12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and offered prayers.
– I have received from a constituent the following letter: -
Some time ago we received from Messrs. P. Mallis and Sons, of London, an offer of a deodorising fluid to be used in the manufacture of by-products from the tannery. We were interested, and we submitted a quotation to the owner of one of the bacon factories here who was also interested. Before sending on an order we wished to know the rate of customs duty we would have to pay when landing the goods. We submitted the quotation to the Customs Department, and received their reply that the rate could not be fixed untila sample was submitted for analysis. Our friends in London were advised to that effect, and in due course the samples were received by us. These were forwarded to the Customs Department, who advised that they could not fix the rate of duty without on analysis for which we would have to pay. On inquiring thecost of the analysis, the department advised that they were unable to fix the cost until after the analysis was completed. At this stage we gave up the business in disgust. Evidently the Customs Department do not want the business.
I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the procedure adopted in this case is customary ; if it is, will he instruct that in future at least an approximate estimate of the cost of an analysis shall be furnished to the importer?
– I have no knowledge of this case; but, obviously, it could better be discussed with the Comptroller-General and me in my office. No department treats the public more fairly than does the Trade and Customs Department, and I do notthink that any fair-minded person has reason for complaint against it.
– On the 4th August I asked questions of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Markets regarding the projected shipment of 1,000 tons of Australian flour to China, and the threatened boycott of Australian goods in that country in retaliation for our discriminatory duties on Chinese goods.I received a promise that inquiries would be made into the matter. Have such inquiries been made, and if so, with what result? The position is being aggravated by the shipment to China of an enormous quantity of American wheat on long-term credits for the relief of sufferers from the recent floods.
– I am under the impression that I sent a reply to the honorable member recently. I shall look further into the matter.
– On the 16th July I called attention to the refusal of the Commonwealth Bank Board to supply certain information for which I had asked.
I pointed out that information of a cognate character had been furnished to Senator Sir Hal Colebatch. The Prime Minister promised to get a report on the subject. If the right honorable gentleman has not yet received such a report, will he inquire as to the reason for the delay ?
– I confess that owing to my extended absence in Melbourne the matter has escaped my notice, but I shall have inquiries made immediately, and let the honorable member have a reply.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Home Affairs, whether the Government has considered the appointment of a certain member of this Parliament as administrator of the Northern Territory. If so, what decision has been reached?
– So far as I know, no decision has been reached, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member have a reply.
– Has the Minister for Defence received any report concerning the trouble that occurred on H.M.A.S. Albatross, when four men jumped into the shark-infested waters of North Queensland, and were subsequently sentenced to 90 days’ imprisonment. As this case seems to have some features in common with the harsh treatment in the navy of the youth Molyneux, to which I called attention some years ago, I ask the Minister to lay the papers relating to it on the table of the library?
– A very brief report of the circumstances has been received. When a fuller report is obtained, I shall Make it available to honorable members.
Refusal of Pair
– I rise to a personal explanation. Yesterday, I was compelled by a sudden attack of illness to leave the meeting of the Opposition party and retire to my hotel. I asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Opposition Whip (Mr. Bayley) to arrange for me a pair on the amendment proposed by the honorable member forGippsland (Mr. Paterson) on the tariff duty on galvanized iron. I intended to support that amendment, which was in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I understand that a pair was refused, apparently on the ground that some doubt existed as to how I would vote. Obviously, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Party Whip were acting in accordance with my known wish, and I cannot understand why a pair was refused.
– I desire to make a personal explanation on the same matter. I regret very much the sudden illness of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, and am glad to see him back in his place in the House. There is a standing arrangement between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that in the absence of either the other shall pair with him. Yesterday, when the division was taken on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), I was under the impression that the Leader of the Opposition would vote in support of the item which he, as a member of the Ministry, had helped to place in the schedule. When the Opposition Whip asked me to pair with the Leader of the Opposition I expressed a doubt on the subject. Apparently, the Whip also was uncertain of the attitude of his leader, for he went off to consult the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton).
– I wanted confirmation of my request, because the right honorable gentleman would not accept my word.
– The honorable member is not fair; subsequently, he told me that he exonerated me of all blame, and, therefore, he cannot now charge me with discourtesy. While the honorable member for Oxley was conferring with the honorable member for Maribyrnong, the Chairman ordered the doors to be locked, and I then had no opportunity to leave the chamber. If a misunderstanding has occurred, I very much regret it. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I am prepared to honour my pair with him on all occasions.
– Newspapers report that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) is likely to go abroad to represent the Commonwealth at the forthcoming international conferences on Finance and Disarmament. As money has been set aside for Australia’s representation at the Disarmament Conference, will the Prime Minister enlighten the House as to the Government’s intention?
– No decision has been reached in connexion with this matter.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year ended 30th June, 1931, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 106.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 107.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1931, No. 98.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the inadequacy of mail communication to Flinders Island, will he cause investigations to be made with a view to an Improved mail service being established by making arrangements for the Lady Jean; as well as the Colloboi, to carry mails?
– Arrangements were recently made for mails to be carried to and from Flinders Island by the Lady J ean, as well as by the Colloboi.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of Australian imports and exports for the financial years ended 30th June, 1920, 1930 and 1931, to and from (a) Great Britain, (b) other parts of the British Empire, (c) the United States of America, and (d) other foreign countries?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is contained in the following table: -
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– Representations have from time to time been made on the subject of alleged excessive charges, but not recently. Inquiries have been made at various times into the fees charged by the association for the right to perform copyright music. If the honorable member brings any specific case of alleged inordinate demands under notice the matter will be investigated.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has asked a question regarding the reduction of overseas interest. The information is being obtained, and ‘will be furnished as soon as possible.
Use of Australian Tobacco
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– There is a general scarcity of tobacco made from Australian leaf, and such scarcity is not confined to Tasmania. As the Australian leaf pays no duty, tobacco made therefrom is appreciably cheaper than that made from imported leaf, and the demand has exceeded the supply. This has caused a serious shortage which will continue until the next tobacco crop is available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not seen that any immediate practical results would be achieved by taking the action suggested, and incurring the expenditure that would be involved.
Position of Life Insurance Policyholders
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action was taken by the recent Premiers Conference to relieve life insurance policy-holders who have fallen into arrears with their - premium payments on -account of unemployment and reduced wages?
– The matter was mentioned, but not discussed, at the recent conference. It is not one in respect of which it is practicable for the Commonwealth to take action in the absence of general legislation on the subject of insurance.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The following are the nominations received, together with the tonnage of fruit supplied for 1930 by the organizations supporting the nominations : -
The candidates were nominated by the undermentioned organizations : -
Hon. Jas. Murdoch, M.L.C. Clarence Agricultural Bureau, Bellerive, Tasmania.
Henry Henderson. - Silvan Fruitgrowers’ Association, Silvan, Victoria.
asked the Miinster for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the names and addresses of the chief Australian distributors of galvanized iron from whom his department obtained information that 25 per cent. of the galvanized iron was used by primary producers?
– The distributors in question were the following: -
Malleys Ltd., Briscoe and Co. Ltd., S. Hoffnung and Co. Ltd., Swans Ltd., Fox Bros. Ltd., G. E. Crane and Sons Ltd., John Danks and Son Ltd.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has asked a question regarding the development of intra-British Pacific trade. The desired information is being obtained.
Protocol on Arbitration Clauses.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Employment of Asiatics - Cane Cutters Dispute - Papuan Enterprise
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has no information in regard to the matter, but inquiry will be made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has no information in regard to the matter, but inquiry will be made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Is it it fact that a company has been formed to grow sugar in Papua, and that much of the capital required to carry on the enterprisehas been subscribed by North Queensland sugar-growers ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Attending the operations in Papua.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has asked a series of questions on the rice industry and the possibilities of developing markets in Malaya. The desired information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Consideration resumed from the 17th September (vide page 112), on motion by Mr. Forms -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff be amended -
Postponed item 136 e -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (e) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “ (e) (1) Wire of No. 15 or finer gauge (Imperial standard wire gauge), ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 45 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
Wire, other, per ton, British, 52s.; intermediate, 152s.; general, 172s.”
.- The Minister should explain the reasons for increasing the duties on this item. Yesterday we were told that three-fourths of the galvanized iron used in Australia, was used in the cities. No argument based on such a statement can apply to wire netting or fencing wire, which are essentially rural requirements. I am totally opposed to the proposed increase in duty at a time when primary production is having one of the greatest struggles in its history. Wages are coming down, the price of coal is reduced, interest is lower, the incomes of all country people have contracted, and yet the duties on the essential requirements of the farmer are being increased. This is a matter of vital concern to the primary producers, particularly those who are developing new country where sheepproof fences have yet to be erected. Let me give one illustration of the increase of costs to the farmer, comparing pre-war and post-war rates. I shall quote from the Melbourne Argus of the 20th February, 1914. I select that particular date because the cost of both wheat and wire at that time had been stable over a long period. I have not chosen a dateto suit my case, as a reference to pre-war newspapers will show. On the 20th February, 1914, the Melbourne quotation for No. 8 black wire was £7 5s. a ton, and the price of wheat was 3s. 9d. a bushel. It, therefore, took 40 bushels of wheat to purchase one ton of wire. To-day the quotation for the same class of wire is £18 12s. 6d. a ton, and the price of wheat is 2s. 3d. a bushel. It, therefore, takes over 160 bushels of wheat to purchase to-day one ton of wire.
– That is four times as much.
– It is even more than that. The production costs per bushel of wheat have also increased greatly since February, 1914. Those figures cannot be refuted. That simple illustration clearly shows the impossible economic circumstances of the farmer to-day. Just when his position is almost hopeless, more hopeless than ever before, this National Parliament adds to the cost of production by introducing this tariff schedule.
– The wool-grower is in the same position.
– The wool and wheat industries are vitally concerned with this particular item. The prices of both wool and wheat are now the lowest inthe history of the world. I do not know the position of the company which is manufacturing wire in Australia, but the policy of the Government is to foster the industry. One of the arguments in favour of that policy is that it would prove a valuable asset in our provision for defence, should a war take place. All honorable members representing the party to which I belong recognize the force of that argument, but the encouragement of an industry from the point of view of defence should be done at the expense not of one particular section, but of the whole of the people of Australia. That argument is unanswerable. If the Government wishes to help this industry, let it revert to a bounty, so that all sections of the community will contribute to it.
– And we should limit even that form of assistance.
-The honorable member’s views on this subject are well known. I am not suggesting what the amount of the bounty should be. I am dealing with the subject on the broad principle that if the maintenance of this particular industry be vital to the defence or economic welfare of Australia, then the cost should be borne by all sections of the community.
– It may be necessary to protect the wire industry in order to defend Australia, but the failure of the wheat industry would place us in a perilous condition. We could not fight, because we could not eat.
– That is perfectly true. It was argued yesterday in support of this duty that years ago a certain firm was given a promise which this Parliament is in honour bound to recognize, but I remind honorable members that the Government made a definite promise to the wheat-growers in respect of last year’s crop.
– To what extent has the duty been increased ?
– Previously the duty was - free, 100s., and 120s. ; now it if to be - 52s., 152s., and 172s.
– With a 10 per cent. increase on item e 1.
– Plus primage duty and exchange.
– The added imposts make this duty prohibitive, and intentionally so. This particular company, since it is to be given a monopoly, will be able to exploit the local market at its own sweet will. I intend to move fora reduction of this duty. Let me revert to the moral obligation which this Government owes to particular industries.
– The Commonwealth made a definite promise in this instance.
– Yesterday the honorable member referred to a promise made to a particular industry by past governments, but I remind him of the promise made to the wheat-growers regarding the production of last year’s wheat crop. 1 admit that theGovernment has endeavoured to honour that promise, but the point is that it has failed to do so. Why is the Government continuing to impose higher duties and higher costs upon the farmers?
– The costs are not higher.
– The costs to the producer are higher. The honorable member may not know that, but the consumers and the community in general are well aware of it. It is extremely bad taste on the part of the Federal Parliament to be taking legislative action at this critical time to impose additional burdens upon a certain section of the community. The Government has admitted and promised that the wheat-growers should be helped. As I stated in a previous debate, if the Government is unable to put any money into the wheat-growers pocket, it should assist him by taking its hand out of that pocket. Not one wheatgrower within the Commonwealth has received an additional penny as a result of responding to the appeal of the Government to produce more wheat, although the projected price was stated to be 4s. a bushel. Instead of helping the wheat-growers the Government has taken hundreds of thousands of pounds out of their pockets by means of tariffs, primage duties and sales tax on the commodities they use.
– Are not the farmers now to receive £3,000,000?
– They have not received it yet. I remind the honorable member that not one of the many promises made to the farmers by the Government has yet been fulfilled. In any case, the £3,000,000 will apply to next year’s crop, whereas I am referring to the crop of last year. I hope next week to have an opportunity to discuss the position of the wheat-growers generally, but as this item vitally affects our stable industries of wool and wheat, which to-day are experiencing greater difficulties than ever before, I consider that this is not the time to impose higher duties on them, and, therefore, I move -
That the sub-item be amended by adding the following:. - “And on and after the 19th September, 1931-
(1) Wire of No. 15 or liner gauge) Imperial standard wire gauge), ad val., British, 20 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.,; general, 45 per cent.
Wire, fencing, of gauges Nos. 8 to 14 (Imperial Standard wire gauge), both gauges inclusive, for use only as fencing wire without further manufacture, or for such manufacturing purposes as may be prescribed by departmental bylaws, per ton, British, free ; intermediate, 100s.; general,120s.
.- I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). Although not a freetrader, I am in favour of allowing wire netting from Britain to come in free.
– That is the object of the amendment.
– I take it that the item before us deals only with wire used in the manufacture of wire netting.
– Wire netting is still free.
– I know how essential wire netting is to the farmers of Australia in their fight against rabbits. Throughout Australia the ravages of this, pest are causing land to deteriorate, and bringing hardship and difficulty to farmers. The Government should not add to their difficulties by imposing higher duties on the commodity which they must have to protect their holdings.
.- I also intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). In the 192a tariff the items which in this schedule are groupedunder item 136 e 1 and 136e. 2 were set out in three divisions, the first of which referred to wire of 15-gauge or finer, the second to fencing wire of from 8 to 14 gauge, while the third covered “ wire, other “. In this schedule, subitems 2 and 3 of the item in the 1921-28. schedule have been grouped together, so that now fencing wire of all gauges comes under the heading of “ wire, other “, and bears duties of 52s. British, 152s. intermediate, and 172s. general.
– Item 159 deals with wire n.e.i.
– I hope that the Minister will be good enough to tell us what necessity there is for item 159, seeing that “ wire, other “ in item 136 should cover “ wire n.e.i.” “ Wire, other “ should mean every other kind of wire than that covered by item 136 e 1. Until the present Government came into office, fencing wire of from 8 to 14 gauge was free if imported from Britain, and subject to a duty if imported from other countries. The previous Government paid a bounty for the manufacture of this class of wire in Australia, with the object of enabling the Australian product to compete with the British article. Seeing that the policy of paying a bounty rather than imposing duties is still being followed by the present Government in the case of wire netting, I am at a loss to know why that policy has been departed from in the case of fencing wire. No other section of the community is less able to pay fancy prices for wire than the farming community. Apparently, both the employers and the employees in the Australian wire-making industry consider that they should not be affected by the present economic depression, although other sections of the community are being called upon to suffer. In this matter three courses of action are open to us. First, there is the Government’s proposal to maintain special conditions for this industry by charging that section of the community which is least able to bear the burden of high prices for the commodity it uses ; secondly, there is the policy adopted by the previous Government of calling upon the whole community to provide a bounty equal to the difference between the cost of production in this country and the cost at which the commodity could be obtained from overseas. It is obvious as regards the first alternative, that the farmers of, Australia are unable to pay fancy prices for their wire. They cannot afford to subsidize the local industry to the extent of freeing it from world conditions. It is also fairly clear that the Government, which represents the whole community, is finding it difficult to provide bounties in order that certain industries may be kept above world levels. If the men who buy these goods cannot afford to subsidize this industry, and if, in addition, the community as a whole cannot afford to do so, the third and last alternative is that this industry shall be called upon to stand on its own feet, as other industries have to do. We have reached that stage at which we have no option but to require this industry to stand on its own feet, and for that reason I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera. The Minister has given no reason why the duties of 20 per cent., 35 per cent, and 45 per cent, should be increased to 30 per cent., 45 per cent, and 55 per cent, in the case of wire of 15 gauge or less.
– We have before us an instance of protection run mad. Whatever may be said regarding the treatment of their employees by Lysaght Limited, that firm, the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, and Rylands Limited are of the least deserv ing of consideration from any Labour Government. I would rather that there were no industries in the country than that industries should be in the hands of slave-drivers like Rylands and the Broken Hill Proprietary. It is outrageous that we should ask the farmers of Australia to shoulder a burden which should be borne by the community as a whole. The farmers whose wheat is being eaten by rats and mice, because they cannot sell it, should not be treated in this way. The price of wool in the world’s markets is
B$d. to 6d. per lb., while the cost of production is 10d. or lid., per lb. We canriot continue in this way. I remind honorable members who voted for the rehabilitation plan that had they assisted the group with which I am associated to defeat it, they would not be in the position they are in to-day.
– The Government is not likely to get any revenue from these duties.
– The Government hopes to obtain some revenue from them. One always knows where Rylands Limited, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, stand with regard to the Labour party, when elections are being fought, yet this Government contemplates placing additional burdens upon the primary producers in order to support these sweaters and slave-drivers, who are eager to force the working men of Australia back to the coolie standard. Fortunately the laws of the country prevent that coming to pass. These nigger-drivers will receive no support from a vote of mine. Although the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited has watered its stock copiously, it has the impudence to beseech, the Government to give sufficient protection to enable it to earn high rates of interest on the bogus capital that it makes known to the public.
It would pay the Government to close down certain manufacturing concerns in my electorate, give the men at present engaged therein their proper wages, allow them to do nothing, and import the commodities now manufactured there from overseas. This Government is rapidly degenerating into a protectionist machine. Its only remedy for any economic evil appears to be the resort to the tariff. It is forcing men who were reasonable protectionists to revise their views.
– Not too soon, either.
– I invite the right honorable gentleman to peruse my speeches, recorded in Mansard. He will find that although I have followed a reasonable protectionist policy, I have always maintained that protection can afford no solution of our econmic ills. The right honorable gentleman himself was a member of a government that went protectionist mad. He is at all times prepared to double-shuffle on any issue, as he did with the New State question.
Provided, that it can be proved that it is impossible for the industry to continue to exist otherwise, I am prepared to consider the continuation of a bounty, but I absolutely refuse to cast a vote to keep it in existence by sacrificing the primary producers of Australia, who are already overburdened.
.- I intend to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). If carried, its effect will be either to leave the industry without protection, or to throw it back on to the bounty. I have no doubt that when, in his own time, the Minister makes his explanation of the important change of policy which he has introduced, he will plead that there is no money availaide now for the payment of a bounty, that the nation cannot afford it, and that the burden must, therefore, be placed on the shoulders of the primary producers. Except, perhaps, the unemployed, ‘the primary producers are the greatest sufferers from the existing depression. Theirs is a desperate condition, and the Government has admitted it. I say definitely that, if the nation as a whole cannot afford to maintain this industry by the payment of a bounty, the primary producers should not be called upon to carry the burden; the industry should be allowed to go out of business. I am quite prepared to allow the old bounty to continue if the money can possibly be found.
– What does it amount to?
– Fifty-two shillings a ton. I am not prepared to load on to the primary producers, in their present position, an additional £2 12s. a ton for this wire. I challenge honorable members opposite who represent and boast of their sympathy for the primary producers, and I even include the Minister, to transfer the burden of maintaining what is essentially a national industry, from the nation as a whole to a particular class.
– I challenge the honorable member to find the money to finance a bounty to the industry.
– Then let the industry go out of business. Of all our protected industries the iron and steel industry is, perhaps, the most essential one from a national point of view. It has always been claimed that it was established for the benefit of our nationhood, and that the nation should pay for it. It is on that ground that bounties granted to this and subsidiary industries have been tolerated. These activities would certainly not have been established had it been intimated that within ten or twelve years the increased costs would fall upon our primary producers. I repeat, if the time has come when the nation cannot afford to pay for this essential national industry, it is better for us to abandon it.
. -I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), for many reasons. An examination of the position shows that there is no justification whatever for increasing duties at a time like the present. The Minister has not, and cannot justify the increase when everything else is being reduced. Later I shall give some figures to show the protection afforded to the industry by the primage duty and exchange. Despite the fact that wire netting is coming in free, the cost of the local article has increased by £9 3s. 9d. per mile. That indicates an absence of competition from outside, the result of a high primage duty and exchange. A similar position applies to our wire industry. I shall show that the makers of wire do not deserve consideration from this Parliament because, although wire is a raw material, used for manufacture into various articles, its manufacturers in Australia have exploited the position, and have endeavoured consistently to prevent the establishment of new industries which use their output as a basis. The exchange position affords the industry protection to the extent of practically 30 per cent., to which must be added primage duty amounting to 10 per cent. It is interesting to note that the original increase of 10 per cent, made in the schedule on sub-item 1 of item 136 was imposed on the Srd December, 1929, when there was no primage duty. Later, a primage duty of 4 per cent, was introduced, and now that has been increased to 10 per cent. If the original 10 per cent, duty was imposed ae a protection, there is no justification for its continuance now that primage of 10 per cent, has been imposed. This company is not deserving of this consideration from this Parliament because of its attitude to” subsidiary industries. The additional duties would place it in- the position of a monopoly aud lead to restriction of trade. The wire which is dealt with in this item is the raw material for the manufacture of barbed wire. Until recently the manufacturers of the latter commodity also made the wire itself, and were the only persons from whom wire could be obtained for the manufacture of barbed wire. Other companies have now entered that field for instance, the Queensland Farm Supplies Limited, and although John Lysaght Limited and Rylands Brothers have reduced their price* for barbed wire by £4 5s. a ton, they refuse to sell the basic product to the new comers at a lower rate than previously. Actually, the wire itself costs practically as much us does barbed wire. Apparently, this company has been exploiting the general public for many months to the extent of £4 5s. per ton. In these circumstances, there is no justification whatever for increasing the duty by £2 12s. per ton. This industry is being protected adequately by the primage duty and exchange. If an increase is made in the duty, the amount of employment in the industry will be reduced. The same process will operate as in the galvanized iron industry. The amount of raw material required will fall, and additional uri employment will be caused in that section of the industry. There will also be a lessening of employment in the country districts generally. I recently received a letter from a well-known pastoralist in the north-western district of New South “Wales, in which he pointed out that the direct effect of these increases of duty has been to prevent work being put in hand by local contractors. This, in turn, has prevented the employment of local workmen. The writer of the letter gave a comparison of the cost of fencing material in August, 1930, and August, 1931. In August, 1930, the cost of delivering a mile of 42 by l£ by 1’7a wirenetting to a point 40 miles from Warialda railway siding, was £50 15s. 10d., and in August, 1931, it was £59 18s. 9d. The cost of freight and cartage was £4 18s. in each year. The cost of a mile of galvanized iron No. 8 gauge, including freight and cartage, was £15 18s. 6d. in August, 1930, and £18 9s. 5d. in August, 1931. Comparative figures for No. 12 gauge barbed wire are £5 13s. 6d. in 1930, and £5 8s. 9d. in 1931. . The writer went on to state that -
These figures show the cost of a mile of fencing material delivered at a spot 40 miles from Warialda railway. The rail freight, and cartage costs have not changed. Thus, the difference resulting from the sales tax of fi per cent, and the manufacturers’ increase shows an added cost to ‘the land-holder of ill 9s. Id. per mile of fencing. The specifications of materials in the fence quoted arc netting 42 by lj by 17a, 5 galvanized wires and a. barb. You will notice that the netting alone has increased by £9 2s. lid.
– That is clue to the increased sales tax.
– Not at all, for the sales tax would have had to increase by 18 per cent, to account for the difference. The increased cost has been due to the fact that the manufacturers have advanced their prices, although the costs in the industry, including the cost of coal, have fallen considerably. This shows what can be done by manufacturers in the way of exploiting the public when there is no competition. If this kind of thing can be done without a duty, what could be done with one? Such action by the manufacturers prevents the primary producers from obtaining fencing material at anything like a reasonable rate. Surely this Parliament should take cognizance of happenings of this kind, and prevent the exploitation of the people, even if it required the discontinuance of both the duty and the bounty! A company should not be allowed to take advantage of its favorable position to exploit the whole community.
The most serious aspect of this subject, however, is that the Government is abandoning the principle that has been in operation in respect to this industry ever since the Hughes Government took steps, in 1920 or 1921, to establish it in Australia. It was laid down at that time that the manner in which the industry should be encouraged was by the whole of the community making some contribution towards the cost of establishing it. The effect of the policy which the Government is now proposing will be to place a definite penalty on one section of the community. In a time when there waa universal prosperity in Australia it was considered a fair thing to ask all the people to bear a fair proportion of the cost of establishing this industry, and that policy was continued in subsequent years when the price of wool and wheat was high. But now, when the price of wheat has fallen to a lower point than during the last 45 years, and when the price of wool is lower than it has been for 50 years, this Labour Government says : “ This is a time when the whole community of Australia cannot afford to contribute towards the maintenance pf this industry, so we will call upon the section of the community which is in the deepest depths of depression to contribute the whole cost ‘of its maintenance ‘’. The Government is saying, in effect, that a part is more able to bear the burden than the whole. Our great wool and wheat exporting industries are practically carrying the burden under which Australia is staggering at present, and it would be a national scandal and crime for the Government to alter the policy which has been in operation for a number of years for the encouragement of the iron and steel industry in such a way that the primary producers would have to bear all the disabilities. I do not. believe that, even taking party considerations into account, a majority of the members of the committee will support such an iniquitous procedure.
– I am sorry that I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), particularly because
I know that he has always displayed a great interest in the welfare of the farmers. I believe that he was quite sincere in the appeal which he made on their behalf. But to accept the amendment which he has moved would have the result of removing all protection from this industry except that afforded to it by the primage duty.
– And the exchange.
– We cannot base protection on such a varying factor as exchange, which may be 5 per cent, one year and 30 per cent, the next. In view of the very uncertain financial position of Great Britain at the moment no one can say what the exchange rate will be in two months’ time. This industry employs a large amount of labour, and has been the subject of careful inquiry by the Tariff Board. One of the chief products of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited Steel Works, of Newcastle, is used by the manufacturers of wire and wire netting. In 1929, ‘which was a normal year, 1,600 men were directly employed in this industry, and 2,800 men were indirectly employed in it.
– Can the Minister give me any information as to the number of persons employed in wire fabricating; that is, the making of articles out of wire ?
– I know that a large number is employed. I will endeavour to obtain the exact figures.
– Very many more are employed in wire fabricating than in wire drawing.
– I do not think that that is so.
The honorable member for Gippsland has raised certain points in regard to what these items mean! Item 136 e 2. “ Wire, other “, does not cover all other classes of wire, for item 136 e 1 covers “ wire of No. 15 or finer gauge (Imperial standard wire gauge) “ ; item 159 covers “ wire n.e.i., also woven wire measuring over 120 holes to the lineal inch “, which is used in the manufacture of barbed wire and wire netting; item 137 covers aluminium wire; item 139 brass wire; and item 140 copper wire.
This is one of the subjects which was very carefully investigated by the Tariff Board in 1926. The board recommended specific rates of duty of 120s. British, and 200s. general, per ton. If effect had been given to those rates of duty the amount collected in revenue would have been much heavier than will be collected under the ad valorem rate proposed now by the Government. Generally speaking, the Government is not going as far as the Tariff Board recommended. Of course) the Tariff Board recommended tha* if the bounty were removed the duty should be applied.
– “When was that recommended?
– In 1926. In regard to item 136 £ 2 the rates recommended were: British, free; general, 120s. per ton ; but they were contingent on the continuation of the bounty payments. Unfortunately, the state of the national finances has precluded the continuance of the bounty payments to the manufacturers of this wire; but. the Government is not responsible for this state of affairs. The 52s. bounty has been converted into a duty and hae been added to the rates which the Tariff Board recommended should be imposed if the bounty were not paid. In regard to item 136 b 1 an increase of 10 per cent, is proposed. The Tariff Board recommended more than that.
– When did it make that recommendation ?
– In 1926. The item covers certain wires which are not drawn in Australia, but no detriment would accrue, following on the increased duty, to any industry using flue wire, as these fine wires, not manufactured in Australia, are being admitted under by-law. In fact, out of a total value of £77,562 of wire of 15 or finer gauge imported for the year 1929-30, £49,368 worth was admitted under by-law at either free British or 10 per cent, general.
The increase proposed is intended to help the Australian manufacturers to secure a proportion of the balance of the £23,000 worth of wire imported for the year 1929-30, which is of a class or kind manufactured locally. The capture of that £28,000 worth of business would enable the firm to break into the trade in wires at present admitted under departmental by-law.
The operation of these duties will give greater employment in ‘this industry in Australia. The iron and steel works at Newcastle are at present working not quite half time, a fact which was deplored yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). Rylands Brothers are now commencing to install the necessary plant for the manufacture of tinned wire. This type of wire was previously produced by the company, but lack of protection caused the abandonment of the project. The company has given an undertaking not to increase its prices by reason of the increased duty; in fact, the company anticipates that, with an increase in the tonnage produced, and a reduction in overhead charges, further substantial reductions in prices will be made. In the past the company has brought about price reductions in respect of the types of fine wire which it has manufactured. The following table shows some of the lines affected : -
Substantial price reductions were also made in galvanized wire, of both manufacturing and weaving qualities. Guaranteed reasonable protection, the local manufacturer bids fair to secure the bulk if not the whole, of the trade in fine wires. The policy of the Government, of course, is to give protection to Australian industries.
Turning to sub-item 136 e 2, the ad valorem equivalent of the fixed rate of £2 12s. per ton under the British pre- > ferential tariff varies from 15f per cent, to 22 per cent., according to f.o.b. prices of the various gauges of black and galvanized wire. All tariff rates under this sub-item are increased by 52s. per ton, in order to place Australian manufacturers in the same position as they were prior to the cessation of the payment of bounty amounting to 52s. per ton. Bounty payments ceased as on and from the 6th November, 1930. Prior to that date, local manufacturers were protected by a duty of 120s. per ton on foreign importations, plus 52s. per ton bounty, or a total of 172s. per ton in all. The present duties accord to Great Britain the same margin of preference as obtained prior to the 6th November, 1930. The reason for changing the method of protection from a duty(lumbounty method to a straight-out .duty is that the Government has not the necessary funds to continue bounty payments. It was always understood that bounties would be paid only in the initial stages, to enable industries to get on their feet. The Iron and Steel Products Bounties Act, authorizing the payment of bounty of £2 12s. per ton on all fencing wire produced in Australia, was assented to in October, J 922, and the bounty was removed in 1930. Payments made by the Government by way of bounty on fencing wive since the inception of the act are as follow: -
It will be seen that bounty payments on wire have increased considerably over a number of years, and the present state of governmental finance is such as to preclude the allotment of such a large amount of bounty. The action of the Government in substituting duties for bounty, although taken by stress of circumstances, is actually in accord with the majority recommendation of the Interstate Commission, which furnished its report in August, 1916. The recommen- dation of the commission with respect to iron and steel wire is as follows: -
We recognize that some encouragement should be given to establish such an important industry, and, while recommending that no change should at present be made in the tariff, . which places wire on the free list, would further recommend that a bounty of £2 per ton be offered for all wire manufactured in Australia from Australian-produced iron and steel till the industry is established to the satisfaction of the Minister, when a duty, estimated under present conditions at £2 per ton, should be brought into force. In the latter event, it may be necessary to rearrange the duties on goods affected.
It is only reasonable that, when an industry is firmly established duties should be substituted for bounty.
This industry was established in the war years, when supplies of overseas wire and freight space were limited. The price of imported wire was greatly enhanced by enormous freight charges. In 1915, when the local company commenced manufacturing, imported wire was selling at £56 a ton; but Australian wire was put on the market at £30 a ton. By 1919, the price of both Australian and English wire had dropped. The price of local wire, however, was still £6 10s. a ton less than the English price . of 8-gauge black varnished wire. In the following year, 1920, the price of English wire soared to £44 10s. a ton, but the price of the Australian product did not exceed £24 10s. Further reductions in price were made in 1921. The c.i.f. and e. prices of 8-gauge fencing wire produced by Rylands Brothers prior to the introduction of the bounty in September, 1922, were: Black, £20 a ton; galvanized, £23 a ton. In December, 1922, the prices were £16 15s. and £19 15s., respectively, the lowering in prices being accounted for by the 52s. a ton bounty, and 13s. reduction in price. This is adequate proof of the fact that the manufacturers were giving the public an honest deal, for, in addition to passing on the whole of the bounty received, they also reduced prices. By the 1st August, 1930, prices of 8-gauge black and galvanized wires produced by Rylands Brothers had fallen to £12 17s. 6d. and £14 5s. a ton respectively. However, the primage duty introduced in July, 1930, caused a reduction of 6s. in the bounty paid, and prices were increased accordingly. With the substitution of duty for bounty in November, 1930, the local manufacturers’ prices were increased to £15 12s. a ton for 8-gauge black, and to £16 18s. lOd. for 8-gauge galvanized wire, and these levels have been maintained with slight variations to the present date. The net reduction effected in the prices of locally-made wires is to be seen by comparing the prices obtaining prior to the bounty and those ruling after November, 1930, when duty was substituted for bounty. The figures are as follow: -
1 regret that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), through circumstances over which he has no control, is unable to be present to-day. Speaking on this matter some time ago, in order to discount the reductions made over the whole range of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited’s products since the introduction of the 1920 tariffs, the honorable member quoted several overseas lines which are covered by the sub-item under discussion. The percentage reductions are as follow: Plain galvanized wire, No. 8 gauge, 16.7 per cent. ; varnished wire, No. 8 gauge, 10 per cent. ; nail wire, No. 8 gauge, 14.6 per cent. The honorable member carefully avoided any reference to the country in which the goods to which he referred were manufactured. I now enlighten the committee with the information that these wires were produced in Germany. That country’s methods in the distribution of iron and steel are well known, Germany being the principal member of the Continental steel cartel. An extract from the Mining J ournal, of the 6th December, 1930, published in London, reveals the German ironmasters’ practices in their nakedness. It also shows the disparity between German domestic and export prices of various iron and steel products. The quotation is as follows : -
Recent export prices have been declared by responsible men in the German industry to be not only unremunerative, but resulting, in many cases, in actual loss to producers. German inland and export prices are per metric ton, and the export prices are per English ton f.o.b., which is a difference of 33.4 lb. a ton, the inland prices based on the same weight as the export prices would be somewhat higher than those given here -
A report in The Mining Journal, dated 1st August, 1931, page 610, shows that the inland prices of German steel have fallen, but export prices have been reduced in most cases by the same percentage. How insidious are the methods employed by the cartels is evident from a perusal of the following article which appears on page 178 of the May, 1931, issue of Wire and Wire Products, the official publication of the American Wire Association : -
It is reported that the Dutch Government will support the establishment of a Dutch wire rod mill, which could supply the wire rods to home industry, which has been suffering gravely from the comparatively high wire rod prices the German and Belgian industry were quoting. The Dutch wire-makers are compelled to pay the same price, or even more, for wire rods than bright wire and wire nails are sold for in competition with the Dutch industry.
This amounts to callous exploitation of a country which does not possess the necessary factory to produce its raw material. On the same page appear the following prices,which approximate those quoted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) : -
The methods of the continental cartel have had their effect on the English iron and steel industry. Here we have the spectacle of a country which in past years possessed one of the largest export trades in iron and steel manufactures, now in fear of losing its home market. I would refer honorable members tothe London
Tinas 7trade and Engineering Supplement of 30th May, 1931. There they will find an article expressing the sentiments of that eminent newspaper, and another article subscribed to by the National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufactures. In summing up the position, the Times sa.ys -
The one definite fact that emerges is that die industry is ready to carry through a scheme of re-organization, but cannot proceed until the Government and the nation give it security in the home market, and thereby provide an opportunity* to obtain new capital and to embark on their undertaking with some hopes of success.
The plight of the freetrade nation is seen in the following quotation from the Iron and Coal Trades Review, dated 24th July, 1931, relative to the prices ruling on 23rd July for British and German steel delivered in England : -
British prices are subject to rebates of 15e. a ton for sections, and 22s. 6d. a ton for joists in the home trade under certain conditions. As with England, the hopes of the Australian iron and steel industry, including that portion engaged in the production of wire, surviving the attack of such a formidable opponent as the continental cartel, without effective protection would indeed be remote. We have all read in the newspapers within the last few days statements to the effect that Conservative leaders in Great Britain, such as Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Winston Churchill, have expressed the opinion that Britain cannot be put on an even keel again until she embarks upon a tariff policy, the amount of protection recommended being 33-J per cent.
At the present time, imported fencing wire would cost c.i.f. main Australian parts £13 4s. a ton for 8-gauge black, and £14 14s. for 8-gauge galvanized, exclusive of duty and primage. Taking exchange into account the price would approximate £17 4s. 6d. and £19 3s. 9d. respectively, exclusive of duty and primage, while present, c.i.f. and e. prices of Rylands Brothers’ wire of this gauge and type arc respectively £15 12s. Gd. and £17 0s. lOd. respectively, plus sales tax.N Surely this fact furnishes sufficient proof that the selling-price of the locally manufactured wire is determined by costs of production, and not by the price at which imported wire could be landed in Australia. I am aware that some honorable members will argue that as the local wire manufacturers can compete under existing conditions with English wire if such were admitted free of duty, there is no necessity for the duty.” . I remind the committee, however, that the Government’s method of affording tariff protection is based on a normal exchange position, and it would be unfair to leave the industry in a condition of uncertainty, not knowing what might happen within the next six months. Moreover, the industry has given a guarantee that prices will not be increased.
The imposition of higher duties under the general tariff has, in recent years, restricted the competition offered by foreign countries, and Australia’s main competitor is now England, although export prices of continental wire have fallen so low within the last few months as almost to bring European wire in competition with the local product. It would be anomalous if, the bounty having been removed, a duty were not substituted, because, in that case, fencing wire would not be dutiable, while wire rod, the raw material from which the wire is made, carries a duty of 44s. a ton under the British preferential tariff. At the same time, the Australian manufacturer would be ousted for the benefit of the English wire-maker, as it would be impossible for the local manufacturer to produce without a protective duty, particularly in view of the low wages which the English manufacturer pays in comparison with wages paid in the Commonwealth.
I know that certain honorable members will challenge the action of the Government in substituting a duty for a bounty, basing their argument on the fact that the burden of the consequent increase in price has been removed from the whole community to one particular section. On this aspect of the matter I point out that the whole community is at present bearing a considerable share of extra charge toenable primary industries to dispose of their surplus produce at world prices.. Butter, dried fruits and sugar areexcellent examples of such primary- produce! While we are on the subject of primary produce, I ask honorable members opposite “whether they have ever stopped to consider the fact that a coil of wire is just as much a primary product as a pound of butter, and that the iron and. steel industry is as much interwoven with the primary process of extracting ore from the ground as the butter factory is with the process of raising dairy herds. The information which I have furnished with regard to prices charged for wire during the war period, and later, gives the lie direct to those who assert that Australian manufacturers always take full advantage of any duty imposed. In 1915, imported wire was selling at £56 a ton. Did the Australian manufacturers charge £55 a ton? No; the price charged was £30, and the policy adopted by the Australian manufacturers that they would sell at a reasonable profit was continued right throughout’-the war period.
– The sugar-growers obtained for their product very much less during the war than it was fetching in the world’s markets.
– I have always maintained that the sugar-growers lost £16,000,000 during the war through selling their product at one-third of world parity prices, and for that reason they are entitled to something more than world parity prices now. In 1919, Australian wire still undersold English wire by £6 10s. a ton, and in 1920 by £20 a ton. In 1922, with the granting of the bounty, the price of Australian wire was reduced by the amount of the bounty, with an additional reduction of 13s. a ton. Is this exploitation? Does not this evidence shake the faith of certain honorable members opposite whose pre-conceived ideas on freetrade forbid them from expressing a fair and unprejudiced opinion on the need for the present duties.
In July, 1931, English 8-gauge black and galvanized wim could not be landed duty paid in Australia under £21 and £23 2s. 9d. respectively, while c.i.f. and e. price3, main Australian ports, of local wire are £15 12s. 6d. and £17 0s. 10d., representing differences of £5 7s. 6d. and £6 13. lid. a ton. In other words, the Australian manufacturers are not taking advantage of the exchange position, or of the full amount of the duty. In the face of this evidence, who would desire to see the local industry stultified by the withholding of sufficient protection? Even those honorable members who are antagonistic to protective duties on commodities other than those produced by farmers should regard the operation of the local wire manufacturers as an assurance against exploitation by overseas manufacturers. The history of the wiremaking industry in Australia furnishes adequate evidence that it may be trusted to do the fair thing by local consumers, quite irrespective of the prices at which imported goods can be landed in Australia. In view of the foregoing facts, and having regard- to the serious state of the national finances, I make an earnest appeal to all honorable members to support the Government’s proposal to substitute a duty for the bounty.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) stated that the local iron and steel industry had proved of disservice to the people of Australia, and that’ in New Zealand, with a tariff of 15 per cent., the manufacturers of iron and steel were able to sell their products in Australia and in other countries. He further stated that those engaged in the New Zealand industry would, no doubt, -like more protection, but they had the good sense to realize that if the tariff wall were raised unduly t’he industry would become uneconomic, so they were content with 15 per cent. The honorable member appears to be proud of the fact that the duty in New Zealand is 15 per cent, as against an average ad valorem equivalent of 27-J per cent, for the principal iron and steel products produced in Australia. I regret the occasion which prompts me to read the following obituary notice of the New Zealand iron and steel industry. It will serve to shatter the illusions cherished by the honorable member for Forrest, and will furnish sufficient proof of the impossibility of establishing an industry of national importance without effective protection. In April last, the New Zealand industry was forced into liquidation, and the works are now closed. I quote the remarks of the chairman of the company on the occasion of it’s winding up -
These people for nine years have struggled against tremendous odds in an attempt to establish an iron industry in New Zealand. The opposition took the form of cutting prices, even to the extent of dumping. Who, then, are the gainers through the establishment of the Onakaka Works? Most certainly the users of iron, and consequently New Zealand purchasers of articles made from iron.
When the Onakaka Works commenced, iron was £10 a ton; To-day f.o.b. Onakaka iron is £5. The same condition applies to certain cast iron pipes.
No doubt there are certain honorable members in this House who would like to see Rylands’ works closed down also; and its 1,600 employees thrown out of work. It is all in keeping with their policy of fighting the battle of the importers.
– If is not right for the Minister to make that statement.
– I do not say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) desires any such thing to happen. The chairman’s statement continues -
Eighteen months ago imported pipes cost in New Zealand £13 10s. a ton, to-day Onakaka pipes are selling at £10 10s. a ton, delivered.
Looking at the matter from a national viewpoint I maintain that in imposing these duties the Government is doing the right thing, and that the users of wire are not being exploited. If we neglect to afford this protection, the bounty having been withdrawn, it will mean the partial closing down of these works at a time when Australia is faced with a tremendous unemployment problem. If honorable memberg opposite had the responsibility of office they would not favour the closing of these works, and they would then, I am sure, withdraw some of the remarks they have made in opposition to these duties. I wish to emphasize the point that the duties are substantially the same as recommended by the Tariff Board, which pointed out in its recommendations the parlous condition of the industry. The board stated -
Thu Tariff Board is firmly convinced that unless some additional protection is afforded to protect the Australian industry concerned in this investigation against the inevitable competition from continental countries such industry will be very seriously jeopardized. “With a substantial slump in world price levels in countries where similar wire is being manufactured there is a greater need to-day for this measure of protection than when the Tariff Board conducted its investigation. The representatives of primary producers who wish the Australian consumers of butter, sugar, dried fruits, wine and other commodities to pay sufficiently high prices to enable those engaged in those industries to carry on and sell their surplus at a loss in the world’s markets should not disregard the interests of those engaged in secondary production. I ask honorable members to be consistent and to support these duties, which are in the interests of a very important industry.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has covered a good deal of ground, and in doing so has given an interesting resume of the history of the wire-drawing industry of Australia. At the outset I desire to say that I consider that the iron and steel industry of Australia has rendered a real service to the Commonwealth, especially during the war period. The establishment of these works conferred real benefits on this community. Wor have the purchasers of their manufactures been exploited a3 has sometimes been asserted. I was glad to hear of the reductions in price that have been made from time to time, and so far as I am in a position to judge - though much more investigation would be needed than I am able to give to determine the matter absolutely - it does not appear that the manufacturers have made excessive profits. Still, these considerations do not necessarily lead to the conclusions at which the Minister has arrived. Many other matters must be weighed and discussed before we can determine what ought to be done in connexion with this proposal for the imposition of duties on wire. “We have to consider, particularly, the interests of the community as a whole, and the interests of the users of wire, as well as the position of the company particularly concerned. This is a genuine economic problem, which, it appears to me, is being dealt with by the Government in the most superficial manner in the proposals it is making. The Government is, as it were, merely covering a sore with a plaster and saying that everything will be all right, whereas, I am afraid, the remedy that is being applied will aggravate the conditions responsible for the trouble. I hope to show that I am considering the interests of the industry itself in the long run, as well as those of Australia as a whole.
Throughout the world, but particularly, excessively and extravagantly in Australia, there is at present, a tremendous disparity between the price levels of primary and secondary products. The prices of primary products have slumped tremendously, while those of secondary products have decreased to a lesser degree. Therefore those engaged in the production of primary commodities are at a disadvantage. The other day, in Adelaide, I was told by Professor Riehardson that the price of wheat is lower now than it has been for over 200 years.
– I can hardly credit that.
– The accuracy of the statement could be determinedonly by an expert, and the real value of money at different periods would have to be taken into account; but every one knows that there has been a tremendous decrease in the price of wool, wheat, and other primary products. The prices of secondary products have not decreased to anything approaching the same extent. Accordingly, differential treatment is being meted out at present by the economic gods to those engaged in primary and secondary production. One of the reasons for the disparity in prices, and for the unevenness, the inequality, and the injustice in the world readjustment now taking place is that in the secondary industries, industrial conditions are being maintained largely in defiance of economic circumstances, whereas in primary production it is impossible so to maintainindustrial conditions. This Parliament has not the constitutional power to alter industrial conditions. It has not the power to legislate with respect to industrial conditions. But many industrial conditions are controlled by State laws. This question then arises: Can an employer, for the purpose, perhaps, of avoiding unpopularity, of obtaining the support of certain politicians, or from some higher motive, be allowed to decline to take part in a re-adjustment of industrial conditions? Are we to be dragged at the heels of such an employer, or to follow blindly what happens to be the policy of a particular State? Yesterday we had the amazing statement that Lysaght Limited communicated with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), saying that that company was not a party to an application to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a reduction in the wages of its employees. That communication was accepted rather innocently by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) as an indication that the company would not make any application for reduced wages.
– It was sent to the Minister only to refute a charge which had been made.
– The honorable member for Werriwa accepted it simply and innocently.
– With many reservations.
– If the interpretation of the honorable member for Werriwa was correct, the statement of the Minister yesterday shows that the employers and employees in a particular industry have combined to maintain existing industrial conditions in that industry at the expense of the general public. I do not think that this Parliament should lend itself to an arrangement of that character, thus exempting the employees in a particular industry from conditions which vitally affect the lives of every one else in the community. I resolutely refuse to be a party to a determination whereby, under the tariff, and in accordance with such an arrangement, employees and employers attempt to maintain existing conditions irrespective of the interests of the rest of the community. It would not be fair to the general community to show tolerance to such an arrangement.
I come now to a matter connected with this industry, which ought to be dealt with outside this Parliament before we are asked to do anything in the way of imposing duties. We are now dealing with wire, which is a product of the iron and steel industry, being drawn from steel rods. The iron and steel industry depends very largely opon the coal industry, about 3 tons of coal being required to produce 1 ton of steel. The conditions determining the price of coal are, therefore, of vital importance to both the iron and steel industry and the wire-drawing industry. I shall, therefore, say a word or two with respect to the coal-mining industry of New South Wales, which supplies Bylands Brothers and the iron and steel works at Newcastle. I ask the committee to conaider whether it is proper to impose duties for the purpose of maintaining the conditions which obtain to-day in the Newcastle and Maitland coal area’s. If a large reduction in the price of coal were made, there would be no case for imposing duties. In April, 1930, a highly-skilled royal commission completed an inquiry into the coal-mining industry, and I invite the attention of honorable members to two or three passages in its report setting out the conditions obtaining in the Newcastle, Maitland, and other coalfields in the year ended the 30th June, 1928. The commission reported that the wage anomalies to which attention is drawn are of such a nature as to have the most serious effect in increasing the price of coal. I shall refer also to certain maladjustments as mentioned on page 220 of the report. The year 1927-28 was one of depression and intermittent work, and, accordingly, the earnings then were less than those of an ordinary year, as honor-
Able members will find if they refer to pages 210 and 214 of the report. At page 212 there are some surprising figures showing the earnings in the coal industry in a bad year. Those figures relate to the wages of miners, machine men, shooters, and fillers.
– There is a good deal of watered capital in the industry.
– Both employers and employees in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales should carefully study the position. There is no industry in Australia, so far as I know, which should be more carefully examined, both above and below the surface, than that industry. In Victoria we have tremendous deposits of brown coal, lignite, which is an inferior commodity in comparison with the wonderful coal obtained on the Newcastle and Maitland fields. In order to be free from the industrial troubles on the Newcastle coal-fields, which were ruining industry in Victoria, the Government of that State spent £10,000,000 in developing its brown coal deposits, which otherwise need not have been, developed for thousands of years. Thus, owing to the manner in which the coalmining industry has been mismanaged: - I do not say who is to blame; employers and employees doubtless share the responsibility - New South Wales has lost for ever its coal trade with Victoria. That trade will never be recaptured. Millions of pounds have been spent uneconomically but necessarily in Victoria so that that State might be free from the absurdities, the stoppages, and the high price of coal that have been associated with the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. I feel strongly on this matter, as an Australian citizen. We are all suffering from this uneconomic expenditure.
I was proceeding to deal with the earnings of miners, machine-men, shooters and fillers. I admit that capital charges also require investigation. The average earnings per fortnight of the men employed in the northern field in 1928 were £11 17s. 3d. ; in the southern field £8 8s. 9d., and in the western field £11 14s. lOd. The average annual earnings in that year - and bear in mind it was a bad year - were £319, £233, and £312 respectively. The average number of days worked each fortnight for those amounts was 6.4. It would be a splendid practice to give rewards of that nature if we could ignore the economic results. The economic result in this case has been that the industry has made coal so expensive that throughout the country oil engines and other means of generating power have been adopted. Some surprising facts are to be found at page 227 of the report. ‘ It will there be found that the wages cost per ton of coal in 1915, at three mines on the Greta field, was 5s. 4d., while in 1927’ it was 123. 5d. At four mines on the southern field the wages cost was 5s. Id. in 1915, and 10s. 4d. in 1927. At page 228 the royal commission reports -
The outstanding anomalies in the contract rates paid to miners at the present time are -
The excessively high rates paid on all seams, and particularly on the thick seams of the Greta field. The amount of excess in these rates over and above the rates necessary to provide reasonable earnings add substantially to the cost of production of coal.
The handicap placed upon the use of machines, especially on the Greta seam, through, the extravagantly high tonnage rates ‘ for machine-men cutting coal. The evidence showed that, even though severe limitations were put upon the amount of “ work done by machines, machine-men frequently earned more than £3 per day, while the general average where separately recorded was £2 Os. The sworn evidence of one manager was that, on existing rates, a machine-man operating an electrically-driven Arc wall machine in his colliery could earn from £0 to £0 10s. per day working for the full time of the shift.
A number of similar anomalies are mentioned on the same page. The coalmining industry is now working short time, largely due to its own fault. It is because of the high cost of producing rods that the cost of production of wire has been increased to an unreasonable and unjustifiable degree.
– And the men will be kept working short time.
– That is the idea of those who control the policy; they would rather have a few men working short time at high rates than have everybody working full time at lower rates. That is the basis of the difficulty in which Rylands and the iron and steel worksfind themselves; they have to buy their coal from those who produce it under these conditions, and pay an excessive price for it. At the same time, thousands of miners are out of work, the consumption of coal is falling off, and wherever a substitute can be found it is being used.
– These companies, although distinct in tlieir organization, are really associated.
– That is so. That, of course, is a very sensible thing. This is a huge industrial enterprise, and one section of it cannot be considered apart from the others. Rylands have to procure their rods from the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, which in turn has to obtain coal that is produced under Newcastle or Maitland conditions. I ani pointing out what those conditions are, and am endeavouring to show that they are not reasonable or fair to the community as a whole, because their effect is to increase costs. It is largely because of those conditions that Rylands are asking for the protection which we are now considering. Are we to take the stand that we are to pay no attention to the existence of unjustifiable conditions in the coal-mining industry, or to the price of coal ? Are we to say, “ Although the price of coal is unreasonable, we will impose the amount of duty necessary to enable industries to carry on at that figure “ ? If so, where will the whole thing end ? In the long run, we shall noi. help the industry, because it cannot permanently maintain itself under those conditions; there must be a break some day. We are asked, “ What would you do “ ? In this case the onus ought to be placed on those concerned of getting the coal industry on a proper basis; we cannot do it.
– I suppose that Rylands Brothers are just as helpless.
– Rylands Brothers and the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited are not so helpless. I know that I am not asking for what can be easily done; but I say that this Parliament cannot be asked indefinitely to support unjustifiable conditions. I have attacked the high and anomalous rates of wages that are being paid, but I do not wish it to be understood that they are earned by every man who is employed in the industry. It is an amazing fact that the Miners Federation supports the continuance of such o system, although so many of their men are out of work. Ought we to allow our policy to be determined by that federation ? I say that we ought not to do so ; and if we refused to yield, an adjustment would have to be found. The employees of Rylands Brothers want to keep their jobs; and the co.al-miners . are beginning to realize that it pays them to hold whatever markets they have for their coal. We ought to endeavour to help that sensible movement along.
The proposal of the Government is to remove the bounty, because the country cannot afford to pay it, and to impose a duty of an equivalent amount, letting the farmer run the risk of having to pay it. I have already said that the facts disclose that this company has not acted unreasonably by exploiting the duty to the full ; and I do not think that it necessarily follows that, because the duty is raised the farmer will be required to pay the full additional amount. But the Minister has pointed out that’ the duty is not needed at the present ‘ time; that with existing conditions of freight, primage, and exchange, in relation to the two main lines of wire, tlie price of the local product is £15 12s. 6d., compared with £17 4s. 6d., which is the cheapest price at which the Commodity can he imported from overseas. In the other line to which he referred, the price of the locally-made wire is £15 12s. 6d., and the cheapest price at which British wire can be introduced into Australia with primage and exchange added, is £17 Os. lOd. Accordingly, there is no need for the duty. That being so, would it not be a fair thing to bring all those concerned- face to face with the real position. I speak not only of the employers and the employees in this industry, who are concerned with its maintenance upon a really sound basis, but also of the employers and employees in the iron -and steel industry and, perhaps above all, in the coal-mining industry. If we were to say, “ The industry is quite safe at the present time with the advantage of primage and exchange, therefore we shall remove the bounty and not. impose a duty “, all of those who would be affected would know that they would have to put their house in order before the exchange rate dropped. That way of handling the matter, I suggest, might bc of very great assistance to Australia as a whole; because, if there is one thing that we” need in this country, it is to discover some means by which our coal may be used on an economic basis, thus dispensing with the necessity for spending large sums on imported oil. We have some of the finest coal in the world for all purposes, but the conditions surrounding its production are such that its price is so high as to cause consumption to diminish. We are using imported oil instead of our own coal and its by-products. If this Parliament forced upon the attention of those concerned the necessities of the case, it would render a real service not only to this industry, but to all other industries which depend upon coal or which use power.
For (lie reasons that I have given, I put it to the committee that the wiser course in the interests of the community, and of the industry itself, as well as of the iron and steel industry, and the coalmining industry, would be not to impose the duty proposed by the Government.
.- This item may be regarded as one of the most important in the schedule. ‘[Quorum formed.] Although honorable members, in the discussion of it, would wish to adhere strictly to the item itself, it opens up, as the Deputy Leader of the “Opposition (Mr. Latham) indicated, a wide range of industrial problems for consideration. For a number of years the iron and steel industry received direct assistance from the Commonwealth, and the cost, whatever the. amount, became a direct charge upon the country as a whole. The change over to a tariff, in my opinion, calls for even more meticulous consideration than would be required in the consideration of a bounty, the burden of which, whether it be right or wrong, falls upon the community proportionately to the capacity of the people to pay taxes. But a tariff duty is inevitably a sectional tax. Therefore, fairness demands that it has to be considered, not only from the standpoint of how necessary, it may be for the encouragement of a particular industry, but also from the standpoint of its effect upon other industries which may be the consumers of the output of the protected industry. Every tariff item, and this one in particular, is an exercise by the Parliament of its power of taxation, and when taking into account the difference between taxation, widelyspread in the form of bounties, and taxation imposed sectionally through the tariff, there is- very good reason why greater care should be exercised in order to justify a sectional tax. The change from a bounty to protection through the customs in respect of this particular item may be considered as one of the disguised aspects of governmental policy which is implied in the rehabilitation plan, all cuts in bounties to be made good by the imposition of indirect sectional taxes. Taxation imposed in this way may become really heavier than the community realizes, and the effect upon industries as a whole should be considered carefully. This is why I feel that, in the consideration of this item, we are entitled to expect from the Minister more adequate reasons to justify the granting by Parliament of these duties than so far have been given. I protest, anyhow, against the tariff being used, as I feel it is being used, in connexion with this item, to prop up an inflated and uneconomical administration of capital that seems to be inherent in connexion with the net-work of industries of which the commodity affected by this particular item is an important by-product. We have to consider, not only the relation of this particular industry to other industries which, in the final analysis, may play a more important part in the national life of this country, but also its relationship to the economic structure generally. It is a fact, unfortunately, that this industry, which is of major importance to the consumers of coal and other important industries that are responsible for employment activities in Australia, is located in only one .part of the Commonwealth, and other major industries are entirely dependent upon supplies of the raw material from this source. Because distances in Australia are so great the cost of the raw material to other industries, which may be situated at considerable distances from the centre of manufacture, is a definite and additional burden that hampers expansion. This aspect of the problem must be taken into account if the full incidence of the tariff in respect of this particular item is to be computed. We cannot, as I see it, go on indefinitely regarding the tariff as an unfailing remedy for every weakness that manifests itself in the industrial life of this country. I have studied the history of this group of industries, and I find that they have never yet been able, as the result of improved processes, superior organization, larger capital invest* ment or better economic equipment, to avoid coming to Parliament from time to time for increased protection, with the result that we have never had any prospect of reduced costs in respect of this essential material. I am not going to support the contention put forward by members of the Opposition, who are opposed to these duties, that wages are too high, but I do agree with “the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that consideration of the problems arising out of the- condition of this industry, and its associated industries, is demanded. It seems extraordinary that, no matter how great may be Australia’s difficulties, these industries have, so far, offered np contribution towards the rectification of our economic problem other than increased taxation upon consumers of their products. I would not mind if this increased levy, which the Australian consumers have to meet, contributed towards the rectification of governmental budgets, because that would be a right and proper justification for taxes upon the people. But this contribution goes directly, as far as I can see, not to the replenishment of governmental revenues, but towards making good what may be termed the incapacity of these companies to show adequate returns in their profit and loss accounts. This position justifies a detailed and searching inquiry as to whether these companies, because of their extraordinary interlocking arrangements, do not unjustifiably increase the alleged manufacturing costs so that a return to, say, a parent company may improperly be increased. It is undoubted that many shareholders of Rylands and other manufacturers of iron and steel in Australia which are large consumers of coal, are also shareholders in a number of coal-mining companies. As the latter companies cannot come to this Parliament for extortionate duties on coal, these companies charge the highest possible prices for coal in order to increase the cost3 to iron and steel manufacturers, who do come to this Parliament for assistance against what they declare to be unfair overseas competition, and by securing a monopoly of the Australian market for iron and steel products they are enabled by improper charges for coal, to get over the whole investment, a return that would not be possible if the companies were separate and distinct’ entities in active competition for the consumption of coal. There is upon this subject an interesting and informative work in our library which I commend to honorahle members for their perusal and study in order that they may realize how the nation as a whole is faced with increasing costs, not because of the impossibility of competition being inherent in this industry, but because of the use of inflated capital, badly administered by holding companies and subordinate companies, and in what is a veritable network of capitalistic arrangements, with the result that the tariff is regarded as a legislative prop for the improper exploitation of the people.
– Is that Mr. H. L. Wilkinson’s book?
– Yes. There is a more recent work entitled Australian Banking and Credit System by Mr. A. L. Gordon Mackay, lecturer in economics and director of tutorial classes in the University of Adelaide. This is what Mr. Mackay has to say on this subject
Since 1 the control Of national policy vesta with those who control financial policy the problem of deciding who is to control financial policy is a most important one. In Australia, this has become a political question though it is not yet generally realized that questions such as the tariff, the regulation of wages, state rights, and the conflict between the primary producer and the industrialist have their roots in finance and financial policy.
These big controllers of the iron and steel industry in Australia, and of the coal industry are directly associated with the control of the financial system of Australia, as shareholders in our important banking corporations. In one way or another they constitute the real capitalistic oligarchy of this country and have come into this Parliament time and time again for assistance on the ground of unfair competition from overseas.
I come now to the consideration of the item itself. Up to the present these manufacturers have had the advantage of a protectionist duty, and, more recently, high rates of exchange. Taken as a whole, these protectionist agencies represent, it seems to me, complete and adequate safeguards for this industry. There is this further consideration to be taken into account: In recent years, the great flood of importations was due not to the inadequacy of the customs tariff, but to the existence of enormous credits overseas which had to come to this country in the shape of goods. Now that it is not possible to borrow in the London market - our credit there does not give a margin over and above that required for the discharge of our overseas obligations - the need for the use of the tariff as a means to prevent an adverse trade balance to be greatly diminished.
– The rate of exchange should take the place of a tariff.
– The Minister has said in connexion with this item that if i3 not right to allow these companies to be dependent upon rates of exchange which are liable to fluctuation. This argument may be met by pointing out -that, if the exchange rate should fall sufficiently to warrant a variation of the duty, immediate action can be taken; all that is necessary is for the Minister to bring down a schedule and lay it upon the table.
– Provided Parliament is sitting.
– I anticipated that observation, and I remind the committee that in view of the general state of Australia economically, it, is almost certain that Parliament will, for the most part, be continuously in session for some considerable time, to come. In the circumstances, I feel that ..there are two major / reasons why I should not vote for the change over from the bounty to a duty in order to protect this industry. First, I regard it as essentially a national industry. I agree that Australia should develop its iron and steel resources; indeed, it must do so in order to maintain the solvency of the parent coal industry. But the obligation should be distributed over the whole community. Any other method severely prejudices the development of other and perhaps equally important industries. That consideration should always weigh with the committee, because it is futile to develop one industry if in so doing intolerable burdens are placed on others.. I may be pardoned if I have regard to the effect of the proposed duties on the economic life of the State I represent. I hope I shall not be regarded as selfish if I say that any method which will obviate an increase in the prices of these commodities in Western Australia should be tried. The present policy of the Government is an unfair tax on the primary industries of that State, in which those industries are the principal consumers of wire and wire netting. Such manufactories as Western Australia boasts do not consume those commodities at all. Therefore, the burden of maintaining this national iron and steel industry is not equitably distributed over the population.
– Wire could be drawn over there.
– No. Monopoly connotes circumstances in which competition cannot easily operate; that takes into account the nature of the industry, the amount of capital required, and the extent of the market. The market in Western Australia is not sufficiently extensive to justify the establishment of a wiredrawing industry in that State. I have no objection to the industry being established and properly developed in the Commonwealth, but it should be supported by a contribution from the nation as a whole. We are told that at the present time, governmental budgets make it difficult to pay a bounty out of the Consolidated Revenue. But that only disguises the reality, because whether the contribution to the industry be from the Consolidated Revenue or by a levy upon the consumers, in either case it comes out of the pool of national wealth. I am opposed to the change over from the bounty system to a protective duty, and, secondly, I regard the proposed duties as unnecessarily high. The imports for last year were considerably below the level of the previous year. It is true that that may be because of the diminished demand. But the output of the company also has fallen, not because of competition from overseas, but again because of the smaller demand. On the two grounds, first, that I prefer the bounty system, and, secondly, that customs duties are not required in existing circumstances to prevent unfair competition by overseas manufacturers, I shall vote against the item.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). The Minister must be’ a student of scriptures, for apparently he believes in the passage - “For whosoever hath, to him shall he given ; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have “. He is as heartless as Pharoah, for he would compel people to make bricks without straw. Indeed, Pharoah was never so callous as is this Government in respect of the burden which it is placing upon the growers of wool and wheat. The Minister stated that the state of the national finances would not permit the payment of bounties to continue indefinitely. The effect of his declaration is that the whole nation cannot afford to pay a bounty; therefore, the whole burden shall be placed upon the wool-growers and other primary producers. The honorable member for Wimmera cited some illuminating figures. He stated that No. S guage wire in 1914 was sold at £7 5s. a ton. At that time wheat was 3s. 9d. a bushel, and 40 bushels would have bought a ton of wire. Now, the wire is £18 12s. 6d. a ton, and wheat, on a generous estimate, is worth 2s. 3d. a bushel. Therefore, the farmer has to produce 165 bushels of wheat to buy a ton of wire, which seventeen years ago could have been bought for 40 bushels. The Minister has displayed a Pharaoh-like attitude. The position is similar with respect to galvanized iron, with which we dealt yesterday. The f.o.b. price in England is £13 a ton, and there it takes 130 bushels of wheat to pay for a ton of galvanized iron. In Australia the price is £29 10s., and it takes 295 bushels of wheat to’ pay for a ton of galvanized iron, so that honorable members must realize the impossibility of the contention of the Minister that this committee should impose this direct duty upon the farmers, who are so overburdened and yet so important to this country. The Minister fatuously quoted war-time prices; - but I submit that his argument should carry no weight with honorable- members. The war brought about all sorts of conditions. To-day we are living in times of peace, endeavouring to develop this country with some attempt at competing with Other countries. Australia is a unit in the world of nations. We cannot escape that fact. I wish also to draw the attention of honorable members to the seriousness of increasing the cost of wire-netting to those who require it in Australia. In Western Australia there is a tremendous acreage of newlydeveloped country. With the good seasons last year and this year the rabbits have become a veritable plague.
– The Labour party is a worse pest than the rabbits.
– Rabbits were imported.
– The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) laughs in a ridiculous and inane fashion ; but we can expect nothing else from him. The rabbit is overwhelming this country. The farmers have been asked to grow wheat so as to establish the credit of Australia, yet they have no credit at the banks. The Government cannot assist them. They are now being asked to bear the additional burden of this duty, and to get further into debt. It is absurd for this Government to make it impossible for the farmers to prevent their crops from being literally eaten away by rabbits. I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) on his speeches yesterday and to-day, although I think that hia speech yesterday should have been made to-day, and vice versa. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a suggestion to-day which, if carried out in a sensible manner by the whole of the people of Australia, would enable some of our great natural secondary industries to export their manufactures and to give employment to a large number of people. That suggestion should have been made yesterday, and the details given to-day.
– Why did not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition do the job while he had the opportunity, instead of talking about it now?
– There are many eleventh-hour conversions taking place in Australia at present in respect of our fiscal policy. I can assure honorable members that that policy has had a fair trial, and has been found wanting. The Utopian conditions that were promised if we would only give sufficient protection to Australian industry have not eventuated. We were told that high protection would provide employment for every man in Australia; but before we had high protection we were making goods and selling them abroad.
– What goods?
– We were exporting £1,000,000 worth of boots and a considerable quantity of machinery and other steel products. With our present standards it is utterly impossible to export our manufactures. This Government thinks that it has persuaded the men on the land that it is sympathetic towards them, but judging by The Wheatgrower, the farmer has no illusions as to the intention of the
Government to help him. This publication says -
The attitude of the Federal Government to the primary industries i3 epitomised in Mr. Scullin’s reply to the question asked by Mr. Stewart (CP.), Victoria, as to whether the Government contemplated any reduction in the tariff : “We are not going to open the flood gates to importations. Wo are going to build up our secondary industries - when we turn the corner there will be a wonderful field for them We will build up the local market for the primary producers, and they will not in future have to depend on world prices.”
As an example of the economic lunacy to which Australian politicians are prone this statement would bc hard to beat, and its fatuity may be disclosed by a brief examination. Since 1890 the population of Australia has little more than doubled, and as the proportion of the total wheat production consumed locally is about 25 per cent., a little calculation discloses the fact that “ the future in which primary producers will not have to depend on world prices” may be placed about the year 2051 a.d.
In the case of wool, as the proportion of the total output consumed locally is much smaller, it will bc much nearer the millennium. It appears to have escaped the observation of the Prime Minister that by the date that he anticipates the great primary industries will be receiving the costs of production, they will be nothing more than a memory in the mind of the oldest inhabitant. Nowhere in history is there any mention of an industry which has been able to produce below cost for 120 years, and it devolves on the farmer to recall Mr. Scullin from his contemplation of the roseate future to an earnest consideration of the dismal present. If, after two years of unparalleled strain on the primary industries, Mr. Scullin’s most thoughtful contribution to the solution of their difficulties is the remark quoted above, it is imperative that the primary producers take drastic action to bring him to his senses.
The primary producer has no doubt as to the intention of the Government to assist him, particularly in view of its efforts yesterday and to-day, to inflict further burdens upon him ! It is absurd to say that the Government is in any way helping the primary producers. I, therefore, gladly support the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera, especially, when it has been shown by the honorable member for Fremantle, and other honorable members, that the natural protection afforded this industry is quite adequate without burdening far more important industries to provide for its maintenance.
.- I did think that of all the items under the heading of “ Metals and Machinery,” this, relating to wire and wire netting, would have the easiest passage, particularly in view of the speech of the Minister. It has been said that this duty will place an additional burden upon the farmer, whereas it has. been clearly shown that in this industry, more so than in any other, there has been a continual reduction in prices since the war period. This industry is attacked by persons who have no knowledge of it.
– Why cannot it meet competition ?
– I admit that the exchange rate affords it a temporary protection; but that protection may be removed at any time. If we remove the duty, it may easily happen that the industry will be left without any protection at all. Even now, the duty is only 25 per cent. The representatives of the primary producers in this chamber complain about these duties, but they do not object to the duty on imported onions being as high . as 400 per cent. That may be because onions are grown largely in the district represented by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
– Large quantities of onions are grown in the Corangamite district.
– I can understand the opposition to these duties by members from Western Australia; but, in my opinion, the people of Western Australia have got into that frame of mind in which they will neither help themselves nor allow themselves to be assisted by others. I remember that when a Mr. McDougall from Victoria offered to draw wire rods in Western Australia, he was told that he was not wanted.
With some of the statements of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) I agree; but I consider that he placed too much emphasis on the allegedly high wages paid in the coalmining industry. Quoting from a report the honorable gentleman said that men engaged in working the coal-cutting and drilling machines sometimes earn as much a3 £6 a week.
– I said £6 a day.
– The pay for these men, who take their lives in their hands every time they go down the mine, and whose work at the best is nerve-racking, varies according to the conditions of their employment. It is true that men working in difficult places sometimes earn big wages; but it is unfair to apply those payments to all the miners. Those who so freely refer to the high earnings of the coal-miners are probably unaware of the intermittent nature of their work. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would know the real cause of the high price of coal, he will find it in the watering of shares, as much as 300 per cent, and 400 per cent., in Melbourne and Adelaide companies.
– Yet the honorable member would protect such industries.
– Coal is not protected.
– -“Every one in the community suffers because of the high price of coal.
– That is so; but ] suggest that the honorable member and -those who think with him should allocate the blame to the right quarter. We may fairly assume that the coal-owners were making fair profits before the war, even on their watered capital; yet during the war period they were allowed to raise the price of coal by 4s. a ton. Out of that amount they had to pay certain expenses, but as those expenses did not amount to more than ls. a ton, the owners made an additional profit of 3s. a ton. Subsequently, they were given permission to increase the price of coal by another 3s. a ton. As their expenses increased by only an additional 8d. a ton, it will be seen that the coal-owners made a further profit of 2s. 4d. a ton.
– All of which came out of the pockets of the people.
– I admit that; but those profits helped to swell the bank accounts of the honorable member’s friends. I object to honorable members throwing all the blame for the high price of coal on the men who daily risk their lives working in the mines.
– I thought that I had made it clear that I did not throw the whole responsibility on the men. If not, I desire to do so now.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman laid more stress on the wages paid to the miners than on the other causes of the high price of coal. I admit that the price of coal reached a high level, but that was not because of any wage rates prescribed for those engaged in the industry. It must not be thought that I desire to say anything against the man on the land. I understand the hardships under which he labours. But he is not the only one who is suffering. Incidentally, it is interesting to note how the people of Australia are represented in this National Parliament. At the last general election the total votes recorded in favour of Nationalist candidates numbered 1,022,520, while members of the Country party, the alleged representatives of the primary producers, received only 260,784 votes. As against that the Labour party had a very comfortable majority.
It has been stated that these duties, which really are in substitution of the bounty that previously obtained, will penalize the primary producers. It is necessary for me to go back only a. few years to refute that irresponsible claim. In 1922 the price of galvanized wire was £20 15s. a ton; to-day it is £14 14s.11d. a ton. Does that indicate that the manufacturers of this commodity have hidden behind our tariff wall and exploited the public? An examination reveals that the articles covered by this item show a greater and more consistent reduction in prices than in the case of other items in the schedule. During the last few years the price of galvanized wire and similar products has fallen by 22 per cent., which is no inconsiderable sum. Reference has been made to galvanized wire netting, in the manufacture of which some of these wires are used. There, again, prices have dropped substantially.
Honorable members ought to feel proud that the wire netting and associated products manufactured in Australia compare favorably with those made in any other part of the world. Their high quality is due to the application of the inventive mind of an Australian youth. And that is what honorable members opposite decry. They are sorry to see Australia able to compete successfully with the older nations of the world. This duty places no additional burden upon our primary producers. On the other hand, if the
Government refused to grant protection to the industry, and allowed it to be wiped out, the prices of these commodities would soar, and our primary producers would be at the mercy of unscrupulous importers. The establishment of these Australian industries has saved the people of Australia from exploitation, has kept a largesum of money in Australia, and given employment to our own artisans.
Arguments similar to those advanced to-day by honorable members opposite, were put forward when a bounty was proposed for the industry. It was asked, “Why should the country pay so much to enable these industries to establish themselves ; it cannot be done I ask, why should the people in our industrial centres pay so much more for their butter than is paid for the same article in Great Britain? Honorable members opposite do not object to the people of Australia paying more for our primary products than is paid for them overseas.
– I am prepared to object if the Government will lift the duties.
– We have heard arguments in this chamber regarding the position of our wool industry. It is well known that that industry is seriously handicapped through the ill-advised action of selling our rams to South Africa, enabling the people of that dominion to engage in the production of a high-class article practically at the door of the markets of the world. The people engaged in our galvanized iron industry have fulfilled all their undertakings, and given the people of Australia a reciprocal benefit for the protection that they have received, by substantially lowering the prices of their products. No one can get away from the fact that there has been a reduction of 23 per cent. in the prices of the products of this industry. Except for wire manufactured in Germany and sold in England under some reparations arrangement, the wire that is being produced here to-day is the cheapest that is obtainable. Certainly the price is lower than it has been for many years.
– It is more than double what it was in 1914.
– I do not intend to enlarge on the way the importers exploited the public during the war. It is true, perhaps, that wire was obtainable at a lower price in 1914 than it is to-day; but it is also true that Mr. McDougall had to bring Rylands into Australia to keep him going. It must be put down to the everlasting disgrace of the Australian importers that a firm in Brisbane advertised certain, imported lines, which it recommended, and intimated at the bottom of its advertisement that it also had Australian wire for sale, but did not recommend it. That is the kind of thing that the Australian manufacturers have had to fight, and they have fought it legitimately and successfully. The Government is proposing to convert the bounty into a duty; but the firm engaged in this industry has never hidden behind a duty. “Whenever possible, it has reduced the price of its products. That very fact disposes of all the arguments that have been used against the imposition of this duty. The burdens of the people have not been increased by those engaged in this industry, and the application of this duty is thoroughly deserved. If the duty is not approved, the industry will only have the protection afforded it by the primage duty and the exchange position, and if the primage duty were discontinued and the exchange position rectified, it would have no protection whatever.
– Certain facts have emerged clearly from the long address of the Minister on this subject. The first is that this industry has been substantially protected by either a bounty or a duty since 1915. The Minister, and other supporters of the Government policy of high protection, have argued that these industries only require protection in the days of their infancy, and that when they have passed through the embryonic stage they will be able to stand upon their own feet, and face unflinchingly, the withering blast of competition. I should like to know when this industry will grow feet and be able to stand upon them? It seems to me that this abnormal protection is to be continued ad infinitum. There is no suggestion that the duty should be decreased, but rather that it should be continually increased.
The second fact which emerged from the great speech of the Minister - great, if it be judged by its lineal dimensions - was that even under existing conditions the industry could face outside competition without either a bounty or a duty, because of the protection it is receiving through the 10 per cent, primage duty and the exchange position. Other factors, which are helping it, are freight and other charges which have to be paid on imported products. The Minister preferred to ignore all these facts; but he cannot expect honorable members to overlook such salient considerations.
Still another fact which the honorable gentleman -established, was that although this industry has been protected by a bounty since 1922 it is now proposed to substitute a duty for the bounty. Everyone’ knows that the money for the payment of a bounty is provided by the general public, and not by any one section of the community. The burden of assisting this industry under the bounty system fell, with whatever fairness there is in this world, upon all sections of the community, and the primary producers were not called upon to bear an inequitable share of the load. But the effect of protecting the industry by means of a tariff will be that the users of this wire, who are principally primary producers, will have to carry practically all the burden. I have very few primary producers in my electorate, but I can well imagine that honorable members like the Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill), whose constituents are practically all primary producers, will have great difficulty in trying to justify the substitution of the bounty by a duty, the cost of which will fall upon the farmers who are to-day, perhaps, the poorest section of the people, except the unemployed. The farmers of Wannon, Corio, and other rural electorates represented by Labour members, will want to know why they should be asked to shoulder the responsibility of subsidizing this industry, and providing the money for the high wages which are paid in it.
– What about the farmers of Capricornia?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs will find that- he will have some questions to answer there. During the recess I travelled through part of his electorate, but the only interest I took in politics at that time was in reading the reports of the strenuous speeches, lasting until the early hours of the morning in some cases, which the Minister delivered in Jurying to justify his attitude in regard to the financial rehabilitation plan. Apparently, he succeeded in talking down the opposition and, by wearing it out, secured a majority vote in his favour. But he will find it a more difficult task to satisfy the electors of Capricornia that they should shoulder the burden of these additional duties on wire and wire netting.
We are dealing with a matter which affects the interests of the farmers of this country to a greater extent, probably, than any other subject that we have discussed for several months, yet the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), who claims to be a friend of the farmers, who is always prating about what he is going to do for them, who is always promising them so much per bushel extra for their wheat, which they never get, and who has attempted to organize pools which have never been formed, does not grace this chamber with his presence. He is not sufficiently interested in the farmers of this country to present himself here when a matter of the most vital importance to them is being considered. Where are the Labour representatives of die farming constituencies of Australia? Where are the stalwarts who are always talking of giving assistance to the primary producers ? Wot one of them is here. Only one member of the Government, the v Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill), apart from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), apparently considers this matter of sufficient importance to warrant his presence in the chamber. The Government proposes to shift the cost of assisting this industry from the general public to the primary producers, to whom every party in this House gives lip service. Every party believes that the primary producers must be assisted by a reduction of their costs, but at what point are we to begin to reduce those costs? We all realize that Australia’s only hope of immediate salvation lies in bringing new money into the Commonwealth by means of the export of our primary products. That fact stares us in the face; yet, when the committee has a legitimate chance to reduce the cost of production to the farmers, members on the Government side either stay out of the chamber, or remain silent and allow these impositions to continue. I protest in the strongest possible terms against this unfair treatment of the primary producers by supporters of the Government failing to seize this opportunity to assist them. 1 listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). I do not think that the committee has been treated to a more frank statement for many years regarding the way iu which the general public has been exploited iu respect of the cost of coal. He blatantly and unashamedly said that there had been a meeting of the employees and the employers in the industry, and at the expense of the general public a certain amount had been added to the price of coal. He went on to say that the parties had met again and had repeated that action. What about the interests of the consumers and of the public? The honorable member is perfectly satisfied, so long as the employees in the industry benefit from the arrangement. Since the price of coal has been fixed- as the honorable member has admitted, why should we accept that as the basis on which to assist an industry? The Minister has produced no proof that the parties to the industry under review will not take advantage of a reduction of wages.
– That would not worry the honorable member.
– It is worrying me. If the parties did that, it would affect my vote on this matter. 1 shall certainly have the greatest pleasure in supporting the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). The industry can go on without this duty. Employing a term frequently used by the Minister. I give the lie direct to his statement that members on this side desire to see industries destroyed. We wish to see industries placed on a sound basis, so that they may legitimately expand and give employment to many thousands of men. My attitude to this duty is governed by my desire to promote the interests of the primary producers, and I think that that might well be the wish of every member of the committee,
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) where the coal and iron industries are situated has invited the people of Western Australia to do something for themselves in this matter, and has suggested that wire might be drawn in that State. There was at one time in Melbourne a wire manufacturing industry, but it was found more economical to transfer it to Newcastle. If the industry could not be economically carried on in a city of the size of Melbourne, it must be evident that there is very little chance of its being established satisfactorily in any part of Western Australia. There were, however, for some time several small factories in Perth engaged in the manufacture of barbed wire, and I shall inform honorable members just how those factories were treated by the monopoly in Newcastle. The Perth firms purchased their wire from Newcastle, and the monopoly set itself out to crush the industry. Except in one or two instances it has succeeded. When the bounty was removed, the Newcastle monopoly increased the cost of wire, that is, the raw product used by the Perth manufacturers - by £2 3s. 7d. a ton, but it sold the finished product at a reduction of only 17s. a ton. I have here a letter from Davies Brothers, who, by extraordinary industry, have managed to survive as barbed wire manufacturers in Perth. The letter is as follows: -
In November, 1930, the Government bounty was withdrawn, and the manufacturers increased the price of plain wire £2 3s. 7d. per ton, but only increased the price of Waukegan pattern barbed wire 17s. per ton. We made a complaint to the local representatives, who passed the complaint on to the manufacturers, and the reply was to the effect that there were too many small manufacturers of barbed wire coming into the market, and it was desirable to crush some of them out. I read the letter from Lysaght Limited, of Scottish House, 17-19 Bridge-street, Sydney, containing, in effect, the above statement. The letter was sent to Gibbs, Bright and Company, of Murray-street, Perth.
This illustrates what we may expect at any time to happen when we allow a monopoly to establish itself in this or any other important industry. The Minister said that he had obtained a guarantee from Lysaght. Limited that.it would not increase the price if the duty were im posed; but these are days when we look” for reductions. An assurance that prices will not be increased is worth nothing: at all. Everywhere throughout the world’, the price of this commodity has been falling, and the consumers in Australia, are entitled to benefit correspondingly. It is of no value to compare prices in Australia with those in other places a few years ago; the whole situation has changed within the last few years. .
I am pleased that my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), has definitely made up his mind on this matter, and objects to the proposed increase in duty. He realizes, as must most honorable members of this House, that these . socalled key industries are of no real value to the community when they are conducted in the present fashion. The iron and steel industry is, of course, a key industry; but when it is carried on in such a way that its products can be sold only at unreasonably high prices, it becomes, instead of an advantage to the community, a source of loss, because the prices of its products govern the cost of so many allied and auxiliary industries. We cannot even console ourselves that the people of Newcastle are deriving any great benefit from the unreasonable protection afforded to this industry. That town is not, generally speaking, in a prosperous condition. I heard the representative of the district state a little while ago that many workers in Newcastle were employed only part time, and relied to a large extent upon the dole fox support. Despite the extraordinary measure of protection afforded to the iron and steel industry and to the coal industry, there is a great deal of unemployment and distress in Newcastle. The reason is, of course, that these industries have spoilt their own markets. In regard to iron and steel, the position is that the price is so high that the public cannot afford to buy. The Minister stated that the Newcastle firms were selling their products at a lower price than that for which similar commodities could be imported from abroad. If that be so, where is the need for increasing the present duties? In the past, when there was no adverse exchange rate operating against, us, and when the price of iron was comparatively high abroad, the iron and steel industries of Australia were more prosperous than they are now. “Now conditions are altered, the local manufacturers have the added protection of the exchange rate, primage duty, &c, and they should be able to meet overseas competition. It is useless to appeal to any sense of fairness in the Minister by pointing out the “contrast between the condition of those engaged in the rural industries and those engaged in the industries operating in the cities. Wire is used almost exclusively in country districts, arid it is not right that its price should be forced up in order to protect the interests of a monopoly. I support the amendment.
.- As one who was associated with the Government which introduced the present proposals for protecting this industry, I find it necessary to explain how it is that I am compelled, by the force of argument, to adopt now an attitude the reverse of what I then took up. Almost at the inception of its career the Government was compelled to adopt expedients of a most extravagant and extreme character in an attempt to adjust our overseas trade balance. It was compelled to follow a course which, under normal conditions, it would not have taken. The motive was entirely commendable, and I have, of course, no fault to find with the intentions of the Government, of which I was then a member. At a later stage, when I was acting Treasurer, the Government, after imposing embargoes and prohibitions, and heavy customs duties, had to consider the question of giving effect to what is now known aa the Premiers’ plan for balancing the national budget, which has since been put into operation. When every aspect of the matter had been. considered the Government found that it could not continue to ‘pay the bounties which had hitherto been paid, and in some instances resort was made to the expedient of substituting customs duties for bounties in order to assist certain industries, and to relieve the national budget. That, also, was quite commendable and could be justified ‘then ; but I cannot support these duties on the same grounds as I did at that time, when the Government was endeavouring to give some real relief to a large section of those engaged in primary production. That relief has not been given, and to-day the primary producers’ are in au infinitely worse position to carry any extra burden than they then were.
– What will be the extra burden imposed upon them?
– Under this system the burden is borne by only one section of the community, whereas under the bounty system the financial burden rests on the whole community.
– Where is any extra, burden involved?
– In the higher price that has to be paid by the users of the commodity upon which heavy customs duties are imposed. Surely it cannot be contended that if customs duties are removed and a bounty is paid the burden will be borne by the same people. Whatever may have been the ability - it was. not great - of the primary producers at that particular time to carry the burden, their position is infinitely worse to-day. I agree with those who contend that any extra responsibility in maintaining a national industry should be borne by the nation as a whole, and not by a particularly small section of the community which at present is labouring under adverse conditions. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) contends that those who support the amendment are in favour of increasing unemployment, which, unfortunately, is so prevalent in Australia. Whatever may be said by honorable members on this side of the chamber, it cannot be truthfully asserted that we are anxious to increase unemployment.
– That would be the effect if the amendment were carried.
– Those anxious to assist primary producers would not be foolish enough to destroy the primary producers’ home market. Honorable members opposite will not charge the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), who is . opposed to this duty, with a desire to increase unemployment. No one has a desire to do that, and the effect of carrying the amendment would not be to increase unemployment as has been suggested.
– It would cheapen tha article.
– It might not; but the point is that the bounty would be borne by the whole community, and not by a small section of the people. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and other honorable members have stressed the necessity of a complete revision of the whole incidence of the tariff. I dislike dealing with individual industries, as is necessary when discussing a tariff schedule, and, as in this instance, to reverse an attitude which I have previously adopted. I should much prefer to deal with our fiscal policy generally as it affects the whole community. In the present circumstances we cannot give any relief to our primary producers. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made. Honorable members on this side have endeavoured to assist the Government in that direction.
– It is now proposed to assist the wheat-growers by paying an export bounty of 6d. a bushel on next season’s crop.
– That may afford temporary relief, and the increased burden will be borne by the whole community. But even the export bounty mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. C. Riley) will not place the farmers in a satisfactory position. In view of the fact that assistance cannot be given them in the way we desire, surely we are not justified in insisting that only a certain section shall carry a burden which should be borne by the whole of the people. In view of all the circumstances, I am compelled to change my attitude, not with any desire to interfere with the iron and steel industry, or to reduce the number of men employed in it, but to afford some relief which must be granted to the primary producers of this country.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons), in a brief but interesting speech, has failed to give the committee any reason why he has somersaulted in his attitude towards these duties. This schedule was introduced by a government of which he was once a member, and he now says that he has changed his mind.
– The honorable member for Corangamite is supporting a government which somersaulted in connexion with an export duty on sheepskins. That decision was reached by the party of which the honorable member is u member.
– I was always against such a duty and helped to secure its repeal. The Leader of the Opposition has changed his opinion with respect to these duties because he is now looking to the primary producers for political support. It would be interesting to know at what stage he changed his mind in this matter. Was it in November last?
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the sub-item under consideration.
– As the Leader of the Opposition was allowed to speak in general terms without even referring to the sub-item before the committee, I submit that I, also, have a right to do so. 1 should like to know when-his heart started to beat so vigorously for the primary producers. Was it before November last, or since he became Leader of the Opposition? I supported the Leader of the Opposition when he was Acting Treasurer, and accepted his views in matters of this kind. I now find that he is adopting an entirely different attitude with respect to certain customs duties. Is it his only reason for reversing his opinion that the lot of the primary producers is worse than it was in November last? Is that fair leadership? Opportunist convictions can he very easily changed, and politics make one acquainted with strange bed-fellows.
.- I support the proposal of the Government for the adequate protection of ‘this industry. I do not agree with the arguments thai have been advanced by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) who, in the course of his remarks, alleged that the manufacturers of this commodity are sweaters of labour. In my opinion, that allegation was not sustained by the honorable member. I have inspected this industry on several occasions, and have interviewed the workers who are engaged in it as well as the trade union officials. To-day a telegram was despatched to the officials of the Amalgamated Engineers Union, and the reply received stated that the conditions of the workers are sufficiently good to warrant their recommending the granting of the protection which is being sought. A great deal of the discussion on this item has revolved round the effect of the duties on the primary producers. The honorable member for Werriwa should not forget what the primary producers on occasions have done to the trade unionists on the seaboard when they have endeavoured to preserve decent conditions of labour. I remind him that in both Queensland and New South Wales there have been occasions when people representing these interests, and known as “ scabs “ have been sent to the waterfront to load primary products which the waterside workers had refused to load.
Let us examine the position calmly and dispassionately. This is an Australian industry, and as Australian people we should encourage it in preference to industries overseas. Some Australian manufacturers do not concede to the worker the conditions to which he is justly entitled; but what can be said of the conditions that prevail overseas, where honorable members opposite are prepared to rush to purchase commodities thatare produced under sweated labour conditions ?
– And where we have to sell our primary products.
– A large proportion of these primary products is sold in Australia. If we patronize overseas industries, the effect will be to throw out of employment the consumers of our primary product’s in Australia, and they are the best customers of the primary producer. As an Australian, it is my aim at all times to encourage Australian industry, and to assist in the manufacture of Australian products, not those that are produced overseas. Unlike many other individuals, I do not view this matter from a parochial point of view. Not one of the employees in this industry is in my electorate; it is situated in an adjoining electorate. The fact remains, however, that if, is an Australian industry.
– Wheat and wool also are Australian industries.
-The honorable member may pull the wool over his own eyes, but I shall not allow him to blind me in regard to the position that exists in this industry. If it is not adequately protected, the 900 men who are engaged in. it will be thrown on the unemployed market. The view of honorable members opposite is that unemployment is a matter for the States, and not for the Commonwealth. I differ from them; I say that it is the concern of the whole nation. This and every other industry in Australia I am bound to support in preference to industries overseas which supply similar commodities.
– I lay on the table of the House the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1930-31. The report is complete with the exception of a few summaries of recommendations relating to. tariff revision matters that have recently been made by the board but have not yet been considered by the Government.
With respect to the board’s summaries and recommendations in connexion with the by-law items of the tariff, and matters arising under the Customs Tariff, Industries Preservation Act 1921-22, the action taken is set out in the schedule to the report in respect of each recommendation.In view of the fact that where action has been taken on by-law and Industries Preservation Act recommendations, notification has already appeared in the Government Gazette, it is not proposed to print the papers annexed to the report. I move -
That the report be printed.
– Can the Minister say if the report is in print, and when it will be available?
– It will have to be sent to the Government Printer.
– Will the Minister also make available the documents which are annexed to. the report, but which arenot being printed?
– Certain of the annexures have not been considered by the Government. In pursuance of a promise which I gave, I will have this report printed and circulated to honorable members as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Galvanized Ikon Sales in Brisbane: Mr. Theodore, M.P., and Brett’ and Company: Mr. Archdale Parkhill’s Statement - Broadcasting in Western Australia : Speech by Senator Sir George Pearce - Tariff Board Reports - Coke Gas for Transport Purposes: Messrs. Lyon Brothers’ Works at Wallsend.
Motion .(by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer briefly to a statement made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) on Wednesday evening, and to remove an erroneous impression that the honorable member’s remarks left upon honorable members and the people with regard to the distribution of unbranded galvanized iron in Brisbane. The honorable member declared that Brett and Company, of Brisbane, were appointed by Lysaght Limited, Newcastle, as the sole distributors in that city for Lysaght’s unbranded galvanized iron.
– I still say so.
– The honorable member also did his utmost to create the impression that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was a shareholder in Brett and Company, and that the Treasurer’s association with the company had something to do with the alleged monopoly being given to Brett and Company for the distribution of Lysaght’s unbranded galvanized iron in Brisbane. I have since received certain telegrams on the subject. One is from Mr. Lightfoot Walker, managing director of Lysaght (Australia) Limited, who is at present in Brisbane; another from John Lysaght (Australia) Limited, Sydney; and a third from Brett and Company, Brisbane. All these telegrams absolutely prove that the honorable member for Warringah had misled the House.
– Produce the proof.
– The telegrams are very definite on the point. The honorable member declared that Mr. Theodore was a holder of shares in Brett and Company, and went on to say that he would leave it to honorable members to draw their own conclusions. The unfairness of the statement can be judged, from the following telegrams. The following is a copy of a telegram which I have received from John Lysaght (Australia) Limited,. Sydney :-
We do not sell unbranded galvanized iron exclusively to any one buyer. Our supplies of this quality are small, and are divided, as far as possible, equally among distributors.
– That proves nothing.
– With regard to the statement of the honorable member thai Lysaght’s, Newcastle, would supply only to Brett and Company, in Brisbane, 1 have received the following telegram f ron, Mr. Lightfoot Walker, managing director of Lysaght’s, who is at present in Brisbane : -
We have supplied during the last twelve months 20-gauge unbranded galvanized roofing iron to the following Brisbane buyers: Brett. Baldwins, Blane, Campbell, Horsburgh, Jeays Podmore, Sachs, Watson, Wilson, Tair Sachs have purchased 30 tons of unbranded sheets, in addition to the quantities of these sheets they purchased through Baldwins. W* have also supplied during the last twelve months other gauges and descriptions of un branded galvanized iron to the above-mentioned houses. Whenever we had any unbranded iron available for the Queensland market we have always offered a quote to Sachs-
They are the people who made a complaint about not being able to ge< Lysaght’s unbranded iron - and we have sold them such material on several occasions this year. Unbranded iron is a by product that has to be sold to the best advantage, and we are only too willing to make sales of same to any one who will purchase The only unbranded 2fi-gauge galvanized corrugated iron we have ever sold Bretts consisted of 3-ft. lengths, which are extremely difficult to find a market for. Wo have actually sold to Sachs more 20-gauge unbranded galvanized corrugated iron this year than to Brett.
Brett and Company, Brisbane, also sent me the following telegram: -
Reference press reports concerning Parkhill’^ statement regarding Lysaght’s and ourselves Allegation that we are Lysaght’s sole agent* absolutely incorrect. Our requirements un branded could not be met by Lysaght’s, there fore had to purchase considerable quantities from Rich and Company and Fox Brothers both of Sydney. Other firms here have received as rauch or more direct from Lysaght’s as we have.
These telegrams show clearly that the iron in question was not obtained from Lysaght Limited, and that no favoritism whatever was shown by Lysaght Limited, of Newcastle, to Brett and Company, of Brisbane. The honorable member for Warringah, to say the least, did not play the game when he tried to create an erroneous impression in Parliament, and in the country, regarding the Treasurer. Even the members of his own side must admit that he was extremely unfair to the honorable gentleman.
– The telegrams that the Minister has quoted do not in any way disprove the statement that I made on Wednesday night, which was based on information supplied by a reputable firm ; nor is the position altered by the telegram from Mr. Walker, about which I propose to have something further to say next week. I stated that Brett and Company, of Brisbane, was the only firm in Brisbane that could obtain supplies of Lysaght’s unbranded iron. I repeat that statement now, and I submit that it has not been disproved by the telegrams just read by the Minister.
– Brett and Company got their supplies through Rich.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They may have obtained other unbranded iron from that firm; but I have not said anything about that. My information is that Brett and Company had the monopoly of the distribution in Brisbane of Lysaght’s unbranded iron. In the second place, I did not endeavour “ to make it appear “ that the Treasurer held shares in Brett and Company concerns in Brisbane. I said, distinctly, that the share records showed that he held 12,000 shares in that company.
– The records do not show that.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They did at the time.
– They did not then or at any other time show that Ihad 12,000 shares.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They did at the last election, and the honorable member did not deny it.
– That is a lie. I did not admit anything of the kind.
– It is the truth.
– Order !
– Th e honorable member is a dirty little scandal monger.
– The Treasurer is infinitely worse than that.
-Order ! The honorable member for Warringah must obey the call of the Chair for order, otherwise I shall name him. I ask the honorable the Treasurer to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, but the honorable member would not accept my denial, and because of that-
– I definitely denied that I held 12,000 shares in the company, and as the honorable member would not accept my assurance, I called him a liar.
– Order! I shall name the honorable gentleman if he does not obey the Chair.
– I name the honorable the Treasurer for wilful disobedience of the Chair.
– I ask the honorable the Treasurer to withdraw the statement complained of, and apologize to the Chair.
– Certainly I withdraw it.
– I adhere to the statement I made that the records showed that the Treasurer held certain shares in Brett’s concerns in Brisbane, and I allow honorable members to draw their own conclusions.
– And the honorable member indulged in innuendoes.
-I simply say that I allow honorable members to draw their own conclusions upon the matter.
– I regret very much that this matter has been brought up. It was obvious that the statement of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) on Wednesday night was made for a special purpose. The attack upon the Treasurer in connexion with the Mungana business failed, but the honorable member for Warringah was not satisfied, so on Wednesday night he indulged in a number of contemptible innuendoes concerning the Treasurer.
– I desire to refer to a statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), based upon information supplied to him to the effect that Senator Pearce had been given permission to broadcast an address in support of the conversion loan in Perth, and had taken advantage of the. opportunity to deliver a political speech in defence of the Bruce-Page Government. The honorable member was misinformed as to the facts. I am advised by Senator Pearce that, on the 18th August, at a political meeting in Perth, he delivered a speech in defence of the administration of the Bruce-Page Government, but that that address was not broadcast. On the 19th August, he made an appeal, which was broadcast by A class station 6WF, Perth, in connexion with the conversion loan, and he has. assured me that, in that speech there was no reference whatever to the record of the Bruce-Page Government. I make this statement on information received to-day from Senator Pearce, and I think it is desirable that the correction should be made at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the reports of the Tariff Board relating to the items which will be under discussion next week will be available to honorable members then?
– I hope to be able, on Wednesday next, to make available to honorable members several reports of the Tariff Board.
.- The question I asked of the Prime Minister yesterday in reference to the speech broadcast by Senator Sir George Pearce was based on information, the reliability of which I have no reason to question. I have a perfect recollection that at midday on the Tuesday, the right honorable gentleman addressed a meeting of business men in Perth, and on the same night, in tEe Perth Town Hall, he delivered an address on the national conversion appeal, which was broadcast by 6WF. I am informed that, in the course of that speech, he referred to the administration of the Bruce-Page Government, and purported to disprove certain accusations made concerning it. Complaints were made to me next day by persons who had listened in to the broadcast, but had not taken a verbatim note of what was said. 1 did not hear the speech because I was delivering one elsewhere at the same time. But I am informed by Mr. Barker, secretary of the Australian Labour Party in Western Australia, that, as a result of complaints made to him, he interviewed Mr. Basil Kirke, manager of 6WF, who, in the course of conversation, declared that there had been a breach of faith in connexion with the broadcast. That information was conveyed to me ‘in a letter which I had in the House yesterday. To clear up the matter definitely, I have written to the Postmaster-General a series. of questions on specific points. 1 would be the last to accuse, unfairly, anybody, particularly Senator Sir George Pearce, of making improper use of broadcasting stations. If I have done him an injustice I have done it inadvertently, and I regret it, but I shall completely investigate the information supplied to me before saying anything further on the subject.
.- Senator Daly recently visited my electorate and inspected a plant that is extracting oil from coal and shale. Parliament recently voted £100,000 for the repatriation of surplus miners in the coal industry. Messrs. Lyon Brothers have proved, at Wallsend, a process by which 40 gallons of crude oil is being recovered from one ton of coal, and 180 gallons of oil from one ton of shale refuse. This is a world’s record for the extraction of oils from mined material, and I contend that a portion of the £100,000 voted by Parliament for the repatriation of surplus coalminers should be made available to assist in the development of this process. Dr. Rivett’s report on the extraction of oil from -coal pours cold water on the project because from every ton of coal treated there is a residue of 12 cwt. of coke, for which there is no market. Even in England, where there are huge metal industries that consume smokeless fuel, an outlet cannot be found for the whole of the coke that would be left if the extraction from coal of oil and other by-product t were developed. But Messrs. Lyon Brothers have overcome the difficulty presented by the 12 cwt. residue of coke-. they have treated the coke, and each 1 cwt. yields gas equivalent of 10 gallons of benzine. A5-ton motor lorry has been driven at Newcastle for the last three months on fuel extracted from coke. The cost of 1 cwt. of coke oil is only 4s. as against 21s. 8d. for 10 gallons of benzine. Having regard to these results, the Government should surely re-consider its refusal of my request that one of the Lyon Brothers should be sent to the Philadelphia biennial conference on bituminous coal. That gathering is to discuss the rehabilitation of the coal industry and its restoration to the status it. occupied ten years ago. These men have made an entirely new discovery and a newspaper report dealing with Senator Daly’s visit stated -
After inspecting the plant Senator Daly told Mr. Lyon that everything he had Been and had had explained to him had delighted him. He assured Mr. Lyon that everything he could do towards assisting in the research and the development of its results would he gladly done.
In a statement Senator Daly said that Aus tralia’s foremost problem, from the standpoint of the unemployment position, was the increasing of her absorption capacity. “ This industry presents possibilities which should be explored “,he added. “ The pioneering spirit being displayed by Messrs. Lyon Brothers is one deserving of every encouragement,andI will do allI can to help them. Iam very grateful to Mr. James for showing me one of the possibilities which should be explored in endeavours to solve our problems “.
That is the opinion of a responsible member of the Government. Oil is being extracted not only from coal, but also from the refuse of the mines. A use has been discovered for the refuse, which previously was valueless, and employm en t for a number ofmen will be provided. This discovery is worthy of the reconsideration of the Government. Up to the present the Ministry has refused tosend one of these men to Philadelphia to enable him to return to Australia with a report that would be of immense benefit to this country. In any case, it is up to the Government to encourage these two brothers, who have used their own capital in this venture by granting some financial assistance. Many thousands of pounds have been expended by the governments of Australia - I do not say this Government alone - in sending delegations to England and other countries, and in rewarding aviators who have risked their lives flying to Australia in order to illustrate the possibilities of aviation. These men by working on their discovery are trying to solve the problem of unemployment in the coal industry. They are trying to rehabilitate the coal industry of Australia. To-day we are sending to the United States of America approximately £17,000,000 annually for the purchase of oils and petrol. This new fuel can be obtained in Australia from coke, and if developed in large quantities would obviate the necessity for purchasing foreign fuels. The use of petrol has’ developed our means of transport. This discovery is at the pioneering stage. Probably Senator Daly or any other person who has viewed the works that these men have established will say that the plant for generating dry gas is cumbersome; but there is no doubt that it can be improved if these men are given some assistance and encouragement. This fuel can be usedin any combustion engine without any alteration being necessary. I hope that the Prime Minister will give serious consideration to the need for encouraging these brothers, so that they may be able to perfect their discovery, and as a result help Australia out of some of its difficulties.
. - I have listened with interest to the honorable member forHunter (Mr. James), and I think that all honorable members will agree that if there is any likelihood of this discovery succeeding, encouragement should be given to the men concerned. I have no doubt that that will be done.
-I have seen the plant, and it is well worth inspecting.
– I am awaiting with interest the report of the Minister who inspected the proposition. I gather from the honorable member for Hunter that the only definite proposal that has been put to the Government is to send one of these brothers to Philadelphia, but I am not yet convinced that that is necessary, or would serve any purpose whatever. Surely if the discovery is worthy of development, it can be developed in Australia.
– These men needencouragement.
– There would be no objection to that, and Ishall await with in ter est the report of the Minister, who has seen this discovery firsthand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310918_reps_12_132/>.