12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House what action the Government has taken regarding the shipment of Russian timber that arrived in Sydney Some weeks ago? Can he say whether any further shipment from the same source is en route to Australia? If so, will the Government consider the placing of an embargo on further importations of Russian timber?
– As I have informed the House on several previous occasions, I have demanded security at the rate of 10s. per 100 superficial feet to cover any antidumping duty which may be imposed on the Russian timber now at Sydney, in the event of the Tariff Board reporting that such duty is applicable to this consignment. The local timber industry is fully protected by that action. Inquiries I have made furnish no evidence that any further shipment of timber from Russia is en route to Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether, in the allocation of rations to travelling unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory, the pensions of returned soldiers are taken into consideration ?
– Yes. I told the House yesterday that I had been informed of one recipient of relief who was in receipt of a war pension of £2 a week.
– There is not any soldier in the camp drawing a pension of £2 a week.
-I said that I was informed of such a case, and I have definite information this morning of at least two men who have pensions of 30s. a week. Because of the large number of travelling unemployed coming into the Federal Capital Territory, who were in dire need, No. 4 Camp was made available to them. It provides accommodation for 130 men, and it was never intended to be used by persons who are able to maintain themselves. A pensioner receiving 30s. a week or thereabouts has no right to be in the camp or to receive rations. Such men are well able to care for themselves. If men in receipt of pensions or income from any other source are allowed to occupy the limited accommodation in the camp, an injustice will be done to more necessitous persons. No discrimination is exercised against the recipients of war pensions; the restriction Ihave imposed applies to income from all sources. In applying the New South Wales regulation to this Territory I have made the important qualification that all cases of the character we are discussing will be investigated by me personally. I stated yesterday that only three such cases have been brought to my notice; one has not been refused rations, and the other two are being investigated through the Sydney office. Any returned soldier who has a small pension, say 15s. or £1 a week, which is being used for the maintenance of his wife and dependants, will not be refused rations. But men who are receiving 30s. or £2 a week from any source will be excluded from this relief, and will not be allowed to occupy accommodation that is reserved for those in real need.
– What of those men who have a war pension of 4s.?
– They are not affected. I have referred to three cases; a fourth has been mentioned, but I cannot trace it. I mentioned yesterday a man who is receiving a pension of 8s. 6d. a week and has not been refused rations.
– Was his ration reduced?
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that Cabinet has usurped the prerogative of the New South Wales Labour party by appointing the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) to be a delegate to the forth.coming Labour conference?
– Cabinet does not make such appointments.
Mi-. ARCHDALE PARKHILL. - In view of [he fairly general misapprehension regarding the terms of the debt conversion scheme, will the Treasurer state whether, in accordance with the provisions of the bill now before this Parliament, interest will be reduced by 22-i per cent, during the currency of existing bonds, and thereafter the bondholder will receive 4 per cent, on the new issue, which will mean in respect of bonds now bearing interest at 6 per cent., a reduction of 33^ per cent.?
– Securities nov bearing interest at 6 per cent, will be converted into new securities on the basin of a 22-A per cent, reduction of the interest rate. As the new securities will bear interest at only 4 per cent., the bondholders will receive a premium in respect of the new issue in proportion to that reduction of interest.
– How many more bonds in the new stock will the holder receive by way of a premium?
– : With the aid of the table contained in the schedule of the bill, the right honorable gentleman, can, by a simple arithmetical calculation, work that out for himself.
– Will not all holders of 6 per cent, bonds belonging to the same issue receive upon conversion bonds bearing the same premium and carrying the same amount of interest? As some of the bonds will have a currency of, say, ten years and others 30 years, how is it possible by the payment of the same premium to effect the adjustment which the honorable gentleman has just described ?
– It is not correct to say that all bonds carrying 6 per cent.-
– I refer to bonds of the same issue.
– Bonds having the same maturity date will gain the same amount of premium, but if the maturity date varies the amount of the premium will also vary in accordance with the table set out’ in the bill.
– Has the Minister received a request from scientific bodies that the area in Central Australia within which the largest but one of the meteorite deposits of the world has recently been discovered, shall be declared a reserve, and, if so, has action been taken to give effect to it?
– I am not aware of such a request having been made, bat I shall make inquiries to ascertain the facts.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate, for the convenience of honorable members, which of the 21 items of government business on the noticepaper are considered as urgent, and must be disposed of before the House rises for a long adjournment? Can the Prime Minister give honorable members some idea of the probable intention of the Government in regard to the sittings of the* House ?
– I shall examine the items on the notice-paper,, and tell honorable members later what business the Government desires to dispose of urgently.
– Is it a fact, as stated in the press, that the House will rise on the 24th of this month ; and, if so, can the Prime Minister indicate the probable length of the recess?
– Many representations have been made to me by honorable members who have been compelled to reside in Canberra for some months. The date on which the House will rise depends largely on honorable members themselves, and I hold out to them this inducement to expedition, that we shall rise so soon as we dispose of the urgent business before the House.
– In view of the possible adjournment of Parliament in the near future, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the adjournment will be for at least a month., so as to enable honorable members representing distant States to visit their constituencies?
– The honorable member’s request will receive consideration.
– In view of the Attorney-General’s statement at Geneva, that Australia eagerly awaited the final acceptance of disarmament, and in view of the state of our defences, which have been so greatly weakened, will the Prime Minister save the Commonwealth the expense of sending a representative to the Disarmament Conference, which is to take place early next year?
– Does the honorable member wish to spoil another holiday?
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) evidently does not appreciate the importance of the Australian representation at various conferences abroad for many years past. Replying to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), let me say that if Australia has already disarmed, it is the more important that the other nations should be induced to follow our lead.
– Has the Treasurer received representations to the effect that owing to the fact that it is proposed to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Acts in certain particulars which are not yet known to the public, and that the increased tax has been in operation since Saturday last, the 11th July, grave uncertainties are arising in the transaction of business? Will he therefore consider altering the date of the appli cation of the tax, so that it shall not apply until after the Sales Tax Assessment Bill has been introduced?
– The Sales Tax Assessment Bill is now in preparation, but probably will not be ready for introduction and circulation until the first sitting day of next week. It is not likely that any provision of the bill will cause inconvenience or loss to those who are paying taxation at the rates imposed under the resolution of this House. The practice in the application of the tax will be the same as in the past.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the practice that prevailed on the introduction of the Sales Tax Assessment Act, that contracts shall not be affected by the tax, will continue under the amending bill, and that the old rates will be applicable to contracts entered into prior to the 11th of July? Will the Treasurer also consider the inclusion in the Assessment Bill of a provision permitting the payment of the tax on, say, the 15th and the 30th of the month, in view of the fact that the amount of the tax is being doubled?
– In the Sales Tax Assessment Bill provision will be made to enable contracts that have been entered into to be varied to the extent that the vendor may recover the amount of the additional tax from the other party to the contract. That follows the practice established under the Customs Act, a practice which wa3 advocated last year by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). The matter of double payments has been raised by several honorable members, and is under consideration. Probably the provision asked for will be incorporated in the bill.
– Will the Treasurer consider exempting from the operation of the sales tax explosives used by coalminers? Coal itself is exempt, as are various articles used in mining it, but explosives are not. The coal-miners cannot pass on the cost of explosives. They have to buy their own, and in this respect are worse off than those engaged in metalliferous mining, who have their explosives supplied to them.
– This request has been made to me by several honorable members. The matter has been inquired into by the department, and a decision will be made before the Sales Tax Assessment Bill is finished with next week.
– Will the Treasurer favorably consider a request to exempt books and magazines from liability under the sales tax and primage duties? In support of this request I have received the following telegram from the Western Australian Booksellers Association: -
Request your help to remove sales and primage duties on books, magazines, &c. If put into effect will mean complete stoppage of importation of books and ruin to booksellers, besides unemployment of assistants. Book prices must be reduced, not raised.
– Many representations have been made to me on this subject. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) received a communication similar to that just read by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and placed it before the Prime Minister. Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) also referred to the matter. These representations are now receiving consideration ; but honorable members must realize that the wider the field of exemption, the smaller the revenue that will be received, and this might result in the rate being increased.
– Many of my constituents who have fixed deposits in the various associated banks and in the Commonwealth Bank fear that they may he affected by legislation that is to be introduced into this Parliament. I ask the Treasurer if the interest on fixed deposits becoming due next September or December will be interfered with ?
– The decisions of the Premiers Conference are not applicable to the interest, payable on fixed deposits. Those deposits will, until their terms expire, earn their present rates of interest. Whether they ought to come under the general scheme of reduction to make the rehabilitation plan complete is another matter altogether.
– Is the Minister administrating the War Service Homes Commission in a position to inform hon orable members whether the report is correct that 581 war service homes have reverted to the Commission because the occupants were unable to pay their instalments ?
– My attention has been drawn to this statement, and I shall have inquiries made, and inform the honorable member later.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs state whether the former Jervis Bay Naval College is being used as a tourist resort? Is the Government using it to compete with private enterprise in the accommodation of visitors, and is there any foundation for the rumour that a liquor licence is shortly to be applied for in connexion with the place ?
– The Commonwealth Government has at Jervis Bay £800,000 worth of property which was, until recently, occupied as the Naval College. Control of the buildings has been handed over to the Works Department, which has endeavoured to make of them an income-producing proposition. During the last Christmas holidays, all the available buildings were occupied, and since then there has been a fairly steady demand for cottages. It is the intention of the Government to let as many cottages as possible, and a suggestion for setting aside one of the larger buildings for an hotel is now under consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.In regard to the dismissal of 2!i medical referees, eleven of whom are returned soldiers, out of a total of 910 employed, was the government policy of preference to returned soldiers applied ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sale of Pictorial Postcards
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of income tax will be payable under the law as amended in accordance with the budget proposals in respect of an income of £500 (a) derived from personal exertion: and (b) derived from property?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
It is not considered that such action will have any appreciable effect on Australian wheat in the English markets for the following reasons: -
– On the 24th June, the honorable member for Fremautle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The following statement has been prepared giving direct and indirect sale expenses incurred by the Shipping Board in connexion with the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers under the sale agreement signed on the 21st April, 1928:-
– On the 7th July, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The following reply to the honorable member’s questionshas been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank : -
The hank issues weekly statements of its position, which embody all the information it is deemed necessary to disclose. Particulars of its transactions with the trading banks, or any other of its customers, are confidential, and, in accordance with ordinary banking practice, cannot ‘be made public. Incidentally the Commonwealth Bank has power to acquire any gold in Australia, whether heldby banks or by the public.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to-
That Mr. Chifley be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and that, in his place, Mr. Howebe appointed a member of the committee.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Lewis and Mr. Watkins be appointed to fill the vacancies now existing on the Library Committee.
The f ollowingpapers were pr esented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds
Act - Eleventh Annual Report by the Trustees, 1st July, 1930, to 30th June, 1931 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children).
Dairy Produce Export Control Act- Regulationsamended - Statutory Rules 1981, No. 84.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Health Ordinance (Infectious Diseases) - Regulations Amended.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
. -I move-
Xhat it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of abill for -an act to authorize the raising andexpendingof a certain sum of money.
The loan appropriation of £15,000,000 to ‘be provided for is to cover the Revenue deficit accumulated at the 30th June, 1931. In my budget speech, I stated that during the period of rehabilitation of the finances it was notproposed to make special provision to repay the loans raised to meet revenue deficits, hut that the statutory sinking fund contribution of 10a. per cent, “per ‘annum would be pnid. . When we . have returned to budgetary equilibrium, it will be decided whether the loans covering deficit’s ‘will be ‘repaid -from surpluses, or whe’ther ‘the a’nnual sinking fund contribution will “be substantially increased so as to extinguish the debt within a period of, say, nine or ten years. The sinking fund payments ‘‘provided ‘for the liquidation of Commonwealth debts amounted last year to £4,644,000. About £4,000,000 was provided from Consolidated Revenue,or moneys ‘akin to revenue, andthe balance from repayments to the loan fund.
– When does the Treasurer think we shall return to budgetary equilibrium;?
– Those honorable members ‘who ‘have ‘faith in the practical wisdom of the Government, and the soundness ‘of its policy, may hope to see that condition reached, ifnot in the current financial year, perhaps ‘next ‘year.
The tdtal deficit to be covered by appropriation amounts to £21,049,771. This includes the deficit occasioned by the payment of interest owed by New South Wales, amounting to £3,834,149; so that the accumulated Commonwealth deficit is only £17,215,622. Loan authority amounting to £7,000,000 already exists, and a further appropriation of £15,000,000 is now asked for. The total appropriation of £22,000,000 will be in excess of the accumulated deficit, but on the final balancing of the accounts for 1930-31, it is possible that some variation may occur in the deficit for the year. Any Unexpended balance of the loan appropriation to cover the present accumulated deficit will be available for meeting the anticipated deficit of the current financial year. This is an unusually large appropriation for Such a purpose, but in no other way can we deal with the accumulated deficit.
.- No opposition can be offered to this bill because, as the Treasurer has said, the course proposedis the usual method employed in dealing with deficits. But, as he pointed out, the . amount of the deficit is unusually large. We can only hope, with him, that it will not be long before the . governments of Australia again reach budgetequilibrium, and can make provision to wipeoff ‘theirdeficits.
One matter mentioned bythe Treasurer Which is without precedent is the provision of a specific amount, totalling nearly £4,000,000, to pay interest in regard to which -the : State-o’f New South Wales has defaulted. It is bad enough tha’t New SouthWales . should default, and that this Government should have to pay its obligations, but it is still more deplorable that ‘that . -shouldhavetobe doneby increasing ‘the deficit . of ithe Commonwealth. This Government is borrowing money, . and increasing “vita deficit, in order to pay t’he debts of “the Gdve’rliment of New South Wales, and this makes it the more difficult “for us to cope with the ‘financial . problems how ‘confronting us.
I trustthat the ‘Government is quite determined ‘that ‘the -taxpayers of the Commonwealth shall not . be- called i.upon to “do “this any longer; that it will ‘cause the Government of New ; South Wales to stand ‘tip to its obli’ga’tio’ns, -as tfhe ‘other States have dotae. Tbe position is the at/tire seriohs -in wdew -of ‘the fact tthat . New South Wales, by I’ea’so’h ‘of its population, area, and Resources, is ‘So Hmjpbr’ta-ift a jpart -of the ‘Coniinohweakh.
– Hdw can NeV South Wates pay its dohts?
– It Should honour its obligations,’ as ‘thee ‘dtJher ‘“State’s ai?e doing. I. ‘hope that pressure ‘will be ‘brought -to bear upon the ‘Government, o’f Netv South W’ales to compel it ‘to ‘i’efuri’d what, the Commonwe’a’lth ‘Government ‘hifs p’aid oti its ‘“behalf, and to ensure that iii ‘fu’tur’e it will c’oufluc’t its finance’s along proper lines, meeting its obligatidns as they fall (toe.
Mr.LATHAM (Kooyong)[3.3].This proposed Loan Bill, I understand, is to give authority -to raise money, by way 0f loan, ‘to an amount not exceeding £15,000,000 for the purpose of meeting a deficit on revenue account.
Mr.Lazzarini. - It is merely borrowing money to pay the debts of the Common wealth.
– To , j>ay debts on. current accounts. We are told that there is already adthority, hot yet exercised, r.o borrow up to about £7,000,000. It may be that there is some Treasury reason for -introducing a bill of this nature, but, in the absence of any statement from the Treasurer that it is proposed to endeavour to obtain money by floating a loan, it is somewhat difficult to- understand why the bill has been introduced. If the Treasurer proposes to go upon the market in the exercise of the authority contained in the bill, it would b”e -interesting to know whfen, ‘and ‘on what terms. I should not think that the Treasurer does propose to endeavour *o rfrifie ‘£15,000,000 by loan at the present time. -What, therefore, is the. particular object of obtaining this authority?
Mr.THEODORE (Dalley- Treasurer’) [3.5].- Replying to thelastquestionfirst, th’e’ itfe’ed for the bill ‘is to obtain statutory authority to issue securities. The’ money must be borrowed- indeed it has been already bdrrowe’d- from the banks, and the ‘prdposed Mil is neede’d to give authority to the- Comtrioirwe’Sll’th Government to issue secur:iti’es’‘to! the banks-‘ con cerned, covering the ‘amounts : of ‘the overdrafts r-epresented by these deficiencies.
-i take it -fhat the amounts are already covered by some seet»rrtriresi?
– Yes, by securities issued ‘under ^proper awthority ;but it is nowneces&ary to supplement that authority.
The Government ha’s -paid certain amounts on ‘behalf of the ‘Government of New South Wales, and it is necessary to ura-ku -provision to borrow money ‘to discharge ‘the obligation incurred. I admit Chart ft. is iiot a proper obligation to , put upon the ‘Commonwealth; but this Government is compelled to accept it by reason of ffh’e default of New South Wales. I agree entirely with what has been -said by those who contend that the Commonwealth Government cannot be expected 1fo continue to bear this burden. It would be improper to allow New South Wales to escape its obligations, or to allow it to distribute the burden of its interest liabilities among all the States, which would necessitate the increasing of Commonwealth taxation. New -South Wales must: pay its own debts. The matter is the -subject of litigation, which will be- settled in an action to be heard shortly in the High Court of Australia.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [3.7].- I understand, from the speech of the Treasurer, that the purpose of this bill is to give authority to the Government practically to furid its deficit by issuing stock to’the banks to the amount of £15,000,000, to cover overdraft commitments.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), failed to make it clear that it does’ riot matter whether these deficits were incurred on behalf of the Commonwealth, or of the State of Naw South Wales. Ju’dgin’g from the remarks of horiorable members opposite, one would imagine that1 the Commonwealth was an entity separate from the six States, ‘that it was c’om-pro’sed of different citizens, and different taxpayers. Every child knows that the citizens of the Commonwealth, and >df the States are one and the same people. It does not affe’et my argument to claim that the taxpayers of the other Stateswill ‘b’e c&lled up’ofi to ‘pay more than their share if the Commonwealth accepts the burden of these obligations that have been incurred by New South Wales.
I was amused to hear the Treasurer express the hope that we shall at no distant date reach “ budget equilibrium as a result of the economy plan. I guarantee that next year the Treasurer will be presenting a bill similar to this, but covering an amount of £20,000,000 if the Government insists upon pursuing its present policy. New South Wales and every other State has failed, and the Commonwealth will fail, financially, simply because the Government refuses to exercise the powers it possesses to inaugurate a proper monetary system which would get us out of our difficulties. If this suicidal policy of drift is continued, the States and the Commonwealth, alike, will sooner or later be forced to default. The Commonwealth Parliament alone cao take effective steps to correct our monetary policy ; but the proper steps are not being taken. It is folly to continue to destroy the purchasing power of the people in the expectation that the depression will thereby be lifted. So long as the banking companies are allowed to retain the upper hand, the country will remain in its present tragic position.
I shall not oppose the passage of this bill, for, after all, it only provides for the form of the debt to be, changed from a bank overdraft to some other form. Even if the bill were rejected, the debt, would still remain. But I wish to make it clear to honorable members that on every possible occasion I intend to declare my unalterable opposition to the socalled rehabilitation plan, for even if it were brought into complete operation it would not result in budget equilibrium.
.- The object of the bill is to authorize the Treasurer to raise £15,000,000. In the budget speech which he delivered a few days ago the honorable gentleman pointed out that the deficit brought forward from the 30th June, 1930, was £6,458,723, and that the accumulated deficit was £17,215,622. He added that a further deficit had been occasioned by the payment of interest, &c, due by New South Wal fis on its overseas debt, amounting to £3,834,149, making a total deficit of just over £14,000,000. The honorable member went on to say that -
Loan authority to the amount of £7,000,000’ is already available to meet shortages in the revenue account, and it will be necessary toobtain further loan appropriation of approximately £14,000,000 to cover the accumulated, deficit to the 30th June, 1931. 1 wish to know why, in these circumstances, the Treasurer is seeking authority to raise £15,000,000, which is £1,000,000 more than is necessary, according to his own figures? I should also like to know whether it is proposed to raise the money by an internal loan, or to obtain it from the Commonwealth Bank in exchange for an issue of fresh government securities.
Mr. THEODORE (Dalley- Treasurer) [3.12 J. - Until the treasury accounts are finally settled it will not be possible to state the exact amount of the deficit for last year. It may be slightly higher or slightly lower than the estimate. It is clear that if the deficit is not higher to any great extent, there will be authority to raise about £1,000,000 more than is required. That amount would, of course, be retained in order to liquidate part of the deficit expected this year. It would not be used for any other purpose than that provided for in the bill.
It is not proposed to go on the market for the purpose of raising a loan. The money required for this purpose is provided by arrangement with the banks. In a sense it is an internal loan, for the banks require government securities for the money. The banks will continue to hold these securities until the Government is in a position to redeem them. It is not possible, at the moment, to say when we shall be able to take some definite action to deal with’ the accumulated deficits. This may be done by the funding of the amount, or by the raising of a loan for that special purpose. It is probable that the latter course will ultimately be taken. At present we are providing about £4,000,000 per annum from revenue towards the liquidation of the public debt. Last year a little more than £4,000,000 was paid into the sinking fund for this purpose, but this year the payments will be a little less than that amount. As soon as the country is in a better financial position, steps will be taken to liquidate the accumulated deficit.
.- Approximately £4,000,000 of the money now required is needed to meet the indebtedness incurred by the Commonwealth for New South Wales. I should like an assurance from the Government that when the money due by New South Wales is recovered from that State - and it must be recovered - it will be applied to the cancellation of the securities issued under this authority. I think it would be wrong to use than money for any other purpose.
– I give the honorable member that assurance without any hesitation. I do not think that the Treasury has authority to use re-payments made in that way for any other purpose. Such amounts must be credited to the public debt sinking fund, if they are not used for the direct cancellation of an identifiable debt. There need be no apprehension on the part of honorable members about the intention of the Government to force New South Wales to carry out its obligations in respect to this indebtedness.
– I take it that if the money is paid into the sinking fund when it, is recovered, the Government will also make the usual sinking fund contribution.
– This will not be necessary.
– The money received from New South Wales should certainly be applied to the cancellation of the debt.
– When a settlement is effected with New South Wales the honorable member may take it that the money obtained will be used to cancel the securities that are issued.
– What rate of interest is being paid for the money needed to meet the interest obligations of New South Wales?
– At present we are paying 6 per cent., but when the rehabilitation plan is put into operation the rate will be 4 per cent.
– I take it that all the interest charges incurred will be debited to New South Wales?
– Yes; every charge incurred with regard to these transactions which is properly chargeable against New South Wales will be charged against it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 15th July (vide page 3943), on motion by Mr. Theo-‘ dore -
That the first item in the Estimates for Additions. New Works, Buildings, &c, under Division 1 - the Department of Defence - namely, “’ Naval establishments - Machinery and plant, £3,000 “, he agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 14th July (vide page 3816), on motion by Mr. Parkes Moloney -
That . . . there be imposed on the importation into Australia of the goods specified in the schedule hereto (vide page 3805) (being the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of Canada) . . .
– The subject of trade agreements with other countries has not in the past received much consideration from this chamber, and, after the extraordinary discouragement of industry that has been caused by the tariff presented by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), it is satisfactory to observe that steps have now been taken to improve trade conditions in Australia, and to repair the damage done by the tariff embargoes and the high duties imposed against various countries. Already, Italy, France, and Germany have retaliated against Australia, because of the excessive tariff imposts which have been placed upon their goods under the fiscal policy of the present Government. I have never admitted that the heavy duties under which Australia labours today were necessary. It was claimed that they wore put on, first, to encourage Australian industry - but there is no evidence of such help ihaviang ibeen ‘given. The second reasoji advanced in an itfSempt -co justify them was that they would correct tin? adverse trade balance. ‘” The trade balance “, ‘like that Messed word, “ Mesopotamia “, is a phrase frequently e-nj-ployod om public platforms -by Labour flp^’aikei’s, urtbo suggest that the Government accomplished a great feat -in connexion with a matter which was beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals.
Aci a matter of fact, the ‘correction of the trade balance would have occurred in the ordinary course of events, if the Government had not imposed severe trade restrictions. The decreased purchasing power of the people would, itself, have largely reduced the volume of our imports and, secondly, the exchange against Australia would have proved a very powerful factor in that direction. It is satisfactory, therefore to have reached a stage in the consideration of the commercial prospects of this country at which we see, at least, some hope of additional tiade.
Upon a somewhat hurried examination of this agreement, I find that Canada receives advantages with respect to motor chassis, canned salmon, lumber, and newsprint, while we, on the other hand) will Arrive trade benefits, particularly with regard to butter, wine, and citrus, canned, abd dried fruits. TI113 will mean a great deal to Australia, and I do not hesitate to declare that the Minister foi’ Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has done excellent work in bringing about the agreement. It is but fair to say this, because trade agreements are not easily arranged ; other governments have endeavoured to riink(; them with various countries, and have met with great difficulties. The agreement under consideration is a satisfactory one, and I repeat that it reflects credit on the Minister concerned. It means that we have available to us, to a far greater extent than before, the purchasing power of a population of 9,000,000 in Canada, Who form a community, generally speaking, which is fairly wealthy. That in itself, is’ of considerable advantage. We have had a reciprocal trade agreement with New Zealand of a. compara* fcively important character; but this agreement with Canada suggests that we k’ave reaelted a p’Cri’O’d when -similar important ifcr&de farraing&m’ertis’ with other great «ountlries tnsay he reacshed-. I ‘hope tfcai this will be ‘the -forerunner <of ‘similar treaties with many “other eetratries, including Italy, France) ‘and ‘Germany.
– What a”bout Russia’?
-I leave all dealings with Russia to the honorable member and his colleagues, who seel? their political affinities there. Where the trade balance is not in our favour it appears essential that we should take steps to improve our position.
I propose to refer briefly to a few features of the Canadian -agreement. The concession rate in regard to butter is not so advantageous to Australia -as might appear at -first glance. The Canadian duty is relatively unaltered as against Australia^ but has been increased against all other countries.
– Leaving us a much bigger -margin.
– But thte margin between us “and ‘the Canadian producer remains. Our advantage is merely against other exporting countries, and I do not think that Canada hap given “away much.
– The Dairy Export Control Board agreed that we should aim only to supply the difference between Canadian production and requirements. We do not desire to interfere with the Canadian producers.
-I quite understand that; but in striking a balance 011 this arrangement we are entitled to examine closely the exaci nature of the advantages we are getting. [Quorum formed.]
Whilst certain benefits have been obtained for Australia the question naturally arises-From what countries are Canada’s purchases being diverted, and from what countries are we diverting pur trade to Canada? There is no doubt that the arrangement with the dominion is at the expense of the United Kingdom. We ate gaining greater”, access to the dominion market, which has been worth to Us less thati £i,606,606 annually, af the expense of Great Britain, Whose trade with us has been Worth approximately £50,000,000 a year.
– Not solely at the expense of Great Britain.
– Very largely. Consider the effect of this arrangement upon the motor car industry. The preference to Canada will entirely prevent the British manufacturer from doing business in the Australian market. To-day the preference to British ears is 334 per cent., which will be reduced by this agreement to about per cent. British manufacturers contend that the existing preference does no more than give them a footing in the Australian market, and the halving of it will practically exclude British cars.
– British cars will still have an advantage of 15 per cent, over those of Canada. America is the chief competitor against both Canada and Great Britain in this market. This agreement will exclude the American cars.
– It will exclude the British car.
– That is not so.
– As the preference of 33-J per cent, was not sufficient to give the British manufacturer pre-eminence in the Australian market, it follows that the diminution of that preference must make his position much less favorable. I may be told that at the Economic Conference the British Government refused to concede additional preferences to Australia, and that, as the Prime Minister said, it was difficult for the Australian delegates to retain against the present- Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Snowden) even the existing preferences.
– The condition of British trade will not permit the extension of preferences.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is true ; and we must recognize what these preferences mean to Great Britain. The imposition; of customs duties would involve’ an increase in. the cost of living, and consequently of wages, thus further handicapping Great Britain in its trade competition, with adjacent” European countries. Wages in the United Kingdom are higher than in any other European country, with the possible exception of Switzerland, and any policy which would increase the cost of living and wages- there would prejudice her effort to regain the industrial supremacy of the world which she had to forfeit during the Great War. Canada is a British dominion, but there is a deep-rooted conviction in the minds of many people, including myself, that a considerable amount of the capital in Canadian industries, particularly in the manufacture of motor cars, is of American origin, and I fear that the preference nominally given to the dominion will, in practice, be a concession to American industrialists who have invested money in Canadian branch factories.
– At the Economic Conference the representatives of the British Government expressed the view that the dominions should be free to make reciprocal arrangements amongst themselves; no objection to that course was offered so long as the margin of preference to Great Britain against foreign countries was retained.
– As the British Government could not afford to grant the preferences for which Australia asked it was in accordance with her traditional generosity to the dominions that her Ministers should say, “ We have no objection to your making other arrangements that will be for your benefit “. Whilst advantage will accrue to Australia from the agreement with Canada, I regret that, it has been gained at the expense of the Mother Country.
– No; British Ministers knew all about it.
– They know all about it now, and will know much more later when trade is diverted from Great Britain.
– Nothing has been done to her detriment.
– I hare always held that Australia’s place in the sun, is alongside Great Britain. I have a deep conviction that Australia’s commercial greatness: is inseparably bound up with the prosperity of the British Empire, and that the markets of Europe and Asia will be only subsidiary.
– This agreement is a recognition of that.
– Yes, so far as trade with another’ dominion is concerned. But I should much prefer a similar agreement with Great Britain herself, and any proposals in that direction will have my warmest support. Every important commodity involved in the exchange of trade between Australia and Great Britain should be the subject of careful investigation, with a view to giving preference to Great Britain on goods which are not produced here, and admitting free of duty goods which are manufactured in Great Britain and cannot be manufactured here, such as certain classes of iron and steel work. An. arrangement of that kind would be of considerable benefit to both countries. I have never been in favour of giving preference to Great Britain under a high tariff that makes the fence against that nation so high as to be unscaleable. It is no satisfaction to the British manufacturer to be told that, although the tariff fence against him is very high, it is much higher against his competitor. My idea of preference is to bring the tariff down in favour of the British manufacturer and to raise it just sufficiently high to keep his competitor outside, yet not high enough to prevent him from looking over the top to see what is happening on the other side. I view with satisfaction the success of the Minister’s mission to Canada, but my satisfaction is tempered by the feeling that our trade with Great Britain will suffer to some extent as a result of this agreement. This trade is not new, and it will be gained at the expense of some other nation.
– At the expense of the United States of America.
– I do not think so. It will be at the expense of Great Britain. This agreement will bring about a diminution of British trade, and will do nothing to bind Great Britain and this outlying dominion more closely together. I hope that this agreement will be ‘ the forerunner of other agreements, so that the damage done by other countries to Australia, by the imposition of retaliatory embargoes on our goods, will be to some extent repaired. [Quorum formed.]
.- So much has been said in commendation of this agreement, and the position has been so clearly explained by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), that extensive comment is unnecessary. But there is one point which was raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) which should be dealt with. This agreement is clearly in accordance with the spirit of the British Federation of Nations, and it aims a distinct blow at the trade of the United States of America with Canada. For instance, the preference that we shall receive on dried fruits, fruit juices, and rice will be of considerable benefit to Australia. These products, other than rice, have hitherto been largely supplied to Canada by America. The agreement will immediately stimulate trade between Australia and Canada, and at the same time it will assist in the development of our irrigation areas. There are in Australia enormous tracts of inferior country - heavy clay soils - which can be used profitably for rice-growing. Hitherto we have been able to produce our requirements of rice with a small exportable surplus. The preference which is now being given to us will enable much of this inferior land, which is not suitable for fruit-growing, to be utilized for the production of rice. For years America has had an extensive trade with Canada in respect of dried fruits. The concession on dried fruits that has now been given to us will have a far-reaching and beneficial effect on our fruit industry. America has hitherto been a keen competitor of ours in dried fruits, and in future v:e shall have a distinct advantage over that country. We have now a big market open to us for tinned fruits. It has been said that this agreement will have an adverse affect upon England’s trade with Australia, but that country has made no effort to establish here factories that would compete with America in respect of tinned fruits. We have at Shepparton, Leeton and other places, established factories which are capable of canning large quantities of fruit, and it is in their vicinity that the raw product is grown. Our trade with Canada in canned fruits, dried fruits, and rice, will not affect British trade to any extent. It has been said that the British motor car trade will be adversely affected by this agreement, hut let me point our, that American cars, such as the Dodge, the Cadillac, the Chrysler and many others, are extensively used in Australia. If Canada can manufacture a motor car suitable for Australian conditions, it is surely entitled to an opportunity to gain a footing in the Australian motor car market. America has shown no regard for Australia in the development of its fiscal policy. It has practically placed an embargo on Australian wool by increasing the tariff on that commodity to 13½d. per lb. The suggestion that in arriving at this agreement, Australia has had regard for the well being of America, is not in accordance with fact, because no advantage is being given to that country as against Great Britain.
– Is not the advantage to Canada in respect of motor cats measured by the disadvantage to Great Britain?
– The effect of this agreement on the British motor car trade with Australia will be insignificant,’ because the cars that are most extensively used in Australia now are of American manufacture. I have no doubt that Canada can produce, a car suitable for Australian conditions. I do not consider, therefore, that Australia should show any regard for the well-being of the United States of America, nor have her interests been considered in the framing of this agreement, which will do much to promote that spirit of mutual friendliness and assistance which should prevail between the various units of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
.- This agreement is one which will, I think, meet with the general approval, not only of honorable members of this House, but of the people of Australia as a whole. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who expressed a desire for closer trade relations with Great Britain, and for the lowering of trade barriers ; but I think the honorable member, in what was for him a very fair speech, rather overstressed the possible disadvantage to Britain as a result of the agreement. If any country has a right to feel perturbed over the agreement, it is not Great Britain, but the United States of America, for the commodities which form the subject of the agreement are largely those in which the United States of America has a big trade with
Canada, amounting, in some instances, almost to a monopoly. The agreement will benefit Australia to the serious detriment of the United States of America. That country has adopted a policy of levying prohibitive customs duties against other countries.
– Very much like our own.
– Very much so, indeed.
– And for that reason they cannot be too strongly condemned.
– The only proper use for a high tariff is to employ it by way of reprisal against other countries. The United States of America has imposed very heavy duties on such commodities as we are able to sell to her. The duty on lamb is 8 cents per lb., on mutton 6 ceuts per lb., on butter 14 cents, and on scoured wool 34 cents, or ls. od. per lb. These duties are prohibitive, and intentionally so. The United States of America does not produce sufficient wool for her own requirements.
Mr.Fenton. - She made large purchases in Australia this year.
– If she can buy our wool in the face of such heavy duties, how much more could she have bought if the duties were lower. The United States of America has said, in effect, to Australia, “ You may buy from us, but we shall not buy from you “. The figures relating to our trade with the United States of America show how this policy has worked out. During the last six years Australia has imported from the United States of America goods to the value of £212,353,793, while our exports to the United States of America for the same period have amounted to only £43,593,118. Australia’s adverse trade balance with that country for those six years amounts, therefore, to £168,760,675, or an average of £28,126,000 each year. Those figures must surely arrest the attention of honorable members on both sides of the House.
I propose to refer to some items of trade regarding which this agreement will benefit Australia, not to the detriment of the United Kingdom, but at the expense of the United States of America. Before the making of the last trade agreement with Canada, under which Australia was granted a preference of £14 a ton on dried fruits, Canada’s importations of this commodity from Australia were negligible - not more than, a few thousand pounds worth a year. The agreement so greatly benefited Australian trade that last year Canada bought from us 6,000 tons of dried fruits. Under the present agreement the Canadian preference to Australian dried fruits amounts to E18 13s. 4d. a ton, and, as. a result, I feel sure that our sales of dried fruits to Canada will be greatly increased. Again, this will be at the expense of the United States of America, and will not injure Great Britain at all. The same thing applies to our canned fruits, and will apply to an even greater extent to oranges. Before the making, of this agreement, Canada imposed no duty on the importation of oranges. Under the agreement a duty of 35 cents per cubic foot has been imposed upon oranges from countries other than Australia, while Australian oranges are to be admitted free. This preference will be particularly beneficial to Australia this year. We have this season an extraordinarily fine crop of citrus fruits. The orange crop in the Murray Valley and in the Mumimbidgee irrigation areas has been unusually good, both in respect to quantity and quality. The local market has been glutted, as honorable members know when th,.v see magnificent oranges, the finest the world can produce, on sale in the shops, and oil the street barrows, at Id. each. One might ask, indeed, what profit there can be for the growers, who (I” not get anything like Id. each for their oranges, because they must pay packing charges, freight and selling commission. While this agreement operates )<> the disadvantage of the United States of America, in respect of those goods which we can sell to Canada, it also injures the trade of the United States of America in respect to commodities which we buy from Canada. This applies particularly to lumber, newsprint, and canned salmon. Our purchases of these Commodities from Canada do not affect Great Britain in any way, but seriously affect the trade of the United States of America.
For these reasons I believe that the agreement will be welcomed by the people ifr. Stewart. of Australia generally. It will lead to a largely increased trade between the two great dominions, and will promote the growth of friendly relations. I regret that oar butter trade with Canada, must be benefited at the expense of New Zealand. It seems anomalous that Australia and Now Zealand:, far removed as they are front other centres of white population, should have erected trade barriers against each other. If there is a case far the throwing down of trade barriers between any two countries^. Lt surely must apply to New Zealand and Australia.
– There is no reason why an arrangement should not be made.
– With a little sensible give and take, it ought to be possible to make an effective arrangement between the two dominions.
– Attempts in that direction were made over twenty years ago.
– The desirability of making, some such arrangement has long been recognized, and it ought not to be impossible to overcome the difficulties in the way. The agreement with Canada will be particularly welcomed by the people whom I represent, and those in the irrigation districts along the Murray Valley. I wish to congratulate the Minister for Markets and Transport upon having consummated a very successful business deal with the Dominion of Canada. [Quorum formed.]
.- The general expressions of satisfaction with which this agreement has been received, both here and in Canada, make it unnecessary for me to discuss the matter at length. The agreement, speaks for itself. I give my meed of praise to the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) for the great, achievement which stands to his credit in having brought more closely together these two great sister dominions, through the medium of mutually increased trade. Without depreciating the splendid work that has been performed by the Minister, I should like to pay a tribute to the excellence of the efforts of the Australian Trade Commissioner in Canada, Mr. L. A. Macgregor, who, no doubt, played hi9 part in cultivating the harvest that the
Minister kas so successfully garnered. I had aoa opportunity of visiting his office when passing throughCanada, andI was struck by the contrast that it affords with our other overseasactivities; it is . so economically and efficiently maintained. I note from theestimates, that it costs £6,500 to maintain that office, towards which the DriedFruits and Export Control Board contributes £2,500, making the net charge to the Commonwealth £4,000 per annum, I suggest that that is an excellent investment for the board. The staff of the office numbers only three. I direct the attention of honorable members, who look for practical results from our overseas representation, to a comparison of our New York with our Canadian office. Speaking from memory, the former costs something in the neighbourhood of £18,000 per annum to maintain, and it is not able to render anything like the service to Australia that the Canadian office has done,
– Its field of operation is different.
– I admit that its operations are’ more political than economic, but the contrast supports the argument that we should have overseas representation in every country where there are possibilities of developing reciprocal trade relations. I am aware that such prospects are very slight, indeed, in the United States of America which raises the question of the advisability of continuing that office on the present basis.
No doubt, the Minister for Markets was helped in his negotiations by the change of government in Canada, the present Administration having definitely affirmed, at the Imperial Conference, its belief in the benefits of an extension of Empire preference. No doubt, . this agreement represents part of the implementing of its accepted policy. The benefits conferred by the trade agreement go particularly to British Columbia, with its canned salmon and timber industry. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) stated, the benefits to Australia are obvious, and should lead to a mora equitable trade exchange, the value of our imports from Canada in 1928-29 being £4,871,000 compared with exports to that country for the same year of the valueof £813,060. I hope that the. Government will follow up the agreement by negotiating along similar lines with New Zealand, . South Africaand other countries. Quite apart from their economic advantages to Australia, the completion of reciprocal trade agreements with the other -dominions must have a powerful influence in forcing a change in British financial and economic policy. If Great Britain finds the rest of the Empire entering into a -chain of reciprocal agreements, the irresistible economic result will be a change of the Mother Country’s policy. There is no doubt that in Great Britain, even in the Labour party, which has always stood strongly for freetrade, there is a growing body of opinion that recognizes that there must be a reorientation of British fiscal policy.
In passing through Canada the thing that impressed me particularly was the general goodwill expressed by Canadians towards Australia, and their resentment of the fiscal policy of the United States of America. I hope that Australian enterprise will not only exploit the material benefits conferred by this agreement, but will co-operate with one another with a view to developing the Canadian market. It was of interest to me to find that, in Toronto, there is an agency of the Davis Gelatine Company, which has been doing a substantial trade in Australian gelatine in our sister dominion, in competition with the product of the United States of America. This agreement will enable that concern to capture practically the whole of the Canadian market for gelatine.
– The agreement does not provide much of a preference for glue.
– The enterprises concerned were granted the concessions that they asked for.
– As the Davis Gelatine Company is already doing remarkably well in Canada, it should have no difficulty, when aided by these concessions, to capture the whole of the market for gelatine. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) questioned whether the agreement would injure British trade. That will not be the case. An examination of trade statistics reveals that, if the agreement benefits the Canadian salmon trade as is anticipated, it will mean that we will substitute Canadian for American salmon to the extent of £300,000. The prospect f increasing its timber sales, no doubt, influenced the Canadian Government when entering into this agreement. The Overseas Trade Bulletin, embodying statistics for the year 1929-30, shows that our imports of dressed timber from Canada for that period amounted to £96,000, compared with £212,000 from Norway, £406,000 from Sweden, and £8S,000 from the United States of America. Obviously, an extension of that trade in favour of Canada will not injure British interests.
– Will not our own timber interests suffer?
– I admit that they must be adequately protected.
– They are not protected at present.
– The honorable member represents n timber-producing State, and he can bring the matter up for discussion. For the same period Australia imported undressed timber to the value of £305,000 from Canada, compared with £1,811,000 from the United States of America the value of the total imports amounting to £2,915,000. This agreement will strike a serious blow at the timber trade of the United States of America, to the great benefit of Canada. Our importations of undressed timber from the United States of America consist mainly of Oregon ; British Columbia exports a similar timber, described as Douglas Fir.
It has been suggested that British trade in motor chassis will suffer as a result of this agreement. As a matter of fact, for the last financial year, despite the prevailing depression, our importations of unassembled chassis amounted to fs, 21 8,577, the distribution being, United Kingdom £1,128,960, and Canada £620,000 the rest coming from foreign countries, mainly the United States of America. This country is giving the British motor trade every opportunity to exploit, our market, as British chassis come in free of duty, and it is a fact that we buy more motor cars from Great Britain than the rest of the world put together.
As a result of this agreement, the United States of America will be injured by the loss of both Australian and Canadian trade; with respect to timber, salmon, and motor chassis in the first case and with dried fruits, fresh fruits, butter and other products in the second. I hope that as a result of treaties of this nature, the United States of America will be compelled to abandon its attitude of “ splendid “ fiscal isolation.
I again congratulate the Minister upon this great achievement, and express the hope that he will follow it up by opening up with other dominions negotiating along similar lines.
– I desire to pay my tribute to the Minister for having succeeded in effecting this most admirable trade agreement with Canada. I was pleased to hear the Minister state this afternoon, by way of interjection, that the agreement is the outcome of suggestions that were made at the Imperial Conference to the effect that the various dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations should establish reciprocal trade relations among themselves.
This agreement could not have been born under happier auspices. It has long been the ambition of those anxious to develop inter-Empire trade relations, that countries forming the Empire should give reality to the ideal of establishing among themselves reciprocal trade. I submit that the idea of inter-Empire trade does not confine itself to trade relations merely between the United Kingdom and the remainder of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It applies with equal force to inter-dominion trade. This agreement gives splendid expression to, and is evidence of the good faith of, Canada and Australia in that ideal. Canada will secure advantages under the agreement in connexion with its salmon, newsprint, and motor chassis trade, while Australia will benefit in its butter, wine, preserved and fresh fruit trade.
What appeals to me particularly, in considering this agreement, is that the advantage that it brings to Australia reacts very favorably on our principal primary producing industries at a time of acute crisis in their affairs. Our butter people cannot regard the agreement other than with extreme satisfaction.
Similarly, those engaged in our wine industry, and in the preserved and fresh fruit industry of Australia must realize that the provisions of the agreement are decidedly advantageous to them.
One other aspect of this subject deserves emphasis. By approving of this agreement, the Canadian Parliament and this Parliament will undoubtedly do a great deal to encourage the development of a comprehensive system of trade reciprocity within the Empire. The negotiations which have issued so successfully in the writing of this agreement have extended over a considerable time. The two dominions have for a number of years been canvassing the possibilities of formulating such an agreement. Even within the lust few months, close consideration has been given to the development of inter-empire trade on a broad scale. [Quorum formed.] if mere sentiment alone is not to be relied upon to strengthen the bonds of Empire - I do not say that it should not be relied upon to some extent - the adoption of trade agreements between the various dominions and the United Kingdom are certainly calculated to do
In my opinion, the completion of the agreement will do a good deal to extend our imperial ideals. A comparison of this agreement with the trade treaty made some time ago between South Africa and Germany reveals some important contrasts. One of these is that this agreement is designed, -not only to build up trade, but to strengthen the Empire, and its ideals, while the other treaty is purely a trade arrangement.
In supporting the adoption of this agreement, I feel that we are doing something to encourage that admirable organization, the Empire Marketing Board, to continue its excellent work. Ever since its establishment, the board has been endeavouring to develop interempire trade, and it has done a great deal of other splendid work.
This agreement takes its place beside a number of other tariff arrangements which have been in operation for sOme time. I mention, particularly, those between New Zealand and South Africa ; Australia and New Zealand; Canada and South Africa; Canada and the West Indies; and Canada and New Zealand. I look upon the completion of the agreement as a handsome contribution to the wider movement of imperial economic unity.
Like the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), however, 1 should like to see the ideals of this agreement, extended more definitely to the adjacent sister dominion of New Zealand. The only element of dissatisfaction that I find in the agreement is that it may result in some injury to New Zealand. We have a tariff arrangement of a kind with New Zealand, but I think it would he desirable for the Government to do its best to iron out some of the angularities in that arrangement. If anything can be done to make happier the existing relationship between Australia and New Zealand, it should be done, for it is desirable that the best possible understanding should exist between these two neighbouring dominions.
.- I congratulate the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) upon the excellent work he has done in negotiating this agreement. I believe that the arrangements that have been made will have the result of providing work in rural areas for a large number of people at present living in our overcrowded cities. New markets will be opened up by this agreement, which should considerably extend the scope for the employment of our workless people.
The fruit-growing industry, for instance, should receive a considerableimpetus throughout Australia, for the free entry of our fruit into Canada should result in the opening up of an extensive market. This in turn should lead to the settlement upon small holdings of very many families, and make them more or loss independent of such unfortunate economic conditions as at present prevail in our cities.
I am also pleased that the egg industry will benefit by the terms of this agreement. The Empire Marketing Board issued a report about three months ago which showed that out of every 1,000 eggs sold iu. Great Britain,, only three came from Australia. There should be a big market, for Australian eggs in Canada. In my opinion, it would pay the State. Governments handsomely to make available to deserving families a large number of. four, five or six-acre blocks of unoccupied Crown- lands i-o enable them to take up poultry raising and egg production. Unemployed tradesmen could erect inexpensive cottages on each block from the local timber. If these steps are taken, the conditions which prevail in our cities could be relieved to some extent.
I wish also- to make some observations upon the possibility of developing the eucalyptus oil industry by extending our market to Canada. At present our only markets are in Great Britain and the United States of America. Thousands of unskilled workers could be engaged in the manufacture of eucalyptus oil if a suitable market could be found for tb: product. In a recently issued trade bulletin, figures were published which showed that with an overseas market in only Great Britain and the United. States of America we were able to increase the value of the products of this industry from £24,000 in 1921-22, to £S5,000 in 1929-30. The value of the production dropped to £63,000 last year; but the development of a market in Canada should insure the permanent prosperity of the industry.
– The honorable member should join the Country party.
– The platform of the Labour party is sufficiently comprehensive to meet the requirements of not only every city dweller, but also every resident in our rural areas. I agree with a good many of the planks in the Country party. I was born, though not brought up, in the country ; and I am at present speaking as the representative of country people. I say without hesitation that the hope of salvation for Australia lies in removing our surplus population from unemployment in our big cities to profitable production. I hope that some day members of the Labour and Country parties will meet unofficially, and make an arrangement by which the Country party will cease deprecating the wages paid to city workers, and the representatives- of the cities- in- this Parliament will’ compromise with the rural1 representatives with regard to any duty that- inflicts undue hardship on the- people in their electorates.
I believe that the consummation of this agreement is one of the greatest achievements of any government for a considerable time past, because it offers prospects of fresh employment. It will provide increased markets for our canned and dried fruits, eggs and rabbits. It is considered in some circles that a profitable export trade could be developed in orange juice. The agreement provides a further instalment, of inter-Empire trade, and should help to bring about further decentralization. 1 have not mentioned wine. I notice that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) appears to be ready to jump up in his place, and perform his customary turn of calling for a quorum. He is a “ blue ribbon “ man, but he advocates a wine bounty. [Quorum formed.]
– “While the bells were ringing; the honorable member for Angas stated that you, Mr. Culley, had said that a quorum was present, although a quorum was not present.
– I made the statement, but, out of respect to you, Mr. Culley, I withdraw it.
– I hope that the Government will make further efforts to open new avenues for the sale of our primary products ; this is the greatest service that can be rendered to Australia at the moment. The employment problem in the cities is hopeless. The secondary industries are burdened with goods that they cannot ‘dispose of, and there appear to be no avenues of employment open to the people in the country districts; but there is some hope in placing men in jobs on the land, if they know that their produce can be sold. I trust that the Government will concentrate on this aspect of the unemployment problem. The agreement should receive all the publicity that it is possible to give it. Although the announcement regarding it has been published once in the press, the news should be broadcast, offering some hope for the industries whose commodities are mentioned in the agreement. The Minis- ter for Markets, and the Government, have rendered one of the most valuable public services within my recollection.
.- I congratulate the Minister, and the Government, upon the successful result of their negotiations with Canada for the extension of both the period and the scope of the 1925 trade agreement. It was refreshing to me to hear the Minister say that the new agreement represented a. further step on the road to Empire economic unity. Coming from a member of a government that, up to now, has appeared to me to be obsessed with the idea of Australia being self-contained, that phrase seemed to indicate a broadened outlook, and I can only hope that this agreement will have the effect of similarly widening the vision of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), who appears, so far, to be impervious to Empire trade sentiment.
It must be gratifying to our producers of dried fruits to find that the former preference of £14 per ton, or 1½d. per lb., is being increased to £18 13s. 4d., or 2d. per lb. Our dried fruits are admitted into Canada absolutely duty free; we are to get in on the ground floor. As the industry is somewhat embarrassed at times, owing to the high percentage of its products that has to be exported, this additional preference will be of great help. When the late Mr. Pratten negotiated the first trade agreement with Canada, under which Australia got a preference of l½d. per lb. on dried fruits, we were selling only a limited quantity of currants to Canada; but we have exported large quantities of that commodity to Canada under the past agreement, and the stimulus of this additional preference should still further increase the export trade. I agree with the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who hoped that it would be possible to come to a similar arrangement with New Zealand, because our trade in dried fruits with that sister dominion could, undoubtedly, be increased, if we received a preference similar to that given by Canada. The canned fruits industry will also continue to benefit under the Canadian agreement. It has enjoyed an advantage, up to the present time, to the extent of a little over 2d. per tin, or about 2s. 2d. per dozen. The duty has gone up slightly under the new agreement from half a cent to one cent; but the margin of preference to Australia has been ‘ further increased.
I would ask the Minister if he can give any indication as to the extent to which dumping duties have been imposed by Canada on Australian butter. One of the features of the agreement is that, while the rate has increased from 1 cent to 5 cents against Australian butter, no dumping duty is to be imposed in future. I presume that, although the rate has increased, the industry is better satisfied, in view of the fact that it knows certainly just what duty will have to be paid, whereas formerly there was always an element of uncertainty on that point. I understand that dumping duty was not charged formerly on consigned butter; but only on butter shipped f.o.b.
– I think that the dumping duty applied to butter which was consigned, because it robbed us of the market. The rates were varied in a way that gave New Zealand an advantage over the Commonwealth.
– I take it that the butter industry is probably better satisfied with a duty of 5 cents, so long as the margin of preference is retained, and no dumping duty added.
– Under the new Canadian tariff, Australia would have been charged 8 cents.
– Exactly. We have 3 cents preference over the lowest rate, and a 9 cents preference over the highest.
Cheese was formerly admitted free and although the duty is now 1 cent, the previous margin has been preserved. In regard to beef, mutton and lamb, we have now to pay 3 cents per lb., as compared with½ cent under the old agreement, but the margin between us and our foreign competitors is as good as it was formerly.
– It is better: we have the advantage of an extra 2 cents
– So much the better, but we do not compete on such even terms as formerly with the Canadian producers. However, with our own high duties we should be the last to criticize that aspect of the arrangement, because Canada has treated us very fairly in imposing only a 3 cents duty on these meats, of which the dominion produces considerable quantities. in regard to our imports from Canada, I notice that canned fish is to be admitted at the British preferential rate, which is the same as it was before, but I hope that soon we shall be able to supply our own requirements of this commodity. Our present trade shows a considerable balance in favour of Canada, and the development of a canned fish industry in the Commonwealth would help substantially to equalize the trade. The total imports of all kiuds of fish over a number of years, up to the 30th June, 1930, was about £1,600,000 per annum, but during the last twelve months the importations dropped to about £600,000, and recently they have been almost negligible. No doubt that is due largely to the depression and the high rate of exchange. I understand that canning operations are being started in Sydney, and that experiments in the canning of fish are to be carried out in Victoria. I hope these ventures will be successful, and that in time we shall be able to provide a large quantity of the canned fish we require, practically all of which is now imported. The British preferential duty of Id., in conjunction with primage and exchange, should give encouragement to the local industry, the development of which I shall await with interest.
In respect of sets of panels for motor cars, Canada is to be subject to the general tariff rate, and will get no advantage. I am glad of that, because I believe that it will be necessary in the near future to amend this item in the tariff schedule, and any alteration made now in favour of Canada would complicate the subsequent revision. - At present sets of car panels are subject to the almost prohibitive duties of £25 British preferential and £30 general tariff. These were imposed with the object of developing the local industry. The biggest factory for the moulding of steel panels is Holden’s, in Adelaide. I am informed that the dies necessary to make a set of car panels cost about £8,000. In
America some carsare being sold in such numbers that 50,000 sets of panels can be made from one set of dies. The £8,000 for the dies spread over 50,000 sets of panels represents a cost of only a few shillings per car. In Australia the demand for motor vehicles is, of course, not nearly so great as in the United States of America, which has twenty times our population, and the effect of the existing duties has been to drive the motor car business into American and Canadian hands, at the expense of British manufacturers.
– Are not the Canadians Britishers ?
– Certainly, and I shall be glad to see them get additional business from us at the expense of the United States of America. But the existing duties are very unfair in their incidence to Great Britain. There are only two or three makes of cars for which panels can be ordered in such quantities as to make payable the use of dies costing £8,000. Agents for the Chevrolet, one of the most popular American cars, and the Ford, one of the most popular Canadian cars, can order from Holden’s one thousand sets of panels, and the cost of the dies spread over that order is about £8 per car. If the order is for only 100 sets of panels, the cost of dies per car rises to the prohibitive amount of £80. The turnover of most British cars in Australia is relatively small, and the agents have to pay either a duty of £25 per set for imported panels, or a prohibitive price to get a limited number stamped locally. Often it is more economical to have the panels beaten out by hand, or fabric bodies have to be fitted. Moreover, I understand that Holden’s factory has practically passed into the control of General Motors Proprietary Limited, and that, large American firm is able to dictate the price to be paid for panels for British cars. [Quorum formed.] I shall not enlarge further on this item, because I realize that it is only incidental to the agreement now before the committee; but I repeat my satisfaction that no concession has been given to Canada which would complicate the subsequent recasting of the item, to prevent its present undesirable incidence.
I congratulate the Minister on having achieved the results represented by this schedule, which I hope will be the forerunner of many other agreements, particularly with other parts of the British Empire, and that, by such reciprocal arrangements, we shall advance steadily towards the ideal of Empire economic unity.
.- I am glad that the Minister for Markets has been able to arrange this agreement; it is .another proof of his assiduity in finding overseas markets for our primary producers. Any increase of exports will be to the advantage of the community generally. I notice in the agreement the words “ being the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of Canada “. I would like to see that amended to read “the sole manufacture”. There is no doubt that many of the Canadian factories for the production of metals, machinery and vehicles are merely, branches of American firms. Canada has been fortunate in having a large number of factories established within its borders, simply because American manufacturers wanted to get the advantage of the preferential duties in other parts of the world. Manufacturing firms like MasseyHarris and Ford in the United States of America have established branch factories in Canada, and those factories are used practically for re-assembling American manufactures. In considering this agreement we should carefully examine the tariff that Canada has raised against the United States of America and how it will affect British industry. The Canadian factories are obtaining many of their parts from the United States of America, and we might, therefore, be giving, under this agreement, the manufacturers of the United States of America an advantage over those of Great Britain, through accepting the products of their branch factories in Canada. Complaint has been made time after time, even by Canadians themselves, of the use of American parts in machinery manufactured and assembled in branch factories in Canada, particularly in respect of the types of machines referred to by the. honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). Only to the extent to which the
Canadian tariff affects the American manufacturers, do they manufacture in their branch factories in Canada. Therefore, we should not, by means of this agreement, penalize Great Britain, which has -treated us most generously in respect of our competition there with other countries. We must not in this agreement prejudice the principle that Great Britain may at any time come into a British preferential ring. I believe that at the Ottawa Conference Great Britain may express itself in favour of some form of dominion preference. If that is so, we do not want to be in the position of having allowed, through this agreement, the manufacturers of the United States of America to have an advantage over those of Great Britain. I hope that the Minister will give this matter consideration. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) has said that he would like the Minister to extend his persuasions to New Zealand and South Africa with the object of obtaining a general and increasing preferential tariff among the British dominions, even if Great Britain itself were left out of the scheme by its own policy. But there is one country with which we should have a natural trade, and that is Fiji. In the past, we have had an extensive trade with that country, which is really an appendage to the Commonwealth ; but that trade has dwindled year by year. We have treated it unjustly, and naturally it has closed its doors to . us.
– For what reason?
– Principally because of the embargo that we placed on imported bananas. Our natural trading outlet is the Pacific Islands and the Pacific countries generally, and we made a grievous mistake when we built up a tariff against these countries which are Australian trade appendages. When the Minister is again effecting trade agreements, I ask him to confer with Fiji and any other Pacific outlets for our trade. T congratulate him upon his great work, which has surely justified the expense of his trip abroad.
.- It is unusual in this House for members of both sides to be brimming over with congratulations with respect to something that a Minister has achieved. I endorse the remarks of other honorable members to the effect that the Minister has como to a satisfactory trade agreement between Australia and Canada. I well remember a conversation that I had with the present British Chancellor of the Exchequer. When I was explaining to him that Australia, next to India, was the best customer of Great Britain, he snapped out, “Yes, no doubt you do buy millions of pounds worth of goods from us, but what about your trade with tine United States of America”? Of course, that was a natural grievance. I am pleased that Canada is now to receive an advantage over the United States of America so far as Australian trade is concerned. There are certain goods and materials needed in this country which Great Britain itself cannot supply. In fact, a large number of people in England are running cars which were manufactured in the United States of America. In Australia, American cars have been extensively used because they are more suited to our requirements than are British cars. The British manufacturers have at last awakened to that fact, and are now manufacturing a car suitable for Australian conditions. We purchase the great bulk of our petrol and sils from the United States of America, Great Britain is . not a largs producer of (petrel, only small quantities from shale being extracted there. We also ‘purchase a large quantity of softwofflds from the United States of America. If we deduct motor cars, petrol and . oils and spftwoods fwm ithe imports from that . country, there are not many items left.
– What about American films?
– Films, of course, represent a -considerable item i-n our imports from -the United States -of America. I was glad to hear the hon^ orable member for IReid (.Mr. Coleman) mention the fact that in Canada he found a favoraMe -impression in regard to Australia. Certainly the people of British Columbia are pro-Austr.alia. They have a wonderful lumber industry, and in order tp develop it further every effort was made . to bring about this trade agree^ ment between Canada and Australia*
When I was in British Columbia the people there ware exceptionally anxjpus to obtain a greater proportion pf pur timber trade. At that time we imported about 93 per cent, of pur requiremepts of gpftwopds from tbe United States of America and other foreign . countries, and the people of British Columbia put in a strong claim for a greater share of that trade. If we have to impprt Oregon and other softwoods, it is only fair that we should favour Canada as against the United States of America. When in Canada I met Mr. Malcolm, then Minister for Commerce. He is an expert in timbers, because he belongs to one of the higgest furniture manufacturing establishments in Canada. He aud his brothers are running a big factory which is using some of our most beautiful timbers. Jle told me that Australia produces some of the finest veneer timbers in the world, and that they had frequently used them in their factories. When Minister for Trade and Customs I received a deputation from the manufacturers pf Melbourne. They informed ine that if they could obtain the preference which was then given by Canada to Great Britain, they . could compete successfully in that dominion. I have no doubt “that what $hey said was true. I cabled to Canada asking for that preference. I hpp.e that this trade agreement will enable bur Australian manhfaeturers to trade -with Canada. Owing -to the geographical position of that nation, we shall have a considerable ad-vantage over other countries which trade -with it. Most imports enter Canada . on the east side, . but pur goods enter on the western side. Imports that are landed on the eastern side and are required on -the western side, have to bear t.he eost of a haulage of 3.,000 miles. ‘We have, therefore, a considerable advantage over other conn-tries that trade with Canada. The Melhou-rne manufacturers were quite confident -that they could compete successfully “in Canada if they were granted by Canada the preference “that it extended tp Great Britain. The Minister will correct me -if I -a-m wrong, but I understand that an arrangement has been made to allow certain articles -of Australian manufacture the same preference as is allowed >tp British . goods,
Mr.Parker Moloney.-That is so.
Mb.. FENTON.- There has recently been in Canada a very large delegation of manufacturers’ representing- the Federation, of British- Industries. The other day I received a copy of the. delegation’s report, in which it referred in the following, terms- to conditions, in Canada): -
Thefacts. which became evident as the result of these discussions may be summarized as follows : -
The determination of the dominion,, is not only to continue the- development of its natural resources, butalso. to- maintain unci strengthen its industrial and miuuitacturuig position. The desire of the dominion to purchase goods from Great Britain and other dominions in preference to purchasing from foreign countries.
The imports to Canada from Great Britain in the year l929-30 amounted to $190,000,000 and from the United States of America, $847,000,000.
The report continues -
Trade must be reciprocal between units- ofBmpiVe. The- prosperity of each- part is necessary toi ensure prosperity for the whole. A change in the fiscal system at home- -would appear to bc- necessiwy if these objects are to. be attained.
That report is signed by James Lithgow,, Arthur. Duckham, who- visited Australia some time ago. and Moir Mackenzie.
I expect that, as the honorable- memberfor Corangamite- (Mr. Crouch) said> thei next economic conference will meet’ in very changed! circumstances.. I hope that, delegates will manifest a greater desire to achieve Empire trade reciprocity, and wiTT display more- enthusiasm over schemes: designed to promote inter-Empire trade. All over the world manufacturers and. producers are looking for new markets.. We ourselves are feeling, the need, and before long it will become imperative for us to discover fresh markets for our primary produce. Representative men throughout the Empire a-re- now thin-king seriously along- the lines of developing- toa greater extent mutual trade between- the va-rious units of the Empire. I know that certain interests in the Old Country are opposed’ to the idea, recognizing that tibeir trade with foreign countries is wortli more to them than their trade with the. dominions. I believe, however, that if the Empire is to remain intact, inter*Empire trade must be developed!. A phftnge will have t-9 come, Of course, we ourselves are inclined to look to France-, Germany, Japan, and other countries to take our primary products; just’ as England looks to foreign countries to absorb her- surplus manufactures ; but we should miss no. opportunity of extending, our trade with Great Britain and our sister dominions. ‘ Much hasalready been done in this direction by the Empire- Marketing: Board’.. Gireat. Britain provides a market for £500,000;000 worth of foodstuffs every year,, and wes should endeavour to- selL to her more of our produce than we do.
– If we close the dloor against her manufactures; hc-w can she buy from- us ?’
– We could increase by millions of pounds our trade with Great Britain, even under present con<- d-i-tious-. By proper organization, this could be dbne even while Britain remains nominally a- freetrade country, and we adhere te- our policy of protection-. The- British industrial delegation which visited Canada in-tim-ated that when it was not possible for a reciprocal! arrangement to- be made between Britain and Canadai for the interchange of goods,, British capital should be brought to Canada for the manufacture of goodsi in that country. Unfortuiaately, more- American capital is being- invested in Canada, than- British.
I congratulate the- Minister on his achievement- in having- this agreement signed. I. realized when in Canada some- time- ago- that the atmosphere was. favorable to the present, arrangement, anal’ the Minister, coming into contact with Canadian representatives- aifc the Imperial and Economic Conferences, was, no doubt able- to make considerable progress in his: negotiations, even while he waa in London. This must have made his task, easier for him- when ha- visited! Canadia-. I a-nai sure that the- people of: Australia, will rejoice- that, we are to do more- trade with, the great Dominion of Canada.
No- doubt the Minister called at’ New Zealand when relm-rning from Canada, and he may have discussed” tradematters with New Zealand Ministers. When I was- returning from the United Kingdom we called at Auckland, and-“ a New Zealand Minister mot me there. We arranged that each of us should draw up a list of those goods which we could profitably exchange with each other. I was glad to receive the assurance of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) that those negotiations are being continued. Although the volume of trade with New Zealand is not so great as that with Canada, the balance is so much in our favour that we should do everything in our power to increase it,. I hope that the next step will bc to enter into a trade agreement with New Zealand. It seemed to ma that the Minister rather over-emphasized the advantage we are obtaining over New Zealand with respect to our butter trade with Canada. When the terms of this agreement were published in Canada the general sentiment was, “ We have come to a very fine arrangement with Australia; the next thing is to come to a similar arrangement with New Zealand.”
– And ultimately the whole scheme of preference will break down.
– I am not so pessimistic as the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell).. What we have to consider is whether we, as component parts of a great Empire, are to trade with one another, or with foreign countries. I trust that the Minister’s prognostications regarding the operation of this treaty will prove to be correct.
– I am sure that it must be gratifying to the people of Australia as a whole to know that this very satisfactory agreement has been entered into between Australia and Canada. It must be particularly gratifying to the dairymen to know that at last the Canadian dumping duty has been removed. I read in the press recently that the manager of one of the co-operative butter factories in Sydney has stated that last year 50,000 boxes of butter were exported from Australia, including 25.000 boxes from New South Wales. Australia has to depend for its national income very largely upon the export of three great primary products - butter, wool, and wheat - and it is, therefore, a very fine thing that we should have succeeded in opening up in Canada a new market for our butter. I regard this as a step in the direction of evolving a successful
Empire marketing scheme. There has been much talk for years past of the need for opening up new markets for our primary produce, and the successful consummation of this agreement should encourage us to seek other markets for our other surplus products. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) pointed out that Great Britain provides a market for £500,000,000 worth of foodstuffs each year, and that we should endeavour to sell to Great Britain a great percentage of our products. Apart from England and Canada, however, there 13 a market in other countries for our primary products, such, as dried fruits, eggs, butter, hams, tropical fruits, canned fruits and wines. For that reason the Government should go right ahead with proposals to appoint trade agents in the countries in which there are possibilities for marketing our products. It was a happy thought that the Minister for Markets should go to our sister dominion to negotiate with n view to opening up trade relations with us. The honorable gentleman had no difficulty in effecting a highly satisfactory agreement between the people of Canada and the people of Australia. If that can be done between these two sister dominions, it can also be done, to a large extent, between Australia and Great Britain, and probably between Australia and South Africa.
The Canadian people have not by any means got the worst end of the stick. There is in Australia a very fine market for soft timbers and motor cars. Unfortunately, the people of this country have spent many millions on motor ears of American origin, when they should have been buying Empire products.
– They should not have been buying them at all.
– I agree that too much money has been invested in motor cars. I hope that, now that this agreement has been completed, our people will refrain from purchasing motor cars from the United States of America, and give their trade to Great Britain and Canada. They should realize that, in our hour of trial, that country did not extend to us the hand of friendship, or assistance. In future our trade should be given, as far as possible, to the people of Great Britain and Canada.
I was pleased to note from the press that, as a result of this agreement, the Sydney City Council has decided to abandon a prospective purchase of American cars and to substitute for them Canadian cars. To indicate the joy with which the agreement has been received in Canada, I quote the following paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald : -
To celebrate the inauguration of the treaty, the Canadian National Steamships have arranged to despatch a special “ goodwill “ steamer from Australia, to participate in an advertising campaign in Canada. The Canadian Constructor will carry as large and as representative a cargo of Australian products as can bc arranged by co-operation with the Department of Markets and exporters in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Special publicity will be arranged to coincide with her arrival in Canada.
That is a very laudable action on the part of the Canadian National Steamships Company. I hope they will take a representative display of Australian products, to serve as a goodwill advertisement in Canada.
This agreement represents one of the most important steps that has been taken to develop Australian trade. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) stated, it should open up the way to closer settlement, and the placing in country districts of many thousands who are now living in our cities in a state of impoverishment. They could engage in fowl-raising, pig-raising, tobacco-growing, and so on. They would be a thousand times better off living under healthy and natural conditions than living herded in the eities, practically on the verge of starvation.
– The Queensland Government has already given a lead in that direction.
– And I congratulate it for doing so. There are many thousands of . acres in the northern State that are eminently suited for tobacco culture, and for the settlement of thousands of people who are now homeless and hungry, and it is our bounden duty to encourage that.
– The Minister supports the Queensland Government in making men work for the dole!
– That is an improper interpretation to put on my remarks.
Had the honorable member been listening he would know that I merely congratulated the Queensland Government on settling those people on the land. I again congratulate the Minister for having brought about such a fine” agreement between the two dominions, in the short time that was at his disposal. It proves what can he done by those who are in earnest, and have the interests of their country at heart. I have no doubt that the result will be a fourfold increase in the sales of Australian products in the Dominion of Canada.
. -Judging from the remarks of honorable members, this agreement that the Minister has succeeded in effecting with Canada meets with their approval. I regret that it falls to my lot to strike the first note of discord. I cannot share the exultation of those who have sung so loudly their praises in favour of the proposal. It is quite evident that any bargain that is entered into to bring about reciprocal trade between two countries must be detrimental to somebody. Unfortunately, in this instance it adversely affects those engaged in our very important and deserving timber industry. The Minister gave the impression to his hearers that the effect of the agreement on the timber industry would be not to lower the tariff duty as against Canada, but to increase it against other countries. I notice that the press, in commenting on the proposal, definitely stated that it will have that effect. In reading carefully the Minister’s speech I came to the conclusion that he did not intend to convey that impression. When the honorable member said that the effect would not be to lower the duty against Canada, he was alluding only to box shooks. Actually the effect of the agreement will be to bring Canadian timber under the intermediate tariff, which means lowering the duties against the product of Canada, excepting only the item dealing with box shooks.
In considering the effect of this proposal, one naturally is impressed by its reception in Canada. In reading the Sydney Morning Herald to-day I noticed this report from Vancouver - trade treaty.
British Columbia’s Joy.
British Columbia is jubilant over the suc cess of the trade treaty between Canada and
Australia. ThePremier (Dr. Tolmie) to-day ordered a huge flag pole as a gift to be sent to Australia immediately. Government foresters are to search the woods of the province for a tree of great height and perfect shape. It is suggested that it should stand at Canberra, with a tablet signalizing the commemoration of the treaty enactment.
I do not think that those engaged in the important industry of cutting timber in Australia will be particularly pleased to see a huge flag pole at Canberra advertising the forestry trade successes of Canada. I admit that the agreement may confer a great benefit on some of our industries, particularly the butter and fruit industries, but, to an extent, at the expense of those engaged in the timber industry. I point out that no enterprise in Australia is suffering as greatly from the prevailing depression as the timber industry. There is no finer body of workmen than those employed in the arduous task of felling our forests.For a long while that industry has been in difficulties, because of the huge importations of timber from other countries, including Canada, the United States of America, and the Baltic ports. It was only recently that a tariff was introduced which gives a fair measure of protection to our timber industry, compared with that given to other industries. I admit that the reduction of duty in some instances is only 2s.; but, in the Australian tariff now operating item 291 l, “ timber, dressed or moulded n.e.i. ; timber, tongued or grooved, or tongued and grooved ; weatherboards “ provides for general, 20s.; intermediate, 14s.; British, 12s. The effect of this trade agreement will be to reduce the tariff on this item from 20s. to 14s. A reduction of from 20s. to 14s. is substantial. It will be seen that the timber industry is paying for the ‘benefits which the dairying industry expects to enjoy. As for the dairying industry, I doubt very much whether the results will be as satisfactory as some honorable members anticipate. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is most optimistic in this respect. His electorate, like mine, is notable for the volume of its dairying industry. [Quorum formed.] I feel that the estimate of the benefits of the agreement to the dairying industry have been altogether too optimistic. I again draw attention to the cablegram from Vancouver, published in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald. In regard to the dairying industry the report reads -
Butter importers declare that the effect of the treaty is speculative, the new rate being applicable only when the Canadian-produced supply is short. At present Canada is exporting butter.
If Canada is able, at certain periods, to export butter, the position does not seem very hopeful from our point of view.
– If the honorable member would examine the figures for the whole year, he would be better able to express a reliable opinion.
– I am aware that Canada imports butter at certain periods. All I am saying is that I feel that the beneficial effects of the treaty will not be so great as is expected in connexion with the dairying industry.
– Canada’s winter is our time of peak production.
– That is true, but the Canadians are able to export a considerable quantity of butter, and production is increasing annually.
In submitting the agreement for the approval of honorable members the Minister observed that it would enable us to capture some of the trade which New Zealand now enjoys. This makes me wonder what New Zealand will think about the agreement from the point of view of inter-dominion trade.
Even if the committee desired to alter any of the provisions of the agreement, it could not do so without destroying the whole arrangement. With the Minister, I certainly hope that the new conditions will have good results in respect of a number of our primary industries, and if such benefit were certain, 1 would hesitate to condemn the agreement, even though it will detrimentally affect the timber industry, which is of great importance to the State from which I come. There is one way in which the ill effects of the agreement in this connexion may be mitigated. I understand that nothing in the agreement will prevent this Parliament from increasing the rates of duty on all lines of timber imported from the United States of America and Canada. If this is done, our own timber industry may be compensated.
– No rates of duty are specified in the agreement. “When the committee resumes consideration of the tariff schedule it can deal with the suggestion of the honorable member.
– We cannot, however, close our eyes to the fact that the Canadian representative agreed to these conditions, having in mind the existing rates of duty. The chorus of exultation with which the agreement has been received in Canada may be silenced if we proceed immediately to increase our customs duties all round.
There is another way in which the interests of our own timber industry may be protected. In recent years the Government of the United States of America has followed the practice of subsidizing shipping companies which carry timber freights from the United States of America to Australia. One of the main reasons why Tasmanian timber cannot compete successfully with overseas timber is that the freights for the carriage of timber between Tasmania and the mainland are almost double those charged to bring timber from the United States of America to Australia. I trust that something will be done to prevent timber imported under these conditions from entering into unfair competition with the locally-produced timber. The cutting of freight rates so severely as I have stated is equivalent to dumping. I ask the Minister to look into this subject.
In my opinion Australia contains such a wide variety of timber of different classes that she need import no timber at all. Our hardwoods are the best in the world, and we have them in great quantities. We also have some very fine softwoods. The Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill) expressed the opinion that we should accept considerable, quantities of Canadian softwoods ; butI believe that we have timbers in Australia quite suitable for the purposes forwhich imported softwoods are at present used. Generally speaking, I do not favour the imposition of prohibitive duties or embargoes, but when overseas traders are granted special concessions in regard to freight we are entitled to do something to protect our own industry.
When we resume our discussion of the tariff schedule, I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will make some suggestions with the object of compensating our timber industry for the detrimental effects upon it by the agreement with Canada.
– I will look after the timber industry.
.- The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has been congratulated by honorable members on both sides of the chamber upon having successfully negotiated this agreement. I realize, of course, that the agreement must be accepted as a whole.
– I point out to the honorable member that no rates of duty are specified in it. When we are dealing with the tariff schedule we shall not be debarred from making any amendments to it that we may desire.
– Many persons well qualified to express an opinion on the subject have declared that Australia possesses timber equal to any in the world. In this connexion I quote the following observations by Mr. A. B. Galbraith, chairman of the Victorian Forests Commission, in an article in the Melbourne Sun News Pictorial on the 8th June, 1931, under the heading, “Maligned eucalypts are equal to world’s best timbers; Proper seasoning complete answer to all complaints and prejudices “ : -
Scientists have aptly described the mountain ash, or Victorian oak, as a soft hardwood. The quickest growing of our eucalypts, its versatility for commercial uses is unique. This, combined with its strength and ready response to treatment by kiln seasoning, makes it more valuable on the whole than softwood.
It is unfortunate that many of our Australian timbers have been given a bad name because they have been used before they have been properly seasoned. It frequently happens that insufficient time elapses between the felling of the trees and the using of the dressed timber in home building. The use of unseasoned timber, particularly in plastered walls, is unfortunate, for the timber shrinks and the wall cracks. I was pleased to see a newspaper report recently to the effect that the sawmillers of Victoria will not be licensed in the future unless they install up-to-date seasoning plants.
I had the pleasure last year of arranging for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to visit Powelltown in my electorate, in which there is the largest sawmill in Australia. During our visit we saw mountain ash flooring planed, tongued, seasoned and grooved. That flooring was far better than imported Baltic flooring. A leading man in the timber industry of England, who was in Victoria recently, expressed surprise that we should use Baltic flooring when we have such superior native flooring timbers. I have previously referred to the fact that a large guest house at Warburton, in the very heart of a dense forest, was built principally with imported timbers.
– What was the reason for that?
– It was probably due to prejudice. In my young days I considered that if I wanted quality, I must always buy imported goods. There are very many people who still think so. 1 am glad to say that with the passage of the years I have come to realize that articles produced in Australia are usually equal to the best produced anywhere else in the world. Our timber is certainly equal to the world’s best.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Scientists tell us that Australian timbers compare favorably with the best in the world. Whatever justification there may’ be for importing certain quantities of softwoods . from abroad, I see no reason why palings and shingles should be imported. Personally, I would impose an embargo against their importation, because we have sufficient hardwood in this country to provide all the palings and shingles that will ever be required here. Mountain ash, which grows plentifully in Victoria, is specially suitable for that purpose, and, no doubt, there are other timbers in Tasmania from which these things could be produced. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) said that the Canadian Government was so elated over the preference to be given to its timber that it was searching the forests of Canada for the tallest length of timber procurable to make a flagpole for presentation to the Commonwealth Government; but I do not wish to see the Australian timber industry “ up the pole.” I have no doubt that a pole could be found in Australia that would compare favorably with any felled in Canada. Possibly the people of that country do not realize the importance of our timber industry. With regard to commodities which Australia does not, or cannot, produce, I am in favour of reciprocity to the fullest degree; but our timber industry should be safeguarded, just as Canada has protected hers by prohibiting the importation of Russian timber. A recent visitor to Australia from China reminded us of the great possibilities of our export trade in timber.
– There are no specified rates in the agreement regarding the items mentioned by the honorable member; but anomalies can be rectified under the tariff, solong as we preserve the margin of preference.
– I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will agree to that.
– He has no objection.
– Those who engage in log-chopping contests in various parts of Victoria are splendid specimens of Australian manhood, and I do not wish to see them driven from the bush to the unemployment camp at Broadmeadows.
I commend the Minister for Markets for what the agreement will do on behalf of the wine industry. The preference which has been secured will be of the utmost benefit to grape-growers, many of whom are returned soldiers. The preference will stimulate the export of wine from Australia to Canada. Despite what I have said with regard to the timber preference to Canada, I add my congratulations to those which the Minister has received from other honorable members for his good work in bringing about the agreement.
.- I am glad that this agreement has been entered into with Canada, and I hope that it is but the first instalment of a series of similar agreements for the revival of trade between Australia and other countries, and, particularly, within the
Empire. Although I probably represent the largest timber-growing district in the Commonwealth, I do not) share the views of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) regarding the timber preferences. No country has a greater! supply of hardwood than has Australia, but we have always found it necessary to import certain softwoods. Even governments use imported softwoods, which are necessary for building purposes, because they are light and strong. In “Western Australia, hardwoods are used formany purposes, but, for certain work such as scaffolding, softwoods are required. Many countries have to import hardwoods, and this provides scope for reciprocal trade between them and Australia.
When the members of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation were the guests of Canada in 1928, they discussed the timber trade, and found that British Columbia was sending its timber in logs to the United States of America, and that that country was passing some of it on to Australia. At that time, the members of the delegation thought that Canada! herself should be handling this trade; therefore, I regard the present agreement as highly satisfactory. Australia has been exceedingly foolish in causingi by her high tariffs trade reprisals’ by other countries. If werefuse to buy from them, they must be expected to decline to trade with us. Trade is the lifeblood of a country, and, if each part of the Empire decided toconcentrate on the industries which were, natural to it, good progress could be made. It is regrettable that trade is not encouraged between Australia and New Zealand. Tears ago we destroyed the’ trade that we had developed withFiji, because of our selfish policy, and now theFiji trade has passed to New Zealand. The following table will show the value ofour trade with various countries : -
The total value of the trade from those five countries alone shows a balance in Australia’s favour of £39,141,000.
– What of the United States of America?
– We should cut out the United States of America, and any other country that is not prepared to trade with us on a reciprocal basis. Because of our adverse trade balance with America, we cannot afford to lose the favorable trade balance of £39,000,000 with the countries I have mentioned. The Empire cannot provide a market for all Australia’s products. In recent years Prance, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Japan have regarded us as one-eyed and selfish, in wanting to sell to them and get their cash, and refusing to buy anything from them. Because of this they have resorted to tariff reprisals, particularly against Australian wool and wheat. It is very difficult now to find a market for our wheat. In the past Italy had been a wonderful customer for it, but, naturally, that country is offended by our selfish exclusion of her products. Belgium has bought from us meat that other countries would not buy. Our trade balance with Belgium is about £8,000,000 in our favour. Yet the present Government, in order to help some small glassmaking industry in Australia, has excluded Belgium’s principal exports. The result is that the Australian purchaser is not getting glass as cheaply as he did formerly, and the nation is offending a valuable customer. This policy is extremely foolish, and I hope that the agreement now before the committee is the first indication of a change that islong overdue. We should establish better trade relations with all parts of the Empire, and then with other countries. Certain commodities we cannot competitively produce, and the uneconomic production of them locally is of no benefit to the community. Such industries do not increase employment, for if a few people are engaged long enough in an unprofitable industry, which has to be bolstered up at the expense of other sections of the community, unemployment must result. Our policy should be to concentrate on those primary and secondary industries which are natural to the country to develop them to the full, and to show friendliness to other nations, buying from them the things that we cannot produce commercially, and thereby opening up markets for those things which we can produce better than they. By such a policy our population would be built up steadily, unemployment would diminish, and greater prosperity would obtain throughout the land. I have no criticism to offer in regard to the agreement. I would like to see the policy it represents extended in other directions. Not long ago Australia’s trade in boots with New Zealand was worth nearly £1,000,000 annually. To-day we do not export to that dominion more than a few thousand pounds worth.
– Very satisfactory ; we are manufacturing for ourselves.
– I cannot understand what satisfaction the honorable member can derive from -the loss of an important market. One of the large boot manufacturers of Collingwood, in conversation with me, deplored the fact that he could not keep all his hands, fully employed. When I asked him why he did not increase his output and sell abroad, he replied, “ That is impossible ;. the production costs in Australia are too great “. As the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) interjected, we are making our own requirements, but at what a cost ! Australia is becoming economically isolated. We should be able to make boots, for sale to people abroad, but we have so built up costs that we cannot sell outside our’ own protected market. From this the community derives no benefit ; on the contrary, unemployment has increased. How much better would be our position if we could produce, economically, machinery and other goods, and sell them to- other countries. People are being employed in the foundries and machine shops- of the eastern States with Western Australian money, but Western Australia will not be able to stand that for long if it does not receive’ a quid pro quo. Its attitude is the attitude of other countries; they will not continue to buy from Australia if we will not reciprocate. 1 hope that this Parliament will continue to seek new avenues of trade, be cause otherwise the Commonwealth cannot progress. Reciprocal trade assures loading for shipping on both the inward and outward voyages, and that means cheaper freights on our exports, and more employment on the wharfs. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is in a position to realize the importance of active trade relations with other countries. The policy of excluding exports has practically closed our ports, and rendered idle thousands of waterside workers, whilst the higher freights resulting from one-way traffic are an additional penalty upon the primary producers. The Navigation Act is a noose round the neck of industry. One result of it is that the freight from Adelaide to Fremantle is greater than from London to Fremantle. One of the Tasmanian representatives stated recently that it is more costly to send timber from Tasmania to Adelaide than from Vancouver to Adelaide. Some honorable members suggest as a corrective the imposition of extra duties on timber. That would merely increase the cost of workers’ homes. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) criticized the use of softwoods in a building in his electorate. I can conceive of no other reason for the use of softwood in that instance than that it was cheaper than local timber. The cost of preparing and marketing the timber which is at hand is often greater than the cost of importing softwoods from abroad. No one will gainsay that hardwood for many purposes is infinitely superior to softwood. No timber is equal to jarrah for flooring,, as thefloor in the King’s Hall of this Parliament House witnesses.
– Is no softwood grown in- Australia?
– Hoop pine, which is a semi-softwood, is a very fine timber; but the supplies of it are limited. Moreover, the Queensland Government, by the imposition of heavy royalties, has rendered impossible the use of that timber in the southern -States. Even our hardwood supplies must be conserved for the sake of future generations. Unfortunately, throughout Australia, reafforestation has been neglected. The Australian people inherited a wonderful asset in the native hardwoods, but we have dissipated it in the most prodigal manner by ringbarking, fire, and other means of destruction.
I welcome this agreement with a sister dominion, and I hope that it is the prelude to closer relations with South Africa, New Zealand, India, and other parts of the Empire. We might with advantage purchase from India jute goods, spices, and other products natural to that country, thus inducing the Indian people to buy from us. So would trade develop, and the depression disappear.
.- The completion of the trade agreement between Canada and Australia is a very important event in the relations of the two dominions, and a consummation of which the legislatures of both countries will have . reason to be pleased. I extend to my colleague, the Minister for Markets, (Mr. Parker Moloney), my hearty congratulations on the success of his mission. Some persons are always ready to criticize Ministers for travelling abroad. They admit the need for representatives] of big business firms to visit the old world occasionally to keep in touch with Commercial progress and methods, but ‘ when a public man goes abroad to represent Australia at an economic conference or to negotiate a trade agree’ment, there are always some small Australians who are ready to criticize. The recent trip to Canada of the Minister for Markets, and his successful negotiation of the agreement now before the committee, will eventually be worth to Australia millions of pounds. Every hon’orable member, regardless of the party to which he belongs, will admit that.
I stress the great importance of the agreement to the primaryj producers, and, representing the large primary producing State of Queensland, I am glad that the people in the north will jbenefit substantially by the exchange of preferences with this sister dominion. The marketing of fresh meat, butter, fruit, and wine in Canada will be of tremendous advantage to Australia. One of the disabilities experienced by the man on the land in Australia is the limited home market for his produce, and the difficulty of finding markets abroad. This agreement opens up great possibilities of trade with a dominion whose population is nearly twice that of Australia. The desperate straits of the dried fruits and wine industries is apparent to anybody who has made even a cursory study of them. We were threatened with inability on the part of thousands of our grape-growers to sell their output after the next vintage. Hundreds of our dried-fruit growers, because of the lack of a market for their products, were faced with the prospect of having to walk off their holdings. But this treaty will enable them to obtain a big share of the Canadian market for those commodities. Certain concessions have to be given in return to Canada. I ask honorable members who may be inclined to critize this trade agreement, to take a broad view of it, because we cannot come to an agreement with another country without compromising to some extent. I congratulate the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) on his success in arriving at this agreement with practically no loss to Australia at all.
– Except in regard to timber.
– This Government, by imposing duties on timber, has done more to protect the Australian timber industry than has any other government since federation. The small preference granted to Canada on timber will give that country an advantage over the United States of America, and the northern parts of Europe, which are large exporters of timber to Australia. Surely we should be prepared to give that concession to a sister dominion when by so doing we are opening up a market for primary products, which hitherto we have found great difficulty in marketing at a profitable price. Canned fish, motor cars and timber have, for many years, been imported into Australia from various countries, and in the future Canada will supply increased quantities of our requirements in those commodities. I prefer to see this trade going to Canada, particularly when we are to obtain considerable trade in return. Canada imports some of the following primary products in large quan tities : -
Canada also imports 120,000 tons of our sugar. There, are a number of other items of imports that I could mention, but they all show great possibility of trade for Australia under this agreement, which is indeed a great triumph for that school of thought which believes the preferential tariff to be the prime factor in Empire unity. There is a growing feeling in Great Britain in favour of reciprocal trading within the Empire. I hope that as time goes on there will be further developments in that direction, and that when the next economic conference is held a more sympathetic ear will he given by Great Britain to the representations of the dominions for a greater measure of preference for dominion products. It is quite possible that at the next economic conference to be held at Ottawa, this fine example set by the two great dominions, Canada and Australia, in playing such a prominent part at the last Economic Conference in advocacy qf a greater measure of preference within the Empire, will be an incentive to the other dominions and indeed to Great Britain itself to enter into agreements of this kind. For instance, the United Kingdom might enter into a trade agreement with Australia, and Australia in turn might enter into trade agreements with New Zealand and South Africa. The representatives of Australia at the Economic Conference met the representatives of Canada and discussed the trade relations of their respective countries. They then laid the foundation for this agreement. With the great variety of climates and soils within the Empire it is possible, by means of agreements of this description, for one dominion to send its surplus products to another dominion and keep the trade within the Empire with mutual advantage. If that were done a better feeling would exist throughout the Empire. Unfortunately, in the past, there has been some misunderstanding between Australia and New Zealand on tariff matters, but I confidently look forward to an improvement in our trade relations with that dominion. From my conversations with the Comptroller-General of Customs of New Zealand, who was here not long ago, and with the representative of the Government of that dominion, I ascertained that there is a desire on the part of that Government to negotiate with Australia with a view to arriving at a trade agreement that would be of mutual advantage. Speaking for this Government, I can say there is a strong desire to improve trade relations with New Zealand. I announced the other day, when tabling the tariff schedule dealing with the budget, that the Government intended to remove the -duty of £1 a ton on newsprint and printing paper from Canada and Great Britain. That concession will cause additional trade between those two countries. To-day Australia imports £2,234,000 worth of newsprint: £831,000 worth from Canada, and £1,370,000 worth from the United Kingdom. We import £3,130,000 worth of printing paper of all kinds: £2,032,000 worth from the United Kingdom and £894,000 from Canada. This concession will increase the preference given to these Empire products and will put business, amounting to approximately £200,000, in the way of the United Kingdom and Canada.
– What will Australia lose in revenue?
– There will be some slight loss in revenue, but it is felt that this action is justified in the circumstances. It will make this trade agree-‘ ment, which is viewed with disfavour by certain sections of the people of Canada, more acceptable to them. I represent a part of the great meat-producing State of Queensland. In the year 1929-30 Australia exported fresh beef to the value of £2,569,788, of which £2,306,340 worth, was exported from Queensland. Canada, in the year ended March, 1930, imported over £90,000 worth of fresh beef, of which
Australia supplied about one-third. I am hoping that, as a result of this agreement, Australia will be able to export larger quantities of neat to Canada. When the 1925 agreement came into force, Australian fresh meat paid a half cent per lb., as against 3 cents per lb. under the general tariff. In September last the general tariff was increased to 6 cents per lb. During the last ‘few years great progress has been made in cattle-raising in Canada, with the result that the industry represented to the Canadian Government that increased protection was necessary; hence the increase in the Australian rate from a half , cent to 3 cents per lb. As against this, the Canadian Government has tabled a schedule in which the general tariffrate is increased to 8 cents, thus giving Australia a preference of 5 cents per lb. Canada imports annually canned meats worth between £180,000 and £190,000, of which the Argentine supplies the greatest quantity. Under this agreement, we are hoping to obtain a big share of the trade which is now going to the Argentine. It frequently happens that, when bigmeat contracts are being let by Great Britain, the Argentine succeeds in obtaining them. It should be our aim to obtain these big meat contracts by entering into trade agreements with Great Britain and the other dominions. Under this trade agreement the Queensland pineapple industry will derive substantial assistance.
There is no necessity for me to make a lengthy speech on this subject. We all congratulate the Minister on his splendid achievement in negotiating this agreement. Special praise is also due to his officers, who so ably assisted him. I refer particularly to Mr. Abbott, the DeputyComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and Mr. Macgregor, the Australian Trade Commissioner in Canada, These negotiations were of a delicate nature, and had it not been for the tact anddiplomacy of the Minister and of those officers, the mission might have broken down at any time. However, the negotiations were successful, andI am pleased to be a member of a government that has been responsible for the consummation of this agreement, which, I believe, will be the forerunner of many others between Australia and other parts of the Empire.
This treaty is worth millions of pounds to our primary producers. It will not only provide them with an additional market, but will also enable them to employ a greater number of our workmen, thus helping to some extent to solve our unemployment problem.
.- It is seldom that honorable members on both sides of the House are in accord with any action of the Government, but on this occasion they have received with open arms the agreement which has been tabled by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney). Although it is a trade agreement, it has a deeper significance, because it will have the effect of binding the dominions concerned more closely together. I am glad the Minister paid a tribute to the officers of the Customs Department for the work they have done in connexion with this agreement. They have devoted their time and talents to the undertaking, and have worked many hours overtime.
When I was abroad eighteen months ago, I found, when sitting round the conference table with delegates from all parts of the Empire, evidence of a very keen desire on their part that the units of the Empire should work in closer cooperation. This was particularly so in regard to the representatives of New Zealand and Australia. I regret that some of the statements made in the course of this debate were such as might hurt the feelings of the people of New Zealand. Australia and Canada are, however, the senior members of the Empire family of nations, and it is proper that they should lead the way in the direction of trade reciprocity. For some years past, Australia has been endeavouring to get into closer trade relations with Great Britain, which is probably our best customer for primary products. One honorable member stated to-night that international trade was, something not only to be desired, but to be worked for; yet our tariff policy of late has been such as to offend many of our overseas customers, and to cause them to take reprisals against us. This applies particularly to Germany and France, and also, I believe, to Italy. If we are to have international peace we must endeavour to promote friendly feelings through trade channels.
If it is desirable to do this in regard to foreign nations, how much more desirable is it in regard to the various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations? I trust that this agreement with Canada will be followed by other agreements between other parts of the British Empire. When I was in England, certain groups there were working for the achievement of freetrade within the Empire. Australia does not believe in freetrade just at present, but if labour conditions became more nearly equal in the various parts of the Empire, something in the nature of inter-Empire freetrade might be achieved.
– I do not think that the movement is for freetrade so much as for reciprocal trade.
– That is so. I certainly found in Great Britain a strong sentiment in favour of preferential trade within the Empire. That feeling was entertained even by members of the Ramsay MacDonald Government.
– It is, I don’t think !
– The Ramsay MacDonald Government evinced a strong desire to forward the development of the Empire, but it could not see my point of view when I said that I could not understand why the United Kingdom, which had been for centuries the greatest manufacturing country in the world, was now opening wide its doors to the manufactured goods of other countries, and allowing its own workers to be thrown out of employment. The British Labour Government’s slogan at the last election was, “ A cheap breakfast for the working man”; but there is no- virtue in that if the working man has not the money with which to buy the cheap breakfast. I am glad that the Labour party here has advanced further than that, and I hope it will be able to prevail on its friends at Home to see things from our point of view. Even the Conservative party in Great Britain now favours Empire preference as a means of Stimulating inter-Empire trade.
I do not, as a general thing, believe in members of cabinets peregrinating about the world, but I believe that much good can be achieved by the attendance of the Prime Minister and leading Ministers at Imperial conferences. They thus learn something of the ideals and aspirations of the various parts of the Empire, and, apart from the more obvious advantages which may be derived, their views are broadened, and they become better fitted to administer the affairs of their own country. The Minister stated that correspondence was passing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New Zealand on the subject of trade reciprocity. Correspondence is all right- for a beginning, but personal contact surpasses anything that can he done by letter-writing. The Government could not have achieved the same success in regard to the Canadian trade agreement had not the Minister been on the spot to discuss problems as they arose, and to make decisions. The cost of sending a Minister to New Zealand would be nothing as compared with the benefits we might derive from the consummation of a favorable agreement. It would probably be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to the primary producers. New Zealand is our closest neighbour among the various parts of the Empire, and when I was abroad I found that I had more in common with the New Zealand delegates than with any others. The Canadian representatives also displayed a very keen desire for closer Empire co-operation. Although one section of opinion in South Africa favoured secession from the Empire a little while ago, the South African delegates with whom I came in contact were just as keen about Empire unity as were any of the others. The same may be said for the Indian delegates. The last meeting of the League of Nations in Geneva was the first at which India was entirely represented by full-blooded. Indians, even the leader of the delegation being an Indian.
– They are more broadminded on the matter of colour than Australians are.
– They displayed noresentment against Australia on account, of her immigration legislation. They appreciate the reasons for our adoption, of a white Australia policy. One cannot attend a conference of Empire representatives without being impressed by thefact that we must build, not for the present only, but for the future. I am glad that I can pay a tribute to the Ministerfor Markets and Transport, and to this
Government, for having taken at least one step in the direction of binding the Empire more’ closely together. The Empire has been built and held largely by force of arms, but I believe that it can be best developed by reciprocal trade arrangements. I do not advocate .the abolition of defence forces, but we should devote our energies from now on to the peaceful development of the Empire.
Honorable members, as a whole, must approve of the Canadian trade agreement. If we dealt with the items individually in this Parliament we should be considering them for a long time. Honorable members might desire to go further in some directions and not so far in others, but, taking the agreement as a whole, it must be admitted that the Minister has made a good job of it. I commend this legislation to the favorable consideration of honorable members. A trade agreement is about the best instance we can have of Empire co-operation. We have never favoured the drawing up of an Empire constitution, preferring to rely on the silken bonds of kinship. [Quorum formed.] If we hope to work in co-operation with the various parts of the Empire, and with other nations, we must so frame our fiscal policy as not to awaken resentment abroad. The Government is to be commended for the step it has taken in connexion with this agreement, and I trust that it will go on to exploit trade possibilities in other parts of the world, particularly with those countries which are our near neighbours. I suggest that the Minister should endeavour to exploit the available markets of the near East, where there are wonderful possibilities for the development of Australia’s trade. In conclusion, I again congratulate the honorable gentleman on what he has achieved, and hope that it is the first of many forward steps, all designed to draw even tighter the bonds that bind together the British Commonwealth of Nations.
.- I do not think that, there is occasion for me to waste words in connexion with this debate. Obviously, the achievement of the Minister commends itself to all sections of the committee. It represents one of the three big achievements of this Government. The other two are the prohibition of certain importations into Australia, and the establishment of preferential trade between Great Britain and Australia. The latter was brought about by the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Scullin) to Great Britain, and perpetuates a policy that would have been abolished but for that visit. Those are achievements of which we may all feel proud, and they promise to be eclipsed by even greater events in the. future.
Australia will benefit particularly from its sales of butter to Canada. It is significant that this important food item served as an excellent shibboleth to the present Administration in our sister dominion, and formed a medium upon which that Government slipped into power. I am unable to foretell whether this Government will be able to use so slippery a product to retain its present advantage. The butter made in Australia is clean and wholesome, with a most valuable food content, and does not in the remotest degree resemble that which is produced in Russia under disgustingly unhygienic conditions.
The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) spoke disparagingly of the Canadian flag pole that is to be sent to Australia and erected at Canberra, to fly the banner of reciprocity. Probably that flag pole will stand on Capitol Hill, symbolic of the good spirit that exists between Australia and Canada. I am glad to hear that the Minister is contemplating returning the compliment by sending an Australian flag pole to Canada. I recommend that he should obtain it in my electorate, where we have spotted gum, which is one of the best of Australian timbers, or iron bark, which will withstand the ravages of the elements, and the assaults of termites, or any other parasites. Years after the Canadian flag pole has fallen a victim to our pests, our people of generations yet to come who visit Ottawa would be able to see our flag pole there swaying gracefully in the wind, an advertisement to the durability of Australian timber.
The Minister also proposes to send to Canada a consignment of Australian marble. I think it is said of Augustus that he found Rome built with bricks and left it constructed of marble. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) found Ottawa built of bricks’ and mud, and probably will eventually leave it constructed of Australian marble. I recommend him to procure from my electorate samples of the famous Coolalie marble.
Is it not possible to extend this spirit of reciprocity to an exchange of politicians? I have the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) particularly in mind as the member who should be chosen to represent this Parliament in Ottawa. He is one of those huckstering, pettifogging critics who, by the methods of Sherlock Holmes, tries to discover how much petrol each Minister uses when attending to his official business, totally ignoring the fact that the nation may gain to the extent of millions as a result of their activities. We could easily spare the honorable member, who could call for quorums at Ottawa, and be as big a pest there as he is here.
To the confusion of our carping critics, this agreement demonstrates very effectively the vast amount of good that comes from Ministers visiting other countries officially. Australia may even obtain some advantage from the association of the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) with the New Zealand representatives. Undoubtedly, personal contact with other representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations engenders a spirit of goodwill and can result only in advantage to all concerned. I hope that this spirit of reciprocity will be continued! and extended, so that there may be an increase in the trade relationship of Great Britain and ourselves.
.- It will be no mean achievement to secure the ratification of the trade agreement between Canada and Australia. That is evident from the fact that several honorable memhers have endeavoured to show that certain of our industries will suffer as a result of it. That is not to be wondered at. However, I believe we are all of the opinion that, in the main, nothing but mutual benefit will result from this agreement.
For many years the people of Canada have been ready for the signing of this agreement. Its object, of course, is to build up inter-dominion trade. So far as Canada is concerned, that trade has been growing slowly, but steadily, for a number of years. A few days ago honorable members must have received, as I did, a copy of Canada, 1981, an official handbook of present conditions and recent progress. Page 108 of the brochure deals with imports into Canada for the fiscal year ended the 31st March, 1930. After stating the value of the imports into Canada from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and other British countries and other foreign countries, the paragraph proceeds -
The percentage of imports from the United States to total imports has, therefore, shown a slight decline in recent years. The same thing is true of imports from the United Kingdom. The imports from other British countries and other foreign countries have both increased in proportion to total imports.
For the year 1906 there was imported into Canada from parts of the British Empire, other than the United Kingdom, goods to the value of $14,605,519. By 1930 the value of those imports had increased to $63,523,966. Of that increased amount Australia has had its share. Dealing with the other side of the ledger, exports from Canada, the pamphlet states -
Recent years have shown an increasing percentage of exports to other foreign and other British countries. In 1914 the percentage of exports going to other foreign countries to total exports was 0.8, in 1929 it was 24, and in 1930, 20.1. The increase in the proportion going to other British countries has not been so spectacular, but this percentage has risen from 5.4 of total exports in 1914 to 7.8 in 1929, and 8.8 in 1930.
That shows that the trade of Canada has gradually increased as regards parts of the British Empire other than the United Kingdom, of which Australia is one.
It would be easy to find fault with the agreement. We can do so on our side, and, doubtless, the Canadians will do so on theirs. Individual industries, both here and in Canada, will suffer as a result of the agreement ; but the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) is to be congratulated on having secured what is, on the whole, something that will be of great benefit to Australia. I had hoped that he would be able to go even further in some regards. For example, let me take the first item in the schedule, “ Fish preserved in tins or other airtight vessels “. It is true that the amount of duty on this item will bc very low, that is, British preferential tariff, 1 per cent.; intermediate tariff, 1-J per cent., and general tariff, 2$ per cent. I had hoped that it would be possible for the Minister to arrange for these goods to come into Australia free, as they form a very large percentage of the food used by the people in the backblocks, who cannot obtain fresh fish. This commodity would compete with practically nothing that we produce in this country. It is possible that the Minister was willing to allow this fish to be imported duty free, but that his colleagues in the Cabinet, and particularly the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), were unwilling because a loss of revenue would result. If that be so, I hope that at some future time the agreement will be amended in the direction that I have suggested.
Another item in the Canadian tariff schedule to which I wish to refer is, “ Grapes, fresh in their natural state, Sta”. It is proposed that these shall ‘be admitted free during the months of February, March, April, May and June, and that the British preferential duties shall apply during the other months of the year. As the British rate is free, I cannot see any purpose, therefore, in mentioning that the British preferential duties shall apply during only certain months.
The Canadian Government has been specially generous to us in regard to item 163, which covers certain kinds of wine. This concession should be of immense value to the wine-makers of Australia. I can quite believe that the position of the Canadian wine-makers in the French provinces was seriously considered before it was granted. [Quorum formed.] Those wine-makers have been self-sacrificing in this respect. In the circumstances, I trust that the winemakers of Australia will take every care to export to Canada only those classes of wines which will not come into active competition with the wines manufactured in Canada. I know that the wines that we shall send to Canada will be superior to those which are manuf actured in that dominion, but we should take care not to encroach too greatly upon the market of the Canadian manufacturers. If we do so, we shall find that an agitation will be set up for the repeal . of this provision of the agreement.
.- Like other honorable members, I congratulate the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) upon having successfully negotiated this agreement. We all realize that he had a difficult task in front of him when he visited Canada, but bis success is all the more gratifying on that account. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman was able to carry his task through to a successful conclusion, principally because he is himself a primary producer, and is sympathetic with all classes of primary producers.
A good deal has been said about timber during this debate. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that our Australian timber was not suitable for scaffolding, but for many years it was exclusively used for that purpose. I speak with a considerable experience of the timber industry when I say that we have timber in Australia suitable for practically every purpose for which timber is used. It has been said that it is neither profitable nor wise to use our hardwoods for mining timbers. But I remind honorable members that the Mount Lyell mine, which is worked on more economical lines than any mine in Australia, and is dealing with one of the largest deposits of low-grade copper ore that we have, is exclusively timbered with hardwood. There is no pine in any of its stopes. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) made some reference to the conditions under which Canadian timber will be imported. I understood the Minister to say that any timber that comes here from Canada will be subject to the intermediate tariff. It is not intended to admit any timber free. If that were done, the Australian timber industry would be ruined, and the large amount of capital invested, in it lost. I am glad that timber is not to be admitted free. If our merchants must import some timbers, it is desirable that these should be obtained from Canada in preference to other countries which buy none of our products. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) said that some of the provisions of the agreement, would not operate favorably to us; but I cannot see any provision which will cause us a loss worth mentioning. I repeat that, in my opinion, there is no need for us to import any timber. Unfortunately, Australians are too ready to decry their own products.
A concession is being granted to Canada in respect of newsprint. We have begun to manufacture newsprint in Southern Tasmania in a small way. We have unlimited forests there, and a mill with a limited capacity has been established. Until it is possible for us . to manufacture all the newsprint that we require, it is desirable that we should import newsprint from Canada instead of from countries which do not buy our goods. It has been proved that we can make newsprint in Tasmania superior to that which is being imported. In a report of a committee of the Development and Migration Commission on this subject, it was stated that the establishment of the newsprint industry in Australia would provide employment for between 15,000 and 20,000 men, and save the importation of between £8,000,000 and £4,000,000 worth of newsprint annually. I trust that everything possible will be done to encourage the establishment of this industry. In the meantime, I favour importing our requirements from Canada.
I am glad that arrangements have been made to admit Australian dried and canned fruits into Canada free of duty. We produce a first-class article, and we have every reason to believe that the Canadians will be pleased with our products. I think that our fruits, particularly our peaches and apricots, are the best pack in the world. It is also satisfactory to me that our fresh fruit will be admitted into Canada duty-free during certain months of the year.1 The Canadian Government has acted fairly towards its own fruit-growers by preventing the free importation of our fruit during the Canadian fruit season; but it is quite a different thing to allow us to ship our fruit to Canada in the Canadian off-season. We have been trying for a long time to get Great Britain to give us a preference for our fruit during certain months of the year. Seeing that Canada is now doing this, we may hope that Great Britain will follow her example.
Before the Minister for Markets left Australia I made a special appeal to him to investigate the possibilities of opening up an overseas market for our hops. I am very glad that since his return he has sent samples of our hops abroad, and has received favorable reports of them. The hop industry of Tasmania and Victoria gives employment to many thousands of persons. Not only the physically fit adult males, but also young people and persons who are to some extent incapacitated, can find profitable employment in certain branches of the industry. Unfortunately, we have at present an over-production of between 4,000 and 5,000 bales per annum. If Canada could absorb this surplus it would be of tremendous help to the Australian industry. Canada, which imports £116,000 worth of hops annually, could take the whole of Australia’s surplus. This would result in an increased acreage being put under cultivation, and employment would be found for many hundreds of Australians. Many growers have gone out of the hop business in the last few years, on account of over production, and with a market so handy as that of Canada, the industry should revive. This will be a great boon to those who, unable to find employment in the hop fields, are now receiving the dole. If the results that are hoped for by the Minister are realized, much benefit will be derived by the growers, in both Tasmania and Victoria.
I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) express the opinion that we should allow tinned fish from Canada to be brought into Australia free of duty. Round our coasts are some of the finest fishing grounds in the world, and they should be extensively developed. Under the tariff, protection has been given to enable fishcanning industries to be established, and a beginning has been made in this direction in various parts of Australia. I believe that within the next few years this industry will be one of the largest in the Commonwealth. Since Canadian traders are quite agreeable to a small duty, I can see no reason why we should allow their goods in free.
Australia has had a great surplus of canned fruits for many years. This industry provides employment for many thousands of workers, and the efforts of the Minister for Markets to relieve that congestion will be appreciated. It is generally recognized that the primary producers should be protected, and given every possible encouragement, but they have not received much attention in the past from governments. This agreement will render valuable assistance in certain months of the year, when our exporting industries are particularly busy. I congratulate the Minister upon the practical manner in which he has handled this matter. [Quorum formed.]
.- The reciprocal trade agreement with Canada is. a considerable and welcome extension of the agreement entered into with that country by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) has received many congratulations on the successful outcome of his negotiations, and he must have considerable satisfaction in knowing that the agreement has met with an enthusiastic reception from the primary producers affected, with one notable exception. It was my privilege, in 1928, to be a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation which visited Canada. We received a cordial welcome from the central and provincial governments, as well as from private citizens. Many conferences were held to discuss trade relations between Australia and Canada, and a most friendly feeling was expressed generally towards this country. Canada will benefit under the agreement to a greater extent than will Australia; but I realize that it is impossible absolutely to balance the trade between the two countries, not merely because of the larger population of Canada, but also because of the fact that it deals very largely in timber and motor products. Although the primary producers of Canada will benefit greatly under this agreement, there is no doubt that our producers of butter and dried and canned fruits will much appreciate the extended market which the agreement will open to them. I am glad to notice that a Queens-“ land industry will share in the concessions. It is true that pineapples are grown, to some extent, in New South Wales; but this is a large industry in Queensland, and for years there has been a glut of its product.
I rose particularly for the purpose of drawing attention to the timber concession to Canada, because I find the timber industry is much alarmed over the schedule. It would appear to me that this industry has been sacrificed, to some extent, to obtain concessions for other industries. The Minister has stated that timber is now to be removed from the general to the intermediate tariff. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) does not seem to realize that Canadian timber will be admitted at a lower rate in the future than in the past. The agreement will give Canada a preference with respect to many classes of timber. In 1929-30, Australia imported from Canada timber to the value of £418,290. That is not a large sum, yet it is quite clear that, under the lower tariff, we can expect much larger importations. The Minister offers the consolation that this will be done at the expense of the United States of America; but, if the general tariff is to remain as it stands at the present time, I imagine that it will not interfere with the trade from the United States of America nearly so much as it will with that of Australia. Judging by the remarks of the Minister, he realizes, apparently, that a big concession is being given to Canada, because he said -
Generally speaking, it is proposed to give Canada a preference of 2s. per hundred super, feet, except in regard to sub-item1 (1), item 291, of the Customs Tariff. This should be of immense benefit to Canada, and result in the transfer of considerable business from the United States of America to the sister dominion.
The Minister must admit that to place Canadian timber in the intermediate class means a reduction of the duty.
– Where there are no specified rates, we can deal with this matter when considering our own tariff schedule.
– A good deal of confusion has arisen on the point, and I hope that the Minister will clear it up. He went on to say -
Sub-items 291, i (2) and j, of the Customs Tariff cover box shooks, and in these lines Canada is the largest competitor with Australian timber. It is not proposed to reduce the duty against Canadian timber, but to increase the duty against her foreign competitors.
We have a most enthusiastic Minister for Trade and Customs, and I shall look to him to see that the timber industries of the Commonwealth are properly safeguarded. Apart from the comments that I have offered, I think that the agreement is highly satisfactory, and will add greatly to the export trade of many of our primary producers. I congratulate the Minister for Markets on having brought these negotiations to a successful conclusion.
.- I do not wish to appear to be an opponent of the agreement. I admit that it gives preference to a number of Australian products; but, although Canada has enjoyed a fairly large trade with us in the past, she has not been over friendly towards us, as some of the criticism that has appeared in the Canadian press during the last couple of years suggests. In my opinion, the timber industry, which provides a lot of employment for our people, will suffer a big reverse as a result of this agreement. Many people voted for Labour candidates at the last general election, because of our new protection policy, which promised help to industries in which fair and reasonable conditions were provided for the employees. To be consistent we should have regard to the conditions under which are produced the goods that will be admitted from Canada at preferential rates of duty. Those conditions are as much open to criticism as are the conditions in Russia. Reference to the Year-Booh shows that Russia buys more from Australia than does Canada. Last year Russian buyers competed for our wool, and they and the Japanese were responsible for a small rise in prices. For the last 25 years Australia has lived on the wool industry, which has paid more taxation than any other industry, has always been self-reliant, and has accepted world’s parity for its products. Russia will be a competitor for Aus tralian wool, and was a good buyer of stud sheep while the export of them was permitted. The timber industry, which is already in a depressed state, is about to receive a further setback. Because of the tariff schedule introduced by the Minister for Trade and Customs, many millers invested heavily in up-to-date machinery, believing that the protection which the Ministry had promised to them would be continued. The Government is supposed to be making determined efforts to prohibit the landing of Russian timber said to have been produced under conditions of slavery. But prior to the Labour party assuming office Australia was flooded with Douglas fir and other soft timbers from Canada. As a result of this competition many of our timber producers were forced out of business. I have received the following telegram from the North Queensland Timber Suppliers Association : -
View with alarm press reports of probable bad effect local timber industry result Canadian-Australian treaty. Request your support for industry already down and out. Will be pleased to receive details.
I hope that the industry will receive that protection that was promised to it at the commencement of this Parliament.
As an indication of the industrial conditions in Canada I quote a letter from a journalistic friend in that dominion -
Now to give you some idea of the situation in Canada. The unemployed are reckoned at from 500,000 all the way to 1,000,000. These are estimates by various organizations. There is no way of arriving at an exact calculation, but from my own personal observations I favour the larger figure. Toronto is considered to be one of the least affected cities, and yet there are 9,000 families and 7,000 single men receiving relief. Those figures, of course, only cover those who are destitute, and getting relief from official organizations and missions.
As for the plight of others, it beggars description. There are men, women and children living in caves dug in the hillsides, sleeping in abandoned box cars, and tumble down shacks, all this in a temperature that hovers around the zero mark. At a local brick kiln there is a colony which camps at night in the kilns that are cooling off. It takes about a week for a kiln to cool down. I myself have seen starving men fall on the frozen pavements.
Then there are the hundreds of thousands on the borderline of want. Lacking powerful labour organizations, the workers are being exploited beyond belief to an Australian. Wages reductions are general and drastic. The T. Eaton Company, the biggest retail firm in Canada, or the Empire, has reduced the working hours of its employees. This simply means less hours worked and less pay. A spread-over system. The reduction in hours and wages is 15 to 16 per cent. But the point is that they get their work done just the same. In industry, particularly thesteel industry of Nova Scotia, where 80 hours a week at starvation rates is a common thing, the men have again and again petitioned Parliament for relief from such exploitation. But in spite of the Tory Premier’s promises, no relief has been forthcoming, either as to rates of pay or reduction of hours.
Thu rubber industry is the same. The head of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (and this is on record in one of my articles in Maclean’s, though put in a different way) told me he had established in Canada because there are practically no labour laws. “My men,” he said, “ work twenty-four hours a duy when I want them to, and there is no interference by labour unions.” He boasted that he could make tires cheaper with Canadian labour than with English or Chinese workmen. In order to protect English tire manufacturers a duty of 30 per cent, was put on tires from Canada.
All of these employers, in making wage reductions assert that the cost of living in Canada has declined 15 per cent. This is not so. They use the wholesale food index, but retail prices of food have dropped only 5 per cent. Rentals and other items are the same. The farmer in the west cannot give his wheat away. It is down to 2s. and less a bushel, but bread has only dropped from11d. to10d. in the last year and a half. Frankly, with conditions as they are, Canadian-made goods are a product of exploited and sweated labour. I guess I should know, for it is my job to write articles on the industrial development of Canada.
I expect you will ha ve seen something about the plight of the western Canadian wheatfarmer. The newspapers carry accounts of farmers out there whose meat diet consists of gophers (a kind of prairie rat). In other communities they are right back to the barter system. Blacksmiths are making specially designed stoves to burn grain. The farmers cannot buy coal.
One noticeable feature here is the revolt of the middle classes. The greatest fight ever put up in Toronto has been staged by an organization called the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It centres round free speech.
In Toronto it is not possible to hold a public meeting without first submitting typewritten copies of all speeches to the chief of police. In this and other things there is a police dictatorship, behind which stand the big industrialists. The Fellowship of Reconciliation proposed to hold meetings to discuss the present economic situation, and although it has in its ranks many leading divines and university professors, it was prevented from holding any public meetings. The light has for weeks past,been front-pace stuff in the news papers. Church magazines and some Tory publications, sensing the danger of such absolute repression, have taken sides against the Toronto dictatorship, but so far without result. However, I feel sure something will break before long.
As evidence of the anti-Australian feeling prevalent in Canada this correspondent sent to me several newspaper paragraphs which had been published at the time of the visit of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) last year -
My object in writing to you just now is to bring under your direct noticean antiAustralian campaign which has become increasingly evident since the advent of the Labour Government. No opportunity is missed to present Australian people and Australian finances in an unfavorable light. Such headlines as “ Australia on the Verge of Bankruptcy “ have been common, to say nothing of the occasional reference to Australian “ cocksureness,” whatever that may mean. The fact that Australia has a better standard of living and that Australia’s social legislation is far ahead of Canada’s, which is marked by nothing so much as its almost complete absence, seems to arouse a spirit of antagonism where one would naturally expect, at least, a little admiration and possibly some emulation. Indeed, the general attitude towards the better economic, and social standard of Australian workers, as compared with those prevailing- in Canada, is an attitude of studied disbelief. When Hon. James Fenton was here, he made mention of Australian industrial arbitration legislation, and- Australian State enterprises. The briefest reference to this was made by the press during his visit, and barely had he left Canada than his veracity was questioned. The attitude towards him, and Australia generally, is illustrated by a letter which I have from an editor who specializes in personality sketches. I have been a regular contributor to this publication for a year, but, when I sent along a “ sketch “ on Fenton, I received my first turn-down. Very naively, the editor explained : “ Fenton is not of sufficient importance,” and very shortly after he used sketches of an unknown Korean student, a Chinese editor, a country policeman, and others of about the same “ importance.”
All this is by way of emphasizing my point that anything favorable to Australia is not welcomed by Canadian newspapers. To show that ‘derogatory items are welcomed, I am enclosing three “ clippings.”
One of the three clippings relates to some “bum” actor who’had been in Australia, and had not done so well as he expected. He was thus reported in the Toronto Daily Star of the 20th August, 1930 -
People of Australia are Sport Crazy while Country is Facing Bankruptcy.
Montreal, Aug. 20 (CP) . -“ Australia is the bad boy of the British empire and only a social revolution can save her from complete bankruptcy and ruin,” declared William Faversham, noted actor, who arrived in Montreal last night from Vancouver, on his return journey from an extended tour of the antipodes. “ All the people seem to care about is King Sport,” continued Mr. Faversham. “ Football, cricket and horse racing flourish at the expense of business and industry. “ What I feel Australia needs is a group of shrewd capitalists, say three from Canada and three from England, to go in and clean the country up; start things all over again and put her upon an altogether new footing.”
An Australian Labour Government which advocates the new protection, and will not protect an Australian industry which, unless it assures a decent standard of living to its employees, is yet prepared to admit at concession rates timber produced under conditions of slavery worse than prevail in Russia or any other country ! Most of this timber comes from British Columbia. The Canadian Year-Booh shows that 60 per cent, of the Chinese in Canada reside in British Columbia. They are evidently employed in the various lumber districts. In Canada, there are 37,163 Chinese males, and 2,424 Chinese females; 60 per cent, or 23,533 of these Chinese are residents of British Columbia. The Year-Booh does not disclose the actual wage paid in the industry, but in 1929 the index number relating to rates of wages in various classes of labour in Canada was 192.7, while in the log and saw-milling industry it was 185.6. Therefore the wages paid in the log and saw-milling industry are much lower than the average wage paid in Canada. Canadian timber is to be imported here in competition with our own timber, despite the fact that we have over 400,000 people unemployed. We have an adverse trade balance with Canada. In 1929, Canadian imports to Australia were valued at £4,871,643, while the value of our exports to Canada was £813,922. Canada is therefore on a pretty good wicket. In 1929, America exported to Australia goods valued at £35,30S,345. Only since the advent of this Government have the manufacturers of this country received any encouragement. During the last two years, they have been lulled into a sense of security. They have been allowed to believe that the protection that they have received will be continued to enable them to place their industry on a sound footing. They have had to pay a white man’s wage. Now the protection that these manufacturers have received is to be withdrawn so that we may import timber which has been produced under Chinese and slave conditions. ^Objection has been taken to the importation of Russian timber, but I contend that an embargo should be placed on Canadian timber as well as on Russian timber, particularly at a time when we have hundreds of thousands of people unemployed in this country. Canada has, in the past, been on a good wicket in respect of its trade with Australia, and even with the operation of this agreement we shall still have a considerable adverse balance of trade with that country. The high duties that were placed on timber gave a great impetus to the timber industry in Queensland, aud, indeed, in every other State. Australia produces timber equal to Canadian timber. I hope that the preference that we are now giving to Canada will show better results than were obtained from the preference given to Great Britain. We have an unfavorable trade balance with America of £35,000,000. That country sends thousands of motor cars to Australia, yet it has practically placed an embargo upon our wool. Unless that country is prepared to exchange goods with us, we should place an embargo on its products. Why should we import Canadian timber produced under slave conditions? A letter which 1 have received states that the timber companies of British Columbia employ non-union labour, that they pay practically no wages at all, and that the timber is produced under slave conditions. If we place an embargo on Russian timber, we should, to be consistent, place an embargo on Canadian timber. In 1929, Russia bought £4,000,000 worth of our wool. If we prohibit that country’s timber, it may prohibit Australian wool, and, if that happens, we shall lose a customer for one of our chief commodities. Our own hardwoods will supply our requirements for the next 50 years, and yet we are allowing our timber companies to face competition from a country which is producing timber under the worst conditions in the world. When we do a thing like that, what confidence can the manufacturer and the producer in this country have in the Commonwealth Government? If our timber companies have to pay wages fixed under Arbitration Court awards, and to observe white man’s conditions, how are they to compete with a country that produces its timber under slave conditions? It is of no use to put up the bogy that Russia is the only country in the world that has slave conditions. Only a week or so ago it was stated in the press that the Government of the United States of America had allowed Russian timber to be landed there, because it could not prove that the timber had been produced in Russia under slave conditions. Under this agreement we are practically prohibiting the importation’ of timber from other countries and giving preference to a country that is producing timber under conditions that could be no worse than those in Russia. An embargo should be placed on the importation of all timbers that can be produced here. I hope that the other industries affected by the treaty will receive a fairer deal than the timber industry is receiving. The Minister for Markets has been congratulated on negotiating this agreement, but there is no doubt that, in respect of the item of timber, Australia is receiving the worse end of the stick.
.- The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), in reply to certain statements of the honorable members for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Lilley (Mr. Mackay), in respect of timber, has said that, in the preference that we are giving to Canadian products, no rates have been fixed, and that those products, particularly timber, are being placed in the intermediate section of the tariff. I am sure that, when this agreement was effected’, Canada really thought that it would get some concession. Naturally, it would think that at least it would be charged existing duties. If the Minister has something up his sleeve in not fixing the rates, he should say so. It may be that he is leaving in the air his intention to raise the duties under the foreign and intermediate sections of the tariff, so that he can say that he is still strictly adhering to the letter of the agreement.
– If Canada retaliated with respect to butter, what- would become of the agreement?
– The Minister should state now whether it is his intention to increase the duty on Canadian timber. Just as statements are being cabled here from Canada, so will statements in this House be cabled to Canada, and, if the statement is cabled to Canada that the Australian Minister .for Markets does not intend to stick to the present rates, the Canadians will conclude that we are not playing the game. There is such a thing as honour, and nothing should be said or done that would make it appear that Ave intend to indulge in sharp practice. We should stick, not only to the letter, but also to the spirit of the agreement, particularly if Canada, in effecting this agreement, thought that its timber was to be allowed to enter Australia at existing rates, and that it would receive an advantage by way of an increase in the foreign rate. The agreement was not forced upon us. It was voluntarily arrived at, and will give us greater benefits than we now enjoy. If the other party to the agreement expects some benefit it should get it even if we lose on any item.
– I regard this agreement without any great enthusiasm, realizing that it is merely another of those commercial arrangements entered into from time to time between capitalistic governments without any consideration for the workers’ interests. I should not have been even interested in the matter were it not for the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who said that he had learned, on the authority of an eye-witness, that the timber industry in Canada was carried on under appalling conditions. We know that conditions all over the world are bad at the present time, but, according to the honorable member for Kennedy, coolie labour in its worst form is being used in the timber industry in Canada. If that is so, I should have imagined that even honorable members opposite would have condemned the agreement as it applies to timber, seeing that the Canadian timber- is to be brought into Australia in competition with our own. It was the duty of the Minister to make inquiries into labour conditions when he was in Canada. Perhaps he did so, and he may be able to inform honorable members of the results of his investigations. When we are thinking of allowing into Australia, on particularly favorable terms, a commodity which will compete with something we produce here, we should be very careful to inquire into the labour conditions under which that commodity is produced. Three or four years ago I visited the southern parts of the EdenMonaro electorate. In those districts the principal industry used to be timbergetting and saw-milling. I found most of the townships abandoned, or very nearly so, because the saw-mills which formerly provided employment for the population had nearly all closed down, and no money was circulating to enable business to be carried on. Other timber-producing areas have been similarly affected. Agreements of this kind are always entered into with the idea of allowing capitalists to make profits. First of all we send a trade representative to a country, and when trade has been developed to some extent, an agreement is entered into between the two governments. No government, however, has ever spent a penny upon inquiring into the conditions of the workers in other countries, with a view to improving the lot of its own workers. I do not suppose that this agreement will assist in the solution of economic problems, either here or in Canada. If labour conditions in the timber industry in Canada are such as has been stated, it is a disgraceful thing that we should enter into this agreement. I do not care whether the timber comes from Canada, Russia, China, or Great Britain, I shall oppose its entry into this country if it is produced under the conditions described by the honorable member for Kennedy. Such conditions cannot be anything but abhorrent to a Labour Government.
– The Canadian trade agreement has been received so enthusiastically by honorable members on both sides of the House that I am called upon to answer very little criticism. I appreciate the kind remarks of honorable members regarding my own humble efforts in connexion with this matter. It is some consolation when one has worked very hard for long hours in order to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion to find that one’s efforts are appreciated; and it is particularly gratifying to find honorable members, especially those on the opposite side of the House, prepared to regard this matter purely from an Australian point of view, and to express themselves so fairly.
One or two honorable members were inclined to take exception to the delay which occurred over the completion of this agreement. It is difficult for those not actually engaged in negotiations of this kind to realize what they entail. These matters cannot be completed in a week or a month; if they are worth doing at all, they are worth doing well. I could have brought down the agreement much earlier, but up to a week ago we were still carrying on negotiations over certain items. I was trying to obtain the best deal for Australia, and no doubt the Canadian Ministers were trying to do the same on behalf of their own country. Only quite recently I was able to obtain further concessions for some of our distressed primary industries. Honorable members will realize, in the circumstances, that the little extra time taken was well spent if we have been able to bring down an agreement which commends itself to honorable members on both sides of the House.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that, in his opinion, the agreement might operate to the disadvantage of Great Britain. I think that he will realize, upon reflection, that it will not have that effect. As I pointed out to him. when he was speaking, the representatives of the British Government at the Imperial Conference were anxious only that we should retain the preference we now give to Great Britain against foreign countries. She entirely acquiesced in the general opinion expressed round the table at the conference that the dominions should be free to enter into reciprocal arrangements with one another.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) expressed a fear that motor chassis might be allowed into Australia on preferential terms when, in fact, they were produced, not in Canada, but in the United States of America. This point was gone into carefully when we were in Canada. We visited the big motor works at Windsor, and satisfied ourselves that the cars produced there were almost wholly the product of Canadian labour and Canadian capital. Our New York office has a very comprehensive system of obtaining data on such matters, and was able to place at our disposal full information, which we confirmed later by actual inspection. We found nothing to justify the apprehension expressed by the honorable member for Corangamite, which was also present in my mind before those inquiries were made. I assure the honorable member that he need have no fear in that respect.
The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) was the first to raise the subject of timber. He appeared to think that in my original statement I referred to the particular kind of timber about which he is concerned, but he afterwards admitted that my remarks applied to something else.
– I said that that was the impression created by the statements published in the press.
– The honorable member now knows that I referred to box timbers. The items that I specified are just as I described them, but it is those that I did not mention about which the honorable member and some others in this committee are somewhat apprehensive. They are specified in the schedule under item No. 291, f and h. The intermediate rates have been reduced by ls. per 100 super, feet in order to make the difference between the intermediate and general tariff 2s. per 100 feet.
– There is still another item.
– What I have mentioned will cover the lot. I want to make it quite clear that there can be no literal alteration of the agreement. It must either be accepted or rejected in toto. On the general tariff debate there will be an opportunity to consider items regarding which no specified duties are mentioned. I assure honorable members that I take second place to none in my respect for the importance of the Australian timber industry, and those who are engaged in it. Naturally I could not dictate to the other signatory country how it should conduct its timber industry. What I was concerned about was to ensure adequate protection being afforded to our own people against the encroachments of labour and other conditions elsewhere.
I assure the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) that, although specific rates are not mentioned, nothing in this schedule could be misleading to the Canadian people. Canada’s concern is that the requisite margin shall be preserved in its favour. Paragraph 5 of the motion reads -
That if at any time -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth gives notice in writing to His Majesty’s Government in . the Dominion of Canada that in consequence of the importation into Australia of goods, of a kind specified in the notice, being the produce or manufacture of the dominion of Canada, the sale of similar goods produced in Australia is being prejudicially or injuriously affected, and
measures, sufficient, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth, are not put into effect by His Majesty’s Government in the Dominion of Canada, within three months after the date of the notice, then, from a time and date to be fixed by proclamation, goods of the kind specified in the notice shall, when imported from the Dominion of Canada, be subject to the rates of duty set out in the general tariff.
That provision speaks for itself.
– So that it will be possible to increase duties even to the extent of prohibition ?
– I remind honorable members that this agreement is reciprocal. We are entitled to protect, our own industries adequately.
– If the item comes under the general tariff, the existing margin is deducted?
– Yes. That margin must be preserved.
– Is not this the position, that if Australia ceases to take Canadian goods that dominion will cease to take Australian goods?
– So that any restriction which would prohibit the importation of Canadian goods into Australia vitiates the whole agreement.
– Exactly. Everything in the agreement is clearly understood by the Canadian representatives. Article 8 reads -
The terms “British Preferential Tariff”, “Intermediate Tariff” and “General Tariff”, as used in this agreement and the schedules thereto, shall be deemed to mean the British Preferential Tariff, Intermediate Tariff and General Tariff of Canada or Australia in force on the date the goods are entered for home consumption.
There can be no such misunderstanding as is anticipated by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter). The Canadian Ministers who participated in the negotiations were fully conversant with the position.
Regarding items in the schedule where no rate of duty is stated, but the terms “British, intermediate or general tariff “ are used, the rates thereunder, according to the article that I have just read, are those for the time being in force. So that it is competent for Parliament, during the debate on the tariff generally, to review any aspect of a position such as this; but I feel sure there will be no such necessity. The essential point is that the margin of preference agreed upon shall be maintained. The timbers referred to by the honorable member for Darwin come under the intermediate tariff, in connexion with which no specific rates are mentioned.
– Is not the real object of the provision to exclude the United
States of America, Norway and other Scandinavian countries from this trade?
– Canada knows very well that the United States of America is profiting by this business at present, and she thinks that she should have it, and I agree with that.
– “Will it be necessary for .us to give notice of our intention to increase any of the existing duties as we are required to do in the case of the reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand?
– The position is set out clearly in the memorandum and agreement. The honorable member for Darwin made some reference to shipping subsidies. That point is also covered by the provision to which I referred a few minutes ago, to the effect that if any industry in either country should be prejudically affected,, notice may be given by the country concerned of its intention to rectify the trouble.
I point out to the honorable member for Darwin that although Canada is exporting butter at present, there are periods of the year when she imports quantities of it. Every butter producing country has its abundant and lean periods of the year.
– South Australia is sometimes exporting and sometimes importing butter.
– That is also true of Canada.
– All that I said was that I feared that the agreement would not be so beneficial to the dairying industry as some honorable members anticipated.
– Canada has to import a large quantity of butter every year, and we should be able to sell a considerable amount of our exportable surplus on that market. Experts like Mr. Mei rs and Mr. Osborne, the chairman of the Butter Export Control Board, are quite satisfied that the agreement will beneficially affect our dairying industry. A statement to that effect by. Mr. Osborne appears in to-day’s newspapers. lt will be reassuring to honorable members that the various experts connected with boards which handle our dried fruit, canned fruit, butter and other commodities have sent me telegrams to the effect that they regard the agreement as very satisfactory. In order to insure for Australia the best possible results from the agreement, it has been arranged that Mr. Hyland, our Trade Publicity Officer in Great Britain, shall visit Canada within the next few weeks to conduct a comprehensive publicity campaign with the object of increasing the sale of Australian products. I do not exaggerate when I say that Mr. Hyland is an expert publicity officer. His work in Great Britain has been most beneficial to the industries of Australia. He will arrange for exhibitions of Australian products to be made in various Canadian centres. I am confident that his visit will give an impetus to trade between the two dominions.
In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), I am glad to be able to say that the Canadian people have the utmost goodwill towards Australia. The honorable member may find brief comments in some newspaper articles which seem to suggest the reverse, but during my extensive travelling in Canada, I found that the Canadian people had nothing but kindly feelings towards Australia. The Canadians with whom I came into contact in the negotiation of this agreement showed a genuine desire not only to protect the interests of their own industries, but to do their best to help Australia, and to increase the good- will which already exists between the two dominions.
I urge our primary producers to do their utmost to take the fullest possible advantage of the provisions of this agreement. The time is opportune for a great development in the trade relations of the two countries. I am gratified at the manner in which honorable members have received the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Parker Moloney and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Pauker Moloney, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for anact to amend the Gold Bounty Act 1930.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Ordered - .
That Mr. Forde and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Forde, and read a first time.
Acquisition of Gold: Information Supplied by Commonwealth Bank.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in the absence of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), to a matter that, in my opinion, should beseriously considered. To-day I asked a series of six questions concerning the gold’ acquired by the Commonwealth Bank, and the reply that I received was as follows : -
The bank issues weekly statements of itsposition which embody all the information it. is deemed necessary to disclose.
Particulars of its transactions with the trading banks or any other of its customers are confidential and in accordance with ordinary banking practice cannot be made public. Incidentally, the Commonwealth Bank has power to acquire any gold in Australia, whether held by banks or by the public.
That answer amounts practically to a refusal to supply information to which, I think, this House is entitled, particularly as the basis of many of our discussions recently has been the relations of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. If I read several of the questions that I have asked, it will be seen how differently my. inquiries were treated from those submitted in another place by Senator Colebatch on the 27th May last. Three of ray questions were as follow: -
What amount of («) notes, and (ii) credit, respectively, do the trading banks hold with the Commonwealth Bank- against gold acquired from them by the bank?
If the notes held by the trading banks were presented by them to the Commonwealth Bank, and paid in gold, what amount of gold would then bc held by the Commonwealth Bank?
If the Commonwealth Bank issued notes to the trading banks for the amount due by it to them, would such notes exceed the legal issue of its notes?
In view of the present financial situation, and the attitude of the banks, and particularly the position of the Commonwealth Bank with regard to the trading banks and this Parliament, I submit that my questions were quite legitimate and necessary; but the answer that I received was that my questions related to confidential matters. Even if the Commonwealth Bank had been consistent in that attitude, I would not have considered it to have taken a proper stand in the matter, because I was dealing with public matters which may materially affect legislation before this House.
When Senator Colebatch asked practically the same questions as mine in the Senate on the 31st May, he received answers to them. Ministers might properly ask the Commonwealth Bank authorities to treat questions asked by a member of. this House in the same way as questions submitted by a member of the Senate. Two questions asked by Senator Colebatch were -
To what extent have the private banks been paid for that gold in notes?
If these notes were issued, what would be the percentage of gold held by the Commonwealth Bank to the total amount of notes issued?
The replies, which were most informative, and display an extraordinary change of front to this Nationalist member on the part of the Commonwealth Bank, were as follow: -
The banks received for the gold- £2,150,000 in Australian notes; £10,500,000 was credited to the banks’ accounts with the Commonwealth Bank ; £4,000,000 London exchange sold to the banks.
The position of the Commonwealth Bank in relation to meeting its obligations as a central bank is relative to that of any other bank, i.e., that no banking institution can possibly operate on the basis that it could meet the whole of its obligations at call, simultaneously, and the Commonwealth Bank so conducts its business as to keep itself in the position that it cun, at any time, meet any probable call upon its liquid resources. Should any call in excess of reasonable anticipations he made upon a central bank which had the effect of forcing the bank to issue currency in excess of its statutory power, this would necessitate special temporary power by parliamentary authority to meet such an exigency. 1 regard that as a dangerous admission. It would appear that a different position has arisen since I asked my questions. Any one who cares to study the two sets of questions will find that they are the same in substance. Yet the reply given in this House was that the matter was confidential. Similar replies have been given time after time when information regarding the Commonwealth Bank has been sought.
– The honorable member was lucky that he was not told that it would be too costly to obtain the information.
– All the honorable member’s questions are too costly.
– From what I know of the Treasury officials, I feel certain that they would not discriminate between members of this House and members of another place. Indeed, they go out of their way to give all members the fullest information possible. I shall examine the points that the honorable member has raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1 1.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310716_reps_12_131/>.