributed to me by the honorable member for Hunter, I submit that the question should not be asked.
– If observations made in the course of a debate in this House give rise to a question, and the honorable member to whom they are attributed denies having made them, I must, of course accept his denial; but when statements made outside the House are the subject of a question, the Chair cannot rule that question out of order, provided that it relates to the conduct of public business in this House, is expressed in parliamentary language, and conforms to the recognized parliamentary procedure. I rule that the honorable member for Hunter is so far in order.
– I desire to make it quite clear that I said that the honorable member for “Warringah was reported to have made a certain statement. I merely wish to test the accuracy of the report.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask his question.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I now ask the Attorney-General if he will instruct the officers of the Investigation Branch to ascertain if the honorable member for Wilmot is being used outside for propaganda purposes?
– Last week I asked the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) a question relating to the proposed federal wheat pool, and was informed that the scheme would dovetail in with the proposed wheat pool in New South Wales, the ballot for which is to be taken on the 17th July. In view of the possibility of the State proposal being defeated, because the farmers may prefer to wait for the federal pool, will the Minister make a statement for the information of wheat-growers in NewSouth Wales.
– I shall have the matter fully investigated, and hope to be able to make a statement later.
– I desire to make a personal explanation concerning the statement made a few moments ago by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). The honorable gentleman declared that no further reports by the Tariff Board would be presented to this House because I, and another honorable member of the Opposition, had protested against their presentation. I made no such protest, but I did object to the continued employment of the Tariff Board when its reports are being consistently flouted by the Minister.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) if he would lay on the table the papers relating to the alleged promise by the Commonwealth Bank to finance the Government’s scheme for the payment of a guaranteed price of 4s. per bushel for wheat at railway sidings, and was informed that the correspondence took place between the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Bank. Board. The Minister further stated that he would consult the Prime Minister, and furnish a reply later. Is he now in a position to make a statement?
– I hare seen the right honorable the Prime Minister, who has advised me that he has no objection to the papers being laid on the table. I am now in communication with the Commonwealth Bank Board to see if it has any objection to this course, and will inform the honorable member later.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs give the reason for the Government’s delay in proceeding with the proposed re-distribution of Commonwealth electoral boundaries?
– This matter is still under consideration.
Suggested Reduction of 20 Per Cent. - Debate
– Will the Minister representing the Prime .Minister place before the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that is now sitting in Melbourne, the suggestion that it should include in its proposals to reduce all costs by 20 per cent., provision for a fiat rate reduction of 20 per cent, in the tariff?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion, in consultation with my esteemed colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is an expert in this matter.
– If it is not expected that the proceedings in Melbourne are likely to have an important bearing on the tariff, does not the Acting Leader of the House consider that the House should sit the full time provided for by sessional order so that an effort may be made to push on with the tariff debate?
– The Government will give consideration to all aspects of the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that there has been an unprecedented demand by stamp collectors for the Kingsford Smith Commemoration Stamp, the reason being that certain flaws in some of the stamps have given them a high value, and that all available stocks are being bought up in the hope that those isolated stamps may be procured, with the result that the general public have not been able to obtain supplies? Will the honorable gentleman inquire into the matter, with a view to further supplies being made available ?
– Already an additional supply of the 6d. stamps to which the honorable member refers has been made available. The artistic nature of the issue is accountable for its having been freely purchased. It would almost require a microscope to detect the flaw to which attention has been drawn, and which is to be found in only one stamp on each sheet. I can see that the honorable member is keen on obtaining one of these stamps. In cases where a special request was made, the supplies were increased. At the present time, this stamp is out of issue; but there will be a further issue later of newer stamps, which the honorable member’s friends may be able to obtain.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to say that I was misrepresented by the Minister when he said that I was induced to ask this question because I was interested in the 45th 6d. stamp. I assure the honorable gentleman that I had no knowledge that such a stamp existed until I was so informed by a stamp collector. I have no personal interest in this stamp, and if I were offered one by the honorable gentleman at this moment I would not accept it.
Notice of motion by Mr. Eldridge, disagreeing with the ruling of the Deputy-Speaker -
That an honorable member cannot base a question on a newspaper report of alleged utterances by another honorable member, the accuracy of which has been denied by that honorable member - called on and, in the absence of the mover, withdrawn from the notice-paper.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Programmes : Right to Relay
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice - .
Will he make available for inspection at the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, all correspondence that has passed between his department and the British Broadcasting Corporation with reference to the right of the department or any Australian broadcasting station to relay the programmes transmitted by that corporation on short waves?
– There has been no correspondence with the British Broadcasting Corporation on the right of the department or any Australian broadcasting station relaying programmes transmitted on short waves. The relaying of British programmes by stations in other parts of the Empire formed the subject of discussion at the recent Imperial Conference in London, and an important feature of the discussion was the extent to which the various countries were prepared to make a financial contribution for the right to rebroadcast programmes.
So far as is known, a decision has not yet been reached by the British authorities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matters raised by the right honorable member are being looked into, and a reply will be furnished at the earliest possible date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– As was recently announced by the Minister for Defence, vide Hansard of the 19th May, 1931, the matter referred to is now the subject of consideration.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.No such notification has been issued, nor have any steps been taken to discourage stamp vendors from selling air mail stamps. On the contrary, the department welcomes the sale of these stamps by vendors.
Considerable publicity has been given to the service by the department, as the following summary of the steps taken will show: -
In Australia wide publicity was given through the metropolitan and provincial press, and a very considerable amount of press space was secured.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In connexion with the use of postal district numbers on letters in Melbourne, what different conditions exist in Sydney which would make the institution of this system inadvisable there?
– It has not been decided that the introduction of the postal district system in Sydney would be inadvisable, but the matter has been left in abeyance in order to determine from Victorian experience the degree of cooperation which might be expected from the community in general. In addition, if two or more cities used identical district symbols, confusion might arise unless the practice of indicating the State is invariably followed in addressing correspondence. There can be no doubt whatever that, if the department could rely upon the correct addressing of all correspondence ona postal district basis, the benefits to the department and the users of the postal service would be substantial.
Goods on Order.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the tremendously increased duty which merchants are called upon to pay as a, result of the amendment to Item 105, subitem (a) (1) (b) of the Tariff Schedule which became operative at 9 a.m. on the 21st instant, will the Minister give immediate and sympathetic consideration to the representations which have been made that any of the goods affected, which had been actually shipped or were on order before the amendment was introduced, should be admitted at the rates existing prior to 9 a.m. on the 21st instant?
– The representations made by the honorable member for Brisbane and by others are now being fully considered, and a decision will be made as soon as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 29th May the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) 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 Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 13th May, 1931, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows : -
These amounts represent advances made to private companies ‘only, and do not include the salaries and travelling expenses of the Commonwealth Geological Adviser and staff, whose services have at all times been available to assist private companies in their search for oil.
– I have received the following letter from His Excellency the Governor-General: -
My dear Mr. Speaker,
With reference to the address of condolence to His Majesty the King in the death of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, forwarded to me with your communication of the 11th March, I have been informed by the. Private Secretary to the King that the address was submitted to His Majesty, who received it with deep appreciation, and has commanded that an expression of his sincere thanks may be conveyed to you and to the members of the House of Representatives.
Isaac A. Isaacs.
Consideration resumed from the 29th
May (vide page 2447), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the schedule to the customs tariff be amended -
Division V. - Textiles, Felts and Furs and Manufactures Thereof, and
.- Sub-item h is another instance in which the committee is asked to consider duties, which in this case relate to waterproof clothing “ prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitro-cellulose “, in the absence of the Tariff Board’s report on the subject. I am amazed at the readiness with which honorable members opposite are willing to increase the cost of these and similar commodities by supporting increased duties in the absence of any information on the subject. I am not prepared to say offhand if the duties proposed under this sub-item are more unjustifiable than many others that have already been agreed to, but I cannot allow this subitem to pass without protesting against the hole-and-corner methods adopted by the Government. Several days ago protests were made concerning the manner in which the Tariff Board’s reports have been disregarded by the Government. One honorable member on this side of the chamber said that if the board was to be ignored in this way, -it should, in the interests of economy, be abolished. Although a good deal could be said concerning the manner in which the Government has disregarded the recommendations of the Tariff Board, its reports are of great value as they show the absolutely blind and bone-headed way in which the Government, in endeavouring to give effect to its fiscal policy, is throwing people out of work merely to . bolster up a few factories in specially selected and favoured localities. Although the Minister may disregard the recommendations of the Tariff Board, its reports contain the only information which is made available by an independent authority. As I consider that the committee should be in possession of the Tariff Board’s report on the proposed increase, I move -
That sub-item h be postponed.
– This is another subitem upon which no information has been vouchsafed. The committee is entirely in the dark as to the reason for raising the duties, and whether they will result in increasing the price of the material concerned. One half of the difficulties, and most of the high prices charged to the general public, are due to the thoughtless manner in which unnecessarily high duties are imposed upon raw materials which form the constituent parts of manufactured articles. Unless the Minister gives the committee some information on this sub-item or makes available the Tariff Board’s report, I intend to support the postponement of the sub-item. The remarks I made a few days ago concerning the Tariff Board’s reports were not in relation to their value, but to the futility in . presenting them when the Government failed to adopt the recommendations they contain. The reports of the Tariff Board are of value, because they contain the result of an inquiry by an independent authority. Unless the Minister can satisfactorily explain the necessity for the higher duties in this sub-item, I intend to support the motion moved by the honorable member for Wakefield.
– In this instance it is unnecessary to await the presentation of the Tariff Board’s report. The rates under sub-item 105 h 3 have been increased 5 per cent, consequent upon the proposed increased revenue duties on cotton piece goods which form the principal raw material for cotton piece goods proofers. The only other alteration in this sub-item is the omission of leather cloth, this commodity being provided for under sub-item 105j, and the addition of the words “nitrocellulose “ to the heading of the item. Proofing with nitro-cellulose is a comparatively recent process and piece goods proofed with this substance are used for the same purpose as those proofed with rubber, oil, or celluloid.
Question - That sub-item h be postponed (Mr. Hawker’s motion) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the negative:
.- On behalf of the group with which I am associated, I desire to intimate that we do not propose to allow this item to pass unchallenged, because the manufacturers concerned are attempting to lower the wages, lengthen the hours, and alter the conditions of their employees.
Question - That sub-itemh be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman -Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
By adding a new sub-item (j) as follows: - “ (J) Leather cloth, leather cloth binding, and oil baize and fabrics similar to oil baize, prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitro-cellulose; bookbinders’ cloth prepared with nitrocellulose, “ad val., British, 35 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; general, 50 per cent.”
– The Minister might explain why all the articles under subitem j are grouped together, irrespective of whether they are being manufactured in Australia or not. It seems to me that this sub-item should be recast so as to indicate the articles that are subject to revenue duties as against those on which the duty is protective in its incidence.
.- The object of the alterations made by the tariff resolution of June, 1930, was to bring into the one sub-item all materials which could be regarded as made of, or akin to, leather cloth or competitive with that material. This involved the imposition of increased duties on oil baize, leather cloth bindings and bookbinders’ cloth prepared with nitro-cellulose. The rates, under the 1921-28 tariff, on oil baize and bookbinders’ cloth were - free, British preferential, and 15 per cent, general tariff, while the rates on leather cloth bindings were, free and 25 per cent, respectively. Although baize prepared with oil is not manufactured in Australia, the imported article directly competes with baize prepared with nitro-cellulose. Particularly is this so in respect of oil baize used for manufacturing purposes. Moreover, the department had experienced great difficulty in distinguishing between certain lines of oil baize of printed design resembling leather cloth, and leather cloth itself. I have with me a few samples of these materials which may be inspected by honorable members. This difficulty of tariff classification became so onerous that even before the request was received from the local manufacturer to include oil baize under the item of leather cloth, it had been decided to take that action. The tariff resolution of 1931 increased the duties under item 105 j. This had the effect of further increasing the rates on oil baize, leather cloth bindings and bookbinders’ cloth prepared with nitro cellulose. The increased duty on leather cloth, however, represented the first increase imposed by this Government on the commodity. The increased duties imposed on the goods specified under this sub-item were absolutely essential for the wellbeing of the local industry. When the company established the industry in July, 1929, it installed sufficient plant to manufacture the whole of the Australian requirements, which at that time were in the vicinity of 1,500,000 yards. The investment by this company approximated £450,000. At the outset sales were good, but with the development of the present depression they began to fall off alarmingly. The selling price was based on the assumption that sales would amount to 1,000,000 yards per annum. Unfortunately, sales have not by any means approached that quantity, and the company is now faced with the position of having, to cease operations in Australia or of obtaining increased duties to enable it to supply all local requirements. The local factory is working only half time, and even then not at full capacity. The number of employees engaged in the industry is 120. As considerable quantities of leather cloth, oil baize, bookbinders’ materials and leather cloth bindings were being imported, the Government decided to increase the duties to enable the company to acquire this trade. The company utilizes other Australian materials in the production of its goods, consequently the increased duties should indirectly benefit the other industries concerned.
.- The Minister is obsessed with the idea of increased duties, although it seems to me to be hopeless for this committee, at a time like this, to agree to increased duties on articles which are needed particularly by the poorer classes of the community. We are asked to agree to a substantial increase in duty to help one industry which employs 120 hands, despite the fact that the purchasing power of the people has nearly reached zero, and that the exchange rate, which has a tremendous bearing on the payment of our debts abroad, has increased to over 30 per cent. Surely the increase in the exchange rate should be sufficient protection for this industry. Why should we, the representatives of the people of Australia, allow the department to put these strangling impositions round the necks of the people? The Premiers Conference now sitting in Melbourne is endeavouring to arrive at a scheme under which the burden of sacrifice will be borne equally by all sections of the community, yet this sheltered industry is to make no sacrifice at all. There are nearly 400,000 people unemployed in Australia, and the rest of the community has suffered severe financial losses, yet it is being called upon to make this contribution towards the upkeep of an industry employing only 120 hands!
.- This item has been split into two parts; on one an increase has been, made from no duty at all to 35 per cent. British, while in the other case the increase has not been so great. In 1928 some of the items included in item 105 j carried duties at the rate of British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; and general, 15 per cent.; while on others the duties were, British, .free ; intermediate, 15 per cent. ; and general, 25 per cent. In 1930 the two sections were grouped together, and the new duties were, British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; and general, 35 per cent. In the present schedule the duties have been still further increased, and now they stand at British, 35 per cent; intermediate. 40 per cent.; and general, 50 per cent. We have received no assurance from the Minister that the increase has followed a Tariff Board inquiry. He made no reference to a report, from which I assume that no inquiry was held.
Mr.Forde. - The increase was made after a careful examination by the tariff experts attached to the Customs Department. The Tariff Board cannot inquire into everything.
– I do not wish to say a word against the ability of the officials attached to the Customs Department ; but the Tariff Board was set up by this House for the purpose of weighing the evidence for or against proposed tariff amendments. Without some support from the board for the present drastic increases, (the Minister cannot expect us to accept his explanation. Only the other day I came across some statistics which showed that the price of manufactured goods had increased out of all proportion to the price of primary products. As compared with the prices ruling in 1911, the price of primary products has increased by only 17 per cent., whereas that of manufactured articles has increased by 88 per cent. Tariff increases have, as much as anything, prevented a fall in Australian manufactured goods corresponding to the fall in world values. Whatever the Minister may hope for in the way of increased employment as a result of protecting industries, I can assure him that very little wall be achieved until something is done to reduce the existing margin between the prices of primary and secondary products. It is time the tariff was revised in the direction of reducing duties, instead of continually forcing them up. Unless prices are reduced, it will be impossible for the primary producers to buy as much of the secondary products as they have been accustomed to do. Thus the Minister will defeat his own ends.
.- This industry was established in 1929 as the result of the protection afforded by the 1928 tariff. At that time the maximum duty on British imports was 20 per cent., while many items were admitted free. Under those conditions money was available for establishing the industry, but when the present Government came into office it granted the manufacturers an increase in the protective duties. On the 19th June, 1930, the British preferential tariff on all items was increased to 20 per cent. Evidently that was considered to be sufficient at the time, but the manufacturers have since approached the Minister for still further assistance, stating that, owing to the slump, their business has fallen off. The Minister quite readily acceded to their request, and has increased the British preferential tariff to 35 per cent. [Quorum formed.] I fail to see why those engaged in the leather industry should receive preferential treatment at the expense of the rest of the community. Those engaged in other industries have felt the effects of the depression, and have had to bear their losses. There should be equality of sacrifice. I do not recommend that the protective duties be removed altogether; I believe in allowing sufficient protection to enable the manufacturers to carry on at a very moderate profit; but 35 per cent, duty is excessive. Moreover, the actual protection is much greater than 35 per cent., because, in addition to that, there is the duty on the casing in which imported articles are carried, and the cost of the casing itself. Importers have also to pay freight and primage duty, to say nothing of the high exchange rates. I move -
That the item be further amended by adding after sub-item (j) the following: - “And on and after the 4th June, 1931 -
Leather cloth, leather cloth binding, and oil baize and fabrics similar to oil baize, prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitro-cellulose; bookbinders’ cloth prepared with nitrocellulose, ad val., British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.”
Those duties are the same as obtained after the tariff amendment of the 19th June, 1930, and they represent a substantial increase on the protection which was afforded to the local manufacturers when they began operations in Australia.
.- I do not approve of the action of the Government in imposing this exorbitant increase in duties. Incidentally, I cannot help reflecting upon the lamentably sparse attendance in this chamber. There are only fifteen honorable members now present.
– There are only five on the Government, side, including the Minister.
– Exactly. That is to be regretted.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order I remind the honorable member that the committee is dealing with the tariff.
– I, too, am dealing with the tariff, of which sub-itemj of item 105 is a part. In view of the serious position in Australia, the way in which honorable members absent themselves from their duties in this chamber is damnable.
– I rise to order. The committee is discussing a sub-item in the tariff schedule, and not the state of the committee. Only a moment ago the honorable member for Angas called attention to that matter, and a quorum was formed.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Angas to confine his remarks to the subject before the committee.
– I shall do so, but I desire to refer to the necessity for my continually having to call for quorums. The time has arrived when some one will have to take a stand in the matter.
– Order ! I have called the honorable member to order several times. I shall not do so again.
– The honorable member ‘ may do what he likes. It is damnable that the business of the country should be carried on in this fashion.
– I name the honorable member for Angas.
– I feel sure that, on reflection, the honorable member will obey the Chair. It would be impossible to conduct the business of Parliament if the rulings of the Chair were disregarded. Although I appreciate that the honorable member may feel somewhat piqued about the matter to which he has referred, I hope that he will obey . the ruling of the Chair.
– If the request is that I withdraw my remarks, I feel that I cannot do so. The time has come when honorable members must be made to realize that they should be. in this chamber-
– Order ! I ask the Minister in charge of the House to take the necessary action.
– I again appeal to the honorable member for Angas to obey the request of the Chair, and withdraw his remarks. He has been a member of parliament sufficiently long to realize that it would be impossible to carry on the business of Parliament if honorable members generally disregarded the instructions of the Chair, and insisted on having their own way. There are other occasions on which the honorable member for Angas will have an opportunity to express his opinion that there should be a quorum present at all times. This is not an opportune occasion to do so. I am loath to move to suspend the honorable member, and prefer that he should withdraw his remarks. If he persists in disobeying the request of the Chair, I must move that he be suspended.
– I have been sent here to express the views of my constituents, and I am not going to speak in this chamber unless there is a quorum present.
– I have twice appealed to the honorable member to comply with the desire of the Chair. I give him one more opportunity.
– I withdraw the remarks to which objection is taken, but only for the time being; make no mistake about that.
– Order ! I insist upon the withdrawal being made without reservation.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr. Chairman. Apparently one of the reasons why these increased duties have been asked for is that the company concerned found that the previous protection was inadequate. The Government, therefore, comes along with an additional 15 per cent. duty. Does not the Minister realize that this continual increase in duties throws all calculations out of order, and that ever-ascending costs can have no good effect. The Government has gone “protection mad.” That policy will merely defeat its own ends, and will ultimately cause the tariff pendulum to swing violently in the other direction. The Minister excuses the fact that there has been no inquiry by the Tariff Board into this matter by saying that a careful investigation has been made by the officers of his own department. “While I do not wish to reflect upon those officers, I realize that they know that this is a rabid protectionist government, ever seeking opportunities to increase duties in order to aid our secondary industries, and will act accordingly. I have a good deal of respect for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), hut I know that he will grant practically any duty that is asked for by the manufacturers. He is a double dyed - almost a prohibitive protectionist. It has been said that the honorable gentleman is merely seeking to serve the interests of the community. That may be quite true, but in the long run his policy will do more harm than good. It is claimed that the operation of these duties will provide work for 120 persons. Is the Minister so foolish as to believe that the people of Australia can continue to pay these exorbitant costs in order to give employment to a few? I cannot support the additional duties. I voice my regret at the position in which this Parliament finds itself. “While the representatives of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments are seriously endeavouring to rectify Australia’s economic difficulties, the position here is as we see it. However, the numbers are up. The party whip has been cracked, and we are really wasting our time and our breath in protesting against these duties. That is unfortunate for the country, and for the people whom many of us are trying to serve.
.- The Minister’s explanation with regard to this enormous increase in the rates of duty is a specious one.
– What makes the honorable member conclude that this is an enormous increase in duty?
– Previously the rates were 20 per cent. British preferential; 25 per cent, intermediate; and 35 per cent, general tariff. They have now been jumped to 35 per cent, 40 per cent., and 50 per cent. An increase of 15 per cent, is a big one for those who have to pay it. The articles affected are used particularly in the making of poorer class of furniture, and for upholstering the cheaper motor cars, as substitutes for the more expensive products that the wealthy are able to purchase. The company concerned is actually a “ pup “ of one of the biggest combines of its kind in the world, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. Affected by the depression, that concern has evidently made representations for a greater protection, which have resulted in the imposition of these excessively high duties. Two pages of The New Statesman and Nation, of the 4th April, 1931, are devoted to a report of the fourth annual general meeting of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. It is of benefit to Australia that such a concern should be interested in this country, and 1 am not saying that ii should be penalized for being a big concern, but I do not see that, because it has established tinpot works in the neighbourhood of Melbourne, it ha3 any claim to be sheltered from the effects of the present depression. According to the chairman’s report to the meeting of shareholders, the net profits of the company for the year 1930 amounted to £4,473,392, compared with a profit of £5,780,208 for the previous year, or a decrease of 22-J per cent. Very few people in Australia have got off so lightly, and if any have they will, as a result of the Premiers Conference now sitting in Melbourne, presently be called upon to bear a 22£ per cent, reduction of earnings. The chairman of the meeting of the shareholders of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited reported -
No part of the profits of their company, either for” the current year or for any of the preceding years, had been drawn from profits on the sale of investments or securities.
– Is the company making any profits in Australia?
– The Australian company is a subsidiary’ one. These people are in Australia to share alike prosperity or bad times.’
– Since the company has been operating in Australia, its accumulated deficit on the manufacture of leather cloths has amounted to £80,000.
– That may be so. but is there any reason why the company should be absolutely sheltered from the present depression. Although these people should not be penalized for having come to Australia, they began operations on the basis of a certain duty, and I regard it as outrageous nearly to double that duty, and at the same time include a lot of other materials which were previously allowed to be imported free of duty. The effect will be to make certain commodities more expensive, and to prolong .and deepen the depression. The chairman at the meeting, of shareholders in London said -
The shrinkage in the volume of production had necessarily brought with it a decline in the volume of employment. Taking the latest figures and comparing them with the position twelve months before, unemployment had increased in Great Britain by 72 per cent.; in Germany, by 4S per cent.; in Italy, by 55 per cent.; in Canada, by 40 per cent.; in Australia, by 81 per cent.; and in the United States of America by 149 per cent. Those figures proved without question how worldwide the depression was. It had been accompanied by a rapid fall in the wholesale price level of primary commodities.
Yet one of this big company’s subsidiary businesses i3 to be put in a position to increase the price of the goods it supplies to those who produce those primary commodities. Its prices are to be raised against people who are suffering as the result of unemployment. The chairman of the London meeting also said -
Within a short period an upward trend might appear. Prospects in 1931 depended upon that movement. For the first two months their volume of business compared favorably with the average of the later months of 1930. [Quorum formed.)
The company which will benefit by these duties is evidently suffering from the effects of a world-wide depression, and yet is able to pay a dividend of 6 per cent, and make profits which run into millions of pounds sterling. I protest against the Minister’s proposal to afford it shelter in Australia against bad times at the expense of other sections of the community that are much worse off. I also protest against the re-arrangement of the definitions without reference to the Tariff Board. We do not know the effect some of these rc-arrangements may have. We are entirely in the hands of the Minister, who is a tariff fanatic, and of particular officials chosen by him to carry out investigations on his behalf. The Minister’s explanations of the cotton duties put an end to whatever confidence I may have had in the fairness of his reports. I do not say that the Minister has been intentionally misleading the committee; but he is so biased that it is practically impossible for him to tender an. impartial report. Until we get some authoritative report, the sub-item should be postponed. Failing that, I trust that the committee will reject it.
,. - I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will take some heed of the statements and arguments advanced from this side of the chamber. If he would reduce a duty where, a request for a reduction is obviously supported by sound argument, one could then realize that the schedule is being discussed on its merits.
– The Minister prefers the support of numbers to that of argument.
– Exactly ; he insists on a duty irrespective of all arguments advanced, and calls upon his cohorts to come into the chamber and vote each item through, although they have not heard the discussion on it. That is not fair to the committee. If the items were being reasonably discussed and the Minister were giving due weight to the arguments adduced, some of the duties would be reduced. In this instance the Minister could agree to a reduction without injustice to the industry. This duty was imposed without preliminary inquiry by the Tariff Board. No opportunity has been afforded to the general public, the furniture makers, or the bookbinders to protest against it. Merely because the Minister and his officers have made certain inquiries, the committee is asked to shut its eyes, open its mouth, and swallow what the Minister offers. The company under discussion was formed at the peak of prosperity in the motor car industry, to supply substitutes for leather used for the upholstery of motor bodies. Now that depression has overtaken it, as well as other industries and individuals, the general public is to be forced to pay for this commodity a rate sufficiently high to enable the company to continue to earn profits and to employ 120 men.
– That number may be increased.
– There is little likelihood of that, having regard to the fact that the whole of the local requirements probably could be produced by this company working full time for three months a year. This is not a national industry. A company starting to manufacture in Australia is entitled to reasonable consideration, but are we to accept the principle that whenever people invest money in an industry this Parliament must protect them against all trade risks by imposing duties sufficiently high to enable them to sell at prices which will ensure dividends on their outlay? I have nothing against this company, but I submit that it is not right to penalize the general public in order to maintain in employment 120 men and safeguard the profits of one enterprise. We must recognize that the actual protection is more than the 35 per cent, mentioned in the first column of the schedule. Exchange alone is 30 per cent, in favour of any local industry, and in addition there are primage dues, freights and insurance. It is no exaggeration to say that this industry is receiving protection to the extent of 75 per cent, or 80 per cent. It may be true that the company is efficiently conducted ; nevertheless we are asked by a Labour government to guarantee profits to investors in these times of depression, when the cost of living has fallen by 15 per cent, or 17 per cent, and wages have been cut 10 per cent, and more. Apparently these factors are not taken into consideration.
– A serious decline has occurred in the motor car business, and even these duties do not ensure profits to the company.
– Because trade has fallen off, must the prices to the consumer be raised sufficiently to guarantee the company against losses ?
– The company is entitled to reasonable protection, and that is all these duties amount to.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Even duties of 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 35 per cent., would be exceedingly generous to this company. The raw material of this industry is produced in Australia, and if it cannot carry on with the advantages of reduced wages, a favorable exchange, high freights and insurance charges, and primage, I am not prepared to vote for any further assistance to it.
.- I cannot support this item, because it represents a short-sighted policy. To protect the employment of 120 men engaged in the productions of leather cloth, we are asked to jeopardize the employment of hundreds of others now engaged in the furniture, bookbinding, and publishing industries. I take a particular interest in the development of Australian literature, and I know that in recent years it has been almost impossible for our printing establishments to produce books at a price which would enable Australian authors to publish their works in their own country, because of the extraordinary advantages, some natural and others economic, which the publishing houses in the United Kingdom and the United States of America possess. We do not meet the economic requirements of the country by providing employment for 120 men, if by increasing the cost of the raw material of other large industries we add to their difficulties. If every commodity required in the printing and publishing trade is to be subjected to high duties during the infancy of the auxiliary industries, we must expect that sooner or later the Minister will be asked by publishers for either a complete prohibition of books published outside Australia or the imposition of high duties upon them. I have had some experience in the printing and publishing industry, and have a fairly long knowledge of the problems of Australian authors. No argument has been adduced to prove that the establishment of this subordinate industry would be a real contribution towards the development of an effective book-produc- ing industry. I say little of the furniture industry, because I am not familiar with its technique, but I do know that the cost of Australian furniture is already higher than it should be in view of the natural advantages the industry enjoys. It is true that the leather cloth and binding produced in Australia is of excellent quality, but if local production of it is to penalize major industries of which it is merely a subordinate element, we are not taking a wise outlook upon the national economy. We should select the major industries that are required in Australia, and give to them the assistance they need, but we cannot expect them to thrive if we further increase the cost of the raw materials of which they are consumers. To the extent that we tax raw material, we become obliged to increase the duties on the goods which compete with the finished product. Thus the tariff wall never ceases to rise. We should not impose duties on everything that is produced in other parts of the world, on the assumption that at this stage of our history we should manufacture in Australia everything that we need; we should exercise a selective judgment, in order to determine which manufacturing industries are appropriate to our development at the present time, and which primary industries are essential to our national security. Upon those grounds an effective tariff schedule can be justified; but the assumption that we should impose prohibitive duties on articles that are needed to enable existing industries to compete with similar industries in other countries is a mistaken one. The duty under consideration will penalize the furniture-making industry in Australia, and it will make it more difficult for furniture-making establishments, woodworking factories, and timber yards to compete against the products of other countries. From my own personal knowledge, this duty will penalize the bookbinding and publishing industry, and, therefore, it will penalize Australian authors. It seems to me that it will handicap a larger section than it will benefit.
.- I join those on this side of the chamber who have protested against the method adopted by the Government in submitting these duties for consideration. After a speech such as that of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), one feels the hopelessness of the discussion. There is no chance of such a speech as that of the honorable member influencing the decision of the committee on this item.. No matter how much argument, such as the honorable member has submitted, be adduced, it cannot alter the foregone decision of the committee, because the Minister knows that he has a sufficient number of members supporting him. Each member is responsible for giving a judgment in regard to every, item of the tariff. I am invited to agree to a substantial increase in the duty on the particular item before the committee, and I think that the least the Minister might do is to submit evidence on which the committee can make up its mind whether the proposed increase is justified. This Parliament has appointed the Tariff Board for the express purpose of making investigations, upon sworn evidence, with respect to proposed duties. Then the committee knows the process of reasoning indulged in by the board in making its recommendations, and it is able to come to a determination upon the recommendations submitted by the ‘board. But, in the present case, honorable members are quite in the dark as to the view taken by the board in regard to this particular item.
When the Minister is asked why an increase should be granted, his only reply is, “ My departmental experts say that it is necessary.” Have we come to such a pass that we have to hand over the determination of important questions such as increases in duties to departmental experts? We do not know who these experts are, and they cannot be saddled with any responsibility. I, for one, object to shift the responsibility for my judgment in these matters to any departmental officers. How many of them are members of departments? There are nearly 500 items in this schedule, and it affects practically every variety of industry. Are these men supposed to be experts in all those matters?
– Are the members of. the Tariff Board supposed to be experts in all the subjects investigated?
– No ; but the board, like a court, takes evidence on oath.
– A departmental officer may obtain information.
– But is it sufficient for this committee to be told by an exMinister for Trade and Customs that the experts make all kinds of inquiries before recommendations are made to the Minister? The Tariff Board is saddled with the responsibility of making recommendations to him. The evidence taken by that body is given in public, and is taken from representatives of both the parties interested. The board’s duty is also to study the effects of its recommendations on other industries. As suggested by the honorable member for Fremantle, the duty in question has a most material effect upon other industries, and the board is expected to ascertain the probable effect of proposed duties in all their ramifications. What are the qualifications of these departmental experts, and what are the methods adopted by them in making their inquiries? The mere fact that an opinion has been expressed by them is of no assistance to this committee.
Those honorable members who are not now in the chamber will help to form the majority that will no doubt sanction this increase of duty,- as proposed by the Minister. If they were asked by one of their constituents why they voted for this particular increase, they would, no doubt, say, “ We were told by the Minister that it was necessary. He was instructed by his departmental experts, and that is sufficient for us “.
– Is that attitude peculiar to Labour supporters?
– I do not know that’ it is. If it be not so, then so much the worse for the other side.
– A number of members of the Opposition are absent. What will they say?
– My argument applies equally to them. “
– Members can justify their temporary absence from the chamber.
– Quite so. My remarks are not applicable to any particular section of the committee. Many may be able to give good reasons for the fiscal faith that is in them. Whether or not I agree with them, I give them credit for the same earnestness that I claim for myself, and the same anxiety to get at the truth in these matters. Since no justification has been shown by the Minister for this increase of duty, T shall unhesitatingly vote against it.
– This duty concerns one of the fine industries that we should endeavour to develop in Australia. It is a branch of an English factory, and all the research work that has been carried out in the parent factory of Imperial Chemicals Limited has been made available to the branch factory in this country.
– Did they ask for this increase of duty?
– Yes, on the ground that they had established a factory here, and had lost about £80,000. They were unable to compete with the imports from other countries, chiefly from the United States of America. The Government has been severely criticized by honorable members opposite for not putting some additional imposts on imports from America. In the last three years we have imported nearly £450;000 worth of leather cloth goods from the United States of America, and these goods have been used largely in the manufacture of hoods by motor body builders.
– In other words, these goods came in with American motor cars.
– No. The duty on complete motor cars is so high that it does not pay to import them assembled for the road. The chassis are imported, and the bodies are built in Australia, principally in South Australia. Of course, the motor body building industry is now suffering a severe slump, because fewer cars than usual are being sold. This slump has affected all factories whose products are used in the motor car industry. I inspected this factory, which is at Deer Park, in the Corio electorate, at the request of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), and found it to be efficient and up-to-date in every way. The number of men at present employed is only 120, but that is solely due to business depression. When trade revives there will be an increased demand for motor bodies, and, therefore, for leather cloth. The duty on this cloth has been increased from British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 35 per cent. - to 35 per cent., 40 per cent, and 50 per cent., respectively. But that is a relatively low rate, for the duty on woollen piece goods goes up as high as 3s. per square yard, plus ad valorem rates, which rise to 60 per cent.
The British firm which has undertaken the manufacture of leather cloth in Australia has now asked for protection against American importation, and I think it is entitled to it. We should not allow a firm which has come inside the tariff wall to be ruined by the dumping of American goods here. I ask honorable members to compare this duty with the purely revenue duties of British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; and general, 35 per cent., on artificial silk. It surely is not unreasonable for this company -to ask for something more than a revenue duty in order that the industry may be protected. I am afraid that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr.
Parkhill) is more concerned about protecting the importing interests than safeguarding our local manufacturers. It could not be expected that this company would carry on indefinitely a businesss which incurred a dead loss of £80,000 last year.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) discussed the effect of this duty on the book-binding industry, in which he is greatly interested. The only book-binding cloth which will be affected by the duty is cellulose cloth in the manufacture of which nitro-cellulose has been used. The duties on ordinary bookbinding cloth, covered by item 129 b, are as follow : - n.e.i., British, free ; intermediate, 5 per cent. ; general, 15 per cent. Leather of the kind now under consideration is not extensively used for bookbinding. It is true that official books for the Parliamentary Library, and probably certain volumes required for university libraries are bound in leather. A substantial preference is given to Great Britain in connexion with book-binding cloths. The honorable member for Warringah said that the real effect of the general duty of 50 per cent, on leather cloth would be a duty of 60 per cent., because 10 per cent, was added by the Customs Department.
– I corrected myself on that point.
– The facts are that 10 per cent, is added to the price of the goods in the country of origin. This would bring the cost of goods valued for duty at £100 up to £110, and the 50 per cent, duty would be charged on £110. But that mistake of the honorable member is similar to many other mistakes he has made in discussing the items in this schedule. These rates of duty provide only a reasonable protection for an efficiently conducted Australian industry, and are no greater than some of our revenue duties.
.- I am pleased that some honorable members are at last beginning to think about the effects that these continual increases in duties are likely to have on the general cost of living. If the cost of leather cloth is increased, C03ts will be increased in all the industries which use leather cloth as raw material. This will lead ultimately to requests for additional duties in those industries. The fact that a certain company which is manufacturing leather cloth in Australia lost a considerable amount of money last year is not a sufficient justification for the committee to heavily increase the duty on imported leather cloth. Our wheat-farmers lost a lot of money last year, and so did’ those engaged in other primary and secondary industries; but no steps are being taken to recoup them for their losses. Considerable decreases have occurred recently in the cost of a good deal of raw material used in secondary industries. If we show that we are willing to increase duties in connexion with all secondary industries which are operating at a loss, we shall find ourselves in a very queer position. The Minister has .referred to certain specialists in his department who have made inquiries into this industry. Who are these persons? Such inquiries should be made by the Tariff Board, which, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has pointed out, takes evidence on oath, in open court, from all parties interested in the matter before them, and not only from those who are applying for additional duties. If the Minister desires to protect British interests against American competitors, let him increase the British preferential duty. In 1927-28, we imported £112,685 worth of leather cloth, and in 1928-29, our imports were valued at only £86,655. The way to assist British interests is not to make a general increase in the duties, but to make a wider margin between the general and British rates.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) referred to the method by which the Customs Department builds up charges. No lawyer could hold a candle to the officers of this department when it comes to making out an account. The procedure followed in assessing duty is weird and wonderful. To the value for duty of goods worth, say, £20, a duty of 50 per cent, adds £10. The special surcharge of 50 per cent, on this amount is £5. Primage duty on the £20 at 4 per cent, is 16s., making a total of £15 16s. This amount is then added to the £20, and 20 per cent, is added to the total, making an amount of £42 9s. 2d. On this sum, sales tax is charged at 2-J per cent., amounting to £1 ls. 6d. The total customs duty, primage duty, and sales tax on goods valued for duty at £20 is, therefore, £16 17s. 6d. That is an illustration of how costs are built up.
We have never before seen such an exhibition of blundering incapacity as has been shown in connexion with this schedule. The Minister has said that we are complaining about the paltry duty of British, 35 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; and general, 50 per cent., although we allowed duties of 400 per cent, and 500 per cent, to go unchallenged.For my part, I have challenged all these high duties; but, unfortunately, when the division bells ring, we find how futile our opposition is. However, I shall continue to resist the imposition of these heavy duties in the interests of the people of Australia. An increase in the duty on leather cloth is desired solely for the purpose of allowing the Australian manufacturers to increase the price of their products. It is extraordinary that we should allow this to be done in a time of such severe depression. Every increase in duty must add to the costs of the foodstuffs and clothing of the people. I hear the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) interjecting. I have no doubt that he would like me to compare the 1920 prices with those that prevail to-day. I cannot understand how any sensible man can even suggest that such a comparison should influence one’s judgment, for prices were at their apex in 1920-21, and have since fallen considerably. In the older countries of the world, prices are now lower than they were in pre-war days. I shall support the amendment.
.- I am surprised that the Minister should have submitted the duties under this sub-item without a more adequate explanation. He offered, as one reason, the fact that the company in question had lost £80,000 in its trading operations.
– I made that statement in a reply to the assertion that the company was making huge profits.
– I do not question the efficiency of the company, but I do contend that a loss in its trading operations is not sufficient justification for the imposition of these duties. Many primary industries have shown losses in recent years, but they cannot look to the
Tariff Board for assistance. The present depression will not continue indefinitely. “When it lifts, the industries which depend upon this company for their supplies will be in full swing again, and the company will enjoy the extraordinary benefits which this high protection will ensure to it. I am entirely opposed to the procedure adopted by the Minister. We have not been furnished with the report of the Tariff Board upon this sub-item and, except for the Minister’s statement that it has been considered by the tariff experts in the department, no information has been given to the committee. I intend to support the amendment.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Nairn’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That sub-itemj he agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - 106 (a) Cotton featherstitch braids
Badges, emblems, and the like
Question - That sub-items (a), (b), and (c) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Subitem d has been framed with a view to the simplification of the tariff. There is no alteration except with respect to metal badges and emblems, the rates for which were previously, 15 per cent, intermediate, and 25 per cent, general, imports from Great Britain being free. This schedule provides for 30 per cent. British; 40 per cent, intermediate; and 50 per cent, general. There are several Australian manufacturers of these badges who have requested protection; and as they are quite capable of producing Australia’s requirements, protective duties have been imposed. The badges affected are mainly such as are used to denote club membership.
– The rates under this subitem appear to me to be excessive. In the case of badges or emblems either partly or wholly of gold or silver, the duty is 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and 65 per cent., respectively. I repeat what I have said on a former occasion, that any industry which requires such protection is not natural to the country, and is not entitled to support.
– It is not profitable.
– I agree with the honorable member. I echo the sentiments of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), who has said that where an industry is of value to the country for national purposes, such as defence, or where the local conditions are favorable and raw material is readily available, every encouragement should be given. But such industries would not need anything like a duty of 50 per cent. British, 60 per cent, intermediate, and 65 per cent, general. A few years ago a duty of 25 per cent, was regarded as most generous. It was on very few items that the duty went as high as 60 per cent, or 65 per cent. Yet we are coolly asked to pass these duties as though the matter were of no importance, when all the time the result is to raise costs to the people of this country. The chief effect of the tariff is to permit manufacturers to charge up to the full extent of the protection that is afforded them.
– The next thing that will be asked for is protection for Australian cricketers.
– We have reached a stage when a halt ought to be called, and public attention drawn to the prevailing tendency. The addition of the cost of insurance and freight to Australia, primage duty and exchange, it will readily be conceded, raises the measure of assistance to more than 100 per cent. An industry that requires such protection should not be assisted by this Parliament. We ought not. to be asked to vote for such duties. I, for one, shall not vote for them.
.- Although this is a small item, there is involved in the imposition of this ‘ particular duty a very big principle. The Minister calmly gave as his reason for it-
– Did he give a reason ?
– He gave what he considered a reason, namely, that he had been assured by certain manufacturers that they could make these badges. He made no reference to terms, conditions, “prices and the like.
– Competition ought !to keep down the price.
– This sub-item refers to club badges, in which may be included those worn by members of the All for Australia League, and those which are so proudly displayed by my friends in the corner opposite. These badges must be of Australian manufacture, because most clubs, rural associations sad the like, have only a small membership,, and each needs a special badge, characteristic of the particular locality or purpose of the organization. Obviously, the work of making such badges must be given to a local manufacturer, and not to one in London or New York.
– A thousand or 1,200 would be a big order. ;
– As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) says, 1,000 or 1,200 would be a big order. This sub-item is a clear illustration of the readiness of the Government to impose duties of - as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has pointedly observed - 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and 65 per cent.
– The New England movement has just placed an order for 20,000 badges.
– That work would go wholly to Australian manufacturers without the aid of these exorbitant duties.
– They would not think of ordering them in London.
– In order to be on the safe side, as duties can be obtained merely for the asking, the manufacturers who claim to be making these badges request protection to the extent of 60 per cent, and 65 per cent. This is considered to be a means’ of building up Australian industries and making Australia self-contained I These duties prove conclusively the hollowness of the whole policy, and the rotten foundation upon which a number of small items have been built up to as high as 65 per cent, and 75 per cent. The schedule ought to be fought from beginning to end by every one who has the interests of this country at heart. It is said that the sentiment behind it is Australian patriotism; that those who vote for the high duties are patriots, and that those who vote against them are foreign traders. I protest against such unnecessarily heavy duties being imposed under this sub-item, and unless the party whip is cracked they should be opposed by a majority of honorable members.
.- The badges and emblems, partly or wholly of gold or silver, included in paragraph 1 of sub-item d were previously included in sub-item 315, which covers jewellery and articles used in the manufacture of jewellery, on which the rates were, ad valorem, British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent.; and general, 55 per cent., which have been increased by 10 per cent, for revenue purposes. The badges or emblems, wholly of metal, not being partly or wholly of gold or silver, and including metal enamelled, which are included in paragraph 2 of this sub-item, are manufactured in Australia in sufficient quantities to meet the whole of our requirements. The duties imposed on these articles are the same as those imposed on other metal manufactures, and are considered reasonable. I submit for the inspection of the committee samples of metal badges, such as those used by the Melbourne Cricket Club, and other similar bodies, which are wholly of Australian manufacture. As all of these badges are manufactured in Australia, it is considered that duties similar to those imposed on other metal manufactures should be adopted.
.- I am glad that the Minister has explained the reasons for the imposition of these duties. The duties on badges and emblems partly or wholly of gold or silver included in paragraph 1 seem high ; but as the Minister states that they were previously included in sub-item 315, which covers jewellery, they are reasonable, particularly as the jewellery manufacturing trade, in which there is a good deal of unemployment, has been properly established in Australia, and practically all our requirements in this direction have been met. Paragraph 2 relates to badges and emblems wholly of metal, not being partly or wholly of gold or silver, including metal enamelled, and covers club badges and those used on military and other uniforms. As these badges have been made in Australia for many years, the duties proposed are not unreasonable.
– Does the honorable member consider a duty of 65 per cent, reasonable ?
– I am now referring to the duties under paragraph 2, which are, British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent.; and general, 50 per cent., which, 1 think, are fair. The 50 per cent, rate is imposed only on goods of foreign manufacture, which are not likely to be imported in any quantity, and the 30 per cent, rate corresponds to the duty imposed to protect other metal manufacturers. In Melbourne and other cities, badge and medallion manufacturers are meeting all our requirements. As the duties imposed under paragraph 3 n.e.i. are free, 15 per cent, and 25 per cent., no objection can be taken to them. A duty of 50 per cent. British on badges or emblems, partly or wholly of gold or silver, is in the nature of a luxury tax, and is also a protection to those engaged in the manufacture of similar goods in Australia.
– Such badges are often required for charitable purposes.
– The articles covered by paragraph 1 are to pay a higher duty for revenue purposes, those under paragraph 2 include metal badges that have been> manufactured in Australia for many years, and, therefore, the rates seem reasonable, and the duties under paragraph 3 are, British free, intermediate 15 per cent., and general 25 per cent., and do not seem unduly high. In the circumstances, I think the rates should beaccepted by the committee.
– I do not see the slightest necessity to impose such high duties. Any one who* has had occasion to purchase badges of the type covered by this sub-item will realize that the badges usually worn on military and other uniforms and thelapels of men’s coats could not be profitably imported, as the loss of time involved, the cost of freight, and othercharges would make the price prohibitive. I have had a good deal to do with thepurchase of medallions and badges for various organizations, and I can assurethe Minister that, although I have ordered tens of thousands, I have never for a moment considered the purchase of” imported badges. All I have been, concerned about has been the price at which they could be purchased and sold. Theprofits on medallions and badges of this» description are very high, and,. therefore,. sufficient protection is afforded to local manufacturers.For instance, the “A.F.A.L.” badges were obtained at 4½d. and are sold at 2s. each. The profit is quite sufficient to protect the local manufacturer. The sort of badge worn by my honorable friend opposite can be purchased for1d., and is, I understand, sold at1s. Ordinary celluloid buttons can be purchased at about1d., according to the number ordered, and are generally sold at1s. Metal badges issued by different organizations are usually purchased at about 4½d., and sold at 2s.
Mr.Forde. - They are usually sold at much above the purchased price in order to raise money for charitable purposes.
– That is true; but the local conditions prevailing are such that tariff protection is unnecessary. I cannot understand why the Minister wishes to impose such heavy duties. It appears that manufacturers merely have to name the duty they require and it is granted. The Minister thinks it quite proper to give manufacturers all they ask for. It would be very difficult for the Minister to show the extent by which the revenue will benefit by the imposition of these duties. I do not think any income is derived from this source. In instances of this kind we should display a little common sense, and show that we are not anxious to impose unnecessarily heavy duties when the natural protection is sufficient.
Mr.Forde. - Protection previously afforded was found inadequate. All the particulars have been checked up by the departmental officials.
– The Minister must have been misinformed. I commenced to purchase badges in 1920, and every movement with which I have since been associated has purchased badges of local manufacture.
Mr.Forde. - That was for the New States movement !
– That organization is typical of others, and in view of the large number of badges required, purchase would be made from manufacturers in other countries if any advantage could be gained. I have purchased as many as 10,000 badges at a time. I believe that the Riverina New State movement has recently ordered tens of thousands of badges, and the New England movement 20,000. It has never been suggested that such badges should be obtained overseas. In these circumstances, the Minister should agree to lower rates, and tell the manufacturers that higher duties are unnecessary.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Buckles, clasps and slides for hats, shoes, and other attire -
– I move -
That the item he amended by adding after sub-item (e) (3) the following: - “ And on and after the 4th June, 1931 -
Non-metallic, other than those made of glass or tinsel, with or without metal fittings or metal fastening devices, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.”
The reason for the amendment is that, by a resolution of the 26th of March, 1931, duties of 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general tariff, were imposed on non-metallic buckles,’ clasps and slides, other than those made of glass, pearl or tinsel. In framing this paragraph it was intended that buckles, clasps and slides, in which the non-metallic portion was prominently displayed, and the base metal portion was either insignificant or non-apparent, should be dutiable at the non-metallic rate. Effect is given to that intention by the addition of the words “ with or without metallic fittings or metal fastening devices.” The amendment should make the position clear from a legal point of view.
Since the Tariff Board inquiry was held, a new industry has been established in the Commonwealth for the manufacture of buckles, clasps and slides from mother-of-pearl. This industry utilizes Australian shell in the manufacture of the articles it produces. The amendment will impose rates of 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general tariff on these pearl clasps. I shall furnish further details in connexion with this industry when we come to the item dealing with buttons. The object of the amendment is to give protection to the industry, which manufactures mother-of-pearl slides, samples of which are in the possession of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), and can be seen by honorable members. This new industry will obtain its raw material from Australian waters.
– Could we not deal with buckles and buttons together?
– Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been brought together, under the one head, instead of being classified as different items. A considerable quantity of these goods made of casein material of the Erinoid Galalith type, is being produced in Australia, and duties of- 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general, are proposed in order to protect and encourage the local manufacturer. These goods were previously imported free under the British preferential tariff, and at duties of 15 per cent, and 25 per cent, intermediate and general tariff respectively.
The manufacture of buckles, clasps and slides of non-metallic material is allied to the manufacture of buttons and similar articles, the importation of which represents £150,000 per annum. It will be seen, therefore, that a wide field exists for the development of the industry, which has already been established here. Hermann and Company, of Sydney, the local company manufacturing these goods, could not obtain bulk, orders from retailers without the heavier duties; they had to be content with “ fill-in “ orders only. By working one shift the company can produce goods to the value of £50,000 per annum; it could supply the whole of Australia’s requirements by working three shifts.
– How many persons are employed in the industry?
– As the firm receives further orders, the number of its employees increases. If it were supplying the whole of the Australian demand for these articles, it would employ 350 persons.
The existence of this Australian industry has already been the means of reducing the wholesale prices of the goods it manufactures. When the local company commenced manufacturing, its production costs were 24s. a gross, as against 22s. 6d. a gross for the imported article. As a result of further experience and economies in manufacture, the company was able to reduce its production costs, first to 16s. 6d. a gross, and later to 8s. 6d. a gross. Each reduction in costs was followed by a reduction in the price of the imported article. Ultimately, these goods were sold at 5s. 6d. a gross. What happened in this industry is typical of industries generally: so soon as local manufacturers commence to produce goods in Australia, the price of the imported articles with which they compete is brought down. The figures which I have quoted indicate clearly that the importers were exploiting the Australian market. The establishment of the local company has resulted in a reduction in the price of the goods it manufactures. Prior to the duties which were imposed in March last, the price charged by Australian manufacturers to wholesale merchants was higher than the landed cost, duty paid, of the imported line. The price charged to the public was the same for both the imported and the locallyproduced article. The effect of the duty will not be to increase the price of these goods; rather will it be to reduce the margin of profit made by the importers. The Tariff Board recommended that the duties be 20 per cent. British, 30 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, on these articles; but as the result of a careful inquiry, the Government considers that the minimum protection necessary is 30 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general. I hope that the amendment will commend itself to the committee.
.- Itseems to me that the Government is going monopoly mad. Evidently the Minister’s policy is to give to every Australian manufacturer the Australian market, the whole market, and nothing but the whole market. In this instance, as in others, the Minister is prepared to shut out all competition from overseas in favour of one Australian manufacturer. While I realize that it would be idle to appeal to honorable gentlemen opposite to vote against these duties, I have not yet ceased to marvel that a party which for years raved against the monopoly of the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company, the tobacco trust, and otter old-time monopolies, should have so degenerated that it now sets up monopoly after monopoly.
I am not deceived as to the objective of the Government. I suggest that there is a conspiracy between the trade union forces outside Parliament and the Government party in this House to grant a monopoly to Australian manufacturers, so that when their employees press for increased wages, shorter hours, and other concessions, they will be unable to resist their demands. Rather than incur the expense of resisting the applications before the Arbitration Court, manufacturers will put up the price of their goods in order that they may pay higher wages, and grant better conditions to their employees. That will be easy in the absence of competition. It will be done at the expense of the Australian consumers. I should not object to higher duties resulting in better conditions for the workers in industry if, at the same time, they conferred benefits on the community generally. 1 know, however, that in the long run the workers will suffer from these extreme duties. As a result of this tariff schedule, we shall have in our manufacturing industries a repetition of what took place on the coal-fields. The coalowners having a monopoly of the coal in the country yielded to the demands of their employees for increased hewing rates, rather than resist them, and at the same time they added the extra cost to the price of coal, together with a little additional profit for themselves. What happened ? Within a few years the price of coal was forced up and the export market was practically destroyed.
– On a point of order, I submit that the price of coal has nothing to do with the item under discussion.
– Ny point of order can be taken against the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) at this juncture. The Minister has referred to this company in detail, and the honorable member for Henty in reply is giving a rather long illustration in support of his contention. I ask him to keep his remarks in touch with the item before the committee.
– The increased price of coal severely restricted the consumption of that commodity, and the direct result was a curtailment of employment; the most serious victims of. that process were the coal-miners of Australia. What happened in the coal industry will happen in this industry in which one employer is engaged, and it will happen in regard to scores of other industries which are covered by these monopoly items. There is little skill necessary in a simple manufacturing process like that of the making of a buckle. The machinery required is not expensive and the labour cost is not heavy, yet this committee is asked to impose a duty of 45 per cent. British preference up to 60 per cent, general.
– There are only 22 employees in the industry.
– This increased duty is in aid of one company employing 22 hands. The Tariff Board’s report on this industry reads -
According to evidence tendered on behalf of the applicant company the amount of capital invested by such company in the industry is about £8,000.
Imagine the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) asking for a succession of special duties in aid of every farmer who has invested £8,000 in his holding. Imagine him asking for a monopoly of the Australian market in aid of some newfangled agricultural product which the farmers believe that they could grow. If such a case were put on behalf of thousands of farmers, it would be just as strong as the case of this company which has invested £8,000 in the industry. According to the Tariff Board’s report the value of the plant and machinery was given at about £5,000. It is obvious that if the company gave the cost at £5,000 the actual cost would be nearer £3,000. The report continues -
So far as is known the applicant company was the only concern engaged in the local manufacture of the goods at the time of the inquiry. Since the inquiry, however, it has been learned that another local company, which has been experimenting in the production of buckles and slides, has now decided to engage in the manufacture of those lines.
– That company will want its share of protection.
– It will share in the benefits to be obtained by means of these increased duties. I strongly protest against the gross folly of tariff-making along these lines.
.- Everything has to begin somewhere, and this industry is just in its infancy. It is manufacturing an article which is badly needed by this country. It is certainly not economical to buy imported imitation pearl buckles or buttons. We all know, in connexion with the clothes that we send to the laundry that it is necessary on their return to renew the imported buttons made of trochus shell. This company is making an article that compares more than favorably with the imported article. I have in my possession samples of Australian buckles and buttons. Of course, buckle slides are a secondary item. These buttons were produced in the Commonwealth and are obtainable at a price lower than that of the imported article. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has suggested that by agreeing to this increased duty we are supporting a monopoly; but let me inform him that I shall be glad, on every occasion that presents itself, to record a vote to shut out of this country the imported button that is made of trochus shall. This company is a subsidiary company of Burns, Philp - which is engaged in the trochus shell industry, and on one occasion I informed the manager, among others, that it would be better for Australia generally if the company discontinued producing shell, because the raw material was being sent to Japan to be manufactured into buttons, which would eventually be sold here as pearl buttons. It is exceedingly difficult to obtain real pearl buttons in this country. Plenty of buttons made of trochus shell are on sale, but they are of little use. They are extremely brittle because of the lack of grain in the shell. By supporting this duty we shall be. doing ‘a service to Australia. It is true that there are only 22 employees in this industry; but if given adequate protection, as is now proposed, within a short time £500,000 worth of buttons - which is the value of buttons imported - will be produced in this country. The imported article does not compare with the Australian article. The British pearl button is a good article, but it is difficult to obtain because the market is flooded with the trochus shell button, from the manufacture of which the greater profit is made. I am sure that if the makers were compelled to stamp the button card “ Guaranteed Pearl “, the public would be prepared to buy it even though it cost a little more than the imported article. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this monopoly was being built up as a result of a combination of the manufacturer and the trade unionists employed in the industry ; but, on his own statement, as borne out by the report of the Tariff Board, there are not many unionists employed in the industry. God help the unionists if they had to depend upon the honorable member for their existence. The Australian article is produced under better conditions than is the imported article.
– That is not true.
– I challenge the honorable member to cite one instance in which the imported article is being manufactured under conditions better than those obtaining in Australia so far as the workers are concerned. I prefer an article produced by Australian labour to one produced by black or cheap foreign labour. I shall vote for the item.
.- The Minister has given no good reason for departing from the recommendation of the Tariff Board. He has said that since the Tariff Board made its report the local manufacture of pearl shell buckles and buttons has begun. I do not know the date of that report.
– It is dated the 26th February, 1931.
– That is only three months ago. The Tariff Board itself recommended that pearl buckles and buttons be excluded from this increase of duty.
– The pearl button and buckle factory was started at the end of March.
– Did not the Tariff Board know that it was proposed to start a pearl button factory at that time?
– Evidently not, otherwise it would have mentioned it.
– I have evidence that makes it plain that there is little chance of a pearl button and buckle industry in Australia surviving, even with the aid of high duties amounting almost to a total prohibition, against the competition of the pearl shell button industry of Japan. I have a copy of a letter to the Minister from some 43 Melbourne firms, including merchants, -wholesalers, and retailers, with regard to item 106 e and f, and it relates more to buttons than to buckles, although they are both dealt with more or less. In this letter these firms ask that pearl buttons be exempt from being classed under the revised tariff of the 31st March, and that in respect of such buttons, the former rates - free, 5 per cent., and 15 per cent. - be made to apply. They say, in support of their claim -
We are decidedly of the opinion that there is no button manufacturing industry existing in Australia requiring protection, nor is there any probability of such industry being established here on economic lines.
It seems to me that we may be able to establish this industry, but only in such a way as to bring into being another little petty parasitical industry that is likely to harm other legitimate industries in Australia. It would probably be a load on our backs rather than a benefit to us. The letter continues -
The leading kinds of buttons are specialties of different countries, which have distinct facilities for manufacturing just those kinds, and consequently all the world buys in those markets. For instance, vegetable ivory buttons are practically exclusively manufactured in Italy; porcelain, metal, horn and bone buttons have always been drawn almost entirely from Germany and Czecho-Slovakia; pearl shell buttons, excepting certain high grades, are manufactured in immense quantities in Japan at prices no other country can touch. Italy has always been paramount in vegetable ivory buttons because it has the raw material, stone nuts, close at hand. There is no such raw material available in Australia.
Germany and Czecho-Slovakia have for generations specialized in the above-mentioned sorts, having abundant raw materials and being able to manufacture cheaply in a very large way, and in innumerable designs, since they have an immense export trade in such buttons to all other countries.
Then they go on to deal with pearl buttons -
With pearl buttons there are even stronger reasons than with the other kinds why the duty should not be increased, and thereby the cost of an item of every-day use by every person in Australia bo unduly raised. Many years ago the pearl button industry was flourishing in Austria, but Japan has captured the world’s market by reason of cheap labour and intense organization for this particular trade. In addition, the Japanese interests have closely allied themselves for many years with the winning from the known beds around the coast of different countries of the shells from which the buttons are made, until nowadays it is recognized that in regard to pearl buttons the position of Japan is unassailable.
This is the point I wish to emphasize -
It should further be remembered that the cutting, drilling, and polishing of pearl buttons means a lot of dust in the workroom, and that on account of the detriment accruing to the workers it would really be an objectionable industry to introduce here.
Mr.Forde. - I can assure the honorable member that I have gone through the factory, and there is nothing objectionable in the industry.
– Was the factory which the Minister visited engaged in the manufacture of pearl buttons, or some other kind of buttons?
– The factory was engaged in the manufacture of pearl buttons.
– The report speaks of the manufacture of pearl buttons, a process which is detrimental to the health of the workers. The report continues -
It is quite certain . that these buttons could never be made in Australia at a price to compete with Japan for export to other countries, and in the same strain it might also be said that no amount of duty could bring the landed cost of Japanese buttons up to the prices at which pearl buttons manufactured in Australia would have to be sold. Under these circumstances, the only effect of the increase in duty from 15 per cent, to 50 per cent, would be to unnecessarily increase the cost of an important item of every-day use, affecting in the first place the numerous Australian manufacturers of shirts, and all sorts of underwear, which manufacturers in turn would pass the higher cost on to the public. If the case for pearl buttons is particularly strong, there is also every reason for classifying the other above-mentioned buttons again as dutiable at 15 per cent, general tariff. We hold that the proposed increase to 50 per cent, is not warranted under present circumstances. The Australian manufacturing concerns which use buttons of all sorts are employing thousands of hands, whereas the number ever likely to be employed in the manufacture of buttons would be comparatively insignificant.
The document is signed by 43 different firms, including the Australian Knitting Mills Limited, Pelaco Limited, Welch, Margetson -and Company Proprietary Limited, the Domino Shirt Company, the Myer Emporium Limited,Foy and Gibson Proprietary Limited, London Stores Limited, Barrier Shirts Proprietary Limited, and many others.
They make it clear that while they condemn generally the proposal to grant protection to manufacturers of non-metallic ‘buttons, they particularly desire that the increased protective duty be not applied to item 106 p 3. While the Tariff Board’s report is not entirely in agreement with the request of the firms who sent the letter which. I quoted, it agrees with at least two or three of the points they make. The board recommends, in accordance with the request of these firms, that pearl buttons be not included in the item to which increased protection is given. Another point upon which the board and the signatories to the document I have quoted come within measurable distance of agreement is their request that the duties should be - British preferential 20 per cent., intermediate 30 per cent., and general 40 per cent., as compared with the Government’s proposal of 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 50 per cent, respectively.
– Why has the Government diverged from the board’s recommendation ?
– The Minister has not convinced me that he has any sound reason for the alteration. As an amendment to the Minister’s amendment, I move -
That thu proposed amendment be amended by inserting after the word “glass” the word “ pearl “, and by omitting “ 30 per cent., 40 per cent., 50 per cent.” and inserting in place thereof “ 20 per cent., 30 per cent., 40 per cent.”
I propose, also, to move that sub-item j? 3 be struck out with a view to inserting-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).We are not yet dealing with sub-item f 3.
– Well, I shall move an amendment to it when it is before the committee. The object of the Minister’s amendment is to remove pearl buttons from this item, so that they will become dutiable at the higher rate, instead of being, as they now are, exempt.. The Minister’s proposal is that pearl buttons be subject to a duty higher than that which the Tariff Board recommended.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), because the duties proposed in his amendment are the lowest that have yet been suggested in regard to this item. The report of the
Tariff Board is before the committee, and it would appear that the board has gone carefully, and even exhaustively, into the matter.
– If it has not, it should have.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Evidently it has. I have looked through’ the report carefully, and it is evident to me that the board has considered the matter from many angles, and it has recommended the same rate of duties as have been proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland. The board’s report points out that the company manufacturing in Australia is able to produce the cheaper quality of button, but that there are certain grades which it will not be able to make at all. Certain manufacturing firms will still be dependent upon imports, subject to the higher rate of duty, for those classes of buttons not manufactured locally. The Minister referred to the reduction in price, which, he said, was due to the competition of locally-manufactured buttons with the imported variety, and he mentioned this fact as though it were an atrocious thing which should not be allowed to happen. Who, I ask. is to get the benefit of this reduction? Not the company, with its 22 employees, but the great mass of the people. Is there anything wrong in that? Are not the public entitled to the benefit of such a reduction ? Are we to accept the principle that, as soon as the public are seen to be getting their buttons, or any other commodity, at a reasonably cheap price, the Government is to step in and say that this must not go on, and that it will take steps to ensure that the price is increased? Night after night during the discussion on this tariff I have endeavoured to ensure that the public shall get what it has to buy at a fair and reasonable price; but my efforts have left the Government and its supporters absolutely stone cold, although they were elected allegedly to guard the interests of the masses of the people. All the Government and its supporters are concerned about are the interests of the manufacturers on the one hand, and their 22 employees in the industry on the other. The Tariff Board points out that the local manufacturers are under no disadvantage compared with their overseas competitors in regard to obtaining raw materials, their only disadvantage being in regard to wages. The question then arises, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) whether an arrangement has not been entered into between the manufacturers and the labour union concerned.
– What union is that?
– Well, in order to meet honorable members opposite, I shall substitute for the expression, “ the labour union concerned,” the employees concerned in this industry - the whole 22 of them. The report of the Tariff Board mentioned that the wages of these employees ranged as high as £9 a week. That is a pretty fair wage at this time when one remembers that there are four or five hundred thousand persons walking about doing nothing. Apparently these employees are to thrive at the expense of the general public, who must j>ay more than is necessary for the buttons they need.
– What class of workers are receiving £9 a week ?
– -I shall read what the report of the Tariff Board says-
– It says that as much as £9 a week is paid to die-makers - not those engaged in the manufacture of buttons.
– Well, they are all engaged in the industry.
– They are mechanics, not button-makers.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Nine pounds, a week is a pretty fair wage for die-makers or anybody else engaged in this industry.
– The award rate is £6 a week.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.According to the Tariff Board’s report, the manufacturers have given a promise that they will not increase the price of buttons. Obviously, it is within their power to increase the price, and the only thing that stands between the public and exploitation is this promise to the Tariff Board. No bond has been entered into; only a promise given, and my experience has taught me that such promises are not of any great account, because no subsequent investigation ever seems to be made to determine whether or not the promise is honoured. In any case, there is no penalty if it is not. It is evident that the manufacturers have the power to increase the price when and how they like, and whether or not they adhere to their promise depends upon whether they can discover some subsequent excuse for increasing the price. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) indicated for the benefit of his own party the principle which a government ought to follow in framing its tariff policy. He laid it down that a government ought to select certain industries for encouragement by tariff protection. In my opinion, this industry is not one which ought to be selected. It could carry on with a much smaller degree of protection than is proposed in this schedule, or even than is proposed in the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The Tariff Board in its report has dealt with this industry with fairness, and even with generosity. The committee should accept the board’s recommendation, in the absence of any satisfactory reason why the duties should be increased. The Minister has failed to advance any sound reason why the board’s recommendations should be departed from, or why the duties should be increased merely on his say-so. Even the members of his own party should demand some satisfactory reason for departing from the board’s recommendations, which are obviously fair, and even generous.
.- The Government’s proposals in regard to this item indicate clearly that its policy is to give protection to any industry whatever, whether such protection is necessary to the development of the country or not, and regardless of whether or not the Tariff Board has recommended such protection. Is there any honorable member on either side who will suggest that the Tariff Board is not generous in its recommendations for protection to Australian industry - even generous to the extreme?
– Recently, the Tariff Board has been most conservative in its recommendations, because three out of four members of the board were appointed by the last Government which was very luke-warm on the subject of protection to Australian industries.
– I bear the Minister no ill-will in this matter. He has at least been consistent in his attitude; always a whole-hogger for high protection. Well do I remember, when he adorned this corner of the chamber in opposition, how bitterly he complained of the lukewarm policy of the Government of the day - which was, in my opinion, tariff-mad. The honorable gentleman made quite clear the extent to which he would go, should he ever have anything to do with the shaping of the tariff policy of the country. In those days he never thought for a moment that he would be Minister for Customs - although he might have had quiet ambitions about it - piloting through Parliament the highest customs tariff in the history of the country.
– The honorable gentleman is doing it well.
– He certainly is. I am not criticising the Minister personally. He is merely carrying out what he promised he would do, and he is enjoying every moment of it. The honorable gentleman distributes his largesse to all and sundry, whether it be the captains of our great iron and steel industry, or the makers of the humble pearl button. In effect, he says to all and sundry, “Ask and it shall be given you,” and metaphorically he fills their cups to the brim by granting protection on items of all descriptions. Each evening he departs from the chamber with sprightly step and beaming face, and, like the Gondoliers, “with the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.”
– That it has been imposed.
– Yes, and with the exception of one or two instances backed by the full force of the Labour caucus. I admit that exception must also be made occasionally for our newly-found fiscal friends in the corner across the aisle, who are awakened to the fact that these wholesale charters to-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order ! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the item before the committee.
– I am sorry if, in my verbal peregrinations, I have wandered from the straight and narrow path. Let me return to this colossal national industry of pearl-button making, which has a capital of some £8,000, and employs an army of workers numbering 22 ! We are gravely deliberating the extent of the protection that shall be granted to this important industry. The Minister has intimated that the price of pearl buttons has fallen since the industry was established in Australia.
– Is it not a fact that the price has fallen by one-third?
– I do not know, but I accept the statement of the Minister. However, it must be remembered that prices generally have fallen throughout the world, even those of pearl buttons. This excessive duty raises the question “ What are the reasons that actuated the Government in departing from the liberal recommendation that was made by the board in the matter “ ?
– The honorable member has opposed the imposition of duties on other items, notwithstanding the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– The policy that I am adopting as a general one is to vote for an all-round reduction of duties. The Minister has not given any specific explanation as to why he has in this case over-ridden and gone beyond the definite recommendation of the Tariff Board. For that reason alone, I intend to vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
.- I see no good’whatever in this item, and I shall oppose it and support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland. That honorable member showed clearly that the leaders of the different Australian industries which use pearl buttons firmly believe that the duty will be a deterrent to them. I believe that it will result in increasing the price of shirts. Practically every country buys its pearl buttons from Japan, which purchases from Australia annually goods to the value of £12,571,000, whereas we buy from Japan goods to the value of only £4,282,000, leaving a trade balance in our favour of £8,289,000. Because of the obsession of the Minister, the Government contemplates offending that excellent customer of ours in order to protect a company that has a capital of £8,000 and employs 120 hands. The result must eventually be an increase in the cost of the commodities concerned to the people of Australia.
– Our trade balance with Japan will be infinitely worse this financial year than it was last year, for which the honorable member has given figures.
– That is so. At a time when we should be endeavouring to decrease costs, the Government desires to impose these additional duties, which will mean greater costs to our people. The proposal is devoid of statesmanship and against the recommendations of the Tariff Board, a body which has given many warnings to the Federal Parliament about tariff-making. Apparently, the Government wants Australia to set out to capture the world’s pearl-button industry. We have already had evidence of reprisals taken against us by other countries because of our tariff -making ; they may be repeated in this instance. Surely ordinary sportsmanship, to say nothing about statesmanship, should compel us to recognize that we cannot expect other countries to buy generously from us when we practically refuse to purchase from them. These duties will do a dis-service to Australia. We have a very acceptable trade balance with Japan, and we should try to preserve it. While we do not want the Japanese in Australia, we must realize that their money is as “ white “ as is ours.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) stated that Japan buys some £12,571,000 worth of goods from us, whereas we purchase only £4,282,000 worth from Japan. Does he realize that the population of that country is nearly 70,000,000 as compared with Australia’s 6,000,000, so that, per head of population, our purchases from Japan compare more than favorably with those of that country from Australia. Japan buys our wool and other raw materials because they are of better quality than it can obtain elsewhere. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) read a lengthy list of firms and factories that are protesting against the imposition of these duties. That sort of thing is common. Industries want their own output protected, but desire freetrade in connexion with everything else. That is a very selfish attitude.
– Will not these duties result in an all-round increase in the price of the articles concerned?
– No; the Minister has pointed out that since the pearl-button industry was established in Australia, there has been a substantial reduction in the price of the article. We have, also been told that it is likely that another factory will begin shortly. With local competition prices will come down further. Those honorable members who have examined the samples that the Minister has submitted to the committee, must be proud of the high standard of the finished article that is made in Australia.
Some of the old school of free traders complain that these duties will increase prices. Actually, the reverse is the case. Others say that because prices have fallen it is unnecessary to grant the industry this protection. The Minister pointed out that when the local product was sold at prices lower than those of the imported article, the importers immediately dropped their prices in an endeavour to kill our industry. It is said that we cannot compete with the world in pearlbuttonmaking. We do not want to. We desire merely to supply our own requirements. By doing that we shall ensure the production of a cheap article of excellent quality. I accept the word of the Minister that about 200 people will be employed in this new industry. As our population increases, that number must grow. I believe in a policy of protection, and I shall support this item.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Paterson’s) of the proposed amendment be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman -Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of proposed amendment negatived.
Amendment (Mr. Forde’s) agreed to.
Buttons, n.e.i. -
– I move -
That the item be further amended by adding after sub-item (f) the following: - And on and after the 4th June, 1931 -
Buttons, n.e.i., including blanks and those partly finished -
1 ) Partly or wholly of gold or silver, ad val., British, 50 per cent. ; intermediate,60 per cent.: general,65 per cent;
Wholly of metal (not being partly or wholly of gold or silver) excepting trouser buttons, ad val., British, 40 per cent. ; intermediate, 45 per cent. ; general, 50 per cent.;
Non-metallic, other than those made of glass or tinsel and those specified in paragraph (4) of this sub-item, with or without metal fittings or metal fastening devices; cloth covered, ad val., British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; general, 50 per cent. ;
Trochus, pearl, imitation pearl or other animal shell -
Up to 20 line, per line per gross, British, id.; intermediate,¾d.; general,1d.; and ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; general, 25 per cent. ;
Exceeding 20 line, per line per gross, British,½d. ; intermediate,¾d.; general,1d; and ad val, British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.;
Other, ad val, British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 15 pel cent.”
The purpose of this amendment is to add the words, “ with or without metal fittings or metal fastening devices; cloth covered “.
– Is it intended to bring the sub-item into line with a previouslyamended sub-item?
– Yes. It will also slightly increase the protection on pearl buttons. ‘This qualification is rendered necessary in order to ensure that such lines as bachelor buttons and pearl buttons used on tropical suits, which are non-metallic except for a base metal shank and split pin or ring, are made dutiable at the non-metallic rate. From a practical point of view, these buttons are nonmetallic, but, as already explained, it is desirable to have the legal position made secure. The amendment also provides for the inclusion of cloth-covered buttons. Under item 106 f 4 cloth-covered buttons were being admitted at the following rates: - British, free and general, 15 per cent., whereas the raw material for such buttons were dutiable at the following rates: - Metal moulds, British, 45 per cent., and general, 60 per cent., and wooden moulds, British, 50 per cent., and general, 65 per cent., plus a special duty of 50 per cent, in the case of wooden moulds. Such an anomalous state of affairs called for the rectification which this amendment makes. It also imposes increased rates of duty on pearl buttons, in order that a local industry may compete with Japanese trochus shell buttons.
By way of explanation, I should like to mention that when the rate of duty on pearl buttons was increased to 50 per cent, in March last, it was recognized that the increase would not be sufficient to protect the local industry; but, pending further investigation, the Government decided to place on these buttons the same rate of duty as was then being placed on nonmetallic buttons. Those investigations are now complete.
– Who made them?
– One of the departmental tariff experts. The proposed duties areessential for the adequate protection ofthe local industry against the importation of cheap trochus shell buttons.
– Has the Minister inspected the factory ?
– Yes; and I am satisfied that it is worthy of protection. I predict that before six or eight months have expired over 200 hands will be working in that factory. When it is known that pearl shell costs from three to five times as much as trochus shell, the necessity for a higher duty is realized. It is not reasonable to compare the trochus button with the pearl button, particularly in the matter of price, because the pearl button is ©f infinitely superior quality. The trochus button will not withstand the rough treatment meted out to our garments by modern laundries. Shirts come back from these laundries, as honorable members no doubt have experienced, with many broken buttons. I have samples of local pearl shell buttons that compare in quality with any obtainable elsewhere in the world. They are made in Sydney in a well-equipped factory from the raw material obtained on the North Queensland coast. This factory provides an Australian market for the pearling vessels that go out from Thursday. Island. The buttons and buckles made in the Sydney factory are of wonderfully high quality, and are much superior to the bulk of the buttons and buckles imported from Czecho-Slovakia and elsewhere. The pearl shell button wears better and lasts very much longer than the cheap trochus shell button, which is chiefly imported from Japan, but I can assure the committee that these duties will ensure the public getting a better button at no extra cost to the purchaser. The manufacturer of garments may be called upon to pay an increased price, representing the difference between the cost of imported trochus shell buttons and locally-manufactured pearl buttons, but the increased price per garment would be so slight that it would be impossible to express it in our currency.
– Is the factory situated in East Sydney?
– Yes. This amendment should appeal to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). As regards the prices of imported and Australian pearl shell buttons, the latter can now undersell the former. As an instance, I have a sample card of English pearl buttons which are sold retail by David Jones and Company Limited, of Sydney, for lid. The local manufacturer ‘can sell this line for 34d. per card of 1 dozen, at which price retailers should be able to sell to the public at 7d., and then make a profit of 100 per cent. The real object of the duties now proposed is to restrict the competition of the trochus shell button, the quality of which is inferior to that of the pearl button. The local manufacturer is able to compete against the imported pearl button, but not against trochus sold as pearl. With the local market assured to the Australian manufacturer, employment will be found for 200 hands in the production of buttons, buckles, slides, clasps, sleevelinks, studs and other fancy goods. This industry is natural to the Commonwealth, for the pearl shell is obtained from Northern Australian waters. The production of pearl shell has fallen enormously owing to world economic conditions. In 1928 the production was 1,100 tons; in 1929, 1,300 tons; and in 1931 it is estimated to be only 350 tons. Burns, Philp and Company have a fleet of pearling luggers at Thursday Island, and at least a quarter of them will be obliged to lay up unless an improved local market for pearl shell can be provided. The proposed duties should provide a substantial and ready market for the pearl shell won from Australian waters. The Tariff Board, reporting on the 20th February last on buttons, buckles, clasps and slides of erinoid, celluloid, galalith or any casein material, said -
The result of the operations of the applicant company in the past give evidence of considerable enterprise, and from the samples of their products exhibited at the inquiry there appears to be no reason to doubt their ability to cope with the ordinary requirements of the trade in the goods in respectof which they are seeking increased duties. This view would seem to be supported by the fact that merchants have in the past been prepared to accept the locally-made goods where circumstances have made it profitable or convenient for them to do so. . . . It is difficult to assess what additional cost, if any, to users would result from the imposition of increased duties. The applicants were emphatic in stating that, given increased protection, they would, as the result of greater production, be able to materially reduce costs of production and selling prices. If this should eventuate, and it should be possible to a greater extent than was anticipated by the applicants if local production is concentrated upon the lines in greater demand, then the additional duties should not represent any appreciable increase in the cost to usersof those lines. … In any case the board is of opinion that any slight additional cost that might result would not represent an undue impost on those who desire to gratify a taste for the more exclusive articles.
The report and recommendation of the board were based on the actual costs of German, Czecho-Slovakian and other continental buttons. It was well known that overseas manufacturers were prepared to sacrifice some of their profits in order to retain the Australian market even at the rates of duty recommended by the board. The Government considered that those rates would not be protective. The Government’s policy is to protect Australian industries, not merely to impose duties which will permit of competitive imports from other countries and increase indirect taxation. The Government decided that a 50 per cent, general tariff is essential to the industry. The United Kingdom has found it necessary to impose a duty of 331/3 per cent, on buttons and allied products. . In those circumstances surely a general tariff of 50 per cent, is not too high for Australia to impose. Some honorable members opposite have been consistent advocates of a low tariff The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), for instance, advocated a low tariff that would suit the wheatgrowers, and even stepped out of the Bruce-Page Cabinet when he found that certain of his colleagues in the Country party were prepared to jettison their low tariff principles in order to retain their positions in the Ministry. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) have throughout the discussion on this schedule consistently advocated freetrade. [Quorum formed.] I was told recently that some weeks ago when the Government seemed likely to be defeated, certain importing interests-
– On a point of order, I submit that this has nothing to do with, buttons.
– I ask the Minister to connect his remarks with the item beforethe committee.
– When the Governmentseemed likely to be defeated certain big: importers sent their buyers overseas tobuy buttons and other articles. The merchants ofFlinders-lane and Yorkstreet have been working overtime to bring about the defeat of the Government, and if they should succeed their buyers abroad would be instructed bycable to operate immediately and flood the Australian market with imports. If the champions of freetrade regain the treasury bench Australian industries will go by the board. The Sydney Bulletin of the 27th May, said -
The incurable foreign-trader is prepared to swear that it would be cheaper to close up any manufacturing industry, including the making of butter and flour, and import the goods from cheaper-labour countries even if we cannot pay for them, and pension off the local workers with paper money or any old thing, our reward being the blessings of freetrade. But they are a skimpy diet and purely theoretical on the stomach.
The Bulletin took to task especially the honorable members for Henty and Warringah. They have a brief from the importers and they have done their job well in regard to this and other items in the schedule.
– On a point of order. The Minister stated that I have a brief from the importers. That statement is inaccurate and personally offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the Minister to withdraw the remark deemed offensive by the honorable member for Warringah.
– If it is offensive to say that the honorable member is ably conducting his brief on behalf of the importing interests, I withdraw it. But he has filled very well the role of a freetrader.
– The honorable member has merely aggravated his offence. Instead of setting an example to other honorable members when asked by the Chair to withdraw he has prevaricated by saying that I have ably conducted the brief given to me by the importers, despite my declaration that I have no such brief. I ask that he be required to withdraw his statement without equivocation.
– The Minister must withdraw without reservation the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I withdraw. The honorable member has charged me with prevarication. That is offensive to me, and I ask that he be required to withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
.- The Minister boasts of all the industries which the Government is building up by means pf this tariff. He has introduced hundreds of new duties, and I challenge him to name one industry that has employed an additional 500 hands as a result of his tariff policy.
– The Eclipse Wireless Factory is employing 600 hands directly and indirectly. Eight months ago it was not in existence.
– Directly and indirectly! For half an hour the Minister inflicted on the committee a plea on behalf of an industry that is to utilize pearl shell won from the Northern Australian seas by coloured labour. This is what we get from the great whiteworker party opposite. The Minister has been delivering a tirade against Japanese trochus, the inference being that this commodity is obtained by cheap Japanese labour; but I point out that pearl shell, also, is won from the sea by Japanese and Malay labour. A tariff carried to extremes for the benefit of white, workers is sufficiently hard to bear with; but, when the schedule is extended to drag in Malays and Japanese, the breaking point is reached. Though the Minister says that this duty will enable the Australian button manufacturers to compete with the Japanese, it will not permit Japan or any other country to compete with the Australian manufacturers. The very prices that the Minister has quoted condemns this duty. He said that David Jones Limited, were selling these buttons at lid. per card. The Australian manufacturer sells them wholesale at 3½d. a card, which, allowing for 100 per cent, profit to the retailers, should enable them to be placed on the retail market in the shops of David Jones Limited, or in any other establishment, at 7d. a card, or 50 per cent, below the price of the imported article; but, on top of that, the local manufacturer is to be given an import duty of 50 per cent, ad valorem. That is straight-out prohibition, and a direct invitation to the Australian company to charge its own prices against the Australian consumers. The Minister contended that the increased cost of the buttons used on a garment was so small that the proposed increased duty did not amount to much.
– But there are increased duties on so many things.
– Of course. That is the story we are told in connexion with every increased duty contained in the tariff schedule. The total burden involved by the extra duties on great numbers of articles has so increased the costs of production in Australia that we have been brought to our present position. These costs are higher than in any other country, and that accounts largely for our present economic position.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said that pearl shell is produced by Japanese, Malays and other coloured labour, but I remind him that the Malays employed in this industry were brought in by the Government to which the honorable member belonged, and to its predecessors. No Malays have been admitted into Australia for some time, particularly since the present Government has been in office. Trochus shell is produced by black labour, and not by Japanese. The men employed in recovering the shell are chiefly Papuans, who are paid £18 a year, and a certain number of Torres Straits “ boys “ are also engaged in this work. Trochus shell is largely obtained in the vicinity of Thursday Island, and along the Great Barrier Beef. The buttons made from this material are of inferior quality, and readily break; in fact, they fall to pieces in ordinary handling, apart from the treatment generally received at laundries. The Minister might with advantage have prohibited their importation.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has referred to the trade balance between Japan and Australia, but our trade with Japan in trochus shell does not amount to a great deal. All housewives who have used these buttons know how brittle they are. Although they are alleged to be made of pearl shell, they do not compare in quality with buttons made from real pearl shell. If they did, it would not be necessary for the Australian company to ask for further protection. About twothirds of the world’s output of pearl shell is produced on the coasts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The company engaged in the industry at Thursday Island - Burns, Philp and Company - is the parent company to which the pearl-button-making company is subsidiary. An inspection of the buttons on the card produced by the Minister will reveal that the imitation pearl buttons have a distinct sheen, but they are of inferior quality. Therefore, it is rather a pity the Minister did not prohibit the importation of buttons made of trochus shell. The reason why this duty is demanded is that trochus shell is being palmed off as pearl shell. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that a customer asking for pearl buttons at any drapery establishment would be offered trochus shell buttons. It is difficult for the ordinary purchaser to distinguish between trochus and pearl shell. The Australian pearl button is infinitely better than even the British button. It is of better finish, and also cheaper. Although I agree that the British button is made of mother-of-pearl, it is nearly three times as costly as the Australian button of similar quality. Owing to the difficulty regarding trochus shell, I am supporting the duty; but I regret, as I have already said, that the importation of trochus shell has not been prohibited.
.- I protest against the practice of the
Minister in moving complicated amendments without circulating copies of them among members of the committee. I listened attentively to the Minister’s remarks, and, although my hearing is normal, I was unable to catch some of them. I endeavoured, by way of interjection, to induce the Minister to repeat the proposed fixed duties on pearl buttons. If the Minister proposes to state a complicated amendment only once in the course of a speech on a particular item, it may be advisable for him to wait until the conclusion of his half -hour’s explanation, when the committee has reached a condition of silence, due to exhaustion, that one may be able to tell what the Minister has to say. I, loo, had intended to submit an amendment providing that we revert to the duties recommended by the Tariff Board, namely, 20 per cent. British preferential. 30 per cent, intermediate and 40 per cent, foreign; but I realize that it would be futile to do . that, because the Minister has on his side a mechanical majority, which will vote for whatever he proposes, without, in many cases, knowing, or wishing to know, what his amendments are. Therefore, I- shall content myself by voting against both the amendment and the motion.
– I protest against the action of the Minister in submitting a complicated amendment which has been read only once. I contend that it is impossible for the committee to grasp its meaning in the brief time at its disposal. In the case of other measures, no difficulty is found in having proposed amendments circulated amongst members. I submit that the tariff amendments have not been drawn up on the spur of the moment, and, if the Minister is prepared to treat members of the committee as he should, they would be placed in possession of copies of such amendments. It is proposed that the British preferential duty on trochus shell buttons up to 20 line be £d. per line per gross, and 15 per cent, ad valorem in addition; that the general tariff be fd. per line per gross, plus 20 per cent, ad valorem, and that the general tariff be Id. per line per gross, plus 25 per cent, ad valorem. Exceeding 20 line, the proposed duty if £d. per line per gross, and an additional 30 per cent, ad valorem. The Minister read portions of the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but he did not read the following passage: -
As regards the lines for which the demand is more or less limited, and which it is assumed will still be imported, even if the selling prices were increased by the extent of the additional duty, the added cost of the goods would not be material.
That statement was made on the assumption that the duties would be 20 per cent. British preferential, 30 per cent, intermediate, ana 40 per cent, general; but the Minister has proposed the extraordinarily high duties that I have indicated. The consequence is that the Tariff Board’s recommendations have been entirely nullified, and there has been a lamentable increase in the cost of the buttons. My opposition is being carried on with the object of enabling the general public to buy some articles at least at a reasonable price. The protection of every new industry is involving the public in very heavy additional expense.
– What about the woollen industry? I showed the other day that a substantial reduction of 30 per cent, had been made in prices since the new duties were imposed.
– The Minister claims that he has shown the same thing in regard to haircloth and everything else that is included in the schedule. [Quorum formed.’]
The Government has rendered the report of the Tariff Board on this subject utterly valueless as a guide to honorable members. Not only has it departed from the original recommendation of the board, but it is now proposing even higher duties. Presently the Minister will call his cohorts into the chamber and, although they will know nothing about the subject, they will vote as the Minister desires them to vote.
– The application of the word “ cohorts “ to honorable members of Parliament is unparliamentary. The word must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The division bells will ring shortly and honorable members opposite will troop into the chamber and vote whichever way the Minister desires them to vote, although they will not have the faintest idea of the effect of their vote. In this instance they will vote for the support of a coloured labour industry, and oblige our own people to pay an excessive price for buttons merely because an inexperienced Minister desires them to do so. An industry of this kind cannot be regarded as either stable or suitable ‘for Australian conditions and the attempt ‘to establish it here will simply cause the people additional and unwarranted expense. I can imagine the howl that would have gone up from honorable members of the Labour party if a Nationalist Government had proposed protection for an unessential coloured labour industry of this kind. Although these so-called Labour men cry “ White Australia “, they support industries which are conducted principally by black labour. If the Nationalist party had proposed a duty of this kind it would never have heard the last of it. Apparently, considerations relating to our White Australia policy are lost sight of by the Government when it is handing out tariff favours.
– There is not a single coloured person employed in this factory, and the -honorable member knows it.
– The White Australia principles of the Labour party have been thrown to the four winds of heaven ; the protection of the workers has been lost sight of; and the cost of living, even to the bare necessaries of life, has been inflated merely because the Government is anxious to protect other interests. Let me ask honorable members which parties in this House really stand for the general public? From which party may the general public expect to get a fair deal? I suggest that thi3 Ministry, and honorable members opposite, are not looking to the interests of the general public when they are willing to impose these excessive duties merely to keep 22 men in employment. The only objection and protests that have been made against the exploitation of the workers during the discussion of these duties have come from this side of the chamber.
The Minister quoted certain statements published in the Bulletin. What do I care for what the Bulletin says on this subject? I am here to form and express my own opinions, and I shall speak with entire disregard of the views of the Bulletin, which to-day is a mere shadow of the great newspaper that it originally was. To-day it has neither personality nor power. It is, in fact, a mere imitation of the weekly society magazines of the day. I pay little regard to what the Bulletin says about my views on the fiscal question.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to keep off the Bulletin.
– I shall endeavour to do so, but I was replying to certain statements made by the Minister. I regard this duty as excessive and unfair to the general public, and I shall vote against it.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has protested against almost every item in the schedule. He has also pretended that he stands for the oppressed workers, the unemployed, and the women and children of this country. But I believe that honorable members who have listened to the speeches which he has made on this and other items, will have formed the opinion that he is not so much concerned about the truth or otherwise of his statements, or about the welfare of “the workers, as he is about the interests of the importers and middlemen who are exploiting the general public. I give an emphatic denial to the statement that this duty has been proposed with the object of assisting a coloured labour industry. The object of the Government is to give good, healthy, remunerative employment to white people in Australian factories. We object to this work being done for us in foreign countries for low wages. The attitude that the Minister has adopted is consistent with the declared policy of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party.
The honorable member for Warringah, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and other honorable members opposite, have said that the Minister has not given sufficient reasons to justify his departure from the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I am not so much concerned about the report of the board as I am about having the manufacture of pearl buttons carried out in Australian workshops. The honorable member supported a government which frequently disregarded the reports of the Tariff Board.
– It disregarded them whenever it saw fit te do so.
– Yes. It introduced tariff schedules which contained items that the board had neither considered nor reported upon, and it did it for purely party political advantages, although it pretended to be a Simon pure, and said that it would not increase any duty without the fortification of a recommendation of the board. The honorable member for Henty has said that this duty is likely to bolster up a petty, parasitic industry. I remind him that all our industries began in a small way. Even the great wool-growing industry of Australia had a very humble beginning. But the fact that it was begun in the early days by a mere handful of pioneers is no reason why it should be ridiculed and sneered at by would-be Australians. All industries have to start somewhere. I do not care whether the pearl button industry gives employment to 20, 100 or 200 people, so long as it prevents the importation of buttons made in cheap labour countries. As a matter of fact, these buttons are being dumped in Australia from other countries. I believe that the imposition of this duty will eventually have the effect of preventing the importation of buckles, buttons, slides and other fancy goods of the kind to the value of about £500,000 per annum.
The honorable members of the Country party have protested against a good many items in this schedule, including that under discussion, but they have remained remarkably silent on others. I did not hear them protest against the sugar embargo, or the duty on butter. Neither the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), nor the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) made any protest a few days ago when the Government proposed a duty of 3d. per lb. on dates with the object of helping the dried fruits industry of Australia. Dates are not produced in Australia ; but the Government, consistent in its policy to assist primary producers, imposed a duty on dates at the expense of consumers. The members of the Country party are apparently ready to agree to the imposition of very high duties on primary products of every description, but they sneer at and cry “ stinking fish “ to all proposals for the imposition of substantial duties on manufactured products for the purpose of building up industries that will be helpful to Australia. I shall support this proposal. I think that our tariff wall should be built as high as possible in order to protect our secondary industries, and to safeguard them against dumping.
In a recent issue of Japan Trade, a paragraph appeared which shows quite clearly that foreign manufacturers have the habit of dumping goods in Australia, I quote the following extract from that publication : -
The recent business depression in general is causing the shell button manufacturers to dump their products. The shell button exports have shown a shrinkage in value to the level of6,000,000 yen against the former phenomenal figure of 8.500,000 yen.
There is a straightout admission in that publication that button manufacturers abroad have dumped their buttons in Australia and elsewhere. Australian manufacturers should not be asked to compete with overseas manufacturers who dump their products in other countries. I congratulate the Minister on his determination to give this deserving industry as much protection as possible, and trust that the members of the committee will support the Government’s proposal.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has criticized honorable members on this side for failing to protest against what he describes as a burden which, he declares, is being imposed upon the workers under this sub-item. The honorable member doth protest too much ! We have not objected to these duties because, in our opinion, they do not impose any burden upon the people. His attitude reminds me very much of some lines which describe the fate of the motorist who, insisted upon asserting his right against that of all others to the road -
Here lies the body of William Gay,
Who died when asserting his right-of-way.
Ho was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But lie’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.
Everybody knows that cheap, coloured labour is employed in Japan and China in the production of buttons and other ornaments from the Australian rawmaterials. The industry which these duties protect was carried on during the regime of the Government which the honorable member for Warringah supported. At present much of this raw material finds its way to Japan and other countries where it is manufactured into the articles mentioned, and returned to Australia for sale. This Government, being alive to the interests of thepeople, and realizing the desirableness of establishing industries wherever possible, has imposed these duties in furtherance of its policy. They are designed to protect what is now an established Australian industry against competition from overseas countries where cheap labour is employed. No burden will be imposed upon the people, because the prices at which the finished products will be sold will certainly not be higher than those ruling for the imported articles, and there will be the added advantage that the Australian product will be of a much higher standard of value. These duties provide a market for raw material which is obtained around the Australian coastline, and should ensure continuity of employment in an industry recently established for the manufacture of articles for which there is a considerable demand. I hope that the committee will pass them.
Amendment agreed to.
Item 106, as amended, agreed to.
Item 107 (Woven and embroidered materials).
– The articles covered under this item, which is a new one, include ribbons and galloons, having not more than 48 ribs to the lineal inch, and being not more than 3½ inches in width. The effective duty is, British 54 per cent, and general 81½ per cent. This sub-item was introduced to the schedule to protect manufacturers of hat-banding and galloons, but it applies to many classes of ribbons that are not made in Australia, including the water-waved regalia ribbon which, being under 48 ribs to the inch and under 3½ inches, and being manufactured in the United Kingdom, pays duty at 54 per cent., while a similar ribbon, 4 inches wide, classified under item 106 b, is duty free, paying only the primage duty of 4½ per cent. In neither case is the ribbon manufactured in Australia. This absurdity shows the need for very much greater care in the framing of tariff items. The manner in which the various items are presented indicates thoughtlessness on the part of the Minister. Of course, wo shall be told that these duties will not increase the price of the commodities in question. “We have already imposed duties on pearl buttons and similar articles, and now the Minister is asking the committee to agree to these heavy duties on hat-banding. There is not the slightest doubt that the effect will be to increase the cost of clothing to the working classes. I oppose the item, firstly because these ribbons and galoons are not manufactured in Australia, and secondly, because under sub-item 106 b. similar articles are admitted duty free.
The following papers were presented : -
British Phosphate Commissioners - Reports and . Accounts for years ended 30th June, 1929, and 30th June, . 1930, respectively.
Northern Australia Act - North Australia - Ordinance of 1931 - No.6 - Workmen’s Compensation.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have received from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.Forde) a communication with respect to a question that I asked in this House on the 19th May last concerning protests that had been made against the screening of certain films, and the effect that such films have upon the youth of this country, or are considered to have by persons who, in my opinion, are in an excellent position to judge of the psychology that they create. The Minister has supplied me with a copy of a memorandum sent to his department by the Acting Chief Censor, Lionel J. Hurley, which 1 consider ought to be placed on record. It reads -
With reference to your memorandum dated the 21st instant (A.2574) covering an extract from Hansard of the 19th instant,I beg to state that inquiry indicates that the film referred to by Mr. Yates is “ The Man From Chicago “, a British picture produced by the British International Pictures Export Limited.
This film was viewed by the Chief Censor on the 28th January, 1931, and rejected, the Chief Censor’s comments being -
A crime story with no redeeming features of fine character or motive nor dramatic quality. Although made in England it is almost an exact replica of the usual American type (the leading crook being the “Man from Chicago”) except that there are no machine guns or rival gangsters. This deficiency is balanced by the murder of a policeman, a detective, and the brutal bashing of a young man into insensibility. The attempt to ape the atmosphere and appeal of the ordinary American film of the underworld, even to the sob stuff at the close, is somewhat pathetic.
The importing agent appealed against this decision, and on the 10th February, the Appeal Board passed the film with deletions amounting to 30 feet. Your memorandum was submitted to the Appeal Board for consideration, and the attached report has this day been received from that board. With reference to the last paragraph of that report, I desire to point out that the decisions of the Censorship Board only, apply in Victoria, subject to appeal to aState authority, and although there is no evidence that “ The Man From Chicago “ was approved by that’ authority, a number of films rejected by this board and passed by the Appeal Board have, during the last twelve months, been released by the Victorian censor.
The honorable gentleman has also supplied me with a copy of a report upon the same film by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Appeal Board. It reads -
This film is a British screen version of the stage play byReginald Simpson. It is dramatically conceived, and well produced. The photography is good, the acting generally of level merit, and the entertainment value high. The course of the action is described in the appended copy of a synopsis issued by “ British International Pictures Limited.”
The story is of the decline and fall of a criminal. It shows nothing of his rise to a small degree of authority as leader of a few associated “ crooks “, but merely depicts the nemesis for his most daring and brutal crimes. There is nothing in the picture that is likely to excite youth to emulation - no glorification of the wrong-doer or his acts. The action begins with a murder, and thenceforward shows how the cunning and resourcefulness of a”“clever, callous, and selfish villain are of no avail when pitted against right and the organized forces of the law. A casual critic has remarked that “ the whole moral of the show is that if you want to escape you want to kill “.If we be not misinterpreting this? ambiguous sentence, it states the exact opposite of the truth. In his efforts to escape, the villain of the piece kills, and his murders lead directly to his capture and his death. From the beginning, when he shoots a policeman on a lonely road, his fate is sealed. He is 1101, it is true, put to death by the means selected by English law. Actually - in the interest of a theatrical plot - he is attempting to elude the police when accidentally killed by a woman accomplice; but one never feels that he has a chance of more than momentary escape. The complaint that he is not “ brought to just ice “ is frivolous. He suffers a violent death as a result of his criminal activities; what member of a civilized audience would prefer to see him dangle on a string? Only at one point can one sympathize momentarily with the man; namely, when, at the point of death, ho shows some slight consideration for another human being. The author apparently wishes to leave the impression that even the wickedest of men has in him a germ of goodness - an undeveloped possibility. There was in that final speech, we thought, a touch of unnecessary sentimentalism, but it did not appear tous possible to cut the passage effectively, ‘and it did not really detract from the general effect. The criminal is represented as a revolting scoundrel. Sympathy is attracted strongly (1) to the Irish detective, who is the chief agent in the tracing of the crimes and the capture of the assassin; (2) to the young lovers whose happiness the villain is bent upon destroying; and (3) in a minor degree to an unwilling but weak accomplice.
The Appeal Board, at a full meeting, unanimously passed the picture (on condition that one slight elimination should be made) thus reversing the decision of the Chief Censor. In other words, “ The Man Prom Chicago “ was passed by three of the four censors who saw it screened. In some quarters, criticism of this film seems to be developing almost into’ attacks upon the Appeal Board. Unfortunately the board is often blamed for the general tone of the pictures shown in our theatres. It is forgotten that only a small percentage of these pictures is witnessed by us. In Victoria, the Appeal Board’s decisions have no force. The recent strictures of the Chief Justice, Sir William Irvine, therefore leave our withers unwrung.
Appended to this report are -
Synopsis of “The Man From Chicago”;
Press cuttings concerning “The Man From Chicago “. (Signed) J. Le GAY BRERETON, Chairman,
25th May, 1931.
In my opinion, that is the weakest defence that could be imagined. Evidently the Appeal Board has attempted to place the whole of the responsibility on the Chief Censor. I can say that many of the pictures that are being released lack entertaining qualities, are uneducative, and are not in any sense a credit to those who have conceived them - and I witness the screening of only a very small propor- tion of the number released.
On former occasions I have referred in this House to the nature of three other films- “Flaming Youth,” “ The Shanghai Lady,” and “Hallelujah.” No person yet born would be other than horrified at the thought that his family was likely to go through such experiences as those which were portrayed in “Flaming Youth.” I have previously described fully “ The Shanghai Lady.” It is a disgrace to our civilization that such a thing should have to be paraded for the purposes of entertainment. “ Hallelujah “ was a downright insult and an affront to the religious principles of a large section of those who profess the Christian faith. It was a parody upon negro life in America.
The Chief Censor took the right course when he rejected “ The Man from Chicago “ ; and the action of the Appeal Board was the weakest that has ever emanated from a responsible body.
I place these reports on record so that the public may know that the work of film censorship is not being carried on according to their expectations. Notwithstanding what may be said to the contrary, some of the pictures that are exhibited exercise a pernicious influence, and that should not be allowed to continue in our community.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the House again the long and tedious delay that has taken place in the dispensation of justice to Mr. Jacob Johnson. About three weeks ago the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised this subject on the motion for the adjournment, and I think that almost continuously during the last three weeks he and I have urged the Government, and the AttorneyGeneral to come to some decision in the matter. Since we first! raised the subject it has. been brought under our notice, and to our astonishment, that some very important documents dealing with the case are missing. Mr. Johnson endeavoured to get these documents returned because they are of importance to him - as a matter of fact the whole of his case depends upon them. He was first informed by the department that it did not have the documents.
– Did they belong to Mr. Johnson ?
– Yes. He then received further correspondence to the effectthat the department was looking into the matter. I know that that investigation has been in progress, because an officer of the department discussed the matter with me last week.’ This is a very serious matter, particularly in view of the fact that an instance of public documents coming into the possession of unauthorized persons was mentioned in this House quite recently, when you, Mr. Speaker, took certain action. As this case has not been settled in the way expected, we are continuing to bring it forward, because the most humble member of the community is entitled to justice. The Johnson case has been before the Government for a long . time, and as an exminister I know something of it. Furthermore, I know that at one stage the Government had reached a decision. [ shall not tell the House to-night what that decision was, but a duty and responsibility rests upon the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) to deal with the matter as the Government decided it should be dealt with. “When a Minister, I was entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking certain work in connexion with the case on behalf of the Government, and I faithfully discharged my obligations in that respect. But something has happened since the report was submitted to prevent the case being settled to Johnson’s satisfaction. For some reason, unknown to me, the matter has been held up. I shall leave it at that to-night, feeling that the Attorney-General must realize what it means to the man concerned. The Minister is not only aware of the facts surrounding the case to-day, but also expressed . his views when Johnson was charged, during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. Hansard will disclose the interest which the present Attorney-General took in the case at the time, and what I and the Treasurer had to say on the subject. We were most emphatic in our denunciation of the treatment meted out to Mr. Johnson by the BrucePage Government. Since then an investigation has been conducted by a member of another place, when Acting Attorney-General during the absence of the present Attorney-General, and his knowledge of the facts -is sufficient to warrant, in every respect the decision arrived at, and the statements made by the Attorney-General when he was a member of the Opposition. If we saw matters in a certain light when on the opposition benches, and after having been in office are convinced that this man was unjustly treated, a still greater responsibility now rests upon us to see that the right thing is done by this man. At one stage the Government, to my knowledge as a member, decided to do the right thing, but something has happened since. The documents that are of vital importance to Johnson are missing, and some reports upon which the Government, of which I was a member, arrived at a decision, are also missing. In view of these facts, an early decision by the Government is warranted. There should be no further delay, and those responsible for taking or misplacing the documents should be compelled to produce them.
.- It is true that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) have, on more than one occasion, mentioned the case of Mr. Jacob Johnson. So far as I am concerned there is no mystery and no particular difficulty about the case. I have informed the honorable member for East Sydney that at an early date I propose to make a considered statement on the subject. But I think it only right to say at this stage that I am afraid the fact that I have promised to make a statement with regard to it may give rise to a mistaken idea that I have wavered in respect to the decision which I conveyed to Mr. Johnson in regard to his case. ‘
– The Minister may not have wavered, but has the Government done so?
– The truth is, as the honorable member knows very well, that certain things did occur while he was a member of the Government, and while I was absent from this country. He is aware that, after having devoted a good deal of sympathetic attention to Johnson’s case before I left Australia, I took it up afresh on my return, came to a decision, and made a recommendation to
Cabinet, -which -was adopted. The terms of that recommendation were published in the press* by Mr. Johnson, who availed himself of the opportunity so afforded to make personal attacks upon me. These, while entirely without foundation, have not caused me to swerve in the slightest degree from my fixed determination to do complete justice to Mr. Johnson as I see it. The decision of Cabinet was conveyed to Mr. Johnson.
– Two decisions have been reached; I conveyed one.
– The honorable member for West Sydney knows better than I do what he said to Mr. Johnson, the grounds upon which he said it, and the authority under which the information was given. I am not speaking of that, but am informing the House, at his request, of what has occurred since I returned to Australia and resumed the responsible duties of Attorney-General.
– Was the other decision repudiated?
– I am not proposing to make to-night the statement I promised the honorable member for East Sydney. That promise still holds, and a further statement will be made in due course. With reference to the documents which are said to be missing-
– They are missing.
– When I conveyed the decision of Cabinet to Mr. Johnson he referred to a report which he said had been furnished to my office by an investigating, officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. That reference caused me some surprise, as I had no knowledge of the report, and although the decision of Cabinet had ‘ been given, I felt it my duty to leave no stone unturned in doing what was necessary to throw the fullest light upon the case. I promised to make inquiries regarding the report. I have done so, and have ascertained that the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Senator Daly) did give general - and apparently verbal - instructions to an officer of my department to make inquiries into this cage. The report of that investigation, I have also ascertained, was sent to Senator Daly. It has never become part of the departmental file, and I have never seen it. Senator Daly is not able to tell me where it is: It is not in the office of the
Attorney-General, and the delay /ihat has occurred in giving the honorable member for West Sydney a final statement” has arisen from the fact that the report has never been traced. I put myself in communication with the officer in question, and he, as I think I informed the honorable member some time ago, furnished the department with a copy of the report, or what purports to be a copy, and also with what purports to be copies of certain exhibits that were attached to the original report. I have already said that I am not now making a final statement on this matter, but I may say here that the second report submitted by the officer is of a very voluminous character, and contains a great deal of matter which is irrelevant to Mr. Johnson’s claim.
– Was the second copy taken from the original?
– The copy was supplied by the investigating officer to whom the duty was delegated of making a report, and he vouches for the fact that it is substantially the same, if not an exact copy. I have no means pf checking the statement; I must take his word for it. However, he was the officer who made the investigation, and I think it is substantially a copy of the report.
– It may be a rough draft of the original.
– If the honorable member had been under the painful necessity of reading it, he would not say that it was a rough draft of the original. It is, as a matter of fact, a very full report, and appears to be a genuine copy. The officer is still available, and he checked the report fully. Unfortunately, though he furnished the copy, he is not able to supply all the exhibits which were said to be attached to the original report, though he has supplied a copy of a considerable number of those documents.
– Did Senator Daly lose the original report?
– I do not say that, but the original report was sent to Senator Daly.
– And it was on that report that the Government’s decision was arrived at?
– That may be as to the decision, if it were such, to which the honorable member refers, but that report lias not come into my office. I have not perused the original report, but only what purports to be a copy. The report has been carefully considered by me, and certain other details arise out of that report. Because of my determination to examine every phase of the case, 1 do not desire at this stage to pre-judge it in any way. If, at a later stage, thi3 House should decide that it is desirable that still further and fuller investigation should be made, I shall accept ‘ that decision with equanimity. I merely say now that the matter has been, and is being, very fully investigated by my department, and I propose later to make a further statement when I am in a position to do so. The matter must be left there for the moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310603_reps_12_129/>.